Wednesday, October 29, 2008
If You Vote for Obama, You Are Going to Hell!
Gotta love Janet Porter. In her latest article to WorldNetDaily, she warns all Christians who plan to vote for Barack Obama that they should also plan on a one way trip straight to hell.
She doesn't mean a collapsed economy, or increased socialism or any other such hyperbole. She literally means hell. As in fire and brimstone.
To all those who name the name of Christ who plan to willfully disobey Him by voting for Obama, take warning. Not only is our nation in grave danger, according to the Word of God, so are you ... [T]his election is not about race. It's not about the economy. It's about obeying God.
Be forewarned: If you willfully disobey God on life and marriage because of race or false hope for the economy, you will usher in the kind of change that brought the Soviet Union to collapse.
Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:21-23)
For Porter, the choice is a simple one: McCain equals heaven and Obama equals hell.
To those who call themselves by the name of Christ who ignore what God says about life and marriage, who and are clinging to a fantasy of economic gain, think again ... Then obey Him in the voting booth and out of it. If not, do us all a favor and quit calling yourself a Christian.
It's not a total loss. I have it on good authority that they have great BBQ in hell!
I don’t hear many conservatives talking very much about the ever-growing defections within the GOP. Not that I would if I were in their shoes. “We’re fighting a civil war,” is how one GOP operative put it this week. It seems that every day more and more Republicans are abandoning the sinking ship of the Grand Old Party. No, that’s not right. Not simply abandoning ship. Jumping, swimming the choppy seas, and dragging themselves safely aboard the other team’s ship is more like it.
This is not normal. Competing political teams don’t usually align themselves promiscuously with the perceived victors just because they are the perceived victors. There has to be more to it than that. There has to be something that leads them to believe that their own side is fundamentally flawed in some way, or that the other side can better lead the country than their own.
Have you checked out the list lately?
Colin Powell, Secretary of State under Bush 43
"...he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world-- onto the world state, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama."
Scott McClellan, Former Press Secretary to President George W. Bush
"From the beginning I have said I am going to support the candidate that has the best chance for changing the way Washington works and getting things done and I will be voting for Barack Obama and clapping."
Susan Eisenhower, Granddaughter of President Eisenhower & President of the Eisenhower Group
"Given Obama's support among young people, I believe that he will be most invested in defending the interests of these rising generations and, therefore, the long-term interests of this nation as a whole."
Douglas Kmiec, Head of the Office of Legal Counsel under Reagan & Bush 41
"I was first attracted to government by Ronald Reagan, who lives in our national memory as a great leader and an inspiring communicator. Senator Obama has these gifts as well, but of course, more rhetorical flourish without substance would be worth little. Is there more to Senator Obama? I believe there is."
Charles Fried, Solicitor General of the United States under Reagan
"I admire Senator McCain and was glad to help in his campaign, and to be listed as doing so; but when I concluded that I must vote for Obama for the reason states in my letter, I felt it wrong to appear to be recommending to others a vote that I was not prepared to cast myself."
Jackson M. Andrews, Former Counsel to the U.S. Senate, & 1986 Republican Senatorial Nominee for Kentucky
"Barack Obama is a thoughtful visionary leader who as President will end the decline of American law, liberty, and fiscal responsibility that are the hallmarks of the extremist policies of the current Administration, now adopted by John McCain."
Francis Fukuyama, Advisor to President Reagan
"...Obama probably has the greatest promise of delivering a different kind of politics."
Rita Hauser, Former White House intelligence advisor under George W. Bush "McCain will continue the wrong-headed foreign policy decisions of Bush, while Obama will take us in a new direction."
Larry Hunter, Former President Reagan Policy Advisor
"I suspect Obama is more free-market friendly than he lets on. He taught at the University of Chicago, a hotbed of right-of-center thought. His economic advisers, notably Austan Goolsbee, recognize that ordinary citizens stand to gain more from open markets than from government meddling."
Bill Ruckelshaus, served in the Nixon and Reagan administrations
"I'm not against McCain, I'm for Obama."
Ken Adelman, served in the Ford administration
"The most important decision John McCain made in his long campaign was deciding on a running mate. That decision showed appalling lack of judgment... that selection contradicted McCain's main two, and best two, themes for his campaign-- Country First, and experience counts. Neither can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick."
Timothy Ashby, served in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations
"America needs a courageous and innovative president rather than one such as John McCain who would only perpetuate the failed Bush policies. On Nov. 4, this Reagan Republican is voting for Barack Obama."
Lilibet Hagel, Wife of Republican Senator Chuck Hagel
"This election is not about fighting phantom issues churned out by a top-notch slander machine. Most important, it is not about distracting the public-- you and me-- with whatever slurs someone thinks will stick."
Bruce Rabb, served in the Nixon administration
George C. Lodge, Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Eisenhower
William B. Ewald, Jr., Special Assistant under President Eisenhower
Robert R. Bowie, Assistant Secretary for Policy Planning, Department of state 1953-1957
Jarold Kieffer, Assistant Secretary, Health, Education & Welfare, 1959-61
Roswell B. Perkins, Assistant Secretary, Health, Education & Welfare, 1954-56
Jim Leach, Former Congressman from Iowa
"For me, the national interest comes before party concerns, particularly internationally. We do need a new direction in American policy, and Obama has a sense of that."
Lincoln Chafee, Former United States Senator from Rhode Island
"As I look at the candidates in order who to vote for, certainly my kind of conservatism was reflected with Senator Obama, and those points are that we're fiscally conservative, we care about revenues matching expenditures, we also care about the environment, I think it's a traditional conservative value to care about clean air and clean water."
William Weld, Former Governor of Massachusetts
"It's not often you get a guy with his combination of qualities, chief among which I would say is the deep sense of calm he displays, and I think that's a product of his equally deep intelligence."
Arne Carlson, Former Governor of Minnesota
"I think we have in Barack Obama the clear possibility of a truly great president. I would contend that it's the most important election of my lifetime."
Wayne Gilchrest, Congressman from Maryland
"We can't use four more years of the same kind of policy that's somewhat haphazard, which leads to recklessness."
Charles Mathias, Former Congressman from Maryland
"My decision is based on the long-range needs of our country and which of these two candidates I feel is better suited to recharge America's economic health, restore its prestige abroad and inspire anew all people who cherish freedom and equality. For me, that person is Barack Obama."
Larry Pressler, Former Senator from South Dakota
"I just got the feeling that Obama will be able to handle this financial crisis better, and I like his financial team of [former Treasury Secretary Robert] Rubin and [former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul] Volcker better."
Richard Riordan, Former Mayor of Los Angeles
"I'm still a Republican, but I still will always vote for the person who I think will do the best job."
Lowell Weicker, Former Governor and Senator from Connecticut
"At issue is not the partisan politics of two parties, rather the image we have of ourselves as Americans. Senator Obama brings wisdom, kindness, and common sense to what is both his and our quest for a better America."
Jim Whitaker, Fairbanks, Alaska Mayor
"If we are as a nation concerned with energy, then our consideration should be a national energy policy that is not predicated on crude oil 50 years into the future. We need to get to it, and I think Barack Obama is very clear in that regard."
Linwood Holton, Former Governor of Virginia
"Obama has a brain, and he isn't afraid to use it."
Columnists and Academics:
Christopher Buckley, Son of National Review founder William F. Buckley & former NR columnist
"Obama has in him-- I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy 'We are the people we have been waiting for' silly rhetoric-- the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for."
Andrew Sullivan, Columnist for the Atlantic Monthly
"Obama's legislative record, speeches, and the way he has run his campaign reveal, I think, a very even temperament, a very sound judgment, and an intelligent pragmatism. Prudence is a word that is not inappropriate to him."
CC Goldwater, Granddaughter of Barry Goldwater
"Nothing about the Republican tickets offers the hope America needs to regain its standing in the world, that's why we're going to support Barack Obama."
Jeffrey Hart, National Review Senior Editor
"It turns out that these political parties are not always either liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican. The Democrat, under certain conditions, can be the conservative."
Andrew Bacevich, Professor of International Relations at Boston University
"For conservatives, Obama represents a sliver of hope. McCain represents none at all. The choice turns out to be an easy one."
David Friedman, Economist and son of Milton and Rose Friedman
"I hope Obama wins. President Bush has clearly been a disaster from the standpoint of libertarians and conservatives because he has presided over an astonishing rise in government spending."
Wick Alison, Former publisher of the National Review
"I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses. But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history."
Michael Smerconish, Columnist for the Philadelphia Enquirer
"...an Obama presidency holds the greatest chance for unifying us here at home and restoring our prestige around the globe."
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
After Sunday’s New York Times Magazine story detailing the McCain campaign’s throw-anything-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks version of campaigning, it seems something may have finally found its mark: socialism. Or at least it has with the conservative readers of this blog. Too bad it’s a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
I’m wondering if anyone watched “Meet the Press” this Sunday? Sen. McCain was the only guest, and he was asked if he honestly thought that Obama would have advisors like Warren Buffet; Paul Volcker, the former Chairman of the Fed under Reagan; Bob Rubin, former Treasury Secretary; and Christopher Buckley, son of the founder of modern conservatism helping him craft his fiscal policy if they really thought Obama was a socialist.
McCain didn’t have an answer and nor has any other conservative I posited that question to since. If Obama’s plan is really so dire, if it is really so Marxist, if it is really so anti-Capitalism, then why are so many of the most admired money men in the country endorsing it? (Yesterday, “The Financial Times” also endorsed Obama.)
Then McCain was played clips of himself from recent years saying almost verbatim the things Obama has been saying (spreading the wealth around, the rich should pay more, etc.). Of little surprise, McCain had no comment.
Finally, McCain was asked how his desire to nationalize the banks earlier this month wasn't a form of socialism. Instead of trying to deny it, he admitted that that’s exactly what it was. But, he added, these are desperate time and desperate times call for desperate measures.
So let me get this straight, when Obama calls for it, it's Marxist socialism, but when McCain calls for it, it's a heroic stand in the midst of an emergency situation?
McCain’s supporters can’t have it both ways. And neither can the Senator.
At the end of it all, however, I wonder why so many of my readers are up in arms. Is it personal or is it principle? Last I checked, none of my readers made more than $250,000 a year and therefore, wouldn’t pay the sort of tax increases that would supposedly be used to spread their wealth around. I guess it’s purely an altruistic gesture.
Spreading the Wealth Around
I find that some of the most vocal objections to Socialism (especially Socialism as laid at the feet of Sen. Obama) come from my Christian friends.
This to me is the height of irony. The Book of Acts is held up as the paradigm of the Christian utopia. It describes exactly what Christianity looked like following Christ’s resurrection as the fledging religion tried to form itself into a something resembling the teachings of its master.
Acts 4: 32-35 says: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”
Sounds like spreading the wealth around to me.
Wherever did the early Church get the idea from?
Might it have been from the teachings of Jesus Christ who called all people his brethren (Matthew 23:8), told his followers that they should love their neighbors as they loved themselves (Matthew 22:39), and to do to others what we want done to us (Matthew 7:12)? Might it have been Christ who said to give to anyone who asks (Luke 6:30), and let “everyone who possesses two shirts share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise” (Luke 3:11)?
Christ spoke continually about delivering the poor (Luke 4:18) and constantly warned the rich that their wealth imperiled their souls (Luke 6:24, Matthew 6:24, Matthew 19:23). Christ (and therefore God’s) ideal plan for humankind was one of concern for all people. He modeled a life poor in material things and for centuries afterwards, those who called themselves Christians were characterized by their cooperative fellowships.
Socialism is practical Christianity.
I’m not advocating for the overthrow of Capitalism or anything. I’m just pointing out to some of my Christian friends, who are among the most strident in opposing Obama’s supposed Robin Hood policies, that it was their own Lord and Savior who commanded such behavior in the first place.
Monday, October 27, 2008
If God Is For You...
For those of you not raised in the church, particularly the Pentecostal church, you may not be aware that many people believe that God, even today, continues to speak to His children. Some claim this occurs audibly, while others hear God only as a still, small voice within them — like a conscience or their own thoughts. While most of the time God “speaks” to an individual for their own edification, many Christians also believe that God dispenses “words of knowledge” directed at another person or a larger group. Depending on what church you attend, these so-called words of knowledge can occur infrequently or as often as every time the congregation gathers together.
One thing is for sure, God starts getting real chatty every four years, right around election time. The words of knowledge come fast and furious, and shockingly enough, they always seem to focus on the righteousness and manifest destiny of whomever is heading the Republican ticket for President of the Unites States. In all my years growing up in the charismatic movement, I never once heard God speak in favor of a Democrat. Quite the contrary, God spoke of Democrats using words like “abomination,” “depraved,” “immorality” and “grieving the heart of God.” These words of knowledge always ended with some admonition to make America a Christian nation again, and that if the people prayed hard enough, God’s blessings would return. If God’s people didn’t obey, American would continue its rapid slide into wickedness and sin.
It’s enough to make one think God is a Republican.
This election is no different. Though I no longer attend the sorts of churches in which such pronouncements are accepted, I manage to keep up via friends. Recently a dear friend, whom I respect very much, forwarded me an e-mail that had been sent to him. It contained a message he believed with all his heart, as did the author. I, of course, have a different take, but I’ll save that until after you’ve read the text. I’ve reproduced it here as it was sent to me, minus some spelling errors that my obsessive compulsiveness forced me to repair:
(Note: In the Bible, Esther was a Jewish maiden conscripted to be the Queen of the King of Persia. At a time when nefarious forces were conspiring to butcher all Jews living within Persia, Esther intervened and rescued her people from certain genocide.)
This past Tuesday, the McCain / Palin Bus came through a little town called, Lebanon, Ohio. The LORD allowed me to go to the Rally giving them a message that He wanted me to personally deliver.
Sunday Night - a burden hit me that would only shake me to my knees - I prayed and wept for our Nation. Never has my heart been so broken before God. I literally interceded for these wonderful people who do not deserve all the hate against them. The GOD-Haters are going to try everything to stop them, but they will not succeed!
God is not pleased with the 'bashing' in the News of this 'Anointed' person. He has called her for this time! I promised God that I would pray and hold them up in prayer. I would 'listen' out and be mindful of where they were. The following day is important in this time-line...because I didn't even know until God spoke to me...
Monday and into Monday Night - the burden of prayer was so heavy that I was literally shaking and could not stop weeping. I didn't know that they were coming to Ohio. I prayed and walked and wept and walked. I prayed and prayed and wept and prayed...
Tuesday at 2:00 A.M. - God spoke these words to me - '...Go turn the Radio on! Immediately the the Reporter's Words were - 'McCain & Palin Bus to be in Lebanon later this morning for a 10:00 A.M. Rally!'
Immediately on hearing that news, I heard God again...
God said, 'You are to go. You will meet them and give them a message for Me!'
I prayed as an intercessor and went to a place in prayer that I don't think I've ever been...because the LORD had just visited me...and I knew I was on a 'Mission.' I had now been up since Sunday Night...and now it's Tuesday and I've got to go on the 'WORD of the LORD.' He sure became My Strength as this unfolds...
I didn't stop praying until I drove over to the town and parked the car. The News would later report they were expecting 5,000 people and the actual head-count of those who had been scanned was more than 10,000 people.
I simply obeyed...and God actually told me where to stand, who to talk to...and when to be on the move. I had sure learned on the Mission Field, when God wants to open a door, He will do it at the appropriate time. He always has someone to assist...and even those stand ing beside you may just be an Angel.
I struck up a conversation with an agent on the ground - he simply said, 'I can't allow you to stand here!' Here is where the bus was going to actual pull up to. They had to make a much larger perimeter so the entire area was now being moved back several blocks. The only other thing he told me to do was to go through the metal detector zone and just watch from the back. So, that's what I did.
Due to sensitivity of the internet...I can't share much of the story as to what happened next was a definite GOD THING ALL THE WAY.
Looking over the shoulders and backs and heads of all those people...I knew it would take a miracle for what GOD told me to do.
As I was standing there, two Boy Scouts came running up my back...literally, they almost knocked me to the ground because they w ere running so fast behind me...up my back and over to the right. These Boy Scouts were about Junior High Age. Their Scout Leader and several others were behind them...but as the two out front was trying to push through the crowd, saying they were late...the smaller scouts were left in the dust. The Scout Leader who was with a McCain Rep from the State grabbed me and told me bring the other Scouts up front as they try to keep up with the first two that just came through.
I just became the leader of the rest of the Scouts to lead them right up front and center. As the Rep was shouting back at me...to bring the Scouts forward...the people parted just like God parted the Red Sea.
I marched them boys right up front and to the right of the stage as one was looking from the back. When I got there I was fifteen feet from the podium. GOD said, 'Stand here, and don't move from this spot.'
Within five minutes...the bus pulled up and around the other side McCain, Sarah Palin and her husband Todd stepped up and the speeches took off. I was where God placed me...and even Sarah Palin and Todd were standing on my side of the stage. I made eye contact, I gave them thumbs up gestures...and I knew they were just happy to see me standing there. Ha Ha
When they came around the podium and started on the other side, I knew they were coming right toward me, a little lady who stood by me, reached up and told the Rep that they had promised a Picture with her because she was the one who had lost a son in Iraq, recently. The Rep confirmed she would get a pic with them and they would talk to her. When McCain came to hug her... he immediately shook my hand and following his moment with her, I shook his hand as he grabbed my hand, now for the second time, and I said, 'God wants you to know that I'm praying for you, Sir!' He thanked me and kept smiling. I repeated that phrase to him five times. He grabbed my hands and looked right into my eyes and said, 'I won't make it without prayer. Sir, Thank You for praying for me, and don't let one day go by that you don't pray for me. I need all the prayers that I can get. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!'
As he moved to my right, Sarah Palin, came over to my left side...standing over the crowd and then looking at the little lady who had lost the son. It took a moment for her to shake some hands and people were pushing in all around. Sarah came and got on her hands and knees on that side of the stage and hugged that little Mom, telling her, '...it was not in vain.' She promised her support.
It was at this moment Sarah Palin, reached out for me to help her up and as I was assisting her to stand I was now face to face with her and GOD said, 'Open up your Mouth and I will fill it.'
Here is what came out...
'God wants you to know that you are a present day Esther!' [She immediately began to cry]! God wants to tell you that you are Chosen for such a time as this! You are called, and chosen to be a leader. Don't lose heart and don't fear man. The news and naysayers and criticizers are going to be very hateful toward you...and in the days ahead they are going to turn up the heat...but do not fear. You are a present day Esther. You are an Esther. You are an Esther! Keep your eyes on GOD and know that He has chosen you to Reign! Stay strong...be strong...don't tire. Don't be weary in well-doing. Be strong.'
Her husband Todd came over and I told him what I told her. He began to cry. I emphasized the fact that he was to guard her at this time...and know that '...she is GOD-CALLED and GOD-ANOINTED...this is a GOD-THING and your wife is a Present day Esther...she is for God to use at this time...She is an Esther...she is an Esther...she is an Esther. You will be hated...but stand strong...GOD has called both of you to stand! We are praying and I am praying for you...!'
At this moment, McCain came right to where I was finishing talking to Todd and I told Mr. Mc Cain exactly what I told to Sarah and Todd Palin.
'Mr. McCain, they are called of God and she is an Esther. Don't lose hope and don't lose heart. We are praying for all of you!'
He shook my hand and with a deep look of understanding what I had just said, he said, 'Thank you for your prayers and support...I really do mean that!' And he turned and shook more hands...and I watched them as they went through the crowd.
When I got to my car I sat there for quite a long time...knowing the GOD of the Universe had just used me to deliver a message confirming to Sarah and Todd to realize they are truly chosen vessels of God.
I wept. I have not stopped praying and crying. My heart is full knowing they had to have all the staging and all the hype and all the crowd...but the GOD of Heaven and Earth...wanted to give them a Divine-God-Appointment!
To God be all the GLORY and HONOR.
According to this pastor, God has “chosen Palin to reign.” It is in His divine plan. She is “God’s anointed one.” (Sorry Sen. McCain, looks like you’re just keeping her seat warm).
So if McCain/Palin win next Tuesday, as one would expect they will given that the “God of Heaven and Earth” has their back, these Christians will rejoice that His will has been done on earth.
But what if the Republicans lose? Well, Christians who believe this way have an air-tight, fallback position for that too. Whenever anything happens that contradicts what God predicted, no one assumes that the supposed prophet heard God incorrectly, or that God never spoke in the first place. Instead, the excuse is made that Christians didn’t pray hard enough or didn’t act quickly enough when God moved them, and as a result, they and the nation are being punished with a leader God never wanted to see in power. Case closed. They say this despite the fact that Daniel 2:21 says that God, not man, “removeth kings, and setteth up kings.”
If Barack Obama is elected President of the Untied States next week, don’t expect fundamentalist Christians to welcome him. According to the Bible, Christians are told to show respect and honor for those in government office, especially for those who rule over them (1 Peter 2:13-17). In fact, Scripture says that it is sinful to dishonor leaders and show contempt for the authority and rule that God has set up (2 Peter 2:10; Jude 8). And 1Timothy 2:1-2 exhorts Christians to give “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks…for kings, and for all that are in authority.”
These verses are parroted enthusiastically during Republican administrations and conveniently overlooked during Democratic ones. When Bill Clinton was President, he was viewed as an abomination and mocked and vilified at every opportunity. I know Christians who have pictures of George W. Bush hanging on their walls at home like he’s some sort of relative. Would these same people hang an image of Barack Obama, someone who also claims to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Not a chance.
One thing is for certain. On November 4th, either God’s divine plan will fall into place and His anointed one will rise to power, or an imposter will take her place, a man some Christians see as none other than the Anti-Christ, the vanguard of Armageddon and the End Times, the cataclysmic end of all life on earth.
And who am I to argue? After all, when was the last time God popped down and chatted with me? Would I be so blasphemous as to defy God? What good is quoting contradicting Scripture when one hears directly from the source?
Focus on the Family Has a Time Machine!
The mega para-church organization, Focus on the Family has a time machine and they’ve used it to send a message back from 2012!
In the letter, a Christian from 2012 paints a bleak picture of America: terrorists have struck numerous American cities leaving catastrophic death tolls. Russia is blitzkrieging across Eastern Europe. Israel is enveloped in a nuclear winter. Christians are brutally attacked for their faith. Boy Scout leaders are openly having sex with their young charges. The elderly are flatly denied health care. Married homosexuals prance in the streets of all 50 states, tripping on the fetuses of the millions of aborted children littering the sidewalks.
And how did this nightmare scenario come to be, you ask? Look no further than the election of Democrat Barack Obama!
According to Focus on the Family’s “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America,” all these and more are plausible scenarios if Obama becomes President of the United States. The letter is especially written as an appeal to young evangelicals who it claims provided the numbers to push Obama over the edge and defeat John McCain.
Hmm, do you think the religious conservative movement is terrified of losing the election and seeing their once-dominant Religious Right and its leaders, like James Dobson, vanish into irrelevancy? Their horror, in the face of what looks like a growing inevitability, is palpable.
Not that this sort of attack is in any way uncommon from the so-called Moral Majority. Doom and gloom is what they do best. (The publisher of the Pentecostal magazine Charisma recently said that “Life As We Know It Will End If Obama is Elected.”) However, this unmitigated piece of filth represents a new low of blatant, barefaced fear mongering.
Focus on the Family stands by their letter, saying “If it is a doomsday picture, then it’s a realistic picture.”
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
By the Numbers
"Science consists in discovering the frame and operations of Nature, and reducing them, as far as may be, to general rules or laws — establishing these rules by observations and experiments, and thence deducing the causes and effects of things." – Isaac Newton
Earlier this week, Politico.com ran a story about media outlets “preparing for the possibility that their Election Day surveys could be skewed because of overstated support for Barack Obama, largely because of the enthusiasm of his supporters.”
Exit polling is a notoriously inexact science. After all, early exit polls in 2004 suggested John Kerry would be elected president. This year, multiple variables, including the zeal of Obama’s supporters, the candidate’s racial background, widespread early voting, etc. is making those whose job it is to track voter sentiment very nervous.
In theory, exit polls should perfectly match election results. But this is not always the case. After all, preliminary exit polls during the Democratic primary overestimated Obama’s strength in 18 of 20 states by an average error of seven percentage points. (Some have attributed this discrepancy to the Bradley Effect). This overestimation was most shockingly seen in New Hampshire. Experts credited this phenomenon to the youth and enthusiasm of Obama’s supporters. Eager to participate in polls, their numbers were falsely inflated. Older voters, more likely to be Republicans, often refused the request to participate.
So what are we to make of the current predictions, which show Obama ahead by a comfortable margin of error?
Back in early June of this year, just days before Hillary Clinton suspended her presidential campaign, my friend Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, author, host of “Nova scienceNOW” and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “Vote by Numbers.”
In it, Tyson stated that if the election were to be held that day, Barack Obama would lose to John McCain (and McCain would lose to Hillary Clinton). His conclusion was based on “a new method of analysis on the statistics of polls that has been accepted for publication in the journal Mathematical and Computer Modeling.”
The authors of this new way of examining statistical data, J. Richard Gott III of Princeton, and Wes Colley of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, are not political scientists.
They are astrophysicists.
For Tyson, this made complete sense. After all, “one of the tasks of scientists is to clarify the apparent complexity of the universe by using the language of mathematics.”
Gott and Colley discovered that “in swing states, the median result of all the polls conducted in the weeks prior to an election is an especially effective predictor of which candidate will win that election — even in states where the polls consistently fall within the margin of error.” (For a far more detailed description of the rules that went into creating the formula, CLICK HERE).
In a paragraph that was actually cut for space, Tyson wrote, “Normally when you think of an average, you invoke the elementary school definition of the word. But you later learn in statistics that there are three kinds of averages – the mean, the median, and the mode. And in the field of mathematical physics, the concept of average is further generalized into higher dimensions. They look for the median count of wins and losses in a set of polls for a state, which is the same thing as asking, “Who won the most polls?” Turns out, median statistics are especially effective in swing states, where the margin of error in a single poll is typically greater than the spread in votes. As such, it can be a far more accurate and robust predictor of who will actually win an election than most people’s politically informed commentary.
“If you ask three people what time it is, and one person says its five to ten, the second says its ten o’clock, and the third says its four thirty. You do not take the average, and declare the time of day to be early afternoon. You grab the time in the middle (the median) and proceed on the more likely assumption that it’s about ten o’clock.”
So accurate was this new method, in fact, that when the 2004 presidential election between John Kerry and George W. Bush was crunched, Gott and Colley correctly predicted the winner in 49 states (they missed only Hawaii with its four electoral votes)! This at a time when almost all political analysts said the race was either too close to call or leaning toward Kerry. The median method correctly predicted Bush as the victor, even months in advance.
Using Gott and Colley’s rules, Tyson applied the median method to the 2008 presidential race and discovered that without a doubt, Obama would lose to McCain and McCain to Clinton were the election held that day. Tyson was quick to stress that the analysis did not predict what would happen in November. Instead, unlike many fickle polls, the Gott and Colley method “describes the present better than any other known method does.”
Hundreds of people wrote the New York Times to take issue with Tyson’s reasoning. He was bombarded with commenters who, while they were quick to point out their admiration of his work, took great issue with his reasoning. Many assumed Tyson wrote the piece as a last ditch effort to help Hillary Clinton. Obama supporters especially thumbed their noses at the results. Tyson defended the political neutrality of the piece’s tone and content. In responding to some of his detractors, Tyson pointed out that while math can be abused, at its best math is politically neutral. There is no such thing as red math or blue math. Just accurate math and inaccurate math.
Over the months, Tyson has forwarded me updates. It has been fascinating — and not a little disheartening — to watch the numbers. While a vast battery of polls was showing McCain down and out and Obama surging, the median method disputed them all, showing McCain still held a comfortable lead. As much as I wanted to dispute the method’s findings, Tyson kept reminding me that people may lie, but math does not. Obama’s popularity, in this case, was irrelevant.
“Our system of electoral politics requires you to not only be popular, but popular in all the right places. While human behavior can be, and often is fickle, median human behavior is not. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as an advertising industry. Accuracy matters.”
Though the analysis admitted some gains (“Colorado is a runaway for Obama”) it also spelled out disastrous defeats (“Florida is hopelessly out of reach”). For every Nevada and Virginia it gave to Obama, the median method indicated that other states were drifting further and further away.
Going into September, there were only glimmers of hope.
“As of this morning, the median analysis show **no close states** (no swing states), in spite of the rants of analysts; Obama is beating McCain 273 to 265.”
It was not nearly enough. In effect, the best Obama could hope for was a draw. Tyson and the study’s authors indicated that Obama would need to win by far more than eight electoral votes to guarantee a victory. It would require a miracle, a sort of October surprise to fundamentally shake everything up.
Then came the financial crisis.
As the gravity of the situation bit into Americans’ realities, things began to shift on the median method map.
Obama’s totals surged to 291. Florida, once “hopeless,” now suddenly looked within striking distance.
The following is from an e-mail I received from Tyson just a few days ago. It contained the word “bloodbath.”
As of October 19, median analysis of polls for the previous 30 days give the following Electoral College count:
Obama has been ahead of McCain since August 22nd, when Nevada put him in the lead. He took Florida on October 14th, which has given him a significant lead since then. The enhanced Florida campaigning in that state has worked. The overall trend looks very bad for McCain and could lead to a landslide win for Obama, giving him the mandate he will require to fulfill the many diverse promises he has made to his electorate.
The current Blue/Red state division in the median analysis can be seen in the USA map below (see the image opening this blog post), with states scaled by area to the precise number of electoral votes they represent. This “Electoral Area Map” developed by my Princeton Astrophysics colleague Richard Gott, gives an immediate sense of who is winning and who is losing.
A reminder that states which many people still claim as up for grabs are not so in the median analysis. All states given to Obama (including Ohio and Pennsylvania) are, at the moment, rather secure.
It is important to remember that this method, like all polls, is nothing more than a snapshot of a day. However, this method has proven itself to be more accurate than anything else out there. If the election were held today, Obama wins easily.
Gott and Colley’s method is a robust engine, deciphering those things people normally think are difficult-to-predict variables. In June, when Tyson first publicized the findings in The New York Times, the data pointed, with mathematical certainty, to deficiencies Obama would have to surmount should he wish to overtake his contender. It appears he has done just that. It behooves campaign strategists to pay close attention to what the median method shows. Unlike those of his supporters who were in denial of the results, Obama’s campaign paid attention, and targeted the important states with their many electoral votes where he was behind. The unbiased, impartial data is also strategically useful information for the McCain campaign, showing exactly where the Republicans must make up ground. However, with only 11 days left before Election Day, McCain’s chances to turn things around seem insurmountable if not utterly impossible.
UPDATE: Politico now reports that there are no more swing states. Every one has now gone for Obama and is outside the margin of error.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
“There are two Americas. One is the America of Lincoln and Adlai Stevenson; the other is the America of Teddy Roosevelt and the modern superpatriots. One is generous and humane, the other narrowly egotistical; one is self-critical, the other self-righteous; one is sensible, the other romantic; one is good-humored, the other solemn; one is inquiring, the other pontificating; one is moderate, the other filled with passionate intensity; one is judicious and the other arrogant in the use of great power.”
– J. William Fulbright
J. William Fulbright’s words, written more than 40 years ago, still ring just as true today. I’ve been thinking a lot about patriotism lately. It’s come up a lot this election, though in ways that gives me pause, rather than reason to rejoice.
Some (certainly not all) Republicans have a funny idea about what constitutes patriotism. Since the beginning of this presidential campaign, there’s been the usual silly games with flag pins and the like. But this week, as McCain begins to see the writing on the wall, he’s stepping up his game, and taking it to a whole new level of ridiculousness.
Gov. Palin recently stated that there is pro-America and anti-America. She said she liked traveling to small towns because that’s where the real Americans lived. Only in small town America, Palin implied, will you find the true America.
“We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe...that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation.”
The implication being, of course, that large cities, especially those on the coasts, were anti-American and un-patriotic. (See The Daily Show response here. As a New Yorker intimately scarred by 9/11, Jon Stewart is entirely within his right, I believe, to say to the Vice President, “F**k you!”).
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.” – Mark Twain
Soon after Palin’s speech, McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer got on television and proclaimed that within Virginia, a state increasingly in play for Obama, there was real Virginia and fake Virginia. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzeGtPeQZbs). What exactly is fake Virginia? Probably the same areas that McCain’s brother recently referred to as the “communist” parts.
Southern Republican Congressman Robin Hayes this week said, at a McCain rally, “Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”
While warming up the crowd at the same rally, Rep. Patrick McHenry, also a North Carolina Republican, laid out the choice between McCain and Obama, to which someone from the crowd yelled back, “It’s like black and white.”
What can only be described as abject, bigoted hatred has been growing at McCain/Palin rallies countrywide. Far from denouncing such language and actions, the McCain campaign seems satisfied to stay silent and let it continue.
Others take their hate to new levels. One man even went so far as to hang Obama in effigy.
“Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it”. – George Bernard Shaw
If that weren’t bad enough, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed late last week that Barack Obama and his wife Michelle held anti-American views and couldn't be trusted in the White House. In a move that could only remind one of McCarthy witch hunts, the congresswoman called for an official “expose” of members of Congress to “find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.” She also implied that liberalism was fundamentally anti-American.
(Bachmann is almost certain not to have the last laugh. Within 48 hours of her remarks, Bachmann’s congressional opponent, who leads in the polls, netted $640,000!)
“Remember it was Michele Obama who said she is only recently proud of her country and so these are very anti-American views,” Buchmann said. “That’s not the way that most Americans feel about our country. Most Americans are wild about America and they are very concerned to have a president who doesn't share those values.”
“In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first”. – Ambrose Bierce
It appears that each of the aforementioned Republicans operate under the same delusion — that patriotism is a swaggering, smug, superior arrogance, a state of mind that abhors any other view but its own. It is a self-righteousness that divides the country into an us vs. them dynamic — I’m a patriot and you’re not.
However, more often than not, the louder and more vitriolic the patriotism, the more hollow it truly is. When Christ was teaching his disciples how to pray, he told them to go to a private place, away from public eyes. Anything done in public, as the Pharisees were wont to do, manifested as pride and vanity. The same is true for the sort of ostentatious patriotism heralded by so many people today. Patriotism should be humble, not sanctimonious. You have no more virtue or purity than others just because of your views.
A real patriot is a dissenter when necessary, not one who says, “my country right or wrong, my country love it or leave it.” But this is exactly the sort of rabid, jingoistic, xenophobic, divisive excuse for patriotism we have been fed in this country since 9/11. If patriotism means that it’s unacceptable for someone to critique his country, to call it to account for its sins, to question the validity of its actions, to admit that it has made mistakes, than we have a profoundly misguided idea of what patriotism really is.
A great nation remains great precisely because it accepts dissent. We need those who take up the robes of Old Testament prophets and chastise a government for its sins. They are the self-checking mechanisms of society. The 1st Amendment is there to protect dissent precisely because it is so important, even in its crude and often unpalatable forms. Patriotism is problematic. Patriotism is messy. Dissent burns flags, often lives on the extremes, and even, during the most severe moments of history, initiates revolt and revolution. I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would have thought about Bill Ayers?
This country has lost its capacity to be self critical. I like the idea of America so much more than I like America itself. And yet Barack Obama inspires the better angels of my political and patriotic nature. For the first time in many years, I have hope for this country and its aspirations, optimism for the soul of the great experiment that is the American ship of state.
And if that makes it sound as if I am merely echoing the words of Michelle Obama, then so be it. I would rather be chasing the first rays of light in the darkness than be the one snuffing out the lamps and calling it patriotism.
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.” – Teddy Roosevelt
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Dear Red States...
The same friend who sent me the previous post just sent me this one. Enjoy. I plan on discussing something along these lines tomorrow...
Dear Red States,
OK, we have had enough. We just can't get along. We have decided to go it alone. We in California have decided to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Maryland and the entire Northeast. Pennsylvania and Colorado may be joining us, too.
To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the former slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln memorial, Hollywood, Tahoe and Yosemite. It's still a toss-up about who gets Las Vegas. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get 85 percent of America’s venture capital and entrepreneurs. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, and you get to try to make the Red States pay enough to keep their services going (good luck!). Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower, we get a bunch of happier families. You get more single moms.
With the Blue States, we will have control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the fresh fruit, 95 percent of the quality wines (you will have to import from the Frenchies), 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, and all the Ivy League and Seven Sister schools, plus the best tech schools (Caltech, MIT, RPI).
With the Red States, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, and virtually 100 percent of all televangelists. You get Bob Jones University, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, Tulane and Texas A & M.
The last time we checked, we were told that 38 percent of your population believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws or Iraq, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, and 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11. You may want to put a few more dollars into your educational system.
Lastly, we get Barack. He's a nice family man, smart, handsome, a good organizer, and the whole world likes him. He would prefer us all to be “united” but we told him that we are tired of consorting with folks who call him a “terrorist.” If he wants to pal around with some former rabble rousers who are professors or retired ministers, it's fine by us.
You get John. He's grumpy and erratic, flies off the handle easily, nearly flunked out of school, and downed some planes. But make sure you feed him well and take him in for regular check-ups!! We shudder at the alternative.
Best of luck and sayonara,
California, and the rest of the Blue States
Which Team Would You Hire?
A friend recently sent the following to me with the note: “A perceptive assessment of how race still matters in politics in ways that go unspoken.” Very insightful.
What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said "I do" to?
What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama were a member of the Keating-5?
What if McCain were a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are? This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.
With America facing historic debt, two wars, stumbling health care, a weakened dollar, all-time high prison population, mortgage crises, bank foreclosures, etc, which team would you hire?
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)
United States Naval Academy - class rank: 894 of 899
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism
Now, which team are you going to hire?
PS: What if Barack Obama had an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
In Spite of Her
Aside from, perhaps, the Clintons themselves, I don’t know anyone who thinks that either Hillary or Bill have even remotely gone out of their way to campaign for Barack Obama. Sure, they’ve done some perfunctory stuff here and there, but they certainly haven’t bent over backwards to get the Democratic nominee elected. They’re the O.J. Simpson of stumpers — they say they’re going to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of their goal and then promptly forget all about it when the cameras turn away.
Which got me thinking — after all that talk following the primaries that Obama was doomed without Hillary’s help, that to win Obama must woo Hillary’s massive army, is it just me or did he do it in spite her best efforts at flaccid support? Did he do it all by himself, without her help, while we, like the cameras, weren’t even paying attention? I wonder…
Pick Already for Crying Out Loud!
I want to be respectful in this political season and allow people the time necessary to process what is, admittedly, a wide gamut of policies and principles. That having been said, we’re down to just over two weeks now.
Are you seriously going to sit there, as some people I know do, and tell me you’re still undecided? Are you going to say to me, with a straight face, that after two years of campaigning, you still haven’t seen, read or heard enough to make an educated decision?
Give me a break! Commit already!
If you haven’t decided on which candidate you’re going to vote for this November, it’s because you haven’t been paying enough attention. In which case, shame on you. It’s probably better that you stay home on Election Day — you’ll almost certainly do more harm than good.
As usual, my vitriol is nowhere near as convincing as The Daily Show’s humor.
It All Adds Up
Barack Obama’s campaign reported a staggering $150 million dollar haul for the month of September. Obama spent more on advertising in that month than Bush did in the entire 2004 election. Democrats are outspending the Republicans as much as five to one this year.
Normally, I’ll gag at those sorts of numbers. I think we spend far too much money on presidential campaigns, converting them into rich men’s games. But this time is somewhat different?
Because you and I raised that money (that is to say, if you also support and have donated to Obama’s campaign). It was not whatsoever clear that, by opting out of campaign funds, Obama would still be able to raise the money necessary to power his White House bid. But instead, Obama has drawn in unheard of amounts of money, not through big, powerful donors, but through millions of ordinary people who were inspired to give generously.
Of those who gave less than $200 dollars in September — the threshold at which either campaign does not need to report the names of those contributing — 632,000 were brand new donors. The average donation to the Obama campaign is just over $80. That’s it. Five dollars here, twenty-five there and suddenly Obama has utterly re-written the campaign playbook.
No wonder McCain is so angry. The Republican is charging sinister, “scandalous” goings on at the Obama camp, insisting Obama is "buying the election." The only thing scandalous here senator, is the overwhelming generosity of the very average Joe-the-plumber Americans you so love to tout.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Gabrielle and Helen, Est. 2008
I think it’s impossible not to look on your younger siblings without seeing them forever stuck, like insects in amber, in the time and place of your childhood. You share so much history together, that every time you look at each other, you see the cross currents of so many memories. For the older sibling, time stops exactly when you leave home to strike out on your own. In many ways, you half expect, even years later, that the home you left is merely “on pause” and you can pick up where you left off at any time you please.
It doesn’t matter how old you get. I can tell you, factually, that my sister Gabrielle is nearly 30, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t half expect her to be a teenager each time we get together. I never realized my brother was grown up until he and his wife had a child. Then time surged forward in a gigantic leap, making up for all the lost years, and came properly into focus. (In my defense, equidistant between 30 and 40, I still don’t see myself as an adult either.)
I don’t think I really and truly realized Gabi was a woman until she met Helen. Until I watched them interact. Until I watched the way Gabi’s eyes sparkled when she looked at Helen. Until I saw the way they doted on each other. Until I witnessed how selflessly Gabi went out of her way to ensure Helen was comfortable at all times. Until I observed the way Gabi took every opportunity possible to praise Helen in front of others.
However, it wasn’t just Gabi and Helen’s obvious love for each other that impressed me, it was more so the manner in which they lived their love out. Gabi has had to stand up to so much, to brace herself against so much resistance. And while it was obviously the most painful thing she has ever done, it was also the bravest thing she’s ever done. The serenity and wisdom with which she’s handled these past few years is what revealed to me that she is no longer the little girl I left at home when I went off to college. She has been poised and graceful. She has been confident in her choices, in her love and in herself. She’s never been interested in making political statements, or rubbing anything in anyone’s noses. She was simply interested in sharing with everyone the magnificent love she’d found with and in Helen.
This past weekend, Stephanie and I flew down to San Diego to celebrate Gabi and Helen’s recent marriage. I was honored to represent my family. Helen’s parents and siblings also came down, and we gathered for an informal weekend of sharing memories of the past and dreams for the future.
I love how close Gabi and I have become over the past few years. Our friendship, if one can call it that, is stronger now than it has ever been. She amazes me with her maturity, wisdom, and grace. Gabi, you and Helen will always find in Stephanie and me, whatever support, love and encouragement you need. May your marriage be full of wondrous enchantment, unexpected grace and boundless delights. Stephanie and I look forward to growing older with you and closer to you.
For many more pictures of Gabi and Helen's special weekend, please click HERE and HERE.
And if you like what you see just below (and I know I do!), click HERE.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Powell Endorses Obama
Just minutes ago, in a sprawling and eloquent monologue on Meet the Press, Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, overseer of the first Gulf War under President George Bush Sr., National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, and longtime McCain friend and admirer endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States.
Calling Obama a "transformational figure," Powell went on to say that "Obama displayed a steadiness. Showed intellectual vigor. He has a definitive way of doing business that will do us well."
The move by Powell is a deep loss for the Republican, especially as Powell's endorsement speaks directly to his faith in Obama's national security abilities. Powell also said he was disappointed by McCain's campaign, and that Palin isn't ready to lead.
To watch the endorsement, click here.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
100,000 Turn Out for Obama
More people came to hear Barack Obama speak in St. Louis today than attended his August acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver.
The crowd was estimated at 100,000 people. That makes it the largest crowd yet for an Obama gathering, second only to the 200,000 people who turned out for his speech in Germany. Previously, an estimated 80,000 people attended both his Democratic National Convention speech and a rally in Portland, Oregon.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Not Just Any Endorsement
"On Nov. 4 we're going to elect a president to lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose. The strongest candidate to do that is Sen. Barack Obama. The Tribune is proud to endorse him today for president of the United States."
With those words this afternoon, The Chicago Tribune, which was founded in 1847, endorsed its first ever Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
Laughter Does the Body Good
Both John McCain and Barack Obama attended the Al Smith Dinner, a respected Catholic charities benefit in Manhattan last night, where traditionally, the candidates are expected to roast one another. Both men good-naturedly attacked each other and themselves. It’s been a serious campaign. We need all the laughs we can get. While both men were funny, I think this was one evening McCain walked away with.
• “There is no other crowd in America I'd rather be palling around with.”
• (Addressing the grandson of the former New York governor for whom the dinner was named): “I obviously never knew your grandfather, but from everything Senator McCain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before Prohibition.”
• “This (housing) crisis has been eight times harder on John McCain.”
• “Can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek columns that I requested?”
• “Contrary to the rumors you may have heard, I was not actually born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-El to save the Earth.”
• “I punched a paparazzi in the face on my way out of Spagos. I even spilled my soy chai latte all over my Shih Tzu — it was really embarrassing.”
• “Fox News accused me of fathering two African-American children in wedlock. (Turning to McCain) “Is Fox News included in the media? Because I'm always hearing about the love...”
• “Whoever would have thought that a cross-dressing mayor from New York City would have had a tough time winning the Republican nomination? Tough primary you had there, John.”
• From the Waldorf-Astoria’s doorstep, where the dinner was being held, Obama pointed out that one can “see all the way to the Russian Tea Room.”
• “Barack is Swahili for ‘that one.’ (My middle name came from) somebody who obviously didn’t think I’d ever run for president.”
• “I can’t shake the feeling that some people here are voting for me… Nice to see you, Hillary.”
• “Yes, it’s true, that this morning I dismissed my entire team of senior advisers. All of their positions will now be held by a man named Joe the plumber (who) recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses.”
• (On recalling that Oprah had called Obama “the one”): “Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him ‘that one.’ He doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me — ‘George Bush.’”
• (Gesturing to Bill Clinton) “He’s been hammering away at me with epithets like ‘American hero’ and ‘great man.’ I just know Bill would like to be out there now stumping for Barack until the last hour of the last day. Unfortunately, he is constrained by his respect for any voters who might be observing the Zoroastrian New Year.”
• “‘Maverick’ I can do, but ‘messiah’ is above my pay grade.”
• (Should the market improve, McCain predicted that at the “first sign of recovery (Obama) will suspend his campaign and fly immediately to Washington to address this crisis.”
• “It’s gonna be a long, long night at MSNBC if I managed to pull this thing off.”
It got serious in the end.
“My opponent is an impressive fellow,” McCain said. “It’s not for nothing that he’s inspired so many folks in his own party and beyond.”
Of McCain, Obama said, “There are very few of us who served this country with the same dedication, and honor and distinction as Senator McCain.”
Strike Three! You're Out!
I had planned to write some grand, lengthy piece about the third and final presidential debate but work and life conspired against me and rather than wait any longer than I already have, allow me to simply toss a few, seemingly unconnected thoughts and impressions your way:
• I think Schaeffer did the best of any of the moderators — he was fair, demanding and specific.
• Ah, the oft extolled Joe the Plumber. McCain hung his final presidential debate hopes on an Ohio plumber his campaign staffers never even bothered to vet. Turns out that the insta-celebrity Joseph Wurzelbacher, someone McCain said would have to pay higher taxes under Obama, in fact makes no where near the $250,000 a year mark, meaning he would actually receive a tax cut if Obama were elected president. Not only that, Joe owes years of back taxes, he’s not even a licensed plumber, and there’s some question as to whether he is even registered to vote!
• I liked that Obama came out and said that Americans have been living beyond their means and that is one of the main reasons we are in this fiscal crisis. Republicans love to talk about personal responsibility. And very often they’re right. We need to hear more of this and probably will...after Obama is safely in the Oval Office.
• I’ve been surprised at the Republican talking points these past few weeks. Despite being lambasted for saying that seeing Russia across the Bering Strait qualifies as foreign policy experience, Sarah Palin continued to talk about it in interviews and on the stump. To a much smaller, but equally baffling degree, McCain continued to harp on the $3M “overhead projector,” (to the ire of scientists everywhere) obviously completely unaware that it was not a projector of the sort that are used in school classrooms, but a kind used to power planetariums.
• McCain’s best moment came when he said, “I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.” Nice. Not true. But nice.
• McCain’s answers were full of half truths and non-sequiturs. When confronted for his inflamatory ads, McCain seemed to imply that none of them would have been necessary had Obama only agreed to his suggestion of town hall meetings, as if the two things have anything to do with each other.
• After weeks of vicious attacks, McCain had the gall to frame himself as the victim, whining that Obama has been silent while he bravely repudiated anything untruthful leveled against his opponent. McCain hasn’t repudiated a thing! His running mate is the worst offender of them all. And he categorically endorsed those who came to his rallies, including those now being investigated by the Secret Service for threatening the life of a presidential candidate and the guy who beat up a reporter just yesterday.
• McCain claimed Obama has spent more on negative ads than anyone else in history. That’s true, but only because Obama has spent more on ALL advertising than anyone else in history. And Obama wasn’t making things up when he said that 100% of McCain’s recent ads have been negative! Independent fact checking groups broke that one well before the debate.
• You know things are bad when Ayers constitutes McCain’s core debate argument. It is the last nail in his coffin. Obama simply and easily dismissed him and the charge.
• ACORN deserves to be prosecuted harshly if found guilty of voter fraud. On that McCain and I totally agree. Still, it’s funny that McCain spoke praiseworthily at one of ACORN's events just this summer. Plus, let’s keep things in perspective — the allegations are more registration fraud than voter fraud. If ACORN has done what McCain claims, they would have to produce tens of thousands of bodies with matching IDs on Election Day, and that was never going to happen.
• Why does McCain continue to smile like a madman, blink like he’s communicating in secret code and otherwise contort his face into the most off-putting grimaces? Almost every four years there is always the candidate who comes off as petulant and childish. It was Gore in 2000. This time around it’s McCain. Why doesn’t someone on his staff call him on it?
• Yes, Senator McCain, we have gotten to know Gov. Palin, despite your best efforts to hide her, and obviously we don’t like what we see. The once great hope of the GOP has an approval rating slipping into the high 30s! Practically the closest McCain got to talking about his running mate in these debates was an autism comment. A (respectable) desperate niche shoutout if every I heard one.
• Speaking of Palin, Obama is taking a sheet from her debate book and talking directly at the camera more than he ever has before. As for McCain, I guess we should just be happy that he is even looking at Obama!
• Obama seemed to always be a step ahead of McCain, anticipating every comment. McCain meanwhile came off as surprised and angry when confronted. McCain was always on the defensive, even when he was on the offensive. He always seemed to jab while Obama sat serenely by. McCain was like the kid who is punching furiously at the air in front of him, while the older, nonplused kid holds his head an arm’s length away.
• The inevitable abortion question: I don’t think McCain delivered the simple, knockout punch religious conservatives were looking for. Certainly not like he did at Saddleback. Obama is realistic, McCain is idealistic. I admire idealism. I am pro-life. But McCain’s pie in the sky pandering is nonsense.
It no longer matters who appealed to the base. Who managed to reach the great middle wins the day...and the next four years. McCain may have been feisty on conservative issues, but was he centrist enough? No.
There are now only 18 days left before we vote for our next president! Wednesday night was McCain’s last, best shot. It was also strike three for the Republican. Scientific and non-scientific polls overwhelmingly assert yet another Obama victory. It’s a clean sweep for Obama.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Down to the Wire
Just three weeks to go!
In the few days since the long, holiday weekend began, several new fascinating items have come to light.
• More and more political observers are predicting something resembling a landslide.
• Obama now leads in three of four key bellwether counties that President George W. Bush won handily in 2000 and 2004. Each resides in a crucial battleground state through which the path to the White House has historically run — Nevada, North Carolina, and McCain’s do-or-die state, Florida (where, ironically, Obama commands the largest lead of the three by six points). McCain still leads in Colorado’s Jefferson Country, but only by a hairsbreadth. Meanwhile, the rest of Colorado continues its slide toward the Democrat. According to a myriad of authoritative polls, Obama now leads in Colorado by nine, in Michigan by 16, in Minnesota by 11, and in Wisconsin by 17! Obama is approaching a double-digit lead in Missouri, where McCain has held a solid advantage for much of the campaign. He is also edging out McCain in North Dakota.
• According to a new Post/ABC poll, only eight percent of Americans think the country is on the right track. This as more and more Americans think Obama has come across as the more collected, intelligent, steady and even more mature leader during the bailout crisis.
• The GOP is abandoning new House and Senate recruits in order to not siphon money from embattled incumbents. Facing a potential bloodbath, Democrats have shifted to triage mode. They’re even considering loaning themselves $5 million dollars to augment the depleted political coffers. This is the great, under-the-radar story of the 2008 campaign. While everyone is preoccupied with the White House, the numbers are looking increasingly catastrophic for Republican hopes in Congress.
• This weekend, half a dozen major papers endorsed Barack Obama. Not a single one endorsed John McCain.
• More and more conservative pundits are jumping ship. The son of conservative standard bearer William F. Buckley has come out for Obama. As Peggy Noonan bemoans the state of McCain’s ridiculous campaign, columnist David Brooks recently called his running mate, Governor Palin “a cancer on the Republican Party.”
• The most damming item of all, however, occurred on Friday when an independent legislative panel found that Palin, while not guilty of breaking any laws, should be cited for “dishonesty,” “abuse of power” and several ethics violations. The investigation is ongoing.
When John McCain first paraded Sarah Palin before the country, I wrote that she would either be an explosive game-changer or an explosive game-ender. As McCain’s numbers spiked after the Republican convention and the ticket finally caught traction, I urged caution. It was far too early to tell whether Sarah Palin was good for McCain or not. Did she have longevity? Conservative friends encouraged me to continue assaulting her, insisting that in doing so, I was poisoning my own well and feeding theirs.
What a difference a month and a half and a couple of disastrous interviews makes.
Sarah Palin, once the darling of the Republican Party has become more of a liability than a boon. Set loose as the Republican attack dog, Palin’s recent rallies have more in common with KKK meetings than political revelry. Barnstorming the country, Palin’s been using increasingly incendiary language to incite the GOP’s shock troops.
When she says, “Our opponent is someone who sees America…as being so imperfect, imperfect enough that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,” she is not simply trying to jab at Obama’s perceived weaknesses, she is fear-mongering, exploiting post-9/11 anxieties by suggesting Obama is an alien who supports those who attack America. It is an accusation all the more supported by her continued endorsement of guest speakers using Obama’s full name — including his middle name “Hussein” — at her rallies. The not-so-subtle innuendo: Obama is a radical Muslim terrorist.
Republican strategists have even begun telling canvassers to remind those they speak to that Obama and Osama (love that alliteration) “both have friends that bombed the Pentagon.”
And how do the GOP party faithful respond? They cry “traitor,” “terrorist,” “off with his head,” “kill him,” and hurl racial epithets at African-American cameramen.
Palin’s actions are not only sleazy and dishonest, they are morally repugnant and perhaps even worthy of legal censure for endangering a candidate already racially vulnerable.
Still, I have to give credit where credit is due. Whether it is because he realizes his attacks are backfiring (so much for Swift Boat tactics this season!) or because he is reclaiming some part of his lost, honorable self, John McCain, of late, is hitting back at some of his own fanatical supporters.
When a man at a recent rally told McCain he was “scared of an Obama presidency,” McCain told him he had nothing to fear.
“Senator Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States,” he said. He got only boos for his trouble.
When a woman at a recent town hall said she didn’t trust Obama because he was “an Arab,” McCain quickly cut her off.
“No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man and citizen,” he said.
McCain has pledged to be respectful from here on out. We’ll see. Will such honorability help his campaign? Probably not. But it’s good to see.
To be sure, McCain has made the comeback something of a cottage industry. Who would have thought, after the disastrous early months of his primary battle, that we’d even be discussing McCain’s chances for the White House? If McCain has proven anything, it’s not to count him out until the very end.
However, with that end now firmly in sight, does he have the time, much less the momentum to turn things around?
Reimagining himself as a scrappy fighter up against a guy who is already “measuring the drapes” for the Oval Office, and set to finally reveal a belated economic stimulus strategy, McCain’s aides are dubbing this last ditch effort, “hitting the reset button.” More like hitting the panic button others have said.
McCain is now in exactly the same place Hillary Clinton was at the end of the bitterly fought Democratic primary. If McCain had more time, he might be able to even the gap. But the fact is, while he’s down only six to eight points nationwide, those numbers are actually deceptive. They don’t indicate a fixed fissure, but rather an ever expanding chasm that grows with each new poll. McCain simply does not have the time to stop Obama’s snowballing momentum.
Though they try to sound optimistic when claiming that three weeks is plenty of time to turn things around, many conservatives continue to hope for the ever elusive, but nearly always potent October surprise.
I’m sorry guys, but we already had an October surprise. It was in September.
Friday, October 10, 2008
David Brooks has a fascinating piece in today’s New York Times. Titled “The Class War Before Palin,” the columnist attempts to give a bird’s eye, snapshot view of how conservatism came to be so anti-intellectual.
It wasn’t always thus. Modern conservatism, Brooks contends, began as a movement of dissident intellectuals. The urbane and sophisticated William F. Buckley, hardly an intellectual slouch by anyone’s definition, was once conservatism’s cerebral standard bearer.
“Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking,” says Brooks. “Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.”
Brooks believes that conservatives, driven by a need to engage elite opinion, tried to build an intellectual counter-establishment. “They disdained the ideas of the liberal professoriate, but they did not disdain the idea of a cultivated mind.”
However, Brooks reports, over the past several decades, the Republican Party has driven away the highly educated and those people who live in cities or along the coasts. This was due in large part to the fact that “Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare.” As Democrats nominated “coastal pointy-heads,” Republicans swung equally as far in the opposite direction to find their representatives.
Remember the Republican convention just a month and a half ago? Giuliani, the former mayor of the most cosmopolitan city in the world, repeatedly disdained cosmopolitans.
Mitt Romney, of all people, gave a speech attacking “rich eastern elites.” If that isn’t the most obvious case of the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is.
And then came Sarah Palin. Though “smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable,” Palin has made playing the class-warfare card her daily mantra. Sarah Palin has out-Bushed Bush. She can’t make a speech without drawing a line between the heartland and the “oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.” She celebrates ignorance and has made being inexperienced a cause célèbre.
The ramifications are becoming increasingly clear — entire alienated sections of the country from Silicon Valley to the Northeast Corridor have migrated to the Democrats. Elite professions from lawyers to doctors and now even bankers have walked away from the Republican Party.
“What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole,” Brooks says. It’s a delineation obvious to anyone. It is “Joe Sixpack” versus the “East Coast liberal elites.” Since Democratic leaders prized deliberation and self-examination, Republicans decided to “govern from the gut.”
Intellectualism is now something to be mocked and distrusted. Elite, meaning someone who is at the paradigm of their chosen profession or pursuit, is now been transformed into a smear word. Worse, the heartland has bought into it. The more education you achieve, the more many conservatives look upon you with suspicion. Pursuing such education for themselves is largely out of the question.
“Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago,” says Brooks. “The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.” It has long been shown that the more educated one is, the more liberal one is. Is this because there are so few conservative voices in American universities or simply that education leads one to the conclusion that the liberal mindset is vastly superior?
Modern conservatives has chosen a strategy with a built-in self destruct mechanism. Sure, this tactic will work for a few decades, a generation or two perhaps. It may even garner millions of votes. But it won’t be long until it starts breaking down, before it is seen as the straw man that it is, before the movement becomes so dumbed-down that it loses any and all semblance of power much less academic rigor. And when that happens, conservatives will have unwittingly set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy — a class-segregated society with the most educated and therefore most wealthy on the top and the mass of poorer, less educated relegated to the bottom.
In that scenario, everyone loses.