Tuesday, September 30, 2008

McCain: Asking Simple Questions Now “Gotcha Journalism”

John McCain apparently has to now come along with Sarah Palin when she interviews with Katie Couric of CBS News. In this clip, McCain and Palin try to clarify, maybe even retract, a recent statement that Palin made about cross border attacks into Pakistan. Her original answer was in response to a question from a person who happened to be near a visit she made to a restaurant. (Palin said the voter was “hollerin’ out a question.”) What makes the matter a big deal is that it appears that there was egg on Palin’s face when she discovered her approach to Pakistan was more in line with Barack Obama’s than John McCain.

When I watched this clip, I was stuck by how condescending John McCain seems when he refers to the person who asked the question - who seemed to be the average American citizen at your average restaurant. Adding insult to injury, McCain seems to put down that it happened at a pizza place, as if you can’t expect real people to ask real tough questions if they happen to be in or near a pizza place. But McCain calls it “gotcha journalism.” Since when is asking a question, expecting an honest answer, and then the media reporting on it “gotcha journalism?” And when Couric asks Palin if she is sorry she made the statement, McCain answers for her. I guess she's not a big girl and can't stand up for herself. By the way, McCain also shows his vanity toward the end of the segment.

I guess women in the McCain campaign are supposed to be seen and not heard? By the way, asking a question and expecting an honest answer is not “gotcha” journalism. I have to give Katie Couric credit for going after the issue.

Take a look:

Watch CBS Videos Online

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John McCain Gambles With American Ecomony, and Loses

CNN is reporting that “The House's failure to pass a $700 billion bailout package Monday not only held back billions for Wall Street, but also was a major blow to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign."

No kidding.

If you recall, John McCain announced last week that he was suspending his campaign to go to Washington DC to help negotiate a solution to the economic crisis. The only truth in that statement was that he went to Washington DC.

He didn’t really suspend his campaign. His ads continued to show in print, on television, and on the Internet for his campaign. He also sat out most of the delicate negotiations on the sidelines in his campaign office, although he did meet with the president along with others, including Barack Obama who was also invited to the meting and who didn’t have to suspend his campaign to attend.

McCain also wanted the debate postponed, but we all know it didn’t happen the way John wanted.

Despite McCain’s efforts, whatever those really were, 133 House Republicans voted against the bailout. The stock market reaction was swift, with an immediately dive, later finishing at the end of the trading day with the largest point drop in history of 777 points.

But McCain’s response to the matter was to blame Barack Obama for the failure, saying that Obama just wanted to "phone it in" .

According to the same CNN article , “Terry Jeffries, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor, also said McCain may have hurt himself among conservatives by losing sight of his party's free-market principles…."I think that John McCain failed to lead," Jeffries said. "He should be right there pushing the principles, and the conservatives in the House are doing that right now."

John McCain gambled not only with his campaign, but also with the fragile economy on which the American people depend. If he wanted to gamble with his campaign, that’s fine with me. But his actions only appeared to interject a political tone into an economic issue, and McCain’s efforts seemed to have a negative effect and may have actually hindered the resolution.

I can’t pass judgment on the “bail out” bill itself. I know that something must be done to bring confidence back to the country’s banking system. I hope that our elected officials begin to put their own politics aside and try to work out a solution quickly. But I hope that John McCain steers clear of any of the negotiations, since it’s clear his kind of help is not what the country needs.

Barack Obama We Can’t Afford to Gamble

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Palin and Couric Interview: The Interlude

This is part 2 of the story I relayed earlier today (The Palin and Couric Interview: The Emperor Has No Clothes! ). It’s another excerpt that was shown on CBS’s Early Show. I have to admit that I don’t understand Palin’s answer to Katie’s first question one bit. It seems like she can’t connect her thoughts well. Take a listen, you’ll see what I mean. She seems to be looking at notes and struggling to come up with something from her notes that sounds like an answer. Even Katie Couric says that “She’s not always responsive when she’s asked questions…It was a really interesting experience for me to interview her yesterday.” I bet it was interesting. Katie looked like she just could not believe what she was hearing.

(Note: the video may give you a message that it is unavailable, but then it should load and play after a brief commercial.)

Watch CBS Videos Online

Even any Republican voter with half a brain has to see that Sarah Palin does not belong in a position where she will be one heartbeat away from the presidency.

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The Palin and Couric Interview: The Emperor Has No Clothes!

The interview with Sarah Palin conducted by CBS’s Katie Couric (video below) shows that there really isn’t much substance behind Sarah Palin. She seems to struggle with answers, and also seems unable to speak solidly about McCain’s record or his platform. Palin tries to stonewall Couric and talk her way out of direct answers. Here’s an example from the transcript:

COURIC: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?

PALIN: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie--that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.

COURIC: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

PALIN: He's also known as the maverick though. Taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about--the need to reform government.

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?

PALIN: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

It’s no wonder McCain wanted to suspend his campaign. It’s looking more and more like a diversionary tactic to get the Palin interview out of the news cycle quickly and off the minds of voters. Clearly, Sarah Palin needs a little more “programming.”

Watch CBS Videos Online

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McCain Suspends Campaign, But Which Crisis is Worse for Him?

It already seemed a bad move when John McCain announced he was suspending his campaign for president so he could go to Washington DC to help. He also apparently made an agreement with Barack Obama to make a joint statement about the economic crisis, but McCain seemingly disregarded that agreement when he made his own statement, and then he also asked that the debate, scheduled for Friday, not be held. McCain was starting to look rattled and unsettled about his campaign.

But, McCain’s problems became worse when he stood up David Letterman, and seemingly lied to Letterman about the reasons he did it. While Letterman starts off with some complements for McCain, he turns a little caustic about the issue, especially when he finds that McCain is really preparing for an interview with Katie Couric. His jabs:

When he sees McCain and Couric on the monitor “He doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he?…Hey, John, I got a question! You need a ride to the airport?”

He also went on to say “I’m more than a little disappointed by this behavior…. “ 'We’re suspending the campaign.' Suspending it because there’s an economic crisis, or because the poll numbers are sliding?……“You don’t suspend your campaign…Do you suspend your campaign? No, because that makes me think, well, you know, maybe there will be other things down the road –- if he’s in the White House, he might just suspend being president. I mean, we've got a guy like that now!”


I agree with David Letterman 100%. Yes, there is an economic crisis in this country. But John McCain should not be suspending his campaign because of it. Barack Obama had commented that president has to be able to multi-task. He is also correct. If John McCain can only do one thing at a time, then he is just not fit for the job of President of the United States. And John McCain showed his true colors by lying about why he had to miss the show. If he’ll lie about something like that, what else is he capable of lying about?

I am not sure who is in charge of the McCain campaign, but this has to be the most colossally idiotic move that a presidential campaign has ever made. He would be better off going on with the debate, and asking that they change the main topic from national security to the country’s economy. Of course, he doesn’t want that because he doesn’t understand the economy.

If John McCain doesn’t show up for the debate, I consider this a forfeiture of his candidacy, and the Republicans should just find someone else who CAN do more than one thing at a time to run for the job. John McCain’s crisis isn’t economic at all, it’s his failing campaign.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Media Questions Banned For Palin Meeting with World Leaders

Associated Press reported that Sarah Palin met with world leaders today, calling it a
“tightly controlled crash course on foreign policy for the Republican vice presidential candidate, the mayor-turned-governor who has been outside North America just once.”

Photographs were public, but apparently questions from reporters were off limits. The AP article went on to say “There was no chance of putting such questions to rest with photo opportunities Tuesday. But Palin, who got a passport only last year, no longer has to own up to a blank slate when asked about heads of state she has met.”

The American people should be outraged. And, hopefully the manner in which the Republican campaign has continually sequestered Palin from the media should raise alarm bells with any voter with a brain. One controlled meeting day with heads of state does not make one experienced in foreign policy.

The media should take this situation and run it with all they've got. And the voters should speak as well, by NOT voting for the McCain/Palin ticket this November. If they are wiling to hide from voters now, what will they do when elected?

Personally, I don’t want to ever find out.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

AT&T: Pathetic Customer Service

Taking a break from all the political news, today I set my sights on the phone company. All the phone companies are lousy in the service category when it comes down to it, but AT&T is on my list today. Let me preface this by saying that I used to be director of a customer service department for a large distributor, so I have a tendency to be very sensitive to service lapses. (Must be all those years of me being on the receiving end of some very nasty customers.)

My cell phone contract will be up in a month or two, so I thought it might be time to change my cell carrier from Verizon to AT&T, since they tout better rates when you group, or bundle, services. I tried to get some information about “bundling” some of their services from their web site. It looked easy at first blush, but the deeper I got into it, I found myself sucked into one of Dante’s circles of hell. I was directed to a link which addresses existing customers, then told to build my “bundle” with the available choices, and every time I tried to go through the process, I got a slap down saying that what I had chosen was for new customers only.

Getting very frustrated, I decided to check out where the closest AT & T store was located that handled all their services, including cell phones, AT & T U-verse (TV), long distance, and Internet. Luckily, there was one only a few miles away. So I drove there, and was helped very quickly, which was a good sign. (Usually when I visit the Verizon store, which is my cell carrier, I have to wait 20-30 minutes just to ask a simple question.)

My optimism was short lived when I found that they really couldn’t help me. They took one look at my phone bill, and declared that I was paying too much (I have AT&T as my home phone provider). But, despite the fact that it was a full service store, I was told to call their customer service office for help. They proceeded to the cell phone issue – which was my other need – and without asking how many minutes I needed, tried to sell me a low minute national plan. The problem is, the whole issue with my cell phone is really based on me getting unlimited long distance on my land line at a reasonable price. Since they couldn’t help me on my land line issue, the whole cell phone thing was moot. But, they still weren’t paying attention, moving on to trying to sell me the AT&T U-Verse television service. But OOPS, it’s not available in my area yet, so they really can’t save me any money because – they say – the real savings is gong from cable to U-Verse.

They also couldn’t speak to all the mystery charges on my AT&T land line bill…you know, things like the federal access charges, the long distance base fee (I make NO long distance calls on my land line), carrier recovery fees, etc. etc. In essence, they were worthless to help. I’ve come to the conclusion that the phone companies all tack on these little extra charges just pass along their own expenses. It seems like I am being ripped off somehow, but it’s hard to prove it.

My next step was to call the AT &T customer service line. Of course I knew I wouldn’t get a human being right off the bat, but had to laugh when it repeated my phone number to me and asked if I was calling from the number in question. You see, I had to clear my throat while he automated attendant was talking, and before I could answer, it said, “thank you, I’ll just look that up.” (I’d sure like to know what he was going to look up, maybe the clearing of a throat, cough, or sneeze has a special meaning?)

Needless to say, even though the automated attendant said I only had a 8-minute wait to speak to an agent, I was on hold for 30 minutes before I decided to hang up. While I was waiting, I was also looking - again - for the information I needed on their web site (there was nothing there to help), and I can’t tell you how many times I clicked on links that offered more information on a subject, but then took me right back to the page where I started.

The bottom line is that I came to the conclusion that if I can’t get help easily from AT&T on my land line, then I don’t think the service will be better for the cell service. In other words, they just lost a potential customer, and not just for the cell phone, but probably their AT&T U-verse when it becomes available in my area.

So here’s my message to AT&T – customer service is important. And by customer service, I don’t mean automated attendants, followed by 30+ minute wait times, web sites that don’t answer questions, and retail people who don’t know the full product they are selling. There are many other choices out there for phone, Internet, and television that they can’t operate like the monopoly of old.

And you know those annoying Alltel “My Circle” commercials? They are looking better to me every day.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Palin A Weak Debater; An Accommodation is Made

So much for women being treated as equals to men. Sarah Palin and the Republican campaign have just made a step backwards for women.

The New York Times is reporting that the vice presidential debates required a change in format because of Sarah Palin’s weak debating ability. Patrick Healey of the New York Times wrote:
At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.

McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive….

…McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin’s debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense.

My question is, if Sarah Palin is unable to freely debate the issues and speak coherently about the Republican platform, how can she be even considered for the office of Vice President of the United States? Would she expect that when dealing with members of Congress or world leaders that those encounters would be so tightly controlled or scripted for her?

This situation makes me even more convinced that John McCain needs his head examined for choosing someone who can’t even argue the issues. It seems clear that McCain et al. are aware that Joe Biden would chew Palin up and spit her out, and they just can’t have that on national television. I’m not a politician but I bet that I could debate her and win without any problem.

My opinion is that even with the tighter structure, that her inexperience will be evident. I only hope is that the candidates are not given any question in advance, because true debate is best when spontaneous. And since Sarah Palin has been largely sequestered to the media, we are seeing very little spontaneity with her. If she doesn’t know how to handle unrehearsed, unstructured real life politics, she shouldn't be running for Vice President. And McCain doesn’t deserve to be President for his poor choice of running mate.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Schanberg Alleges McCain POW Cover Up

Sydney Schanberg is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who is best known for his coverage of the war in Cambodia. His book, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran, “ covered Dith Pran’s survival in Cambodia despite the oppression of the Khmer Rouge. The book inspired the 1984 film "The Killing Fields", in which Schanberg was portrayed by Sam Waterston.

Schanberg has now turned his sights on John McCain. He makes allegations that McCain, over many years in the Senate, has orchestrated a cover-up of information regarding Vietnam POWs who, unlike McCain, did not return home.

It is a long, but interesting, read. I have an excerpt here, but also provide a link to the complete version below. (Government documents can also be viewed when viewing the article at the link.)

McCain and the POW Cover-up

The "war hero" candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam

Research support provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute. This is an expanded version, with primary documents attached, of a story that appears in the
October 6, 2008 issue of The Nation.

By Sydney H. Schanberg
September 18, 2008

John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn't return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero who people would logically imagine as a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.

Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain's role in it, even as the Republican Party has made McCain's military service the focus of his presidential campaign. Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War turned their heads and walked in other directions. McCain doesn't talk about the missing men, and the press never asks him about them.

The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a special forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington—and even sworn testimony by two Defense secretaries that "men were left behind." This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number—the documents indicate probably hundreds—of the US prisoners held by Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain.

Mass of Evidence

The Pentagon had been withholding significant information from POW families for years. What's more, the Pentagon's POW/MIA operation had been publicly shamed by internal whistleblowers and POW families for holding back documents as part of a policy of "debunking" POW intelligence even when the information was obviously credible.

The pressure from the families and Vietnam veterans finally forced the creation, in late 1991, of a Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. The chairman was John Kerry. McCain, as a former POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine…..

There is much more to the story; the complete text can be accessed here.

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Obama Fights Back on McCain Accusations on the Economy

I thought I’d share this video and transcript of a segment of a speech that Barack Obama gave today in Coral Gables, Florida. He’s responding to accusations that John McCain leveled against him in a recent speech, where McCain indicates Obama is responsible for the country’s economic woes.

It seems that Senator Obama is now taking off the gloves.

He did get interrupted by a group of protesters, though. (Read the AP press release.)

This morning Senator McCain gave a speech in which his big solution to this worldwide economic crisis was to blame me for it.

This is a guy who's spent nearly three decades in Washington, and after spending the entire campaign saying I haven't been in Washington long enough, he apparently now is willing to assign me responsibility for all of Washington's failures.

Now, I think it's a pretty clear that Senator McCain is a little panicked right now. At this point he seems to be willing to say anything or do anything or change any position or violate any principal to try and win this election, and I've got to say it's kind of sad to see. That's not the politics we need.

It's also been disappointing to see my opponent's reaction to this economic crisis. His first reaction on Monday was to stand up and repeat the line he's said over and over again throughout this campaign -- 'the fundamentals of the economy are strong' -- the comment was so out of touch that even George Bush's White House couldn't agree with it.

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Wall Street Whiplash!

OK, not that I am complaining, but this last week on the stock market has given my portfolio a case of whiplash. After loosing a few thousand dollars in my 401K-rollover account a few days ago - in the blink of an eye – I am now back to where I started. In fact, I may be a little better off, since my smart husband decided that the bloodletting on Wall Street was a good time to double down on a few stocks that we’d lost some ground on over the last few weeks (like Bank of America, ticker BAC ).  The stock market these days is not for the faint hearted. In fact, the great oil man, industrialist, philanthropist, and monopolist John D. Rockefeller said “The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets.”  Wall Street has been flowing with it this past week, much of it Wall Street’s own doing. (It was a good time to buy stocks, though.)

This whole situation made me reflect a little about President Bush’s previous plan to privatize social security that died on the vine. I was actually initially in support of the plan, but admit that I felt that the average person probably wouldn’t be able to correctly manage this money long term  for a decent return. As hindsight is always 20/20, it looks like a good thing that nothing happened to turn management of social security over to the masses. We could have had millions of people who lost a lot of their money making rash decisions over the last few days. 

Still, I have concerns that when I reach the age where I can collect on my social security that there will be nothing for me to collect, so I would like to have some of that money allotted to me given to me now so I can have some control over it. The flip side is had that happened, imagine the panic would have ensued had people lost money in their social security investments this past week. And seeing the number of people who can’t afford to maintain the mortgages on their bloated homes and mortgages, it’s likely they could have somehow blown that money too.

It also makes me reflect on the whole Keating Five corruption scandal, which caused some Savings and Loans institutions to fail, and also had political repercussions. Senator John McCain had connections; he, along with Senator John Glenn,  were cleared of acting improperly, but they were criticized for having exercised "poor judgment".

With the complexity of money matters in the country and in the world, I want someone leading the country that has a better grasp of economics, and also who will likely obtain an experienced group of financial advisors who can look at how money is handled - big picture -  in this country,  once and for all. And John McCain, who has admitted that economics is a weak spot for him, and who was cited for “poor judgment” in the Keating scandal, just isn’t the person to heal our fragile economy. After all, while I don’t mind the occasional Wall Street whiplash every now and then, I’m not in the mood to lose my financial security for my retirement years.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Poor Cindy McCain “Picked Clean” by The View

Aw, poor Cindy McCain. Apparently she wasn’t happy with the way she and husband and presidential candidate John McCain were treated on The View last Friday.

Speaking at a Republican function the following day after their appearance on the show, Cindy said:

"In spite of what you see …in the newspapers, and on shows like The View — I don't know if any of you saw The View yesterday, they picked our bones clean — in spite of what you see, that's not what the American people are saying and what they are believing,"

I am not sure exactly what Cindy meant by that statement. I though that The View panel kept the questions professional, but direct. I don’t know if Cindy and John expect that a woman’s show meant that they would be taking about her fashion choices, but clearly Cindy or John – or both – are clueless about the types of discussion that have been taking place on The View for quite some time now. And I think The View is very representative of what the American people are saying and feeling.

This may be another instance where the McCain campaign shows that it is out of touch with the masses, and possibly even more so with women.

So here’s the video with Cindy’s recorded comments included.

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Political Fundraising and The Economy

Be careful when you point fingers,
because three are pointing back at you.

It takes money to do or get just about anything these days. And depending on what you want to do, or what you want to get, makes a difference on how much money you will need. Running for the office of President of The United States is one of those things that require a massive amount of money. With so many people to see, and so many advertising methods to use (print, television, internet), candidates need more money than ever. BOTH candidates.

Last night, Barbra Streisand held a benefit concert for Barack Obama which reportedly raised $9 million. But the McCain campaign, who hasn’t performed nearly as well overall in the fundraising category, took the opportunity to mock the Streisand fundraiser , saying about Obama: “Talk about siding with the people, siding with the people just before he flew off to Hollywood for a fundraiser with Barbra Streisand and his celebrity friends.”

How short is McCain’s memory? Very. It seems he forgot his own posh fundraiser just this past Monday in a swank Miami hotel, where he raised $5.1 millions dollars. McCain should be careful at whom he points a finger – because three more will be pointing back at him.

Coming on the heels of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers , and now the bailout by the Fed of AIG, the politicians are turning their sights on the economy. The McCain campaign accuses Obama of capitalizing on a crisis. But, earlier in the day, when McCain called for a crisis commission, Obama called it "the oldest Washington stunt in the book."

McCain’s prior statements that he doesn’t know much about the economy (see short video ad below) are coming back to haunt him. While McCain may be trying to use the Streisand fundraiser to portray Obama as being elite and out of touch, it may backfire on him as more are reminded of his own fundraising from the wealthy, not to mention his lack of understanding of the economy. My opinion is that his running mate, Sarah Palin, won’t bring much to his economic knowledge base. Since Barack Obama is a Columbia University and Harvard Law graduate, I would think that his education, not to mention his senate seat covering populous Chicago, would give him a much better grasp of the US and world economy. And Joe Biden's background and experience is also a plus.

John McCain’s vocal disdain for the Obama fundraising steamroller is only a diversion. If McCain doesn’t know that a political campaign needs lots of money (he would take more of it if he could get it, don’t let him fool you) and if he doesn’t understand the economy, I don’t want him or his VP candidate sitting in the big chair, making big people decisions.

So John McCain, that’s my two cents, because that will be the only "money" your campaign would ever get from me .

Don’t know much about the economy:

This is a 30+ minute video of a Barack Obama speech on September 16 in Golden, Colorado.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Annoying Chain Emails: One Worth Reading?

I’ve expressed my hatred for chain emails here before (“Annoying FALSE Political Chain Emails “ and “Annoying Chain Emails”). But I actually got one today that made me snicker a bit. I snickered because it was so very accurate as to what I think has been going on with political perceptions and opinions lately regarding the presidential candidates and running mates. And since I like to share but don’t want to needless flood hundred of email boxes with the memo, I thought I would publish it here where my regular readers may actually want to see it. In all the chain or viral emails I’ve received, it’s the only one that passed my worthiness test (which is completely subjective, by the way).

As far as I can tell, the author is not known.

Now I understand McCain and Palin

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....(hope
I'm not offending anyone)

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

* If you grew up in Alaska eating moose burgers, you're a
quintessential American story.

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

* If you name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* If you graduated from Harvard law School, you are unstable.

* If you attended 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're
well grounded.

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

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city
council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000
people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people,
then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking

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

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

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

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no
other option in sex education in your state's school system, while
your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you're very responsible.
If you try to make victimized women pay for their own rape kits.

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

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

OK, "much" clearer now.

By the way, I still hate chain emails.

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Wall Street Crisis: Mass Extinction Underway?

Months ago, when the Fed helped to bail out Bear Stearns by brokering a deal with J.P. Morgan Chase, it was clear that this was just the tip of the iceberg. And with the Fed recently helping to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it was only a matter of time before the Fed ran out of fingers to put in the leaking dike.

The extend of the greed and risk-taking on the part of Wall Street financial firms with respect to careless lending practices with home mortgages is now obvious. With Lehman Brothers now filing bankruptcy, and with Bank of America buying Merrill Lynch, we are seeing some long time financial forms either bit the dust or being assimilated. While it is sad to see any employee lose their jobs, I have no sympathy for the fat cats of Wall Street who made the collapse happen.

If you don’t have money in these troubled institutions, you may not think you have a problem. And if you do have money there, you may think that the FDIC insurance of balances up to $100,000 will keep you somewhat protected. Think again. Shortly after the Bear Stearns collapse, my husband and I took the opportunity to split up our CDs (which had just matured) and split them up over several banks. We were told at that time that while FDIC insurance is real and it will cover depositors, what the FDIC doesn’t make very clear is HOW LONG it will take to recover the money. In fact, one bank told us that it could take 10-20 years before we ever got the full amount of our money back, if in fact there was a collapse of the bank. So those people who have money in a Lehman Brother’s bank may have to wait a long time to see the full amount of their money should the FDIC have to step in to cover deposits.

Should people feel unsettled about these happenings? You bet. With many people having money in personal retirement plans like 401ks and IRAs, there is a lot of money out there just sitting and waiting for someone to screw it up for you. Even though the days of free-wheeling mortgage lending seem to be over for now, the repercussions will be felt for some time to come. It really is about time that the greedy executives and money managers at financial firms bear some punishment for the risks they took with money that didn’t belong to them. Unfortunately, the people who will really pay are depositors and average stockholders and the “common” employees who put their trust – and their money – in these firms.

If you haven’t taken a look at your own finances, it’s time that you do. If you have any deposits in any banks that exceed FDIC insurance limits, it may be time to split them up. And do your research – make sure if you do start moving your cash or investments that you put them in financial institutions that seem to be at the top of the heap right now. J.P. Morgan Chase, who basically stole Bears Stearns, and Bank of America, who lapped up Merrill Lynch, seems to be some of the few that appear stable. While I am not telling people to use these banks, it’s just a hint to do your homework before you hand over you money.

When the dust settles – and who knows when this will all be over – we may see less banks and financial institutions, but they may be stronger for it. Maybe the Fed will also get its act together and get some needed controls put in place. Hopefully, everyone will also learn from these mistakes and be smarter for it. My money - your money - depends on it.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Obama Campaign: Can You Hear Me Now?

I thought I’d pass along this article that was in today’s Sunday Telegraph, a UK publication (below), to give readers of what the view of the Obama campaign is from “across the pond.” It is somewhat alarming to read the perception is that Barack Obama’s campaign seems to have the mindset that they know it all, and they seem unwilling to accept input from key members of their own party. It is also alarming to hear that pollsters think that Obama’s poll numbers are actually lower than what is being reported.

The question is on the lips of many Obama supporters – what is he waiting for? Is he waiting for PACs (Political Action Committee) or 527 groups to do the dirty work? Money is certainly not an issue, as recent reports state that the Obama campaign raised $66 million in August, the most anyone has ever raised in one month in political history. Is it because the Obama campaign wants so much to change things that it doesn’t want to go negative, like every other politician before them? In my opinion, there is going negative, and then there is pointing out errors in the other person’s platform or campaign ads. To point out errors would be a service to voters. Going negative also does not prohibit one from highlighting what’s good about the Democratic platform, and what’s bad about the Republican platform. People can only chose the right candidate if they are properly informed, and it is possible that the Obama campaign is forgetting that there must be some substance along with the style.

If the Obama campaign doesn’t want to take any advice from the key people in their own party, maybe they need to at least listen to the voters, who seem to be begging for more substance from the Obama campaign. I want to see change in politics as usual in Washington DC, but voters need to be educated about what that change will bring, and what the key issues are and how they will be addressed, in order to chose the right candidate. Without that, they won’t get the votes. And that is one thing that won’t change in this, or any, election.

Barack Obama under fire for ignoring advice on how to beat John McCain

Barack Obama and his senior advisers are under fire for ignoring the advice of Democratic senators and governors who are concerned that they do not know how to beat John McCain.

By Tim Shipman in Washington
Last Updated: 9:29PM BST 13 Sep 2008

Mr Obama has never won an electoral contest against a strong Republican candidate
The Democratic presidential candidate's slump in the polls has sparked pointed private criticism that he is squandering a once-in-a-generation chance to win back the White House.

Party elders also believe the Obama camp is in denial about warnings from Democratic pollsters that his true standing is four to six points lower than that in published polls because of hidden racism from voters - something that would put him a long way behind Mr McCain.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that senators, governors and union leaders who have experience of winning hard-fought races in swing states have been bombarding Obamas campaign headquarters with telephone calls offering advice. But many of those calls have not been returned.

A senior Democratic strategist, who has played a prominent role in two presidential campaigns, told The Sunday Telegraph: "These guys are on the verge of blowing the greatest gimme in the history of American politics. They're the most arrogant bunch Ive ever seen. They won't accept that they are losing and they won't listen."

After leading throughout the year, Mr Obama now trails Mr McCain by two to three points in national polls.

Party leaders and commentators say that the Democrat candidate spent too much of the summer enjoying his own popularity and not enough defining his positions on the economy - the number one issue for voters - or reaching out to those blue collar workers whose votes he needs if he is to beat Mr McCain.

Others concede that his trip to Europe was a distraction that enhanced his celebrity status rather than his electability on Main Street, USA.

Since Sarah Palin was unveiled as Mr McCain's running mate, the Obama camp has faced accusations that it has been pushed off message and has been limp in responding to attacks.

A Democratic National Committee official told The Sunday Telegraph: "I really find it offensive when Democrats ask the Republicans not to be nasty to us, which is effectively what Obama keeps doing. They know thats how the game is played."

Mr Obama tried to answer that critique on Friday when he responded in kind, issuing an attack advert depicting his Republican opponent as out of touch and mocking the 72-year-old Mr McCain's confession that he does not know how to use email.

He rammed home the point during a rally in New Hampshire, pointing out Mr McCains recent admission that he was divorced from some of the challenges of ordinary Americans.

Mr Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, called it the first day of the rest of the campaign.

But that was the fourth time in the last nine months that Mr Obamas team have been forced to declare that the gloves are coming off. And Mr Plouffe's dismissal of Democratic doubts as hand-wringing and bed-wetting only served to reinforce the growing doubts about what some see as a bunker mentality among Obamas inner circle - where outside advice, even from highly experienced people, is not welcomed.

The Democratic strategist told The Sunday Telegraph: "They think they know best. They don't return calls. There are governors and senators calling them up with ideas. They don't get back to them.

"These are senior people from the border states and the South who know how to beat Republicans, and they're being ignored. They ignored everyone during the primaries and they came through it, so they think they can do the same again."

Mr Obama has never won an electoral contest against a strong Republican candidate. David Axelrod, his chief strategist has been hailed as a political genius for beating the Clinton machine, but Democrats now point out that he has never run a successful campaign in the heartland states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia, which will decide the election. His expertise is in mobilising young, educated and black voters in urban areas.

Mark Cunningham of the New York Post summed up the private views of many: "If it suddenly seems like the Obama campaign doesn't have any idea what it's doing, maybe that's because it doesn't."

Party elders are also studying internal polling material which warns the Obama camp that his true standing is worse than it appears in polls because voters lie to polling companies about their reluctance to vote for a black candidate. The phenomenon is known in the US as the Bradley effect, after Tom Bradley, a black candidate for governor of California who lost after leading comfortably in polls.

The strategist said: "I've seen memos where they've been told to factor in four to six points for the Bradley effect, but they're in denial about it.

They say the polls also underestimate the enthusiasm of young voters and African Americans and they believe that balances things out. But that's a wing and a prayer stuff. There's previous evidence for the Bradley effect."

Other Democrats are openly mocking of Mr Obama's much vaunted "50-state strategy", in which he spends money campaigning throughout the US in the hope that it will force Mr McCain to divert funds to previously safe states. Critics say a utopian belief in bringing the nation together has trumped the cold electoral calculus that is necessary to triumph in November.

Doug Schoen, a former pollster for Bill Clinton, last week declared it insanity not to concentrate resources on the swing states.

The Democratic strategist said: "My Republican friends think its mad. Before Sarah Palin came along we were investing money in Alaska, for Christ's sake, that could have been spent in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

"It assumes Republicans are stupid and, when it comes to winning elections, they're not."

The one thing everyone agrees the Obama camp have woken up to is the toxic effect on their chances of Mrs Palin's arrival on the national scene. Polls show that white women voters, attracted to her down home virtues, now support Mr McCain by a margin of 12 points, the same lead among white women that George W. Bush enjoyed over John Kerry in 2004. Until recently, Mr Obama led among that group of voters by six points.

A senior aide to one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives voiced the fears of many: "Palin doesn't just play to the Republican base. She has much broader appeal."

The aide said that her repeated mockery of Mr Obama's boasts about his time as a community organiser in Chicago are "the most effective criticisms of Barack Obama we have yet seen." He said: "Americans in small and medium size towns dont know what the hell a community organiser is. Real Americans graduate from high school or college and get a job that pays a wage. Campus radicals go off and organise a community."

Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter, blamed the defection of women voters from Mr Obama on the atom bomb of ritual abuse by left-wing bloggers and Democratic officials, painting Mrs Palin as a bad mother and religious weirdo.

Ms Noonan wrote: "The snobbery of it, the meanness of it, reminded the entire country, for the first time in a decade, what it is they don't like about the Left."

The Republican strategist Dan Schnur said that the effect was to repel blue collar, family-oriented voters. "They didn't like Obama in the primaries and voted for Hillary. And they still don't like him now so they're voting for Palin.

"Obama can still win these voters over, but his difficulty in establishing an emotional connection with them is probably his greatest challenge between now and election day."

On Thursday Mr Obama did take advice from Bill Clinton, who is understood to have suggested ways to show those workers that he cares, an area where the former president excelled.

But it is a measure of his plight that the man who derailed the ambitions of Mrs Clinton, the most powerful woman in Democratic politics, now needs help from her husband to overcome the popularity of another alpha female who may be an even greater risk to his White House ambitions.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Did Obama Err By Mocking McCain’s Computer Illiteracy?

The Barack Obama campaign may have made a slight slip up in an ad that focuses on how they think John McCain is out of touch. Most of the ad is fine, but there is one section where the ad states “He admits he doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail" could cause them to have red faces. It seems that McCain has limited mobility due to his experiences as a POW, which allegedly restricts his ability to use a computer keyboard.

First, here’s the ad in case you haven’t seen it yet:

Now I am not one to minimized John McCain’s experience as a POW, and certainly I think what happened to him was horrible. He does seem to be limited in how high he can raise his arms, which is evident when he waves to the crowd.

But I wonder if it really has prevented him from using a keyboard. After all, he seems to have no problems holding a pen and writing, nor does he seem to have any problem twirling around his wedding ring and doing the “thumbs up” in this little video someone put together (with humorous references added) when McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate:

(At least his eyes seem to work just fine.)

An article in the LA Times (below) now brings the issue to a larger audience, which may create problems for Obama.

Personally, it is not surprising to me that even despite McCain’s reported inability to use a keyboard that he doesn’t’ know how to send an email. I know a lot of his people the same age that are the same way, and their fingers and hands work just fine. But what I don’t get is why the Obama campaign seemed to think they had to make this an issue, because as far as I am concerned, it’s not a reason why I would – or wouldn’t – vote for someone. I still question whether McCain is just not physically able to use a keyboard or he's just simply a luddite, either way, there are bigger issues where the Obama campaign should focus.

The Obama campaign would be smart to re-issue the ad without the email references, and just focus on the issues themselves that make McCain seem out of touch. That would be much more meaningful to voters.

Oops, Obama ad mocks McCain's inability to send e-mail. Trouble is, he can't due to tortured fingers

As part of its effort to show the 72-year-old Republican Sen. John McCain as old and out of touch, the Democratic Party's hip campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, which frequently says it honors the former POW's military service to his country, Friday released a new ad.

As noted Friday by our blogging colleagues over at the Technology blog here, the ad says, among other things: "1982, John McCain goes to Washington. Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn't.

"He admits he doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail."

Here's the ad. Listen for yourself. [the ad is already listed above]

Like many of his generation, McCain does not like to talk details a lot about his wartime experiences, certainly not about any lingering physical symptoms. To be honest, it could sound like complaining and, as he's ruefully noted, unlike many others, McCain did come home.

The former pilot does joke sometimes about flying his plane into a telephone-pole-sized North Vietnamese missile.

Last week in his speech to the Republican National Convention, McCain opened up more than usual, mentioning his two broken arms and broken leg from ejecting over Hanoi, and his 66 months of imprisonment and torture, calling it simply working him over.

But something he did not go into in that speech were ...

... some of the lingering results of his poor medical treatment and brutal beatings.

Here's a passage from a lengthy Boston Globe profile on McCain that was published the last time he ran for president. It was headlined "McCain character loyal to a fault." It was written by Mary Leonard.

And it was printed more than eight years ago, on March 4, 2000.

It is available online, where Jonah Goldberg of The Corner blog at the National Review found it.

"McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain's severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain's encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He's an avid fan -- Ted Williams is his hero -- but he can't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball."

Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer denied that the freshman Illinois senator's ad was making an issue of McCain's age. "It's extraordinary," he said, "that someone who wants to be our president and commander in chief doesn't know how to send an e-mail."

The Obama campaign has seen some significant and disturbing poll shifts since its convention in Denver, including a broad movement of white women toward the GOP ticket after that party named Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin its vice presidential nominee. And some local and congressional Democrats have begun to fret and grumble over a perceived softness in the Obama-Biden ticket.

According to the Associated Press, Obama campaign manager David Pfouffle issued a stern campaign strategy memo Friday that said, in part:

"Today is the first day of the rest of the campaign. We will respond with speed and ferocity to John McCain's attacks and we will take the fight to him, but we will do it on the big issues that matter to the American people."

The "big issues."

Like fractured fingers?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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The Truth is Out There

One of the tag lines of the TV show “The X-Files” was “The Truth is Out There.” It referred to Fox Mulder’s quest of cutting through the alien conspiracy and getting to the truth of the matter.

The same tag line can be used for this presidential election season, where TV viewers are being inundated with ads (especially here in Ohio) from both candidates. The ads drawing the most negative commentary and criticism are those from the McCain campaign, which consistently shows some sort of strange jealousy of Barack Obama's popularity, and are being called out for their inaccuracies.

More and more, individuals and political groups are taking matters into their own hands, and they are harnessing the power of the Internet to do it. One formidable tool is YouTube, which affords anyone the opportunity up create and upload his or her own political ads.

I saw the following creation from a web site called Brave New PAC. Now, regular readers of my blog know that I have a bit of disdain for some of the antics of PACs (Political Action Committee) or 527 groups. There are some times, though, when done right, they can get a powerful message out.

I thought I’d share with you this ad prepared by Brave New PAC, which, in a little over three minutes time, does a good job of debunking some of the issues brought forward in the McCain campaign ads. You know, the truth really may be out there, after all!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

The View: Hard Hitting Journalists?

After watching John McCain and his wife Cindy appear on The View today, I came to the conclusion that the women on the panel of The View are doing a better job of asking the tough questions of the presidential candidates. While I am sure Elizabeth Hasselbeck was initially in her glory, I think the rest of the panel simply wanted to get some answers.

Even Barbara Walters, who usually annoys me with her constant need to keep a middle ground, went after John McCain like a pit bull…WITH lipstick. She pressed McCain hard on what exactly it is that Sarah Palin is trying to reform, seeing that it's been a Republican in office for the last 8 years? McCain also stated that Palin never had earmarks when she was Governor, which we know is not true.

McCain digs himself into a huge hole when he states that judges should interpret the constitution as the founders intended. When Whoopi asked McCain if this means she has to worry about becoming a slave again, he backtracks. And when McCain calls Roe vs. Wade a "very bad decision", the load groans from the audience was hard to miss.

Cindy also came out looking as if she were dressed for a formal cocktail party. She also gets prickly when asked about how many houses they have. When she says that this issue isn’t part of the campaign, she then goes on to talk about her parents and what they did for her. So I suppose that only her houses are off limits, not her family. So much for Elizabeth's veiled comments the other day about Michelle Obama and how much more open Cindy is in comparison. Cindy did admit that she doesn't agree with Palin, on Palin’s no exemption for abortion in cases of incest or rape.

If John McCain thought that being interviewed by a group of women would be easy, he was sadly mistaken. They (Whoopi, Barbara, Joy) skewered him, and did it well. In fact, they did it much better than the mainstream media has been doing. They tried hard to get solid answers to the questions on everybody’s mind than the other national news shows and talking heads. Sadly, McCain didn’t get it, at one point, he gave a heavy sigh, seemingly frustrated that they were asking real questions! And I for one felt that at least there ARE people out there trying to get real answers, and I’m glad that it came from a woman’s talk show.

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The Sarah Palin – Charlie Gibson Interview

I admit, I didn’t watch the interview live. I figured that I would see enough clips of it today that I could make some judgments.

My initial response: she had pat answers in some cases, clearly a result of her last several days of what I call party programming. But, apparently they missed a few key topics, one of them being the Bush Doctrine. What you can’t see here is the “deer in the headlights” look that came over Palin’s face. Here’s what was said:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

PALIN: I agree that a president's job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America. I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.

GIBSON: Do we have a right to anticipatory self-defense? Do we have a right to make a preemptive strike again another country if we feel that country might strike us?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

OK, she had no clue what the Bush Doctrine was. I admit, though, that I wouldn’t have been able to explain it precisely, but then again, I’m not running for the office of Vice President with John McCain. I can’t imagine, however, someone more seasoned like Joe Biden missing this question. Frankly, I can’t see how any Republican in any key political office would have missed it. This seems to indicate that Palin is too much of a newbie to the world of big time party politics. My opinion is that one has to have a good idea of how to work the system if one plans to CHANGE the system.

Also, reflecting what I think is a very small time view of the world, and Alaska’s neighbor Russia, we heard this:

GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions particularly in the last couple weeks does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: They’re our next door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.

Wow. That was an incredibly shallow answer. You know, since I live a few miles from the Lake Erie shore, and sometimes, when the air temperature just right over the lake it acts as a lens and the shore of Canada can be seen, I suppose that would qualify me to be Vice President, too! OK, all sarcasm aside, I think her response shows that she has a very limited perception of the world.
I think ABC got exactly what it wanted – eyeballs watching their show. But I am not sure if the McCain/Palin and the Republican Party got what it wanted. It will be interesting to how part 2 of the interview (airing tonight) plays out.

In case you’re interested, here’s what the media had to say about the interview. I think the NY Times nailed it.

Press Reviews Palin Performance on ABC
By E&P Staff

Published: September 11, 2008 11:00 PM ET

NEW YORK Early press reactions to the much-awaited first installment of Charles Gibson's ABC interview with Sarah Palin follows.

The Associated Press: "Palin said other than a trip to visit soldiers in Kuwait and Germany last year — 'a trip of a lifetime' that 'changed my life' — her only other foreign travel was to Mexico and Canada. She also said she had never met a head of state and added: 'If you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you.'

"Pressed about what insights into recent Russian actions she gained by living in Alaska, Palin answered: 'They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.'

"In the interview Thursday, Palin appeared unsure of the Bush doctrine — essentially that the United States must help spread democracy to stop terrorism and that the nation will act pre-emptively to stop potential foes.

"Asked whether she agreed with that, Palin said: 'In what respect, Charlie?' Gibson pressed her for an interpretation of it. She said: 'His world view.' That prompted Gibson to say 'no, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war' and describe it to her."

The New York Times: "ABC News delivered the first glimpse of Ms. Palin without a script or a cheering audience, and it was a strained and illuminating conversation. Ms. Palin, who kept inserting Mr. Gibson’s nickname, 'Charlie,' into her answers, as if to convey an old hand’s conviviality, tried to project self-confidence, poise and even expertise: She let Mr. Gibson know that she had personally reassured the Georgian president and correctly pronounced his last name, Saakashvili. At times, her eyes looked uncertain and her voice hesitated, and she looked like a student trying to bend prepared answers to fit unexpected questions.

"Mr. Gibson, who sat back in his chair and wriggled his foot impatiently, had the skeptical, annoyed tone of a university president who agrees to interview the daughter of a trustee, but doesn’t believe she merits admission."

The Daily News-Miner of Fairbanks, Alaska: "Passengers on a tour bus and two truckloads of moose hunters lucked out Thursday afternoon with an unexpected opportunity to shake hands and say hello to Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband Todd Palin.

"During her second day back in Alaska after being tapped as Sen. John McCain’s running mate, Palin met up with ABC News’ Charles Gibson at the trans Alaska oil pipeline viewing site off the Steese Highway near Fox about eight miles north of Fairbanks. With ABC film crews and the Secret Service standing by, the Palins worked a line of tourists before posing for pictures with the moose hunters in front of one of two boats the men were hauling north to the Koyukuk River.

"Headed into the Alaska wilderness for 12 days, the moose hunters probably won’t get to see the interview. But they’ve got quite a story to relive around the campfire, as well as the governor’s blessing. 'Bye, guys!' she called out before climbing into a waiting SUV. 'Get a moose!'"

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

McCain Campaign Gets Caught Playing Dirty Trick, CBS Gets McCain Ad Yanked

The McCain campaign got caught trying to put words in CBS anchor Katie Couric’s mouth by using her words incorrectly in an ad regarding Barack Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment. Apparently, the statement that Couric was making had absolutely nothing to do with Obama's comment or the situation, despite the ad's attempt to infer it did. As a result, CBS had the ad pulled from YouTube, and probably the ad will not be aired on television any longer either, seeing that it completely misrepresented Katie Couric’s words.

The McCain campaign really botched trying to create phony outrage over the “lipstick on a pig” comment. It seems to have backfired.

Oh, and by the way, never mess with Katie Couric!

CBS Tells YouTube to Pull McCain Ad
Posted by Ira Teinowitz on 09.10.08 @ 04:10 PM

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- A John McCain campaign web ad that used a clip of CBS News anchor Katie Couric to chastise Democratic candidate Barack Obama has been pulled by YouTube, because of CBS's copyright complaints.

Campaign officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the YouTube page that had contained the ad now has a message saying, "The video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by CBS Interactive."

The ad remains on the McCain campaign website.

A CBS News spokeswoman today declined to discuss whether the network had also asked the campaign to remove the ad.

"CBS News does not endorse any candidate in the presidential race. Any use of CBS personnel in political advertising that suggests the contrary is misleading," she said.

By the way, I couldn’t find the ad on the McCain web site anymore so it may be pulled there as well.

Here’s a YouTube video on the story which has some of the ad in it; catch it while that one is still up:

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Part 2: Will Elizabeth Hasselbeck Please Shut Up

Please shut it! Thank you.

Back in July, I wrote about my disdain for Elizabeth Hasselbeck, begging that she just shut up.

Clearly, she didn’t listen. Speaking in Minneapolis at a Republican function, she took a shot at Michelle Obama, which even seemed to elicit a collective gasp from the audience:

Personally, I'm confused as to what Elizabeth refers. Is she saying that Michelle Obama is a primadonna that makes topics off limits to people? This is a new allegation to me, and I have yet to be able to substantiate Elizabeth’s attack. Is she trying to make Michelle out to be unreachable and elite? Again, I have never heard or seen any evidence of this, in fact, everyone seems to speak very highly of Michelle's approachability. Frankly, Michelle seems like an open book whenever she has appeared in television interviews. And that includes her appearance on The View.

In all honesty, it’s getting to be a little tiresome seeing Elizabeth try to use The View as her personal soapbox for the Republican Party. I was actually sickened when they gave her so much air time earlier this week to show her "behind the scenes" coverage of the Republican convention. It’s clear to me that she is just as opinionated as Rosie O’Donnell was on the show, and it’s getting in the way of encouraging true debate and intelligent dialog on the show. And her comment at this Republican function seemed so out of place that even the audience seemed a little uncomfortable.

So I ask one more time, Elizabeth, please give it a rest.

If anyone out there has any information that could substantiate, or rationalize Elizabeth’s accusation, I’d sure like to see it.

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Putting Lipstick on a Pig

"Putting lipstick on a pig” is just a euphemism meaning that someone is trying to dress up something that’s really not considered pretty, in an attempt to disguise it.

Barack Obama referred to the McCain campaign rhetoric as putting lipstick on a pig. Well, the McCain campaign is all in a lather because they think that this is in reference to Sarah Palin, and her joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick (insulting pit bulls everywhere).

The McCain campaign needs to grow up, and also examine their own words. McCain used the same phrase to describe Hillary Clinton’s campaign (a clip is below). The comment made by Obama was clearly a reference to McCain’s campaign, not to Palin or to women in general. I’ve used the phrase before myself, and I’m a woman too.

As my grandmother used to say, “be careful when you point fingers, because three will be pointing back at you.” And John McCain, it looks like the fingers are pointing at you.

McCain camp: Obama's 'lipstick' remark disgraceful

By NEDRA PICKLER – 1 hour ago

LEBANON, Va. (AP) — What's the difference between the presidential campaign before and after the national political conventions? Lipstick. The colorful cosmetic has become a political buzzword, thanks to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's joke in her acceptance speech that lipstick is the only thing that separates a hockey mom like her from a pit bull.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama told an audience Tuesday that GOP presidential nominee John McCain says he'll change Washington, but he's just like President Bush.

"You can put lipstick on a pig," he said to an outbreak of laughter, shouts and raucous applause from his audience, clearly drawing a connection to Palin's joke even if it's not what Obama meant. "It's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."

McCain's campaign called the comments "offensive and disgraceful" and said Obama owes Palin an apology. Obama's campaign said he wasn't referring to Palin and said the GOP camp was engaging in a "pathetic attempt to play the gender card." Obama's camp also noted that McCain once used the same phrase to describe Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan.

Obama followed up by saying Palin is an interesting story, drawing boos at the mention of her name that he tried to cut off.

"Look, she's new, she hasn't been on the scene, she's got five kids. And my hat goes off to anybody whose looking after five. I've got two and they tire Michelle and me out," he said.

In Virginia, a questioner asked Obama to join Republicans and agree that candidates' families and religion are off limits. Palin's pregnant teenage daughter and the teachings of her church, the nondenominational Wasilla Bible Church, have been the subject of scrutiny since McCain picked her as his running mate.

Obama responded that he already has said families are off limits and he's very protective of his daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha. He said he doesn't want their inevitable future mistakes to become newspaper fodder if he gets to the White House.

Obama also is no stranger to attacks on his religion. He's been the subject of a false rumor campaign saying he's a Muslim, and the racially tinged sermons of his longtime former preacher caused problems for his campaign earlier this year.

He stressed that he's a Christian and "so the fact that Gov. Palin is deeply religious, that's a good thing." He said poking around in her religion or saying it's wrong is "offensive" and he wants to have a debate about the issues.

"But don't give people some sort of religious litmus test because I don't want somebody to question my faith and I'm certainly not going to question somebody else's," he said.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Party Loyalty – Gone, But Not Forgotten

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article (below) in the Weekend Journal edition yesterday about the disappearance of voter loyalty to a political party. Personally, I’ve always voted for the person that I felt could be the best leader, regardless of political party. Sometimes the person I chose loses, much to my dismay, and sometimes they win, also sometimes to my eventual dismay.

But in the last several elections, it seems that while more people are voting with their heads and not with any commitment to a specific party, the presidential elections seem far more polarizing along party lines. This became obvious in the 2000 election when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote, a controversial vote count in Florida contributing to the mess. The 2004 election, still stinging from the “hanging chads” from the 2000 election, seemed to be more of the same, with the Republican attack machine, and the liberal 527 group Moveon.org, both throwing low blows.

With this election, though, it seems that more people are jumping ship in their previous voting patterns, maybe not for the right reasons. Some people who considered themselves Democrats may be concerned that Hillary didn’t make the cut, or they want to remain strong on terrorism, and are going to the other side to vote for McCain because of it. Some people who considered themselves Republicans are going to the other side because they want something new, or they are tired of the state of the economy and the war, and are voting for Obama because of it. Either way, while loyalty to a party may be driving some to a candidate, it’s not a sure thing any more, making it very hard to predict how people are going to vote.

Regardless of party affiliation, though, all I hope is that all eligible Americans do VOTE in this upcoming election. Not doing so may very well put the wrong person in office.

The Party's Over
(image from the WSJ)

Millions of voters have moved out of the political party system. The decline of loyalty has made politics less stable and predictable -- and has resulted in close elections.
September 6, 2008

One of the conundrums of this political year is why, at a moment when Democrats are clearly preferred over Republicans, the presidential race remains so close. But for the past 40 years, close and unpredictable elections have increasingly become the norm. The most important reason for our volatile presidential elections is a fundamental change in American politics -- the birth of a post-partisan world. This may sound surprising in an era in which politics are as polarized as at any moment in our recent history -- as illustrated by Sarah Palin's slashing, sarcastic acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention this week -- and in which the two major parties in Congress seem to disagree, sometimes violently, on almost everything. But what makes our politics so different from early periods in our history, and so volatile and unpredictable, is the absence of strong political parties as moderators of public life, and their replacement with sharp ideological differences.

John McCain has very openly proclaimed "country," not party, "first," and Independent Joe Lieberman was a serious candidate for the vice presidential nomination. Barack Obama has said that "we are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America," and Jim Leach, a longtime Republican congressman from Iowa, endorsed Sen. Obama at the Democratic convention. Both candidates decry "partisanship," and both pledge to reach "across party lines."

A half century ago, American politics looked very different, as the political scientist V. O. Key made clear in a short article published in the Journal of Politics in 1955, titled, "A Theory of Critical Elections." There were, Mr. Key argued, periodic elections of unusual importance that create a "realignment" of party affiliations that is "both sharp and durable" and persists for "several succeeding elections." Large social changes -- wars, depressions, popular upheavals -- destabilized the party systems every generation or so and produced new electoral coalitions that often lasted for several decades.

Mr. Key was not alone in seeing a predictable pattern in American party politics. A few years earlier, the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. had proposed a similar, if less rigorous theory -- that there are "cycles" in American politics that move from periods of progressive energy to periods of conservative stasis, such periods alternating in reasonably regular and predictable patterns. (Mr. Schlesinger's son, Arthur Jr., continued to promote this idea into the 1970s.) Mr. Key and the Schlesingers were among a large group of scholars who, over many decades, developed a range of theories that they believed could predict how the polity would behave and thus how electoral outcomes could be decided. Almost all of these theories rested on the assumption that elections were determined by the shifting nature of strong political parties. When the balance between the parties changed, so did the outcome of elections.

At the time, history made these theories seem to work. In 1896, a great shift in party affiliations led to a remarkably stable period of 36 years in which Republicans controlled the White House for 28 of those years and the Congress for 30. And in 1932, the earthquake of the Great Depression launched yet another 36-year period of political stability in which the Democrats held the presidency for 28 years and the Congress for 32.

Through most of American history, the party system was indeed the driver of American political life. More than that, it was a profound form of self-identification for almost all voters, whose loyalty to parties was often as intense as their loyalty to churches, or ethnic groups, or regions. From the 1840s to the early 20th century, voter turnout in presidential elections almost always exceeded 70% and at times exceeded 80%, less because of strong feelings about presidential candidates -- who were often indistinguishable from one another -- than because of fierce loyalty to parties. In the 1890s, David B. Hill, an otherwise unremarkable governor of New York, created a national sensation when he ended a speech at a party convention by momentously declaring, "I am a Democrat!" This banal statement briefly became a rallying cry for Democrats across the country and made Gov. Hill a party hero (and a briefly plausible presidential candidate). The two major parties in the late 19th century had few policy differences and, on the whole, shared a common, conservative philosophy; but that was of little importance to the way in which the political process worked. Few voters seemed to care. They were not much committed to their candidates, but they were passionately committed to their parties -- in much the same way many people today care about baseball or football teams. Party loyalty, like fan loyalty today, had little to do with most people's economic or social interests, but it inspired great passion nevertheless.

Even when interest groups began to displace parties as the focus of many citizens' commitments in the early 20th century, the party system remained powerful and, for the most part, a stable and reliable predictor of the outcome of elections. From the election of William McKinley in 1896 to the election of Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the outcome of most presidential elections were easily predictable months, even years before the voting. One of the few surprises -- the unexpected victory of the seemingly unelectable Harry Truman in 1948 -- reflected the durable loyalty to the Democratic party rather than support for Truman himself. Twenty years later, everything had changed.

Many things fell apart in the late 1960s -- racial, sexual and social norms; patterns of deference and authority; and, not least, political parties. At the time, many political scientists and historians identified the election of 1968 as a signal of a new political "realignment," through which voters would once again shift party loyalties and create new and lasting coalitions. Kevin Phillips's influential 1969 book "The Emerging Republican Majority" was a prescient analysis of the immediate aftermath of 1968, but its predictions of a long, stable period of Republican dominance never materialized. Instead, it soon became clear that 1968 was not a realignment at all. It was, rather, the beginning of a massive de-alignment -- the movement of millions of disillusioned voters out of the party system altogether. By the early 1970s, nearly a third of the public identified themselves as "independents," affiliated with no party. Many of them ceased voting entirely. Others began to pick and choose candidates on whatever criteria mattered to them at a given moment. Serious third party or independent candidates, a rarity through most of the 20th century, have siphoned off significant numbers of voters from the major parties in five of the last 10 elections. Turnout in presidential elections, rarely below 60% in the first seven decades of the 20th century, dropped dramatically after 1968, and dipped below 50% in 1996. Party loyalty, in short, is no longer a strong factor in the decisions of voters, and with its decline has come a less stable and less predictable political landscape. By the late 1970s, political scientists and historians were no longer paying much attention to parties and were focusing on social movements instead.

The parties, of course, still survive as essential vehicles for organizing our political life -- managing primaries and elections, organizing nominating conventions, determining leadership in Congress. And in state and local elections, citizens still give serious attention to party affiliation when they make their political decisions. The less voters know about a race, the more likely they are either not to vote at all or to choose on the basis of party. But in presidential elections, during which almost everyone knows a great deal about the major candidates, parties have increasingly little meaning to voters who, whatever their formal affiliations, cross party lines often and without hesitation. One result has been the end of the once-strong connection between the election of presidents and the election of members of Congress. In only 10 of the last 40 years have presidents and the two houses of Congress all been under the control of the same party at the same time.

Rarely has this post-partisan world been more visible than in the campaign of 2008. Sen. Obama has few ties to any party leaders or organizations and nevertheless edged out one of the most famous, well-connected and well-funded candidates of recent decades. For a time, at least, many supporters of Hillary Clinton appeared likely to vote for Sen. McCain. In the Republican race, the nominee is a man who has spent much of his career as a self-proclaimed maverick, crossing party lines on many issues. In 2004, he was so faintly identified with the Republican party that he was even considered as a possible Democratic vice presidential candidate; and in 2008 primaries, he nearly lost the race for the Republican nomination because conservatives in his own party did not trust him. Since clinching the nomination, he has been repudiating some of the Bush administration's policies and embracing ideas that were once taboo in the current Republican party. Not surprisingly, some of the most ardent Republican supporters of George W. Bush have claimed they will not vote for McCain in the same way that some Clinton voters say they will not vote for Obama -- although the selection of the extremely conservative Gov. Palin as McCain's running mate might change this dynamic.

There are, of course, enormous differences between the two candidates, but they are not all differences that fit neatly into the announced goals of their parties. And why should they? What do the parties do for them today? Trumpeting party loyalty may have been a valuable political tactic a century ago. But today most Americans see partisanship not as an integral part of the political system, but as an obstacle to progress and honest government. Sen. Obama expresses such sentiments himself sometimes and rarely refers to the Democratic party's past or present. And he appears to have paid no price for it. The Internet now makes it possible for candidates to reach voters entirely independently of the party apparatus, and no one has done so more successfully than Sen. Obama. He has raised more money on his own than any presidential candidate in history, while the party's national committee had difficulty even collecting the funds it needed to stage its convention. Sen. McCain jettisoned his identity as a loyal Republican partisan almost the moment he clinched the nomination and -- at least until the Republican convention -- appeared sometimes to be putting more distance between himself and President Bush than between himself and his Democratic opponent. The 2008 election is not typical, of course. It occurs in the midst of an unusually dark moment both domestically and internationally, and it reflects the great disillusionment Americans feel about many of the policies of recent years. Even so, this campaign is not radically different from most others in recent decades -- with presidential candidates seeming almost to invent themselves on the spot so as not to appear to be beholden to their parties' establishments.

What difference does this make to the workings of government? To answer that question, we should look at the success rate of recent presidents. Since 1968, we have seen one president driven from office, two presidents discredited and defeated after single terms, and two others badly weakened by scandals (one of them impeached). Our current president is approaching the end of his term as unpopular as any leader in our history and is facing a growing chorus of critics calling (implausibly) for his impeachment as well.

Strong party systems created problems of their own, and during their heyday many reformers yearned for a time like our own when the parties would have little power. But a political world without effective parties risks the creation of the kind of anarchic factionalism that the authors of the Federalist Papers warned against in the 1780s. "The friend of popular governments," James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, "never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates...the instability, injustice, and confusion [that factions] introduced into the public councils...the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished." The framers at first feared political parties for this reason, but within a generation they began to champion parties as a bulwark against factional anarchy. Broad and robust party organizations, they argued, would be capable of containing and taming disagreement. Today, untethered from the party system, many voters seize increasingly not on issues that affect their lives, but on whatever simply catches their interest -- inflammatory social issues, personalities, and even lapel pins. The post-partisan character of our politics is not only a reason for the difficulty in predicting electoral outcomes. It is also one of the reasons our government has worked so poorly and has lost the confidence of so many Americans. Leaders who get elected without strong parties behind them often find themselves without the allies they need to achieve the goals they have embraced. But going it alone has increasingly become the norm in our fractious, unpredictable political world.

Alan Brinkley is the Allan Nevins professor of history and the provost at Columbia University.

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