Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

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

Month: March 2008 (page 1 of 3)

McCain Backs Social Security Privatization … By Name

ThinkProgress flags a Joe Lieberman lie in an attempt to mislead the public about Sen. John McCain’s position on Social Security.
Lieberman falsely claimed, “[McCain] is not for the private accounts to take the place of social security … He’s for what Bill Clinton used to call ‘Social Security-plus.'” (Social Security-plus would create new private retirement accounts on top of traditional Social Security.)
That is simply not what McCain supports. McCain supports the privatization of the Social Security. Period.
Watch for yourself. This is McCain speaking on November 18, 2004 in New Hampshire, answering an audience member’s question about Social Security privatization.
For those who like to read, here’s an excerpt of the exchange:

Q: Will privatizing Social Security be a priority for you going forward?

McCAIN: Without privatization, I don’t see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits.

Not “personal accounts” or “private accounts.” But “privatization.”
And here’s a video clip just of McCain’s response. Share with your friends!
ThinkProgress has more about McCain’s own recent comments about Social Security.
(Thanks to Tom M. for the technical assistance.)

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Obama Doctrine Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent, the American Prospect and the blog Too Hot For TNR. We discussed his recent American Prospect cover story, “The Obama Doctrine,” and his coverage of the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq.
The audio podcast for the show is here (iTunes / XML feed / MP3 ). And you can watch my opening monologue below: on Clinton rhetoric that elevates McCain.

Historic Speech Beats Divisive Politics

The first national poll (PDF file), taken by NBC and The Wall Street Journal after Sen. Barack Obama’s historic speech, confirms that Obama essentially has defused the guilt-by-association attacks regarding his former pastor.
Here are the positive/negative ratings for the presidential candidates:
Sen. Barack Obama — 49/32 (positive rating down 2 pts from two weeks ago)
Sen. John McCain — 45/25 (down 2 pts)
Sen. Hillary Clinton — 37/48 (down 8 points)
In head-to-head matchups versus McCain, Obama maintains his edge. Two weeks prior, Obama had a 3 point lead, and Clinton had a 2 point lead. Now, Obama has a 2 point lead, and Clinton is behind McCain by 2 points.
There are certainly some white Americans who were turned off by recent events: 35% of whites who saw Obama’s speech were dissatisfied by it, and 46% said it “left uncertainties and doubts about his thinking and beliefs.”
But according to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Hardball tonight, Obama was hurt mainly among “southern, older, rural” voters, not where Obama was expecting to expand the electoral college map. Todd said Obama held his support among independents, and among voters in the Midwest and West.
On the whole, elevating the discourse helped Obama withstand several days of awful press. While the scorched earth tactics of the Clinton campaign are dragging her down.
(I don’t think you can point to the Bosnia flap for these numbers, the poll was conducted a little too early to pick up any reaction to that.)
She may be maintaining her base of support within the Democratic party (the two are in a dead heat among primary voters), but that is not enough to wrest the nomination away from Obama. And she is doing nothing to broaden her support for a general election.
The “kitchen sink” strategy got her past Texas and Ohio, but now it appears she’s paying the price for it.

What is Lindsey Graham doing?

Over the last week, we have seen Lindsey Graham in Iraq with John McCain. We have seen him in the holy land with John McCain. He went on some of the Sunday shows praising the Surge like John McCain. What’s going on here? Did Senator Graham lose his independence? I mean relative independence. Which Republican is truly independent? Lindsey Graham is carrying John McCain’s water. He is carrying his house shoes. He is acting like a partner, like a Vice Presidential running mate?
You have to admit that Senator Lindsey Graham will help solidify the conservative base. It will help with the Religious Right.

McCain: Ready On Day One … To Evaluate Other People’s Ideas

Key quotes from Sen. John McCain’s major speech on the housing crisis and the economy:

I am prepared to examine new proposals and evaluate them based on these principals [sic].

it is time to convene a meeting of the nation’s accounting professionals to discuss the current mark to market accounting systems

We should also convene a meeting of the nation’s top mortgage lenders.

I will get my chance to talk further another day. Now I look forward to hearing from our small business owners

Why so little in actual substantive ideas?
As McCain said, “More important than the events of the past is the promise of the future.”
Forget about how conservatives failed to regulate the financial industry. Just close your eyes and wish real hard, and everything will be OK!
Credit McCain for his earlier straight talk: “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.”

TIme For Another Adult Moment

It’s not a terribly insightful observation, but the tone of the Democratic primary race has sunk to the 3rd-grade level.
For too long, name-calling from high-profile surrogates has dominated news coverage, making the entire party look pathetic, and helping boost McCain who looks dignified by default.
How to break out of this cycle of lameness?
It’s not in Sen. Clinton’s interest to break out of it. She wins by dragging the Obama campaign down and stripping it of its “New Politics” sheen.
Whereas some of Obama’s finest moments have been when he plays the role of adult.
When he batted back the “plagiarism” charge in the Texas debate, using straight-forward common sense: “the notion that I had plagiarized from somebody who’s one of my national co-chairs, who gave me the line and suggested that I use it, I think is silly … But this is where we start getting into silly season in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it.”
When in the Cleveland debate, he gently mocked the attempt to divine a difference between “reject” and “denounce.”
And last week, when he confronted the cheap politics of division with a historic address on race that elevated the discourse.
Of course, you can’t give an historic address every day.
But in the other two moments, he simply came across as a regular voter disgusted by a system mired in pathetic childish politics that do little to help citizens make informed decisions about their democracy.
When he gets back from his mini-vacation, he might consider hitting the ground running with another adult moment.
After all, it’s been a whole week since we’ve had one.

Seder on Sundays

I’ll be on Air America’s “Seder on Sundays” at 4 PM ET, for our regular Weekend Watchdog segment. Click here to listen online or find a station near you.

The Week In Blog

The latest installment of The Week in Blog is up at, where Conn Carroll and I discuss Obama’s historic speech, McCain’s ties to controversial pastors and McCain’s foreign policy ignorance. Click here to watch.
UPDATE: I said on that we didn’t exactly know where Obama stood on affirmative action. Sometimes I (and I think others) forget that Obama wrote a little book about where he stands on things.
In “The Audacity of Hope,” he discusses not only his view of affirmative action, but what else needs to be done to close racial gaps. From pg. 244-7 (emphasis added):

Affirmative action programs, when properly structured, can open up opportunities otherwise closed to qualified minorities without diminishing opportunities for white students. Given the dearth of black and Latino Ph.D. candidates in mathematics and the physical sciences, for example, a modest scholarship program of minorities interested in getting advanced degrees in these fields (a recent target of a Justice Department inquiry) won’t keep white students out of such programs, but can broaden the pool of talent that America will need for all of us to prosper in a technology-based economy. Moreover, as a lawyer who’s worked on civil rights cases, I can say that where there’s strong evidence of prolonged and systematic discrimination by large corporations, trade unions, or branches of municipal government, goals and timetables for minority hiring may be the only meaningful remedy available.
Many Americans disagree with me on this as a matter of principle, arguing that our institutions should never take race into account, even if it is to help victims of past discrimination. Fair enough–I understand their arguments, and don’t expect the debate to be settled anytime soon. But that shouldn’t stop us from at least making sure that when two equally qualified–one minority and one white–apply for a job, house, or loan, and the white person is consistently preferred, then the government, through its prosecutors and through its courts, should step in to make things right.
We should also agree that the responsibility to close the gap can’t come from government alone; minorities, individually and collectively, have responsibilities as well. Many of the social or cultural factors that negatively affect black people, for example, simply mirror in exaggerated form problems that afflict America as a whole: too much television (the average black household has the television on more than eleven hours per day), too much consumption of poisons (blacks smoke more and eat more fast food), and a lack of emphasis on educational achievement.
Then there’s the collapse of the two-parent black household, a phenomenon that is occurring at such an alarming rate when compared to the rest of American society that what was once a difference in degree has become a difference in kind, a phenomenon that reflects a casualness toward sex and child rearing among black men that renders black children more vulnerable–and for which there is simply no excuse.
Taken together, these factors impede progress. Moreover, although government action can help change behavior (encouraging supermarket chains with fresh produce to locate in black neighborhoods, to take just one small example, would go a long way toward changing people’s eating habits), a transformation in attitudes has to begin in the home, and in neighborhoods, and in places of worship. Community-based institutions, particularly the historically black church, have to help families reinvigorate in young people a reverence for educational achievement, encourage healthier lifestyles, and reenergize traditional social norms surrounding the joys and obligations of fatherhood.
Ultimately, though, the most important tool to close the gap between minority and white workers may have little to do with race at all. These days, what ails working-class and middle-class blacks and Latinos is not fundamentally different from what ails their white counterparts: downsizing, outsourcing, automation, wage stagnation, the dismantling of employer-based health-care and pension plans, and schools that fail to teach young people the skills they need to compete in a global economy. … And what would help minority workers are the same things that would help white workers: the opportunity to earn a living wage, the education and training that lead to such jobs, labor laws and tax laws that restore some balance to the distribution of the nation’s wealth, and health-care, child care, and retirement systems that working people can count on.

Even as we continue to defend affirmative action as a useful, if limited, tool to expand opportunity to underrepresented minorities, we should consider spending a lot more of our political capital convincing America to make the investments needed to ensure that all children perform at grade level and graduate from high school–a goal that, if met, would do more than affirmative action to help those black and Latino children who need it most. Similarly we should support targeted programs to eliminate existing health disparities between minorities and whites … but a plan for universal health-care coverage would do more to eliminate health disparities between whites and minorities than any race-specific programs we might design.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Historic Speech Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Christopher Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation magazine, who gave his analysis of Sen. Barack Obama’s historic “A More Perfect Union” speech.
The audio podcast for the show is here (iTunes / XML feed / MP3 ). Due to technical difficulties, there’s no videocast this week.

Suicide Pact Doing Its Damage

The most disturbing poll numbers to come out this week were the Gallup numbers showing McCain beating both Obama and Clinton by similar margins.
The Republican Rasmussen poll has long been more favorable to McCain. Nevertheless, his lead has widened over both Dems significantly in recent days.
The specific numbers of these polls are not important. These are “tracking” polls — rolling three-day averages, with each new day’s data replacing the data from four days ago.
These are not meant to show hard numbers of where the country is at, but to gauge shifts in momentum.
And they show momentum towards McCain.

Not momentum for a preference of Clinton over Obama
in a general election. But momentum for McCain.
The Dem race has been overwhelmed by non-issues, making McCain appear more serious by default– despite his various gaffes.
All these polls were mainly taken before Obama’s historic speech– where, in the words of Jon Stewart, he dared to treat voters like “adults.”
We’ll have to wait and see if that has had an effect. (There’s a little early evidence that the speech has helped.)
But this is making Keith Olbermann look prescient, when he warned Sen. Hillary Clinton, “This is not a campaign strategy. This is a suicide pact.â€?
It’s in every candidate’s long-term interest to train more fire on McCain.
Obama has been trying to do that, but has had to do so while grappling with the Wright non-issue.
Whereas Clinton has been elevating McCain in her attempts to diminish Obama.
Clinton has every right to fight her primary opponent hard. But it’s simply foolish to make the Republican nominee look good in the process.

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