Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Philly Debate: Disturbing on Several Fronts

The Philly debate ranked as a low point in the Democratic campaign. The moderators were absolutely disgusting. Georgie Boy should have been required to disclose, prior to the questioning, that he served as communications director for Bill Clinton. Then, to spend the first 45 minutes on BS that already had been hashed and reheashed ad nauseum -- an extreme disservice to voters and the public. The questions? Do you think Rev. Wright loves American as much as you do? How come you don't wear a flag pin on your lapel? Are you kidding me? How come Clinton, Georgie Boy and Gibbons Monkey weren't wearing flag lapel pins? What possible difference does it make in the qualifications to be President whether Obama's pastor is as "patriotic" as Obama?

Obama's responses to the gotcha questions disappointed. He allowed himself to get dragged down into the mud again. He should have refused to answer the BS by dimissing the inquisitors as distraction mongers and than talking about health care, the economy and other issues that matter in folks' lives. He didn't. And while he handled it largely with grace, he would have been better served to marginalize the idiots who asked the questions and focus on real issues.

Both candidates showed a disturbing expertise in distortion-by-wordplay. Clinton said of her Bosnia tale that she said things she knew were not consistent with reality. In other words, she lied. Both candidates' answers on the gun control issue were examples of politicians contorting words beyond any meaning. Both candidates unwisely pandered in their "pledges" not to raise taxes on the middle class, though Obama seemed to leave himself some weasel room on Social Security.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was on foreign policy. Disappointed might be the wrong word, since both candidates have made their positions pretty clear. But the debate drove home this point: Either Clinton or Obama may get us out of Iraq. But neither will end the underlying policies that place our country under the constant threat of war, war and more war.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Although "Clumsy," Obama's Remarks Are a Critical Democratic Issue

Obama's word choice was clumsy, as he stated himself, there is no doubt about that. And while I do not believe that an apology is required, his remarks indicate political pandering to an audience very much unlike the subjects of his words. Pandering is politics, you can't please everyone all the time, and often words are used to get votes, this is Washington politics and Obama is not above it and employs it on a regular basis.

But the conversation about his remarks needs to be steered away from the controversy, and towards Obama's underlying intentions with the statement. He clumsily brought up a critical voting bloc issue that has plagued the Democrats for the past few election cycles: the so-called "values voters" voting Republican. These are the working-class, predominantly white voters that have given their allegiance to the Republican party of late. As Dan Schur astutely points out in a New York Times op-ed , these blue-collar Americans routinely "cast their ballots on social and values-based issues like gun ownership, abortion and same-sex marriage rather than on economic policy prescriptions." Democratic presidential candidates have been vexed as to why this is, and I think Obama was addressing this phenomenon because it is something that needs to be tackled if the Dems are to win the White House. They have to convert these former Reagan Democrats. It is a must for them to convince these voters to not vote solely on gun rights, immigration, and religion, and to win them back Obama and Clinton must appeal to their economic needs.

As the aforementioned NY Times Op-ed suggests, the manner in which Obama discussed the matter was ill-conceived, however. The words "cling" and "bitter" connote an air of elitist thought over these voters. Whereas the environmentally sensitive, pro-choice, pro-stem cell, pro-tax upper class San Franciscan Democrat is lauded for his open-mindedness and financial selflessness, a rural Pennsylvanian who "clings" to guns and xenophobic grudges, his vote must be justified for some reason, to be written off as simply "bitterness" over economic hardships. As Schur points out, it is a double standard to "diminish these cultural beliefs as a byproduct of economic discomfort." Their vote is as thought out as their San Franciscan counterpart, and to insinuate that their vote requires some justification is ill-advised if you are seeking to win their vote.

To finish, I don't believe Obama was intentionally being insensitive, but I do understand those that were upset with the comments. He was addressing an important Democratic issue for the fall, one that both candidates must win in order to reclaim the White House.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Obama's "Bitter" Remarks

So by now you've probably all seen the quote that Obama made in reference to small town people at a fund-raiser in San Francisco:

"It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who are not like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," the senator had said.

The fact that these comments were made in San Francisco frustrate me as much as the comments themselves. It just goes to show that he is willing to pander to an audience.

Can we at least get an apology Senator Obama?

"If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that," Obama was quoted as saying in an interview with the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal.

It's not so much the way he "worded things" as the entire content of his quote. For a campaign that preaches unity, I would expect at least a simple apology for such divisive remarks.