Getting In Touch With My McCain Side…

Seven homes and – we learn today (well, I did anyway) – thirteen cars to motor amongst them.  From where Senator McCain lives, I guess the fundamentals of our economy truly are strong. Who says John McCain isn’t in touch with the rest of us?

Not surprisingly, Team Obama jumped all over this one, particularly after Senator McCain played a little fast and loose with a Michigan television station when trumpeting his buying habits (turns out part of the McCain motor pool is foreign-made).

I’m sure if I played for the other team, I’d feel outraged, but since Team McCain is still running ads claiming Sarah Palin “stopped the bridge to Nowhere” I’m having trouble mustering much upsettedness.

– Austin payroll tax calculator fine

The Media Grow a (Tiny) Pair…

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a rant about how the media was an unindicted co-conspirator with the McCain campaign by not pushing the candidate and his veepmate to respond to questions from the media.

Today, there are signs of life from the traveling press corp. As ABC reports, the media staged a little insurrection that disrupted Senator McCain’s working of the rope line at his morning event.

The result? The campaign announced – totally coincidentally of course – that Senator McCain will take some questions later today. Mr. Straight Talk, the guy who used to hold the free-flowing bull sessions that so charmed reporters, hasn’t held a press conference since August 13. Governor Palin, of course, has yet to hold one since her selection and has sat for only two (one really) interviews.

Good work media!  Let’s keep asking those questions!

– Austin

Oops…the Palin Foreign Policy Photo Op Backfires

Governor Palin’s trip to New York …where she is posing for “grip-and-grins” with a group of world leaders (all of whom are somewhat beholden to the continued goodwill of the U.S.) plus Henry Kissinger…. has always struck me as a mistake by Team McCain as it simply highlights her foreign policy inexperience.

In the last few minutes, however, Team McCain’s efforts to protect their vice-presidential candidate from has overreached as they briefly tried to ban reporters from even observing the meetings. Photographers only, they said.

In response to this new level of restriction, CNN – which was providing pool coverage for the TVs – responded by pulling all personnel from covering the events and pledged to not use any footage from any source from the meetings. In the face of losing their photo op, Team McCain quickly backed down by allowing a producer to accompany the photographer into the meeting.

Andrew Sullivan uses the opportunity to rant against the media’s willingness to be pushed around by Team McCain on access.

The discontent, however, is not limited to the partisan Mr. Sullivan.  ABC’s coverage of this situation reflects the media’s growing unhappiness with Team McCain’s approach to Ms. Palin’s coverage:

As she arrived for her meeting with Karzai, Palin avoided reporters who were camped out at the main front entrance of the hotel, instead pulling up in a motorcade to a side entrance and quickly sneaking inside. (emphasis added).

– Austin

PS – I wonder if Governor Palin has ever been to New York before.  Does anyone know? small business loan fine

“Celebrate That In Your Classrooms….”

One of my favorite “I-wish-it-was-a-real-speech-by-a-real-politician” movie scenes is from The American President when Michael Douglas aka President Andrew Shepherd finally grows a pair and comes out swinging against his opponents and their smear tactics against him and his girlfriend (Annette Benning). The relevant part of the speech for today’s topic is fairly early on:

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Here’s our opportunity.

I read today where a young man in Colorado was suspended for wearing a t-shirt reading, “Obama, A Terrorist’s Best Friend” to school to “on a day when students were asked to show their patriotism by wearing red, white and blue, according to MyFOXColorado.com.”

As usual in such cases, the school district has tried to hide behind the “disruption of the learning environment” argument, but as usual the argument rings hollow to me.  Would they have suspended him for wearing a t-shirt reading “Obama, Inexperienced and Unprepared”?  How about a anti-Republican “Lying Liars” t-shirt?

I’m with Andrew Shepherd on such issues; this is one of the things that makes us special as a society, our willingness to give room for a wide, wide spectrum of voices to be heard.  Especially in our schools.  Even for opinions as offensive to me as this one, espoused by people with whom I have little in common.

– Austin

PS – The whole Andrew Shepherd speech runs 5 minutes and is well worth watching for a reminder of how far short of stirring rhetoric the current conversation falls (gosh, if only an actor would run for president…wait…didn’t we do that?).  And, as a challenge, watch the speech and see if you can detect an echo of it in one of the major speeches delivered in the last month.  As I listened to this particular line in the speech in question, I thought, “That sounds like…”

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Why I Love Political Ads

This is the season when break rooms are abuzz with talk about how much we hate political ads. Goodness knows, it’s fun to lampoon them, as Saturday Night Live did so well this weekend.

Well, I’m the guy who is quiet when the rest of you are complaining. Because I have a confession to make. I have a soft spot in my heart for political ads. I realize this is like admitting in polite company that you dig quality time in porta-potties. But I yam what I yam.

Political ads, how do I love thee, let me count the ways…

• THEY’RE EFFICIENT. In a world full of blathering, undisciplined PowerPoints, reports and speeches, political ads are as efficient as a haiku. Try taking an annual report and boiling it down into a 30-second script, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the craft.

• THEY MATTER. When I worked on campaigns, an army of staffers would toil in the field for months as the polls remained flat. The day the ads started, the polls moved, dramatically. Sometimes up and sometimes down, but they moved. People who tell you these ads don’t influence them are rare, liars, or self-delusional. Political advertising is far from the only factor in elections, but they are a very big factor. You can’t understand politics unless you understand political ads, and politics shapes our futures in profound ways.

• THEY’RE EDUCATIONAL. We can wring our hands all we want that citizens don’t follow C-Span, or the myriad of news outlets out there. But for lots of reasons, lots of folks don’t follow the issues as closely as they should. Political ads shake these citizens into awareness and at least some level of engagement. Without these ads, we would have far fewer voters and even less engaged voters, and that would be bad for democracy.

• THEY’RE SCRUTINIZED. It’s pretty rare for the ads made by Microsoft, Exxon, Pfizer, Philip Morris and other companies to be exposed as untruthful, but an aggressive army of journalists and opponents are out there rebutting documentable lies told in political ads. The back-and-forth that results from this scrutiny, that’s democracy baby!

Do I get tired of the volume of political ads running during election season? Sure, just like I get tired of department store ads in November and December, and health club ads in January. But ‘tis the season.

So there, I said it. And I approve of this message.

– Loveland

Who’s Voting and Who’s Lying?

Note: This long, long, long post started out to make a simple point about the AP/Yahoo poll released this weekend and – like a number of things I’ve done to the readers of this blog – turned into one of those items that will no doubt be used as evidence in my commitment hearings. I can’t imagine anyone will have as much fun reading it as I did writing and researching it, but then again, maybe you lost your copy of Moby Dick or whatever you use to fall asleep with and this can help.  – Austin

Political junkies and others are spending a lot of time these days pondering a couple of seemingly contradictory data points:

  • As has been noted on this very blog, based on history, the Republican party and its candidates ought to be – in the words of Jim Morrison – “down so god damned far that it looks like up to me.”  Specifically, a party presiding over this level of economic disaster is usually flogged in the voting booth (think 1992 and multiply by 4-5).  We’re in the midst of an economic calamity on par with the Depression that brought to office a Democratic administration that remained in power for 20 years.

Similarly, when sitting presidents are unpopular – and no occupant of the Oval Office has ever been this unpopular for this long – his would-be political successors are pretty much toasted in the polls (think 1976 when Jerry Ford lost to Carter and 1980 when Carter lost to Reagan; add them together and multiply by whatever big number you can think of and you’ve got some idea of how bad the George W Bush brand is).

  • Voter registration trends across the country overwhelmingly favor the Democrats.  In state after state, Democratic voter registration has far outpaced GOP efforts, especially in key battleground states.  The Columbus Dispatch, for example, reported that there are a million new Democratic registrations in Ohio since 2004 versus just 356,000 new Republican registrants.  In Florida, Democrats picked up 258,000 registrants in about eight months versus 101,000 for the GOP. In North Carolina, Democrats have added a net-net of 50,000 registered voters over the GOP, 7,500 net-net in New Hamphshire and 13,000 net-net in New Mexico.
  • Voter enthusiasm – interest in voting – also has tended to favor the Democrats this election.  An enthusiastic voter is far more likely to make the effort to go to the polls, to volunteer and donate.  All those factors matter on election day when races are really decided by who turns out their supporters.  In recent elections, the GOP has benefitted from low-turnout elections because they have done a better job of motivating and turnout their ranks.  This is why on election day, all good Republicans are on their knees praying for rain.  This year, though, the motivation edge seems to favor the Donkeys.

This advantage has been at least temporarily offset by the Palin Effect but even if she is an enduring factor (there’s some evidence that the Palin Effect may not be a long-lasting phenomenon), given the voter registration numbers, this is still a positive check in the Dem’s column.

And yet…

Continue reading “Who’s Voting and Who’s Lying?”