Friday, November 07, 2008

Election Post-script #1

It's morning in America and hope has been restored for those of us who see a road forward to the future, not an idealized, mythical past to which we should return. I am hopefuly again for the first time in a long time. I am not the sort to look at America with a totalizing critique. I still see it as an unrealized dream: of democracy, freedom and equality of opportunity. The election of Obama certainly does not address all of the problems in America today, but he has built a movement and lit a torch that can push the country forward with a progressive agenda for change that increases opportunity, heightens civic engagement and responsibility, challenges neoliberalism and its cynical policies that largely serve the elites and restores America's image the world over. This is a moment for real change in America and it is up to not only him but us to struggle forward against the past and toward a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

Been off the past few days, busy with other tasks. Today we find out who the next president will be. I was teaching a class yesterday and argued that this election is a referendum on a number of issues. I believe it truly could be the most important election for a long time to come. If McCain wins, we can assume the strategy and policies of the past will continue. If Obama wins, no matter what he does as President, real change will come to American politics. Here are the larger stakes of this election, at least in my mind . . .

1) Race/Racism in America: if Obama wins, it could challenge the idea that elections can be won or lost on this issue alone. If Obama wins in Virginia, Florida, North Carolina or anywhere else in the South (less likely), it could signal an end to the Republican stranglehold on that region and the need for the Republican party to redefine what they stand for (and clearly what they oppose). While his election will not immediately change the racial dynamics of the country, it is clear it will be a signal moment in race relations in this country and symbolic of the possiblity for real equality of opportunity and an end to racism as policy. If McCain wins, one has to acknowledge that racism played a relatively major role.

2) Economics: it is clear this election returns us to Obama's argument in his book -- can we create a "New" New Deal, that recognizes the role the government can play to soften the edges of capitalism and more equitably distribute the benefits (and risks) of American capitalism gone wild. In traditional terms, this is an election between Reagan and FDR/Keynes and could fundamentally challenge our current notions of markets and government. This will clearly depend on what Obama actually does if he wins, but if McCain wins it appears to continue the argument that "liberal" is a bad word in America and taxes (even during a financial crisis) make all the difference; even to those who will not benefit from still more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

3) The Nature of Campaigns: a number of changes have emerged in the election this cycle, and a Obama victory could alter the dynamics and strategies of elections for the foreseeable future. Here are the issues:

a) Populism: can an effective Democratic ground game undermine the effectiveness of the Republican machine and its policy of attack, attack and then attack some more? More generally, are we about to see a dramatic upshift in turnout and thus the voice of the people in elections.
b) Rovean electoral strategy: relates to "a", if Obama wins -- will the idea of running exclusively or prodimantly negative campaigns lose steam. This is not a new trend, but it is clear the virulence of hatred-mongering and lies in recent elections has altered the public sphere to our collective disadvantage.
c) Media: can an Obama win force the media to consider its role in the spectacle-dominated politics of today? I don't have great hope in this area, but maybe pressure can mount for issues-based coverage over horse-race and character focus.
d) Money: Obama undermined public financing laws, which make many like me very uncomfortable. But at the same time, the populist nature of his fundraising provides hope that the people can challenge the stranglehold the elites and corporations currently have on elections and daily business in Washington. This will depend first on who wins and then later on the ability of the Obama team to keep this swell of popular participation activated for future campaigns and, hopefully, for more local effors for change. MoveOn.org certainly provides a model for maintaining these networks between elections.

I am so nervous . . . and hopeful.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama Expands Lead . . . Republicans Get Downright Silly

The latest polls seem to show Obama expanding his lead, and while I was teaching when his 30-minute ad ran -- it appears to be getting popular support among some: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/29/poll.wednesday/index.html?eref=rss_topstories.

Meanwhile the embarrasing McCain campaign just keeps getting worse . . .

1) Palin is bringing up old news about Obama's relationship with a pro-Palestinian professor, who she claims is a "PLO Spokesperson." (http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/29/campaign.wrap/index.html?eref=rss_topstories) Even if Obama did support Palestinian legitimate claims about mistreatment from Israel, does that mean he is a radical? Certainly to some in the US, but Obama has made his position on Israel clear. By the way, there is talk of her running in 2012. Is anyone seriously considering her as President? I'm not sure she should be running a local McDonald's chain.

2) The infighting over Palin within the McCain camp this late in the election cycle, seems to indicate a recognition that they are going to lose. And even as Palin says she thinks they will win, she already appears to be setting herself up for 2012. One senior aid went as far as calling her a "whack job." http://www.politico.com/playbook/1008/playbook476.html

3) From the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/03/081103fa_fact_bruck. Chuck Hagel refused to endorse McCain, but his recent comments are even more damning. "In good conscience, I could not enthusiastically—honestly—go out and endorse him and support him when we so fundamentally disagree on the future course of our foreign policy and our role in the world," he said, then later added about Palin "I don't believe she's qualified to be President of the United States. The first judgment a potential President makes is who their running mate is—and I don't think John made a very good selection."

4) Daily Kos reports on the McCain healthcare plan and how it could negatively affect so many Americans: The Obama campaign] This morning, the McCain campaign's top economic policy advisor unleashed an October Surprise of straight talk when he finally admitted that the health insurance people currently get from their employer is 'way better' than the health care they would get if John McCain becomes President. ... Senator McCain has been trying to cover this up for months, but his advisor's brutal honesty today is certainly better late than never, and it should give every American pause about electing a candidate who has proposed such radical and dangerous changes to our health care system.

5) I was listening to conservative radio on my way home, and one caller actually compared Obama to Stalin. While Bob Grant disagreed, the socialist claims are getting downright absurd. Again, how are tax cuts for most of the population a "socialist" policy, particularly when the increase in taxes for the top 5% amount to returning to Clinton-level rates. He is certainly not supporting the top tax bracket of the late 70s (70%) or the 50s (90%). McCain has clearly and irrevocably shown himself to be even worse than Rove: use any strategy, lie and if that doesn't work lie some more.

6) The McCain campaign is airing an old ad that they know quite well is ridicuously misleading, taking Obama's words out of context to argue he claims Iran isn't dangerous. The ad and the truth (this disclaimer should come with every McCain ad: this ad might cause anal leakage because the makers of the ad are lying out of their asses) . . .

This afternoon, McCain re-released an ad first unveiled two months ago. The voiceover tells the viewer:
"Iran. Radical Islamic government. Known sponsors of terrorism. Developing nuclear capabilities to 'generate power' but threatening to eliminate Israel.
"Obama says Iran is a 'tiny' country, 'doesn't pose a serious threat.' Terrorism, destroying Israel, those aren't 'serious threats'?
"Obama -- dangerously unprepared to be president."
And here's what Obama actually said, back in May:
"Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. That's what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That's what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That's what Nixon did with Mao. I mean, think about it: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, 'We're going to wipe you off the planet.' And ultimately, that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war and over time allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall."
(http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_10/015412.php)

7) Finally, from Indiana Secretary of State on Blacks and Democrats "Who's the Master and Who's the Slave?" Um, who's race baiting again?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More on the "S" Word

This from an Amazon disscussion board (I'm quoting it verbatim, with thanks to MDS) . . .

Congressional Quarterly gave this a rare twice over, once for McCain and once for Palin. In both cases they explain that you've been lied to.
McCain: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/oct/27/playing-dirty-s-word
Palin: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/826/

Few serious policy makers - including McCain - consider progressive taxation socialist. In fact, on the Oct. 26, 2008 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, McCain stood by a comment he made in 2000 that "there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more" in taxes when you "reach a certain level of comfort." "You put into different, different categories of wealthier people paying, paying higher taxes into different brackets," McCain told host Tom Brokaw, as if to say progressive taxes are a no-brainer.Indeed, progressive taxation has been a cornerstone of American tax policy since the federal government first collected an income tax in 1863. It was based on the Tax Act of 1862, which President Abraham Lincoln signed, and which imposed a "duty of three per centum" on all income over $600, and five percent on income over $10,000.Obama's proposed top tax rate of 39.6 percent, (up from today's 36 percent) is considerably higher than that. But it's not particularly high in the context of modern times; as he pointed out to Wurzelbacher, it's about what top earners paid in the Clinton years. In 1987, the top tax rate was 38.5 percent. In 1944, it was 94 percent for the highest portions of high incomes.So no, Obama's tax increase on those making more than $250,000 would not represent a transformation of the U.S. system of government. His desire to "spread the wealth" through progressive taxation makes him no less a capitalist than McCain, or Lincoln. Palin's allegation that Obama wants to "experiment with socialism" seems designed less to inform than to inflame. That's Pants on Fire wrong.

Amen. Progressive taxation is not socialist, it follows a long tradition of recognizing that the ideas of the "American Dream" and democracy itself depend on a vibrant public sphere and the participation of educated, informed citizens. Jefferson made this argument in our early years, Jacksonian Democrats agreed, as did the "Young Americans," Teddy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, LBJ and a host of others. It is time that we return to these more sensible views of American Democracy and forever scrap neoliberalism and its blind faith in markets and greed. If too much wealth accumulates in the power of too few, not only does democracy fail but the economy as well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hate on the March Again . . .

Just out from the AP, two young white supremist males planned to go on a killing spree they hoped would end with the assassination of Obama. http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/10/27/obama.plot/index.html?eref=rss_topstories.

In California, the hate mongers are again attempting to outlaw Gay marriage; a strategy that arguably helped Bush win in 2004: http://www.protectmarriage.com/

And in Colorado, one of the strictest abortion laws in the history of the country is on the ballot: http://citizenschallenge.blogspot.com/2008/10/abortion-right-and-wrong-and-colorados.html. The bill, it is argued, could make it a crime to for example get in a car accident without a seat belt on and lose your fetus. Giving a fetus the same rights as a citizen from the moment of conception goes against even the Catholic Church and its stance from the middle ages.

The first incident clearly involves extreme hatred by young men (a not uncommon problem in America today), but the other two again show a Republican party attempting to limit the freedom of individuals. The tyranny of the majority is always a danger in a democracy, but the ongoing attempts to limit equality to gays and freedom over their own bodies to women get at the heart of the hypocrisy of the Republican party.

On a related note, a very interesting article in the New York Times yesterday details the changing narrative of the McCain campaign from one moment to the next. It appears to provide further evidence of the failure of leadership of McCain during this campaign; seriously undermining his argument on his experience and leadership in general. And I again have to say that the arguments about "socialism" and now "communism" are beyond absurd. The only move toward socialism I see are coming from the Bush administration and the bailout package. Giving tax cuts to the middle class and reinstituting a progressive tax system in America is simply not socialist. And this idea about "redistributing your money" in particular rings hollow, given that McCain is simply calling for more tax cuts for the top 5%, who are rarely at his rallies anyway.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Palin Pontifcates . . . Republicans Panic

An article today details the growing rift between Palin and McCain aides: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/25/palin.tension/index.html?eref=rss_topstories. The most troubling aspect of the story is the idea of some that Palin is looking out for herself and actually perceives herself as the future leader of the party. It's good news for Democrats, but has one of the two parties in this country gotten that desperate?

Some details from the story:
1) Palin has called robocalls "irritating"
2) Palin disagreed with the campaign decision to leave Michigan
3) Apparently, Palin is not good at "process questions," which I can only assume means questions without prefabricated responses . . .

A Palin associate defended her, saying that she is "not good at process questions" and that her comments on Michigan and the robocalls were answers to process questions.

4) One McCain aide claimed ""She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else." Is this really someone we want a heartbeat away from the Presidency? Particularly when this sounds a lot like another "renegade" who has done quite a bit of damage in the past 8 years.
5) Regarding her limited press interactions since the Gibson and Couric fiascos:

But two sources, one Palin associate and one McCain adviser, defended the decision to keep her press interaction limited after she was picked, both saying flatly that she was not ready and that the missteps could have been a lot worse.
They insisted that she needed time to be briefed on national and international issues and on McCain's record.
"Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic," said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the "hardest" to get her "up to speed than any candidate in history."

Um, do we really want a VP so unprepared for the presidency . . . or a president who makes such a poor choice in choosing someone that could very well take over for him; given that he would be the oldest entering president in history (Hitchens went so far as to claim McCain might be "senile" recently)

This is becoming the most embarassing and inept campaign in history, and one can only hope it leads to a major Democratic rout. The question then will be whether this could be the next step in a major political realignment, or a break in the continuing move of the country to the right? I believe an Obama victory and a positive push through the economic crisis could wake Americans up to their complicity in elite rule today.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Latest on the Polls . . .

Salon has a short article, that doubts the validity of the two polls that show the race closer. Interesting read:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/10/25/obamas_lead/print.html

Friday, October 24, 2008

AP Poll . . .

Well, some have already covered the infamous poll (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081022/ap_on_el_pr/ap_poll_presidential_race/print;_ylt=Ap_Grnc1XPrQKXWcInnqE7th24cA), but I thought I would add my voice of outrage to the poll. Essentially the AP ran a poll that included 44% white, evangelical Christians. Yes, that's right, 44%. They then report that the race is getting closer while waiting several paragraphs to admit that other polls show huge leads for Obama and even this poll is being misreported. This is the sort of reporting that has longed cause major consternation among liberals and the public in general.

Lest us forget that at the same time the New York Times and Washington Post were essentially supporting the party line of Republicans regarding the war, more progressive publications like Salon, the Nation and Slate were already seriously questioning the strength of the evidence for Weapons of Mass Destruction. And this was supported by widespread questions throughout Europe and among those actually doing the inspection. And the media didn't change their mind until after the war started, with an disingenuous mea culpa that was way too late.

The issue appears to be the need for serious media reform. The media used to be considered the "fourth estate" of government and actually actively lived up to that role. In recent years, they seem to be more interested in their own interests -- of keeping audiences engaged through spectacle and scandal coverage and of undermining real critique based on their own corporate interests. Marginal groups on the internet and a few non-profits have pushed the media to have more accountability, but only the public can ensure that they return to more critical, substantive coverage and sufficient local coverage. Those movements have succeeded in the past and it appears to be time for another popular movement for change. Let's hope its in the offing . . .

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Top Five Reasons Obama Supporters Shouldn't Rest Easy

Moveon.org asked bloggers to post this message. While I have some reservations, here it is . . .

1. The polls may be wrong. This is an unprecedented election. No one knows how racism may affect what voters tell pollsters—or what they do in the voting booth. And the polls are narrowing anyway. In the last few days, John McCain has gained ground in most national polls, as his campaign has gone even more negative.
2. Dirty tricks. Republicans are already illegally purging voters from the rolls in some states. They're whipping up hysteria over ACORN to justify more challenges to new voters. Misleading flyers about the voting process have started appearing in black neighborhoods. And of course, many counties still use unsecure voting machines.
3. October surprise. In politics, 15 days is a long time. The next McCain smear could dominate the news for a week. There could be a crisis with Iran, or Bin Laden could release another tape, or worse.
4. Those who forget history... In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote after trailing by seven points in the final days of the race. In 1980, Reagan was eight points down in the polls in late October and came back to win. Races can shift—fast!
5. Landslide. Even with Barack Obama in the White House, passing universal health care and a new clean-energy policy is going to be hard. Insurance, drug and oil companies will fight us every step of the way. We need the kind of landslide that will give Barack a huge mandate.
If you agree that we shouldn't rest easy, please sign up to volunteer at your local Obama office by clicking here: http://pol.moveon.org/obama/office.html?source=blog&id=14534-4783301-gHBhzgx&t=1

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Real American?

Republicans are in trouble, so go back to the old stock answer. We are more like you (Palin pick; socialist, Joe the Plumber, "real American"). Palin just apoligized for the "more American" reference in her last speech: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/21/palin.sitroom/index.html?eref=rss_topstories. Congressman Robin Hayes was also caught saying "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God." (http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/2008/10/21/liberals_americans/index.html?source=rss&aim=/politics/war_room). This is how Bush and Reagan won, acting like average Americans while they were anything but. Will it work again?

The more important question is who are "real Americans." Real Americans do not blindly pledge their allegiance to the flag. Real Americans don't blindly follow leaders who don't hold themselves accountable. Real Americans believe in democracy and equality of opportunity. Real Americans are elites, the middle class and the poor. They are Republicans and Democrats. They recognize that this country was born of those who feared too much democracy and those who feared too little. Today the Republicans support those who fear too much democracy while pretending to be populists simply by fighting elites (read liberals who read, drink latte, think the superrich are underming the country and democracy and care about people). At the same time, they continue to support elite interests, even as those same interests have led the country to our greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Is ignorance and blind allegiance really what America is about? Is fear of the other implicitly a positive attribute? Can people who will suffer under a Republican presidency continue to fall prey to these false calls? I guess we'll know in a couple of weeks . . .

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hannity and Bloomberg (True Believers)!

I was listening to Hannity on the way home today. One must admire him for his resolve and the myopia that seems to cloud every thought he has. With Limbaugh there is a recognition that he is an entertainer, but with Hannity there seems to be an almost blind faith that everything he stands for is absolute truth, as if ordained by God. His discourse on the election would be laughable if it did not so closely align with McCain's desperate grab for the presidency. Obama is a terrorism, a socialist, a proponent of welfare and redistribution and Biden the most arrogant man in history (ever look in the mirror my friend?) What has been sad the past two weeks is how much McCain is aping his every word -- a renegade who is more doctrinaire at this point than even Bush ("compassionate conservatism").

Bloomberg also appears to be a similar true believer, though his belief is simply and wholly in himself as an almost God like figure, who can trump the will of the people because he knows better than the rest of us. The most troubling aspect of his ploy to undermine democracy itself would be a little less troubling if he wasn't using people who benefit from their decision (the city council) to do his bidding. Why not add a referendum to this election or one in the Spring? Because he could lose that? And what of the election? Using $80 million of his own money should ensure that reelection be a foregone conclusion. But is this democracy? And if not, what does it say about American politics today?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another Republican Breaks for Obama

And this one is big . . . Colin Powell. Given the differences on the Iraq War and McCain's claims on terrorism, the choice by Powell to go with Obama seems to undermine one of McCain's strengths. I'm sure some Republicans must be surprised by this turn and pretty pissed off:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081019/ts_nm/us_usa_politics/print;_ylt=Ap_Grnc1XPrQKXWcInnqE7tg.3QA

Of course, McCain now claims he is the true "champion of the middle class." How you might ask?
McCain casts himself as middle-class guardian based on "Joe the Plumber," who ironically admitted that he would actually have his taxes cut by the Obama plan. But in American politics, inconvenient truths like that just don't matte. He was ushered on to Mike Huckabee's show last night and continues to be trumpeted by McCain as a symbol of Obama's "class warfare." The answer to that charge should be: a little class warfare is exactly what we need in this country right now . . .

Evoking "Joe the Plumber" near his hometown in this pivotal state, Republican John McCain on Sunday cast himself as the guardian of middle-class workers and small-business owners who fuel the economy.
"If I'm elected president, I won't raise taxes on small businesses, as Sen. (Barack) Obama proposes, and force them to cut jobs," McCain said of his Democratic opponent during a rally at the convention center. "I will keep small business taxes where they are, help them keep their costs low and let them spend their earnings to create more jobs, not send to Washington."
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081019/ap_on_el_pr/mccain/print


On a lighter note: http://gawker.com/5065216/the-definitive-john-mccain-crazy+face-gallery.

And as a cultural critic, I have to wonder if anyone is upset that "Americas Game" is being shown on TBS: which those without cable or the most basic form would be unable to watch it . . .

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Terrorist, Socialist, Not One of Us . . . Take Your Pick

The night of the debate, David Brooks suggested that John McCain stop the negative campaigning and restore his image. Fox News, with the exception of "real believers" like Hannity and O'Reilly, seemed to realize the hopelessness of their man's victory. And Christopher Hitchens and William F. Buckley Jr. came out for Obama. So would McCain get back to running a clean campaign? What do you think?

Robo Calls on Ayers (BS 1): http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081018/ap_on_el_pr/mccain_robo_calls/print

ACORN Controversy (BS 2):
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081018/ap_on_el_ge/fraud_or_foolishness

Socialist (BS 3):
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/18/campaign.wrap/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

The "socialist" tag might be the most absurd, but at the same time the best reason not to vote for McCain. We have the largest income gap between rich and poor of any industrialized country in the world (and it has been growing dramatically under Bush). We have the lowest life expectancy, highest infant mortality rates, least amount of leisure time, among the worst public education system, highest childhood poverty rates, largest percentage of uninsured and a superrich class that few dictatorships could dream of. But raising their taxes to more equitably allocate the benefits of society is socialism? We are in an economic crisis very close to the depression and yet we need to freeze government spending and provide more tax cuts for the rich? Are you serious? Only in America could a discourse this ridiculous have any currency (pun intended). It's hard to believe the same people that accepted government intervention after 911 could so quickly fall for this ploy. Then again, we did elect Bush two times (or one if you count voter fraud). I won't be happy until the moment McCain concedes the election; which given his behavior lately might be 2012 even if he loses in a landslide.


P.S. I am still amused by McCain's claim that he wouldn't have gone dirty if Obama had accepted his call for an endless series of town hall meetings (McCain's presumptive strength). What happened to a civil debate? McCain realized he couldn't win it. So like every Republican since Nixon, he decided to turn ugly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Final Thoughts

Not only the "liberal media" seemed to think Obama won the debate. Even Fox News and George Will admit that they're not sure what McCain stands for and they Obama wins the debate because McCain didn't do enough to really overcome the Bush-clone charges. If you actually listened to his policy prescriptions, the very good line about "if you wanted to run against George Bush, you should have run four years ago" rings hollow. McCain is offering more of the same and I just don't think enough people want that for him to win. Obama has the lead, more money, a stronger base and the advantage of being a democrat during a financial crisis. We might be on the precipice of a historic election that could change race relations and the Republican party for years to come. Will Obama change the democratic party? That's less than a month from becoming the question of the next four years.

The Debate

1) We started with the traditional "class warfare" arguments that use "Joe the Plumber" to stand in for large corporations and the super rich in the country. A similar argument, you might remember, was used by Bush and Republicans under the rubric of the "small farmers" that couldn't leave money to their children. The truth was that many of the richest Americans were willing to pay the "death tax" and that the farmers that had over a million dollars in savings are really the agribusiness groups that have supplanted the small farmers that once made up this country. The lie that taxes for 95% percent of the people is "class warfare," or "socialism" as many conservative radio hosts and TV hosts have charged, is a lie. Can this discourse really work when so many working class and middle class people are hurting?

2) The attack dog is out, as might have been expected. What might not have been expected is how much contempt he is showing for Obama. The smirk that President Bush so famously uses appears to have been coopted by McCain. Will this work? The one thing I notice, is that Obama is getting a little annoyed and that might not play well with the public. Some of this may related to a latent racism that goes back to old “uppity negro” discourses. McCain’s behavior seems to be in this mode. And he keeps interrupting Obama, which famously hurt Gore against Bush.

3) Obama just showed a great ability to bring out the “8 more years” discourse that should resonate with a lot of people, arguing McCain has sided with Bush on tax, energy and spending policy. McCain did not really answer that question. His consistent use of the “8 failed years of policy” is a brilliant, though obvious, ploy to tie McCain to Bush and McCain has really done little to differentiate himself from Bush (or Reagan) or the failed policies of the past.

4) Good job to Bob Shaeffer for asking the question about the negative tenor of the campaigns and whether they were willing to say these things to each others face. McCain’s answer follows Republican strategy – don’t really answer the question and turn it around and blame it on Obama. Obama’s answer was perfect from my perspective, welcoming a more positive campaign and claiming that 100% of his ads are negative. Also, I like his answer that not having as many debates as McCain wants naturally leads to negative ads is true and the public thinks McCain is more negative by a two to one percentage. On Lewis, good answer by Obama as well – what Lewis said is largely true. Again McCain looks like a petulant child and an elitist who has no respect for his opponent. The question actually allowed Obama to return to his message of a new politics and culture and fighting against the cynicism that dominates McCain’s campaign. McCain, of course, follows his campaign attacking Obama for Ayers and Acorn.

5) Shaeffer just threw Obama a softball. The VP pick is a big issue here and I can’t wait to hear what McCain says . . . “Palin is role model to women . . . a reformer . . . cut size of government . . . . faced down oil companies . . . reform true and true . . . a breath of fresh air . . . Autism.” It’s a sad answer. “She has united our party and people all across the country.” Schaeffer: “Is she qualified to be President?” Obama stepped around the answer effectively, and talked about autism costing increased money (“across the board” spending cuts). Then McCain attacks Biden and actually says he’s only qualified in some areas, and how his foreign policy is often mistaken. Then McCain “Obama’s answer is always ‘we need to spend more’ . . . what about accountability and oversight.”

6) On energy policy “extreme environmentalist.” Give me a break!!!! I find Obama weak on this point – ethanol, nuclear power and off shore drilling. McCain is playing his own attack dog and I wonder if it will work outside his base . . . “I admire so much Obama’s eloquence.” This is so mocking, it’s unbelievable. McCain “I am a free trader.” McCain sounds more and more like a conservative commentator tonight (Hannity) and is acting a lot like Bill O’Reilly (a bully who clearly hates Obama and doesn’t seem to respect him at all. Obama is clever in my mind in talking about human rights and unions (a clear call to union, working class folks). And who the hell is McCain looking at? I think his famous temper is coming to the fore here. Obama wants to “restrict trade an raise taxes” and then McCain compares him to Hoover. Obama seems much more respectable, but not in the weak way we saw with Kerry four years ago.

7) This “Joe the Plumber” metaphor is silly and plays to the conservative base. I know I’m being biased, but again I have to say Obama wins on healthcare. His approach is to scare us about a “single payer” plan compared to Canada and England and about “increased bureaucracy.” Then again he returns to redistribution, essentially calling him a socialist. Then “big government” charges. Here gain we see major misstatements from McCain supporting Christopher Hitchens charge yesterday (see below) about McCain having some serious mental issues.

8) Roe vs. Wade: McCain talks about a litmus test until challenged, then moves to talking about being a federalists. McCain wins a point here for voting for more liberal judges, while Obama voted against the two latest nominees – even though I agree with Obama’s vote. Obama then gets to make the point that the next president will probably decide the fate of Roe vs. Wade (helping conservatives on the wedge issue, but making a nice call to women to think about this choice within the context of the election). Hard to say who wins on this point – in the past conservatives, but who knows this year.

9) On education, as an educator, I fundamentally disagree with McCain’s plan. Choice and competition is not the answer to a public good like education where I believe corporations and the economic interest have far too large a say in what happens in schools (essentially sorting and training without anrey broader program for personal and social development, and an undervaluing of too many children in America today) – and has shown very mixed results. He also argues against “throwing money at schools.” This fundamentally misunderstands the funding differentials that dominate in America today and the disadvantages that minorities and the poor have in public schools today.

Overall, McCain calls himself a maverick, and is essentially running as a traditional Republican at this point who is closer to Ronald Reagan and Sean Hannity than he is to the renegade he claims to be. This follows from his campaign team, who are a bunch of lobbyists that have little interest in actual reform to government. Obama does sound more like a populist and an FDR democrat, but at this moment I wonder if this will not resonate with the people. I think we are probably ripe for this message and the polls support that thesis. McCain calls for change in his conclusion, but where is it? Obama closes with a call to his strength – tying McCain to Bush and talking about the economic crisis and his call for real change, through sacrifice, service and compromise. This has been a better debate, but I really think Obama wins (debating better than I have ever seen him before).

Hitchens Comes Out

One of the interesting post-mortems on the 2004 election was the revelation that Kerry did in fact appear to be a flip-flopper within his own campaign. While the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were unearthed as anything but, the truth was that Kerry wasn't sure who to listen to among the competing voices in his campaign and had a hard time making important decisions on strategy and issues. Christopher Hitchens has just written a piece for Slate.com reinforcing a point that has been in the back of my mind -- that McCain does not seem well-equipped for the rigors of a Presidency at this point in his career:

"Last week's so-called town-hall event showed Sen. John McCain to be someone suffering from an increasingly obvious and embarrassing deficit, both cognitive and physical. And the only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience." (http://www.slate.com/default.aspx?id=2202163)

Hitchens has been a major disappointment to progressives since 911, when he became an adamant and unapologetic supporter of the Iraq War and, to some extent, conservative doctrine in America. Here I think he unearths a truth that few are talking about. McCain's not just running a bad, dirty campaign -- it seems to indicate a lack of judgment that comes on top of serious concerns about his age and long history of erratic and irrational behavior (including an infamous temper that is not well-suited to the presidency). Lest us forget what happened the last time we had a President who had lost it? Iran-Contra . . .

On a related note, I happened to listen to Sean Hannity today on the way home. The ways conservatives alter the truth would be laughable if it didn't resonate so strongly with their base. He actually argued that Obama ads are the ones that are lying, that the press should be paying more attention to this baseless charges about Ayers and provide more scrutiny of his relationship to Wright -- even as he never mentions the lobbyists that populate McCain's campaign or their relationship to the financial crisis. As if the financial crisis wasn't happening, he then went on to laud capitalism and free markets and said that the tax cuts Obama was offering were a new "welfare" program. This was followed by the tired old deification of Reagan and absurd calls for a return to his failed neoliberal/neoconservative policies including what sounds a lot like the very supply-side economics McCain can't seem to escape, and that most of the architects of the approach discredited themselves in the early 90s. How does this bs go unchallenged? Because it is easy to sequester oneself from the truth in these safe spaces of myth and lies that sound good unless one does the careful, and apparently painful work, of actually thinking. Could we be nearing the end of this absurdity?

Monday, October 13, 2008

New York Times Says It May Be Over

Looking at historic trends, the NYT asks whether McCain can makeup the growing deficits in the polls that show a potential landslide in the making:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/13/us/politics/13caucus.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=print

I hope democrats don't take this too seriously and fail to show up at the polls. Um, remember 2000 in Florida, where the early call might have given the election to Bush and the last eight years to the rest of us? This sort of coverage is understandable, but is it responsible? Hard to say, but I would rather hear more about what the candidates are going to do and less about their friends and historical precidents and daily polls.

By the way, the Washington Post's latest polls do tend to support the assessment of the New York Times: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/12/AR2008101202333_pf.html. One positive that could come out of this election if Obama wins is a serious challenge to the idea that negativity alone can win elections. Could 2012 be the campaign McCain promised this time? Well, a boy can dream . . .

GOP Gets Desperate . . . and, of course, Ugly

The Virigina GOP Chairman, Jeffrey Frederick, has taken the campaign to a new low that, well, reminds this writer of Bush and the Iraq War. Apparently as he sent staff out to drum up votes in this surprisingly close state, he told them to focus on the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” he said. “That is scary” (http://donklephant.com/2008/10/12/virginia-gop-chairman-compares-obama-to-osama/). This stupidity just reinforces the truth about Republicans that we will see come out in the final weeks of the campaign:

- They are willing to win at any cost
- Fear and hatred are their two favorite emotions
- If they can't win on the issues, subterfugre and lying are best
- It's ok to be anti-democratic and try to suppress the vote, particularly if those who don't vote are poor or minorities
- Ignorance is their greatest ally.


On the other hand, don't question the increasingly questionable race-baiting of the McCain-Palin ticket or you will be the recipient of McCain's wrath . . .

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/13/mccain.interview/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

Representative John Lewis of Georgia has called attention to the ways in which McCain has increasingly used absurd charges (because Obama knows Bill Ayers, he supports terrorists) to focus attention on racist tendencies among some of his constituency. By mentioning George Wallace, Lewis might have been drawing an unfair comparison, but there appears to be a palpable anger among McCain crowds that is turning increasingly ugly (and generally racist).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cynicism Reigns Supreme

I've talked a lot on this blog about the underlying cynicism of the McCain campaign. Unfortunately, it appears as if cynicism is rampant across the board. McCain has nothing to run on, so he's been running an almost exclusively negative campaign: fear this unknown guy Obama, who is "not like us" (read Black), has dangerous friends (read is a terrorist in wait) and is a "tax and spend" democrat (read, playing on tired old cliches that have worked for Republicans for years). On the other hand, I really feel as if there is an underlying cynicism in the Obama camp as well. They have told us very little about what Obama is really going to do. He is for off-shore drilling, nuclear power, ethanol production, etc. and has said little lately about what he really means by change. He's essentially saying I'm better than McCain (true) and have to be better than Bush (obviously true). But what does he really stand for? I can't say. Yes he is cutting taxes on most Americans and raising taxes on the rich and corporations. These are good things. But overall, is he calling for more regulation? Will be push for campaign finance reform and really challenge the crisis of lobbying today? How quickly will he get us out of Iraq? Will he help Israel and Palestine move toward peace or continue the hard line support that makes that possiblity unlikely.

And now he is getting ugly. Yes Palin might have tried to get her ex-brother in law fired, but if he really was threatening his wife's life -- should this be the focus of the campaign. http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/10/troopergate_report_finds_palin.php I do think it's a problem, but I am hearing less and less of the positive message that originally emboldened me to support him. He can probably win with this careful strategy and effective negative ads, but will this set the stage for his Presidency, or will he remember those early promises. A part of me remembers eight years ago when incantations of "compassionate conservatism" rang hollow in my ears (before the election, of course) . . .

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCainomania

We are seeing the true stripes of Republicans yet again. Financial crisis, skyrocketing oil prices, the decline of America both politically and economically and growing poverty and hardship for average Americans. The GOP answer: hatred and lies. McCain on the campaign trail these days . . .

"Senator Obama has a clear radical, far-left, pro-abortion record," McCain said after being asked about the issue.
The answer prompted a shower of boos from the crowd members. They booed again when he mentioned William Ayers, who bombed U.S. facilities to protest the Vietnam War as part of the domestic terrorist group the Weather Underground. They booed again at the mention of Rep. Barney Frank, a liberal from Massachusetts.
McCain spends most of his time at his rallies and town hall meetings lambasting his rival, often calling him a "co-conspirator" with congressional Democrats in what he argues are the seeds of the financial crisis at mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"Will you assure us," one woman asked, "that, as president, you will take immediate action to investigate, prosecute and name the names of the people actually responsible?"
"I will," McCain answered.
"The same people that are now claiming credit for this rescue are the same ones that were willing co-conspirators in causing this problem that it is," he said, raising his voice to be heard over the crowd. "You know their names. You will know more of their names."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/09/AR2008100903169_pf.html

The real issue is that capitalism is in crisis. The idea of free markets and limited government has proved distastrous to the poor and middle class here and abroad. Keynesianism has again reared its "ugly" head; reminding us that capitalism without limits served only the power elites. We need a sensible progressive tax policy, more oversight and government intervention to limit the power of real elites and the monied class to undermine the common good and a reckoning on how to accomplish real equality of opportunity in this country (including major educational reform).

McCain stands for tired old ideas that have long proved ineffective for the average American (or global citizen for that matter). Tax cuts, less regulation, shrinking government and supply-side, trickle down economics. Is he serious? He is so out of touch, it's hard to imagine anyone respecting this guy anymore. What's left when the world is falling apart and you stand at the fulcrum of the crisis, offering policies that have incited the decline? Fearmongering and empty patriotism are your only refuge. The currency of these tactics (or are they strategies; damn Obama and I can't keep those two straight) has worn off for Bush -- I think they will only take McCain to a sound defeat.

By the way, McCain is one of the few people around who seems to think we will "win" in Iraq. Most others acknowledge that improving conditions certainly do not add up to "victory" in the traditional sense. Terrorism and Al Queda have rebuilt their operations, Osama (no relation to Obama for those who are confused) is still alive and America has lost much of its international standing. A matter of fact, one could ask the crass question of whether McCain has ever been on the winning side of any war. It's in poor taste, but isn't everything McCain has stood for these past several months in this vein?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Debate

Quick thought now, and then more tomorrow:

McCain likes to talk about Obama's naivety, and how he "just doesn't understand." The truth is while Obama did not lay out any groundbreaking policies to deal with the crisis, McCain continues to speak as if supply side/trickle down economics is the answer. History has told us this is exactly the wrong response. Tax cuts for the rich and a small teaser for the rest of us? Is that really how to solve this problem. McCain also trumpeted his role in the bailout, while reality appears to indicate he called for more tax cuts for corporations and more lax regulation. Is he for real?

The truth is we need another new deal -- a program of government intervention to save us from the greedy leaders of business who made hundreds of millions of dollars while destroying not only the U.S. economy, but the world at large. The testimony by the Lehman Brothers CEO yesterday indicates the depths of the decadence and irresponsibility that reigned supreme on the cusps of the crisis. We need more government regulation, a more equitable allocation of the costs and benefits of the economy and methods to ensure that the middle class does not fall into debt and poverty in the coming years. That will not be accomplished by more tax cuts for the rich and continued ignoring of the reality of capitalism today. We do need change, and even as Obama thrusts himself closer and closer to a middle that has moved right for 40 years, he still offers the only opportunity to change the country for the better. McCain should run his campaign on the platform "4 more years; of the failed policies of the past 28)!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Examples abound . . .

John Dickerson, Slate's Chief Political Correspondent . . .

http://www.slate.com/default.aspx?id=2201336

The Nature of Politics Today

Biden wins a debate, but Palin is considered the winner by some because she didn't make any huge mistakes. Bush could barely complete a sentence, but the press felt bad for him, or liked him, or was trying to protect themselves from the absurd charge of a "liberal media" and thus helped him win two elections. McCain has been running one of the dirtiest, most dishonest campaigns in history, but while the media has certainly challenged him -- they continue to give him a pass on a lot of those lies.

Lowered expectations. That seems to be the general tenor of politics today. No grand expectations. No belief in the possibility of a politician that is honest and has the will to actually change government. Little coverage of the real issues in the country at a given time. Instead we get horse race coverage, discussion of the aesthetics and affective state of candidates and a fog of politics that ignores the popular will of the people and their stake in the political process.

Underlying all of this is a deep cynicism that seems to have followed Watergate and the Vietnam era, a distinct distrust of politicians, while celebrating the pageantry of the process. In the end, the people are left to consider who to vote for without really knowing what they stand for and what they will do in office. Even if Obama wins, I wonder if we can break through this media spectacle society and actually address the fundamental issue today: equitably distributing the benefits and risks of a market economy and finding ways to challenge the accumulation of wealth and privilege for a shrinking proportion of our population. This includes seriously improving education, regulating the market and the excesses of government the Bush Administration has accumulated and more fundamentally questioning how the richest economy in the world fails to provide a reasonable quality of life for so many of its citizens. The unspoken phrase in politics today that really should be debated is "livable wages."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Plessy Who?

The following excerpt from the recent Katie Curic interview . . .

COURIC: What other Supreme Court decisions [than Roe v. Wade] do you disagree with?PALIN: Well, let's see. There's --of course --in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are--those issues, again, like Roe v Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know--going through the history of America, there would be others but--
COURIC: Can you think of any?
PALIN: Well, I could think of--of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a Vice President, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

Has she ever heard of Plessy v. Ferguson, the Dred Scott Decision, Bush v. Gore, the Japanese Internment camps decisions or dozens of other embarrassing choices by the Supreme Court over the years? The more I hear about Palin, the more I think two things -- average American, check (unlike Bush). Able to serve as president, no way!! McCain has really dispelled any remaining doubt that this choice, his decision on the bailout, his constant lying and deception, his lack of basic understanding of economics and even foreign affairs and his infamous temper really makes him unfit to lead. The truth is he could be worse than Bush, given the size of his ego and his clearly demonstrated temperment for winning at any cost.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

McCainspeak

I think we need a new word, McCainspeak, to describe the growing absurdity of the spin of his campaign . . . if the bill passes, it is my success at crossing party lines, if it fails then it's Obama's fault for being too partisan. I'm suspending my campaign, then not suspending my campaign, then taking credit for the bill when it looks like it's passing, then blaming others when it fails. 133 Republicans voted against the bill, but I got over 60 to support it. The absurdity would be laughable if it wasn't so desperate and didn't have such negative ramifications for the country.

The real truth is that too many Americans were against this bill and House representatives fearful it would cost them reelection on both sides of the aisle. I am fundamentally against the bailout, which essentially rewards those who have both benefitted from their risky and irresponsible behavior and now want to be saved without ramifications for that very behavior. Who is to bear the brunt of this irresponsiblity? The American people of course. The clear message is that those who benefit the most from our free market system should not have to suffer the consequences of their failure. But something more important is at stake -- the future economic status of the United States and our collective fate in a global economic world. And something has to be done before this economy falls further into disrepair.

Who is to blame for the economic collapse. A number of factors are at play. There is the deregulation that started under Reagan and accelerated under first Clinton (disassembliing the last vestiges of Glass-Steagel at a time when the economy was soaring) and then Bush, the growing economic inequality that saw too much money and profit accumulating at the top of the income ladder to the disadvantage of everyone else, the investment banks going public over the past 30 years tying their futures too closely to the whims of the market and self-fullfilling prophesies on their confidence and expectations, increasingly risky investments that separated liquidity and risk from their consequences and a general decline in Americas economic strength here and abroad. But the real culprit appears to be founded on conservative ideology regarding government and markets. Too much faith was put in unfettered markets and their ability to self-regulate and make the right choices. Instead greed and irrationality have reigned supreme for too long, with tax cuts and lax regulation and oversight allowing increasingly risky decisions to be made outside the specter of their potentially catastrophic results. The rich have been richer and hungrier and willing to engage in behavior that rivals that of the robber barrons who led us toward the great depression.

Now we are forced to rescue the titans of this failed system, even as the people awaken to the course the government and country have taken, and how it has negatively affected them for so long. Ken Phillips warned us in a book a couple of years ago that our growing debt, addiction to foreign oil and religious fundamentalism (although I would say market fundamentalism) could lead to serious economic decline. He appears to be right and now we either swallow a bailout that saves those who have brought us here, or suffer the consequences of a major economic downcycle that could last for years. McCain doesn't care about any of that -- he simply wants to find a way to make himself the hero or Obama the goat for whatever happens. This is the kind of leadership we need now? Cynicism as policy? I hope the people continue to turn away from this politics of dispair to really contemplate whether we can afford to continue ignoring the elephants in the room. A populist uprising is brewing below the surface here, and I only hope Obama can find a way to capture its spirit and ride to the presidency and then actually do something to change the country. Otherwise despair could foreshadow doom . . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An October Surprise?

When I watched the Palin interview, one issue that I thought she had resolved was the firing of Monegan. It appears even this might have been a lie (at least according to him):

Monegan rebutted Palin's comments, saying, "She's not telling the truth when she told ABC neither she nor her husband pressured me to fire Trooper Wooten," according to an interview posted on the ABC News Web site. "And she's not telling the truth to the media about her reasons for firing me." (http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/16/palin.investigation/index.html?eref=rss_topstories).

The investigation is just the latest example of two candidates running on their record as renegades with character that seems to be fading under the light of the truth. At the same time, they have been unable to find anything substantive to attack Obama about except being a celebrity and wanting to gasp, tax the wealthy more than the middle class and poor. Can this lame political gambit stand up for much longer?

A new Obama ad takes on the absurdity that is McCain/Palin, after a comment Monday by McCain that the fundaments of the economy are fine as Lehman collapses, unemployment rises, economists predict millions could lose their homes, inflation is up and no clear end to the crisis is in site. I am admittedly surprised at how out-of-touch McCain has become and how people suffering through this downturn could continue to pretend he has any idea how to change anything for the better. (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Palin/Lying Fatigue

So even Karl Rove has come around to say that the negative attack ads and the lies are too much. Hard to believe really. McCain is showing a desperation that should lead people to ask -- where is that integrity and character you expect us to vote for you on.

On a related note, I happened to see a part of the Obama/O'Reilly interview yesterday. The old "class warfare" tag came out simply because Obama explained that he wanted to reverse the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and give tax cuts to 95% of tax payers. Since when is "penalizing" the top 5% of wage earners "class warfare." The charge would be funny if it didn't resonate so deeply with the conservative discourse that will have many of the 95% voting against their own tax cuts.

On a final note, is this another lie from the Palin interview (I never called for banning books?):

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/09/15/bess/index.html?source=rss&aim=/news/feature

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Lies Just Keep on Coming . . .

McCain keeps the lying going strong:

WALTERS: What is she going to reform specifically, senator?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, earmark spending, which she vetoed a half a billion dollars worth in the state of Alaska.
WALTERS: She also took some earmarks there.
BEHAR: A lot.
MCCAIN: No, not as governor she didn't . . .

This is, of course, untrue. I was watching the end of Bill Moyer last night and he made the point that the media is just not fact-checking or asking the right questions. I feel like Charles Gibson should actually be applauded for asking tough questions of Palin and even though many who already like her will pretend he was too tough or unfair with her, the truth is the pair is attempting to win this election based largely on lies and half-truths. They just hope that they can allude very real and important questions long enough to convince enough Americans that they really will change anything in Washington.

The debates may be the one place where the two can't hide. And neither has looked very impressive without a formal script. It could provide the final push to an Obama victory.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin Shuffle

A few years ago, President Clinton was on the daily show. He said that all one needed to be a democrat was to think. Little has changed in that truism. I am watching the Charles Gibson interview with Palin and the words that come to mind are subterfuge, misdirection and embarrasing. Much like the McCain interviews the past few days, it consisted of not answering questions, blurring the past and present, ignoring the inconsistencies in record and message and pretending to offer change when it is clear it is more of the same.

She seems to have little knowledge of foreign affairs (including the comment that she is sending her son to redeem America for 9/11 after all the evidence linking Iraq to 9/11 has been refuted over and over again), talked about reforming Washington while it is clear she has strong relationships with lobbyists, a long record of getting money for her town and then the state of Alaska and dancing around the truth of the Bridge to Nowhere. She also appears to know little of how Washington works or where these cuts she offers will come from. She talks about tax cuts and shrinking government, while she raised sales taxes in her own town and created a huge budget deficit. She claims tax cuts for the rich are what all Americans want and continues to lie about what Obama is offering (middle class tax cuts and higher taxes for those earning over $250,000). And she is socially conservative to a radical extent.

McCain is doing equally absurd dancing around his record and turn toward lobbyists in recent years (including the top advisors to his campaign). He appears to have huge lunanas in his own foreign policy experience and real understanding of economics (supporting supply side economics and trickle down theories long disavowed even by their original advocates). I think the two are embarassing, their campaign is embarassing and a victory by them would be an embarassement to the country.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

McTwoFace?

John Mitchell of Talking Point Memo today argues that the press is starting to grow weary of the sleazy, lying campaign that McCain is running. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/215224.php. He argues that there has been a palpable change over the past few weeks in how respected journalists are receiving the increasingly negative, overreaching McCain tactics and wonders whether this will change the tone of coverage (which, with the exception of Palin, except around her speech, has been largely positive). I think the importance of the media in recent campaigns cannot be overstated and how the major networks and cable stations cover the last two months of the campaign my have a significant influence on the outcome. The short-lived love affair with Obama is over and the question that remains is whether they will refocus on the issues and whether their longer term enamorata finally garners their contempt.

On a side note, the 7th anniversary of 9/11 leads to a one day hiatus in the campaign, but also leads papers to call for increased details on how the two candidates plan to handle terrorism and homeland security in the future. Hopefully they will push the moderators to ask these important questions during the upcoming debates. The good news for Obama among all the recent setbacks is that he is tied or leads in most of the eighteen states the campaign have selected as battleground states. Some worry that he is not focusing heavily enough on the old battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania -- but as of the most recent polls, he already has 260 electoral votes all but locked up, compared to 183 for McCain. The last few weeks of this spectacle-ridden circus should certainly be interesting -- I just hope the people recognize what's at stake.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama the Muslim Terrorist?

A student of mine came into class today and handed me one of the infamous email charging Obama with numerous crimes and misdemeanors -- essentially arguing that much of his record was false and that he was, in fact, a muslim that would apparently turn the U.S. into a terrorist state. While the student said his father told him some of the information seemed sketchy; he did believe much of it was cause for "concern." I had received a similar email from a conservative friend early in the primary and had gone about replying to all with refutation of many of the points. The problem is most of these mailing lists don't have any voices to refute the main claims. The Republicans are hitting new lows with every election. In this version, there is the lying on both sides of the campaign -- using innuendo and outright lies to undermine Obama's record while lying about their own past.

The problem is this approach seems to be winning over more and more voters. Fear, as always, seems to be an effective mechanism for pushing voters toward their side of the aisle -- creating a cloud around the real issues of the campaign. And the bubble in which many Republicans live their political lives allows this absurd propaganda to go largely unchallenged. They watch Fox News, go to internet sites that simply reinforce their often false ideas, listen to talk radio that plays on fear, racism and questionable ideas about freedom and democracy and tend to isolate themselves from outside opinions that challenge their own. This is an exaggeration of the truth that overgeneralizes the right, but I feel it is a trend that defines more and more of the population on both sides of the political spectrum. Rather than sustantive debate on real issues and a diversity of opinions; many simply find sources that regurgitate the party line without real thought or critique. In my mind, the left is as guilty of this as the right; though the right certainly seems more astute at controlling major media sources and at breeding strong emotional responses to their propaganda.

Can events like the debates work to combat this myopic ideological redundancy and sectarianism? It is hard to say, as many would rather get their information spoon-fed to them than actually do the hard work of finding out the truth. And if enough independents fall for the soft racism and fear mongering of the McCain-Palin ticket, we may see a huge upset: led by the very people that hold such a low opinion of the president and policies t appears McCain will largely follow in the future. This odd logical disconnect can only be explained by the affective response to these political gambits and a general unwillingness to consider the relationship between action and its consequences. McCain has shown the kind of leadership the world just doesn't need right now -- doing anything and everything to gain power; and we can assume keep it. Does this remind you of anyone else from our past?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

McCain Surges Ahead

I watched much of the Democratic and Republican conventions and thought the former was wonderful and the later uninspired (particularly McCain's speech). And yet somehow the American people see differently. McCain has forged ahead in national polls: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-09-07-poll_N.htm. While this doesn't matter much, as the battle is in particular states, I'm confused at how this happened. McCain gave a speech absent substantial policy initiatives, failing to really separate himself from one of the least popular presidents in history and picked a women that is far right of the average citizen. And yet it was women that have turned to McCain in a huge way (he has a 12 point lead among white women in the latest poll).

Has this cynical, desperate ploy to win the presidency worked? Women have come his way and it seems largely based on Palin. His personal narrative is certainly compelling, but people knew it before. So what has changed. Only two things -- Palin and the usual suspect (tax cuts). Cynicism might just work again for Republicans, but how does it foreshadow the future of the country? I believe a McCain presidency prefaces a permanent fall in American stature at home and abroad. Without some attempt to change current policy and politics, I believe America will follow Rome into decline and ruin. It will be a slower process, but Obama seems to me to be the last chance for the people to recapture the political process from the cynical elites that will win at any cost to keep their interests unchallenged. Here's hoping the next two months change their plans and our collective future.

Friday, September 05, 2008

McCain Inspires?

McCain's speech was rather uninspiring last night, even to the crowd from what I could tell. There were moments of great energy, but overall it appeared rather subdued compared to Palin, Obama and most of the other major speakers for both parties. McCain furthered his call to make this election about integrity and personality. That may be as big a mistake as making them about the issues, if this is all the energy and excitement he can muster.

Two points before getting to the speech itself. 1) The whole convention seemed whiter than usual, with no clear token minorities to spice up the conference. I wonder if this is purposeful; since they are going to win very few black votes, why not play on the cloaked racism at the heart of Lincoln's party for so long. 2) Tom Brokaw continued to make it clear that he is a Republican, saying that Democrats now know what they are up against and showing his usual preference for the party of the elephants.

The speech did touch on a number of issues, and have others have mentioned -- there is a lot of Bush in here. Here are the main points he outlined . . .

I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can. . . .I will open new markets to our goods and services. . . .I will cut government spending. . . .My tax cuts will create jobs. . . .My health-care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health-care insurance. . . .We all know that keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs. Cutting the second-highest business tax rate in the world will help American companies compete and keep jobs from going overseas.Doubling the child tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000 will improve the lives of millions of American families.Reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs will let you keep more of your own money to save, spend and invest as you see fit.Opening new markets and preparing workers to compete in the world economy is essential to our future prosperity. . . .Education is the civil rights issue of this century.Equal access to public education has been gained, but what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice.Let's remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers and help bad teachers find another line of work.When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them.Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have the choice, and their children will have that opportunity. . . .My fellow Americans, when I'm president, we're going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades.We're going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much, and some of that money . . .We'll attack the problem on every front. We'll produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and we'll drill them now. We'll drill them now.My friends, we'll build more nuclear power plants. We'll develop clean-coal technology. We'll increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We'll encourage the development and use of flex-fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles. . . .


Many of these ideas are continuation of Bush's failed economic and foreign policy. 1) Let's make more enemies globally 2) Tax cuts for the rich and corporations (while we do have the highest corporate taxes, the reality is that most of our most successful companies and corporations pay $0 in taxes) 3) Let's privatize schools further 4) Cut gov't spending but have better health care and the "most ambitious national project in decades" 5) Off shore drilling and 6) Get rid of "failing programs" to "keep more money in your pockets" (right out of Bush playbook) -- at a time when these programs are more important than ever.

Can we really afford four more years of Bush? I think this question should define the election, if only the media would pose it.

Palin’s Speech

Palin gave a very clever speech last night and the media loved it. As reported by the AP (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080904/ap_on_el_pr/cvn_tv_palin_s_night), here are some of the comments:
It wasn't just a home run, said CNN's Wolf Blitzer; it may have been a grand slam. "A very auspicious debut," said NBC's Tom Brokaw. It was a "perfect populist pitch," said CBS' Jeff Greenfield. "Terrific," said Mort Kondracke on Fox News Channel.
"A star is born," said Chris Wallace on Fox.
"A star is born," Blitzer said.
"A star is born," said Anderson Cooper on CNN
Like most successful Republicans, she used the new form of populism – I’m like you (or at least seem like you) and that’s the reason you should elect me. This follows McCain’s campaign announcement that this election isn’t about “issues.” Why not? Because they lose on the issues. The only way they can win is on personality and a deep myopia that ignores the fact that Palin and McCain are not really like that many Americans and, when it comes to policy, don’t seem to like that many Americans.
“But here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country. Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reasons, and not just to mingle with the right people. Politics isn't just a game of clashing parties and competing interests.”

Here she attacks the media that is increasingly conservative, following the path of Republicans for two decades at least. Then she aligns herself as a renegade with McCain:

“I pledge to all Americans that I will carry myself in this spirit as vice president of the United States. This was the spirit that brought me to the governor's office, when I took on the old politics as usual in Juneau ... when I stood up to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good-ol' boys network. Sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power brokers. That's why true reform is so hard to achieve.”

Unfortunately, the truth appears to be much as it is with McCain – really an advocate for the elites and special interests and rarely for the people at large. She plays to the old American distrust of “big government” and “taxes,” failing to acknowledge the Great Depression and New Deal that followed; or the fact that Reagan could easily be considered a Keynesian, if you include military spending.

Between her pitch-perfect pitch to the American people and witty critiques of Obama (e.g., “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.), she laid out a plan that ignores all of the issues facing America: dramatic economic inequality, global warming, our reputation abroad and civil liberties in lieu of tired old discussion about high taxes, energy independence through Alaskan oil (against expert estimates), more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, shrinking of government at a time that crime, poverty and inequality are rising,

It was a strong speech, but is based on the premise that John McCain is the same man that many respected in the past. That does not seem to be the case. To reaffirm the charges: he now supports making permanent the Bush tax cuts he once voted against, he voted with the president 90% of the time and stood beside him for most of the past 7 years, he has broken his own campaign finance reform bill and is surrounded by lobbyists and, after calling for a civil campaign, has run the most negative campaign in history (surpassing even the Bush clan with his relentless attack and lack of vision for the future). But the media doesn’t pay attention to the issues, and we can assume their love for McCain is now expanding outward to a comfortable threesome.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

RNC Convention

I am listening to Joe Lieberman's speech right now stupefied by how this guy once ran as VP with Al Gore. How can someone so dramatically change their opinion in 8 short years. 911 and the Iraq War have certainly contributed, but something is seriously wrong here. As to his message, I think the Republicans strongest argument against Obama is that he is not ready to lead. That message resonates with older voters and the average conservative (and some liberals). But is it undermined by the reality of McCain no longer being a maverick? Is it undermined by the oldest presidential candidate in history choosing someone with 1 1/2 years experience as governor of Alaska (which Fred Thompson labeled our "biggest state," as if land mass had anything to do with leadership).

The whole convention has been rather weak so far. Thompson and Lieberman's speeches have been somewhat subdued, the crowd is as lilly white as always and their just seems to be a lack of energy. Bush didn't even show up, giving his speech from the White House, with many not sure they even wanted Bush in the same metaphoric universe as McCain -- even as the maverick has voted with him 90% of the time, and reversed course on much of that 10% since. ABC amd NBC seem to be embracing the false pageantry, with a little critique. Very uninspiring from my perspective; we'll have to see what the rest of America thinks.

Cynicism Express

As usual, the election is getting caught up in the spectacle and what is being lost is the central issue. It is unfortunate that Palin's daughter is pregnant, but I don't think this disqualifies her from being Vice President. The truth is that Republicans tend to have troubled kids. Reagan had a daughter who he didn't speak to for years (who posed in Playboy). Bush's daughters were huge partiers, though one has admittedly changed her ways. Bush himself is the son of a president and though he "won" the presidency, was a huge partier who floated through life with little success until he became president -- and maybe did more to destroy undermine America domestically and globally than any president in history. And now we have Palin.

But the real question in the country is whether we can afford more of the same. That is what McCain is offering. Obama is offering change: a new tone in Washington, a more reasonable tax system, diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, a sensible energy policy and a plan to get us out of Iraq. McCain appears ready to do the opposite: continue giving tax breaks to corporations and the rich, pretend Iraq was a good idea and that we won, do little to end our addiction to oil and show a general disregard for the average American. This is most clear to me in the decision to pick someone clearly not ready to become President, a woman he didn't seem to even vet with any seriousness. Instead he chose someone who offered the only path to his victory -- a surrogate for disaffected Clinton supporters who don't care that this woman is no advocate for women. Can't we define leadership at least partially by who someone picks as their surrogates? McCain has entrusted the very people that helped sink his campaign 8 years ago, the same people that he once excoriated for the campaign strategy he now embraces. He works with a number of lobbyists that he once sought to attack (and may have had an affair with one of them). And he picked a woman who has less experience than the opponent he attacks for his lack of the same.

An op ed in the Washington Post today makes the point that Palin is not the maverick we have been led to believe: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/01/ar2008090101716_pf.html. It turns out she had a lobbyist as mayor and actually tacitly supported the "bridge to nowhere" she was purported to reject. Maybe that is why McCain like her so much -- she is a hypocrit just like him; hopeful to move in no direction except backwards (to a mythical past where people only had sex to make babies, we forget about science and evolution and God becomes the mediator of all social relations).

Bush is to speak tonight and it will be interesting to see how McCain tries to dance around his verisimilitude to the man he must simultaneously embrace and reject. We will have to wait until Thursday for the dance, but we are already seeing the radical left attempt to remind Americans that they should not trust liberals. A number of anarchists have shown up and been arrested for throwing benches, breaking windows and attacking squad cars. I am for radical social change -- but why these people want to relive the 60s, throwing their angst around at the wrong enemies (the police and a city that has been a source of a number of iconoclastic politicians in the past 40 years) is beyond me. In my mind, the left should be embracing the message of change and ensuring that Obama does not move too far to the middle.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin Who?

Who cares, seems to be the answer. She's a women and in the increasingly cynical campaign of McCain that seems to be enough. Ms. Palin made her choice clear with this statement:

“Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America, but it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” Ms. Palin said to huge applause."

This is simply an attempt to sweep up disaffected Hillary supporters without any concern for the fact the two women have very little in common. Palin is pro-life, anti-choice, socially conservative, doesn't believe global warming is caused by human activity, has little foreign policy or even governing experience, pro Oil companies and, maybe, ethically questionable. She supported Pat Buchanon for president in 2000; meaning anti-immigrant and pro-isolationism. She thinks creationism should be taught in schools and should embolden christian conservatives back to the fold after McCain gave them pause (for good reason: he isn't really one of them). And McCain has only met her twice.

This is political cynicism at it's worst. Pick a VP simply to try to swipe some votes, forgoing a very real concern that McCain might not last four years if elected president. To those who don't know, the last man to run for president at McCain's age would have died in office (Paul Tsongas). Obama just got a bounce from the historic democratic primary. The question is whether this rather absurd choice will cut into that lead or not. My real fear in looking at recent state-by-state polls is that the swing states are so close we may see electronic voting problems and other efforts to undermine the will of the American people. Hopefully, people will see through this lame attempt at appeasement and vote for the only candidate that can actually make their lives better.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Speech

I thought Obama's speech was extraordinary last night. He laid his claim to be president, showed a tough side and ability to take on McCain and eloquently laid out why the country needs the sort of change he is promising. I found it interesting that some reporters complained about the negative tone, given the way McCain and his surrogates have been running the campaign. Kerry was blamed four years ago for not responding quickly enough and now some are arguing Obama shouldn't respond so vociferously. Not sure what to make of that, but the media clearly seemed to like the speech in general.

Yet it is clear that Obama was trying to appeal to those voters who will ultimately decide the election, eliminating some of his loftier language, speaking in a toned-down vernacular, adding specific policy initiatives to counteract the argument that he is short on specifics and taking on McCain directly. This is a job that the presidential candidate often gets to eschew, leaving it to the VP and others -- but as many argued; it was probably necessary to show that he is tough and can stand up to the daily onslaught of (in most cases trivial) attacks by the McCain camp.
It was clearly a historic night and many veteran reporters called it the best convention speech they had ever heard. It was certainly the most important speech at a convention in the long history of the civil rights movement and a hopeful step forward in our still failing attempt to follow through on the promise of equality and freedom for all.

McCain had a one-night ad that aired before and during the speech -- congratulating Obama for becoming the first Black candidate for president on the anniversary of the I Have a Dream speech. But right after the speech we got this from the campaign:

"Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama. When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm's way. The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be president."

On Tuesday, Tom Brokaw had the gaul to say that McCain had won the Republican primary because he maintained his integrity, stayed consistent and held firm to what he believed -- thus being the most authentic candidate. He then said Obama has to prove that he is the same. What is he talking about? Does he read the news? Has he been hiding in a closet for the past 20 years? It is undisputable that McCain has turned far to the right and pandered to conservatives to win the primary. He has turned his back on his openness to the press, turned negative after asking Obama to run a civil campaign and certainly undermined almost all of the positions that make him the "renegade" he pretends to still be. He has cloistered himself from all of his past fights for the people, while trying to pretend that even without any of those old positions -- he is still a renegade and man of integrity we should vote for.

And on a related note, a secondary question about McCain is whether the press is going to really cover the fact that this guy has a monster temper. Will he have a Dean blow-up moment? If so, will the media cover it. Time Magazine, which has certainly turned right in the past several years, had this article, showing a rather cantakerous and less-than-straight-talking McCain:

http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1836909,00.html

And Senator Reid of Nevada backs up the point in talking to a Nevada reporter http://www.americablog.com/2008/08/harry-reid-on-john-mccain-i-just-think.html:

"I just think he doesn't have the temperament to be president," Reid told Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston during the taping of "Face to Face," in Denver on Wednesday. The show airs on a Las Vegas, Nev., cable channel."I've served with the man 26 years," Reid said. "Do I have the ability to speak with experience about someone who has abused everyone he's dealt with? Someone who does not have the temperament to be president, who's wrong on the war, wrong on the economy, wrong on nuclear waste. What am I supposed to do? Walk around talking about what a great guy he is? I don't believe that. .... ""There isn't a Republican serving in the Senate that's happy he's the nominee. Now, they're all supporting him, but I'll tell you they have told me. I've had Republican senators tell me they don't think they'll vote for him," Reid said.When Ralston asked if Reid thought it would be "dangerous" to let McCain be president, Reid answered: "Well, if you said it, I wouldn't correct you.""Is that right?" Ralston asked. "You really think that?""That's right," said Reid, who predicted that Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama would carry the battleground state of Nevada by 5 percentage points.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Race Tightens; Clintonites Still Spoiling?

From Today's Paper (Slate):

The new poll puts Obama at 45 percent, three points ahead of his Republican rival. Obama's biggest problem, it seems, is a hangover from the primary battle: Only half of Hillary Clinton's supporters are backing the Democratic nominee, and one in five says he or she supports McCain. The NYT also has new poll numbers, in which voters say that neither candidate has made clear what he would do as president. Respondents trusted Obama more than McCain to manage the economy, their top overall priority. For foreign policy, however, McCain came out ahead.

Only half of Clinton supporters are backing Obama? Are they really so bitter as to hand the race to a candidate that disagrees with them so fundamentally on the issues. Certainly there are the blue collar males who do not yet trust Obama; and might be swayed by the racist campaign of McCain. But what of the feminists? Are they really going to vote for a pro-life candidate who has done little in his career to help their cause? Both groups are troubling, but who is voting more against their own interests? I think it's still those blue collar workers Reagan recruited in 1981 and who have largely remained with the party of the elites.

This breakdown from the LA Times details just how little McCain plans to do for this group (http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-taxplans21-2008aug21,0,4323319,full.story). McCain is unapologetically following the failed supply side economics of the Reagan era and Bush II. Keep giving more and more money to wealthy individuals and corporations. Class warfare is clearly still alive -- it's just a really one-sided battle at this point. The myopia and contempt of trickle down to the average worker appears to have little sway on those hurt the most by the growing income inequality in the country.

And even on the issue of foreign affairs, it's hard to understand why someone would trust McCain more given the fact he supported the Iraq War, doesn't seem to understand the difference between Shiites and Sunnis and found no reason to even attend a hearing on Afganistan. Obama's celebrity internationally is arguably just what the U.S. needs to regain some respect on the world stage and help in dealing with a growing list of international crises. I wonder if the campaigns and debates could finally wake the country up to what four or eight years of McCain would bring.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The August Turn

As I feared, the negative strategy appears to be paying dividends. McCain has captured the lead: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080820/pl_nm/usa_poll_politics_dc_3&printer=1;_ylt=AstxessPWFOS8TR.3cSfpTIb.3QA. What has changed? As with 2004 and 2000, the negative ad campaign of the summer has changed the tenor of the race and shifted the focus from the issues to one of character and readiness to lead. Obama has faltered under the relentless attack, changing some of his positions (flip-flop), losing momentum and failing to offer a sufficient counterattack.

People have actually come to believe that McCain would do better for the economy based solely on one issue -- off shore drilling. Unfortunately, this appears to relate to a misunderstanding of the fundamental problems with the U.S. economy and the continued negative effects of dramatical inequalities in income and wealth. Just yesterday, McCain failed to vote to eliminate billions of dollars in tax cuts for the very oil companies that have earned record profits while the economy falls into recession (the bill fell one vote short of the 60 needed to pass it). And they are not alone. The CEOs whose irresponsibility led to the mortgage crises made fortunes for their ineptitude. Wall Street powerbrokers continue to make bags full of money as people lose their savings and see their investments fall. And less than 10 percent of the population (really 1 percent) reaps most of the benefits of rapidly growing corporate profits from 2003 to 2007.

McCain simply wants to get more oil from America and continue the failed economic policies of the Bush administration -- lax regulation, huge tax cuts for the rich, the elimination of the inheritance tax and low actual corporation taxation. He is also steeped in the very lobbyist system he once claimed to abhor. Obama is offering a more sensible tax policy, a long term plan for "energy indepence" and at least some attempt to address corruption in campaign financing and lobbying. Yet the American people are sucked in by the "celebrity" discourse, the failure of many democrats to overcome their bitterness over Clinton's loss and a candidate with no real policy ideas except to continue the conservative push to accumulate power and wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer super rich. Will cynicism win again in the end?