Saturday, September 13, 2008

This Cancels the Future

Who has the knowledge, judgment and temperament
to be entrusted with the power to destroy the future
in an instant? Aren't we pretty sure who doesn't? And
what does that say about the judgment and values of
the candidate responsible for the least qualified VP
candidate since Hiroshima? A candidate who is over
70, with a history of serious illness? Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 12, 2008

Finger on the Button

Over the past few days, Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin has proven that she's not ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, yet John McCain appointed her to be just that, knowing the risks of his own age and medical record.

In her one and only national interview, she didn't know a fundamental principle of the Bush foreign policy and she spoke recklessly about war with Russia. Earlier she told troops on their way to Iraq that the war there was linked to 9-11, and despite her reinterpretation of her own remarks, she said that the war in Iraq is God's plan.

Shortly before McCain appointed her, Karl Rove said somebody like Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia--who had been mayor of Richmond and Lt. Governor of this populous and complex state as well as Governor--was not qualified to be vice-president because those offices weren't sufficient experience in foreign policy. John McCain himself said in May of this year, " I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time."

Yet now McCain and the Republicans contend that the person who has been the mayor of a remote town with a population that can fit into a gym, and governor for less than two years of a state with a population of a middle-sized city, is ready to be thrust into the responsibility of dealing with crises that could mean war, and in the case of Russia, possibly nuclear war.

Are we really that eager to risk Armageddon? Because that's what it comes down to.

The GOPers have made much of the type of experience VP candidate Palin has had, in being a mayor and governor. GOPer leaders escalated their rhetoric to claim that she is more experienced than Obama, and in fact more experienced than Obama and VP candidate Biden put together.

Really? How many world leaders has she met? How many experts on foreign policy has she studied, grilled, talked with at length over a period of years? How has her knowledge and judgment been tested?

Senator Obama is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (and Joe Biden is its chair.) They have engaged countless experts on every part of the world, giving testimony before that committee. Senator Obama is also a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Matters affecting national security in real world terms come before these committees. Slogans don't last long when the real world has to be faced.

How many position papers has Palin produced? Are they on her official website for all to see and judge, as they have been for nearly two years on candidate Obama's?

How many foreign policy experts and distinguished generals and admirals have been advising VP candidate Palin for the past two years, as they have been advising Senator Obama as part of his campaign for the presidency? How many former Secretaries of State, respected foreign policy experts, generals and admirals have endorsed her fitness, as they have Barack Obama?

There are two components to the commander-in-chief test: knowledge and judgment. VP candidate Palin does not have the knowledge necessary to be that close to The Button. Her recent interview is the only time that she has spoken about foreign affairs on the national public record, while Obama and Biden have spoken many times on many intricate foreign policy subjects on the record, and have been questioned by the media, by experts and other leaders. But simply on the evidence of this interview, she does not demonstrate either the knowledge or judgment.

Candidate John McCain's judgment has to be called into question for selecting VP candidate Palin. This was John McCain's first presidential decision: to put politics above country in the most extreme and obvious way. It is a decision that endangers America, the world and the future.

Barack Obama's first presidential decision was to choose Senator Joe Biden as his VP candidate--who is an acknowledged expert in foreign affairs, with more than 20 years of intimate experience, as well as being very knowledgeable about a range of domestic issues. No leader in either party can seriously question Biden's qualifications to function as President, should that become necessary.

But this is not the first evidence that McCain's judgment is faulty. He's shown bad judgment on foreign policy issues. He is wrong on Iraq, and was wrong about Iraq from the start--he supported the invasion of Iraq even before Bush made his false case for this war. He is dangerously reckless in his comments on Russia. His temperament has been questioned by leaders in his own party who say he is too hot-headed, and the prospect of McCain with his finger on the button scares them.

Barack Obama was right on Iraq. On his recent trip to Iraq, its president agreed with his policy on a timetable for withdrawing American troops. Obama's other meetings with world leaders on that trip demonstrated not only that he is ready to be a world leader, but that he is a world leader already.

Electing John McCain as President places America in grave danger, because of his judgment and temperament. VP Palin doesn't have the judgment or the knowledge to function as commander in chief. She will be prey to people around her, with no independent knowledge to even question what she's told.
And while some fundamentalists may be quite happy about her views on God's guidance of the Iraq war, or the coming Rapture of the righteous, for most Americans, having an uninformed zealot with a finger over the button is rightly terrifying.

Yet if John McCain is elected, VP Palin would would be a heartbeat away from succeeding a man in his 70s with a history of cancer. This nightmare scenario is not a cheesy TV movie. Unless the American people wake up, it could become a reality.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Texas in the Crosshairs

Hurricane Ike is headed to Texas, and forecasters
warn of catastrophic storm surges (noted in this
map) and winds. Galveston is particularly endangered,
and possibly Houston. Map from Weather Underground.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's About the Future: Get Serious

"The McCain campaign would much rather have the story [be]about a phony and foolish diversion than about the future. Enough! I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies, phony outrage and swiftboat politics. Enough is enough! These are serious times and they call for a serious debate about where we need to take the nation."

McShame Campaign

McCain's machine-gun series of lies, each more outrageous than the last, is so desperate and so transparent that even the news media is nearly unanimous in calling him on it.

That apparently is part of the point, for it seems that just about the only thing the McCain campaign tells the truth about is its own tactics. It's campaign director announced last week that they didn't want this campaign to be about issues that actually make a difference in people's lives, for good or ill. Now to a Washington Post reporter, doing a story on how McCain and Palin continue to make assertions of fact that have been proven not to be true--in other words, they're lying--GOPer strategist John Feehery told the Post, on the record, that:

...the campaign is entering a stage in which skirmishes over the facts are less important than the dominant themes that are forming voters' opinions of the candidates.

"The more the New York Times and the Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent," Feehery said. "As long as those are out there, these little facts don't really matter."

The McCain campaign hit a new low--at least as of Wednesday--when it lied and distorted the truth in an ad about Obama's vote in the Illinois legislature on a bill that included funds to teach kindergarteners about how to deal with sexual predators. Here's what Obama said about this bill in 2004 (which didn't pass anyway), according to the New York Times:

“I have a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old daughter, and one of the things my wife and I talked to our daughter about is the possibility of somebody touching them inappropriately, and what that might mean,” Mr. Obama said in 2004. “And that was included specifically in the law, so that kindergarteners are able to exercise some possible protection against abuse, because I have family members as well as friends who suffered abuse at that age.”

But the McCain campaign doesn't care about children, or women, or "the issues"--all the people who suffer and die because they can't get timely adequate health care, all the people who are losing their homes-- their homes; all the people being butchered and dying in Iraq; people losing jobs in a worsening economic crisis, an onrushing crisis in energy, the fate of the planet and the future. "Country First" is the biggest of Big Lies. The McCain campaign is all about winning--about the lobbyists and insiders in charge of the McCain campaign keeping their power and serving their wealthy clients, by fighting change and robbing taxpayers.

They don't care about the truth at all, which has flummoxed members of the media. "This is not false naivete, "writes E. J. Dionne, "I am genuinely surprised that John McCain and his campaign keep throwing out false charges and making false claims without any qualms." But it appears that McCain-Palin are not only set on continuing Bush policies on the issues they don't want to talk about, they are continuing and accelerating the Bush administration disdain for the truth and for the Constitution.

Referencing the 'lipstick on a pig' remark that the McCain campaign deliberately distorted, Barack Obama addressed this directly on Wednesday (the video clip will be posted above.) Part of what he said:

"What their campaign has done this morning is the same game that has made people sick and tired of politics in this country. They seize on an innocent remark, throw out an outrageous ad because they know it is catnip for the media. It would be funny except for the news media decided that was the lead story yesterday. The McCain campaign would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversion than about the future."

Enough! I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies, phony outrage and swiftboat politics. Enough is enough! These are serious times and they call for a serious debate about where we need to take the nation. We can't take another four years that were like the last eight. Spare me the phony outrage. Spare me the phony talk about change. We have real problems in this country right now and the American people are looking to us for answers. Not distractions, not diversions not manipulations they are looking for real answers. That's the type of debate I attempt to have."

Remember What This is About

The Problem with Polls, Eugene McCarthy Told Me

"The problem with polls," Eugene McCarthy told me, "is that your campaign reads them."

While looking for something else, I ran across this quote in an old story I did for the Boston Phoenix. But it certainly jumped out, in view of this week--the worst polling week of the campaign for Obama.

McCarthy had been saying that polls weren't always accurate, they weren't always relevant, and the only poll that counted was on election day. But if they were good, your campaign people could get complacent. And if they were bad, they could get discouraged. Both are bad, but this year in particular, discouragement is worse.

Everybody knew that if John McCain was ever going to move up in the polls it would be this week, with his convention bump. Of course, many Obama supporters were hoping it wouldn't happen, in which case the election would seem pretty much in the bag. Now they may be worried that the polls will stay favorable to McCain, especially since there isn't another big event on the horizon that might change them, at least until the first debate. (And if McCain's numbers go down before then, Chuck Todd of NBC says, it suggests that the Palin Effect is wearing off. Because most if not all of McCain's bump is due to Palin.)

There are lots of questions about these polls anyway. They may have oversampled Republicans (there are undeniably more GOPers in the latest Gallup poll than there were in July's,) and don't reflect Democratic registration gains. Still, the movement for McCain has resulted in him coming closer, or moving only slightly ahead. And while a number of favorables for McCain jumped up in the NBC poll, they also increased for Obama--often pushing him over the 50% mark.

But bad poll numbers can discourage people in their first campaign, who aren't used to the ups and downs. They can discourage veteran campaigners and observers, as we "catastrophize," and recall again the bewildering behavior of voters in every presidential election since Jimmy Carter, except two. It evokes our fears that voters aren't taking this seriously, that they look at this election with all the seriousness of voting for an American Idol.

There's nothing wrong with a little motivating fear. But this year in particular, any real discouragement and consequent lack of optimistic action could be deadly.

Why? Because (I believe) this election is going to be won on enthusiasm.

It's a change election. The electorate itself is changing, as America is becoming more diverse and more young people are getting politically aware and involved. But we may not be past the point of no return yet. The people who have been running things are powerful and they aren't giving up.

Enthusiasm is particularly important for the two most crucial segments of the electorate for Obama's victory: young people and African Americans.

If young people become defeatist, turn bitter and cynical, they not only may fail to vote in sufficient numbers, but they deprive the campaign of the energy and enthusiasm that fuels voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts. Young voters represent the future that everybody should be voting on.

The African American vote is also imperiled by discouragement. I saw Oakland CA performer and activist Donald Lacy do his one-man show, "Color Struck," this past weekend. From the stage he expressed wonderment at Obama's nomination, but couldn't quite believe that America is going to elect a black man to the presidency. After the performance he came out into the lobby wearing an Obama t-shirt. But in conversation he seemed even more skeptical. Somehow, Obama is going to be prevented from winning. But...he was still wearing that t-shirt.

From what I've heard before, this seems like a common attitude in the African American community. Their enthusiasm is going to drive them to the polls, or their discouragement is going to keep them home.

That's why the worst thing about polls is that your campaign reads them. Reading them is one thing. Taking them to heart is another.

Obama folks, you can't control the media, or what Obama says or doesn't say. You have power over only yourself. Over what you do, and how you do it. Enthusiasm is infectious. And that's going to be very, very important.

Remember how this started?

Yes, we can.