2008

Presidential Ad Wars: McCain Camp Calls Obama "Disrespectful," Obama Campaign Fires Back, Says McCain Is "Out of Touch"

- U.S. Sen. John McCain's camp released another negative TV spot today, this time alleging that U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has been "disrespectful" to Gov. Sarah Palin:

- The New York Times today reports that Obama's campaign will take a more aggressive tone in response to McCain's factually-dubious attacks. Following Simon's post a few days ago, a slew of editorials and op-eds have been penned this week about McCain's questionable attacks, many calling them flat-out lies. Opinion pieces in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post call for Obama to push back harder. The Obama campaign has not yet issued a direct and forceful rebuttal, but it did release a new TV ad today, entitled Still, which may give some indication of a shift in strategy: 

The Race has Stablized Now, and Is Essentially Tied

The McCain post-convention bounce appears over now, and we seem to be settling into a within margin of error race.  The poll aggregates have McCain up a point or two, but clearly within the margin of error.  And that may drop down a bit in the coming days as his bounce subsides.  Rasmussen for example has Obama up 2 in their daily track today, after having McCain up earlier this week.  

Interestingly, most Electoral College maps still have the race leaning Obama, but very very close. As I wrote the other day the battlefield has narrowed, and there are 10 or states where the campaign will be primarily fought now.

So my conclusion is that this thing is up for grabs, and that it is going to be one hell of a fight.  The 1st debate is in just 2 weeks, September 26th.  The next 3 coming very soon after that.  There can be no doubt now that these debates will very very important.....

Off to See the Wizard

In a recent post, I talked about how much more comfortable the post-Reagan Republican Party is with the artifice and theater of politics - narratives, TV ads, message events, scripted speeches. They are much more conscious, and accepting, of the notion that politics is many things, but it is also a show - it needs to play well on TV. 

The McCain campaign has been remarkable to watch. It has been one of the worst performers of any campaign for President in modern times. It is operating in one of the most difficult environments Republicans have seen in 40 years. McCain's personal narrative has been severely damaged by his sacrificing of virtually all of his major beliefs and principles in his final quest to win the Republican nomination. But yet here they sit, even, or perhaps ahead, of one of the most compelling political figures American has ever produced. How have they done it? 

They've done it by essentially running a television and free media campaign completely untethered from reality, from the responsibility of governing, from the truth. From Paris Hilton to the Bridge to Nowhere to the claim that McCain supports renewable energy to the blanket over the belly bump to Sex Ed for Kindergartners to "Victory in Iraq" to the Lipstick fiasco, the lion in winter, John McCain, has become a silly tool for a bunch of over-caffeinated conservative operatives who clearly see American politics as a video game for grownups. His acceptance speech last week did not even try to lay out a real plan for where he wanted to take the country. They are not even trying to make serious arguments about issues, governing, our future. Each day in their speeches, their almost daily ads and videos, and their events, they attempt to keep writing this next chapter of their imagined world they've fallen in love with - avoiding at all costs letting the real world get in the way of this beautiful campaign. Just in the last few weeks, they've had to pull two ads. And almost none of these videos they've produced have talked about what they plan on doing next year.

This week, buoyed by their strong Convention, these conservative Wizards of Oz amped up their game. Videos came faster and more furiously, the subjects wilder and more over the top, until they created one that illegally used the words and image of iconic mother Katie Couric. And bang! Someone, at least for a few hours, pulled the plug on their video game and sent these kids up to their room. 

Where this all goes, I don't know. But the children of Rove now running the McCain campaign grew up in an Administration and politics so uninterested in the common good and the national interest that it still astounds. The media has begun to grasp how wild and unprecedented in its lack of seriousness this campaign really is - but it took them all too long to figure out the horrendous lies at the heart of the Bush era. So we cannot count on them. 

So, who does need to figure out how to put this all in proper context?  To explain the tragedy of this all-too-serious charade to the American people?

Perhaps this is a job for the next President of the United States. Barack has spoken passionately about his desire to bring this failed conservative era to an end. To do so, he will have to take on one of its worst manifestations - its all too sophisticated and cynical politics.

Forget Lipstick and Pigs: What is this Election Really About?

A new intelligence report, discussed yesterday by Thomas Fingar, the top analyst in the American intelligence community, outlines the challenges the next president will face. In the midst of debates about lipstick on pigs and other such nonsense, it’s important to consider what some of these challenges may be.

According to an article from today’s Washington Post about the report, the next President will lead an era through which American dominance and the significance of military power will diminish, as will the roles of international institutions. This shift, which comes as a result of globalization, and, as the article points out, is described by Fareed Zakaria as not the "decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else."

Climate change, energy security, and immigration policies will also figure heavily into the challenges the next president will face:

The predicted shift toward a less U.S.-centric world will come at a time when the planet is facing a growing environmental crisis, caused largely by climate change, Fingar said. By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

Floods and droughts will trigger mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world. But among industrialized states, declining birthrates will create new economic stresses as populations become grayer. In China, Japan and Europe, the ratio of working adults to seniors "begins to approach one to three," he said.

The United States will fare better than many other industrial powers, in part because it is relatively more open to immigration. Newcomers will inject into the U.S. economy a vitality that will be absent in much of Europe and Japan -- countries that are "on a good day, highly chauvinistic," he said.

"We are just about alone in terms of the highly developed countries that will continue to have demographic growth sufficient to ensure continued economic growth," Fingar said.

Dealing with the effects of globalization, confronting climate change, and formulating a rational immigration policy have been hallmarks of NDN’s economic narrative. For more on how to confront these challenges and make globalization work for all Americans, visit NDN’s Globalization Initiative page, and visit the Hispanic Strategy Center’s page for more on NDN’s immigration work, including a brand new poll.

On Morning Joe today, MSNBC’s panel got into some of these issues, and how they do (or don't) play into the state of the election. Take a look:

Matt Damon on The Palin Ultimatum

And just for fun - I think Matt Damon brings up a good point.

I love the comment a VERY conservative friend of mine made when I sent him this video: "Caring or quoting what celebrities think about anything is usually cause for a punch line, but in this case, he happens to be correct."

His comment reflects how during this election, unlike any other, people are switching parties, switching preferences, and reflecting over a broader array of issues that are less substantive but no less relevant - issues like race and age in a Presidential election, the role of a Vice Presidential nominee - much more than in the past.

 

 

 

 

NDN Releases Major Findings on Immigration

Today, NDN released polls conducted among all voters in four key battleground states - Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada - that show strong support for comprehensive immigration reform. As Simon and Courtney mentioned, the poll was conducted in key swing states that also have a large Hispanic Population. Additionally, the states in question are reflective of the cross-section of Hispanics in the United States, with Florida's Hispanic population consisting mainly of foreign-born Hispanics from the Caribbean and South America, Nevada with mostly foreign-born Hispanics from Mexico, and New Mexico and Colorado with largely native-born Hispanics.

For an in-depth look at how the public views the immigration debate in these four states, please view our full Immigration Survey Report here.

As stated in the Executive Summary, our findings indicate that in each of these four states, voters:

  • Overwhelmingly support Comprehensive Immigration Reform as:
    1. Strengthening border security
    2. Strengthening interior enforcement through an employer verification plan
    3. New visa program for 200,000 workers annually
    4. Increasing the number of family visas available
    5. Path to earned citizenship for the undocumented once they meet certain requirements.
  • Have a positive view of undocumented immigrants, believing that they have come here to work and seek a better life, are not taking jobs from American citizens and are not interested in receiving public handouts.
  • Blame the federal government and businesses - not immigrants - for the broken immigration system. This tells us that the anti-immigrant message of the Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaughs of the world actually doesn't resonate with the large majority of voters.

The data also shows:

  • The issue of immigration remains an important issue to voters, particularly Hispanics, and Democrats and Barack Obama are more trusted to handle the immigration issue than U.S. Sen. John McCain and the Republican Party.
  • The dramatic swing of Hispanic voters to Senator Obama in Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada - with a total of 46 electoral votes - has helped turn these previously red states, which were critical to Bush's narrow victory in 2004, into competitive swing states this year.
  • But in each state, 14 percent to 20 percent of the Hispanic electorate remains undecided, which translates into a two percent to six percent of the statewide vote in each state - a percentage significant enough to tip dead-even states into one camp or the other.
  • The Hispanic vote may very well determine the Presidential winner in these four states. Given how close the election is, this may determine the outcome of the Presidential race itself.

Therefore, the data proves that the paranoia over the prospect of dealing with the broken immigration system due to the emotional nature of the debate as framed by anti-immigrant activists is unfounded. An overhaul of our current immigration system is not only the right thing to do, there is an urgent need for it and the data demonstrates that there is overwhelming support to enact it. Enforcement-only is not an immigration policy. We need to fix the entire broken system. Just this morning, USA TODAY's Emily Bazar wrote a story reporting how the higher application fees at ICE are actually discouraging immigrants from seeking citizenship. Even Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the research center for a series of anti-immigrant hate groups, CIS, which calls for reduced immigration agrees fees are, "probably too high" and should reflect only processing costs.

When it comes to immigration reform, our data matches the data from the many polls conducted on this issue for the last three years: politically, immigration is actually a positive and not a negative because voters want action, and from a policy standpoint there is a consensus to enact it.

 

 

 

What Should We Really Think about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

The price of what are called “credit default swaps” for U.S. Treasury debt is rising sharply. Credit default swaps are financial instruments by which one investor holding debt pays another investor to guarantee that if that debt defaults, he will make the first investor whole. 

This week, the Treasury assumed responsibility for $5.2 trillion in outstanding debts held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A modest but significant share of that is headed for default, and the Treasury will have to absorb the losses. And the result is a rising price for credit default swaps on the U.S. Government: It now costs $18,000 to insure $10 million of U.S. Treasury debt. The market sees a very small - but not negligible - prospect that the U.S. Government would actually default on its debt, which would be, well, the end of the American and global economies as we know them. That’s how bad it is.

Credit default swaps for subprime mortgage based securities, of course, have played a significant role in the current unraveling in the financial markets. But conservative/Republican disdain for normal regulation of those markets has played the larger, underlying role.  Such regulation isn’t intended to “manage” those markets, but to ensure that the rest of us are protected from serious repercussions when problematic choices by financial market players (for example, to double down on subprime mortgages or their derivatives) collide with adverse conditions that make those problematic choices very reckless.

That’s the essential meaning of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulatory bailouts. Setting aside the many years of astonishingly reckless and self-interested management at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage market would freeze up if these two institutions suddenly couldn’t operate. Here’s a brief course in why that’s so: there’s always plenty of credit for new mortgages, because those creating the mortgages promptly sell them, in bundles, to investors, so that the credit can cycle back to finance more mortgages. 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both create and buy trillions of dollars in these mortgage-backed securities, and there’s no financial institution that could step in if they were taken out of the picture. That’s why we need to keep them operating, even if it requires a bailout. By the way, the other major holders of these securities include U.S. banks – expect a line of them to go belly-up in the next six months – and foreign central banks. 

The potential unpleasant fallout for our relations with other countries if their holdings went bust is the other reason that the Bush Administration has taken the largest interventionist step in U.S. financial markets since the Great Depression. Once again, the Bush Administration is moved to act not by what’s happening to Americans, but by the implications for our relations with other countries

More on the Meaning of "Maverick"

As Travis writes below, the GOP has bet the farm on the maverick concept. But like most words, it has both positive and negative connotations. Would it be appropriate for a further examination of the word and the idea? 

For while it can be a virtuous word, can it also not suggest risk, recklessness, whimsy, shooting from the hip, unmoored, lack of preperation, self-indulgence, immaturity, impetuousness, not playing well with others? 

Are these traits that will make a successful leader, chief executive or President? In a body of 100, a maverick has its place.  But as the chief? 

Food for thought....

What Becomes of the Broken Maverick

A few hours ago, I got off the phone with my Dad who was driving by Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Seeing the large crowds and commotion, he asked if I had heard whether "anyone big" was visiting. He said he thought U.S. Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin were making a stop there, so I looked it up and confirmed to him that he was right, prompting him to react with what seems to be the prevailing assessment surrounding the GOP ticket: everyone was there to see Palin.

McCain, who was quick to label U.S. Sen. Barack Obama as a celebrity, now embraces, perhaps even encourages, the glamorous reception with which his running mate is met. It seems like he was right to do so in the short-term, as the focus of the election, as Simon has mentioned, has shifted to Palin. Though that's not really surprising, given that the timing of her introduction left us either amazed by her acceptance speech or wondering who she is and what she believes.

Yet while the scramble for information over Palin was especially hurried after she was chosen as McCain's running mate, the dust has since settled from her speech in St. Paul. And with the clearing comes more information - from her understanding of institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to her conduct as Governor. What little we are learning about Palin comes from her interactions with regular citizens since she has been absent from the talk shows, as well as through close friends who speak well of her personally but seem mixed when the subject turns to politics.

All of this unravels before our eyes, gets us caught up in Alaska drama, and deflects attention away from McCain towards Palin. Recognizing this, and maybe trusting the media and the American people to do its due diligence on Palin, the Obama campaign is bringing the focus back to the GOP nominee and his Party's record. Its latest ads, "No Maverick" and "Naked Lies", as well as his speech on education are good examples of this strategy.

Meanwhile, McCain continues to tout Palin - whose speech is the only one from the GOP Convention that is highlighted on McCain's YouTube channel - and that maverick nature of theirs. As mentioned above, plenty of people have and will sift through Sarah Palin's past and credentials, which frees us up to focus on the notion of the maverick.

One definition from Princeton shows that, as a noun, "maverick" has two meanings: First, a rebel; and second, an unbranded rage animal that belongs to the first person who puts a brand on it. An adjective for the term: irregular.

While the bit about the "rage animal" seems to align itself with one of McCain's purported problems, I must acknowledge that the term maverick does connote a positive image in the "independent in behavior or thought" sense. We're familiar with that image. It's what defined the John McCain of yesteryear and won him public admiration from all sides. Yet things changed for him when he was branded the GOP nominee and started marching to the beat of a different drum, avoiding or outright fleeing from his once admirable stance on a whole slew of issues. Instead of sticking to his guns, he gave into the brush-clearing tactics of his predecessors.

It's almost tragic, really. The glorified way in which he painted his maverick image is now broken, and in its place we are left with an all-too-familiar ideal that begs for real change we can believe in. 

Update: The Huffington Post is chronicling the news sources that are speaking out about the McCain campaign's recent tactics, which seem to evoke the irregular nature of the maverick. 

Update II: Reuters shows how McCain finds the campaign trail to be more hostile when Palin's deference-deserving persona isn't with him on the trail. 

Update III: Brave New PAC weighs in on the maverick's campaign in the video below: 

(Note: You are now free from my random musings and long and tedious '08 Updates, as I have left NDN. Unless a new Kanye West video comes out and I can relate it to the work of the NDNBlog champions, it's safe to say that I will be appearing much less in the months ahead. I do look forward to returning occasionally, and hope to see you all soon! Thanks for putting up with me for so long...)

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