Monday, May 28, 2007

John Edwards Marches On As Media Fails America

The arrogance of empire lives on. The Russians had their useless imperial court. The French nobility had their wigs, salons and vicious gossip. America has the Washington press corps and their ridiculous 'conventional wisdom.' Whether it's making jokes about Gore's style of talking despite how often the former vice president has nailed the issues of the day, or talking about John Edwards haircut and whether his war on poverty is 'sincere' or not, or sniggering when Nancy Pelosi goes to Europe for a global warming conference, the Washington press corps continues to collect their high salaries while poorly serving Americans as Bush stumbles into crisis after crisis while having his staff write pretty reports.

But a number of Democrats march on, doing their best in these strange times. One of them is presidential hopeful John Edwards who notices the poor quality of the Republican presidential field, characters unwilling to admit what a failure Bush has been and unwilling to admit the fiasco that has become Iraq. Here's the AP story in the International Herald Tribune:
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards argued on Thursday that President George W. Bush has made the United States less safe and that Republican candidates are trying to become "a bigger, badder George Bush."

Edwards' remarks came one day after he challenged the idea of a global fight against terrorism, calling it an ideological doctrine advanced by the Bush administration that has strained the U.S. military and emboldened terrorists.

Bush told reporters Thursday that Edwards' view was naive.

Edwards is naive? Bush is still reluctant to take off his training wheels after six years in office. How long should a president be given to get it right? Everything Bush has said about Iraq and why we're there has fallen apart. And if ever there was a naive politician, it was Paul Wolfowitz, Bush's number two man at the Pentagon and Bush's theorist for the war in Iraq. Wolfowitz had the arrogant and ultimately naive idea that if you apply just the right amount of force, not too much and not too little, you can get the exact result you want in the Middle East. Does anyone see anything like that happening?

Republicans should be held accountable for their foolish, uninformed comments about foreign policy. Puffing your chest out, fearmongering and otherwise not knowing what you're talking about is no way to run a foreign policy. Bush is an incompetent. Al Qaida is stronger today because their biggest recruiter is President Bush; because of Bush's inflammatory rhetoric, his incompetence and his unwillingness to make clear what we're trying to do in Iraq, we're worse off today than we were four years ago. The media shrugs and the war goes on, without purpose, without any real examination of the facts (particularly by the Republican presidential candidates who seem to vow to give us more of the same) and without the kind of leadership America deserves. Edwards may or may not win the Democratic nomination, let alone the presidency, but he clearly is one of the few responsible voices speaking out.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

John Edwards Gets Real on Foreign Policy

Psst, the Fox TV show '24,' is a fantasy. It has nothing to do with reality. Please pass this along, particularly to the Republican presidential candidates who seem fond of flapping their arms and beating their chests. Oh, one other thing. Pass along the fact that we had a very effective bipartisan foreign policy for fifty years and the professionals to go with it before George W. Bush showed up; in fact, it worked so well, that it warned President Bush before 9/11 that we were in danger of an attack from al Qaida. Bush did nothing and stayed on vacation in Crawford, Texas. Posturing is worthless if you don't know what you're doing.

It was pathetic listening to the Republican candidates shoot off their sound bites during their debate. They haven't learned a thing in six years. They think everything Bush is doing is great which shows how far the Republican Party has drifted from its tradition of pragmatism.

Here's a fact the Republican Party needs to get its arms around: Bush has lost over 3,000 Americans lives and spent over $500 billion to buy America the albatross we call Iraq. That albatross ain't doing nothing for us. And it certainly has nothing to do with the so-called 'war on terror,' whatever the heck that's supposed to mean. Al Qaida attacked us on 9/11; it was based in Afghanistan, not Iraq. It was led by Osama bin Laden. Al Qaida, Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden are real, they are tangible, but 'terrorism' is an abstraction you can make anything out of it that you want; you can move the goal posts, you can name this group or that group terrorists depending all too often on politics. You can say dropping a bomb on a city is not terrorism but a much smaller bomb in a grocery store is terrorism. You can say these guys are freedom fighters while these guys are terrorists and they use exactly the same tactics. You can say this Iraqi group is bad and this Iraqi group is good depending on how much money is flowing and who says what. It is an wretched way to do foreign policy.

On The Huffington Post, foreign policy expert Lorelei Kelly talks about terrorism and the honest tack that John Edwards takes on the issue:
John Edwards is getting a track record for blazing the trail on national security. He was the only Democratic contender at the first debate to openly criticize the label "war on terror." His lonely stance was unusual and illustrates how fearful we've become as a nation as well as alienated from the fundamental principles of our own democracy. Military experts --many veterans among them-- have been broadcasting their dissatisfaction about this label since the war began. Terrorism is a tactic, not a long term strategy. And the Bush Administration has been getting a free ride on this moniker since the post 9/11 world began. But then, understanding the integrity and the substance of the military would explode the neo-conservative election strategy that revolves around distorted labels of strength and weakness, patriotism and "America hating." We will endure these talking points until a group of wise Republicans decide to take their party back.

The strongest country in the world shouldn't have to rely on politicians like Bush and Giuliani who like to grandstand and posture without having the smarts to come up with an effective foreign policy. Yes, we need a strong defense. No, we do not need to get into the business of regime changes that feel more like an attempt at over-bearing colonial rule. The only people who have benefited from Bush's reckless foreign policy are his Republican friends in the defense industry. That is not something to celebrate or brag about. It is something to investigate and prosecute.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

The Continuing Uselessness of Sam Donaldson

The news is that Barack Obama is drawing large crowds. The news is that Barack Obama has something to say. In fact, the news is that most of the Democratic candidates (though Edwards and Obama in particular as far I'm concerned) have something to say. The news is that there is a leadership vacuum in Washington. The news is that the Republicans have run out of ideas. The news is that there are growing problems that the United States is facing while the Bush Administration pretends they don't exist. The news is that Democrats are beginning to focus on these problems and talking about solutions.

According to Sam Donaldson, however, the news is that a couple of old gentlemen fell asleep during Barack Obama's speech in Missouri in front of a crowd of 3,000 people. Here's the story:
A potentially embarrassing moment was caught on tape during a speech by Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama on Saturday. Video taken of the event in Kansas City, Mo. appeared to show at least two audience members sleeping.

Approximately 3,000 people attended the fundraiser for Obama, who is challenging Hillary Clinton and a handful of others for the Democratic nomination in 2008. ...


A video clip of the event that aired on ABC News showed two older gentlemen sitting in the crowd, with eyes closed.

During a roundtable discussion on Sunday morning, commentator Sam Donaldson even pointed out the potentially embarrassing screen capture...

On one level, what an extraordinary non-story! This is the best that Sam Donaldson can offer his viewers? This is journalism? This is the kind of analysis that Sam Donaldson is being paid some 7 figures for? It's embarrassing to American journalism.

On another level, there is a major story here. It's evidence once again of useless overpaid journalists who have been asleep for the last twenty years. Edward R. Murrow is turning over in his grave. This is what he fought for?

Does Sam Donaldson understand the problems facing the United States? Does he understand the enormity of Bush's failures? Does he understand the growing energy crisis which has been largely ignored for the last thirty years and is now coming home to roost? Does he understand global warming? Does he understand what a fiasco Bush has given us in Iraq? Does he understand the growing economic stress Americans are facing? Does he understand there is a connection between economic stress and the desire to fix healthcare? Does he understand the complete uselessness of the current president? Does he understand the growing vulnerability of America's economy and strength? Does Sam Donaldson understand that the growing imbalance between the wealthy and everybody else is not healthy for our democracy? Does he understand there are people who believe we can tackle some of these problems? Does he understand the need to find capable people? Does he understand how bereft of ideas the current Republican Party is these days? No, Sam Donaldson would rather talk about a couple of older gentlemen who fell asleep during a speech. And people wonder why bloggers are disgusted with so much of the mainstream media.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

John Edwards Speaks on Poverty and Critics

A Republican pundit who criticizes John Edwards for being rich is a ridiculous sight to behold given how much the Republican Party is the party of greed. To watch people in the media act as if a Republican talking point still has validity this late in the game after six years of corruption, incompetence and ideological indifference to the fate of millions of American is embarrassing to watch, particularly since so many of these mainstream media types are financially doing quite well and are themselves more interested in staying on top that acting in the public's interest.

There are plenty of exceptions in the media, of course; here and there are people who pay attention. Bob Herbert of The New York Times will surely be writing about the various presidential candidates but here's what he has to say on John Edwards:
The scene was immensely more appealing than the overly scripted televised "debates" that feature sleep-inducing nonanswers from an army of candidates browbeaten by moderators wielding stopwatches.

New Orleans has not been a hot topic at those upscale gatherings. Much of the city is still in ruins, still in "terrible shape," as Mr. Edwards noted. During a lengthy interview that followed his talk with the local residents, he told me that what had been allowed to happen to New Orleans was "an embarrassment for America" and that as president he would put the power of the federal government squarely behind its revival.

He said he would appoint a high-level official to take charge of the rebuilding, and he would have that person "report to me" every day. He said he would create 50,000 "steppingstone jobs," in parks, recreation facilities and a variety of community projects, for New Orleans residents who have been unable to find any other work. And he said, "We're also going to have to rebuild these levees."


It's true that promises from politicians come at us like weeds on steroids. But the nation would get a clearer picture of the character, integrity and leadership qualities of individual candidates if the press would focus more intently on matters of substance.

As a rule, we're much more interested in gaffes than in the details of a candidate's position on a complex issue. We're much more interested in sound bites than in sound policy.

That should change. We should give the candidates time to speak. And we should listen.

Much of the media isn't really interested in the future of America; they're interested in circuses and media events and ingratiating themselves with powerful people and are more than happy to help someone like Bush put on meaningless photo op stunts like finding another group of bozos intent on attacking America with delusional schemes that even a movie producer would be embarrassed to use except in a lame comedy. Americans have the right to expect more from a powerful media.

Here's more on Edwards from AP writer Mike Glover:
Presidential candidate John Edwards said Monday it's silly to suggest that his wealth and expensive tastes have hurt his credibility as an advocate for the poor.


"Would it have been better if I had done well and didn't care?" Edwards asked.

Edwards noted that some of the most acclaimed anti-poverty advocates came from privileged backgrounds, including Franklin Roosevelt and Bobby Kennedy.

"You could see and feel the empathy they had," said Edwards, speaking from his home in North Carolina during an interview on Iowa Public Radio.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, has made poverty a central issue of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and recently released a book on the subject, "Ending Poverty in America." He also has formed a center for the study of poverty issues at the University of North Carolina.

Edwards could easily have mention John Kennedy whose Peace Corps was very much an anti-poverty program, though in the third world; the Peace Corps also led to a domestic anti-poverty program called Vista. Teddy Roosevelt's reforms led to bringing the robber barons under control and strengthening the middle class and giving more poor Americans a chance. Let me add that Franklin Roosevelt was particularly good at fighting poverty and one of the things that made him a good fighter was that he knew there were wealthy people who were responsible and generous but he also understood the dark side of his economic class and he understood their games and their dishonest rationalizations for their behavior ('it's just business, you know?').

In contrast, we currently have a president who genuinely doesn't care about the poor: witness his response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush's first response is always to help his wealthy friends. He might listen to someone who is poor for the sake of photo ops but when it comes time to do something, nothing happens. That is the nature of most politicians in the Republican Party these days and this is despite the fact that may rank and file Republicans believe poverty issues should be addressed.

Bob Herbert is right; we need a media less interested in recording the ins and out of political games and more interested in finding out what the issues are, what candidates have to say and how America might address these issues. The last thing we need is a free press sticking its head in the sand like Republican ostriches.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Republicans Signing Up for Barack Obama

It's not unusual for business people of any political affiliation to contribute to one party one year and the other the next and to sometimes donate to both parties if a clear winner isn't evident. One could argue that it's a form of covering your bets. But it's curious that some Republicans are choosing Barack Obama early on. Truthout caught this story by Sarah Baxter of The Sunday Times:
Disillusioned supporters of President George W Bush are defecting to Barack Obama, the Democratic senator for Illinois, as the White House candidate with the best chance of uniting a divided nation.


...last week a surprising new name joined the chorus of praise for the antiwar Obama - that of Robert Kagan, a leading neoconservative and co-founder of the Project for the New American Century in the late 1990s, which called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Kagan is an informal foreign policy adviser to the Republican senator John McCain, who remains the favoured neoconservative choice for the White House because of his backing for the troops in Iraq.

But in an article in the Washington Post, Kagan wrote approvingly that a keynote speech by Obama at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs was "pure John Kennedy", a neocon hero of the cold war.


Disagreements on the war have not stopped John Martin, a Navy reservist and founder of the website Republicans for Obama, from supporting the antiwar senator. He joined the military after the Iraq war and is about to be deployed to Afghanistan.

"I disagree with Obama on the war but I don't think it is a test of his patriotism," Martin says. "Obama has a message of hope for the country."


Not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton has many Republican defectors of her own, including John Mack, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, who helped raise $200,000 for the president's reelection, qualifying him as a "Bush ranger". He said last week that he was impressed by Clinton's expertise. "I know we're associated mainly with the Republicans but we've always gone for the individual," Mack said.

No doubt the motivations of Republicans and conservative independents supporting Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or other Democrats can vary. Some may genuinely want to see a serious change. Some may be responding to Barack Obama's optimism and unity rhetoric. Some may want a Democrat who's Republican-lite. Some may be cynically supporting the candidate mostly likely to lose in the 2008 general election. Others may be just covering their bets. But it's worth watching in one of the oddest eras in American politics.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Republican Debate: The Good News and the Bad News

Let's deal quickly with the good news: the Republicans provided Democrats with considerable footage demonstrating their sheer foolishness.

Here's the bad news: one of these idiots could be the next president of the United States.

Here's a quick summary of the top three:

McCain mangled his words on several occassions and was frequently incoherent; I'm sorry to say it but he's clearly slipping. On the occassions when he was understandable, it was usually meaningless boilerplate that could have answered dozens of questions without actually saying much. For one brief moment, we saw the old McCain when he said he believed in evolution but had no trouble seeing God's handiwork when he was at the Grand Canyon; but that McCain started disappearing in 2004 when he decided to jump aboard the Bush express.

Mitt Romney was the Stepford man. He makes Hillary Clinton's triangulations look human and natural. It was embarrassing to see him rush up to be the first candidate to shake Nancy Reagan's hand after the debate. A slick man. Very slick.

Rudy Giuliani was probably the most dangerous man on the stage. In many ways, he presents himself effectively and can probably get away with campaigning as a sort of conservative moderate. But recent appearances suggests that the unitary executive nonsense that Cheney and Bush have been pursuing the last six years would continue unabated under Giuliani. There's not a doubt in my mind that Guiliani is a bully at heart. That Bernard Kerik was his police chief speaks volumes. If Giuliani continues to do well in the polls, I'll have more to say about the ugly qualities he shares with Bush and Cheney.

I enjoyed watching my wife while we listened to the debate. She has a wonderful way of rolling her eyes when the Republican candidates say stupid or dishonest things. It was appalling that several of the candidates thought Scooter Libby should be pardoned. It was embarrassing how unwilling these guys were to criticize the most failed president in our nation's history. The list goes on. I think the reader has the general idea.

If the reader will pardon an imperfect analogy, these candidates are like fools running for mayor while the current mayor has delegated the job of repairing a dam upstream from the town to his cronies and some corrupt campaign donors. The engineers with integrity say the dam is cracking, largely because of cheap construction materials; it's also been raining for twenty days and these Republican fools are telling the townfolk the best way to solve the town's problem is to fill in more potholes. A lot of good filling those potholes will be when the dam breaks.

The dead giveaway was the attempt to ride on Reagan's coattails. Reagan's presidency was finished nearly twenty years ago. The world has changed a lot since then. Reagan spent his presidency ignoring a number of problems that are beginning to have a significant impact. Reagan ignored the environment, he ignored the need for a real energy policy and he had a lousy eye for honest government officials. The nostalgia for Reagan perfectly reflects the fantasies that seem to drive the right wingers who control the Republican Party these days. We need people in the White House who don't live in a bubble, who have a chance—at least a chance—of connecting to reality.

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