Will Hawkish Obama Spin Lead to Afghanistan Chagrin?

karzaiThroughout the presidential campaign, whenever Barack Obama opposed the Iraq War he would quickly point out that he would direct significantly more military might to stop al Quaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Maybe broader involvement in the ‘Stans is what Obama sincerely believes is necessary. But I always wondered whether it was perhaps the liberal’s way of putting a tougher, pragmatic edge onto his foreign policy communications. It seemed like a way to effectively say to foreign policy moderates, “I’m against the Bush’s war, but that doesn’t mean I’m a wimpy Democrat against ANY use of military power.”

Whatever Obama’s motivation for being a hawk on Afghanistan, I worry this could develop into a quagmire for the boy President. After all, so far things haven’t gone particularly well for us in this tricky mountainous terrain. And you may recall things didn’t go particularly well for our Cold War dance partners either.

Yes, the world would be a better place if we could wave a magic want and get rid of Afghanistan’s terrorist camps, poppy fields and anti-democratic thugs. But we should know by now that the Pentagon has no such magic wands in its arsenal. The Pentagon is darn good at winning wars, and darn poor at winning the peace. Military occupations just haven’t gone well for super powers over the last century, so why should we believe this occupation will work any better?

A need to appeal to moderate voters may have led Obama into proposing an expansion of the Afghanistan War, but that tough stump spin may well lead to foriegn policy chagrin.

- Loveland

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Satirical Seer

politeness-bookYesterday, Governor Pawlenty said “thanks but no thanks” to that bridge to economic recovery.

Our state and national economies are in deep doo-doo. The private sector is not stimulating the economy with private investment and consumption, because of lack of consumer confidence and credit. At the same time, state governments aren’t able to spend enough to stimulate the economy, because of huge deficits and statutory budget balancing requirements. No stimulus, no recovery.

Fortunately, Franklin Roosevelt taught us that the federal government, with its ability to deficit spend during national emergencies, can jolt an arresting economy back to life. That’s why both conservative and liberal economists are urging the federal government to pass a stimulus package that includes lots of federal spending, much of it flowing through cash strapped states.

But Goveror Pawlenty is having none of it. Yesterday, the Governor of the state with a deficit reportedly in excess of $4 billion was biting the federal hands trying to feed him.

Maybe Pawlenty’s stand is borne of conservative conviction. Maybe. It should be noted, however, that the good Governor is neither saying he will return Obama bucks, nor the billions the state annually receives from the federal government.

Then again, maybe the Onion was prophetic almost four years ago…

State Of Minnesota Too Polite To Ask For Federal Funding

ST. PAUL, MN—Although many of its highways and bridges are in severe disrepair, the traditionally undemanding state of Minnesota isn’t comfortable asking for more interstate funding, sources reported Monday.

“Oh, we wouldn’t want to bother the U.S. government—they’ve got more than enough on their plate as it is,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. “Most of the potholes on I-90 are less than four feet wide. We get by just fine. I wouldn’t want anyone all the way over there in Washington to be worrying about little ol’ us.”

According to U.S. Department of Transportation records, Minnesota has not requested an increase in highway funds for 10 years, in spite of the fact that the majority of their roads are plagued by rutted or uneven surfaces, cracked pavement, potholes, and other deterioration.

“If it were a life or death situation, you can bet your bippy we’d ask for it, but since it isn’t…” Pawlenty said. “Well, we can make do with the transportation-department budget they decided to give us back in 1995. That was more than generous.”

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“Mutts Like Me”

When a President-elect calls himself a “mutt,” is that endearing self-deprecation, or an insenstive slap at millions of proud bi-racial people everywhere? (Note: The relevant quote is at the very end of this 2 minute clip.)

There is a way for the word “mutt” to be used to describe a human being that is ugly and despicable. And there is a way for it to be used that is warm and funny.

I wonder if people will be able to tell the difference.

It will be fascinating to watch these kinds of racial discussions play out at the highest levels. In so many ways, Senator Obama is indeed a new breed.

- Loveland

augie-solo-10-weeks3P.S. My business partner is part Standard Poodle and part Golden Retriever. So, I would like the President-elect to know that the First Kids can have a dog that is both hypo-allergenic and a mutt.

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Blinded by the White

Yesterday, a relative emailed very insightful thoughts about the election of Barack Hussein Obama. It captured something I was feeling, but was unable to articulate. So, I am pilfering it:

Obama’s a more talented candidate and natural leader than either Gore or
Kerry had been. I was so impressed and focused on that during the campaign that I lost sight of the historical importance. I was just relieved that we finally had a candidate who knew how to fend off the nonsense Republicans throw out and make the campaign about big things instead of small things.

Then I remember – he’s black, with a foreign, Muslim sounding name; comparatively little experience; an unashamed liberal with a background in community activism. On paper, he’s the worst candidate imaginable. It’s amazing that he not only won, but won handily, and did it on the strength of his intelligence and ideas. It says a lot about him, and maybe more about our ability to look past our biases, even when (or especially when) we don’t know we’re doing it.

Maybe that’s why people from all over the world still want to come here. We’re better than we think we are. We just forget that our real strength has little to do with military or economic power.”

weepSince 10 p.m. CST Tuesday evening, I have been surprised at how overwhelmed so many citizens were about the “first African American” aspect of the Obama election. I didn’t foresee the magnitude of that reaction. I had an Obama bumper sticker a year before Iowa, and made enough donations to put my marriage in peril. Still, I didn’t feel anything close to what the excluded minorities I watched on TV felt.

Up until that point, I mostly had been viewing the “first African American” issue in a tactical sense (i.e. how do you take advantage of the upsides of it, and mitigate the downsides), rather than a historic or social justice sense.

That was very white of me. Or maybe it was very color blind of me. I’m not quite sure.

- Loveland

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Silent But Deadly

How many rules of conventional attack ad wisdom does this Obama ad violate?

* Thou shall play dire-sounding music.

* Thou shall use sarcastic, doom-and-gloom narration.

* Thou shall directly rebut the content of thy opponent’s attacks (i.e. redistribution of wealth).

* Thou shall not be the least bit subtle.

* Thou shall use grainy mug shots of thy opponents.

* Thou shall not shoot down (i.e. President candidate criticizing Vice President candidate).

I must say, this goes down as one of the toughest acoustic guitar accompanied ads I’ve seen. (Wink.)

Silent but deadly, but for whom? Will the hit on Palin, and consequent claims of sexism, generate sympathy amongst undecided voters?

- Loveland

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Showbama!

Tomorrow night Barack Obama’s much discussed 30-minute ad will air in prime time, and the campaign is guarding the format like a state secret.

The possibilities are intriguing. Perhaps it will be a Jerry Lewis-esque telethon to squeeze out that final, desperately needed $150 million for the final five days? Or some kind of reality show to showcase Obama’s relative dearth of homes, cars and designer clothes? Maybe it will be a Simpson’s-like animated show, to borrow from the terrific idea Norm Coleman’s direct mail friends are using in Minnesota? Perhaps a situation comedy to spotlight Obama’s madcap personality? Or an infomercial offering a free set of Ginsu knives with every purchase of a vote?

Then again, maybe SNL will turn out to be right.

Seriously, I will be interested to see what they do with this 30-minutes. How in the world do you draw undecided voters away from 150 channels of programming options to watch the one thing they desperately want to avoid this week, another political ad.

- Loveland

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McSame

McCain supporters are giddy about their candidate’s excellent delivery of the pre-fab debate zinger of the evening:

“Senator Obama, I am not President Bush, if you wanted to run against President Bush you should have run four years ago. I will take this country in a new direction.”

Bada bing!

Great line, but it works pretty well in an Obama ad too.

With Obama thoroughly burying McCain on the airwaves with ads like today’s rebuttal, will that well crafted zinger really help?

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The Terror of Ignorance

I’m frightened of the people who are frightened of having Barack Obama in the White House because they believe, or say they believe, things that are nonsense. They’re not patriots. They’re not responsible citizens. They’re willing pawns of demagogues who have no interest in participatory democracy. I’m shocked by Gayle Quinnell of Shakopee (I lived there for a year or so — I won’t move back) who called Sen. Barack Obama a terrorist and a Muslim and an Arab at the McCain campaign event in Lakeville yesterday.

This was in Minnesota. Where we like to tell ourselves we have good schools, an informed electorate, a state that works.

Dislike and speak out against and vote against Obama because you don’t like his health-care plan or his liberalism or even his race. That would be racist, but honest, saying I won’t vote for Obama because he’s black. He is black. If you can’t handle that, you don’t have to vote for him. But to swallow the spurious crap that the McCain slime machine and its right-wing fellow travelers are putting out, to uncritically inhale these lies — he’s an Arab, he’s a Muslim, he’s a terrorist — means you aren’t doing your patriotic duty as a citizen of a free country (country first, anyone?) to engage your brain and make the informed choice Thomas Jefferson expected was the least we could do as beneficiaries of an experiment in democracy that millions of people have died to create and preserve.

There are many ways to harm the United States of America. Not being vigilant against terrorists is one of them. Letting the country rot from within through ignorance is another. It’s insidious, this enemy within. It masquerades as fine upstanding people while it meets in cells that trade misinformation and feed prejudice. Obama is a Muslim, they say to one another. And nobody says, “Hmm, maybe we should look into this, inform ourselves, engage our critical thinking faculties and learn about this guy and decide for ourselves.” No, Obama is a Muslim. My fellow cell-member told me so. (And, of course — so what if he’s a Muslim? The Jefferson crowd never said only Christians need apply — in fact, that’s precisely what they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to get away from. But members of these terrifying little cells don’t know that, because they scheme in the dark, protecting their ignorance and beliefs from the light of day, from the light of knowledge.)

Come on, Gayle. Do a little thinking. A little reading. Do your duty. Put your country first. You don’t have to vote for Obama, but you do have to open your mind if you’re going to be a deserving recipient of what Jefferson helped create and what you would, I imagine, say the men and women dying and being maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting for.

And let’s talk about terrorism — using terror for political ends. Who’s using fear as a weapon? Yesterday a fragment of McCain’s honor revisited his body and caused him to say Obama is a “decent person” and to say he should be given respect. McCain did not, however, caught in the Rovian cesspool that he has allowed Steve Schmidt to make of his campaign, stand up like an officer and a gentleman and say to Gayle Quinnell, the person sitting in darkness, “Ma’am, you are wrong. Barack Obama is not a Muslim — not that there would be anything wrong with that. But get your facts straight, my friend. If you’re going to vote for me I want it to be a vote cast with knowledge and good heart.” McCain didn’t do that. He’s using the fear that slinks in this dull woman’s mind. He’s fanning it. Who’s using fear as a weapon? Hillary Clinton stood by in the primaries when the lie that Obama was not a Christian was circulating. She said, “as far as I know…” he’s not a Muslim. She did not stand up and say “that’s a lie, and I won’t be any part of benefiting from it. That’s not how America works.” John McCain is now standing beside Hillary Clinton in that musty rank corner of the basement where cowards gather in little cells. All that it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to say nothing. John McCain is not saying enough. Gayle Quinnell is wasting the America so many have fought to preserve.

Terror is stalking the land. But it’s not old, and it doesn’t live only in the past acts of a college professor named Ayers. It lurks behind the flag the ignorant are waving, and it lurks behind the campaign that won’t stand up and put country first.

– Bruce Benidt

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Time for An Obama Curve Ball?

A little political parlor game for you: What if Barack Obama came out at the beginning of tonight’s debate and said something like this:

You know, John, in our ads and in our speeches, we’ve been talking about each others’ records for months. Now, like it or not, that’s a part of campaigning. I’m a big boy, and I can take it. But I gotta tell you, voters tell me they have had it. They tell me they are sick of the attacks on each other, and they want to hear about our plans for the future. You probably hear the same thing, right? So, here’s a proposal. Let’s listen to the voters and do something truly different. Let’s agree in writing to spend the remainder of the campaign only talking about our own plans for the future. Lay our plans out for the voters, with no finger-pointing. Now, it would be foolish to unilaterally disarm, but I will gladly stick to talking exclusively about my plans for the future, with no questioning of you, as long as you do the same. Here’s the proposal: It simply reads “I agree to only talk about my plans for the future until the end of the campaign, as long as my opponent does the same.” I already signed it. Will you?

What do you think? Does it make Obama look gimmicky, and afraid to face scrutiny? Or does it frame Obama as a forward-looking statesman who is confident about his plans, and make undecided voters resentful of McCain’s refusal every time they hear another attack ad over the next month? Would the news media ridicule the challenge because it would make their stories and lives less interesting, or would they praise it because they know their audience approves? If McCain rejected the challenge, would it be viewed as an embarassing Obama set-back, or a stain on McCain? Is it foolish for a candidate like Obama with a lead in the polls to take a chance by playing such a wild card, or is it a nifty way to handcuff McCain’s only real chance at overcoming Obama’s lead? How would such a challenge affect how voters process the subsequent 90 minutes of attacks McCain likely has planned for the debate? And would such a challenge be good or bad for democracy?

Ok, so I know this is not going to happen. But what if?

- Loveland

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Weapons of Mass Deflection (WMD)

Trailing candidates often try to deflect the charges that are hurting them by changing the subject. So with McCain palin’, McCain-Palin is deflecting charges about the economy by accusing Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”

Palin’s pallin’ accusation refers to Bill Ayers, who was on the run in the 1970s after a bomb he was building exploded and killed three people. He and his wife were never prosecuted, but they were making bombs, and assumably intended to use them to hurt people. So, the word “terrorist” isn’t a stretch.

But are Obama and Ayers pals? An Associated Press fact check called the connection “tenuous.” As I understand it, Obama served on a non-profit board with Ayers, and their kids go to school together. Ayers hosted a coffee at his house during Obama’s first campaign, and gave Obama’s campaign $200. Obama was eight years old when Ayers’ bomb went off, and he wasn’t in the vicinity.

It would be a big mistake for Obama to go “eye for an eye,” and play his own guilt-by-association card. Though cathartic for the candidate and the base, such a move would play into the Republican strategy of moving the campaign away from “big issues,” like the economy and the war.

But Obama certainly has ammo. McCain’s terrorist pal is G. Gordon Liddy. This is how Media Matters describes Mr. Liddy’s criminal activities:

Liddy served four and a half years in prison in connection with his conviction for his role in the Watergate break-in and the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Liddy has acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in “if necessary”; plotting to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a “gangland figure” to murder Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap “leftist guerillas” at the 1972 Republican National Convention — a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis. (The murder, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the break-ins were.) During the 1990s, Liddy reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents and also reportedly said he had named his shooting targets after Bill and Hillary Clinton.

That’s the “terrorist” part. While Liddy’s past is not as bloody as Ayers — seemingly because of ineptitude, because the intent was present — his criminal acts were extremely damaging to America.

And here is the “pal” part:

Liddy has donated $5,000 to McCain’s campaigns since 1998, including $1,000 in February 2008. In addition, McCain has appeared on Liddy’s radio show during the presidential campaign, including as recently as May. An online video labeled “John McCain On The G. Gordon Liddy Show 11/8/07″ includes a discussion between Liddy and McCain, whom Liddy described as an “old friend.” During the segment, McCain praised Liddy’s “adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great,” said he was “proud” of Liddy, and said that “it’s always a pleasure for me to come on your program.” Additionally, in 1998, Liddy reportedly held a fundraiser at his home for McCain…

Compare this level of connection to the Obama-Ayer’s connection. Liddy’s contribution was twenty-five times larger than the Ayers contribution. Moreover, Obama has strongly denounced Ayers actions, while McCain has lavishly praised Liddy.

Surely the “liberal media” at the New York Times is all over this Liddy-McCain connection. Nope. The old gray lady has published 17 news articles and four opinion pieces about Obama’s ties to Ayers. It has written no articles about the Liddy-McCain connection.

- Loveland
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McCain/Obama Debate #1 (Edited a Bit)

 

 

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Pig in a Poke

If you Google “lipstick on a pig,” but eliminate all sites that mention “Obama,” “McCain” or “Palin,” you get 174,000 hits. The phrase is featured in the Urban Dictionary and on cliché.com. It is used so often in corporate PowerPoint presentations that it probably earns you bonus Business Buzzword Bingo points.

To rush to poor Sarah Palin’s defense under the pretense that any use of that cliche means the user is calling her a pig is the most absurd moment of John McCain’s campaign, particularly when McCain himself has used the phrase in reference to Hillary Clinton policies.

Over the years, I’ve had sympathy with Republicans’ condemnation of the culture of victimhood that Democrats have partially fostered. But the Republicans have abandoned whatever high ground they once possessed on that issue.

- Loveland

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McCain Ad Exposes Cub Scouts’ Sex Ed Agenda

The McCain ad attacking Obama for promoting a bill that allegedly promotes sex education among Kindergarteners would be startling if it weren’t, as Factcheck.org found, “simply false.” There were only a couple of minor problems Factcheck.org discovered with McCain’s claims: 1) it wasn’t Obama’s bill and 2) it didn’t promote sex education.

According to Factcheck.org, what the bill did do was allow for age appropriate materials to help kids know how to avoid being sexually abused. Parents who were uncomfortable with such discussion were allowed to opt-out.

In an age when nothing in politics outrages us anymore, maybe this ad needs to outrage us.

It particularly got under my skin, because the day I saw the ad, I was helping my son with his Bobcat badge. One of the requirements for achieving Bobcatdom was to talk through several “what ifs,” such as “What if you are in a public restroom and someone tries to touch your private parts? What do you do?” The answer, the Cub Scout handbook counsels, is:

“Yell “STOP THAT” as loudly as you can and run of out of the room as quickly as possible. Tell your parent, a police officer, a security guard or other adult (such as your teacher) what happened.”

This is the type of communication McCain labels “sex education.” But this is clearly abuse avoidance education, not sex education. And attacking people who support having these kinds of conversations with kids endangers kids.

By the way, in discussing these “what ifs” I learned that my son was alarmingly trusting and deferential about adults, even adults he doesn’t know. The ensuing conversation potentially could save him from great harm. Lots of things in politics are trivial, but the stakes on this issue are high.

As a PR dude, I fully understand this is a diversionary tactic to shift the debate from McCain’s pro-Bush record and agenda to “values” issues that, even when based on a shameless lie, traditionally favor Republicans. But as a parent, I can’t help but be disgusted by this one.

- Loveland

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Failin’ On Palin’

As we’ve been saying for a long time, Senator McCain is doing a good job baiting Obama supporters to take shots at Palin on issues that, by the end of the exchange, make McCain look best. For example:

• McCain attacks Obama on experience. Obama supporters say “Palin has less.” Days of vigorous rebuttals thereby legitimize the importance of the experience issue. Because McCain has the most experience, McCain therefore looks best on this newly legitimized issue.

• McCain attacks Obama on being a lighter-than-air celebrity. Obama supporters say “Palin is a big celebrity too.” Days of rebuttals thereby legitimize the contention that popularity = lightweight. Because McCain has the least celebrity, McCain looks best on this newly legitimized point-of-view.

• McCain attacks Obama on earmarks. Obama supporters say “Palin has more earmarks.” Days of rebuttals thereby legitimize the importance of fighting earmarks. McCain has no earmarks, so McCain looks best on this newly legitimized issue.

Following the trend in all of these exchanges? McCain’s issues are legitimized. McCain looks best.

Palin doesn’t always fair particularly well in these debates, but SO WHAT? McCain fairs very well, and the top-of-th-ticket is what matters on Election Day. These discussions serve to frame the election around McCain’s strengths – experience, seriousness and “reform” — rather than Obama strengths — a fresh break from Bushonomics, the Bush war and Bush social conservativism.

At least the Obama ad team, while unimaginative as ever in its execution, is doing a better job of staying on the “McCain=Same” message:

Make no mistake, Palin is under the skins of Obama supporters. The most difficult thing for communicators of all stripes — corporate, political, or non-profit — is to not allow personal emotions to derail sound communications strategy.

- Loveland

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On Pilin’ On Palin

There are so many message directions Obama could take on the whole Palin front. Troopergate. Experience. Earmark hypocrisy. Family demands. But sacrifice is the essence of strategy, so he should take a pass on all of those tempting messaging paths, so those issues don’t drown out his most compelling message — “change v. Bush 3.0.”

The Republicans need this to be a Small Election to win. Who is the biggest hero? Who has the thickest resume? Who is riskier? Who is most like you, Mr. and Ms. Swing Voter? If those are the questions on most voters’ minds on Election Day, Obama is toast. And if Obama comments on all of the issues swirling around Palin, he will be inadvertently framing up the election the way his opponents need it framed up.

The Democrats need this to be a Big Election to win. “Keep going in the same direction, or shake things up?” That’s the uber-theme that works best for them. If that is the question on voters’ minds on Election Day, Obama will win. To ensure that happens, he needs to stay away from all of the Sideshow Sarah issues, and hammer his central message repeatedly.

Though the concepting and production of this ad is as milquetoast as all of Obama’s ads have been, it is right on target strategically.

It takes a disciplined and mature leader to avoid taking the easy cheap shot in the heat of the battle. Believe me, going tit-for-tat feels mighty good. But so far Obama is remaining mostly on-message, and he needs to make sure his staff does so as well. The babies? Don’t go there. The trooper? Let the investigation do the work. Earmark hypocrisy? Not the issue that works for you. Experience? It’s a trap that will make you look patronizing, and it supports McCain’s central contention about the paramount importance of experience.

The point: It may feel good piling on Palin, but it’s self-defeating. Instead of taking the bait on those issues du jour, Obama need to keep his focus on the top of the ticket, and hammer home the “change versus more of the same” uber-theme.

– Loveland

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Straight Talk Suppress

Q. “Why did you say small town citizens are “bitter?” A. “You know, I’m a member of an oppressed minority group, and my dad ran out on me and my teenaged mom…”

If Senator Obama had answered like this, he would have been a) truthful and b) rightfully torched by the news media for being evasive, unaccountable and over-playing an irrelevant victim card. And I would have cheered the torching.

Well, when Senator McCain was similarly questioned last night about remarks he made, this is what he said:

LENO: Welcome back, Sen. McCain, for one million dollars, how many houses do you have? (Jay laughs, McCain squirms and chuckles)

MCCAIN: You know, could I just mention to you, Jay, and a moment of seriousness. I spent five and a half years in a prison cell, without—I didn’t have a house, I didn’t have a kitchen table, I didn’t have a table, I didn’t have a chair. And I spent those five and a half years, because—not because I wanted to get a house when I got out. And you know, I’m very proud of Cindy’s father, he was a guy that barely got out of high school, fought in World War II in the Army Air Corps, came home and made a business and made the American dream and so somehow. You’ve had Cindy on this show.

We spend our time in a condominium in Washington, a condominium in Phoenix, some time over here in the state of California, and then we have a place up in northern Arizona,’’ he said. And my friends, I’m proud of my record of service to this country, and it has nothing to do with houses. What it has to do with putting Americans in houses and keeping them in their homes.’

I have deep respect for Senator McCain’s service and POW heroics. The sacrifice he made for this nation was breathtaking, and he has every right to cite it as a powerful part of his resume, and evidence of his core character.

But citing a story that has no logical connection to the issue at hand is not a direct, honest or accountable act. So, will the news media criticize McCain for this ride on the Straight Talk Suppress?

- Loveland

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Pawlenty Ambitious, “But Is He Ready To Lead?”

Senator McCain’s last several ads have asked a singular question, “Barack Obama may be The One, but is he ready to lead?”

As Governor Tim Pawlenty prepares to be anointed The One McCain chooses as his Vice Presidential running mate, it is only fair that Senator McCain and the press corps ask the same question about Governor Pawlenty.

• Number of years serving in the national government each would lead? Obama, three and a half years (U.S. Senate). Pawlenty, zero years.

• Number of months being vetted as a national candidate by the national press corps and American public: Obama, 18 months. Pawlenty, zero months.

• Number of years working on foreign relations issues? Obama, three and a half years (Senate Foreign Relations Committee). Pawlenty, zero years.

Senator McCain would be the oldest President in history, already only two years away from his life expectancy. So, there’s a very good chance that Minnesota’s Ribboncutter-in-Chief could become the Leader of the Free World, perhaps overnight.

Which brings us back to the question Senator McCain is repeating ad nauseum in his ads: “He may be The One, but is he ready to lead?”

- Loveland

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Lincoln and Douglas or Beevus and Butthead?

The Great Debate of 2008:

Senator McCain: “He’s a celebrity…”

Obama: “Nuh uh, he’s a celebrity.”

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Is Obama Really A Media Darling?

One of the most ridiculous PR clichés is “It doesn’t matter what reporters say about us as long as they spell our name right.”

Eliot Spitzer, Ken Lay, Al Franken and many others might beg to differ. If volume of coverage were all that mattered, those men would still be kings of their kingdoms.

Yet for weeks Senator John McCain’s supporters have been working reporters the way Bobby Knight worked refs, continually whining about the high volume of coverage being given “the biggest celebrity in the world.”

And in fact, many analyses have shown that Obama has been getting a higher volume of coverage than McCain. Moreoever, a recent media coverage analysis conducted by rearchers at the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University found that network TV reporting has indeed been anti-McCain in recent weeks. Of the opinion statements network reporters made about McCain during the first six weeks of the General Election campaign, Center analysts say 43% were positive, while 57% were negative.

Egads, the McCain campaign has good reason to feel snubbed by the Obamamaniacal media!

But, not so fast. Mason’s researchers also found that coverage of the alleged “media darling” Obama was even more negative, with 28% of the statements positive and 72% negative.

Granted, this is new news. Prior to the end of the Democratic primary campaign, Mason researchers found that more negative comments were aimed at McCain than Obama, by a 64% to 43% margin. But since the primary ended, that trend has reversed and Obama is now the recipient of many more negative comments than Senator McCain was during the earlier primary period.

So it’s true that Senator Obama has been getting more coverage than Senator McCain lately, and reporters have been spelling his name correctly. But the equally relevant news is that reporters have also been spelling other words correctly, such as F-L-I-P F-L-O-P-P-E-R and M-E-D-I-A D-A-R-L-I-N-G.

- L-O-V-E-L-A-N-D

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Hobbling Hope

Bush loyalist Karl Rove’s signature strategy is to identify an opponent’s foremost strength, and attack it mercilessly until it becomes a weakness rather than a strength.

Barack Obama’s strength is the popularity of his appeal to believe in something bigger than the status quo, or incremental change…and something bigger than any single candidate.

The Rovian response: Associate popularity with self-centeredness and shallowness, and make it seem hopelessly naïve to promote hope.

The goal of this strategy is that every time Obama draws an enthusiastic crowd, that will actually work against him. Every time he asks Americans to dream of something greater than incremental changes in Washington, America’s eyes will roll.

It’s a brilliant strategy. It is based in the worst kind of cynicism, but it is brilliant. Right now, the news media is buying it. How should Obama counter it?

- Loveland

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Blonde Bombshell

Do you really want to elect the black Britney Spears President? That line never appears in the copy for this ad, but the McCain campaign’s bizarre use of Spears and Paris Hilton images effectively make that the central question the ad poses.

This is an extraordinary ad. I can’t ever remember seeing a political ad that so directly accuses an opponent of being too shallow and stupid to merit election.

My reaction?

WhatEVER! I’m like, as if!! I’m so sure, they think that black Baldwin politics dude is like a total Betty? Barf me out, you gnarly betches!! Like, grody to the max. I’m like, yes we so can!!!

- Loveland

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Obama Goes To Black Father’s Day = Nixon Goes to China?

African American men are one of Barack Obama’s strongest constituencies. And yesterday, Father’s Day, he called them out about disproportionately high levels of asbsentee fatherhood among African American men.

This is tough stuff. This is akin to John McCain going to white seniors and lecturing them about the current structure of Social Security and Medicare threatening their grandchildren’s ability to retire in dignity. It’s like Hillary Clinton going to feminist activists and lecturing them about inadvertently fostering a culture of victimhood by occasionally overstating sexism to gain a personal advantage.

Make no mistake, Barack Obama stuck his political neck out here. Guts, or nuts?

There is a phrase used in politics, “only Nixon could have gone to China.” President Richard Nixon was able to politically survive negotiating with Chinese communists because of his staunch anti-communist street cred. Therefore, the reference “only Nixon could go to China” builds off that historical analogy to make the larger point that personal history dictates one’s relative credibility to be a messaging pioneer.

The son of an absentee black father went to an African American church yesterday in the same way Nixon went to China. Others would not have been heard in the same way. Others would have chosen the safer route with their strongest constituency, pandering rather than pushing. Others would not have survived politically.

All of us need to be pushed by our leaders. I need to hear about the need to sacrifice more in taxes to truly “support our troops,” so the fiscal pain for my generation’s wars are not pushed off onto my kids’ generation. I need to hear that my kids should be subject to military service as surely as other people’s kids, so I am not insulated from the pain and sacrifices associated with our foreign policy decisions. I need to hear that I’m not the “self-made” man I sometimes fancy myself to be, and that I need to do more to give back to the next generation in the same way past generations of taxpayer’s gave so much to me.

And I don’t hear enough of that from my leaders.

African American dads are hardly the only ones in America who need less pandering and more pushing. All leaders need to search their souls and ask themselves, “where is my ‘Nixon goes to China’ opportunity to say what really needs to be said?”

- Loveland

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The Hangover After the Big Party

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White Wright

OK, Crowd. What is your take on the latest sermonoid from a different minister at Chicago’s United Church of Christ?

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The Real Straight Talk Express?

Politically naive? Change we can believe in? Sells with white winers, but not the Budweisers? The Straight Talk Express hijacked?

- Loveland

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Wright Fight Right for White Flight?

Will this terse statement cost Obama African American votes? Is it his Sister Souljah moment? Will his very public Wright fight help him win whites?

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Obama’s Unused (So Far) Message: “Let’s End It.”

Time’s Mark Halperin (whose “The Page” is one of the more useful and appealing of the major news outlets’ blogs, IMHO) noted yesterday that two Obama staffers left Pennsylvania last night sporting “Stop the Drama, Vote Obama” t-shirts.

Now, I’m not sure to which of the associated election dramas the slogan originally referred, but the obvious intent of the message yesterday was “C’mon. We know where this is heading. End this thing now by voting for Obama.”

We’ve seen Obama campaign surrogates deliver variations on this theme over the past few weeks, but this was the first time I noticed someone within the campaign offering up, however casually or tentatively, anything other than a high-horsed “Sen. Clinton has the right to stay in the race as long as she wants” message.

High-horse is clearly the safe route. But the tone of the campaign has changed markedly since the most recent debate. Both sides are getting clobbered and bleeding cash. Neither side, yesterday’s Clinton win notwithstanding, is moving the delegate meter except by slight increments. While Clinton spokespeople claim to value the “spirited debate” taking place within the party, the not-so-invisible elephant in the room appears to be that the race is, save the shouting, over — and that all that awaits the Dems between now and the end of the primaries is each day wrapped up in a big, bright, red bow for Sen. McCain.

Of course, Obama couldn’t call for an end to it. He couldn’t call a press conference and articulate the reasons why it’s time for the party undecideds to rally around him for the sake of the general election. He couldn’t appear so presumptuous, so grabby. He couldn’t decide that if the rest of the party leadership won’t grab this thing by the horns, well, then he will.

Of course he couldn’t do those things.

Right?

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“Liberal Media Coverage” Update

Today the Pew Research Center released a survey in which an overwhelming number of Americans said the news coverage of conservative Republican Senator John McCain has been mostly positive. Three times more Americans said McCain’s news coverage had been “mostly positive” (36%) than those who said the coverage had been “mostly negative” (11%).” The remaining respondents said news coverage of McCain had been a “mix of both.”

Survey respondents perhaps had hard-hitting coverage like this in mind:

At the same time, many fewer Americans thought the news coverage of the two kitchen-sinking Democrats had been “mostly positive” (21% for Obama and 13% for Clinton, versus 36% for McCain).

This finding is perfectly reasonable. After all, the Democrats are in a hotly contested race. But it raises a question for my conservative compadres. If liberal bias of news coverage is as orchestrated, rabid and omnipresent as conservatives continually claim, wouldn’t you expect reporters to be going out of their way to slime Senator McCain in order to keep the Democrats in the race?

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First, Do No Harm

The foundation of the Hippocratic Oath states that physicians will “never do harm to anyone.” Political consultants should take a similar “first, do no harm” oath.

Witness the harm that Obama’s political consultants did to their candidate by writing a script that says “I don’t take money from oil companies,” instead of stating that he doesn’t accept contributions from political action committees (PACs) representing the oil industry, or avoiding the claim altogether.

Obama has close to a million and a half contributors, more than any candidate in American history. That pretty much means he takes money from every industry in the nation. So, why overstate your case, when it doesn’t need to be overstated?

Obama’s initial corner cutting ad left him wide open to this rebuttal, and no ad should ever do that. First, do no harm. Why does the hottest political candidate in the country have the lamest advertising team? And why didn’t the candidate himself edit the script to make it accurate and bullet-proof?

- Loveland

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Clinton Ads Add Up

Senator Obama may be ahead in pledged delegates, votes, states, rally attendance, small donors, and money, but he is lagging in one key area, effectiveness of paid advertising. From the phone ad to her current testimonial ad attacking Obama for dissing small towns, God and guns, Senator Clinton’s ads have been more effective.

Here newest Pennsylvania TV ad is in no danger of winning an Addy. It’s not the least bit clever or creative, but it connects because it uses credible third parties, not Senator Clinton, making the charge in an sincere, understated tone. I’ve sat through a lot of focus groups of undecided voters, and I can almost guarantee that the leave behind for many of them will be “regular people are really pissed off at Obama for looking down at us and our way of life,” not their usual reaction to attack ads — “just more blah, blah, blah political bickering”

Score. This ad ensures that Bittergate will not just be a four-day story for Obama, but will be pounded into voters heads repeatedly. That’s exactly what Senator Clinton needs. (The problem for Democrats is that it’s also exactly what Senator McCain needs.)

Despite Obama’s huge ad volume advantage, no Obama ad sticks in my head as being memorable or moving. That needs to change if Obama is ever to become President.

- Loveland

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