Saturday, September 6, 2008

Palin redux

OK, I lied. In my last blog, I really was trying to write as if I were thinking like an independent voter, but in my heart I knew I could not. And after reading what other so-called independent voters were saying to pollsters, I was amazed that actually, I got it about right! Nevertheless, now that the dust has cleared, I have other thoughts, both about Sarah Palin and the whole convention.

First, it just amazes me that voters who have been swayed to the Republican ticket by her are voting for it because she is "just like me." When I heard that people actually make decisions based upon who is most like them, I thought I was witnessing the decline and fall of the Western world, and I still do. I mean, I think I have a healthy dose of self-regard (as does every blogger who deludes him/herself into thinking that people actually want to know what they think), but I don't think someone like me ought to be President, or Vice President, and you shouldn't either! Sheesh! Much has been written about Palin having boundary issues with her family. But really, it is the American electorate with the boundary problem if our vote is driven by our identification with their lives as opposed to their positions on the issues.

Second, as a social worker by profession, I found her belittling of community organizers offensive (and I'm not the only one). But really, it was more telling than that: it revealed her as someone with absolutely no regard for minority and low-income communities, the problems they face, and their resilience. Community organizing efforts have been the last resort of these neighborhoods when their governments fail them. It's an honorable tradition and an honorable profession, especially in Chicago, where Jane Addams' Hull House saved so many new immigrants to this country during the turn of the last century. I hope Obama slams her on this, and that the 36 (out of 2,380 total) African-American RNC delegates figure out where her allegiances lie.

Boy, I could go on and on. But I'm anxious to get to my next blog, about Bush's labelling of his opponents as "the angry left" during his speech. I thought that one was really rich.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin speech

The next time Sarah Palin walks out on a stage, they ought to play Heart's "Barracuda." She certainly lived up to the moniker given to her in high school last night. This morning, the blogs are burning and churning, every which way.

Listening to her, and then seeing her hold her baby after the speech (which even I found touching), all I could think of was that commercial with the song that goes "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan....."

I tried to put myself in the mindset of an undecided voter. It didn't work. I tried to assume the "disaffected Hillary voter" stance. Closer, but still no go. Next I went for the independent voter, who goes back and forth watching the election closely, and has made his/her mind, many times. I've done that before. That was a better fit. And here is what I came up with:

It was a speech that was undoubtedly written for a man. I thought the sarcasm was ugly. If this is who she is, she won't wear well, even if I agree with her about what a great guy John McCain is. But despite this, she gives off a gutsy gal, Annie Oakley persona that I find appealing. That is why I think I could fall in love, maybe for fifteen minutes, maybe long enough to be interested in John McCain's speech tonight. But ultimately, when I thought about who I would rather listen to for the next four years, I would remember why I dislike Bush so much, turn off the TV, and buy me an Obama pin. But not from I mean, what do you take me for?

UPDATE: My fab governor, Kathleen Sebelius, makes an excellent point in Huffington Post today: we have a lot of small towns in Kansas. Not a one of them has hired a lobbyist and gone after earmarks. But Sarah Palin, according to the Washington Post, got almost $27,000,000 in earmarks for a town not much bigger than my sons' high school. I wonder if a debate moderator can ask her about that without being vilified as sexist.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Personal is Political

I feel sorry for the Palin kids, who really have been brought up out of the spotlight. And now it's white-hot and it's shining on them, which means that Governor Palin's oldest teen-aged daughter has to have her pregnancy announced by her mother, and picked up by every newspaper, wire service, and blog.
Credit her mother with putting a positive spin on it--she spoke of her excitement at becoming a grandparent, her pride in her daughter's decision to have the baby (uh, doesn't that make her pro-choice??), and of course mentioned that the prospective parents will be marrying shortly.
Reporters covering the Republican National Convention have found delegates to be largely supportive, noting that it burnishes Palin's anti-choice credentials. "It just makes the Palin family as human as any other family there is in America," said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt. "I think there's a big contrast between how the Obama camp has presented this issue already and the clearly pro-life, consistent message that's coming out of . . . Sarah Palin.
Honestly, the sheer chutzpah of it all is staggering. The daughter of a governor who is loudly and proudly not only anti-choice, but anti-knowledge when it comes to sex education, has managed to make unwed, teen parenthood a virtue to these wingnuts.
But I cannot help but think about what the wingnuttery would have been talking about this week, had Barack Obama had an unwed teen-aged daughter. Can anyone say with a straight face that the subtext would have been no different?
I have been looking on the web for a discussion about this, and all I can find is the faux outrage that conservatives ginned up for Obama when he alluded to abortion (and STD's) as "punishment" for a mistake (see full quote here). But I would be curious to know what other people think. Do you think that the pregnancy of an African-American teen from Chicago (with a parent on the Presidential ticket) would be greeted with the same enthusiasm by conservatives? Would it matter to the election?
Meanwhile, back to teen pregnancy as a social policy issue: As noted above, Governor Palin has been a big fan of abstinence-only sex education. So here is an inconvenient truth about it that she might want to read. It's too late for her daughter, but not for the hundreds of thousands that will be governed by decisions made in a McCain-Palin administration.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Christmas in August

Nothing more needs to be said about Barack Obama's performance last night, in front of a live audience of 80,000, and a TV audience that exceeded that of the opening Olympic ceremony. I mean, when Pat Buchanan and Bill Kristol are piling on the encomiums, you know that he had to have been nothing short of spectacular. I can't wait to see the full post-convention bounce (which has already started).

But the real gift going into the Labor Day weekend has to be McCain's vice presidential selection. Sarah Palin is an inexperienced, apparently ethically challenged, creationist and mother of five who McCain thinks will appeal to disaffected Clinton supporters. Honest to God, he (and those Knights of the Roveian Brotherhood who serve as his advisors) thinks that women candidates are so interchangeable that the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuits will switch their allegiances forthwith. HUH?
I mean, I know these women. They are friends of mine. And this choice is going to be seen for what it is: an unbelievable insult to our intelligence.

If you are a Republican, until this morning, you probably thought the biggest impending disaster for the GOP was the terrible prospect of Hurricane Gustav hitting the coast of Louisiana (a prospect that no one hopes comes to pass), causing not only the postponement of your big party in St. Paul, but reminding people of the dazzling ineptitude Republicans displayed the last time a hurricane made landfall in New Orleans. It would now appear that there are two disasters to be managed.

The challenge for Democrats is to manage their behavior. I'm a bit concerned about Joe Biden coming across like a boor in his debate with Governor Palin a la Al Gore in 2000, during his first debate with President Bush. Beyond that, Obama's crack team of managers and strategists have to frame the narrative about Gov. Palin before McCain does (which is eminently doable, since she is such a blank slate to the electorate in the continental US).

But as a friend of mine said today, Michelle Obama should start measuring the windows in the residence quarters of the White House. History is beckoning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Yes, it distracts us from real issues, and yes a lot of it is silly. But today, finally, Barack Obama brought his A-game to the art of "drawing contrasts" with his opponent. Responding to the comment by John McCain that he was uncertain about the number of houses he had, Obama had a field day. "I guess if you think that being rich means you've got to make $5 million and if you don't know how many houses you have, then it's not surprising that you might think the economy was fundamentally strong. But if you're like me, and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective." He then quickly got a killer ad with a great punchline on the air.

The McCain campaign hit back with the predictable laundry list (e.g. Obama's income last year, his own one million dollar home, his association with Tony Rezko), punctuated, of course with a reference to McCain's POW status during the Viet Nam war, all in what appears to be a futile attempt to turn the gaffe to their advantage.

Of course, what is just nuts about this is the fact that John McCain has proven himself to be the worst on substance-his national security ideas, his health care "policy" proposals, his ignorance about the economy, and his hypocrisy about social issues (that pander-thon that was McCain at Saddleback last week was sickening), and yet this is what is going to stick. Go figure.

It's Thursday, and I'm willing to go out on a pretty long limb and guess that Joe Biden is the guy we're all going to be looking at tomorrow or Saturday at Obama's side. Good thing, too. Even though his behavior as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee during the Anita Hill hearings was really creepy, my man has no problem going after the jugular, and he can do it on the issues.

Today it was Obama taking it to McCain. If, as I predict, Biden is elevated tomorrow, we can rest assured that the team will not only be able to deliver a good one-two punch, but they'll be able to go the whole ten rounds.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

...and don't let the door hit you on your way out!

I've been away for awhile, in our nation's capitol, but I'm back on the prairie now, and going over old newspapers. The big news 'round here this week is that the Johnson County District Attorney, Phill Kline, has lost the Republican primary, and will be leaving that office.

This is not mere parochial chit-chat. Phill Kline was the darling of the national anti-choice movement, so relentlessly monomaniacal in his pursuit of abortion providers that he even turned off the majority of Republicans in Kansas City. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The bare-bones backstory is as follows:

In 2002, Kline ran for (and won) election to office as the state's Attorney General. It was a very close race, and his opponent, a county district attorney who spent only $150,000, likely would have beaten him had he campaigned across the state (he was too busy prosecuting cases). It was another example of how wingnuts have perfected the art of winning by flying under the political radar while sending out dog whistles to the faithful. We all braced ourselves for what was to come.

It didn't take long. Almost immediately, he began pursuing Dr. George Tiller, one of the few abortion providers in the nation who performs late-term procedures.

Kline's focus on Tiller made Inspector Javert look like an adolescent with Attention Deficit Disorder. He began by charging the doctor with 30 misdemeanors for allegedly performing 15 illegal late-term abortions on women ages 10 to 22 without properly reporting the details to the state. The crimes in question would concern failing to report sexual abuse (which is defined, ipso facto as underage sex), as well as late-term abortions administered without following state-mandated procedures. To bolster his case, he demanded the records of 30 young women, ostensibly to determine if these particular abortions had been done illegally, but he was really on a fishing expedition to see what he could find.

He was stymied at almost every turn (ultimately a judge dismissed the charges against Tiller), and in 2006 lost his re-election bid by a wide margin. Undeterred, he got himself appointed to the post of Johnson County district attorney (his opponent in the state race had been the county DA, necessitating the appointment of a new one), home to a Planned Parenthood. He then began this new job by filing 107 charges against the organization, for (again) failing to report the sexual abuse of children, the performance of so-called "partial-birth" abortions, and the creation of false information in the medical records. Planned Parenthood adamantly denies all charges and believes them to be politically motivated. No kidding.

The person who beat Kline in the Republican primary, Steve Howe, is also anti-choice, but considered to be moderate. He was a prosecutor in the DA's office for eighteen years before being fired by Kline upon his appointment to the office in 2006. Although it remains to be seen, most political watchers think it's unlikely that, if Howe is elected, the case against Planned Parenthood would proceed. Howe made his bones in white-collar criminal prosecutions and consumer protection, and has said that public safety would be his priority, should he emerge victorious over his Democratic opponent in the general election (his opponent, Democrat Rick Guinn, was also a prosecutor in the DA's office before being fired by Kline).

However this election goes, let us give thanks that Mr. Kline, who so cavalierly made the lives and health of women his very own political football, has himself finally been kicked where it counts: out the door.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

T. Boone Pickens

T. Boone Pickens is coming to the prairie today, to discuss his energy plan to reduce dependence on foreign oil. This is a good thing, insofar as we are now talking about a deeply intractable problem and, as a proud funder of the slimy, misnomered Swift Veterans for Truth (to the tune of about three million dollars), there will be a lot of interest in what he has to say in our capital city (where the Positive Voter Index stands at Republicans +7).

If you read the Pickens Plan, as he exhorts us to do in numerous commercials, you might think that he's had some kind of deathbed conversion. He calls the United States "the Saudi Arabia of wind power," and cites a 2005 study by Stanford University, which revealed that there is enough wind power worldwide to satisfy global demand seven times over (I'm stuck on the fact that Pickens-one of the largest donors to conservative causes-is actually citing a study from a University he would probably otherwise dismiss as a liberal hotbed). It's certainly striking to see someone who has spent a lifetime in the oil business become such a champion for alternative energy sources, but he seems to be one zealous convert.

Of course, there's always a catch and in his case, it's significant. For Pickens, the operative idea is not as much a reduction in reliance on oil in toto as a reduction in reliance on FOREIGN oil. As it turns out, he's all for drilling anywhere and everywhere in this country: "I say east, west coast and ANWR—get it all! To get off of foreign oil, that is the enemy...You’re drilling and whatever you are able to find and put into the domestic system will help us.”

But this is not written into the text of the Pickens Plan. And there is probably a good reason for this: he knows that not one ounce of oil, taken from these places, is ever going to result in bringing down the price of gas at the pump in any significant way. It is disingenuous at best, and a ridiculous lie at worst, to imply that failure to exploit these resources is the reason for high gas prices, as he does. According to the Energy Information Administration, there MIGHT be a tiny decline in pump prices by 2030, should such drilling take place. So the question is, would such drilling be worth the environmental impact?

I hope Pickens means what he says about wind. Here in Kansas, where our governor wisely put her foot down on the construction of two coal plants on the grounds that they would have negative environmental impacts, wind seems like a great alternative. But we should all read his fine print (so fine it's non-existent) before signing up.