"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Inside Outside Chaos Reigns In Minneapolis

Obama Gains Among Former Clinton SupportersGallup Poll News - Washington,DC,USA

The Sarah Palin story is rapidly becoming the talk of both the convention in St. Paul, and is likely to dominate analysis on the Web. Here’s an early entry from Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: “All anyone wants to talk about all of a sudden is the intimate family choices of stressed-out working mothers. Every woman I know is consumed by Sarah Palin’s larger-than-life life: Was it irresponsible for her to continue on as governor, having given birth to a special needs baby?

Was it reckless of her to accept a vice presidential tap on top of that? Should she really have been flying in the eighth month of her high-risk pregnancy? Is she doing the right thing by supporting her unmarried teenage daughter whose pregnancy she revealed a few hours ago? Should she have inserted herself into her sister’s messy marriage?” It’s all a “Pandora’s box John McCain opened up when he picked Palin as his running mate—a woman whose family life is vastly more interesting than her very brief political career.” But, she adds, it’s not all bad: Palin “reflects the reality of women’s lives in America. Come on in, John McCain. It’s messy in here, but we’ve been waiting decades to show you the place.”

It may be a “bit morbid” to say so, but Hurricane Gustav offers some political opportunities for Sen. John McCain and Republicans as they gather in St. Paul, Minn., write Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei of Politico. They quote one convention planner saying: “You don’t wish for it, but it shows McCain dealing with a surprise — a big event that has consequences on people…It’s redemption for the Republican Party on the competence issue.

The convention ends up being about John McCain showing the best way to serve a cause greater than yourself.” Of course, the “storm carries with it political risk, too: If the government botches the emergency response, it could further erode the public’s confidence in the GOP’s governing competence,” say Allen and VandeHei. “But, in cold political terms, this could be a very good thing for McCain. At the very least, it pulls an unpopular president and vice president away from here at a time when Democrats are ready to hit McCain with a barrage of ads and talking points linking him to Bush.

One GOP consultant on what the absence of a Bush speech means for the party: ‘a whole series of Obama ads now in the dumper.’”

Salon’s Mike Madden says that “even before Barack Obama arrived at Mile High Stadium to accept his party’s nomination last week, the early five-day tracks had turned Gustav into a problematic metaphor for McCain.” But Republicans may be changing that: McCain “and his running mate, Sarah Palin – whose appointment he announced on the anniversary of Katrina’s landfall — headed off to Jackson, Miss., for a photo op with Gov. Haley Barbour to show how concerned they were.

The campaign chartered planes to fly the Mississippi and Louisiana delegations back home before the storm hit, and convention officials were planning to rework the entire week.” Still, Madden adds, “McCain can hardly afford to let Gustav wash away his entire convention like just another underfunded Army Corps of Engineers levee. His ‘maverick’ brand was damaged by his own efforts to unite his party behind him during the GOP primaries and by the Democrats’ insistence that he represents an extra term for Bush. Obama’s convention left him up 6 points by Sunday in the Gallup daily tracking polls (though those polls aren’t necessarily useful indicators). ‘McCain needs to become the personification of anti-Washington rage,’ one Republican consultant told me.”

Speaking of Palin, the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder says there were a few things about her that McCain’s staff didn’t know when he picked her” He writes: “McCain’s campaign seemed unaware that she supported a windfalls profits tax on oil companies and that she is more skeptical about human contributions to global warming than McCain is. They did not know that she took trips as the mayor of Wasilla to beg for earmarks.

They did not know that she told a television interviewer this summer that she did not fully understand what it is that a vice president does.” Still, “had McCain had the time or inclination to think about all of this, he still might have picked her. Like him, she has a habit of kicking lobbyists out of her office. Like him, she has a reputation for being a blunt speaker. Like him, she has a rep for cutting spending, and unlike him, had the executive authority to do so, slashing more than 10 percent of the state’s proposed budget in 2007. “

On the other side of the vice presidential coin, Andrew Malcolm of LATimes.com gives Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden some grief for a little aside he uttered about Palin. “Oh, jeez, here we go already. With the canny, seemingly good-natured-but-really-a-put-down jokes about a female candidate,” writes Malcolm. He notes that Biden told a rally: “There’s a gigantic difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and between me and I suspect my vice presidential opponent,” Biden said. “She’s good-looking.” Writes Malcolm: “Yeh, really, hold your sides on that one. Let’s turn that reference around 180-degrees and imagine a female candidate in front of a large audience talking about some, oh, hypothetical male opponent for the vice presidency. “‘Thirty-six years in the United States Senate,’ she says, ‘And all he’s got to show for it is a beautiful head of hairplugs.’”

For weeks, advisers close to the campaign said, Mr. McCain had wanted to name as his running mate his good friend Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrat turned independent. But by the end of last weekend, the outrage from Christian conservatives over the possibility that Mr. McCain would fill out the Republican ticket with Mr. Lieberman, a supporter of abortion rights, had become too intense to be ignored.

With time running out, and after a long meeting with his inner circle in Phoenix, Mr. McCain finally picked up the phone last Sunday and reached Ms. Palin at the Alaska State Fair. Although the campaign’s polling on Mr. McCain’s potential running mates was inconclusive on the selection of Ms. Palin — virtually no one had heard of her, a McCain adviser said — the governor, who opposes abortion, had glowing reviews from influential social conservatives.

Mr. McCain was comfortable with two others on his short list, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. But neither was the transformative, attention-grabbing choice Mr. McCain felt he needed, top campaign advisers said, to help him pivot from his image as the custodian of the status quo to a change agent like his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama.

Even if the McCain campaign knew everything that might be problematic about Palin—and it doesn't appear to—her national introduction has had a few ragged patches. Her role in opposing the bridge to nowhere—the poster child of federal pork—is the first loose thread. Both Palin and McCain mentioned her opposition to it as a central part of her reform credentials. "I told Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere," Palin said when her candidacy was announced. This is no small deal. McCain talks about the bridge to nowhere all the time as the symbolic reason Republicans lost the Congress in 2006.

But it turns out Palin was for the bridge before she was against it, changing her mind just as the politics did. She wins points for being politically nimble, but maybe not for being a rootin' tootin' reformer. Maybe, had the campaign time to reflect, it would still have put the same emphasis on the bridge to nowhere. In that case, we reporters would undoubtedly have dismissed this talking point as bad spin. Instead, because Palin was a surprise, we can dismiss this taking point as the result of hasty decision-making.

Another ad hoc element to the Palin pick is the curious defense of her foreign-policy credentials. Republicans and Cindy McCain have mentioned that she understands national-security issues in part because she is governor of Alaska, whose borders nearly touch Russia's. A day and a half ago, I asked the campaign for an example of her dealings with Russia or the Russians. I'm still waiting. Again, maybe there's a bad-spin explanation here: They're swamped and are working to get back to me. Or maybe they just made the claim in haste without checking it.
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Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar have been released from police custody in St. Paul, following their arrest while covering demonstrations at the Republican convention. According to Democracy Now!, all three were "violently manhandled by law enforcement officers."

Last week, the Republican Party put the finishing touches on its 2008 election platform, which the party will officially adopt this week at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN. Many on the right have indicated that this year's platform represents one of the most conservative in the history of the party.

For example, the legislative advocacy arm of the ultra-conservative Family Rights Council hailed the 2008 platform as the most "conservative, pro-life and pro-family platform in Republican party history." David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), considers the platform "very conservative," while the ACU's vice chairman Donald Devine called the document "a vast improvement" over the 2004 platform.

Indeed, the platform calls for constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and abortions, positions that, according to a recent Time Magazine poll, only 35 and 10 percent of Americans support, respectively. And while the document refrains from using the term "privitization," its "solution" to Social Security calls for giving workers "control over, and a fair return on, their contributions" to the program.

LIP SERVICE ON THE ENVIRONMENT: To its credit, the 2008 GOP platform recognizes the human role in global warming and advocates long-term tax credits for renewable energy.
However, the GOP's environmental platform is "loaded with caveats about the uncertainty of science and the need to 'resist no-growth radicalism' in taking on climate change." It also ridicules "doomsday climate change scenarios peddled by the aficionados of centralized command-and-control government." In effect, this approach endorses the Bush administration's climate policy, which has led to an increase in greenhouse gases. Moreover, unlike the 2000 and 2004 platforms' planks on protecting the Great Lakes and Everglades, the 2008 platform mentions neither.

Also absent from the 2008 platform is any mention of mandatory federal emission cuts in a cap-and-trade program. While the party's presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), has pushed for a federally mandated cap-and-trade program, he has walked away from it at various points during the campaign season.

GOP VERSUS McCAIN: The 2004 platform "found 80 things to 'applaud,' 17 to 'hail,' a dozen to 'commend' and several hundred opportunities to say what a great job [President] Bush was doing and would continue to do." Yet this year's document contains only one mention of McCain, which is simply "in support of his candidacy and those of our fellow Republicans across the nation." Indeed, there are many areas of disagreement between McCain and his party.

"The platform calls for a 'major expansion' of research involving adult stem cells but opposes embryonic stem-cell research, which Sen. McCain supports." The party's immigration stance is tougher than in 2004 -- when the GOP called for a "humane" immigration system with a temporary-worker program and a path for illegal immigrants "to come out of the shadows'' and apply for citizenship.

This year however, the GOP opposes any plan that includes "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, saying "the rule of law suffers if government policies encourage or reward illegal activity." McCain has previously supported a path to citizenship but his current position remains unclear, having declared securing the borders as his new number-one priority. Despite these disagreements, the McCain campaign reportedly plans to "run on the final version of the platform."


Yesterday at the Republican convention, the Huffington Post hosted a panel discussion about the rise of new media with a number of leading traditional media personalities. Conservative talker Laura Ingraham applauded the rise of the online journalism, stating, "Look, the old media blew it; the free market does work." But many of her conservative co-panelists lamented the perils of this free market. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said the flip side of the emergence of the blogopshere is that "it's so ugly now in some parts of the internet" that good people are being dissuaded from running for office.

His fellow conservative media elites chimed in with similar criticisms. Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan said online commenters "are much like what you would have gotten in 1880 if you walked into a bedlam with a megaphone and said, 'I'd like to say a few words.' It's wild, it's crazy, and it's awful, and it's often quite vicious." Conservative pollster Frank Luntz said, "Mean would not describe it.

It is as humanly vicious as it possibly can be," adding that it is "deliberately insulting." Scarborough then proposed a solution: "Why don't internet sites that want to be respected make people [commenters] put their names and their phone numbers." Arianna Huffington agreed with him about the need to keep commenters from "hiding behind the cloak of anonymity."