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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

October 6, 2008


McCain Potpourri
(Wow! That Really Stinks!)

Today, as I was driving around much of Central New Jersey, I had opportunity (for lack of a better word) to listen to XM Satellite Radio's POTUS'08 - their radio channel devoted to this year's presidential election. I listen to the station quite a lot. One thing I noticed as I listen to POTUS '08 is the disparity in time they offer to the two candidates. Over the past week or so, I have heard both John McCain and Sarah Palin blast Barack Obama incessantly while hearing Obama or Joe Biden's words all too infrequently.

Maybe the Republicans support the deal between XM Satellite and Sirius Satellite Radio more then the Democratic candidates do. Or maybe I'm just imagining it.

Whatever the case may be, I couldn't help but notice the tact which the McCain campaign has now succumbed to as they try to gain all the ground they have lost over these past two weeks in the national polls. Each and every campaign stop is dotted by speeches not aimed at how the Right Wing candidates (McCain and Palin) will cure our economy; or end the war in Iraq; or even increase our standing in the world, but is aimed at Obama. And they will use any and every attack they can muster to scare those foolish enough to fall for it.

And, so far, it doesn't seem to be working.

The problem is that the McCain campaign can't speak to the issues. They have decided that key words and nicknames they give themselves (Maverick, anyone?) are more important than the issues that truly matter to all of us - especially us in the Middle Class. And if that doesn't work, name-calling and using covert racism become the rules which they campaign by.

And if covert racism doesn't work, they're not above using overt racism as well.

Just this week alone we have heard Sarah Palin attempt to tie Senator Obama to terrorism. It's a tact they have used all campaign long as they tried to make connections to the various Chicago Political machines and Senator Obama; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Senator Obama; and now, finally, terrorism and Senator Obama.

The funny thing is that McCain has so many of those ties himself. All one has to do is go back to one of the worst scandals costing our government billions and retirees their whole life savings. It was known as the savings and Loan scandal and John McCain was a charter member of the worst of it. McCain, along with four other US Senators, was a part of the Keating Five - a groups of legislators who used their influence to create a favorable situation for one Charles Keating of Arizona's own Lincoln Savings and Loan. McCain was reprimanded but the good people of Arizona saw fit to allow him to stay in office.

(McCain, to my knowledge, has never really apologized for his involvement in the Keating Five scandal other than to admit that he made some "mistakes". Although some feel as if the Keating Five-McCain connection should be off-limits (at least some at Fox News channel), it bears mentioning that McCain received around $112,000 from Charles Keating and his wife (2nd wife, Cindy) and her father were investors tied to Keating to the sum of nearly $560,000.

But that's rich people money, not near the $5 million threshold McCain stated is the minimum requirement to be considered rich. I mean, $560,000 can't even buy one mansion or California Coast beach house!)

And if the Keating Five scandal sounds familiar, it should: It's the same formula used by the Republicans (as they were the party in power at the time) to help bilk Americans out of their life savings in today's financial mess. One has to remember that the legislator most responsible for the law which allowed the free trade market to run-amok was none other than the man who would be Treasury Secretary under McCain, former Senator Phil Gramm, Republican of Texas. That's the same Phil Gramm who called those caught in the financial crunch "whiners" while stating that the recession we were experiencing was imaginary.

Maybe to him and John McCain it was, but not to us in the middle and lower economic classes.

McCain's strategy at saving the nation, especially economically, is disastrous and not only because it looks awfully similar to the Bush policies which put us here in the first place. If possible, it's even worse than the Bush plans. After giving Global Corporations even more "incentives" to avoid paying taxes, McCain wants to give each and every US household money back in tax breaks. First he wants to give $5,000 per family or $2,500 per individual so we can afford medical coverage. Of course, with the average cost of a health care plan escalating to over $12,000 per year, that $5,000 will only get you through the month of May.

Don't get sick in June or you're on your own.

And while McCain is "giving" he will also be taking away as he taxes - yes, taxes - our health care premiums as if it were money we were taking home to build fancy swimming pools and taking lavish trips.

But that isn't enough for McCain. He also wants to "give" each and every household an additional $7,000 tax credit per child.

The problem is with both of these tax schemes, that those who earn the least already pay little or nothing in taxes. So if you're in the middle class and are one three-quarter million newly unemployed (our economy has lost over 760,000 jobs since the beginning of 2008), you probably don't pay any taxes. This means that, even though you have no health care and are struggling to keep gas in your tanks while you search for that non-existent job, you aren't even getting the tax break which McCain promised you.

But the ultra-rich McCain "base of haves and have mores" will.

And if McCain were actually be able to provide that break to each and every household in America, the bill for health care alone would add an additional $700 billion to our annual budget, inching it ever so more closely to four trillion dollars than the already obscene $2.9 trillion it is today.

When you add the near thirty percent reduction in taxes that Big Business now pays (from a corporate tax rebate of 35 percent down to 25 percent) and the $7,000 tax credit per child which only the very rich would be eligible for (with an average annual income of approximately $45,000 per year, many Americans pay just a fraction of that $7,000 in income taxes - not including Social Security, State or Local taxes), one has to wonder just where all of this money is coming from.

I know I am and I'm still afraid to hear the answer.

McCain might be putting back pennies into your left pocket while he will be pulling dollars from your right.

Does John McCain truly believe that this is the best way to get the economy going again? Has he even bothered looking at the Bush administration and what they have done to our nation over these past eight years? Certainly if he had then these plans of his would have been shelved for a real economic policy - one to help those who drive our nation: the Middle Class. All else is just trickle-down which smells an awful lot like yellow human waste.

And if McCain really doesn't believe that the way to go with our economy is to stay the course which George Bush has put us on, then why is he proposing to keep them? Perhaps a man who married an heiress and owns seven to ten homes (a number he, himself is unsure of) simply doesn't know any better...

...Or he just can't relate.

Certainly the election of a President John McCain would end up being more of the same in a time when that will not do. No matter what McCain and Palin say or do, they cannot seem to outrun the fact that they are running on the legacy of George W. Bush, and, let's be truthful - they really don't want to. After all, stay the course means stay the course no matter what it does to us who row the boat.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008, Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

The vice-presidential debate–the most-watched in U.S. history–was expected to the be game-changing event that would cascade the poll numbers in one direction or another by the morning of October 3.

It didn’t.

Most Democrats and a percentage of Republicans foresaw a total, blundering, embarrassing failure by Republican vice-presidential candidate, Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, which would completely tank John McCain’s presidential hopes.

Many Republicans and some Democrats anticipated that the traditionally long-winded and gaffe-prone Washington veteran, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), would either come off as condescending or make an error that would damage Barack Obama, whose poll numbers had finally begun to rise after weeks of hovering just below or in a tie with McCain’s.

Instead, the audience of an astonishing 68.8 million viewers–more than watched the three most-viewed speeches from the conventions (McCain’s at 40 million, Obama’s at 38 million and Palin’s at 37.5 million) and ten million more than viewed the recent presidential debate–was treated to a exchange that was lively, informative and utterly engaging.

Unlike the cranky and contentious presidential candidates, Biden and Palin were as amiable as they were attentive to their respective roles: tout their candidate, slam the other.

Across the political board pundits agreed that the vice-presidential candidates presented both a real and substantive debate, which was much better than the presidential one.

Palin tapped into the heartland of America and talked to the people, doing what McCain has failed to do, but Obama has done–speaking directly into the camera and to the audience as well as regularly turning toward Biden and speaking directly to him or listening to him when he was speaking.

Her answers were, for the most part, direct and delivered with none of the halting unsureness of some of her recent interviews with the media. Palin showed confidence and poise, despite the drubbing she has received in the press in recent days. From the outset she presented the affable and charming presence that had so won over Republicans and Independents in the weeks immediately following her joining the ticket.

Biden, who has ended up on YouTube himself more than a few times in recent weeks, fell into none of the traps that have waylaid him on the campaign trail. He, too, was warm and responsive even as he went full-bore on making links between McCain and George Bush’s failed presidency. (He mentioned McCain 68 times in the 90-minute debate while Palin only mentioned Obama 18 times.)

And while Biden made the same error McCain has made in looking at the moderator instead of the audience, his responses were by turns passionate and heartfelt and never angry or dismissive, like both McCain and Obama have been.

There were, of course, quite a few errors in fact–from both candidates–but nothing egregious. There were no howling blunders as were anticipated from Palin and no foot-in-mouth gaffes from Biden. It was a cordial, energized and colloquial debate, moderated with aplomb and utter lack of bias by PBS veteran Gwen Ifill, despite contentious calls for her to step down prior to the event because her soon-to-be released book on Obama and other rising black leaders was perceived as skewing her toward the Democrats.

When the dust and punditry settled, a large percentage of viewers echoed the pundits in seeing the debate as a draw; almost 60 percent coming away with a more favorable view of Palin than they’d had at the outset.

While Biden was said to have won the debate in many polls by a margin of between 20 and 30 points, the debate was his to lose. If the man who has been in the Senate longer than nearly anyone else currently serving (he has a decade on McCain) couldn’t win against Palin, who’s been in Washington five weeks to Biden’s 36 years, the game would indeed have been over.

That so many veterans of these debates considered the exchange a draw was definitely advantage Palin. As USA Today noted, “Both candidates exuded confidence and determination–a victory of sorts for Palin, the first-term Alaska governor performing on equal terms with the six-term Delaware senator” while the New York Times said Palin “far exceeded expectations in this highly anticipated face-off.”

Peggy Noonan, former speech-writer for both Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr., had been caught in what was allegedly an moment of not knowing the microphone was still on a few weeks back while discussing Palin on a network news program. She had called Palin “disastrous” at the time and her support for Obama has been quite clear in recent months.

After the debate, speaking MSNBC and later writing in her Wall Street Journal column, Noonan asserted unequivocally that Palin “killed–she was the star.”

Noonan said that Palin had managed to put Biden on the defensive from the outset.

Noonan was not alone among Obama/Biden supporters who thought Palin had acquitted herself surprisingly well.

In a front-page analysis, the Los Angeles Times, which has been harshly critical of Palin, noted enthusiastically that she had resurged with “the politics of spunk,” adding, “If Palin’s goal was to show that she could credibly share the stage with a seasoned politician–and turn the page after two bruising weeks of unsteady media interviews–then she succeeded beyond even many Republicans’ expectations.”

The Financial Times, which has also been highly critical of the Republican VP candidate, noted, “Palin managed to leave behind the halting, circular answers she delivered in recent interviews. Her performance may end questions about her ability to grapple with complicated issues, at least on a rhetorical level.”

The Chicago Tribune, Obama’s home-town paper, asserted Palin “succeeded Thursday in one crucial respect: re-establishing herself as a charismatic, composed performer.”

Despite the enthusiasm for both debaters, however, the debate was indeed a draw in one regard–the overall poll numbers did not shift one iota. While Palin got a huge personal bump in the polls, her ticket did not. And while Biden certainly won on looking and sounding presidential, the Democrats stayed static after the debate as well.

All of which means that the vice-presidential candidates only matter if they do actual damage. The myriad errors both candidates were guilty of during the debate seemed not to be egregious enough for either to suffer over.

That said, voters should be aware there were errors–on both sides. Liberal blogs noted Palin’s errors with alacrity, most especially that she got the name of the general overseeing the war in Afghanistan incorrect. Palin referred to General David McKiernan as “Gen. McClellan.”

McClellan was a Civil War general.

Biden claimed what she said about McKiernan–that he’d insisted a troop surge could work in Afghanistan–was wrong, but McKiernan did indeed say that in August.

Biden had an even more glaring error when he asserted that FDR “went on TV during the Great Depression and talked about the stock market crash [of 1929].”
FDR was elected in 1932, and TV was invented after FDR’s death.

Other issues were pesky, but not damning. In response to Palin’s assertion that Obama had said he would personally meet with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Biden said it never happened. It was possibly the only point in the debate where he became testy with Palin.

But in two primary debates, including the most watched of all, the YouTube-sponsored debate, Obama indeed said that he would meet directly with Ahmadinejad with no pre-conditions.

Both candidates were tripped up by tax-related issues and their candidates’ respective votes. Palin asserted Obama’s tax plan would impact the middle class, which economists say is only true in very specific cases. Biden asserted that McCain had voted for a tax increase Obama voted for a few months ago, when McCain had actually abstained from voting.

Two war issues both candidates got wrong.

Palin said the troop levels in Iraq were now down to pre-surge levels. They will not be at those levels until the next scheduled troop withdrawals in February 2009, if then.

Biden said McCain voted “the exact same way” as Obama on funding for the troops when Obama refused to support funding the troops because no timeline for withdrawal was included in the bill. McCain did not vote on the bill.

The subject of health care used to be one of the most important issues in the primary–to the degree that debates between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama often became mind-numbing on details.

In the vice-presidential debate health care should have re-emerged as another important issue, as it impacts Americans pocketbooks and health.

Palin claimed that McCain’s health care plan is “budget neutral,” but economists argue that McCain’s bill will ultimately cost taxpayers because they will have to pay taxes on the subsidy McCain’s plan gives them. Economists estimate millions more Americans could end up uninsured as a result. But Biden’s claim that McCain plans to deregulate health care is simply wrong.

On energy, Palin implied that the natural gas pipeline was already in process in Alaska. While she has been a major proponent of that plan, it is in the very early stages and just like the alternative energy plans proposed by the Obama campaign, won’t be in operation for another decade.

Palin charged that Biden supported clean coal over the far more environmentally friendly natural gas. Biden responded that he had never supported clean coal, but his record on support for clean coal initiatives is long and unequivocal.

What was clear throughout the debate–or should have been–was that on many issues the candidates are not that far apart and on some, like same-sex marriage which both oppose vehemently, they agreed totally.

But on issues where the candidates disagree–most notably, the war on Iraq–the differences are stark.

This election stopped being about the war months ago, but the differences between Biden and Palin on the war are striking. Perhaps this was due to their respective rhetoric and the fact that both have sons in the war, or perhaps it’s just that they were less antagonistic than Obama and McCain have been in debating the issue. But regardless, the differences were glaring and hard to ignore for anyone tired of the war on Iraq.

It was also difficult to envision, based on the VP debate, how the McCain-Palin plan would benefit the middle class as much as the Obama-Biden plan.

If the debate helped the candidates in any way, it was to solidify their respective bases. But with less than a month till election day, barring a radical shift in the political wind, that was not enough to secure McCain a win in a year when the Republican brand is as tarnished as a penny from the crash of 1929.

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-Noah Greenberg