Sunday, September 28, 2008

First Debate wrap-up

The debate on Friday night was very interesting, and showed both that Senator Obama and Senator McCain agree on several issues, and have very different strategies on others. However, only Senator Obama seemed willing to admit that he agrees with Senator McCain on several points.

A few of the best debate wrap-up articles I've found are the following:

  1. New York Times fact checking: Refuting some of the more outlandish claims and misquotes by each candidate.

  2. New York Times live debate blogging: Summarizing the highlights.

  3. Politico's roundup: Another good summary of the highlights.

The most powerful lines that stuck in my memory were both by Senator Obama:

“You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong,” Obama said about the Iraq war. “You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni. And you were wrong. If the question is who is best-equipped as the next president to make good decisions about how we use our military, how we make sure that we are prepared and ready for the next conflict, then I think we can take a look at our judgment.”[1]


"I've got a bracelet, too."[1]

In addition, as quoted in Senator McCain campaign's YouTube video that came out just after the debate last night, Senator Obama several times indicated that he agreed with Senator McCain. Why would Senator McCain see this as a negative trait? It shows bipartisanship, a spirit of cooperation, and rational thought.

The quote from Senator McCain that stayed with me was his repetition of "Obama doesn't understand." Unfortunately for Senator McCain, Senator Obama's performance in the debate proved otherwise. They both understand the situation, they just disagree on the best resolution.

I agree with the snap polls- this debate was a win for Senator Obama.

[1] McCain on offense; Obama plays it cool

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Legislative accomplishments

In my earlier post "Candidates Respond on Bailout", I included a quote from Senator Obama on his intention to reduce government spending on private contractors by 10%. I found an analysis of the bills and amendments sponsored by both Senator McCain and Senator Obama over the past four years that help depict how Senator Obama may do just that.

Several times over his tenure as a US Senator, Obama has sponsored amendments to bills that would proscribe large contracts from being issued using "procedures other than competitive procedures."[1] These types of contract awarding procedures will make sure that the federal government hires contractors at a competitive rate, instead of the no-bid contracts that, frankly, do not make sense.

If you were going to have the roof of your home replaced or perform a major remodel totaling several thousand dollars, you would of course get multiple estimates from different contractors, likely after asking folks you trust for references. Why would the government spend 1000 times that amount or more on a contract that they hadn't done similar comparisons on? If the answer is just "expedience," that's not good enough. Our government needs to do the most with the money it collects from us, and that entails getting the best deal for the buck.

The Washington Monthly link below lists off numerous other legislative accomplishments of both senators and is well worth reading.

[1] Political Animal: Compare and Contrast

Candidates respond to the bailout

Though certainly not the only problem facing our nation today, the federal bailout plan for the financial crisis is certainly making headlines. Both major party candidates have issued statements on the proposal, and there are some striking similarities. As MSNBC reports:

Both called for greater oversight; for ensuring that taxpayers benefit if repackaged loans are sold at a profit or the bailed-out companies recover; and for limiting the pay of executives at firms covered by the bailout.[1]

Beyond that, though, there are some differences. In particular, the two have different tax cut plans.

"Obama said his proposed middle-class tax cuts remain 'absolutely necessary.'...McCain says he still plans to extend Bush's tax cuts for high-income Americans..."[1]

Other parts to their proposals follow similar lines. Senator Obama called for "boosts to subsidies for health care, education, retirement savings, renewable energy and other priorities," [1] the first three of which would directly benefit individuals, while the fourth would help bring the cost of energy down in the long term. Senator McCain "favors increased federal spending for nuclear power and control of greenhouse gases" [1]. While more investment in nuclear power might help bring down the cost of energy in the long term, measures to control greenhouse gases will likely raise it in the short term. In addition, such federal spending would only indirectly benefit consumers while directly benefiting power companies.

As such, it seems from the MSNBC article that Senator Obama's plan is more focussed on assisting the individual citizens while Senator McCain is calling for assistance to the wealthy and to corporations. Senator McCain's top financial advisor Doug Holtz-Eakins said McCain is working on "policies to create jobs in America and get the economy going,"[1] a strategy that, combined with the above, smacks of trickle-down economics.

From an article on Fox News, we learn that Senator McCain seems to have given more ammunition to his detractors, since "McCain, who only a week ago said the economy was fundamentally sound, now says the U.S. financial system is facing a major crisis."[2] However, he also "called for a bipartisan oversight board for the proposed bailout, to be headed by Warren Buffet or another broadly respected business leader."[2]

Senator Obama "vowed to slash federal spending on private contractors by 10 percent in an effort to cut costs to help the failing economy, singling out Haliburtion."[2] As such, it seems that he intends to fund his initiatives outlined above by ensuring "Washington starts taking responsibility for every dime that it spends."[2] Senator Obama also calls for bipartisan oversight of the bailout.[3]

In summary, Senator McCain and Senator Obama agree that the current bailout plan needs more oversight. Senator Obama has endorsed middle class tax cuts, more spending on programs that directly aid citizens, and reducing government costs by increasing accountability. Senator McCain favors extending the President Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, more government spending on nuclear power and greenhouse gas control, and a committee including business leaders to oversee the distribution of federal funds to other business leaders.

It's just not reasonable to portray these two plans in an equal light - one of them is likely to actually assist individuals while the other is likely to assist corporations and businesses.

[1] Obama, McCain wary about financial bailout
[2] Obama, McCain Question Wall Street Bailout
[3] Show Your Support for a Responsible Economic Recovery Plan

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ongoing investigations

According to CNN, Governor Sarah Palin "has halted her previously promised cooperation with the Legislature's investigation of the July dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan". [1] Palin's husband Todd and several of her top aides have refused to comply with subpoenas, CNN reports.

On Fox News, they cover the story as well. Of particular note is a quote by Anchorage attorney Kevin G. Clarkson, who said, “There is no nonpartisan reason to complete this investigation until after the election." [2] One could just as easily argue that there is no nonpartisan reason to delay or interfere with the bipartisan investigation.

At this point, Governor Palin's reasons for firing the public safety commissioner has sadly become a secondary issue to the interference with the investigation. No citizen of the United States of America is above the law. When issued a subpeona, citizens are expected to appear in court, not complain of "an inconvenient travel schedule". [3]

Granted, there is much more to leading this nation than managing an enormous staff. However, it is crucial that in performing all of the other responsibilities of the office of the president or vice president that a citizen so honored with that position remember that he or she is still just a public servant, subject to all of the laws of the land.

[1] Republican lawmaker says Palin inquiry should go on
[2] Republican Lawmakers Sue to Stop Palin Inquiry
[3] Investigator: Palin probe to end before election

Friday, September 12, 2008

New ad from the Obama campaign

According to the Associated Press, there's a new ad from the Obama campaign.

One of the sentences quoted states that Senator McCain "admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail, still doesn't understand the economy, and favors two hundred billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class."

Of those statements, only the last two on tax cuts reflect on policy. Not understanding the economy could also be a relevant issue, though is not as direct as the policy notes. As for not knowing how to use a computer or send e-mail, that doesn't necessarily imply a lack of ability to lead or serve as president.

I would prefer to see the ad lead the sentence with the policy critique as that's more relevant to the differences we'll see between an Obama and McCain presidency.

That being said, I'm glad to see in the last paragraph of the article that mainstream media in Virginia is focussing more on Senator Obama's planned policies than the lipstick hoopla. Also, it's refreshing to see that he plans continue to highlighting issues in his message and that the ad contains no outright lies or distortions unlike Senator McCain's have.[1][2][3]

[1] Fact Check on Senator McCain's speech
[2] Fact Check on Sex Ed
[3] Fact Check on Senator McCain's misuse of Fact Check

Lincoln Chafee sees grey regarding Sarah Palin

Over at The Washington Note there's an interview with former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island. Please take the six minutes to watch it here.

The key quote that makes us at Grey Politics repost is: "That's not in our long term best interests. It's a dangerous planet -- nuclear weapons -- a tremendous capacity of destruction exists. It's going to take some wisdom and ability to see gray sometimes, and lessons of the Cold War are that sometimes containment can work."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Lipstick: An Open Letter to Senator John McCain

Senator McCain,

Shame on you. When Senator Obama said

"John McCain says he's about change, too - except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics. That's not change. That's just calling the same thing something different. You can put lipstick on a pig - it's still a pig."[1]
your first response should not have been to air a web ad claiming:
CHYRON: Barack Obama On: Sarah Palin
BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, you can, you know you can...put...uh...lipstick on a's still a pig.[2]

From Barack Obama's remarks, it's clear he's referring to John McCain's policies.

Instead, your response should have been something along the lines of: "Senator Obama claims that our policies are no different from those of President Bush. He's wrong- here's what's different, here's what's the same, and why."

Misquoting, slandering, and phony outrage over a comment that John McCain himself has used[3] are horrible and shameful politics. Your attacks show me that your estimation of the average American's intelligence is approximately that of a pig wearing lipstick, or possibly a pit bull.

Please get back to the issues.

Grey Politics

[1]The Caucus Blog
[2]John McCain's official campaign site
[3]YouTube video of McCain