Posted tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’

Republicans surface in Reno

October 23, 2007

Originally Published on, 10/23/2007 1:09:27 PM

At last, we spot the rare creature that’s evaded us since John McCain made a swing through Reno in the spring.

Here’s how long it’s been since Reno voters caught sight in public of a Republican presidential candidate. At the McCain town hall, the candidate was optimistically pitching the brand of immigration reform that shortly thereafter moved voters to flood the Capitol switchboard with angry calls. That was the last Reno saw of the GOP, unless you count Rudy Giuliani’s strange shopping trek through Costco. Or the virtually apolitical Olympic pep rally at Mount Rose Ski Resort, where Mitt Romney urged the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games coalition to work with all its might to become the host city in 2018.

Romney and Duncan Hunter both appeared last weekend in Sparks at the Conservative Leadership Conference. (Romney’s smooth town hall performance was still top-of-mind a week later when the equally smooth Barack Obama appeared at the Grand Sierra. Obama’s presentation led the Reasonable Reporter to yearn for a debate between just the two, for no other purpose than to savor the aesthetic and verbal symmetry of such an event. Romney and Obama are suitably matched: stylish, civil, and artful in their language.)

Romney got a polite reception at the Conservative Leadership Conference, but it was Duncan Hunter who brought the crowd to its feet. Hunter promoted a border fence, protectionist trade policies and touted his son’s multiple tours of duty in Iraq. Both men, it should be noted, lost the CLC straw poll to Ron Paul, who didn’t even show up.

For philosophical symmetry, one might stage a debate between Duncan Hunter and John Edwards. Each man rails in his own way against free trade, and in favor of reinvigorating U.S. manufacturing. The candidates’ narratives taken together offer a wider lens through which to ponder the relevant economic questions than does either one alone.

Fred Thompson, who caught fire at last in Sunday’s Florida debate, is scheduled for his first Nevada visits in November. The Reasonable Reporter awaits a closer look.


Identity Politics: Dead or Alive?

Barack Obama declines to make more than a passing reference to his status as an African-American candidate for the White House. At the recent Reno town hall, he was asked whether said status causes him to feel additional pressure. In a masterful dodge of the race issue, the candidate:

1- Made a joke: if you don’t feel pressure running for the presidency, maybe you shouldn’t be the president.

2 – Shifted into more serious matters with a segue acknowledging the race question, sort of: the next president, black, white, brown, yellow, red, male, female – the next president will have a huge mess to clean up.

3 – Jumped right back into the meat and potatoes of his message: You know what pressure is? Somewhere in Iraq today, there’s a kid getting into a humvee… it’s hot, it’s dusty, he’s loaded down with heavy equipment. He lost a buddy yesterday and he might lose a buddy tomorrow. That’s pressure. Pressure is raising a family without enough money to pay for health care expenses. That’s pressure

4 – Wrapped it up with a bow: My job every day will be to think of ways to take the pressure off of you.

Uh. OK. What was the question again? In Obama’s world, Identity Politics is dead.

In Hillary Clinton’s world, identity politics is alive. Women have been the center of the Clinton bull’s eye from the beginning, but the effort intensified this week, with a focus on “Women Changing America.” The exclamation point on the full-court press for the female vote came from senior Clinton strategist Mark Penn, who predicted a quarter of Republican women will abandon the GOP for Hillary in 2008.

The unanswered question: Is identity politics dead or alive among Republican women, who would tend, one might think, to reject identity politics?

Penn also foresees young women voting in droves for Hillary, in a show of support for the symbolic progress represented by a woman in the White House. A view shared by the Reasonable Reporter, who, in a parallel line of reasoning has predicted same for months.


Donde estan los amigos de Hillary?

September 11, 2007

Originally Published on, 9/11/2007 10:40:44 AM

Courting Latino voters isn’t as easy as uttering a few badly pronounced Spanish sentences in a stump speech. Community activists can help overcome the language barrier, and can be useful in shedding light on cultural preferences. But figuring out what makes the segment tick? And what will get them out of their living rooms? The Reasonable Reporter can only say that in Reno, it’s not a viewing party for a presidential discussion forum broadcast in Spanish.

The Clinton campaign deserves credit, however, for seizing the opportunity. It was a creative move, inviting Latino voters to Cantina Los Tres Hombres on Virginia Street to see the candidate showcased in a Spanish-language forum. The expectation was a crowd of 30 or so, according to restaurant personnel who had cleared a wing of the bar with four large TV screens for the event.

But as Univision began its groundbreaking televised Spanish-language event, which featured almost a full complement of Democratic hopefuls, campaign workers outnumbered guests by 10-1. That one? She was a woman in her middle thirties, clad in pink cotton slacks and a knit shirt, with two little girls in tow. The older daughter translated for her. Yes, mom already intends to vote for Hillary. And she arrived believing that Hillary would actually be present at the Reno venue.

Campaign spokesperson Hilarie Grey says the Univision viewing party worked out well in Las Vegas, with about 80 attendees. The idea was to encourage Latino voters to volunteer for the campaign, or to speak informally with friends and neighbors about Mrs. Clinton. Grey says the “watch parties” are just a little piece of the Latino outreach puzzle. The Clinton campaign intends to be thorough, scouring the state’s rural areas for Latino support, as well as working Washoe and Clark counties.


We, We, We, All the Way Home

In a nation founded with a break from rule by kings and queens, politicians might be expected to shy away from the royal “we.” But time after time, they use this odd construction.

“We think we’re on the right track,” and other, similar, phrases beginning with “we” proceed sooner or later from their mouths. Latest example — Fred Thompson, explaining his late and casually-launched entry into the Republican field.

We this, we that, we, we, we. Who is this we? Does he have multiple personality disorder? Has the camera moved in too close, failing to reveal the candidate’s shrink sitting beside him? Is there a mouse in his pocket? Does he wear a crown and clutch a scepter in the privacy of his living room?

The reference, of course, is to “myself and my campaign.” It’s an apparent device to notify political reporters, lest they’re tempted to believe otherwise, that there is concerted expertise underlying the words and actions of the candidate. There can be no other earthly reason to answer in second person plural a question directed at an individual who is seeking a single slot in the government of the United States of America. Is it purposeful, or is it an early indication that public office severs the link to regular people?

We are not amused, and we can’t help but wonder whether less politically-engaged audience members find it as off-putting as we do. Perhaps more so?

Nevada’s Middle Child: Is Reno Jan Brady?

August 29, 2007

Originally Published on, 8/29/2007 1:31:13 PM

We’re not Las Vegas. We’re not Elko. We are the middle child, neither as glitzy and sophisticated as our big sister to the south, nor as small and charming as our rural sisters.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!… or is Vegas, Vegas, Vegas a more suitable lament for Reno? Presidential candidates shower our big sister with attention, and feel the political imperative to court our rural sisters. But Reno often gets spouses and surrogates. And almost all of the candidates were quite comfortable passing up a uniquely formatted event in Reno last week, designed by the Brookings Institution and hosted at UNR. As originally conceived, the forum would have afforded each of the top four candidates in each party an uninterrupted half-hour to talk.

Mitt Romney skipped that event, but within 24 hours of it, he made an appearance at the Mount Rose ski lodge to cheer on the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition in its effort to win the 2018 Olympics. At that meeting, Romney offered a lyrical account of what it means to be an Olympic host city. (At least twice during his presentation, the Reasonable Reporter, who abhors crowds and cares nothing about sports, caught herself hoping fervently for a chance to be a volunteer ticket taker at the Reno-Tahoe games, or to be tasked with clearing snow from the bleachers, for the sheer experience of having played a tiny role in the Olympic tradition. Could this be an indicator of Romney’s ability to persuade less passionately partisan general election voters?)

From the Mount Rose meeting, Romney headed for a private Tahoe fund raising event. He had just been in Elko and Las Vegas, but no room on his calendar for the UNR forum. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Just a few weeks back, Hillary Clinton was caught, in the moments following a public debate, in a still-audible, off-mic exchange with John Edwards about the need for an event that would free up the time used by the Gravels and Kuciniches, and allow the serious candidates – i.e. those with a prayer of winning — to thoroughly discuss the issues. The University of Nevada event was just such an opportunity, but it was not on her calendar either.

As the Reno forum unfolded, the Clinton campaign was instead off to see the rurals, with Terry McAuliffe at the helm. Rural organizers for Hillary began their McAuliffe tour at Jerry’s restaurant in Fallon, where a group of about 25 undecided Dems and committed Hillary supporters received a pep talk with special emphasis on the importance of showing up on caucus day. (A developing theme in all the campaigns. Anxiety about whether and how well Nevada will perform its early caucus role.)

McAuliffe rejected the notion that when candidates talk up the importance of Nevada in this race — and they always do — they are talking about Las Vegas. He reiterated the Clinton campaign’s strong commitment to the rurals. The Reasonable Reporter respectfully pointed out that Reno is not part of rural Nevada, and then proceeded to explain the format of the UNR event Mrs. Clinton skipped,   making reference, even, to Clinton’s own expressed desire for such an event.

McAuliffe pointed to Bill Clinton’s Reno appearance on Mrs. Clinton’s behalf the previous Friday, and to his own presence for the impending rural tour from Fallon to Elko. Nobody, said the Clinton campaign, can question Clinton’s commitment to Reno, although the Reasonable Reporter had, in fact, just done so.

And so it was that Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, who may in their own way bear some resemblance to Jan Brady, had the Democrats day of the Opportunity 08 Forum at UNR to themselves. And no Republicans showed up at all.

Campaign spouses in Reno: Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Edwards, and Mr. Clinton

August 21, 2007

Originally Published on, 8/21/2007 4:29:11 PM

Michelle Obama carries herself like the late Diana, Princess of Wales, but with more self-confidence. Crisply outfitted, tall and graceful, with an inner-humility that shines through. Elizabeth Edwards comes across as a gracious southern mom who just happens to have a law degree, and a husband running for president. Then there’s the Democratic party’s rock star, former president Bill Clinton. His reputation as a crowd pleaser precedes him.

All campaign spouses. All lawyers, though none currently practices. Each got an enthusiastic reception in Reno. Obama during a weekday lunch-time appearance at the Pioneer Center. Edwards, launching her husband’s Reno office one hot Sunday morning in July. Clinton, drawing the faithful at a commute-hour Hillary rally at the convention center.

The two women, who have radically different stumping styles, offered generously personal views of themselves and their families, and a dose of opinion about the state of the nation. They were impressive in a way presidential campaign spouses never have been. Mrs. Obama, with her relaxed brand of personal power, and a presentation style on par with her husband’s. Mrs. Edwards, with such devotion to her husband’s quest that she chooses, even in her current medical circumstances, to spend her precious days helping him pursue it. Each with keen intelligence, and each earnestly pitching her candidate as the right leader for the time.

The former president is familiar. Perhaps he, in turn, experienced the audience of Democrats as familiar. So familiar that communication should be effortless, by virtue of pre-existing relationship.

Clinton touted his own presidency relative to the current one. He made a few points about the Bush administration, using anecdotes about people he knows. A couple of his thoughts were incomplete, a couple of segues perplexing. But the crowd cheered, and was generally pleased.

The speech lacked any mention of family. Perhaps that’s by design, given what the country already knows about the Clinton family life. Nonetheless, providing a window on family life is incumbent upon the campaign spouse. Clinton made the important points about Hillary the Senator, and Hillary the Arkansas first lady, and Hillary the health care expert. No glimpse of Hillary, Bill’s wife or Hillary, Chelsea’s mom. He addressed the nagging question about whether she can win in a general election. And he gave her a ringing endorsement.

The Reasonable Reporter is not in the habit of fact-checking political speeches, but one of Clinton’s assertions struck an odd note.

“My wife is the only senator from New York to ever serve on the armed service committee,” he said. “And I can’t tell you the number of military officers who have told me she’s the most knowledgeable person in the Senate, in either party, on military affairs.”

Had Clinton named any of those military officers, they could be asked. But he didn’t, and they can’t. It’s hard to imagine, though, that those officers aren’t acquainted with another Democratic member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, James Webb of Virginia.

Webb has served as Secretary of the Navy, and as counsel to the house committee on veteran affairs. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, as the Viet Nam war reached a crescendo. He chose marine service, and was first in his class at marine corps officer’s basic training school, according to his Senate bio. Webb worked as an instructor in tactics and weapons at marine corps officers candidate school. He’s been awarded a half dozen medals, including two purple hearts.

Then there’s the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services committee, Republican Senator John McCain. Need we waste space recounting McCain’s military history?

In all likelihood, Hillary Clinton has worked hard to achieve a good grasp of military affairs. One befitting an aspirant to the White House. But does her grasp outstrip that of Webb and McCain, or any of a number of other military veterans in the body?

This bit of hyperbole went presumably unnoticed, except in the fashion it was meant to be noticed. If Mrs. Clinton was already the Democratic nominee, however, such a statement would be probed for its source, and would be endlessly analyzed as a reckless statement at best, and for the hint disrespect it carries at worst.

Nice Pants

July 16, 2007

Originally Published on, 7/16/2007 11:23:36 AM

Chris Dodd’s khaki slacks are frayed at the hems, as if he’s worn them repeatedly with shoes that allow them to drag on the ground. They’re neatly frayed, if such thing is possible, not ragged, and there are no hanging threads. All the same, it’s a distraction. Is it charmingly unpretentious? Or is it horrifyingly unpresidential when the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban affairs seeks the White House in a pair of khakis with frayed hems?

The Reasonable Reporter can’t help but wonder whether the slacks are a conscious wardrobe choice. Pulled, perhaps, from a closet hung with dozens of pairs of perfectly frayed khakis, calculated to underscore Dodd’s down-to-earth start as a Peace Corps volunteer. Or is this the same brand of wardrobe oversight regularly committed by men from all walks of life? (Whadya mean? I’m just breaking them in!) The kind that spurs a wife to plow unmercifully through his closet with a Salvation Army donation bag, in order to save him from himself?

But this is, after all, a Friday afternoon appearance at a downtown Reno brewpub. And Dodd’s fiery style doesn’t permit audience attention to linger at the hem of his pants. He stands on a slightly raised platform at the end of the room, and rails against the Bush approach to foreign policy. He rails at American auto manufacturers, for balking at the mention of a 50 mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard. He rails at Hillary Clinton (Oh so gently, he rails at Clinton… She was right, but she went about it all wrong.) for trying to accomplish health care reform in the basement, in the middle of the night.

He touts his own leadership on the Family Leave Act. It took seven years, and three presidents, he bellows.

Dodd’s voice carries without a microphone, and he turns from side to side to include the entire audience. He jokes about George W. Bush, who, after September 11, told Americans to go shopping. Dodd prompts the assembled Nevadans to say it, too. What did Bush say at a terrible time like that?

“As long as I live, I’ll never forget what he said.” A few voices fill in the blank. He said “go shopping,” and the crowd laughs. The effect is a bit like the opening moments of a Seinfeld episode, where we see a sliver of Jerry’s monologue, delivered to a small, but appreciative group of comedy club patrons.

This is the essence of retail politics. The coffee shop in Iowa, the living room in New Hampshire, the brewery in Reno, Nevada.

Never mind that recent polls show Chris Dodd tied with Dennis Kucinich, pulling about one percent support. He’s here, frayed khakis and all. Many of the 50 or so Nevada Dems gathered at the brewery say they’re doing exactly what the party hoped they’d do, given lavish attention by presidential hopefuls. A handful had also been present in the Latino Business District at noon Friday when Bill Richardson opened his new campaign headquarters, and showed up again on Sunday, at the christening of the Edwards HQ in South Reno. Nevada caucusers, braving July heat, undaunted by tight downtown parking, shopping earnestly in the marketplace of retail politics.

Do Candidates Really Need a Theme Song?

June 26, 2007

Originally Published on, 6/26/2007 4:23:02 PM

Apparently they do, and it didn’t start with Bill Clinton, whom the Reasonable Reporter is just beginning to forgive for his appropriation of Fleetwood Mac in 1992. FDR’s theme song was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” according to one pop music expert.


Hillary Clinton occupied considerable news consciousness last week with her announcement of “You and I” by Celine Dion as the official theme song of the Hillary Campaign.


Several experts in the field of precision music selection agree Celine Dion is perfect for the job. She’s upbeat, family-friendly, and has no negative headlines associated with her. (These experts – all radio programming executives — have forgotten that Court TV and the entertainment press gave copious coverage several years back to claims that Dion’s husband had sexually assaulted a woman in a Las Vegas hotel. Hubby was ultimately cleared, and the claimant was charged with extortion.)


It’s interesting to note that the radio format known as AC, or Adult Contemporary, has heated up, ditching artists like Dion in favor of younger and skankier singers. Celine is too soft for AC and too young for Oldies, the experts say. While she has clear appeal to women 35 and older, she’s not receiving significant airplay on any radio format. No longer popular, but perfect for Hillary?


America’s really not that hip, says Chuck Taylor of Radio and Records Magazine.



Who Loves John Edwards? Part I


A thousand or so Democrats were looking for a presidential candidate to love this weekend at the Damonte Ranch High School auditorium. But John Edwards didn’t seem to wow them the way Obama and Hillary wowed them.


Even by his own account, the central theme of the Edwards campaign is not a political slam-dunk. Edwards told the assembled Nevada voters he’ll nonetheless continue to talk about the “two Americas.”


He doesn’t mean rich America and poor America. The “two Americas,” he said, are the very rich, and everyone else. 


As one of the very rich, Edwards has been repeatedly put on the defensive about his own lifestyle relative to the lives of the poor. Edwards came to life as he defended himself on this point, catching fire for the first time, 20 minutes into his 30 minute speech:


“Reporters ask me…’How can somebody with your resources talk about the poor?’ 

I don’t claim to be poor. But does that mean I can’t speak out for people who don’t have a voice? Does that mean I can’t stand up for the disabled, the disenfranchised, the poor? I’m here to tell you whenever you do that you’re going to get attacked. Every time you do it, you’re going to get attacked. 


“It’s always true in American history. Because people who have wealth and power, they do not want to hear this. They want this message to be squelched, and so they try to kill the messenger. Let me say this very directly, they are not going to kill this voice. As long as I’m alive, I’m going to stand up for people who need somebody to speak for them.”


Is poverty high on the list for Nevada Dems? The admittedly unscientific applause meter says they are more focused on the Iraq war, to which Edwards devoted 3 minutes, or ten percent of his prepared speech. His call to get out of Iraq drew a standing ovation. The far more detailed, more researched, and lengthier discussion of poverty received standard town-hall-meeting applause.



Who Loves John Edwards? Part II


Assemblyman David Bobzien, (D- Dist 24) and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith (D- Dist 30) were front-and-center for the Edwards appearance. Are they endorsing? No. Both said their presence should not be so interpreted. But they have been pitched – by Edwards and everyone else. The presidential campaigns never stop hounding Nevada politicians for support. 


“It’s relentless” said Smith. 


Bobzien and Smith said they were there to perform due diligence on the candidate. 


“Nevada’s elected officials owe these candidates the respect of showing up,” added Smith.


Bobzien disappeared for about 15 minutes behind the makeshift “backstage” curtain in the Damonte Ranch High School gym. When he returned, he took the stage and introduced the candidate.