Thursday, October 16, 2008

News Roundup (October 16, 2008)

As we get closer and closer to the election, there is just too much going on to try to say something -- especially something particularly witty or eloquent -- about each issue, each new speech or sound bite, or each new controversy. So, once again, I'll have to make do with a brief roundup of news and videos.

First is a terrific commentary from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. I had intended to include this video yesterday, but ran out of time. Please take a moment and watch and listen to Olbermann (and remember that this commentary aired the night before the debate):



Now think about what Sen. McCain said (or didn't say last night). For the record (and I still want to write in more detail on this issue later), I have yet to see video or hear audio of any supporter of Sen. Obama threatening violence against Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin. Sure people may make crude jokes or offer insults; that's politics. But when the rhetoric becomes violent ("terrorist", "kill him", "bomb Obama"), then we've left the realm of politics and entered the realm of government by fear that isn't much different from the third world countries where political violence is the norm rather than the rare exception. Moreover, despite Sen. McCain's claims last night, I have yet to hear either Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin say or do anything to directly dissuade their supporters from using violent rhetoric.

Next comes what could be one of the most effective political ads that I've ever seen. Apparently it has only run in a limited number of places a limited number of times. I suspect that if the race were closer, we might have see more of this ad:



Next, please take a moment and go see what a Palin presidency might look like. Click everywhere. How many surprises can you find?

Here's an interesting little story. Remember Sen. McCain the reformer who stays away from lobbyists? According to The Washington Post, both AT&T and Verizon have furnished mobile cell towers to the McCain ranch in Arizona free of charge. Why is this a problem (other than the fact that Sen. McCain gets a free mobile cell tower and you don't?). Maybe it could have something to do with the fact that Sen. McCain is a "senior member of the Senate commerce committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. He has been a leading advocate for industry-backed legislation, fighting regulations and taxes on telecommunication services." Or maybe it could be this:
Five campaign officials, including manager Rick Davis, have worked as lobbyists for Verizon. Former McCain staff member Robert Fisher is an in-house lobbyist for Verizon and is volunteering for the campaign. Fisher, Verizon chief executive Ivan G. Seidenberg and company lobbyists have raised more than $1.3 million for McCain's presidential effort, and Verizon employees are among the top 20 corporate donors over McCain's political career, giving his campaigns more than $155,000.
 
McCain's Senate chief of staff Mark Buse, senior strategist Charles R. Black Jr. and several other campaign staff members have registered as AT&T lobbyists in the past. AT&T Executive Vice President Timothy McKone and AT&T lobbyists have raised more than $2.3 million for McCain. AT&T employees have donated more than $325,000 to the Republican's campaigns, putting the company in the No. 3 spot for career donations to McCain, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Hmm.

Next, I came across this in the article "Undecideds Laughing At, Not With, McCain" from Time:

In politics it is generally not considered a good sign when voters are laughing at you, not with you. And by the end of the third and last presidential debate, the undecided voters who had gathered in Denver for Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg’s focus group were “audibly snickering” at John McCain’s grimaces, eye-bulging, and repeated references to “Joe the Plumber.”

The group of 50 uncommitted voters should have at least been receptive to McCain—Republicans and Independents outnumbered Democrats in the group by almost 4 to 1, and they started the evening with much warmer responses to McCain than to his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama. But by the time it was all over, so few of them had declared their support for McCain that there weren’t enough for Greenberg to separate them into a post-debate focus group. Meanwhile, the Obama supporters had to assemble in two different rooms to keep their discussion groups manageable.

One thing that had me worried for a little while was an article that I saw posted on a right-leaning blog about an interview that Michelle Obama gave to "Africa Press International". According to the article, some of the things that Michelle Obama is claimed to have said could have been damaging to Sen. Obama. But hold on; the alleged interview never happened and the article was a fake. Even the National Review Online took the time to post a notice that the article was a fake (probably so that the right wing blogs wouldn't degenerate into an uncontrollable frothing mob at the prospect of derailing Sen. Obama's candidacy).

Finally, I want to take a look at a few moments from last night's final debate and associated coverage. First, is one of the best moments of the debate, but only if you were watching the split screen. Don't watch Sen. Obama; instead, just watch Sen. McCain. Seven seconds into the video, watch Sen. McCain's face as he realizes that he has just lost the election.



I think the message even got through to Fox News. You know those little focus groups of undecided voters that each of the networks gather to watch the debates? Well, watch the recap of what Fox's focus group thought about the debate:



"This is a good night for Barack Obama" is not exactly the message that Fox or its viewers were hoping for.

Three of the most important parts of the debate involved abortion rights, voter fraud, and the McCain's campaign ignoring the violent rhetoric coming from McCain-Palin supporters and at McCain-Palin rallies. Each of these are very important issues that I'm hoping to devote more time to soon. But, for anyone who didn't watch the debate, I think that it is worth listening and watching as Sen. McCain ridicules the notion that abortion laws should consider the health of the mother:


Yup, He actually puts "health" in cute little finger quotes.
 
Attention women who supported Hillary Clinton: Forget Gov. Palin for a moment and just listen to and watch Sen. McCain. Are you still thinking about voting for the Republican ticket? Remember that the next President will likely have the opportunity to appoint at least two, if not more, justices to the Supreme Court.
 
One of the apparent strategies of the McCain campaign has been to make voters afraid of Sen. Obama; however, based on recent comments it doesn't look like Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are on the same page as to whether this is the campaign's actual strategy and viewpoint. For example, in an interview with Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday, Gov. Palin said (according to a report in The New York Times [I don't listen to Limbaugh...]) that voters do need to fear an Obama presidency:

“You seem to understand the stark choice we have and the real danger the country faces in the future if the Obama-Biden ticket is elected. And I’d just like to know, do you see it that way?”

“I do,” she responded.

But just last Friday, the man at the top of the ticket told voters:
He is a decent person, and a person that you do not have to be scared of as President of the United States.
So which is it? Do we believe Gov. Palin that we face "real danger" if Sen. Obama is elected or do we believe Sen. McCain's statement that we "do not have not have to be scared of"?
 
One item that many people may have missed was the recent endorsement of Barack Obama by conservative columnist and writer Christopher Buckley (son of William F. Buckley). A few portions of Buckley's column are worth repeating:
John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?
And:
Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.
Buckley published his column at The Daily Beast because he didn't want the kind of mail that Kathleen Parker received when she criticized Sen. McCain. Unfortunately, for Buckley, things didn't work out too well:

Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler.

...

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

And just to finish on a lighter note, Daily Kos is running a caption contest for each of the following moments from last night's debate:

and

 
Well, I'm sure that I've forgotten some things that I wanted to include, but I guess that this post is long enough already...

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