Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Occasional Politics Fix

Last Sunday afternoon I attended a small gathering at a private home down in Santa Monica to listen to a panel of political pundits discuss the Presidential Election and the Hillary/Obama showdown.

On the panel was former Montecito resident, Arianna Huffington, homespun Democratic strategist Bill Carrick and political consultant Mike Murphy, a ubiquitous presence on cable news and public affairs programs like "Meet The Press."

One of the first questions moderator Mickey Kaus, who blogs over at Slate, posed to the group was whether or not Hillary Clinton should drop out of the primary race.

Now, before I tell you what the panel had to say, let me put in my own two cents.

It wasn't that long ago that we held our California presidential primary in June, and there are major primaries still ahead. So in a close race if the second place candidate wants to hang in there, I say let her.

However, even if she does hang in there, Murphy and Carrick think that it's inevitable that Obama will be the nominee.

Murphy, the lone Republican on the panel, said that Hillary might do well to "show that one kind of history can support another." If she stays in until the end she might do damage to her future chances should she decide to run for president again. He pointed out that Rudy Giuliani stayed in the Republican race 10 days longer than he should have. Apparently he wanted to stick around and "prove he could lose." No he'll have a hard time ever running again.

Huffington was less sanguine about the inevitability of an Obama nomination than her fellow panelists. "It will be hard to drag Hillary off the stage," she told the gathering.

I agree. In fact, about the only person I can think of who is harder to drag off a stage is Huffington.

Despite the fact that she doesn't think Obama has the nomination wrapped up Huffington said that Hillary was starting to sound "hysterical," an observation that many in the audience took exception to.

When it was opened up for questions from those attending, KNBC political analyst and part-time Carpinteria resident, Sherry Bebich Jaffe, wondered how much harm the sometimes contentious primary campaign has done to the Democratic party. She mentioned that she covered Clinton's fundraiser at the Wilshire Theater in L.A. a few days earlier. She noted that every time Hillary uttered Obama's name the place erupted in boos.

All three panelists agreed that with a long way to go until the convention in August and Obama being a relatively inexperienced candidate, never really having had any formidable opponents in any of his previous runs for office, one slip-up on his part could quickly change the momentum of the race. So from that standpoint, why shouldn't Hillary stay in? After all, that's probably her best hope as of now.

When asked whether McCain's age would be a factor Murphy, apparently mindful that McCain can come off at times as being a grumpy old man, said that the presumptive Republican nominee will have to find a way to avoid having his theme perceived as being "get off my lawn!"

Huffington said that it would be a mistake for the Democrats to make an issue of age.

Carrick, who thinks it will be Obama vs. McCain in the fall, observed that it will be "a generational election as well as a change election." He wondered out loud whether the Republicans will use Rev. Wright (the controversial former pastor of Obama's church) as a Willie Horton hit?

Huffington admitted that while she liked McCain in 2000, "I drank the Kool Aid" were her words, (funny, I had her pegged as a white wine connoisseur) she's now disappointed to see the compromises he's made on torture. She said if Obama is going to be effective he "needs to go after McCain everyday about Iraq."

Murphy acknowledged that the war in Iraq is McCain's biggest liability. As for his biggest asset? "He's really nice to the press."

When the panel was asked who they thought Obama might pick for his running mate if he's the nominee, Murphy jumped in to answer, "I don't think Barack will pick Hillary, except maybe to be food tester."

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Congrats to fellow local blogger Billy Goodnick whose Garden Wise Guy blog got mentioned in the Wall Street Journal.

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On Thursday April 17 Citizen McCaw will be shown in Berkeley at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism.

The screening will be preceded by a reception and followed by a panel discussion, with all proceeds going to the Lawyers Alliance for Free Speech Rights, the legal defense fund for journalists ousted at the News-Press. Tickets are $50 each.

The screening is at 6:30 p.m at Sibley Auditorium at the, UC Berkeley campus. Tickets must be reserved by emailing and paying at the reception by check made out to "Lawyers Alliance."

The 5 p.m. reception precedes the screening. A panel discussion on the state of journalism follows it.