Sunday, December 30, 2007

Edwards Not Getting A Fair Shake

It's getting difficult to listen to commentary on the Iowa Democratic caucus without hearing someone say something about John Edwards akin to that asserted by Chris Wallace today on GOP TV Sunday: "It seeems like he's been living there since 2005."

Here, then, are some relevant statistics, courtesy of a 12/29/07 blog on dailykos:

Paid staff:
Kerry 2004: 120
Edwards 2008: 178
Obama: 300
Clinton: 400

TV advertising (in millions):
Kerry 2004: $2.73
Edwards 2008: $2.7
Obama: $8.3
Clinton: $6.5

Days spent in Iowa:
Kerry 2004: 76
Edwards 2008: 80
Obama: 78
Clinton: 66

To summarize: John Edwards has spent a few more days in Iowa than the favorites... and has a much smaller (paid) staff and has spent much less. And is running neck and neck.

Why such a close race, then? Iowa skews old, which helps Edwards. The nature of the caucus system (with Democrats) gives disproportionate weight to small gatherings, hence probably rural groups, and Clinton and especially Obama are weak in rural and small town America. Perhaps Iowa Democrats unlike, say, New Hampshire Democrats (many of them from suburban Boston and/or commuters to the Boston area) are somewhat populist economically. And unlike Democrats in the rest of the country, Iowans have come to know the candidates and thus do not overwhelmingly favor one over the other.

But the narrative having Edwards spending his entire life in Iowa has its advantages to the mainstream media. That way, depending on the outcome on January 3, the media already has its headline: a) Edwards loses, may have to drop out; or b) Edwards wins- but faces bigger hurdle in New Hampshire.

Why is this not mere paranoia on my part? Why do media figures persist in the ad hominem attack on Edwards as "angry?" In his piece of 12/19/07, in which he argues that Edwards, Huckabee, and Paul face similar elitist, anti-populist scorn from the establishment, Glenn Greenwald explains brilliantly:

It is very striking how little Edwards' substantive critique of our political system has penetrated into the national discourse. That's because the centerpiece of his campaign is a critique that is a full frontal assault on our political establishment. His argument is not merely that the political system needs reform, but that it is corrupt at its core -- "rigged" in favor of large corporate interests and their lobbyists, who literally write our laws and control the Congress. Anyone paying even casual attention to the extraordinary bipartisan effort on behalf of telecom immunity, and so many other issues driven almost exclusively by lobbyists, cannot reasonably dispute this critique.

Yet because that argument indicts the same Beltway culture of which our political journalists are an integral part, and further attacks the system's power brokers who are the friends, sources, and peers of those journalists, they instinctively react with confusion, scorn and hostility towards Edwards' campaign. They condescendingly dismiss it as manipulative populist swill, or cynically assume that it's just a ploy to distinguish himself by "moving left." In the eyes of our Beltawy press, the idea that our political system is "rigged" or corrupt must be anything other than true or sincerely held.

We will find out on Thursday whether Iowa Democrats are willing to buck the conventional wisdom of the insiders.

Quote of the Week

"The press, with Hillary Clinton, it's a poisonous relationship. It's a mutual disregard."

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post on CNN's Reliable Sources, 12/30/07

Friday, December 28, 2007

John Mccain continues his Modest Talking Express swing through the early primary/caucus states. Reacting on 12/27/07 in Urbandale, Iowa to the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazhir Bhutto, the Arizona Senator astonishingly claimed "I think my record is clear -- 20 years, I've been involved in every national security issue that's faced this nation. And I have the judgment to handle it, and I've proven it."

Put aside McCain's early, fervent support for the disastrous war in Iraq. reported Barack Obama declaring on August 1, 2007 "I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. ... If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will." According to politicalticker.blogs.cnn (from, on Sunday, August 5, John McCain was quoted by the online edition of The State (a Columbia, South Carolina newspaper) as criticizing Obama's remark as "that's kind of typical of his naivete" for allegedly announcing beforehand that he would take action.

On 11/26/07 McCain responded to remarks of Mike Huckabee, who two days earlier had stated that if there were an "imminent threat" posed by terrorists inside Pakistan, he would respond regardless of Pakistan's sovereignty. Huckabee asserted "We need to make sure we are clear that if we have an actionable target in Pakistan, that we will take action on that target because if that helps save and preserve American people." The Repub sage from Arizona pounced, asserting "to say something like that is totally unnecessary and probably has a not beneficial effect on our Pakistani allies who are fighting against al Qaeda and with us in Pakistan."

The assassination of Bhutto, whether by a terrorist, some other militant, or a hit winked at by John McCain's buddy, Pervez Musharraf, has dealt a serious blow both to democracy and stability in Pakistan. But the mainstream media will continue to portray McCain as some sort of foreign policy expert as they imply that Obama, Huckabee, and John Edwards (the only candidate originally to agree with Obama's 8/07 position) as out of touch with global reality.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Quote of the Week

Just in time for Christmas, this from an American Baptist Church minister commenting on Jesus Christ:

"It's not what He would do that counts; it's what He wants from me."

-Peter Gomes, Professor, Harvard University, on the 12/24/07 edition of PBS' Charlie Rose

Happy (belated) Chanukah
Merry Christmas
As indicates here, surveys consistently have shown health care to be either the second or third most important political issue to Americans. One of the critical issues faced by presidential aspirants in formulating their health care policies is whether to include mandates, requiring Americans of all ages to carry health insurance. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted of the candidates, "without a mandate, they find, the plan will fall far short of universal coverage. Worse yet, without a mandate health insurance will be much more expensive than it should be for those who do choose to buy it."

Clearly, the health care plan of every Democrat running for the top office is superior to that of any Republican. (No, we do not have the finest health care system in the world and, yes, there is a proper, increased, role for government.) Still, on which side of the mandate question does each Democrat, according to his or her website, fall?

First, we'll dispose of Dennis Kucinich- favorably, because he is the only candidate publicly supporting a single payer system, which obviously would provide health care for all. And now, an excerpt from each website (excepting that of Mike Gravel, whom I can't bring myself to care about):

Joe Biden: "While insuring all children must be our top priority, it is also important to offer uninsured adults access to health care." Verdict: no (Beware the euphemism "access.")

Hillary Clinton: "Individuals: will be required to get and keep insurance in a system where insurance is affordable and accessible." Verdict: yes.

Chris Dodd: "Universal coverage will be achieved through a shared mandate on individuals and businesses: universal coverage through universal responsibility." Verdict: yes.

John Edwards: "Once these steps have been taken, requiring all American residents to get insurance." Verdict: yes.

Bill Richardson: " Like auto insurance, all Americans will have to have health coverage and employers will pay their fair share of employee health care costs." Verdict: yes. (Krugman: "....while the enforcement of car insurance mandates isn’t perfect, it does greatly increase the number of insured drivers.")

And most critically-

Barack Obama: "Obama will expand the number of options for young adults to get coverage...." Verdict: no.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

President George W. Amnesty

White House insistence on granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies which have been sued for providing information to the National Security Agency reminds us of a disturbing tendency on the part of this President. Mr. Bush (in)famously granted Scooter Libby commutation of the prison sentence imposed upon the ex-Cheney aide for his role in exposing Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA agent, and Mr. Bush has supported amnesty (oh, right, "Comprehensive Immigration Reform"*) for illegal immigrants. The list of Administration employees who have been involved in nefarious activities is long, and the involvement of Bush & Co. in illegal spying and selling of the war in Iraq have been well-documented. It is a Presidency which sniffs at lawbreaking and is partial to amnesty. An Administration allergic to the rule of law. The Amnesty Presidency.

*which is worse than amnesty, as I'll comment on at a later date.
Dead, for now. The effort by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.- Nev.) to amend the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, euphemistically dubbed the "Protect America Act," has been tabled to January. The pernicious amendment which lead to a threat by presidential candidate Chris Dodd (D.- Ct.) would have granted telecom companies retroactive immunity against lawsuits for their role in providing information enabling the National Security Agency to listen to telephone and Internet conversations. Dodd never technically began a debate, reports Sam Stein on, but talked for several hours, leaving the floor only once, during which colleagues filled in. Eventually, yearning to pass an appropriations bill before the Senate is adjourned for Christmas/New Year's, Harry Reid, an ardent supporter of the bill, tabled the measure.

According to Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane at, an effort is being made to find a compromise, perhaps by substituting the federal government for the companies as a defendant in ongoing action. This effort is being spearheaded by Pennsylvania's Arlen Spector, whom the mainstream media like to portray as a "moderate," in an effort, I believe, to reinforce Repub philosophy that "government" is the problem and the corporate sector the solution. But there is little time left before the break and a bill therefore likely will have to be passed by the Senate thereafter, and reconciled with the bill passed by the House.

With sentiment expressed by Democrat Charles Schumer of New York, quoted as saying "those like myself, who are against immunity, really don't want to punish the phone companies as much as we want to hold the government accountable," Reid's support, and White House lust, for the legislation, the struggle of Chris Dodd and his allies appears especially heroic.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quote of the Week

"And OF COURSE the old-guard Wall Street "so-last-century" GOP establishment power base is nervous. They courted the real deal, and now they GOT a LIVE one.... They grinned at their less-hip allies at the Prayer Breakfasts, and they smirked, because it didn't get in the way of free-market pollution of the environment or rapacious corporate profit-making.... Well, the old bosses brought it on themselves...." (emphasis Baitz's).

-Jon Michael Baitz, writing on on 12/18/07 about the role of GOP economic conservatives upon the rise of Mike Huckabee
Bill Clinton As Surrogate

On November 27, 2007 former President Clinton, to the disbelief of most, stated in Iowa that he opposed the war in Iraq "from the beginning." In his 12/14/07 interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton said voting for Barack Obama is "rolling the dice" and "there are a lot of people who honestly believe what you have done for other people in your public life…is completely irrelevant, but what matters is what you symbolize.” Three days later in South Carolina, Clinton 42 commented of his wife "well, the first thing she intends to do, because you can do this without passing a bill, the first thing she intends to do is to send me and former President Bush and a number of other people around the world to tell them that America is open for business and cooperation again."

The latter statement was easily brushed aside by the Republican National Committee, which contended "in 2009, a Republican president will be working with our friends and allies abroad..." And Democratic primary voters who voted against Bush 41 when voting for Mr. Clinton might not be comforted by the implication that election of Mrs. Clinton might represent a Bush/Clinton dynasty.

And these controversial statements by the former President, and the suggestons that Senator Clinton's campaign is concerned about their potential impact, bring to mind the criticism of Al Gore's presidential election campaign of 2000. After George W. Bush was selected President, critics reveled in ridiculing Gore for not using in the campaign the popular President he had been serving for eight years.

Now we know why. Bill Clinton- who had less of a stake in Gore's election than he has in his wife's bid- is an excellent campaigner, but a loose cannon. The Gore forces would not have been able to limit Clinton's travels or efforts to Arkansas, or Arkansas and Tennessee, as some of the media types who took such glee in the Vice-President's defeat, imply. The involvement of President Clinton probably would have done more harm than good nationally and there is little chance it would have turned the tide in his home state. It is time for the critics to acknowledge that they have been wrong, that for all the strategic failures (such as the selection of Joe Lieberman as V.P. nominee) of the campaign, Al Gore lost the Presidency for other reasons, including the sliming of the candidate by the mainstream media and five Supreme Court justices who placed partisanship above law or country.
Sort Of Anti-Abortion

Mitt Romney has come out in defense of murder. No, he didn't put it so bluntly, but on the Sunday, December 16, 2007 edition of Meet the Press, the former Massachusetts governor condoned what he believes is murder. He was asked the following by moderator Tim Russert:

But when you say you support a human life amendment to ban all abortions across the country, what would--form would that take? If a woman had an abortion, would she be perceived a criminal? Would a doctor who performed it be perceived a criminal? You talked about your family relative who died from an illegal abortion, and yet President Romney is saying ban all abortion. And what would be the legal consequences to people who participated in that procedure?

Before Romney explained that a doctor performing an illegal abortion would be held accountable, such as by loss of license, he commented:

They would be like the consequences associated with the bill relating to partial birth abortion, which, of course, does not punish the woman. You, you wouldn't--I don't think anyone is calling for--maybe some of them, but no one I know of is calling for punishing the, the mother, punishing the woman.

So for Mitt Romney, the seqence would be: overturning Roe v. Wade; enacting state laws banning abortion; the woman seeks an illegal abortion; the doctor procured is penalized or prosecuted (Mitt a little hazy on which); the woman initiating the search for a killer and paying the fee is exonerated.

On abortion alone, there was more hypocrisy: earlier in the exchange, responding to Russert's query whether life begins at conception, Romney curiously stated "I believe, I believe from a, from a, a political perspective that life begins at conception. I, I don't, I don't pretend to know, if you will, from a theological standpoint when life begins." What does it mean that from "a political perspective" life begins at conception? As in, if I don't agree to this, I'll get killed in the Repub primaries? It was not asked, and it was not explained.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Democratic Presidential debate from Iowa on December 13, 2007 was nothing compared to the big political news of the day. As reports, Clinton advisor Bill Shaheen, husband of former governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen, resigned on 12/13/07 after saying of Barack Obama the previous day:

The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight ... and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," Shaheen said. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?' There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome.

The matter of illegal drug use was not initiated by the Clinton campaign. CNN notes "Obama has not shied away from bringing up his past use of drugs while on the campaign trail." Nevertheless, Shaheen apologized and said that the campaign had not authorized the remarks. Still, moral outrage predictably ensued. The candidate, Hillary Clinton, emphasized that she did not condone the statement. the media was horrified and Obama's chief strategist and his spokesman both condemned the comment, while candidate Obama took the high road, asserting that he did not think the incident represented an intent to plant a rumor. Condemnation was widespread, support absent, and Shaheen stepped down (though it won't be surprising if he later returns in some capacity).

Also predictable: no one asked whether Shaheen's statement was accurate. Would, if the Illinois Senator is nominated, the Repub Party be petty and demagogic enough to exploit drug use Obama admitted to taking part in as a young man? History being a guide, there are two possible answers: yes and yes.
Reflections on the Debate (Johnston, Iowa)- No. 4

The responses to debate questions by the candidate once a dark horse and now arguably the leading GOP aspirant (i.e., apparently ahead in the first state, Iowa) reflect a sharp political mind of another politician from Hope, Arkansas. However, in the Repub Presidential debate of October 12, 2007, the former Governor tried to have it both ways in a question about the role of the federal government in education- and was called on it by Tom Tancredo. Here is Huckabee's statement:

First of all, the whole role of education is a state issue. It's not really a federal issue. And the worst thing that we can do is to shift more burden, more responsibility, more authority to the federal government when more of it needs to go to the states.
But I think the federal government can play a pivotal role in -- primarily in helping to make sure that the best practices that are working in the states are shared with states who are struggling. Let me give you a couple of examples of what has to happen in all the states, and the federal government can at least share the data and the information.
One, personalize the learning for the student. We have 6,000 kids every day drop out in this country. They don't drop out because they're dumb; they drop out because they're bored to death. They're in a 19th-century education system in a 21st-century world. If we really are serious, then first of all we make sure that we build a curriculum around their interests rather than just push them into something they don't care.
Second thing, unleash weapons of mass instruction. I'm a passionate, ardent supporter of having music and art in every school for every student at every grade level -- (applause) --

Pretty amazing. Huckabee, playing to a Repub electorate, claims "the worst thing we can do is to shift more burden, more responsibility, more authority to the federal government." Moments later, playing to the educated, sophisticated audience which likely dominated the auditorium of the debate (and to the larger American audience), he asserts being "a passionate, ardent supporter of having music and art..."

Tom Tancredo would have none of it, noting "but you can't, I don't think, Governor, with all due respect, you can't say on one hand, you're against having government intervention and on the other hand, tell us that you want music and art and everything else in the school. That's not the job of a president. It is the job of a governor." One or the other, Governor- states' rights or a bigger federal role in art and music education.

And the moderator could have asked Mr. Huckabee, eager to apportion more class time to art and music, where, given a school day of determinate length, he intended to cut- gym, math, schience, history, or English. Still, it is so rare that a Repub conservative makes sense- and even more rare that a rival is able to counter a claim by Huckabee- that I couldn't resist its mention.
Reflections on the Debate (Johnston, Iowa)- No. 3

Two of the responses from former Mike Huckabee during the Repub Presidential debate sponsored by the Des Moines Register on December 12, 2007 highlight the political intelligence of the former Arkansas Governor.

Huckabee, who at some point will need to avoid being typecast as the candidate of the Religious Right, acknowledged the existence of global warming. But when asked about mandating increased use of biofuel, he stated "I don't think that's what's necessary" (and wisely avoiding noting anything as necessary). He also wisely, if insincerely, quipped "and I know on a day like today, it's hard to believe there is global warming, if anybody's been in Iowa on a day like today." Sure, Huckabee was pushing for a laugh, and didn't get it, but it did send an important message to conservative Republican voters: I'm not one of those "liberal nuts" who actually believe that long-term, global temperature change is more important that the temperature in one state in one country on one day is.

When the candidates were asked "what do you believe you could accomplish in your first year as president?" Huckabee replied, effectively, though disingenuously,

I think the first priority of the next president is to be a president of all the United States. We are, right now, a very polarized country, and that polarized country has led to a paralyzed government. We've got Democrats who fight Republicans, liberals fighting conservatives. The left fights the right.
Who's fighting for this country again? And somehow, we've got to quit even fighting among ourselves as conservatives and as Republicans, and start putting the better interest of our nation. If that doesn't happen, we'll get none of these things done. We've got to be the united people of the United States, and a president has got to somehow remind us that we are a great, resilient nation that has to stick together to solve all of these problems.

This comes off as an inspiring, patriotic statement ("we are a great, resilient nation that has to stick together to solve all these problems." Nothing about how George W. Bush has dedicated the last seven years to dividing the rich from the middle class, war supporters against war opponents, and the powerful generally from the American people. Nor how Mr. Huckabee's party, between and during election campaigns, broadens the chasm between people by diverting attention from the real needs of Americans to cultural wedge issues.
Reflections on the Debate (Johnston, Iowa)- No. 2

The third question of the Repub Presidential debate of December 12, 2007 came on the issue of taxes, arguably the GOP's favorite issue to demagogue. Des Moines Register vice president and editor Carolyn Washburn asked:

Who in this country is paying more than a fair share of taxes relative to everyone else: the wealthy, the middle class, the poor or corporations? (This is, as worded, actually a very good question).

Back to the pander scale, with 0 being straightforward and honest, 5 being top-notch pander. In reverse alphabetical order:

Thompson: "Five percent of Americans pay over half the income taxes in this country. 40 percent of Americans pay no income taxes at all. I think we need to concentrate on preserving the tax cuts of '01 and '03."

Translation: Let's cut everybody's taxes- especially those of the upper class. ("Five percdent of Americans pay over half the income taxes.) Pander: 4.

Tancredo: " Everyone that is presently paying tax, you could be -- you can make a case that they're paying too much. The reality is, of course, you need a different system entirely. We do need to move away from this archaic -- a system that taxes productivity, which is what we do, to a system that allows for a fair tax. I believe in that."

Translation: I want to cut everyone's taxes, and who can argue with something called a "fair" tax? Pander: 4.

Romney: "I don't stay awake at night worrying about the taxes that rich people are paying, to tell you the truth. I'm concerned about the taxes that middle class families are paying. They're under a lot of pressure. Gasoline's expensive. Home heating oil, particularly in the Northeast, is very difficult for folks. Health care costs are going through the roof. Education costs and higher education are overwhelming. And as a result, we need to reduce the burden on middle-income families in this country."

Translation: I care about the middle class. (No one loses a vote supporting the middle class, but where did he say the progressive middle tax should be cut?) Pander: 1.

Paul: "The most sinister of all taxes is the inflation tax and it is the most regressive. It hits the poor and the middle class. When you destroy a currency by creating money out of thin air to pay the bills, the value of the dollar goes down, and people get hit with a higher cost of living. It's the middle class that's being wiped out. It is most evil of all taxes."

Translation: See Romney. Pander: See Romney.

McCain: "I know that I'm happy to say low-income Americans, except for payroll taxes, don't pay taxes, but we've got to reform the tax code. Nobody understands it. Nobody trusts it. Nobody believes in it. And we have to fix it. And we can't raise taxes as our Democrat friends want."

Translation: I'm not really going to commit myself to anything except "reform." But in case you heard that I believe in working across the aisle, don't you believe it. That's why I'm using the noun "Democrat" as an adjective, to let you know I understand they're the enemy. Pander: 2.

Keyes: "who have spent overboard into deficits after promising us on the Republican side that they would limit the government, and then produced the highest budget deficits in the history of our country."

Translation: These politicans are just making me sick. Pander: 0 (not so wise to criticize Repubs in a Repub debate by implying, accurately, that they're even worse than the Democrats).

Hunter: "The tax that we're all paying that doesn't help anything -- it doesn't go to defense, it doesn't go to the roads, it doesn't go to medical care -- is the $250 billion-plus that we pay each year not to the federal government, to the Treasury, but to prepare our taxes, defend our taxes, and for the massive cost of the IRS. That's all overhead -- 250 billion-plus dollars. What we ought to do is have a system -- the fair tax system is a good one, or a flatter tax or a simpler tax, because that young couple that pays 1,450 bucks in taxes may pay $450 to their tax preparer. That's a second tax."

Translation: Huckabee advocates a "fair" tax but I can promise you it won't be progressive, so all those people of modest means, who generally don't vote for us, anyway (or do, because we throw a hot button cultural issue at them at election time)
will pay as much as the more affluent. Pander: 4.

Huckabee: "Over 80 percent of the American people know that the tax code is irreparably broken. I would lead one to a fair tax, and that means that the rich people aren't going to be made poor, but maybe the poor people could be made rich."

Translation: Under my system, the poor get rich, and the richer get richer! Everybody wins! It's Christmas every day! Not as complete a pander as Giuliani's response on the debt, but stated more succintly. Pander: 5.

Giuliani: "A flatter tax, a simpler tax that you could file on a one page, as an option, would be a good idea. Reducing the corporate tax, as I suggested. Reducing income tax rates across the board, which would mostly benefit the middle class. That's where the focus should be. But we've got to reduce taxes across the board, and we should give the death penalty to the death tax. It really is a very unfair tax."

Translation: You keep asking me about economics, I'll stay on message and give you the same answer each time. Reduce all taxes, especially for that guy who inherits property worth a few million dollars, which I'm going to continue to call the "death tax" until one of you cowards in the media has the guts to correct me. Good pandering, made all the better when he misleadingly claims "reducing tax rates across the board, which would mostly benefit the middle class." (Well, yeah, because there are a lot more middle class than upper class persons, but a wealthy individual makes out a lot better than the middle class person when the progressive income tax is cut.) Pander: 5.

Mitt Romney won't make this mistake again. A Republican debate, and he says "I don't stay awake at night worrying about the taxes that rich people are paying, to tell you the truth." A pretty radical suggestion for a Republican, it seems to me.
Reflections on the Debate (Johnston, Iowa)- No. 1

In the Repub Presidential debate of 12/12/07 sponsored by the Des Moines Register, the fair, if particularly colorless, moderator, Carolyn Washburn, began by two interrelated questions: The first I've quoted directly, below, and the second asked the candidates what kind of sacrifice they would ask of the Americn people to tackle the debt.

The comptroller general has said the U.S. faces a tsunami of debt that is a great threat to our national security. Do you agree our country's financial situation creates a security risk, and why are why not?
Let's see how each candidate fared on the "pander meter." The scale is from 0 (not far from where non-candidate Al Gore currently is) to 5, sort of the Laffer/Kemp standard, the giants of pander in modern American politics. We'll take these guys in reverse alphabetical order:

Thompson: "That's why I put out a specific Social Security plan that'll save Social Security while saving the government $4 trillion. It's all in entitlements. We've got to spend more for the military, as a matter of fact. But we've got to look at Social Security and Medicare and do some things now that won't hurt anybody badly but will save it for the next generation.The thing about it is that we can do it now without hurting those programs with -- actually strengthening those programs so that our kids and grandkids have -- I don't think we as American people are so selfish that we're going to put this off the table, kick the can down the road and let everybody else solve that problem, you know, when our grandkids get to be working age. That's not America; that's not what makes us strong.
And specifically, as far as Medicare is concerned, we need to tell people that are in Warren Buffet's category we're not going to take care of all your Medicare in the future; we can't afford it.

Translation: Let's consider entitlements and cut Social Security and Medicare because we care more about our children than ourselves. Bad reasoning, bad policy, weak pandering- 0.

Tancredo: "Don't ask the government for womb-to-tomb protection for your life, to build a bubble around you because all of that will cause a humongous amount of money and money that we don't have."

Translation: You're on your own, buddy. Don't expect anyone to help you. Bad policy, weak pandering- 0.

Romney: "The best answer for our economic woes is to make sure we have good jobs for our citizens, good schools for our kids, good health care for everyone, and that we have policies that promote the growth of the nation. We can have a little playing field around the world, get ourselves off of foreign oil, reduce the excessive spending in Washington, and have a bright future for our kids. This, again, is based upon the strength of the American people. If you want to see a strong America, you don't look to Washington; you look to ways to strengthen the American people.... "and the sacrifice we need from the American people, it's this: it's saying let the programs that don't work go."

Translation: We can do it all (good jobs, good schools, health care, bright future). But government ("Washington") is the enemy. And still I'll cut the programs you, the voter, don't like. Contradictory, nonsensical, but excellent politics and pandering- 4.

Paul: "We have to live within our means. If we're going to spend money, we ought to spend it at home, and that is why we have to change this foreign policy. We can't afford it to do what we're doing today because it will destroy our dollar.... (But) I think it's absolutely unnecessary to sacrifice. We want to give people more freedom, more chance to spend their own money. It's unnecessary."

Translation: Let's cut our bases, and there will be no need for personal sacrifice because, as a libertarian, I care about the individual and the community can go to h_ _ _. Pander score: 3.

McCain: not asked to respond

Keyes: " cut off the spigot that funds the political ambition of our leaders by abolishing the income tax and restoring control of 100 percent of their income to the American worker. That means you replace it with a fair tax system that puts the American people in control of their money."

Translation: I don't want the affluent to pay more than the middle class and I would tell you more, but my rant is almost done. Pander score: 3.

Hunter: "We should stop China from cheating on trade, bring back a lot of those high-paying manufacturing jobs to this country that we pushed off-shore. That means bigger paychecks. That means more money going into the Federal Treasury and to Social Security and to Medicare, eliminate those twin deficits, and we'll be on the right track."

Translation: Deal with mainland China. (The entitlement issue really isn't germane to my campaign.) Not really enough about cutting taxes for the red-meat audience. Pander score: 1.

Huckabee: " A lot of the federal budget goes to health care. We need to
do what most American companies are finding works in reducing health care cost. That's moving from the intervention-based health care model to a prevention-based" (sic).

Translation: I used to be fat but slimmed down with a regimen of diet and exercise, and in the process learned the importance of prevention. With this answer, the media will love me- they will actually think I'm in favor of a government role in health care.... and I didn't even say anything about sacrifice! Pander: 2.

Giuliani: "And we have to do it by imposing spending caps on the civilian agencies in governments -- 5 percent, 10 percent, maybe 15 percent. We have to say that we're not going to rehire half of the civilian employees that come up for retirement.... And then we have to reduce taxes. Right now we should reduce the corporate tax. We should reduce it from 35 percent to 25 percent. We should get rid of death tax and a whole group of others, but the first one should be the corporate tax. Restrain the central government, give people more choice, more money to spend, we're going to see our economy booming."

Translation: How many taxes which cut into the power of the wealthy can I advocate cutting in such a short period of time? Sure, it's irresponsible (I won't even mention that cutting government employment will cut government accountability and service to the public), but when has that ever lost votes in a Repub primary? Pander: 5. With this answer, Giuliani may have retired the pander trophy- no, there still is time left in the campaign to convince the Repub voters that he may be a libertine but will do more than anyone else to concentrate power in the hands of the powerful.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Oprah: Apathetic No Longer

Step aside, Iraq; destruction of CIA torture tapes; health care; mortgage crisis. The big news on the campaign trail, Democratic or Republican, is the Big O. Oprah. Goddess.

After drawing 8500 souls to Verizon Wireless Arena (now say that five times fast) in Manchester, New Hampshire, Ms. Winfrey drew over 29,000 people to a football stadium in Columbia, South Carolina for Barack Obama. Reports confirm that she was inspiring. In N.H.: "He understands that he can bring us all together as one United States of America. Not the red states and the blue states and the left and the right, but the United States of America....Apathy is believing that disappointment is normal; what Barack Obama has taught me is that disappointment doesn't have to be normal." In South Carolina: Barack Obama has “a tongue dipped in the unvarnished truth” so “Dr. King dreamed the dream, but we don’t have to dream the dream anymore; we get to vote that dream into office.”

But here is the most interesting thing the queen of daytime television noted: "For the first time in my life I stepped out of my box, stepped out of that TV box and supported a candidate for president."

That's right. When Bill Clinton- he of the balanced budget, Family and Medical Leave Act, Brady Bill, assault weapons ban, effort to reform health care, expansion of breast cancer research and Earned Income Tax Credit- stood for election and reelection, Oprah Winfrey stood on the sidelines. When Al Gore, already a pioneer in environmentalism and poised to build on Clinton's generally progressive record, ran against George W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey stood on the sidelines. And when John Kerry challenged President Bush, already a manifestation of failed right-wing policies, Oprah Winfrey stood around.

Now Ms. Winfrey has decided to endorse. There are several reasons to support Barack Obama. Oprah Winfrey is not one of them.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

After much debate among members of his staff, former Michigan Mitt Romney has finally given the speech many people thought he would never make, and which he fervently hoped he wouldn't have to make. Such is the power of polls that show another candidate, especially a believing Christian, nipping at his heels in Iowa.

Romney's comments drew many raves and some criticism. I think on balance that it was the speech he had to give, taking Mike Huckabee's surge off the front page for at least awhile and giving Romney the opportunity, when asked by the media henceforth about his religious views, to blow them off, referring questioners to his remarks of today. All in all, a good day for a faltering, if leading, campaign.

Flanked by several flags at the George Bush Presidential library and introduced by the former President, Romney appeared "Presidential," though in that venue, Pee Wee Herman, or even Rudolph Giuliani, would appear Presidential. This impression was enhanced with soaring rhetoric, including "as I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life's blessings." That's a great line- everyone figures he or she is going to heaven and who hasn't been moved by America's finest architecture, churches with their steeples?

Romney effectively, if disingenuously, set up a favorite Republican straw man. He claimed "they seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

Not surprisingly, the candidate never explained who "they" are, other than to refer to "some." There is a Republican, or conservative, myth that this threat comes from the public sector, as if the federal government has been taken over by some rogue element of radical secularists. But no one has banished religion, or even Christianity, from the public domain or from public life. No law, no statute, no governmental regulation requires Sears, JC Penney, or even your local bakery to turn Christmas- or rather the "holiday"- into an orgy of commercialism. It is the private, not the public, sector, chasing the holy grail of profit, which has turned this season into a faith-less void which Romney, and so many Republicans, decry. But government, ever the rhetorical enemy of the GOP, is a far more convenient target than private interests, source of campaign largesse and object of Republican idolatry.

I could go on criticizing Romney's remarks, such as: the assurance that "any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me," suggesting that he cannot abide a non-believer; the astonishing claim that "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," by someone otherwise noting of western Europe, "the churches themselves seem to be withering away"; and of the nation's founders, "for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator," though our nation's founders probably had more in common with today's agnostics than with the Christian right.

But Romney's speechwriters cleverly, and seamlessly, wove a patriotic speech into what was billed as an explanation of how the candidate's faith would inform his Presidency. One mention of the word "Mormon," a fleeting reference to his religious beliefs ("I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind"), but an emphasis on what Americans like to believe are shared values. How effectively ironic: a speech pretending to be about religion, flattering the American people as peculiarly religious and faith-driven, and virtually devoid of religious content.


The husband-wife (or, rather, wife-husband) duo of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Martha-Ann Alito nee Bomgardner flew an upside do...