Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crybaby Republicans!

So if you have been living in a cave with the Geico guys the past few days, let me update you with a quick Washington News. The House voted yesterday in a surprise in a against the bailout plan to help Wall Street. Main Street is still fuming and hoping someone would bail them out of their credit card debts and all. So, I guess the voters called in to voice their frustration and most of the House Republicans that McCain had personally whipped into shape balked and voted against it.

But that is understandable, what doesn't make sense is their excuse for voting against it. Republicans claim that they were all going to vote for it then the big mean Speaker Nancy Pelosi got up there and gave a fiery speech chastising President Bush and his Republicans friends for the mess in Wall Street. This apparently hurt the Republicans' feelings so they voted against it. Talk about not putting on their American hats eh?!

There are plans to vote again this week, but this time Speaker Pelosi has promised she will bring in a shrink to talk to all the Republicans and convince them their vote is for America not their party plus she ll personally hug all of them and tell them "Oh yes you are a good Republican! Who s a good Republican, yes you are, yes you are agugugagah!" P.S. There will also be jazz music playing in the background as the votes are counted.

Seriously? Are you kidding me? How many times have we seen Republicans decry Democrats and how they are ruining America before they have to vote on a bill. If Democrats refused to vote each time they were criticized by the likes of Tom Delay, I guess we would not have gotten anything done the last two decades. In fact there is a cable Television Fox News whose sole purpose is to deride and criticize Democrats, you don't see them crying and running back to their mamas!

For a party that claims to be so macho, this is a new low when Speaker Pelosi with just a speech can send them scurrying into a corner crying!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

From New York Times: Palin’s American Exception


September 25, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Palin’s American Exception

Sarah Palin loves the word “exceptional.” At a rally in Nevada the other day, the Republican vice-presidential candidate said: “We are an exceptional nation.” Then she declared: “America is an exceptional country.” In case anyone missed that, she added: “You are all exceptional Americans.”

I have to hand it to Palin, she may be onto something in her batty way: the election is very much about American exceptionalism.

This is the idea, around since the founding fathers, and elaborated on by Alexis de Tocqueville, that the United States is a nation unlike any other with a special mission to build the “city upon a hill” that will serve as liberty’s beacon for mankind.

But exceptionalism has taken an ugly twist of late. It’s become the angry refuge of the America that wants to deny the real state of the world.

From an inspirational notion, however flawed in execution, that has buttressed the global spread of liberty, American exceptionalism has morphed into the fortress of those who see themselves threatened by “one-worlders” (read Barack Obama) and who believe it’s more important to know how to dress moose than find Mumbai.

That’s Palinism, a philosophy delivered without a passport and with a view (on a clear day) of Russia.

Behind Palinism lies anger. It’s been growing as America’s relative decline has become more manifest in falling incomes, imploding markets, massive debt and rising new centers of wealth and power from Shanghai to Dubai.

The damn-the-world, God-chose-us rage of that America has sharpened as U.S. exceptionalism has become harder to square with the 21st-century world’s interconnectedness. How exceptional can you be when every major problem you face, from terrorism to nuclear proliferation to gas prices, requires joint action?

Very exceptional, insists Palin, and so does John McCain by choosing her. (He has said: “I do believe in American exceptionalism. We are the only nation I know that really is deeply concerned about adhering to the principle that all of us are created equal.”)

America is distinct. Its habits and attitudes with respect to religion, patriotism, voting and the death penalty, for example, differ from much of the rest of the developed world. It is more ideological than other countries, believing still in its manifest destiny. At its noblest, it inspires still.

But, let’s face it, from Baghdad to Bear Stearns the last eight years have been a lesson in the price of exceptionalism run amok.

To persist with a philosophy grounded in America’s separateness, rather than its connectedness, would be devastating at a time when the country faces two wars, a financial collapse unseen since 1929, commodity inflation, a huge transfer of resources to the Middle East, and the imperative to develop new sources of energy.

Enough is enough.

The basic shift from the cold war to the new world is from MAD (mutual assured destruction) to MAC (mutual assured connectedness). Technology trumps politics. Still, Bush and Cheney have demonstrated that politics still matter.

Which brings us to the first debate — still scheduled for Friday — between Obama and McCain on foreign policy. It will pit the former’s universalism against the latter’s exceptionalism.

I’m going to try to make this simple. On the Democratic side you have a guy whose campaign has been based on the Internet, who believes America may have something to learn from other countries (like universal health care) and who’s unafraid in 2008 to say he’s a “proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.”

On the Republican side, you have a guy who, in 2008, is just discovering the Net and Google and whose No. 2 is a woman who got a passport last year and believes she understands Russia because Alaska is closer to Siberia than Alabama.

If I were Obama, I’d put it this way: “Senator McCain, the world you claim to understand is the world of yesterday. A new century demands new thinking. Our country cannot be made fundamentally secure by a man who thought our economy was fundamentally sound.”

American exceptionalism, taken to extremes, leaves you without the allies you need (Iraq), without the influence you want (Iran) and without any notion of risk (Wall Street). The only exceptionalism that resonates, as Obama put it to me last year, is one “based on our Constitution, our principles, our values and our ideals.”

In a superb recent piece on the declining global influence of the Supreme Court, my colleague Adam Liptak quoted an article by Steven Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern: “Like it or not, Americans really are a special people with a special ideology that sets us apart from all other peoples.”

Palinism has its intellectual roots. But it’s dangerous for a country in need of realism not rage. I’m sure Henry Kissinger tried to instill Realpolitik in the governor of Alaska this week, but the angry exceptionalism that is Palinism is not in the reason game.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debating the first Debate!

So first of all, I have to say how could Obama get the first question and does not use it to immediately land a quick punch on McCain? Some suggestions here:

"What took you so long Senator McCain?"

"First of all, I must say to Senator McCain, I am very disappointed to see you here, I was kinda hoping this will be my night to shine alone!"


"Senator McCain, you couldn't just let me have this one night?!"

Ok, ok, I know Obama is not good at these one liners, but that is why you have a campaign staff to help you with these things. But this is a week when McCain came up with this decision to go to Washington and suspend the debate, how can you not bring that up at the beginning of the debate? Senator Barack Obama is a dynamic speaker on the campaign stump. He was probably a great professor at Univ. of Chicago, but he is not that great at debates. Having said that, I must say it was not a very bad debate, it was not a great debate either. Not a lot of memorable lines and catchy zingers. My only problem with the Obama campaign - they have to do a better job of lowering expectations for Obama.

Other quick observations - Obama did not maintain throughout the debate the link between Bush and McCain. We are a nation of short attention spans, if you don't repeat something over and over again, we forget. Obama was too nice to McCain, next time stop telling McCain each time, "you are right!" McCain, (and I may be biased here) seemed condescending, almost like Bush Senior did to Bill Clinton back in 92.

Overall: This was McCain's turf, so if it is a tie as I think it is, then its good for Obama, but I still think he could do better in the remainig debates.

Jim Lehrer did a great job moderating!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When Politicians Run Out of Lipsticks and Pigs.....

So if you ve been following the news recently, it's beginning to feel like deja vu all over again. One day Barack Obama is doing quite well, so what does McCain do? Yep, you got it right, he pulls a stunner. The last time this happened was after Barack Obama's speech at the DNC Convention which even Republicans admitted was as good a speech as they come. That did not last because the very next morning, McCain shocked everyone including his own campaign by choosing then little known Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin and soon we were talking about hockey moms, seeing Russia from Alaska, Troopergate, Moose stew and of course lipstick.

Since the financial crisis came to a head last week, the McCain Palin team has not been doing too well. First, on Monday John McCain had maintained the fundamentals of our economy were strong. Hours later he had a vision that American workers are actually the fundamentals or our economy. Really? I work hard but right now I don’t feel so good and what about the more than 600,000 American workers who have lost their jobs this year, I wonder how strong they feel? Anyways, next up for McCain was to look for a fall guy. The public likes it when someone takes the blame. Remember heckuva job Brownie of FEMA? Well, Brownie was nowhere to be found and SEC Chairman just happened to show up on Sen. McCain's TV. Problem solved, lets fire Cox!!! Well, even the Wall Street Journal were not buying it. So McCain transformed and became the biggest regulator since old Teddy Roosevelt.

If he thought that the public was going to buy this sudden conversion from a man who weeks ago was reminding the American people that he is always for deregulation. Today, the polls showed up and McCain panicked. The Palin honeymoon is over as she huddles in New York with world leaders for her crash course in foreign policy. (I wonder if she is going to meet her old neighbor Putin who she can see from Alaska?!) For the first time, Barack Obama took a wide lead in most polls today (and I must caution this can change just as quickly as it did against Obama). McCain running out of cards chose to play the “I am a bipartisan leader” card. He unilaterally cancelled the debate scheduled for Friday and decided he will go to Washington and whip those boys into shape, sorry into reaching a compromise. How he will do that, most people who follow Capitol Hill are miffed. He even convinced Bush to call a conference tomorrow at the White House with Obama and others. From what I have gathered, Obama has accepted the White House invite but is not budging on the debate. So we might see a one candidate debate Friday. My suggestion to McCain - send in Mike Huckabee, he is funny!

A compromise was going to be reach eventually on this bail-out bill without Barack Obama and John McCain direct involvement. It may still get done, but the American people will suffer in the long run if this bill is rushed through because presidential politics has been injected to the process by John McCain. As a politician, McCain is proving to be a very formidable candidate but not the type of straight talk candidate he once sold himself to be back when he was the darling of the media and the thorn of the right. Today McCain is running for the last campaign of his life, he knows this and he really wants to win, its his last shot at the office he has coveted for years. But his desperation to win at all costs is revealing a man that the John McCain of old would have derided as the reason Washington is dysfunctional - A man ready to say and do anything to win office.

When You've Lost George F. Will......


McCain Loses His Head

By George F. Will
Washington Post
Tuesday, September 23, 2008; A21

"The queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said without even looking around."

-- "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does."

To read the Journal's details about the depths of McCain's shallowness on the subject of Cox's chairmanship, see "McCain's Scapegoat" (Sept. 19). Then consider McCain's characteristic accusation that Cox "has betrayed the public's trust."

Perhaps an old antagonism is involved in McCain's fact-free slander. His most conspicuous economic adviser is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who previously headed the Congressional Budget Office. There he was an impediment to conservatives, including then-Rep. Cox, who, as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, persistently tried and generally failed to enlist CBO support for "dynamic scoring" that would estimate the economic growth effects of proposed tax cuts.

In any case, McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people. McCain's Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law's restrictions on campaigning. Today, his campaign is creatively finding interstices in laws intended to restrict campaign giving and spending. (For details, see The Post of Sept. 17; and the New York Times of Sept. 19.)

By a Gresham's Law of political discourse, McCain's Queen of Hearts intervention in the opaque financial crisis overshadowed a solid conservative complaint from the Republican Study Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the RSC decried the improvised torrent of bailouts as a "dangerous and unmistakable precedent for the federal government both to be looked to and indeed relied upon to save private sector companies from the consequences of their poor economic decisions." This letter, listing just $650 billion of the perhaps more than $1 trillion in new federal exposures to risk, was sent while McCain's campaign, characteristically substituting vehemence for coherence, was airing an ad warning that Obama favors "massive government, billions in spending increases."

The political left always aims to expand the permeation of economic life by politics. Today, the efficient means to that end is government control of capital. So, is not McCain's party now conducting the most leftist administration in American history? The New Deal never acted so precipitously on such a scale. Treasury Secretary Paulson, asked about conservative complaints that his rescue program amounts to socialism, said, essentially: This is not socialism, this is necessary. That non sequitur might be politically necessary, but remember that government control of capital is government control of capitalism. Does McCain have qualms about this, or only quarrels?

On "60 Minutes" Sunday evening, McCain, saying "this may sound a little unusual," said that he would like to replace Cox with Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic attorney general of New York who is the son of former governor Mario Cuomo. McCain explained that Cuomo has "respect" and "prestige" and could "lend some bipartisanship." Conservatives have been warned.

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I haven't had a chance to watch this yet, but it promises to be a great piece on why we have gotten so partisan over the past few years. If you get to watch it before I do, please let me know what you think!


Shocking and informative, SPLIT: A DIVIDED AMERICA takes a behind the scenes look at the partisanship dominating our politics.

"I loved Split!"
Jim Czarnecki, producer, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11


See a review here at Huffington Post, "Divided States of America," by Kelly Nyks

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When Politics Becomes More Than Lipstick On A Pig

If you have been listening to the news, whether or not you know much about politics, you know Wall Street has been hit hard this week. In the short term it is bad for the American economy - the financial institutions and individual investors. However, in the long run the markets will recover and Wall Street will bound back (amid with the infusion of taxpayer money)

The positives that I see from a political point of view, is that finally we are not talking about lipstick on a pig anymore. That may seem ridiculous now, but it was only last week that you could not watch TV without hearing about that. I remember thinking to myself, how do we keep doing this every election? Instead of talking about issues that have long term implications on our lives like healthcare, the economy, energy, education etc, we let the campaign spin-masters convince us other things are more important like would we want to have a beer with the candidate? In some cases, actually of late in most cases, wedge issues always come in and throws a smokescreen on what we should actually be discussing. It happened in 2000 and 2004 and each time, the nation immediately regretted its vote.

I do not doubt McCain can win this election, but if he does I hope he does so by tackling the important issues of the day and convincing voters that he not Obama would do a better job managing the country. Sometimes it seems fate (or God, whatever your beliefs) does the things we are afraid or ignorant to do. In the 2006 elections Republicans shot themselves in the foot each time a scandal - (Rev. Ted Haggard - Gay), (Rep. Mark Foley - Inappropriate relations with young boys) (Sen. Larry Craig - Bathroom tapper) - came to light. Democrats won then not because they are necessarily that good at campaigning but because Republicans' hypocrisy was too much to ignore. Even God gets tired of people using his name in vain!

It is still a long time till election day and I am hoping we have buried the pig and lipstick, literally. There is too much at stake in this election to make it about the trivial once again.

From PBS' Bill Moyers Journal: Rage on the Radio

I DVRed this episode from last Friday, but only now just got a chance to watch it. This is a powerful piece that shows what happens when we take hyper-partisan language beyond reason and boils into rage. Some of the language is just shocking and disgusting, you would think we would reserve language like this for our real foreign enemies instead of our fellow citizens.


September 12, 2008

BILL MOYERS:Welcome to the Journal.How ugly will it get? Very. The campaign has hit bottom this very first week, and seems to thrive there, down where the wild things are, while the country chokes on "Froth and Scum." By the way, FROTH AND SCUM is the title of a book, written by a former colleague, the historian Andie Tucher, on the sensationalist press in 19th Century America. Back then, the American author Oliver Wendell Holmes said that language is sacred, and wrote that its abuse should be as criminal as murder. He called it "...verbicide...violent treatment of a word with fatal results to its legitimate meaning..." America has yet to make "verbicide" a hanging offense. Indeed under the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, pretty much anything goes. There are some limits — Holmes' son was the Supreme Court justice who noted in a famous opinion that you cannot falsely shout fire in a crowded theater. That's because words have consequences and not just in politics. People in Knoxville, Tennessee, are asking if one of those consequences could be murder. Our correspondent Rick Karr traveled there to investigate. Let me warn you — some of the language you'll hear is graphic, provocative and downright raw.

RICK KARR: On a steamy Sunday morning in July a man armed with a twelve-gauge shotgun burst into this church in Knoxville, Tennessee and opened fire. Seconds later, one person lay dead, another mortally wounded, and six injured.

REVEREND CHRIS BUICE: The man who walked into this sanctuary on July 27th was armed with a gun but he was also armed with hatred, he was armed with bitterness, he was armed with resentments, he was armed with indiscriminate anger. He was armed in body and spirit.

RICK KARR: Members of the congregation wrestled a fifty-eight-year-old, unemployed truck driver named Jim David Adkisson to the floor and held him until police came. At first it seemed like just another inexplicable outburst of violence until a police news conference the next day.

POLICE CHIEF STERLING OWEN: It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement.

RICK KARR: Why did Adkisson hate "the liberal movement"? Police said that he told them "that all liberals should be killed ... because they were ... ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and ... ruined every institution in America...." Police said that Adkisson had targeted the Unitarian Universalist Church "because of its liberal teachings." The church advocates social justice and tolerance, and it openly welcomes gay, lesbian, and transgendered members. According to police, Adkisson said that, "Because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would target those that had voted them in to office."In the weeks following the tragedy, the congregation and its pastor, Reverend Chris Buice struggled with what they were learning about Adkisson.

REVEREND CHRIS BUICE: Some have suggested that his spiritual attitudes, his hatred of liberals and gays, was reinforced by the right wing media figures. And it is beyond dispute that there are a plethora of books which have labeled liberals as evil, unpatriotic, godless and treasonous.

RICK KARR: During that recent sermon Buice told his congregation, some of who had risked their own lives to stop the shooting, that he has been reading some of those books.

REVEREND CHRIS BUICE: One of the books has the title "Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism". If that author was here in this room right now I would introduce him to some good liberals who acted decisively on that Sunday, acted quickly and courageously to stop the terror that came into our church building. I would introduce him to some good liberals who know how to fight terror with more than just their mouths.

RICK KARR: Buice says even with the outpouring of sympathy from around Knoxville and across the country, Adkisson's lethal anger has left him angry and full of questions.

REVEREND CHRIS BUICE:People were killed in my sanctuary of my church which should be the holy place, a safe place. People were injured. A man came in here totally dehumanized us. Members of our church were not human to him. Where did he get that? Where did he get that sense that we were not human?

RICK KARR: Buice admits that no one knows for sure and says that Adkisson alone, is responsible for the shootings. But he keeps thinking about some books that police found in Adkisson's apartment, books by popular right-wing talk-radio personalities who berate and denigrate liberals. One of the books police found in Adkisson's apartment was Michael Savage's "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder". In it, Savage calls liberals "the enemy within our country;" "an enemy more dangerous than Hitler"; "traitors" who are "dangerous to your survival" and who "should be placed in a straightjacket". Like Adkisson, Savage accuses liberals of "[tying] the hands of our military".

Savage isn't just a bestselling author: he also hosts a syndicated radio show.

ANNOUNCER:"And now American's most exciting radio talk show...THE SAVAGE NATION...THE MICHAEL SAVAGE SHOW."

RICK KARR: Savage reaches more than eight and a quarter million listeners a week. And when it comes to demonizing liberals, he's the same on the air as he is in print.

MICHAEL SAVAGE:"Liberalism is, in essence, the HIV virus, and it weakens the defense cells of a nation. What are the defense cells of a nation? Well, the church. They've attacked particularly the Catholic Church for 30 straight years. The police, attacked for the last 50 straight years by the ACLU viruses. And the military, attacked for the last 50 years by the Barbara Boxer viruses on our planet."

RICK KARR: Political liberals aren't the only targets of Savage's wrath. Back when he had a cable TV show, he bashed gay men.

MICHAEL SAVAGE: "So, you're one of the sodomites. Are you a sodomite?"

CALLER: "Yes, I am."

MICHAEL SAVAGE: "Oh, you're one of the sodomites. You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis."

RICK KARR: And earlier this year on his radio show, he targeted kids with autism.

MICHAEL SAVAGE: "I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.'"

PROTESTORS:"Fire Savage now! Fire Savage now!"

RICK KARR: That outburst prompted protests by outraged parents, and a few stations dropped Savage's show. So did an advertiser. But Savage hasn't apologized and he's still on the air.

MICHAEL SAVAGE: "America is being overrun by an invasion force from Mexico that'll soon take over the country[...]you psychotic liberals don't even know you're digging your own grave and throwing lime in there. All that's missing is the worm from the tequila bottle to go with it."

RICK KARR: Michael Savage isn't the only right-wing talk-radio host who launches blistering, even violent, verbal attacks on people and groups he doesn't like. Glenn Beck, for instance, fantasized about murdering a liberal filmmaker.

GLENN BECK:"I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out of him. Is this wrong?"

RICK KARR: Michael Reagan, son of the former president, suggested that people who claim that "nine-eleven was an inside job," a U.S. government conspiracy, deserve to die.

MICHAEL REAGAN: "Take them out and shoot them. They are traitors to this country, and shoot them. But anybody who would do that doesn't deserve to live. You shoot them. You call them traitors, that's what they are, and you shoot them dead. I'll pay for the bullet."

RICK KARR: Neal Boortz went after victims of Hurricane Katrina.

NEAL BOORTZ:"That wasn't the cries of the downtrodden. That's the cries of the useless, the worthless. New Orleans was a welfare city, a city of parasites, a city of people who could not, and had no desire to fend for themselves. You have a hurricane descending on them and they sit on their fat asses and wait for somebody else to come rescue them."

RICK KARR: Muslims are some of Boortz's favorite targets.

NEAL BOORTZ:"It's Ramadan and Muslims in your workplace might be offended if they see you eating at your desk. Why? I guess it's because Muslims don't eat during the day during Ramadan. They fast during the day and eat at night. Sorta like cockroaches."

RICK KARR: Reverend Chris Buice says he's heard that kind of language before.

REVEREND CHRIS BUICE: If you look at the history of like situations like in Rwanda in 1994, the talk radio was a big part of leading to the conditions that created a genocide. The Hutu radio disc jockeys would call the Tutsi cockroaches. There's the sense that these aren't human beings. You know, they're not human beings with children or grandchildren. These are cockroaches. And when you hear in talk radio that liberals are evil, that they are traitors, that they are godless, that they are on the side of the terrorist. That's hate language. You don't negotiate with evil people. You don't live in community with people you consider to be traitors.

RICK KARR: Millions of Americans tune in to right-wing talk radio every day. Rory O'Connor is a media critic and a liberal himself who's written a book on shock-talkers. He says not all of these broadcasters use violent language. But they do all share a predilection for outrage and, he says, they're all practically addicted to constantly cranking up that outrage.

RORY O'CONNOR: Here's the real problem. When you shock somebody, if you come back the next time and you apply the same stimulus, it's not shocking any longer. It's already happened. So you have to ratchet it up a little bit. So how do you cut through? How do you really shock? I think that in order to continue to outrage, you have to constantly be jacking up the pressure. And ultimately, there's gonna be some deranged person out there in that audience who's gonna say, "You know what? That's a good idea. Let me act on that."

GLENN BECK:"The fusion of entertainment and enlightenment."

RICK KARR: Entertainers — that's what a lot of the shock-talkers call themselves. O'Connor says, maybe. But their words can motivate their listeners to act.

RORY O'CONNOR: Now first and foremost, we have to recognize that many of them are employed across multiple platforms. So they may say something on their radio show, but they may repeat it on their television show. They may then repeat it in their newspaper column. They may repackage the ideas into their best-selling books.

RICK KARR: Last year's debate over the immigration reform bill became a case study for Rory O'Connor. As arguments went back and forth, some of the language turned venomous. Hosts amped up their audiences' outrage with attacks on the bill's supporters and verbal assaults on immigrants.

NEAL BOORTZ: "I already have received at least one brilliant email today about the immigration problem [...]this person sent me an email, said when we defeat this illegal alien amnesty bill and when we yank out the welcome mat and they all start going back to Mexico, as a going-away gift let's all give them a box of nuclear waste[...]tell 'em it can, it'll heat tortillas."

BILL O'REILLY: "But do you understand what the NEW YORK TIMES wants? And the far left want? They want to break down the white, Christian male power structure which you are a part and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have."

RICK KARR:O'Connor says the result stunned Washington.

RORY O'CONNOR: There were massive numbers of emails and letters and phone calls. You know, senators said, they had to have two or three people in their office answering the calls. That was all that they could do. They were inundated. And beyond that, how do you get their attention? Well, I tell you. If you send those threatening letter to a senator's home, that gets his attention pretty fast.

RICK KARR: Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez got a threatening letter at home. North Carolina Republican Richard Burr got a threatening call at his office. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told the NEW YORK TIMES that he and others had received threats, too. The TIMES also reported that a mass email opposing the bill suggested that its supporters needed to be "taken out by ANY MEANS". The bipartisan support collapsed, the bill died and right-wing talk-radio hosts took credit.

RORY O'CONNOR: This is evidence of their vast power. I mean, you know, President George Bush was pulling out all his political capital to get immigration reform passed. Trent Lott was backing him up with everything he had. And guess what? The President and the Republican leadership and Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership, they all lost. And they lost to a bunch of radio jocks.

RICK KARR: Right-wing talk radio hosts usually reserve their ad hominem attacks for liberal figures. Jim Quinn has his own name for the National Organization for Women.

JIM QUINN: "The National Organization for Whores, they're whores for liberal politics in general, and they were whores for Bill Clinton in particular."

RICK KARR: Glenn Beck tried to connect former Vice President Al Gore's efforts against global warming with Nazism.

GLENN BECK: "What was the first thing they did to get people to exterminate the Jews? Now, I'm not saying that anybody's going to, you know, Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however[...]you got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler's plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore's enemy, the U.N.'s enemy: global warming."

RICK KARR: During this year's Democratic primaries, Rush Limbaugh urged his listeners to vote for Senator Hillary Clinton to foster division in the Democratic Party in the hope that that would lead to violence in the streets of Denver. He called it "Operation Chaos".

RUSH LIMBAUGH:"This is about chaos, this is why it is called Operation Chaos[...]the dream end, if people say what is your exit strategy. The dream end is this keeps up to the convention. And that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots and all of that. That's the objective here."

RICK KARR: American politics has always been a rough game. But political scientist Jeffrey Feldman, who's written a book on the effects of angry political rhetoric, says this is different.

JEFFREY FELDMAN: Our system is a deliberative democracy. And that deliberative democracy depends on a certain kind of talk, a certain conversation in order to function well. What right-wing rhetoric does, when it reaches that violent pitch, is it undermines that particular conversation, such that the focus of political debate, becomes increasingly hamstrung by fear, and the ability of citizens to engage in the basic act of civics becomes gummed up. That conversation breaks down.

RICK KARR: Knoxville pastor Chris Buice agrees.

REVEREND CHRIS BUICE: When you blame all your problems on some minority group then everyone else is exonerated. We exonerate ourselves. We don't have to look at ourselves to see what sort of ways we contribute to the problems of the world. We don't have to examine ourselves, to see what we are doing that is helping to create the problems that we're so concerned about.

RICK KARR: In other words, Buice says, angry talk-radio rhetoric simply sets up scapegoats for society's problems. And ever since Jim David Adkisson walked into his church and opened fire he can't help but wonder whether that might lead to more violence.

REVEREND CHRIS BUICE:I just think a lot of people are hurling insults from the safety of television studios, the safety of radio studio, the safety of cyberspace, which they would not throw if they had to stand right next to a person and look in their face and say the same thing. And so that's a void in our community, the chance to be in the same room and to have these exchanges and remember the humanity of the person on the other side.

BILL MOYERS:We may never know what finally triggered the killer's rage, unless he chooses at his trial or later to tell us. But not for a moment do I think any of the talk show hosts mentioned by the police would have wished it to happen.

We asked several radio hosts to come on this broadcast and talk about the story; they either declined or didn't return our calls. The issue of course is not their right to say anything they want on the air. The First Amendment guarantees their free speech as it does mine. Government shouldn't be the arbiter of what the Bill of Rights leaves to one's own sense of fair play. Watching that report, however, I was reminded of a story from folk lore about the tribal elder telling his grandson about the battle the old man was waging within himself. He said, "My son it is between two wolves. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The boy took this in for a few minutes and then asked, "Which wolf won?" His grandfather answered, "The one I feed." So, too, America's public life. The wolf that wins is the wolf we feed. Media provides the fodder.

We'll be back in just a bit with more about the media's role in America's public life and in this presidential campaign. But first, this is one of those times we remind you that you are the public in public broadcasting. This station needs your support and is waiting for your call. Thank you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

From Politico.com: Bank meltdown wallops campaigns


Bank meltdown wallops campaigns
By: Mike Allen
September 14, 2008 11:02 PM EST

America’s banking instability could upend the final 50 days of the presidential campaign, with both candidates forced to confront a calamity that has gotten only glancing attention during the first 20 months of the race for the White House.

Red flags about the nation’s economic infrastructure have been popping up at least since the collapse in March of the investment bank Bear Stearns. But neither Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) nor Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has talked in detail about the potential consequences for voters and the government.

Until now, the crisis seemed like a confusing Wall Street story. That all ended with the fast-moving events of Sunday, which The New York Times called “one of the most extraordinary days in Wall Street’s history.” A CNBC special report on Sunday night called it “a complete realignment of Wall Street.”

And that was before the extraordinary 9:30 p.m. announcement by the Federal Reserve of new efforts to shore up markets.

So it’s no longer an insider's game. The crisis is now at a tipping point where Wall Street will visibly affect Main Street: Home buyers, consumers and entrepreneurs will have even more trouble getting credit, slowing the nation’s job machinery.

Here are four huge effects for the campaigns:

1. The candidates had hoped to put off their detailed prescriptions until they were in office, unrolling an economic agenda in conjunction with an address to the new Congress. Now, there's no way to duck it.

But at a time when the economy is the top issue on voters’ minds, one of the candidates could wind up winning the neck-and-neck election by talking clearly and convincingly about the fallout and what should be done.

"This is the financial equivalent of Russia invading Georgia — an unexpected event that calls for leadership and direction,” said James Rickards, senior managing director for market intelligence at Omnis Inc., a research and analysis firm based in McLean, Va.

“This is an opportunity for both candidates to go beyond their [comments on] administration action and show how they would stabilize the system on a more lasting basis.”

2. The new crisis crowds the candidates’ agendas in the stretch run, keeping them from talking about the issues that they had planned to focus on. But the candidates are creatively trying to meld the disaster into their existing messages.

McCain aides say he plans to use the news to underscore the reform message that he began hammering at the Republican National Convention.

“This is bad news for the country and yet another sign that we need to reform Wall Street,” a senior McCain official said. “The only way we can do that is by reforming Washington first. We will show McCain and Palin as the ticket who will take action on the economy and make sure the taxpayers aren't stuck with the bill.”

Obama aides say he will hammer the message that the market upheaval shows that the country can’t afford four more years of policies aligned with those of the current administration.

His running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), was already scheduled to give a major speech Monday in St. Clair Shores, Mich., and is likely to get heavy coverage for his fiery elaboration on this theme.

3. Just like the markets, however, each candidate faces an enormous downside risk: Troubled times could make voters less likely to take a chance on Obama, with his shorter time in Washington. McCain could pay the price for the economic disruption on a Republican's watch, or if he looks like he doesn’t have the energy and creativity to reassure a worried nation.

4. They will also be more constrained when they get to Washington, with analysts estimating that the government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is likely to cost the Treasury $100 billion to $300 billion.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson “spent the cookie jar” with the takeover, a McCain adviser said.

© 2008 Capitol News Company, LLC

From Wall Street Journal: Crisis on Wall Street as Lehman Totters,


Crisis on Wall Street as Lehman Totters, Merrill Is Sold, AIG Seeks to Raise Cash
Fed Will Expand Its Lending Arsenal in a Bid to Calm Markets; Moves Cap a Momentous Weekend for American Finance
September 15, 2008 7:57 a.m.

NEW YORK -- The American financial system was shaken to its core on Sunday. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said it would file for bankruptcy protection, and Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed to be sold to Bank of America Corp.
It was a gut-wrenching weekend for Wall Street, with Lehman Brothers headed toward possible liquidation, Merrill Lynch about to be taken over and AIG facing shareholder wrath. WSJ's Dennis Berman and Matthew Karnitschnig look at what's ahead.

The U.S. government, which bailed out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac a week ago and orchestrated the sale of Bear Stearns Cos. to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. in March, played much tougher with Lehman. It refused to provide a financial backstop to potential buyers. Without such support, Barclays PLC and Bank of America, the two most interested buyers, walked away. Barclays said Monday it pulled out of the potential deal after deciding it wasn't in the best interest of shareholders.

Early Monday morning, Lehman filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Lehman said none of the broker-dealer subsidiaries or other subsidiaries of LBHI will be included in the Chapter 11 filing and all of the broker-dealers will continue to operate. Customers of Lehman Brothers, including customers of its wholly owned subsidiary, Neuberger Berman Holdings LLC, may continue to trade or take other actions with respect to their accounts, Lehman said.

Though it steered clear of a bailout, the Federal Reserve is expected to take new steps to stabilize the broader financial system. These steps, expected to be temporary, would make it easier for banks and securities firms to borrow from the central bank by using a wider range of collateral. Bankers say these financial institutions might need short-term funds as they unwind their many trading positions with Lehman.

The Lehman board authorized the filing of the Chapter 11 petition in order to protect its assets and maximize value, the firm said. In conjunction with the filing, Lehman intends to file a variety of first-day motions that will allow it to continue to manage operations in the ordinary course. Those motions include requests to make wage and salary payments and continue other benefits to its employees.

Lehman said it is exploring the sale of its broker-dealer operations and, as previously announced, is in advanced discussions with a number of potential purchasers to sell its Investment Management Division. Lehman said it intends to pursue those discussions as well as a number of other strategic alternatives. Neuberger Berman LLC and Lehman Brothers Asset Management will continue to conduct business as usual and will not be subject to the bankruptcy case of the parent company, and its portfolio management, research and operating functions remain intact. In addition, fully paid securities of customers of Neuberger Berman are segregated from the assets of Lehman Brothers and aren't subject to the claims of Lehman Brothers Holdings' creditors, Lehman said.

The damage on Wall Street is the latest consequence of a storm that began last year with the sharp decline in American housing prices and losses on loans and other assets tied to home values. Massive capital infusions have failed to stem write-offs and losses, and financial firms are running out of options to escape the damage.

Regulators and others were preparing for a hectic Monday. The New York Stock Exchange prepared contingency plans over the weekend to reassign the approximately 200 blue-chip stocks that Lehman's specialist unit trades, according to people familiar with the matter. If Lehman is forced into liquidation, the exchange will likely transfer the stocks to one or more of the remaining specialist firms, most likely using the same technology and staff that currently trade the stocks.

Dozens of Wall Street desks have trades with Lehman. As word spread that the Barclays deal was falling apart, worries that the company could be thrown into bankruptcy mounted, and traders labored to get out of those contracts.

At approximately 2:30 p.m., government officials hosted a call, and a trading session was opened to ease fears. One trader said it was agreed that other brokers would pick up contracts that trading desks have with Lehman. If Lehman does open on Monday, the deals struck on Sunday, often at a worse price, would be void. "It is utter chaos here," the trader said.

At many Wall Street firms, traders of credit-default swaps -- contracts that act as insurance against debt defaults -- were told to come to work immediately. Concerned investors were rushing to buy swaps tied to other brokerages and corporations, sending the cost of protection on investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and others sharply higher.

In a statement Sunday, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, a trade group whose members include many large dealers, said a "netting trading session" took place between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday. The idea was to allow firms to try to unwind their derivatives transactions with Lehman by finding other parties to step into Lehman's shoes.

"The purpose of this session is to reduce risk associated with a potential Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy filing," it said. It added that trades conducted during this period "are contingent on a bankruptcy filing on or before 11:59 p.m. New York time" on Sunday. If no filing takes place, the trades will be canceled, ISDA said.
[insurance against defaults]

Some traders said it was difficult to find new counterparties for many of their outstanding trades with Lehman. The snags included different terms and maturity dates on derivatives contracts, and market prices changed rapidly Sunday afternoon. "People were screaming at each other over the phone, asking: How can this work?" one trader said.

William Gross, chief investment officer at bond-fund giant Pacific Investment Management Co., said very few Lehman trades were offset. "There's an immediate risk related to the unwind of these positions," he said.

Many Wall Street firms concluded that a liquidation of Lehman's assets likely would proceed in an orderly fashion, people familiar with the situation said. That means other firms could quickly buy real estate, securities and other investments, preventing the assets from flooding the market. Because of that, these people said, some participants in the New York Fed talks decided that liquidation was no worse an option than selling Lehman to a buyer such as Barclays.

"There will be an orderly wind down," said one banker involved in the matter. "This was the default option. It happens when you have no buyer."

The outside firms decided that instead of making guarantees for Barclays or some other purchaser of Lehman, they would prefer to pool their resources and buy the assets themselves, taking on the risks and carrying costs, along with the possibility of profiting down the road.

Those firms would likely then buy assets such as mortgage-backed securities, leveraged loans, private-equity positions and investments in real estate or hedge funds.

Roger Freeman, a nine-year Lehman employee who analyzes brokerage firms, spent the weekend gathering cellphone numbers and email addresses from colleagues who also are likely to lose their jobs. He plans to clean out his desk Monday morning. "We worked long hours here, we've made some of our best friends here. We're suddenly being ripped apart," he said. "It's just unbelievable."

--Jon Hilsenrath, Jeffrey McCracken and David Enrich contributed to this article.

Write to Carrick Mollenkamp at carrick.mollenkamp@wsj.com8, Susanne Craig at susanne.craig@wsj.com9, Serena Ng at serena.ng@wsj.com10 and Aaron Lucchetti at aaron.lucchetti@wsj.com11

From New York Times: Making America Stupid


September 14, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Making America Stupid

Imagine for a minute that attending the Republican convention in St. Paul, sitting in a skybox overlooking the convention floor, were observers from Russia, Iran and Venezuela. And imagine for a minute what these observers would have been doing when Rudy Giuliani led the delegates in a chant of “drill, baby, drill!”

I’ll tell you what they would have been doing: the Russian, Iranian and Venezuelan observers would have been up out of their seats, exchanging high-fives and joining in the chant louder than anyone in the hall — “Yes! Yes! Drill, America, drill!” — because an America that is focused first and foremost on drilling for oil is an America more focused on feeding its oil habit than kicking it.

Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology — fossil fuels — rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology — renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution — on the eve of PCs and the Internet — is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. “Typewriters, baby, typewriters.”

Of course, we’re going to need oil for many years, but instead of exalting that — with “drill, baby, drill” — why not throw all our energy into innovating a whole new industry of clean power with the mantra “invent, baby, invent?” That is what a party committed to “change” would really be doing. As they say in Texas: “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got.”

I dwell on this issue because it is symbolic of the campaign that John McCain has decided to run. It’s a campaign now built on turning everything possible into a cultural wedge issue — including even energy policy, no matter how stupid it makes the voters and no matter how much it might weaken America.

I respected McCain’s willingness to support the troop surge in Iraq, even if it was going to cost him the Republican nomination. Now the same guy, who would not sell his soul to win his party’s nomination, is ready to sell every piece of his soul to win the presidency.

In order to disguise the fact that the core of his campaign is to continue the same Bush policies that have led 80 percent of the country to conclude we’re on the wrong track, McCain has decided to play the culture-war card. Obama may be a bit professorial, but at least he is trying to unite the country to face the real issues rather than divide us over cultural differences.

A Washington Post editorial on Thursday put it well: “On a day when the Congressional Budget Office warned of looming deficits and a grim economic outlook, when the stock market faltered even in the wake of the government’s rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when President Bush discussed the road ahead in Iraq and Afghanistan, on what did the campaign of Senator John McCain spend its energy? A conference call to denounce Senator Barack Obama for using the phrase ‘lipstick on a pig’ and a new television ad accusing the Democrat of wanting to teach kindergartners about sex before they learn to read.”

Some McCain supporters criticize Obama for not having the steel in his belly to use force in the dangerous world we live in today. Well I know this: In order to use force, you have to have force. In order to exercise leverage, you have to have leverage.

I don’t know how much steel is in Obama’s belly, but I do know that the issues he is focusing on in this campaign — improving education and health care, dealing with the deficit and forging a real energy policy based on building a whole new energy infrastructure — are the only way we can put steel back into America’s spine. McCain, alas, has abandoned those issues for the culture-war strategy.

Who cares how much steel John McCain has in his gut when the steel that today holds up our bridges, railroads, nuclear reactors and other infrastructure is rusting? McCain talks about how he would build dozens of nuclear power plants. Oh, really? They go for $10 billion a pop. Where is the money going to come from? From lowering taxes? From banning abortions? From borrowing more from China? From having Sarah Palin “reform” Washington — as if she has any more clue how to do that than the first 100 names in the D.C. phonebook?

Sorry, but there is no sustainable political/military power without economic power, and talking about one without the other is nonsense. Unless we make America the country most able to innovate, compete and win in the age of globalization, our leverage in the world will continue to slowly erode. Those are the issues this election needs to be about, because that is what the next four years need to be about.

There is no strong leader without a strong country. And posing as one, to use the current vernacular, is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.

Nicholas D. Kristof is off today.

From New York Times: Hold Your Heads Up


September 9, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Hold Your Heads Up

Ignorance must really be bliss. How else, over so many years, could the G.O.P. get away with ridiculing all things liberal?

Troglodytes on the right are no respecters of reality. They say the most absurd things and hardly anyone calls them on it. Evolution? Don’t you believe it. Global warming? A figment of the liberal imagination.

Liberals have been so cowed by the pummeling they’ve taken from the right that they’ve tried to shed their own identity, calling themselves everything but liberal and hoping to pass conservative muster by presenting themselves as hyper-religious and lifelong lovers of rifles, handguns, whatever.

So there was Hillary Clinton, of all people, sponsoring legislation to ban flag-burning; and Barack Obama, who once opposed the death penalty, morphing into someone who not only supports it, but supports it in cases that don’t even involve a homicide.

Anyway, the Republicans were back at it last week at their convention. Mitt Romney wasn’t content to insist that he personally knows that “liberals don’t have a clue.” He complained loudly that the federal government right now is too liberal.

“We need change, all right,” he said. “Change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington.”

Why liberals don’t stand up to this garbage, I don’t know. Without the extraordinary contribution of liberals — from the mightiest presidents to the most unheralded protesters and organizers — the United States would be a much, much worse place than it is today.

There would be absolutely no chance that a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin could make a credible run for the highest offices in the land. Conservatives would never have allowed it.

Civil rights? Women’s rights? Liberals went to the mat for them time and again against ugly, vicious and sometimes murderous opposition. They should be forever proud.

The liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Social Security and unemployment insurance, both of which were contained in the original Social Security Act. Most conservatives despised the very idea of this assistance to struggling Americans. Republicans hated Social Security, but most were afraid to give full throat to their opposition in public at the height of the Depression.

“In the procedural motions that preceded final passage,” wrote historian Jean Edward Smith in his biography, “FDR,” “House Republicans voted almost unanimously against Social Security. But when the final up-or-down vote came on April 19 [1935], fewer than half were prepared to go on record against.”

Liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Medicare and Medicaid. Quick, how many of you (or your loved ones) are benefiting mightily from these programs, even as we speak. The idea that Republicans are proud of Ronald Reagan, who saw Medicare as “the advance wave of socialism,” while Democrats are ashamed of Lyndon Johnson, whose legislative genius made this wonderful, life-saving concept real, is insane.

When Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law in the presence of Harry Truman in 1965, he said: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine.”

Reagan, on the other hand, according to Johnson biographer Robert Dallek, “predicted that Medicare would compel Americans to spend their ‘sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like in America when men were free.’ ”


Without the many great and noble deeds of liberals over the past six or seven decades, America would hardly be recognizable to today’s young people. Liberals (including liberal Republicans, who have since been mostly drummed out of the party) ended legalized racial segregation and gender discrimination.

Humiliation imposed by custom and enforced by government had been the order of the day for blacks and women before men and women of good will and liberal persuasion stepped up their long (and not yet ended) campaign to change things. Liberals gave this country Head Start and legal services and the food stamp program. They fought for cleaner air (there was a time when you could barely see Los Angeles) and cleaner water (there were rivers in America that actually caught fire).

Liberals. Your food is safer because of them, and so are your children’s clothing and toys. Your workplace is safer. Your ability (or that of your children or grandchildren) to go to college is manifestly easier.

It would take volumes to adequately cover the enhancements to the quality of American lives and the greatness of American society that have been wrought by people whose politics were unabashedly liberal. It is a track record that deserves to be celebrated, not ridiculed or scorned.

Self-hatred is a terrible thing. Just ask that arch-conservative Clarence Thomas.

Liberals need to get over it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

From Politico.com: Why Does the Press Cover Seemingly Trivial Matters?

So, after 19 months of following the 2008 presidential campaing (well, actually, it started immediately after last presidential election), and the successful Conventions for both parties, I decided to take an abrupt break from the news and politics. Somehow I have a feeling I did not miss much. 

First exciting news I was able to find upon my return comes from Politico.com

Why does the press cover seemingly trivial matters like the "lipstick on a pig uproar?" (Or name your own trivial uproar.) Is the press complicit--or even the principal engine--in making politics so conflict-driven and superficial? - Politico.com

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bringing Back The Culture Wars: Sarah Palin’s Pick Guarantees America Will Remain Divided For Years To Come

At his acceptance speech last week, the Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama approached wedge issues that have divided the country in recent years by saying this:

"We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.

The -- the reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.

I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.

You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

But this, too, is part of America's promise, the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort."

Obama’s comment seemed to fit the narrative that was emerging in the 2008 presidential campaign. The narrative was that because Obama and Jon McCain are both loathe to bring up wedge issues such as abortion, gay marriage and other so called “family values” issues, we can actually have a presidential debate based on real issues like the economy, healthcare, national security, energy independence, etc. Everything seemed to follow the narrative and just a few weeks ago, Rick Warren the moderate pastor of Saddleback Church in California hosted a forum with both candidates. No one expected Obama and McCain to agree on the tough issues such as where life begins or not, but we all agreed the tone had changed, we could agree to disagree in a civil manner.

Then something happened. After Obama made what wall acknowledged as a great speech last Thursday night, McCain made his VP choice which everyone admits was a surprise pick. Sarah Palin appeals to the base of the Republican party that McCain has until now had problems wooing. It is her beliefs on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage and abstinence only programs that has endeared her to the Republican base. The Republican base has been resuscitated and along with that the return of wedge issues. It doesn’t matter whether Barack Obama or John McCain wins the presidency, America will remain divided for a long time to come.

John McCain may have solidified the Republican base with the Palin pick, he could even win the White House with this pick, but by choosing Sarah Palin and brining back all the social wedge issues that have divided America for the past decades, John McCain did not put America first, he put winning the White House first!

Related Articles

McCain and Obama Largely Avoid Abortion, Gay Marriage - US News & World Report, 8/24/08

Palin reignites culture wars - Politico.com, 9/2/08

McCain’s embrace of Palin reignites culture wars - Financial Times, 9/4/08

Republican Convention - Wednesday Night Recap

Tonight was the big night of expectations - will Sarah Palin survive her big debut as the Republican ticket Vice Presidential nominee.

Before that Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Rudi Giuliani spoke to the delegates, although they strongly went after Barack Obama and vouched for McCain's candidacy, their speeches could all be condensed to this theme: During the last 8 years (and please do not think of Geroge W. Bush or a Republican Congress most of that time), the world has gotten much more dangerous and the only person who can save you is John McCain.

As for Sarah Palin, I am not sure if expectations had been set so low that by just showing up, she was going to exceed it. However, whatever your feelings about Palin, she gave a very well prepared and delivered speech. Does that mean she is qualified to be president on January 20, 2009? I don't know, the voters will decide on November 4th.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What Comes Around, Goes Around - May be after the Palin controversy, we can go back to talking about real issues...

If it were left to Democrats alone, every election year would be spent debating the issues that are of importance to the voters. Polls after polls show the public sides with Democrats on the issues. However, talking about boring issues like healthcare or the economy doesn’t necessarily excite the electorate or win elections.

Instead, every four years when voting time approaches, suddenly we begin to hear how gay people getting married and allowing women the right to choose when it comes to abortion is ruining America. These and other “family values” wedge issues usually drive out any sensible coverage on the issues that matter most to American voters - the economy, healthcare, jobs, energy, education. etc. So any sensible American would ask, why would people keep bringing these social issues during election? The simple answer is that it works, it serves as a good smokescreen and has served Republicans well in the past elections. In politics, if a strategy works, why would you change it?

However, the argument on social issues has begun to unravel against the very people who introduced it into the public arena.

During the Clinton years, Republicans spent more than $40 million dollars of tax payer money to investigate what today, would be considered a “private family matter” if it were a Republican. In the 2006 election, God himself got tired of one political party trying to claim ownership to “morality,” and sought to expose the hypocrisy. That year a Republican congressman Mark Foley of Florida who had championed legislation against child molesters was found to have sent sexually explicit messages to pages and soon it was found out he was gay. Shortly before the election, another damning revelation - Ted Haggard then head of the National Association admitted the devil had made him seek a male prostitute’s company. Then there was Larry Craig, Senator from Idaho who was caught by undercover police soliciting sex in a male bathroom at the MN airport. The list goes on.

Conservatives have also been vicious in going after families of Democratic public officials. For years, Hillary Clinton, now the darling of the conservatives, was attacked and called every vitriolic word imaginable. Not too long ago, any Hillary Clinton-bashing book was sure to be a bestseller in conservative circles. Late last year, the same vitriolic campaign was revised to attack Barack Obama’s wife Michelle. Now it is not my place to keep these scores, but in life no story is more captivating than the ones that expose hypocrisy. For years now, Republicans have claimed to be the party of moral values, the only party with a direct phone line to God. In fact a recent book by conservative a pundit declared Democrats to be a “Godless Party”

Now on Sarah Palin, the greatest argument against her is and should be her lack of experience to be on anyone’s ticket for vice president. No less than Karl Rove lampooned Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia for having only been Governor for three years and before that Mayor of a small town called Richmond, VA.

With news of her daughter being pregnant, the Right has rushed to proclaim how nice it is that they have the same problems has everyone. But it is not the Democrats spreading the news, it is the media just doing their job to find out someone relatively new to the public stage with about two months to election. It is fair to question John McCain’s judgment in picking a candidate he only met once and it is fair to question if she is ready and can be ready to be President on day one. Her daughter’s pregnancy would not make much news if Palin had not been touted as a family rights candidate and one that preaches abstinence only.

Joe Biden’s son is heading to Iraq in a few days. Sen. McCain’s son has already served in Iraq but like Senator Jim Webb of Indiana, they have refused to talk about them in public. Not Palin, from the first time Palin was introduced to the public, she dragged her family willingly or unwillingly into the public sphere talking about her son about to deploy and giving more information to the public that would no doubt force his commanders in Iraq to make changes in for his safety. She also mentioned over and over again her latest son Trig born even after she knew he had Down syndrome. If Mrs. Palin had focused on her qualifications on VP and let her family take a backseat, her daughter probably would not be facing this scrutiny. But the conservative establishment has pushed her family stories to support their anti abortion and family values stances. Now, that news has not been so palatable, conservatives are glad Obama is telling the media to back off. Barack Obama who had to recently chided the Right for going after his wife just a few months has shown the type of grace Sen. McCain has lacked in recent months by saying that families should be off limits. Has McCain told people peddling false rumors about Obama’s religion to back off? Where was McCain when people were viciously attacking Michelle Obama? Where was John McCain when people the Swift Boat veterans attacked and distorted John Kerry's military record? Has McCain ever told people questioning Obama’s patriotism to back off? I don’t think so.

Personally, I am with Obama, but I wish conservatives would stop dragging family/private issues into the public sphere whether they be that of Democrats or Republicans.

But it goes beyond just family values and private affairs. Republicans have to learn that when you attack and belittle people’s achievement just for the short term benefits, in the long run, it may come back to bite you. Republicans in 1992 belittled Governor Clinton for being governor of a small state. In comparison to Alaska’s 700,000 people, Arkansas has 2.8 million people. In 1992, Clinton had been Governor for more than ten years. Just as late as two weeks ago, Karl Rove thinking Tim Kaine of Virginia might be picked by Obama to be his VP, had this to say:

"With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished," Rove said. "I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America."

Rove continued: "So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of  the United States? What I'm concerned about is, can he bring me the electoral votes of the state of Virginia, the 13 electoral votes in Virginia?"

At the time, it was ok to belittle Gov. Tim Kaine’s experience, but now that Palin has been picked, Rove has changed tunes calling her a ‘bold’ choice for McCain.

These new direction of making politics about the personal instead of the public issues is part of what has contributed in making us the very partisan nation we are today. Now name calling and demonizing your opponent seems acceptable. Earlier in the campaign at a town hall event, a McCain supporter called Hillary Clinton a bitch to his face without so much a rebuke from John McCain.

The media has its job to do in investigating Sarah Palin with nine weeks left to election, but voters deserve to know sooner than later, what exactly will a McCain-Palin administration mean for the economy, education, US foreign policies and restoring America’s image abroad?

I have always believed that we should treat people the way we would want to be treated. I want to believe that the Palin saga will cause Republicans to pause the next time they want to attack their opponent. They might even ask, if it were the other way around, would I want to be treated the same way. Sadly, I have a feeling this is just an isolated incident. It seems for Republicans it is ok to attack others and rev up smear campaigns about your opponents, but when the tables are turned, such behavior is deemed “unfair” and “mean spirited.”

At the time Barack Obama is urging reporters to back off negative coverage of the Palin family, the GOP website continues to list Obama’s work in Chicago as that of a “street organizer instead of a “community organizer.” It continues to feature Tony Rezko prominently although Rezko’s legal problems have no connection to Obama. Yet, on the other side, the DNC website has no mention of the Keating scandal that involved Senator McCain that I was able to find.

If I am not mistaken, the Bible which conservatives seem to hide behind so often says something about treating your neighbor the way you would want to be treated. Will this change the tone of politics for good? Does this mean no more vicious rumors about Obama’s faith? Does this mean a return to talking about real issues? I don’t know, but I have a gut feeling….

Monday, September 1, 2008

Reaction to Sarah Palin's Pick

Here are some of the news, opinions and commentary following John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential nominee:

Is Palin ready to lead? - USA Today Editorial

The Palin Pick - National Review Editors

McCain’s ‘Hail Sarah’ Pass - Jonathan Alter, Newsweek

Republicans Rush In - Richard Cohen, Washington Post

The Lesson of Bristol Palin - Ruth Marcus, Washington Post

Palin's Pregnancy Problem - Sally Quinn, Washington Post

Northern Underexposure - E. J Dionne, Washington Post

Experience? Never Mind - Michael Kinsley, Washington Post

A Star Is Born? - William Kristol, New York Times

What the Palin Pick Says - David Brooks, New York Times

Vice in Go-Go Boots? - Maureen Dowd, New York Times

McCain’s Baked Alaska - Gail Collins, New York Times

Don’t Call Her ‘Harriet’ - Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review

Go Ahead and Laugh - John J. Pitney Jr., National Review

History Changer - Alvin S. Felzenberg, National Review

We’re Not Sisters with Her - Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review

Palin’s Instincts - Tom Gross, National Review

Palen Pick - Shannen Coffin, National Review

Palin?! - Jonah Goldberg, National Review

How Palin Got Picked - Stephen F. Hayes, Weekly Standard

Let Palin Be Palin - William Kristol, Weekly Standard

Providential Palin - Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard

MCCAIN/PALIN '08 - Washington Monthly

Pageants and Politics - Newsweek

What the Heck is McCain Up To? - Jay Cost, RealClearPolitics

McCain Offers Voters Contradictions, Conundrums - Albert R. Hunt, Bloomberg