Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

Home of the This Is Not Normal podcast, Bill Scher columns and other liberal commentary

Month: January 2008 (page 1 of 4)

No Fear of McCain

Sen. John McCain is not yet the nominee, but obviously looks more plausible then when I wrote “Last Gasp of McCain?” two weeks ago (damn this topsy-turvey election season!).
And at this moment, McCain certainly polls the best against Clinton and Obama than any other Republican.
But I do not fear McCain in November. I’ll republish the beginning of that earlier post:

Two years ago I wrote that Sen. John McCain is the “Most Dangerous Man in America,” because of “[h]is potential to lure Dems and independents into unwittingly voting for a continuation of our disastrous foreign policy course….”
I don’t feel that way anymore.
When McCain hugged the surge last year, he lost his “Straight Talk” sheen. He lost approval from independents, damaging his electability argument, and almost sinking his entire candidacy before the first vote was cast.
He regained some of it recently, because he’s been able to milk the perception in some quarters that he’s been proven right on the surge — the brave Straight Talker who defied the naysayers. But this is likely a fleeting moment.
Theoretically, if McCain was the nominee, and if Iraq did to appear to be in good shape by election day, McCain would be formidable, and independents may well unwittingly vote for a permanent occupation (which would lead to long-term disaster regardless of the current state of Iraq — see “Lebanon, Syrian Occupation of”).
But since I highly doubt support of the Iraq war will be seen as a positive in November, John “100 Years In Iraq” McCain does not scare me politically.

McCain’s appeal to independents rises and falls with Iraq. When McCain is clearly spinning in the face of failure in Iraq, independents see through him.

Rudy Giuliani wins – nothing

There is nothing sadder than someone who thinks that they are smarter than everyone else then they find out publicly that they ain’t so smart. Early on, mayor Rudy Giuliani thought up this plan that he wouldn’t campaign any where except Florida. He was going to focus like a laser on Florida. He wasn’t going to “piddle” with Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina. Those were “unimportant”. He was going to be American’s mayor to only a select few and those few would put him over the top. It was a VERY risky strategy and tonight it fell flat on its face. Placing a disappointing 3rd in a state that he campaigned in for about 6 weeks straight has shown what I thought from the start, when you disagree with Republicans on social issues, you aren’t going to do so well. Reports are coming out that Rudy is going to throw in the towel tomorrow. (Maybe the Republicans have moved past 9/11 as the single motivating factor for everything. Quit laughing. No seriously. Oh, forget it.)
What’s up with Mitt Romney? He hasn’t gotten any of the major endorsements. It seems that he is having a big case of the Mike Huckabee Syndrome – the more that the public knows about you the less that they like you. Here’s what you have to be worried about if you are Romney 45% of the voting Republicans said that their number 1 issue was the economy. Romney lost to McCain on the Economy?!?! Mr. Investment Banker couldn’t convince conservatives that he knew what was best for the economy. This is in spite of the fact that McCain only 2 weeks ago stated that he didn’t know very much about the economy.
Mike Huckabee seems to be fading. He isn’t drawing the huge crowds that he once drew. Although he won some counties (3), he didn’t win any major metropolitan areas. Super Tuesday will be putting some southern states into play but since Huckabee didn’t win in South Carolina I think that it will be hard for him to pick up a significant number of states. With him running out of money he will have to be very selective about where he spends his money. BTW, another sign that Huckabee is in serious trouble is that he split with Romney those Republicans who described themselves as Born-again or evangelical Christian. For Mike Huckabee to have a chance he has to win this segment by a huge margin.
John McCain continues to look better and better (to Republicans). I find it funny that a man who said that he was thinking of getting out of the Republican party back in 2000 and who has opposed so many Republican “principles,” is now being embraced by the Republican party. Remember all the way back to Iowa. Pat Buchanan was the Republican talking head on MSNBC. Buchanan was almost seizing anytime that someone mentioned the fact that McCain was seeming like a good option to many Republicans.
Finally, this isn’t over. Super Tuesday should help around out the field but again I don’t think that there will a nominee crowned on Tuesday – for either party.
Psst – Hillary won the democratic primary. No one campaigned in the state. There were no delegates because of spat between the DNC and Florida legislature which is dominated by Republicans who believe in party first.

McCain: More War, No Matter Who Wins!

On CNN tonight after the State of the Union speech, Sen. John McCain said that both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would “surrender” in Iraq, which would mean there would be “chaos” and “genocide” and so, we would have to “go back.”
In McCain’s view, what’s the other option?
As he said in Florida on Sunday, “I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars.”
This is a man who knows “more about national security than any other issue.”
Yet no matter who wins, no matter what foreign policy is implemented, he cannot think of a scenario that does not involve chaos, genocide and/or a succession of numerous wars.
If that’s the limit of his knowledge of national security, one shudders at what he would do with the economy.

Lessons Learned (By One)

Sen. Barack Obama lost Nevada after failing to fully respond to a myriad of baseless attacks from the Clinton campaign.
In South Carolina, he faced them down loudly and directly. And won the first blowout of the presidential race.
He may not have gotten back on offense as much as he could have.
But he was able to stick to his main campaign message about changing the political system while counterpunching. He played defense without getting knocked off stride and back on the heels.
Credit must also be given to Obama’s organization, which rejected the old Carolina establishment politics of winning support through “walking around money,” in favor of building a grassroots team from the bottom-up.
A general election campaign is going to need both qualities: energy from the grassroots, led by a candidate who can effectively respond to and triumph over nasty attacks.
After Nevada, Obama quickly learned the lesson he needed to learn.
Thank the Clintons for putting him through his paces. If Obama is to be the nominee, he needed to be battle-tested. Now he is, and a better candidate for it.
But don’t thank the Clintons for much else. If Obama learned a good lesson this week, the Clintons learned nothing.
After seeing their attacks backfire in South Carolina, and despite all the times in recent months and years when stoking racial divisions has backfired, they are again ramping up the too-clever-by-half race-baiting.
Bill Clinton said yesterday that Obama’s win is no different than the primary victories in the 1980s of Rev. Jesse Jackson — clearly seeking to blunt Obama’s momentum by equating him with a black political figure less respected by many white Americans.
And, as Talking Points Memo flags, unnamed Clinton campaign officials told the Associated Press that “they believe the fallout [from the past week of attacks] has had the effect of branding Obama as ‘the black candidate,’ a tag that could hurt him outside the South.”
LiberalOasis has long avoided making endorsements in intra-party contests.
Unity and coordination are necessary to defeat the conservative machine, often requiring liberals to put aside secondary differences and focus on common ground.
And if Clinton becomes the nominee, that unity will be required again.
Her stated policy positions (universal health care, cap greenhouse gas emissions, no permanent bases in Iraq, etc.) are good enough to shelve any concerns and fight on together.
But the divisive way she is running her campaign is anathema to the core liberal principle of a government representative of all, a principle that is the foundation of the Democratic Party.
After the last several decades, no one is naive enough to believe that you can win a national campaign without getting tough.
But you can get tough on issues, using facts.
If you believe stoking racial divisions is the only way to win, there’s another political party you can join.
A candidate that cannot live up to his or her party’s principles is a candidate that undermines trust in that party.
In turn, the Democratic Party is better off without the Clintons leading it.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: FISA and South Carolina

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guests were Matt Browner-Hamlin of Hold Fast and Credo Action, who discussed the Senate FISA battle and its impact on our civil liberties, as well as Dr. Errington Thompson, of the Errington Thompson Show and Where’s The Outrage, who previewed today’s South Carolina primary and the state of the health care debate.
The audio podcast for the show is here. No videocast today as there’s no opening monologue today.

Will Going Negative Keep Working?

The New York Times reports today, “Advisers to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton say they have concluded that Bill Clinton’s aggressive politicking against Senator Barack Obama is resonating with voters, and they intend to keep him on the campaign trail in a major role after the South Carolina primary.”
Is it resonating? Polls offer a mixed picture.
In South Carolina, Obama leads in all polls. But Zogby shows John Edwards gaining at Obama’s expense. Survey USA sees Edwards gaining at Clinton’s expense. Mason-Dixon has Edwards’ gaining, but with only minor declines for both Clinton and Obama.
Notably, both Zogby and Survey USA raise the outside possibility that Edwards might overtake Clinton for second place. If that actually happened, it would mean the blowback is significant and the negativity will be hard to sustain.
New national polls are also tricky to read, in part because they were taken primarily before the recent Carolina debate, where Obama began forcefully responding to the Clinton attacks that were previously unchallenged in Nevada.
The LA Times/Bloomberg poll shows a nine-point Clinton lead, but that’s down from 24 points in early December. Clinton’s support nudged downward 3 points.
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows a 15-point lead for Clinton, but again, that’s down from December, when it was a 22-point lead.
But that poll shows an unmistakable racial divide.

In December, Clinton held a 40-23 percent lead over Obama among whites, as well as support from a majority of African Americans. But now … Clinton’s lead among whites has jumped, 53-24 percent, while Obama now has a 63-23 percent lead over Clinton among African Americans.

If Obama wins South Carolina — evening the score with Clinton (and widening his current edge in delegates) — that in and of itself might cut into Clinton’s lead with white Americans.
At least, it would present him with a fresh opportunity to win over white voters nationally, as he successfully did in Iowa and New Hampshire.
While Clinton may find it hard to regain her past support with African-Americans regardless of what happens in South Carolina.
Also hard to gauge at this point is the impact of having the Clintons — in all of their glory — dominating the campaign.
Does it spark more Clinton nostalgia or Clinton fatigue?
Does it argue that the duo, experienced in political hardball, are best suited to take on the Republican nominee?
Or does it argue that the sideshow that both the candidates and the media feed will turn off swing voters and weaken Dem chances?
I suggested in Iowa that Obama was allowing Clinton to make the race a referendum on her, and letting her control her own destiny.
Arguably, that was the case, and she lost anyway in Iowa after her attacks came across as ham-handed. When the attacks got better (or at least, louder) then they worked in Nevada.
But now that Obama is responding, can they still work?
Pretty much very Clinton attack can be turned back around on her.
For example, when Clinton ran a radio ad accusing Obama of championed Republican ideas, Obama put up an ad noting Clinton’s past support of NAFTA and the Iraq war.
Looks like she saw she got checked, and promptly took her ad down.
So it’s hard to see how she can replicate the success of Nevada with Obama fighting back.
But while Obama is playing better defense, he has yet to get on offense, and make the race about something other than a referendum on the Clintons.
With Clinton in the lead nationally (and the LAT poll indicating that Edwards supporters would not break one way or the other if he dropped out), it would seem that solely betting on Clinton fatigue is not a safe bet.
But on the other hand, if the Clintons make the wrong bet, and presume that more negativity is in their interest, Clinton fatigue may yet win out.

New study shows we were lied to

This one was/is a no brainer. Anyone who has kinda been following the Bush Administration has to know this one. There have been 15 – 20 very good books written on the numerous lies that the Bush Administration used to sell the War. One of the best and most comprehensive books was Frank Rich’s The Greatest Story ever Sold. Well, there is now a formal study which has come to the same conclusion.
The study was a joint project from the Center For Public Integrity and Fund For Independence in Journalism.
From AP:
A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The study concluded that the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.” (more…)

Carolina Throwdown

There will likely be a lot of complaining about last night’s debate brawl, but in fact it was both a relatively entertaining and substantive debate (though the media could do more to truth-squad and not be mere passive observers).
More importantly, every candidate did what they needed to do.
Clinton had to keep the pressure on Obama in hopes of keeping him down. Obama had to stand up for himself, and use the inaccurate attacks against him to make the case he could better forge a working majority. Edwards needed to try to exploit Clinton-Obama squabbling and rise above the fray.
Some might say Clinton was shrill in her attacks, but the same was said in New Hampshire, and proved irrelevant. Some might say Obama lost his cool, but as with Clinton before sometimes you need to show a little fire when your credibility is on the line.
Yet Obama is still the one with the most work to do.
He stopped some bleeding by playing defense and debunking the Clinton attacks. Now, he needs to go on offense, and refocus the overall debate on his terms.
Towards the end of the debate, he made a move along the lines suggested here earlier, reframing the entire “Ready on Day One” discussion:

What I want to really focus on is this issue of national security, because I think you’ve [Clinton] repeated this a number of times. You are the person best prepared on national security issues on day one, and so if you’re running against John McCain, that you can go toe-to-toe.
I fundamentally disagree with that. And I want to tell you why, because I believe that the way we are going to take on somebody like a John McCain on national security is not that we’re sort of … like John McCain, but not completely. You know, we voted for the war, but we had reservations.
I think it’s going to be somebody who can serve a strong contrast and say, “We’ve got to overcome the politics of fear in this country.”
As commander-in-chief, all of us would have a responsibility to keep the American people safe. That’s our first responsibility. And I would not hesitate to strike against anybody who would do Americans or American interests’ harm.
But what I do believe … is that we have to describe a new foreign policy that says, for example, I will meet not just with our friends, but with our enemies. Because I remember what John F. Kennedy said: that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.
Having that kind of posture is the way I think we effectively debate the Republicans on this issue. Because if we just play into the same fear-mongering that they have been engaged in since 9/11, then we are playing on their battlefield.
But, more importantly, we are not doing what’s right in order to rebuild our alliances, repair our relationships around the world, and actually make us more safe in the long term.

That is not as pointed as what I laid out earlier. We’ll have to wait and see if he chooses to sharpen that argument, or if he chooses another area with which to make a sharp contrast.
Or if he stays in the place where he’s been most comfortable — arguing he is most able to win big in November and forge a working majority to enact the change all the Dem candidates support.
But as that challenges Clinton indirectly and not directly, it’s a tricky one to rely on while facing a barrage of attacks.

Tax cuts answer every economic problem

President Bush who has been the “tax-cutter-in-chief” for last 7 years now faces a sagging economy. What to do? Housing sector which has pulled this economy along for the past 2 or 3 years is now in the toilet. The Military sector has gotten billions of dollars in government contracts so their are flush. So, it is time to revert back to the old standby tax cuts. Bush hasn’t seen a tax cut that he didn’t like. I don’t believe that Bush’s tax cut plan will work but I need to read the fine print.
From Economic Policy Institute:
There is always debate over what an effective stimulus package should look like. Many different policies are purported to stimulate the economy, but it is important to distinguish between those that will have their effect in the very near-term to offset rising unemployment this year and those policies that have longer-term effects. Any useful stimulus package should strengthen the recovery immediately and create more jobs in 2008. Some obvious examples of policies that fail this criterion are the ones just suggested by the Bush administration, including eliminating the estate tax and extending the high-end income, capital gains, and dividend tax cuts beyond 2010. These policies have nothing to do with the job creation we will need in 2008.
An effective, appropriate stimulus package should meet the following five criteria (I have added emphasis):
1. A stimulus package should generate growth and jobs to offset rising unemployment. The point of stimulus is to increase economic growth and thereby generate more jobs. The reason that employment growth is slowing and unemployment is rising (and will continue to do so) is that there is a shortage of demand for goods and services: we will have the capacity to produce much more than we will be consuming, and what is missing are customers able and confident enough to make expenditures.

The two feasible ways to boost demand are to increase consumer spending (for example through tax or monetary policy) or to increase government spending (at the federal, state, or local level). Any stimulus aimed at spurring more business investment will not be effective at this point, because business investment will remain sluggish until consumer and government demand picks up. For example, a recent study estimated that business investment write-offs and the dividend-capital gain tax reductions included in Bush’s tax packages had a small “bang-for-the-buck.” Without a rise in consumer demand, corporate tax relief and other business investment incentives will not be effective in stimulating growth.

Government spending is more effective than tax cuts in stimulating domestic demand for two reasons: a portion of the tax cut will be saved rather than spent immediately, and consumers are more likely than the government to spend on imports (rather than domestically produced goods). Approximately 10 cents per dollar of consumer expenditures will be spent abroad, while virtually every penny of investments in public infrastructure will be spent domestically. Especially problematic would be more tax cuts directed at the wealthy, which would not be as effective as tax cuts directed at the low- and middle-income households who would spend (rather than save) a larger share of any extra income. Continue reading

Going Negative Finally Works

Race- and gender-based attacks had backfired in Iowa and New Hampshire. But bread-and-butter negative attacks appeared to have done the trick for the Clinton campaign in Nevada.
Sen. Barack Obama faced a flurry of attacks in the past week — all baseless, hypocritical and/or disengenous.
The “trillion dollar tax increase on America’s hard working families” attack — a massive distortion of Obama’s proposal to end the regressive cap on Social Security taxes, a proposal Clinton has left on the table.
The “hip-deep in financial ties” to nuclear power attack, when Clinton takes nuclear money as well.
The Obama loves Reagan attack — when both Clintons have said even kinder words about Reagan, and Obama’s comments clearly did not embrace Reagan’s policies or ideology.
But Obama neither responded fast enough, or countered by going on his own offensive. In turn, the attacks seem to have stuck.
Further, he walked into a Clinton attack point by saying “being president is not making sure that schedules are being run properly or the paperwork is being shuffled effectively,” giving Clinton an opportunity to feed a perception that Obama is not prepared to manage the federal bureacracy.
Regardless of the veracity of Clinton’s attacks, it is incumbent upon Obama to show he can handle unfair attacks. Because it’s not nicieties that await the Democratic nominee in the general election.
Moreover, he needs to show he can aggressively draw contrasts and define the terms of debate.
Merely making a positive case for oneself is not enough in a competitive two-person race against an attack-happy opponent.
It looks as if Obama wants to step up the criticism that Clinton doesn’t talk straight.
There’s certainly an opening for that. But Obama might also consider sharpening the foreign policy criticism.
Obama has always stressed Clinton’s Iraq war authorization vote, and to lesser extent, her vote to designate part of Iran’s military as a terrorist organization, to say she would not provide a clean break of Bush’s foreign policy.
He could make that a three-pronged attack by adding in Clinton’s support of Pakistan’s dictator Pervez Musharraf back in 2007, in response to Obama’s pledge to act on solid intelligence and strike Al Qaeda if Pakistan refused.
Altogether, Obama can make the case the Clinton has not displayed the foreign policy judgment to make her “Ready on Day 1” to be president, turning the tables on the current narrative.
Obama is being battle-tested like he never has before. Let’s see he how handles it.

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