Politics: January 2008 Archives

US President Bush has delivered his swan song to Congress. And while the economy loomed large as the main focus, China's role in it has yet again been ignored. And if there is any consideration amongst the Chinese that this is a snub, I have one piece of advice: Get used to it!

George W. Bush has delivered his final State of the Union speech to lawmakers. And aside from one suggestion of creating a clean energy development plan for developing countries like India and China, Mr. Bush paid no attention to the middle kingdom. Instead, Mr. Bush's focus on trade was more directed toward South America, urging the Congress to approve trade agreements in that hemisphere instead.

So I'm going to be curious to see over the next day or so how the State of the Union address is going to be interpreted in the state-run media here in China. Undoubtedly there will be some attempt to link onto some aspect of the economic direction of the speech and tie China to it somehow. And if and when it happens, you can - at best - equate the impact of any said story to that of...say...a radio station in Lexington, Kentucky running a story about someone from that community who was in Brooklyn when the 9/11 attacks took place in Manhattan. While it may be a 'local' connection to a big story, in the grand scheme of things it means really nothing to anybody. I would argue that today's State of the Union should be a wakeup call for those in this country who have become convinced that China is one of the biggest and most important components when it comes to the politics surrounding the United States economy.

As a Canadian, I've become used to being overlooked by US Presidents and lawmakers when it comes to important policy speeches about economics. This, despite the fact that Canada is not only the United States' largest neighbor, but also shares with it the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. Well over 500 billion dollars last year. Yet, we as Canadians get lip service, at best, in US politics. But you know what...it's been like that for us for years, and we've become accustomed to being ignored. Sure, we'd like to get a mention every once in a while during big speeches like the State of the Union address. But, you know what, in the grand scheme of things, we know we just don't score very large on the radar screen. And let's face it, sometimes as a Canadian it's nice to not be mentioned by a President with the popularity rating of Mr. Bush!

But for all the bluster and hype that you hear in the Chinese media about bilateral trade with the United States, the trade deficit and the valuation of the Renminbi, today's speech should be an indication that China isn't really carved too high on the political totem pole when it comes to US economics.

Sure, China's got a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. It's got nuclear weapons. It's got the Olympics in a few months. But in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to what's most important in US politics, which is almost always the economy, it's time to realize - if China hasn't already - that politically speaking, it still isn't making big waves.

The latest CPI (Consumer Price Index) figures released by the government today can only be creating more questions about the fate of China's Premier.

As Zhongnanhai recently reported to you, the word making the rounds is that China's Premier, Wen Jiabao, could well end up being the fall guy for China's rising inflation rate. And today, the National Bureau of Statistics released new figures which show that China's CPI for 2007 rose 4.8 percent. At the beginning of last year, the Central Government's mouthpiece, Xinhua, estimated the 2007 CPI target at 2.5 percent. So these latest stats indicate that the government blew that target by almost 100 percent, which, statistically-speaking, is pretty embarrassing. The reason, the NBS points out - and has continued to point out for the last few months - is that the CPI rise has been mainly fueled by rising pork prices. So what does this have to do with the fate of China's Premier? Let me explain:

First, we have to go back to 2006. The government now admits that in 2006 the price of pork was underestimated. As such, pork production in China - which accounts for 50 percent of the world's total - began to decline. This, on top of Blue Ear disease in pigs spreading from the south to the north of this country, added to a supply shortage, and started the then-unseen push forward in pork prices. From mid-2006 to mid-2007, retail pork prices here in China jumped 50 percent, while wholesale prices rose an astounding 95 percent. This prompted Premier Wen Jiabao in May of last year to call an emergency cabinet meeting and later go on the television and publicly announce a new plan to increase domestic pork production through incentive programs and subsidies to try to level out the prices. However, the plan offered very few specifics. And even though, at that time, pork prices on a global level did appear to be stabilizing, the price has since continued to increase. And because China accounts for 50 percent of the world's pork production, it has to be assumed that these measures the Cabinet talked about last May obviously haven't worked. So who's to blame?

Well, in the grand scheme of things, there are numerous factors involved in the rise of pork prices, including feed shortages due to a global increase in biofuel production and import issues because of live-animal transport restrictions. As such, in reality, it's not really Wen Jiabao's fault. That's the reality. But history has shown us that the CPC will often overlook reality to save face with the people (see: the Mao 70-30 calculation). So if the CPI index continues to rise (which it is likely to do, but not only due to pork prices, of course), this government may eventually be called on to provide an answer and a face to go with it. And unfortunately for Mr. Wen, it was his face that was plastered all over the tube last May.

Abortion: The non-China debate

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On this, the 35th anniversary of the historic Roe vs. Wade abortion decision in the United States, I thought I'd wade into the Chinese family planning scenario, and what is increasingly becoming a significant concern among demographers and social scientists here in this country.

Of course, we all know that China has the largest population in the world, standing currently at just over 1.3 billion people. And while the population figures are increasing, the effects of the one-child policy are beginning to produce a number of troubling side effects for the central government.

The first, and some would argue, most obvious problem created by the one-child policy is the development of a society of 'little emperors.' Because most urban families are only allowed one child, (the rules now allow for two if the parents themselves are the product of the one-child policy) parents and grandparents have increasingly become expected and accustomed to lavishing the younger generation, and exempting them from any of the chores and duties that their generation would have been expected to perform. I've come to know many young women in their mid-20's who have never learned to cook or clean properly. (I could say that of the mid-20's Chinese men too, but I don't spend a lot of time with them in socially domestic situations, if you get my drift!) As a result, the social fabric upon which this country has existed for hundreds of years, children taking care of their elderly parents, is starting to unravel, because today's younger generation is unwilling and, more often than not, unable to care for them given their domestic shortcomings.

An aging population is also becoming a significant concern. Chinese people are living much, much longer than they were when the PRC was formed. Back in 1949, the average life expectancy in this country was 32 years. Today, for men it's nearly 71 years old, and 74.5 for women. As such, with less and less young people caring for their elderly parents, the overall health of people as they age can be expected to decrease more rapidly than if they had greater family support, meaning more and more pressure on the health care system.

There is also a financial aspect to the population situation. With the breakdown of the hierarchical social fabric, retirement considerations become a more important factor for the up and coming generation. Knowing that even if they do have children, the likelihood of support into old age is diminishing, meaning that people are going to be forced to tuck more money away for retirement. As such, this creates a problem for a government that is trying to stimulate domestic spending to help solidify this country's massive economic growth.

There is also a gender inequality developing, particularly in the rural areas. A report a few years back in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that in some parts of this country, the male to female live birth ratios are hovering in the range of around 1.3, which means that for every 13 boys born, there will only be 10 girls. Such disparity, over time, is going to lead to problems down the road, particularly when it comes to social competition for potential mates. The desire for families to try to 'select' a male heir has also created social problems as well, including - in some extreme cases - infanticide. The restrictions on childbirth have also created a social animosity situation between the wealthy and the poor. A new trend has developed over the last few years, which is seeing the affluent simply paying the fine to have more than one child.

So as the United States marks the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, and the Mike Huckabee's of the political world muse about making Constitutional changes surrounding abortion law, I think its incumbent upon the Chinese government to start looking at its reproductive policies as well. Otherwise, this country is going to start hitting serious problems down the road when it comes to its population.

We here at Zhongnanhai don't really like to rumor-monger, which is why I've been holding out on this one for so long. But what's the point of a blog if we can't throw stuff out there?

I mentioned late last year that there may be some high-level government staffing changes announced in March. For the record, nothing has been confirmed. But speak to any foreign journalist in Beijing, and they are all working to confirm the same tid-bit of information.

Rumors that Wen Jiabao may not make it through his second-term began circulating early last year, after a report in the Japanese press. It turned out that those reports were false, and Wen was not removed from his post during the 17th Party Congress in October. But rumors of Wen's future have been persisent since, with some claiming that Wen will be relieved of his duties as a result of China's inflation problems.

With this in mind, we are treated to a story in the Chinese Financial Times, called "Beijing wages a psychological war against spiralling prices", regarding China's inflationary challenges. What stood out to me were these two paragraphs:

By contrast, say Chinese officials, the inflation measures have come from the office of Wen Jiabao, the premier, who has hitherto not displayed decisive leadership on the economy.
If inflation did persist and lead to widespread civil and political unrest, Mr Wen would ultimately be held responsible.

Of course, inflation was a key contributor to another period of unrest in China's history, sometime around the late 1980s. There's no doubt that prices are going up for gasoline, food, and housing -- and going up quickly.

Zhongnanhai makes no prediction on the future of Wen Jiabao, except to say that the chattering classes have zeroed in on him as the culprit for China's inflation problems. We'll see where this story leads.

Once again, the Central Government has asked its media organs to bury their collective heads in the sand again when it comes to a contentious issue. This time, it's all an effort not to ruffle the feathers of China's largest and most competitive neighbor, India.

Of course, this week Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was in China as part of his first official state visit to this country. Dr. Singh uncorked all the usual pleasantries during a speech at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences this week, giving out political pleasantries such as: "The rise of China is among the most important developments of our time. As China's largest neighbor, and a friend, we cannot remain untouched by this momentous process."

As for the nuts and bolts of the trip, the Indian delegation pressed China to create more market access to things like fruits, vegetables and pharmaceuticals. The Indian delegation also put pressure on the Chinese government on the issue of downlinking Indian television stations into China, given that India allows CCTV to broadcast in its country. But one of the biggest things on the trip for both sides, which you didn't see or hear much of anything about during Dr. Singh's time in China, was the contentious issue surrounding the two countries' shared border.

For reasons that were unexplained, (discussion surrounding the border dispute in the state media was allowed before his arrival) the Foreign Ministry issued an edict for the media not to focus on the border dispute issue in reports during Dr. Singh's time here. The reason was obviously to try to keep the focus on the economic issues, and an attempt by the government to help soften ties with India. And while it does make for better political ties, I find the Chinese government's move a bit curious.

China and India have had a pretty turbulent history since the CPC took over in 1949. For those who are not particularly familiar with the issues, let me try to put them into as brief a synopsis as possible.

In 1950, after the PRC was formed, the CPC decided it was going to exert its influence over Tibet. India didn't do anything at this point, even though it had some interests in Tibet, because then-Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was more concerned about stabilizing his own country, which had just recently broken free of direct British rule. As such, when the Chinese troops moved in to 'liberate' Tibet, they moved into areas which India recognized as its own. This went unchecked at first. But as the progressions continued, and the CPC refused to recognize the so-called McMahon Line (the traditional dividing line between Tibet and India) tensions escalated to the point in October of 1962 when the Sino-Indian Border War began. Though over relatively quickly with comparatively few casualties, the skirmishes continued along the border into the 70's and nearly culminated in another war in the 1980's. You combine this dispute, along with India's support of China's rival the Soviet Union in the 1970's, while at the same time the CPC was giving its full support to Pakistan during its conflict with India, as well as the Indian government's sheltering of the Tibetan Government in Exile...a lot of historical tension was being built up. And even as the border tensions diminished between India and China in the 1990's, other issues began to surface between them. It's been revealed that China was at the center of Pakistan's ability to become a nuclear power, providing its long-time friend with virtually all the technology to build the bomb. On top of that, when India unleashed its first nuclear test in 1998, China - under the urging of the United States - was quick to chastise India for its nukes. As such, all of this has led to a lot of pent up aggression between the two countries. And while admittedly the tensions have backed off considerably in the 21st century, China and India now face a new challenge between each other: energy.

Of course, both countries have massive populations and are developing rapidly, and - despite what either side says - are in a heavy competition for energy all over the globe. And it's for this main reason that I find it curious that the CPC is taking a much more conciliatory approach to India. The CPC has demonstrated consistently that it has no qualms about taking an aggressive approach when it comes to what it views as China's (re: Tibet and Taiwan). So why now all of a sudden take a step back? I believe the main reason is energy. India has a solid reputation around the world, and is a much more politically trustworthy country than China. As such, if China continues to poke its finger in New Delhi's eye over the border issue, it may just provoke the Indian government to start using its considerable world influence to block Chinese expansion into ripe energy markets.

As such, I think at this stage of the game, we can expect to see a lot more Africa-like 'feel good' stories popping up in the Chinese state run media about India in the months ahead.

So what's he going to do now? This is the question that has to be riding high amongst the leadership inside Zhongnanhai right now (and I'm not talking about Cam) when it comes to Chen Shui-bian. The outgoing leader of the ruling DPP in Taiwan was handed a resounding rebuke of his policies over the weekend in the legislative elections on the island. The Democratic Progressive Party only won 27 of the 113 seats in the Yuan. And, of course, this doesn't bode well for Mr. Chen's replacement, Frank Hsieh, in the upcoming Presidential elections. But that being said, Mr. Chen still has a few more months in the hot seat. So how does he play this out?

Of course, Chen Shui-bian has been long known as an agitator and an irritant to the CPC, but has so far done nothing to provoke the heavy hand of Beijing. But I'm wondering now with his back against the wall, somewhat like a frightened animal, if Mr. Chen will use his remaining time in office to set a legacy for himself, by doing something definitive to peeve the Mainland. And if I'm in Hu Jintao's shoes right now, I'm probably starting to get worried.

Given that the Olympics, "China's coming out party," is not too far off, and all the government's attention will be focused on putting the spit and polish to the country before the world arrives, now would be a critical time for Mr. Chen to pull the rip cord and make a push for full independence. It would push China to make a choice: Go to war with Taiwan and ruin the best chance you've got to try to convince the world that you're actually a pretty decent country (re: Olympic Games), or lose face with your own population and let Mr. Chen get away with it? And at this point, I'm not convinced that Beijing would do anything if Mr. Chen were to make any moves.

So politically speaking, my guess is that Hu Jintao is going to be dancing on the head of a pin for a while!

A fascinating headline recently caught my attention and got me doing some reading. You may have read recently about a new report from a coalition of Washington-based think tanks which noted that Beijing would consider the option of sending PLA troops into North Korea if the Kim Jong-Il regime ever went in the tank. The splashy headlines belie the fact that the report is actually quite vague, and makes reference to this concept as coming from Chinese academics. That is to say that no government official was quoted as saying the idea of direct Chinese intervention into a destabilized North Korea was on the table. That's not to say that there aren't such plans swirling around somewhere. However, having read "Keeping an Eye on an Unruly Neighbor" myself, I think you have to take what's contained in it with a grain of salt.

But in reading through the 28 page document, I did discover a couple of highlights worth noting. One part of it points out that within academic circles, there is interest now in discussing North Korean stability directly with the United States.

There is apparent new willingness among Chinese institute analysts and PLA researchers to discuss the warning signs of instability in North Korea and how China might respond if the situation gets out of control and threatens Chinese security. Some Chinese experts say explicitly that they favor holding a discussion on stability in North Korea in official channels with the United States, including possible joint responses in support of common objectives such as securing nuclear weapons and fissile material. Other analysts maintain that such discussions are premature.

I find this somewhat interesting. Of course, if the North Korean government did collapse, it's in China's interest to make sure that it doesn't get a flood of refugees filing over its border. But what I find curious is that there is desire to discuss the issue with the United States. China has long been shoring up its influence in the Asian theatre as the big player on the block. So why get the US involved in its own back yard? In theory, China has the resources and apparent ability to deal with a collapsing North Korea. So why involve a country that is likely going to insist that a democracy be the order of day as the replacement for the Kim Jong-Il regime? Why invite trouble to your doorstep if you are China? This revelation makes me think that China isn't nearly as able to keep stability in the Northeast 'rustbelt' as we might be led to believe.

The other nugget that caught my attention was the obvious concern being expressed by the Chinese academics about a rapid increase in the US-North Korean relationship. Of course, the official line is that the Chinese would encourage strengthened bi-lateral ties between Washington and Pyongyang. However, this report notes something that you won't hear about from the Chinese:

Some Chinese experts even worry that Washington and Pyongyang will cut a deal that will permit North Korea to keep its nuclear weapons in exchange for concessions by the DPRK. A leading Chinese analyst suggested, for example, that the DPRK could pledge to not proliferate and give up long-range nuclear missiles in return for U.S. acceptance of the country as a nuclear weapons state.

The report goes on to point out that if this were to happen outside of the 6 party framework that it would essentially leave Beijing twisting in the wind, because China has insisted that Pyongyang has to give up its nukes. The report also notes that the United States urged China to put pressure on India after its nuclear test in 1998, only to reverse its position and condone India's nuclear program, leaving China cleaning up a political mess between itself and India for the next two years.

So will the United States allow Pyongyang to hang on to its nukes? A year ago, I would have said no way. Personally meeting Assistant US Secretary of State and lead US negotiator Christopher Hill last year (over a pint at the Irish Embassy for St. Paddies day), he seemed quite confident that North Korea was going to be totally disarmed by the end of the year. Well, 2008 is upon us, and Pyongyang still has the bomb. And with the Bush Administration's time ticking down, there may be additional pressure on Mr. Hill to get a deal done to give the outgoing President a legacy in Asia. As such, I'm starting to wonder if there's maybe something like the Chinese are worried about brewing between the US and North Korea.

All in all, "Keeping an Eye on an Unruly Neighbor" -- in my mind -- holds minimal appeal and merely reinforces what most of us already know.

I've always been fascinated by the world of business. And living in China right now, there are no lack of interesting business stories to sift through. But this most recent story from the airline industry in this country strikes me as particularly interesting, given the nature of the situation.

Air China's parent company, China National Aviation Corporation - a state-run enterprise - put the state in a tough spot on the PR front. Allow me to explain:

Last September, Singapore Airlines announced that it was going to try to snap up a 24-percent stake in China Eastern Airlines. Nothing to surprising about this move, given that many analysts predict China's airline industry is ripe for investment and growth. And the State Council approved the move. All seemed to be running along smoothly until this week when CNAC announced that it wants China Eastern shareholders to reject the Singaporean bid and accept an offer of 5 HK dollars a share, instead of the 3.80 HKD Singapore Air is offering. So if, and when, the shareholders accept the Air China offer, CNAC will have put the government in a very difficult situation, and one that may prove to be none-too-appealing on the business PR front.

This government desperately wants to encourage foreign investment in key areas where China has been traditionally weak. One of these areas is the airline industry. The main reason is because they want to bring in foreign talent in the managerial sector given the strong growth potential in the sector. As such, it seemed a no-brainer for the government to green-light the Singapore Air investment in China Eastern. But now that Air China is making a move, the government's image in this situation has been irreparably tarnished. When it comes to business, particularly with the state-run organizations, the government wants to appear hands off because it sends a bad message to the market when the government has its stink on any transactions. But Air China wouldn't have made the offer to the China Eastern shareholders unless it had a pretty good indication that the government was going to green-light the deal. And what makes matters worse is that a number of analysts believe that the Singapore Air offer of 3.80 HKD per share is about right for the current financial situation. As such, it appears the government is undercutting foreign investment in favor of a financially inefficient 'local' offer.

So the question I have is how much consensus is there within government circles about what is actually going to happen in this situation? Is the leadership within the China National Aviation Corporation going against the government? Has the CNAC stepped where it shouldn't have? And what will the government ultimately do? Will it approve the deal or not? If I was a betting man, this would be my prediction: The government will allow the Air China offer to stand, saying that it wants the markets to dictate the outcome. However, don't be surprised in a few months if we suddenly see the head of CNAC suddenly 'retire.'

We'll keep you posted on the results.

It's been fascinating for this political junkie to watch Hillary Clinton flailing as she is brought down by a young, charismatic upstart. The Clinton campaign machine -- a formidable machine, at that -- is now desperately grasping at straws in ways that we've never seen before. Hillary realizes New Hampshire is do-or-die (well, not technically, but figuratively: if she loses the first two states, Obama's message of hope will only gain traction) and her desperation seems to be turning voters off of her in droves. The latest poll from Rasmussen points to Obama with 37% support, and Clinton 10 points behind.

Now, watching somebody slowly sink in public is morbid fun for most people, but with Hillary, it could've been avoided, or at least mitigated, with some more careful strategic planning.

People have always had doubts about Hillary. Sure, she's polished and says the right things. But there's still a sneaking suspicion that, for whatever reason, there is a wolf under that sheep's clothing. Something about her just isn't palatable -- in fact, it turns people off.

Hillary knows this, which is why through most of the campaign she has focused on the "likeability factor", which both Obama and Edwards have in spades (so do many of the Republican candidates, most notably Mr. Huckabee). There are plenty of potential reasons for her lack of warmth -- but the fact is it's an issue she has to deal with.

Which was why I was surprised that she ripped Iowa voters following her loss in the state's caucuses this week. If she has a "witch" side, it showed in these comments from her campaign:

"The worst thing would be to over count Iowa and its importance," said chief strategist Mark Penn, just hours after the New York senator finished in a disappointing third place, behind Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
"Iowa doesn't have a record of picking presidents. We're in a strong position to move forward," Penn told a handful of reporters on board a chartered midnight flight [...]
Most people inside the Clinton camp are shrugging off Iowa all together. "Iowa is so small, it's like a mayor's race in a medium-sized city," traveling press secretary Jay Carson said. "It wouldn't be wise to put too much emphasis on it."

Now, to be fair, Hillary didn't say these words herself - but she didn't have to. The campaign speaks on behalf of the candidate, and the comments were not only insulting to Iowa voters but also arrogant. And they confirmed people's fears. She was begging for their votes and praising Iowans as being "sophisticated" just prior to voting day -- now they can be written off?

Then there was her last-minute debate appearance tonight, where she lit into the agents of change in an "angry" way, according to some pundits. I watched the clip myself (you can find it on YouTube here) and think people are being a little unfair. Sure, she got testy, but I think if that were Giuliani or Edwards or Obama, they wouldn't be taking nearly the heat for it, which goes to my point: Hillary must be extra careful in these exchanges because the spotlight is on, and people are just waiting for evidence to prove their suspicions that she's not fit for office. When you're looking for it, you'll find it, and they did tonight.

To me, Hillary was at her best when she looked confident. Unlike what her advisers have clearly told her to do, I don't believe the scrappier Hillary is helping at all, and the facts appear to be backing that up. At a Democratic dinner in New Hampshire last night, Hillary was booed twice -- booed by Democrats! -- while Obama received a reception like a rock star. This isn't to mention that she also now trails Obama by 10 points, as I mentioned earlier, and seems to plummet further with each gaffe. It doesn't help that the media smells blood, and is now going after her. As Carl Bernstein said, Obama's campaign has received so much momentum that it's becoming a crusade, and with each passing day it's becoming stronger.

So what can she do? Unfortunately, not much. As some analysts have pointed out, her campaign didn't see the broad theme of "change" until it was too late, and she was bowled over in Iowa. It was awkward to see her standing on stage following her loss in the caucuses with Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright standing nearby -- that makes it awfully difficult for her to wrap herself in the mantra of "change". As many used to say about Obama, Hillary's speech just didn't seem "authentic."

That being said, here are a couple of things she should've done earlier, and might like to try now anyway, because it's hail mary time.

  • Get rid of the vestiges of the Bill Clinton regime - Perhaps even two years ago this may have worked, when people yearned for the smooth, well-spoken, Clinton, who had the economy humming. But change is this year's theme, and having Bill and Madeleine hang around hurts her message.
  • Don't shy away from your record - She did this a bit in the debate. Hillary has much more experience than Obama in the White House, and in the Senate. Use it.
  • Don't be afraid to attack Obama's experience - Hillary has done this too, but in a way that makes her out to be the villain. Obama is turning his biggest weakness - inexperience - into a strong point by advocating change. But his inexperience is also his biggest weakness, and it needs to be forcefully pointed out. Hillary needs to say to the American people: "Right now, our country is at war. Iran is on the cusp of getting nuclear weapons. Pakistan is crumbling. China is rising. Senator Obama cares for this country deeply and has some good ideas for the future, but it is too risky to put a young, one-term Senator in the White House before he is ready." (I can almost guarantee that this will be the attack line of the Republicans if Obama wins the nomination).
  • Admit that Obama is strong, and politely draw parallels - I wish more politicians would do this, because it makes them more human and more likeable (and we all know Hillary needs all the help she can get). There's nothing wrong with saying Obama is a strong speaker, and he has good ideas for the country. But he's been light on specifics and big on rhetoric, so Americans should read the fine print before making such an important decision.

Unfortunately for Hillary, there are a number of variables in this year's campaign that are working against her, regardless of her campaign strategy. The biggest and most overwhelming, of course, is change. From TIME:

But it's possible that the most difficult problem is not Obama; it could be Clinton. How can she retool her message -- and her identity as a virtual incumbent -- to resonate with an electorate that seems to yearn more for change than any other quality? Says one longtime Democratic strategist, who is close to the Clintons: "Fundamentally, she is who she is; she can't change who she is, and maybe this is not her time."

As I said before, it's too late now for any changes in campaign strategy to have much of an effect, at least on voters in New Hampshire. Hillary's candidacy is not dead yet, but I'd venture to say it's getting close to life support. New Hampshire will be big, and Hillary needs at least a strong second-place showing to maintain a shred of momentum.

But there's blood in the water, and if tonight's debate was any indication, Obama, Edwards, and even some media outlets are going in for the kill.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from January 2008.

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