Saturday, October 18, 2008

NOT the law of the land?

Wait, you missed the Supreme Court's election ruling?
No, not the divided decision that handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush.
The high court ruled unanimously Friday that Ohio's secretary of state -- its top elections official -- was right in refusing to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Ohioans because of typos, computer glitches or other minor problems tied to their voter registrations.
Republicans were outraged -- or, in the words of one GOP loyalist seen widely on TV and the Internet in recently weeks, MAD, REALLY MAD!!! -- about the Supreme Court ruling.
"Do your job!" a miffed -- REALLY MIFFED!!! -- Kevin DeWine, Ohio Republican Party deputy chairman, huffed at Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.
So, let's step back for a moment:
When a divided Supreme Court directs Republican Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to end county election board recounts allowed by state law, the GOP faithful declares, "It's the law of the land!" and smears Democratic protesters as whiners.
But when a unanimous high court directs Democratic Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to allow registered voters from both parties to cast their ballots, the Ohio Republican Party "believes there are still avenues in the state courts" to skirt the high court ruling.
I get it:
When the U.S. Supreme Court rules in your favor, it's game over, check mate, topple the king.
But when the Supreme Court rules against you, it's a matter of "states' rights."
Is this a case study in hypocrisy?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe the Plumber

So it's a little too neat for my tastes that this big, bald guy with a goatee shows up on an Obama rope line talking about "the American dream" and getting in Obama's face about taxes.
After hearing John McCain mention Joe the Plumber a million or so times in the debate tonight, I was sure that Joe was a plant.
A die-hard Republican the McCain campaign recruited to go to the Obama rally and see if he could ruffle the unflappable senator from Illinois.
And having suffered for years, as a political reporter in Washington, the Republicans' love of talking points, I was sure as I heard him speak that Joe the Plumber was faithfully reciting his talking points.
But all the conservative bloggers who are linking to the video of the Obama-Joe the Plumber exchange -- and hailing Joe as a new American hero -- might hope that folks don't watch -- and listen to -- the whole exchange.
Watch it yourself.
Notice how Obama's unrushed and relaxed manner gradually changes Joe's tone and manner.
How Obama's concrete questions and very specific follow-ups soften Joe the Plumber.
See if you don't wonder, by the end, whether Obama, just about the time he grins and extends his hand, might not have won a convert.
Here's the link from the paper I read every morning:

Monday, September 22, 2008

McCain and the media

I couldn't believe my eyes and ears! There was John McCain at a campaign stop today, egging the crowd on as one supporter stood up and lambasted the news media for its coverage of Sarah Palin.
This is the same John McCain who for years has enjoyed -- even reveled in -- the most friendly news coverage in the Senate, maybe in all of Congress!
I rode with him on the original Straight Talk Express. I've walked the halls of the Capitol with him, always surrounded by a throng of journalists. I've covered him at standing-room-only committee hearings.
Wherever I've seen him, McCain has shared an obvious comraderie with the reporters covering him. One of the few members of Congress who doesn't need aides to handle him -- whisper in his ear or hand hiim talking points -- the McCain I've seen loves bantering, cracking wise and even providing real information to the journalists around him.
So who is this imposter John McCain?
Who is this presidential candidate encouraging the idiotic ultra-right-wing "we hate the liberal media" hostility?
Ironically, it's the lunatic-fringe, Rush Limbaugh crowd that's always accused "the liberal media" of fawning over McCain because he was a RINO -- Republican In Name Only.
Now it's John McCain himself who is impersonating Limbaugh.
What's becoming of McCain's sense of honor?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Are the Democrats too nice?

In 2000, Al Gore let Karl Rove's operatives attack him with impunity. They peddled the Big Lie that he had claimed to have invented the Internet, and then mocked him for it, over and over again. They accused him of having been a liberal big-spender in the Senate, when his record was more centrist.
In 2004, John Kerry let the same group of thugs orchestrate an extended character assassination centered on the Big Lie that he had hyped himself as a Vietnam War hero and had exaggerated his battle wound in order to get a Bronze Star.
Kerry waited weeks before responding to the Swift Boat attacks. He thought it was beneath his dignity to defend himself.
By the time Kerry finally responded, it was too late.
This year, it looked like Barack Obama was a tougher, shrewder candidate. He went toe to toe with Hillary Clinton for months in the Democratic primaries; though she landed plenty of jabs and an occasional big punch, she couldn't knock him out.
So, why is Obama now doing his best incarnation of Kerry? Why hasn't he found his voice and responded forcefully, quickly and repeatedly to John McCain's relentless personal attacks, many of them based on lies?
John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan deflected attacks with humor, often with self-deprecating wit. Kennedy made Richard Nixon seem mean. Reagan made Jimmy Carter seem irrelevant. Bill Clinton made Bob Dole seem old and -- after initial stumbles -- Newt Gingrich seem crazy.
Obama doesn't need to mention McCain by name.
He could use a light touch in rebutting some of McCain's most vicious attacks, describing them as senile rantings.
Instead of using the weak claim that McCain "doesn't want to address the real issues that matter to Americans," Obama could say McCain has to focus on him because he has no substantive ideas of his own.
Obama should very publicly challenge McCain to join him in cleaning up the campaign and pledging to forego negative attacks. Obama should issue this challenge every day, at the end of every stump speech.
Obama should run an ad recalling Rove's smears against McCain in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary. He should remind voters how angry McCain was, and how he's now reneging on his promises not to run similar campaigns.
With three weeks left in the 2004 presidential campaign, I flew to Florida to report on a crucial swing state. On the flight from Washington, I sat next to a Cuban-American from New York.
He was a successful, self-made businessman who said he'd come up on the streets of Queens.
He told me that he'd never voted for a Republican for president, but that year he was going to vote for Bush.
I asked why.
I'll never forget his answer:
"If John Kerry won't defend his personal honor, I don't trust him to defend our country."
He was right.
Are Democrats too principled to fight back -- or are they just wimps?

Friday, September 12, 2008

What has John McCain become?

I've covered John McCain in the Senate for 15 years. Like so many reporters, I've liked him. He was smart, funny, irreverant, ecclectic, intellectually honest. He took on big issues -- tobacco regulation, campaign finance, immigration. He foresaw that President Bush's tax cuts would create record deficits and voted against them -- twice.
John McCain was deeply offended, and rightfully so, when then-Gov. Bush's henchmen ran the most vicious smear campaign against him I've ever seen during 30 years of political reporting. It was in South Carolina, in the lead-up to the decisive Republican primary there.
McCain had defeated Bush in the New Hampshire primary, and Bush was desperate to win in South Carolina.
Bush's henchmen lied about McCain for weeks. They left anonymous fliers on car windshields. They made anonymous phone calls. They hinted that McCain and his wife had a black child (they had adopted a baby at Mother Teresa's orphanage). They said Cindy McCain was a drug addict (she'd overcome an addiction to prescription drugs...just like Rush Limbaugh).
They accused McCain of having sold out his country as a POW in Vietnam.
McCain vowed he would never run such a dirty campaign.
He's in danger of going back on his word.
For the last two weeks, his campaign has peddled lies and feigned phony outrage over things that Barack Obama never said -- or came close to saying.
McCain must be desperate -- as desperate as George W. Bush was 8 1/2 years ago in South Carolina.
I believed that McCain's integrity and sense of honor would prevent him from running this kind of campaign.
I'm beyond disappointment.
I feel sorry for John McCain.
Senator, the presidency isn't worth this pact with the devil.