Saturday, August 30, 2008

McCain's Choice of Sarah Palin

I remember telling my parents a few weeks ago to watch for a darkhorse Republican veep choice of one Sarah Palin of Alaska. The reason for this was that, if Barack Obama had a lead and a good showing at the Democratic National Convention, which I think he did in a big way (and had an estimated record 42 million people watch his speech, when you include the PBS audience to the reported 38 million estimate), John McCain would try to solidify his base and do something that would not necessarily be possible with any other Republican choice - have someone on the ticket who had a middle class upbringing that would connect with middle class America. Sarah Palin has an "American Dream" type story, which can also be said about Obama and his veep choice, Joe Biden. These three came from average families and reached the top levels of government through hard work. In addition, McCain would be able to cause a stir with this "maverick" type choice, as he tries desperately to get back his preferred status amongst voters. The Dems effectively showed how, with the exception of a few instances he broke from his party, McCain is someone who is a loyal Bush Republican, voting over 90+% of the time with the White House, and who has flip-flopped his way to a more right-wing position solely to get elected. A previous post addresses how he has flipped his stance on countless issues over the years, which provides a record of doing whatever it takes to get a gig and being unprincipled, which runs contrary to the image he has somehow been able to build.

It is becoming clear McCain cannot win a debate on issues. The one issue he had placed an emphasis on, an argument that Obama does not have the experience to be commander in chief, now is off the table entirely because of his selection of Palin. Can anyone truly say with a straight face that she has credentials to be commander in chief? I don't think McCain will be able to attract very many disgruntled Hillary Clinton female supporters once Palin's record and stances on issues becomes clear. In fact, I wonder how many will follow through with threats of voting for McCain as they realize that would be the ultimate slap in the face of the woman they love, since McCain's stance on issues runs contrary to what Clinton believes. Pro-choice women won't vote for McCain-Palin. And, if anyone can let me know if this is correct, a stance of Palin that worries me is she is a creationist. (I had heard a report that claimed she supports teaching creationism in high school science classes...need to find out if this is indeed true)

Palin is a major supporter of Big Oil, who supports drilling just about anywhere they can. Perhaps many Americans are tired of Big Oil having direct influence in the White House. And with one of her very few noteworthy political accomplishments, where she gained a 'maverick' label, taxed oil company profits in Alaska, McCain loses one more attack on Obama's plan to have some version of a windfall profits tax on oil profits, which will be used to help fund his $150 billion Manhattan-type Project for energy development over a ten year period. (Obama wants this generation to follow the lead of the previous two generations with a massive scientific push - the Manhattan Project of my grandparents' generation to develop nuclear technology, and my parents' generation that developed the space age technology - where we develop an widely varied energy technology portfolio that puts us on a path where we greatly reduce oil and gas dependency and completely revamp our energy infrastructure and outdated power grid) As a side note, I think Obama's energy plan is the correct path to take, since it addresses numerous, intertwined issues at once: the economy (including manufacturing base), national security (reducing dependence on oil, most of which comes from foreign sources), the lack of a robust energy policy and strategy (let's face it, we have never really had one), our science and technology foundation and infrastructure, and job production. The McCain-Palin energy plan will be primarily to drill more offshore, and have massive investments in nuclear power plants. I do think we will need to build some more nuclear plants, and that nuclear power is grossly over-feared by the public, but construction of such plants takes an enormous amount of time and is publicly, and therefore politically, resisted, meaning there will be great resistance in a Democratic Congress...nuclear power expansion is simply not a realistic solution in the current political environment. I still believe someone at some point needs to publicly mention that offshore drilling, which has gained some popularity in the electorate, is not a preferred choice for a completely overlooked reason - we are going to reach a point where we will need ocean water as a primary drinking source, and will need to one day build desalination plants to address looming a fresh water crisis that is developing in many locations around the country and already is a major crisis in many parts of the world. It would take one drilling accident to disrupt that future source of drinking water. The McCain-Palin energy strategy is not, in my mind, a viable choice in the short-term, nor the long-term with offshore drilling.

The selection of Palin is obviously a purely political one. It does not follow a mold of being a responsible selection, which would be one where the candidate has a primary responsibility to put country first and have someone who can effectively take over the job should something happen to McCain. This includes having someone where the average American citizen has confidence the veep can immediately step into the job - I don't think most Americans will have such confidence with Palin, who truly has no national or international political experience. And this is, in the case of McCain, more important than ever, for he would be the oldest person to become President if he wins (and has already had several medical issues, including skin cancer). This is a case of McCain being perhaps a little desperate, and wanting to do anything he can to get the job, whether it is in the best interest of the country or not. He is counting on getting in better with the GOP evangelical base (which will like this selection), and trying to get a few more women to vote for him. He will rely on right-wing fringe groups (e.g. swift boat groups) to unleash numerous attacks on Obama (even though McCain was entirely against this type of politics when it happened to him in the South Carolina primary in the 2000 race against George W. Bush, and more recently promised a purely issues based campaign, which has fallen by the wayside already). The McCain strategy now rests on a hope, and an all-out fear and smear campaign.

All of this seems to be falling right in line with a quote in the movie "The American President," where the Republican candidate "is concerned about two things, and two things only - making you afraid of it, and telling you who is to blame for it - that, ladies and gentlemen, is how they win elections." This falls perfectly in line with the Rovian campaigns over the past couple decades...can the country afford it to work this time?

How will Rove spin this one?

With the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, how will Karl Rove spin this one? Here is what he predicted Obama would do before the Democratic convention (he was on Face the Nation):

"I think Obama's going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice," Rove said. "He's going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he's going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He's not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president."
Rove singled out Virginia governor Tim Kaine, also a Face The Nation guest, as an example of such a pick.
"With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished," Rove said. "I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America."

Rove went further, stating that he was solely interested in winning Virginia’s electoral votes, rather than choose someone with the long-term interests of the U.S., should something happen to him as President, which is having someone with experience who would be capable to carry on as President. No one can argue with the selection of Joe Biden when it comes to experience and being capable of taking over…the right will disagree with where he stands, which is what is supposed to happen, but to a person Republicans at least respect the choice and cannot complain that Obama politicized the selection of Biden (Delaware won’t make or break the election).

Again, I am waiting to see how the spin comes out on this one, from the top political strategist the GOP has.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Get Back to Work!" Plea from McCain

Sen. John McCain was at a campaign rally, yelling for Congress, including Sen. Obama, to get back to work to solve the energy crisis. Fair enough...although on closer inspection, it is amusing that McCain has, by a decent margin, the worst attendance and voting record of any senator. He has missed nearly 2 out of every 3 votes in the 110th Congress, including the latest votes on alternative energy funding and stopping tax breaks for oil companies. Once again, he wants everyone to ignore facts and only listen to his non-stop negative attacks on Obama. His arguments and complains normally don't hold much substance, which is why I felt the need to point this latest amusing fact out. The full voting list for the Senate can be found here. For the record, Obama has missed just under 45% of all votes while on the campaign trail.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Inflating Tires and Tuning Up Cars Not Such a Bad Idea

John McCain is once again mocking Barack Obama for Obama's comment to a voter that keeping tires properly inflated and tuned up, with regular oil changes, can end up collectively saving almost as much oil as one might expect to get from offshore drilling. ABC News asked an expert about this savings, and the estimate is some 800,000 barrels of oil per day could be saved if we all kept our cars maintained as recommended. This value should be fairly reliable since we understand cars and their efficiencies. However, how much oil we would get from new drilling is quite speculative, and it will take time to get full production. If we want something we can do now to help reduce the amount of oil required to fuel out nation, I personally do not agree with mocking the savings that Obama is suggesting. New drilling is the heart and soul of McCain's energy plan, but it truly is not a quick fix for our energy needs. Americans need to understand this, and that an actual plan with new technologies and new infrastructure must be part of, ultimately, a longer-term energy solution. Much of the technology already exists, or is at a point where serious investment will almost certainly accelerate results and benefits. I'll be writing more about some energy possibilities, and why I believe the Obama plan is much more beneficial, better thought-out based on policy priorities in multiple areas of concern (including energy, the economy, jobs, national security, the environment, and manufacturing; all of these are related) and more realistic than many think based on the present science and technology. With a Manhattan Project type investment and challenge, it is very likely that a good portion of what Obama outlined today will be realized within a decade.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Is there anything left McCain has not flipped on?

In this day and age of non-stop news does a man running for President get away with accusing his opponent of everything under the sun while staying relatively clean, even though his views on most major issues have changed? I have not been able to figure it out, but I feel I must point out some of the issues John McCain, the self-proclaimed "straight talker," has flipped on, mostly over the past couple years, as he has changed his political persona to fit whatever wind happens to be blowing. But somehow, many people still see him as a "maverick" who "sticks to his deep, rock solid beliefs." Nothing could be further from the truth, and I suspect the Democrats will begin to point these out more and more as the right and McCain's campaign have all but thrown issues into the garbage disposal as they have begun the big attack campaign we have seen the last two elections (Rovian politics at its finest this past week).

McCain has flipped on his constant urging of a issues campaign...this past week has proved he will endorse just about any ad they think will work, regardless if it is true or not. Case in point, how low is the statement that Obama "is willing to lose a war in order to win an election" because he is for a timetable? A despicable statement, in my mind (for what it is worth, the Iraqi Prime Minister essentially endorsed the Obama plan). Or that they used comments from one of the Marines in Iraq who said Obama did not spend any time with troops, but only went for photo-ops...the Marine's letter was recanted, but the ad still ran. And then there is the one about the Obama celebrity. Yes, Obama draws large crowds, as he is a relative newcomer who is a curiosity for many people. But what about the real TV and movie star in the campaign...let's not forget McCain hosted "Saturday Night Live," appeared on "24" and made an appearance in the movie "The Wedding Crashers." His sudden lack of memory of these jaunts into Hollywood is almost laughable.

McCain is the "foreign policy expert," with decades of experience. How many times has he confused Sunni and Shia clans, or Iraq and Iran, in press conferences, or forgotten that the country my grandfather came from in the 1920s, Czechoslovakia, is no longer a country?

But now for the list. Here are some of the issues voters need to take into consideration when voting for President, and may be confused as to where McCain stands (since he has been on both sides of all these issues):

- the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy
- the status of Roe v Wade
- gay marriage
- finance reform (and, by the way, had over 50 current lobbyists working with his campaign)
- ethanol
- drilling for offshore oil
- torture (was against, but voted to allow Bush to use certain methods he opposed)
- certain members of the Christian right being "agents of intolerance;" suddenly they are good guys (eg Jerry Falwell)
- will run an issues, clean campaign
- confederate flag in South Carolina (first thought it was offensive and thought they should not fly it, now doesn't have a problem with it)
- immigration amnesty
- English as the national language
- at a primary debate on Nov 28, 2007, said "voters do not trust us (GOP) because of our failure with Katrina and failure in Iraq." Now claims Iraq is won.
- claimed he would not raise taxes to bail out Social Security, then said everything, including raising taxes, would be on the table when trying to fix it, then came out and said "No new taxes." This all happened in the past month. What's it going to be, John?
- blasted Obama for his view that if we had hard, solid intelligence of where someone such as bin Laden is in Pakistan we would hit it militarily even if the Pakistanis were against the action, but then praised a Predator strike which killed an upper level leader of al Qaeda in the Pakistan mountains
- the use of medical marijuana
- the estate tax (or death tax as the GOP calls it); he was for the continuation of the tax, and is now against it
- stand on Cuba (he said in 2000 he would want to normalize relations with Cuba, now does not want to talk with Cuban leaders, but keep embargo)

There are many YouTube videos showing the endless stream of flips and flops. The point is, McCain is the one who is doing and saying anything that will get him elected. He is no maverick, he is an old-time politician who is recreating himself at will to get the job. Certainly Obama has changed positions on some issues as well, but I suspect that list is not nearly as impressive as McCain's. I do fear that if history holds true, two things will happen: the allegations that Obama flips on 'everything' will get a grip with voters just as they did against Kerry (when Bush flipped on countless issues himself), and that negative campaigning will also work with the average American voter. John McCain is NOT the kind of politician he likes to claim, and his experience is not a saving grace. Look where the enormous amount of experience in the Bush foreign policy and national security team has gotten us...botched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a team that ignored the Israeli-Palestinian talks for years when so much progress was made under Clinton, North Korea developed the bomb, continued civil war and genocide in Africa, and Iran had an all but free reign for several years as all U.S. attention focused on Iraq, leading to the present status of issues with Iran. McCain went along with all this, showing how his judgment is as flawed as the Bush judgment when it comes to foreign policy. I simply cannot buy into his experience argument, and lo and behold what Obama has been talking about is looking like the better approach, where talking with leaders and nations makes some sense (the latest round of diplmacy with Iran, engaging recently with North Korea, etc). But I do not know if this time around the average voter will be fooled once again. We will see.