Archive for April, 2008

How about an “open book test” debate

Monday, April 28th, 2008

No, we don’t need more media sponsored debates, with their gotchas and lack of substance.

And, no, we don’t need the unmoderated no-holds-barred debate format Hillary Clinton is proposing. It might be interesting, but it would likely quickly break down into total anarchy, which could be very bad for the Democratic Party. (What Hillary is proposing, by the way, has nothing to do with the format of the original Lincoln-Douglas Debates, despite the fact that’s how she’s describing it.)

But here’s a debate I’d go for — even after 21 others: An “open book test” debate with all the questions disclosed up front.

Here’s how it would work: the debate would last 90 minutes and be made up of eight questions, with each candidate getting five minutes to speak (yes, that long might get boring but this is supposed to be about substance): the last 10 minutes would be taken up with five minute closing statements (sorry, ABC, but no commercial breaks this time).

The eight questions would be settled upon well in advance: the goal wouldn’t be to test the candidates’ ability to respond on the spur-of-the-moment. We’ve seen enough of that already. What voters need now is a better appreciation of where the candidates stand on the important issues of the day: something — thanks to the miserable nature of the major media’s coverage of this campaign — many voters still lack.

Here’s my suggestion for the questions:

1. How, as president, would you each go about getting the United States out of Iraq?

2. Set forth in detail your plans for addressing global warming.

3. What would each of you do during your first 100 days in office to address the current economic crisis?

4. Economic inequality is at record levels in this nation. Economic growth in recent years hasn’t been shared by all Americans, but has tended mostly to benefit the wealthiest in our society: Do you consider this to be a problem that should be addressed by the government and if so how?

5. Please describe in detail what your governing philosophy would be as president in deciding when to send American troops into combat? Describe in particular how that philosophy would apply to nations like Iran, Syria and North Korea.

6. You have both been critical of certain aspects of the Bush tax cuts. What specific changes would you propose and why? Please describe more generally what you taxation policy would be?

7. There is concern over politicization of the Department of Justice. What concrete steps would you take as president to be certain that the Department would never be used as a political weapon? Also, what steps, if any, would you take to investigate prior alleged misconduct?

8. Each of you has expressed disapproval of at least parts of the No Child Left Behind law. What specific changes would you propose? And more generally, in what ways do you believe the federal government can best play a role in improving the quality and availability of educational opportunity at all levels?

Yeah, that would be a debate I’d be willing to tune in for. And for those who can’t get over their nostalgia for Rev. Wright and Bosnia sniper fire, well, there are plenty of clips from earlier debates posted on the web.

But not this time: this debate would be all substance from start to finish. 

Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Marxist Polygamist Terrorists, Inc. for John McCain!

Friday, April 25th, 2008

As you may have heard, John McCain is now attacking Barack Obama based upon favorable comments about Obama allegedly made by a leader of Hamas. The fact Obama has repeatedly and unequivocally condemned Hamas apparently isn’t good enough in McCain’s book.

McCain On Obama: “Clear Who Hamas Wants to be the Next President”

McCain spoke with bloggers this morning on a number of issues ranging from William Ayers to Rev. Wright to Tony Rezko. Jennifer Rubin noted that Hamas had endorsed Senator Obama and asked McCain whether Obama might have given “an unhelpful signal” to the terrorist group. McCain’s response:

All I can tell you Jennifer is that I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. So apparently has Danny Ortega and several others. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare….If senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.

While some small-minded sorts might claim that it’s wrong to try to hold a candidate responsible for the statements of an organization he’s specifically condemned, John McCain knows better. He realizes that candidates are 100% responsible for everyone who purports to support them, no ifs, ands or buts (Rev. John Hagee, anyone?).

That is, after all, the straight-talking way. 

And we here at Marxist Polygamist Terrorists, Inc. couldn’t agree more! And it is in that very spirit that we hereby proudly announce our enthusiastic and unconditional endorsement of John McCain for President of the United States!

We want to make it very clear where Marxist polygamist terrorists stand in this election! And where we stand is squarely behind John McCain!

So, as Big John McCain would put it himself . . . If Senator McCain is favored by Marxist polygamist terrorists I think people can make judgments accordingly.


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No, Obama isn’t another McGovern

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Marx was wrong, by the way — about a lot of things, of course — but in particular about history repeating itself. It doesn’t. History’s relevance to contemporary events — and it has great relevance — is as metaphor, not prophecy. 

With all due respect to George Santayana, those who cannot learn from history are not doomed to repeat it. On the other hand, they probably are doomed to fu*k things up. As to the first part of the equation, it simply isn’t intellectually honest to take the alleged precipitating circumstances for historical events that occurred decades (or even centuries) ago and then pretend that they are likely to bring about the same results under radically different circumstances today. They aren’t.

Long ago, for instance, Congress would often flee the Capital during the summer months because of the risk of acquiring malaria from mosquitoes. Will history repeat itself, with numerous representatives becoming deathly ill, if Congress holds a summer session today? Not likely. On the other hand — getting to the second part of the equation — the public heath lessons implicit in this piece of history remain very valid today.

So with this — perhaps excessively long — introduction out of the way, let’s turn to the newest obsession of the punditocracy: the making of stupid comparisons between Barack Obama’s candidacy and that of George McGovern in 1972

John B. Judis, writing in The New Republic, got the ball rolling:

Indeed, if you look at Obama’s vote in Pennsylvania, you begin to see the outlines of the old George McGovern coalition that haunted the Democrats during the ’70s and ’80s, led by college students and minorities. In Pennsylvania, Obama did best in college towns (60 to 40 percent in Penn State’s Centre County) and in heavily black areas like Philadelphia.

Its ideology is very liberal. Whereas in the first primaries and caucuses, Obama benefited from being seen as middle-of-the-road or even conservative, he is now receiving his strongest support from voters who see themselves as “very liberal.” In Pennsylvania, he defeated Clinton among “very liberal” voters by 55 to 45 percent, but lost “somewhat conservative” voters by 53 to 47 percent and moderates by 60 to 40 percent. In Wisconsin and Virginia, by contrast, he had done best against Clinton among voters who saw themselves as moderate or somewhat conservative.

Obama even seems to be acquiring the religious profile of the old McGovern coalition. In the early primaries and caucuses, Obama did very well among the observant. In Maryland, he defeated Clinton among those who attended religious services weekly by 61 to 31 percent. By contrast, in Pennsylvania, he lost to Clinton among these voters by 58 to 42 percent and did best among voters who never attend religious services, winning them by 56 to 44 percent. There is nothing wrong with winning over voters who are very liberal and who never attend religious services; but if they begin to become Obama’s most fervent base of support, he will have trouble (to say the least) in November.

Okay, let me see if I have this straight: Obama is McGovern, which means, I guess, McCain must be Nixon (at a pre-Watergate time when he was an extremely popular incumbent president). Carrying the analogy forward, I suppose this means that McCain is going to use his nifty new 1970s style bell bottom trousers to trip Obama, or perhaps befuddle him in a fog of “peace, love, dope and rock and roll.”

Yeah, right.


Bush v. Gore will never be over

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

I see that Justice Antonin Scalia has once again been kind enough to advise us to get over Bush v. Gore. Fat chance.
I’ve got a better idea: why don’t you, Justice Scalia, try facing up to the fact that the disgrace of that decision — the raw partisan abuse of power — will stain you and the other four justices who made up the majority for as long as the history of this era is recorded.
Now, you get over that.
The comments that follow borrow extensively from something I wrote about Sandra Day O’Connor — a much more sympathetic figure, by the way — on the occasion of her retirement. But this updated version is just for you, Justice Scalia.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the old expression, popular both in retail merchandizing and neoconservative empire building, “If you break it, you own it.”
Well, you and your colleagues broke American democracy in December of 2000: Now you own George W. Bush.
As the people who put him into power, his legacy is your legacy.
You own it lock, stock and barrel.
You own the War in Iraq.
You own the foreign policy that’s left America hated throughout the world.
You own the incompetence of allowing Osama bin Laden to escape by refocusing our armed forces from Afghanistan to Iraq.
You own the corruption of the multi-billion dollar boondoggle no-bid contracts handed out like candy to Bush’s political friends.
You own the torture.
You own the ballooning national debt.
You own the lies.
You own the practice of using the Sept. 11 attacks for political gain.
You own Karl Rove.
You own the near complete disregard for our natural environment.
You own the dirty tricks.
You own the degradation of our civil liberties.
You own the slander directed against anyone who dares oppose Bush.
You own the failure to even try to address Global Warming, potentially the single greatest threat ever to confront humanity.
You own the tax giveaways to the super rich.
You own the outing a CIA operative, potentially placing everyone she’s ever worked with into danger, merely to score a little cheap political revenge.
You own the practice of filling up regulatory boards and commissions with industry insiders.
You own the near dictatorship level obsession with governmental secrecy.
You own the growing economic inequality in America.
You own the failure to even try to address America’s broken healthcare system.
You own the playing politics with stem cell research.
And you own the far right extremists Bush is appointing to the federal bench.
You own the betrayal of New Orleans.
You own the junking of the American economy.
You own the corruption.
All of this, and so much more, belongs to you now.

To be clear, your contribution to many of these sins goes far beyond Bush v. Gore. The infamy of your tenure on the Court has been anything but one-dimensional: but this is the one history will remember.  
You see, Justice Scalia, you didn’t just put the losing candidate into the White House in 2000; you put there the worst president in American history. And that is something that will never be forgotten.

The Café Political Trivia Game

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Welcome to Political Trivia, a new semi-regular feature here at The Last Chance Democracy Café.  Have fun! Check your knowledge! Win a free virtual T-shirt!

If you feel like it, post your score in the comments.

1. Name the one state George McGovern won in the 1972 presidential election.

2. Name the one state Walter Mondale won in the 1984 presidential election.

3. Name the best thing about Bush stealing the 2000 election from Al Gore?

4. What was the name of the boat that played a major role in the scandal that drove Gary Hart out of the 1988 presidential race?

5. What product brand did John Ashcroft use to anoint himself when he became Attorney General?

6. Which major party presidential candidate flew 35 missions in World War II as part of a combat group that lost over half of its planes and crews?

7. Which former Democratic New York City mayor endorsed George W. Bush for reelection?

8. Name Barry Goldwater’s 1964 vice presidential running mate.

9. What was the unofficial name given to the National Guard unit George W. Bush joined to avoid being sent to Vietnam?

10. What right wing windbag described, in glowing terms, the violent intimidation of Miami-Dade election officials during the short lived 2000 presidential vote recount as a “bourgeois riot?”

11. Name the disastrous photo op that helped to doom Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign.

12. What was Dan Quayle’s response in 1988 to Lloyd Bentsen’s saying of him, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy?”

13. Who was the reclusive billionaire who financed a series of investigations known as the Arkansas Project, designed to damage Bill Clinton’s presidency? 

14. Who owns the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary following a personal appeal for support from the candidate herself?

15. Who said, “A tree’s a tree. How many more do you need to look at?”

(Answers after the break)


Barack Obama needs to take a leap of faith

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

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I can’t tell you how tired I am of all this

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

(AP) Suicide car bomber kills 2 US Marines in Iraq

A bomb-rigged truck exploded at a checkpoint Tuesday near the western city of Ramadi, killing two U.S. Marines and wounding three others in an apparent strike by al-Qaida in Iraq in one of its former strongholds.

Sometimes soldiers must give their lives for their nation. It’s part of the deal. But this war is just such an stupid useless waste. 

Can we just please bring our people home?

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Is the Democratic Party masochistic?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Tonight will tell the tale, of course, but early indications strongly suggest the worst possible outcome is coming in Pennsylvania — an indecisive one. 

What will this indecisiveness look like? Any Clinton victory in double digits, or even close to double digits, but short of an overwhelming landslide, will do. That would constitute just enough of a moral victory to keep Clinton in the game without in any way changing the big picture inevitability of an Obama nomination.

Net effect: the intra party blood letting will go on as McCain continues to get a free pass.

Bottom Line: we Democrats still seem ready to do everything possible to commit suicide in what should be our best year in decades.

I need a drink.

A song of sympathy for Pennsylvania’s last seven weeks

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

(to the music of Oklahoma!)

Pennsylvania, where the pols came sweeping into town
The campaigns they’d run soon weren’t much fun
And the whole thing quickly got us down.
Pennsylvania, Ev’ry night my honey lamb and I
Sat alone and watched the hit ads squawk
Till the whole thing made us want to die!

(New ending)

So goodbye! Goodbye!
Don’t let the door hit you in the ass
As off to Indiana you fly!

If women had never gotten the vote Obama would be winning in a landslide

Monday, April 21st, 2008

There you have it: an absolutely true and absolutely stupid observation.

In fact, it’s every bit as true — and every bit as stupid — as the following observation made by Bill Clinton:

(ABC) Bill Clinton: Under GOP Primary System, Hillary Would Be Winning

ABC News’ Eloise Harper reports: Former President Bill Clinton, speaking to reporters after his wife’s event in Pittsburgh, PA Monday, said that under the republican primary system –- his wife would be ahead by hundreds of delegates.

“I did not actually get the delegates necessary to have a first power of the nomination  under the crazy system the democrats have,” Clinton said. “If we were under the republican system which is more like the electoral college, she would have a 300 delegate lead …It’s an eternity ’til the general election, an eternity.”

ABC News’ Political Unit did some quick math and added up all the pledged delegate counts for the winner-take-all Democratic contest. As of the most recent count on the eve of the Pennsylvania state primary, Senator Hillary Clinton has won 15 state contests and was awarded 1430 delegates, not including unpledged (a.k.a. “superdelegates”). Barack Obama has won 29, and has 1257 delegates.

According to ABC’s math –  Clinton would hold more like a 173 delegate-lead if her and Obama were competing in the Republican primary system given the GOP system doesn’t have superdelegates. President Clinton was correct, but overestimated what his wife’s lead would be by about half.