Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

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

Month: May 2008 (page 1 of 3)

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Uncommitted Superdelegate Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Deb Kozikowski, vice-chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, proprietor of and an uncommitted superdelegate, and she offered a window into what’s going on in the superdelegate community, as well as the rural community.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3). Video of the opening monologue, about how Sen. John McCain appears to be leading the worst run campaign ever, is below:

Learn From “Experience”

MSNBC’s First Read observes:

CBN’s Brody has a sitdown with McCain senior adviser Charlie Black. Check out how many times Black utters the word “experience” in this one answer: “Senator Obama for all his magnetism and appeal is not very experienced and the experience he has had is that of a sort of a conventional, liberal politician. It’s hard to find incidents where he has taken political risks to work across party lines or get things done like Sen. McCain has, but it’s most important in the area of national security. We’ve been debating about a Iran and Iraq with him, and Sen. McCain truly believes that if he had more experience and especially if he went to Iraq and got experience meeting with the generals and the troops and seeing what’s going on in the ground maybe he would see we shouldn’t pull out of Iraq. But as we say, experience informs judgment and it’s hard to have good judgment on national security if you have no experience.”
Six times in about 30 seconds.

In 1960, Vice-President Nixon tried to beat Sen. Kennedy with the slogan “Experience Counts.”
In the first 1992 presidential debate, when President George H.W. Bush was asked about the “single-most important separating issue” in the race , he said “I think one thing that distinguishes is experience.”
And this year, Sen. Clinton tried to make experience an argument Sen. Obama.
They all lost.
Voters ultimately care more about where a candidate will take the country than the length of the candidate’s resume.
You’d think an experienced politician would learn from past experience. Apparently not.

Obama at Low Point in Polls, Yet Still Ahead

Josh Orton at MyDD looks at the Pew Poll — which has Obama up 47-44 over McCain — and sees Bush being a major albatross for McCain.
Matt Stoller at Open Left says Orton is “missing the picture,” because Obama’s numbers came down three points thanks to “women, specifically, white women, who are unhappy and switching over to, mostly, undecided .. white women between the ages of 30-64, with a specific heavy loss among women between the ages of 50-64. In other words, this is Clinton’s bread and butter.”
But that’s 1) an understandable development of the protracted primary and 2) most likely a temporary development that won’t leave lasting damage to Obama’s prospects.
McCain has nothing to offer on women’s issues. Nothing to offer on reproductive freedom, equal pay, child care, or Social Security (very much a women’s issue as longer living women are more reliant on the benefits.)
Further, Marc Ambinder reports: “It’s an open secret in Republican and Democratic circles that less ideological Republican women and independent women are openly disdainful of John McCain in focus groups; they find him angry; they don’t believe that he’s equipped with the proper temperament to do the job.”
These voters shouldn’t be taken for granted and presumed to be eventual Obama voters. But after a little time for healing, and with more prominent women leading the charge, it’s likely that these women will return to the fold.
This is more evidence that Obama is at his low-point in the polls, yet he remains ahead.

McCain’s really bad week

What an interesting and downright confusing week for John McCain’s political campaign. I’m not sure that there was any good news that came out of Senator McCain’s camp this week. As a matter of fact, this week reminded me of Rudy Giuliani’s worst week of a political campaign that I have ever seen.

  • Reverend Rod Parsley, a television evangelist, endorsed John McCain several months ago. John McCain sought out the endorsement of Reverend John Hagee. Both of these men, who they know to say some very outlandish things, were jettisoned by the McCain campaign this week. It is funny and interesting that John McCain embraced these religious leaders during the Republican primary but is now rejecting them for the general eleciton.
  • Senator McCain’s medical records were almost released. 1176 pages were given to a selected group of reporters for them to review for three hours. I don’t think that anyone should of been surprised when the verdict was John McCain is in good health. In a 71-year-old man who’s had malignant melanoma lesions removed from three portions of his body, I would need further evidence that he is truly good health.
  • In the early portion of the week John McCain painted a picture for us of what the year 2013 might look like — “By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is sporadic and much reduced.” Reporters, and everyone in the world, thought that McCain was setting a deadline. He spent the next 24 hours explaining why his speech did not really set a deadline. Let’s not be fooled, this speech was given to combat his earlier statements that we should be there or could be there for a hundred years.
  • Several lobbyists (high ranking campaign staffers) in McCain’s campaign “resigned” this week. It was almost another day and another lobbyist hits the bricks. It hard to rail against lobbyists and Washington Insiders when your campaign staff is packed with lobbyists.
  • Finally, the GI Bill easily passed the House and Senate. John McCain somehow couldn’t support this bill. McCain’s friend and chief mouth piece on Capital Hill, Lindsey Graham argued against passage of the bill stating that the bill was “too generous.”

McCain Campaign Lies About The Polls

The NY Times today quotes a McCain campaign adviser defending the campaign’s performance because even though “the Republican Party brand is very, very badly damaged, … Senator McCain is running even or ahead of Senator Obama in most national polls.”
That is a false statement, which the Times did not correct.
I recently penned an op-ed for last Friday’s Omaha World-Herald about why the attacks on Obama have failed to derail his path to the nomination, and failed to deny him a clear lead against Sen. John McCain (Full op-ed below).
I led with the observation, “He beats Sen. John McCain in seven of eight major polls taken this month, with margins mostly between 5 and 7 points, and the most recent survey showing a 10-point lead.”
That assertion was based on leads reported in the following polls taken in May:
CBS/NY Times: Obama, 11 points
USA Today/Gallup: McCain, 1 point
Ipsos: Obama, 4 points
LA Times/Bloomberg: Obama, 6 points
NPR: Obama, 5 points
Quinnipiac: Obama, 7 points
ABC/Washington Post: Obama, 7 points
Reuters/Zogby (including Ralph Nader & Bob Barr): Obama, 10 points
A few polls have been released since I wrote my oped:
GW-Battleground poll: Obama, 2 points
Investor’s Business Daily: Obama, 11 points
Newsweek: Tie
These May polls do not show that “Senator McCain is running even or ahead of Senator Obama in most national polls.” They show that the vast majority of national polls show Obama ahead.
I didn’t include tracking polls in that roundup, because tracking polls — which poll people every day, and replace an older day’s numbers with a new day’s results — are designed to gauge momentum shifts, not give solid snapshots of where the public stands. (Note how USA Today/Gallup poll results can be different than the Gallup tracking poll.) But for your background, as of this writing, McCain is up in both Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls by insignificant leads, 1 and 2 points respectively.
I also did not include polls from partisan operations, but for your background, Democracy Corps — a Democratic firm led in part by Clinton supporter James Carville — has Obama up by an insignificant 2 points this month. (Also, Rasmussen is led by a politically conservative pollster.)
But including those polls only adds a few showing effectively tied races. They still do not show McCain “running even or ahead … in most national polls,” as the McCain campaign falsely claimed.
While Obama’s current lead is not a predictor of the final outcome, it is notable that he holds this lead after facing a barrage of attacks during the past two months. I explored what that means for our politics in my Omaha World-Herald oped below:

After last Tuesday’s primaries, Sen. Barack Obama earned the majority of delegates awarded through electoral contests, tightening his claim to the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite some late losses and rough media coverage during the past two months, Obama begins the general election campaign with a clear lead. He beats Sen. John McCain in seven of eight major polls taken this month, with margins mostly between 5 and 7 points, and the most recent survey showing a 10-point lead.
Early polls don’t predict final winners, as shown by Gov. Michael Dukakis’ 16-point lead over then-V.P. George H.W. Bush in May 1988. But at that point, Dukakis had not yet suffered the attack blitz questioning his patriotism, challenging his fitness to be commander-in-chief and exploiting racial divisions. Obama’s current lead follows a Democratic primary where he already absorbed the types of blows he would expect to get from Republicans in the fall.
What does that say about the attacks, and about the state of our politics?
Much has been made about Obama’s former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright and how it hampered his ability to win over some white voters. Yet the impact appears limited nationally. Only 27% of Americans, in a May ABC/Washington Post poll, said Obama did “too little” to distance himself from Wright’s remarks. And a May CBS/New York Times poll finds 60% of registered voters approved of Obama’s handling of the Wright situation.
But the limited impact on public opinion may have less to do with Obama’s actions than with voter priorities. With more than 80% of the nation believing we’re on the “wrong track,” many voters are demanding a focus on issues and tuning out these manufactured, phony outrages.
An April NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found less concern with Wright than with McCain’s position on issues being “closely aligned with the Bush agenda.” ABC was deluged with complaints after airing a presidential debate top-heavy with guilt-by-association attacks. And on May 5, CNN anchor John Roberts announced before an interview with Obama, “No questions about Reverend Wright. Our viewers want us to move on.” People are telling the media: stick to real issues.
But Obama has also faced attacks on issues, most notably regarding gas prices. After McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton proposed a summer “holiday” from the federal gas tax, Obama countered with advertisements offering a more detailed discussion. He explained how the temporary suspension would at best cover one-half of a tank of gas for the season, without addressing the root causes of the growing energy crisis. Instead, Obama proposed raising fuel-efficiency standards on cars and developing alternative fuels, so we can use less oil.
Like many Washington pundits, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough declared tax cuts to be “Politics 101” and warned Obama: “If that’s your best outreach to working-class voters, stay home tomorrow because it’s going to get ugly in North Carolina and Indiana.â€? It didn’t. Obama won North Carolina handily and battled back to a thin loss in Indiana. Soon after, the ABC/Washington Post poll asked voters whom they trusted more to handle gas prices. Obama crushed McCain by 20 points.
A Saturday exchange Obama had with an undecided Republican voter crystallizes the current American mood. Campaigning at an Oregon hospital, Obama was approached by Ron Spooner a technician “torn” between Obama and McCain. He was trying to assess Obama’s trustworthiness, weighing his dislike of Rev. Wright with his belief that Obama’s gas tax stance was “honest.” After Obama repeated his rejection of Wright’s statements, Spooner encouraged Obama to continue doing “things like the gas tax” — signaling that more sincere discussion of policy was how to get his vote.
Will Republicans recognize the public’s desire for a serious debate? They were given fair warning this month. Voters handed two House seats in conservative districts to Democrats, after Republicans released coarse ads depicting Obama as a radical left-wing boogeyman.
The message from voters should be clear: failing to address issues affecting us is disrespecting us.
Sadly, President Bush’s crass attack launched on foreign soil, falsely characterizing Obama’s support for direct diplomacy with Iran as “appeasement,” indicates that message isn’t being heeded.
If you want to save Republicans from themselves, or if you simply want a civilized campaign, speak up. Tell national news outlets that if they want your business, then provide probing coverage of the issues, instead of reflexively broadcasting the latest manufactured outrages. When political reporters emphasize substance, candidates will comply out of necessity, and we’ll finally have a campaign worthy of our democracy.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Stress Test Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was my colleague at Campaign for America’s Future, Research Director Eric Lotke who discussed the new Stress Test: A State-by-State Assessment of America’s Economic Health and a Prescription for Change.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3). No video this week.

Access to McCain’s medical records – a joke

(Editor’s note: Errington Thompson is a Medical Doctor.)
A hand selected group of reporters (only 20 people) was allowed to access 1,173 pages of Senator John McCain’s medical records for three hours. No one was allowed to Xerox or photograph the records. A reporter could take notes. Oh, no cellphones. So, what do we know? Not much. The types of tests done to look for cancer recurrence were not revealed in the AP article I reviewed. We do know that the cancer removed from his jaw was of an intermediate depth. We also know that his lymph nodes were negative.
If they read 1,173 pages in three hours, they would have to read a page every six minutes. You can’t get any detail from that. I’m not sure that we know more now than we did before the records were flashed in front of our eyes.
To be honest, this was a great piece of politics by the McCain camp. Release the information on a Friday, a slow news day. Release the information on a holiday weekend. No one is paying any attention. Then control what is said. The McCain camp got the exact headlines that they wanted. Reuters – McCain deemed in good health by doctors. The McCain camp couldn’t have written it any better.

No Nightmare Ticket

I have no idea what’s in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s head as far as her endgame is concerned. But there is speculation (uninformed, probably) that she wants maximum leverage to pressure Sen. Barack Obama into putting her on the ticket. (UPDATE: Time reports President Clinton is pushing his wife for VP, but no one knows what Sen. Clinton wants.)
That would be a disastrous idea for several reasons.
Wrong Message: It undermines Obama’s central campaign theme of “change,” that it’s time to “turn the page.”
Looks Weak:It would be perceived as a decision made under duress, indirectly undermining his foreign policy argument that he would maintain toughness while conducting diplomacy.
Constant Distractions: The Clintons are a continuing train wreck of psychodrama that would repeatedly distract and overshadow. (Note how far President Clinton’s poll numbers have dropped in recent months.)
Iraq: Obama would have difficulty attacking McCain’s foreign policy judgment on the Iraq war if his running mate displayed the same poor judgment.
The main argument for Clinton is to help bring in more white working-class voters. But just because she’s doing better than Obama with them in the primary is no evidence she’s the only or best option to attract those voters.
For example, Sen. Jim Webb (VA), Gov. Ted Strickland OH), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (AR), former Sen. Sam Nunn (GA), Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (WV). Gov. Phil Bredesen (TN), Gov. Brian Schweitzer (MT), Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (KS), just to name a few.
Furthermore, I’m not convinced Obama needs the electoral college help.
He’s beating McCain in seven out of eight major polls taken this month: up 10 points in yesterday’s Zogby poll., others generally around 5-7.
Yes, it’s early for national polls. But keep in mind polls from this month have been conducted after Obama has taken plenty of fire, and McCain has gotten off light.
He may be relatively weak in Appalachia. But he’s still holds PA versus McCain. And a lead that big should help Obama pick up states like Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico and maybe more.
Everyone is focused on how to handle Clinton to avoid deep fissures in the party, for good reason. Obviously, Clinton should to be properly considered as any popular figure in the party would.
But expectations can’t get too high either.
A quicker decision may help in that regard. Expectations won’t build too much, and any bad feelings will have time to heal.
There’s no need to draw out the suspense. Obama’s candidacy is exciting on its own.
After Clinton concedes, the veep search should be the first order of business. And when the decision is made, and the vetting is completed, don’t wait to announce.

Debate Gets Elevated

On MSNBC a few minutes ago, Obama foreign policy adviser Susan Rice just called McCain to task for not recognizing that Ahmadinejad isn’t actually the leader of Iran — a key point that LiberalOasis has long said should be central to reframing the Iran debate.
For too long, we have presumed that we must dumb down the debate in order to win. It will be a seismic shift in our politics if we can win by elevating the debate, introducing “new” information and better informing the electorate.
UPDATE: Huffington Post just put up the video of McCain wrongly characterizing Ahmadinejad’s role in Iran during a press conference exchange yesterday with Time’s Joe Klein:

KLEIN: Also checked, also checked with the Obama campaign and he never, he’s never sai — mentioned Ahmadinejad directly by name. He did say he would negotiate with the leaders, but as you know – Ayatollah,
MCCAIN: (Laughing) Ahmadinejad is, was the leader.
KLEIN: But if –
MCCAIN: Maybe I’m mistaken.
KLEIN: Maybe you are…


The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Appalachia Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Ben Ray from who discussed Sen. Barack Obama’s prospects in Kentucky for November, and the chances for Democrats to defeat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this year.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3). Video is below of the opening monologue, addressing how we are turning the tables on conservative foreign policy attacks:
Obama v. McCain, It’s So On! – Part 1

Obama v. McCain, It’s So On! – Part 2

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