Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Obama infomercial

Just watched the Obama infomercial on MSNBC (the local CBS and NBC affiliates are showing it at 7.00 PM MT - delayed an hour.)

I thought Obama said he would mention specific spending cuts to pay "over and above" his spending plans, but I didn't hear said cuts.  Will have to listen to it again.  Update: the only specific cut appears to be ending the War in Iraq.  While I'd have liked to see more, I understand some people might find specific domestic cuts unpalatable.  Anyway, I am not such a deficit hawk - I think both candidates will be deficit-spending.  I would rather the money be spent regenerating the American economy (particularly through non-conventional energy sources), than on wars against Iraq, Iran and Russia.

I initially thought the ad would use stories from only battleground states when it started with Missouri and New Mexico, but Kentucky also made an appearance. [So did Ohio, as I watch a delayed broadcast on the local Fox station, post-World Series.]  I also liked the appearances by Governors Strickland, Sibelius, Kaine, Deval Patrick and Richardson, and Senators Durbin, McCaskill, and Biden.  I was pleasantly surprised at the (personal!) endorsement by Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  I do wish a Republican - like Senator Hagel or even General Powell - had made an appearance.  If Hagel does not want to endorse McCain, and he's not running for re-election, what's keeping him from coming out for Obama?

Obama on his mother's fight against the big-C and the insurance companies was incredibly touching.  Michelle speaking about Obama doing a good job as father was excellent as well.

Overall, the infomercial was well-produced, and I was glad to see lots of diversity.  But more importantly, with the quick turn - within the first few minutes - to regular American families (a Caucasian family trying to make ends meet, an elderly African-American couple with the husband taking a new job at Wal-Mart to pay for his wife's medical expenses, a retired Caucasian whose pension was dramatically reduced due to corporate fiscal mismanagement, a Hispanic single mother with two jobs), Obama demonstrated that this election is not about him.

It is about all of us.

Update: The video!

Coda: McCain says the ad was paid for with broken promises.  In short: "Waaaah!  Obama didn't let me gain a vast financial advantage via the RNC-DNC fundraising gap!"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama not admitting a mistake?

"Obama has not admitted the Surge worked" - so says Senator Lindsey Graham on This Week.
But has McCain ever admitted that the Iraq War was a mistake?  That the US was not greeted as a liberator, that it was not a short war, that the War was not paid for by Iraqi oil but instead by American budget deficits, all opposite to what McCain proclaimed before the Iraq War?

John McCain - continuing the Iraq War and continuing tax cuts for the wealthy - just like the first 7 years of George W Bush, but without the common sense on comprehensive immigration reform.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Working to get Obama elected (2)

Four days of canvassing - about 200 doors knocked, ~50 persons talked to, and 4-5 volunteers recruited: 20-25 hours.
About 30 calls to voters, and about the same number to potential volunteers (2 recruited): 2 hours.
Having fun trying to get Obama elected: Priceless.

[Updated] Voter statistics in Boulder County

Decided to look up the voter statistics in Boulder County today.  Here's what I found at the CO Secretary of State, updated as of 10/23/08:

Total MIB requested - 120k out of 182k "active registered voters" (I have no idea what inactive RVs are!)
Total MIB received - 39k (Boulder County Clerk says 47k as of today, 10/25/08)
Early voters - ~6k (BCC says 9k as of today)

UPDATE: A more comprehensive, nationwide summary by Michael McDonald is here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Random musings (updated)

I caught this morning's This Week show only part-way. Talking about paying for their spending plans - McCain promises $5 trillion in new spending compared to just $3.5 trillion for Obama, IIRC - the talking heads only spoke about Obama. George Will, one of the WaPo conservatives, said, "Obama restricts his tax-cuts to the middle class, but is going to tax the richest 2% - there's not much left to tax the top 1% who already pay 38% of the taxes, where's he going to pay for his spending?"
None of the others asked - "How's McCain going to pay for his spending when he isn't raising taxes onanybody?" It's almost as if President Obama's a certainty...

I agree with whoever (Richard Lewis on The Daily Show?) who said "McCain's plan is socialism for the wealth, and a big F***-you to the rest of us." Or so it seems to me, anyway - see the $300 million to banks to buy failing mortgages at face value. Where's the free market you champion, Senator McCain?

Again, This Weak - ABC's ad for the show has a "dynamic" George Stephanopoulos hunting around for stories, and proudly shows George telling Senator McCain [about his charge that Obama's putting personal ambition over country?] - "I can't believe you believe that." Umm... ABC, that, if anything, shows George's naivete rather than his ability to speak "truth to power"...

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Nancy Pfotenhauer says McCain's leading in the "real" Virginia. Guess what? The state's electoral votes are determined by all of Virginia, real or false... and guess who's leading in that count?

Senator McCain apparently responded to General Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama with "This doesn't come as a surprise." What exactly do you mean by that, Senator? That Colin Powell, who used to be a widely-revered General before being used as cover for the Bush-Cheney War agenda, disagrees with you on the way forward in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or that Powell was endorsing Obama based on his race? If the latter, well, that seems to put you in the company of Rush Limbaugh, who seems to have the same reaction. Enough said.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palin on SNL

Just watched Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK)  on SNL.  She was actually quite funny - well, at least the skits were, and she appeared a good sport.  If this swings the election back to McCain, Tina Fey and SNL would have finally avenged Hillary... Yes, I still hold SNL's Democratic primary spoofs on Senator Obama featuring a Fred Armisen in blackface against them.  And why I say this could swing a few votes to McCain-Palin is because Palin came off as likeable and a good sport, which suggests some intelligence.  Now it's true that polls show one can like Palin but still not support her, but we are talking about the swing voters who still can't see the vast daylight between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin on the issues of substance after all this time... Who knows what will swing them one way or another?
[That also raises another, troubling question - what was Governor Palin, the true patriot, doing in NYC, one of the anti-America regions of America?]
The "weekend update" section was followed by an ad break featuring the anti-Obama "empty chair" advertisement - "in this time of crisis, the nation is considering elevating someone with the least experience and no executive experience" to the Presidency.  Well, as far as I can recall, Lincoln did a damn fine job with the Civil War.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The third debate

The third and final Presidential debate ended earlier this evening, with pretty much the same results as the earlier two debates.  Neither candidate scored a knock-out, and so McCain has not done much to change the state of the race - which doesn't bode well for the Republican.

The most enduring image of the debate for me was McCain's reaction to Obama's statement that Joe the Plumber would pay ZERO fines if Joe didn't buy health insurance for his (future?) employees.  McCain gaped aghast - he clearly was not expecting that!  Video via kos:

I am so happy to have that video... On a second watch, McCain's reaction is simply b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.

It was also surprising to see the Democrat argue against wasteful spending of taxpayer money - like buying mortgages at face value, or higher health care costs due to ER visits by uninsured people.

Outside of that, though, I thought Obama could have socked McCain at least a couple of times.  For instance, after Obama said "zero" fines for JtP, McCain just continued to spout his "will have to pay fines" line.  Obama could have simply said, "didn't you hear me, John?"  Or when McCain said toward the end "so if there aren't enough vouchers, lets not do it?  I understand!" - Obama could have said "vouchers are your only solution to education; I have a much more comprehensive approach - including charter schools - because the youth are America's future."  Or about ACORN (this might be a too-subtle point, but let's not underestimate voters) - "you could register Mickey Mouse or one guy 23 times, but Mickey Mouse is not going to vote, and a guy can vote only once!" [After all, McCain did say "democracy is endangered by ACORN!"]

In trying to avoid a gaffe/not lose, I think Obama let a great opportunity to KO McCain slip away.  It's just like the primaries - Obama's running out the clock, content that he has a definite lead that he has to protect.  Unlike the primaries, though, Obama has a lead in the polls - but nothing in the bag, yet.

Still, I remain cautiously optimistic...

On the conservative intelligentsia leaving McCain-Palin

Of late, a number of conservative pundits appear to be fleeing McCain - George Will, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker... On this topic, I find this Ross Douthat piece very smart and well-written.  Here's a key excerpt:
Suppose that you accept the most cynical account of, say, Peggy Noonan's uncertainty about whom to vote for in this election, or Christopher Buckley's Obama endorsement - that they're just craven, self-interested bandwagon jumpers who want to keep getting invited to all those swanky cocktail parties I keep hearing about. Suppose that you regard every right-of-center writer - or single-issue fellow traveler with the Bush Republicans, in the case of Christopher Hitchens - who's publicly hurled brickbats at the McCain campaign as a quisling and a coward, a stooge for liberalism and a rat fleeing a fast-sinking ship. In such circumstances, what's the best course of action - denouncing the rats, or trying to figure out why the hell the ship is sinking? Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on - note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren't Helping The Team these days - are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their "seat at the table" is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point.
Of course, not all conservative pundits are fleeing McCain.  Michael Gerson - once Bush-43's speechwriter - says McCain may be "a great man running at the most difficult of times."  And his reasoning for saying that?  That Obama's naturally a laidback 1940s crooner, who has done nothing of note to alleviate the current fiscal crisis, unlike McCain, who suspended his campaign to work on the bailout bill.  Oh, and that Obama is friends with terrorists, unlike McCain, about whose bad associations we would surely have known.
Really, Mr Gerson?  I suppose you don't consider G Gordon Liddy a radical (he did it for Nixon!  But what about shooting government officials?)  And maybe Major General John Singlaub is an American Hero... but what about his links to Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads? (via a dkos diary)  And I am sure the Alaska Independence Party is all-OK! (via midwest voices)  And of course, the fact is that McCain didn't really suspend his campaign to work on the bailout plan - and he didn't do much to get the bailout plan passed either, rather he might have actually helped Republicans oppose the "rescue" plan!
Ahhh... what am I thinking?  Gerson sees McCain, sees the Bush within, and reverts to his old fealty.  D-uh!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Working to get Obama elected

A couple weeks back, I walked into the downtown Boulder Obama office, and ended up making some calls.  I meant to go back, but one thing after the other...

Then last week, an Obama canvasser came by my door (the second; but the first was just trying to get me registered).  I think he had my name off my TNR subscription.  Anyway, I told him what I told the first volunteer - I am a permanent resident, so I can't vote.  So he said - "Do you want to volunteer?"  I said, sure.

And surprise - a few days later, I got a call asking me if I was available to canvass that weekend (last Saturday).  I figured I had put it off long enough, and showed up at house.  Spent five hours walking the neighborhood (though it was a cold and drizzly afternoon) with another volunteer.  My fellow canvasser later sent me a message about a 4-h training session for GOTV yesterday (Sunday), which was also quite interesting.  And now I am going to a neighborhood-specific GOTV meeting and phonebank tomorrow.

The point is this - I walked in to the Obama office, and while that was useful, there was no follow-up to make me come back.  The neighborhood team, on the other hand, has me attending more often, and I got a call earlier tonight thanking me for attending the GOTV training, and asking if I would show up Tuesday.

It appears past campaigns relied almost entirely on the "central campaign office" model, where volunteers would walk in, be given rudimentary tasks, and that was it.  But the Obama campaign is blending top-down and bottom-up approaches to campaign organizing, that even the Right may learn from for the next time round.  That Next Right piece is a reaction to this piece in HuffPo (which Patrick Ruffini of The Next Right describes as "one of the must-read pieces of this election cycle.")

Obama's middle-class economic rescue plan

Obama's economic speech today, as prepared for delivery is here.

Lots of specifics, suggests a new economic rescue package - but for the middle class - to be passed by Congress ASAP (including the sending out checks for the "tax cuts for 95% of American workers and families" now). Sure, it involves a lot of government spending, but for the deficit hawks, I have one question: Where the f*** were you the past eight years?

Ideally, I'd rather not have a fiscal deficit. But if there's gonna be deficit spending, I'd rather the government spend that money on boosting the economy than on more wars with the Russians over freakin' Georgia and Ukraine, thank you very much.

Video here:

Some details of the costs.  $60 billion for the steps proposed today, $175 billion for Obama's complete economic stimulus package.  The previous $115 billion includes $50 billion for infrastructure projects, and the rest is the cost of a second round of tax rebates.  Businesses hiring new full-time employees will get a $3000 tax credit, costing $40 billion.  $10 billion to extend unemployment benefits; small business loans from the SBA's disaster funds $5 billion; and $4 billion for additional loan guarantees to the auto industry ($50 billion instead of $25 billion earlier, I think in the bailout package passed by Congress earlier).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The second debate

The second Presidential debate between Obama and McCain was supposed to be a townhall-style meeting.  But all it had in that vein was questions from voters, with some voters personally asking the questions and Tom Brokaw reading off some questions submitted via the Internet.  There were no follow-up questions, with only one somewhat extended discussion between Obama and McCain.  That was one shortcoming.

There were some good questions, and good answers - Obama mentioning the $400k AIG junket, Obama's "I'll take out bin Laden even if he's in Pakistan" statement, McCain saying "talk softly and carry a big stick."  Though Obama hit McCain hard on that last point, mentioning "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran", McCain's promise to annihilate North Korea, and "Next stop, Baghdad!"

Earlier in the campaign, Obama hit McCain for suspending his campaign to work on the bailout plan, saying a President should be able to work on more than one thing at a time.  So perhaps in a turn of events, when Brokaw asked them to prioritize between health care, SS/Medicare and energy, McCain said "we can work on all 3!" while Obama said "first energy, second health care, and third, education" (but not entitlements!)

In response to a question about the effect of the bailout plan on ordinary working Americans, McCain gave his standard stump speech, while Obama explained how the plan would affect ordinary folk (as in small businesses may not make payroll due to a lack of credit), in addition to his spiel.  There were one or two questions where neither answered, and instead gave their standard stump speech.

Overall, though, I thought there was no clear winner (though the CNN and CBS flash polls say Obama won by a bit).  Obama came off looking very unruffled, looking intently at McCain when McCain was speaking - as the talking heads said, good body language, and most importantly, Obama looked Presidential.  I thought McCain looked old, perhaps even wheezing a little.  So all in all, Obama won.

Aside - the in-house audience was made up of undecided voters from the Nashville area.  What...?  Do Tennesseans really matter? :-)  And KeithO and ChrisM kept talking about McCain's "that one" (referring to Obama) and "not you, Tom!" (on candidates for SecTreasury).  That was stupid, and those comments barely registered on me.  On this, I am with Mike Duhaime, the McCain guy, who said Mathews should focus on the substantive issues.  Now, if only the McCain campaign itself would follow that advice...

[Update] EJ Dionne reminds me of a question that I thought McCain would hit out of the ballpark, but didn't: "As president, what sacrifices -- sacrifices will you ask every American to make to help restore the American dream and to get out of the economic morass that we're now in?"  McCain's campaign was centered around sacrifice (well, mostly military, apparently), but it was Obama who gave the much better answer.  As Dionne writes:
McCain spoke almost entirely about cutting or freezing government programs. It was a strange answer from a man whose military career was characterized by years of punishing patriotic sacrifice.

Obama caught the idealism behind the query, criticizing President Bush's call for Americans to shop after the Sept. 11 attacks. He spoke of the need for individual energy conservation; called for expansion of service programs, including the Peace Corps; and described the hunger among young people to serve their country. McCain sounded like a legislator, Obama like a president.

Update 2: Jon Stewart, one of the most astute political observers, reminds me of Obama's reply to McCain's "let folks buy health insurance across state boundaries" - that the insurance companies would move to the state with most lax regulations to reduce their cost and increase profits, like the banking industry does in... Delaware! Ummm.... with the help of regulations written by your VP? Ouch!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Obama's upper limit?

As of writing, things are looking very good for Obama - as per, Obama leads McCain 296-163 in the electoral vote count, including strong- and lean-Dem states, with Florida and Colorado moving in to the lean-Obama column.  Further, Obama has slender leads in New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, Nevada - and North Carolina!  In OH, VA and NC, use of the "sensitive" smoothing shows Obama leads from 4% to 7%, close to or beyond MOE (likely also the case for NH, but Pollster's map for NH has a bug).  The only toss-up states where McCain is ahead are Missouri and Indiana (where Obama will likely spend his third debate prep-time).  This should be Obama's upper limit - 296 strong/lean-Dem + 57 slight leads = 353 EV.  Add in Indiana, and that makes 364 EV Obama's high water mark.
Of course, Obama winning all 364 electoral votes is highly unlikely, and I will settle for 270!  In the mean time, here's the electoral vote map, which is now offered as an embed by the awesome Mark Blumenthal:

Friday, October 3, 2008

The VP debate

The only VP debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin was... interesting.  Joe Biden was remarkably restrained, on-message (attacking only John McCain), and didn't come off as either Papa Bush (against Ferraro) or Rick Lazio (against Clinton).  The best Sarah Palin could do was be folksy and wink at/flirt with the audience, and try to be Reaganesque ("Say it ain't so, Joe... there you go again!") as she repeatedly avoided answering the questions.  Unfortunately, Gwen Ifill didn't push her; maybe she was a little wary of appearing partisan after the recent right-wing attacks on her neutrality for writing her book on Black politicians.

On climate change, Sarah Palin said she's not convinced about anthropogenic (my word, not hers!) effects - but that we should do something about it (even if it's just, as Palin apparently believes, natural cyclical changes?)  Palin also claimed that the USA should bring other countries along - but ummm... isn't the USA, under Bush, the only industrialized country to not sign the Kyoto Protocol?  Joe Biden, quite appropriately, pointed out that without knowing the reason, we can't fix the problem.  And he also said that pollution from China affects the western USA, showing a depth of knowledge (or at least, awareness, which is just as important).

On Israel, Sarah Palin said "I am so encouraged to know that we both love Israel." (h/t Milbank)  Ummm... you are talking to Joe Biden, who's been doing this s*** ever since you were in the second grade.  I am glad Joe didn't point out what a neophyte she is, who said recently that she was too busy governing Alaska to follow the war in Iraq (and if she can't do that, what about other foreign policy issues, like Israel?)  That might have been taken as "sexism."  Also, doesn't Sarah Palin's Church seek to convert, or at least encourages conversion of, Jews to Christianity?  What sort of a friend to Israel is she?

Toward the end, Joe Biden had an awesome smackdown of "Maverick" McCain - "on the issues important to the American people, he's no maverick!"  And best of all, Joe related his touching story of knowing what it felt like to wonder if his child would survive... It was genuine, heart-felt, and warm.

And all Palin said in response was... "mavericks!  we are mavericks!"  Yes, you definitely are - while the rest of America was sympathetic toward Joe, you just trod on... All the folksiness was revealed as an artifice, just cold calculation.  Kos says "Anyone who knows what Biden has had to deal with raising his kids wouldn't have blithely made that comment."  Someone who knows but doesn't give a s***, easily would have.  And that a***hole was Sarah "hockey mom with a Down's child" Palin.

Barack Obama picked a great Vice-President.  John McCain played craps with the country's future.