Monday, September 29, 2008

Nothing to Like Here


If there's anything worse than an economic crisis, it is when leadership stops leading.

Hate him or love him, I felt reassured by President Bush in the days after 9/11.

Though bank failures, the fact that millions of American economic futures are in question, and our crashing stock market are not the same as the kind of crisis when our country is under attack, our economy is very much at risk. All the while our Congressional leaders have continued to goof around like nothing really matters, offering very little of the post-partisan guidance that we so desperately need.

House Republicans blamed Nancy Pelosi for delivering a very partisan speech before today's vote on the bailout measure, saying that she injected politics into a bill that Republicans had been planning to vote for. Some Dems defended Pelosi, however, saying that the Republicans had been posturing politically as well.........so what. The Democrats are the majority party and it is their responsibility to bring the minority side into the picture and get important bills moved through Congress.

Terrible leadership from Congressional Democrats.

Hmmm...

Superduper partisan? Yep.

Still interesting? Yep.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Important Steps

A lot of people labeled McCain's decision to return to Washington earlier this week as political grandstanding, but once the publicity settled on that story it is worth pointing out that McCain is back in D.C. today working on the bailout proposal.

Meanwhile, Obama is holding two rallies today in Virginia.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Debate — Political Courier Webcast

Late-Breaking

Late-breaking news, however "breaking" it is, doesn't tend to get much attention these days, so I figured I'd give this some press.

BARACK OBAMA MISSTATED KISSINGER:

“Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level.”
So, if it's worth going back and changing the scorecards around, McCain wins the Kissinger issue...

Working on a Scorecard

Off to the draft-room to cook up a debate summary.

Check back before midnight.

LIVEBLOGGING: Wrap-Ups Pt. 1

Obama: "We are less respected than we were eight years ago."

If Obama has one single weapon that will always be in his arsenal, it's his notion that he will change America's reputation around the world. I agree that he'll improve our international reputation, and I'm not surprised Obama is finishing up with this point.

One of McCain's final 'prepared' lines drives home the issue of Obama's relative inexperience.

Change vs. experience.

Nothing new.

LIVEBLOGGING: Disorder

As one friend of mine says, this debate has turned into "a conversation."

In addition to looking at the scorecards that political "experts" release after the debate on Obama and McCain, I will be curious to see what the reviews of Leher are...

LIVEBLOGGING: A Little Naivety

Obama links McCain to Bush by bringing up one of President Bush's comments about the Fmr. Russian President.

McCain identifies Obama's "naivety"

McCain: "I looked into Putin's eyes and saw three letters: a "K," a "G," and a "B.'"


(This debate is all over the place, it's hard to keep up!!)

LIVEBLOGGING: Negotiations

McCain—North Korea has broken every diplomatic agreement they've entered into...how can you expect to sit down and negotiate with a country like that?

McCain fires up a fiesty line about sitting down to talk with Iran's Ahmadinejad...I'll find the quote later. 

LIVEBLOGGING: A McCain One-Liner

McCain: "I'm not going to set the White House visitor schedule before I'm President."


The Blogosphere Reacts

Obama says "I've got a bracelet too."

Here are some interesting blog reactions that highlight how different sources are going to score this debate in very different ways:
"I've got a bracelet, too." ROFL!!!! What a tool. "No soldier ever dies in vain." Huh? WTF kind of logic is that?"

"Brilliant oratory"

"At least we know, no matter who wins, they both have bracelets. God Bless America."

LIVEBLOGGING: The Threat from Iran

MCCAIN—Iran is a threat to Israel and the region. "We cannot allow a second holocaust." The Russians are holding up action in the United Nations. McCain brings up one of his more interesting proposals: "A League of Democracies"—a group of like-minded nations (without the veto power of countries like China and Russia) that can help push forward a common diplomatic policy.

OBAMA—Warns about the nuclear threat of Iran. "We cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran." Warns that Iran going nuclear could set off a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race. Unlike McCain, Obama wants to bring China and Russia into the debate. Highlights difference with McCain: Obama would negotiate directly with Iran. 

"I've Got a Bracelet, Too"

Obama responds to McCain's comment about a bracelet given to him by the mother of a fallen soldier.

I expect the two candidate to compare ankle bracelets next...Ridiculous.

Did Obama shoot down McCain with that answer, or come off as rather snippy and not serious? I keep replaying that part of the debate and trying to figure out how I feel about it...

Here's my debate reaction:


LIVEBLOGGING: More Audience Reaction

"Leher should step in more—this is getting off topic."

"I want Hillary!!"

LIVEBLOGGING: McCain Admits a Mistake, Tells Obama How to Negotiate

McCain—After we cleaned the Russians out of Afghanistan, we washed our hands of the region. I regret that.

McCain tries to paint Obama as reckless on matters of foreign policy. "Obama would unilaterally attack targets within the borders of one of our allies."


LIVEBLOGGING: Admiral Mullen

Obama and McCain argue over what Army Admiral Michael G. Mullen has said about each Senator's proposals for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama: "He said we don't have enough troops to effectively deal with Afghanistan"

McCain: "He said Obama's plan was reckless"

LIVEBLOGGING: McCain Wipes Obama Clean

McCain: "The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to whether we went into Iraq or not. The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave, when we leave, and what we leave behind 

McCain, in one fell swoop, tries to make one of Obama's biggest points irrelevant. 

UPDATE: Obama—"It's about judgement." 

McCain—"There's a difference between judgement and a strategy."

LIVEBLOGGING: The Lessons of Iraq

McCain "The lessons of Iraq are clear. You cannot have a failed strategy that will cause you to nearly lose a conflict."

He's talking about Rumsfield's failed Iraq policy—a policy he long opposed (unlike other Republicans)—and then his decision to follow up the failed policy with a "winning policy"—"The Surge." Obama will now be forced to defend his opposition to "The Surge."

Instead, Obama talks about how he opposed the war before anyone else did.

How is that possible? He had no intelligence and wasn't in the United States Senate.

LIVEBLOGGING: Health Care

The discussion turns to health care.

Obama—We can't give up $300 billion from tax cuts—that money needs to go to help provide health care for all Americans.

McCain—I've fought to cut spending. Obama has added hundreds of billions of dollars in spending. I think we can move around our spending to take care of most important priorities.

Obama—"John, you presided over this 'orgy' of spending."

LIVEBLOGGING: Energy

McCain talks about new job possibilities regarding new nuclear power facilities. 

Up until now the only talk has been about how many jobs can be created through solar, hydro, and wind energy projects.

LIVEBLOGGING: Vocab

McCain addresses Obama as "Senator Obama"

Obama continually refers to McCain as "John"

Intentional? You bet. 

Rude? Yes. Patronizing.

LIVEBLOGGING: Obama Makes the Rules, eh?

Obama decides not to answer Jim Leher's question about what programs he'll have to give up given the high cost of the bailout.

Instead, he ticks off a list of his talking points about what CAN'T be cut. By doing so, he can bring up education, health care, alternative energy forms—issues that were not going to be discussed tonight.

(McCain doesn't answer the question either)

Leher responds: "It doesn't sound like you're going to cut anything!"

LIVEBLOGGING: McCain on Earmarks

Tonight is one of the few nights of this entire campaign in which McCain has been able to show how the earmark issue is relevant outside of the mere $18 billion that Obama says the issue is vs. $300 billion in tax cuts.

McCain: "Well, $18 billion may not seem like a lot for Barack Obama..."

LIVEBLOGGING: Audience Reaction

Though the crowd in Mississippi is silent, here's some of what I've been hearing in a room full of Democrats:

On McCain's comments about Eisenhower's two letters — "He seems very authentic, he's not as nervous anymore"

On Obama's statement about how we got into this economic crisis — "I did this, I foresaw this...I, I, I"

On McCain vs. Obama's positions on spending — "This is the traditional Republic arguments an vs. the traditional Republican arguments"

15 Minutes to Go

video

What to Watch For: The First Presidential Debate

As luck would have it, tonight's debate is the only presidential or vice presidential debate that I will be able to watch on television. So, with extra enthusiasm for tonight's session, here are a few quick things to watch for:

1) How does McCain describe his work in Washington on the bailout package yesterday and today?

2) Does Obama try to paint McCain as having attempted to dodge the debate?

3) Does a "tied" result coming out of the debate get spun by the media into an Obama victory?

4) Body language. Remember Kerry's very close handshake with George W. Bush in 2004 that showed his obvious height advantage...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is it About Experience?


Thinking back, maybe Wesley Clark should have steered clear of even talking about John McCain's military experience back in June—they are, after all, both military men and could have left it at that–but it is interesting to consider what constitutes the proper experience to be president. Barack Obama and John McCain have lived very different lives and though McCain has more years under his belt it's still up for debate which man is more qualified for the job.

Mitt Romney argued that a President ought to be a businessperson with good managerial experience...

Mike Huckabee made the case that a President ought to be a person of faith...

Rudy Giuliani implied that the best President is an "American hero"...what he falsely believes he is...

Senator, Governor, Ambassador, Mayor, CEO, outsider, former Vice-President, war hero, activist, community organizer...the list of potential backgrounds for a President goes on and on. Barack Obama and John McCain can each make their claim that they are the most experienced or the best prepared for the Presidency, but I can't help but think that the candidate with the most experience has not been the winner of a Presidential election in a long time.

IMG_6521.JPG

John Kerry, Al Gore, Bob Dole, and George H. W. Bush (though he was elected to one term) all served as either high-ranking political leaders and (with the exception of Gore) decorated soldiers but were ultimately unsuccessful in their bids for the White House. That begs the question of whether John McCain's obvious advantage (in my opinion) in the experience category will necessarily help in his fight against Barack Obama.

I bet it won't, though in an ideal world it should.

When one stands at a disadvantage in a certain area it's common practice to try and go after the person with the advantage. For a good example look no further than George W. Bush's successful belittling of John Kerry's far superior military background in 2004. 

John McCain began his career as a national political figure in 1983, the same year Barack Obama graduated from college, but with the underdog's upper hand and the ability for half-billion dollar campaigns to create and shift campaign narratives, I just don't see experience playing as big a role in this election as it should.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sep. 24 — Political Courier Webcast

On the Same Damn Page


For a long time I've been hearing candidates talking about their plans for making the health care system more efficient and effective in providing the best patient care.

Besides calls for universal health care, "streamlining the industry by digitizing medical records" is a common pledge by both Democrats and Republicans. Today I realized why such a system would be much better than the mess we face currently.

On Monday I went to the Mt. Auburn Hospital Travel Clinic to receive vaccinations for my upcoming travels in South Africa and Southeast Asia. Instead of consulting with my primary care physician or a digitized report of which shots I had previously received, the travel "specialist" began telling me which shots I had and had not previously received. Based on her professional opinion of which shots teenagers "always" receive at certain times, I was given a vaccination that I had actually received only 11 months before. A simple call by my doctor would have avoided the mistake, but when your doctor doesn't give you the time to explain what you think your medical history may be, problems are bound to ensue.

I blame both the travel doctor and the health care system for allowing this mistake to occur, and I cross my fingers that whoever is elected president will make some progress in streamlining the practices in the health care industry.

Stupid

Barack Obama has gone negative and off message. Why? He says it's because McCain went negative first.

Fair? Sure. Smart? Absolutely not.

Barack Obama wandered off the high road long, long ago.

Going after what cars John McCain owns? Stupid.



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ammunition

Ever wonder why conservatives can always attack "liberal hippie environmentalists?"

Look. No. Further.

PETA continues to show how irrelevant they are in the American political arena...

Sept. 23 — Political Courier Webcast

The Man of the Day: John Tester (D-MT)


Tester:
"I'm a dirt farmer. You guys [referring to Sec. Paulson and crew] have been in the business.

Why do we have one week to determine $700 billion that has to be appropriated, or this country's financial systems go down the pipes? 

Wasn't there some opportunity sometime down the line where we could have been informed of how serious this crisis was so we could take some preventative steps before this got to this point?"

A tremendous (and tremendously simple) question that we have yet to hear an answer to.


UPDATE: A reader responding to a similar article to this one on Salon.com wrote: "Unfortunately, Dodd stepped on the question a bit after Sen. Tester was done. You'll also note that no one ever answered Tester's question."

Yes, for all the things I like about Senator Dodd, he dropped the ball today on that question, most likely because Tester's question was a deviation from Dodd's prepared remarks.

The Man of the Week: Chris Dodd


Chris Dodd. Finally.


To be clear, "man of the week" does not imply that Dodd has done anything good this week, it simply means for the time being he is one of the most important figures in American politics. In fact, Dodd is at the very center of the debate in Washington over the proposed $700 bailout to try and correct our struggling economy. 

As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, it is Dodd's responsibility to lead the questioning of Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson—the Federal Reserve and Treasury heads that are looking to push the bailout through Congress as quickly as possible. 

In some respects, a large part of Dodd's reputation rests upon his leadership of the Committee and how he balances the demands of immediate action from President Bush and responsible decision-making on the bill that many Democrats want. Should Dodd allow Paulson to walk into his Committee, sweet-talk Congress into passing the proposal, and giving President Bush exactly what he wants.

Thank heavens for C-SPAN3!


Monday, September 22, 2008

It's About Time


Who did they think they were? North Dakota?

I can't say I didn't call it...back on February 5th.

Terrific Work

Who knew The Onion was making videos?....and great ones at that?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Reading List


Recently completed: "The Revolution: A Manifesto" by Ron Paul

Currently reading: "From Power to Purpose" by Sen. Sam Brownback

Upcoming: "Shake Hands With the Devil" by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire

I'm hoping there's not a dip in the excitement during Brownback's book, but I've met the Senator three times on the campaign trail (FOX RNC Debate, McCain rally in Iowa, RNC) and have been able to strike up very nice (albeit often brief) conversations with him about everything from life in Kansas to his joint Iraq strategy with Joe Biden.

Crossing my fingers as I dive into "From Power to Purpose"....

One Part of Our Economic Problem


Nice work, megamillions.com.

The lottery is a great addition to a healthy family economic plan.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Getaway


I'll be back with a webcast and some posts tomorrow evening, but for now it's time for a massage, a quick overnight trip, and a nice rest after a long and rough week.

Ciao!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Simple Metaphor for a Confusing Week

I was watching the Today Show yesterday morning and struggling to believe what I was hearing. Two guests were trying to explain why our banking system and housing market are in such shambles.

Their answer: corporate greed.

To them, the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, with their excessive wages and bonuses, were to blame for such a widespread problem as we currently face. Are we supposed to believe that if CEOs accepted pay cuts and passed on that money to the average employee we would not have a financial crisis? Absolutely not.

To the contrary, I have produced a simple metaphor that explains what exactly is going on. How am I an expert qualified to offer my opinion? Well, if the Federal Reserve was so knowledgeable, why are we here in the first place?

Here goes:

The problem rests primarily on our nation's debt.

Imagine the Federal Reserve as a cannon that can, at its choosing, fire off a load of cash into the economy--effectively lowering interest rates. Likewise, that cannon can also turn into a giant vacuum and suck cash out of the economy, raising interest rates. The system works fine until you run out of cannonballs, or, in reality, the government has no hard cash to launch into the economy.

So, when the Fed lowers interest rates, all it's doing is launching a big air bubble--one with NO cash behind it--into the economy. The result: the banks that lend money to each other begin trading in rather...airy, imaginary money.

When average folks hear of lower interest rates they take out a "cheaper" loan, buy a house they didn't think they can afford, but slowly find large pockets of air in the walls and floors of their new home.

When the market rights itself the goverment raises interest rates--turning on the vacuum--sucking the "money" out of the banks and the air out of the many newly-purchased houses, causing them to crumble. As their houses begin to collapse, homeowners can't afford to borrow at the newly-raised interest rates, and are stuck with piles of worthless property.

Could less corporate greed be a source of harm in our economy? Perhaps. But instead of blaming American workers (even the greedy ones) for the difficult times we're facing, we should also acknowledge the serious threats to our economic security that our national debt causes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Here We Go

Tune In!

I will be on CN8 (Channel 3) Comcast Cable News tomorrow morning @ 6:30 to discuss youth involvement in this year's election.

If you don't wake up with the sun, I will post a YouTube video of the segment later tomorrow morning.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What is "Youth Political Involvement?"


That question has been on my mind for a long time.

For many months of this election TV commentators and political observers have noted that young people are incredible involved in this election and that, especially with the help of Barack Obama, a new wave of political activism is brewing in America's up and coming generation.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't feel the same way. In fact, after looking at the electoral map projections this morning (HERE) I started to wonder just how long this "youth involvement" is going to last.

When I was in high school I helped to start a political magazine compiled with opinion pieces, news articles, and photographs all written or taken by students. After three issues the number of students involved rose from 15 to about 25, an accomplishment I was proud of. Though I don't believe that magazine can grow to encompass a much larger group of students, I strongly believe that once created, a rallying point for student political interest like a magazine can sustain itself over time. The same is true for established Model United Nations groups and "College Democrats"-type organizations. Sustained involvement in presidential politics is a lot harder to establish.


In the same way I have heard African-American political analysts note that no matter who wins the election this November, the ongoing fight for equal rights and racial equality in America could be set back (as some would say that electing a black president is the last significant hurdle yet to jump), I view youth involvement in politics similarly.

Should Barack Obama win this November, millions of young people who skipped classes on primary day to hold "Honk for Change" signs will feel like their political involvement was the key to Obama's victory, their minimal actions seemingly all that it takes to put their first beloved candidate in office. And should Barack Obama lose, millions of young people who made hundreds of phone calls, knocked on doors, volunteered at their local Obama campaign office, etc., will feel like their extraordinary efforts did nothing to change the American political landscape.

Either way, it seems hard to imagine a scenario in which youth involvement can increase after the 2008 election. Why? Can you imagine young people marching in the streets with "Joe Biden for Change 2016!" or "Hillary for Hope!" signs?

Barack Obama is the dominant force behind the present increase in young political involvement, not a collective realization among young people that issues like the War in Iraq, healthcare, and the banking crisis desperately need to be resolved.

How many young people rallied around LBJ after JFK?

Sept. 15 — Political Courier Webcast

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A McCain Victory

Here's what it looks like right now. 270-268 electoral votes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Changing Pace

From one book to the next.

I have some neat observations about McCain's book, and I'll share them on here soon.

Ron Paul time!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Endorsing Jon Hecht

Thankfully, a two hour debate was all the time I needed to determine what's going to happen next Tuesday in the Watertown Democratic Primary race for State Representative. It seems the informal polling that is counting yard signs has been quite accurate; Jon Hecht not only is the most visible candidate across Watertown, but he commanded the debate last night.

Hecht is one of four candidates running for the office. His opponents include Julia Fahey, an SEIU attorney who has received the endorsements of many local unions and politicians, Stephen Corbett, a former hospital administrator and local businessman, and Josh Weisbuch, a former Clinton White House intern and technology consultant. Hecht is the current Town Councilor of Watertown and serves as a member on a handful of local advisory panels and commissions.

Unlike higher offices where sitting politicians like Senator John Kerry seem to lose touch with voters of their home state quickly as they become consumed by the forces of Washington, experience and comfort with the roles and responsibilities of the State Legislature is a valuable commodity in local elections. Jon Hecht seemed to know the power players in Massachusetts politics, he was familiar with recent pieces of legislation, and skillfully answered the moderator's questions while also keeping the ball in his court. Sitting next to the obviously unseasoned Weisbuch who frequently dismissed questions about the Mass Pike, nurse staffing levels, and casino gambling as being "red herrings" that distracted voters from larger issues, Hecht supplied the crowd with the answers they wanted time and again.

This coming Tuesday I will cast my vote for Jon Hecht and help to send an experienced public servant to the State House.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Young Voters and the Party Conventions

I was thinking this morning about which party did a better job of reaching out to young voters at the conventions these last few weeks.

New voter registration numbers indicate that the Democrats are registering many more voters, especially those under 25 years old, than the Republicans are, but the momentum seems to have changed in the last few days.

While the RNC crowd lacked many young voters and the four day program seemed to lack much attention to the issues most important to young people, the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate his stirred up a new wave of enthusiasm among young conservatives.

One article I read last week said Sarah Palin "has lived the life of the voters who will decide this election."

That line has stayed with me ever since.

"Hockey Mom," as opposed to "Hippie Mom," finds its place in the middle of the new American family:

—Hockey Mom
—Parents were high school sweethearts
—large, young family
—a special needs child
—a teenage pregnancy

That certainly is not the typical First or Second Family of Presidents passed, but it's the portrait of an increasingly common family in the United States.

Another noteworthy distinction between the "Hippie Moms" and "Hockey Moms," is that there is often less angst among the sons and daughters of Hockey Moms towards their parents. Where young voters wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton because she reminded them of their annoying parents, young voters in St. Paul for the RNC confessed to me that Sarah Palin reminded them, at least in part, of their mother or a close friend's parent....in a good way.

Barack Obama's daughters may be very telegenic, but Sarah Palin and her family's story seems as if it's been pulled straight out of a MTV reality show.

We'll see if the momentum among young voters stays with McCain/Palin in the coming weeks....

Friday, September 5, 2008

In Transit

On my way back to Boston! There will be a webcast tomorrow if I don't get around to it today.

One Amazing Introduction

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

Evening Update Webcast

Sept. 1, 2008 — Political Courier Webcast

...who knows why I said it was Saturday twice...

Flying with the Sun at My Back (4:15 AM)

It's bright and early in Boston and I should be touching down in St. Paul, Minnesota in just a few hours.

I'll be jamming out to Robbie Seay Band's "Song of Hope" this morning, and if you're in need of a great way to start your Labor Day morning, give it a listen HERE.

See ya in St. Paul.