Setting the Record Straight

November 5, 2008

A New America


Welcome President-Elect Barack Obama


sr-concessionmccainjpeg     And welcome back, John McCain. The true McCain, the one we thought we knew in the past, emerged literally at the end of a long campaign: his concession speech.

     His speech was the perfect cap on a presidential campaign that demon- strated the United States finally has grown up. Whether racism in America was pretty much erased by the election or Obama won by a large enough margin to make it irrelevant, we have a new

     Not only did Obama win the presidency, he either benefited from the country having changed for the better or his candidacy brought about much of that new America. Virginia, the last state to hold out against court-ordered integration in the early 1960s, demonstrates the old America is now dead, or at least on is last legs.

     The Obama victory was large and broad enough to have given him an almost universal mandate to govern, and not for just a well-defined few stereotyped by society.

     Obama had been called a liberal by the opposition, yet there never had been any evidence that he was one. From the beginning, Obama appeared to be a centrist Democrat in the mold of Bill Clinton.

     Obama’s candidacy brought the people who would be natural Democrats, but who too often voted against their own self-interest, back into the party or into it for the first time. They include blue-collar workers who tend to be in the lower-half of the middle class as well as among the low-income, but most importantly the Hispanics who seemed finally to have realized which party is more likely to represent their interests.

     Obama’s victory, or conversely McCain’s loss, also is likely to change the Republican party itself. The party has too many ideological segments and needs to decide what its ideology is.

     McCain was handicapped by having to appeal to and represent too many conflicting segments of his party. The Obama victory suggests the party has to jettison some of those segments, even if it has to divide into two parties and start a rebuilding effort to appeal to the majority of Americans who have not been represented of late.

     And finally, let us hope the venal campaigning that marked much of the McCain/Palin campaign and of that Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., should have the same effect it appears to have this time: massive rejection.



September 17, 2008

It’s Regulation, Stupid!

Regulation and the Economic Mess

     Take this as a given, because it is as much a truism as it ever was—Democrats risk erring on the side of the average citizen, Republicans risk erring on the side of business. Now look at today’s economic mess.

     One of the most glaring differences between Republicans and Democrats is their view of regulations. This difference not only is glaring, it is historic. There is barely any difference between Republicans and Liberterians on the issue—they would prefer none.

     Take a look at each presidential candidate’s statements having to do with economy, energy, health care, what have you, and most of their differences boil down to how much, if ever, should the government regulate. See what John McCain says, see what Barack Obama. Now look at today’s economic mess.

     Look at every administration in the White House, particularly if the president’s party also controls Congress, and you will see that pattern repeated, again and again. Take a look at the past 56 years, 36 with Republicans in the White House.

     Republican administrations always, without fail, reduce the emphasis on enforcing regulations and laws, sometimes to the point of simply ignoring those already in place and fighting against imposing new ones. Now look at today’s economic mess.

     When Republicans controlled Congress during those 36 years, that meant a weak tendency to oversee the departments and agencies of the federal government, to hold their feet to the fire in following regulations and even the law. Even in years when Democrats held the reins in Congress during a GOP administration, oversight carried out rarely could be enforced.

     Every government agency has a pair of subcommittees and committees with oversight authority over them and the power of the purse resides in the whole of Congress.

     In those 20 years when a Democrat sat in the Oval Office, little more than half were years in which Democrats also controlled Congress. With or without congressional backing, Democrats end up spending much of their time and effort trying to right the ship Republicans before them tilted to the right. And that is why you rarely see Democratic administrations accomplishing as much as they did before 1968.

     If you do not believe that is the reality, watch the next administration closely if Congress and the White House are under control of Democrats. Look at this fall’s election with that in mind, and remember, you also get to vote for a member of the House and a third of the states will get to vote for a member of the Senate.


September 13, 2008

Sarah Ain’t Seen Nuttin’ Yet

How the Media Could Get Tough

     News being not what it is misconstrued to be, but rather what it is—that which is new or unusual—the American Idol wannabe Republicans are running for vice president will soon face the usual close examination and exposure by the legitimate news media.

     It is no surprise that Barack Obama came to be such a big story and it is no more of a surprise his star faded a bit and Sarah Palin became the big story. All stories have a short shelf life in the legitimate news business. Have you noticed you don’t hear much about Joe Biden? He’s still campaigning and speaking, but the news has been elsewhere.

     No doubt, before Nov. 4, something or somebody else will grab the headlines. One of the first ones, we suspect is the small crowds John McCain gets versus those of Palin if they ever part company on the campaign trail.

     Whoever is in the spotlight long enough should expect some good, hard questioning by the legitimate news media (we define that as the traditional media that includes daily newspapers, news magazines and national television networks and not the other crap flying by). Here is a primer on how hard the legitimate media can be but usually is not.

     Some conservatives who idolize Sarah Palin already are crying foul about the way she is questioned by the media.
     If the legitimate parts of the news media behaved as the John McCain campaign has, she would be devastated and made to look the biggest fool ever to step onto a political platform.
     Based on the first transcripts from the ABC interview with her, we suggest ways the she could have been made to look silly.
     The interviewer noted McCain’s reference to her foreign and national security credentials as stemming from heading a state close to Russia and commanding the state’s National Guard.
Palin avoided the question and a follow-up. Instead of insisting on a response, the interviewer moved on to another question.
     Later, the interviewer returned to the proximity to Russia as credentials for an Alaskan governor to be discussing Russia’s invasion of Georgia.
Palin: “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”
     The interviewer did his job and said, “What insight does that give you into what they’re doing in Georgia?” Then he let her dodge it and get off the hook. He could have pressed on, making her look the fool the assertion represents.
     Remember when junk telephone calls were the norm? The callers read from a prepared script and most were easily flummoxed if you interrupted them to ask a question or say something irrelevant to the subject. Palin’s answers to predictable questions had the appearance of being scripted.
     Palin: “What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against.”
     The interviewer, even letting the bad syntax slide, could have asked: “Why do you smaller democratic countries, why not smaller countries in general. Are you saying it is okay for a larger power, such as the United States, to invade any smaller country it wants to as long as the smaller country isn’t democratic?”
     Other than by providing a transcript, tough exchanges in print are hard to use to illustrate a lack of knowledge.
     A newspaper tired of a sleazy councilman’s constant accusations he was misquoted. The newspaper decided to get even and ordered reporters to quote him verbatim and not fix his grammar and syntax. He ended up looking like a fool, as most people would if you put their words on paper exactly as spoken.

     In the Palin example, she has the careless all but the most genteel among us are prone to do, dropping the “g” on our gerunds. The more you do it, the less sophisticated you sound. In print, it makes you look like one of the American Hillbillies.
     Print reporters and editors usually edit quotes to make them more understandable, and that usually means repairing grammar and syntax. Unfortunately, speakers believe they spoke more eloquently than they actually did, so they rarely appreciate the fixes.


September 12, 2008

Politics Now P-A-R

Honorable Politics, R.I.P.

        Back before the ides of March, when it appeared John McCain would be the Republican nominee for president, we noted that if Barack Obama were the nominee that because of his race, he would face a particularly uphill fight this fall. We added, that much depended on whether the Republican nominee “comes up with another Kevin Phillips, Lee Atwater or Karl Rove.”
          It appears to have happened. Kevin Phillips, who began bringing Madison Avenue tactics to presidential campaigns with an angry Richard Nixon run in 1968 and the “Southern strategy,” has changed his stripes. A somewhat repentant Atwater, who honed the craft with shiftiness, distortions, exaggerations, dirty tricks and character assassination, has died and we are left either with Rove or somebody or somebodies who learned the craft as enhanced by him into one that vicious, mean and not ashamed of outright lying or duplicity.

          The Rovian way appears to take the Nazi theory of “repeat a lie often enough and the people will believe it” to a new level, realizing an increasingly ignorant American electorate would never catch up to lies quickly enough for them to have a negative impact before the election.

          The theory appears to be a correct one, having been tested by Rove not only in the previous two elections, but throughout the two junior-Bush terms inside the White House. The more the electorate relies on being spoon-fed the news instead of seeking out information and reading it in print, a method that aids comprehensive, the more effective the Rovian strategy becomes.

          He probably did not anticipate the birth of tabloid-cable, the perceived need by a dying newspaper industry to compete by dumbing down the news and making it more exciting, the fast spread of e-mails and the increased ability to plant false ideas into the media the electorate does rely on.

         The biggest shame of the today’s GOP campaigning strategy, which is old politics with a cruel edge, is that in order to win, Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats are beginning to believe they need to get down into the gutter with the competition.
          Another shame is that McCain, a man we knew to be honorable and ethical, if not a person very tolerant of those who disagree with him, appears to have bowed to expediency and decided to take the dirt road to get elected. The selection of Sarah Palin, which could not have been the choice of the McCain we knew, appears to have been a stroke of genius straight out of the Phillips/Atwater/Rove playbook.
          One can excuse some excesses on the part of a presidential candidate. These people have to have tremendous egos to believe they can do the job better than anyone else in a nation of more than 300 million people. And if they believe that, then logic might tell them that if the country is better off with them at the helm, then however they get there is justifiable.
          As an honorable presidential candidate said in 1964, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Today’s mantra would appear to be “extremism in the interest of getting elected is no vice.” But would an honorable person stoop so low?


June 19, 2008

Obama and Old, Old Politics

Not the Change His Voters Wanted

          Barack Obama’s decision to eschew public financing for the general election is disappointing at best, hypocritical at worst. We are fairly certain this is not the type of “change” his support- ers thought they were voting for during the primaries.
          The type of change they thought they were voting for was the type that followed the corrupt years of the Nixon administration and its Water-gate scandal that led in part to several campaign-funding reforms enacted into law beginning in 1974.
          We hope Obama’s decision is not some sort of old-politics manipulation to box John McCain into a corner, knowing his name is on the McCain-Feingold bill enacted into law six years ago to make several campaign reforms, i.e., plug loopholes found in those 1970s laws.
          McCain, of course, cannot risk the obvious hypocrisy of violating even the spirit of the campaign reforms since his name is on a key element of them, thus his immediate declaration he would accept public financing, Obama’s decision notwithstanding.
          Even in legitimate news media, there is likely to be a big brouhaha about Obama’s decision (let’s hope it is too complicated to deal with in the usual stupid and silly manner of tabloid cable—not). So here is why this it important, and hypocritical of Obama.
          In 1974, the same year Richard Nixon became the only president to give up the office and leave, or else be kicked out as he assuredly would have been, Congress enacted new election reforms to fix some of the glaring campaign funding abuses uncovered as part of the Watergate investigations.
          One law created the current Federal Election Commission and established a system for public funding for political parties during the general election, a sincere effort to end the rampant skullduggery inevitably attached to gathering campaign contributions. But the candidates could have that public funding only if they agreed to limit the amount they spend on the election and on the contributions they receive as matching funds.
          The restrictions were challenged and the Supreme Court ruled in 1976 against other spending restrictions in the law, but upheld the constitutionality of the ones applied to candidates acceptance of public funding. If they refuse to accept public funding, the court said, their spending cannot be restricted. A few months later, Congress adjusted the law to comply, and that is what that little $1 box on the annual 1040 income tax form is all about.
          Until Obama, all candidates in the general election, even Ronald Reagan, even George W. Bush, have accepted public financing, even if they had eschewed it during the primaries.
          By refusing to accept public financing and thus have no restrictions on the amount of campaign money he can spend, Obama not only is reverting to the old politics he complained about during the primaries, he is practicing the old, old politics of the infamous Nixon years, politics almost as old as Obama is.
          He added to the hypocrisy by making his decision to eschew federal matching funds less than a year after he vowed to work with his Republican counterpart to “preserve a publicly financed general election.” Discussions were held among lawyers for both camps recently to try to work out such an agreement, but they fell through.



May 16, 2008

Can Obama Overcome Racism?

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Early on in this long, hard slog of the presidential primaries, it was obvious this one was going to be unique. With nearly a year of campaigning, the Democratic Party’s selection came down to the decision of superdelegates. The jump of superdelegates to Obama’s side, as we said in another post, “Case for a Brokered Convention,” this may not have been a good idea.

          There was widespread fear in the party that dragging out the campaign between Obama and Hillary Clinton would tear the party apart, but nothing could be farther from the truth. John McCain struggled for the past several weeks to get any attention while all the news centered around the Obama-Clinton primary battles. News is just what it says–something that is new or unusual. McCain’s candidacy is neither, while the Democratic drama and the situation that fathered it remain news. Obviously, the latter got the ink.
          Getting this constant attention is good for the Democrats. It is almost like the old saying, allegedly by a bimbo actress: “I don’t care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right.” Any publicity is good publicity, and in this situation, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been thoroughly vetted and already have taken far more heat than McCain can dish out, regardless of whether the Republican Party comes up with another Kevin Phillips, Lee Atwater or Karl Rove.
          Yes, Clinton supporters were upset and angry because their candidate did not win. But these two candidates respect each other, agree with each other 99 percent of the time and even like each other. For a long time, there was little doubt either would campaign vigorously for the other in the fall.
          As for Obama’s chances of winning in the fall? Take a look at the Boston Globe’s map of the primaries at the top of this post. That blue line of six states stretching from Louisiana through North Carolina and into the southern half of Virginia,  comprises a big chunk of Obama’s much-touted number of states won. He won those six states because only Democrats were casting the votes in a Democratic primary.

           It is sad to say this in 2008, but racism still exists in this country and racism still prevails in those six states, as it has since before and after the old-line Democrats switched parties in the aftermath of the civil rights victories of the 1960s. Obama’s chances of winning any of those states in a general election where a Republican majority will be casting votes are very slim. That is particularly true if McCain gets a boost from a new Phillips, Atwater or Rove. Perhaps 2012 or 2016 will be better years for Obama to run.
          Who wants to wager the superdelegates will not be considering the impact of an Obama fall campaign on that huge group of Electoral College votes?

          The Democratic Party’s cadre of superdelegates may be the best instrument it has if it wants to win the presidential election this fall. Those delegates would be well-advised to hang on to their convention vote instead of jumping on an Obama bandwagon now or paying off old debts to the Clintons.
          The superdelegates should take control of the party and overrule a highly
flawed primary system if it they consider either candidate unelectable, for whatever reasons.
           The United States has come a long way in giving women and blacks something approaching equality with the ruling white males, but anyone with a realistic bone in his or her body has to acknowledge sexism and racism are still present in our society.
and thus Hillary Clinton as president, may be able to overcome the prejudice against a woman in the White House by their sheer numbers–a slight majority of the U.S. population, a large majority of the voters.
can blacks and a man of their race win a national election today? 
          Remember that map of the United States with states colored blue if they voted Democratic and red if they voted Republican? In 1964, the southern
states would have been painted a solid blue (except Arizona, home state of the GOP candidate). Now the same states are quadrennially painted a solid
red. What happened? Racism.
          That’s right. More than 40 years after the Civil Rights Act that singlehandedly changed the South from a swatch of blue to one of red, racism still
abounds in the country. Racists and people with biases in that direction tend to vote Republican. And southern states vote Republican these days. All of the southern states voted for George W. Bush in the extremely tight 2000 election and have done so since the Democratic party and President Lyndon
Johnson, an ironic Democratic son of the South, engineered the rights act.
          Yes, Obama won in those six southern states. But those were Democrats voting, in Democratic primaries.
Twelve states considered southern or that usually vote with southern states next door, plus Utah, have 171 Electoral College votes. That number is just two-thirds of the 270 total needed to elected a president. In a close race in the fall, automatically losing a third of the majority of electoral votes could be disastrous for the Democrats.
          Yes, many Republican women strangely retain a hatred for Clinton, but since there are far more women voters than men voters in the United
States, that hatred is not likely to be able to swing a sexist bias to an entire state.
          Superdelegates who signed on or consider signing on to an Obama bandwagon before the convention should have second thoughts. Give Obama eight
more years of experience, which he sorely needs, either as a senator or vice president, and the possibility of a black president may be easier for those
American racists still with us in 2016 to swallow. Let us try to break down one barrier at a time.
          (Utah is important in the calculation because while several southern states split away from red to vote for Jimmy Carter of Georgia and/or for Bill Clinton
of Arkansas, Utah has been consistently red. The state is overwhelmingly Mormon, a religion that discriminated officially against blacks until 1978. Many members subscribe to the founders’ strange idea that brother-killer Cain was black, even though, according to the same Bible that discusses the slaying, only two other people existed
on Earth when Cain was born–Adam and Eve.
has become the Camelot candidate for the Democrats, ginning up an excitement that harkens back to the presidency of Jack Kennedy. That may be a good feeling and something to hope for, but Democrats may be better off deferring that hope for a few more years.

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