Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, the Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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Palin, Giuliani Mocked Obama's Organizing Work, But It Was Sponsored By The Catholic Church

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

Last night at the Republican National Convention, both Rudy Giuliani and McCain veep choice Sarah Palin mocked Barack Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago two decades ago. Comparing her experience to Obama's, Palin said "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer—except that you have actual responsibilities." Despite the fact that organizers do have responsibilities, Palin's derision was echoed by the delegates in the hall, who roared with laughter at the idea that "community organizing" is real work.

But in guffawing at Obama's work, the GOP was mocking the efforts of an important group: the Catholic Church. Obama's community work was part of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a project sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Campaign for Human Development has been the church's main anti-poverty and social justice program in America since 1969. Do Palin, Giuliani and all those GOP delegates really believe that bishops' effort to improve the lot of the poor and jobless is a laughing matter?

Mocking church-sponsored community organizing also undermines the right's case for faith-based initiatives and so-called compassionate conservativism. Under the conservative model, a caring citizen doesn't wait for the government to help; he raises himself and his community up—sometimes with the help of community (but non-governmental) groups. It's hypocritical for Republicans to make fun of people for doing what Republicans are always saying they should do—lifting themselves up by their bootstraps. If you want government to to do less, you ought to want community organizers to do more. And as Roland Martin pointed out yesterday on CNN (video below), community organizers are the people assisting Americans hit by the housing crisis and the sputtering economy:

Palin and Giuliani got a good laugh from a friendly crowd, but a lot of Americans won't be in on the joke.

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Clinton v. Palin, Anyone?

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 12:59 AM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

That wasn't Sarah Palin running for Vice President tonight. It was Palin running for President, reaching straight for the hearts of small town America, fists pumping the air, lips blowing kisses.

No matter who wins this year, I predict Palin will be on the ticket in 2012. If Obama/Biden win, Palin has just been groomed to be the GOP pick for 2012. And, if McCain/Palin win, well… she's next in line for the GOP nomination. And who do you think would be the Democrat? A Clinton/Palin fight could present a fascinating and less muddled arena in which the actual views and policies of two women trump their gender.

On the election at hand, progressives should over- rather than underestimate Palin's ability to debate Joe Biden, and concentrate on picking apart the policies she and McCain represent. Palin has shown she is tough enough to stand up to Biden, and that she can figure out what she needs to communicate (probably, even without a prompter). And maybe that's a good thing for all of us. It may bring more attention to the national issues, and less to her personal ones.

What The Palin Pick Says About John McCain and the GOP

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 12:57 PM EDT

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John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate this morning was a bit of a shocker. After all, the vast majority of Americans have never heard of her. But that could be an advantage for the Republicans: suddenly, their convention next week isn't about John McCain or George W. Bush. It's about introducing Sarah Palin to America. That could be the best distraction imaginable from issues like Katrina, Iraq, and the economy.

On balance, though, Palin could be bad news for the Republicans. Unconventional running-mate choices (and a first term governor who until recently was the mayor of a town of about 9,000 people is certainly an unconventional pick) signal desperation. Confident candidates make safe picks. Candidates who are trailing and need to make big moves make unconventional ones. McCain is taking a big risk by picking Palin because he has to.

The selection of Palin smacks of tokenism. Every four years, the Republican party trots out its few non-white, non-male leaders for the Republican National Convention. Many get prime speaking spots. Apparently Sarah Palin gets the Vice-Presidential nomination. The pick is clearly partly directed at disaffected Hillary voters with the idea that simply putting a woman on the ticket will win their votes. This is obviously wrong, as Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro will tell you. But the GOP and their mouthpieces don't get it: on Fox this morning, an anchor said: "It looks like the glass ceiling hasn't been broken by Hillary Clinton, but by Senator McCain." There is just so much wrong with that sentence, but for starters: it's obvious that this pick is more about John McCain than Sarah Palin. It's not about women succeeding on their own; it's about them being given something by a man. Frankly, the comparison to Hillary Clinton is just insulting.

Thursday Cat Blogging

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 10:47 AM EDT

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Kevin Drum's passion for the kitties is leaking over to MoJoBlog. So I'll briefly note this important development: cats have grown wings. Yes, it is true. I saw it on BoingBoing.

In all seriousness, please check out Kevin. He's been blogging up a storm, not only providing crucial updates on Domino and Inkblot but also giving readers an outside-of-Denver view on the convention. Haven't been able to catch much of the action? Read David Corn's night-by-night reviews of the action in Denver: Night One, Night Two, and yesterday's very-successful Night Three.

Evan Bayh Attacks McCain With a Double-Edged Sword

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 9:00 PM EDT

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) lost out in the Democratic veepstakes. But on Wednesday night he was given a prime-time speaking slot and dutifully joined in the evening's assault on John McCain:

George Bush and John McCain were wrong about going to war in Iraq, are wrong about how to get us out of Iraq, and wrong to ignore the dangers in Afghanistan. The time for change has come, and Barack Obama is the change we need.

But this was an odd line of attack, coming from Bayh. He was one of the co-sponsors of the 2003 Authorization of the Use of Military Force in Iraq (AUMF). Bayh wasn't just attacking McCain. By condemning Bush and McCain for going to war in Iraq, Bayh was saying, "I was wrong." Well, sort of. He wasn't quite that explicit. And a great question for Bayh now would be, did you err, too?

And even in a speech that included a shot at McCain and Bush in almost every paragraph, Bayh did not launch as sharp an assault as he might have. He summed up the case against McCain this way:

John McCain, he's not a bad man, but he is badly mistaken about embracing the Bush agenda.

The GOP blasts Barack Obama for being risky and dangerous (and not really an American). In Bayh's view, McCain is a good guy who got some things wrong. Obviously, those two attacks don't match up. Bayh didn't define McCain in negative terms; he just disagreed with him. Can the Democrats win with that? A little more oomph might be needed.

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