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 Politico.com) "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 mybarackobama.com, 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 Snopes.com or Truthorfiction.com, 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 ArticleCity.com

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 warming...no 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.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Letter From a Blogger

I received this very important email from a blogger on http://www.barackobama.com/ and I want to share it and my response with you.

From: Traugott, Kenneth Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2008 12:12 PMTo: Diversity4ObamaSubject: [DiversityforObama] FW: TAKE ACTION!

I appreciate all the info that everyone is distributing in response to the RNC and about the campaign in general. I just wanted to make one point. It has been touched on before, but is worth repeating:
The bottom line is that every one of us needs to make a pledge right now to do at least one of the following things every day from now until the election:
Donate to the campaign
Make a phone call on behalf of the campaign
Canvass / knock on a neighbor’s door to talk about Barack
Write a letter to the media
Display your Obama banners, buttons, apparel, bumper stickers, etc.
Organize a meeting or rally - it doesn’t need to be huge, just get people together and get them talking
Of course, communicating through the listservs is essential so that we are exchanging necessary information and helping to educate each other, but that can’t be your only action. We need to make sure that we’re getting outside of the Obama bubble and reaching out to the undecided voters. They are the ones we need to educate and turn on to Obama’s message because they are the ones who will decide this election!

Who’s with me?!


I agree, Ken. For a while now, I’ve been worried that we are “preaching to the choir” too much. Did you know that the people Carl Rove put in charge of the internet site and blogs for McCain, have a strategy for exactly that? They expected the Obama bloggers to stay busy blogging within their own groups. They put Trolls into our groups to start blogs that would have no effect on voters, cause chaos and waste our valuable time as we react and email them back. Check out http://www.johnmccain.com/ActionCenter/BlogInteract/BlogInteract.aspx and you will see that this one site lists Daily Kos (a liberal site) to troll on, and there are many more. It is time to pull ourselves off of the internet after an hour or two of gathering information we can use, and get busy campaigning to people face to face, by phone, or by letter, contact our local campaign offices to see what we can do, sign up people to vote, etc.! I know this is harder work, but we must do it to win. Time is short!!!
I pledge to do one of your list each and every day. In fact, I’m going to post the list on my fridge as a reminder!

Readers, Make a list like the one above and hang it on your Bulletin Boards or refrigerators and make a pledge to do some of the activities every day until the election! Or, email me and I will send you the list to print. donnamike@wi.rr.com

Increases in the National Debt Dems vs. Repubs

See this & other info at:http://www.lafn.org/politics/gvdc/Natl_Debt_Chart.html

Thursday, September 4, 2008

FIVETHIRTYEIGHT Great Daily Poll Results Site!

The following Poll Graphics can be found at a great poll site I've just found. Check it out at http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/


When Chuck Todd thought he'd gone to commercial, his guests, Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy let loose on the Palin choice on an open mike!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New York Times on Palin Pick

Published: September 2, 2008
More often than not, the role of a vice president is a minor one, unless some tragedy occurs. But a presidential nominee’s choice of a running mate is vitally important. It is his first executive decision and offers an important insight into how that nominee would lead the nation.

If John McCain wants voters to conclude, as he argues, that he has more independence and experience and better judgment than Barack Obama, he made a bad start by choosing Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
Mr. McCain’s supporters are valiantly trying to argue that the selection was a bold stroke that shows their candidate is a risk-taking maverick who — we can believe — will change Washington. (Mr. Obama’s call for change — now “the change we need” — has become all the rage in St. Paul.)
To us, it says the opposite. Mr. McCain’s snap choice of Ms. Palin reflects his impulsive streak: a wild play that he made after conservative activists warned him that he would face an all-out revolt in the party if he chose who he really wanted — Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
Why Mr. McCain would want to pander to right-wing activists — who helped George W. Bush kill off his candidacy in the 2000 primaries in a particularly ugly way — is baffling. Frankly, they have no place to go. Mr. McCain would have a lot more success demonstrating his independence, and his courage, if he stood up to them the way he did in 2000.
As far as we can tell, Mr. McCain and his aides did almost no due diligence before choosing Ms. Palin, raising serious questions about his management skills. The fact that Ms. Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant is irrelevant to her candidacy. There are, however, very serious questions about her political past and her ideology.
If Mr. McCain wanted to break with his party’s past and choose the Republicans’ first female vice presidential candidate, there are a number of politicians out there with far greater experience and stature than Ms. Palin, who has been in Alaska’s Statehouse for less than two years.
Before she was elected governor, she was mayor of a tiny Anchorage suburb, where her greatest accomplishment was raising the sales tax to build a hockey rink. According to Time magazine, she also sought to have books banned from the local library and threatened to fire the librarian.
For Mr. McCain to go on claiming that Mr. Obama has too little experience to be president after almost three years in the United States Senate is laughable now that he has announced that someone with no national or foreign policy experience is qualified to replace him, if necessary.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who has been one of Mr. McCain’s most loyal friends, said Tuesday that he was certain that Ms. Palin would take the right positions on issues like Iraq, Russia’s invasion of Georgia and Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. That seemed based largely on his repeated assertion that Ms. Palin would be tended by Mr. McCain’s foreign policy advisers. That was not much of an endorsement.
Some of the things Ms. Palin has had to say in the recent past about foreign policy are especially worrisome. In a speech last June to her former church in Wasilla, Ms. Palin said the war in Iraq was “a task that is from God.” Mr. Bush made similar claims as he rejected all sound mortal advice on how to conduct the war.
Mr. McCain, Mr. Graham and others also claim that Ms. Palin is a fearless reformer who is committed to fighting waste, fraud and earmarks. Ms. Palin did show courage taking on some of the Alaska Republican Party’s most sleazy politicians. But she also was an eager recipient of earmarked money as a mayor and governor.
Mayor Palin gathered up $27 million in subsidies from Washington, $15 million of it for a railroad from her town to the ski resort hometown of Senator Ted Stevens, now under indictment for failing to report gifts.
The Republicans are presenting Ms. Palin as a crusader against Mr. Stevens’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” The record says otherwise; she initially supported Mr. Stevens’s boondoggle, diverting the money to other projects when the bridge became a political disaster. In her speech to the Wasilla Assembly of God in June, Ms. Palin said it was “God’s will” that the federal government contribute to a $30 billion gas pipeline she wants built in Alaska.
Mr. McCain will make his acceptance speech on Thursday, and Ms. Palin will speak on Wednesday. Those two appearances will go a long way to forming voters’ views of this Republican ticket.
As Senator Graham noted, Mr. McCain has to reach out beyond the party’s loyal base. “We’re going to have to win this thing,” he said. “This is not our race to lose.”
Mr. McCain’s hurdles are substantial. To start, he has to overcome Mr. Bush’s record of failures. (The president addressed the convention Tuesday night and now, McCain strategists fervently hope, will retire quietly to the Rose Garden.) That record includes the disastrous war in Iraq, a ballooning deficit, the mortgage crisis — and the list goes on.
To address those many problems, this country needs a leader with sound judgment and strong leadership skills. Choosing Ms. Palin raises serious questions about Mr. McCain’s qualifications.

Fellow POW Says McCain Not Fit For President!

'To see McCain resort to playing the POW card when answering legitimate questions, in my mind, cheapens that experience. And by cheapening his own experience in war, he degrades all of our experiences in war. He turns the horrific incidents we've all seen, touched, smelled, and felt into a lame excuse to earn political points. And it dishonors us all.'
-- Brandon Friedman, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan

John McCain has been exploiting his prisoner of war experience every chance he gets. He has used this story to justify everything from not knowing how many homes he has to his healthcare plan to his marital infidelities to his taste in music. The McCain campaign is even using his POW story in paid ads. But now a veteran who was a prisoner with McCain in Vietnam is explaining loud and clear that being a POW does not qualify McCain to lead our country.
Dr. Phillip Butler knew McCain as a fellow POW. Watch and listen!

We are sure this video will draw an onslaught of right-wing attacks, but we bring it to you because it is our job to continue to convey the truth together and give these issues national attention. As Dr. Butler has said, McCain does not have the temperament to have his finger near the red button. Get this video to everyone you know: friends, family members, coworkers, and especially those who don't share your political views. The video is designed to reach them. Get it on your social networking sites like Digg. And get it to every blog, newspaper, and TV station that has ever overplayed McCain's POW story. It is time to fight back with truth!

The mainstream press has already begun to call out McCain for overusing his POW story. And it's cut across all political persuasions.

'Whether he's deflecting criticism over his health-care plan or mocking a tribute to the Woodstock music festival, Senator John McCain has a trump card: the Hanoi Hilton. - Edwin Chen, Bloomberg
'Noun, Verb, POW' - Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic Monthly
'The McCain campaign's constant invocation of the candidate's POW past is weird bordering on irrational...' - Ana Marie Cox, TIME
'I think they are going to it way too many times.' - Howard Fineman, Newsweek
Remember how Joe Biden got the press to refer to Rudy Giuliani as 'A noun, a verb, and 9/11'? Well, let's actually take Andrew Sullivan's lead here and get the media to boil McCain down to a similar phrase: 'A noun, a verb, and POW.' Considering how often the McCain campaign invokes his POW story, isn't that what they're already doing?
Robert Greenwald
and the Brave New team

"We Rise and Fall as One Nation" Speech

I was lucky enough to get tickets to see Barack Obama at the Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee on Labor Day! With over 14,000 others, my husband, friends, and I shouted our, “Yes We Cans” and whooped and clapped for our candidate for President of the United States. We had fun waiting for the program to start, talking to the people sitting around us, marveling at the fabulous Obama T-shirt designs walking around, and thankfully sitting in a shaded section. We were treated to short speeches by the Mayor of Milwaukee, Herb Kohl, Russ Feingold, Congresswoman Gwenn Moore, and others, and then Barack walked out to a standing, shouting, cheering crowd, and gave a short, but inspiring speech about Americans coming together for the hurricane victims in Louisiana and all of each others' personal "quiet storms." It was one of his best. Here is what a reporter said today about the speech:

As a journalist who has covered Obama for 19 months now, I have heard him deliver more speeches than I can count. I know when he's tired he goes long - like 90 minutes long - rambling through oft-repeated points and stories. I've seen him address crowds of 80,000 and rooms of less than 100. And after a while you become immune to his prose and tune in only to new wrinkles.

Obama spent today giving curtailed speeches in respect to Hurricane Gustav. But tonight, in front of a Milwaukee audience of 14,000, invoking both the Bible and Thoreau, he was as good as I've ever

Heard him. He spoke for just over 14 minutes but he left the audience roaring.Here are excerpts of the last five minutes:

That spirit of looking out for one another, that core value that says I am my brothers' keeper, I am my sister's keeper, that spirit is most evident during times of great tragedy, it's most evident during times of great hardship, it's most evident when natural disasters strike because we understand that only God has control and so it takes it out of the realm of politics. We all understand that we have to come together.
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.
There're people out there who've seen their jobs shipped overseas. There're people out there who don't have healthcare, maybe they've been trying to pay it on a credit card but mostly they've just been putting off trying to see a doctor. There're seniors out there that don't know how they're going to pay their home heating bill this winter. There are folks out there that don't know how they're going to fill up the gas tank. There are young people in this audience right now that have graduated from high school, have the grades and want to go to college, but don't have the money. There are young people being born in the inner cities, right here in Milwaukee, that don't see any prospects for the future that think the only path av ailable to them is a casket or a jail cell.
All across America there are quiet storms taking place. There are lives of quiet desperation. People who need just a little bit of help. Now, Americans are a self-reliant people, we're an independent people. We don't like asking somebody else to do what we can do ourselves but you know what we understand is that every once in a while somebody's going to get knocked down. Every once in a while somebody's going to go through some hard times. When we least expect it tragedy may strike. And what has always made this country great is the understanding that we rise and fall as one nation, that values and family, community and neighborhood, they have to express themselves in our government. Those are national values. Those are values that we all subscribe to. And so that the spirit that we extend today and in the days to come as we monitor what happens on the Gulf that's the spirit that we've got to carry with us each and every day. That's the spirit that we need in our own homes and it's the spirit that we need in the White House. And that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.
Because if there's a poor child out there, that's my child. If there's a senior that's having trouble, that's my grandparent. If there's a guy who's lost his job, that's my brother. If there's a woman out there without healthcare, that's my sister. Those are the values that built this country. Those are the values we are fighting for.