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Why a Staunch Conservative Like Me Endorsed Obama October 26, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin, U.S. Election 2008.
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Ken Adelman, Huffington Post, October 24, 2008

Who cares?

That’s what I wondered when George Packer (ace of the New Yorker) asked whether he could post my intention to vote for Obama on his blog.

So I duly ignored him. Only when he bugged me two days later did I say okay, and responded in quick, instinctive emails back.

Little did I know the splash this would make. Not until a day later, when my wife and I were up in Philadelphia to teach leadership via scenes from Shakespeare’s Henry V for the Wharton Business School. When friends joined us for dinner at UPenn, they said their taxi driver had talked about my “endorsement of Obama,” having read it online during a break.

What’s most fun about unexpectedly “breaking through” on an issue is not feeling powerful, that you’re molding minds out there. People make up their own minds, based on lots more information than my personal inclinations.

Okay, this type announcement can give (maybe a few) conservatives some cover — not publicly to use with others, but privately to assure themselves that it’s actually okay to break away. To break with the most conservative, or Republican, candidate and vote (in my case, the first time ever) for “the other guy.”

And it’s not most fun dealing with longtime friends, fellow conservatives. Most are polite and say they understand, and they’ll get over it. Yet a few do get heated, show their disappointment, and say they can’t understand my taking a public stance (even if I privately stray).

I don’t enjoy those discussions, since I’ve long prided myself in being a staunch conservative.

Not a neo-con, since I was never liberal along the way (having campaigned for Barry Goldwater in 1964, when at that hotbed of lefty politics, Grinnell College). I’m really a con-con.

And not a staunch Republican, as I’ve never been to a Republican rally or convention (I came closest in 1980, after writing Don Rumsfeld’s speech and after we drove there; but I left Detroit before the convention opened).

So I’ve considered myself less of a partisan than an ideologue. I cared about conservative principles, and still do, instead of caring about the GOP.

Granted, McCain’s views are closer to mine than Obama’s. But I’ve learned over this Bush era to value competence along with ideology. Otherwise, our ideology gets discredited, as it has so disastrously over the past eight years.

McCain’s temperament — leading him to bizarre behavior during the week the economic crisis broke — and his judgment — leading him to Wasilla — depressed me into thinking that “our guy” would be a(nother) lousy conservative president. Been there, done that.

I’d rather a competent moderate president. Even at a risk, since Obama lacks lots of executive experience displaying competence (though his presidential campaign has been spot-on). And since his Senate voting record is not moderate, but depressingly liberal. Looming in the background, Pelosi and Reid really scare me.

Nonetheless, I concluded that McCain would not — could not — be a good president. Obama just might be.

That’s become good enough for me — however much of a triumph (as Dr. Johnson said about second marriages) of hope over experience.

Now what’s most fun about the media breakthrough is hearing from gobs of people from previous lives. Many long forgotten, reminding me of long forgotten times together. People emerging suddenly, from the dark matter of time, into the recesses of the brain.

These folks were important at various stages of my life — grammar school playmates, Grinnell classmates, Indianapolis cousins, Dan Quayle, Dick Allen, colleagues from the Reagan arms control agency (chuckling over my quip to Packer that I wouldn’t have hired Sarah Palin to a mid-level job there).

A veritable stroll down memory lane, to see a line of people who have touched my life at various times, in its varied stages, reconnecting in a most unexpected (even bizarre) manner.

Now that’s fun.

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Alaskas Largest Newspaper Endorses Barack Obama October 26, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin, U.S. Election 2008.
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Of course they’re endorsing Obama.  They’ve lived with Palin.  They know her.  They realize McCain’s huge mistake.

October 26, 2008

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s largest newspaper, has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.

The newspaper said Sunday the Democrat “brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand.”

The Daily News said since the economic crisis has emerged, Republican presidential candidate John McCain has “stumbled and fumbled badly” in dealing with it.

“Of the two candidates, Sen. Obama better understands the mortgage meltdown’s root causes and has the judgment and intelligence to shape a solution, as well as the leadership to rally the country behind it,” the paper said.

The Daily News said Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has shown the country why she is a success as governor. But the paper said few would argue that Palin is truly ready to step into the job of being president despite her passion, charisma and strong work ethic.

“Gov. Palin’s nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency — but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation,” the paper said.

“Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time,” the paper concluded.

Palin’s ‘going rogue,’ McCain Aide Says October 25, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain, Sarah Palin, U.S. Election 2008.
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From Dana Bash, Peter Hamby and John King CNN

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) — With 10 days until Election Day, long-brewing tensions between GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin and key aides to Sen. John McCain have become so intense, they are spilling out in public, sources say.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday.

Several McCain advisers have suggested to CNN that they have become increasingly frustrated with what one aide described as Palin “going rogue.”

A Palin associate, however, said the candidate is simply trying to “bust free” of what she believes was a damaging and mismanaged roll-out.

McCain sources say Palin has gone off-message several times, and they privately wonder whether the incidents were deliberate. They cited an instance in which she labeled robocalls — recorded messages often used to attack a candidate’s opponent — “irritating” even as the campaign defended their use. Also, they pointed to her telling reporters she disagreed with the campaign’s decision to pull out of Michigan.

A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.

“She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,” said this McCain adviser. “She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

“Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.”

A Palin associate defended her, saying that she is “not good at process questions” and that her comments on Michigan and the robocalls were answers to process questions.

But this Palin source acknowledged that Palin is trying to take more control of her message, pointing to last week’s impromptu news conference on a Colorado tarmac.

Tracey Schmitt, Palin’s press secretary, was urgently called over after Palin wandered over to the press and started talking. Schmitt tried several times to end the unscheduled session.

“We acknowledge that perhaps she should have been out there doing more,” a different Palin adviser recently said, arguing that “it’s not fair to judge her off one or two sound bites” from the network interviews.

The Politico reported Saturday on Palin’s frustration, specifically with McCain advisers Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt. They helped decide to limit Palin’s initial press contact to high-profile interviews with Charlie Gibson of ABC and Katie Couric of CBS, which all McCain sources admit were highly damaging.

In response, Wallace e-mailed CNN the same quote she gave the Politico: “If people want to throw me under the bus, my personal belief is that the most honorable thing to do is to lie there.”

But two sources, one Palin associate and one McCain adviser, defended the decision to keep her press interaction limited after she was picked, both saying flatly that she was not ready and that the missteps could have been a lot worse.

They insisted that she needed time to be briefed on national and international issues and on McCain’s record.

“Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic,” said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the “hardest” to get her “up to speed than any candidate in history.”

Schmitt came to the back of the plane Saturday to deliver a statement to traveling reporters: “Unnamed sources with their own agenda will say what they want, but from Gov. Palin down, we have one agenda, and that’s to win on Election Day.”

Yet another senior McCain adviser lamented the public recriminations.

“This is what happens with a campaign that’s behind; it brings out the worst in people, finger-pointing and scapegoating,” this senior adviser said.

This adviser also decried the double standard, noting that Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama‘s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, has gone off the reservation as well, most recently by telling donors at a fundraiser that America’s enemies will try to “test” Obama.

Tensions like those within the McCain-Palin campaign are not unusual; vice presidential candidates also have a history of butting heads with the top of the ticket.

John Edwards and his inner circle repeatedly questioned Sen. John Kerry’s strategy in 2004, and Kerry loyalists repeatedly aired in public their view that Edwards would not play the traditional attack dog role with relish because he wanted to protect his future political interests.

Even in a winning campaign like Bill Clinton’s, some of Al Gore’s aides in 1992 and again in 1996 questioned how Gore was being scheduled for campaign events.

Jack Kemp’s aides distrusted the Bob Dole camp and vice versa, and Dan Quayle loyalists had a list of gripes remarkably similar to those now being aired by Gov. Palin’s aides.

With the presidential race in its final days and polls suggesting that McCain’s chances of pulling out a win are growing slim, Palin may be looking after her own future.

“She’s no longer playing for 2008; she’s playing 2012,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart said. “And the difficulty is, when she went on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ she became a reinforcement of her caricature. She never allowed herself to be vetted, and at the end of the day, voters turned against her both in terms of qualifications and personally.”

McCain’s Socialist Delusion October 24, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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Truthdig.com
Posted on Oct 22, 2008

By Joe Conason

Wherever John McCain appears on the stump in these waning days of the presidential campaign, he is always accompanied by his imaginary friend “Joe the Plumber,” but it is the specter of Karl Marx that lurks just offstage.

Reverting to the Republicanism of eons ago, when he was just a child, McCain inveighs against the “socialist” design of Barack Obama’s tax platform. This delusional ranting, like so much of his behavior this year, tells us nothing about Obama (or socialism!) but much about the Republican senator.

Let’s begin with the dishonesty of the McCain rant. What Obama proposes is to restore tax rates on the wealthy to the same level as during the Clinton administration—that is, to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire without renewing them for individuals and families reporting more than $250,000 in annual income. There is nothing radical in this idea, let alone socialistic (especially compared with the violations of capitalist orthodoxy that McCain has supported recently as emergency measures to rescue the financial industry).

Not only is there nothing radical about repairing the unfairness of the Bush tax cuts, but it is precisely the same position that McCain argued when they were first enacted. Is his memory so poor that he cannot remember saying the Bush tax plan was “skewed” to benefit the rich? Having reversed that position for political convenience, he has also invented a different justification for opposing Bush back then—namely that he thought the cuts were fiscally irresponsible. But that isn’t what he said in 2000 and 2001.

Now let’s address the ignorance of his rant. Progressive taxation is a tradition of Western economics that dates back considerably further than Marx and the Communist manifesto, with all due respect to the wingnuts who seem to be writing McCain’s speeches. He admits that he has neglected his economic studies, so perhaps he isn’t aware that Adam Smith, revered philosopher of market capitalism, advocated tax fairness as far back as 1776, the fateful year when he published the first edition of “The Wealth of Nations.”

Although there was then no income tax, Smith’s principled judgment on the justice of higher taxes on those who could pay more, enunciated on several occasions, could not be clearer. He favored property taxes and luxury taxes because they would fall most heavily on the wealthy. He would have levied a sizable tax on all seven of the McCain homes plus an additional chop at all of Cindy McCain’s credit card binges.

In “Wealth of Nations,” Smith wrote: “The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.”

Few legislators are more familiar than McCain, in his maverick incarnation, with the enormous fortunes raked in by oilmen, defense contractors, bond holders and the whole host of modern capitalists under the protection of the American state. The notion that those fortunes, often gotten in a parody of the free market, should be taxed at the same rate as the earnings of a plumber would strike Smith as monumentally unjust and an attack on the moral foundations of society.

Finally, let’s discuss the other bit of demagoguery in McCain’s most recent speeches, when he complains about the “redistribution of wealth” and equates an income tax rebate for working people with “welfare.” Leaving aside the racial subtext of those remarks, it is hard to say whether they display ignorance, dishonesty or both. The American tax system, like all other taxation in modern nations, has always redistributed wealth. Sometimes it sends streams of money upward, from low-income taxpayers into the pockets of corporate executives; at other times it sends those streams downward, to assist the very poor.

But to cast socialist aspersions on a tax refund to working families whose incomes are too low to pay income taxes is to paint a big pink stripe onto McCain’s supposed idol, Ronald Reagan. In 1986, Reagan signed legislation greatly increasing the earned income tax credit, a credit for low-income workers that reduces the impact of payroll taxes in order to boost take-home pay above poverty levels. When the credit is more than the amount of federal income taxes owed by an individual, that person receives a tax “refund.” Reagan praised the earned income tax credit as the best “anti-poverty” and “pro-family” legislation ever enacted by Congress.

It must be troubling for Republicans to learn that according to McCain, the Gipper was a socialist, too.

Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

© 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

McCain’s Suspension Bridge to Nowhere October 4, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, John McCain.
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by: Frank Rich, The New York Times

(Photo: Art Lickey)
What we learned last week is that the man who always puts his ‘country first’ will take the country down with him if that’s what it takes to get to the White House.

For all the focus on Friday night’s deadlocked debate, it still can’t obscure what preceded it: When John McCain gratuitously parachuted into Washington on Thursday, he didn’t care if his grandstanding might precipitate an even deeper economic collapse. All he cared about was whether he might save his campaign. George Bush put more deliberation into invading Iraq than McCain did into his own reckless invasion of the delicate Congressional negotiations on the bailout plan.

By the time he arrived, there already was a bipartisan agreement in principle. It collapsed hours later at the meeting convened by the president in the Cabinet Room. Rather than help try to resuscitate Wall Street’s bloodied bulls, McCain was determined to be the bull in Washington’s legislative china shop, running around town and playing both sides of his divided party against Congress’s middle. Once others eventually forged a path out of the wreckage, he’d inflate, if not outright fictionalize, his own role in cleaning up the mess his mischief helped make. Or so he hoped, until his ignominious retreat.

The question is why would a man who forever advertises his own honor toy so selfishly with our national interest at a time of crisis. I’ll leave any physiological explanations to gerontologists – if they can get hold of his complete medical records – and any armchair psychoanalysis to the sundry McCain press acolytes who have sorrowfully tried to rationalize his erratic behavior this year. The other answers, all putting politics first, can be found by examining the 24 hours before he decided to ‘suspend’ campaigning and swoop down on the Capitol to save America from the Sunnis or the Shia, or whoever perpetrated all those credit-default swaps.

To put these 24 hours in context, you must remember that McCain not only knows little about the economy but that he has not previously expressed any urgency about its meltdown. It was on Sept. 15 – the day after his former idol Alan Greenspan pronounced the current crisis a ‘once-in-a-century’ catastrophe – that McCain reaffirmed for the umpteenth time that the ‘fundamentals of our economy are strong.’ As recently as Tuesday he had not yet even read the two-and-a-half-page bailout proposal first circulated by Hank Paulson last weekend. ‘I have not had a chance to see it in writing,’ he explained. (Maybe he was waiting for it to arrive by Western Union instead of PDF.)

Then came Black Wednesday – not for the stock market, which was holding steady in anticipation of Washington action, but for McCain. As the widely accepted narrative has it, his come-to-Jesus moment arrived that morning, when he awoke to discover that Barack Obama had surged ahead by nine percentage points in the Washington Post/ABC News poll. The McCain campaign hastily suited up its own pollster to belittle that finding – only to be drowned out by a fusillade of new polls from Fox News, Marist and CNN/Time, each with numbers closer to Post/ABC than not. Obama was rising most everywhere except the moose strongholds of Alaska and Montana.

That was not the only bad news raining down on McCain. His camp knew what Katie Couric had in the can from her interview with Sarah Palin. The first excerpt was to be broadcast by CBS that night, and it had to be upstaged fast.

But even that wasn’t the top political threat McCain faced last week. Bigger still was the mounting evidence of the seamless synergy between his campaign and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage monsters at the heart of the housing bust that set off our current calamity. Most of all, it was the fast-moving events on that front that precipitated his panic to roll out his diversionary, over-the-top theatrics on Wednesday.

What we were learning – through The New York Times, Newsweek and Roll Call – was ugly. Davis Manafort, the lobbying firm owned by McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, had received $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac from late 2005 until last month. This was in addition to the $30,000 a month that Davis was paid from 2000 to 2005 by the so-called Homeownership Alliance, an advocacy organization that he headed and that was financed by Freddie and Fannie to fight regulation.

The McCain campaign tried to pre-emptively deflect such revelations by reviving the old Rove trick of accusing your opponent of your own biggest failings. It ran attack ads about Obama’s own links to the mortgage giants. But neither of the former Freddie-Fannie executives vilified in those ads, Franklin Raines and James Johnson, had worked at those companies lately or are currently associated with the Obama campaign. (Raines never worked for the campaign at all.) By contrast, Davis is the tip of the Freddie-Fannie-McCain iceberg. McCain’s senior adviser, his campaign’s vice chairman, his Congressional liaison and the reported head of his White House transition team all either made fortunes from recent Freddie-Fannie lobbying or were players in firms that did.

By Wednesday, the McCain campaign’s latest tactic for countering this news – attacking the press, especially The Times – was paying diminishing returns. Davis abruptly canceled his scheduled appearance that day at a weekly reporters’ lunch sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, escaping any further questions by pleading that he had to hit the campaign trail. (He turned up at the ’21’ Club in New York that night, wining and dining McCain fund-raisers.)

It’s then that Angry Old Ironsides McCain suddenly emerged to bark that our financial distress was ‘the greatest crisis we’ve faced, clearly, since World War II’ – even greater than the Russia-Georgia conflict, which in August he had called the ‘first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the cold war.’ Campaigns, debates and no doubt Bristol Palin’s nuptials had to be suspended immediately so he could ride to the rescue, with Joe Lieberman as his Robin.

Yet even as he huffed and puffed about being a ‘leader,’ McCain took no action and felt no urgency. As his Congressional colleagues worked tirelessly in Washington, he malingered in New York. He checked out the suffering on Main Street (or perhaps High Street) by conferring with Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, the Hillary-turned-McCain supporter best known for her fabulous London digs and her diatribes against Obama’s elitism. McCain also found time to have a well-publicized chat with one of those celebrities he so disdains, Bono, and to give a self-promoting public speech at the Clinton Global Initiative.

There was no suspension of his campaign. His surrogates and ads remained on television. Huffington Post bloggers, working the phones, couldn’t find a single McCain campaign office that had gone on hiatus. This ‘suspension’ ruse was an exact replay of McCain’s self-righteous ‘suspension’ of the G.O.P. convention as Hurricane Gustav arrived on Labor Day. ‘We will put aside our political hats and put on our American hats,’ he declared then, solemnly pledging that conventioneers would help those in need. But as anyone in the Twin Cities could see, the assembled put on their party hats instead, piling into the lobbyists’ bacchanals earlier than scheduled, albeit on the down-low.

Much of the press paid lip service to McCain’s new ‘suspension’ as it had to its prototype. In truth, the only campaign activity McCain did drop was a Wednesday evening taping with David Letterman. Don’t mess with Dave. Picking up where the ‘The View’ left off in speaking truth to power, the uncharacteristically furious host hammered the absent McCain on and off for 40 minutes, repeatedly observing that the cancellation ‘didn’t smell right.’

In a journalistic coup de grâce worthy of ’60 Minutes,’ Letterman went on to unmask his no-show guest as a liar. McCain had phoned himself that afternoon to say he was ‘getting on a plane immediately’ to deal with the grave situation in Washington, Letterman told the audience. Then he showed video of McCain being touched up by a makeup artist while awaiting an interview by Couric that same evening at another CBS studio in New York.

It’s not hard to guess why McCain had blown off Letterman for Couric at the last minute. The McCain campaign’s high anxiety about the disastrous Couric-Palin sit-down was skyrocketing as advance excerpts flooded the Internet. By offering his own interview to Couric for the same night, McCain hoped (in vain) to dilute Palin’s primacy on the ‘CBS Evening News.’

Letterman’s most mordant laughs on Wednesday came when he riffed about McCain’s campaign ‘suspension’: ‘Do you suspend your campaign? No, because that makes me think maybe there will be other things down the road, like if he’s in the White House, he might just suspend being president. I mean, we’ve got a guy like that now!’

That’s no joke. Bush has so little credibility he can govern only through surrogates (Paulson is the new Petraeus). When he spoke about the economic crisis in prime time earlier that same night, he registered as no more than an irritating speed bump en route to ‘David Blaine: Dive of Death.’

It’s that utter power vacuum that gave McCain the opening to pull his potentially catastrophic display of economic ‘leadership’ last week. He may be the first presidential candidate in our history to risk wrecking the country even before being voted into the Oval Office.