Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Breaking News: Clinton Claiming Widespread Fraud By Obama, Ramping Up Legal War To String Out Primary

UPDATE/REQUEST: If you participated in a caucus -- in Texas or anywhere else -- would you please email me at vichy at safe-mail.net? Please do so whoever you supported, and whether your experience was good or bad; I just want to learn more about what's been happening on the ground. Thanks! TDS.
I'll flesh this out later, but this is big news: the Clinton camp just called a press conference, which I attended telephonically, to accuse the Obama Texas campaign of "statewide systemic" abuses of the caucus process. They've "lawyered up" -- had a lawyer on the call -- and are expressly keeping open the possibility of legally contesting the Texas caucuses long into the future. Among other things, they claim that Obama supporters have stolen caucus materials and chairs needed by Clinton supporters, "taking control" of caucus sites, and locking out "long lines" of Clinton supporters to ensure the caucuses go Obama's way. They also confirmed that they will press their delegates to insist that the Florida and Michigan delegations be seated at the DNC convention in August, WITHOUT the revotes that everyone besides the Clintonites are urging as a fair way to honor those voters without being unfair to candidates (Obama's name didn't even appear on the Michigan ballot, but Clinton wants those delegates).

It was just a few hours ago, but I did predict this exact scenario unfolding before all these claims of scurrilous behavior slammed into the media machine like the Galveston Hurricane of 1900:

The Clinton camp seems intent on building a "record" of supposed campaign violations in Texas, which is critical to them and which they're very afraid they'll lose, so that they can file a lawsuit challenging the results and then use that as an excuse to stay in the race even though it hurts the party ("we can't drop out now, we don't even know how the courts will rule in Texas").

Why do I think they're intentionally manufacturing a lawsuit? Easy: they've pretty much said so. They had their surrogate -- a teacher's union strongly backing Clinton -- file a frivolous lawsuit, quickly dismissed, in Nevada. They've threatened to file suit to seat the Florida delegation that Hillary herself previously said shouldn't be seated. (The Wall Street Journal foresees that one going to the Supreme Court -- an even more conservative Supreme Court than the one that selected Bush President in 2000.) And they "lawyered up" long ago in Texas, though they tried to deny it once word got out.

If real evidence comes to light, I'm willing to change my mind, but at this point I'm not buying Clinton's claims of widespread terrorism by Obama supporters, for several reasons. These include:

1) Obama's done outstandingly well in almost all caucus states so far this election, and was on track to do similarly well in Texas tonight. His campaign has no reason to cheat to win the caucus portion of the Texas nomination process.

2) Unlike earlier contests, the Clinton camp had large numbers of lawyers lined up in Texas far ahead of tonight's "emergency" press conference. Texas was their "firewall" state, they "lawyered up" to protect it just like Bush did in Florida in 2000, and all they needed was a claim -- real or fake -- for those lawyers to go to work on.

3) Pressure has been building on Hillary to withdraw gracefully if she lost EITHER Texas or Ohio. Bill Clinton said she needed to win both; Chelsea Clinton said she needed to win both; James Carville said she needed to win both; and the delegate math clearly shows that she needs, not just to win both states, but to win them by 5- to 8-point margins to make any significant inroads into Obama's delegate count. Contesting one or both states' elections tonight (and I do mean both -- legal action in Ohio is the other shoe I'm waiting to drop) is a good way for her to stall while she continues to run the (increasingly effective) negative campaign she's been running against Obama for the past few weeks, and to try again for a big win in another large state, like Pennsylvania -- or even as an excuse to string things out all the way to the Convention in August, when she'll try to leverage superdelegates and the Michigan/Ohio contingents into a brokered victory that upsets the popular vote.

The big thing to remember: this isn't just a press conference about some election irregularities; it isn't more negative campaigning against Obama; it's the first salvo of all-out war, and I'm absolutely sure it's Step One of a full-fledged plan to stall Obama's clearly winning the nomination at least until the Pennsylvania primary and probably until the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August, where Clinton intends to manipulate superdelegates and the Michigan and Florida delegations into a nomination victory that overrides the popular vote. I only hope the mainstream media understands the big picture, or at least has a glimmer of good old fashioned journalistic cynicism, instead of doing Clinton the unearned favor of reporting it at face value.

Update: early media reports coming in. In no particular order: The Oregonian; Wall Street Journal; Slate (conference call transcript); MSNBC; Washington Post (Obama's representative was very reasonable on the conference call, by the way -- not like it sounds); Update 3/5: CNN (election results, laudably NOT biting on Clinton's presser yesterday). Question remains: since it IS about the delegate count, and Clinton's "comeback" yesterday didn't really eat into Obama's delegate lead, will she still go on the warpath over the TX caucuses? Even if she decides to sit pat for now, we're going to see repeats of the lawyers-guns-and-money approach to every close contest from here on out, and to the Convention -- which means a drawn-out primary season, more negative campaigning from her side, more boosts to McCain as the Dems tear themselves apart, and very possibly a Republican victory in November.

As I said, I'll flesh this out, but wanted to put the news out there a.s.a.p.


Anonymous said...

I witnessed cheating (illegal activity) by an Obama supporter yesterday in San Antonio TX. Basically was signing only Obama supporters up for the caucus vote INSIDE the polling area way before 7:15. He told Spanish speaking people that they were not allowed to caucus and told the supporters who signed up they did not need to come back that night. Yes, you can get the packet with the names and all that early but only if you are the precinct coordinator, this guy wasn't even from Texas he was from Washington, which leads me to believe this was not an isolated occurence, that and the fact that incidents like this were reported throughout Texas. Obama has gotten most of his delegates in caucus sates...coincidence? The incident was reported and state attorneys came down and found out the fellow was doing this at several polling places (which house several precincts at times), they eventually caught him, interviewed him, and deemed that he needed to stay away and not enter any polling places. I'm not lying about, I wouldnt take my my time to type up a story on a blog comment and several other people witnessed it as well.

Anonymous said...

Anon in San Antonio: I promise, I don't think you're lying! I would like to learn which precinct it was, so I can contact the precinct judge, find out more details, talk to the state attorneys involved, etc. Seriously, if there's real wrongdoing, I want to know, and I'll print it. I just want to get primary sources instead of relying on what the campaigns, or the (campaign-allied) state elections offices, are asserting.

Please email me, or at least give me the precinct number and any other details you have, such as how you learned he was from Washington etc. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I was at the precinct 500 caucus in Spring, Tx. What I saw was disorganized staff who gave a ton of incorrect information.

That being said, I did not witness any flagrant or intentional abuse. The people involved just wern't able to keep up with the ton of people who showed up to take part in the caucus. No surprise, given the overwhelming and unexpected turnout.

When all is said and done, I'm willing to bet we'll see what we always have with elections... case-by-case issues of actual fraud or misdeeds... on both sides... and indicative only of individual transgressions, not a concerted effort to subvert the electoral system.

In my case, it came down to the last people who stayed around for the entire caucus counting up the names and agreeing to split the delegates appropriately... democracy in action.

Leni said...

hello, I am from San Antonio TX as well and while I didnt witness with my own eyes any cheating, I know that what the first commenter wrote about happened in the polling area across the street from my own in almost the exact same way. I was volunteering all day and I was walking between my polling place and that other one where the cheating occurred. I heard from the woman that personally witnessed it and other people told me the whole story, which involved Bexar County attorneys as well. I did witness the younger Obama supporters being a bit disrespectful to the older Hillary supporters, yelling at them and what not (and thats not coming from an old fart, I am 19 years old myself! :P) I actually saw the guy who was accused signing people up outside the polling place earlier, but it had never occurred to me that it might have been part of the caucus packets, my mom was the precinct coordinator and she got the packet early but only because she has the proper credentials and she kept it unopen till the convention was called to order (we were for Hillary and the Obama people in our precinct had no qualms with the way she was running it and even participated in electing her from temp chair to official chair). Personally besides the bit of confusion and long waits for the people to finish voting after 7PM , my precinct went smoothly, it was actually 3 precincts in one polling place, same as the one across the street.
The same cannot be said for the precinct across the street that I keep referencing...I have relatives there and they said that the Obama people tried to take over and were being really aggressive trying to prolong the convention/caucus as to get people to leave and so on. My best friend who caucused in a school several miles away told me that an Obama person got kicked out for being being too loud and aggressive...now granted I know these are coming from other people and I personally did not witness what I know to be cheating first hand first hand, but I totally trust these people in what they saw. Oh and Mr Scott if you are interested, my aunt who was at the polling site across the street from mine all day (the one I keep mentioning) is writing a report to give to the Bexar County Democratic Chair and I would have no problem forwarding it to you. Oh and I would also like to say that I am not in the habit of committing "all out hatred bashing" of Obama or his supporters, I respect them all as long as they show respect. I am just telling what I saw or heard.