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:,8816,1836909,00.html

And Senator Reid of Nevada backs up the point in talking to a Nevada reporter

"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 (,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:;_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?

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Looming Convention and the Media

Republicans have long complained of the "liberal" media and its bias against their platform and candidates. But as I have been writing here, this is a largely false myth based predominantly on the very wedge social issues that elections are so often fought over. Ignored is the fact that the media has become increasingly complicit with conservative ideology by supporting the notion that all government is corrupt, that America has a responsibility to do whatever is necessary to maintain its security, that the market is implicitly superior to government intervention (with some challenge in the past few years -- but certainly supportive of the "a few bad apples" discourse that dominated the corporate corruption scandals of a few years ago), by embracing the celebrity and consumer culture and by fully supporting, and driving, the notion of politics as spectacle and all politicians as corrupt.

But the true conservative media bias goes beyond all this. Research has shown that in 2000 there were far more negative stories about Gore than Bush. The media fully embraced the notion of Gore as a "liar," even as the leading evidence turned out to be false. During the recount, they embraced the Republican discourse that we needed a quick end to the process even as most Americans were willing to wait and ensure the real winner won (particularly as half a million voted for the presumptive loser). Four years later the uncritical coverage of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth helped sink Kerry -- who I would argue the press essentially chose as the candidate when they turned on Howard Dean. Now we see a similar trend emerging with Obama.

This article from the "liberal" New York Times shows both the cynicism of the mainstream media and the subtle forms of bias I think exist across the board (

Here is the opening: "One of the first images prime-time viewers will see of the Democratic National Convention next week is that of Michelle Obama, who will begin the four-day introduction of her husband, and her family, on her terms.
Like everything else at the orchestrated gala, that is by design."

This has become a common trope of the media. The "orchestrated" or "constructed" nature of all political events. While this is clearly true, it is because of the media that politics has become such a tightly scripted and spectacle oriented exercise. They demand this construction of a tightly crafted image and persona that they can then describe in simple terms. And then they critique that process and themselves for the emptiness that this process has become. At the same time, there seems to be more scrutiny of this image construction among Democrats than Republicans. There are certainly a lot of negative stories about McCain, but few that actually question the construction of him as both a good conservative stalwart and a rebel without a party. This has been left to the blogosphere and leftist press. The same can be said of Bush, who bought the ranch so prominently displayed in the campaign the year before he ran, and acted like an Average Joe, even though he was a former presidents son who had spent most of his youth in elite East Coast Schools.

A few lines down the article comes the subtle bias that troubles me the most:

"The introduction of a candidate is a task facing every presidential campaign, but one that carries unique challenges for Mr. Obama because of his race and questions about his patriotism, values and faith that Republicans have already vigorously sought to raise and exploit."

By making the questions about his patriotism, values and faith precede the presumptive subject of those who are doing the questioning, one is left to assume these questions transcend the Republican party and are in fact legitimate. They become the questions of an election that would otherwise be about real issues like the war, economy and government corruption. But just as the Republican party has vigorously sought to raise and exploit these issues -- through the media -- so has the media played along with little question: even taking the celebrity issue more seriously than seemed reasonable.

Another article, in the New Republic today (, complains that Obama may be too cool for most Americans, showing an aloofness that could ultimately hurt him. I think that very coolness under fire is exactly what we need after a president that has trouble putting a sentence together, that said a number of absurdly stupid things on the international stage and that has done more harm to America's reputation overseas than anyone in recent memory. Yet this trope is again out of the Republican handbook for winning an election without any superiority of platform or message -- just make Americans doubt Obama enough to choose the safe choice.

More on this as examples emerge . . .

Friday, August 15, 2008

Disillusionment and the Republican Machine

I feel like a broken record on this point, but it is becoming increasingly clear the Republicans have nothing to offer the country except lies and fear mongering. The latest book by right wing wing-nut Corsi just further exemplifies the growing desperation of a party that has run out of ideas and inspiration:

Obama is a candidate that is addressing what to me is the biggest issue in American politics for 30 years now -- a post-60s cynicism that allows emotion, fear and hatred to trump sensible decision-making by the American people. There are obvious signs that many have had enough of these tactics, but it remains to be seen if McCain can sneak into the presidency with the same tired politics first effectively used by Bush Sr. Even some evangelicals are starting to question the tax cut, support the rich and corporations policy the Republicans have been shoveling since Reagan:

I look forward to the conventions, when at least the spectacle that American politics has become will not be swelled up in the lies and race baiting that has been going on for months (lest us forget by Hillary Clinton). One of the most absurd claims I've noticed while watching the Olympics and the rash of political ads I've had to endure is that Obama's economic policy will implicitly cost jobs. Are we so historically myopic that we can't remember that the last tax increase (under Clinton) led to one of the longest economic booms in years. I have problems about how the benefits of that boom were distributed across the hidden American class system, but they certainly overwhelm the increasing poverty, joblessness and threats to the middle class that a Bush presidency has been (beside increasing the income and wealth gaps, right as corporate profits rose precipitiously). What Obama does bring to the table is a more sensible economic policy together with the ability to inspire. Hopefully that will be enough to undermine the empty campaign McCain and his supporters are running.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hillary for Spoiler!

To be fair, Hillary has been on the campaign trail working for Obama and gave a great concession speech. But the new Atlantic article that has everyone buzzing, sounds like a perfect strategy to possibly pull off an upset. The strategy is disengenous, cheap and right out of the Republican play book the Clinton's once decried. Why is this article showing up now? Who leaked it? And why?

McCain has voted with Bush 95% of the time. He is pro-life, anti-gun control and wants to make Bush's tax cuts permanent. He supports the unpopular war in Iraq and has undermined his only status as a renegade. Why is it that all we are talking about is Obama? Maybe because that's the only way McCain can win.

Chris Wallace of Fox News actually asked campaign manager Rick Davis both why McCain was being so negative yesterday and why so much of that negativity was based on misleading information. Fox, you say? At least someone is asking the rights questions. The bigger question though is why the press has decided to play along so readily. Sure there are negative stories about the negative tone of the campaign, but they are doing little to get the conversation back to the issues themselves. They are playing along with the trope that this election is a referendum on Obama, rather than on someone who seems to want to continue the work of Bush -- one of the most unpopular (and inept) presidents in history). This seems to follow 2000 and 2004. Democrats really need to learn to influence the tone of elections to their favor rather than always playing defense. The media abets the process, but in my mind so do democrats.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

August Blues

August is arguably where both Gore and Kerry gave up their leads and began the process of losing the election. With Gore, the debates were really the death knell of his candidacy; or at least gave Bush enough steam to steal the election in Florida. With Kerry, it was the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies that dramatically changed the election in August -- based primarily on the slowness of his reply and the media's unwillingness to report some of the inconsistencies and outright lies involved in the story.

Now come fears that Obama might be making the same mistake, by failing to deal with the absurdity of these incessant attack ads that he is too popular; and, um, taking a vacation (lest us forget the McCain Bush Redux relates him to a president who took more vacation time than any in recent history): I wonder if a year in which the American economy is sinking, environmental issues are coming to the fore (thanks to gas prices and Gore), the middle east is still a mess and there are real concerns of a decline in America's standing the world over can really come down to Obama being compared to Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton. The one thing that does seem clear is McCain is much less impressive on the stump than he was eight years ago. He seems tired, often confused and less than inspiring. Of course I thought even worse of Bush eight years ago, but at least he was younger, vibrant and played a cowboy "real good."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

McCain's Energy Policy

Obama delivered a powerful speech yesterday on oil dependence and a future energy policy ( It included this substantive critique of McCain's record:

What Senator McCain neglected to mention was that during those thirty years, he was in Washington for twenty-six of them. And in all that time, he did little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He voted against increased fuel efficiency standards and opposed legislation that included tax credits for more efficient cars. He voted against renewable sources of energy. Against clean biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. Against an energy bill that - while far from perfect - represented the largest investment in renewable sources of energy in the history of this country. So when Senator McCain talks about the failure of politicians in Washington to do anything about our energy crisis, it's important to remember that he's been a part of that failure. Now, after years of inaction, and in the face of public frustration over rising gas prices, the only energy proposal he's really promoting is more offshore drilling - a position he recently adopted that has become the centerpiece of his plan, and one that will not make a real dent in current gas prices or meet the long-term challenge of energy independence.

McCain's response: to hand out tire gauges at the speech and then send them to media outlets: Glad that he is upholding his record as a man of integrity and substance!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Race Card

From the Board, at the New York Times yesterday afternoon:

Mr. Obama called Mr. McCain on the ploy, saying, quite rightly, that the Republicans are trying to scare voters by pointing out that he “doesn’t look like all those other Presidents on those dollar bills.’’
But Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, had a snappy answer. “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck,” he said. “It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.’’
The retort was, we must say, not only contemptible, but shrewd. It puts the sin for the racial attack not on those who made it, but on the victim of the attack.
It also — and we wish this were coincidence, but we doubt it — conjurs up another loaded racial image.
The phrase dealing the race card “from the bottom of the deck” entered the national lexicon during the O.J. Simpson saga. Robert Shapiro, one of Mr. Simpson’s lawyers, famously declared of himself, Johnny Cochran and the rest of the Simpson defense team, “Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck.”
It’s ugly stuff. How about we leave Britney, Paris, and O.J. out of this — and have a presidential campaign?

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by how ugly this election is getting -- we certainly do not live in a "post-racial" time, as some pundits and intellectuals like to claim. And I think things are going to get much worse. The reality is that Blacks in this country make less, live shorter lives, get worse healthcare (even when they have comparable income to whites, and sometimes from the same doctors), are thrown in jail at a much higher rate (often for minor drug offenses), have much higher drop out rates and college graduation rates, lower wealth, higher unemployment, etc.

And yet we are not allowed to "play the race card." The truth is it was a racist ad and like many Republicans before him, McCain appears to be taking the low dirty road that started with Nixon and the Southern strategy and has now continued unabated for 40 years. I think it is relevent that Obama is Black; as relevant as the fact that McCain is old, mean, often aloof and uninformed and has a penchant for outbursts at anyone who disagrees with him (including other Senators). The difference is I believe Obama being Black is a good thing; the opportunity to have a president who fits into the mold of past presidents with his Ivy League degree and successful past, but may bring a perspective the office has yet to see -- one that could lend itself to profound change in Washington (though there are certainly no guarantees).

One other point to make about the ad: it juxtaposes Obama with two young, famous white girls. The subtext that has not been discussed is at the very heart of racist white male fear from the past -- that a verile slave or ex-slave would rape their women (or alternatively, that their women might choose him over them). I'm not sure if this is the intention of the makers of the ad, but it wouldn't surprise me if they recognized that this might be a secondary affective response among the very white men they are attempting to again pull to their side.