Friday, October 31, 2008

The Wrong Theme

Joe Scarborough of MSNBC and some others have argued that John McCain is now likely to lose the presidential election because he understood too late, or insufficiently, the yearning of the vast majority of Americans this election season for change. Hillary Clinton emphasized experience, they generally contend, until she recognized the power of "change" to sway voters.

They would be wrong, as suggested by Roger Simon of Politico on October 30. Simon explains

In truth, Palin’s real problem is not her personality or whether she takes orders well. Her real problem is that neither she nor McCain can make a credible case that Palin is ready to assume the presidency should she need to.

And that undercuts McCain’s entire campaign.

This was the deal McCain made with the devil. In exchange for energizing his base by picking Palin, he surrendered his chief selling point: that he was better prepared to run the nation in time of crisis, whether it be economic, an attack by terrorists or, as he has been talking about in recent days, fending off a nuclear war.“The next president won’t have time to get used to the office,” McCain told a crowd in Miami on Wednesday. “I’ve been tested, my friends, I’ve been tested.” But has Sarah Palin?

Or as Herb Stein said on Larry King Live on October 30, "It's -- I think he had a winning theme, saying experience and country first -- experience, character, country first. He threw that away when he chose Sarah Palin."

Hillary Clinton and John McCain have little in common but they made the same mistake- Clinton till late in the primary campaign, McCain throughout the general election campaign. Both thought, fatally, that they could compete with Barack Obama, likely to make history as the first black President ever, on his turf- change.
Why Not McCain?

One of the most extraordinary facets of this campaign is that a major-party candidate can offer no plan to improve American health care.

Oh, John McCain does have a health care plan. In the third presidential debate, the Arizona senator declared "I'll give them (families) $5,000 to take with them wherever they want to go, and this will give them flexibility." However, Uwe E. Reinhardt, a health care economist and professor at Princeton University, notes

According to a highly respected annual survey of employer-sponsored health insurance in America, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Heath Research Educational Trust, the average annual premium for the type of insurance employers provide is $12,600.

That includes the employer's and employee's contributions to the premium, but not the family's out-of-pocket costs, which have been rising steadily in recent years. According to the Milliman Medical Index, based on millions of privately insured Americans, average medical costs for the typical American family when out-of-pocket spending is included are $15,600.

A $5,000 subsidy would be inadequate to cover the cost of private insurance in most cases in part because a pre-existing health condition- cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or in some instances a less serious ailment- would greatly boost the premium for an individual or a family. Couple this with McCain's plan to tax employer-paid health insurance plans, and more consumers will be sent into the private market, with a subsidy inadequate to purchase insurance but sufficient to drive up the cost of private insurance. As Barack Obama said in Asheville, N.C. on October 4, "It's a shell game. Senator McCain gives you a tax credit with one hand- but raises your taxes with the other."

The consumer would be entitled, Senator McCain proposes, to buy health insurance across state lines. That likely would be counter-productive, as Judith Graham found when she interviewed Sandy Praeger, insurance commissioner for Kansas and president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Praeger believes

Insurers will set up shop in states with few regulations and market low-cost policies to people across the country. These policies will offer minimal coverage and appeal primarily to younger consumers.

“It will be a race to the bottom,” Praeger said, and there will be “very few consumer protections. … You’ll have plans that don’t cover the benefits that people need. … And healthy people are going to buy those less costly plans, because they don’t think they need [the protection].”
That may be a good deal for young people who don’t have health problems, but it would probably become a bad deal for everyone else, Praeger said. The policies that sell comprehensive coverage would draw a sicker, older customer base, becoming more and more expensive.

The end result will be a segmenting of the insurance market into the “haves and have nots,” Praeger said. One segment of the market will become more affordable, but the other segment will become less so, disadvantaging those who need coverage most.

Finding that relatively healthy employees have fled their coverage to obtain it on their own, companies will boost premiums, decrease coverage, or find that their ability to survive against competitors has declined because of steadily increasing costs.

And elderly persons, poor families, and the disabled? They will not be spared distress by this plan. On Tuesday, October 6, 2008 the Wall Street Journal reported "Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Sen. McCain's senior policy adviser, said Sunday that the campaign has always planned to fund the tax credits, in part, with savings from Medicare and Medicaid."

John McCain's health care plan might be successful- for insurance companies. For most of the rest of us, it takes a flawed system and makes it worse.
Quote Of The Week

"OK so Michael, let me get the logic then. Senator McCain's logic is he didn't want tax cuts to be temporary but now he wants those that should not have been temporary to be permanent, like marrying a girl you didn't want to date."

-Paul Begala on Larry King Live on October 30, 2008, explaining to Michael Medved the cognitive dissonance- okay, illogic and probable hypocrisy- of John McCain's reversal of policy on income taxes

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why Not McCain?

My late father once boiled down the difference between the parties to one factor: Republicans, he said, are for the rich; Democrats are not.

Times have changed, of course, and we have Democrats from the Democratic Leadership Council and New Democrat Coalition and their ideological blood-brothers (and sisters) who traditionally support policies friendly to corporations at the expense of the middle class. Still, we have John McCain here to remind us that Repubs still try to funnel as much money as possible to the economically powerful. For starters, he has proposed:

the capital gains tax in half, from 15% to 7.5%, for two years (which would have reduced the McCains’ taxes by $55,761 in 2006 and $55,980 in 2007 (a two-year total of $111,740). reports that according to the Tax Policy Center, "families earning more than $1 million a year collected 59 percent of capital gains. Moreover, most middle-class families with capital gains hold their investments in retirement accounts shielded against capital gains taxes."


the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% and allowing corporations immediately to write off the cost of investments in equipment and technology . But the Center for American Progress finds the largest 200 corporates would get a combined $45 billion tax break and

Corporate tax breaks are extremely regressive. Corporate taxes are ultimately paid by investors, according to the longstanding view of the Treasury Department and the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, approximately 59 percent of these tax cuts would go to the top 1 percent of households. Only 11 percent of the benefit would go to the bottom 80 percent of households.

Finally, these corporate tax breaks are unlikely to help the economy. They drive up the federal budget deficit, resulting in higher interest rates and lower private-sector investment. Taxes paid by U.S. corporations are among the lowest in the world, measured as a share of the economy. And as Michigan University law professor Revuen Avi-Yonah points out, "experience indicates that corporate rate cuts, like the temporary reduction in the tax rate on dividends from foreign subsidiaries from 35 percent to 5.25 percent, have resulted in increased profits for U.S. corporations but no increase in jobs or overall economic growth."

*lowering income taxes for millionaires and multi-millionaires... As this chart from The Washington Post, based on an analysis from the Tax Policy Center (joint effort of Urban Policy Institute and the Brookings Institution) indicates, the average family making over $2.87 million annually would reap a bonanza of $269,364, an average drop of 4.4%. That's nice for those folks, not so much for the federal budget and the rest of us who would be picking up the pieces. And the McCains themselves? (Given the McCains' reported income in 2006, and repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax proposed by the Arizona senator, the McCains under the latter's plan would have saved $373,429 , $5,641 under the Obama plan.)

John McCain has reversed his opinion on virtually every issue over the past several years, including the Bush tax cuts. But one thing stands clear with the McCain-Palin ticket: it sees the widening gap between the wealthy and the rest of us in American society- and is discouraged it's not larger.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Confused Candidate

Florida anchorwoman Barbara West asked vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden on October 23:

You may recognize this famous quote. From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs. That’s from Karl Marx. How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?

It would have come as a surprise to West if Biden had reminded her that everyone's favorite "Joe Sixpack," Sarah Palin, has told the New Yorker's Philip Gourevitch "And Alaska—we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” That would, of course, make Palin the closest thing in this race, and arguably anywhere outside of Vermont's Congressional delegation, to a Socialist.

Similarly, the Republicans' newest pinup, Samuel Wurzelbacher, who now travels under the name "Joe," says "I love America. I hope it remains a democracy, not a Socialist society. ... If you look at spreading the wealth, that's honestly right out of Karl Marx's mouth." When can excuse his confusion, but the GOP's vice-presidential nominee on October 19 alleged "Senator Obama said he wants to quote 'spread the wealth.' What that means is he wants government to take your money and dole it out however a politician sees fit. But Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairy Man, I believe that they think that it sounds more like socialism."

Apparently, Palin shares with West (and Wurzelbacher) an inability to recognize when "government take(s) your money and dole(s) it out however a politician sees fit." Otherwise, she might have noticed, as the (San Jose) Mercury News reported yesterday:

The government prepared Monday to move the first batch of bailout money to banks as fretful world markets plunged again.... The Treasury Department said it would start moving $125 billion to nine major banks this week by buying ownership stakes....

That would be $125 billion dollars. Being doled out. By the Department of the Treasury. Under Republican George W. Bush.

Odd Interview

When former Miss America contestant Barbara West, anchorwoman at WFTV television in Orlando, Florida, interviewed Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden on October 23, 2008, she asked the following provocative, controversial, and obviously biased questions:

  • I know you’re in North Carolina now trying to help get out the vote but aren’t you embarassed by the blatant attempts to register phony voters by ACORN, an organization that Barack Obama has been tied to in the past?
  • Okay, moving onto the next question. Senator Obama now famously told Joe the Plumber he wanted to spread his wealth around. A Gallup polls showed 84% of Americans prefer government focus on improving financial conditions and creating more jobs in the U.S. as opposed to taking steps to distribute wealth. Isn’t Senator Obama’s statement a potentially crushing political blunder?
  • You may recognize this famous quote. From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs. That’s from Karl Marx. How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?
  • Now you recently said “Mark my words. It'll not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama.” But what worries many people is your caveat asking them to stand with him because it's not going to be apparent initially that he's right. Are you forewarning Americans that nothing will get done and that America’s days as a world’s leading power are over?
  • Getting back to the spreading the wealth question. What do you say to the people who are concerned that Barak Obama will want to turn American into a socialist country much like Sweden.

These aren't questions, but statements. There are ways to probe the phony issues of ACORN, wealth redistribution, Karl Marx, the status of the U.S.A. as a superpower, socialism, and those awful Europeans! without adopting Repub talking points. But that would have been unlikely. The website contends of West's husband, Wade West (in what I've been able neither to confirm nor refute):

West's media communication and fundraising skills have made him a popular consultant for Republican political candidates ranging from local elections, to more than 85 members of Congress and members of the President’s cabinet.Both Barbara and Wade West have frequently emceed Republican fundraisers in the local Central Florida community for at least a decade.Wade West is also a Republican donor. West donated $250 to the NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE. He gave $500 to Will McBride a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida. As well as $500 to John Mica and $1,000 to Richard Keller both GOP congressional candidates in Florida.

And when Barbara West interviewed John McCain on October 14, 2008, she asked him this piercing question:

In dozens of states, the group ACORN is accused of filing thousands of bogus voter registrations in central Florida. They even tried to register a Mickey Mouse. And one person here in Orange County was registered twenty-one times. Now Senator Obama served ACORN and its associations as an attorney on voter registration and on cases involving sub-prime mortgages, which led to our current financial crisis. Why haven't you tried to go after him on these serious issues of voter registration fraud and the mortgage crisis?

Barack Obama in cahoots with ACORN. ACORN happily filing fraudulent voter registration cards. Mortgage crisis not caused by deregulation of financial institutions, but by big-city community organizations. Even that specter of someone coming in to vote, claiming he's "Mickey Mouse," and being allowed to vote. The familiar GOP talking points. Barbara West: not much of a journalist, but probably a future Fox News host.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Article Of The Week

Paul Krugman's Op-Ed column in Sunday's New York Times analyzes the reason(s) "the growing financial and economic crisis worked so overwhelmingly to the Democrats' advantage" in this election cycle, especially the Presidential race.

I disagree with one minor point Krugman implies at the tail end of his piece. In noting the McCain-Palin campaign themes of "Mr. Obama consorts with '60s radicals! He's a socialist! He doesn't love America! Judging from the polls, it doesn't seem to be working," Krugman implies that this would not have been an effective campaign strategy. I have always believed, however, that McCain's only possible path to victory would have been to have painted Obama as a stranger in this land, someone different from the rest of us (whomever that might be), and not a true patriot- as reflected in the ad from March, 2008 with the tag line: "John McCain. The American president Americans have been waiting for." Disingenuous and possibly nativist- but his only chance, were it a strategy instead of a collection of disjointed tactics.

That would have run counter to the campaign's most oft-used tactic: trying to claim the mantle of "maverick," of which Krugman notes

....what does that mean? His maverickness seems to be defined as a free-floating personality trait, rather than being tied to any specific objections on his part to the way the country has been run for the last eight years.

I believe the Arizonan went in that direction in part because he chose as his running mate Sarah Palin, who came to power in Alaska as a rebel, only to run an administration based on loyalty and secrecy, "surround(ing) herself with people she has known since grade school and members of her church" (ironically, as in the conservative "meet the new boss, same as the old boss"). And as V.P. nominee, she herself has become a celebrity, cutting into the viability of the Presidential nominee's same charge against his Democratic rival. As Krugman notes, McCain "has attacked Mr. Obama as a 'celebrity,' but without any specific explanation of what's wrong with that- it's just a given that we're supposed to hate Hollywood types."

The Nobel Prize-winning economist acknowledges "I'd like to believe that the bad news convinced many Americans, once and for all, that the right's economic ideas are wrong and progressive ideas are right." Unfortunately, however, a greater factor is that "as the economic scene has darkened, I'd argue, Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness." The emphasis on what he terms "trivia" has been a succesful strategy in the past, as when

President Bush got within hanging-chads-and-butterfly-ballot range of the White House only because much of the news media, rather than focusing on the candidates’ policy proposals, focused on their personas: Mr. Bush was an amiable guy you’d like to have a beer with, Al Gore was a stiff know-it-all, and never mind all that hard stuff about taxes and Social Security. And let’s face it: six weeks ago Mr. McCain’s focus on trivia seemed to be paying off handsomely.

But that was before the prospect of a second Great Depression concentrated the public’s mind.

Krugman is too much a gentleman to blame this primarily on Sarah Palin (or her selection) or even on the endless politicians, pundits, and strategists who suggest, simplistically, that John McCain is behind solely because of the economic plunge. Nevertheless, he explains clearly that the campaign's response to this crisis, and the unserious nature of his campaign, are what appears to have sunk his campaign. And, I believe, helped lead to the virtually inescapable conclusion that Obama-Biden is the adult option for November 4.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Not McCain?

It seems so long ago when I thought to begin a series of posts explaining my opposition to John McCain's presidential bid, before his candidacy became a caricature of itself. That was a time when the Arizona senator seemed to understand what was going on in the country, even if the conversion was largely convenient. It was a time (September 16) when the Repub nominee, according to the Washington Post of the following day, stated "In my administration, we're going to hold people on Wall Street responsible. And we're going to enact and enforce reforms to make sure that these outrages never happen in the first place."

Alas, these days are over and replaced by the John McCain who, the Post reported:

- supported the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which overturned part of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, thereby removing the walls among banking, investment, and insurance companies (Glass-Steagall "established a regulatory firewall between bank and investment activities," thus opening competition among banks, insurance companies, and securities companies and prohibiting a bank from offering investment, commercial banking, and insurance services.);

-in 1996..... was one of only five senators to oppose a comprehensive telecommunications act, saying it did not go far enough in deregulating the industry ;

-in the 1990s....backed an unsuccessful effort to create a moratorium on all new government regulation;

- in 2007, told a group of bloggers on a conference call that he regretted his vote on the Sarbanes-Oxley bill .... which were put in place after the accounting scandals involving Enron and other major firms.

McCain's hard right turn on Sarbanes-Oxley may be a metaphor for his most recent reversals of perspective. After his comments of September 16 of this year, McCain was quoted in the September-October issue of Contingencies magazines as arguing "opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation" (my emphasis). And on October 24, Politico's Jonathan Martin reported

One more from Lisa Lerer:
“They feel that what they need is lower taxes and less government regulation of their business,” said McCain, in a statement about a meeting he held with group of small business owners in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

That may be a dangerous message in the midst of a market meltdown many have blamed on a lack of regulation on Wall Street, and on a day when the Dow fell more than 5 percent before "recovering" to end the day down 3.6 percent, or more than 300 points.

There are a few lessons we all can learn from the current economic crisis. Notwithstanding legitimate concerns of small business owners, a need for deregulation of the economy is not one of them, and John McCain should have figured that out by now.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Preconditions- Or Whatever

It didn't seem like such a difficult question.

During her October 2, 2008 vice-presidential debate with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin, in a reprise of a McCain-Palin campaign theme, declared

Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, the Castro brothers, others who are dangerous dictators are ones that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without preconditions being met first.
An issue like that taken up by a presidential candidate goes beyond naivete and goes beyond poor judgment. A statement that he made like that is downright dangerous, because leaders like Ahmadinejad who would seek to acquire nuclear weapons and wipe off the face of the earth an ally like we have in Israel should not be met with without preconditions and diplomatic efforts being undertaken first.

Yet when asked by Brian Williams on October 22 "Governor Palin, yesterday you tied this notion of an early test to the new president with this notion of preconditions that you both have been hammering the Obama campaign on. What -- first of all, what, in your mind, is a precondition?", Governor Earmark replied

You have to have some diplomatic strategy going into a meeting with someone like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il, one of these dictators that would seek to destroy America or her allies. It is so naive and so dangerous for a presidential candidate to just proclaim that they would be willing to sit down with a leader like Ahmadinejad and just talk about the problems, the issues that are facing them.
So that’s some ill-preparedness right there.

After all this time- nearly two months after being selected as veep nominee by John McCain- Sarah Palin was unable to come up with a single "precondition" (actually, a "condition" is a "precondition," the "pre" being redundant). And she appears blissfully unaware that the most powerful figure in Iranian government is not President (currently Ahmadinejad) but the Supreme Leader (currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), who controls the armed forces- and whatever nuclear program the nation pursues.

It's not that Sarah Palin is unintelligent. She is a bright, shrewd woman who chooses to know what she wishes and ignore anything inconvenient.
Of Biden And McCain

It's a difficult choice- get mad or laugh hysterically.

I found myself reading online this article from Kirsten Powers, a columnist with the conservative Repub tabloid The New York Post. Powers criticizes Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden for various gaffes, the most recent in warning donors of a foreign policy crisis he believes will follow election of Barack Obama as president. Powers claims

Part of the problem is their "Obama love," but we're also seeing the media elite's belief - prejudice - that anyone with an R behind their name is dumb. So, if they say something dumb, they must be dumb. A Democrat, like Biden, can make wildly inaccurate or outrageous comments and they are ignored because the TV and press insiders feel they "know who he really is."

No need here to remind Powers that the media's fondness for Barack Obama is exceeded, "wildly," by its fondness for John McCain. No need, therefore, to ask why no one (as far as I know) has asked John McCain why he apparently is opposed to Social Security or the graduated income tax. (A reasonable interpretation of "After all, before government can redistribute wealth, it has to confiscate wealth from those who earned it," a pretty good description of the progressive income tax.) No need to ask why John McCain has rarely, if ever, been confronted, with his reversals of position (not a comprehensive list) on likelihood of easy success in Iraq, Bush tax cuts, Roe v. Wade, privatization of Social Security, right-wing televangelists, ethanol, gay marriage, reasonable gun control, repeal of the estate tax, torture, surveillance of overseas communications, offshore drilling, trials of Guantanamo detainees, increasing the minimal wage, and comprehensive immigration reform (supportive, then against his own bill, then supportive). Yet, when Democrat John Kerry (merely) appeared to have changed his mind on funding of the Iraq War, the mainstream media joined the Repub propagandists in ridiculing his as a "flip-flopper."

The real problem is that Barack Obama is one in a long line of Democrats suspected of being "weak" simply because there is a (D) after his name. Russia invades Georgia, Obama reacts rationally and cautiously, and is thought of as vacillating; McCain rattles his saber- only to reverse course a few days later- and is considered strong. Barack Obama asserts that with "actionable intelligence" about "high-value terrorist targets," he would act decisively; John McCain boasts of bin Laden that he will "follow him to the gates of hell" but is not asked why he refuses to follow him to northwestern Pakistan. (Nor is he asked how he will "get him.")

More significant than the inattention to Senator Biden has been the inattention to the gaffes of John McCain, who has seduced so many in the media the years by the "Straight Talk Express." Enough has emerged during this campaign to render clear the conclusion that the Democratic vice-presidential nominee knows more about foreign policy than the Republican presidential nominee- or the empty ($150,000) suit that is his running mate.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Glimpse Into The Real Election Fraud

By now, everyone paying attention has figured out that Republican attacks on ACORN are themselves fraudulent, and that the primary intent probably is to throw the November 4 election results into dispute. Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media culture and communication at New York University, appeared on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! on October 22 to talk about voter fraud. Although he spoke mostly about another issue of voter fraud, he stated that the investigation of ACORN began when the Las Vegas office turned into the Nevada office of the Secretary of State some suspicious registration forms. The official, Miller states, seized on the idea of voter fraud occurring and the political hype jumped to Missouri and Ohio, followed by the leak that the FBI is investigating ACORN.

According to ABC News, David Becker "was a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department's voting rights section, which was part of the administration's aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort." He is now project director of project director of the "Make Voting Work" initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts and notes "The Justice Department really made prosecution of voter fraud of this sort a big priority in the first half of this decade, and they really didn't come up with anything." And Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Barnard College in New York who has researched voter fraud and fraud claims for most of the past decade, says "We're chasing these ghosts of voter fraud, like chickens without a head." She says that the Justice Department has averaged seven or eight convictions a year for any and all sorts of voter fraud and vote tampering.

Voter suppression, however, poses a far greater threat to American democracy. Miller describes a kind of architecture called "man in the Middle," which "involves shunting election returns data through a separate computer somewhere else." It seems a guy named Stephen Spoonamore, a conservative Republican who is a renowned expert at the detection of computer fraud, has provided testimony that election returns in Ohio in 2004 went from the website of "Karl Rove's computer guru," Mike Connell, to a computer in a basement in Chattanooga, Tenneseee, "under the control of Sponamore and a guy with another private company." The data then was "shunted through" that computer and back to the computer of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a conservative Republican activist. Consequently, a RICO lawsuit has been filed in Ohio and Connell subpoenaed, though Republican lawyers have fought back.

Miller contends also that a team headed by Ohio researcher Richard Hayes Phillips took more than 30,000 digital photographs while scrutinizing every ballot cast in eighteen Ohio counties. It found 200,000 votes cast for John Kerry that were taken from him in a state (which proved pivotal) which was won by George W. Bush by 118,000 votes. Various methods were employed:

Of the variously altered, mutilated ballots, yes. Ballots with stickers placed over the square that people had blacked in for Kerry/Edwards; somebody else blacks in Bush/Cheney. Thousands and thousands of ballots that were pre-marked before they were distributed, so that people would mark different boxes on them, and then they would be invalidated.

And following the research, the boards of election in 55 Ohio counties defied a court order by destroying all or some of their ballots. And beware: Stephen Spoonamore says

the GOP wanted e-voting to steal elections but now foreign governments will be hacking and the winner will be determined by the best hackers. He says that if the GOP wins the hacking competition, McCain will win 51.2 percent with three electoral votes over Obama, and it will be a stolen election.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quote Of The Week

an array of quotes, now so close to the election:

"....let's be clear who Sen. McCain's fighting for. He's not fighting for Joe to Plumber; he's fighting for Joe The Hedge Fund Manager. John McCain likes to talk about Joe the Plumber but he's in cahoots with Joe the CEO.”

-Barack Obama at a rally in Henrico County, Va. on 10/22/08

"When you've got Hank Paulson nationalizing the banks, the meaning of socialism is kind of obscure at this point (and it's kind of obscure, anyway)."

-Joan Walsh, editor of Salon, on MSNBC's Hardball on 10/22/08, of GOP charges that the Democratic nominees are Socialists or advocating socialist ideas

"The economic crisis may not have been Sarah Palin's doing but she was the worst possible person to have on the ticket, given that happened."

-Rachel Maddow on "Rachel Maddow," 10/22/08, explaining to Patrick J. Buchanan that Sarah Palin has harmed the Republican ticket in part because of the current economic crisis

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Article Of The Week

In a column entitled "McCain has a new hero: Teddy, make way for Joe" which appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on October 21, 2008, New York University instructor Jonathan Zimmerman noted that "Joe The Plumber" has replaced President Theodore Roosevelt as the object of John McCain's affections. Zimmerman quotes T.R. elegantly, and eloquently, noting "the man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state, because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government," which sounds a little like Joe Biden asserting "It's time to be patriotic ... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut." Or perhaps a little like the old John McCain, who opposed President Bush's tax cuts for the rich until he supported them.

But Zimmerman most significantly notes "progressive taxation was often put forth as an alternative (emphasis his) to socialism. In a time of growing economic inequality and labor unrest, supporters said, only a tax on the rich would stave off revolution." Just as President Franklin Roosevelt's moderate reforms helped stave off a serious challenge to the capitalist system, so are Barack Obama's proposals to have the wealthy pay their fair share, eliminate income taxes for elderly individuals with an annual income under $50,000, strive toward universal health care, and steer tax cuts to taxpayers most in need among the best prescriptions to save a free enterprise system in dire need.

Instead, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and their surrogates appear, at least, to be oblivious to the impact upon the middle class of both the deregulation advocated by their party and of their policies geared to further concentration of wealth. As has noted,

since 1979, the average income for the bottom half of American households has grown by 6 percent. In contrast, the top 1 percent of earners have seen their incomes shoot up by a 229 percent during that same period. Under the Bush administration, the average income of most Americans has fallen, but the average income of top wage earners (those above the 95 percentile range) has increased from $324,427 in 2001 to $385,805 in 2006.

The upper class- until very recently- had solidified its gains while the middle class has shrunk. And still John McCain and Sarah Palin accuse- accuse!- Barack Obama of wanting "to redistribute wealth." It's as if they've been asleep the past six weeks- or 30 years.

Sarah Palin....

in West Chester, Ohio on October 17, 2008:

Sen. Obama said that he wants to spread the wealth and he wants government to take your money and decide how to best to redistribute it according to his priorities. Joe suggested that sounded a little bit like socialism.

in Roswell, New Mexico on October 19, 2008:

Senator Obama said he wants to quote spread the wealth. What that means is he wants government to take your money and dole it out however a politician sees fit. Barack Obama calls it spreading the wealth. But Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairy Man, I believe that they think that it sounds more like socialism. Friends, now is no time to experiment with socialism.

in Colorado Springs on October 19, 2008:

There are socialist principles to that, yes. Taking more from a small business or small business owners or from a hard working family, and then redistributing that money according to a politician’s priorities. There are hints of socialism in there.

and in an interview with CNN on October 21, 2008:

I'm not gonna call him a socialist, but, as Joe the plumber had suggested, in fact he came right out and said it sounds like socialism to him and he speaks for so many Americans who are quite concerned now, after hearing finally what Barack Obama's true intentions are with his tax and economic plan.

But from the Associated Press on October 14, 2008:

Big banks started falling in line Tuesday behind a rejiggered bailout plan that will have the government forking over as much as $250 billion in exchange for partial ownership — putting the world's bastion of capitalism and free markets squarely in the banking business.

Has Sarah Palin been asleep the past six weeks? While Barack Obama proposes lowering the income taxes of the 95% of Americans earning under $226,981, the United States government has begun to jump into the financial services industry and to acquire an ownership share in banks. The means of finance in American society will be partially controlled by the federal government.

Yet, Barack Obama is the "socialist." Perhaps the charges of the McCain-Palin team would have had at a little (no more than that) credibility if John McCain had not supported the bailout/rescue plan. But then this initially was a proposal of the Bush Administration and John McCain has been a loyal supporter of the President whose re-election he embraced in 2004. Apparently, corporate socialism is a prime objective of George W. Bush- and of the self-proclaimed "mavericks" of the Republican Party.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Powell's Vote

I believed, in autumn on 2007, that Barack Obama not only would not get the Democratic nomination, but that John Edwards would be a more serious threat to Hillary Clinton's bid.

I was wrong.

I believed, in the summer of 2007, that John McCain had as much a chance at getting the Repub presidential nomination as did I.

I was wrong.

I believed, late last week as speculation grew that Colin Powell would endorse Barack Obama when the General appeared on Sunday's Meet The Press, that he would announce his support for, but not endorse, the Illinois senator.

I was right.

Asked by host Tom Brokaw, "Are you prepared to make a public declaration of which of these two candidates that you’re prepared to support?" (emphasis mine), the former Secretary of State replied "Yes, but let me lead into it this way," referred to both major party presidential nominees as "distinguished Americans who are patriotic, who are dedicated to the welfare of our country..... either one of them, I think, would be a good president," and launched an eloquent, lengthy explanation of his preference. Then this exchange:

MR. BROKAW: Will you be campaigning for him as well?
GEN. POWELL: I don’t plan to. Two weeks left, let them go at each other in the finest tradition. But I will be voting for him.

Powell will be voting for Obama. So will I, and most of the people reading this post.

Extraordinarily distinguished military career; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Director of the National Security Council. Secretary of State. Justifiably or not, arguably the most respected statesman in the United States of America. A supporter for President of Barack Obama, a guy whose patriotism and commitment to this country have been questioned by demagogic Republicans. And he does not expect to campaign for Obama?

Powell's reticence to make public appearances, ads, or pre-recorded messages (any of which Obama would be very happy with) may change, and should, given Joe Biden's gaffe at a Seattle fund-raiser Sunday. But if with his enormous prestige and stature, Colin Powell now retreats to the sidelines, his statement of support is not accurately read as something less than an endorsement.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Voter Registration Conspiracy

The conspiracy has grown.

On October 16, 2008 Rush Limbaugh, in another of his forays into fantasy, informed us, the unenlightened:

I'm not trying to be negative. I'm telling you that the liberals are all over the federal bureaucracy. They're in the state department; they're in the Pentagon; they're all over the place. They're in the justice department. So the FBI is investigating ACORN for voter fraud. This is an investigation that ought to take ten minutes.

Now comes word from the Los Angeles Times apparently verifying the liberal conspiracy against the GOP. Mark Jacoby is owner of Young Political Majors, which is paid 7$ to $12 for everyone it registers as a Republican. Jacoby was arrested on October 19 by state investigators and the Ontario (Ca.) Police Department on a warrant issued by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office for felony charges of voter registration fraud and perjury.

Investigators believe that Mr. Jacoby "fraudulently registered himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California." According to the L.A. County district attorney's office, "we contacted people at the addresses where he registered, and they have no idea who he is." The Times reports that voters it contacted

....said they were tricked into switching parties while signing what they believed were petitions for tougher penalties against child molesters. Some said they were told that they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law. Others had no idea their registration was being changed.

These bait-and-switch tactics, which allegedly have helped YPM register 70,000 voters across the nation this year, may be effective. In some states, these individuals will be able to vote only in the GOP primary in the next election cycle. Not included on Democratic Party lists as registered Democrats, they may not receive literature and other encouragement to go to the polls. Further, some individuals report that their registration status was changed to absentee without their permission, which may block them from voting if they appear at the ballot box without a ballot.

And the liberal conspiracy has spread to Florida and Massachusetts, where election officials and legislators have begun to investigate YPM. They're all in it together: California, Florida, Massachusetts, the FBI, the State Department, the Pentagon- and all the Democrats smuggled into the federal judiciary by leftist George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, who have been plotting to purge our nation of Republicans during the last 20 of 28 years they've controlled the Presidency.
Not His Own Idea

Conservative talk show host Blanquita Cullum on MSNBC Friday morning, 10/17/08 complained that Democrats were responsible for the avalanche of publicity heaped upon "Joe The Plumber" (finding that he is not a licensed plumber, opposes Social Security, has an active lien on his property for unpaid taxes, is actually named "Samuel"). Radio talk show host Joe Madison, recalling Repub nominee John McCain's obsession first exposed two days earlier, replied "It wasn't our candidate who brought him up and talked about him 20-plus times."

Madison was accurate, though it wasn't the Arizona senator who first told the tale of this fellow from outside of Toledo, Ohio. It was Mr. Republican, arguably the most powerful of his party in the land: Rush Limbaugh. This on October 14 from the man Keith Olbermann refers to as "the comedian Rush Limbaugh":

A plumber concerned that Senator Obama, who's going to raise his taxes asked him directly about his plan. The response was telling. Senator Obama explained to him that he was going to raise his taxes to, quote, "spread the wealth around." My friends, my plan isn't intended to force small businesses to cut jobs, to pay higher tax so we can spread the wealth around. My plan is intended to create jobs and increase the wealth of all Americans. (cheers and applause)

Now, you didn't really think John McCain was expressing an independent thought, did you?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"Their book says we're a bunch of infidels. Hell, our book says we're a bunch of infidels."

Mudcat Saunders, former senior advisor to John Edwards, on the 10/17/08 edition of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow (show), as the response he gave an Obama detractor critical of Islam

Friday, October 17, 2008

Article Of The Week

.... or, rather, blog post of the week, which comes from ever-thorough Glenn Greenwald of, who notes (in a quick and easy read):

Poor John McCain: Forced against his honor to run an ugly campaign

Time's Ana Marie Cox, in a Bloggingheads discussion with Ann Althouse, does an excellent job of expressing what is still, amazingly enough, the prevailing media view of John McCain: namely, that this deeply honorable and principled man is vehemently opposed to running an ugly, dirty campaign against Barack Obama, and that is happening despite McCain's deep opposition to such campaigns and the way it profoundly violates his code of honor. Cox, who is traveling with the McCain campaign (yet again), first shared a few memories and sentiments about her experiences with the candidate over the years:

When I got on the plane the other day, McCain said hi to me. . . .
When he had that conflict with that crowd in Minneapolis, or Lakeview, that really energized him. Going on offense against his own voters and supporters in this weird way made him more energetic. . . .
Some of the happiest times I had with John McCain are when everyone counted him out.

When asked by Althouse (who, fairness compels me to acknowledge, was surprisingly reasonable here) about the "Obama-is-a-Terrorist" tactics the McCain campaign has been using and whether some of those tactics attempt to stoke nationalistic or racist sentiments, Cox repeatedly contended that such tactics are deeply anathema to the noble spirit and elevated soul of John McCain:

Cox: What McCain's reacting to, is something that other Republicans are reacting to, iscu the kind of ugliness of the criticisms [towards] Obama. I think McCain in his heart of heart wants to win this fair and square. He wants to win this because he's the better candidate. He doesn't want to win this because people think Obama is a Muslim or is a terrorist or he's not really American. He wants to win this on his own merits. It upsets his sense of fair play -- to win -- to think that the support he's getting is because of what he thinks are bad reasons. . .
Althouse: But in the last month or so, he's been losing ground, and resorting to this terrorist meme --
Cox: I think that hasn't worked for them. I think they recognize that to the extent that that does work, that's not how McCain wants to win.
I adore the guy. I think he's fantastic in many ways. I respect him, I admire his service to the country. I think ultimately he's very principled and, to coin a phrase, honorable. . . .
I do think that McCain is one of the most unique individuals that I've ever personally met. As I said, I greatly admire him and think he's sort of an amazing person . . .
[The McCain campaign], not out of malice or intent, didn't allow themselves to think through how some of these images would be taken by their audience.

McCain has spent weeks overtly linking Obama to "terrorists" and "Palestinian donors" and posing the sinister question: "Who is the real Barack Obama"? Right this very minute, the McCain/Palin campaign is running massive robocalls in numerous battleground states, including North Carolina, alleging that Obama "has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home, and killed Americans" and, if elected, "will enact an extreme leftist agenda." Last night on national television, McCain vehemently defended Sarah Palin's repellent and patently false accusation that Obama "is pallin' around with terrorists."

But McCain's vaunted principles and honor make him absolutely hate these tactics and he vehemently does not want to win this way. "It upsets his sense of fair play to think that the support he's getting is because of what he thinks are bad reasons." It just keeps happening despite McCain.

And what of the fact that these ads and accusations have spawned the widespread, hateful perception among the GOP base that Obama is a foreign, Muslim, un-American, subversive-Black-Terrorist? Why, the naive and innocent strategists running the McCain campaign had absolutely no idea that such a thing would happen. They just failed "to think through how some of these images would be taken by their audience" -- but "not out of malice or intent" (probably just due to time constraints; they've been really busy lately and didn't have time to contemplate what perceptions their attacks would unwittingly spawn).

It's not a coincidence that the hardest-hitting interviews of McCain have been conducted by everyone except the national press corps that follows him. Last night, David Letterman -- the comic -- grilled McCain about his relationship with convicted felon and post-Watergate extremist G. Gordon Liddy after McCain claimed that Obama associates with terrorists, the first time (to my knowledge) McCain has been asked about his friendship with Liddy despite its being written about for months. And the toughest and most adversarial interviews of McCain came from the hosts of The View and from a reporter on a local news station in Maine (here).

The national press corps continues to revere John McCain despite what is widely acknowledged to be the toxic and ugly campaign he's running because they still think that this campaign is being run despite McCain's character and wishes, not because of them. The idea that someone should be judged by their actual conduct never seems to occur to them, nor do they accept what ought to be the rather self-evident proposition that someone who repeatedly does dishonorable things is, by definition, dishonorable. By their fruits ye shall know them. Or, as former/long-time McCain-lover Andrew Sullivan put it:

I'm afraid that [Atlantic Editor] Jim [Fallows] is dealing with what we're all dealing with: the fact that the myth we had of McCain is, in fact, a lie. The real McCain - dishonest, dishonorable and despicable - is now in plain sight. To say I'm disillusioned would be an understatement. The last six weeks have shown us all something we'd rather never have found out. But we can't ignore it now, can we?

Some obviously can -- and are.

Cox does say that she doesn't intend to vote for McCain because the way he has run his campaign demonstrates that he's too scattershot and "erratic" (a word that Cox, fairly enough, accuses the Obama campaign of using as "code for senile"). But in explaining that, this is what Cox says:

As I said, I greatly admire him and think he's sort of an amazing person but that doesn't meant I want him to have control of my country's future in his hands. . . . I don't particularly want my commander-in-chief to have that whimsical attitude towards government.

If I could be granted one small wish about our political discourse, it would be that reporters and pundits would accept -- as disappointing and unglorious as it is -- that, under our Constitution and basic government design, people who aren't in the military don't have a "Commander-in-Chief." The President isn't your "commander," and the "Commander-in-Chief" power, now synonymous in our political culture with "President," is actually extremely limited (Art. II, Sec. 2: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States").

This endless festishization of "President as Our Commander-in-Chief" is one of those small but pernicious reflections of how militarized we've become, of how we are a society in a state of perpetual and endless war. And -- though I don't think there's a strong complaint to be made that the media generally has been unfair to Barack Obama -- this "Commander-in-Chief" fetish is also one of the principal causes of the ongoing media reverence for John S. McCain.

Greenwald correctly notes that the American civilians do not have a Commander-in-Chief and that the President is not Commander-in-Chief but specifically Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. It is an important distinction in a nation which (once) prided itself on civilian control of the military, before elected members of Congress who question war policy were dismissed as opponents of "the generals" and "the troops."

Generously, in running quickly through McCain's "ugly" campaign, Greenwald omits the disingenuous effort to link Obama to ACORN which, given the GOP's ongoing effort to subvert the vote, might be likened to "psychological projection," if it weren't deliberate and insidious. And although I am not privy to the motive of the Obama campaign's criticism of the Arizona senator as "erratic," it is possible to be erratic (as McCain is) without being senile (as McCain isn't). (It is unfair to the elderly to imply that only senile individuals can be erratic.) Still, reading this posting (as has the selection of Sarah Palin as running mate) can remind us that John McCain has not shifted from the maverick of 2000 to the obedient right-winger of 2008; he is the same John McCain, adopting whatever tactics most likely to bring victory.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pro-American Areas?

Sarah Palin is nothing if not blunt. At a fund raising event in Greensboro, North Carolina yesterday, the Alaska Governor told supporters

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe, we believe that the best of America is in the small towns that we get to visit, and in the wonderful little pockets of what I call the 'real America,' being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation."

Where are the "pro-America areas of this great nation?" Apparently, in Alaska. Upon addressing, by videotape, the convention of the Alaska Independence Party earlier this year, Governor Earmark urged it to "keep up the good work" with the "promise" that Alaskans would be "the hardest-working, most grateful Americans in our nation." (Perhaps she was motivated by gratitude toward an organization to which her husband had belonged a few years earlier.)

And where are the parts of the country that are not "pro-American" in the eyes of an aspiring Vice-President who has given her tacit approval to an organization which would prefer it not be part of the United States of America? Perhaps thousands of suburbs across the country, and certainly such alien places as Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans, St. Louis, Denver, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and all other cities in this country which don't hew to Sarah Palin's vision of a homogenous America.
Obama and McCain On Palin

I disagree with columnist Kathleen Parker's assertion early today, "The best part -- at least to some of us -- was when moderator Bob Schieffer pressed each candidate to explain why his vice presidential running mate was better qualified than the other’s to fill the presidency should circumstances warrant." But she is absolutely right in concluding:

Obama gets points for recognizing Sarah Palin’s political talent and more or less leaving it at that. McCain did neither Sarah Palin nor his candidacy any good with his response. Palin is qualified to be his running mate because she’s a reformer, a role model for women, a breath of fresh air -- and because she understands special needs children better than anyone? Role modeling and helping children with special needs is surely important -- and fresh air is welcome -- but this is not the sort of resume that inspires confidence in the midst of two wars and a global financial crisis.

Obama stated :

You know, I think it's -- that's going to be up to the American people. I think that, obviously, she's a capable politician who has, I think, excited the -- a base in the Republican Party.
And I think it's very commendable the work she's done on behalf of special needs. I agree with that, John.
I do want to just point out that autism, for example, or other special needs will require some additional funding, if we're going to get serious in terms of research. That is something that every family that advocates on behalf of disabled children talk about.
And if we have an across-the-board spending freeze, we're not going to be able to do it. That's an example of, I think, the kind of use of the scalpel that we want to make sure that we're funding some of those programs.

Three reasons Obama's response to this virtually irrelevant question was exceptional:

1) Obama acknowledged "she's a capable politician... who has excited the- a- base in the Republican Party." The reference to the/a "base" diplomatically implies that she is an extremist who does not appeal to the broad swath of the populace; and calling her "a capable politician" is damnig by faint praise, not unlike McCain's commending Obama by remarking "Well, you know, I admire so much Senator Obama's eloquence."

2) Commending Palin because of her work on special-needs children makes Obama appear generous and genuine- but does not improve her image, given that few people are going to be persuaded that such work qualifies someone as vice-presidential material in a time the country (and world) is enduring an economic meltdown and two wars.

3) Commending Palin because of her attention to autism availed Obama of the opportunity to criticize (justifiably) McCain's "scalpel" approach to federal spending.

And, as Parker, notes "role modeling and helping children.... and 'fresh air'" will not inspire confidence in the Governor's ability to serve the nation. And neither will McCain's assurance "And I can't tell how proud I am of her and her family." Parents are proud of their children, too, when they get on the honor roll, become popular among their peers, get on their school basketball team, or get their first big job. That does not qualify them to serve as Vice-President of the United States, and neither does it Sarah Palin.
Missed Opportunity On Abortion

In her column, "The Final Debate: Their Essential Selves," conservative columnist Kathleen Parker remarks upon the abortion issue discussed at the presidential debate on October 15. Parker notes

McCain should have taken Obama to the mat on abortion and Obama's vote as Illinois state senator against legislation to protect infants who survive abortion. Obama successfully deflected, first acknowledging that such a vote indeed would seem bizarre if not for the fact (his assertion) that existing law already required aid to such infants. Meanwhile, Obama used language beloved by conservatives, saying not only that we need to seek ways to reduce abortion, but asserting that “sexuality is sacred,” and that people shouldn’t engage in "cavalier activity." That sounds like the abstinence crowd talking, not the far left.

Obama did "successfully deflect" the McCain-Palin charge that Obama is nearly guilty of infanticide, assited by the latter's use of pro-life phraseology. And McCain probably erred in the manner in which he criticized his opponent's support for permitting late-term abortions if the health or the life of the mother is endangered. The Republican nominee, employing the hand-gesture which emphasized that he was using a quote, contended

He's (sic) health for the mother. You know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything.
That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, "health."

John McCain expressed a legitimate position, that an exception to the prohibition of late-term abortion because the health of the woman is claimed to be a risk can be abused. But he went too far, and probably struck some women as being contemptuous of their feelings, by emphasizing his opposition with a hand gesture. And it strengthened the impression of John McCain as an angry, bitter individual better suited to the arguments of the past than the challenges of the present and future.
McCain: Obama Hasn't Traveled Enough

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, no fan of Sarah Palin, comments on several issues in last night's debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island, N.Y. Her article is interesting, somewhat insightful, and useful as a starting point to evaluate the confrontation hosted by Bob Schieffer. On this post: trade.

Parker writes

One of the most pecular moments came when McCain suggested that Obama’s understanding of free trade was limited because he hasn’t traveled south of the border. "Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer," McCain said. "But maybe you ought to travel down there and visit them and maybe you could understand it a lot better.”
Como? This was just plain weird, especially coming from the fellow whose running mate defines foreign policy experience in terms of Vladimir Putin’s head popping into Alaskan airspace. (Note to future presidents: Get your passport today.)

I, too, think it was a little weird- except for almost the opposite of Parker's reason. Sure, Governor Palin is limited in her experience, insight, vision, and travels. But John McCain began (pre-convention) this campaign trying to grab the mantle of "The American president Americans have been waiting for." Although we haven't heard that slogan recently, we have heard from the Repub nominee ask rhetorically, most recently in Albuquerque, N.M., "In short: Who is the real Barack Obama?" For the variation on this theme of the Real American, we had the vice-presidential nominee declare in her acceptance speech (and then on September 5 in Cedarburg, Wisconsin), "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."

This might have been a winning hand for McCain, particularly in concert with his ubiquitous reminders, in context and out, that he fought for his country in war and was a prisoner in that conflict. Instead, in the third and final presidential debate, arguably John McCain's last opportunity to change the "narrative," the Arizona senator knocks his opponent for not having been out of the country enough.

Does anyone in the United States of America believe that Barack Obama has traveled less than George W. Bush had at this point in the latter's career? That Barack Obama insufficiently understands the impact of national interrelationships in the global economy? That Barack Obama has not gotten around enough?

John McCain's comment runs counter to the argument- probably provincial, possibly disingenuous, (very) arguably racist, and probably more effective than any other he could have mustered- that Barack Obama is not one of us. And it could be a metaphor for a thoroughly disjointed campaign.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Easy Question, Obvious Answer

Larry King, conversing with Dean Caine, Sheryl Crow, Paul Begala, and KellyAnne Conway, threw the latter a hanging curve on the October 13 edition of Larry King Live. Following are the question (about Barack Obama) and the response of the GOP pollster and strategist:

..... from a Republican standpoint, would you at least ruefully admit, this guy has come out of nowhere?

Certainly he has and that's part of why John McCain should go no further than quoting Hillary Clinton, maybe Paul Begala, certainly Joe Biden and whether they really question Barack Obama's inexperience not so long ago , I don't understand why that's not part of the core message....

And that's the way I would have gone had I been John McCain in August, 2008. Then the nominee selected Sarah Palin to be his running mate. And he eviscerated the possibility of running a succesful campaign by stressing the importance of experience in this time of economic and international peril.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Unethical Sarah Palin

Since President Clinton's infamous (and, after innumberable reptetition, annoying) line, "it depends on what is is," we realize- or should- that politicians infrequently lie and regularly mislead.

So it is perplexing to me to hear Sarah Palin not only mislead, but lie, about the "Troopergate" report released on October 10 by the committee of ten Republicans and four Democrats. It was predictable that the McCain camp would question the motives of the panel, and campaign spokeswoman Meg Stapelton alleged "a partisan- led inquiry run by Obama supporters."

Prosecutor Steven Branchflower, who led the investigation, did find that Governor Earmark was legally entitled to fire the Commissioner of Public Safety, apparently for almost any reason that might suit her fancy:

I find that, although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.

But he found also

Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides
“The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”

And the response of the vice-presidential nominee? Palin and Stapelton on October 12 took a five minute conference call with the Anchorage Daily News and two local television stations, with each of the three reporters permitted to ask one question with no follow-up. Here is the transcript, as provided by

Palin: Hey, thank you so, Meg. Thank you so much. Thank you also to our local reporters up there in Alaska. Even hearing your names make me feel like I’m right there with you at home. It’s good to get to speak with you. Let me talk a little bit about the Tasergate issue if you guys would let me and, Meg, you want me to just jump right on in there?

Palin: Hey, thank you so, Meg. Thank you so much. Thank you also to our local reporters up there in Alaska. Even hearing your names make me feel like I’m right there with you at home. It’s good to get to speak with you. Let me talk a little bit about the Tasergate issue if you guys would let me and, Meg, you want me to just jump right on in there?

Stapleton: Sure governor, go ahead.

Palin: OK cool.
Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that. Todd did what anyone would have done given this state trooper’s very, very troubling behavior and his dangerous threats against our family. Todd did what I think any Alaskan would do.
And he, Todd did what the state’s Department of Law Web site tells anyone to do if they have a concern about a state trooper. And that’s you go to the commissioner and you express your concern. And Todd did what our personal detail asked him to do. Bob Cockrell early on as I was elected and was asked are there any threats against ya, and Todd brought the concern as I did to Commissioner Monegan about the state trooper’s threats. He did what any – I think — any rational person would do so again, nothing to apologize there with Todd’s actions and again very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing.

(Stapleton invites the first question).

ADN: Governor, finding No.1 on the report was that you abused your power by violating state law. Do you think you did anything wrong at all in this Troopergate case?

Palin: Not at all and I’ll tell you, it, I think that you’re always going to ruffle feathers as you do what you believe is in the best interest of the people whom you are serving. In this case I knew that I had to have the right people in the right position at the right time in this cabinet to best serve Alaskans, and Walt Monegan was not the right person at the right time to meet the goals that we had set out in our administration. So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all.

ADN: Have you read the whole report? (No response; Stapleton invites question from KTVA reporter).

KTVA-Channel 11: … The report that came out yesterday, do you think that the end result is partisan?

Palin: Yeah, I did think it did turn into a partisan circus to tell you the truth. Yes I did. You know from Day One it’s been the Personnel Board that clearly laid out in state statute there — Personnel Board deals with any issue of question regarding a governor, a lieutenant governor or an attorney general in the state of Alaska. What this legislative investigation — quote unquote — turned into was a political circus.

KTUU-Channel 2: Governor, so good to hear from you. Do you approve of the way that your campaign has handled themselves here in Alaska? We’ve had a lot of people voice concerns about what they call attacks of good people in our state while you are away.

Palin: Well I haven’t heard of any attacks on good people in Alaska from our campaign. If you have specifics there, maybe I could answer specifically. But no, in John McCain’s mission here, in taking the high road, as you’re going to see too with a lot of unfair shots he has taken in this campaign with some of his opponents’ supporters, McCain and I taking the high road, being positive. I wouldn’t support nor would I condone taking shots at any good Alaskans.

KTUU-Channel 2: Let me answer your question since you asked for specifics.

Palin: Sure.

KTUU-Channel 2: Walt Monegan was called “rogue.” How do you feel about that?

Palin: Rogue isn’t a negative term when you consider that in a cabinet you need a team effort going forward with a governor’s agenda. And our agenda has been to find efficiencies in every department and make sure that we are serving the people of Alaska to the best of our ability given the resources that we have. And remember I fought very hard to increase funding for state troopers so that we could fill positions there and goals not being met that included not being able to recruit and retain all the state troopers that I wanted to best serve Alaska. That could be characterized I think as a cabinet member who – it’s not a negative term I think — being rogue in terms of not meeting those goals.

Palin claims the investigation "did turn into a partisan circus," a curious charge from a public servant who first agreed to cooperate with the investigation, then after being nominated for V.P. changed her mind and refused to be interviewed. Branchflower concluded the Governor "abused her power by violating" the Alaska Branch Ethics Act. Nevertheless, the latter says "I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that." Not content to lie once, a moment later Palin remarks "So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all."

Perhaps Sarah Palin believes that violating a state statue is not "unethical activity." Or perhaps lying has become second nature to her. In either case, the selection of the vice-presidential nominee continues to put the lie to the McCain-Palin slogan "Country First."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Support From On High

I'm finding it difficult to understand that God is on the side of the Republican Party. But I'm trying.

Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic reports that a Reverend Arnold Conrad gave the following invocation on October 12 preceeding the appearance of his candidate, John McCain, at a rally in Davenport, Iowa:

I also would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god--whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah--that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons. And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they're going to think that their God is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and election day.

While introducing the Repub vice-presidential nominee at a rally in Clearwater, Florida on October 7, 2008, McCain-Palin supporter and surrogate Joe Lieberman described Sarah Palin as one "who with your help will be the next Vice-President of the United States." (I cannot provide a link but was watching when he stated this.)

Mrs. Palin, slicker than others in claiming divine support for her causes, generally is more subtle. She gave a largely anti-abortion rights speech in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on October 11 in which she stated "There are the world’s standards of perfection … and then there are God’s, and these are the final measure. Every child is beautiful before God, and dear to Him for their own sake." Palin then segued into an attack on Senator Obama's alleged "unconditional support for unlimited abortions, " thus delivering a clear message: God and I agree; Barack Obama disagrees.

This is nothing new for the Alaska governor. On June 8, 2008 she told graduating evangelical students at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church (where she was baptized):

I can do my part in doing things like working really, really hard to get a natural gas pipeline. Pray about that also. I think God's will has to be done, in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.

It's less threatening than curious that an individual who could be the next Vice-President of the United States is convinced that God has blessed her positions on public policy. This is, after all, the candidate who recently told Katie Couric:

My church, I don't have a church, I'm not a member of any church. I get to visit a couple of churches in Alaska when I'm home, including one, Wasilla Bible Church, and that's the one that you're talking about.

Palin: "God is all for me. And I'm all for God, except on Sunday mornings."
Obama's Fault?

Chris Matthews a little earlier spoke to CNBC's Charles Gasparino shortly before President Bush took to the airwaves (and immediately after he ended). Gasparino stressed that the stock market has been tanking as election of Barack Obama has become more likely, though he neglected to notice that Repubs are gradually replacing their expedient criticism of deregulation with their more traditional idealization of the free market. Neither did he imply the market has been responding to colder weather in the western U.S.A., the advent of the fall television schedule, or the collapse of the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs, which has as much connection to the fall of stocks as he presented for the improved prospects of Mr. Obama. Gasparino did blame what he referred to as support for "higher taxes" which, he contended, the Democratic nominee "really hasn't backed off." (For those convinced that MSNBC is unfairly biased toward Democrats, note that Matthews didn't challenge the relevance of the correlation between Obama's rise and the market's fall, nor the validity of the charge that Obama advocates higher taxes.)

Following the President's speech, Gasparino did lament Obama's support for higher income taxes on couples earning more than $250,000, which made empty his earlier (passing) reference to the importance of cutting the budget. The remarks did remind me of an item I recently read which appeared in USA Today, written by a Matt Krantz, which found a greater increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents.

This was written, in a question posed to Krantz, not a few days ago- but on December 2, 2005, thus excluding the recent plunge, but including the years from 1901 through 2004. The data was taken from the 2005 edition of the Stock Trader's Almanac by Yale and Jeffrey Hirsch.

It may be of little significance how the stock market responded to the president of a particular party 80, 60, or even 40, years ago. Drawing simplistic relationships between the ascent of a particular political aspirant and performance of any aspect of the economy prior to his election should be approached with caution, whether by you, me, or a reputed expert on CNBC.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Philadelphia Flyers Campaign For McCain-Palin

The Philadelphia Inquirer notes today that Governor Earmark will be dropping the ceremonial first puck at the opening game of the regular season of the National Hockey League's Philadelphia Flyers. The Inquirer reports

Last month, after Palin spoke in her acceptance speech about being a hockey mom, the Flyers launched a search for the area's "ultimate hockey mom." The winner will be on the ice with Palin for the faceoff.

Ed Snider, who as Comcast-Spectacor chairman runs the Flyers, said this appearance at the Wachovia Center "has nothing to do with politics. This is to have some fun with the fabulous statement she made."

You might think the characterization of Palin's remark as "the fabulous statement" might betray a partisan preference on the part of the multimillionaire Snider. Especially if you kew that Snider attended a reception for Palin in Philadelphia on the night of the first debate between the two presidential nominees and has contributed a total of $25,000 to the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Unfortunately, the Alaska governor probably will receive a "fabulous" reception from the overwhelmingly white, predominately conservative, fans. And although Palin's beneficial , such as it is, impact upon the McCain campaign is largely limited to the Repub base, there no doubt is another demographic the GOP hopes to reach in Pennsylvania, which tends to go Democratic- narrowly- in presidential races. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough has argued recently that "undecided" voters in the greater Pittsburgh area (and points in Pennsylvania south of there) may be balking at voting for Obama because of race. Although that is outside of the Philadelphia media market (and partial to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the rare moments they are not obsessed with the NFL's Steelers), a similar phenomenon may be occurring in a lesser scale in Philadelphia. Ben Smith of Politico writes (albeit anecdotally) on October 6:

An Obama supporter, who canvassed for the candidate in the working-class, white Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown recently, sends over an account that, in various forms, I've heard a lot in recent weeks.
"What's crazy is this," he writes. "I was blown away by the outright racism, but these folks are f***ing undecided. They would call him a n----r and mention how they don't know what to do because of the economy."

All polls of Pennsylvania show the Democratic nominee leading John McCain, most with the margin having grown in recent weeks. Still, this is a state which Obama lost decisively (by 9.4%) in the primary, and apparently one which bolsters the hypothesis that resistance among white voters to voting for Obama is greater in states in which "turf" is an issue and whose economy and state have been growing little, if at all, the last several years. Victory in Pennsylvania is not essential given Barack Obama's opportunity to capture states lost by John Kerry in 2004, but a loss there would be a major setback.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More Questions Than Answers

Amidst the awful and not-so-awful questions posed at Tuesday night's presidential debate in Nashville was this extraordinarily broad one from Tom Brokaw:

The three -- health care, energy, and entitlement reform: Social Security and Medicare. In what order would you put them in terms of priorities?

The question did bring this implicit admission from John McCain that he expects to cut Social Security and Medicare: "My friends, we are not going to be able to provide the same benefit for present-day workers that we are going -- that present-day retirees have today." A moment later the Repub nominee would comment, apparently about nothing in particular "My friends, some of this $700 billion ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations."

Barack Obama's response, if incomplete, at least was clearer. His first priority (among the three raised) would be energy, he said, in part because of the threat to national security; the second, health care, which he noted "is making our businesses less competitive"; and the third, education.

Given that the format permitted no follow-up, the question proved to be a waste of time. We had one candidate apparently wanting to cut an extremely popular and successful government program, largely responsible for drastically cutting over the decades the rate of poverty among elderly people; the other candidate, skirting the issue of entitlement reform and substituting "education" as a priority.

The problem was hardly minimized with Brokaw's comment, offered as a postscript to this segment, "All right, gentlemen, I want to just remind you one more time about time. We're going to have a larger deficit than the federal government does if we don't get this under control here before too long." Recognition that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which John McCain has advocated making permanent, play a far larger role in the deficit would have been more accurate- but not the "balanced" perspective that the mainstream media is fond of peddling.
Humor In Nashville

John McCain has faced a heavy burden entering the presidential debates with Barack Obama. As much as McCain, Sarah Palin, Repub surrogates, and others have denied it, the Arizona senator represents a party that has emphasized war over diplomacy, deregulation of the financial industry, crony capitalism and other traditional conservative practices, with the results only too evident.

But there is another handicap which McCain, who generally did well in his party's presidential debates, has faced against Obama, who generally did not fare well appearing opposite Hillary Clinton and, initially, others. The audiences have been cautioned against reacting in support, or opposition, to its candidate.

This is manifested partially in the absence of a laugh track. Last night, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, McCain quipped:

  • Well, thank you, Tom. Thank you, Belmont University. And Senator Obama, it's good to be with you at a town hall meeting. (regarding McCain's earlier proposal for Obama to join him in a series of town hall debates)
  • Not you, Tom. (about whom he might appoint as Secretary of the Treasury)
  • Well, you know, nailing down Senator Obama's various tax proposals is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. (McCain claiming that his opponent has put forth numerous, conflicting positions on income taxation)
  • You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one. (the Administration's energy bill)
  • And I'll stop, Tom, and you didn't even wave. Thanks. (the candidates taking longer to answer than the debate rules allowed)
  • I looked into his eyes and saw three letter, a K, a G and a B. (a McCain favorite, about Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent)

The members of the audience at Belmont University may have slightly chuckled to themselves at one or more of these attempts at humor, but to most people in the television audience, it came across as slightly awkward, a little silly, and lame. It contributes, in its small way, to the impression of Barack Obama as steady, serious, and reliable, among those attributes he has striven to convey to the American people to reassure them that his election would not be a "risky" choice in tumultous times.


Literally big, a former New York Giants offensive tackle is coming up big figuratively : So theres an active shooter and trump tells h...