Wednesday, May 19, 2010 2:34 PM
From New America Media, a report on the courageous activism of immigrant students in Arizona:
Dressed in blue graduation caps and gowns, four students were arrested Monday evening at Sen. John McCain’s office as they called for passage of legislation to assist immigrant students wanting to attend U.S. colleges.
Tucson police arrested and booked the youth on trespassing charges, but they were released after several hours. Federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued an order for them to appear in court.
“We’re putting ourselves on the line, for people we really believe in,” said Mohammad Abdollahi, 24, an undocumented immigrant from Iran, who was arrested. He lives in Ann Arbor, Mo., and is the co-founder of DreamActivists.Org.
“This is not about us,” he said. “This is about the hundreds of thousands of young people who have the same dream, and we want to provide them with the same opportunity.”
The protestors were calling on McCain to support the Dream Act, a bill that would allow youth who enter the country illegally before age 16 to legalize their status by continuing to pursue higher education or enrolling in the military.
Source: New America Media
Thursday, December 04, 2008 1:29 PM
When photographer Jill Greenberg’s editors at the Atlantic asked her to photograph John McCain for the magazine's October issue, she swallowed her distaste and delivered the benevolent-looking images they sought. But she couldn’t cast her disgust aside, so she snapped a second set of photos that better captured her own feelings for McCain. Compared to the warm, well-lit portraits that ended up in the magazine, her alternative shots make McCain look...well...kind of evil. Greenberg posted the photos to her website, and remained unapologetic when her editors freaked out.
Were her actions ethical? A recent episode of On the Media chats with Greenberg and other photographers about the often murky question of integrity in photojournalism. Greenberg suggests that in some situations, the most ethical way to portray her subjects may not always be the most flattering. Photographer Platon, who captured Ann Coulter on the cover of Time looking, in interviewer Bob Garfield’s estimation, "like a blond praying mantis," agrees. For him, a photographer’s duty isn’t to represent subjects as they’d prefer, but to interpret them, to “pull people out of their reality and into our reality.” Greenberg further justifies unflattering photos (perhaps less convincingly) with the contention that editors sometimes demand them, even asking photographers to deliberately mislead their subjects.
You can take a look at the photos in question, along with some other great (and potentially questionable) shots in a slideshow accompanying the episode transcript.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 10:37 AM
The Democrats decided Sen. Joe Lieberman’s fate Tuesday, granting him what was widely viewed as a political pardon, or “punishment via feather duster,” as the Wall Street Journal put it, for his vigorous support of John McCain’s presidential bid. But Politico’s Glenn Thrush points out an important curiosity about Lieberman's slap on the wrist:
Some Democrats have sniped at Joe Lieberman for not grilling the Bush administration hard enough as head of the homeland security committee.
He gets to keep this job.
Democrats have (mostly) offered praise for his position on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he has criticized the Bush administration’s global warming policies.
He loses that job.
The Guardian opines that “Lieberman’s loss of the environmental panel spot effectively removes him from the front lines of the climate change debate,” even though he pushed congressional action to combat global warming before it was politically profitable. Lieberman introduced the Senate’s first climate bill in 2003 with McCain, which proposed a cap and trade system and was voted down. Most recently, he co-sponsored the Climate Security Act with Virginia Sen. John Warner, which was also defeated.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 4:43 PM
Barack Obama's overwhelming win was due in no small part to the millions he raked in via online appeals to supporters. Anyone hoping that his historic victory would end those daily pleas for cash was in for a surprise yesterday, though, when the campaign was back at it, asking for more money. This time the non-tax-deductable contributions go to pay the debts of the Democratic National Committee.
Obama's not alone. The McCain-Palin campaign, for one, still appears to be accepting contributions through JohnMcCain.com.
In fact, many of the old favorites from the 2008 campaign still have donation appeals live on their websites. That's the case for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who is still accepting contributions on his HuckPac website, although he’s also now raking in a salary for his show on Fox News.
Hilary Clinton, too, is taking contributions, a move that could reignite fears that the Clintons will divide the Democratic party in 2008. Other voices from the Democratic primary, including Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, and even John Edwards are all still asking for money online from their loyal constituencies.
“America’s Mayor” never gives up either, apparently. On their podcast, John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman warn that a Rudy Giuliani comeback could occur any day now.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008 10:18 AM
Take a break from the news stream and the refresh button. The folks at the Landline are out with a second batch of McCain attack ads inspired by famous directors. David Lynch fans are in for a treat.
Watch the first round here.
Monday, November 03, 2008 3:52 PM
Need something to take the edge off as you wait for your fellow Americans to decide the fate of the nation? How about a distracting drinking game? (Those who prefer not to imbibe, or want to ensure they’ll be both awake and alert when the next president is announced, can substitute alcohol with stale Halloween candy).
Here are the rules, suggested by experts Bennett Gordon, Elizabeth Ryan, and Kari Volkmann-Carlsen here at Utne Reader. Drink or dig into the Halloween candy every time the following happen, unless another frequency is otherwise noted.
1. A red state goes blue, or vice versa (Potential targets for the former: Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina, New Mexico, Indiana. Potential targets for the latter: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire.)
2. A pundit says something he or she actually believes, mistakenly assuming that his or her mic is off (See: Peggy Noonan or the Rev. Jesse Jackson).
3. Drink/pop a Reeses every tenth time Joe the Plumber is mentioned. Anything less could cause alcohol poisoning or a hypoglycemic event.
4. Voter suppression reported. Do not drink or candy-binge for five minutes.
5. Flagrant network abuse of new Election Day gadgetry. Watch this SNL skit for examples:
6. Keith Olberman pounds his chest saying, “What’s up now?”
7. A Fox News anchor starts to cry.
8. A former candidate looks more convincing than he ever did while he was running (i.e., Al Gore, John Kerry, Bill Richardson)
9. James Carville uses folksy expression hitherto unknown to all speakers of English.
10. Network assures you, Joe the Viewer, that they won’t screw up this year by calling any race too early. Then calls a race too early.
11. Hanging chads come up.
12. Network actually mentions the Green Party (drink twice).
13. Obama wins. Stop drinking/eating candy. Go and dance in the street.
14. McCain pulls off upset. Finish off all the bottles in house.
, licensed under
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 1:40 PM
There’s a steady feed of anxiety buzzing across the airwaves and blogosphere about Barack Obama falling short on Election Day.
First, there’s the infomercial gamble.
Then there’s the incessant stream of bad news about voter suppression. And the potential of a Florida redux.
And where to begin with the polls? Nate Silver’s soothing graphics and heady analysis can’t even stave the fear that the polls are way off. The New Republic and Washington Post have some scary bedtime reading on that front. But what about the impact of Obama’s perceived lead? Will it keep would-be Obama voters at home? Will it convince hard lefters to go Green Party? How anyone in a post-Bush v. Gore world could succumb to such a line seems inconceivable, but my colleagues Julie and Danielle kindled such irrational fears in me yesterday by reporting that Green Party nitwits at Minneapolis’ trendiest co-op are handing out fliers for Cynthia McKinney with the chant, “Obama’s up 14 points.”
As if this glut of fear weren’t enough, some folks are spinning some hypothetical nightmare scenarios with all the care of horror film scriptwriters.
Newseek’s Jonathan Alter was kind enough to spin this Halloween-esque yarn about “Why McCain Won”:
Obama shifted New Mexico, Iowa and Nevada from red to blue. But there was a reason Virginia hadn't gone Democratic since 1964. The transformation of the northern part of the state couldn't overcome a huge McCain margin among whites farther south. They weren't the racists of their parents' generation, but they weren't quite ready to vote for the unthinkable, either.
Obama had wired every college campus in the country, and he enjoyed great enthusiasm among politically engaged young people. But less-engaged students told reporters the day after the election that they had meant to vote for Obama but were "too busy." History held: young people once again voted in lower percentages than their elders. Waiting for them turned out to be like waiting for Godot.
And then there’s this personalized bit of horror that’s making the rounds from MoveOn.org. (I thank my big brother for sending it to me after I rattled on a little too long about recurring nightmares of McCain taking Pennsylvania.)
So what’s a nervous wreck to do, outside of hitting the bottle or the Xanax?
Normally, I wouldn’t turn to Larry David for advice about anxiety, but he does offer one option that, I suspect, many others are taking:
The one concession I’ve made to maintain some form of sanity is that I've taken to censoring my news, just like the old Soviet Union. The citizenry (me) only gets to read and listen to what I deem appropriate for its health and well-being.
Of course, there’s always yoga. The Huffington Post’s Tara Stiles has some election-timed tips in this video.
The Associated Press has a few suggestions as well:
Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising. You'll feel better while recognizing those things you can control, says Wilmette, Ill.-based psychologist Nancy Molitor.
Realize that no candidate is as good — or as bad — as you might imagine, Molitor says.
When all else fails, change the subject, says Lisa Miller, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University Teachers College in New York. "Turn to those things which are more eternal and more important, such as nature and family," she says. "It's a great time to go into nature. Go camping."
Unfortunately, these tips seem about as realistically helpful as the fantastical prescriptions the Stranger came up with last month, such as Palium, which “[i]nduces a Valium-like calm with respect to all things Sarah Palin.”
In truth, the best plan is to either tune out until November 5th or white-knuckle it until the results are in (really in).
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:43 PM
Talk of assassination during this presidential election has been a taboo violated in a few notorious instances. But yesterday’s discovery of a disturbing, if far-fetched, neo-Nazi plot to assassinate Barack Obama has renewed anxiety about various worst-case scenarios that many people think about but few mention aloud.
Yesterday’s revelation is only the latest resurgence of the A-word. There was Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate RFK gaffe last spring. There are jokes made by Fox pundits. There are websites created by insane people. And then there are the sentiments of those at Sarah Palin’s rallies, who have shouted “Kill him!” on more than one occasion.
Blog chatter among those sympathetic to the candidate is marked by anxiety. After Gawker ran a photo of Obama addressing a crowd of 100,000 in St Louis, some commenters fretted about him appearing in such wide-open spaces. “I was going to say something about how much this looked like a Kennedy or MLK Jr. rally, then I remembered how that panned out for them,” wrote one. “I just want to fast forward to November 5, if only so I can stop holding my breath.”
Another worried: “This sort of open air speech setting seems almost [to be] defying history to me. It's as if Obama is thumbing his nose at common sense.”
This comment was met with a sound rebuttal: “You either have to just get out there and give your speeches and assume God or Fate is on your side, or frankly, you probably don’t have much business trying to be president, particularly in these times.”
This last suggestion seems to be the one Obama has taken to heart on the campaign trail, thumbing his nose not so much at common sense but at the cynicism, hatred, and fear-mongering that has been too much the norm of late.
Monday, October 27, 2008 5:57 PM
Until recently, the Puerto Rican dancehall music reggaeton was better known for its sexualized dance moves than political messaging. That changed when musician Daddy Yankee, complete with signature sunglasses, stood proudly on stage with John McCain, talked about immigration policy, and endorsed the Arizona senator for president.
Now, reggaetoneros like Daddy Yankee have taken center stage in the 2008 election, Marisol LeBrón writes for NACLA. Barack Obama’s campaign quickly garnered endorsements from other prominent reggaeton artists including Don Omar, Julio Voltio and Puerto Rican-American rapper Fat Joe. The International Herald Tribune reports that Daddy Yankee turned to more local politics, moderating a televised gubernatorial debate on the island that was designed to attract young voters.
Unhappy that reggaetoneros “are being used in an effort to attract youth to a political system that systematically ignores their concerns,” NACLA reports that protesters showed up at Daddy Yankee’s moderated debate, burning his albums in defiance. One artist Sietenueve released a scathing single called “Quedate Callao” (“Shut Up”) insulting Daddy Yankee for his political ignorance (video available below).
The problem wasn’t that reggaetoneros were engaging in politics. According to NACLA, Daddy Yankee’s political endorsements and debate moderating “threatened to turn reggaetón into a hollow signifier, separating it from its radical and subversive potential.”
Monday, October 27, 2008 5:07 PM
Monday, October 27, 2008 3:44 PM
The blog techPresident used simple math to compare the presidential candidates’ presence on YouTube, and the numbers suggest that the Obama campaign has a more robust internet strategy. By multiplying the length of each Obama and McCain YouTube video by the number of views it received, the blog arrived at the candidates’ “YouTube video total watch time”:
Obama: 14,548,809.05 hours
McCain: 488,093.01 hours
If the campaigns had purchased that airtime on TV, it would’ve cost Obama an estimated $46 million, and McCain about $1.5 million (see techPresident for details on the math).
The numbers aren't perfect: The watch time and cost calculations account for only the videos generated by the campaigns, the watch times assume that videos were viewed in full, and comparing TV advertising to YouTube views is not “comparing apples to apples,” techPresident acknowledges. Still, the dramatic gap found here is likely indicative of the extent to which each campaign is capitalizing on this new frontier of internet campaign messaging.
And as the 2008 election season nears its conclusion, Obama and McCain aren't the only candidates continuing to populate the site with creative campaign gems. Take this video from Alaska Democrat Diane Benson, titled "Experience":
Well Diane, "Experience" was successful in at least one respect: It made the cut for Politico's 10 worst ads of the cycle. As for converting votes, I'm not so sure.
Monday, October 27, 2008 1:14 PM
With only eight days left till the big day, John McCain and Barack Obama are beginning to make their final pitch to voters.
Obama will do that on a national stage Wednesday, when his half-hour infomercial is set to air on network TV. But he’s making his closing argument from the stump in swing states starting today and, not surprisingly, “change” is his core message. Politico has this excerpt from Obama’s prepared remarks, to be delivered in Canton, Ohio:
[A]s I’ve said from the day we began this journey all those months ago, the change we need isn’t just about new programs and policies. It’s about a new politics – a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts; one that reminds us of the obligations we have to ourselves and one another.
Obama went on to say that we lost "our sense of common purpose" during the Bush years. "And that's what we need to restore right now," he said.
Also in Ohio, McCain delivered what the Washington Post calls a “surprise economic speech” Monday morning. He continued to push the idea that Obama will raise taxes and go on a lavish government spending spree, and promised that he “will never be the one who sits on the sidelines waiting for things to get better,” according to the Post. McCain also called a theoretical President Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a “dangerous threesome,” and argued that the election should turn on how voters expect to see their money spent: “Do you want to keep it and invest it in your future, or have it taken by the most liberal person to ever run for the presidency?”
Friday, October 24, 2008 9:59 AM
The always-thorough folks at FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) have compiled the “Top Troubling Tropes of Campaign ’08,” a handy (if alarming) roundup of eleven misleading, factually bankrupt themes that have dominated election coverage.
Not only do journalists organize the election story around the question—not terribly helpful to voters—of who's up and who's down, they largely base their evaluation of the race on shallow image-based narratives that the media construct themselves: Barack Obama is an "elitist" who might not "get the way we live" (
, 8/08), while John McCain is a straight-talking "maverick" (
The FAIR report goes well beyond deconstructing the “maverick” and “elitist” labels (Troubling Tropes #1 and 2), using extensively sourced analysis to rebut the claim that the so-called liberal media has “smeared” vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (#3) and contesting the media’s treatment of John McCain as a “national security pro” (#4).
Then there’s “false balance” (#8), in which the media’s fact-checking is doled out “equally”—you know, debunk an Obama claim, then one of McCain's, then back to Obama, and so on.
In recent elections, media "fact-check" reporting often bends over backwards to choose an equal number of falsehoods or distortions from each side—which can give voters a misleading impression of the prevalence of political lying when one side is obviously more guilt of exaggerations.
In this election, it is beyond question that that the McCain/Palin campaign has been more aggressively lying in its campaign ads and rhetoric than the Obama/Biden camp. Nonetheless, the overriding media tendency is to blunt that disparity and see the campaign as a series of back-and-forth attacks. . . .
Read the full report at FAIR’s website.
Friday, October 24, 2008 9:44 AM
John McCain's campaign tries on new messages like Paris Hilton tries on new shoes. But since Sarah Palin entered the race, they've managed to deliver at least one consistent rallying cry: We are the ticket of small-town values.
Small-town mythology has become the cornerstone of Palin’s pitch to voters. She spoke about “Main Streeters like me” in the vice presidential debate and talked up “Joe six-pack.” In her speech before the Republican National Convention, she told the audience that the nation grows “good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.”
Palin’s speech channeled Thomas Jefferson, who wrote to a friend in 1785, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country, and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.” But the Jeffersonian portrait she sketched of rural America doesn’t tell the whole story.
Palin didn’t touch on the fact that small towns are hemorrhaging young people, who grow up and leave in search of opportunity. She didn’t mention that hope is scarce in some towns, as a 2008 survey (pdf) of rural Midwesterners completed by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute found. Only 15 percent of those asked to forecast the future of their communities believed life there would be better in 10 years. Palin didn’t explain to the nation that small towns have fallen on hard times. Nor did she promise rural Americans that a Palin vice presidency would mean a better future was on its way.
Because that wasn’t really the point. Palin peddles small-town nostalgia and an outdated image of the “average American” to cast shadows of doubt on her enemies, not to offer solutions to her friends. The Wasilla gal is George Bush, the guy you’d like to swill beer with, in fierce pumps and trendy glasses. She embodies the same everyman appeal that Bush did and uses it to stoke the kind of fear and division that made Karl Rove a household name. But at a time when the country is fighting two wars abroad and trying to piece the economy back together at home, can the politics of cultural resentment still turn the election for Republicans?
To understand why, take a look back at the Republican National Convention, when McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told the Washington Post, “This election is not about issues.” If it was, the McCain camp looked to be fighting a losing battle as the campaign entered the home stretch: An ABC News / Washington Post poll released Oct. 13 reported that 68 percent of likely voters preferred Obama’s positions on the issues, with only 29 percent preferring McCain’s. But the poll found those voters favored McCain’s personal qualities over Obama’s 61 percent to 34 percent. The takeaway? McCain’s best shot at the White House was to make the campaign a referendum on character.
You might think that would mean we’d be hearing a lot about McCain’s dark days in Vietnam in these final weeks. But instead, the campaign has shaped its character attacks almost singularly around the image of Sarah Palin. They’ve deployed Palin’s small-town biography to tell the story of a fabled “real America” that the terrorist-friendly Obama, as Palin and others paint him, isn’t a part of. At an Oct. 16 fundraiser in Greensboro, North Carolina, Palin declared that, “the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America.” She went on that in these “pro-America areas of this great nation…we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans.”
“I bet bin Laden feels like a real asshole now,” Daily Show host Jon Stewart responded on the following Tuesday’s show. “What?! I bombed the wrong America?!” Stewart skewered Palin further saying, “I guess if you’re from New York City and you signed up to fight in Iraq and you died, I guess it doesn’t count.” Palin’s comments didn’t play much better beyond the Daily Show, either, and Palin eventually issued a half-hearted apology. The fact is, most folks don’t live in Palin’s “real America”; according to the New Republic, 84 percent of Americans live in the country’s metro areas.
It's true that rural voters play a disproportionate role in national elections. Just look at in Ohio in 2004, where they ignored pocketbook issues and handed George Bush the presidency because of his stances on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Palin’s job is to make sure rural voters put their values above their wallets again in 2008. But will they?
Small-town America no longer looks like a place Republicans can easily clinch by devoting a little airtime to their opponent’s Godless positions on abortion or gay marriage. Robert P. Jones, president of Public Religion Research, told National Public Radio that those two hot-button wedges of 2004 aren’t even among religious voters’ top five concerns this year. With social issues taking a back seat to the economy, Republican dominance in rural areas is waning. A late September poll by the Center for Rural Strategies showed McCain with a 10-point lead over Obama in rural America. The center's newest poll, however, shows a dramatic shift. Conducted in the first three weeks of October, the poll reports Obama leading McCain 46 percent to 45 percent among rural voters in 13 swing states.
Unlike past Democratic candidates, Obama has made a point of showing up in historically unfriendly territory, making sure rural swing voters hear his message. Explaining to New York Times Magazine reporter Matt Bai how he won rural Nevada in the Democratic primary, Obama said, “a lot of it just had to do with the fact that folks thought: Man, the guy is showing up. He’s set up an office. He’s doing real organizing. He’s talking to people.” According to Bai, Obama has 50 campaign offices in Virginia, 42 in Indiana, and 45 in North Carolina, all states his party usually writes off in national campaigns.
When he shows up, Obama appeals to rural voters with an economic message he's been hitting for some time. In July, for instance, he swung through rural Missouri on an economic tour, giving particular attention to his vision for the green economy of the future. The McCain campaign, by comparison, has delivered a shaky economic message at best. The economy simply isn’t what they want to talk about. McCain adviser Greg Strimple told the Washington Post in early October, “We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis." But the page has not turned on our economic woes, and unfortunately for McCain, voters are interested in talking about it.
Nevertheless, McCain and Palin continue to push a campaign that celebrates the common man in lore more than substance. Joe the Plumber, who has recently eclipsed Palin as the campaign’s “average” sensation, is McCain’s symbol du jour of the further economic pain a President Obama would impose on the country. Yet Joe, at his current income level, would fare better under Obama’s tax plan than McCain’s, exposing deep imperfections in the relationship between McCain's message and his policy.
McCain seized upon Joe without vetting just as he seized upon Sarah, out of a belief that symbolism could trump candor. Sarah Palin is indeed a powerful embodiment of a certain American story that has a tight hold on our imagination. America was born as a nation of small towns, and we tend to celebrate presidential stories that originate there. But that is no longer the America in which we live. In 2008, it's a mistake to believe that there is only one quintessential American story or that Sarah’s is any more American than Barack’s.
Photo by cmaccubbin, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 2:02 PM
Wordsmith.org, whose “Word.A.Day” emails dispatch daily doses of rare vocabulary, has taken up the election as its theme this week. Specifically, creator Anu Garg is featuring words that contain the candidates’ names.
These words have been on the books since long before this never-ending campaign began, but let’s see if we can force some creative connections and use each in a candidate-related sentence.
Here’s the list so far:
noun: A poem in which the author retracts something said in an earlier poem.
From Greek palinoidia, from palin (again) + oide (song). It's the same palin that shows up in the word palindrome.
Please use the word in a sentence:
If Sarah Palin had apologized for her recent bilious musings on the “Real America” in poem form, rather than as a hypothetical hedging, it would have been a Palin palinode. (For Palin-inspired poetry, check out the submissions to our Great Writing Salon.)
adjective: Having two teeth or toothlike parts.
From Latin bi- (two) + dens (tooth).
Please use the word in a sentence:
One wanting to caricature Biden’s latest campaign-trail gaffe might show him as a bucktoothed, bidentate goofball.
verb intr.: To walk about.
From Latin ob- (towards, against) + ambulare (to walk). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ambhi- (around) that is also the source of ambulance, alley, preamble, and bivouac. The first print citation of the word is from 1614.
Please use the word in a sentence:
This one’s too easy. Any candidate can obambulate a stage at a rally, so: Obama will certainly ombambulate in Richmond, Virginia, today. Perhaps it’s a more fitting word, though, to describe his opponents’ wanderings during their second, townhall debate. (You can relive those moments with The Daily Show video below, starting around 7:20.)
Check in tomorrow or Friday with Wordsmith for the McCain edition.
Friday, October 17, 2008 10:29 AM
Barack Obama may have a leg up on John McCain when it comes to TV advertising and video games embeds, but McCain has the advantage when it comes to robocalling, reports Wired. Shaun Dakin, who Wired describes as an “anti-robocall activist,” collected data showing that the McCain campaign ran 12 automated political telemarketing efforts in the past month and a half, compared to Obama’s four.
Recipients of the calls are greeted with automated messages like this one, sent to Talking Points Memo by a voter in North Carolina:
I'm calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Senate opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after surviving attempted abortions—a position at odds even with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama and his liberal Democrats are too extreme for America. Please vote—vote for the candidates who share our values. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202 863 8500.
Will McCain’s army of tele-bots march him into the White House? Probably not. Wired cites a Pew Research Center survey that found that almost half of the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who received robocalls hung up on the calls. According to Ben Smith of Politico, “Robocalls are a relatively inexpensive way to deliver a negative message, and used to be seen as an under-the-radar way to do it, though that's no longer really true.” Indeed, scripts and audio of McCain’s robocalls are popping up all over the Internet, though there's scant mention of what the Obama campaign's calls contain. And unfortunately for McCain, coverage of robocalling isn't translating into positive press.
Image by Joe Wu, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, October 16, 2008 7:55 AM
The last debate of the presidential election wrapped last night. The clear winner? “Joe the Plumber”—the latest Joe archetype to merit the candidates’ hyperfocused courting. But, to borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin, Who is the real Joe?
Well, he’s Joseph Wurzelbacher from Holland, Ohio—apparently the state’s only swing voter. Katie Couric scored another big interview by catching up with him post-debate on CBS’s webcast. And after listening to him, I wish we could return to the heady days of targeting the elusive Joe Six Pack, whose alcoholic haze must make him a tad more fun to chat with. Better yet, the campaigns could drop the Joe meme altogether. After all, the name is getting less popular.
As for the debate’s non-Joe content, Obama kept his cool under McCain’s battery of kitchen sinks. Bill Ayers! John Lewis hurt my feelings! Obama’s a baby killer! McCain didn’t manage so well in the split screens—at one point mockingly raising his eyebrows when Obama suggested that, when negotiating a trade agreement with Colombia, we should be concerned about the country's labor leaders being assassinated. Perhaps my favorite moment of the night, though, was seeing McCain sarcastically dismiss the “health” of the mother—yes, he even used air quotes—as a reason for allowing third-trimester abortions. Now that’s pro-life!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 9:19 AM
When Christopher Buckley endorsed Barack Obama in a column for The Daily Beast last week, news traveled fast. As he accurately predicted, “the headline will be: ‘William F. Buckley’s Son Says He is Pro-Obama.’” It reads a bit more anti-McCain than it does pro-Obama, but it is an interesting piece from a longtime McCain friend and supporter.
This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once–first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?
Buckley opted not to air his opinions in his back-page column for the National Review, the conservative magazine his father founded in 1955; he took them to The Daily Beast instead, hoping to avoid the deluge of “foam-at-the-mouth hate-emails” that his fellow National Review columnist Kathleen Parker received when she criticized Sarah Palin (including one that, according to Buckley, "suggested that Kathleen's mother should have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a Dumpster").
It didn’t save his job, though. Just four days after the Obama endorsement, he was back at The Daily Beast to report that, in response to his own deluge of hate-email from National Review readers, he’d offered his resignation. “This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler.” (Lowry claims that the National Review only received about 100 emails regarding Buckley’s endorsement—“a tiny amount compared to our usual volume.”)
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 12:11 AM
With a notoriously “faith-based” presidential administration in its last throes and a race for the White House boasting a varied slate of Christians—a man who’s been called a “semi-Baptist,” a Pentecostal conservative, a Catholic Democrat, and a member of the United Church of Christ whom some insist is a “secret Muslim”—it’s surprising that faith and religion aren’t playing a more central role in the presidential and vice-presidential debates.
There’s been a relative lack of religious talk during the presidential face-offs, and various spirituality blogs are wondering if tonight’s will be any different. Both Christianity Today and the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life noted a dearth of religious talk in their liveblogs of last week’s debate, with the notable exception of Tom Brokaw’s zen question. GetReligion also called attention to the fact that the latest presidential debate’s only spiritual reference was to Buddhism, after the website live-blogged the Palin-Biden debate and its own lack of religious language.
One explanation is that Iraq and the tanking economy have largely pushed aside religious and social issues that dominated previous debate cycles. Nathan Empsall at the Wayward Episcopalian is glad the candidates are addressing the economy, but still frustrated by both candidates’ remarks in that regard. With McCain foundering in the polls and in need of a game changer, it’s questionable whether Christianity will make an appearance in tonight’s debate.
Image by Ricardo Carreon, licensed by Creative Commons.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 3:30 PM
A wiry thirtysomething guy bikes out of the Whole Foods parking lot, a pannier of organic produce strapped to his rack. He’s on his way home to make dinner after a couple of hours volunteering at the local Obama campaign headquarters. He inches down the driveway, waiting for an opportunity to turn right into the busy rush-hour traffic.
He sees an opening and jumps into the lane, pedaling quickly. But he’s not moving fast enough for a hulking SUV whose impatient driver doesn’t want to change lanes. She tailgates him for several yards, laying on the horn, then swerves into the other lane and tears past him, yelling something about getting on the sidewalk. The cyclist gives her a one-fingered salute, then notices a McCain-Palin sticker on her bumper.
We are all guilty of certain prejudices. In the escalating (and increasingly dangerous) tensions between car commuters and bicycle riders, battle lines are drawn. As an avid cyclist leaning fairly hard to port, I had very little reason to interrogate the stereotypes embodied in the scenario above. But eventually a few needling questions penetrated my insulated sphere of thought: What if there are conservatives who ride bikes? What the hell do they look like? And where can I find them?
On the Internet, of course.
“I am a gun-owning, low-taxes, small-government, strong military, anti-baby murder, pro-big/small business, anti-social program, conservative Democrat,” wrote Maddyfish, a poster on Bike Forums, an Internet discussion forum where everyone from the casual hobbyist to the obsessive gearhead can discuss all things bike-related, from frame sizes to the best routes downtown. There are dozens such forums for bicyclists and I recently crashed three of them—Bike Forums, MPLS BikeLove, and Road Bike Review—with a simple question: Are there any conservative cyclists out there? Maddyfish (an online pseudonym) was one of the first to reply: “I find cycling to be a very conservative activity. It saves me money and time.”
And just like that, biking conservatives came out of the cyber-woodwork, offering their own mixtures of bike love and political philosophy. “I do not care about gas prices or the environment. I care about fun and getting where I am quickly,” wrote Old Scratch. “I’m a Libertarian,” wrote Charly17201. “I am extremely conservative, but definitely NOT a GOPer. … I ride my bike because it provides me the opportunity to save even more money for my pleasures now and my retirement in the future (and my retirement fund is NOT the responsibility of the government).”
The more liberal bikers in the forums repeated some variation of this formulation: “Drive to the ride = conservative; bike to the ride = liberal.” In other words, conservatives load bikes onto SUVs and drive them to a riding trail, while liberals incorporate their bikes into every aspect of their personal transportation, whether utilitarian or recreational. For moneyed conservatives with a large portion of their income budgeted for recreation, high-end bikes and gear have taken their place along golf as a rich man’s leisure activity.
But there are conservatives who integrate bikes into their lifestyle just as thoroughly as their liberal counterparts. Mitch Berg is a conservative talk-radio host whose blog, A Shot in the Dark, is divided between political content and chronicles if his experiences commuting by bicycle. “I grew up in rural North Dakota, and biking was one of my escapes when I was in high school and college,” he told me. “It’s my favorite way to try to stay in shape. And if gas fell to 25 cents a gallon, I’d still bike every day.”
Berg doesn’t believe there’s anything inherently political about riding a bike. “But people on both sides of the political aisle do ascribe political significance to biking. The lifestyle-statement bikers, of course, see the act as a political and social statement. And there’s a certain strain of conservatism that sees conspicuous consumption—driving an SUV and chortling at paying more for gas—as a way to poke a finger in the eyes of the environmental left.”
The impression that bikers are liberal is reinforced, Berg feels, by the most vocal and political members of bike culture. These are the folks who corner the media's spotlight (and draw drivers' resentment) with high-profile events like Critical Mass, a group ride that floods downtown streets in many cities at the end of each month as riders zealously reassert their rights to the paths normally traveled by cars. Similarly, when the price of gas climbed to $4 over the summer, the media couldn’t run enough stories about the unprecedented popularity of bike commuting. Activist bikers leveraged the newfound media attention to promote certain messages: that bicycling is an inherently political activity; that cyclists care about traditionally progressive causes like environmental protection; that more tax money should be allocated for bike paths and a transportation infrastructure that takes vehicles other than cars into account.
“The faction of bikers that is fundamentally political has done a good job of tying [bikes and politics] together,” Berg says. “The Green Party has wrapped itself around the bicycle.” But for many, biking is political because everything is political: “You need a public infrastructure to [bike],” wrote Cyclezealot, on Bike Forums. “So, cycling will always be affected by politics, like it or not.”
When politics does bleed into cycling, does it create tensions? I asked Berg if he ever feels outnumbered on group rides dominated by liberals, and if those differences ever come to the fore. “Of course,” he replied, “On several levels. I’m a conservative. I don’t believe in man-made global warming. I’m biking for reasons that are partly personal and partly capitalistic; I don’t want to pay $4 for gas.” But he has made liberal friends based on a common love of cycling. So has William Bain, a retired Naval officer living in the Pacific Northwest whose bike commute is a 43-mile round trip. “Cycling is the common bond I have with my liberal friends,” said Bain. “We can get in a heated passionate argument about politics and then go out and try to ride each other into the ground. Good clean fun.”
Berg and Bain have allies in the government who see bicycle advocacy as a nonpartisan issue. Take Republican Greg Brophy, a Colorado state senator and an avid cyclist who competes in road bike marathons and uses his mountain bike to haul farm equipment. Brophy worked with Bicycle Colorado to pass Safe Routes to School and is supporting a “Green Lanes” bill to give bicyclists safer routes through metro areas.
Conservative cyclists don’t tend to get help from all their political allies, however. Some right-wing personalities know that biking is a hot-button issue and make pointed attacks on cyclists while reinforcing the liberal-cyclist stereotype. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s hard-right columnist Katherine Kersten earned the ire of the Twin Cities bike community in 2007 when she characterized Critical Mass as a mob of “serial lawbreakers” bent on ruining the lives of honorable citizen motorists. “Are you rushing to catch the last few innings of your son's baseball game? Trying to get to the show you promised your wife for her birthday? Critical Mass doesn't give a rip.”
Last fall, Twin Cities talk-radio host Jason Lewis made on-air remarks decrying the “bicycling crowd” as “just another liberal advocacy group.” He recycled a common anti-bike canard—that bicyclists have no rights to the roads because they don’t pay taxes to service those roads—before issuing a call to arms: “The people with the 2,000-pound vehicle need to start fighting back.” Lewis’ comments seem especially reckless in light of recent events: In September alone, four Twin Cities cyclists were killed in collisions with motor vehicles. One conservative blogger celebrates bike fatalities and gleefully anticipates more. “Keep it up,” he tells cyclists, “and the law of averages says we’ll have a few less Obama voters in November.”
While such critics tap into right-wing rage at all things liberal, conservative bikers appeal to a saner tenet of their political tradition: the free market's invisible hand. “Let the market roam free,” Berg exclaimed. “The higher gas goes, the more people will try biking.” And where there’s money to be made, bikes and bike-share programs will emerge. When the Republican National Convention came to the Twin Cities in September, for example, a bike-share program was there to greet it. Humana and Bikes Belong made 1,000 bikes available for rental during the convention, with 70 bikes staying behind as part of a permanent rental program.
Conservatives on bikes represent the breakdown of party-line stereotypes. They are heartening examples of crucial divergences from the lazy red/blue dichotomy the pundits are relentlessly hammering in these last frenzied days of campaign season. They are a microcosm in which a stereotype falls away to reveal an actual individual. What's more, they represent not just the abandonment of tired clichés, but more bikes on the road—something all of us on two wheels, regardless of our political idiosyncrasies, can agree is a good thing.
, licensed by
Wednesday, October 08, 2008 1:55 PM
Was it a “game-changer”? Did McCain “take the gloves off”? Did “Main Street” rule over “Wall Street”? Is there another hackneyed expression we could judge this debate by? Here’s some cliché-free post-debate analysis rounded up from the blogosphere.
First, here are the numbers on who "won" from CNN and CBS News. Now, let’s move onto actual policy matters.
’s Matt Welch is not pleased with McCain’s new and rather vague mortgage buy-up plan:
"I would order the Secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes, at the diminished value of those homes and let people make those, be able to make those payments and stay in their homes," McCain said. "Is it expensive? Yes."
Is it yet another McCain Hail Mary pass in a campaign that will soon be remembered for nothing but? Also, yes. And it was the latest indication in a grim season for free marketeers that there is no corner of American life that leading politicians aren't eagerly lining up to nationalize.
The plan has been latched onto by pundits as the freshest policy proposal from last night’s debate, but as Rooflines notes, FactCheck.org explains why it’s actually pretty stale (as in Obama and the bailout have both been there already):
McCain proposed to write down the amount owed by over-mortgaged homeowners and claimed the idea as his own: “It’s my proposal, it's not Sen. Obama's proposal, it's not President Bush's proposal.” But the idea isn’t new. Obama had endorsed something similar two weeks earlier, and authority for the treasury secretary to grant such relief was included in the recently passed $700 billion financial rescue package.
Meanwhile, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, writing over at New America Media, wonders if we’ll ever get to hear from the candidates about some other issues:
Okay, we now know for the umpteenth time that Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain will cut taxes, provide affordable health care to everyone, drill for more oil, expand nuclear power use, end global warming, rein in the Wall Street fast buck artists, take out Osama Bin Laden, and end the war in Iraq either by withdrawal or victory. And yes we know that both have had a tough family upbringing, and therefore they know what working people have to go through.
These themes have been rehashed and reworked so many times that we can recite them in our sleep. But what we don’t know and certainly haven’t heard in the debates is what Obama and McCain will do about failing urban public schools, the HIV-AIDS pandemic, their view of the death penalty, the drug crisis, how they’ll combat hate crimes, shore up crumbling and deteriorating urban transportation systems, and what type of judges they will appoint to the federal judiciary and to the Supreme Court....
The result is that the only thing the 50 to 60 million viewers who have tuned into the two debates know about these equally vital public policy concerns can only be gleaned from canned snippets from their speeches on the campaign trail, or more likely by going to their campaign Web sites. For most, that’s not going to happen.
Indeed, probably not. But why bother with such matters when there’s the “that one” hubbub to delve into. I think a commenter on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ live blog captures the appropriate response rather succinctly:
Oh, no he didn't == "That one"????
Ezra Klein at the American Prospect parses it a wee bit further:
I didn't think the moment came off as racist. Rather, it was tone deaf. It was Grandpa Simpson. It was cranky. Which fits it into a narrative connecting the first two debates. In both, McCain's most memorable tics were exhibitions of contempt for Barack Obama. in the first encounter, he couldn't bear to look at Obama, and he used "What Senator Obama doesn't understand" the way other people use "um." In the second, he dismissed him in the language a busy mother uses for her third child, as if he couldn't be bothered to recall the youngster's name. But the youngster is the leading candidate for President of the United States. And McCain is doing himself no favors by acting unable to treat his opponent with respect. It's bad form in general, but it's particularly unhelpful for McCain, who has put a lot of energy and political capital into developing a reputation as respectful towards his political competitors.
And speaking of Homer’s elder, Andrew Sullivan had some good advice via his live blog of the debate:
Memo to McCain: don't talk about Herbert Hoover. The Abraham Simpson problem.
I’d add a few more off-limits geezer flags to that list: his need for hair transplants or arcane terminology like “tillers.” I’m not taking shots at the guy for being old, but I am saying that any undecideds out there who are a wee bit wary of Sarah Palin ruling the country don’t want to be reminded of the fact that McCain is getting on in years—a fact driven home most glaringly last night by the visual of McCain pacing aimlessly about the floor during some of Obama’s answers.
To wrap things up, Josh Marshall captured my debate mood best on his live blog when, half-an-hour in, he noted:
This debate's so boring I don't even know what to tell the staff to upload to youtube.
Even if I weren’t an Obama supporter, I would be thanking the man for shunning McCain’s proposal to do ten townhall debates. I can’t imagine anyone sitting through one, let alone ten, reruns of last night. Thank heavens there’s just one more debate to go.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008 12:18 PM
By the time Tina Fey emerged onto the cultural landscape in 2000 as an anchor on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment, the Second City alum was already the show’s head writer, quietly shepherding the comedy institution into its late-'90s renaissance and noticeably improving its ratio of funny-to-bad sketches.
Her star continued to rise with the razor-sharp satirical sitcom 30 Rock, which premiered in 2006 and solidified her status as the embodiment of geek chic in an entertainment climate where brainy, funny women are tragically undervalued. Fey has carved out a career in which she accomplishes the seemingly impossible feat of injecting savvy cultural and political commentary into mass entertainment, with her cerebral, rapid-fire monologues on “Update” and then with the surprisingly subversive 30 Rock.
But no one could have predicted Fey’s next act until August 29 of this year, when John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate. The world pounced on the striking similarity between Fey and the VP candidate, and Fey didn’t disappoint. She has returned to Saturday Night Live to lampoon the candidate’s disastrous interviews with Katie Couric and her debate against Joe Biden, and delivered a speech with Hillary Clinton as played by longtime collaborator Amy Poehler. For her part, Palin has joked about honing her own Tina Fey impression, telling reporters she dressed as Fey for Halloween. (When? Last year?)
This week, Fey signed a multimillion-dollar book deal for a collection of humorous essays in the vein of Woody Allen and Nora Ephron. She appears undaunted by relative missteps like the box-office flop Baby Mama or her shilling for American Express, and now wields enormous cultural influence—as writer, performer, and human barometer of that uniquely American nexus of politics and entertainment.
Fey doesn’t necessarily relish her newfound cultural clout, however. As successful as her Sarah Palin gig has been, Fey hopes it doesn’t last long: “I want to be done playing this lady November 5,” she said backstage at this year’s Emmys. “So if anyone could help me be done playing this lady November 5, that would be good for me.”
We’ll do our best, Tina.
Image by David Shankbone, licensed by Creative Commons.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008 10:25 AM
John McCain and Barack Obama “represent distinct cognitive styles” and have “starkly different approaches to decision-making,” Jonah Lehrer writes for the Boston Globe. According to Lehrer, the contrast between the two candidates makes the 2008 election not just an assessment of who's right on the issues, but "a referendum on the best mode of thinking.” Lehrer cites psychological research on how good decisions are made to evaluate the strengths of McCain and Obama’s cognitive styles. Some studies imply that gut instincts, which McCain often relies on, are a great asset in complicated decision making. Others contend that good judgment is more likely to spring from active introspection, which is more Obama’s style.
Either approach, according to Lehrer, “is inherently flawed” as an absolute methodology. It’s important for decision makers to “constantly reflect on their own thought process” and to enlist advisers that will challenge their decisions. Psychologist Philip Tetlock tells Lehrer, “We should see self-awareness and even self-doubt as a sign of strength, not as a sign of weakness.” That may be true, but in a presidential campaign, self-doubt is often attacked as unpresidential.
“The ideal president,” Lehrer writes, “won't conform to the current cliches of presidential decision-making. He'll exude confidence in public, but behind the scenes he'll accept his fallibility and seek out those who disagree with him. He won't fixate on rational deliberation - or worship the power of his intuition. The brain is not a hammer, and not every problem is a nail.”
Monday, October 06, 2008 6:43 PM
With less than a month to go until Election Day, Barack Obama and John McCain are pegging their hopes on two very different campaign strategies. Obama is waging a ground war to get out the vote, while McCain is lobbing grenades at his opponent’s character. Which tack wins in November will say as much about Americans as it does about the two candidates.
The two camps’ approaches have come into stark relief over the last few days. On Saturday, Greg Strimple, a top adviser to McCain, dimwittedly announced to the Washington Post that “We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama's aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans.” Then the surrogates were unleashed on the Sunday talk-show circuit to stoke the fear about Obama’s association with Weather Underground cofounder Bill Ayers. Here’s a quick-and-dirty video roundup from the weekend smearfest by TPM:
Sarah Palin has beaten the same drum on the stump, saying Obama was “palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.” And in Bill Kristol’s column in the New York Times today, she resurrected—at the conservative shill’s prodding—the specter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
I pointed out that Obama surely had a closer connection to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright than to Ayers — and so, I asked, if Ayers is a legitimate issue, what about Reverend Wright?
She didn’t hesitate: “To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.”
And in advance of Tuesday’s debate, McCain unleashed his own vitriol. “Who is the real Barack Obama?” McCain asked a cheering crowd in Albuquerque, tipping his hand to show what will surely be the strategy from now until November 4: Scare people away from this Barack (Hussein) Obama.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Obama’s key strategy came center stage as the deadline for registering new voters in several states hit. The Washington Post parsed the preliminary numbers, and things do not look good for McCain:
In the past year, the rolls have expanded by about 4 million voters in a dozen key states -- 11 Obama targets that were carried by George W. Bush in 2004 (Ohio, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico) plus Pennsylvania, the largest state carried by Sen. John F. Kerry that Sen. John McCain is targeting.
In Florida, Democratic registration gains this year are more than double those made by Republicans; in Colorado and Nevada the ratio is 4 to 1, and in North Carolina it is 6 to 1. Even in states with nonpartisan registration, the trend is clear -- of the 310,000 new voters in Virginia, a disproportionate share live in Democratic strongholds.
(USA Today has a handy chart showing the two sides’ gains in battleground states. And to read a great account of what this effort looks like on the ground, read FiveThirtyEight’s dispatch yesterday from Tippecanoe County, Indiana.)
And so as McCain, Palin, & Co. rumble in the muck, the Obama team is still steadily hitting the pavement, reaching out to new voters in an attempt to remake the electoral map. (For an excellent dissection of Obama’s long-term strategy, read the American Prospect’s September cover story, “It’s His Party.”)
Now, that’s not to say the Obama campaign hasn’t launched its own negative assault. Today, they unveiled their Keating Economics documentary and website. But, as Utne.com’s Jake Mohan notes, “it remains to be seen whether anyone besides the die-hard wonks will sit through a 13-minute video about the economy—and how well Obama’s attack will stick” amidst the McCain camp’s sharper jabs.
Then there’s the qualitative difference between the two negative tacks. The Keating punches are based in criticisms of policy, while McCain’s assaults are meant to question Obama’s character. If Obama wanted to take that lower road, he could, of course, run ad after ad showing Palin being blessed by a witch hunter who wants to ensure she’s elected so she can put God back into the public schools. Or, as Democratic strategist Paul Begala noted on Meet the Press, the Obama campaign could start hammering McCain for sitting on the board of the U.S. Council for World Freedom. Begala explains:
You know, you can go back, I have written a book about McCain, I had a dozen researchers go through him, I didn’t even put this in the book. But John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization, it was the U.S. Council for World Freedom, it was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub, who wound up involved in the Iran contra scandal. It was an ultra conservative, right-wing group. The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981 when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League – the parent organization – which ADL said “has increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racists and anti-Semites.”
Now, that's not John McCain, I don't think he is that. But you know, the problem is that a lot of people know John McCain’s record better than Governor Palin. And he does not want to play guilt by association or this thing could blow up in his face.
Bye, bye, Florida.
Instead, though, Obama seems focused on the ground war, a strategy that tends to make Dems fret about not swinging back hard enough (see Kerry, Swift Boat). And the nervous Nellies could prove to be right, though I can’t help but think back to 2000, when Bush’s evangelical get-out-the-vote effort stealthily won the day.
It all depends on whether American voters opt to open their hearts to seedy fear-mongering, and, if they do, whether a crop of newly franchised voters outnumber their weaker fellow citizens. In that way, this election seems more a test of Americans than of John McCain or Barack Obama.
Adapted from image by
, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, October 06, 2008 2:08 PM
One perversely positive outcome of our recent economic meltdown might be that the imminent presidential election could turn on something as consequential and substantive as the nation’s economy—rather than, say, red herrings like the Swift Boat campaign or which candidate would make a better drinking buddy.
The contours of this battleground were further solidified today by the Obama campaign’s relatively epic 13-minute documentary about John McCain’s involvement in the Keating Five Scandal in the 1980s. The video drives home the point that the savings and loan collapse not only precipitated the recession of the early 1990s, but is “eerily similar” to today’s credit crisis.
By elucidating the complex machinations of the Keating scandal, Obama’s video deals a powerful blow to McCain where he is perhaps most vulnerable—his troubled history with the economy and lackluster response to its latest downturn. But it remains to be seen whether anyone besides the die-hard wonks will sit through a 13-minute video about the economy—and how well Obama’s attack will stick as the opposition accuses him of “palling around with terrorists.”
For those too busy or campaign-weary to watch the entire video, its 30-second trailer (yes, apparently even campaign videos have trailers now) might prove more manageable.
Friday, September 26, 2008 1:35 PM
The debate is back on. But McCain’s political hijinks this week tend to make a person wonder: What’s next? The ol’ Maverick is bound to have a few more headline-making, “patriotic” tricks up his sleeve. Over at Slate, they're playing the next-McCain-hail-mary guessing game, and it’s a fun one. Standouts from the list:
#1: Returns to Vietnam and jails himself.
#3: Challenges Obama to suspend campaign so they both can go and personally drill for oil offshore.
#7: Sex-change operation.
#9: Sells Alaska to Russia for $700 billion.
Image by Torsten Bolten, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, September 25, 2008 1:48 PM
The insta-polls suggest McCain’s “the economy ate my debate homework” tack isn’t winning him love among twitchy voters.
Looking beyond the numbers, CQ’s Campaign Trail Mix has this video dispatch from a bluegrass roadhouse called The Coffee Pot in Swing-Stateville, a.k.a. Virginia:
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 6:07 PM
The press has finally had enough of the McCain campaign’s decision to cloister Sarah Palin away from interviews and press conferences. Reporters cried foul yesterday in a widely publicized blowup over who would be allowed to witness Palin’s meetings with world leaders in New York City. As Ta-Nehisi Coates predicted on the Atlantic blogs, “even the meekest, most bespectacled, nerdiest kid has a breaking point.”
The McCain campaign has been garnering headlines lately by attacking the press, pointing out how reporters are “in the tank” for Obama and criticizing them for being too hard on Palin. The problem is, Jeffery Goldberg writes for the Atlantic blogs, “If Sarah Palin becomes vice president, she will presumably have meetings with people who are scarier than Michael Cooper, the Times reporter who seems to have the misfortune of covering her today.”
Even conservatives have begun to wonder about the McCain-Palin game of hide-the-candidate. Rod Dreher, who blogs as Crunchy Con, writes, “If she can't answer questions like any normal politician, what business does she have on the ticket?” Daniel Larison writes on the American Conservative that the strategy “confirms not only that Palin is not ready for the VP spot but that the presidential nominee himself regards his running mate as little more than window dressing.”
McCain may view her as “window dressing.” He may also view her as “a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment," which is how Campbell Brown described Palin’s treatment on CNN (video below). Brown eloquently attacked the McCain campaign from a feminist perspective, calling on them to “free Sarah Palin,” and allow her to talk to reporters. “You claim she is ready to be one heart beat away from the presidency,” Brown declared. “If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now.”
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 3:11 PM
First the McCain campaign mined the Gustav
opportunity tragedy to keep the unpopular Bush from raining on their national convention parade. Now, they’re leveraging the country’s financial crisis to postpone a foreign policy debate that McCain reportedly hasn’t spent much quality time boning up for. Oh, and there’s that other reason: To short-circuit and steal Barack Obama’s quiet efforts at bipartisanship and leadership. The AP reports:
The Obama campaign said Obama had called McCain around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to propose that they issue a joint statement in support of a package to help fix the economy as soon as possible. McCain called back six hours later and agreed to the idea of the statement, the Obama campaign said. McCain's statement was issued to the media a few minutes later.
"We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved," McCain said. "I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside, and I am committed to doing so."
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:05 PM
The Left has voiced plenty of criticism of McCain and Palin’s policies, but one facet of the Republican ticket that has been tragically left alone is its anti-science stance, says MIT researcher John Tirman.
Tirman reiterates the Republican candidates’ resistance to stem-cell research and evolution, and their support for offshore and ANWR drilling. But he takes things one step further, going beyond the moral implications of these policies to look at the problem from an economic point of view.
First of all, in order to compete with flourishing markets like those in Asia, the United States must continue its tradition of innovation and scientific excellence. Without it, “hopes for creating the new technologies and processes that fuel sustainable economic activity will surely decline.” Secondly, scientific research offers solutions to crucial problems such as disease and fossil-fuel dependency, and without the necessary funding for advances in technology, our ability to solve these problems would come to a standstill (a dilemma about which Utne.com has previously blogged). Lastly, scientists from other countries would eschew an anti-science United States in favor of a more tolerant community in which to conduct their research, circling back to the author’s first point about scientific excellence being “the font of prosperity.”
We ignore these issues at our own peril, insists Tirman. “The McCain/Palin shakiness on science issues is not just another occasion for SNL skits or jokes about the U.S. being the laughing stick [sic] of the world. They're life-and-death issues for global health and ecology, as well as our own well being.”
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 2:13 PM
Greed has emerged as a unifying culprit in the current financial crisis and recession in the United States. John McCain blames the situation on “unbridled corruption and greed.” Barack Obama’s campaign has presented a plan to reform the “greed and excesses of Washington.” Not far beneath this rhetoric is the implication that both presidential candidates are ostensibly rejecting the Gordon Gekko, Wall Street mantra of “greed is good” for a more moral and less sinful worldview.
Although it is a sin, greed does have its benefits, according to Dr. Rebecca Blank, interviewed on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. “It's greed that makes people work harder, be more productive, and helps the economy grow,” Blank says. Greed also may not have been behind every decision that led to the crisis. Blank points out that there were “a lot of people at the very beginning of this, the whole sub-prime crisis that started this off, who saw themselves as providing more funds for low-income families. They were doing a good thing.”
The problem isn’t that people don’t care about each other, Rabbi Michael Lerner writes for Tikkun, it’s that people “don't feel ready to trust their own desires and think that they would just be making a fool of themselves to imagine a world in which people really took care of each other.” Americans continue to be generous right now, even when surrounded by excess and greed. People need to acknowledge and cultivate that altruistic impulse in others, instead of giving up on the government and the market as inherently evil.
The American economy has benefited millions of people, while tapping into a selfish and materialistic impulse inside of humans at the same time. Some people believe that the free market will work itself out on its own, but Jim Wallis writes on the God’s Politics blog, “left to its own devices and human weakness (let’s call it sin), the market too often disintegrates into greed and corruption, as the Wall Street financial collapse painfully reveals.” The government, according to Wallis, must figure out a way to encourage innovation, but reign in the greed.
It’s up to the American people to push elected officials in that direction, toward good regulation and away from unbridled greed. Too often, according to Lerner, politicians keep the “discussion in vague and technocratic terms that avoid the central ethical issues that are always at the heart of the economy.” Lerner writes that politicians, including Obama, need to directly address the moral and ethical issues facing the country, not just the economic ones.
Image by Galaksiafervojo, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, September 22, 2008 4:32 PM
Now that Sarah Palin’s meet-and-greet with the media is almost a distant memory, McCain aides are taking their turn in the ring, and the gloves are off. In the second big McCain-media tussle of the fall campaign, McCain strategist Steve Schmidt unleashed fiery attacks against the New York Times, calling the venerable paper “a pro-Obama advocacy organization” and claiming that “it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization.”
Schmidt's fury was sparked by a story about McCain campaign manager Rick Davis’s ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Times reported that Fannie and Freddie paid Davis almost $2 million while he served as president of an advocacy group the companies formed to fight increased regulation, and that Davis held the position primarily because of his close relationship with John McCain.
Bill Keller, the Times' executive editor, responded to the campaign’s accusations in an email to Politico:
It's our job to ask hard questions, fact-check their statements and their advertising, examine their programs, positions, biographies and advisors. Candidates and their campaign operatives are not always comfortable with that level of scrutiny, but it's what our readers expect and deserve.
According to Politico, McCain aides also held a conference call encouraging reporters to hit Obama harder. “But,” writes Ben Smith, “the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.” (Are we sensing a pattern here?)
When Politico pressed the campaign about the inaccuracies, they got this response:
One McCain aide, Michael Goldfarb, said Politico was “quibbling with ridiculously small details when the basic things are completely right.”
Another, Brian Rogers, responded more directly:
“You are in the tank,” he e-mailed.
Of course, it is a reporter's job to identify such "small" falsehoods. But, no matter, the media-bashing continues. Until next time. . .
Image by soggydan, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 19, 2008 3:26 PM
There are some ads political campaigns never intend to air themselves, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear plenty about them. Rather than doling out cash to beam these ads into American living rooms, campaigns route them directly to the online and cable news media to shape the day’s story lines. The ads themselves are the story.
According to Politico’s Jonathan Martin, a look at ads airing nationwide on a Sunday in mid-September illustrates how this messaging strategy works. Martin turned to Evan Tracey from the Campaign Media Analysis Group for the numbers: On one Sunday, Obama aired 1,589 commercials to McCain’s 1,490. But the ads that were being talked about most by journalists—Obama’s ad with a huge '80s-style cell phone painting McCain as out of touch, and McCain’s pack-of-wolves spot depicting sexist attacks on Palin—never aired as paid spots.
Of course, that doesn’t mean these spots didn’t get airtime. As raw material for cable news and online chatter, these sorts of ads are aired by talk shows and posted on websites at no cost to the campaigns. Former Al Gore aide Chris Lehane told Martin, “The ads have become far more provocative and entertaining, making it really hard to ignore them. . . there is such a comprehensive media environment between the traditional media and online media that these pieces get picked up and end up impacting the daily news cycle. Think news cycles within news cycles—like the small hands of a clock turning the bigger hands—and that is how these spots work.”
Another key strategy in the campaigns’ efforts to drive media story lines: Give reporters very little access to the candidates. In a related article about the campaigns’ relationship with the press, Politico contends that the reporters traveling with Obama and McCain have “little impact on the broad campaign narratives and daily story lines that supply most voters with their impressions of the candidates. . . A combination of technology and iron message discipline by heavily centralized campaigns has consigned these reporters—once the storied “boys on the bus”—largely to feeding off the public material available to almost anyone over the Web, with very little interaction with the next president of the United States.”
Is this why we hear so much about lipstick and pigs?
Image by Inside Cable News, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 10:04 AM
AlterNet’s got a rowdy round-up of the 10 most talked-about viral videos of the campaign season. They're worthy of a wee work break. I had missed this one and thoroughly enjoyed it:
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 5:49 PM
Jews in Pennsylvania and Florida have been receiving deceptive political phone calls asking: Would it affect your voting choice to learn that “Barack Obama called for holding a summit of Muslim nations excluding Israel if elected president?” What if you learned that “the leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yousef, expressed support for Obama and his hope for Obama's victory?”
Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic received one of these misleading calls and tried to dig up who was behind the smear. The supervisor gave the name Central Marketing Research Inc., but would give little information beyond that. Ben Smith of the Politico got reports that the phone calls came from "Research Strategies" and were directed at people in the traditionally Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and in Key West, Florida.
The phone calls have been called “push polling” by a number of news organizations. Some have pointed out the similarities between the phone calls against Obama and the smears that hurt John McCain campaign in the 2000 election. David Kurtz, writing for Talking Points Memo, points out that the polls seem to be part of a real opinion poll “testing the effect of fear-mongering about Obama on Jewish voters,” rather than a traditional push poll. In either case, the smear seems to indicate that as distasteful as things have gotten in this election, they’re probably going to get worse.
UPDATE (9/17): The Politico’s Ben Smith reports that the Republican Jewish Coalition, a group behind other Obama attack ads, has taken responsibility for the poll.
Monday, September 15, 2008 2:05 PM
Fact checkers have been all over John McCain lately, exposing a bevy of fibs, half-truths, and straight-up lies emanating from his campaign. Even Karl Rove, the king of political dirty tricks, scolded the campaign (and Obama’s) this weekend for going too far. But McCain’s troops have paid their critics little attention.
Why? Because lying works, according to Farhad Manjoo, writing for Slate. Manjoo calls facts “a stock of faltering value.” He says the increasingly fragmented media landscape “lets us consume news that we like and avoid news that we don’t, leading people to perceive reality in a way that conforms to their long-held beliefs.”
Blogging for the Nation, Ari Berman looks back at a 2004 Ron Suskind piece from the New York Times Magazine that noted the irrelevance of facts in the Bush administration:
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
The McCain camp seems to agree. Berman quotes the campaign’s response to stories about their truth-stretching: “We recognize it's not going to be 2000 again. But he lost then. We're running a campaign to win. And we're not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”
Andrew Sullivan, for one, doesn’t think it will work. From his blog:
Reading the "press" in this surreal climate right now, one is tempted to despair. I'm not giving in to it, because I still believe that the actual truth matters in the world. If propaganda could win in the end against truth, then Bush's approval ratings would be somewhere in the high 80s. They are in the lower 30s. In the end, the American people are not fools. And facts are facts.…
…We cannot control these despicable liars in the McCain campaign. We can only tell the truth as fearlessly and as relentlessly and as continuously as we can until November 4. We must do our duty. And if the American people want to re-elect the machine that has helped destroy this country's national security, global reputation and economic health, then that is their choice. But I am not so depressed to think that they will.
Image by RiverBissonnette.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 9:24 AM
We all know how much fun it is to gather around a television with like-minded friends and shout snide things at the unpalatable speeches being broadcast. Now imagine doing that in a theater filled with 300 drunk liberals.
That’s precisely what I did last Thursday, at the tail end of Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead’s multimedia satire, Shoot the Messenger. The show holds weekly performances in New York City, where Winstead and her ensemble spoof the week’s headlines during a parodic morning news show called Wake Up World (“America’s only 6-hour morning show!”)
But last week, in dubious honor of the RNC, Winstead’s troupe brought their show to her native Minneapolis for three nights at the Parkway Theater. Each evening’s events went beyond mere theater to include live feeds from the RNC and musical performances from revered protest singer Billy Bragg and local legends Dan Wilson, Jim Walsh, and Grant Hart.
Before the show, the Parkway’s seats were mostly full of chatty people munching popcorn as the onstage screen showed eminently believable ads for the “24/7 Infonewsment Network’s” fake shows, such as Poll Dancing with sexy anchorwoman Emily Rackcheck and MedicAsian with Dr. Vijay Jay.
Winstead and her co-star Baron Vaughn starred as Wake Up World’s chipper, clueless hosts Hope Jean Paul and Davis Miles. Hope Jean Paul is, like her creator, from the Twin Cities area: “I’m originally from Coon Rapids,” she chirped, to which Vaughn (who is African American) replied, “Wow! Sounds like my kind of place!” Naughty laughter erupted and Winstead replied, “Now, Davis, try not to be offended by the name, just because it contains the word Rapids.”
That joke set the tone for the show, whose mix of absurdity and topical satire has made Winstead’s more famous brainchild the Daily Show a media phenomenon for over a decade. Wake Up World, even more so than the Daily Show or its cousin the Colbert Report, is an acerbic and overtly partisan takedown of our leaders’ hypocrisies and the 24-hour news cycle’s vapid excesses.
In true morning-show form, Winstead and Vaughn hyped insipid segments like Lumpy the Cancer-Sniffing Dog, who they promised would find the one lucky audience member with a malignant tumor. A pro–big oil energy “expert” was brought in to discuss his new book The Town Pump: Alternatives to Alternative Energy. And a member of private security contractor Blackwater sat down with the hosts to discuss his new miracle fitness regimen: “Extreme Waterboard Abs.”
Pulchritudinous newsgal Emily Rackcheck delivered hourly news updates in a low-cut sweater and miniskirt. Bloviators Hunter Carlsbad (wearing a bowtie) and Daniels Midland (host of the Complication Room) shouted at each other during a Crossfire-style segment touted as “a debate between both sides of the political spectrum: the Far Right and the Right of Center!”
Winstead also tailored the show to the region with pre-taped biographical puff pieces on Laurie Coleman and Michelle Bachman subtitled “Behind the Taut Canvas.” There were ads for “a 31-part investigative series” called White in America and a gauzy video appeal from Sarah Silverman for charitable donations to private contracting firms.
After Wake Up World concluded, the evening shifted gears for its second segment, where Winstead reappeared as herself and sat down with liberal talk-radio host Ed Schultz to discuss the RNC—specifically Palin, whose fur-coat photo Winstead captioned “Wasilla DeVille.” Schultz was witty and affable, assuring us that McCain’s campaign would buckle under the weight of its own hypocrisy: “Look, everything’s going to be fine. And if it’s not, then we get another vice president who might shoot someone in the face!”
This marathon mix of political discourse, satire, and campy theatre was only a prelude, however, for the evening’s main event: a massive group viewing of John McCain’s speech. The audience, now well-lubricated and ready to laugh not so much with satirical glee as incredulous derision, filed back into the theater as McCain’s hagiographic video was playing on the giant screen, which had been tuned to MSNBC’s live feed from the convention.
As the man himself took the stage, the theater audience erupted with boos and squeals. The people around me gladly obeyed the rules of a drinking game Winstead had announced earlier: that we hoist our glasses every time the word maverick was used. Genuine cheers burst forth when MSNBC’s cameras zoomed in on the IVAW and Code Pink protestors who had infiltrated the hall.
As the speech dragged on and John McCain’s smiling rictus became increasingly creepy, the Parkway crowd got rowdier and my convention fatigue peaked. Around the moment when the last poorly programmed image appeared behind the penis-shaped stage, I fled the theater for some fresh air. When I went back inside a few minutes later, I encountered a completely different scene which cleared my head, the perfect antidote to the televised nightmare we’d just seen: Dan Wilson was playing his ubiquitous and charming hit single “Closing Time” to a much smaller crowd gathered near the front of the theater, kicking off one of Jim Walsh’s famous Hootenannies. Then Grant Hart took the stage, and the aging avatars of the Minneapolis counterculture settled further into their seats to watch their heroes perform, resting after a long evening—and week—of politicized sensory overload.
Friday, September 05, 2008 5:07 PM
After lavishing praise on John McCain for his military service, Republicans took the opportunity to ridicule Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer on day three of the GOP convention.
Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Sarah Palin all took turns kicking dirt on Obama’s early days on Chicago’s South Side. Pataki said, “What in God’s name is a community organizer? I don’t even know if that’s a job.” Giuliani chimed in, “He worked as a community organizer. What? Maybe this is the first problem on the resume.” And Palin drove home the point, “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, expect that you have actual responsibilities.”
These were sharp jabs at Obama meant to stoke doubt about his readiness to be president. But the comments left any details about what Obama actually did as an organizer to the imagination. So what in God’s name did Obama do on the South Side and does it matter?
Writing for the New Republic, John B. Judis argues that the important thing to understand about Obama’s time as an organizer is not what he did, but why he quit. Judis describes Obama as “a disillusioned activist who fashioned his political identity not as an extension of community organizing but as a wholesale rejection of it.” His essay details how Obama’s organizing work led him to believe politics, not organizing, was his best opportunity to produce broad-based change. An article published last year by the Nation and another at the New Republic also take stabs at fleshing out Obama’s organizing days.
In response to the convention speeches, the Nation quotes Obama as saying, “I would argue that doing work in the community to try and create jobs, to bring people together, to rejuvenate communities that have fallen on hard times, to set up job-training programs in areas that have been hard hit when the steel plants closed, that that's relevant only in understanding where I'm coming from, who I believe in, who I'm fighting for and why I'm in this race.”
Weigh in: How is Obama's community organizing experience relevant in this election?
Image by Ari Levinson, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.
Friday, September 05, 2008 3:13 PM
Hello? Barack? Are you still out there?
I was a bit skeptical that John McCain would be able to completely steal the media spotlight from Barack Obama last week. But on that account, he hit a home run by giving Sarah Palin the VP nod. (Unfortunately for McCain, she’s doing a pretty good job of stealing the limelight from him, too.)
So what was Barack up to while the country turned their attention away from the Democrats to buzz about teen pregnancy, mommy wars, Republican disdain for the media, and experience versus narrative? After some digging, here’s what I came up with:
Entered enemy territory: Obama appeared on the O’Reilly Factor Thursday night (more of the interview to air this week), and he sent troops into the Republican trenches of St. Paul for the RNC.
Took a swing through Pennsylvania. Obama and Biden attempted to court a state they believe could win them the election.
Asked supporters to help Hurricane Gustav victims.
Told reporters to leave Bristol Palin alone.
Kept mum on Sarah Palin.
Raised $10 million after Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech.
Stood up for community organizers.
Repeated the refrain: “With John McCain, it’s more of the same.”
Thursday, September 04, 2008 11:16 PM
Balloons and confetti couldn’t save John McCain from the letdown of the Republican National Convention’s final night. Sarah Palin’s introduction to the American public last night left delegates buzzing with excitement. Even before she went on stage, a countdown created anticipation for her appearance. Tonight, delegates were drinking coffee minutes before Senator McCain’s speech, trying to stay awake for their chosen candidate.
I asked a few delegates to compare the two nights, and most agreed that this evening was more subdued. “Wait until Cindy gets on,” said a delegate from Georgia. A delegate from Iowa said, “I think we have to wait until for the man himself.”
That promised excitement never came. After McCain’s speech, delegates used words like “sober” and “on message” to describe the proceedings. Even the ultra-conservative blog Powerline called the talk, “a little flat and unstructured.” Words like “personal responsibility” garnered huge applause at the Ron Paul rally yesterday, but the Republicans tonight couldn’t get quite as excited.
Many in the crowd tried to interject some enthusiasm to the speech. One man behind me yelled “Wooo, John” after nearly every applause line. When McCain mentioned Senator Obama, one person in the crowd started to boo, anticipating a harsh attack. Senator McCain, however, wouldn’t oblige.
The only real excitement came when two separate groups of protesters were dragged out of the hall. The crowd tried to chant down the protesters by yelling, “U.S.A., U.S.A..” After the second group was subdued, Senator McCain pleaded with the crowd saying, “please don’t be diverted from the ground noise and the static.” That ended up being one of the biggest applause lines of the night.
For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Republican National Convention, click here.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008 11:28 AM
Yesterday’s rejiggered line-up at the Republican National Convention delivered a meek improvement over the energy level of Monday's kickoff. The attack level, on the other hand, was amped up.
In keeping with the finely honed messaging tack of saying one thing, repeatedly, and doing another, the Republican speakers worked in their patriotic jabs at Barack Obama, despite earlier talking points about ditching partisan attacks at the convention to put on their “American hats” and support those weathering Gustav in the Gulf Coast.
Michele Bachmann—the Minnesota U.S. representative best known for ogling George W. Bush at his 2007 State of the Union and, more recently, explaining that we don’t need to save the environment from global warming because Jesus already saved the world—grinned big as she told the delegates:
Service isn’t a political trait—although some Presidential nominees certainly know more about service than others.
Joe Lieberman woke up from his keynote to call Obama a scaredy cat:
When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, which would have been a disaster for the U.S.A. When colleagues like Barack Obama were voting to cut off funding for our American troops on the battlefield, John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion, advocate the surge, support the surge, and because of that, today, America’s troops are coming home, thousands of them, and they’re coming home in honor.
And, perhaps most indicative of the Republican line of attack to come, former Senator Fred Thompson noted:
It’s pretty clear there are two questions we'll never have to ask ourselves [about John McCain], “Who is this man?” and “Can we trust this man with the presidency?”
Translation: Do we really know who this Barack Hussein Obama character is?
Tonight promises a higher energy level. The Republicans will get their own version of the “What will she do?” moment that buzzed the Democratic convention with dramatic anticipation before Hillary Clinton took the stage. In the Republicans’ rendition, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will step up to the podium amidst a swirl of recently unearthed backstories. How will she address her daughter’s pregnancy? Any word about sitting through a sermon about how Israeli Jews bring terrorist attacks on themselves for not accepting the Christian path? Or her own take that the United State’s escapade in Iraq was “God’s plan”? Or her affiliation with the Alaska Independence Party, whose founder hates America? And then there’s that Bridge to Nowhere she supported before she rejected it... and her status as a crusader against earmarks who brought in $27 million in earmarks for the town of 6,700 she governed?
In his convention speech, Obama plucked off each of the Republican talking points against him in rapid fire succession. But he had the time to craft that strategy. Given Palin’s hasty vetting process, it’s unlikely the Republicans will be able to put together such a comprehensive counter-offense. We’ll see tonight.
For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Republican National Convention, click here.
Friday, August 29, 2008 11:34 AM
Here’s what the Republicans have mustered this week: A DNC counteroffensive that mocked the Democrats' stage and blather about how 80,000-plus people showing up for a political speech is somehow a bad thing. And now there’s this: A seemingly last-minute, hail-mary VP pick driven by the now-stale strategy of luring disgruntled Hillary supporters.
Word broke this morning that Sarah Palin is McCain’s pick. The first-term Alaska governor is so unknown on the national stage that CNN’s breaking coverage of the nod was basically a rewrite of the governor’s web bio.
She’s got ethics reform on her short resume (and an ethics investigation) and some green credentials. But most importantly and most obviously she is a woman. Why else would McCain throw his experience mantra under the bus? To paraphrase Josh Marshall, If you’re a 72-year-old cancer survivor running for president you better pick someone who’s ready to step up, especially if your entire campaign is based on your EXPERIENCE.
Here in Minnesota, we’re all buzzing about what doomed Governor Tim Pawlenty’s chances. (Our office pool was a boring failure, since everyone picked Pawlenty.) He was the frontrunner in chatter yesterday, had canceled his week’s schedule, and then suddenly broke the Republicans’ tightly controlled message management and—not sounding too happy about things—told a local radio station that it was a “fair assumption” that he wasn’t going to be the veep. That leaves the impression of a last-minute decision, one forced by the unexpected strength of Obama’s performance last night.
While Democrats—egged on by Republican teasing—stewed in doubts about Obama not hitting back hard enough, or Obama leaving himself open for sucker punches by going on vacation, or their ranks not being unified, the Obama team clearly had a plan. They let McCain’s people play in the mud for the whole of August. And in one fell swoop of a speech, dispatched with each and every tactic in the Pubs’ playbook. The speech was smart, and, given the Republican response to it last night, it was clearly unexpected.
Now, it’s not even September, and the McCain team has been forced to chisel away at their best card—the experience card. It’s time Democrats—particularly the pundits out chattering to the media—stop letting Republicans get their goat and leave the self-doubt thing behind.
, licensed under
Thursday, August 28, 2008 9:45 AM
After days, weeks, months of fretting about how to keep Bill Clinton’s mouth shut, the former president showed last night what he can do when unleashed.
Bill has been credited with sinking his wife’s campaign and then, fueled by bitterness, turning his sights to Obama. None of that was on stage last night. He not only delivered the most clear-eyed analysis of why Americans should vote with the Democratic Party, he explained why they should vote for Barack Obama (a distinction not made by his wife a day earlier). Beyond that, he showed why he can be a campaign asset: He’s a scary smart diagnostician of the country’s woes and what’s needed to heal them.
Andrew Sullivan, who’s more than upfront about his “personal disdain” for the man, had this to say about the speech:
Tonight, I think, was one of the best speeches he has ever given. It was a direct, personal and powerful endorsement of Obama. But much, much more than that: it was a statesman-like assessment of where this country is and how desperately it needs a real change toward reform and retrenchment at home and restoration of diplomacy, wisdom and prudence abroad.
It was a night of redemption for more than just Bill, though. Senator John Kerry, the Dems’ 2004 loser, rallied to his moment.
There’s a lot of blogster buzz about how the networks cut away from Kerry’s speech to, as TPM’s Josh Marshall puts it, “feature their yakkers.” (One word: C-SPAN.) Kerry’s speech is indeed worth revisiting for anyone who missed it. It got off to a wobbly start, but eventually took off. The highlight is a Jon Stewartesque debate Kerry recreates between Senator McCain and Candidate McCain.
I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let’s compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.
Candidate McCain now supports the very wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once called irresponsible. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding me folks? Talk about being for it before you’re against it.
Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself. And what’s more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same “Rove” tactics, the same “Rove” staff, the same old politics of fear and smear. Well, not this year, not this time. The Rove-McCain tactics are old and outworn, and America will reject them in 2008.
Watch Kerry's speech:
And Clinton's, too:
For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, click here.
Monday, August 25, 2008 5:20 PM
As the Democratic National Convention kicks off, there will be no shortage of right-wing “faux outrage” gleaned from the heavily covered procession in Denver, mused smintheus over at Daily Kos.
He compiled a list of what to look out for from the ultra-conservative talking heads. Among the possible targets: the Obamas using their children as a political ploy, too many dark-skinned speakers, lights dimmed/not dimmed during the national anthem, or the ill-mannered protesters outside the Pepsi Center. Fox News’ Griff Jenkins already has a jump-start on this last point.
One thing many Dems are hoping will not show up on the rant roundups? Convention-goers ridiculing John McCain’s military service. Despite the blatant mocking of John Kerry’s military service at the 2004 Republican National Convention—where delegates brandished Band-Aids with purple hearts drawn on them—even a benign reference to John McCain’s time in Vietnam by anyone in attendance might induce frothing at the mouth and accusations of “going negative.” We saw this already with the media’s coverage of Gen. Wesley Clark’s comment concerning McCain’s military cred. Just another example of Republican hypocrisy, writes Kangaroo Brisbane Australia on the ReBelle Nation blog.
We’ll just have to wait and see which possible targets emerge as the dominant force behind the bulging eyes and pulsing veins of the media worlds’ attack dogs.
For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, click here.
Friday, August 22, 2008 2:58 PM
Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, authors of the end-times fiction Left Behind have confirmed: Barack Obama is not the Antichrist. The question came up recently after the John McCain campaign released an ad not-so-subtly implying that his political opponent may be the harbinger of the apocalypse. "I've gotten a lot of questions the last few weeks asking if Obama is the antichrist," Jenkins told the Christian NewsWire. "I tell everyone that I don't think the antichrist will come out of politics, especially American politics." LeHaye added, “I can see by the language he uses why people think he could be the antichrist, but from my reading of scripture, he doesn't meet the criteria.”
Here’s what I struggle with figuring out: Will the apocalypse enthusiasts be relieved that the final battle between good and evil isn’t here yet, or will they be disappointed?
(Thanks, Adult Christianity.)
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 11:11 AM
We all have different definitions of financial security and wealth, but some are more realistic than others. When asked to define a “rich” income level at the Saddleback Forum this past weekend, the responses from Barack Obama and John McCain were revealing. Obama said $150,000, while McCain posited, “How about $5 million?” He was ostensibly joking, but his response is the perfect example of sincerity cloaked in fatuousness, and completely in line with his party’s economic philosophy.
Ezra Klein, at the American Prospect, made a chart to contextualize the candidates’ definitions of wealth:
Klein concludes that McCain’s “profoundly out of touch” answer, facetious or not, is frustrating but inevitable: He's been richer, for longer, than Obama and most of his fellow Americans. “Nothing weird or malign: Just the naturally skewed perspective of someone who lives on a particular extreme, in this case, the extreme edge of the wealth distribution.” Obama is, by his own definition, undeniably wealthy, but Klein argues that because his family’s acquisition of wealth is relatively recent, Obama’s outlook is more realistic.
McCain and his companions in the richest slice of America’s population have no concept of what it is to barely get by on a middle-class income, much less at or below the unrealistically low poverty line. While statistically unsurprising, this warped economic outlook will have dire consequences for the middle and lower classes if McCain becomes president, all but ensuring an extension of the Bush Administration’s apparent mandate that the rich get richer at the expense of pretty much everyone else.
Chart courtesy of Ezra Klein.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 11:37 AM
In an interview with NPR this morning, John McCain brushed off the idea that his campaign has gone negative. What about those ads? You know, like the one comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton? Or the “Hot Chicks Dig Obama” spot that took a tip from the white fear–mongering ad that helped sink Harold Ford’s senate bid in Tennessee? Or, as Amy Sullivan dissects for Time, “The One” medley that adeptly mines Evangelical Left Behind lingo to paint Obama as the Antichrist?
C’mon, they’re funny not negative, says li’l ol’ McCain. “I strongly recommend,” said McCain, “that people who don’t find humor in that relax, turn off the computer, and go [out] and get some fresh air.”
It’s impressive to see how McCain—whose presidential aspirations (not to mention his family’s reputation) were once pulverized by the slime of the Rove machine—has so thoroughly adopted the tactics (and staff) of his onetime foe.
A note of empirical sanity: The University of Wisconsin Advertising Project, an independent and highly regarded tracker of campaign advertising, found that one in three of McCain’s and the Republican National Committee’s ads were negative, while nine out of ten of Obama’s were positive.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008 11:51 AM
Pro-Obama bias and soft-focus hagiographies of the candidate are such common tropes that they’ve been lampooned by Saturday Night Live and the Onion. During the Democratic primaries, it was clear that the press was more enamored of Barack Obama than of Hillary Clinton. But similar assumptions about media coverage of the general election—that its bears traces of Nixon vs. Kennedy, with the press giving the mediagenic Obama a pass and training its guns on the stodgy, less PR-savvy John McCain—may be off the mark.
George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs, which has previously released studies touted by conservative commentators to bolster their accusations of a liberal media bias, has just published new evidence of a mainstream media bias against Barack Obama. (Liberal bloggers gripe that these same conservative commentators might “accidentally not notice” the new report.)
The study’s author is Robert Lichter, a Fox News contributor who authored the aforementioned reports alleging a liberal media bias. But now he finds that when anchors and reporters on the big three networks ventured opinions about Obama, “28 percent of the statements were positive for Obama and 72 percent negative,” with a much narrower margin for McCain. And that’s not even taking into account Fox News’ more brazenly biased Obama coverage.
Meanwhile, the Tyndall Report states that Obama has received more than twice as much network airtime as McCain, but James Rainey of the L.A. Times points out that while such airtime may be ample, it’s not always favorable—just cast your mind back to the Jeremiah Wright “scandal.”
Rainey also echoes an old but probably accurate explanation for Lichter’s findings: News organs are concerned about being accused of liberal bias by the Hannitys and O’Reillys of the world, so they swing too far to the other extreme.
My Hobo Soul
, licensed under
Monday, July 21, 2008 5:51 PM
“Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today embarked on an historic first-ever visit to the Internet,” satirist Andy Borowitz joked on his website. In an effort to pull the headlines away from Barack Obama’s trip to the Middle East, Borowitz wrote that McCain, surrounded by reporters, visited “Weather.com and Yahoo! Answers, where he inquired as to the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.” Borowitz did not mention any plans of visiting, as Sen. McCain once said, “a Google.”
Monday, July 07, 2008 12:40 PM
Campaign seasons inevitably produce high-pressure systems of willful ignorance, disingenuous oversimplification, and mountain-out-of-molehill overreactions on the part of the media in response to nuanced statements by candidates or their surrogates. This year has been no different; in fact, this election has seen the mainstream media hype machine working overtime—hysterically wringing every last drop out of items whose newsworthiness was dubious from the start—with an intensity that makes the media mileage gained four years ago from the Swift Boat Veterans or Howard Dean’s scream look paltry by comparison.
The Columbia Journalism Review contrasts two recent pieces by Paul Krugman and Matthew Yglesias that analyze the mainstream media’s willful distortion of certain statements—in this case, Krugman and Yglesias consider (with varying degrees of optimism) the longer-term legacy of the media hysteria that erupted over General Wesley Clark's assessment of John McCain's military service.
Krugman believes the era of “Rovian” attack politics is waning, that a contrite press might begin to tone down its “faux outrage over fake scandals.” But Yglesias responds that old habits die hard, and the days of overblown oversimplification aren't likely to end anytime soon: “If Democrats are really counting on responsible, substantive news coverage to hand them the election then John McCain has things in the bag.”
CJR’s own two-part analysis (here and here) of the media uproar surrounding the “Clark fallout” supports this pessimistic outlook. (Also check out the Carpetbagger's thoughts on how the media’s irresponsible treatment of the episode has spilled over into coverage of John Kerry’s recent Face the Nation appearance.)
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 12:47 PM
It’s hallelujah-worthy: a thoughtful argument for abandoning single-issue voting. Catholics should examine all of a candidate’s stances regarding “intrinsic evils,” writes theology professor Gerald J. Beyer for Commonweal, not simply his or her voting record on abortion. “In the U.S. political context, where no candidate perfectly mirrors Catholic teaching on issues such as abortion, war, stem-cell research, poverty, discrimination, gay marriage, and immigration, voting should be a difficult matter of conscience for Catholics,” writes Beyer.
Instead of automatically supporting John McCain as the stronger anti-abortion candidate, Beyer advises Catholics to look at a range of domestic and foreign policy issues before deciding which candidate acts more in accordance with Catholic values. “Not only is Obama’s position on the war and his strategy to end it more consonant with Catholic teaching,” writes Beyer, “but his vision for the place of the United States in the international community much more closely resembles modern papal teaching on international relations.”
Beyer urges Catholics to consider supporting Obama, even though he doesn't encourage them to accept Obama’s pro-choice position. Instead, Beyer writes that Catholic Obama endorsers “should strongly encourage him to take steps to limit the evil of abortion.”
Wednesday, May 14, 2008 1:48 PM
What do Kodachrome, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Bugs Bunny have in common?
Each is younger than presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain.
Thursday, February 14, 2008 4:09 PM
You may know how you feel about the presidential candidates, but what does your brain think? The Implicit Association Test from Harvard University is designed to uncover people’s hidden political biases. Test takers are asked to associate photographs of candidates with words like positive words like “Love” and “Happy” or negative words like “Hate” or “Angry.” In theory, the better your associations are with a candidate, the faster you’ll be able to associate that candidate with the positive words.
To take the test click here.
There was one big surprise in my results: The test said that I have more positive associations with John McCain than I do with Hilary Clinton, although Barack Obama trumps them all. Of course, that’s not me talking. It’s my brain.
Thursday, February 14, 2008 11:16 AM
Would Sen. John McCain be a good environmental president? Don’t bet the planet on it. Joseph Romm at Salon writes that although the Republican nominee-to-be is the only GOP candidate who believes in the science of global warming and who has proposed legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, his green credentials are shaky at best.
“While McCain may understand the scale of the climate problem, he does not appear to understand the scale of the solution,” writes Romm. Unless a President McCain appointed judges and agency heads who would not gut efforts to address climate change—something he’d be unlikely to do—he wouldn’t make much headway. Romm also points out that McCain has backed huge subsidies for nuclear power, yet he “remarkably” told Grist in an interview last October that wind and solar need no such help.
Over at Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington also calls out McCain on his environmental wishy-washiness in “End of a Romance: Why the Media and Independent Voters Need to Break Up With John McCain”:
“The old John McCain talked about trying to do something about global warming and encourage renewable energy. The new John McCain didn’t show up for a vote last week on a bill that included tax incentives for clean energy, even though he was in D.C. And then his staff misled environmentalists who called to protest by telling them that he had voted for it.”
McCain is still getting mileage out of the “maverick” label that no longer applies, Huffington claims. But perhaps he’s still a maverick when compared to green voters: He’s got almost nothing in common with them.
, licensed under Creative Commons.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!