Archive for August 2008
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Thu, 08/28/2008 – 10:36am
There was the story of a young presidential candidate who many wondered whether he was ready to lead. To rally the supporters and potential voters, the campaign decides to hold the acceptance speech in a football stadium.
Barack Obama in 2008? Try John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Yes, Kennedy gave the speech where he introduced the “New Frontier” in the legendary Los Angeles Coliseum.
In 1960, the Coliseum was home to two pro football teams, the Los Angeles Rams (NFL) and the brand new Los Angeles Chargers (AFL); two college football teams, the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins; and baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB).
Rosalind Wyman of California, who is at the DNC in Denver, was a Los Angeles City Council member in 1960 and wanted the speech to be seen by more people. The Los Angeles Coliseum can hold more than 100,000 people, so they closed off the stadium at half capacity so it wouldn’t look empty.
Well, Obama won’t have any trouble filling Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium tonight. The capacity of the stadium, also the home of the Denver Outlaws of the Major Lacrosse League, is 76,125, so that will be one step up on Kennedy.
If anything, having a speech in an NFL stadium is more dramatic now. Besides the considerably larger potential TV and Internet audience Obama will have, the NFL is tremendously more popular than it was in 1960. So the mystique of having the speech in a stadium where numerous NFL stars have played since 2001 adds to the potential magic.
Of course, the press will be much harder on Obama in 2008 than JFK in 1960. And given how well Obama has spoken in the past, the pressure will be on to deliver an incredible speech.
With perhaps less pressure, Kennedy did give a really good speech:
“We stand today at the edge of a New Frontier — the frontier of the 1960s — the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and unfilled threats. … The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises; it is a set of challenges.”
The unofficial theme of the 2008 Democratic National Convention is a time for change, a different direction. Kennedy found it in the New Frontier; Obama will have to find out what that is for him and for the voters in 2008. And while the press will be extremely judgmental, at least Obama won’t have to dodge any defensive linemen or a safety blitz as he navigates a crucial moment in the campaign on a football field.
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on August 28, 2008
When Cokie Roberts starts questioning your logic, you know you have a problem.
The corporate media has really been giving Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) a pass when it comes to him not knowing how many houses he has. But on ABC’s This Week this past Sunday, Mark Halperin of Time Magazine took it to a whole new level.
In a section melodramatically titled “House-Gate,” Halperin tried to get away with a bait-and-switch. Instead of admitting that what McCain said was (at the very least) a problematic mistake, he somehow turned it into Obama’s blunder.
“My hunch is that this is going to end up being one of the worst moments in the entire campaign for one of the candidates,” Halperin said, pausing here for dramatic effect. “But, it’s Barack Obama! I believe this has opened the door to not just Tony Rezko in that ad, but to bring up Reverend Wright, to bring up his relationship with Bill Ayers.”
We at BuzzFlash want to do a little disambiguating here, mostly because his logic is hard to follow. Even his fellow panelists on This Week erupted into cries of confusion and disbelief at Halperin’s point. Basically he’s saying that because Obama pointed out McCain’s gaffe, McCain’s campaign can go negative with impunity.
First, Mark, have you been paying any attention to the McCain campaign recently? They’ve been in rabid attack mode for weeks!
No, no. Halperin insists that Obama has changed the tone of the campaign, which was apparently all sunshine and lollipops up until now:
“It started with the Obama campaign, filled with and machismo and aggressiveness saying, ‘We’re going to make this week not about the economy, [but about McCain’s houses].'”
Halperin shows his Rovian schooling here by using a favorite technique: Say it loud and repetitively enough and it magically becomes true. He makes his argument even stronger by relying on the schoolyard rule of, “He started it,” when the old platitude of “he who smelt it, dealt it” is likely more applicable here.
But enough of the schoolhouse talk; let’s move on.
Second on the list of Halperin’s putziness: houses and the economy have absolutely nothing to do with Obama’s former pastor Rev. Wright or former Weatherman Bill Ayers. Even the Media Putz award winner from two weeks ago, Cokie Roberts, got that the story isn’t about actual houses, calling it a “metaphor for the economy.”
…Not a metaphor for black liberation theology or radical political activism from the late 1960s.
And finally, as host George Stephanopoulos pointed out: “Don’t you think that was going to come up anyway?”
Pundits and strategists have been talking about the inevitability of Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, and Tony Rezko coming back to haunt Obama in the general election campaign since well before he became the nominee. The act of Obama drawing attention to McCain’s elitist slip-up hasn’t changed that one bit.
Although Halperin has already won an award for this recent show of loyalty to the McCain campaign, we at BuzzFlash simply couldn’t pass him up this week. For sticking faithfully to his role as a shill for McCain and the Republican Party, we give Mark Halperin the Media Putz of the week award.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 08/27/2008 – 10:52am
Want to know how politics has changed in Alaska lately? Alaska had two long-time Republicans with their political lives on the line last night — in a primary.
Sen. Ted Stevens, currently under indictment for concealing more than $250,000 in gifts from an oil services company, survived a challenge from 6 would-be Republican suitors. Stevens’ luck may run out in November as he goes up against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, son of the late U.S. Rep. Nick Begich.
Nick Begich had the distinction of being the last Democrat elected to the House from Alaska. Begich died in the 1972 plane crash that also killed Rep. Hale Boggs; Begich posthumously won the 1972 re-election, however, Don Young won the special election and has held the seat since.
At least, this is true until we find out how Young did in the primary. Young, under a cloud over the VECO corruption scandal, may have pulled out the primary against Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. With 98 percent of the ballots counted, Young leads Parnell by 145 votes.
Young/Parnell will take on Ethan Berkowitz, a former minority leader of the state House, who easily won the Democratic primary.
Oh, and the last Democrat to represent Alaska in Congress — Mike Gravel. Yes, that Mike Gravel, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1969-1981.
There are two sides of the coin: do you want the embattled yet weaken incumbents to survive the primary or take your chances on the new guy? Stevens is the more logical one to want to run straight on. Young is a little different, especially since Parnell has the blessing of popular Gov. Sarah Palin, a Republican.
Alaska has been considered Republican territory for some time. Lyndon Johnson (1964) is still the only Democratic presidential candidate to win the state ever.
But perhaps there are breaks in the ice, as it were, opening up opportunities for Democrats in Alaska. True, Stevens and Young are vulnerable due to political scandal. And Young is 75 and Stevens will be 85 in November. Democrats will have to earn their way in this state, but they haven’t had a better chance than now.
Barack Obama has been a champion for the state, opening an office in Anchorage in July. And Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, a Republican, gave a speech at the DNC in favor of Obama last night.
Alaskans in particular want certain things from their representatives, loyalty being high on the list. Stevens and Young have served them well in that sense. So Democrats will have to work much harder to make an impact. But if they can, November will prove to be more prosperous and Alaska might turn blue more often in the many years to come.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 08/27/2008 – 9:08am
Harold Ford, Jr., Evan Bayh, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, and Mario Cuomo – what do they have in common? Keep reading and you’ll find out.
How do you follow Barack Obama? No, not Thursday night, but as the keynote speaker for the Democratic National Convention. The keynote speaker is a prestige position within the convention as a showcase for potential talent. The keynote speaker is usually someone on the rise, so there’s a lot of pressure to deliver.
Mark Warner had that task last night, but smartly played it as if it was Mark Warner for the first time, and did very, very well.
For those who don’t know Mark Warner, he is the former governor of Virginia (before Tim Kaine) and is running for the open Senate seat of John Warner (no relation), a seat he is expected to win. But you may know Warner from his possible presidential bid in 2008 (decided not to run) and consideration for vice president (quashed in part of running for the Senate seat).
Oh, and what do Harold Ford, Jr., Evan Bayh, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, and Mario Cuomo have in common? Each was the keynote speaker at the DNC for the previous 5 conventions before Obama.
In 2000, Harold Ford, Jr. was seen as the African-American candidate on the rise. There are reasons why three straight Democratic Party nominees have now seriously considered Evan Bayh for vice president. And there were many dreams for Mario Cuomo long long ago.
But why did Warner do so well last night? He was able to explain the frustrations and solutions before the Democratic Party in a way that is very saleable to independent voters and, yes, even moderate Republicans.
Starting literally with the seventh word of the speech, Warner sets it up for us:
The most important contest of our generation has begun. Not the campaign for the presidency. Not the campaign for Congress. But the race for the future. And I believe from the bottom of my heart with the right vision, the right leadership, and the energy and creativity of the American people, there is no nation that we can’t out hustle or out compete. And no American need be left out or left behind.
Yes, the race for the future is on, and it won’t be won if only some Americans are in the running. It won’t be won with yesterday’s ideas and yesterday’s divisions. And it won’t be won with a president who is stuck in the past.
The pundits and even the party brass sometimes places way too much focus on the presidential race. But Warner drew a bigger picture: this is more than a political race. It’s a race to stay relevant, and use our assets to create a better future. The line about “there is no nation that we can’t out hustle or out compete” is gold in the right hands. Americans want to hear lines such as that from politicians. And they hear that mostly from Republicans not Democrats.
Warner talked about failing two businesses before he started with success in his third business. Americans, like all other human beings, fail. But they also want to know that if they can work hard enough, they can find success. Warner understands failure, success, and how to learn from both, something George W. Bush still doesn’t understand.
We have heard a lot of anger in this convention so far, all of it justified and more. But political success, especially in America, stems from the positive not the negative. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were masters at understanding that.
There is a lot of anger against Bush, again, all of it justified and more. But watch to see how he addresses that:
People always ask me, “What’s your biggest criticism of President Bush?” I’m sure you all have your own. Here’s mine: It’s not just the policy differences. It’s the fact that this president never tapped into our greatest resources – the character and resolve of the American people. He never asked us to step up.
Think about it: After September 11, if there was a call from the president to get us off foreign oil, to stop funding the very terrorists who had just attacked us, every American would have said, “How can I do my part?” This administration failed to believe in what we can achieve as a nation, when all of us work together.
Warner took seven years of anger against Bush, and made it sound as a positive solution. His message isn’t designed to cover everything that Bush did. But the message is something a Democrat can take to Appalachia, parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan that can sway reluctant independents and moderate Republicans to pull the lever for a Democrat.
Warner also summed up in a short paragraph the frustration against 12 years of Republican rule in Congress and the overall mentality of the Republican Party:
“You know, I spent 20 years in business. If you ran a company whose only strategy was to tear down the competition, it wouldn’t last long. So why is this wisdom so hard to find in Washington?”
Progressives complain that Republicans have no ideas, tear things down, and win. But if the message were portrayed the way Warner just did so, those on the fence would consider a Democrat.
Assuming Warner wins the Senate seat in 2008, he will have his first elected taste of Washington. Perhaps in 8 years, he could be a force for either president or vice president. On December 15, 2016, Warner will turn 62, slightly older than Hillary Clinton is now.
But with or without Warner in one of the top 2 slots, Democrats would be wise to consider Warner’s approach and philosophy. With that, they could be spending more time in the White House as a result.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Tue, 08/26/2008 – 10:52am
A hypothetical text message exchange between Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, if McCain knew how to send text messages:
(repeat ad nauseam)
Joe Biden got off a great line about Rudy Giuliani about every sentence that comes out of his mouth was a “noun, verb, and 9/11.”
For McCain lately, the sentence structure is slightly more advanced. “The reason for that is [POW].” But the consensus is still the same. McCain brings up his past as a way to justify a number of issues, including how many houses he has.
McCain’s appearance with Jay Leno last night was the latest escapade on using his service as a crutch: “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.”
His service to his country is to be commended, but it has very little to do with why he wants to be president, who he’ll be as president, and what kind of job he will do in the Oval Office.
The last president who got into office based on his military credentials was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. In recent times, military experience in a commander-in-chief hasn’t been a big deal. Ronald Reagan never saw any combat time and George W. Bush, well we know that story. Bill Clinton also didn’t serve as well.
When Giuliani tried to get past 9/11, he had great difficulty, and that was one of the reasons why his candidacy didn’t take off. McCain has had a few more breaks in his candidacy. After all, if it weren’t for Mike Huckabee splitting off the conservative vote with Mitt Romney, we’d be talking about Romney and not talking about military service (The Mormon church obtained Vietnam draft deferrals for Romney, by 1970, Romney drew a high enough number in the draft lottery where he wouldn’t be drafted).
And the MSM has been hesistant to follow up on McCain’s overblown antics since they don’t want to seem “unpatriotic.” Yet they continue to let McCain slide through unprovoked.
I have not served, but I can’t imagine actual POWs want to see someone use their experience as an excuse for things going bad in a presidential campaign that have no relevancy to military experience.
The hope is that voters see past the MSM’s blindness (once again) and ask themselves whether McCain’s service record has that much relevancy on his ability to lead the United States of America.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 08/25/2008 – 9:46am
Normally, I’m not so informal. But after all, your campaign did kick off the text message generation with the major announcement that you picked Sen. Joe Biden to be your running mate in November. I was a little cynical about the process, and wondered if your campaign could pull this off. And the secret was kept almost to the end.
Here is the message for those who missed it.
Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3pm ET on http://www.BarackObama.com. Spread the word!
But I do have one minor issue with the process: I finally decided after writing that piece to sign up, cynical as I might have been about the process. I texted VP to 62262. Got no response. I did it again a few days later. Still no response. There’s 40¢ I’ll never get back.
Others sent you a text and got a response. And other text messages asking them to get involved. But not me.
And if you’re asking, yes I do know how to send and receive a text message.
Then there was the story that not everyone got your text message right away.
But I’m willing to forget that you didn’t send me a message, and willingly to understand the delays. And I’m even willingly to forgive the cynical nature that your campaign did this just to get more cell phones to communicate requests for money and volunteer time. After all, this was the test case for a new way of letting us know who the running mate will be.
And I do like the 3 a.m. touch. And I like how the MSM freaked out over trying to tell people in the middle of the night, not realizing that the youth you are trying to attract into politics stay up later than the old fogies. Plus their East Coast mentality forgets that 3 a.m. Eastern is 1 a.m. Mountain and Midnight Pacific, all of this on a Friday night when they are more likely to be up anyway.
Up until the end, your campaign freaked out the MSM over the whole process. Who knew Mary Schmich could even send a text message?
What about the next step? Young people see through the cynicism of gathering numbers, even if they like you and support you. They should get something more than just this announcement. There needs to be more of a reward system for the text messages they receive.
After all, this is only the beginning of the use of this technology in political races. Future candidates will look back to see what you did and didn’t do with the new technology. Oh, and Sen. Obama, I just ask that your campaign at least acknowledge my text messages when that time comes.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Fri, 08/22/2008 – 2:35pm
In the final part of this week’s series on how Barack Obama can regain momentum, I deal with another with change in attitude. Yesterday, it was the role of taxes and what government actually does. Today, it’s redefining labor and wages.
That figure haunts me still to this day. That was the minimum wage per hour when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 and was still the minimum wage in 1989 when he left office. Getting an increase in the minmum wage was impossible with a Republican-led Congress from 1995-2007.
To quote Wikipedia:
From January 1981 to April 1990, the minimum wage was frozen at $3.35 per hour, then a record-setting wage freeze. From 1 September 1997 through 23 July 2007 – a period of nearly ten years – the federal minimum wage remained constant at $5.15 per hour, breaking the old record.
Since the federal standard became unreliable, most states set a minimum wage different from the federal standard.
There is an abuse of workers on multiple levels: from being told to punch out and go back to work to threats of immigration against brown-skinned workers to workers just being afraid to say anything for fear of immediate retaliation. We have had a Department of Labor for the last 7 1/2 years more interested in punishing workers than helping them.
(It seems like the easiest job in the world is Secretary of Labor under a Republican administration. And Elaine Chao has done exactly what Bush wants: not a whole lot.)
In our current state, there are serious allegations against Wal-Mart for possibly unlawfully pressuring employees to vote against Democrats because of help for workers to unionize.
Republicans have successfully pushed this concept that business is “saintly” and labor is “evil.” And Democrats haven’t really fought back. Yes, some union bosses are corrupt and/or gone soft. But Democrats have allowed Republicans to paint all unions as being corrupt.
As I mentioned yesterday, 94% of Americans make less than $100,000. Yet the perception from society is that Americans like what Republicans say because they believe in rich people. “Hey, when I’m rich, I want to be treated like that.” But given the salary structure and antagonism toward labor, they have very little shot short of marrying for money or winning the lottery.
There was a time when the balance between labor and companies allowed workers to benefit for their work. Not anymore.
In 1992, Bill Clinton ran on getting more jobs into the economy, and increasing the technology-based jobs. Clinton was successful at doing that, more so than any president since 1980 by far. But in 2008, having jobs isn’t enough; they need to pay in such a way that workers can get ahead.
Obama hasn’t gone off to a good start on this issue. Yes, we hear about middle-class tax cuts, a knee-jerk reaction from the Clinton days. But the middle-class doesn’t fit the realm of reality in terms of what amount of money defines middle-class.
Labor matters more than CEOs, yet CEOs are artificially rewarded at the expense of the workers. There are more votes to get among workers than CEOs. CEOs have politicians looking out for them, but workers don’t. Obama needs to show that he wants workers to matter more in this economy.
With that statistic of 94% of Americans make less than $100,000, if you had economic solutions to appeal to that demographic, and you got 2/3 of their vote, you’d have 63% of the vote without a single person over $100,000 voting for you.
The Republicans are for the rich and the super-rich. The Democrats seem to be for the middle-class, as long as the middle-class is defined as $250,000. There is a huge cavern of people, conservative and liberal, who would settle for a party that focuses on $40,000-$100,000. John McCain won’t go after those people. Barack Obama, this is your chance: Redefine labor and wages and get those people to vote Democratic in November.