Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What if John McCain had been elected president?

Before we throw Barack Obama under the bus for giving a prominent role to a conservative pastor, let’s imagine the reaction if things were reversed.

By Chris Crain

What if John McCain had been elected president? I know the idea is a bit of a throwback, considering the shellacking the Arizona septuagenarian got from the Illinois senator with the funny name. But just imagine for a minute.

Conservatives would be gleeful, Sarah Palin would be on cable news 24-7 (actually, that happened anyway), and President-elect McCain would be planning his inauguration. Then imagine, in a conciliatory gesture toward Obama supporters, McCain selects Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, to give the invocation. In a nod to his own supporters, he chooses the evangelical leader Rick Warren to give the benediction.

We know what the response would be. The Republican right would be furious: What a kick in the teeth from McCain to choose a minister whose elevation was an indictment of their core religious beliefs, and who advocates the destruction of traditional marriage and the murder of millions of aborted fetuses!

Gay rights groups and bloggers, still reeling from Obama’s unexpected defeat, would be cheered by McCain’s unexpected and courageous attempt at reconciliation. Press releases from progressives would defend McCain against charges of betrayal, chastising conservatives for their intolerance and their insistence on dividing, not unifying. Besides, they would point out, the benediction will come from Rick Warren, who opposes gay marriage and supported Proposition 8 in California.

You see where I’m going here? We know that, happily for us, history unfolded in opposite fashion, and Barack Obama chose Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation, and civil rights hero Joseph Lowery, who supports full marriage equality, to say the benediction.

Yet the response from many gay bloggers and rights groups has been every bit as reactionary and intolerant as the Republican right would have been toward Robinson. Aren’t we better than that?

Can’t we see how any meaningful attempt by President-elect Obama to unify the country must include McCain voters, including the 31 million who bought Warren’s best-seller “The Purpose-Driven Life,” and the additional millions who agree with gay marriage opposition?

Can’t we keep our eyes on the prize? This inauguration will install the most pro-gay president, by far, in the history of this country. If reaching out to conservatives buys Obama some additional political capital, that is to our great benefit.

Aren’t we the ones who have argued till we are blue in the face for the separation of church and state? It’s always been a core part of our movement to oppose any attempt by one set of Americans to demand their religious views receive official favor, or that those with contrary views be excluded.

And yet here we are, basically demanding the president-elect remove one minister from his role in a public ceremony because of his religious beliefs and replace him with one whose beliefs we find more acceptable. Are we proving we are no better, when we have access to power, than our conservative opponents?

The misuse of public ceremonies to show official favor for one group over another runs afoul of the First Amendment’s “establishment clause,” which prohibits the establishment of an official religion, or from sending signals that some faith groups or views are preferred over others by government.

That’s why the courts won’t permit sectarian prayers in public schools, and why we no longer have manger scenes at Christmas time in front of city hall. That’s also why Roy Moore, the virulently anti-gay chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was booted from office after he insisted on a Ten Commandments monument in the courthouse rotunda.

To be fair, it is partly Obama and Warren’s fault that church and state are entangled here. The president-elect’s decision to include inaugural prayers at all, while noncontroversial and in keeping with tradition, opened the door to this debate. What’s more, marriage as an institution is a conflation of church and state, “vesting power” in ministers to officiate at a religious ceremony with civil legal effect.

Warren makes matters worse by basing his opposition to gay marriage and support for Proposition 8 on his own religious beliefs about homosexuality. If you think about it, exclusionary marriage laws are also contrary to the First Amendment, since the primary intent -- repeated by politicians and pastors alike – is to preserve “the sanctity of marriage.” The government ought not be choosing which faith group’s views about marriage will be enshrined in the law or excluded from public ceremonies.

Those of us so exorcised by the idea of Warren saying a two-minute prayer would be much better served by arguing for church-state separation, in marriage laws and public ceremonies, than by demanding the president-elect show favor to friendlier religious beliefs.

Chris Crain is former editor of the Washington Blade and five other gay publications and now edits He can be reached via his blog at


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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Presidential Pooch Bites Reporter


Talk about a biting critique of the press.

It seems President Bush's dog Barney wasn't much in the mood for friendly attention during his walk outside the White House on Thursday. So when Reuters reporter Jon Decker reached down to pet the Scottish terrier, the seemingly docile dog snapped at him and bit Decker's right index finger.

Barney won't have to worry about bothersome reporters much longer. The Bush administration ends in 75 days, and the president is headed back to Texas.

Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said of Barney: "I think it was his way of saying he was done with the paparazzi."

Mrs. Bush asked McDonough to call Decker and make sure he was fine. She reports that Decker "is being a good sport about it all."

The intrepid reporter got bandaged up by the White House doctor.
As he says in the YouTube clip: "I got bit by Barney, and unfortunately it broke the skin, and I have to be on antibiotics for the next few days."

Consider it a cautionary tale. The incoming president, Barack Obama, has promised to buy daughters Malia and Sasha a puppy.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

McCain starts mapping out a new role in the Senate

Before resting from the grueling presidential race, John McCain began discussing with senior aides what role he will play in the Senate now that he has promised to work with the man who defeated him for president. One obvious focus will be the war in Iraq. After two years spent more on the campaign than in the Senate, McCain will return as the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

That will put the four-term Arizona senator in a position to influence Democrat Barack Obama's plan to set a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from combat in Iraq.

During the campaign, McCain staunchly opposed setting such a time frame, even as the Iraqi government began working with the Bush administration to do so.

But in conceding the presidency to Obama Tuesday night at a Phoenix hotel, McCain pledged "to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face."

He allowed that defeat was disappointing but said that starting Wednesday "we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again."

Aides said they believed McCain would work well with Obama as president because much of his best work in the Senate had been done with Democrats, including a landmark campaign finance law he crafted with Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold and an unsuccessful effort with Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The day after Election Day quickly returned McCain to something much closer to normal life. After months of travel on his campaign bus or plane, McCain and his wife, Cindy, drove themselves to Starbucks for coffee near their Phoenix condominium.

McCain and his family planned to spend a few days at their vacation compound near Sedona, Ariz., to rest from the long contest.

Friends said that despite his disappointment, McCain also was relieved that the demanding campaign was finally over. Aides said he was relaxed Tuesday night — at peace with his loss and confident that he had done his best in a political climate where a failing economy, an unpopular GOP president and two lingering wars set steep odds against a Republican victory.

"We fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours," McCain told supporters Tuesday night. "I don't know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I'll leave that to others to determine."

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Does El Rusbo's Gut Say?

Let's hear what Rush has to say:

RUSH: Now, Mr. Snerdley mentioned to me at the top of the break, he said, "I don't understand, Rush. You wouldn't believe the phone calls."

They're people who don't want to go on the air, Democrat, liberal voters are calling and gloating, and they're saying, "Boy, Rush, we love listening to you now. We just love it 'cause we know our guy's got it in the bag. It's over with, and I don't care what Rush says. It doesn't bother me. I'm at peace. I'm in a state of calm." You had a couple calls like that, right? And of course they think this because they were watching television, and it's in the bag. We've got a Pew poll out today has it 53-38 Obama. We have a Rasmussen poll out, three points. We got a Gallup poll, two points. We have the IDB/TIPP poll at 2.8 or some such thing. Zogby, their numbers today, are a little under five. They're call it "static"; the race is static. AP most recent AP poll is two points. But you still have ABC/Washington Post up there at 15 and the Newsweek poll they're still pretty large. They're all over the place.

Snerdley says, "Look, I know how to watch TV. You have taught me well, and I'm convinced, Rush. It's over. It's over. I mean, I look at their electoral maps, and I look at the whole thing and every state's blue! I don't see McCain winning but two or three electoral votes, two or three states. That's what they're showing me on TV." (sigh) You know, folks, people ask me all the time. "What do you think is going to happen?" and I don't know. And this is the first time in a lot of elections that my gut's not telling me anything, either. Now, normally I get instincts. Normally my gut says, "Go against the conventional wisdom." That's pretty normal for me. Normally my gut says, I think I know what's going to happen. When I have that gut instinct, then I pass it on.

I'm confused. My gut does not tell me anything here. The most honest thing you can tell you is, "I have no idea what's going to happen," but at the same time my gut does not say big-time Obama landslide. My gut also doesn't say a McCain surprise win. I just have no feeling for this, because it is way too far off the board. And there are other factors, too. We've been through them. I think the reason my gut is not giving me any guidance, as it were, is that I do believe this election is a referendum on Obama, up or down, and I don't know how that's going to play out. You know, I don't know how many people are actually going to vote for McCain because they're voting for McCain or voting for Palin, as to how many are voting against Obama. That's why I think my gut here is silent on this.

But I will tell you, I do have some gut human reactions. And I do have a traditional, highly respected view of the people of this country. Despite the devolution of pop culture and despite the rise of a lack of thinking and applied thought in our culture, having given way to a swarm of people who simply feel -- and I don't know how large either group is. I don't know which one's the majority, thinkers or feelers. I just don't know. But my traditional belief of the country tells me that average, ordinary Americans watch what's happening with the media in the coverage of this campaign and resent the hell out of it. The American people love fair, right? You can say what you want about the media, bias and all that. This is not even fair, and they expect fairness from the media.

Objectivity and all that, yeah, but they expect fairness. If you're going to go after people, go after everybody. I mean you've got two people here asking for the most power we ever give people, and they're only going after one. They're not investigating the other guy. I think most Americans think "fairness," which to me is an elusive concept anyway, but still most Americans have it, and this is not fair. I think most people know it. I think most people also are offended by anybody who gloats and is arrogant and is acting as though they've won, whatever it is, before it's over. I can't tell you the number of times I have watched a baseball or football game with people and one team's got a player or two that go up a touchdown with three minutes left to go, after coming back from being down two or three touchdowns.

The guy that scored the touchdown starts gloating and starts taunting other people, and the people watch that and say, "I hope that team loses." They don't like that kind of behavior being rewarded. They love people getting comeuppances. They love people who think they have it in the bag, finding out they didn't even have the bag, much less were they in it. Obama with his speeches in Berlin and running around the media and everybody acting like this is all over, and this 30-minute inaugural address tonight? I don't think it has anything to do with delaying the World Series. I just think, "Okay, Obama. We see. It's a little overkill here," a little backlash to the media, a little backlash to Obama, the arrogance and smugness of Obama.

Now, I still think that there are enough Americans that are repulsed by this that it can affect the way they vote. But other than that -- and I also really do not believe, and this is where I could be dead wrong; we're going to find out next Tuesday. I do not believe that a majority of voters -- not a majority of people in the country, that's a different equation. But I don't believe yet that a majority of voters are ready to give away their freedom. I don't believe that a majority of voters are ready to turn over the keys of this country to somebody about whom they don't know anything, about somebody who will not tell them anything about himself. I just don't believe there are people in this country -- a majority of voters in this country -- who are going to sign up for making The Government the most important aspect of their lives. We'll find out Tuesday.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Republican Bumper Stickers

Here are some new bumper stickers that are making the rounds. Please print them out and circulate. There is not much time left.



















Christian right intensifies attacks on Obama

By Eric Gorski and Rachel Zoll

Terrorist strikes on four American cities. Russia rolling into Eastern Europe. Israel hit by a nuclear bomb. Gay marriage in every state. The end of the Boy Scouts.

All are plausible scenarios if Democrat Barack Obama is elected president, according to a new addition to the campaign conversation called "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America," produced by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family Action.

The imagined look into the future is part of an escalation in rhetoric from Christian right activists who are trying to paint Obama in the worst possible terms as the campaign heads into the final stretch and polls show the Democrat ahead.

Although hard-edge attacks are common late in campaigns, the tenor of the strikes against Obama illustrate just how worried conservative Christian activists are about what should happen to their causes and influence if Democrats seize control of both Congress and the White House.

Like other political advocacy groups, Christian right groups often raise worries about an election's consequences to mobilize voters. In the early 1980s, for example, direct mail from the Moral Majority warned that Congress would turn a blind eye to "smut peddlers" dangling pornography to children.

"Everyone uses fear in the last part of a campaign, but evangelicals are especially theologically prone to those sorts of arguments," said Clyde Wilcox, a Georgetown University political scientist. "There's a long tradition of predicting doom and gloom."

But the tone this election year is sharper than usual and the volume has turned up as Nov. 4 nears.

Steve Strang, publisher of Charisma magazine, a Pentecostal publication, titled one of his recent weekly e-mails to readers, "Life As We Know It Will End If Obama is Elected."

Strang said gay rights and abortion rights would be strengthened in an Obama administration, taxes would rise and "people who hate Christianity will be emboldened to attack our freedoms."

Separately, a group called the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission has posted a series of videos on its site and on YouTube called "7 Reasons Barack Obama is not a Christian."

The commission accuses Obama of "subtle diabolical deceit" in saying he is Christian, while he believes that people can be saved through other faiths.

But among the strongest pieces this year is Focus on the Family Action's letter which has been posted on the group's Web site and making the e-mail rounds. Signed by "A Christian from 2012," it claims a series of events could logically happen based on the group's interpretation of Obama's record, Democratic Party positions, recent court rulings and other trends.

Among the claims:

A 6-3 liberal majority Supreme Court that results in rulings like one making gay marriage the law of the land and another forcing the Boy Scouts to "hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys." (In the imagined scenario, The Boy Scouts choose to disband rather than obey).
A series of domestic and international disasters based on Obama's "reluctance to send troops overseas." That includes terrorist attacks on U.S. soil that kill hundreds, Russia occupying the Baltic states and Eastern European countries including Poland and the Czech Republic, and al-Qaida overwhelming Iraq.
Nationalized health care with long lines for surgery and no access to hospitals for people over 80.

The goal was to "articulate the big picture," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of public policy for Focus on the Family Action. "If it is a doomsday picture, then it's a realistic picture," she said.

Obama favors abortion rights and supports civil unions for same-sex couples, but says states should make their own decisions about marriage. He said he would intensify diplomatic pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions and add troops in Afghanistan.

On taxes, Obama has proposed an increase on the 5 percent of taxpayers who make more than $250,000 a year and advocates cuts for those who make less. His health care plan calls for the government to subsidize coverage for millions of Americans who otherwise couldn't afford it.

Last-minute push?

In an interview, Strang said there are fewer state ballot measures to motivate conservative voters this election year and that the financial meltdown is distracting some voters from the abortion issue. But he said a last-minute push by conservative Christians in 2004 was key to Bush's re-election and predicted they could play the same role in 2008.

Kim Conger, a political scientist at Iowa State University, said a late push for evangelical voters did help Bush in 2004, "but it is a very different thing than getting people excited about John McCain," even with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential pick.

Phil Burress, head of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values, said the dynamics were quite different in 2004, when conservative Christians spent some energy calling Democrat John Kerry a flip-flopper but were mostly motivated by enthusiasm for George W. Bush.

Now, there is less excitement about McCain than fear of an Obama presidency, Burress said.

"This reminds me of when I was a school kid, when I had to go out in the hall and bury my head in my hands because of the atom bomb," he said.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

A Question of Barack Obama's Character

By Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Convicted felon Tony Rezko. Unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. And the race-baiting Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It is hard to think of any presidential candidate before Barack Obama sporting associations with three more execrable characters. Yet let the McCain campaign raise the issue, and the mainstream media begin fulminating about dirty campaigning tinged with racism and McCarthyite guilt by association.

But associations are important. They provide a significant insight into character. They are particularly relevant in relation to a potential president as new, unknown, opaque and self-contained as Obama. With the economy overshadowing everything, it may be too late politically to be raising this issue. But that does not make it, as conventional wisdom holds, in any way illegitimate.

McCain should months ago have begun challenging Obama's associations, before the economic meltdown allowed the Obama campaign (and the mainstream media, which is to say the same thing) to dismiss the charges as an act of desperation by a trailing candidate.

McCain had his chance back in April when the North Carolina Republican Party ran a gubernatorial campaign ad that included the linking of Obama with Jeremiah Wright. The ad was duly denounced by The New York Times and other "deep thinkers" as racist.

This was patently absurd. Racism is treating people differently and invidiously on the basis of race. Had any white presidential candidate had a close 20-year association with a white preacher overtly spreading race hatred from the pulpit, that candidate would have been not just universally denounced and deemed unfit for office but written out of polite society entirely.

Nonetheless, John McCain in his infinite wisdom, and with his overflowing sense of personal rectitude, joined the braying mob in denouncing that perfectly legitimate ad, saying it had no place in any campaign. In doing so, McCain unilaterally disarmed himself, rendering off-limits Obama's associations, an issue that even Hillary Clinton addressed more than once.

Obama's political career was launched with Ayers giving him a fundraiser in his living room. If a Republican candidate had launched his political career at the home of an abortion-clinic bomber -- even a repentant one -- he would not have been able to run for dogcatcher in Podunk. And Ayers shows no remorse. His only regret is that he "didn't do enough."

Why are these associations important? Do I think Obama is as corrupt as Rezko? Or shares Wright's angry racism or Ayers' unreconstructed 1960s radicalism?

No. But that does not make these associations irrelevant. They tell us two important things about Obama.

First, his cynicism and ruthlessness. He found these men useful, and use them he did. Would you attend a church whose pastor was spreading racial animosity from the pulpit? Would you even shake hands with -- let alone serve on two boards with -- an unrepentant terrorist, whether he bombed U.S. military installations or abortion clinics?

Most Americans would not, on the grounds of sheer indecency. Yet Obama did, if not out of conviction then out of expediency. He was a young man on the make, an unknown outsider working his way into Chicago politics. He played the game with everyone, without qualms and with obvious success.

Obama is not the first politician to rise through a corrupt political machine. But he is one of the rare few to then have the audacity to present himself as a transcendent healer, hovering above and bringing redemption to the "old politics" -- of the kind he had enthusiastically embraced in Chicago in the service of his own ambition.

Second, and even more disturbing than the cynicism, is the window these associations give on Obama's core beliefs. He doesn't share Rev. Wright's poisonous views of race nor Ayers' views, past and present, about the evil that is American society. But Obama clearly did not consider these views beyond the pale. For many years he swam easily and without protest in that fetid pond.

Until now. Today, on the threshold of the presidency, Obama concedes the odiousness of these associations, which is why he has severed them. But for the years in which he sat in Wright's pews and shared common purpose on boards with Ayers, Obama considered them a legitimate, indeed unremarkable, part of social discourse.

Do you? Obama is a man of first-class intellect and first-class temperament. But his character remains highly suspect. There is a difference between temperament and character. Equanimity is a virtue. Tolerance of the obscene is not.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Prayer can move mountains, why not Obama?

Subject: Prayer can move mountains, why not Obama?

Being dismayed recently when a family member of mine said to me with great resignation that Obama will take the presidency. These words came from someone who in the past has been a
great prayer warrior.

What is happening was my question??? Why are we Christians settling and not issuing a battle cry and falling to our knees and taking our country back?

We allow ourselves to be stripped of the right to pray at school functions and in school, we have the 10 commandments removed from government places and are told we cannot pray in school, all the while providing public prayer places for Muslims. What in the world is going on and why are we being apathetic?

Why aren't we praying? Our God is a mighty God who is waiting patiently for us to raise our voices to heaven to stop the tide of the anti-Christ actions in our world today. Now we find we have a
charismatic candidate for president who does not respect our flag and refuses to wear one on his lapel except when it becomes politically expedient and whose own wife and pastor that he loves
profess to have strong anti-white feelings, and we sit back and say "it is a given, we can do nothing."

There has never been a time in 2000 years that we can do nothing, never a time that we must sit back and allow the evil in men's and women's hearts to take over our world. We should be very afraid because our apathy is leading us to perdition.

It is time for all Christian Americans to raise the battle cry and take our nation back. Maybe McCain on his own cannot defeat Obama, but our God can and He will if we take to our knees in prayer and
raise a mighty cry to the heavens to "Save us O Lord." We have the power t o change the course of this election and to keep a man as suspect as Barak Obama from leading our country to who knows
where with his message of "change" - a change which I fear will be away from our Christian ideals and away from Christ and further away from one nation under God.

We are great at passing stories and pictures around the internet, but where are our prayers and prayer warriors praying to stop this tide of Barak Obama? God parted the red sea, Jesus raised
himself from the dead, and we can bring our country back to its Christian roots and stop the move to the rise of Muslims in our country. We can stop our country from being "under Allah," but we must begin to pray, to pray as if our country and our lives depended on it, because they do. We can stop all these atrocities against God's commands that have taken root in our country through something as simple as sincere prayer, a call to God to deliver us, to forgive us our sins of apathy an d to protect us from the evil that is upon us.

Okay prayer warriors, here is your challenge, start those prayer chains. Get the spiritual power working on our behalf and stop Barak Obama the proper way, by calling on our God to save us
from the deception that charismatic preaching is using to lead us on the wrong path. Stop those who would take God out of our country and our government. Raise up good men to lead us and protect us.

George Bush is being buffeted because he has fought a holy war against the evils that attack us and we should not be surprised because a prophet is not honored in his own country. But we should not rest on our laurels and allow ourselves to be taken further off the path of Christianity and to have God removed from our presence in our schools, courts, government and businesses. Invite God into the fray. Ask that His power rest upon us and give us the victory. Ask him to raise up a mighty arm y to defend us and to protect our country as he did in days of old. Let us be victorious beginning NOW. The battle is His but we must call on Him without ceasing and unite our voices and hearts in prayer and fasting.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

US presidential debate: Generations clash as Barack Obama confronts John McCain

It was always going to be as much a generational clash as an ideological one.

By Phil Sherwell
Link to source article:

John McCain, the older man drily referred throughout to the young pretender as "Senator Obama" and ignored the moderator's efforts to persuade him to address his challenger directly, preferring to direct his comments to the audience in the hall and on television.

Barack Obama by contrast regularly called his rival "John", turned to face Mr McCain as he made his points, and even acknowledged that his foe was correct often enough for the Republicans to produce an instant YouTube video of the clips.

When Mr McCain spoke, his rival looked across at him; when Mr Obama spoke, Mr McCain fidgeted and alternately frowned and grinned as he stared resolutely ahead.

For students of body language, the veteran seemed to be showing a mixture of irritation and disdain for the new kid on the block. He repeatedly used variants on "Senator Obama doesn't seem to understand" in an effort to emphasise the experience gap.

The 25-year age difference - Mr McCain is 72 and Mr Obama 47 - was also clear in some of their references.

Mr McCain ran through his record on a series of foreign policy crises from 1983, alluded to his time in Vietnam, mentioned his 35-year friendship with Henry Kissinger and cited the experience of General Dwight D Eisenhower on the eve of the Normandy landings in 1944.

Mr Obama by contrast promised voters the chance to study the federal budget on a "Google for government" and criticised Mr McCain for his "20th century mindset" - arguably a harsh charge when we are only eight years into the 21st.

Mr McCain was also more chatty, jokey and impassioned than Mr Obama, who at times sank into his slightly detached academic style. But judging by early polling of viewers, the Arizona senator came across as contemptuous.

Foreign policy is widely viewed to be Mr McCain's strongest card - he overwhelmingly leads Mr Obama when voters say who they think would be a stronger commander-in-chief.

So it was surprising, if hardly a terrible blunder, when Mr McCain mangled the name of Iran's President Ahmadinejad once and called the new Pakistani leader "Kardari" rather than Zardari.

Both candidates also referred to Iran's Revolutionary Guards as the "Republican Guard" (actually the name for Saddam Hussein's elite Iraqi forces).

As the evening wore on, the debate degenerated into occasional bickering, most notably over the interpretation of recent comments by Dr Kissinger about the advisability of contacts with Iran.

The Republican foreign policy grandee later told a journalist he backed Mr McCain's version, but it is unlikely that exchange will win either man any votes.

The set was dominated by the predictably patriotic colours of red, white and blue, as were the sartorial choices of the two men.

But Mr Obama also donned a Stars and Stripes flagpin - a symbol that he was criticised for spurning for much of the primary campaign - while Mr McCain, who faces no questions about his patriotism, did not.

In a contest of firsts, even the debate's setting was highly symbolic.

In the 1960s, Ole Miss, as the University of Mississippi is known, was on the frontline of the bloody civil rights struggle when the local authorities tried to block James Meredith, a black student, from enrolling.

Just two generations after young black and white activists were murdered in Mississippi in the fight for voting rights, the first African American to compete a presidential election arrived back at the university to make his pitch for the nation's top job.

During the evening, reporters' email in-boxes were bombarded with missives from the campaigns' rapid reaction teams critiquing the debate. The Obama campaign managed to fire off an impressive 33 such emails in less than four hours.

And the evening ended in the peculiarly American election tradition of "spin alley" as a "Who's Who" of advisors, allies and friends of the candidates delivered their post-debate take on the exchanges to journalists gathered in the media centre.

Former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani; New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson, who once challenged Mr Obama for his party's nomination; ex-Democrat secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Mississippi's Republican governor Haley Barbour joined a battery of strategists and operatives offering their thoughts on why their candidate had won the debate - and hence would make the best president.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The money mess Obama or McCain will inherit

The next president's domestic policy cake has already been baked.

The next president’s foreign policy and defense script has long since been written.

To simplify only slightly, it consists of winding down Iraq, declawing Iran and Hugo Chavez, and keeping Russia calm.

And now, after a scary and tumultuous fortnight of economic woes and corporate bailouts, his domestic narrative has also been outlined. And global credit markets, the Bush administration and Congress are holding the pen.

For the president-elect, this will consist largely of navigating the vast and bewildering new economic world order created by Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke.

Unprecedented presidential inheritance

Of course, new administrations always deal with the consequences of the previous one, but this kind of thing has never happened.

Who is Henry Paulson?

Sept. 22: Fearing he wouldn't have much influence, Henry Paulson had to be talked into becoming Treasury Secretary two years ago. Now he's putting his stamp on the entire global economy. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

Imagine if Herbert Hoover had constructed the New Deal just before turning it over to Franklin Roosevelt. Or if James Buchanan had declared war on the South before Abe Lincoln took the oath.

No wonder Barack Obama has said that, if he wins, he’ll keep Paulson in power at least through the transition. Obama will need the treasury secretary to explain this new system he’s supposed to run.

Indeed, Paulson has been on the phone almost every day with both Obama and John McCain.

It’s more than a courtesy. In a sense, a new administration already is in office. These days, George W. Bush rarely emerges from the West Wing.

The new economic machine
And what is the new machine that Obama or McCain will inherit?

Think of it as the world’s largest government-run “sovereign wealth fund.”

Economic decision-making in America is now fully in the hands of bureaucrats. And they don’t have the independent power Americans once had.

While no one can go it alone in a globalized world, we have lost the power acquired — and ultimately abused — after World War II to set the terms of trade.

Until recently, we could afford to make fun of Brussels. Now we are Brussels, with its hive of bureaucrats. Ours is located in Washington.

New York — the city of Alexander Hamilton, J.P. Morgan and the Rockefellers — has now ceased to be the capitol of capital.

What it means for the president-elect

Our greed, folly and ineptitude are to blame. So is a willful refusal to acknowledge that there is no free lunch and that what goes up must come down. We have officially ruined what it took us a hundred years to build: the credibility of Wall Street and dollar-centric commerce.

This is the reality that Obama or McCain will have to deal with.

That means higher taxes, lower spending and a scaling back of grand plans. It means a new realism and a long slog into the future.

The main task of the next president is already set. He’s got to make the act of digging out sound exciting. We’ve done it before. All it takes is leadership.

Another Lincoln or FDR will do.

Link to source article:

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Now don't go away. We will hear from Obama and what he would do for the economy just as soon as his telepromter tells him what to say.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain Camp Mocks ‘Temple of Obama’

By: Rick Pedraza

Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign has released a memo mocking Democrat rival Barack Obama’s decision to decorate the stage he will give his acceptance speech tonight on as the “Temple of Obama.”

The memo, titled "Proper Attire for the Temple of Obama (The Barackopolis)," pokes fun at the neoclassical-style stage Britney Spears’ set supervisor Bobby Allen designed for the elaborate event at 75,000-seat Invesco Field, home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

"It's only appropriate that Barack Obama would descend down from the heavens and spend a little time with us mere mortals when accepting the Democratic nomination," Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz tells the New York Post.

"We'll put it in play against him," added Brian Rogers, a spokesman for McCain.

The McCain camp already is planning a series of ads that will bring the point home that Obama is a narcissistic celebrity candidate. It has even gone so far as to suggested the junior senator from Illinois’ delegates should wear togas to fit in with the curved, columned backdrop and other Greek-styled set pieces designed to evoke images of Apollo, Zeus and Athena.

For their part, several Democrats point out that in 2004, George Bush accepted the GOP nomination for president on an even more elaborate stage.

“We're trying to do something new," said a senior Obama campaign aide, noting that Obama is taking a page from the campaign book of John Kennedy, who in 1960 delivered his acceptance speech to 80,000 people in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Allen, the stage supervisor for Spears and several other rock stars, tells The Post he designed the set more to evoke images of the White House and the Lincoln Memorial, not the Acropolis.

"We've done Britney's sets and a whole bunch of rock shows,” Allen said, “but this was far more elaborate and complicated and we had to do it in far less time."

Once Obama speaks, confetti will rain down on him and fireworks will be fired off from locations around the stadium wall, according to an Associated Press report.

"We would have expected to read something like this in The Onion,” a McCain adviser mockingly told The Post. “Fortunately for us, it's true. Unfortunately for Obama, it's true."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Almost VP time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Strategy for Victory in Iraq

The Importance of Succeeding

John McCain believes it is strategically and morally essential for the United States to support the Government of Iraq to become capable of governing itself and safeguarding its people. He strongly disagrees with those who advocate withdrawing American troops before that has occurred.

It would be a grave mistake to leave before Al Qaeda in Iraq is defeated and before a competent, trained, and capable Iraqi security force is in place and operating effectively. We must help the Government of Iraq battle those who provoke sectarian tensions and promote a civil war that could destabilize the Middle East. Iraq must not become a failed state, a haven for terrorists, or a pawn of Iran. These likely consequences of America's failure in Iraq almost certainly would either require us to return or draw us into a wider and far costlier war.

The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home.

Support the Successful Counterinsurgency Strategy

John McCain has been a leading advocate of the “surge” and the counterinsurgency strategy carried out by General David Petraeus. At the end of 2006, four years of a badly conceived military strategy that concentrated American troops on large bases brought us near to the point of no return. Sectarian violence in Iraq was spiraling out of control. Al Qaeda in Iraq was on the offensive. Entire provinces were under extremists’ control and were deemed all but lost. At that critical moment, John McCain supported sending reinforcements to Iraq to implement a classic counterinsurgency strategy of securing the population.

That strategy has paid off. From June 2007 through March 2008, sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq was reduced by 90 percent. Civilian deaths and deaths of coalition forces fell by 70 percent. This has opened the way for a return to something that approaches normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi. Political reconciliation is occurring across Iraq at the local and provincial grassroots level. Sunni and Shi'a chased from their homes by terrorist and sectarian violence are returning. The "Sons of Iraq" and Awakening movements, where former Sunni insurgents have now joined in the fight against Al Qaeda, continue to grow.

Those gains would be lost if we were to follow the policy advocated by Senator Barack Obama to withdraw most of our troops and leave behind only a small “strike force” to battle terrorists. That is, in essence, the same strategy of withdrawing from Iraq’s streets that failed in 2006. John McCain advocates continuing the successful counterinsurgency strategy that began in 2007.

Push for Political Reconciliation and Good Government

Thanks to the success of the surge, Iraq's political order is evolving in positive and hopeful ways. Four out of the six laws cited as benchmarks by the U.S. have been passed by the Iraqi legislature. A law on amnesty and a law rolling back some of the harsher restrictions against former employees of the Iraqi government have made it possible for Iraqis to move toward genuine reconciliation. The legislature has devolved greater power to local and provincial authorities, where much of the real work of rebuilding Iraq is taking place.

More progress is necessary. The government must improve its ability to serve all Iraqis. A key test for the Iraqi government will be finding jobs in the security services and the civilian sector for the “Sons of Iraq” who have risked so much to battle terrorists.

Iraq will conduct two landmark elections in the near future – one for provincial governments in late 2008 and the other for the national government in 2009. John McCain believes we should welcome a larger United Nations role in supporting the elections. The key condition for successful elections is for American troops to continue to work with brave Iraqis to allow the voting to take place in relative freedom and security. Iraqis need to know that the U.S. will not abandon them, but will continue to press their politicians to show the necessary leadership to help develop their country.

Get Iraq's Economy Back on its Feet

John McCain believes that economic progress is essential to sustaining security gains in Iraq. Markets that were once silent and deserted have come back to life in many areas, but high unemployment rates continue to fuel criminal and insurgent violence. To move young men away from the attractions of well-funded extremists, we need a vibrant, growing Iraqi economy. The Iraqi government can jump-start this process by using a portion of its budget surplus to employ Iraqis in infrastructure projects and in restoring basic services.

The international community should bolster proven microfinance programs to spur local-level entrepreneurship throughout the country. Iraq's Arab neighbors, in particular, should promote regional stability by directly investing the fruits of their oil exports in Iraq. As these efforts begin to take hold in Iraq, the private sector, as always, will create the jobs and propel the growth that will end reliance on outside aid. Iraq’s government needs support to better deliver basic services—clean water, garbage collection, abundant electricity, and, above all, a basic level of security—that create a climate where the Iraqi economy creation can flourish.

Call for International Pressure on Syria and Iran

Syria and Iran have aided and abetted the violence in Iraq for too long. Syria has refused to crack down on Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists operating within its territory. Iran has been providing the most extreme and violent Shia militias with training, weapons, and technology that kill American and Iraqi troops. American military spokesmen have also said there is evidence that Iran has provided aid to Sunni insurgents.

The answer is not unconditional dialogues with these two dictatorships from a position of weakness. The answer is for the international community to apply real pressure to Syria and Iran to change their behavior. The United States must also bolster its regional military posture to make clear to Iran our determination to protect our forces and deter Iranian intervention.

Level with the American People

John McCain believes it is essential to be honest with the American people about the opportunities and risks that lie ahead. The American people deserve the truth from their leaders. They deserve a candid assessment of the progress made in the last year, of the serious difficulties that remain, and of the grave consequences of a reckless and irresponsible withdrawal.

Many Americans have given their lives so that America does not suffer the worst consequences of failure in Iraq. Doing the right thing in the heat of a political campaign is not always easy. But it is necessary.

John McCain on the Road Ahead

“I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership. “

“I know the pain war causes. I understand the frustration caused by our mistakes in this war. And I regret sincerely the additional sacrifices imposed on the brave Americans who defend us. But I also know the toll a lost war takes on an army and on our country's security. By giving General Petraeus and the men and women he has the honor to command the time and support necessary to succeed in Iraq we have before us a hard road. But it is the right road. It is necessary and just. Those who disregard the unmistakable progress we have made in the last year and the terrible consequences that would ensue were we to abandon our responsibilities in Iraq have chosen another road. It may appear to be the easier course of action, but it is a much more reckless one, and it does them no credit even if it gives them an advantage in the next election.” –John McCain

Original Source:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sen. McCain offers $300 million prize for new auto battery

GLEN JOHNSON / Associated Press

John McCain hopes to solve the country's energy crisis with cold hard cash.

The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting is proposing a $300 million government prize to whomever can develop an automobile battery that far surpasses existing technology.

The bounty would equate to $1 for every man, woman and child in the country, "a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency," McCain said in remarks prepared for delivery Monday at Fresno State University in California.

McCain said such a device should deliver power at 30 percent of current costs and have "the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."

The Arizona senator is also proposing stiffer fines for automakers who skirt existing fuel-efficiency standards, as well as incentives to increase use of domestic and foreign alcohol-based fuels such as ethanol.

In addition, a so-called Clean Car Challenge would provide U.S. automakers with a $5,000 tax credit for every zero-carbon emissions car they develop and sell.

"In the quest for alternatives to oil, our government has thrown around enough money subsidizing special interests and excusing failure," said excerpts from McCain's prepared text. "From now on, we will encourage heroic efforts in engineering, and we will reward the greatest success."

The proposal comes as gasoline has reached a record cost over $4 a gallon. That has boosted the price of virtually all goods and services, sent commuters flocking to public transportation and increased tensions between the United States and its Middle Eastern oil suppliers.

Last week McCain suggested one way to ease supply concerns would be to lift a federal ban on offshore oil drilling if individual states want to allow it. His Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, opposes that idea, saying it would do nothing to address immediate price concerns.

In his latest speech, McCain expressed exasperation both with the federal government and the private sector.

He said rising costs during a time of stagnant wages evokes the 1970s era of "stagflation."

Without blaming his fellow Republicans in the Bush administration directly, McCain said: "It feels the same today, because the unwise policies of our government have left America's energy future in the control of others."

The pork-barrel opponent also blasted "a hodgepodge of incentives" for the purchase of fuel-efficient cars.

"Different hybrids and natural-gas cars carry different incentives, ranging from a few hundreds dollars to four grand. They're the handiwork of lobbyists, with all the inconsistency and irrationality that involves," McCain said.

Training his sights on Detroit, the senator noted Brazil went from about 5 percent to over 70 percent flex-fuel capability in its vehicles in just three years. At the same time, U.S. automakers -- who helped with Brazil's shift -- say it will take them longer just to reach a 50 percent goal.

"Whether it takes a meeting with automakers during my first month in office, or my signature on an act of Congress, we will meet the goal of a swift conversion of American vehicles away from oil," McCain said in his remarks.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Records shed light on career of McCain's father

Candidate's dad described as nervous, social, underweight, honest and stoic

This Sept. 2, 1945 black-and-white file photo provided by the McCain Presidential Campaign shows Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain's father and grandfather on the bridge of the submarine tender USS Proteus, in Tokyo Bay a few hours after WWII had ended. It was the last time father and son saw each other. The father died of a heart attack several days later.

As John S. McCain Jr. started down the road toward four-star admiral, he hit a bump.

McCain, the father of presidential candidate John McCain, was smitten by a pretty blond coed, Roberta Wright. The 22-year-old ensign left his ship, without permission, to elope.

"Showed lack of judgment," his commanding officer concluded. "He might have readily obtained such permission to get married." McCain was suspended for five days.

This youthful indiscretion went into McCain's official military personnel file, a 4-inch-thick stack of documents released to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

McCain apologized for his infraction, writing, "I contacted a messmate and asked him to inform my division officer as to my intentions and that I would be absent from quarters the next morning."

A Race for the White House panel discusses Sen. John McCain's first TV ad of the general elections, which focuses on his military service in Vietnam and will air in the battleground state of New Mexico.

Race for the White House"This method was irregular but the urgency of the situation and the absolute secrecy necessary made this seem the only solution at the time," he wrote. "I thoroughly realize that the manner in which I handled the situation was wrong and I would like to say that it will never occur again."

High-strung and underweightThe papers show that McCain's path quickly straightened out, and he went on to earn the same four-star rank as his illustrious father, Adm. John S. "Slew" McCain Sr.

But first, McCain had to get through the stress of submarine training and the early years of his marriage. A fitness report in 1934 said he was high-strung and underweight — so underweight, he was being treated for weight loss at Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital. "It is thought that with added experience in submarines more self-confidence will result eliminating the noticeable nervousness that is evident," his commanding officer wrote.

In fact, McCain blamed his new wife's cooking, or lack of it, for the weight loss. "My wife doesn't know how to cook, and my meals are very irregular," McCain wrote in response to his fitness report. (This response does not appear in the documents released by the Navy, but Slew McCain obtained a copy and, much amused, kept it to show friends, according to the 1999 book "Faith of My Fathers," written by John S. McCain III, the presidential candidate.)

Rising from the bottomMcCain, like his father and later his son, had been in his share of trouble at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., graduating 18th from the bottom of his class. Then in Submarine School, he stood No. 28 in a class of 29.

But while McCain was not afraid to break rules, he seemed very anxious to succeed, a desire that impressed his superiors. "This officer is extremely tactful and loyal," Lt. Herman Sall wrote in a September 1934 fitness report. "His military duties are done in a highly satisfactory manner. He is in all aspects qualified for promotion. He exhibits a varying degree of nervousness which should be lost with increase of age and experience."

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews tells viewers that when in trouble the Republican party ‘has always turned to a military man’ and has done it again through Sen. John McCain.

This is the last reference to any sign of nervousness in the newly released documents; subsequent fitness reports were ever more glowing, noting his interest in new submarine tactics as the United States entered World War II.

"His zeal in the investigation and development of new submarine tactics and weapons has been outstanding," Lt. Cmdr. R.M. Peacher wrote in 1944 after McCain had won the Silver Star as commander of the USS Gunnel.

'Little man with the big cigar'Aside from military skill, McCain was known for his personality and sociability, important traits in the insular world of the Navy.

"There is only one Jack McCain!" Adm. H.P. Smith wrote in 1965. "Vice Admiral McCain, by his enthusiasm, honesty and delightful personality makes many friends, not only officially but socially. He is energetic and enthusiastic in all his undertakings. The 'little man with the big cigar' is known to everyone."
While the documents help to sketch a picture of the man, they are notable for what is omitted.

Missing from the documents is any reference to McCain's drinking. His son, the presidential candidate, has written that his father drank too much. "He didn't drink at work, and was never completely incapacitated by his weakness," McCain wrote in "Faith of My Fathers." "But he would often ease his way into social settings by drinking too much. And, as with most people, drinking changed his personality in unattractive ways. When he was drunk, I did not recognize him."

Also missing is any reference to his Navy fighter pilot son, not even when he was shot down over Hanoi and taken prisoner in October 1967. A fitness report that year, before his son's capture, notes McCain's "boundless energy," his promotion to the rank of admiral and his appointment to commander in chief of U.S. naval forces in Europe.

That the papers are silent about his son seems in keeping with a stoicism his son has described. In "Faith of My Fathers," McCain wrote that his parents were in London, dressing for a dinner party, when they got word their son had been shot down; the Navy didn't think he had survived.

"My father informed my mother of what had happened," he wrote in the book. "They kept their dinner engagement, never mentioning to any of the other guests the distressing news they had just learned."

OriginaL MSNBC article link:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

McCain: U.S. can win Iraq war within 4 years

GOP presidential candidate spells out his vision for White House

MSNBC News Service

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Thursday he believes the Iraq war can be won within four years, leaving a functioning democracy there and allowing most U.S. troops to come home.

McCain conceded he cannot make the changes alone, but said he wanted to outline a specific governing style to show the accomplishments it can achieve.

"I'm not interested in partisanship that serves no other purpose than to gain a temporary advantage over our opponents. This mindless, paralyzing rancor must come to an end. We belong to different parties, not different countries," McCain said in remarks prepared for delivery in the capital city of Ohio, a general election battleground. "There is a time to campaign, and a time to govern. If I'm elected president, the era of the permanent campaign will end; the era of problem solving will begin."

The Arizona senator's Democratic rivals for the White House, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, are running on a pledge to begin bringing U.S. troops home right away and have linked McCain's policies on the unpopular war to those of President George W. Bush.

100 years in Iraq

The Democratic candidates also charge McCain wants to keep the United States entangled in Iraq for 100 years.

McCain says any decades-long presence of U.S. troops would be aimed at maintaining stability in the region and has likened it to the U.S. military presence in Japan, South Korea and Germany.

McCain wrote he had thought Obama's interest in ethics legislation "was genuine and admirable," before adding: "Thank you for disabusing me of such notions." He accused Obama of "partisan posturing."

While calling for Congress to drop mindless partisanship, McCain also chided the media — with whom he has enjoyed a generally positive relationship — for fueling contention with its campaign coverage.

"Campaigns and the media collaborated as architects of the modern presidential campaign, and we deserve equal blame for the regret we feel from time to time over its less-than-inspirational features," he said.

Looking head

McCain, running in the November election to succeed Bush in 2009, described a scenario he thought he could achieve within his first four-year term.

McCain: Bush and I agree to disagree

May 1: Sen. John McCain begins his day with a cup of "Morning Joe," saying that, in the midst of the campaign, he is still incredibly focused on military and political progress in Iraq.
Morning Joe

"By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom," McCain said in prepared remarks he was to deliver in Columbus, Ohio.

"The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced," McCain said.

The Republican senator said that although the United States would still have a troop presence in Iraq, those soldiers would not need a "direct combat role" because Iraqi forces would be capable of providing order.

Bin Laden, the economy

McCain also predicted that al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden would be captured or killed within four years and the militant group's presence in Afghanistan would be reduced to remnants.

On the economy, he promised taxpayers the option of filing under a simpler system than the current multilayered code and said he would overhaul government spending practices that have led to "extravagantly wasted money."

Ohio is expected to be a hard-fought state in the general election and McCain's visit there came as Obama, the Democratic front-runner, got another boost by gaining the endorsement of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

Holding an almost unassailable lead over Clinton in delegates who will pick their party's nominee, Obama has increasingly turned his attention toward McCain.

On Iraq, McCain has argued the Democratic candidates are promising a reckless pullout, a pledge he says they would never be able to keep once they face the realities.

The unpopularity of Bush and the Iraq war has taken a toll on the political fortunes of Republicans.

One more time

In outlining potential achievements of a first term, the 71-year-old McCain implicitly was suggesting he would seek a second term, an attempt to mute suggestions he would serve only four years after being the oldest president ever to take office for a first term.

In particular, he sees a world in which:

The Taliban threat in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced.
A "League of Democracies" has supplanted a failed United Nations to apply sanctions to the Sudanese government and halt genocide in Darfur.
The United States has had "several years of robust growth," appropriations bills free of lawmakers' pet projects known as "earmarks," public education improved by charter schools, health care improved by expansion of the private market and an energy crisis stemmed through the start of construction on 20 new nuclear reactors.
Democrats are asked to serve in his administration, he holds weekly news conferences and, like the British prime minister, answers questions publicly from lawmakers.

McCain also pledges to halt a Bush administration practice of enacting laws with accompanying signing statements that exempt the president from having to enforce parts he finds objectionable.

"I will respect the responsibilities the Constitution and the American people have granted Congress," the senator said, "and will, as I often have in the past, work with anyone of either party to get things done for our country."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

McCain manufacturing a victory

Democratic distractions allowing GOP candidate Rust Belt inroads.

WASHINGTON - If there was any doubt that the drawn-out primary season is taking a toll on the Democratic Party's chances for victory in November, look no further than the events of April 15. As Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama raised the stakes (and the rhetoric) in Pennsylvania, John McCain finally decided to frame the economic debate. His speech on the economy got full cable TV coverage, while stories on Obama and Clinton were focused exclusively on "bitterness." The economy was supposed to be Democrats' ace in the hole this year. After all, a Republican can't win in the Rust Belt when the economy is in the tank, right?

McCain's speech touched on a lot of familiar territory, such as ending earmarks, ditching the alternative minimum tax and attacking Democrats as tax-and-spenders. On job retraining, McCain once again reminded his audience about jobs that are "not coming back." That phrase fell like a lead balloon in the face of Mitt Romney when he promised to fight for lost auto industry jobs in Michigan.

But McCain's speech began, notably, with an empathetic approach to those impacted by the economic downturn. He railed against the "extravagant salaries and severance deals of CEOs," and he called for a summer holiday on gas taxes.

The "I feel your pain" McCain is also featured in a new ad currently running in Pennsylvania and Ohio. It features an upbeat voice-over and hits on some of the same concerns raised in the speech -- like portable and affordable health care and mortgage debt restructuring. He may still offer some "straight talk," but it has a decidedly less "eat your vegetables" tone.

To be sure, McCain's overall economic philosophy hasn't changed (as the Democratic White House hopefuls were quick to point out in e-mailed press releases), but his approach may have. Will it be enough to win the support of voters who are decidedly pessimistic about the economy and President Bush? Or will Democratic attacks on his support for (and previous disavowal of) the Bush tax cuts undermine his credibility on the issue? More important, can McCain buck historical trends and win the White House by carrying Rust Belt voters in a recession?

Gallup has measured voter satisfaction with the direction of the country since 1979. Today, just 19 percent of Americans say they are satisfied. Only twice in the poll's history have voters felt more pessimistic than they do today: in 1979, when that measure sank to an all-time low of 12 percent, and in June 1992 (14 percent).

In the presidential elections of 1980 and 1992, the incumbent party was defeated soundly and the Rust Belt went overwhelmingly to the challenger. In his rout of President Jimmy Carter in '80, Ronald Reagan took all the Rust Belt states except Minnesota and West Virginia, after Carter had carried most of the region four years earlier. In '92, Bill Clinton carried Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, after George H.W. Bush had won most of the Rust Belt states in 1988.

This year, Democrats are counting on attracting Reagan Democrats by pointing to the flailing economy. This issue more than any other could help the party overcome the "culture gap" that has sent these voters into the arms of the GOP for the last few years.

Republicans were giddy about Obama's comments on guns, religion and bitterness, since they allowed the GOP to frame Obama in the mold of Michael Dukakis and John Kerry. But the brie/endive/Chardonnay attacks of '88 and '04 came when the GOP brand was in much better shape. Wind-surfin', Swiss-cheesesteak eatin', French-lookin' Kerry still won Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Why would Obama do any worse?

The answer, of course, gets us right back to the uncomfortable issue of race -- or at least that's the conclusion many reach when considering why Obama's not been able to break through with downscale white voters. Just imagine if Joseph Biden or Christopher Dodd had made similar remarks; would they be written off with autoworkers in Michigan?

Democratic superdelegates seem to have little choice but to rally behind Obama. But if Obama wins the nomination without the support of Rust Belt working-class whites, will McCain be able to pick off what should be reliable blue states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as swing states like Ohio?

If Obama doesn't take Ohio in the general, he could still get to 270 electoral votes by carrying New Mexico and Iowa (states won by Al Gore but not Kerry), but he would then need to pick up six more EVs to win the election; a win in Colorado (9 EVs) or Virginia (13 EVs) would do it. But if he loses in Pennsylvania or Michigan, the path to 270 gets much more difficult. Obama may espouse a new kind of politics, but the old-school Rust Belt remains the key to winning the White House.

Original story on MSNBC

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Barak Obama's lead over John McCain evaporates as Democrats fight

A month after clinching the Republican nomination, Senator John McCain of Arizona appears to be enjoying a honeymoon with American voters, wiping out the national lead that Barack Obama, the Democrat hopeful, once had over him according to a new Associated-Ipsos poll.

The new buoyancy of the McCain campaign may have less to do with the senator, of course, and more with the relentless mutual point-scoring between Mr Obama and his rival, Hillary Clinton, as they battle for votes in the coming Pennsylvania primary.

While Mr Obama showed a double-digit lead over Mr McCain in a similar poll taken in late February, the latest numbers show them exactly tied at 45 per cent each. Perhaps more alarming for the Obama camp, the survey has Mrs Clinton with a slight edge with 48 per cent to 45 per cent for Mr McCain.

The survey has also rekindled alarm in the Democratic Party that the continuing warfare between its two remaining candidates may be inflicting sufficient damage to give Mr McCain a window to defeat whichever of the two of them ends up running for the White House in November.

It is no coincidence that this week has seen the Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, stepping up his own attacks on Mr McCain. Unveiling his own polling taken in 17 battleground states, he contended that voters consider the Republican "weak" and "wishy-washy" on key issues, particularly the economy. Voters are also voicing concern about his age, Mr Dean said. At 72, Mr McCain would be the oldest person ever to be newly elected to the presidency.

Unfettered by any further primary contests, Mr McCain is back on the road, visiting often far-away corners of numerous states to begin selling himself to voters. Yesterday, he addressed a rally at the municipal airport in Lubbock, Texas.

Of course, the dynamics of the presidential contest could change again once the identity of the Democratic nominee has been settled. In particular, Republican grandees are expressing concern that, for the first time in some decades, the Democrats – particularly if Mr Obama ends up prevailing – could be in a position significantly to outspend Mr McCain in the campaign running to November.

"There are not enough zeroes to define how badly we are going to be outspent," Eddie Mahe, a former deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee, warned yesterday.

With the Pennsylvania primary only 10 days away, there remains little saying how each Democratic candidate will fare, with some observers still giving Mr Obama an outside chance of catching up with Mrs Clinton in the state she was always slated to win and possibly beating her. That remains a long-shot for Mr Obama, but if he succeeds it would surely be a knock-out punch for Mrs Clinton.

She continued last week to struggle to get her campaign back on message, and her husband did not help by reviving the fuss about Mrs Clinton "misstating" she had come under fire in Bosnia.

Mr Obama remained on his bus tour through Pennsylvania yesterday, trying to burnish his economic platform with a call for "say-on-pay" legislation that would increase scrutiny of fat pay packets awarded to corporate executives.

In a populist pitch, he said last night: "We've seen what happens when CEOs are paid for doing a job no matter how bad a job they're doing. We can't afford to postpone reform any longer."

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Monday, March 31, 2008

The World According to John McCain

He's both the consummate pragmatist and a zealous crusader for causes he feels just. The question is which America needs now.

"We need to listen," John McCain was saying, "to the views … of our democratic allies." Then, though the words weren't in the script, the Arizona senator repeated himself, as if in self-admonishment: "We need to listen." A lot of meaning was packed into that twice-said line, which was a key theme of McCain's first major foreign-policy speech since becoming the GOP's nominee-apparent. McCain was telling America, and the whole world: if I'm elected there will be, at long last, a return to what Jefferson called "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind." There will be no more ill-justified lurches into war, no more unilateralism, no more George W. Bush. Above all, McCain seemed to be saying that while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tear each other to pieces, I'm going to be the wise and welcoming statesman patching up America's global relations even before I get to the Oval Office. Not surprisingly, after the speech last week at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, McCain's campaign could not talk enough about international cooperation—what McCain had called a "new compact." "He has such a deep relationship with so many Europeans and those in other regions, including Asia and the Middle East," said one adviser, Rich Williamson, who added that McCain has kept up his global profile by "going each year to the Munich Security Conference."

It was all very reassuring. There's just one problem: John McCain doesn't always behave according to his own statesmanlike script. In fact, while attending that same Munich conference in 2006, the Arizona senator had another one of what have come to be known as McCain Moments. In a small meeting at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, McCain was conferring with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the foreign minister of Germany—one of America's most important allies—when the others heard McCain erupt. He thought the German was being insufficiently tough on the brutal regime in Belarus. Raising his voice at Steinmeier—who's known for speaking in unclear diplomatese—McCain "started shaking and rising out of his chair," said one participant, a former senior diplomatic official who related the anecdote on condition of anonymity. "He said something like: 'I haven't come to Munich to hear this kind of crap'." McCain's old pal Joe Lieberman jumped in. "Lieberman, who reads him very well, put his hand on McCain's arm and said gently, 'John, I think there's been a problem in the translation.' Of course Lieberman doesn't speak German and there hadn't been any problem in the translation … It was just John's explosive temper."

Certainly this was no great crisis, and the Germans later said all was forgiven. (On Sunday Sen. McCain's campaign strongly denied this account of the incident; Sen. Lieberman earlier recalled it as a misunderstanding over the translation.) But McCain's Munich outburst could not be called an isolated incident. Fearless and righteous, McCain has long been known to unleash a lacerating anger on those who cross him—Senate colleagues, foreign interlocutors, even the interrogators who once held his life in their hands at the Hanoi Hilton. (Lieberman, his fellow centrist, recently seems to have assigned himself the role of McCain's monitor. Just two weeks ago, when McCain mistakenly said Iran was training Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters, it was the Connecticut senator who again pulled him aside, gently reminding him that the Iranian regime has been accused of training fellow Shiite extremists, not Sunni Al Qaeda.) For someone who is just an election away from the White House—and who is running on his image as a tested statesman—there remain serious questions about how exactly McCain might behave as president.

Partly this is because McCain himself is not easy to pin down. There is McCain the pragmatist: worldly-wise and witty, determined to follow the facts to the exclusion of ideology—a man willing to defy his own party and forge compromise, even with liberals like Ted Kennedy (on granting illegal immigrants some amnesty) and John Kerry (on normalizing relations with Vietnam). And then there is the zealous advocate, single-minded about pressing his cause, sometimes erupting in outrage at detractors and willing to stand alone—without any allies at all, if need be.

There is much to like in both McCains. He's pragmatic in the service of the national interest; he rises to passion when he believes that America's best values are at stake. Even some of those who fret about his zeal and temper say they plan to vote for him (just as many ultraconservatives who worry about his centrism say they'll reluctantly pull the lever as well). Lieberman says McCain's anger "is part of his strength. And his guts. There are some things we should get righteously angry about."

Sometimes these two McCains—the crusader and the pragmatist—have combined to make him a powerful and leaderly force for change, which seems to be what Americans want now. It was McCain the savvy military analyst who looked hard at the emerging Iraqi insurgency in the fall of 2003, decided a lot more U.S. troops were needed, and then went head-to-head with the mulish Donald Rumsfeld over the issue. (McCain was, in effect, the first person in Washington to call for a "surge.") Ultimately, four years later, he brought the Congress—and the president—with him. "I went against the will of my own party when it wasn't politically expedient," McCain has said.


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