Monday, September 29, 2008

The Truth Hurts

At the same time McCain was incorrectly blasting Obama for having ties to two Freddie-Fannie executives (the truth: neither have worked for Freddie-Fannie lately, and neither currently work for Obama -- one has actually never worked for Obama), word comes out about the McCain campaign ties to those same institutions. It suddenly becomes clear why he lashed out at Obama: because the truth inside his own campaign was too damning to be fully exposed.

Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, owns the lobbying firm Davis Manafort which received $15,000 a month from Freddie-Fannie from 2005 THROUGH LAST MONTH . Also, as president of an advocacy group created by Freddie-Fannie, Davis received $30,000 to $35,000 a month from 2000 to the end of 2005.

That's $2 million from 2000 through 2005 and another $500,000 from 2005 through August of 2008.

Details here, here, here, and here.

This is probably old news to you because this was all over the media when it broke last Monday and Tuesday, right? Or not. Even though it's directly related the financial meltdown and the McCain campaign's handling of that issue, it was effectively buried by sexier leads and the incessant repeating that McCain had "suspended" his campaign. But we all know how that turned out.

Edit 10/3: The Washington Post is reporting that Freddie Mac hired a lobbyist specifically because of his ties to McCain.
"Senator McCain was talking about limiting executive compensation, and Buse was retained to nip that in the bud," said a former lobbyist who insisted on anonymity because of continuing relationships with the companies.
Yikes. That doesn't look good. But how did it all work out?
...Buse's effort was viewed as "hugely successful," a former Freddie Mac lobbyist said. "The statements didn't go away completely, but in terms of Senator McCain doing anything about it, it just never materialized. As far as I know, Buse was the only person working that issue for Fannie or Freddie, so he got a lot of credit internally for the results."
Okay then. So now we know what he did when he lobbied. So what does he do now?
Buse returned to McCain's office this year as chief of staff.
'Nuff said.

Former McCain Supporters Pile On the Complaints

Didn't have a chance to blog these earlier, but they are too interesting to let slip through the cracks.

First, Richard Cohen, (former) McCain supporter and Washington Post Op-Ed columnist, scolds the Senator bigtime for "becoming the sort of politician he once despised."

Two quotes worth pulling:
Following his loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 South Carolina primary, John McCain did something extraordinary: He confessed to lying about how he felt about the Confederate battle flag, which he actually abhorred. "I broke my promise to always tell the truth," McCain said. Now he has broken that promise so completely that the John McCain of old is unrecognizable. He has become the sort of politician he once despised.

There's a lot of great stuff in the middle, but he ends with this zinger:
And so McCain lied about his lying and maybe thinks that if he wins the election, he can -- as he did in South Carolina -- renounce who he was and what he did and resume his old persona. It won't work. Karl Marx got one thing right -- what he said about history repeating itself. Once is tragedy, a second time is farce. John McCain is both.
Next comes a piece from Wick Allison, owner of D Magazine and former publisher of William F. Buckley, Jr's National Review. Allison starts off "Barack Obama strikes a chord with me like no political figure since Ronald Reagan." He then goes into a well-reasoned explanation of Conservatism and why he believes in it.

Some good pull quotes:
The Bush tax cuts -— a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war -— led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his "conservative" credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.
Nobody can read Obama's books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.
And his big finish:
As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama.
Don't let my pull quotes discourage you from reading either of these articles. They definitely provide food for Conservative thought.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not Suspended In Any Way, Shape, or Form

Was McCain's campaign "suspended" as he claimed on Wednesday and the news media faithfully reported (and are still reporting today)? I suppose it was, assuming you don't count things like
  • his staff and advisers appearing on all three networks and cable news
  • McCain himself on a cable news show
  • his ads are still being broadcast
  • campaign offices are open across the country
  • phone banks are still operating
  • literature distribution still occurring
  • donations still being accepted
On top of everything else, McCain brought a campaign aide to the White House for yesterday's bailout meeting. (Obama brought one of his Senate staffers.) Can you say "Political stunt?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Which Way is Up?

Early last week, we heard John McCain say that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Then the stock market went south as the bank crisis worsened.

By mid-week he was striking a populist tone, demanding justice for American workers.

Late in the week and early this week, McCain changed tunes again, warning of a deepening crisis.

Now that the bailout plan is being discussed, according to McCain it is imperative that is be passed quickly or our economy faces certain doom. Both he and Palin have said in interviews that if the bailout is not passed quickly, we could find ourselves in a major Depression -- and we'll start feeling the effects as soon as Monday.

So which is it: is the economy sound, or are we all doomed?

I'm willing to give people some credit for changing their tunes after they get more information. Forming a new opinion when your knowledge and understanding of a situation expands is not a bad thing by any means. But spinning so far from one side to the other -- and throwing in the sky is falling doom and gloom story -- makes me think he's trying to work the American public (who have started to lose confidence in his ability to manage the economy).

Update 9/25: Turns out that as recently as Tuesday McCain had not yet read the Paulson plan! All 3 pages of it. Sigh.

So is the suspension of his campaign putting "country first" or merely a political stunt? I'd say more of the latter, as he hasn't felt the need to vote on anything since April. Both he and Obama are off most of the major committees so they can campaign, so there's little they could do in Washington other than pose for dramatic photos of them at tables with their sleeves rolled up. Jumping into the fray at this point might just mess things up. Personally I think he formulated this plan after Obama called him this morning to discuss issuing a joint statement about the crisis. McCain just took it one irrational step further than that to try to control the message.

Update 9/25: What exactly does "suspension" mean, anyway? McCain's campaign advisers are still making the talk show rounds today criticizing Obama. That doesn't seem like a suspension at all to me. If I went to a local McCain campaign office, would it be closed? Can I donate on their website? (Turns out I can!) So I guess "suspension" just means "an excuse for me to hold a press conference and act all presidential-like."

Here's something else to consider. McCain's announcement today mentioned that he was suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to help pass the bailout. That included canceling his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. He called Dave personally to say he wouldn't make it because he would be on his way back to Washington.

But wait! It turns out he didn't head back to Washington. Not only did he stay in New York, but he did an interview in the CBS building with Katie Couric! He is also scheduled to speak at an event in NYC tomorrow. Needless to say, Dave Letterman was not pleased.

You know what? I'm not pleased, either. If you say the crisis is urgent and you need to be in Washington, then go to Washington! You can do the Couric interview via satellite -- or skip it until things have calmed down. But if you make a big deal out of everything as part of a political stunt, then by all means you can take all the time you need in New York. You wouldn't want to beat the camera crews back to Washington.

Edit 9/25: On a semi-related note, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson claims that he "welcomes" oversight of the bailout plan, but if he's really open to that, why does the plan itself contain this language?
Decisions by the Secretary [of the Treasury] pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
Holy constitutionality, Batman! More and more it's looking like this administration is trying to shove this down our throats before we know what happened. I can't believe I'm going to quote Wolf Blitzer, but this says it all:
[Bush] faces an uphill battle to convince the American people he knows what he's doing.

Where's the Oil?

All the talk lately has been on the Wall Street bailout, but I'd like to step back to another important topic: America's energy policy. NPR's Day to Day recently interviewed Robert Kaufmann, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at Boston University. He points out that the best bet for finding oil in the U.S. is most likely in the Gulf of Mexico, but it's probably not worth the effort to get it. As he points out, the most "wildly optimistic" assessment for drilling now puts oil flowing from off-shore drilling no sooner than 5 years from now, and that is for a relatively small amount of oil. Even in ANWR, where oil companies are already operating in the neighborhood, it could take 10 years to get oil to market.

Oil companies currently have the rights to drill in millions of acres of Federal land (and some areas off-shore), and yet they are not. Why? Because when their own dollars are at stake, they aren't as eager to put their theories of how much oil is out there to the test. They are more than happy to be given the rights, however, in case they can get a rock-solid estimate -- or more likely government subsidies for exploration and drilling.

If off-shore drilling rights are granted, pay close attention to the contracts that are awarded. You might find incentives such as tax breaks for the oil companies, or even the government directly picking up the tab for bringing the oil to market. What you won't find will be profit sharing once that oil starts flowing, though. Even Alaska's Governor Palin has had a difficult time getting oil companies to build a natural gas pipeline in her state -- largely because they don't want to spend the money on the infrastructure. Alaska now has a plan in the works, but instead of working with the oil companies, a Canadian firm is planning on building the pipeline -- with millions of dollars for planning, environmental impact assessments, and other expenses being chipped in by the state.

So what will "drill here drill now" get us? We will spend our finite resources looking for an extremely small percentage of our energy needs that won't make it to market for at least 5 years (more likely between 5 and 10 years), AND it very likely might cost the taxpayers money to get the projects off the ground. In the meantime we'll be that much farther behind in R&D into alternative energy sources. As Kaufman noted:
The question for this country is... how will we insure that we have energy over the next 20 years? To do that we have a finite amount of capital that we can invest in the energy industry. It's highly unlikely that investing that money in off-shore oil and gas drilling will insure that we have sufficient supplies of energy 10 and 20 years from now. We've tried that experiment in the past -- despite all those wells drilled, domestic oil and gas production continued to decline. So in hindsight, that money was not effectively spent.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who Said It?

I didn't decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism. In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president. . . . In truth, I'd had the ambition for a long time.
Those words are by...

John McCain in his 2002 memoir Worth Fighting For. Or, more accurately, they are from John McCain's co-author (as I understand it, I'd actually call him the lead author) Mark Salter. Maybe McCain felt comfortable publishing those words in 2002 because he didn't think he'd have another presidential campaign in him after he was Roved by the Bush campaign in 2000.

Or maybe he felt comfortable publishing those words because he could take political cover since those words weren't written by him. As Salter explained to the Washington Post, "It's his voice, but I'm going inside his head to speak some psychological truth about him. I'm drawing a conclusion based on my observation of him. I always show him: 'This is what I've written. This is what I think about you. Is this fair?' "

Still, Salter admits that McCain approved what he wrote, so disavowing that now might be tricky. No trickier than explaining how "I'm John McCain, and I approved this message" is played at the end of his lie-filled ads against Obama, though. Oh, wait -- he doesn't explain that. He says they're all true. (More on that in a future blog.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

McCain Still Touting Benefits of Deregulation

This gem of a quote is courtesy of John McCain himself courtesy of a stump speech article he wrote for a publication called Contingencies (which I had not heard of before).
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
[The emphasis added is mine.] To be fair, he is referring to opening up insurance markets nationwide, similar to opening up the banking industry so you can bank anywhere you choose regardless of in which state your bank is located. However, that deregulation didn't lead to more individuals choosing a checking account from a "national" bank as much as it resulted in larger banks crossing state lines to purchase regional or local banks. (Has your bank changed names recently?) Do we want/need that in the insurance industry, too?

The Obama campaign rightfully pounced on the quote in Florida, with Obama saying "So let me get this straight -- he wants to run health care like they've been running Wall Street." McCain senior economics adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin fired back, "If Barack Obama thinks that today's financial troubles were caused by policies which allowed Americans to use an ATM anywhere in this country, then it is better that he continue to be silent about solutions to the crisis on Wall Street."

Holtz-Eakin is oversimplifying the issue. While having a bank account with a nationwide bank like Chase or Citibank does allow me to use my ATM nationwide, I was already able to do this thanks to ATM networks set up long before banking deregulation. Is he suggesting that McCain invented national ATM banking? </snark>

Jumping back to the broader picture of McCain's health plan, I don't see how allowing individuals to buy their own insurance anywhere in the country will suddenly lead to lower premiums. Yes, Blue Cross of Vermont would now be able to sell policies to someone who previously used United Healthcare in Kentucky, but the net effect will be the watering down of consumer power. The best rates for healthcare are generally received by larger groups -- a big company can negotiate better rates than a small business or an individual. This is simple economics, but it hasn't led to many individuals or small businesses banding together for greater purchasing power even in the current regionally-limited market. How will empowering millions of Americans to act individually substantially reduce rates? If I can pull an example from a different type of insurance, my car insurance hasn't dropped significantly even though I can choose from several companies that compete nationwide.

Yes, I could stick with my employer's plan if I wanted, but McCain's plan simply wouldn't help millions of Americans who currently don't have an employer-sponsored health plan today.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Web-based Email is Not Secure

I told myself I wasn't going to write any more about Sarah Palin. I think there's enough out about her now that most people either don't think she's qualified for her current position (let alone VP) or have decided they like her no matter what anyone else says. But since I live and work in the IT world, I couldn't let this lie.

I'm sure you saw reports about Palin's use of a Yahoo email account and the subsequent hacking of that account by a group calling itself "anonymous." It should be pointed out that anonymous is not from the Obama campaign, as I've seen suggested by some McCain supporters. Anonymous is a loosely organized hacking group that is currently working to expose and discredit Scientologists in a self-declared e-war against the Church of Scientology. They've done some similar hacking stunts before, and somehow they seem to think Palin is a closet Scientologist. Weird, I know. No matter who they are, they broke the law and should be punished if caught.

Anyway, more to the point is the horribly naive, dangerous, and underhanded decision by Palin to use a web-based email account to conduct public business. First, web-based email is not secure. If you use it, assume that the contents of your email could be viewed by anyone. This is not a system on which to share budgets, staff decisions, or policy proposals. Her government email account will (or at least should) have some safeguards to make the contents of her email more private and secure.

I know this point won't gain traction in the mainstream news because most people probably don't think about email security. To the general public, email is a utility that doesn't require much thought, and a government official using Yahoo mail isn't a big deal. But trust me; it is. You don't want someone in the White House discussing items of national security on an open email account.

Second, there are legal requirements for the retention of government documents. Those requirements are known and understood by the Alaskan IT department, and their email servers are backed up regularly. Yahoo will keep records of emails for a time, I'm sure, but they are not legally bound to keep archival copies of anything. They probably clean out their servers pretty regularly, in fact. Without backups, there is a serious lack of accountability.

Finally, it seems clear from some of the intercepted emails that Palin knew exactly what she was doing by using a Yahoo account. Okay, she obviously didn't know how stupid it was from a security standpoint, but she purposefully used the account to avoid accountability. She knew these emails wouldn't be saved (on her end, at least), and she also knew it was unlikely they could be subpoenaed if she were ever under investigation. These are not actions by a "reformer;" they are the actions of someone with something to hide.

So, in what I hope will be one of my last (if not the last) posts on Sarah Palin, I ask this: Do you want a person a heartbeat away from the Presidency who a) is ignorant/stupid enough to potentially spread sensitive government information over insecure networks, and b) used those insecure networks specifically to hide her activities from regulators? This is a rhetorical question, but maybe it shouldn't be.

Update 9/22: It looks like an article I read linking this to the hacker group "anonymous" was incorrect. Maybe it was an innocent mistake since the hacker of the Palin email account called himself anonymous, but I apologize for re-posting incorrect information. Turns out the hacker in question was a student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, whose sloppy gloating resulted in his arrest.

People are quick to point out that he is the son of a Democratic member of the Tennessee State Legislature, so this will give conspiracy theorists ammunition to tie this to the Obama campaign again. I saw fooey on that. While the motivation may very well have been political (assuming he's even a Democrat like his dad), it's a stretch to think anyone from the Obama campaign would go this route if they wanted some dirt.

My initial impression still stands: it's dangerous and deceitful for Palin to have maintained this account if it was used for any state business.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dilbert Survey of Economists

Scott Adams, the creator of the popular comic strip Dilbert, commissioned a survey of over 500 economists to give people more information about how both candidates fare on economic issues. While it hardly offers a clear "winner," it did offer some interesting conclusions. (The full press release can be found at

  • Overall, 59% of the economists say Obama would be best for the economy long term, with 31% picking McCain, and 8% saying there would be no difference.
  • When asked to rank the most important economic issues, the top 10 were: education, health care, international trade, energy, encouraging technology/innovation, wars and homeland security, mortgage/housing crisis, social security, environmental policy, and reducing the deficit.
  • Overall, the economists in the survey favor Obama on 9 of the top 13 issues, McCain on 1 (international trade), and feel that there will be no difference on 2. (On the issue of the mortgage/housing crisis, Obama and "no difference" both came in at 41%, with McCain scoring only 18%.)
48% of the economists surveyed were Democrats, 27% Independents, and only 17% Republicans. This gives many people pause about the objectivity of the results. However, as Adams puts it in a follow up blog:
Economists crossed party lines on the questions of International Trade, Environmental Policy, Immigration, Reducing Waste in Government, and Reducing the Deficit. I didn't include a question about a gas tax holiday, because the idea has already expired, but economists crossed party lines on that issue too. That suggests a degree of objectivity on an issue level. The crossover issues, plus the rankings, are important no matter who gets elected. That will tell you if your president has the right priorities.
Overall, with the uncertain bias of party affiliation, there can be no absolute "winner" from this survey. We'll simply never know how much party loyalty played into the results. But as Adams mentions, we can still learn a few things about the candidates and the importance of these issues (even if we simply determine that, as a result of reading this survey, economics should be valued more or less in our evaluation of the candidates).

Scott Adams has a bit of additional commentary in an opinion piece he wrote for, and a blog post he wrote today offers even more helpful insight. I know it's a lot of extra reading, but it goes pretty quickly (Adams is a good writer) and that last link in particular offers a lot of food for thought.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Scare Tactics and Misrepresentation

In yet another attempt to frighten voters away from Obama by distorting reality, the McCain camp released an incorrect ad claiming that Obama favors "comprehensive sex education" for Kindergarten students. They also falsely claim a sex-ed bill (which wasn't sponsored by Obama and didn't actually pass) was his "one accomplishment" in education while in the Illinois legislature.

No need for me to go into details of the smear ad, as they are very well-covered in the New York Times and on (which, BTW, is one of several new additions to our list of links in the right column).

The ad also cites criticism of Obama by Education Week, but it failed to note that the same issue also said some positive things about Obama. Oh yeah -- the ad also left out that Education Week "complained that McCain offered 'a laundry list of fairly vague answers' on how to improve schools and did not make education a priority. 'McCain is a campaign-finance, foreign-relations, anti-abortion, tax-cut candidate,' the magazine said. 'Education is not his thing.'" (Quote from the NYT article linked above.)

Once again, without any real plans of his own, McCain is still resorting to making stuff up to attempt to scare voters away from Obama. This pathetic "campaigning" would be almost funny if it wasn't likely to work -- more people will probably see those false attack ads than the NYT or articles discrediting them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Only Republicans Can Talk About Lipstick

This has me seething. So many parts of this campaign have left me feeling this way, but this is just petty BS. Has anyone in the McCain campaign ever listened to themselves? I mean, really taken a step back to listen to the words coming out of their mouths?

Here's Barack Obama in a speech yesterday:
"John McCain says he's about change too, and so I guess his whole angle is, 'Watch out George Bush -- except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics -- we're really going to shake things up in Washington.' That's not change. That's just calling something the same thing something different. You know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. You know you can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, it's still going to stink after eight years. We've had enough of the same old thing."
Some colorful analogies. The "lipstick on a pig" one in particular has been around for many years and is useful in many situations.

As CNN reports, "Within minutes, the McCain campaign announced a conference call focused on the remark, which they said was a deliberate reference to Palin's line: 'You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.' McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told CNN the campaign saw a 'big difference' between the two references: 'McCain was referring to a policy proposal. Obama was referring to [Alaska] Gov. Sarah Palin. It's obviously disrespectful and offensive... Who has been talking about lipstick lately? It was obvious. The crowd went crazy because of it." [emphasis mine]

"Who has been talking about lipstick lately?" Really? So Sarah Palin makes a funny and all of a sudden no one else is supposed to use an analogy that's been around for years? Or even talk about lipstick?

More to the point, Obama wasn't talking about Palin! Anyone with a grade school education can figure out that he was comparing McCain's policies to the proverbial pig. Senator McCain and Governor Palin weren't even mentioned in that part of the speech! (And if, as McCain spokesman Brian Rogers claims, Palin is the pig in that analogy, I guess that makes McCain the stinky fish. But no one's complaining about that, even though it would be just as big of an insult.)

CNN goes on to actually do a bit of journalism and points out occasions when John McCain himself has used the same analogy (once last year in reference to Hillary Clinton's healthcare proposal) and other times when McCain supporters have used it (one even made it the title of his book). Mike Huckabee is even taking Obama's side.

Let me second the Obama campaign in calling the McCain camp dishonorable.
"The McCain campaign's attack tonight is a pathetic attempt to play the gender card about the use of a common analogy -- the same analogy that Sen. McCain himself used about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan just last year. This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run."
Still, McCain intends to run with this. His campaign has already made a web ad out of it.
"If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things." -- Barack Obama
Edit 9/10: Obama's response this morning was good overall, although I think he probably shouldn't have criticized the media quite so much. Sure, this was "catnip" to them, but it's really the McCain camp that should be scolded.

Friday, September 05, 2008

When Change Means More of the Same

So the Republican convention wrapped up last night after 4 days (3, really, thanks to Gustav), and it was comprised mainly of attacks on Democrats; lies about Democrats' accomplishments, ability, plans, and devotion to country; and tons of vague stump speech rhetoric. The non-keynote speeches at conventions are generally designed to fire up the crowd (rally the troops might be more appropriate for the RNC), but the keynotes and big name speakers are supposed to shape and define the platform. I saw none of that this week.

It's okay to criticize what you feel are inadequacies of your opponents, but the speeches by Giuliani and Romney in particular were over the top. And after you criticize you should point out how you'll do better, but I saw none of that. I can see why Gov Palin lashed out in her speech to fight back at the horrible treatment she had been getting from some of the press and far left bloggers, but I was disappointed, to put it mildly, that her attacks were baseless and, in many cases, completely false. And still utterly devoid of any policy substance.

I had hoped the crowning of McCain last night would provide some direction, but the best it offered was a toning down of the anti-Obama rhetoric of the previous nights. Its main theme floored me: change. Change? Really? Which Party has held the White House for the past 7+ years? Which Party has had control of both houses of Congress from 1994 to 2007? (Even today Democrats only have a slim lead in the House and the Senate is split 49/49.) So for McCain to run as an agent of change simply astounds me. If those guys are so unhappy with how the country has been run, how can they possibly pin it on the Democrats? Seems to me they should be switching sides if they want to see what real change is!

McCain's voting record has matched Bush's policies 90% of the time, so in this case change simply means a different suit behind the desk in the Oval Office. And I suppose they really didn't need to spell out their policy positions since we already know they'll pretty much be the same policies we've seen over the past 8 years.

Now that the conventions are over, I'll soon start posting things I like and dislike about the candidates and their VP picks. I bet I'll have some more Republican lies to clear up along the way, too. (I've already saved up a list from the RNC that I'll address when I have a bit more time.) At least football is here so I can be distracted from this nonsense for a little while each week.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Offending Community Organizers Everywhere

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

That was meant to be a jab at Obama, of course, but I took it more as a jab at community organizers in general.

Governor Palin: I know community organizers. I've worked with community organizers. You are no community organizer.

Take your political shots at Obama; he's fair game if you want to go there. But don't insult the people that selflessly and tirelessly give of themselves to make other people's lives better. Helping people find new jobs. Helping people find something to eat. Helping people find a place to sleep at night. Helping people understand complicated legal forms and applications. Helping people stand up for themselves when their neighborhoods are faced with threats from much bigger foes. Helping people regain their dignity and keep their humanity.

I take great offense at your line of attack, and I hope you'll change your strategy going forward (after you apologize to community organizers, that is).

Edit (9/5): I heard a terrific quote: "Jesus was a community organizer." There's actually more to it, but I'm not going to repost the mean part.

Also interesting to note that the theme of the convention was "Country First- Service, Reform, Prosperity, Peace." Monday's theme was "Serving a Cause Greater Than Self," and Tuesday's was simply "Service."

Photo copyright 2008 Republican National Committee

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

McCain Camp: "This election is not about issues"

"[McCain campaign manager Rick] Davis also told The Post that the race will be decided more on personalities and perceptions than issues. 'This election is not about issues,' he said. 'This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.'

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe responded with a sharp statement: 'We appreciate Senator McCain's campaign manager finally admitting that his campaign is not in fact about the issues the American people care about, which is exactly the kind of cynical old politics people are ready to change.'"

Of course I'm not so naive as to think most elections (lately, at least) haven't been decided by the same ultimately unimportant criteria, but the dreamer in me sure would like to see an election where substance and a candidate's stance on the issues wins out over how he looks on camera or how likable he is.

Admitting that a presidential election is about how people feel about the candidates is admitting that you want people to vote based on superficial qualities. Is Davis simply playing to his candidate's strengths (white guys aren't very threatening), or is it an implied admission that he knows if people really dug deep his candidate wouldn't stand a chance?

(Excerpt from The Washington Post's 9/3 coverage of the RNC.)

Is the Press Falling into a McCain Trap?

The McCain camp surely expected some controversy with an unexpected VP pick. And I would imagine they also expected to be able to turn some of those attacks against the press and generate sympathy for their candidates. The Republicans are masters at going on the attack and then playing the victim, and this is not all that different.

Granted they probably didn't expect the ferocity of some of the accusations and allegations, and their cry of "Foul!" now is more than likely genuine. But they are also getting what they wanted: a chance to claim they are victims of a "liberal media" and a chance to blame the Obama campaign for planting many of the allegations.

Here's how I see it. Palin's personal life -- that is, her personal life that doesn't overlap with her public life (that includes her kids) -- should be off limits. Some of the questions about the paternity of Trig are downright mean, as are the accusations against her oldest son Track. That said, a candidate's children shouldn't be used for political gain, either, so when the Republican Party asks people to leave the Palin's kids alone, they can't then turn around and advertise that Trig was born even though Sarah knew he had Downs Syndrome (What, does she want a cookie for delivering her child? Most Americans would not consider an abortion in that case, and her decision does not make her special.). And enough already about Track heading to Iraq. We get it; so is Beau Biden (who simply said while introducing his father that he "would not be around" in November instead of announcing that he would be in Iraq during the election).

To a certain extent, the press is doing their job by asking the questions. As Howard Kurtz's article The War Against the Press points out, it was uncomfortable for the press to ask questions about Eliot Spitzer's solicitation of prostitutes, but in the end it turned out to be for the public good. Had the allegations been false and the press gone public (as appears to be the case with the Palin stories), it would have been a gross misuse of their power.

Two more words to the McCain camp: First, stop crying foul at simply being asked the questions. Absolutely complain when lies are printed, but if a reporter calls to verify a rumor, that's a chance to clear things up, not smear the reporter. And second, don't confuse left-wing bloggers with the Obama campaign -- or the press, for that matter. Anyone can have a blog, but that doesn't mean they speak for everyone who is a member of their party. (You guys have had Rush Limbaugh and other working this angle on the radio for years, so you can't be too surprised that the Left has their own versions now.)

And two words to the press. First, back off. Not from asking the questions, but from printing unsubstantiated allegations. It does no good to print that Sarah Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party if it's not true, and it takes away from the fact that she actually did speak at one of their conventions. And it's mean.

Second, by toning down the allegations, you'll actually be doing everyone a favor. The less you appear to be smearing a candidate, the less her Party can complain and get their base riled up. You're playing into the RNC's hand, and it won't be good for you in the long run, or the Democrats in the short run.

Edit (9/4): Shortly after I posted this I wanted to add more support for Gov. Palin in that not only have her children been part of the attacks, but her gender has been attacked as well. The same type of insanity that dogged Hilary Clinton reared it's head with Gov. Palin. I was especially offended at the implication that she was being a bad mother to her children by running for office. Barack Obama has two young daughters, and running for office obviously keeps him away from them more than if he had a local 9-5 job. But that doesn't make him a bad father. Just because Palin is a woman does not mean she has to accept a different professional fate. I sincerely hope this kind of nonsense is not around when my daughter is choosing her professional path in life.

2nd Edit (9/4): Well, Gov. Palin did it. She boasted about her son going to Iraq (she even pointed out his departure date is 9/11). Then she went on to mention that her nephew was also serving, and worked the crowd for cheap applause for saluting all servicemen and women. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not against service. Palin's family members, and all people serving our country, should be honored and appreciated for their service and sacrifice. But I resent them being used for political gain. Are we supposed to think she's a better candidate because her family is in the Army? That has no material effect on her ability to serve as Vice President. In fact, from the candidate who admitted she "hadn't thought much" about the war in Iraq, perhaps she should do a little homework before bragging that her son is going.