Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Katie, I'd Like to Use One of My Lifelines

SNL hasn't been that funny thus far this season...except in the case of their political skits. Check them out.

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton

Katie Couric Interviews Sarah Palin

McCain Approves Ads

First Presidential Debate

Bill Clinton

Friday, September 26, 2008

Some Thoughts on the First Debate

The debate just ended. I was struck, from the first moments, that a black man was standing on a stage in Mississippi, running for President of the United States. Extraordinary.

It was a pretty even exchange I thought. This was the Goldilocks debate—Obama needed to avoid coming off too cold and calculated, and McCain needed to avoid appearing too hot tempered. There were mixed results on both sides. McCain employed a more scattershot attack and thus hit more often, but Obama was more focused and hit harder when he connected.

Some thoughts as I recorded them during the debate:

• Oh no! McCain isn’t wearing a flag pin and Obama is! McCain’s an unpatriotic America-hater, or so the argument goes!

• Obama’s right, you don’t heal this economy simply by slashing earmarks and giving tax cuts only to the wealthiest Americans while ignoring the middle and lower classes.

• I’m surprised how little talk is being directed to the lack of regulation that got us to this economic debacle in the first place.

• Now there’s a familiar line: "I've got a pen. (yep, there it is, a black sharpie) I will make (the earmarkers) famous. You will know their names." You can start with Stevens. And Palin, while we’re on the subject of Alaska!

• "John, its been your president who presided over this spending, this orgy of spending," Obama says and says well, tying McCain to the Bush budget woes.

• It’s fun watching McCain squirm while Obama ties him to Bush (though he isn’t doing it nearly enough in my opinion) and then try to unstuck himself.

• It seems to me that the $600 billion we’ve spent in Iraq sure would have come in handy now that we need $700 billion for the Wall St. bailout!

• 40+ minutes and we’re finally talking about national security…

• I am tired of McCain and Co. saying that we should stop arguing about whether or not it was right to go into Iraq and just focus on what to do now that we are there. When you are running for president and you supported the invasion as well as the current sitting president who ordered it, it is very much a valid issue Mr. McCain!

• Obama had a nice retort on the funding for troops issue—both declined bills supporting more troop funding and the reason was the presence or lack of a timetable.

• McCain may have the edge on national security, but Obama wins the day on Iraq.

• McCain: "Sen. Obama has the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate. It’s hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left."

Legitimately funny!

Obama: "Wildly liberal? Mostly that’s just me opposing George Bush’s wrongheaded policies."

Nice comeback!

• I love how McCain is chiding Obama for somehow supporting strikes in Pakistan (even as he says, in the very next breath, “If you have to do things, you have to do things.”) when the leader of his own party, President Bush, has ordered exactly that policy, resulting in, I might add, our troops coming under fire from the Pakistanis just yesterday.

• McCain is going to censure Obama about making threats to other countries when he once sang, “Bomb bomb Iran”!? Oh, good, Obama is wondering that too.

• Wouldn’t it be great, McCain is currently saying, if there was an organization of likeminded, freedom-loving countries that could come together and with one will, enact real change and take meaningful stands across the world. Sure would be. It’s called the U.N. senator. You remember them…the group your president thumbed his nose at when he was hellbent on invading Iraq.

• Since when is talking to anyone, our enemies included, with or without conditions, a bad thing? What’s the worst thing that happens, you waste a few words? God knows I wish we’d wasted a few more words before leaping before looking into Iraq.

• Obama just did a nice job of throwing Kissinger’s opinions right back in McCain’s face.

• Oh, so now McCain is saying that talking to those we disagree with legitimizes their opinions! Really? I had no idea, Sen. McCain, that in agreeing to participate in this debate with your democratic rival, that you were, in fact, endorsing all of his liberal ideals!

• Sen. McCain, I have heard no one, on either side of the aisle, applaud Russia for its actions in Georgia. But it is ridiculous to throw Obama’s words back in his face for asking, at the time, that both countries show a little restraint. Senator, if you are not familiar with Georgia’s well-documented treatment and policies toward the Asetians, nor the fact that they started the war in the first place, then perhaps you are not the foreign policy expert you claim to be.

• Oh look, while Sen. Biden agreed to appear on NBC for post-debate commentary, the Republicans declined the same invitation when it was offered to Gov. Palin. I can’t imagine why. Perhaps it’s because if Katie Couric can thrash you on a one to one, would you agree to open your mouth when you didn’t have to!?

And lastly, since this debate also dealt with the economy, I give you this simple, yet profound gem. (Thanks Nate!) Click to enlarge.

Clearly Out Of Her League

More and more Republicans are expressing concern about Sarah Palin. Her recent uneven, awkward and muddled performances in what few media appearances she's been allowed are showing her true colors.

But none have been more critical than columnist Kathleen Parker, a former Palin supporter, who wrote in the conservative standard bearer, The Weekly Standard, that Palin should step down immediately. Some excerpts:

It was fun while it lasted.

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there.

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

What to do?

McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability.

Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Beginning of the End

Only minutes ago, Sen. John McCain suspended his campaign and asked that Friday night’s presidential debate be postponed. Claiming that it was crucial that he return to Washington to participate in the nation’s $700 billion Wall Street bailout, McCain called on Obama to do the same.

McCain has a point. He is a sitting senator who hasn’t exactly been doing his elected duties for some time now. In fact, he has not made a roll call vote in more than five months. (Obama has also been absent for the past two months). And yet what can either man really do?

This is the height of political theater. As with the campaign cessation during Hurricane Gustav, there is little more McCain or Obama can do other than stand around and look concerned. This latest move by McCain is nothing more than a photo-op stunt.

For his part, Sen. Obama has indicated his desire to move ahead with the debate, claiming, “It’s my belief that this is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible with dealing with this mess. Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It’s not necessary for us to think that we can do only one thing, and suspend everything else.”

It’s a bit of a risky move. Rejecting McCain could allow the Republican to take a counterfeit high ground and appear to be the only one above politics, the only one who “puts country first.” But agreeing to it could make Obama appear like a follower, rather than a leader, just at the time when the current financial crisis has become the turning point in his numbers.

The reason for McCain’s plea is all too clear.

The faltering economy is proving to be a disaster to McCain, whose strong suit is national security and who has said repeatedly that he is no expert on the economy. Sarah Palin, McCain’s not-so-secret weapon, is watching her numbers plummet around the nation, including a 20 point deficit in her home state of Alaska. According to today’s brand new Wall St. Journal/ABC poll, John McCain’s 49-47 point edge has been transformed to a 52 percent to 43 percent lead for Obama. Since 1948, no candidate with 50 percent or higher in September has ever lost the White House.

McCain is gambling everything with this audacious move. Only the next few days and weeks will reveal whether or not this was the beginning of the end for team McCain.

The No Talk Express

Sen. John McCain took questions from the press yesterday. For a whopping seven minutes. It’s the first time he has done so in weeks, perhaps even months. McCain’s handlers, fearful that a single gaffe could be disastrous, have imposed a near media blackout on the candidate once known and beloved of the press for his lengthy repartee and willingness to take interviews.

His running-mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, on the ticket now for nearly a month, is still sequestered. To date, she has participated in two interview and zero press conferences. The near totality of her exposure to the watching world is the same stump speech she’s been giving since her nomination.

Yesterday, every major network informed the McCain campaign that they were prepared to ban the use of pictures and video from Palin’s photo-ops with foreign leaders at the United Nations in protest of the campaign’s continuing restrictions of editorial presence. The campaign relented at the last minute and allowed a CNN producer to attend the meeting, but not speak up. Today, when Palin tried to engage a reporter, a McCain aide intervened and shepherded everybody out of the room, much to the candidate’s surprise.

How ready are you to lead if you can’t even be trusted to open your mouth intelligently?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Just Who is the Elitist?

Click on the image to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Campaign vs. Campaign

This has been making the rounds lately and it was too good not to share:

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight...

If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."

If you grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, yours is a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack, you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second-highest-ranking executive and next in line behind a man in his eighth decade.

If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and then left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a true Christian.

If you teach responsible, age-appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner-city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.

If your husband is nicknamed "First Dude," with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The People are Stupid

Americans divide pretty equally into Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians.

Thomas Jefferson believed that the people were the ultimate arbiters of wisdom. Only the people could be trusted to make prudent, shrewd decisions concerning their future and the future of the nation. The people were, ultimately, always right.

Alexander Hamilton couldn’t have disagreed more. He believed that the people were dumb, that they were mindless, aimless sheep who needed educated elites to lead and guide them.

I want, with all my heart, to be a Jeffersonian. But I look around me and I can’t help but throw up my arms in frustration and admit that I am, against my better desires, thoroughly Hamiltonian.

The people are stupid.

Case in point: the current campaign for President of the United States.

The people may be stupid but the Republicans sure aren’t. Realizing that the cannot win on the issues, realizing that they cannot win on substance, realizing that they cannot win with honor and integrity, the Republicans have turned the campaign into something as nasty and dirty and outright dishonest as anything we have ever seen.

McCain recently ran an ad claiming Obama favored sex education for kindergartners. The truth? Obama, as an Illinois state senator, voted for legislation that would have taught kindergarteners how to reject advances by sexual predators. Though the press has exposed McCain’s lies, has it made any impact? No.

McCain suggested Obama called Gov. Sarah Palin a pig. While Obama did tell a campaign rally a few days ago that McCain's policies were like “putting lipstick on a pig,” he never used the phrase in connection with Palin. McCain used the exact same colloquial phrase several months ago when talking about Hillary Clinton’s health care initiatives. Though the press has exposed McCain’s lies, has it made any impact? No.

McCain says Obama would raise nearly everyone’s taxes. Yet the truth is that 80 percent of families would get tax cuts instead. In fact, Independent groups like the Tax Policy Center concluded that four out of five U.S. households would receive tax cuts under Obama’s proposals. Though the press has exposed McCain’s lies, has it made any impact? No.

Gov. Sarah Palin loves to talk about how much she deplores earmarks, despite the fact that her special spending projects for 2009 were the highest per capita in the nation. She defended her nearly $200 million in federal pet projects for 2008 even as John McCain told a television audience on “The View” that she had never requested them, completely ignoring the record. Though the press has exposed their lies, has it made any impact? No.

Palin continues to talk about her singularly instrumental part in destroying the “Bridge to Nowhere,” despite the fact that she pulled her support only after the project became a political embarrassment. Though the press has exposed her lies, has it made any impact? No.

McCain is coming under serious criticism by both the media and independent fact-check organizations because of his increasingly dishonest campaign tactics. While all political campaigns are known for stretching the truth, McCain’s actions are being described as “dishonorable,” “disingenuous” and “downright cynical.”

The non partisan, which does not judge whether one candidate is more misleading than another, has implicated McCain more than twice as often since the start of the political conventions as it has Barack Obama. Even the Army Times came out against McCain recently, claiming he is twisting his rival’s words and making fraudulent claims about Obama’s stance toward the military.

It’s not as though Obama has completely clean hands in this. However, he has been quicker to react to news accounts challenging his accuracy. While politicians usually modify or drop misleading claims when challenged, McCain and his running mate have defiantly soldiered on. McCain obviously learned long ago that so long as you don’t back down, your claims, however erroneous, will lodge in people’s memories as a sort of quasi-fact.

The irony here is that McCain was once the victim of one of the most underhanded campaigns ever — his 2000 bid for the Republican nomination against then governor, George W. Bush. Embroiled in a tight race in South Carolina, McCain’s hopes were undone by a smear campaign claiming he was mentally unstable and had fathered a legitimate black child.

McCain denounced less-than-truthful campaigning after his crushing experience, vowing to live up to his motto of “straight talk.” His image now is of the anti-politician, a statesman who abhors politics as usual and believes in playing fair. He came into the 2008 campaign with the same ideals, promoting himself as a speaker of truth and evenhandedness at any cost. He refused to do unto others what had been done to him.

But then again, he lost the last time, didn’t he.

McCain has succumbed to the very tactics that once crippled him. Winning, after all, is everything. Even if he soils his reputation in the process, McCain seems willing to do whatever it takes to gain victory. His strategy now reflects a new tone, one which shirks the issues and is focused instead on diminishing Barack Obama in the eyes of voters.

You’d expect Obama spokesman Bill Burton to say John McCain is “cynically running the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern Presidential campaign history. His discredited ads with disgusting lies are running all over the country today. He runs a campaign not worthy of the office he is seeking.” But Burton is far from the only one.

The man responsible for cutting John McCain’s legs out from under him in 2000 was Karl Rove. So it is with a substantial amount of cosmic irony that Rove appeared on Fox News several days ago and said that John McCain’s attacks against Barack Obama have stretched the truth. Rove said McCain had “gone one step too far, and sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100-percent-truth test.”

Rove isn’t the only one.

Don Sipple, a Republican advertising strategist recently said, “I think the predominance of liberty taken with truth and the facts has been more McCain than Obama.” Sipple went on to say that McCain strategy could easily backfire. “Any campaign that is taking liberty with the truth and does it in a serial manner will end up paying for it in the end. But it’s very unbecoming to a political figure like John McCain whose flag was planted long ago in ground that was about ‘straight talk’ and integrity.”

Matthew Dowd, one of President Bush’s chief strategist in the 2004 campaign has said, “I think the McCain folks realize if they can get this thing down in the mud, drag Obama into the mud, that’s where they have the best advantage to win. If they stay up at 10,000 feet, they don’t.”

“Every day not talking about the economy, the war and how to fix a broken system is a victory for McCain,” said John Weaver, a former top McCain strategist.

And why is that? Because if this presidential campaign actually came down to the issues, the bottom drops out from beneath John McCain.

“We recognize it’s not going to be 2000 again,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers, “But he lost then. We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it. We ran a different kind of campaign and nobody cared about us. They didn’t cover John McCain. So now you’ve got to be forward-leaning in everything.”

Despite the criticism, McCain’s attacks have produced exactly the effect he and his advisors hoped. It, along with the inclusion of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, has rejuvenated his flagging campaign and put Obama on the defensive for the first time. With polls showing the race tightening more every day, can we really expect McCain to stop? Can this genie ever be put back into the bottle? No way. McCain and Co. are unapologetic in their attacks and are determined to keep Obama reeling, even if it means they have to hit him below the belt to do it.

Am I mad? Damn right I’m mad. It’s one thing if McCain begins legitimately pulling ahead on the issues. But McCain’s new numbers have nothing to do with the issues. They have everything to do with sleazy, reprehensible, flat-out dishonesty.

All this brings me back to Jefferson and Hamilton.

I don’t know what’s worse — that McCain has embraced one of the most dishonest campaigns in recent political memory, or that the American people are buying it hook, line and sinker, despite the fact that a simple Internet connection would pull down McCain’s entire house of cards.

Yes, Mr. Hamilton, the people are stupid.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In the Hot Seat

Earlier this week, I promised to return and share my thoughts on Gov. Sarah Palin’s “performance” before the television cameras a few days ago. Let me say at the outset that I think Governor Palin did rather well. That is if you judge her success by how she got through her series of interviews with ABC’s Charles Gibson without falling on her face. It was a mixed bag, to be sure, but there were no overt crash and burn moments.

There is no denying Gov. Palin is, dare I say it, likable enough. But she is hardly the paradigm of intellect, experience and virtue her fans make her out to be. As is par for the course for any interviewee of any persuasion, there was so much spin that I had a severe case of vertigo. Though always engaging, Palin was frequently defensive, shifting Gibson more often than not into the mode of a teacher dealing with a stubborn, disobedient child. Often evasive and always on-script, Palin was not able to be as spontaneous as she usually is.

For his part, Gibson was terrific. He was respectful and professional, yet hard and persistent. Some people, including some who may read this blog, find tenacity and proficiency in the media a point of contention. I happen to think the media exists to put just such people in their proper place. Some on the conservative side have decried Gibson’s so-called gotcha questions. Friends, those questions would not have been necessary had Palin the experience level and media transparency to equal the task laid out before her.

I have to admit, I was disappointed from the very beginning. From the first question, Palin utterly lacked humility. When asked if she was experienced enough to be the Vice President of the United States, she ignored the question and told Gibson flat out that she was ready. That’s the not the same thing. When asked if she had any pause whatsoever when Sen. McCain asked her to come aboard, she gave Gibson an unblinking, “No.” No? Leaving aside the fact that I like Thomas Jefferson’s ideal that public office is something you should be dragged into kicking and screaming (when was the last time someone ran for President who wasn’t voraciously ravenous for it?), Palin said she had no second thoughts whatsoever. Taking on the second most powerful job in the world didn’t give her even a moment’s hesitation? She is preparing to adopt the burdens and responsibilities of a world flying increasingly out of control and she is so confident in her abilities, so “wired” for ambition that it didn’t even give her a moment’s reflection? Either she is lying or she is deluded.

Persistent in discussing her qualifications, Gibson pointed out how little travel she’d ever undertaken, and how she had never even met with any foreign heads of state or been exposed, in any significant way, to the larger world. She countered by insisting there have been plenty of vice-presidential nominees with such shortcomings. Actually, in modern political history, there have not. She insisted that not having a big, fat resume with decades worth of Washington experience was actually a good thing. I sure hope John McCain doesn’t get wind of that one.

When asked what foreign policy experience she had, she gave no answer. When asked why we were attacked on 9/11, she gave no answer. When asked what the “Bush Doctrine” is — the predominant foreign policy issue of the Bush Administration — she not only gave no answer, she was obviously flummoxed by the question.

When asked about cross-border raids by our military, using current events in Pakistan as an example, Gibson had to force her into a corner to get a reply, asking her no less than five times for clarification. And still, she gave him no answer. When asked if Israel can do any wrong, she thrice parroted an obviously memorized party line. The answer was no. Really?

When asked about Russia, her best answer was that some of her constituents could see it from their back porch. She then instantly tried to switch the conversation to domestic policy. When Gibson pressed her, as he had to do on numerous questions, she called Georgia’s actions unprovoked (really?) and cavalierly spoke of going to war with the increasingly unpredictable ex-Cold War giant.

She had next to nothing to say about Iraq. But then, as Gibson pointed out, she recently told a reporter that she’s been so focused on state government that she hasn’t had much time to pay attention to Iraq. What a shame. McCain needs help with the whole Shia/Sunni thing. What she does know about the war in Iraq is “that it is from God.” When asked to explain that quote, made in church, she said she was quoting Abraham Lincoln, despite the fact that the only similarities to her quote and his is that they share the word, God. It was a flat out lie. I attended a church exactly like hers for 30 years. Trust me, I know exactly what she meant the first time around.

She was far more comfortable the second night when the focus shifted to domestic issues. But being more at ease certainly didn’t translate into less spin.

When Gibson confronted her on her support of the “Bridge to Nowhere,” she ignored him. When Gibson used facts and hard figures to reveal her lies, Palin dodged this way and that, saying all that was important was that she eventually killed it. Gibson persisted, engaging her on the issue of earmarks. Alaska, as it turns out, brings in more earmark projects than just about any other state. In fact, so much money rolled in during Palin’s governorship that it was worth $231 per resident. Contrast that with $22 a person for Illinois, Obama’s home state. That’s a 10 to one difference. Palin, for her part, suddenly stopped calling them earmarks and began referring to them as "infrastructure dollars" that were at least exchanged “in the light of day.” This is the maverick woman who has made slashing ear…er, "infrastructure dollars" a linchpin of her campaign?

On abortion, she changed her stance to fit McCain’s, saying it should be something the states decide. She then went on to practically quote Barack Obama word for word on his feelings about abortion in this country.

She also changed her stance on global warming and brought it more in line with her boss. She flat out denied ever claiming that humans were guiltless in causing global warming despite telling a Fairbanks newspaper just that mere months ago.

She praised Title IX in one breath and decried the very liberalism that ushered in her gender’s increased liberties in the next. She saw no problem with semi-automatic weapons staying on the street, giving Gibson an aw-shucks, I’m just a hick from Alaska excuse.

When asked repeatedly for specifics about how she and John McCain would change this country’s economic woes she reached way down into the bag of Republican manta and pulled out “cut taxes and control spending.” Wow. That’s a hum-dinger. When asked for specifics of what she’d cut, she turned instead to what she wouldn’t cut, spinning the question into a flag-waving party for veterans.

I guess, after all that, she looks a hell of a lot like George W. Bush to me. And here I was thinking she represented change. I’m glad she was able to clear up such false rumors as book bannings, etc. I’m fine taking her word on the so-called “Troopergate” issue until a court tells me otherwise. You see, I don’t need to embrace far-out, fringe accusations to make Palin look like an inexperienced, ignorant, out-of-her-league pretender. I need only the truth.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time to Put Up or Shut Up

Tonight, two weeks after she was revealed as Sen. John McCain’s GOP running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will sit down for her first media interview with ABC.

It’s about time. It’s well past time.

When not drawing massive crowds (it remains to be seen how large these crowds will be now that the two have gone their separate ways; I imagine McCain’s numbers will fall while Palin’s remain steady), Palin has been cloistered away, submerged in a maelstrom of GOP advisors and staffers desperate to bring Palin up to speed on current issues and foreign affairs. Of course, that’s not what the Republicans are saying, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see what’s going on.

While Palin’s minders intone about keeping her away from the media until it can treat her with the “level of respect and deference” she deserves (deference being an interesting choice of words seeing as how it connotes going beyond respect to acceptance and surrender to another’s opinions), it is obvious that they are desperate, in these few short weeks, to fill in her woeful lack of understanding. If this were not true, she would have begun taking questions from the press weeks ago, rather than continuing to barnstorm the country with the same exact speech day after day and then immediate be hidden from view.

There are definite signs the press are tired of the stonewalling. Each day, more details about Palin’s past are being revealed. Did she put that jet up on Ebay? Yes. But it didn’t sell. She got rid of it elseware, at a hundred thousand dollar loss and not the significant gain McCain insisted on. Did she kill the “Bridge to Nowhere”? Yes, but only after Congress abandoned it and it became politically untenable to support. Before that she was a proud supporter. And afterwards, she continued to pile on $223 million in the kind of federal pork she so vehemently opposes now. Is she fiscally responsible with Alaska’s money? While her office drastically cut spending when compared to her predecessor, she billed Alaska taxpayers for more than 300 nights of travel per diem — when she was at home, sleeping in her own bed. It can be argued there were mitigating circumstances. So let her argue. Palin, who said her children are not political tools and called for privacy when it comes to her family, will be turning her son’s deployment to Iraq into a political event. This is the same woman who derided the press after they began publishing stories about her pregnant daughter — never mind the fact that she had just issued a press release about the situation.

Sarah Palin is tough, the GOP says. Because she can give a speech filled with zingers? Prove it. Sarah Palin can take the heat, the GOP says. Because she feigns offense and cries sexism every time someone stands up to her? Prove it. Sarah Palin is smart, the GOP says. Because she can recite facts written down for her by Bush speechwriters? Prove it. Sarah Palin is transparent, the GOP says. Because she’s been telling lies and half-truths about the very maverick, reform-minded ideals she touts day in and day out? Prove it.

Tonight is Sarah Palin’s chance to prove to the nation that she is all of those things. And she may well be. But she has to prove it. McCain and Co. have to cut the apron strings and let her wade into the fray on her own. She has to face and answer the sort of blistering, complicated, shockingly complex questions with which the potential leader of the free world must wrestle.

It’s high time Gov. Palin speaks for herself. It’s high time she answer her own hard questions. We know she can give a good speech. We know she has become the sort of glittering celebrity the GOP once loathed in their opponent. But it’s time to sit down and prove that she is more than a frontierswoman folk hero. If she can indeed hold her own, so be it. Tonight’s interview must be the first of many.

Are you qualified, governor? Prove it. It’s time to put up or shut up.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Keith Olbermann Hasn't Been to Church Lately

Keith Olbermann needs to go to church more often.

Last night, on “Countdown,” he asked if America was ready for a Vice-President who speaks in tongues, is preparing for the apocalyptic end times and rapture, believes you can pray gay away, and thinks God is interested in her public works programs (“I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that").

Wrinkling his brow, it is clear that Olbermann thinks that Gov. Sarah Palin and those who attend church with her are somehow a cuckoo, minority fringe.

In fact, evangelical Pentecostals are nearly 200 million strong. Palin grew up in an Assembly of God church, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world. The Assemblies, with more than 283,413 churches, has approximately 57 million adherents worldwide. And in the United States, they vote overwhelming Republican, almost exclusively because of the issue of abortion.

Palin’s faith is her business. But like most evangelicals who do not recognize a wall of separation between Church and State, the intersection of Palin’s faith and our politics should be examined.

Like our current president, Gov. Palin painted the current war in Iraq as a messianic affair in which the United States was acting out “a task that is from God.” Ed Kalnins, the pastor of the Wasilla Assemblies of God church where Palin used to worship and still frequently attends, would agree. Kalnins has preached that the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent invasion of Iraq are all part of a “world war” for the Christian faith.

“What you see in a terrorist — that’s called the invisible enemy. There has always been an invisible enemy. What you see in Iraq, basically, is a manifestation of what's going on in this unseen world called the spirit world. ... We are in a time and a season of war, and we need to think like that. We need to develop that instinct. We need to develop as believers the instinct that we are at war, and that war is contending for your faith. ... Jesus called us to die. You're worried about getting hurt? He's called us to die. Listen, you know we can't even follow him unless you are willing to give up your life.”

Pastor Kalnins, who claims God speaks to him and gives him direct “words of knowledge” (again, not unusual), has also preached that President Bush’s critics will be banished to hell (“I hate criticisms towards the President because it's like criticisms towards the pastor. It's almost like, it's not going to get you anywhere, you know, except for hell. That's what it'll get you”), and questioned whether people who voted for Democratic Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted into heaven (“I’m not going tell you who to vote for, but if you vote for this particular person, I question your salvation”).

Depending on your viewpoint, the belief that God has called someone to do something (Kalnins has asserted that Palin’s election to Alaska’s governor’s mansion was the result of a “prophetic call” by another pastor at the church who prayed for her victory; Palin agrees) either endows them with unflinching courage and resolve or terrifying blindness and dogmatic zealotry.

We have seen this scenario with George W. Bush, a president who is not shy about his personal relationship with Jesus Christ and who believes with all his heart that the “war on terror” and many other aspects of his administration are direct charges from God.

My intent is not to try to turn this into another Obama/Rev. Wright polemic. Exactly the opposite, in fact. In the Obama case, Wright’s views were outside the norm. Sarah Palin’s views are not unique — where she works, they are unquestionably the norm.

Whether or not that's extreme, I leave to you.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Best F**King News Team on The Planet Takes on the RNC

As usual, no media outlet covered the Republican convention better than...The Daily Show.

Statistics show that 75 percent of Americans live in large, urban settings. Only a quarter of this country's citizens live in small town America. So the claims that small town American values drive the country are, at the very least, inaccurate.

Think McCain is a maverick? Think his rhetoric is so different from this current, bumbled administration? Think again.

Karl Rove's take on Sarah Palin, sexism, and Republicans who have always believed that a politician's personal life is off limits. Yeah, tell that to Bill Clinton!

Sarah Palin and McCain's vanquished mock community organizing.

If you still aren't convinced, and still hold to the idea that McCain hasn't sold out, you many want to watch this.

And for those who don't think The Daily Show believes in equal opportunity mockery, you'll like this and this.

Friday, September 05, 2008

He Who Must Not Be Named and Other Observations from the Republican Convention

If I had to sum up the final evening of the Republican National Convention in one word it would be (borrowed from a Republican friend): “snoreville.” Graham was boring, Ridge was boring, Cindy McCain was oh-so boring (and scary), and McCain, as usual, was, well, boring…and long. He didn’t give a speech — he gave a series of soundbites linked together, more attacks than facts.

McCain’s language and ideology last night represented a disconcerting schizophrenia. Up until he began running for president, McCain was an inspirational maverick (that’s maverick with an “e” for the delegate caught on tape last night in need of a spell-check). He was known as a crusader, slashing and burning his way through corruption in both parties. He fought fair, often bucked party orthodoxy, and decried partisan rancor. We truly need more men like John McCain. (Or at least the “old” John McCain. Too bad his Karl Rove-influenced evil twin has taken over the bid for the White House.)

So it should come as no surprise that McCain came to the stage last night, boasting of reform, claiming the country is worse off than it was four years ago (are you listening Fred Thompson?), promising change is coming (one of several new themes he stole from Obama and is trying to make his own) and pledging to drain the swamp of Washington. The phrase “Washington is not working” was tucked into nearly every speech from St. Paul. So far, McCain is true to form.

What’s devilishly ironic — and there’s really no escaping this — is that for six of the last eight years, his own party has been in charge of the executive and legislative branches. As The Times said, the party in power is running as if it weren’t. You can understand why he’s doing it. The Bush administration has been a colossal, gargantuan failure and has garnered some of the worst approval ratings in history. Aside from a short, pre-primetime video, Bush was nowhere to be seen. A 9/11 retrospective didn’t even include the leader whose presidency was shaped by that tragic day. Vice President Cheney was not even in the country. Feeling obligated to at least acknowledge the Commander in Chief, McCain thanked “the president” without ever naming him. Even the word “Republican” was nowhere to be seen this week — not on signs or electronic displays. There seems to be no way McCain can win unless he runs against himself.

Though McCain and Bush cannot be mistaken for friends, their past (and future) are inexorably linked. For all McCain’s talk of reform and change, some simple facts remain. How can McCain cry “change” with a straight face when, according to Congressional Quarterly’s assessment of his record, he voted in line with Bush 95 percent of the time?! From Iraq on down, McCain has been in near lock step with the Bush Administration. Try as he might to escape Bush’s shadow, McCain’s policies, when he obliges to share them, reveal nothing remotely approaching the change he champions.

On the economy, he’s offered no prescription for ending the mortgage-driven crisis or for fixing the massive fiscal problems Mr. Bush is leaving in his wake. On the contrary, the mantra from St. Paul this week is that the economy is fine and Americans are still a bunch of whiners. McCain’s offered no solution for getting us out of Iraq, much less paying for it. His answer to the energy crisis is to smile gleefully while conventioneers enthusiastically wave signs reading “Drill Baby Drill!” Fighting terrorism? As of early Thursday night, NBC did a word search of every speech offered at the convention. Afghanistan, the real front line in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, was not mentioned even once.

How does McCain intend to reform the party when he cannot even reform himself? Even the vibrant, youthful Sarah Palin is the same cynical, caricatured, old-line Republicanism simply wrapped in flashy, new clothes. Facing a stinging presidential defeat, McCain is trying to convince the American people that the Republicans, still engorged with the old guard, somehow transformed overnight. Good luck.

Further observations from the RNC:

• The Republicans appeared far more united than their Democratic counterparts, still trying to heal the rifts of their rancorous primary season, did.

• If you went to an Ivy League university, the preeminent learning institutions on the planet (that, coincidently many Republicans, including the current President attended) you are an elite snob and completely out of touch with the American people.

• Torture is A-OK. Despite McCain’s horrific experiences in a POW camp and a bill he wrote to protect prisoners, basic human rights were mocked in St. Paul. “Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights,” Gov. Palin said of Sen. Obama, in a refrain repeated several times from the stage. In reality, all Obama wants is to give basic human rights to the prisoners incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay — only a handful of whom are Qaeda members — as a way to protect them from torture and realign our national policy with the Constitution and the Geneva Convention.

• Looking out over the crowd in St. Paul, one thing was glaringly obvious. Almost everyone was white. According a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News, 93 percent of the Republican delegates are white (higher than at least the past two conventions), five percent are Hispanic and only two percent are black. In contrast, Democratic Denver was 65 percent white, 23 percent black and 11 percent Hispanic, a Democratic convention norm. While roughly half of the Democratic delegates were men, nearly 70 percent off all Republicans were male. This is the party of change? Given America’s dramatic demographic changes, can the Republicans afford not to broaden their appeal and ranks with people of color?

• Could the videos have been any more saccharine? They made the Democrats’ look positively austere. I also enjoyed the selective memory evidenced in Cindy McCain’s, never mentioning (not that I assumed it would) her father’s many financial, legal and moral indiscretions.

• Last night’s 9/11 tribute was the height of manipulation, one half macabre nostalgia and one half blatant fear mongering. If any news outlet broadcast the graphic amount of footage the Republicans did last night, they would have been vilified for their complete lack of sensitivity. It was the most footage of the fateful day as I’ve seen since then the events took place.

• Note to whomever was running the giant screen during McCain’s speech: could you have found nothing better than bright green or bright blue backdrops?! We’ve been through this before, haven’t we? Sick ‘im Colbert Nation!

• The Republican National Convention was about Sarah Palin, not John McCain. She gobbled up all the accolades and attention. She delivered the better speech. Some Republicans see a danger in this. Why? A vote for her is a vote for him and when all the hoopla settles, he’s still the one ahead. And yet, at the same time, win or lose, Palin represents the next generation. A Republican friend on the Hill wrote me this morning saying: “If she doesn't implode, Sarah is the future. For some reason, the nerd in me thinks of the scene in Empire Strikes Back when Luke Skywalker rushes early out of his training with Yoda, and the ghost of Ben Kenobi says desolately to Yoda, ‘that boy is our only hope.’ Yoda looks off into the distance and says resolutely, ‘No. There is another.’”

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Beyond the Pale

Sarah Palin, now the official Republican Vice Presidential nominee, certainly hit it out of the park last night. It was a brilliant speech. For those concerned about whether or not the governor of Alaska would fold under the pressure, she certainly alleviated those fears in quick order. She was an authentic, white, working-class voice, and an effective messenger for Republican ideals. There is no way John McCain will be able to do better tonight.

Too bad there was little substance to anything she said. But then, as McCain recently stated, this election is about personalities not issues. And there is no bigger personality right now than Sarah Palin. Republicans fell all over themselves last night, declaring her a luminous superstar, saying she inspired all who fell beneath her spell, that she quickened the blood and made them feel good about themselves again. This is, ironically, exactly the sort of criticism leveled at Barack Obama’s supposed showmanship and lack of substance. Very interesting.

The speech, written by a veteran Bush scribe, wisely steered her away from her more extremist views — global warming, creationism, pork, etc. All polarizing views except abortion that is. Abortion is front and center once again. Abortion is the new abortion. And it seems to have electrified the base. If there are moderate voices in the party, they are not getting airtime this week.

Still, I am not sure that her snarky sarcasm, bitchy mockery and outright condescension was the right tone. Oh sure, the hall and the base loved her combativeness, but will it appeal to the critical independents and swing voters? She’s shown that so far she is adept at playing the V.P. role — attack dog — but the manner in which she did it may come back to haunt her. What plays one way in the heartland can play very differently in the brainland.

Is it really all that wise to attack community organizers as do-nothings, people whose job is specifically to speak up for underrepresented, the poor, the disenfranchised and those who cannot speak up for themselves. Only a Republican could get away with that. Only a Republican would dare. Only a Republican wouldn’t see anything wrong in it.

In a night in which the millionaire former governor of Massachusetts decried rich, East coast elites, Palin also saw no irony in vilifying “the permanent political establishment in Washington,” despite the fact that her new boss has been a United States Senator for nearly three decades. But then again, she jabbed at Obama’s decided lack of executive experience when the aforementioned McCain also lacks a single day of said executive practice.

It seems that the experience debate is not off the table after all. I’d have thought it an argument neither side wanted to dwell on. But it seems the Republican are more than happy to put their new standard bearer forward as a perfect example of Republicanism for the 21st century. Too bad that, while Palin and her people complain about media bias, her own party’s cheerleaders, including former speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan and Republican consultant Mike Murphy were caught on a hot mike yesterday ridiculing McCain’s choice of Palin — going so far as to call it “bullshit” — belittling her lack of experience, and stating emphatically, “It’s over!”

The choice of Gov. Palin is either the most brilliant or most absurd thing John McCain has ever done. She will either conjure magic or be regarded as a colossal misstep. It remains to be seen which way the pendulum will swing. It is far too early to tell. Despite a blistering introduction last night, the real race is just beginning.

P.S. In a tangential aside, I sent NBC’s political director, Chuck Todd, an e-mail last night. He responded, via his Blackberry, within moments, from the convention floor, between commentary spots. Amazing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A noun. A verb. And a POW camp.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of it or not, but I’ve been astonished to learn this week that John McCain was a POW! I know he never mentions it, but it seems to be the only thing all the speakers in Minneapolis/St. Paul can get out. Bush, Thompson, Huckabee, Giuliani, Palin — each of them seem to have nothing better to talk about.

Wait a second. Come to think of it, maybe I have heard this refrain before.

While criticizing a proposed Woodstock museum, McCain said he wasn’t sure what there was to celebrate. After all, he was all “tied up” during the music festival.

On healthcare, McCain aides have declared their boss knows what it is like to get inadequate care “from another government.”

When confronted about having received advance notice of the questions at the Saddleback forum, a McCain spokeswoman stated, “The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous.”

When McCain’s people came to his defense after he couldn’t recall how many houses he owned, they said, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”

When McCain tried to defend him lack of recall on Leno, he said, “Could I just mention…I spent five and a half years in a prison cell. I didn't have a house, I didn't have a kitchen table, I didn't have a table, I didn't have a chair...”

This is the same McCain who feigned insult when Gen. Wesley Clark dared to suggest that having been a POW doesn’t qualify you for the presidency. When asked, on Face the Nation, how his Vietnam experience prepared him for the Oval Office, McCain recoiled in his chair, uttering a distasteful, “Please!”

It’s time for McCain to lose the POW propaganda.

It cheapens and devalues the experiences of millions of veterans — including his and mine. He and his people need to stop using his experience in Vietnam as a shield to deflect answering the real, tough questions.

Stop hiding behind your service, Senator. I can’t help but admire and respect you and your service record, to say nothing for the horrors you lived through. But it’s time to lose the POW crutch. Enough already.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Palin Post I No Longer Need to Write

I know, I know...where in the world have I been? Obama picks a V.P. The Democratic National Convention. McCain picks a V.P. And nary a word from me.

I've simply been too busy. Work. Screenings. Heck, I haven't even had a decent night's sleep in nearly a month. Between two weeks of the Olympics, the Dems in Denver and now McCain and Co. kicking it off in the Twin Cities, I've been lucky to go to bed before 2am since the Opening Ceremonies!

Which is not to say I don't have anything to say. With each milestone I've wanted to offer my two cents but have been too ensconced in other details to get around to it.

Perhaps a few quick and dirty summarizations are in order.

Biden: Not exactly the most inspirational choice but certainly the wisest. And he's been growing on me. I don't feel Biden's insider status undercuts Obama's sense of change. After all, the President sets the direction and the Vice President tacks that line. (Present administration excluded). Biden is yet another example of Obama surrounding himself with the smartest people in the room, and the senator from Delaware certainly fits the bill. Now if he can only keep his big mouth shut!

The Democratic National Convention: Sure, it's a week long infomercial, political theatrics at their best, one part official business and nine parts circus, but Denver was easily the best convention I've ever seen staged. Michelle was poised and graceful, Hillary was passionate and resolute, Bill was surprising and dynamic, Biden was ferocious and authentic, and Obama's acceptance speech was simply sublime. It had the perfect balance of soaring rhetoric and nitty gritty details. It had the swell of history and the spice of future promise. And it just plain looked amazing set amongst 80,000 people in Mile High. That the first African-American nominee of any major political party was confirmed on the anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech is a piece of delicious fate. Truly, we must never turn back.

The Republican National Convention: Big surprise that the Republicans have curtailed much of their convention for the next day or so. They say it is so all attention can be focused on the potential destruction hurricane Gustav may bring, but, in reality, the last thing they want are New Orleans' residents evoking images from three years ago when Bush was helping McCain blow out the forrest of candles on his birthday cake while Katrina surged ashore. Rumor has it both Bush and Cheney will skip the convention alltogether to manage relief efforts. I'm sure McCain is all broken up about that.

So that just leaves Sarah "I'm pro-life unless you're a polar bear" Palin. McCain's pick is shameless pandering to Hillary's disenfranchised (good luck getting more than a handful given her staunchly anti-abortion stance). And it shows a staggering lack of judgement and shameful willingness to win at absolutely all costs. McCain picked Palin to help him win an election, not lead a country.

As I was getting ready to write something on the choice of the Alaska governor, a dear friend posted a commentary that sums up everything I feel and then some. I've copied and pasted his post below, or you can read it in it's original location here.

And so without further ado:

"Senator McCain's choice for his running mate is not first a political issue for me, it angers me as an American. Let's break it down, shall we?

Sarah Palin will enter the race with a high school basketball championship, a victory in the Wasilla, Alaska Beauty Contest, a University of Idaho journalism degree, a one-year-old passport, two terms as the mayor of a village, and 20 months on the job as the governor of the fourth smallest and arguably least typical state in the country. I know what you just did. I did it too. You just thought, "I could have done that." Okay, maybe most of us couldn't have, but it's not a huge leap. Yeah, yeah, the beauty contest thing would be an absolute impossibility for some of us.

What's the big deal? Don't we want someone in the White House that's a lot like us? No! Not me. I want someone very, very different from me! Someone much better than me should occupy the most important chair in the world. Palin is probably a pretty impressive person, but she doesn't get in the same arena with the people running for this office. Dan Quayle was an impressive nominee next to this.

So why am I mad? Because John McCain gave such little thought to the well-being of his country when he made this decision. A colleague who may prefer to remain anonymous gave me a boost on this analysis. Currently, there is about a 50/50 chance that 72-year-old McCain will be elected the oldest president in our history at the beginning of his term. I'm no medical doctor, but add his multiple bouts with cancer into the mix and he couldn't have more than a 50 percent chance of surviving his first administration. Charlie Black, one of McCain's top advisers, said that "most doctors think that he will be around at least that long." Most? There are some doctors who think otherwise? Perhaps we should get a second opinion. Let me finish crunching the numbers. This means that there is a 25-30 percent chance Sarah Palin will be President of the United States. Soon. Black goes on to say Palin is "going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years." So, she's going to be taking the train home to Wilmington, Delaware to Joe Biden's house each night? No, seriously. Seriously? What if she doesn't have four years to study? They don't have a GED for president, do they?

Are you kidding me? This is scary. We could have a president in a matter of months who has no demonstrable knowledge of world affairs, no national security experience whatsoever, no experience with broad domestic policies or economic issues, but who has shot a moose.

Let's ignore for the moment that Palin is a strident culture warrior on life issues, a supporter of mandated creationism in public schools, and does not believe human activity is the cause for global warming, this is just a terrible management decision. One that was so bad, everyone (Republicans included) was in stunned silence at first. Of course the GOP has fallen in line, what else are they going to do?

Is John McCain's judgment that bad, or does he just have no regard for us (his country) at all?

Pundits say that at the very least it nullifies the experience argument, since Obama is inexperienced too. Again, are you kidding me? Pay attention to this one, because this is the analysis you'll only get here.

Even if you believe that Senator Obama's Ivy League degrees, Harvard Law Review, years as a community organizer, multiple terms as an Illinois state senator from Chicago, and four years as a U.S. Senator still leave his resume thin, consider that he has served for nearly two years as the CEO of the largest and arguably most disciplined and successful grassroots campaign in our history winning support of tens of millions of voters along the way. He went on to pass the experience test when world leader after world leader parroted his ideas, and nearly a quarter of a million people came out to hear him speak in Germany. He passed the experience test when dozens of decorated generals publicly endorsed him and supported his views on national security, and when economic experts across the country in academia and political administrations certified his economic plans as sound. He passed all those tests, then in his first real presidential decision he selected a running mate whose experience far surpasses John McCain's.

Sarah Palin does not meet the experience test and she was not vetted by election, she was appointed. I'm sure she is a great person. People testify to her plain-spokenness and her maverick style. She's a member of the NRA for gosh sakes. I'm sure she's a hoot. A spitfire. A veritable ring-tailed tooter. She's a pistol, for sure. Unfortunately, we're not auditioning for Annie Get Your Gun. This is the real deal. And it's important, damn it.

Someone may be tempted to make gender bias my issue. Sorry. I have two beautiful daughters, and I desperately hope for a woman president. No sexism here, latent or otherwise.

This is about judgment. John McCain has failed this test so miserably, he deserves disqualification on this ground alone.

I guess there is one positive thing to come from the Palin selection. Once again, in this country, we can believe that anyone can be president. And I mean, anyone."
Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus