31 August 2008

Behind My One Alaskan Friend's Surprise Over Palin

This and especially this help explain an Alaskan friend's shock early Friday morning.

Two thoughts on these two links, just off the top of my head.

1) The radio clip is astonishing for revealing Palin's lack of political sensibility. Did she actually say "We'd be honored to have you guys" after all that? Listen to the clip. I'm afraid she did.

2) After watching the news clip, Walt Monegan doesn't come off as angry, vengeful, or agenda driven. Throughout the entire newscast, he seems to sincerely consider questions and answer straightforwardly. There's not even bitterness, just matter-of-factness and a certain befuddlement about the whole situation. All of which leads me to believe the guy's not lying (but I'll heavily couch that statement in all the qualifiers that should accompany 90 seconds of YouTube newsreel).

Palin Pregnancy Scandal?

This is mind bending. Even as a scurrilous rumor, even as mere speculation, even as left wing nuttery (nevermind that it's coming from Sullivan, one of my favorite writers on the right). Truly mind bending.

Marc Ambinder on Palin Pick

UPDATE: It slipped me when I posted this, but Ambinder seems confident that the Troopergate probe will leave Palin unmarred. "She's under investigation by an ethics board (the bad guy here will not turn out to be Palin.)"

Not sure how to take that, or what Ambinder knows that the rest of us don't, but it's worth keeping track of.

Marc Ambinder asks and answers:

Is the pick good for the Republican Party?

Absolutely. Even if McCain loses in November, the GOP's new standard bearer will be a younger working mother from outside Washington and not a rich businessman with perfect hair from Massachusetts. McCain may have saved the GOP at the expense of the campaign.

His one-man Q&A piece is insightful in a pro/con sort of way. Definitely worth a read.

Vetting Palin, and Palin's Vetting

Here's hoping for McCain's sake that his campaign vetted Palin more carefully than Palin vetted her own political appointees.

Palin's replacement for Monegan, Chuck Kopp, was forced to resign just two weeks after he was appointed because of a sexual harassment complaint that had been filed against him when he was the chief of police in Kenai.

Palin, in a news conference announcing Kopp's resignation July 24, said she was unaware that the Kenai city council had reprimanded Kopp as a result of the complaint and would not discuss how her staff had vetted Kopp before naming him to replace Monegan three days after Monegan was fired.

A slow, steady trickle of information may be all it takes to erode any credibility the McCain/Palin ticket pretends to have.

Frank Rich on McCain's Pick

Frank Rich:

The main reason McCain knuckled under to the religious right by picking Palin is that he actually believes there’s a large army of embittered Hillary loyalists who will vote for a hard-line conservative simply because she’s a woman. That’s what happens when you listen to the TV news echo chamber. Not only is the whole premise ludicrous, but it is every bit as sexist as the crude joke McCain notoriously told about Janet Reno, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.

That's pretty good, actually. The "TV news echo chamber" in particular, because it highlights the undue emphasis the news media give to the notion of division in the Democratic Party. And Rich demonstrates a deft touch to swiftly link the inherent sexism behind the Palin pick to the same brand of bad judgment that drove McCain to tell the beyond-the-pale joke about Chelsea Clinton, which any serious, professional politician--not to mention decent human being--would have known better than to indulge in. McCain's got kids, for crying out loud, yet he has not demonstrated appreciation for which topics are off limits in politics. That's because nothing has ever been off limits for John McCain. And watch for the Obama campaign to methodically highlight this aspect of the Straight Talk Express in coming weeks.

MoveOn's Response to Palin

Just found this in my inbox:

Dear MoveOn member,
Yesterday was John McCain's 72nd birthday. If elected, he'd be the oldest president ever inaugurated. And after months of slamming Barack Obama for "inexperience," here's who John McCain has chosen to be one heartbeat away from the presidency: a right-wing religious conservative with no foreign policy experience, who until recently was mayor of a town of 9,000 people.


Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:

* She was elected Alaska's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.
* Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.
* She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000.
* Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.
* She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.
* She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species—she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.
* How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.

This is information the American people need to see. Please take a moment to forward this email to your friends and family.

We also asked Alaska MoveOn members what the rest of us should know about their governor. The response was striking. Here's a sample:

She is really just a mayor from a small town outside Anchorage who has been a governor for only 1.5 years, and has ZERO national and international experience. I shudder to think that she could be the person taking that 3AM call on the White House hotline, and the one who could potentially be charged with leading the US in the volatile international scene that exists today. —Rose M., Fairbanks, AK

She is VERY, VERY conservative, and far from perfect. She's a hunter and fisherwoman, but votes against the environment again and again. She ran on ethics reform, but is currently under investigation for several charges involving hiring and firing of state officials. She has NO experience beyond Alaska. —Christine B., Denali Park, AK

As an Alaskan and a feminist, I am beyond words at this announcement. Palin is not a feminist, and she is not the reformer she claims to be. —Karen L., Anchorage, AK

Alaskans, collectively, are just as stunned as the rest of the nation. She is doing well running our State, but is totally inexperienced on the national level, and very much unequipped to run the nation, if it came to that. She is as far right as one can get, which has already been communicated on the news. In our office of thirty employees (dems, republicans, and nonpartisans), not one person feels she is ready for the V.P. position.—Sherry C., Anchorage, AK

She's vehemently anti-choice and doesn't care about protecting our natural resources, even though she has worked as a fisherman. McCain chose her to pick up the Hillary voters, but Palin is no Hillary. —Marina L., Juneau, AK

I think she's far too inexperienced to be in this position. I'm all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn't done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain's part- and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he'll get our vote by putting "A Woman" in that position.—Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK

So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She's a global warming denier who shares John McCain's commitment to Big Oil. And she's dramatically inexperienced.

In picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has made the religious right very happy. And he's made a very dangerous decision for our country.

In the next few days, many Americans will be wondering what McCain's vice-presidential choice means. Please pass this information along to your friends and family.

Thanks for all you do.

There you have it. Read plavwriter. It's as good as subscribing to MoveOn emails. It bears noting that the email came with footnotes citing each of the bulleted points, but the superscript wouldn't format correctly in the Blogger platform so I simply removed them. Most of this info is readily available by a quick online search. Other info documented at MoveOn.org.

30 August 2008

Write-in Votes for Hillary?

More on Hillary loyalists (which term is a bit misleading, because a loyalist would honor his or her leader's requests and back his or her leader's candidate, but that seems beside the point to a small handful of Dems). From the NYT:

Lynn Hackney and Kim Hoover might perfectly illustrate the emotions of those whom Ms. Palin counts as “not finished yet.” They had gathered 20 equally passionate Hillary supporters at their home in Washington on Tuesday to watch Mrs. Clinton’s speech. “The Kleenex was flowing,” said Ms. Hackney, who declared the speech “brilliant.”

Thursday, when 38 million Americans watched Mr. Obama’s speech, they watched a movie, “The Squid and the Whale.”

No matter what Mrs. Clinton urged, they cannot support Mr. Obama.

“To go against Hillary is not easy for us,” Ms. Hackney said. “We don’t take that lightly. We just don’t think he has a message. We don’t think he’s good for women.”

"We just don't think he has a message"?! Is she kidding? Has she listened to a word he's said? I think no. Or else she would understand that Obama's message is that common purpose unites us, common concerns connect us, common decency passed from citizen to citizen ("I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper") results in uncommon community achievment, and that with those common threads between us America becomes a richer, stronger, healthier nation. And, oh yeah, George Bush's Washington isn't working for America.

And I suspect she didn't really listen with open ears to Clinton's speech, either, because Clinton once again made the case for Obama--and even to those who could not hear praise for Obama, Clinton most certainly made the case against McCain. If these voters think they're doing Hillary a favor by writing her name in on the ballot this fall, then they are extremely disillusioned. Hillary Clinton stands to be a much more effective senator under a President Obama than President McCain. Her opportunities to do good work in the world--in any capacity--increase under a President Obama and dramatically decrease under a President McCain. Her chance at effectively improving health care access for all Americans is, to be sure, only even possible under a President Obama, and not even remotely likely under a President McCain.

And those 18 million cracks? Do Hillary's most hardened supporters think that Hillary Clinton and Democratic women nationwide worked this hard so that a woman could slip through the glass ceiling only to overturn Roe v. Wade, amend the Constitution to restrict the freedoms of American citizens, promote creationism in public schools, de-list polar bears from the Endangered Species Act, ignore modern realities regarding the need for gun control, drill her way to cozy relations with big oil at the cost of energy independence, and (based on the look of things in her "Troopergate" investigation) abuse her power for personal gain?
“It’s not about being bitter for Hillary,” [Ms. Hackney] said. Still, “I think the Democratic Party took women for granted in the primary, they didn’t step on sexism when they should have, and I can’t support them.”

Her phone, she said, began “burning up” when Mr. McCain announced Ms. Palin as his choice. “The fact that he went out on a limb to pick a woman, I’m very impressed by that.” She says she is not sure she can vote for a Republican, and will most likely stick to her plan to write in Mrs. Clinton. But, she said, “It’s opened my eyes to at least pay attention.”

Ms. Hackney and Ms. Hoover: A write-in for Hillary is a vote for McCain, plain and simple. Ask yourselves this: Do you really believe you'll be better served by an anti-choice, anti-equity, anti-progress, anti-peace, pro-establishment Republican of the most bitter, most entrenched, and most cynical stripe?

Jim Jordan on McCain's Pick

What do you think? Sound about right, or is it just Democratic spin?

“He feels a little like Walter Mondale,” said Jim Jordan, a Democratic political consultant. “He’s a respected Washington lifer who’s run into political forces that are bigger than himself. And he’s responded by making a decision that feels panicky.”
From this analysis in the NYT.

The Politico on McCain's Pick

Vandehei and Harris get it right: 6 things the Palin pick says about McCain.

I like this:

Politicians, even “mavericks” like McCain, play it safe when they think they are winning – or see an easy path to winning. They roll the dice only when they know that the risks of conventionality are greater than the risks of boldness.

And this:
There is no plausible way that McCain could say that he picked Palin, who was only elected governor in 2006 and whose most extended public service was as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 8,471), because she was ready to be president on day one.

Nor can McCain argue that he was looking for someone he could trust as a close adviser. Most people know the staff at the local Starbucks better than McCain knows Palin.

Emphasis mine. There's also this:
The fact that McCain only spoke with Palin about the vice presidency for the first time on Sunday, and that he was seriously considering Lieberman until days ago, suggests just how hectic and improvisational his process was.

And more to come, I'm sure.

Rove's (Reverse) Prescience on the VP Pick

At the risk of blatantly stumping for Steve Benen (who has my vote for blogger-in-chief), look at this treasure mined from the one and only Karl Rove just a few weeks ago. In a nutshell, Rove predicted that Obama would pick his running mate for purely political reasons, such as to carry a state or appeal to a certain constituency of voters, and not with an eye on practical governance.

Uh, care for a do over, Karl?

John McCain, Meet Sarah Palin

Steve Benen points out McCain's departure from his own SOP by picking Palin: the candidates don't know each other. See especially Steve's note at the bottom of the post about McCain's extra careful announcement of her name. Here' the clip. Don't let the two minute tag scare you away; the reference comes right at the beginning. By my estimate, McCain could have been opening the envelope to say "And the winner is . . ."


McCain Clintonites

Here's a Clintonite who will vote for McCain. (Or a troll writing under a surname, but I'm not really that cynical--wait a minute . . . yes I am! Either way, it's worth a read to see what the Obama camp may be fighting, whether actual or merely perceived).

I didn't meet any similar holdouts this week in Denver, although Jenna met one who set up to protest Obama at a screening of Trouble the Water held on Wednesday at the Tivoli Center Starz theater. Jenna's report: the woman couldn't say why she liked McCain's policies, only that she didn't think Obama was ready to be president. When pressed a little harder, she did say she like McCain's stance on immigration. That, however, was all Jenna got from the woman.

In contrast, I met Will Fowlkes, a Georgia delegate and the newly minted state congressman from Georgia's 11th district, who came to Denver as the Clinton delegate from his region along with two Obama delegates. In keeping with the will of his constituents, Fowlkes told me, he cast his vote in favor of Clinton on the convention floor. But, he said, there is no sense of anger or resentment among the Georgia delegation that Hillary is not their candidate. Wholeheartedly, Fowlkes reported that the Clinton delegates would work at Clinton's behest to support Obama, and also support the release of their votes to Obama.

Fowlkes, it should be noted, also took time to explain to me several of the nuances and technicalities of the convention process, which was and is heartily appreciated.

29 August 2008

Steve Schmidt on Sarah Palin

He said it: "By any objective measure, Gov. Palin is more qualified for the presidency than Barack Obama."

For those who don't know, Schmidt is senior strategist for the McCain campaign. I'm looking forward to specifics on those objective measures any moment now.

Assessing the Palin Scene

Yglesias passes along this (preposterous) nugget: McCain has been on the campaign trail longer than Palin has been governor.

Are you kidding me? She's been on the city council, the mayor of a small town, and governor for half a term. The gimmick is to peel off disgruntled Hillary voters and undecided married women, but please. McCain: "She's exactly who I need, she's exactly who this country needs, to help me fight the same old Washington politics of 'me first' and 'country second.'"

I've really tried to be cautious about this all day. My initial impression is that she shows up well and speaks very well. She's likable, and as the old boys will no doubt say, she's got pluck. She seems like a scrapper, though I find it hard to believe that she'll be well enough briefed not to flub some big ones. Joe Biden will have to tread carefully so as not to be perceived as condescending, but I'm already licking my chops at the prospect of hearing "And you madam are no Hillary Clinton!"

To suggest that Clinton supporters should be attracted to this pick is insulting. Clinton herself is in a prime position to live up to her word to get Barack Obama elected and take on Palin in a no-holds-barred-this-ain't-a-beauty-contest public discussion of the complex challenges the country faces today. If the McCain camp thinks that Palin can really hold her own against the withering litany of Democratic arguments against her, then Schmidt & Co. have either vetted their candidate extremely well or not nearly well enough.

The more I read and listen, the more ridiculous it all gets. The danger, however, is to remember that the average voter is not very well informed. If the media give McCain/Palin a pass, if all the nuance gets dropped from the media message and Palin gets the shot to simply appeal to voters, then this could just slip on by and shock us all. I'm inclined to think the opposite is more likely and that the rocket will break apart as it enters the atmosphere. Especially after my exposure to the campaign machine this week in Denver. David Plouffe comes off as the real deal, somebody who knows his stuff. Obama himself is known to run a tight strategy, control the message, stick to the plan. And we don't have to discuss his political intelligence or his rhetorical skill. David Axelrod (whom I did not see in person) is highly regarded as a political strategist--the general you want on the field. Howard Dean and the DNC appear poised to complement the campaign in every necessary way (especially since the Obama camp effectively controls the DNC at this point). And Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore and of course Joe Biden appear ready to make the public appearances that go along with this campaign and to actually enjoy themselves in the process. All told, this team simply will not miss the opportunity take apart the McCain/Palin agenda, starting with the very decision to pick Palin. But they've got to make it stick, and if 2000 and 2004 taught us anything its that there's never a sure thing.

All that, and we haven't even seen yet how the Obama camp will manage the ongoing investigation into Palin's possible abuse of power in AK. This is gonna get interesting.

Yglesias Muses Trivially on McCain

So many things to write about, but I think Matt Yglesias takes the right* tone: dig up the stuff that makes us smile.

*Corrected. Thanks Becca.

Volunteer for Obama, Work for America

It is hard for me to sum up the convention when so many have already written so well about Obama's speech and the overall effect of the convention to rally Democrats in this must-win election. I have said this before, and I'll say it again now: We must elect Obama now. If we fail to elect Obama, this nation will not be able to look itself in the eye on November 5.

This is not meant to shame or to brow beat. Until 2000 and 2004, I believed like many Democrats that in our nation it was enough to exercise the vote as the practice of true democracy. Even after 2000, I held to the faith that our country would correct its mistake, and that the collective powers working on behalf of John Kerry would prevail in a gritty election against an incumbent president who was clearly willing to use dishonorable and dishonest tactics to stay in office. That's just politics, right?

But those forces didn't win, and now an entire nation waits with bated breath not only for the announcement of our next president, but for the simple relief of being done with eight of the most damaging years in American history.

If this all sounds a little high-toned, well, I might just be guilty of that. I no longer believe that a Democrat has the luxury to merely cast a vote for Barack Obama and count on that vote to carry the day. We each need to get out and register voters, talk to undecided voters, ask McCain supporters what it is they actually like about their candidate, ask about policies, educate ourselves about the issues, encourage Democratic voters to register for mail-in ballots (both for the paper record and to ensure turnout even if the weather is bad or robocalls spread misinformation on election day), ask our family members the uncomfortable questions about politics that we may not always speak of, and drive voters to the polls on election day.

I haven't simply swallowed the Kool-Aid here. In 2000 and 2004, Democrats lost by incredibly close margins. There is more enthusiasm among Democrats in America for the political process today than ever before, and similarly more discomfort among Republicans. Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe points to Pennsylvania, where over 300,000 new Democrats have been registered to vote while the Republican Party ranks have thinned by some 60,000. Registering voters and encouraging them to check the box to receive a mail-in ballot will do more to ensure Democratic success this fall than any other single effort.

It's not easy to register voters. I speak from experience when I say that a three or four hour shift with the clipboard may only yield one new voter. But, to borrow a phrase from my wife, we do the work of ants. Piece by tiny piece, Jenna and I watched as millions of ants turned out night after night near our home in Oaxaca to take down an enormous tree. There is no doubt in my mind that that tree will soon fall. So too have a million plus volunteers turned out to support this history-making campaign by registering voters, collecting data, making phone calls, knocking on doors, housing campaign staffers, and more.

To the those who read this post, I beg you to take a little of the time you may have and call the DNC or the Obama campaign office nearest you to find out how you can get involved in your neighborhood. It may be as simple as making phone calls from home, or opening your house to host a meeting of undecided voters from your neighborhood. There are many ways to get involved. The choice is ours now on how we each will donate what we can--whether that be time, money, or hard work--to make sure that every American understands the urgency we face.

John McCain scares me more than George Bush ever did. Bush is ignorant, incurious, and incompetent. The damage he's wreaked is difficult to calculate. To put it in perspective, though, John McCain is angry. It'd be like electing Dick Cheney to serve as the highest executive in the land. To be sure, I'd actually prefer four more years of ignorance and incompetence than to see what even one year of anger will do for this country. McCain is angry, mean, and petty, and to echo Obama's speech he simply does not have the temperament to be commander-in-chief. You think incompetence got us in trouble? A McCain presidency would signal the escalation of Cheney-esque leadership at the most visible level, and, to be sure, the guaranteed decline of American leadership, competitiveness, and national character, both at home an abroad.

Pick up your phones, Democrats. Donate a couple hours of your time to the campaign. Let us do the work of ants to rebuild our country.

Scene from an Untitled Obama Documentary

In a special screening of part of an as yet untitled documentary in the making, Jenna and I got to see Obama on the campaign trail in Iowa at the beginning of 2008. I wish we could get the footage on the Internet. In one scene, Obama tells a small group of supporters on the eve of the Iowa caucus, in a talk held in a public school weight room, about a conversation he and Michelle Obama had recently had.

We're only going to do this once, he recalls Michelle saying. He goes on to elaborate what that means. At the start of the campaign, he and Michelle were still very much a part of the common electorate. They had only finished paying off their student loans in the last three years. Imagine that. A candidate for president who so closely understands the day-to-day frustrations of the American middle class. They still remembered with startling clarity what it was like to live in a condo that was too small for their growing family. They had not yet become the stars that, as it turns out, they are destined to become. Obama's point was, after this campaign, they never get to go back and be as close to the middle class as they were in that moment.

The above paragraph does little to capture the scene. It is Obama at his best. After the screening, I asked the filmmakers if they would be posting any of their work online, because this is the Obama that undecided voters need to see. Unfortunately, they replied, FEC rules forbid the use of this work for campaign purposes. They'll only be able to release their work after the election. Besides, they said, the campaign has plenty of grade-A material of its own. They don't need our help, she said.

I'm not so sure about that.

The Reviews

How'd the speech go over last night? Check out Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and Steve Benen. All three of these guys have expressed their doubts, concerns, and criticisms for the Obama campaign, calling out the weaknesses and missed opportunities where they've seen them.

As an endnote to the convention, I'd simply predict that the RNC in incapable of manufacturing even half the excitement and enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama's candidacy.

28 August 2008

Candidate McCain vs. Senator McCain: John Kerry and Joe Biden Revitalize the Case Against McCain

Much has been made of the McCain campaign's ability to control the argument over the past four weeks. By going brazenly negative, Steve Schmidt & Co. banked on putting the high minded Democratic candidate for change on the defensive and against the ropes. The past month has seen Obama faced with three bad choices: pass on the negative attacks, explain himself in response to negative attacks, and launch similar, negative attacks.

Obama has passed through all three of these phases and weathered a substantial amount of the storm. Passing on the negative ads infuriates Democrats who fear another Swiftboating in the offing. Explaining himself in response to the ads only focuses the electorate on the original smear (and as the old adage goes, if you're explaining, you're losing). Launching negative ads tit-for-tat against negative ads leaves Camp Obama susceptible to (valid) arguments that the candidate for change is running the same old political campaign as every other Washington insider and White House hopeful.

Last night at the Pepsi Center, Obama's options changed. The most effective agent for change that I've heard this entire season took the stage in the form of John Kerry.

Maybe there's something about losing presidential races. As I listened to Kerry speak, I found myself enamored with his sensible lines and his graceful and commanding oratory--qualities I don't remember hearing from 2004 as much as I remember the wooden mannerisms before the camera and the dangerously imperious tone that defined Kerry's style. Just as Al Gore has enjoyed a popularity boost since losing the 2000 election, and as Hillary Clinton appears remarkably poised to fill large shoes in the Democratic party without winning the nomination, perhaps John Kerry found himself last night on the edge of something grand after surviving the abyss of disappointment. Whatever Kerry's role will be, he provided the assault that Barack Obama clearly needed against John McCain.

Kerry dissected McCain's remarkably inconsistent history on almost every issue McCain has ever expressed an opinion on by splitting McCain down the middle.

I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let's compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.

By dividing the John McCain who's been in public office these past 26 years and highlighting the John McCain who's running for the presidency, John Kerry tapped the potential to point out all McCain's ridiculous flip flops without going negative.
Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain's own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you're against it.

Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself. And what's more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same "Rove" tactics and the same "Rove" staff to repeat the same old politics of fear and smear. Well, not this year, not this time. The Rove-McCain tactics are old and outworn, and America will reject them in 2008.

This line between Senator McCain and Candidate McCain is one the Obama Camp and the DNC need to ride all the way to election day. It's a great rhetorical device, perhaps the slickest I've heard all year, from any camp. What's more, it cuts to the heart of the debate against John McCain: at the end of the day, his policies are empty and not a soul in the country knows where the supposed maverick stands on any single issue, except perhaps his desire to confront nations with might before diplomacy and to add to the ultra conservative ranks of the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade.

John Kerry did another thing last night that the Obama camp needed from a surrogate. He took away the McCain campaign's free ride on the patriotism bulldozer.
[T]he candidate who once promised a "contest of ideas," now has nothing left but personal attacks. How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission, question the troops. How pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy doubt America itself. How desperate to tell the son of a single mother who chose community service over money and privilege that he doesn't put America first.

. . . No one can question Barack Obama's patriotism. Like all of us, he was taught what it means to be an American by his family: his grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line in World War II, his grandfather who marched in Patton's army, and his great uncle who enlisted in the army right out of high school at the height of the war. And on a spring day in 1945, he helped liberate one of the concentration camps at Buchenwald.

This election is a chance for America to tell the merchants of fear and division: you don't decide who loves this country; you don't decide who is a patriot; you don't decide whose service counts and whose doesn't.

Emphasis mine. These last lines were possibly the most powerful lines spoken all night, though several veterans and the wife of a Marine also spoke eloquently about Obama's commitment to the troops and to this country. John Kerry nailed it, though, because he didn't simply stand up for Obama, he stood up for every American. The Repulican party may choose to ignore that message during the campaign season, but the Democrats now have the language they need and the surrogates they can count on to stand up day after day and say "The Republican attack machine of Karl Rove and his disciples is telling America who counts and who doesn't. A whole nation of independent and proud Americans is going to see right through that tactic come election day."

Joe Biden took his turn last night, of course. While I generally think Biden is a much better speaker off the cuff than from prepared remarks, and while I think his speech fell flat last night compared to some of the others we've heard through the convention, Biden did his share to level the playing field as well. Last night, Joe Biden took the following message to the country: "The choice in this election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier; they require a wise leader."

This will be an important point to watch in the development of the Obama/Biden campaign. Quietly, Joe Biden just took John McCain's single most understood strength and flatly said it's not enough. Karl Rove is known for saying that the strength is the target. Take away a candidate's perceived strength, and all that's left to focus on are the weaknesses. Joe Biden effectively said that John McCain is a patriot and a hero, and has suffered terribly for love of country. But frankly, that doesn't make a president.

Look for the Obama camp to role out the ads featuring all McCain's antics and temper tantrums, and then quietly reiterate these lines that Biden and Kerry drew last night. And, of course, let's not forget Bill Clinton, who electrified the crowds, delivered a hell of a great speech, and gave me goosebumps when he urged us all to remember that the world has always been "more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power." Maybe an ad featuring John McCain's "bomb Iran" jig, followed by a dark screen with Clinton's simple quote and a stamp from the Obama/Biden '08 committee, would go over well among the undecideds.

The beauty of the coming months may just reveal that John McCain brings enough of his own negativity to the mix that Obama doesn't have to go negative to attack the guy.

27 August 2008

Morning Roundup

Rather than write about the campaign briefing I got to sit in on this morning, which featured Howard Dean and David Plouffe, I'll link to this Mark Blumenthal piece about another meeting that sounds pretty similar, albeit more select.

I also got to hear Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer outline their enthusiasm for this year's crop of U.S. Senate races in which they believe Democrats face tough battles but are positioned to do well. Speakers of note also included Jeanne Shaheen, of NH, whose race against John Sununu, Jr., will be one to watch, as well as Mark Udall here in Colorado. Mark Warner, former Virginia governor and current candidate for senate, also spoke, and I'll simply say that he did more to impress me today than in the keynote address last night.

The last of the morning roundup included a talk with T. Boone Pickens about the Pickens Plan. The oil billionaire is clear about his message: renewable energy is essential for America (and the subtext should always read "and good for Boone Pickens, too"). On the whole, I think the Pickens Plan probably is good for America, but I haven't forgotten that Pickens is responsible for the Swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004 (under whose leadership one can only assume the U.S. would enjoy a more healthful energy policy than the one we tap now). That alternative energies are the key to the future is hardly debatable anymore. The question for me is whether we want T. Boone Pickens to hold the keys to that bright, new kingdom. And that question, unfortunately, did not come up in the talk under the big tent.

More later about the gaveling in of today's session, tonight's speeches, and the party afterward to honor the vice presidential nominee.

How Hillary Clinton Made the Tent a Little Bigger

Last night after returning home from the Pepsi Center, I wrote the following in an email:

We just got home, still a little bit dazed by all the political star power. Hillary Clinton brought her A-game, and every single note rang as well as it possibly could have throughout the halls of the Pepsi Center.

Here's a thought that's haunted me this evening: If Clinton had managed to connect as well during the primary as she has since, and if Obama had been as anemic through the primary as he's been perceived to be since, I'm not sure the roles wouldn't have been reversed between the two this week at the convention.

On a side note, Deval Patrick gave a great speech, as did Ted Strickland, who delivered one of the best zingers of the night: "Well, with the 22 million new jobs and the budget surplus Bill Clinton left behind, George W. Bush came into office on third base--and then he stole second. And John McCain cheered him every step of the way."
Hillary Clinton really and truly brought her best speech last night. If there are a few remaining, unhappy Clinton supporters who won't vote Democratic this year, I'm not sure where they are. Except for Debra Bartoshevich, of course, but I think Steve Benen summed her radical position in support of John McCain quite nicely: she's just confused.

After Monday and Tuesday night speeches by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama arguably has a huge job ahead on Thursday to follow those acts. And that doesn't take into account the other Clinton, set to speak tonight. (See this post from Andy Borowitz at the Huffington Post for an eye opening tidbit to underscore the tension not only between the former president and the contender, but between the DNC and the former president!)

Not only does Obama have to bring his best to Denver this Thursday, he's going to have to improve upon and repeat that effort every single day until the election. No more vacations and no more free passes. Hillary Clinton raised the bar last night on every front. She connected with her audience, and she assailed the politics of George W. Bush and John McCain:"No way, no how, no McCain!" Her call wasn't simply to create unity within the party behind the candidate, but to draw a stark line in the sand for every single Democrat who hopes for a better future for this country. To all her supporters, Clinton asked "Were you in this campaign just for me? . . . Or were you in in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?"

Unlike her concession speech that effectively ended the primary season, Clinton did not simply bang the "I support Barack Obama" drum. Last night she laid down the challenge for Democrats and insisted that we all must support Barack Obama for the future of this country. Hillary Clinton, alone on a big stage, brought the best of her personal and political selves, brought her A-game, and brought down the house.

25 August 2008

Denver Post Gives Rage Against the Machine Space in the Sunday Perspective

From Sunday's Denver Post Perspective section, Rage Against the Machine calls the government out--without equivocation--on the use of their music to torture detainees. We should all sign the petition should it come around.

Also from yesterday's Perspective, I had to read this twice, and I've decided it's garbage. The author hopes first time voters won't vote because they're not educated enough? Because they cite the wrong reasons for liking the candidate? Spare me. Somebody tell this kid it actually is a popularity contest.

11 August 2008

Rocky Mountain News on Referred Question 1A

For those following the conversation about referred question 1A on tomorrow's ballot, the Rocky Mountain News weighed in with an opinion last Friday. They say vote yes on 1A. In other words, change the city charter so that city council pols aren't required to vote in favor of--or enact--initiatives they disagree with.

The idea, we suppose, was to give council the chance to save the city the time and expense of holding an election if some noncontroversial measure were proposed. But Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz told us she's not aware of any time council has actually done that.

So the charter forces council members, in effect, to vote yes on proposed initiatives they may detest - or vote no and essentially violate the law.

I leave it to the reader to make his or her own decision.

08 August 2008

August 12 Special Municipal Election: More on Denver Referred Question 1A

In a follow up to my earlier post this week about Referred Question 1A that appears on Denver ballots, a reader emailed to say that after calling Denver's City Council, she got "confirmation that we'll receive the 'for and against stands' in the Nov election."

This gets confusing, though, because I thought that 1A, as we see it on the August 12 ballot, is the vote for or against this amendment to the charter, and not a vote to approve a November vote to amend the charter.

A phone call to Shelley Smith at the Denver City Council office reinforced my understanding. This is the vote. My original post (based on info also received from the city council office) was that the city council doesn't approve or reject, but simply reviews these petition items. Therefore, these items will go to the voters anyway, so why waste city council time reviewing/debating? Well, that was only half the story. Here's the rest.

It turns out that the city council is required to enact a petition item or make a ministerial vote in favor of putting said petition item before the voters. City council thinks this is ludicrous. These petitions were initiated outside the bounds of the city council, and so the city council doesn't understand why council members should have anything to do with the petitions at all. If the voters want to sign a petition to vote on something, the city council essentially says "let 'em vote. Whaddya need us for?"

The League of Women Voters adds to the conversation. Here's what they've published (click through for a .pdf):

Currently, residents must gather enough signatures to exceed 5 percent of the votes cast in the previous mayoral election to force the council to take up a measure.

Once that threshold is passed, which is currently about 4,000 signatures, then the council is required to either enact the proposal into law or submit it to voters.

The council has prepared this charter amendment to refer measures with enough signatures directly to voters and bypass the council entirely, similar to the process for State referred initiatives.

Those in favor say: Several council members believe the current structure places them in a precarious position politically because it requires them to affirmatively vote to place something on the ballot, even measures they dislike.

Those opposed say: There is no organized opposition.
Emphasis mine. The problem, as the LWV explained to me, is in the way the current charter binds city council to either a) enact an item brought by petition, or b) pass said item to the voters. There is no room to halt an item's progress, nor to express a vote of no confidence in a proposal or initiative brought by petition. In a nutshell, city council politicians are beholden to advance an item even if they disagree with it. And this is what the city council wants to get away from.

One interesting con: Smith says that, though there is no record of the city council doing so in the past thirty years, conceivably when a petition comes before the city council and bears a strikingly good idea, the city council has the means to enact it on the spot, thus saving the taxpayers money by not putting the petitioned item on the ballot.

Finally, a yes vote on 1A on August 12 will change the city charter to mirror that of the state. For whatever that's worth.

Anyone care to chip in?

McCain Tone Deaf in Ohio, Struggling with DHL/UPS Merger

John McCain has gone completely tone deaf to his own campaign stump:

"And that's the problem in our nation's capital. It's not just the Bush administration, and it's not just the Democratic Congress. It's that everyone in Washington says whatever it takes to get elected or to score the political point of the day," said McCain, who has served 26 years in Congress.

Emphasis mine. Kudos to the L.A. Times for following up the quote with the "26 years" tag line. The article, by the way, is especially interesting. In a nutshell, McCain backed a 2003 deal to sell cargo handler Airborne Express to German-owned DHL. Now, business is bad and DHL's owners want to cut losses and get out. According to an Ohioan quoted in the article, this could lead to a loss of 40,000 jobs in 9 southeastern Ohio counties.

Where it gets even trickier is that McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, lobbied on behalf of DHL's owners back in 2003, and McCain ponied up. The senator actually helped deep six an amendment to a congressional spending bill that would have kept the U.S. military cargo handling business a U.S. business. In other words, McCain paved the way for foreign interests to handle shipping needs for the U.S. military.

Davis earned a reported $590k for his various lobbying efforts for the German company. McCain says that, since Davis hasn't been involved in any of that since 2005, there's no conflict of interest. What'd McCain get, I wonder?

Most recently, he got the opportunity to tell some distraught Ohioans a little bit of "straight talk": "I can't assure you that this train wreck isn't going to happen, but I will do everything in my power to avert it"; and, "I can't look you in the eye and say we're going to avert this."

As reassuring as those comments weren't, McCain promised to launch an anti-trust investigation into the proposed DHL/UPS merger that would all the German company to earn back some of its losses and get out of Ohio. And after promising to investigate the deal on the Senate floor, McCain said "And that's the problem in our nation's capital. It's not just the Bush administration, and it's not just the Democratic Congress. It's that everyone in Washington says whatever it takes to get elected or to score the political point of the day."

Like I said. Tone deaf.

CNN Says McCain's Humor Could Do Him In

CNN writer Rebecca Sinderbrand makes a series of excellent points in this article. Is anybody reading?

05 August 2008

Little Miss Buffalo Chip

This is too much, really. Be sure to watch the video. Just when we thought we couldn't dumb-down the presidency any further . . .

The "Paper Thin" War

I find this amusing: "Barack Obama should focus on bolstering his paper thin resume as opposed to having surrogates level distorted attacks against Senator McCain.”

That should be "paper-thin," but who am I to argue?

That was RNC spokesman Danny Diaz, speaking on Obama and past presidential candidate John Kerry.

The RNC is willing to start a "paper thin" war? Okay, then. How deep was George W. Bush's resume when the RNC piled on board? This is current from the White House website:

President Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, and grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University in 1968, and then served as an F-102 fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard. President Bush received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1975. Following graduation, he moved back to Midland and began a career in the energy business. After working on his father’s successful 1988 Presidential campaign, President Bush assembled the group of partners who purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989. On November 8, 1994, President Bush was elected Governor of Texas. He became the first Governor in Texas history to be elected to consecutive 4-year terms when he was re-elected on November 3, 1998.
Talk to me when the RNC is serious, please.*

*What's missing from the Bush resume? Click here, for starters.

The Carpool Poll

Best. Poll. Yet. And it's merely August. Oh, the little joys of election season politics.

Udall Makes No Comment on Justin Schaffer's Facebook Page

The Denver Post reports today that the son of Colorado Republican Bob Schaffer has apologized for offensive posts to his Facebook page.

Opponents of Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer have found political fodder in his 19-year-old son's Facebook page, which shows a picture of Barack Obama over the caption "High five . . .. who's gay" and another picture that reads "Slavery gets sh-- done," reports Michael Riley.
Money quote? "Schaffer's campaign opponent, Mark Udall, had no comment on the controversy."

I'd like to thank Mark Udall for leaving this alone. I hope Udall and his advisers have the vision to continue to recognize, even as the campaign gets nastier and nastier, that you don't run down a candidate's family, nor exploit family troubles, nor drag the candidate's children into the race. Anybody want to speculate as to whether Camp Schaffer, run by the notorius Dick Wadhams, would do the same were the roles reversed?

Seeking Information on Referred Question 1A

UPDATE: After a phone call to the City Council, the skinny seems to be that, as it stands right now, every petition in the City and County of Denver that gathers enough signatures to appear on a ballot must first be presented/debated by the City Council. The CC is tired of being the go between on this, especially as their function--if I understand correctly--is neither to approve nor reject the initiatives/referendums that reach the voter, but simply to hear said initiatives/referendums.

I look forward to hearing back from the mayor's office, and Councilwoman Montero's office as well (District 9), just to get a sense of whether everybody says "yes" to 1A, and, if not, to find out who is saying "no."


Can anybody help me understand the intent and the impact of this season's Referred Question 1A as it appears on the Democratic primary ballot?

Shall the Charter of the City and County of Denver be amended to require the Clerk and Recorder, upon certifying the sufficiency of any initiative or referendum petition, to submit the initiative or referendum directly to the registered electors of the City and County of Denver at the next scheduled citywide election, unless the City Council determines to call an earlier election?
Thanks for any thoughts on this. I'm ignorant as to the existing process that the Clerk and Recorder takes regarding initiatives and referendum petitions. And a Google search renders great results . . . from previous years' Referred Question 1As.

WaPo Reports Online Learning on the Rise

All in all, this is not a very interesting article. But I post on it because . . . because sometimes we post on things that bore us. It is a glimpse into my work these days, although I am buried behind the scenes and, when I do my job well, nobody notices. (Such is the seamlessness to which I aspire in the text I edit.)

This statement caught my eye, though:

The number of times students enrolled in distance education courses connected with public schools (using Internet, two-way video or other technologies) rose from about 317,000 in 2002-03 to more than 506,000 in 2004-05, the National Center for Education Statistics reported in June. That's a 60 percent increase. In at least 66 percent of the cases, the report says, students earned credit with a passing grade.
60% growth in two years is a pretty good indicator that, all things being equal, I might just have some job security. And that study is incredibly outdated, when you consider recent trends in online access and resource availability. I'd be curious to know what the 2004-05 to 2006-07 numbers reflect. My guess, and this is purely speculative, as Internet applications continue to boom and school districts continue to flail to accommodate their charges, is that those numbers continue to rise.

66% passing, on the other hand? That's darn near failing, if I recall correctly from my own public school days (and I believe I saw that number--or its alphabetical equivalent--on a couple of report cards). Those numbers are going to have to come up if the industry hopes to sustain itself. School districts and online content providers get to take shelter under a pretty sweet umbrella, though: who's to say why students fail to earn credit? Isolated, perhaps underconnected--and who can speak to a borderline distance student's motivation?--online learners may be the source of more questions than answers as educational demographics shift with the times.

Good News for Frontier Ticket Holders

Good news today regarding my plane tickets later this month: I'll probably still be able to use them.

Why McCain Should Stand With Bush?

William McGurn at the Wall Street Journal has an interesting and salient take on how McCain could "find himself on defense through November": keep avoiding the president.

Allowing himself to look afraid of being in the president's company hurts him in two large ways. For one thing, it cuts against Mr. McCain's most attractive trait: his fearlessness. This is a man running as someone who stood up to his captors in Hanoi, who stood up to his own party, and who, as president, would be willing to stand up to America's enemies. For such a man to fear photo ops with the president broadcasts an insecurity that will only feed into the Obama campaign. And the press smells it.

. . . Mr. McCain's reticence will also hurt him with his own party. While the president's general approval ratings may be down in the 30s, among the GOP faithful the numbers are up in the 60s. These numbers, moreover, do not track intensity: The people who have stayed with Mr. Bush this far have been through the fire with him. They are not likely to be excited by a nominee who makes a habit of dissing fellow Republicans like Phil Gramm, whose crime was trying to support their nominee.
In other words, McCain dilutes his brand by avoiding GWB, and he also pisses off his base (they were never really his, though, were they?). The alternative? Get cozy with the least popular president (according to CNN) in American history.*

Sounds like a damned if he does situation if I ever heard one. What's a candidate to do? Well, distracting folks from this issues (on which his politics do bear a striking resemblance the those of the man he would replace) is a good start. Camp McCain wins the past week's tussle when it comes to dictating the terms of the campaign. As for all the rest? Folks like William McGurn and myself will be watching closely to see how this plays out.

*No comment as to the scientific integrity of that poll, nor any other conducted over the past 232 years.

04 August 2008

Denver Post Promotes Richardson for VP

While Michael Gerson was busy distracting readers with the possibility of an Obama/Ritter candidacy this past Friday, the editorial board at the Denver Post had another, western states governor in their sites: New Mexico's Bill Richardson.

The Denver Post made its case Sunday for Richardson for veep, and I can only see this as a welcome call. Richardson brings the international credibility that Obama is so often seen as lacking, and he also happens to be a widely popular governor in his home state of New Mexico. And, uh, he'll bring at least some of the much sought-after, Latino vote (not to mention some of the much sought-after, western states vote).

Also, Richardson ran one of the best ads of the early presidential campaign season (FWIW, which obviously ain't much).

So, the negatives. The biggest that I see comes in the form of a question Steve Clemons asked back in 2007 when Richardson threw his hat in as a contender among Democrats, early in that primary. Here's the way Clemons, who cites previous experience working with Richardson's staff when Richardson served in the House of Representatives, cozies up to the problem.

I will frame this as a "question" for Bill Richardson.

Have you behaved inappropriately or not in public settings with female members of your government administration, jokingly or not? Have you gestured to female public servants and political appointees -- who work as colleagues with you -- and made lewd gestures, specifically pointing to them and then pointing at your crotch with a room full of media and other politicos there in the room?

I ask this not to demean or undermine Richardson.

I ask it because I was not in the room when this particular incident occurred but many others were -- and rumors have long swept around Santa Fe that Bill Richardson makes a frequent joke out of demeaning women. These incidents don't have to do with the comments by Lt. Governor Diane Denish that Richardson is a "touchy" and "feely" Governor. They have to do with questions about a far more crude kind of gesture that demeans professional women.

These concerns I have heard may be completely contrived, but after speaking with several senior level New Mexico officials, my sense is that it needs to at a minimum be addressed by the Governor who wants to be President. Some suggest that Richardson "can't stop himself" or "doesn't even realize what he is doing" or thinks that "this sort of thing is part of New Mexico's political scene."

Clemons treads some tricky waters, here. By his own admission, the topic is based on hearsay and perpetuated by rumor. After reading it twice, I still want to brush the thing aside and say "Nah. If that was true it would have exploded by now." And yet, the whisper campaign could be all it takes. As soft as the media has gone on John McCain's history of documented, inappropriate treatment of colleagues, staffers, journalists, and even his wife, expect the wheels to come off the cart as the McCain camp, the RNC, the special interests, and the news industry get up to speed dismantling Obama's pick, whomever that is, for the #2 spot.

So I wonder what the vetting process turns up, and whether it deems Richardson as carrying too much baggage or not (a la Jim Webb, the outspoken Senator who published novels with gratuitous passages, and once sent a staffer packing heat through Senate security).

To be sure, other pols have weathered close scrutiny, and even allegations, over their conduct toward women. Bill Clinton did it in the wake of the Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers brouhahas (not to mention that other one), and Arnold Schwarzenegger managed to navigate similarly choppy waters in his bid to become California governor. So Clemons' questions may not be the sort of questions that derail the Richardson bid, but they may also raise issues that the Obama campaign could do without right now.

Richardson, to be sure, boasts a more global resume than the oft-mentioned Tim Kaine of Virginia and Evan Bayh of Indiana. But he also presents another unique challenge: could he seriously alienate recalcitrant, Dem voters (read Clintonites) who already see electing Obama as a stretch? I've posted before that I wonder who these Hillary supporters are who are so entrenched in their own process that they won't vote for the strongest Democrat in the running this year. I've also speculated that this whole notion reeks of Rovian pursuits, e.g., tell the public what you want the public to believe. A Richardson nod, however, could result in a backlash of voices against Obama from one of the Democratic candidate's newest core constituencies: Hillary Clinton supporters. The Clintons themselves must know as well as anybody the incredible stakes of full-contact politics, but I wonder if the bile they'd swallow to stump for an Obama/Richardson ticket wouldn't prove too much. It would all depend, I suppose, on what the Obama camp would be willing to offer the Clintons.

Or maybe that's more of the "old politics" talking. Maybe the electorate and the Democratic Party are simply ready for the best ticket, period. I think, if Richardson can satisfy the internal vetting process, then that might be the way to go. I have no idea what that process will turn up. Obviously, Richardson would be a shoo-in for cabinet (State Dept.), but as far as giving the ticket a boost and getting the Democrat into the White House, I think he'd also help there. More so than a Jim Webb (who says he won't do it), a Tim Kaine, or even a Bill Ritter (who, as David Sirota pointed out yesterday, isn't even popular in his home state, much as we wish he were).