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Monday, October 13, 2008

Noonan, York, Toobin And Others Take Aim At McCain

With 22 days left before the voters hit the polls, conservative pundits and media commentators are scratching their heads over the lack of direction - indeed, the near schizophrenic judgment - of the McCain campaign.

Appearing at the Time Warner Summit conference on the 2008 election, a host of prominent electoral observers were all bearish on the Arizona Republican's presidential ambitions. Not one panelist took the chance to defend the Senator's choice of Sarah Palin as vice president. Others simply saw death by electoral numbers.

"Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada," declared Byron York of the National Review. "Bush won everyone of those states except Pennsylvania. McCain has to do it all. And it is hard to do that by going on Letterman."

The reference was to the Arizona Republican's upcoming appearance on the Late Night Show this Thursday. For the panelists it symbolized yet another instance of what Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan described as "herky-jerky" behavior coming from the Republican ticket.

"Obama seems older in a way," said the former Ronald Reagan speechwriter. "McCain has seemed herky-jerky. Obama has seemed like the older, steadier fellow since the economic crisis began."

It was a sentiment echoed by most everyone else. Josh Marshall, the publisher of Talking Points Memo, made the case, as he has done many times before, that the senator by and large has dug his own grave.

"By the way he has conducted his campaign, McCain has got himself in a hole," he said. "That dramatic gesture [that he might turn to]... even if, on its own terms, it might be good for him, he has so effectively created this view as erratic it might not work."

The main object of ridicule and criticism, however, was Sarah Palin. York called her interviews with CBS's Katie Couric "very bad" and immune to political spin.

"She may be a very effective governor of Alaska who wasn't able to pick up on what you need to be an effective vice presidential candidate," said the National Review scribe.

Added Noonan: "Her performance from day one mattered. What the American people saw over the period of five or six weeks, it has been very up and down. From an unveiling that gave rise to questions to a very strong convention speech, to interviews that were disastrous, to a debate in which she came back very strong, to now, ten days on the campaign trail, where I think it is fair to say: that didn't work."

It was a fairly brutal affair, remarkable for its intense, sometimes overbearing, bipartisan focus on the ailments of the Republican ticket. Thirty-five minutes into the discussion, Jeffrey Toobin actually had to remind his fellow panelist that there was another candidate in the race.

"We haven't commented yet," said the CNN analyst, "on what a sensational campaign Obama has run."

Original here

Polls: Hate Rhetoric Backfires on McCain/Palin

John McCain and Sarah Palin had tried to overcome sliding poll numbers by inserting hate filled rhetoric during campaign rallies last week, but the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that the hate rhetoric backfired on McCain and Palin.

It found that 59 percent of Americans accused McCain of negative campaigning, while 35 percent said McCain is addressing the issues. A staggering number.

The same Washington Post/ABC News poll also indicates that Obama is pulling away from McCain, establishing a 10-point lead in the race for the White House by a commanding 53 percent to 43 percent.

The most recent state by state polls from the Conservative Right Side Examiner site indicate similar findings as the nationwide polls.

Alabama - McCain Leads
A SurveyUSA poll of likely Alabama taken October
8-9 for WKRG-TV shows McCain leading Obama 62%-35%.

California - Obama Leads
A Rasmussen Reports poll of likely California voters taken October 9
shows Obama leading McCain 56%-40%.

Colorado - Obama Leads
A Public Policy Polling poll of likely Colorado voters taken October 8-10 shows Obama leading McCain 52%-42%.

Delaware - Obama Leads
A West Chester University poll of likely Delaware voters taken October 6-8 shows Obama leading McCain 56%-38%.

Florida - Obama Leads
A Research 2000 poll of likely Florida voters taken October 6-8 for the Sun-Sentinel shows Obama leading McCain 49%-44%.

Iowa - Obama Leads
A SurveyUSA poll of likely Iowa voters taken October 8-9 shows Obama leading McCain 54%-41%.

Nevada - Obama Leads
A Las Vegas Review Journal poll of likely Nevada voters taken October 8-9 by Mason-Dixon shows Obama leading McCain 47%-45%.

North Carolina - McCain Leads
A WSOC-TV poll of likely North Carolina voters taken October 6-7 shows McCain leading Obama 48%-46%.

North Dakota - Obama Leads
A Fargo Forum/Public Affairs Institute at Minnesota State University Moorhead poll of likely North Dakota voters taken October 6-8 shows Obama leading McCain 45%-43%.

Ohio - McCain Leads
The Associated Press reports the Ohio Newspaper Poll of likely Ohio voters taken October 4-8 shows McCain leading Obama 48%-46%.

Original here

The Ugly Implications of McCain and Palin's Questions

Sarah Palin keeps asking people to ask more questions about Barack Obama. Now McCain has joined in on this refrain. But I don't get it. What more do they need to know? They keep saying he has to answer more questions about Bill Ayers, for example. But he has answered every ridiculous question on this topic a hundred times over. So, what are they really looking for?

It's not the McCain and Palin really think there is some deep and pertinent question that the media just has not gotten to yet about Obama's so-called relationship with Ayers. Otherwise, why don't they ask it themselves? Why doesn't John McCain take the next debate as an opportunity to ask Senator Obama about any profound question he has about Bill Ayers or any other disturbing connection Obama has?

The reason they don't do this is because there are no real questions there. This is a ploy to raise doubts in people's minds about Obama. They have nothing, but it's easy to say, "What else is Obama hiding?" The implication is that Barack Hussein Obama has more terrorist connections he is not telling us about. But since that is patently ridiculous and shameful, they can't say it out in the open. So, they hide behind the implications of questions like, "What else is he not telling us?"

What I want a reporter to ask Sarah Palin and John McCain is, "What is that you think Senator Obama is hiding? You keep asking the question, so you must think there is an answer. What is it? What is Senator Obama not telling us about Bill Ayers or anyone else?"

They don't have answer to that. Because they're real objective is to smear Obama as "the other." Palin has said several times in her rallies that Barack Obama is not like the Americans she knows. Someone should also ask her what she means by that. Then she brings up Ayers and "palling around with terrorists." It's not hard to see the picture she's drawing. Obama is not one of us. Look at his name; be careful, he is one of them.

They don't have the nerve to say it out aloud, so they hide behind their questions and implications. It is a despicable strategy and it has turned this into the ugliest presidential campaign I have seen in my lifetime.

Original here

McCain tussles with Palin over whipping up a mob mentality

Video: the second presidential debate in 10 easy minutes

With his electoral prospects fading by the day, Senator John McCain has fallen out with his vice-presidential running mate about the direction of his White House campaign.

McCain has become alarmed about the fury unleashed by Sarah Palin, the moose-hunting “pitbull in lipstick”, against Senator Barack Obama. Cries of “terrorist” and “kill him” have accompanied the tirades by the governor of Alaska against the Democratic nominee at Republican rallies.

Mark Salter, McCain’s long-serving chief of staff, is understood to have told campaign insiders that he would prefer his boss, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, to suffer an “honourable defeat” rather than conduct a campaign that would be out of character – and likely to lose him the election.

Palin, 44, has led the character attacks on Obama in the belief that McCain may be throwing away the election and her chance of becoming vice-president. Her supporters think that if the Republican ticket loses on November 4, she should run for president in 2012.

A leading Republican consultant said: “A lot of conservatives are grumbling about what a poor job McCain is doing. They are rolling their eyes and saying, ‘Yes, a miracle could happen, but at this rate it is all over’.

“Sarah Palin is no fool. She sees the same thing and wants to salvage what she can. She is positioning herself for the future. Her best days could be in front of her. She wants to look as though she was the fighter, the person with the spunk who was out there taking it to the Democrats.”

McCain, 72, has encouraged voters to contrast his character with Obama’s. The campaign launched a tough television commercial last week questioning, “Who is Barack Obama?”

Frank Keating, McCain’s campaign co-chairman, last week called the Democrat a “guy off the street” and said he should admit that he had “used cocaine”.

McCain believes the attacks have spun out of control. At a rally in Lakeville, Minnesota, the Arizona senator became visibly angry when he was booed for calling Obama “a decent person”. He took the microphone from an elderly woman who said she disliked Obama because he was “Arab”, saying, “No ma’am, no ma’am”.

When another questioner demanded that he tell the truth about Obama, he said: “I want everybody to be respectful and let’s be sure we are.”

However, his campaign has stepped up its negative advertising against Obama, accusing him of lying about his relationship with William Ayers, the leader of the Weather Underground group responsible for bombing the Capitol and the Pentagon in the early 1970s, who is now a Chicago professor.

Palin has continued to lead the charge against Obama’s alleged lack of candour. At a rally in Wilmington, Ohio, she mocked him for attending a supporters’ meeting in Ayers’s home when he was seeking to become an Illinois state senator in 1995. “He didn’t know he launched his career in the living room of a domestic terrorist until he did know,” Palin said.

“Some will say, jeez Sarah, it’s getting negative. No it’s not negativity. It’s truthfulness.” The crowd bellowed its appreciation with chants of “Nobama” and “Go Sarah Go!”

John Weaver, a former senior McCain adviser who left the campaign when it almost imploded in the summer of last year, questioned the purpose of the attacks.

“People need to understand, for moral reasons and the protection of our civil society, that the differences with Senator Obama are ideological, based on clear differences on policy and a lack of experience compared with Senator McCain,” he said.

“And from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn female voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive.”

A McCain official confirmed that there was dissension in the campaign. “There is always going to be a debate about the costs and benefits of any strategy,” he said.

“After November 4, the feelings of individuals will come to light. It is only natural and will be expected.”

Palin’s frustration with McCain has led to clashes over strategy. When she learnt he was pulling resources from Michigan, an industrial swing state leaning heavily in Obama’s favour, she fired off an e-mail saying, “Oh come on, do we have to?” and offered to travel there with her husband Todd, four-times winner of the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snow-mobile race.

She also told Bill Kristol, the conservative New York Times columnist, that she wished the campaign would make more of Obama’s 20-year association with the Rev Jeremiah Wright, his controversial former pastor, who said, “God damn America”.

“To me, that does say something about character,” Palin said. “But you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring it up.”

McCain’s allies responded by suggesting that she had her own pastor problems, such as the African minister who prayed to Jesus to protect her from witchcraft when she was running for governor.

McCain has told his campaign that attacks on religion are out of bounds. He declined Palin’s advice to “take the gloves” off in his debate with Obama last week and did not refer to Ayers. It enabled Obama to rile McCain by asking why he did not have the nerve to attack him to his face.

When McCain finally got round to mentioning the Weatherman at a rally last week, he described him mildly as “an old washed-up terrorist”.

Despite the attacks, Obama, 47, increased his average poll lead last week to eight points over McCain. The assaults on his character have enabled him to criticise McCain for “stoking anger and division” when the economy is collapsing.

McCain’s nosedive in the polls has closely tracked the collapse of Wall Street and the US economy, but he has yet to find a winning economic policy. His proposed emergency $300 billion (£180 billion) buy-out of distressed mortgages has been harshly criticised by Republicans.

Karl Rove, the former White House aide, claimed the housing bailout “came across as both impulsive and badly explained” when McCain suddenly announced it during last week’s debate with Obama.

A spokesman for McCain denied he and Palin had fallen out over her aggressive attacks. “Vice-presidential candidates are typically the tip of the spear and further out in front than the candidate for president. This is pretty standard fare,” he said.

However, Palin is no longer helping to attract women and independent voters to the Republican ticket. A poll for Fox News last week showed that while 47% of voters regard the Alaska governor favourably, 42% now have an unfavourable opinion of her.

Palin remains far more popular than McCain with the Republican party base. He regularly has to endure the spectacle of members of the audience leaving for their cars when it is his turn to speak at joint rallies.

In Wilmington, Palin’s many admirers were in no doubt that she should run for president next time. Nancy Ross, a hairdresser, 45, said if the Republicans lost the election, she would be cheered up by the thought of Palin as the 2012 nominee.

“I would absolutely love her to run in four years’ time. By then most of her kids will be grown,” she said. “I’d like her to run against Hillary [Clinton]. She would squash her. She is a real person and we need people like her in Washington.”

Mary Ann Black, 58, a human resources director, said: “I love her. She’s so authentic.” Although she thought highly of McCain as well, Black added: “Her career is just beginning and his is in the twilight.”

Original here

Hillary: America Will Rise Again "From The Ashes Of The Bushes"

In a passionate speech introducing Joe Biden at a campaign rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania this afternoon, Hillary Clinton gave a strong endorsement to Barack Obama by celebrating the end of the Bush administration, shouting:

"Make no mistake about it. We've done it before and we will do it again. America will once again rise from the ashes of the Bushes."

It's the second time in the last week that she's used the dramatic line - last Monday, she said that "America can rise again as we have before from the ashes of the Bushes" in a forceful speech at the 8th Annual Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee Luncheon in New York City.

This afternoon, she also slammed John McCain and the Bush administration's response to the financial crisis, criticizing them for bailing out large companies while "millions of people are losing their homes and jobs every single day! Where's their bailout?"

And she said that sending Republicans back to Washington to clean up the economic mess was like "sending a bull to clean up the china closet. They broke it and we're not buying it anymore."

Biden, demonstrating again that he is the Obama campaign's pit bull, slammed the McCain campaign's recent attacks that focused on Obama's association with Bill Ayers, accusing the Republican candidate of "relying on political stunts instead of offering solutions" and calling McCain "erratic."

The Democratic vice-presidential nominee shook his head as he noted "the ugly inferences and unbecoming personal attacks that have been directed and launched by the McCain campaign."

And he mocked Sarah Palin's record of questioning how much of a role man-made causes had to do with global warming: "How the heck are you going to solve a problem if you don't know what's causing it?"

Original here

The Man Behind the Whispers About Obama

Published: October 12, 2008

The most persistent falsehood about Senator Barack Obama’s background first hit in 2004 just two weeks after the Democratic convention speech that helped set him on the path to his presidential candidacy: “Obama is a Muslim who has concealed his religion.”

Andy Martin is known for filing many lawsuits.

That statement, contained in a press release, spun a complex tale about the ancestry of Mr. Obama, who is Christian.

The press release was picked up by a conservative Web site, FreeRepublic.com, and spread steadily as others elaborated on its claims over the years in e-mail messages, Web sites and books. It continues to drive other false rumors about Mr. Obama’s background.

Just last Friday, a woman told Senator John McCain at a town-hall-style meeting, “I have read about him,” and “he’s an Arab.” Mr. McCain corrected her.

Until this month, the man who is widely credited with starting the cyberwhisper campaign that still dogs Mr. Obama was a secondary character in news reports, with deep explorations of his background largely confined to liberal blogs.

But an appearance in a documentary-style program on the Fox News Channel watched by three million people last week thrust the man, Andy Martin, and his past into the foreground. The program allowed Mr. Martin to assert falsely and without challenge that Mr. Obama had once trained to overthrow the government.

An examination of legal documents and election filings, along with interviews with his acquaintances, revealed Mr. Martin, 62, to be a man with a history of scintillating if not always factual claims. He has left a trail of animosity — some of it provoked by anti-Jewish comments — among political leaders, lawyers and judges in three states over more than 30 years.

He is a law school graduate, but his admission to the Illinois bar was blocked in the 1970s after a psychiatric finding of “moderately severe character defect manifested by well-documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character.”

Though he is not a lawyer, Mr. Martin went on to become a prodigious filer of lawsuits, and he made unsuccessful attempts to win public office for both parties in three states, as well as for president at least twice, in 1988 and 2000. Based in Chicago, he now identifies himself as a writer who focuses on his anti-Obama Web site and press releases.

Mr. Martin, in a series of interviews, did not dispute his influence in Obama rumors.

“Everybody uses my research as a takeoff point,” Mr. Martin said, adding, however, that some take his writings “and exaggerate them to suit their own fantasies.”

As for his background, he said: “I’m a colorful person. There’s always somebody who has a legitimate cause in their mind to be angry with me.”

When questions were raised last week about Mr. Martin’s appearance and claims on “Hannity’s America” on Fox News, the program’s producer said Mr. Martin was clearly expressing his opinion and not necessarily fact.

It was not Mr. Martin's first turn on national television. The CBS News program "48 Hours" in 1993 devoted an hourlong program, "See You in Court; Civil War, Anthony Martin Clogs Legal System with Frivolous Lawsuits," to what it called his prolific filings. (Mr. Martin has also been known as Anthony Martin-Trigona.) He has filed so many lawsuits that a judge barred him from doing so in any federal court without preliminary approval.

He prepared to run as a Democrat for Congress in Connecticut, where paperwork for one of his campaign committees listed as one purpose “to exterminate Jew power.” He ran as a Republican for the Florida State Senate and the United States Senate in Illinois. When running for president in 1999, he aired a television advertisement in New Hampshire that accused George W. Bush of using cocaine.

In the 1990s, Mr. Martin was jailed in a case in Florida involving a physical altercation.

His newfound prominence, and the persistence of his line of political attack — updated regularly on his Web site and through press releases — amazes those from his past.

“Well, that’s just a bookend for me,” said Tom Slade, a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, whom Mr. Martin sued for refusing to support him. Mr. Slade said Mr. Martin was driven like “a run-over dog, but he’s fearless.”

Given Mr. Obama’s unusual background, which was the focus of his first book, it was perhaps bound to become fodder for some opposed to his candidacy.

Mr. Obama was raised mostly by his white mother, an atheist, and his grandparents, who were Protestant, in Hawaii. He hardly knew his father, a Kenyan from a Muslim family who variously considered himself atheist or agnostic, Mr. Obama wrote. For a few childhood years, Mr. Obama lived in Indonesia with a stepfather he described as loosely following a liberal Islam.

Theories about Mr. Obama’s background have taken on a life of their own. But independent analysts seeking the origins of the cyberspace attacks wind up at Mr. Martin’s first press release, posted on the Free Republic Web site in August 2004.

Its general outlines have turned up in a host of works that have expounded falsely on Mr. Obama’s heritage or supposed attempts to conceal it, including “Obama Nation,” the widely discredited best seller about Mr. Obama by Jerome R. Corsi. Mr. Corsi opens the book with a quote from Mr. Martin.

“What he’s generating gets picked up in other places,” said Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who has investigated the e-mail campaign’s circulation and origins, “and it’s an example of how the Internet has given power to sources we would have never taken seriously at another point in time.”

Ms. Allen said Mr. Martin’s original work found amplification in 2006, when a man named Ted Sampley wrote an article painting Mr. Obama as a secret practitioner of Islam. Quoting liberally from Mr. Martin, the article circulated on the Internet, and its contents eventually found their way into various e-mail messages, particularly an added claim that Mr. Obama had attended “Jakarta’s Muslim Wahhabi schools. Wahhabism is the radical teaching that created the Muslim terrorists who are now waging jihad on the rest of the world.”

Mr. Obama for two years attended a Catholic school in Indonesia, where he was taught about the Bible, he wrote in “Dreams From My Father,” and for two years went to an Indonesian public school open to all religions, where he was taught about the Koran.

Mr. Sampley, coincidentally, is a Vietnam veteran and longtime opponent of Mr. McCain and Senator John Kerry, both of whom he accused of ignoring his claims that American prisoners were left behind in Vietnam. He previously portrayed Mr. McCain as a “Manchurian candidate.” Speaking of Mr. Martin’s influence on his Obama writings, Mr. Sampley said, “I keyed off of his work.”

Mr. Martin’s depictions of Mr. Obama as a secret Muslim have found resonance among some Jewish voters who have received e-mail messages containing various versions of his initial theory, often by new authors and with new twists.

In his original press release, Mr. Martin wrote that he was personally “a strong supporter of the Muslim community.” But, he wrote of Mr. Obama, “it may well be that his concealment is meant to endanger Israel.” He added, “His Muslim religion would obviously raise serious questions in many Jewish circles.”

Yet in various court papers, Mr. Martin had impugned Jews.

A motion he filed in a 1983 bankruptcy case called the judge “a crooked, slimy Jew who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race.”

In another motion, filed in 1983, Mr. Martin wrote, “I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did.”

In an interview, Mr. Martin denied some statements against Jews attributed to him in court papers, blaming malicious judges for inserting them.

But in his “48 Hours” interview in 1993, he affirmed a different anti-Semitic part of the affidavit that included the line about the Holocaust, saying, “The record speaks for itself.”

When asked Friday about an assertion in his court papers that “Jews, historically and in daily living, act through clans and in wolf pack syndrome,” he said, “That one sort of rings a bell.”

He said he was not anti-Semitic. “I was trying to show that everybody in the bankruptcy court was Jewish and I was not Jewish,” he said, “and I was being victimized by religious bias.”

In discussing the denial of his admission to the Illinois bar, Mr. Martin said the psychiatric exam listing him as having a “moderately severe personality defect” was spitefully written by an evaluator he had clashed with.

Mr. Martin, who says he is from a well-off banking and farming family, is clearly pleased with his newfound attention. But, he said, others have added to his work in “scary” ways.

“They Google ‘Islam’ and ‘Obama’ and my stuff comes up and they take that and kind of use that — like a Christmas tree, and they decorate it,” he said. For instance, he said, he did not necessarily ascribe to a widely circulated e-mail message from the Israeli right-wing activist Ruth Matar, which includes the false assertion, “If Obama were elected, he would be the first Arab-American president.”

He said he had at least come to “accept” Mr. Obama’s word that he had found Jesus Christ. His intent, he said, was only to educate.

Original here

In Battleground Virginia, a Tale of Two Ground Games

Freshly painted placards rest outside a McCain headquarters Virginia.

If John McCain is as serious as he says about running a "respectful" campaign against an opponent he considers "a decent person," word hasn't yet trickled down to his newly opened storefront field office in Gainesville, Virginia.

No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Virginia since 1964, and most election years both campaigns pretty much ignore the state. This time, however, McCain is running behind Barack Obama in statewide polls, thanks in large part to the head start he got on the ground there. "We haven't seen a race like this in Virginia — ever," said state GOP Chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick. "The last time was 40 years ago, and they didn't run races like this."

Indeed, Frederick, a 33-year-old state legislator, hadn't even been born yet. But earlier this year Frederick unseated a moderate 71-year-old former lieutenant governor (who also happens to be Jenna Bush's father-in-law) to become head of the Virginia GOP, promising "bold new leadership" for a state party recently on the decline.

The McCain campaign invited me to visit Frederick and the Gainesville operation on Saturday morning, to get a first-hand glimpse of its ground game in Prince William County, Virginia, a fast-growing area about 30 miles from Washington, D.C.

With so much at stake, and time running short, Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: "Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon," he said. "That is scary." It is also not exactly true — though that distorted reference to Obama's controversial association with William Ayers, a former 60s radical, was enough to get the volunteers stoked. "And he won't salute the flag," one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, "We don't even know where Senator Obama was really born." Actually, we do; it's Hawaii.

Ground operations — the doughnut-fueled armies of volunteers who knock on doors and man the phone banks — are the trench warfare of political campaigns. These are the people charged with finding and persuading voters who might support their candidate, and then making sure they actually show up at the polls. A good ground operation might mean just an additional percentage point or two on Election Day, but in a close race, that margin could easily be the difference between winning and losing. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe calls his ground operation the "field goal unit," and it was one of the big reasons the Illinois Senator bested Hillary Clinton in the primaries. But Obama's team has yet to be tested against a Republican operation that was built and perfected over decades, culminating in the astonishing ground game that put George W. Bush over the top in 2004.

The Republicans wouldn't allow me to tag along with their volunteers, so I drove 30 minutes across the county to the Obama field office. Where the Gainesville GOP office that opened last week was still furnished only with a few folding tables and chairs (workers were hanging the McCain/Palin sign out front as I drove away), Obama's in Woodbridge has been up and running since July, and has the dingy, cluttered, lived-in feel that every campaign office eventually acquires. The campaign's "Votebuilder" software — with house-by-house data on every registered voter in the area — dominated a bank of computer screens, and the walls were covered with cartoons, volunteer signatures and lists of "star phonebankers." Young volunteers bustled in and out with stacks of clipboards and canvassing materials to hand to the volunteers who were showing up by the carful in the parking lot. Word had gotten out that a new load of yard signs had arrived, so they were handing those out to Obama supporters who had shown up asking for them.

The campaign handed me a packet of addresses and sent me out to meet Brian Varrieur. He's a 34-year-old lawyer who lives in Washington, D.C. and looks barely old enough to vote himself. This was the fifth weekend he returned to his parents' home in the neighborhood where he grew up to knock on doors for Obama. Brian is soft-spoken — not exactly a natural personality for this kind of work; back when his elementary school would hold candy-sale drives, "I was one of those kids who would get their next-door neighbor and their mom to buy some, and that was it," he told me. "But this [presidential election] really matters to me."

It must. Saturdays in the suburbs aren't the ideal time to find people at home. I followed Brian to 13 houses on his list, and no one answered at 10 of them. (He left an Obama brochure in the door of each.) At one, the woman at the door told him she was "leaning" toward McCain, though I thought she seemed more settled in her decision than that. At another, a teen-aged girl told him: "My dad is a super-strong Republican. You're probably at the wrong house." (He duly marked that down, to save future canvassers the trouble.) Still, the yard signs we saw suggested that this was in fact a neighborhood divided. We discovered that was true when we approached another house on the list and found a father and son raking the front yard. "I'm voting for McCain," the father told us. But his 19-year-old son, a college student home for the weekend, told us he plans to send in his absentee ballot for Obama. His reason? "Palin's a retard," he said. As for the lady of the house? McCain, the man said. "She has to live here. The kids I can kick out."

Original here


FINAL SUNDAY UPDATE: 15 Papers Endorse Obama, None for McCain

Mcainobama200la080808 As some you know, E&P is famous for charting every editorial endorsement for president, gaining a good deal of attention in this matter in 2004 -- we accurately predicted the outcome in 14 of the 15 key battleground states based solely on the endorsements. So far this year Obama leads McCain 26-9 (it's early) and has already picked up at least three papers that endorsed Bush in 2004. We will have a new chart on Monday-- here is what we ran on Friday.

The latest: Today, Obama picked up nine key newspaper endorsements in swing states, earning the nod from, among others, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Blade of Toledo, the Dayton Daily News, Asheville Citizen-Times in North Carolina, and the Wisconsin State Journal (which backed Bush in 2004) in Madison. The St. Louis daily called McCain, "the incredible shrinking man" who had made a horrific pick for his running mate. Joining the Obama team in battleground states were the Muskegon (Mich.) Chronicle, the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Express-Times and Springfield (Ohio) News. Six other major papers in an apparent non-swing state also backed Obama today: The Tennessean in Nashville and the San Bernardino Sun (which had backed Bush over Kerry), Contra Costa Times, The Herald of Monterrey, Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee in California. For quotes and more go to our site.

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Obama's 95% Illusion

One of Barack Obama's most potent campaign claims is that he'll cut taxes for no less than 95% of "working families." He's even promising to cut taxes enough that the government's tax share of GDP will be no more than 18.2% -- which is lower than it is today.

[Review & Outlook] AP

It's a clever pitch, because it lets him pose as a middle-class tax cutter while disguising that he's also proposing one of the largest tax increases ever on the other 5%. But how does he conjure this miracle, especially since more than a third of all Americans already pay no income taxes at all? There are several sleights of hand, but the most creative is to redefine the meaning of "tax cut."

For the Obama Democrats, a tax cut is no longer letting you keep more of what you earn. In their lexicon, a tax cut includes tens of billions of dollars in government handouts that are disguised by the phrase "tax credit." Mr. Obama is proposing to create or expand no fewer than seven such credits for individuals:

[Review & Outlook]

- A $500 tax credit ($1,000 a couple) to "make work pay" that phases out at income of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per couple.

- A $4,000 tax credit for college tuition.

- A 10% mortgage interest tax credit (on top of the existing mortgage interest deduction and other housing subsidies).

- A "savings" tax credit of 50% up to $1,000.

- An expansion of the earned-income tax credit that would allow single workers to receive as much as $555 a year, up from $175 now, and give these workers up to $1,110 if they are paying child support.

- A child care credit of 50% up to $6,000 of expenses a year.

- A "clean car" tax credit of up to $7,000 on the purchase of certain vehicles.

Here's the political catch. All but the clean car credit would be "refundable," which is Washington-speak for the fact that you can receive these checks even if you have no income-tax liability. In other words, they are an income transfer -- a federal check -- from taxpayers to nontaxpayers. Once upon a time we called this "welfare," or in George McGovern's 1972 campaign a "Demogrant." Mr. Obama's genius is to call it a tax cut.

The Tax Foundation estimates that under the Obama plan 63 million Americans, or 44% of all tax filers, would have no income tax liability and most of those would get a check from the IRS each year. The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis estimates that by 2011, under the Obama plan, an additional 10 million filers would pay zero taxes while cashing checks from the IRS.

The total annual expenditures on refundable "tax credits" would rise over the next 10 years by $647 billion to $1.054 trillion, according to the Tax Policy Center. This means that the tax-credit welfare state would soon cost four times actual cash welfare. By redefining such income payments as "tax credits," the Obama campaign also redefines them away as a tax share of GDP. Presto, the federal tax burden looks much smaller than it really is.

The political left defends "refundability" on grounds that these payments help to offset the payroll tax. And that was at least plausible when the only major refundable credit was the earned-income tax credit. Taken together, however, these tax credit payments would exceed payroll levies for most low-income workers.

It is also true that John McCain proposes a refundable tax credit -- his $5,000 to help individuals buy health insurance. We've written before that we prefer a tax deduction for individual health care, rather than a credit. But the big difference with Mr. Obama is that Mr. McCain's proposal replaces the tax subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance that individuals don't now receive if they buy on their own. It merely changes the nature of the tax subsidy; it doesn't create a new one.

There's another catch: Because Mr. Obama's tax credits are phased out as incomes rise, they impose a huge "marginal" tax rate increase on low-income workers. The marginal tax rate refers to the rate on the next dollar of income earned. As the nearby chart illustrates, the marginal rate for millions of low- and middle-income workers would spike as they earn more income.

Some families with an income of $40,000 could lose up to 40 cents in vanishing credits for every additional dollar earned from working overtime or taking a new job. As public policy, this is contradictory. The tax credits are sold in the name of "making work pay," but in practice they can be a disincentive to working harder, especially if you're a lower-income couple getting raises of $1,000 or $2,000 a year. One mystery -- among many -- of the McCain campaign is why it has allowed Mr. Obama's 95% illusion to go unanswered.

Original here

Bush critic wins 2008 Nobel for economics


By Anna Ringstrom, Sven Nordenstam and Jon Hurdle

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - U.S. economist Paul Krugman, a fierce critic of the Bush administration for policies that he argues led to the current financial crisis, won the 2008 Nobel prize for economics on Monday.

The Nobel committee said the award was for Krugman's work that helps explain why some countries dominate international trade, starting with research published nearly 30 years ago.

While the research for which he won the prize was not obviously partisan, Krugman is best known as the author of columns and a blog called "The Conscience of a Liberal" for the New York Times. He has long been tipped as a likely winner.

A professor at Princeton University, the 55-year-old Krugman argues that President George W. Bush's zeal for deregulation and loose fiscal policies helped spark the current banking meltdown.

He said news of the prize took him by surprise. "I took the call stark naked as I was about to step into the shower," he told a news conference at Princeton on Monday afternoon.

Speaking by telephone to a news conference earlier, Krugman offered a snap analysis on the turbulent times.

"We are now witnessing a crisis that is as severe as the crisis that hit Asia in the 90s. This crisis bears some resemblance to the Great Depression."

Praising world leaders' efforts to staunch the financial bleeding, particularly in Europe, he added: "I'm slightly less terrified today than I was on Friday."

World policy makers met at the weekend, after a black week on financial markets, to agree on radical measures to rescue banks, revive liquidity and avert a global recession.

It was the second year in a row that a major Nobel prize was awarded to an American known for his strong criticism of Bush -- last year's peace prize went to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore for his work on climate change.

Asked at the Princeton news conference if he saw a trend of Nobels going to people who were anti-Bush, Krugman said "A lot of intellectuals are anti-Bush."

The prize committee dismissed any suggestion its choice was influenced by the current crisis or political considerations.

"I don't think the committee has ever taken a political stance," committee secretary Peter Englund told Reuters. "The real, dramatic crisis is an event of the last month or so, which is in practice after the committee took its decision."

COMMON SENSE VOICE

Krugman's latest column in the New York Times, published on Monday, praised Britain for thinking clearly and acting quickly to address the crisis, unlike the United States. He mused: Did British leader Gordon Brown just save world markets?

Britain unveiled a plan last week to bolster ailing banks, and on Monday it waded in with 37 billion pounds ($64 billion) of capital, a move that could make the state the banks' main owner.

Readers of Krugman's blog posted hundreds of comments congratulating him as an accessible voice of common sense.

"Sometimes it feels as though you are the only sane person in America," said a writer who identified himself as Martin Gruner Larsen.

Krugman said he was encouraged by recent steps to address the crisis and said it was vital there should be a combination of capital injection and guarantees for banks.

Commenting on policy proposals from the two U.S. presidential candidates, he said: "It would be kind of nice if we did have a sophisticated government, but that may change."

Asked about accountability for the crisis, Krugman said the financial system had outgrown the regulatory system.

"There is a lot of grotesque greed under this crisis but greed isn't illegal," he said.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the prestigious 10 million crown ($1.4 million) award recognized Krugman's formulation of a new theory that addresses what drives worldwide urbanization.

"He has thereby integrated the previously disparate research fields of international trade and economic geography," the committee said. "Krugman's approach is based on the premise that many goods and services can be produced more cheaply in a long series, a concept generally known as economies of scale."

Krugman's theory clarifies why trade is dominated by countries that not only have similar conditions but also trade in similar products.

(Writing by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Charles Dick and Philip Barbara)

Original here

Big Media Websites Can't Admit Obama Is Over 270

by: Chris Bowers

Here are the latest electoral projections from independent, small media electoral forecasting websites:

Election Projection: Obama 364-174
Electoral-Vote.com: Obama 349, McCain 174, 15 tied
Fivethirtyeight: Obama 347.6-190.4 McCain
Pollster.com: Obama 320, McCain 158, Toss-up 60
Real Clear Politics: Obama 277, McCain 158, Toss-up 103

There are many more, but I'll stop there. The key point is that all small media election projection websites, including the Republican Election Projection and Real Clear Politics, have Obama over 270 electoral votes. This is because polls now objectively show that Obama is well over 270 electoral votes. However, none of the big, and so-called liberal, media websites show Obama over 270 right now. Every single one is even more favorable to McCain than Real Clear Politics:

MSNBC: Obama 264-174 McCain
CNN: Obama 264-174 McCain
New York Times: Obama 260--200 McCain

None of these websites can admit what is patently obvious to even Republican poll watchers right now: Obama is over 270 outside the margin of error. The inability of these big media sites to simply admit reality--reality that is evident in their own reporting about McCain playing from well behind right now--is pathetic.

Maybe they are afraid of being accused of pro-Obama bias (probably). Maybe they are just biased toward McCain (possibly). Maybe they just suck at electoral forecasting (definitely). Maybe they are invested in a close campaign (absolutely). Whatever it is, you would be well served to never, ever listen to big media for election forecasts and horserace information. They just don't have it. Stick to the small media independent websites, since we pretty only exist because the big media websites suck so bad at this stuff. So much information is publicly available now that a few nerds obsessed with poll numbers are much better sources for election information than you will every get from big media. The lack of depth in horserace coverage on major news websites is actually how I discovered the blogosphere myself back in 2002.

Update: I should have mentioned that I came up with the idea for this post after reading a comment by Chachy yesterday.

Chris Bowers :: Big Media Websites Can't Admit Obama Is Over 270

Original here

Obama did not ask to delay security agreement, Iraqi FM says

The Iraqi foreign minister weighed in Sunday on a stateside campaign trail controversy.
The Iraqi foreign minister weighed in Sunday on a stateside campaign trail controversy.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama did not urge Iraqi officials to delay a decision on a security agreement with the United States, Iraq's foreign minister told CNN on Sunday.

The statement by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari refutes a recent published report and a statement by Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that Obama tried to influence Iraqi politicians negotiating with the United States to score political points.

Fact Check: What did Obama tell the Iraqis?

Obama "never, ever discouraged us not to sign the agreement," Zebari said. "I think this was misrepresented, and I have clarified this case in a number of interviews back in the United States recently."

The Washington Times reported Friday that in June, Obama told Iraqi leaders in Baghdad that an agreement between the United States and the leaders to allow U.S. troops to stay in the country after 2008 should not go into effect unless it had congressional approval.

The newspaper quoted Samir Sumaidaie, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States, about a June 16 telephone conversation between Zebari and Obama.

But the article did not contain a comment from Zebari.

The campaign of Obama's Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, argued that Obama's call interfered with U.S. efforts to reach a "status of forces agreement" with the Iraqi government. The United States and Iraq have yet to announce an agreement despite numerous reports that one was near.

During a Friday fund-raiser in Madeira, Ohio, Palin said Obama tried to influence the negotiations "in a way that would set back America's cause there, while advancing his campaign here."

Original here

How McCain Will Steal the Election from Obama (Sort Of)

Imagine an election where one of the participants calls foul. Investigations are launched or at least called for. Prosecutors raise the specter of charges, the U.S. attorney and FBI get involved. No voter fraud is ever actually found. But by the time that conclusion is reached, the myth has been solidified both to soothe the loser's supporters and condemn the winner.

Sound familiar? Sound like the recent ACORN scandal?

Well, actually I'm talking about the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. That Nixon was cheated out of a win is the stuff of legend on the Right. The allegations say that Kennedy loyalists fixed the vote counts in Illinois and Texas--swinging 51 electoral votes and a majority in the Electoral College to Kennedy. In more hyperbolic versions there is alleged involvement by the mob, the Teamsters Union or legendary Chicago mayor Richard Daley.

The story goes on that Nixon, "for the good of the country," conceded honorably and exited the scene. No matter that Nixon was later chased out of the White House for cheating in an election. The myth endures.

This whole story--maybe to be replayed with Obama playing Kennedy and McCain playing Nixon--is a canard. It is a fable. A lie made up by the conservative movement to hold together their fraying coalition.

In 2008 the stakes are bigger than they've ever been before for conservatives and the canard is that much more important to them.

In the case of Obama the conservative movement is lining up a serious of story elements. They are:

• Obama was a community organizer.
• ACORN, a group that does community organizing, has committed voter fraud.
• Obama is from Chicago.
• You know what happens in elections in Chicago. Remember the 1960 election.

The story is half true and half lies. As we all know, Barack Obama is from Chicago and was a community organizer. Those are the only true parts of the conservative story. But the other two facts are myths: the 1960 election wasn't stolen (says the conclusion of recounts and investigations in 1960 and numerous academic studies since). And, ACORN has not committed voter fraud. Not one bit.

The facts about ACORN are worth getting out. ACORN is an organization that, among other things, registers low-income people to vote. One of the ways they do this is to hire door-to-door canvassers from the neighborhoods they are working in. This sort of work is tightly regulated. So, when one of the thousands of people they give jobs to doesn't do their work right and brings back bogus or phony voter registration cards, the law REQUIRES that ACORN turn the forms in to the voter registration office. The law, rightly, doesn't want anybody throwing out voter registration forms for any reason.

But ACORN goes a step farther. They have people assigned to do quality control on all the cards--calling people on the forms after they fill them out. When they find bad information on the cards they attach a cover sheet to the card but, as mentioned above, they turn in the cards as required by law. The effect is that a few bad canvassers or a poorly run office will mean that bad cards are submitted as part of the normal process. But ACORN has done everything possible to make sure voting officials know to check the forms.

The sad fact is that in at least one state--Nevada--the voting officials disregarded ACORN's cover sheets flagging the voter registration forms. That should have never happened. The resulting blowup was a scandal in search of a scandal.

The stunning con of this whole thing is the assumption that bad voter registration cards being submitted will lead to vote fraud. If somebody submits a card for Mickey Mouse it isn't like Mr. Mouse is going to show up to vote. There is no voter fraud if nobody votes.

But the big story here is what the Right is doing. Their attacks on ACORN open up the door for two things.

First, the ACORN myth allows the Republicans to do more purging of the voter rolls--the process of removing people from the voter rolls because of arbitrary anomalies in the voter registration databases. Richard L Hasen, author of the Election Law Blog and a distinguished law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles recently wrote, "Careless purging--driven by unsubstantiated fears about voter fraud--can lead to many eligible voters being incorrectly removed from the polls." Already in Ohio the Republican Party is pushing for more purging and they found a federal judge who agreed citing ACORN's activities.

Second, in the event that campaigning, purging and intimidating voters doesn't work, the Right is creating a myth like they did in 1960. They are creating the myth of a stolen election. Conservatives plan to claim that ACORN and Barack Obama stole the election. Their hope is to steal the legitimacy of what is looking like a massive repudiation of Bush, conservatives and the Republican Party. The Right plans to steal the election by trying to steal the legitimate defeat of them by progressive forces.

And why wouldn't they? The entire Republican coalition could be shattered with this election. White suburban voters who once voted Republican on tax issues are running away from Republicans on a host of issues--including taxes. Independent are looking more and more like Democratic voters. Barack Obama may even win a majority of male voters. All of them are joining with urban votes, voters of color, young people, working class union members and others to form a long-term governing majority for progressives--a progressive majority.

Conservatives are scared of a progressive majority. And they're going to lie, cheat and steal to prevent it from happening. But they can only be successful if we let them.

The best way to deflate the conservative fable is to win with an overwhelming landslide that guarantees there won't be a dispute of the results.

We also need to confront the Republican vote purging and suppression. Already big efforts by the Obama campaign, the DNC and independent groups are working on this. Progressives and Democrats are united in this effort.

But we also need to make sure the ACORN canard doesn't get to live in daylight. It is time to circle the wagons and make sure John McCain and the Right can't steal the election...even if we win.

For progressives, the ball is in our court.

Original here

Obama Aides: Record Cash Raised In September, Polls Show McCain Ads Backfired

With the presidential campaign approaching its final stretch, Barack Obama finds himself in an enviable position.

One official close to the campaign said that September's fundraising haul set a new record, surpassing the $66 million Obama raised in August. Another aide, asked about the campaign's take, would only describe it: "big."

Moreover, the assault that John McCain has launched against Obama's character - including repeated criticisms of the Illinois Democrat's association to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers - has largely backfired. Obama sources shared internal campaign polling figures that show a sharp fall in positive feelings for the Republican ticket. Following the most recent spat of negative ads, they say, McCain's unfavorable rating has gone over 50 percent, notably higher than anything detected in recent public polling.

Gov. Sarah Palin is faring just as poorly if not worse. In New Hampshire, an official with knowledge of internal polling says the Alaska Republican's favorable rating has nosedived to 36 percent, with 56 percent viewing her unfavorably.

Even within Republican circles it seems there is a growing sentiment that McCain's recent strategy has had a blow-back effect. On Sunday, the Weekly Standard's William Kristol called the negative tactics "stupid."

"The main thing to say about these negative ads -- which, I don't think, almost none of them has been across the line -- they haven't worked," he said on Fox News Sunday. "Obama's favorable rating is as high as it's been in three months. It's actually gone up in the last month. So it's a stupid campaign."

Conservative writers George Will and Paul Gigot, as well as more than a handful of Republican officials, expressed equal amounts of doubt or disparagement with how the Arizona Republican has handled his campaign in recent days.

And yet, the McCain campaign seems content to double down on its recent course of action. On Sunday night it was announced that the Republican National Committee would make a new push - in the form of a web video - to raise the Ayer's issue.

At this point, Obama might welcome the move. His campaign's data suggests that the remaining undecideds are those voters who tend to be non-political -- a group that does not respond well to negative advertisements. As such, much of what Chicago headquarters plans to do going forward will echo the economic message it has pushed in recent weeks.

There will, however, be one new ripple. On Monday, Obama's communication's shop is expected to go on the offense on issues of voter protection after a week in which Republicans cried foul about registration efforts in various states and painted the community organizing group ACORN as a criminal enterprise.

Obama aides will attack Republicans over efforts to disenfranchise voters in several states, and announce a voter protection campaign involving hundreds of volunteer lawyers around the country.

Original here

Democrats On Track For Best Senate Elections in 60 Years

Democrats have had their fair share of disastrous defeats in Senate elections. In 1994’s “Republican Revolution,” the GOP swiped eight seats from underneath incumbent Democrats to take hold of the majority. In 1980, Republicans rode Ronald Reagan’s coattails to post a 12-seat gain after a long stretch of Democratic rule. But this time around, it’s the Democrats’ turn to take a few seats.

At the beginning of the 2008 election cycle, the most optimistic Democratic strategists were crossing their fingers for Democrats to pick up four or five seats, increasing their razor-thin majority and giving them some much-needed breathing room. But with alarming economic conditions and the strongest Democratic presidential candidate in more than a decade, the new projections have some party insiders dreaming about a veto-proof supermajority of 60 Senate seats in Democratic hands.

The last time Democrats were that successful, the year was 1958, and the Senate Majority Leader was future president Lyndon B. Johnson. The party added 16 seats that year.

In 2008, Democrats look all but certain to add eight seats, but could end up with as many as eleven. At the very least, that would bring the Senate makeup from 51 (49 Democrats + 2 Independents who caucus with them) to 49 (Republicans) to a 59-41 margin.

Both Democrats and Republicans are reasonably certain that retirements among Republican incumbents in Colorado, Virginia, and New Mexico will result in Democratic victories. Moreover, GOP Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire has fallen far behind his Democratic challenger- former Governor Jeanne Shaheen- making the Granite State a likely pickup as well.

The real surprising races have cropped up in the last few weeks. In Oregon, Democrats had initially thought they’d seen a weak candidate in Gordon Smith. However, an early fundraising advantage and a reasonably moderate voting record allowed the Republican incumbent to mount a double-digit lead of his own as late as August. But with the return of major focus to the economy, Smith’s prospects have tanked. As of now, Democratic State Senator Jeff Merkley is leading by a slight margin.

Unlike Oregon, Alaska was never really in the Democrats’ sights. The reliably conservative rural state has had a strong history of Republican representation in both houses of Congress stretching back to the 1970s. But corruption allegations- and eventually indictments- gave Democrats an opening. Now, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate- Ted Stevens- is fighting to keep up with Anchorage Mayor Nick Begich in a race to keep his job. At three or more points ahead, Begich looks set to take the seat, as Stevens finds himself in the middle of his own corruption trial at the same time.

Minnesota had been another place where Democrats had some early hope that faded as time wore on, largely as a result of the tight margin that got Republican Norm Coleman elected in the first place six years ago. Former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Al Franken dropped the jokes and his primary opponents, and with a little help from a third party candidate (who has been siphoning crucial support from Coleman) and the economic crisis, has emerged the frontrunner in the final weeks of the campaign.

North Carolina was a lot like Alaska in that no one expected it to be a competitive race. But unlike in Alaska, the Democratic candidate isn’t as successful as she is because of a corrupt incumbent. Democratic State Senator Kay Hagan has slowly chipped away at Elizabeth Dole’s double-digit lead of a few months ago to take a five-point lead of her own.

Maintaining their leads in these states would push Democrats to a 59-41 majority. But competitive races in three other seats have some hoping for even more. In Georgia, Republican Saxby Chambliss has watched his sure-reelection evaporate in the wake of the financial bailout. What had been a 20-point lead is now an even tie with challenger Jim Martin. In Mississippi, the race to fill the vacancy left by Trent Lott is heating up. Former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove is hoping that newly registered Democrats will make up for what is only a slight lead in favor of the Republican who was appointed to replace Lott, former Rep. Roger Wicker. And finally, Democrats are hoping that Democrat Bruce Lunsford’s recent surge in Kentucky could knock Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell out of a job. The latest polls suggest a dead heat in the Bluegrass State.

Original here

106-year-old voter chooses Obama

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Sister Cecilia Gaudette
Sister Cecilia has lived in the convent in Rome for 50 years

A 106-year-old American nun living in a convent in Rome could well be the oldest person to vote in the 2008 US Presidential election.

Sister Cecilia Gaudette, who last voted for President Eisenhower in 1952, has registered to vote and says she will vote for Democrat Barack Obama.

Although hard of hearing, she keeps herself informed by reading newspapers and watching TV at the convent.

"I'm encouraged by Senator Obama," she says.

"I've never met him, but he seems to be a good man with a good private life. That's the first thing. Then he must be able to govern," she adds.

Sitting in her modest office in the convent where she has lived for the past 50 years, the diminutive nun appears uninterested in the row inside the American Catholic church over Senator Obama's support for pro-choice policies on abortion.

Asked about her hopes for the US under an Obama presidency, she says: "Peace abroad. I don't worry about the Iraq war because I can't do anything about it. Lord knows how it will end."

"It is very complicated," she said. "Those Eastern people are not like we are."

But despite taking part in the 4 November election, Sister Cecilia does not intend to return to the US.

"I have no plans for the future. I am too old to go back to the US. Life has changed too much."

But she still watches "very important events" on TV. The election comes under this category.

Original here

Ultra-Right Wing Is Now The New Taliban.

Posted by Mikey

They are cultlike in their recruiting practices, brainwashing members to believe they are of no substance outside of the organization. They claim to be a form of ‘unorganized’ religion, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. They disseminate information forcefully through sermons characterized by the faithful being rewarded with eternal life and the unfaithful being punished with eternal damnation by fire and brimstone in the depths of hell. They teach that they are unjustly persecuted by the evil of society and stress that a faithful and good member will fight for the will of God to be carried out. They reach out to the poor, distraught, and needy and promise health, happiness, and fellowship.

Sounds pretty familiar to what the Muslim extremist teach their suicide bombers, doesn’t it?

It’s hard to believe how or why, but there really exists a subculture in America that is militaristic, hateful, vengeful, irrational and ambitious. These extremists are cancerous to progressive society and similar groups have had similar effect throughout the history of civilization. America’s version of the Taliban consists of fundamentalist Christians and their cult-like behavior.

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking about all Christians here. The vast, vast majority of religious people, both Christian and not, are reasonable. They believe in progression, adaptation, evolution of society, and to these followers, no disdain is meant to be directed. However, inside the vast spoils of Christendom exists a backwards society of extremists who believe that those who don’t outwardly adhere to a set of very strict, bible based moral standards that directly conflict with human nature, are agents of evil.

It comes as no surprise that these people are oblivious to the irrationality of their thoughts and actions, but it is scary as hell. Undoubtedly, these people are very dangerous. Aside from spreading hatred towards homosexuals, women, and minorities, as of late they’ve successfully gained some political power. George Bush is their savior, a modern day Jesus, and if you wonder who the 25% of people that think Bush is doing a good job are, well folks, now you know.

These people support their own at all costs. Through this mechanism they are able to survive and flourish. While others spend time doing things to help the communities they live in, build actual relationships with the people around them, these people attend numerous church services where they are encouraged to spread hatred. They are told their leaders are no different than they are, that they are just as specials in the eyes of God, but their leaders have a better understanding of the will of God and have been anointed by the hand of God. They believe that these people hear directly from God, having been annointed by the holy spirit, and thus are more knowledgeable about choices they should make, personally and politically.

It’s scary to think how much of a cult these fundamentalists are, and if you can’t see how nutzo they are based on their recent media moments surrounding John McCain and Sarah Palin on the campaign trail, then you need to open your eyes. They make statements like, “Obama is an Arab” and “Pray for everyone to vote for McCain, because those who hate you, support Obama.” This is real folks, very real.

It might seem all too innocent, but don’t make the same mistake we’ve made with other extremist organizations in the past. We let the Taliban and others flourish, organize, and it was only a matter of time before they became violent. It’s not that far away here. They already preach hate and destruction for those who don’t support them, encourage their members to not associate with societies in which they live, and various other sociopath behaviors. They’ve blown up abortion clinics, killing innocent civilians, doctors, and others. They are responsible for the 1996 Olympic bombing. They believe that the end times, of which they believe we are in, will be characterized by an army from God slaughtering all who don’t faithfully believe. It actually says the ground will run red with blood.

You can’t reason with them, much like the people who bombed the world trade center. You just have to realize that they are a huge threat and seek to minimize their impact on civilization. Modern day barbarians, they will seek to destroy all that is modern about America.

This election is a crossroads for progressive Americans. The Republican platform tried to distance itself from fundamentalism, but realized that a huge block of its voters are for some reason Republican, and therefor had to be catered to. They chose Sarah Palin, an unqualified, self-righteous idiot, to be vice president in order to get the buy in from this reluctant group. John McCain is not a crazy fundamentalist, but he supports them, he supports Sarah Palin.

As the realization that America is going the opposite way of their desire, this group will get more vocal and if left unchecked, a lot more dangerous. Open your eyes and check out fundamentalist groups who support McCain, the truth will shock you.

America, by voting for reason, by voting for sensibility, by voting for Obama, we’ll be much closer to becoming the nation our founders imagined us to be.

Check this out: Republicans Turn Back On Palin: Call her a CU*T!

CHECK OUT OUR OTHER POST ON DIGG FOR MORE! <— Abe Lincoln: Just another Chicago Politican

[edit: this edit was nessecary because it seeks to do exactly what this article decries as evil, that is, make blanket statements without giving appropriate evidence. While we do believe that support for Obama is the correct course of action for all freethinkers and no not equate his liberal tendencies to be communistic, we don't feel that an explanation of this policy is suited to the topic of this article. Therefor, we'll edit out this part and tackle the topic of "Obama is not a socialist" later on.]

[further edit: You may have noticed that there is a lot of activity surrounding this post in the comment section. The comment section is not a great medium for discussion. We've opened up this forum for you to discuss. This forum is very rudimentary, so be easy.]

CHECK OUT OUR OTHER POST ON DIGG FOR MORE! <— Abe Lincoln: Just another Chicago Politican

Original here

GOP's Defense: She Shot the Sheriff, But She Did Not Shoot the Deputy

It's hard out there for a shill. A bipartisan panel in Alaska finds that Sarah Palin abused her power and broke the law, and the best defense the campaign can muster is that she "acted within her proper and lawful authority in firing Walt Monegan." Hey, she did some things that weren't illegal.

Yes, Officer, I robbed that bank. But I didn't break any traffic laws on my way home.

It sounds like they're working up to that shopworn Scooter Libby defense, "there was no underlying crime." That's the phrase that showed a lot of seemingly legitimate right-wing political commentators to be nothing more than cynical partisans - so much so that they would cheerfully defend naked criminality in defense of their political interests. (We're not naming names, Bill Kristol.)

It's an incomprehensible defense. Any crime is, after all, illegal by definition. Think about it (if you really have to think about it): You tell me you're going to frame me for something I didn't do, so I murder you. According to this logic I should go free, because there was no underlying crime. And not only should I go free, I should still be considered a worthy candidate for high office.

Sounds ridiculous, and it is. Yet you will see one partisan after another make exactly that argument in a slightly-disguised way in the next three weeks. Man. You could almost feel sorry for them, couldn't you? That is, if so much weren't at stake.

If McCain and Palin are elected -- which isn't impossible even now -- Americans can now look forward to the spectacle of Todd Palin, boots up on the Vice President's (or the President's desk), making one call after another to settle old family scores. And we'll see Todd and Sarah's friends in the Alaskan Independence Party come to Washington, too. That's the party whose founder said he "hated" America and her flag, and who was murdered in an illegal explosives deal gone bad. Sound good to you? Then by all means vote for them.

Those Palins. They come across in this report like frontier Macbeths, the Borgias of Wasilla. It's not fair to say they're a cross between the Beverly Hillbillies and the Manson Family. But they are scary, and they sure aren't the "regular Christian working folks" we've been led to believe they are. I know a lot of evangelicals, and none of them pal around with separatist radicals. And none of them are as straight-up mean and vindictive as this report shows the Palins to be. (Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. Aren't the rest of us supposed to forgive?)

It's not like they didn't know what they were doing, either. Monehan made it clear to Gov. Palin that her actions in pressuring him were a violation of state ethics law. She didn't care, and she didn't stop. L'etat, c'est moi. (Or "c'est nous," I guess, since she was letting her husband abuse power on her behalf too.)

But as frightening as a Palin Vice Presidency (and possible Presidency) would be, this story is really about John McCain. This investigation was already underway when McCain picked her. That tells us volumes about his selfishness, his impulsiveness, and his willingness to take reckless risks with the nation in pursuit of his own selfish interests.

The day this report came out we saw McCain desperately trying to suppress the lynch-mob behavior of the crowds he's riled up -- at least until he's left the building. He looked like Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia, trying to get all those brooms to stop bringing him buckets of water. But they won't stop, because he's cast such a clumsy spell.

The lesson Mickey learned in that episode was that a little knowledge isn't enough, and that you shouldn't try to be the boss if you're not ready or able. Maybe Sen. McCain ought to watch that movie again the next time he fires up the DVD player on Cindy's private jet.

You know what's strange? I never agreed with his politics, but I really used to like John McCain. I even respected him.

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Concern in G.O.P. After Rough Week for McCain

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, waving to supporters on Saturday at a rally in Davenport, Iowa.

By ADAM NAGOURNEY and ELISABETH BUMILLER

After a turbulent week that included disclosures about Gov. Sarah Palin and signs that Senator John McCain was struggling to strike the right tone for his campaign, Republican leaders said Saturday that they were worried Mr. McCain was heading for defeat unless he brought stability to his presidential candidacy and settled on a clear message to counter Senator Barack Obama.

Again and again, party leaders said in interviews that while they still believed that Mr. McCain could win over voters in the next 30 days, they were concerned that he and his advisers seemed to be adrift in dealing with an extraordinarily challenging political battleground and a crisis on Wall Street.

The expressions of concern came after a particularly difficult week for Mr. McCain. On Friday night, new questions arose about his choice of Ms. Palin as his running mate after an investigation by the Alaska Legislature concluded that she had abused her power in trying to orchestrate the firing of her former brother-in-law, a state trooper.

“I think you’re seeing a turning point,” said Saul Anuzis, the Republican chairman in Michigan, where Mr. McCain has decided to stop campaigning. “You’re starting to feel real frustration because we are running out of time. Our message, the campaign’s message, isn’t connecting.”

Tommy Thompson, a Republican who is a former governor of Wisconsin, said it would be difficult for Mr. McCain to win in his state but not impossible, particularly if he campaigned in conservative Democratic parts of the state. Asked if he was happy with Mr. McCain’s campaign, Mr. Thompson replied, “No,” and he added, “I don’t know who is.”

In Pennsylvania, Robert A. Gleason Jr., the state Republican chairman, said he was concerned that Mr. McCain’s increasingly aggressive tone was not working with moderate voters and women in the important southeastern part of a state that is at the top of Mr. McCain’s must-win list.

“They’re not as susceptible to attack ads,” Mr. Gleason said. “I worry about the southeast. Obama is making inroads.”

Several party leaders said Mr. McCain needed to settle on a single message in the final weeks of the campaign and warned that his changing day-to-day dialogue — a welter of evolving economic proposals, mixed with on-again-off-again attacks on Mr. Obama’s character — was not breaking through and was actually helping Mr. Obama in his effort to portray Mr. McCain as erratic.

“The main thing he needs to do,” said Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota, “is focus on a single message — a single, concise or clear-cut message, and stick with that over the next 30 days, regardless of what happens.

“He’s had a lot of attack lines. But it’s time to choose.”

John C. Danforth, a retired Republican senator from Missouri, said Mr. McCain should turn his attention mainly to drawing contrasts with Mr. Obama and “essentially go back to the basics.”

“I don’t think it’s enough to talk about earmarks incessantly,” Mr. Danforth said. “He’s made that point. You’ve got to get beyond that and talk about the very dramatic taxes and spending in the Obama program.”

Even that might not be enough, Mr. Danforth said. “This is a year where everything that could go in Obama’s favor is going in Obama’s favor,” he said. “Everything that could go against McCain is against him. It’s absolutely the worst kind of perfect storm.”

Mr. McCain’s advisers said they remained confident of victory.

“My sense of where things are: John McCain beat back what was a political climate that would have snuffed out any other candidate in the Republican Party,” said Nicolle Wallace, a senior adviser. “He’s beat back every hurdle that was ever placed in front of him.”

Mr. McCain acknowledged the challenge Saturday as he campaigned in Iowa, where President Bush won narrowly in 2004 but where polls show Mr. Obama with a healthy lead.

“I’d like to remind you that the political pundits have been wrong several times,” Mr. McCain said, “and they’re wrong because we will win the state of Iowa in November.”

Yet there were continued signs of confusion and turmoil in the McCain campaign, as his aides wrestled with conflicting advice, daunting poll numbers and criticism from state party leaders increasingly distressed with the way the campaign has been run.

Republicans said he had been damaged by several rallies last week in which supporters shouted insults and threats about Mr. Obama, prompting Mr. McCain on Friday night to chide audience members. His aides suggested that they were trying to find a balance between attacking Mr. Obama and painting him as untested and risky without stirring unruly crowd reactions.

Emotions are raw in the campaign, where Mr. McCain’s top advisers have voiced frustration at what they said was an unfair focus by the news media on the rowdy crowds.

“I think there have been quite a few reporters recently,” said Mr. McCain’s closest adviser, Mark Salter, “who have sort of implied, or made more than implications, that somehow we’re responsible for the occasional nut who shows up and yells something about Barack Obama.”

The difficulties of the McCain campaign have led some Republican leaders to express concern that he could end up dragging other Republican candidates down to defeat. “If Obama is able to run up big numbers around the country,” said Mr. Anuzis, the Michigan party chairman, “the potential for hurting down-ballot Republicans is very big.”

One sign of that has emerged in Nebraska, where Representative Lee Terry, a Republican, ran a newspaper advertisement featuring words of support for him from a woman identified as an “Obama-Terry voter.”

In this churning environment, Mr. McCain was getting conflicting advice from party leaders about what to do. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who was a rival of Mr. McCain for the Republican nomination, said Mr. McCain, who has offered scattershot proposals on the economy, should present a broad vision of how he would lead the country through the economic crisis.

“I’m talking about standing above the tactical alternatives that are being considered,” Mr. Romney said, “and establish an economic vision that is able to convince the American people that he really knows how to strengthen the economy.”

But no subject has more divided Republicans than the one that has been a matter of disagreement in the McCain camp: how directly to invoke Mr. Obama’s connection to his controversial former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., and William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground who has had a passing association with Mr. Obama over the years.

In Colorado, a traditionally Republican state that Mr. McCain is struggling to keep in his column, the party chairman, Dick Wadhams, urged Mr. McCain to hit the issue hard, arguing that it was fair game and could be highly effective in raising questions about Mr. Obama in the final weeks of the campaign. He said he was surprised Mr. McCain had failed to do so in the debate last week.

“I think those are legitimate insights into who Senator Obama is,” Mr. Wadhams said. “I do not think it is irrelevant to this election.”

But Fergus Cullen, the Republican chairman in New Hampshire, said Saturday that he thought it would be a mistake for Mr. McCain to go down that road, warning that it would turn off moderate voters in his state who have a history of supporting Mr. McCain.

“I don’t think he should be giving into elements of the base who have been asking him to be going after, using Wright, using Ayers,” Mr. Cullen said. “Think about it as an undecided persuadable voter.”

Although Mr. McCain has declared Mr. Wright off limits, the campaign has brought up Mr. Ayers. But the campaign appeared to step back a bit in raising that relationship Saturday. At a rally in Iowa, Mr. McCain stuck to his usual attacks on the Democratic nominee on taxes, the financial crisis and housing.

For her part, Ms. Palin appeared to pull back on the sharp jabs at a fund-raiser in Philadelphia.

“We just want to make sure that in this campaign, that we uphold the standards of tolerance and truth-telling,” she said. “There have been things said, of course, that have allowed those standards to be violated on both sides, on both tickets. We want to uphold those standards, and again it’s not mean-spirited, it’s not negative campaigning, when we call someone out on their record.”

Mr. Cullen said he still thought that Mr. McCain could win his state but acknowledged it would be difficult. “The national news has not been politically favorable for us in the last two or three weeks,” he said. “He either has to come up with a way to make the discussion on the economy reflect better on the Republicans or change the subject to something else.”

Mr. Romney referred to his own defeat at the hands of Mr. McCain in arguing that Mr. Obama should not be packing his bags for the White House quite yet. “Never count John McCain out,” he said. “Who knows? He has ground to make up. But he makes up ground in a big hurry. He did it in the primary.”

Michael M. Grynbaum and Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting.

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