Yesterday and today, Republicans John McCain and Mike Huckabee both stood up for Barack Obama concerning his relationship with controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright. On Morning Joe today, Huckabee candidly said, "Obama handled this about as well as anybody could." He laid out his argument pretty simply:
"You can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do," Huckabee says. "It's interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what ... Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable, years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say 'Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that.'"
Sarah Jessica Parker is not confident that her unreleased movie, Spinning Into Butter, will ever see the light of day. Barack Obama and his wife are slated to attend the opening of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Oprah on Thursday. Cosmetics heir Olivia Chantecaille got engaged to banker boyfriend Ren Grady. Gossip Girl's Blake Lively took a bunch of friends shopping to Armani Exchange on Fifth Avenue. Shake Shack is opening a location on the Upper West Side! Sting, Diddy, and Josh Hartnett all hung out at Half Nelson producer Charlie Corwin's birthday at Socialista, which is now back open after the hepatitis scare. Michael Musto will appear on the cover of The Village Voice spoofing this magazine's Lindsay Lohan shoot.
Over the weekend Hillary Clinton dispelled any notions that she was ready to concede defeat and slink away into the night by lambasting Barack Obama for his allegedly dishonest critiques of her positions on health care and NAFTA. Mike Huckabee isn’t done either — he skewered his own reluctance to leave the race on Saturday Night Live. Plus, Ralph Nader somehow thinks it’s a good idea to run again. And while the primary landscape is still shifting, many people are already strategizing about the general election.
The Times’ story on John McCain’s alleged affair with a lobbyist during his last presidential run crashed into the political discussion today like a flaming satellite tank filled with toxic innuendo and accusations. People are wondering a few things: What will be the effect on the Republican race and general election? (See our incisive post on what this says about Mike Huckabee having stuck in the race.) Is the Times really sure about their story, considering that the main sources are two unnamed former staffers? And, finally, is there anything they left out — maybe something specific, preferably salacious? As it stands now, the story amounts to a cruel tease — cruel to us, who want the whole truth and nothing but (and have gathered much of it in the 2008 Electopedia, newly updated with entries on the presumptive Republican nominee!), and cruel to McCain, who is no doubt praying for some fireworks in the Democratic debate tonight to push this down in the news cycle.
Hooo boy! The Times really opened up a box of bees when they published their insinuating John McCain story late last night. If you haven't seen it, it concerns McCain's high-horse attitude toward ethics, which may have been compromised in part by a close, perhaps romantic relationship with attractive lobbyist Vicki Iseman during McCain's first run for president eight years ago. The paper (using a half-dozen reporters and thousands of words) described confrontations that staffers had with both McCain and Iseman to stop what appeared to be an inappropriate intimacy. By late last evening, political blogs and news programs were exploding with reactions. McCain's camp was outraged at what they called a "smear." It quickly surfaced that there had been a long period of debate inside the Times as to when to publish the piece, and whether to do it at all. The McCain camp claimed that the paper ran with it after hearing that The New Republic was going to publish a story about the infighting at the paper over its inflammatory contents. Some critics even went so far as to speculate that the liberal Times wanted to wait until the Republicans had a presumptive nominee before blowing a hole in his candidacy. Woweee. Whether any of this affects McCain remains to be seen (we cannot wait for the smackdown that Cindy McCain is bound to lay down today). But the scandal addresses something that's been itching us in the back of our heads for a long time: Why the heck is Mike Huckabee still in this race?
• Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier was forced to start his show an hour late in Milan today after Ferragamo's late start backed up the day's schedule. On the upside, Maier's coats were marvels of geometric chic. [WSJ]
Eli Manning and Yogi Berra sang "New York, New York" together at Rao's. Male madam David Forest says Marc Jacobs used to employ his services. Mariah Carey shot a video on the rooftop of Lenny Kravitz's Crosby Street apartment. Mayor Bloomberg celebrated his 65th birthday with Steven Ratner and others at Michael's. R.E.M. front man Michel Stipe got into a go-cart accident two weeks ago but is fine now. Blackstone Group co-founder Pete Peterson sold his River House digs to financier Jeffrey Leeds for $10 million.
While it seems increasingly likely that the Democratic nomination won’t be decided until August in a dark back room filled with smoke, secret deals, power plays, bribery, blackmail, maybe some murder, and definitely maniacal laughter, the Republican nominee was pretty much crowned yesterday. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Mitt Romney announced to the crowd that he was bowing out of the race to unify the party and avoid a Democratic surrender to terrorists, throwing one last bone to the base before he departed (until 2012 or 2016). McCain took the stage as the Republican nominee, and he offered an olive branch that was generally well received by the suspicious audience. He’ll move forward with some advantages over his still-feuding Democratic counterparts, but his road to victory is still bumpy and strewn with intractable, cranky conservatives.
John McCain entered Super-Duper Tuesday with two goals — one obvious and concrete, the other more ephemeral but no less important in the long run. The first of McCain’s aims was to secure enough delegates in the 21 states in which Republicans voted to more or less lock up his party’s nomination. And the second was to win so decisively, so convincingly, that he could turn to the braying, hard-right, anti-McCain caucus and say, in effect: “Hello, people, lookee here, the party has rallied around me; it’s time for you either to get on the bus or shut the fuck up.”
Good morning! How late did you stay up watching the Super Tuesday results come in? Did you make it to Minnesota? All the way to California? Well, now more than 90 percent of precincts are reported in all the states, and the results are more solid. John McCain has strengthened his lead on the Republican side, winning in nine states and pulling in an estimated 613 delegates. Romney, who won six states, pulled in only 269, and Huckabee, who was stronger last night than many expected, still earned only 190 delegates. On the Democratic side, things were much less clear. Late in the evening, Hillary pulled out a win by 10 percent in the hotly contested California race, putting her state total at eight and her estimated delegate total at 845. Obama won thirteen states and 765 delegates. That's still far short of the 2,025 needed for a win, so we've got a long way to go. Both had strong wins in their home states of New York and Illinois, and the closest races were in New Mexico (still uncalled) and Missouri. Obama's strong showing is going to make the next few weeks very interesting as Hillary tries to hang on to her base. We can't wait! Tears! Red-faced Bill! Badass Michelle! Hope! Change! Day One! Bring it on.
Election Index [NYT]
Of course, tomorrow morning we're probably not going to have learned anything definitive about this year's presidential primary. But that doesn't mean that each major candidate isn't treating Super Tuesday as a do-or-die moment. Late last night and early this morning, each took the opportunity to make a final statement that would be circulated through the press throughout today as people gear up to head to the polls. Here's what they've been saying:
• "In my White House, we will know who wears the pantsuits," Hillary Clinton cracked on Letterman's show last night. Sure, it was a joke response to a question from the host about whether husband Bill Clinton would be "going through stuff" while she was busy governing the nation, but it's an important point. Since Bill got a little out-of-control campaigning on her behalf, and since she cried again yesterday, it was important for her to reiterate that she is tough and in charge. [Reuters]
• John McCain, meanwhile, stayed on message, saying that both Democratic candidates are clueless on Iraq. He also indicated that he'd set up "arrangements" to leave U.S. troops there permanently. "We've been in Kuwait right next door [to Iraq] for many years," he pointed out. [NYDN]
Karl Rove writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today that “The Republican race is a serious debate about serious ideas.” That obviously went to press before last night's Republican debate. And while the event happened in the Reagan Library, in the shadow of the actual Air Force One plane that Reagan once flew on, the shared claims to the Gipper's legacy that have marked the primary campaign thus far gave way to some bruising back-and-forth, particularly, of course, between front-runners John McCain and Mitt Romney. (Mike Huckabee took his place as the new Ron Paul; Ron Paul, well, he was the same old overexcited, barely coherent Ron Paul.) McCain continued to contend that Romney had supported timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. Romney accused McCain of “dirty tricks” and “Washington-style old politics.” McCain hammered Romney for his attack ads and offered him some friendly financial advice: “A lot of it's your own money, you're free to do with what you want to. You can spend it all.” It was great theater (far, far more entertaining than the last debate), but the question remains: Who won?
Floridians awake today knowing that they (sort of) hold the fate of the world in their hands. With the state's electoral track record, that's kind of scary. It's neck and neck between McCain and Romney up front; much further behind, Giuliani and Huckabee are also … necking. The former pair are desperately grappling; the latter, probably praying. (Okay, not Giuliani.) Which way is the wind blowing this morning, and whom does it favor?
Last night’s Republican debate at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton was about as feisty as knitting lessons at the community center. It was as if the candidates, who mostly avoided attacks, were tired from the heat. Many observers handed Romney the victory for his smooth answers on the economy; McCain also did well. But Giuliani and Huckabee, while they didn’t do poorly, didn’t do much to break out of their second-tier positions in Florida. For those who missed it, we sifted the platitudes for the stuff that really matters.
Finally, the presidential candidates “respond” to the sushi crisis. Mike Huckabee’s stance? “Nowhere does the Bible mention sushi in the Garden of Eden.” [NYT]
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a Michelin Guide inspector, consider first that in a year “each inspector evaluates 240 restaurants, spends 130 nights in hotels, carries out 800 inspections, writes 1,100 reports and drives 18,000 miles.” [Guardian]
The international conservation group Oceana has issued a report saying that it found mercury levels in tuna sushi throughout the United States to be just as high as in New York’s supply. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]