"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Friday, May 2, 2008

Who is winning this war for oil?

Keith O and Rachel Maddow turned to the topic of Straight Talk Express' derailment over McCain's war for oil comments tonight. As we've come to expect, Rachel proves she is one of the sharpest Talking Heads in Punditland.

Rachel M: The press corps has not been enthusiastic about following up on John McCain gaps. This one seems to me to be such a big one on such a big important issue. And, it's on tape. There's video that it has to be followed up on. So, he's either going to need a new explanation or he's actually going to have to run with it and defend this idea. I think he might actually end up defending it.

Keith O: Well, I mean, this, this raises the point that Bush and Cheney have raised recently. Oil, the price of oil, the idea of Al-Qaeda getting hold of the control of oil as a justification for staying in Iraq. And that bring you this, to McCain. Five years ago anybody who suggested there was the slightest hint of a connection, a rumor, of a hint, of an innuendo of a connection between going into Iraq and the price of gas was considered a lunatic, unpatriotic, terrorist,lefty. How and why did this suddenly change into John McCain's campaign platform?!"

Rachel M: I, I honestly think that the most likely outcome here is that McCain end up defending this, at least at the end. But then, Karl Rove has recently – and I realize he's not in the White House anymore. But, he's still influential for these guys, especially for their talking points. He has recently raised the prospect of $200 a barrel oil if we leave Iraq. So, they are explicitly willing to tie oil and gas prices to what's going on with that conflict and what our troops are doing.

The problem is, though, if you actually make the case to the American people that we are there for oil, well, we've spent a trillion dollars, we've lost four thousand Americans, we've spent five years and now we're paying $4 a gallon? We are not the beneficiaries of the War for Oil. It does not redound to the American consumer.
I think the real Mission Accomplished moment right now, that we can see in Iraq, is when the oil companies getting precleared by the Iraqi government to bid on the Iraq oil fields service contracts ended up on the front page of the business section last month instead of the front page of the international section.

Straight Talking: War for Oil

McSame stumbles into a political minefield. At a forum in Denver, the Republican admitted what many opponents of the Iraq Quagmire have claimed all along:

My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will - that will then prevent us - that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.

Chris Matthews was atwitter about this new Straight Talking. He asks his panel, "How does McCain explain this one away? Just when have we gone to war over oil?"

Listen Up, Folks!

Hillary was on Nightline last night discussing Super Delegate Joe Andrew's decision to switch his support from her to Obama. Predictably, she dismissed the impact of his choiced and disagreed with his assessment that the prolonged campaign is now damaging Democrats' chances in November. "Anyone who believes that this is bad for the party, I just don't think is paying attention," she said.

Today, Gallup released a poll showing over 60% of Democrats believe this nomination fight is "doing more harm than good." While three out of four Obama supporters feel this way, a full 43% of Clinton supporters agree.

Let's review.

After telling us activists don't matter, caucus states don't matter, African Americans don't matter, college educated voters don't matter and young voters don't matter, Mrs. Clinton is now lecturing us that a majority of the Democratic Party doesn't matter.

Who's the elitist candidate?

Show Me The Money - Dems Positioned to Pick Up Open Seats

CQ Politics Moneyline has published another Top Ten Q1 fundraising list. They reviewed the House candidates running in open seat contests - typically the most likely seats to switch partisan control and list the top ten, as measured by Cash on Hand (CoH). The Democrats have a decided advantage at this stage of the campaign. Twenty-six Republicans are leaving the House, many choosing early retirement in an election cycle with a decidedly anti-Republican national political climate.

The race to replace Deborah Pryce in central Ohio's 15th district has both parties' nominees appearing on the list of best-funded campaigns. The eight seats are currently held by Republicans. The other (the second district in Colorado centered in Boulder) is a safe Democratic seat where three strong candidates are raising buckets of money for a primary fight that is likely to be among this cycle's most expensive race.

With five Democrats on the list, it's clear the party is positioned to pick up additional seats to pad it's new majority. Of the eight Republican-held seats listed, CQ Politics rates four as NO CLEAR FAVORITE, Democrats favored to pick up one (IL-11), and Republicans slightly favored to hold on in New Jersey and California.

The list:

1) John Adler (D, NJ-03) (James Sexton, R) [CQPolitics rating - Leans Republican] $1,000,000
2) Mary Jo Kilroy (D, OH-15) (Deborah Pryce, R) [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $944,000
3) Doug Ose (R, CA-04) (John Doolittle, R) [Leans Republican] $845,000
4) Linda Stender (D, NJ-07) (Mike Ferguson, R), [Leans Republican] $845,000
5) Keith Fimian (R, VA-11), (Tom Davis, R), [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $742,000
6) Erik Paulsen (R, MN-03), (Jim Ramstad, R) [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $688,000
7) Will Shafroth, (D, CO-02), (Mark Udall, D) [Safe Democrat] $682,000
8) Dan Maffei, (D, NY-25), (James Walsh, R) [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $676,000
9) Debbie Halvorson (D, IL-11) (Jerry Weller, R) [Democrat Favored] $673,000
10) Steve Stivers (R, OH-15) (Deborah Pryce, R) [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $600,000

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

AWOL: Democratic leadership

Democrats have a long tradition of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. CQ Politics warns the ongoing Hillary-Barack battle could not only damage hopes of recapturing the White House, but also divide the party deeply enough to negatively affect Democrats down ballot. In fact, it may be providing the Republicans their ONLY hope in 2008:

The party and its presumed presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, are carrying the triple-headed albatross of a protracted war in Iraq, a sinking economy and the most unpopular GOP presidential incumbent in modern history. Two of the three, Iraq and President Bush, were the central elements of the soured political atmosphere that existed in November 2006, when the Democrats overturned Republican majorities on both sides of the Capitol. The economy, still in a long period of growth back then, has now gone into a downturn, if not an outright recession, and economic dissatisfaction almost always redounds against the party that holds the White House.

So the Republicans — pining against the odds for a return to power this fall, and aspiring a bit more realistically to minimize a deeper decline toward powerlessness — are hinging those hopes on letting Democrats be Democrats. Their calculation is that, if the Clinton vs. Obama contest drags on for months more, with each senator working to damage the other in search of an advantage, both will end up bloodied and bruised no matter which one is awarded the nomination. And at that point, Republicans hope, the loser's embittered constituency will do what other disaffected Democratic factions have done so often in the past and simply walk away from politics this fall — taking with them the money, the organizational muscle and, most important, the votes that could make the difference in dozens of close congressional races. (emphasis mine)

Yet, we have Democratic Super Delegates who still think it's wise to remain silent and uncommitted in the presidential race.

By sitting on the sidelines these elected officials are reinforcing the image of Democrats as spineless, poll-driven politicians. If the party is asking the American voter to entrust them with the keys to both the White House and Congress, doesn't it behoove them to show some leadership?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Clinton Triangulating May “Starve the Beast?”

The historically high price of gasoline – and political pressure to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT – has drawn a distinct difference between the Democratic challengers while blurring the difference between Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

This afternoon MSNBC played a couple of dueling sound bites:

Clinton is shown on the campaign trail trumpeting a populist message. "At the heart of my approach is a simple belief. Middle class families are paying too much and oil companies aren't paying their fair share to help us solve the problems at the pump."

Barack responds, "We're arguing over a gimmick to save you half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say that they did something. Well, let me tell you something: This isn't an idea designed to get you through the summer. It's an idea designed to get them to an election." (emphasis mine)

Once again, we've got someone speaking the truth – even though it isn't a political winner in the short-term. His opponent, on the other hand, has chosen one of the golden oldies of presidential politics, "the Populist Pander." In doing so, Hillary has embraced an ill-advised, Republican-inspired proposal and sacrificed bedrock Democratic ideals all for the sake of Hoosier and Tar Heel votes.

Never mind that her plan echoes much of McCain's "gas tax holiday." It may never come to fruition because it requires the unlikely passage of a new tax on oil company windfall profits (try getting that through the 60 seat cloture vote, Hils). Also ignore the fact it represents a complete reversal of the fundamental New Deal philosophy that public works spending jumpstarts a sputtering economy (the plan could put hundreds of thousands of highway workers out of work). None of that is Hillary's cardinal sin.

Well then, what is?

In her analysis of Clinton's proposal, Republican pollster Kellyann Conway provides the answer

"In fact, some her words today sounded exactly like John McCain's gas tax holiday proposal from just a couple of weeks ago. So, I think right now they're playing to two different audiences. Perhaps Senator Clinton is feeling quite bold given all of her new poll numbers and the fact that this has become a tightened race. But I think what is really key in the whole discussion about a tax gas holiday is this: that, instead of just talking about the oil companies, instead of just talking about the price of gas, people will become that much more aware across this country that the federal government benefits tremendously from taxes on gasoline. And that's meant to go to repair our roads and our bridges. And everybody knows that our bridge and road repair are, they are in disrepair. So, I think it's important that we starve the beast – the federal, state and local governments – who rely upon taxes at the pump while people are trying to fill up the tank just to get around to their jobs and schools."

Way, to go, Hills. You've provided the Republican spinmeisters an opportunity to promote neoconservative Grover Norquist's governing philosophy goal to "shrink government to a size you can drown in the bathtub." No wonder the Republicans are so delighted to see your candidacy continue.

Triangulation Triumphant? Is that what a Clinton restoration will mean?

But, thankfully, we have a candidate who refuses to pander. Listen to him, folks:

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal discusses how the Clinton/McCain "holiday" would actually raise prices by increasing demand. It's time we elected politicians who talk honestly about the difficult times ahead.

Maddow to Talking Heads: Start Making Sense

Are you frustrated by the news media's inability to focus on real issues in the presidential campaign? Does their juvenile fascination with the Jeremiah Wright sideshow enrage you?

Well, Rachel Maddow is fed up, too. And, she's got a seat at the pundit's Round Table. Tonight, she was on The Race holding the punditocracy accountable:

"I find it incredible that we're all sitting here going, 'Why won't the Jeremiah Wright controversy go away.' Well, you know what? Today, John McCain unveiled his healthcare plan. We got three different statements, three different policies from the candidates on gas prices. We got the President of the United States making a huge economic speech and speaking to reporters for forty minutes. We've got four marines, or, four US soldiers who were announced to have been killed in Iraq yesterday. What else has to happen in the news to push Jeremiah Wright out of the headlines? We've been doing it for six straight headlines on every politics show in the business!"

Way to go, Rachel!

Monday, April 28, 2008

McCain's Blurry Vision

This isn't about whether or not the septegenarian needs bifocals (although how would we know since he hasn't fully released his medical records?) Rather, we've got some striking news from Gallup.

Only one third (33%) of Americans believe John McCain has a clear plan to solve America's problems. That's a nine point drop since mid-March. Yup, it seems that despite his month-long free pass to define himself to the American voter as the Democrats continue their deathmatch nomination battle, McCain has presented himself and Americans simply aren't impressed.

But, the good news for Democrats (particularly Hillary Clinton) doesn't stop there. Gallup measured eight "character" ratings for the three leading presidential candidates. McCain's image among Americans slipped in seven. While Obama's numbers also softened, it was McCain who experienced the steepest decline. Considering the ongoing Democratic intramural fighting, it is surprising Hillary Clinton saw her image actually increase in response to most questions. There is a huge red flag for her, however. More than 6 out of ten don't view Clinton as trustworthy.

Overall, Obama has a significant lead (4 points or larger) over his rivals on three questions. McCain leads on two while Clinton, despite her improving numbers does not lead both her rivals on any question.

Comparing the two Democratic rivals, Obama holds leads over Clinton on four questions. The most striking is the "trust gap" of 23 points. Clinton has cut into Obama's lead on empathy (cares about people like you) and pride (proud to have as president). She holds on three questions, (has a plan, leadership and management) manifestation of the "experience" mantle she has worked to claim throughout the nomination battle.

In head-to-head matchups, McCain now trails both Democrats on three questions. He trails Obama on two more (values and pride). Clinton's "trust gap" with McCain is even larger (28 points). Conversely, McCain trails Clinton as the problem solver in the race by double digits (15) and is viewed as being unaware of the average American's problems (10 points).

Cares about the needs of people like you.57 (+3)52 (-2)62 (-4)
Is a strong and decisive leader.62 (+1)66 (-3)55 (-1)
Is honest and trustworthy.37 (-7)65 (-2)60 (-3)
Shares your values.46 (+1)47 (+1)51 (NC)
Has a clear plan for solving the country's problems.47 (-2)33 (-9)40 (-1)
Understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives.60 (+2)50 (-5)63 (-4)
Is someone you would be proud to have as president.48 (+1)51 (-4)55 (-2)
Can manage the govt effectively.54 (+3)55 (-5)48 (NC)
MoE = +/- 3%.

Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog...He Was a Good Friend of Mine

Uhm, maybe not?

I'm of the opinion - and it may prove to be naive and foolish - that Rev. Wright's remergence in the public arena this weekend will eventually help Barack Obama's candidacy. I realize I'm swimming against the stream of conventional wisdom this Monday morning. Right now, MSNBC has the tag line: "CAMPAIGN ALERT: Rev. Wright Hurting Obama Campaign and Tamryn Hall opened this hour's coverage describing him as "the thorn in Obama's side."

So, with the media providing the "Wright is Wrong for Obama" refrain, why do I think this PR campaign has an upside?

Let's acknowledge the following:

1) The Wright controversy has been created by selective, inflammatory soundbites. The snapshots are unquestionably damaging to Obama's candidacy. But we are missing both the context of the remarks and the complexity of the man.
2) The controversy isn't going to disappear. If Democrats - or the Obama campaign - believed Rev. Wright was going to fade into the rearview mirror, that's wishful thinking. Rest assured: It ain't going to happen, because the Republicans won't let it. The Right Wing machine is in high gear. We've already been promised "Wright All the Time" in a general election.

If Wright had chosen to retreat into silence, it would have allowed the Republican smear machine to define him. Unlike recent Democratic candidates, Wright, a proud and accomplished man, chose to not back down. He decided to define and explain the African American church and inform the public about a lifetime devoted to social justice and compassion. He is refusing to allow his life story to be reduced to a soundbite.

How did he do? From my perspective, he scored some points during the speech. He did a great job of making the audience laugh, squirm and THINK more than a soundbite could ever do.
In the Q&A, he fumbled a bit, providing a handful of soundbites to the GOP attack ad library, probably causing heartburn for the Obama campaign.

What emerges from this burst of publicity? Wright becomes a more complete figure in the public mind. He forces people to see beyond the media's caricature. In the process, he raised some serious questions about the role of religion, educated others about black liberation theology and challenged us to acknowledge the complexity of race relations in 21st century America.

Additionally, by becoming a headline today, he has diffused the power of his comments in the long run. By the general election, voters are likely to say, "oh, yeah, we've heard all this before." It's similar to the crazy and indefensible comments that regularly come out of the Right Wing preachers' (think Falwell, Hagee & Robertson) mouths. We may be enraged when they claim divine retribution in hurricanes and terrorist attacks, but eventually we consider the source and move on.

Lastly, Wright may have provided Obama the additional cover he needed to distance himself from his erstwhile preacher. The reverend has chosen to take more flak, transfering much of the bile and outrage from Obama to himself. While many in the media are declaring these remarks as "Awful for Obama" and predicting collateral damage to his candidacy, they could be dead wrong. Obama is not the "Angry Black Man" Wright's caricature depicts.

Here is an opportunity to reinforce Obama's image as the "post-partisan and post-racial" candidate. He can say - once again - "I understand and feel the reverend's pain, but I do not share his anger."