Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pakistani children know the election outcome

A group of 10-13 year old schoolkids in Peshawar, Pakistan have collected money to send to Barack Obama, asking him to send them "books and pens" rather than "bombs and missiles" after he gets elected. Pretty clever idea, really, and the same policy direction that Petraeus is heading. But why do they address their letter to "Uncle Obama," rather than Senator McCain? Do they know something about Nov. 4 that Fox News and Bill McInturff don't?

I can see the next McCain ad in the works: "Obama fathered Muslim children in Pakistan who are helping him steal the election." The evidence is right there!

Why Obama must win

I began this campaign season, and this blog, wanting Obama to win simply because he'd be a better president on a whole host of issues. There were clearly symbolic advantages to an Obama win, but those were really only important insofar as they improved America's image and soft power abroad. I also began this campaign respecting John McCain as a hero, an independent thinker, and a moderate (although not as moderate as he portrays himself).

But this campaign has convinced me that Obama must win. He must win because he will still be the better president. But an Obama win will also mean a public repudiation of the Rovian, xenophobic, subtly (and sometimes overtly) racist, dumbed-down, cynical, deceptive tactics that the McCain campaign has now fully embraced. He could have run to the middle, and he has deliberately chosen to appeal to the worst elements in his constituency. If America does not repudiate this, what does it mean for our identity as a country?

Christianism X: Dobson's manifesto

Just too many examples of Christianism in this election. Focus on the Family wrote a fictitious letter from 2012 about all the perils of an Obama administration. Did Jesus really talk about gun ownership (see page 8)? Who knew.

Let's remind ourselves why Christianism, like any theocratic form of governance, is particularly dangerous:

1) Government by religious authority is notoriously disrespectful of human rights, particularly women's rights. Think Saudi Arabia, Iran, Islamic police, and the Vatican during the Crusades.

2) Government by religious authority does not allow for compromise and deliberation. As a result, it tends toward extremism. Democracy inherently requires compromise to function.

3) Government by religious authority tends toward violent conflict. Indeed, violent conflict may be welcomed at times when religious justifications point to goals "higher" than the protection of human life (say, the End Times).

That's my short list, but I'm sure you can think of other reasons.

The middle for Obama

It's pretty no-frills, but here's a great campaign ad for Obama. Like many of the ads this season, it's not actually produced by the campaign itself.

If I were the Obama campaign, I'd pay for this to play constantly for the next six days.

I'm back

I was out of town last week, so I wasn't able to blog.

So, only 6 more days until the election. Some prominent Obama-leaning folks are virtually declaring victory, which is a bad idea. With the possible Bradley effect, the inaccuracy of polls, and the attempts at vote suppression, I'm not ready to celebrate yet. I'll be on pins and needles until next Tuesday night.

I caught most of Obama's half-hour ad last night. Although the narrative was a bit disjointed, I thought it captured just the right tone. I didn't hear one reference to McCain or Bush. All positive, very inspirational, focused on the economy, laden with specific proposals.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Christianism IX: Judgment day

Yes, for them, it really is November 4. And when you see St. Peter at the pearly gates, you better be able to explain your vote on abortion.

Christianism VIII: God votes for Palin

Perhaps this is getting redundant. But here's another example.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Christianism VII: Obama's witchcraft

Geez, I just thought Obama was a good public speaker. Who would have thought that he made a deal with Elizabeth Hurley (oops, I mean the Devil) to win the election and deliver the country to Satan?

I don't know how widespread Jim Bramlett's email is. But self-parody is really reaching new heights these days.

Not an enemy combatant? We'll make you one

According to the DOJ, those 17 Uighurs in Guantanamo are still threats to the American population, even though they were declared not enemy combatants, they never desired to attack the U.S., and a panel of judges has ordered their release. So why are they a threat to the U.S.? Because we've illegally detained them for the past six years, and they might be pissed.

Hey, I think McCain might have finally hit upon a strategy for deeming Obama unsafe for America!

Wedding rings

Great post from Ian Ayres, who just decided to put his wedding ring back on.

Denying couples the benefits of marriage is a profound moral and human rights issue. Ayres points to several ways in which heterosexual couples can express their opposition to discrimination. After reading his post, I just bought his book, Straightforward, on Amazon.

Florida's Amendment 2 would ban civil unions and gay marriages, under the perverse logic of "protecting marriage." I will eagerly vote NO, because somehow I just can't imagine how my relationship with Amy is threatened by the dozens of gay couples I know. I'm trying hard to think of how they might be some kind of insidious threat, but I'm just not coming up with anything. Help me out here.

Until Florida and other states end this discrimination, here's two simple things that straight couples can do: take off your wedding band, and refer to your spouse as your "partner."

Christianism VI: The mass exodus

According to a number of first-hand descriptions, independents and moderate Republicans are leaving the party in droves. Why shouldn't they? It's been taken over by religious extremists, facilitated by McCain's cynical choice for VP. Here's one account:
"Now the mass exodus is underway. Anyone who is fiscally conservative can't call himself a Republican anymore. Anyone who is a religious Christian can't honestly be part of this since Jesus preached about caring for the sick and the poor--not about eliminating reproductive choice or issues related to same-sex marriage. There's nothing Christian about the agenda of the Religious Right--it's a totally political movement focused on issues that Jesus never mentioned and they ignore the issues about which Jesus preached constantly."

You know it's more political than religious when faithful Catholics are virtually excommunicated for their views on abortion. You know it's more political than religious when the more religiously devout presidential candidate is called a Muslim.

(Hat tip: Sullivan)

Monday, October 20, 2008

The real America

I just went with my family to the rally in Orlando with Obama and Hillary Clinton. I have no idea what the crowd estimates were, but there were throngs. Tens of thousands. Yes, it was pretty damn inspiring. There were young and old, black and white, singles and families, gay and straight, rural and urban. It made me realize how Palin's comments about the "real America" must be interpreted, as she speaks to overwhelmingly white crowds at her rallies. But anyone who went to this rally had to be proud about how America was represented here.

My 7-year old daughter and 4-year old son came to the event and were pretty excited about it. Yes, it was a bit creepy to hear my kids chanting "Obama, Obama" and I know Sullivan would mock us for it. But trust me, we're not pushing it on them -- some things just take hold with them. I've been trying to make my kids like football for years now, and they're not buying it. So I'm not stopping them from learning more about this presidential candidate, especially when one of my daughter's second-grade classmates told her that "Obama puts knives in babies' heads."

Rays to World Series

I just moved to Florida a few months ago, so I can hardly claim to be a Rays fan. But their run to the World Series is pretty remarkable for a team with a $43 million payroll, second-lowest in MLB, and only one-third as large as the Red Sox.

I'm not a Red Sox hater -- they have a great organization and a fun team to watch. But can we finally put to rest the notion that they're an "underdog" team? They reside in one of baseball's best markets, and consistently have a top-5 payroll. I know they're not the Evil Empire, but let's be honest. The real underdogs showed up in this ALCS.

Powell's devastating logic

Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama yesterday was newsworthy in and of itself -- a Republican Bush Administration official, a career military man, a former JCS, and one of the most respected public figures in the country.

But more than that, I thought his rationale was absolutely devastating to the McCain campaign. He knows both men well. McCain has been "unsure" (read: erratic) in responding to the economic crisis. Palin is not ready, and it reflects on McCain's judgment. Obama is steady and has "intellectual curiosity and vigor." The Republican party is getting narrower (read: taken over by Christianists). McCain's campaign is dirty.

I understand that the right wing will never go for Obama, but how can a moderate or independent ignore the strength of this argument, made by this person?

Also, I give enormous credit to Powell for speaking out about the fact that "Muslim" shouldn't be a smear in America!

One last thing: You've gotta give credit to McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds for coming up with this reaction: "Only an unproven and inexperienced politician like Barack Obama would have to rely so heavily on an another man's resume in making the case for his own candidacy." Of course it defies reason, but A+ for effort and creativity.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Squiggly lines in debates

As I mentioned before, I love the squiggly lines at the bottom of CNN's screen, showing instant reaction to the debates. But Nate Silver at 538 has a good post about their limitations -- mainly, that it only represents 30 people not randomly chosen. Get 300 people in a room with little dials, and now we're talking.

I just love that dial technology. How can I get each of my students one for my classroom? Now that would be a pedagogical revolution.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

(Not so) Happy World Food Day

October 16 is World Food Day. Not so much to celebrate this year, as food and energy prices have skyrocketed for the world's poor. Estimates are that 100 million more people worldwide have fallen into poverty in the past year and are vulnerable to extreme hunger (especially the urban poor).

And now we have the global financial crisis to make things worse. Jeff Sachs actually argues that the crisis won't hurt the extreme poor that badly, since they're not very tightly integrated into the global banking system anyway. The bigger threat is that the wealthy countries will use the crisis as a reason to renege on their foreign aid commitments. But Sachs makes a key point:
"the idea of $25 billion for Africa suddenly doesn’t sound like so much after a $700 billion bailout in the United States or $2 trillion in bank guarantees in Europe. We’ve just been making choices to ignore the poor rather than calculations based on real resources available. We made a choice to let millions of people die and not honor our commitments. The crisis doesn’t change our quantitative ability to follow through."
Two words: ONE Campaign.

What John Lewis said

One of the more interesting parts of the debate last night was when McCain played the victim of John Lewis' "hurtful" comments. Here's what Lewis originally said:

"As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin
campaign. What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse. During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama. As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better."

The McCain campaign called these comments "vicious character assaults" and called on Obama to repudiate Lewis' remarks.

Here's the deal. McCain has called Obama unpatriotic and guided by "blind ambition." Palin has repeatedly proclaimed that Obama "pals around with terrorists" (note the present tense verb and plural noun), and says "he doesn't see America the way you and I do" (code language for you-know-what). A lot of McCain's supporters really believe Obama is Muslim, Arab, connected with terrorists, and many use racist epithets in interviews conducted outside of McCain rallies.

John Lewis personally got the shit beat out of him by Wallace's police. Lewis' criticism was of McCain's specific behavior in this campaign, not his character. So I'm inclined to give Lewis the benefit of the doubt here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last debate reaction

I thought it was mostly a draw, meaning that Obama did what he had to do. He didn't take the bait on criticizing Palin, didn't take the bait on getting upset, and he remained himself -- calm and steady. Some pundits criticized him as "professorial," but I think Sullivan nailed it -- a black man has to be "boring" at times in order to win an election.

McCain scored some good individual points, and his punchlines were more memorable than Obama's (as they had to be). But I think where Obama won the debate was on general tone and approach. As Sullivan said, McCain was totally unable to show any grace toward Obama -- a "lack of generosity of spirit." McCain generally attacked well, but all he could do was attack. I think that attitude comes across as, and probably is, angry and desperate.

Bob Schiefer did a great job of moderating, asking direct questions and follow-ups. My only criticism was his acceptance of the "moral equivalence" myth in his question about the negative attacks "by both sides." There is simply not a moral equivalence between criticizing a health care plan and "palling around with terrorists."

The instant polls are just coming in as I'm watching CNN, and it sounds like the general tone of the debate came through. Who did better in the debate? Obama 58%, McCain 31%.

Christianism V: Gay marriage

Andrew Sullivan has a reasonable post arguing that gay couples can be just as responsible and monogamous in marriage as straight couples. And even if they aren't, that isn't a sufficient reason to exclude them from marriage as an identity group. He argues this because he believes that "the core resistance to marriage equality stems from a deep suspicion that gay men are incapable of the responsibilities of marriage and will taint it if allowed to own the name."

Nice argument Andrew, but I don't buy it. The core reason why people oppose gay couples is not because gays and lesbians might not be "responsible," but because they're homosexual. Period. The Bible tells me so, end of story.

So I don't see rational arguments making too much of a dent in the hard-core opposition to gay marriage. But perhaps it could work on the non-Christianist margins.

Prosecute or compromise?

In Zimbabwe, a power-sharing deal is being opposed by generals who fear prosecution for human rights violations. If the deal doesn't go through, instability, hunger and displacement are likely to worsen.

In Sudan, the ICC indictment of President al-Bashir for genocide is potentially threatening the future of the AU/UN peacekeeping mission. Understandably, al-Bashir doesn't want to give UN troops access to his country if they're going to arrest him and send him to the Hague.

These are just two examples of an ongoing debate between human rights and conflict resolution. Is the rule of law so important that it should be upheld (especially in the worst cases) in order to deter future violations? Or do peace deals need to include some compromises (including amnesty from prosecution) in order to set a more secure foundation on which a rule of law can be built?

Tough questions. I admit, I'm on the fence. But I haven't been feeling to sanguine lately about the promise of deterrence and the rule of law. Maybe that's because I've been reading the recent stories about the Bush Administration's authorization of torture. Fear of prosecution didn't really stop them from doing it, it just made them keep it a bit more secret.

The lesson of Ayers: How to defeat terrorism

Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy's Passport has a really smart post about how we can actually learn to defeat terrorism from the story of William Ayers. The Thomas Frank article that he links to is worth a read as well.

The recession-proof industry

The global arms trade. Actually, it makes some sense. Poverty creates conditions more likely to lead to conflict, thus increasing demand for weapons.

Kinda like sports and Disney World. OK, not quite so benign as those.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ACORN and voter fraud

Thanks to John Fund, Fox, and the McCain campaign, ACORN has become associated with voter fraud in our national consciousness. As the argument goes, Obama has nefarious historical links with ACORN, and ACORN has been involved in voter fraud in numerous states (read: it tries to steal elections for Democrats). What's the inference you're supposed to make? If McCain loses, it's because Obama has stolen the election.

TPM's Josh Marshall has a good article debunking that connection.

Basically, ACORN hires people to register voters. Some of those employees then register fictitious people, or the same people numerous times, so they can get money from ACORN. When ACORN finds out, it alerts federal investigators, who prosecute the employees.

Here's the key: The fraud is by employees against ACORN, not by ACORN. And the fraud is registering fake voters, not actually having fake people vote. There are clear, solid protections against having fake people actually vote (a handful of people might be able to do this, but it's almost impossible to carry out a massive coordinated effort). So, you could certainly argue that ACORN could come up with better ways to register voters. But, given the evidence to date, this is not some kind of threat to democracy that can "steal elections."

UPDATE: Obama addressed this "distraction" yesterday as well. And note the punchline: Republicans often drum up spurious fears of voter fraud in order to enact laws that suppress minority and low-income turnout on election day. Pretty clever, really.

Christianism IV

In the words of Christianist Alan Keyes, Palin was a bad VP choice because she and McCain are "unequally yoked":
Palin "may be risking her moral and spiritual integrity by placing herself under the authority of someone who has provably abandoned God's will on the most fundamental moral issues of our times."
What fundamental moral issues? Abortion and gays, of course. So, not only is McCain not Christian enough, but God's will is "provable."

Assassinating Hugo Chavez

In one of my classes last week we discussed the status of democracy in Venezuela. I showed a few short videos to introduce the topic, including Chavez calling Bush the "devil" at the UN; Pat Robertson calling for Chavez's assassination, and a short documentary explaining how the U.S. supported the attempted coup against Chavez in 2002.

My students then discussed the ways in which democracy has both improved in Venezuela (through national referenda and local community councils) and been threatened (through Chavez's centralization of power). We noted that poverty has been cut by over half since Chavez took power, and education and health are on the rise, despite an economic recession in 2002-2003. We noted how some of the non-democratic moves that Chavez has taken aren't all that different than the centralization of power in the Bush Administration. We talked about how economically linked the U.S. is with Venezuela, so much so that it would be impossible to sever ties.

Then something curious happened. I asked at the end, "If you were the incoming U.S. president in 2009, how would you treat relations with Chavez?" More than half the class said, "Assassinate him or support another military coup." Frankly, I was a bit taken aback by that. I asked why. "Because he's friends with bad guys like Ahmadenijad and Castro, so we need to get rid of him." They said this despite knowing that it would be illegal, and possibly against long-term U.S. economic and political interests in the region.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Maybe they were just trying to be provocative. Or maybe interventionism and disregard for international law has become so normalized in our society, that my students would consider such an action legitimate. Who knows.

Chavez is certainly no saint, but he has become so demonized in the U.S. that violent interventionism seems appropriate to some. My feeling is, if you're going to negotiate with any "enemy", then Venezuela is the quintessential case. It is absolutely ripe for a warming of relations, particularly in a new administration.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Christianism III

Via Sullivan, another example at a McCain event. Apparently, if Obama wins, Jesus loses. Is this now the McCain campaign's central argument?

Speaking of Christianism...

You need to look no further than the Alaska Governor:
"An Associated Press review of the Republican vice presidential candidate's record as mayor and governor reveals her use of elected office to promote religious causes, sometimes at taxpayer expense and in ways that blur the line between church and state. Since she took state office in late 2006, the governor and her family have spent more than $13,000 in taxpayer funds to attend at least 10 religious events and meetings with Christian pastors, including Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical preacher Billy Graham, records show."

I know, you're shocked, just shocked.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Christianity vs. Christianism

Christianity is the belief in the Bible, salvation through Christ, heaven and hell, and so forth. Christianism is the belief that your Christian beliefs alone are sufficient to justify your public policy positions. In some cases, Christianists believe that God can speak directly to them to dictate those policies.

Christianism is theocracy. And the McCain/Palin campaign is increasingly relying on it. Christianism is when Douglas Kmiec, a conservative pro-life Catholic, gets denied the Eucharist for endorsing Obama. Christianism is when the candidates get prayed for -- that "God will lead them to victory" and "protect them from witchcraft."

I have nothing against Christians. Barack Obama is a Christian (really!). In fact, he made the clearest distinction between Christianity and Christianism in a terrific speech at a "Call to Renewal" conference in 2006. It's really worth a read. A key passage:
"Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.... [But] democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice."
Amen to that.

That's why, if this story is true, I'm encouraged by developments in Colorado Springs. If Pastor Boyd is taking a Christian, rather than a Christianist approach to politics, then more power to him. And he should call out that Christianist Dobson for what he is, while he's at it.

Memo to McCain: Stop citing Petraeus

Are McCain and Palin sure they want to keep citing General Petraeus and McKiernan on Afghanistan policy, when those generals keep saying things that support Obama's positions?

"Media" = Fox

By my unofficial count, the only interviews with the press that Palin has done since her debacles with Gibson and Couric, are the following: Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt (who's writing a book called "How Sarah Palin Won the Election and Saved America"), Sean Hannity again, and Carl Cameron. I could have missed something, but you get the gist.

She did answer some press questions off-camera in the back of her plane the other day, but since that resulted in another rambling non-answer, I'm guessing she won't be doing that much more.

I guess I can't blame the campaign for the Fox-a-thon, since something like 85% of Fox viewers thought McCain won the debate Tuesday. Perhaps that's what we can look forward to in a McCain/Palin administration -- a nationally sanctioned TV station?

Don't expect a landslide yet

Since Obama's poll numbers have been trending up recently, some political commentators (Republican and Democratic) have already predicted an Obama victory in November. But let's not go there yet. I think it's going to be close until the end.

Why? David Gergen summed it up pretty well on CNN after Tuesday's debate: Obama is black. Period.

Kudos to Gergen for pointing out that there is still a lot of racism in America, even if it's not overt. Analysts have differed over whether the Bradley effect is still operable, but there's no question that a lot of voters still don't like Obama, or don't feel that they can trust him, because he is "Other." Here are some examples. And McCain/Palin's explicit strategy in the last few weeks of the campaign will continue to try to exploit that tendency (thus the "Hussein" references, the "Who's the real Obama?", the "pals with terrorists" crap).

The best way to overcome this is to keep working, and celebrate on November 5 that America is better than this.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Health care is a right!

Yes, you heard Obama say it in the debate last night. Believe it. And as Sullivan says, Know hope.

How Obama can improve his debate style

My wife Amy pointed this out in the debate last night. When Obama is asked a question, he often responds by providing the evidence/explanation/details first, then getting to the main point (the "answer") at the end. It can certainly be perceived as talking around a question, and not directly answering it. But it's not something Obama is trying to do, and we think it's something pretty easy to solve. Just provide the short answer first, then explain it.

So, for example, "Is Russia an evil empire?" Answer: "No, because it's unproductive to call countries evil, and they're not an empire any more. But they've done some evil things..."

Or, "If Iran attacks Israel, should the US defend Israel militarily or wait for UN permission?" Answer: "Of course the US should be defend Israel militarily, and we don't need UN permission because it's a clear situation of collective self-defense. But let me explain my Iran policy that would make this scenario less likely..."

Don't get me wrong; Obama still won the debate handily last night.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Public to candidates: Go positive and get specific

As I was watching CNN's coverage of the debate tonight, I was struck by the insta-reaction squiggly lines at the bottom of the screen. What a great use of technology -- viewers turn a dial up or down when they like or dislike the candidates' answers.

One thing stood out: When the candidates turned negative, especially McCain, the dials turned negative. Voters desperately wanted positive messages and specific plans, and they didn't buy the attacks. There were a couple of exceptions when Obama was tying McCain to Bush, which resonated a bit, but I was shocked by how much the viewers just didn't buy McCain's attacks in particular.

Change of course on Darfur?

Darfur came up in both the VP debate last week and the debate tonight. And all four candidates promised to do more -- enforce no-fly zones, arm and equip the AU/UN peacekeepers, support them financially, and push harder for a UN Security Council action on Sudan. This would certainly represent a change in course in January. Let's hold the candidates accountable to those promises!

"That one"

Did anyone else catch McCain calling Obama "that one" in the debate tonight, in reference to a vote in Congress? Utter disdain. Jeff Toobin caught it on the CNN post-game.

Professional economists for Obama

The Economist just took a poll of 142 professional economists. Summary:

"Which candidate would pick a better economic team?"
81% Obama, 14% McCain
"Which candidate strikes you as having a better grasp of economics?"
80% Obama, 8% McCain

But I suppose McCain would say that the economists are elitist? Tough argument to make in the midst of a complex financial crisis that screams out for expertise.

Why the mudslinging is bad for everyone

Because it will make it hard for the next president to govern. Whoever it is. If Obama is elected, roughly half the country will think he's a Muslim terrorist Manchurian Candidate. If McCain is elected, roughly half will think he's a cynical pol who gave up his honor and has an extremist novice waiting in the wings.

After all, what we really want in this election is to find people who will govern well. We desperately need it. But both campaigns have engaged in a political process that will make this more difficult.

Yes, I do think both candidates are responsible. I lay most of the blame on McCain, because of the viciousness of the personal attacks, the degree with which they distort or disregard the truth, and the timing of the attacks (coming earlier and more often). But I also think Obama has made a mistake by going after McCain on Keating. It allows media like the NYT to say that Obama has "responded in kind," painting both politicians as equal mudslingers. I think it would be more effective for Obama, and more consistent with his core message, to criticize McCain strictly on the issues, and keep his overall message positive. I think Obama wins if he stays on the high road. Of course he has to address the smears from the other side, but he would best do this by expressing disappointment with McCain and faith in the American voter. Something like, "John, I know you're down in the polls and you're looking for a knockout strategy, but why would you insult the voters' intelligence by spreading baseless smears about me? Do you really want your supporters yelling out 'traitor' and 'terrorist' and 'kill him' during your campaign events? Do you really think that will work?"

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quote for the day

"Sarah was not an in-depth person. Never has been, never will be. Her instincts are political as opposed to evaluative."

- Dick Deuser, city attorney of Wasilla during Sarah Palin's tenure on the city council.

Just what we need, another leader who operates from the Gut.

(Hat tip: New Republic)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Down in the polls and getting desperate

What do you do when your campaign is losing on the issues? When your Hail Mary attempts to look relevant in the face of a financial crisis are intercepted? When you want to divert attention from the fact that your VP is probably the least qualified in American history?

Try more character assaults!

Ah, what an honorable campaign. As Nov. 4 nears, and Obama maintains his steady lead (and demeanor), we can expect much more of the same. Anything that will make voters go into the booth thinking, "Is he really One Of Us?"

Friday, October 3, 2008

Why is foreign aid always the first thing to go?

I was disappointed to hear Joe Biden last night say that the only government spending program they would be willing to "slow down" because of the financial crisis is foreign assistance. Yes, at least he answered the question (vs. Palin), but why foreign assistance?

I know, it's election season and we're in the midst of a financial crisis, so Americans want money spent on Americans. But honestly, foreign aid gives us a tremendous bang for our buck, in both moral and security terms -- more than almost any other program.

But we don't think of foreign aid in those terms. We think we're being "generous" in helping "those other people" with aid, not that foreign assistance serves our self-interests and adheres to our best values. So public support for aid is extremely wide but very thin. Everyone wants to help people in poverty, but few are committed enough to hold our leaders accountable to these promises.

That's why I think the ONE campaign is such an important movement.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Exit plan

Just in case Gov. Palin doesn't do too well tonight, here's an option for how the McCain campaign could spin it and still come out ahead in November. I admit, I never thought about that one before.

Beating illegal immigration

I really don't give enough credit to the Bush Administration. As we have all been busy debating immigration policy -- worrying about walls and arrests and amnesty -- they have been working on a brilliant plan for the past 8 years to stop the flow of illegal immigrants: economic recession.

The showdown in St. Louis

I'm looking forward to the much-anticipated debate tonight. "Which debate," you ask, "the one between Palin and Obama-loving elitist Gwen Ifill? The debate between Biden and his own notorious proclivity to grandstand and exaggerate? The debate between all the new facts crammed into Palin's head and her mouth?" Yeah, all those, and a little sideshow called Palin vs. Biden. Given how central the Palin brand is to McCain's campaign, and how little we are allowed to know about Palin, I think this debate is possibly more important than the presidential debates.

Here's my prediction for tonight (and the nice thing about blogging is that if I'm wrong, I can just erase any record of it): It will be a draw. Palin will probably say some silly things, but she won't embarrass herself nearly as badly as she did in the Couric/Gibson interviews. She'll use the advantage of the debate format (i.e., fewer direct follow-up questions) to attack Obama a lot, speak in her well-rehearsed talking points, and exploit her self-described Joe Sixpack appeal. That works for her.

Biden will scrupulously avoid attacking Palin directly, for fear of looking like he's "bullying" the poor victimized VP candidate (think about that for a moment). Gwen Ifill, the moderator, will certainly ask some Elitist Media "gotcha" questions designed to trip Palin up (e.g., What's your policy on Afghanistan? What would you do about the economy?), but she'll also be sure to focus attention on Biden's recent gaffes in order to appear fair and balanced.

Result: Both sides will proclaim victory, as they always do. If this is the outcome, I'd say it would be a small victory for McCain, because it will slow down Obama's recent momentum, and reassure conservative-leaning voters that Palin is not a total disaster. I'd expect next week's poll numbers to be back to a small Obama lead nationally, with a toss-up in the battleground states.

But if I'm wrong, just pretend you never read this.