Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A "Pinch Me" Moment!

November 5, 2008
Nothing can express my feelings as beautifully as those by Alice Croll, one of the awesome My Barack Obama workers whose name has shown up in my email inbox for these past 21 months hundreds of times. I have never met her, but I feel like she is my good friend, my sister, and a part of the inspiration that helped to keep me going day after day. Thank you, Alice, and all of the rest of the people in the 100 groups I joined for this most incredible journey! It is my fervent wish that we can all somehow continue on in the work of President-Elect Barack Obama for our country.
Forever ObamaDonna in Lake Geneva, WI

The surreality of this foggy East Coast morning, watching dancing on the streets of Philadelphia,the swaying towards the sea in San Francisco, New York New York's Times Square with traffic of frantic folks, waves of women and men at the gates of the White House, remains a pinch myself moment.
Did we do it? We did.
Is he the one? He is.
Can we get there? We have.
Fired up? And here we go.
For almost two years of giving parts of our lives over to the belief in ourselves that had become a ghost of Americans past, many of us sit at our keyboards with Obama buttons stuck on our shirts, lists of e-mail addresses of people we may never meet strewn on our home office floors, laundry undone, friends who may have not seen us, or seen us sane for awhile, papers stuffed under the bed, here we are...dazed by what we have wrought.
Morning has already come to America, but the dawn will be as it never has broken the horizon. I wonder what will happen to our Obama groups, our daily dose of to-do lists, our blogging and slogging through the endless talking and turning points.
Like the national family, this superb support group, the We, the US that Barack Obama cited as the victors by his side, we will change too.
Maybe we won't have a website to keep us tight. Maybe we won't have the Breaking News to wake and snooze on. Maybe we won't even remember those who lifted us up or brought us down during our ongoing debates. What will become of the temporary asylum that was this grassrooting? It will be up to us.
Something extraordinary was born of this campaign, this cause, and yes this candidate. Something unknown and uncertain is what we all will become to each other as our mission
I owe so much of my ability to hang on here to those with whom I connect right now. We owe each other an embrace of the history we all made out of improbablity.
I think the best way to note this time is with an ending that is a beginning too.
To all the traveling companions of this jewel of a journey,

Alice Croll aka, Alice in NJ


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Obama Will Be One of The Greatest (and Most Loved) American Presidents

community service,

Frank Schaeffer
Posted October 8, 2008 | 02:45 PM (EST)

Great presidents are made great by horrible circumstances combined with character, temperament and intelligence. Like firemen, cops, doctors or soldiers, presidents need a crisis to shine.
Obama is one of the most intelligent presidential aspirants to ever step forward in American history. The likes of his intellectual capabilities have not been surpassed in public life since the Founding Fathers put pen to paper. His personal character is also solid gold. Take heart, America: we have the leader for our times.
I say this as a white, former life-long Republican. I say this as the proud father of a Marine. I say this as just another American watching his pension evaporate along with the stock market! I speak as someone who knows it's time to forget party loyalty, ideology and pride and put the country first. I say this as someone happy to be called a fool for going out on a limb and declaring that, 1) Obama will win, and 2) he is going to be amongst the greatest of American presidents.
Obama is our last best chance. He's worth laying it all on the line for.
This is a man who in the age of greed took the high road of community service. This is the good father and husband. This is the humble servant. This is the patient teacher. This is the scholar statesman. This is the man of deep Christian faith.
Good stories about Obama abound; from his personal relationship with his Secret Service agents (he invites them into his home to watch sports, and shoots hoops with them) to the story about how, more than twenty years ago, while standing in the check-in line at an airport, Obama paid a $100 baggage surcharge for a stranger who was broke and stuck. (Obama was virtually penniless himself in those days.) Years later after he became a senator, that stranger recognized Obama's picture and wrote to him to thank him. She received a kindly note back from the senator. (The story only surfaced because the person, who lives in Norway, told a local newspaper after Obama ran for the presidency. The paper published a photograph of this lady proudly displaying Senator Obama's letter.)
Where many leaders are two-faced; publicly kindly but privately feared and/or hated by people closest to them, Obama is consistent in the way he treats people, consistently kind and personally humble. He lives by the code that those who lead must serve. He believes that. He lives it. He lived it long before he was in the public eye.
Obama puts service ahead of ideology. He also knows that to win politically you need to be tough. He can be. He has been. This is a man who does what works, rather than scoring ideological points. In other words he is the quintessential non-ideological pragmatic American. He will (thank God!) disappoint ideologues and purists of the left and the right.
Obama has a reservoir of personal physical courage that is unmatched in presidential history. Why unmatched? Because as the first black contender for the presidency who will win, Obama, and all the rest of us, know that he is in great physical danger from the seemingly unlimited reserve of unhinged racial hatred, and just plain unhinged ignorant hatred, that swirls in the bowels of our wounded and sinful country. By stepping forward to lead, Obama has literally put his life on the line for all of us in a way no white candidate ever has had to do. (And we all know how dangerous the presidency has been even for white presidents.)
Nice stories or even unparalleled courage isn't the only point. The greater point about Obama is that the midst of our worldwide financial meltdown, an expanding (and losing) war in Afghanistan, trying to extricate our country from a wrong and stupidly mistaken ruinously expensive war in Iraq, our mounting and crushing national debt, awaiting the next (and inevitable) al Qaeda attack on our homeland, watching our schools decline to Third World levels of incompetence, facing a general loss of confidence in the government that has been exacerbated by the Republicans doing all they can to undermine our government's capabilities and programs... President Obama will take on the leadership of our country at a make or break time of historic proportions. He faces not one but dozens of crisis, each big enough to define any presidency in better times.
As luck, fate or divine grace would have it (depending on one's personal theology) Obama is blessedly, dare I say uniquely, well-suited to our dire circumstances. Obama is a person with hands-on community service experience, deep connections to top economic advisers from the renowned University of Chicago where he taught law, and a middle-class background that gives him an abiding knowledgeable empathy with the rest of us. As the son of a single mother, who has worked his way up with merit and brains, recipient of top-notch academic scholarships, the peer-selected editor of the Harvard Law Review and, in three giant political steps to state office, national office and now the presidency, Obama clearly has the wit and drive to lead.
Obama is the sober voice of reason at a time of unreason. He is the fellow keeping his head while all around him are panicking. He is the healing presence at a time of national division and strife. He is also new enough to the political process so that he doesn't suffer from the terminally jaded cynicism, the seen-it-all-before syndrome afflicting most politicians in Washington. In that regard we Americans lucked out. It's as if having despaired of our political process we picked a name from the phone book to lead us and that person turned out to be a very man we needed.
Obama brings a healing and uplifting spiritual quality to our politics at the very time when our worst enemy is fear. For eight years we've been ruled by a stunted fear-filled mediocrity of a little liar who has expanded his power on the basis of creating fear in others. Fearless Obama is the cure. He speaks a litany of hope rather than a litany of terror.
As we have watched Obama respond in a quiet reasoned manner to crisis after crisis, in both the way he has responded after being attacked and lied about in the 2008 campaign season, to his reasoned response to our multiplying national crises, what we see is the spirit of a trusted family doctor with a great bedside manner. Obama is perfectly suited to hold our hand and lead us through some very tough times. The word panic is not in the Obama dictionary.
America is fighting its "Armageddon" in one fearful heart at a time. A brilliant leader with the mild manner of an old-time matter-of-fact country doctor soothing a frightened child is just what we need. The fact that our "doctor" is a black man leading a hitherto white-ruled nation out of the mess of its own making is all the sweeter and raises the Obama story to that of moral allegory.
Obama brings a moral clarity to his leadership reserved for those who have had to work for everything they've gotten and had to do twice as well as the person standing next to them because of the color of their skin. His experience of succeeding in spite of his color, social background and prejudice could have been embittering or one that fostered a spiritual rebirth of forgiveness and enlightenment. Obama radiates the calm inner peace of the spirit of forgiveness.
Speaking as a believing Christian I see the hand of a merciful God in Obama's candidacy. The biblical metaphors abound. The stone the builder rejected is become the cornerstone... the last shall be first... he that would gain his life must first lose it... the meek shall inherit the earth...
For my secular friends I'll allow that we may have just been extraordinarily lucky! Either way America wins.
Only a brilliant man, with the spirit of a preacher and the humble heart of a kindly family doctor can lead us now. We are afraid, out of ideas, and worst of all out of hope. Obama is the cure. And we Americans have it in us to rise to the occasion. We will. We're about to enter one of the most frightening periods of American history. Our country has rarely faced more uncertainty. This is the time for greatness. We have a great leader. We must be a great people backing him, fighting for him, sacrificing for a cause greater than ourselves.
A hundred years from now Obama's portrait will be placed next to that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Long before that we'll be telling our children and grandchildren that we stepped out in faith and voted for a young black man who stood up and led our country back from the brink of an abyss. We'll tell them about the power of love, faith and hope. We'll tell them about the power of creativity combined with humility and intellectual brilliance. We'll tell them that President Obama gave us the gift of regaining our faith in our country. We'll tell them that we all stood up and pitched in and won the day. We'll tell them that President Obama restored our standing in the world. We'll tell them that by the time he left office our schools were on the mend, our economy booming, that we'd become a nation filled with green energy alternatives and were leading the world away from dependence on carbon-based destruction. We'll tell them that because of President Obama's example and leadership the integrity of the family was restored, divorce rates went down, more fathers took responsibility for their children, and abortion rates fell dramatically as women, families and children were cared for through compassionate social programs that worked. We'll tell them about how the gap closed between the middle class and the super rich, how we won health care for all, how crime rates fell, how bad wars were brought to an honorable conclusion. We'll tell them that when we were attacked again by al Qaeda, how reason prevailed and the response was smart, tough, measured and effective, and our civil rights were protected even in times of crisis...
We'll tell them that we were part of the inexplicably blessed miracle that happened to our country those many years ago in 2008 when a young black man was sent by God, fate or luck to save our country. We'll tell them that it's good to live in America where anything is possible. Yes we will.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. Now in paperback.
"But that spirit can't just be restricted to moments of great catastrophe. Because as I stand here today and look out at the thousands of folks who have gathered here today, I know that there's some folks that are going through their own quiet storms."
-- Senator Barack Obama, on the campaign trail in Milwaukee, September 1, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Health Care – Right or Responsibility?

Astrid Helena Germain 1951 - 2007
My best friend died in November. She died, in this 21st century, from an infection! She died at age 56 because she could not afford health insurance due to an unrelated pre-existing condition, so she waited to go to the hospital until it was too late. My friend’s inability to afford health insurance might be your story, and if it's not, then it might be the story of someone you know and care about. An election looms ahead that has become almost a comedy of ridiculous name-calling, while important issues like health care exist that affect our lives every day.
The September 2008 Kaiser Family Foundation election tracking poll puts health care as the number three priority of all voters, and it remains the second most commonly reported economic hardship (after paying for gas). Almost fifty million people are without health insurance, and at least that many are under-insured, while revenues going into the industry continue to increase at double digit rates year after year. According to the World Health Organization, although the United States now spends $2.3 trillion a year on health care (twice as much per capita on health care as any other country,) it ranks 37th in terms of health system performance and 72nd in overall population health. The U.S. is the only industrial nation without health care for all.
The private payers of health care have an overhead of between 20% and 30% as compared to Medicare’s 3%. The difference between the two is in the presence of or lack of bureaucracy within the drug companies, insurance companies, and other powerful and well-funded special interests which make billions of dollars off of human illness. Simply stated, we need to move toward a national health care program that guarantees health care to all as a right, not a privilege. When we do that, and end the greed and profiteering in the current system, we can provide quality care for all Americans without spending a nickel more than we currently spend.
The Republican nominee has proposed to tax the health benefits that 156 million people get through the workplace as income. In exchange, McCain would give tax credits to help pay for insurance — $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families, paid directly to the insurer they choose. What McCain fails to state is that our country under its current system already spends $12,500 per individual on health care. His plan could lead employers to drop their current plans that could not be replaced for $5,000. McCain's plan would also increase the deficit by $1.3 trillion over 10 years. He also intends to make cuts in Medicare, which is not good news for our seniors.
The Democratic nominee will make coverage more affordable to most Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, paying for the subsidies largely by canceling the Bush administration's tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year. He would outlaw "insurance company discrimination” against people with pre-existing conditions, and he would save money in the health care system, by holding drug and insurance companies accountable for the prices they charge and the harm they cause. Medicare would be allowed to negotiate with drug makers for cheaper prices, and his administration would place greater emphasis on preventing illnesses.
Barack Obama has a plan to stop the marginalization of that 15% of our population who are currently not considered valuable enough to be helped when they are hurting. He has a plan that will save money. I am an Obama supporter. I hope you will be, too, but if you're not, the fact that 22,000 people died last year because of a lack of health care, including my friend, should at least encourage you to compare the plans available.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chicago Tribune Endorses Barack Obama for President

Friday, October 17, 2008
This speaks volumes. This is the first Democrat the paper has ever endorsed. Founded 1847.
However this election turns out, it will dramatically advance America's slow progress toward equality and inclusion. It took Abraham Lincoln's extraordinary courage in the Civil War to get us here. It took an epic battle to secure women the right to vote. It took the perseverance of the civil rights movement. Now we have an election in which we will choose the first African-American president . . . or the first female vice president.

In recent weeks it has been easy to lose sight of this history in the making. Americans are focused on the greatest threat to the world economic system in 80 years. They feel a personal vulnerability the likes of which they haven't experienced since Sept. 11, 2001. It's a different kind of vulnerability. Unlike Sept. 11, the economic threat hasn't forged a common bond in this nation. It has fed anger, fear and mistrust.

On Nov. 4 we're going to elect a president to lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose.

The strongest candidate to do that is Sen. Barack Obama. The Tribune is proud to endorse him today for president of the United States.
On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.

Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

The change that Obama talks about so much is not simply a change in this policy or that one. It is not fundamentally about lobbyists or Washington insiders. Obama envisions a change in the way we deal with one another in politics and government. His opponents may say this is empty, abstract rhetoric. In fact, it is hard to imagine how we are going to deal with the grave domestic and foreign crises we face without an end to the savagery and a return to civility in politics.

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause--the Republican Party. The Tribune's first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

With that in mind, in 1872 we endorsed Horace Greeley, who ran as an independent against the corrupt administration of Republican President Ulysses S. Grant. (Greeley was later endorsed by the Democrats.) In 1912 we endorsed Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as the Progressive Party candidate against Republican President William Howard Taft.

The Tribune's decisions then were driven by outrage at inept and corrupt business and political leaders.

We see parallels today.

The Republican Party, the party of limited government, has lost its way. The government ran a $237 billion surplus in 2000, the year before Bush took office -- and recorded a $455 billion deficit in 2008. The Republicans lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in 2006 because, as we said at the time, they gave the nation rampant spending and Capitol Hill corruption. They abandoned their principles. They paid the price.

We might have counted on John McCain to correct his party's course. We like McCain. We endorsed him in the Republican primary in Illinois. In part because of his persuasion and resolve, the U.S. stands to win an unconditional victory in Iraq.

It is, though, hard to figure John McCain these days. He argued that President Bush's tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible, but he now supports them. He promises a balanced budget by the end of his first term, but his tax cut plan would add an estimated $4.2 trillion in debt over 10 years. He has responded to the economic crisis with an angry, populist message and a misguided, $300 billion proposal to buy up bad mortgages.

McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.
Obama chose a more experienced and more thoughtful running mate--he put governing before politicking. Sen. Joe Biden doesn't bring many votes to Obama, but he would help him from day one to lead the country.

McCain calls Obama a typical liberal politician. Granted, it's disappointing that Obama's mix of tax cuts for most people and increases for the wealthy would create an estimated $2.9 trillion in federal debt. He has made more promises on spending than McCain has. We wish one of these candidates had given good, hard specific information on how he would bring the federal budget into line. Neither one has.

We do, though, think Obama would govern as much more of a pragmatic centrist than many people expect.
We know first-hand that Obama seeks out and listens carefully and respectfully to people who disagree with him. He builds consensus. He was most effective in the Illinois legislature when he worked with Republicans on welfare, ethics and criminal justice reform.

He worked to expand the number of charter schools in Illinois--not popular with some Democratic constituencies.

He took up ethics reform in the U.S. Senate--not popular with Washington politicians.

His economic policy team is peppered with advisers who support free trade. He has been called a "University of Chicago Democrat"--a reference to the famed free-market Chicago school of economics, which puts faith in markets.

Obama is deeply grounded in the best aspirations of this country, and we need to return to those aspirations. He has had the character and the will to achieve great things despite the obstacles that he faced as an unprivileged black man in the U.S.

He has risen with his honor, grace and civility intact. He has the intelligence to understand the grave economic and national security risks that face us, to listen to good advice and make careful decisions.

When Obama said at the 2004 Democratic Convention that we weren't a nation of red states and blue states, he spoke of union the way Abraham Lincoln did.

It may have seemed audacious for Obama to start his campaign in Springfield, invoking Lincoln. We think, given the opportunity to hold this nation's most powerful office, he will prove it wasn't so audacious after all. We are proud to add Barack Obama's name to Lincoln's in the list of people the Tribune has endorsed for president of the United States.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rachel Maddow Blasts Former Bush Speechwriter David Frum!

David Frum on Rachel Maddow: Releasing His Inner Scumbag
Ian Gurvitz | Bio from 23/6

One of the rituals of politically-oriented talk shows is the occasional appearance of someone from the other side, either to explore another dimension of an important issue, or to present the illusion of impartiality. One such appearance tonight was that of former Bush speechwriter David Frum on Rachel Maddow's show, ostensibly to talk about Republican reaction to the current state of the McCain campaign.

Yet, right out of the gate, Frum took off on the subject of the hate speech wafting off the campaign to attack Maddow for being part of the problem, alleging that there has been an "intensification of some of the ugliness that has been a feature of American politics in the last 8 years, and this show, itself, is unfortunately an example of that problem with its levity and sarcasm and seeming disregard for a lot of the substantive issues that really are important."

While taken aback at the unexpected attack on her personally and on her show, Maddow handled herself with class, trying to get at the substance of Frum's attack, asking if he somehow equated sarcasm and the occasional smile with the vitriol coming from recent GOP rallies. However, and this is one difference between the parties that even goes to way this election is shaping up, she didn't tell him to "shut up." She didn't scream for a producer to "cut off his mike." Both in style, and in substance, she negated his argument by her civil, substantive reaction. She did not name-call. She calmly stated her strong disagreement with his assertion while asking for clarification.

Going on to ask him about the Ayers attacks and the resulting fury from the crowd, Frum retorted: "If John McCain were making threats of violence that would be really bad" -- a statement that is either idiotic in its naivete or naïve in its idiocy. McCain and Palin have set the table for these outbursts with their attacks and then committed the sin of omission by not truly quelling them. Sort of like standing outside the Reichstag holding a gas can, and calmly suggesting that someone might want to call the fire department. And Maddow made this point, though without the Reichstag reference. She did it without lowering herself to name-calling, nor did she comment on his pissy, snide, and patronizing attitude.

Eventually, the discussion veered back to the election, with Frum admitting, not necessarily in these terms, that his party was about to get reamed, steamed, and dry cleaned. The problem, for Frum, was that because of the ineptitude of the McCain campaign, not only the party, but the country will pay the price with a Democratic president and Congress, which will lead to some "very destructive changes." As opposed to what's actually happened over the last 8 years? So he's not really upset with the sorry state of the world. He's upset that his party is losing and that the Democrats could gain control and really f... things up because they don't seem to understand the threats we face.

It was a contradiction apparently lost on Frum that taking a snide tone while calling out someone for not engaging in a more adult debate is a bit of a contradiction. As well, someone who worked as a Bush speechwriter has a small credibility problem when it comes to calling for more honesty and integrity in public debate. And, fyi to Frum: one of the reasons Maddow's show has been such a success is that she doe s talk substance. She's intelligent. She's fair. And she's gracious. And, as for the sarcasm, the reason it lands is that is an expression of the righteous indignation felt by most Americans because of the outrageous mendacity that has been SOP for the GOP over the last 8 years. At some point, it's your only weapon. It's either laugh or cry. And as for your fear that if Maddow's type of lethal sarcasm were to proliferate the Republicans would have to take a reactive approach and return it in kind? Holy s..., man. Have you never seen Fox News? All they're missing are armbands.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

McCain's Pro-Veteran Rhetoric Exposed!

What is the reason for Barack Obama’s 80 percent overall rating from the Disabled Veterans of America in comparison to John McCain’s 20 percent? And what is the reason for Obama having received nearly six times as much contribution money from troops deployed overseas than has John McCain? And what is the reason that McCain received a “D” grade from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America? The reason is that troops and veterans agree that a McCain presidency will be wrong for this country, and they base it on his voting record.

McCain voted 27 times against veterans' health care needs!
McCain did not vote on the GI Bill that will provide better educational opportunities to veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, paying full tuition at in-state schools and living expenses for those who have served at least three years since the 9/11 attacks. McCain said he opposes the bill because he thinks the generous benefits would “encourage more people to leave the military.
Although McCain told voters at a campaign rally that improving veterans’ health care was his top domestic priority, he voted against increasing funding for veterans’ health care in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.
McCain voted against providing automatic annual cost-of living adjustments for certain veterans’ benefits.
Although his campaign website devotes a large section to veterans issues, including expanding benefits for reservists and members of the National Guard, McCain voted against increasing spending on the TRICARE program by $20.3 billion over 10 years to give members of the National Guard and Reserves and their families greater access to the health care program. The increase would be offset by a reduction in tax cuts for the wealthy.
McCain opposed an amendment that would have prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from outsourcing jobs, many held by blue-collar veterans, without first giving the workers a chance to compete. And McCain opposed an amendment to prevent the outsourcing of 350 federal employee jobs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center—outsourcing that contributed to the scandalous treatment of veterans at Walter Reed that McCain called a “disgrace.”
McCain voted against an appropriations bill that included $122.7 billion in fiscal 2004 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies.
McCain was one of five senators to vote against the bill and seven to vote against the conference report that provided $51.1 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as funding for the federal housing, environmental and emergency management agencies and NASA.
McCain was one of eight senators to vote against a bill that provided $47 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
McCain was one of five senators to vote against a bill providing $44.3 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, plus funding for other federal agencies
McCain voted against an amendment to increase spending on veterans programs by $13 billion.
McCain voted for an appropriations bill that underfunded the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development by $8.9 billion.
John McCain said “I know the veterans, I know them well, and I know that they know that I'll take care of them, and I have been proud of their support and their recognition of my service to the veterans, and I love them, and I'll take care of them, and they know that I'll take care of them.” John McCain has misrepresented his own voting record with pro-veteran rhetoric!

Senator Obama believes America has a sacred obligation to our veterans. He is committed to creating a 21st Century Department of Veterans Affairs that provides the care and benefits our nation’s veterans deserve and has a record of supporting initiatives to improve veterans care and benefits.

Why is the NY Times ignoring McCain's own 'radical' Liddy?

For the 18th time this year NYT has run an article on Barack Obama's 'association' with Bill Ayers, former radical (Obama was 8 when Ayers was active). How about McCain's closeness to G. Gordon Liddy, convicted in Watergate?

On October 4, The New York Times published a 2,140-word front-page article about Sen. Barack Obama's association with former Weather Underground member William Ayers -- at least the 18th Times article this year mentioning that association. But the Times has yet to mention, let alone devote an entire article to, Sen. John McCain's relationship with radio host and convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy. Indeed, in its October 4 article, the Times quoted Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman denouncing Obama's association with Ayers but did not note that Chapman has described Liddy as McCain's "own Bill Ayers" and has written that "[i]f Obama needs to answer questions about Ayers, McCain has the same obligation regarding Liddy." The Times, moreover, quoted McCain criticizing Obama for his association with Ayers without noting that Chapman has faulted McCain for what Chapman described as McCain's "howling hypocrisy on the subject."

As Media Matters for America has noted, Liddy served four and a half years in prison in connection with his conviction for his role in the Watergate break-in and the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Liddy has acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in "if necessary"; plotting to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a "gangland figure" to murder Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap "leftist guerillas" at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis. (The murder, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the break-ins were.) During the 1990s, Liddy reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents and also reportedly said he had named his shooting targets after Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Liddy has donated $5,000 to McCain's campaigns since 1998, including $1,000 in February 2008. In addition, McCain has appeared on Liddy's radio show during the presidential campaign, including as recently as May. An online video labeled "John McCain On The G. Gordon Liddy Show 11/8/07" includes a discussion between Liddy and McCain, whom Liddy described as an "old friend." During the segment, McCain praised Liddy's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great," said he was "proud" of Liddy, and said that "it's always a pleasure for me to come on your program."

Additionally, in 1998, Liddy reportedly held a fundraiser at his home for McCain. Liddy was reportedly scheduled to speak at another fundraiser for McCain in 2000. The Charlotte Observer reported on January 23, 2000, that McCain's campaign vouched for Liddy's "character":

His [McCain's] campaign officials said Liddy's character will appeal to many voters because he was following orders from President Nixon and kept silent afterward.

"His (Liddy's) judgment might be in question, but I don't think his character is," said Ed Walker, the York County chairman of McCain's campaign. "He was following orders just like any good soldier, and he didn't tell on anybody. He felt like he was on a mission and kept his silence."

Liddy's 2000 speech was reportedly canceled due to bad weather.

Media Matters has documented that as of September 19, the Times had published 15 news articles and four opinion pieces referencing Obama's ties to Ayers. Since then, in addition to the October 4 article, the Times has published two more articles mentioning the association.

But despite having apparently judged Chapman's opinions on the candidates' controversial associations as being newsworthy, the Times has ignored entirely McCain's relationship with Liddy, according to a search of the Nexis database from January 1 through October 4*.

In his May 4 Tribune column, Chapman wrote:

What McCain didn't mention is that he has his own Bill Ayers -- in the form of G. Gordon Liddy. Now a conservative radio talk-show host, Liddy spent more than 4 years in prison for his role in the 1972 Watergate burglary. That was just one element of what Liddy did, and proposed to do, in a secret White House effort to subvert the Constitution. Far from repudiating him, McCain has embraced him.

How close are McCain and Liddy? At least as close as Obama and Ayers appear to be. In 1998, Liddy's home was the site of a McCain fundraiser. Over the years, he has made at least four contributions totaling $5,000 to the senator's campaigns -- including $1,000 this year.

Last November, McCain went on his radio show. Liddy greeted him as "an old friend," and McCain sounded like one. "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your family," he gushed. "It's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."

Which principles would those be? The ones that told Liddy it was fine to break into the office of the Democratic National Committee to plant bugs and photograph documents? The ones that made him propose to kidnap anti-war activists so they couldn't disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention? The ones that inspired him to plan the murder (never carried out) of an unfriendly newspaper columnist?

Liddy was in the thick of the biggest political scandal in American history -- and one of the greatest threats to the rule of law. He has said he has no regrets about what he did, insisting that he went to jail as "a prisoner of war."

All this may sound like ancient history. But it's from the same era as the bombings Ayers helped carry out as a member of the Weather Underground. And Liddy's penchant for extreme solutions has not abated.


Given Liddy's record, it's hard to see why McCain would touch him with a 10-foot pole. On the contrary, he should be returning his donations and shunning his show. Yet the senator shows no qualms about associating with Liddy -- or celebrating his service to their common cause.

How does McCain explain his howling hypocrisy on the subject? He doesn't. I made repeated inquiries to his campaign aides, which they refused to acknowledge, much less answer. On this topic, the pilot of the Straight Talk Express would rather stay parked in the garage.

That's an odd policy for someone who is so forthright about his rival's responsibility. McCain thinks Obama should apologize for associating with a criminal extremist. To which Obama might reply: After you.

And in an August 22 blog post about an anti-Obama ad highlighting Obama's association with Ayers, Chapman wrote:

But conservatives may not want to draw attention to the issue of ties to violent radicals -- since John McCain is longtime pals with convicted Watergate burglar Gordon Liddy, who once plotted a journalist's murder (which was never carried out) and has advocated the shooting of federal law enforcement agents.

If Obama needs to answer questions about Ayers, McCain has the same obligation regarding Liddy. How about they both get started?

From The New York Times' October 4 article "Obama and '60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths":

Their relationship has become a touchstone for opponents of Mr. Obama, the Democratic senator, in his bid for the presidency. Video clips on YouTube, including a new advertisement that was broadcast on Friday, juxtapose Mr. Obama's face with the young Mr. Ayers or grainy shots of the bombings.

In a televised interview last spring, Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama's Republican rival, asked, "How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?"


Since earning a doctorate in education at Columbia in 1987, Mr. Ayers has been a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the author or editor of 15 books, and an advocate of school reform.

"He's done a lot of good in this city and nationally," Mayor Richard M. Daley said in an interview this week, explaining that he has long consulted Mr. Ayers on school issues. Mr. Daley, whose father was Chicago's mayor during the street violence accompanying the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the so-called Days of Rage the following year, said he saw the bombings of that time in the context of a polarized and turbulent era.

"This is 2008," Mr. Daley said. "People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life."

That attitude is widely shared in Chicago, but it is not universal. Steve Chapman, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, defended Mr. Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his longtime pastor, whose black liberation theology and "God damn America" sermon became notorious last spring. But he denounced Mr. Obama for associating with Mr. Ayers, whom he said the University of Illinois should never have hired.

"I don't think there's a statute of limitations on terrorist bombings," Mr. Chapman said in an interview, speaking not of the law but of political and moral implications.

"If you're in public life, you ought to say, 'I don't want to be associated with this guy,' " Mr. Chapman said. "If John McCain had a long association with a guy who'd bombed abortion clinics, I don't think people would say, 'That's ancient history.' "

Friday, October 3, 2008

A must see video from AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka


You see brothers and sisters, there's not a single good reason for any worker -- especially any union member -- to vote against Barack Obama.

There's only one really bad reason to vote against him: because he's not white.

And I want to talk about that because I saw that for myself during the Pennsylvania primary.

I went back home to vote in Nemacolin and I ran into a woman I'd known for years. She was active in Democratic politics when I was still in grade school.

We got to talking and I asked if she'd made up her mind who she was supporting and she said: 'Oh absolutely, I'm voting for Hillary, there's no way I'd ever vote for Obama.'

Well, why's that? 'Because he's a Muslim.'

I told her, 'That's not true -- he's as much a Christian as you and me, so what if he's muslim.'

Then she shook her head and said, 'He won't wear an American flag pin.'

I don't have one on and neither do you.

But, 'C'mon, he wears one plenty of times. He just says it takes more than wearing a flag pin to be patriotic.'

'Well, I just don't trust him.'

Why is that?

Her voice dropped just a bit: 'Because he's black.'

I said, 'Look around. Nemacolin's a dying town. There're no jobs here. Kids are moving away because there's no future here. And here's a man, Barack Obama, who's going to fight for people like us and you won't vote for him because of the color of his skin.'

Brothers and sisters, we can't tap dance around the fact that there are a lot of folks out there just like that woman.

A lot of them are good union people; they just can't get past this idea that there's something wrong with voting for a black man. Well, those of us who know better can't afford to look the other way.

I'm not one for quoting dead philosophers, but back in the 1700s, Edmund Burke said: 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.' Well, there's no evil that's inflicted more pain and more suffering than racism -- and it's something we in the labor movement have a special responsibility to challenge.

It's our special responsibility because we know, better than anyone else, how racism is used to divide working people.

We've seen how companies set worker against worker -- how they throw whites a few extra crumbs off the table ndsh and how we all end up losing.

But we've seen something else, too. We've seen that when we cross that color line and stand together no one can keep us down.

That's why the CIO was created. That's why industrial unions were the first to stand up against lynching and segregation. People need to know that it was the Steel Workers Organizing Committee -- this union -- that was founded on the principal of organizing all workers without regard to race. That's why the labor movement -- imperfect as we are -- is the most integrated institution in American life.

I don't think we should be out there pointing fingers in peoples' faces and calling them racist; instead we need to educate them that if they care about holding on to their jobs, their health care, their pensions, and their homes -- if they care about creating good jobs with clean energy, child care, pay equity for women workers -- there's only going to be one candidate on the ballot this fall who's on their side... only one candidate who's going to stand up for their families... only one candidate who's earned their votes... and his name is Barack Obama!

And come November we are going to elect him president.

And after he's elected we are going to hit the ground running so that, years from now, we're going to be able to tell our grandchildren that 2008 was the year this country finally turned its back on men like George Bush and Dick Cheney and John McCain

We're going to be able to say that 2008 was the year we started ending the war in Iraq so we could use that money to create new jobs building wind generators, solar collectors, clean coal technology and retrofitting millions of buildings all across this country

We're going to be able to look back and say that 2008 was the year the tide began to turn against the Rush Limbaughs, the Bill O'Reillys, the Ann Coulters and the right wing hate machine.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Credit Where It's Due!

Kerry Hayes
Memphis TN
Obama Rapid Response

Let us please make sure that we pause and moment and give John McCain the credit he so richly deserves for his action the other evening on the emergency financial bailout package. While the U.S. economy appears heading for irretrievable ruin, McCain again threw the brakes on his drifting campaign and declared that this was an "all hands on deck" moment for the legislature. And who better to lead us in our hour of need that he, "a former Navy pilot," (a non-sequitur bit of bio which he never misses an opportunity to insert, no matter how or inappropriate or irrational.)

The only problem is, for McCain, this wasn't all hands on deck--it was no hands on deck and all eyes on McCain. He lied to Barack Obama in pledging that they would work together in crafting a bi-partisan response to the crisis on Wednesday, he lied to the public and the media in declaring that he was "suspending" his campaign, and during his much-watched return to Washington yesterday, he (according to "walked to his office with pal Joe Lieberman, said little at a contentious White House meeting, did a few TV interviews, [and] sped off to his home."

In other words, he did nothing. He offered no solutions, no insights, brokered no deals, and exhibited none of the vaunted bi-partisan, maverick-style leadership which he so desperately craves in this campaign's late hour.

Everyone now agrees that McCain's debate-postponement tactic was a politically motivate stunt, nothing more, but it was really only the tip of the problem. As time goes on, his actions (or lack of same) point to something much more serious.

It's one thing for McCain to play games with the Debate Commission--it's another thing entirely to play Russian roulette with the United States economy. Were it not for McCain, we would have our bailout package approved right now. However, because of his "intervention," we are approaching gridlock, and our nation's economy rushes ever closer to a precipice.

All of this reveals, again, that there is no trick too crazy, no strategy too absurd, no hail-mary pass too desperate for he and Steve Schmidt to try. They are desperate to divert the attention of the American people from the mess that they and their GOP cronies have created. Throughout this campaign, John McCain has shown his clear, abiding contempt for the intelligence of the electorate. Time is running out for John McCain, and unless we speak out strongly at this moment, it's running out for the future of our economy as well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Maliki Suggests Bush Pushed To Extend U.S. Presence In Iraq To Help McCain»

By Ben on Think Progress 9/23
Last July, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said U.S. troops should be out of Iraq “as soon as possible” and endorsed Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) withdrawal plan. Obama “talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” Maliki told Der Spiegel magazine.

Days later, as Obama wrapped up meetings with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh reiterated his government’s stance, saying “the end of 2010 is the appropriate time for the withdrawal.”

Negotiating the post-UN mandate security agreement with Iraq, Bush argued for more time and both sides ultimately agreed that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, not 2010, even though Bush has said previously that “if they were to say, leave, we would leave.”

Why did Bush go back on his word? A source tells ThinkProgress that White House communications staff were concerned that Maliki’s endorsement of the 2010 time line would damage Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign. Indeed, during an interview with Iraqi television last week (according to an Open Source Center translation), Maliki suggested that the U.S. presidential elections played a role:

Actually, the final date was really the end of 2010 and the period between the end of 2010 and the end of 2011 was for withdrawing the remaining troops from all of Iraq, but they asked for a change [in date] due to political circumstances related to the [U.S] domestic situation so it will not be said to the end of 2010 followed by one year for withdrawal but the end of 2011 as a final date.

In fact, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said that as part of the security agreement, Bush wanted U.S. troops to stay in Iraq even longer. “It was a U.S. proposal for the date which is 2015, and an Iraqi one which is 2010, then we agreed to make it 2011,” Talabani said.

But by endorsing Obama’s time line, Maliki indirectly slighted McCain, who has consistently and strenuously argued against setting a withdrawal date and has even said he wouldn’t mind having U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years. But Maliki’s new position has left McCain scrambling, first saying its “a pretty good timetable,” but then denying he used “the word timetable” and later settling on “anything is good.”

Despite Bush’s constant refrain that commanders, not politics, will decide the course in Iraq, it seems that trying to help his party retain the White House is more important.

Ghost-Writers for McCain

"I spent a morning in John McCain's Virginia campaign headquarters ghost-writing letters to the editor for McCain supporters to sign. I even pretended to have a son in Iraq."
Check out another one of the lie tactics we are up against.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Palin-Whatshisname Ticket?

Op-Ed Columnist New York Times
Published: September 13, 2008
WITH all due deference to lipstick, let’s advance the story. A week ago the question was: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? The question today: What kind of president would Sarah Palin be?
It’s an urgent matter, because if we’ve learned anything from the G.O.P. convention and its aftermath, it’s that the 2008 edition of John McCain is too weak to serve as America’s chief executive. This unmentionable truth, more than race, is now the real elephant in the room of this election.
No longer able to remember his principles any better than he can distinguish between Sunnis and Shia, McCain stands revealed as a guy who can be easily rolled by anyone who sells him a plan for “victory,” whether in Iraq or in Michigan. A McCain victory on Election Day will usher in a Palin presidency, with McCain serving as a transitional front man, an even weaker Bush to her Cheney.
The ambitious Palin and the ruthless forces she represents know it, too. You can almost see them smacking their lips in anticipation, whether they’re wearing lipstick or not.
This was made clear in the most chilling passage of Palin’s acceptance speech. Aligning herself with “a young farmer and a haberdasher from Missouri” who “followed an unlikely path to the vice presidency,” she read a quote from an unidentified writer who, she claimed, had praised Truman: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.” Then Palin added a snide observation of her own: Such small-town Americans, she said, “run our factories” and “fight our wars” and are “always proud” of their country. As opposed to those lazy, shiftless, unproud Americans — she didn’t have to name names — who are none of the above.
There were several creepy subtexts at work here. The first was the choice of Truman. Most 20th-century vice presidents and presidents in both parties hailed from small towns, but she just happened to alight on a Democrat who ascended to the presidency when an ailing president died in office. Just as striking was the unnamed writer she quoted. He was identified by Thomas Frank in The Wall Street Journal as the now largely forgotten but once powerful right-wing Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler.
Palin, who lies with ease about her own record, misrepresented Pegler’s too. He decreed America was “done for” after Truman won a full term in 1948. For his part, Truman regarded the columnist as a “guttersnipe,” and with good reason. Pegler was a rabid Joe McCarthyite who loathed F.D.R. and Ike and tirelessly advanced the theory that American Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe (“geese,” he called them) were all likely Communists.
Surely Palin knows no more about Pegler than she does about the Bush doctrine. But the people around her do, and they will be shaping a Palin presidency. That they would inject not just Pegler’s words but spirit into their candidate’s speech shows where they’re coming from. Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager, said that the Palin-sparked convention created “a whole new Republican Party,” but what it actually did was exhume an old one from its crypt.
The specifics have changed in our new century, but the vitriolic animus of right-wing populism preached by Pegler and McCarthy and revived by the 1990s culture wars remains the same. The game is always to pit the good, patriotic real Americans against those subversive, probably gay “cosmopolitan” urbanites (as the sometime cross-dresser Rudy Giuliani has it) who threaten to take away everything that small-town folk hold dear.
The racial component to this brand of politics was undisguised in St. Paul. Americans saw a virtually all-white audience yuk it up when Giuliani ridiculed Barack Obama’s “only in America” success as an affirmative-action fairy tale — and when he and Palin mocked Obama’s history as a community organizer in Chicago. Neither party has had so few black delegates (1.5 percent) in the 40 years since the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies started keeping a record.
But race is just one manifestation of the emotion that defined the Palin rollout. That dominant emotion is fear — an abject fear of change. Fear of a demographical revolution that will put whites in the American minority by 2042. Fear of the technological revolution and globalization that have gutted those small towns and factories Palin apotheosized.
And, last but hardly least, fear of illegal immigrants who do the low-paying jobs that Americans don’t want to do and of legal immigrants who do the high-paying jobs that poorly educated Americans are not qualified to do. No less revealing than Palin’s convention invocation of Pegler was the pointed omission of any mention of immigration, once the hottest Republican issue, by either her or McCain. Saying the word would have cued an eruption of immigrant-bashing ugliness, Pegler-style, before a national television audience. That wouldn’t play in the swing states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, where Obama already has a more than 2-to-1 lead among Hispanic voters. (Bush captured roughly 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004.)
Since St. Paul, Democrats have been feasting on the hypocrisy of the Palin partisans, understandably enough. The same Republicans who attack Democrats for being too P.C. about race now howl about sexism with such abandon you half-expect Phyllis Schlafly and Carly Fiorina to stage a bra-burning. The same gang that once fueled Internet rumors and media feeding frenzies over the Clintons’ private lives now express pious outrage when the same fate befalls the Palins.
But the ultimate hypocrisy is that these woebegone, frightened opponents of change, sworn enemies of race-based college-admission initiatives, are now demanding their own affirmative action program for white folks applying to the electoral college. They want the bar for admission to the White House to be placed so low that legitimate scrutiny and criticism of Palin’s qualifications, record and family values can all be placed off limits. Byron York of National Review, a rare conservative who acknowledges the double standard, captured it best: “If the Obamas had a 17-year-old daughter who was unmarried and pregnant by a tough-talking black kid, my guess is if they all appeared onstage at a Democratic convention and the delegates were cheering wildly, a number of conservatives might be discussing the issue of dysfunctional black families.”
The cunning of the Palin choice as a political strategy is that a candidate who embodies fear of change can be sold as a “maverick” simply because she looks the part. Her marketers have a lot to work with. Palin is not only the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket, but she is young, vibrant and a Washington outsider with no explicit connection to Bush or the war in Iraq. That package looks like change even if what’s inside is anything but.
How do you run against that flashy flimflam? You don’t. Karl Rove for once gave the Democrats a real tip rather than a bum steer when he wrote last week that if Obama wants to win, “he needs to remember he’s running against John McCain for president,” not Palin for vice president. Obama should keep stepping up the blitz on McCain’s flip-flops, confusion, ignorance and blurriness on major issues (from education to an exit date from Iraq), rather than her gaffes and résumé. If he focuses voters on the 2008 McCain, the Palin question will take care of itself.Obama’s one break last week was the McCain camp’s indication that it’s likely to minimize its candidate’s solo appearances by joining him at the hip with Palin. There’s a political price to be paid for this blatant admission that he needs her to draw crowds. McCain’s conspicuous subservience to his younger running mate’s hard-right ideology and his dependence on her electioneering energy raise the question of who has the power in this relationship and who is in charge. A strong and independent woman or the older ward who would be bobbing in a golf cart without her? The more voters see that McCain will be the figurehead for a Palin presidency, the more they are likely to demand stepped-up vetting of the rigidly scripted heir apparent.
But Obama’s most important tactic is still the one he has the most trouble executing. He must convey a roll-up-your-sleeves Bobby Kennedy passion for the economic crises that are at the heart of the fears that Palin is trying to exploit. The Republican ticket offers no answers to those anxieties. Drilling isn’t going to lower gas prices or speed energy independence. An increase in corporate tax breaks isn’t going to end income inequality, provide health care or save American jobs in a Palin presidency any more than they did in a Bush presidency.
This election is still about the fierce urgency of change before it’s too late. But in framing this debate, it isn’t enough for Obama to keep presenting McCain as simply a third Bush term. Any invocation of the despised president — like Iraq — invites voters to stop listening. Meanwhile, before our eyes, McCain is turning over the keys to his administration to ideologues and a running mate to Bush’s right.
As Republicans know best, fear does work. If Obama is to convey just what’s at stake, he must slice through the campaign’s lipstick jungle and show Americans the real perils that lie around the bend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Make a Difference with Letters To The Editor!

I wrote this letter to the Editors of 24 major newspapers in the Midwest by using the tool on, and I urge all of you to do the same. The tool guides you through the process, and even sends the email out to the newspapers for you. I will write and send one every week on the issues until the election. It is a wonderful way to reach voters outside the realm of our own Blogosphere.

When I hear one of the candidates for President say, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong," I have to speak out. It is so important in this campaign for Americans, whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, to think long and hard about the state our country is in. Regardless of party, we should study the issues, and when we go into the booth to vote on November 4th, make our decision based on a good knowledge of the real facts and not campaign rhetoric. Too often, voters stubbornly vote along party lines instead of what is the best for America. This year has to be different. We must be informed and vote our conscience. We must check out facts presented for the truth. There are non-partisan websites like or, that will tell you what is the truth and what is a rumor, lie, or misinformation. I researched the following information and it can be verified at the sites noted:
The unemployment rate is up to 6.1%, a five-year high, this quarter and more than 10 percent of Americans are unemployed or underemployed, a nearly 25-percent increase from one year earlier (Wall Street Journal). More than a half million Americans (530,000) have been subject to mass layoffs in the last year. Real estate foreclosures in the U.S. were up 75 percent in 2007. The overall rate in the U.S. was 10.3 per 1,000 households. Eight states ended the year with foreclosure rates of more than 15 per 1,000 households (CBS News), yet Exxon-Mobil smashed the record for highest profits ever made by a public U.S. company by posting a net profit of $40.6 billion in 2007. To put these figures in perspective, Exxon made $77,245 per minute in 2007—that’s more money generated per minute than 70 percent of Americans earned all year according to the Census Bureau (Center for American Progress).Over the past nine months, global food prices have soared 40 percent, while food reserves are at 30-year lows (CNN Money). Energy prices were up 6.6% in the month, led by a 10.1% jump in gas prices. That left gasoline prices up nearly a third from a year earlier.
Many people, tired of politics as usual, think nothing will be done any differently when one of our candidates becomes President in 2008.
I urge all of you to think carefully about how the past eight years have affected 95% of the American population, and that John McCain has the same economic policies that President Bush has had.

As Featured on

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Barack on the "Pig"

Obama: 'Enough is enough'
Sept. 10: Barack Obama says "phony outrage and swiftboat politics," are to blame for the uproar over his "lipstick on a pig," remarks and asks the McCain campaign to instead focus on issues important to Americans.


Please view this you tube video and pass it on..... a word of caution it has the truths about war, which includes graphic images, so no children should see, what McCain would like to continue if he became out next President.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I have always thought that even though we have the best candidate in Barack Obama who cares for ALL of the people in our country and has the best policies that should appeal to the majority of U.S. Citizens, the polls have remained close due to ONE- a deep-seated racist element within our society. Then when one progressive TV station (in a sea of leaning right ones) caved in to a Republican Threat or complaint and took the two best Liberal anchors off the election result coverage, I for the first time, realized that there is another reason the polls are so close; and that is TWO - the Media. I am devastated that NBC joined the "in the tank" stations, and I will not watch the election night coverage on their two stations. I will continue to watch the Keith Olberman, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow shows, although I truly believe Rachel was forced to put Pat Buchanan on her premier show last night so that he could get the last word in after the smacking he took from Matthews at the RNC. His smirk at the end of the interview was a tell-all. And I now believe there is another reason the polls are close. McCain got a 10 point bump from a convention that was full of uncivil speeches, attacks, no discussion of issues, LIES left unanswered, and the introduction of a person for VP that is such a joke its a disgrace! And people bought it!!!! Barack says the American People are too smart to believe all the crap (well, that last word is mine), and he even said,"What do they think we are, STUPID?" Well, I don't think Barack Obama supporters are stupid, either, but I think THREE - there are a big number of swing voters, Independents, and Republicans that are, because they pick their sides totally believing the lies, disregarding stances on the issues, cheering for a nominated VP because she is a soccer mom and sold her plane on Ebay (not true) or worst of all because she wears cool glasses (which are only cosmetic), AND not even considering the state of our economy, the way we got into the War in Iraq, and what party put us there! Below are two great articles from the Huffington Post. Please read them, even though they are somewhat long. And then please tell me how we get the Obama campaign to take their advice!

Adam McCay Sept.9, 2008
The Huffington Post

"Stop saying that!" my wife says to me. But this is not a high school football game and I'm not a cheerleader with a bad attitude. This is an election and as things stand now, we're gonna frickin' lose this thing. Obama and McCain at best are even in the polls nationally and in a recent Gallup poll McCain is ahead by four points.
Something is not right. We have a terrific candidate and a terrific VP candidate. We're coming off the worst eight years in our country's history. Six of those eight years the Congress, White House and even the Supreme Court were controlled by the Republicans and the last two years the R's have filibustered like tantrum throwing 4-year-olds, yet we're going to elect a Republican who voted with that leadership 90% of the time and a former sportscaster who wants to teach Adam and Eve as science? That's not odd as a difference of opinion, that's logically and mathematically queer.
It reminds me of playing blackjack (a losers game). You make all the right moves, play the right hands but basically the House always wins. I know what you're going to say " But I won twelve hundred dollars last year in Atlantic City!" Of course there are victories. The odds aren't tilted crazy, but there is a 51%-49% advantage. And in the long run, the house has to win. The house will win.
So what is this house advantage the Republicans have? It's the press. There is no more fourth estate. Wait, hold on...I'm not going down some esoteric path with theories on the deregulation of the media and corporate bias and CNN versus Fox...I mean it: there is no more functioning press in this country. And without a real press the corporate and religious Republicans can lie all they want and get away with it. And that's the 51% advantage.
Think this is some opinion being wryly posited to titillate other bloggers and inspire dialogue with Tucker Carlson or Gore Vidal? Fuck that. Four corporations own all the TV channels. All of them. If they don't get ratings they get canceled or fired. All news is about sex, blame and anger, and fear. Exposing lies about amounts of money taken from lobbyists and votes cast for the agenda of the last eight years does not rate. The end.
So one side can lie and get away with it. Now let's throw in one more advantage. Voter caging and other corruption on the local level with voting. Check out the article here on HuffPost about Ohio messing with 600K voters. If only five thousand of those voters don't or can't vote that's a huge advantage in a contest that could be decided by literally dozens of votes. That takes us to about a 52 to 48% advantage.
I'm not even getting into the fact that the religious right teaches closed mindedness so it's almost impossible to gain new voters from their pool because people who disagree with them are agents of the devil. I just want to look at two inarguable realities: A) we have no more press and B) the Repubs are screwing with the voters on the local level.
I'm telling you, we're going to lose this thing. And afterwords we'll blame ourselves the same way we did with Gore and Kerry (two candidates a thousand times more qualified to lead than W Bush.) Just watch.. McCain wins by a point or two and we all walk around saying things like "Obama was too well spoken." "Biden wasn't lovable enough." "I shouldn't have split those eights." "Why did I hit on 16? Why?!"
So what do we do?
1) We give definitive clear speeches like Biden and Obama gave the other day about how no one talked about any issues at the Republican Convention and how they outright lied. But we do them over and over again. 2) We use the one place where it's still a 50-50 game -- the internet -- as much as we can. 3) But most importantly we should bring up re-regulating the media and who owns it and what that conflict of interest is a lot more. By pretending there's no conflict of interest we're failing to alert the public that they're being lied to or given a looking at a coin at the bottom of a pool slanted truth. Every time a pundit or elected official is on any TV news program it should be a polite formality to mention that GE has made such and such billions off the war in Iraq by selling arms or that Murdoch is a right-wing activist with a clear stake in who wins and who taxes his profits the least. Disney, GE, Viacom, and Murdoch -- all want profits and the candidate and agenda that will get in their way the least.
Obama and Biden should also create a "master sound bite sentence" and repeat it hundreds of times. It should be so true that even the corporations can't screw with it when it makes the airwaves. Here's my attempt: "Katrina, four dollar gas, a trillion dollar war, rising unemployment, deregulated housing market, global more."
This race should be about whether the Republican Party is going to be dismantled or not after the borderline treason of the past eight years. But instead it is about making the word "community organizer" a dirty word and a beauty queen who shoots foxes from a plane. Someone is not in any way doing their job and it's the press. Or more specifically, that job no longer exists.
Probably the worst offenders are the pundits who take the position that it's all just a game and say phrases like "getting a post-convention bump" or "playing to the soccer Moms." This isn't a game of Monopoly or Survivor. There are real truths that exist outside of the spin they are given and have an effect on lives. 250,000 Iraqi civilians are dead because we let our reality be distorted by the most effective propaganda machine in fifty years, the corporate American press. Money and jobs are flying out of this country as our currency becomes worthless and we're talking about the fact that McCain is a veteran. If someone busted into your house and robbed you would you then forgive them if you found out they were a veteran? Of course not. So why are we forgiving McCain for selling out his country by supporting the Bush agenda?
This is it folks. If McCain takes power we fade and become Australia in the seventies: a backwoods country with occasional flashes of relevance. Except we've got a way bigger military and we're angrier. People will get hurt and we'll pay the bill for the bullets. I'm telling you, unless we wake up, we're gonna lose this frickin' thing.

Drew Westen Sept.9, 2008
The Hufington Post

Democrats around the country have been growing increasingly anxious over the last week, and for good reason. If there was a clear message from Denver, it was reflected in the remarks of virtually every commentator on television after Obama's magnificent speech: "Wow, Obama can throw a punch." He needed to indict the Bush administration and the Republican Party for what they have done to the country, and he needed to show that he can be powerful, not just eloquent and inspiring. If there was another message, it was the power of narrative. Over and over we heard comments like, "Wow, what a great story"--referring both to the stories Michele and Barack Obama told about themselves and the stories Bo and Joe Biden told about Obama's vice presidential nominee, which drew a visible tear from the eyes of Michele--which itself addressed the story Republicans were trying to tell about her, that she is a cold, hard, angry black woman (the same story they told about Hillary Clinton when she was first lady, with the racial twist to make it more incendiary).
It was not just the "liberal media elite" who responded to a week in which Democrats finally told a sustained, coherent, narrative about how the Bush administration and the Republican Party had pillaged our economy and left the country increasingly alone and unsafe in the world (although they left out some crucial details Americans should have heard about, like the extraordinary rendition of innocent people to torture chambers in the Middle East), about how McCain represents the same failed ideology of the Bush years, and about who Barack Obama really is and how he intends to lead. By the end of the convention, Obama had opened up an 8-point lead in the Gallup Polls, a stark contrast to the two-point deficit with which he began the convention after three months of failing to offer any narrative at all and doggedly refusing to go after McCain while McCain was using him as a punching bag, hitting him with one narrative after another (Obama is a celebrity, an elitist, an uppity guy who is too big for his breeches, a tax and spend liberal, someone who doesn't put country first, someone who doesn't share "our" values, not one of "us").
But the political panorama can change rapidly, and this one did the moment the convention ended and the Obama campaign decided to resume shooting scenes from its sequel to the Kerry campaign, "President Palin's Revenge" (which itself was a bad remake of "Dukakis, Tanks but No Tanks"). They already had all the footage they needed from the summer: no real narrative about their candidate, no narrative about their opponent, refusal to answer attacks, weak performances in televised interviews, poor use of surrogates on television (if they were even present), changing positions in ways that undercut the candidate's narrative of authenticity, and an disquietingly poor performance on Rick Warren's pseudo-debate with McCain. This was stock Democratic footage.
So after a week of Republicans mocking the Democrats, deriding everyone who isn't one of them (especially the dark-skinned, exotic Obama) as un-American, anti-life, elitist, hostile to "small town values," and narcissistic or subversive (putting himself, something, or some group--perhaps black people?--other than "Country First"), McCain has now opened a 4-point lead in the Gallup Polls among registered voters. That's not even factoring in McCain's advantage among "likely voters," which is higher; or the percent of voters who accurately guess the race of the person on the other end of the phone when the pollster calls and adjust their response if she sounds black, or the additional percent who would vote for a black man in public (as they did in Democratic caucuses) but whose unconscious (and increasingly conscious) prejudices emerge when they vote in private, often taking forms such as, "I just don't know Obama," "Something about him makes me uneasy," "I'm not sure I can trust him," "I think he's really a Muslim," or "He must have stuck with that Reverend Wright all those years for a reason."
Fortunately these numbers are volatile, and the Obama campaign seems to have decided that it's time to run an offense again at least part of the time (with a new ad debuting yesterday in swing states attacking McCain's "maverick" status). With all the factors going for Democrats this year (their generic lead over Republicans after 8 years of mismanagement and malfeasance remains in the double digits) and the more charismatic candidate, the polls should shift back again, at least to parity.
But McCain shouldn't have gotten a 10-point bump from his uncivil convention, and this election shouldn't be close. What happened in one short week was both completely predictable and completely avoidable. Just hours after a Democratic Convention that reignited Democratic enthusiasm and started to swing those swing voters who just weren't sure about Obama, the Obama campaign had forgotten everything it should have learned from its success of Denver--most importantly that you never drop your gloves, and that you never let the other side control the narratives--and had returned to the same failed strategies that gave us Presidents Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry, strategies Democratic consultants have passed from generation to generation like a family heirloom laced with hemlock.
The only statement the Obama campaign issued after McCain announced his choice--and the only real statement it has made until yesterday's "No Maverick" ad--was a laudatory statement of congratulations. When George Stephanopoulos posed a question to Obama about her qualifications this weekend and Keith Olbermann did the same on Monday, Obama evaded it both times, as if it were Obama, not McCain, who should be on the defensive about having chosen an unqualified person who is under the cloud of an ethics investigation and who has proven herself, like McCain, unable to get along with even members of her own party in Alaska, and, like Bush, to have an uneasy relationship with the truth.
The Obama campaign even released an ad the day before her speech that implicitly conceded that she was a great choice and a giant leap forward for women, beginning, "...although he [McCain] may have made history" (which was factually inaccurate, unless the Obama campaign was conceding the election, since her nomination would only be historic if McCain were elected; Geraldine Ferraro broke the glass ceiling of a vice presidential nomination nearly 25 years ago), and went on to say nothing about McCain's choice, instead attacking McCain on being like Bush (without noting that McCain had just proven it again by choosing a religious zealot with non-mainstream values and a penchant for governmental intrusion on social issues that most swing voters find repugnant), with the words, "So this may be his running mate, but..." implying, "OK, we'll concede that she's terrific, but McCain's the one running for President." (Given that Palin was the one on everyone's mind, the ad seemed oddly out of sync, placing a punctuation mark on the Obama campaign's conflict about what to do about her. This is not the first time their "rapid response" has been over 10 days as they watched a large lead turn into a deficit in the polls.)
McCain had not, in fact, made history. He had made a crass political calculation that was both reckless and ill-considered, just like Bush, and he had put something other than Country First, namely his personal ambition to be President. If Obama can't tell the truth about what's wrong with his opponent, he isn't speaking honestly to the American people, regardless of his motivation. If his pollsters and consultants have been advising him to avoid attacking his opponent for abandoning every value he ever stood for (he was against torture, now he's for it; he was against overturning Roe v. Wade, now he's for it; he was for comprehensive immigration reform, now he's against it; he was against tax cuts for the wealthy in wartime, now he's for it), he needs to redeploy those pollsters and consultants to someplace useful, like Afghanistan, where we need some extra boots on the ground.
A week ago, I warned of exactly what could turn the election around for the GOP after the stunning success of the Democratic Convention and Obama's magnificent acceptance speech:
Obama is now poised to break 50 percent in the polls. Whether he does so, and whether he wins or loses in November, will likely depend on whether he, his campaign team, and the Democrats learn the lessons of this convention, or whether they backslide in debates and public statements into the politics of meandering, dispassionate prose; failure to demonstrate toughness, resolve, and, yes, aggression where appropriate; and failure to understand that the best time to shape the public discourse is before the other side has had a chance to "sell" its version of truth to the American people. Decades of research in social psychology have demonstrated that two of most important principles of persuasion when people have a choice between options are to get there first--to tell your side of the story--and to inoculate against what the other side is likely to say. Democratic consultants need to read that research--tonight--and stop relying on the same intuitions that have proven wrong in election after election. We are supposed to be the party of science, yet we constantly practice political creationism... A case in point is the way the Obama campaign appears poised to respond (or, more accurately, not to respond) to McCain's choice of a running mate, which they need to do immediately, before the start of the GOP Convention.
The piece went on to describe the story McCain would try to tell at the Republican Convention--"that this was a bold move of a maverick reformer, an effort to break the glass ceiling for women, an effort to bring executive experience to his team, and the elevation to prominence of a young, socially conservative reformer with a moving story of her commitment to the crusade against all abortions"--and warned that Palin would showcase her decision not to abort a Down Syndrome baby at the GOP Convention (replete with repeated camera shots of the cuddly new baby) and use that decision as part of a story that would make her a folk hero, a mixture of Mother Theresa, Wonderwoman, and Supermom.
I argued that before the opening gavel, the Obama campaign needed to brand McCain as reckless and impulsive, having selected a running mate who wouldn't have been on anyone's shortlist of, say, 1000, to be a heartbeat away from the leadership of the free world on the ticket with a 72-year-old man with recurrent melanoma; that it needed to brand McCain as a hypocrite who was running as a maverick but had just selected a woman who makes George W. Bush look like a feminist to pander to right-wing religious extremists, and who had been hammering Obama relentlessly for months for his lack of foreign policy experience and then picked a person whose only foreign policy experience consisted in knowing where Russia was on the map and applying for a passport; and that it needed to brand Palin herself as an extremist who reserves for herself and her family the right to make painful, difficult, highly personal decisions but believes the government should make those decisions for every other family struggling with the question of whether to carry a troubled or unwanted pregnancy to term. She would even force teenage rape victims to bear their rapists' babies--something 85 percent of Americans find morally abhorrent, including the majority of evangelical Christians, and something every American should hear about her over and over. There is, in fact, a country where people with the hubris to believe that they know what's in the mind of God use the instruments of state to enforce their interpretations of scripture on other people's lives, and perhaps when Palin and her husband succeed in convincing their fellow Alaskans to secede from the United States, they can suggest joining that country: Iran. I'm sure the Iranians would be happy to annex Alaska for the oil.
But the Obama campaign chose, once again, to run its plays from the Kerry playbook, in this case waiting for Palin to define herself in whatever way she wanted in front of an enormous television audience, just as they had allowed McCain to run unopposed in his self-definition as a "straight talker" and a "maverick." And the results were just as predicted: Palin emerged a folk hero, and McCain's decision, instead of being branded as reckless, reinforced his reputation as a maverick.
The Obama campaign has 60 days to turn momentum around one more time. They couldn't have more favorable circumstances, with unemployment now breaking 6 percent, the economy in disarray, an unpopular president, an unpopular war, and our military strength and our moral standing in the world at their lowest ebb in over a century. Perhaps they'll get lucky. Perhaps some crucial emails will emerge showing Palin's illegitimate interference in Alaska's "Troopergate," forcing her to drop out of the race and leaving the McCain campaign in tatters. Perhaps Santa Claus, with whom Palin has foreign policy experience because of Alaska's proximity to the North Pole, will bring a sack of coherent messages to Chicago. Or perhaps the campaign's newfound willingness to mix it up with McCain in the days leading up to the Democratic Convention and its apparent return from hibernation in the last two or three days suggests that they have decided that it isn't enough to have a brilliant ground game and a brilliant Internet team but that you also have to have a coherent message and some spine.
So as someone who has been informally advising the campaign for nearly a year, but who has grown as frustrated and concerned as the dozens of fellow Democrats who have written me in increasing tones of desperation over the last week, let me suggest 10 more ways the Obama campaign can avoid yet another B-movie with an unhappy ending.
1. Don't practice political creationism.
The Obama campaign was well aware of the argument a year and a half ago that the most destructive thing they could do was to leave the emerging Muslim smear on the Internet unchallenged. They were aware of the relevant scientific data on how the same kind of smear that worked against Harold Ford, Jr. in Tennessee. They chose to ignore the science and to rely instead on Democratic conventional wisdom, that bringing a smear into the light of day and attacking it there before it captures the popular imagination only draws attention to it, and that it's better not to "dignify" it. We've heard that story before, and it doesn't end happily ever after.
They were similarly aware of the argument--it was published right here a little over a week ago--that allowing Palin to define herself would make it difficult to change public opinion if she delivered a strong, emotionally compelling acceptance speech, because once people have formed a positive impression, they will fend off data inconsistent with it. Precisely how and why this happens in the brain is not a secret. Once again they chose to ignore the relevant science.
This is how Republicans govern. They ignore science and rely on faith and intuition. Unfortunately, it's how Democrats campaign. No one should be involved in messaging or strategy in a Democratic campaign who isn't intimately familiar with the 60 years of research in social psychology on persuasion--on what works and what doesn't. This isn't optional reading. No one aware of that research would have made the strategic error the Obama campaign just made on the Palin nomination.
2. Stop playing checkers when the other side is playing chess.
Republican strategists play chess. They think six moves ahead. Democrats play checkers. They think one move ahead.
Why has the Obama campaign been so terrified of saying anything about Palin? As best I can tell (I have no inside information on this, but they seem to be slowly rolling out female surrogates to fire the first shots over Palin's bow), it's because they are afraid of offending women or being branded as sexist (something the Republicans accused them of anyway, even when they hadn't said a word). That kind of concrete thinking is just like the concrete, one-dimensional thinking Republicans demonstrate when they govern. If a basic book on social psychology should be mandatory reading for Democratic campaigns, The Daily Show should be mandatory viewing. Take a look at Samantha Bee's "commentary" on Palin (it's on the Show's website), where she describes how "as a Vagina-American" she had to support Palin even though they differ on every value that matters to her. Every time Jon Stewart tried to appeal to her rationally (the Democratic way)--that Palin is against women's rights to make the most personal decisions about their own lives, that she opposes equal pay for equal work--Bee just shook her head and answered with responses like, "Boobies," or "Love pouch."
The piece was hilarious, but it was also right to the point. African-Americans didn't flock to Alan Keyes. And neither women nor men would have so readily bought what Sarah Palin was selling if the Democrats had spent the days before her speech describing McCain's recklessness, poor judgment, and lack of principle in selecting her, and if they had simply told a good story about her that she would have had to spend her speech defensively responding to rather than turning herself into a folk hero. Those shots of her newborn baby and her pregnant daughter with her newfound fiancée whose Facebook entry says he doesn't want children wouldn't have been so powerful if the viewers watching them knew beforehand that if Palin and McCain are elected, Americans families won't be allowed to make their own decisions if faced with similar choices, that their children will never hear the word "condom" in sex education classes even though over 85% of the electorate--including evangelical Christians--wants their children educated about birth control, and that we will consequently see an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies until McCain makes his first Supreme Court appointment, after which Roe will be overturned--something the vast majority of Americans oppose. Undoing a narrative is far more difficult than inoculating against it.3. Don't confuse positive and negative messages with ethical and unethical ones.
John Kerry never talked about Abu Ghraib, even as the horrific images were coming out in the middle of the general election. His advisors were worried that if he did, the Republicans would respond that he didn't "support the troops." That's playing checkers. In his convention address, Barack Obama never mentioned Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition (using examples of real people whose only crime was to be mistaken for someone else, who went through exactly what John McCain went through at the Hanoi Hilton), water-boarding, the conversion of the Justice Department to the police arm of the Republican Party, George Bush's knowledge of the impending 9/11 attacks, or the fact that any of our children can be picked up while traveling abroad and taken away and tortured without a trace by any nation that deems them a security risk (an "enemy combatant") because those are the rules of the road the United States has established under Republican leadership.
There is no relation between whether a message is ethical or unethical and whether it is positive or negative. Sarah Palin told some wonderfully positive stories as tens of millions of Americans watched her and enjoyed her "spunk" and sense of humor. She told that great story about how she sold the governor's private jet on e-bay. It happened not to be true. Voters vote with their emotions, and if you misinform their emotions by refusing to speak negative truths about your opponent, you are misleading the electorate and endangering your candidacy.
Positive and negative emotions are largely independent in the brain, with different causes, functions, and circuitry. Try answering the following questions. First, do you love your spouse or partner? Second, in the last month, who has made you angrier than anyone else in the world? For most of us, the answer to both questions is the same. What does that say about positive and negative emotions?
In politics, if you leave voters' negative feelings about either you or your opponent to chance by refusing to define your opponent or hit back hard and swiftly when he tries to define you (the conventional Democratic wisdom--"voters don't like negativity"), you are ceding half the brain to the other side. You don't win elections with half a brain.4. Attack the character of the attacker if his attack is suggests bad character.
If your opponent's attacks on you reflect a character problem, attack his character. Make the attack about him, not you. John McCain's "positive" ads about himself and his theme at the Republican Convention ("Country First") show bad character. His first "positive" ad of the general election (called "The American President") ended with the words, "John McCain: The American President Americans have been waiting for." The implication our brains immediately process is that Barack Obama would be some other kind of President: Un-American? Anti-American? African-American? McCain's "Country First" suggests that Obama would put something or someone ahead of his country: Muslims? Blacks? Black Muslims (the conservative media finally made that link explicit this week in Human Events)? Himself? Funny how these themes just happen to fit with the themes of conservative talk radio, Fox News, and the Internet smears. McCain and his party have done everything possible to brand Obama as un-American and unpatriotic, and these ads and campaign themes are not accidental. They are part of an organized campaign to define Obama as "not one of us." They are hateful, and the best way to deal with hate is to call it by its proper name.5. Make it about "us" if they make it about "them."
McCain's entire convention--up until his speech, which wisely took the high road after he'd allowed all his minions to soften the American people up along the low road--was all about dividing the country into us and them: us who are "really" American, us with traditional values, us with evangelical Christian faith, us with small town values, us who are pro-life (with the implication that the rest of America is pro-death), us with family values (with the implication that the rest of us hate our families), us with our white skin (oops--that one just showed up in the wide-angle shots--thank heaven for Bobby Jindal). Dividing American against American is unpatriotic, and Obama needs to call McCain and the Republicans on it.
Barack Obama began his campaign with a powerful theme of unity. He needs to contrast it starkly with the message of divide and conquer that the Republicans have used successfully since Nixon's "Southern strategy" of peeling white voters away from the Democratic Party through coded messages. I can't imagine a much more effective ad than one that took the "greatest hits" of the politics of division from the RNC Convention and ended with the simple words, "Dividing American against American for political gain isn't just politics, it's un-American. Patriotism is about standing as one people, under God, indivisible. That's the Pledge of Allegiance we all learn as children. Renew that Pledge on November 4. Put an end to the politics of hate and division." 6. Tell three stories about your opponent.
George W. Bush told three messages against John Kerry: that he was an elitist, that he was a flipflopper, and that he was a fake war hero who couldn't be trusted with American's security. All three stuck. It's difficult to make many more than three messages stick or they become noise, but it's a bad idea to rely on only one. The Obama campaign should have started branding McCain the day he became the presumptive nominee in March. Unfortunately, they waited until mid August. The Republicans did not return the favor: they began branding Obama as soon as it became clear that he was the likely nominee and have told multiple effective stories about him: That he is elitist and outside the mainstream, that he is unpatriotic, that he's a tax and spend liberal, that he lacks the experience to be commander-in-chief, and that he is an uppity, empty celebrity who doesn't know his place.
The Obama campaign is now telling a strong story about McCain, that he is four more years of Bush. They need to tell the same story about Palin. Aside from her right-wing policies, her refusal to answer a state congressional ethics inquiry and her operatives' apparent decision to do the same is yet another way that she's just like Bush.
There is another story the Obama campaign should tell that goes straight to the heart of McCain's central narrative, one that they just began telling today in a handful of states but need to tell everywhere: that he's not a straight talking maverick at all. You can't be both a maverick and a Bush Republican who bragged that he voted with the President over 90 percent of the time and picked a far-right running mate to the delight of his socially extreme base. McCain made a deal with the devil to win the Republican nomination, having gone so far as to describe Bush as one of our greatest presidents. He can't have it both ways. He can either appeal to his base or appeal to swing voters, but whichever way he swings, the Obama campaign needs to make it a lose-lose situation. They can't depend on the media to do it for them. That's what a campaign is for.
The third narrative that is essential to tell about McCain, particularly in light of the current economic situation, is the same one Bill Clinton told about George H.W. Bush in 1992: that he is out of touch with the concerns of everyday Americans. With his seven houses, his heiress wife who thinks everyone in Arizona has a private jet, his chief economic advisor describing people who lose their jobs as whiners, and his own initial knee-jerk response to the mortgage crisis that he wasn't going to bail out the first-time homeowners who failed to show "personal responsibility" (not the unscrupulous lenders who have cost most of us 20 percent of the equity in our homes, and are now requiring middle class taxpayers to pick up the tab), Obama has all the ammunition he needs.7. Flesh out the message of change with two or three signature issues.
Obama made a great start at putting the meat on the bones of "change" in Denver. I've been a strong advocate of running values-based, emotionally evocative campaigns that bracket "issues" within emotionally powerful messages rather than hiding our values in the fine print of policy prescriptions. The data are clear that candidates who think campaigns are a "debate on the issues" lose (the Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry approach). Obama tried the issues-based approach for months and then reversed course and starting making use again of his extraordinary capacity to inspire at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Iowa, which set him on the path to nomination. He and his team made just the right move in fleshing out the substance of his agenda in Denver without boring voters silly with 12-point plans.
What he has not done, however, which every successful candidate has done since Ronald Reagan, is to offer two or three "signature issues" that tell the American public where his heart, loyalties, and values are and illustrate the ways he would lead. Bill Clinton used "ending welfare as we know it" and a strong economic argument (one signature issue co-opting the narrative of the right, the other addressing people's concerns about the first Bush recession) as his signature issues. In his first term, Bush used No Child Left Behind (stealing the traditional advantage of Democrats on education--a true irony for a semi-literate president to champion education reform) and faith-based initiatives (a move that endeared him to many right-wing and even moderate Christians, particularly evangelicals).
As yet, Obama hasn't taken any issue and "owned" it. This should have been part of the master narrative of his campaign from the start. He could readily have woven his own history of fatherlessness with a message co-opting the traditionally conservative (but quintessentially human) theme of family values with a plan to put inner-city men back in homes, colleges, and jobs and keep them out of a life of crime. That signature issue would have also inoculated him against racial stealth attacks.
With the economy, health care, energy, and national security all clear and present dangers, he could take any two or three of those issues and make them "his." Had he done this with energy, Democrats would have maintained the 30-point edge they had six months ago on energy that has now gone to a draw or deficit with McCain's disingenuous appeals to "drill here, drill now."
As someone who worked as a young man to help workers whose plants had shuttered their doors in the south side of Chicago, Obama could easily put together either a trade message with the theme, "I want to see the words 'Made in America' again," or a message about moving into a global economy with both a short-term strategy of helping displaced workers through difficult times and a long-term strategy of leading the world into a green economy and helping workers retool by creating public-private partnerships in which businesses work with local colleges and technical schools to retrain workers for better jobs for the future.
He could offer a signature issue about investing in our children's and our nation's future by making every dollar Americans put away for their kids' college tax deductible (instead of requiring middle class parents to put away post-tax income in a 529 account and offering them a $4000 tax credit that sounds trifling to middle class parents who know what tuition, housing, and meals actually costs) and by making every dollar they spend on childcare tax deductible (instead of the paltry amounts currently allowable as a tax deduction). Those plans would give tens of millions of voters tens of thousands worth of reasons to vote for good public policy.
If he wanted to break with his party, win moderate Republicans and independents, and try something new that might improve all of our schools, he could allow federal but not state or local tax deductions for middle class parents to send their children to the schools of their choice, including parochial schools. Doing so might well improve the quality of public education by increasing the ratio of dollars to students in public schools because it would reduce the number of students in public schools without cutting any state, local, or federal funding for education. It would also increase competition among schools and give parents more freedom of choice.
8. Remember that you have the most moving orator since Bill Clinton, and get competent debate coaches.Obama is a magnificent orator who has underperformed in virtually every debate, with the possible exception of his last debate against Hillary Clinton. His performance against McCain at Rick Warren's church (even discounting for McCain's disappearance from the cone of silence) should have been a wake-up call that his campaign does not have the right people in the room coaching him. This is another standard Democratic error. Instead of recognizing that one consultant may be brilliant at organizing people and getting out the vote (which his chief strategist David Axelrod clearly is), the same advisor may not have the right expertise in coaching debate or television performances. In fact, it would be highly surprising if one person could do everything well in a campaign.
It is dumbfounding that the campaign has not brought in Paul Begala to lead the debate prep for Obama, and that they haven't asked Bill Clinton to play McCain in mock debates, since no one could do it better, and it would bring the former President into the campaign in a way that would both solidify their relationship and make optimal use of the former President's talents. Begala and James Carville are the only practicing Democratic consultants who have ever elected a Democrat to the presidency--twice--and although Obama might not feel as comfortable with Carville, whose bare-knuckles style would probably not be his cup of tea (green or black), he and Begala would be a natural combination. To my knowledge, Begala, Carville, and Clinton remain uninvolved in what will likely be the deciding moments of the 2008 campaign.
9. Fly into the eye of the storm, not away from it.
Underlying many of the problems that have plagued the Obama campaign in the last half of the primaries against Hillary Clinton and throughout the entire general election thus far is the standard Democratic predilection for running away from conflict instead of running toward it. Obama wrote a magnificent book about race in which he used his own story to talk about issues of race and class, and he delivered the greatest speech on race since "I Have a Dream." Yet he has run from race every time it has been mentioned since.
He and his team need to recognize and deal with the fact that when white people see his face, they see a black man. He knows that, because he wrote about it in his book. It is no accident that older Democratic voters had trouble with him in the primaries: Their deepest attitudes, particularly their unconscious one, were shaped in an era in which the only black people they encountered were below them, not above them. It will take conscious effort, insight, and careful research to identify the best ways to address their feelings head-on, and the Obama team has no time to waste. The same applies to middle-aged working class men, who have seen people of color promoted above them, and who harbor deep and real resentments for paying the price for the sins of their fathers (or, more accurately, the sins of the fathers of rich white boys, since punching a time card and working on an assembly line or in a mill is not what most of us would consider "privilege").
Our conscious values on race are our better angels on race. The fact that the Democratic Party has nominated, and the nation just might elect, a black man to be President of the United States, speaks to how profoundly most Americans' conscious values have changed since Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech 45 years ago. Most Americans consciously believe that discrimination based on the color of a person's skin has no place in America. But just beneath those values are latent, unconscious negative associations to black people, particularly young black men, which can be mobilized in stealth racial attacks and can be deadly to a campaign. The best way to address those latent feelings and associations is precisely the way Obama addressed them in his speech in Philadelphia: by bringing them into the open and talking about the elephant in the room. The more comfortable Obama shows he is with race, the more comfortable white voters will be with him. But won't the Republicans say he's playing the race card, you might ask? That's playing checkers. Think six moves ahead.
The same is true of gender. The Obama campaign appears to have decided that two male candidates at the top of the Democratic ticket can't touch a hair on Sarah Palin's head while she emasculates them with regularity because "women" won't like it or Republicans will cry sexism. Let the Republicans cry sexism, and propose legislation that eliminates it. That will shut them up in a heartbeat. Or call attention to their support for anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives that make it more difficult for women (who also happen to be men's wives and daughters) to break glass ceilings. Think chess.10. Apply the same nuance to your own political decision-making as you do to policy.
Finally, the Obama team, and the candidate himself, need to look inward. For years Democrats have run from controversy, run from conflict, and run from aggression. Their consultants and pollsters have told them not to talk about this issue or that issue because it's "radioactive" (meaning that they haven't figured out how to speak clearly about the values that led them to take the stand they have taken). In this election year, for example, the Democrats should be running on abortion, not from it. They finally have opponents who are embracing the most unpopular version of the conservative stance, which makes no exceptions for rape and incest (which is the only logically consistent version of it, because if life begins at conception, that applies to life borne of rape). That position is at 15 percent in the polls. If Democratic consultants think that's radioactive, they need to recalibrate their political Geiger counters.
From a psychological standpoint, few actions are determined by a single motive. We may have one-man-one-vote in this country, but we rarely have one-man-one-motive. Are Obama and McCain motivated by ambition? Of course they are. Are they motivated by the desire to do what they believe is right for their country? Of course they are. One motive doesn't negate the other, although at times one can override the other.
Democrats have offered many lofty reasons for their failure to respond to thugs and bullies from the right with a bludgeon, some of which have merit, such as Obama's obvious desire to change the way politics is done, but all of these reasons are intermingled with fear and avoidance, and all of them project cowardice. Republicans have not just held an edge on national security for years because of the policy positions they assume. They have held an edge because they speak forcefully about their principles, not just on national security but on virtually every issue. Democrats, in contrast, equivocate and perambulate, and when confronted with cynical political ploys masquerading as legislation (such as the Iraq War resolution, or the FISA act), they tend to knuckle under for fear of being accused of being weak on whatever bogeyman the Republicans are deploying. Once again, that's playing checkers. The irony is that when Democrats knuckle under, they only reinforce the stereotype that they are weak and spineless.
You can take almost any position you want on vital issues of the day as long as it isn't the fetal position. Voters will forgive mistakes, but they won't forgive cowardice.
An instructive case was Obama's response to media stories on Palin's pregnant teenage daughter. When Obama spoke out in no uncertain terms against anyone using Palin's daughter's pregnancy as a political issue against her, he showed genuine anger and resolve in his voice, and he showed the public a side of him they too rarely see. Regardless of the merits of his position (Palin in fact conspicuously flew her sudden son-in-law-to-be to the Republican Convention to sit next to his bride-to-be to demonstrate their "family values" and turn a liability into yet another sign of her ideological purity to score political points), he projected strength and conviction, something Americans want and expect from their leaders.
There are two words Obama needs to keep in his mind over the next 60 days as he answers any question: strength and principle. If he emanates both, and keeps his answers strong, tight, and principled, he will likely be our next President.
Drew Westen, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, founder of Westen Strategies, and author of "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation," recently released in paperback with a new postscript on the 2008 election.