Are Black Athletes Obligated to Support Obama?

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 1:37 PM EDT

Do black athletes, among the most visible and well-paid members of their communities, have a responsibility to support Obama? Perhaps the better question is: Did it ever even occur to them to?

How many of them thought it through and decided to remain silent (rather than officially oppose the brother), and how many just never saw the connection to themselves? I'm willing to bet most of them will vote for Obama (though I'm not willing to bet most of them will vote). So why not play a role in the biggest opportunity facing the community that supports them so fervently (too fervently, IMnotsoHO)?

Turns out that few in this group have either donated to his campaign or publicly endorsed him.
From News One:

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McCain vs. Bush

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 1:25 PM EDT

McCAIN vs. BUSH....Atrios sez:

I've never been a fan of John McCain. I never had a mancrush on him as most of the "liberals" in the media once did. But there was a time not all that long ago when I thought that a McCain presidency would at least be a marginal improvement over the Bush presidency. Now I believe it would be much, much worse.

This pretty much describes me too. I was never a fan of McCain, even in his 2004 semi-liberal incarnation, but I did have at least some respect for his positions and his character. As Republicans went, especially compared to the sad sack crew they put up for the presidency this year, he wasn't too bad.

But now? If you put a gun to my head and forced me to pull the lever for either McCain or Bush, I'm not sure who I'd choose. Getting the Cheney/Addington crew out of the White House might be worth it no matter what, especially if I could convince myself that McCain is hale and hearty and Sarah Palin would never have any duty more important than attending foreign funerals. But then again, compared to McCain's barely suppressed rage and erratic, free-form bellicosity, the 2008 model George Bush almost seems like a statesman. It takes a very special talent to make people like Atrios and me come to that conclusion. John McCain is obviously a very special talent.


| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 1:13 PM EDT

SLEAZE....Josh Marshall says John McCain's campaign is the sleaziest we've seen for a very long time:

You may say, wait, Willie Horton? The Swift-boat smears? What about those?

But here's the key point, one that is getting too little attention. President Bush's father didn't run the Willie Horton ad. And this President Bush, however much they may have been funded by his supporters and run with Karl Rove's tacit approval, didn't run the Swift Boat ads. These were run by independent groups. Just how 'independent' we think they really are is a decent question. But even the sleaziest campaigns usually draw the line at the kind of sleaze they are wiling to run themselves under their own name.

This is basically what's struck me about McCain's campaign too: his sleaze has been done in his own name, not kept at arm's length, as it was in 1972, 1988, and 2004.

But although that was my initial reaction to events of the summer and fall, I'm pretty sure it isn't right. Yes, the Willie Horton ad in 1988 was officially an independent expenditure, but the "Revolving Door" ad was very much a Bush-Quayle production. Lee Atwater promised to make Horton a household name, and he did just that. Bush Sr. spoke about him frequently in speeches. And Dukakis's patriotism was a major theme too, as the Bush campaign hit him over and over and over about his stand on the Pledge of Allegiance.

In fact, I'd say 2008 is a surprisingly faithful replay of 1988. On the Republican side it's been sleazy, it's been issue free, and its biggest feature has been a young, attractive, unqualified, base-pleasing conservative vice presidential choice. The big difference is that Obama is a better candidate than Dukakis and 2008 is a far more Democratic year than 1988. On the sleaze-o-meter, however, I think it's pretty much a draw. Anyone with sharp memories of 1988 is invited to agree or disagree in comments.

The Upcoming GOP Civil War

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:44 PM EDT

THE UPCOMING GOP CIVIL WAR.....After every election, the losing party conducts a civil war. Sometimes it's a big war, sometimes it's a small one, but the subject is usually the same: Did we lose because we failed to appeal to enough moderates? Or did we lose because we failed to uphold our heritage and give the voters a real choice? The arguments are so similar on both sides that even the terminology is often the same. Liberals refer to their party's centrists as DINOs (Democrats In Name Only) and Republicans refer to theirs as RINOs. Republican conservative stalwarts say, "If the choice is between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite, the public will choose the real thing every time." Switch the party affiliation and you get the same thing from liberal Democrats.

So what happens this time around? It's a little hard to keep this in mind at this point, but John McCain was widely considered the most electable Republican this year because of his mavericky politics and appeal to independents. He had moderate cred on immigration, campaign finance reform, and judicial nominees, and though he had a conservative voting record he had never been a committed culture warrior. If you thought that moving toward the center was the right strategy for the Republican Party after eight years of George Bush, McCain was your man.

So if he loses, what happens? Conservatives will have the upper hand, no? We tried a moderate, they'll say, and he crashed and burned. After all, if the choice is between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite etc. etc.

And that in turn suggests that instead of undergoing a long, slow moderation of their positions after this year's election, they'll go in the other direction. Their argument will be simple and compelling: the McCain strategy didn't work. The country is hungering for real conservatism, and that's the only way we can win. Hell, the only thing that even gave McCain a chance this year was his selection of Sarah Palin, the only real conservative on the ticket.

So this suggests an eye-popping state of affairs: after eight years of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove making them into the most unpopular party in recent history, the GOP will decide that the best response to this is to become even more conservative. I can hardly wait to see how this plays out.

The "Voter Fraud" Fraud: The GOP's Last-Ditch Strategy for Winning an Unwinnable Election

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:23 PM EDT

Make no mistake: At this point, it's clear that the voter fraud chimera, and its potential to keep thousands or millions of Obama voters out of the final count, is becoming the central Republican strategy for winning this election. The party doubts it can win if every legitimate vote is counted, so they aim to make sure that some of them aren't. False allegations of voter fraud, which can serve to both intimidate voters and challenge ballots, is their means to this end.

As David Corn wrote last week, the right's "desperation is showing" as they scramble to reverse John McCain's free-fall by smearing Barack Obama with every scary label they can find. (As David summarized it: "Obama is a Black Muslim, Anti-Christian Socialist Plotting with an Evil Jewish Billionaire.") But in case this fails to frighten off enough voters to close Obama's lead, vote suppression is the Republicans' last-ditch tactic for snatching a tainted victory from the jaws of defeat.

This is a strategy that's been developing for years within the Republican Party. But it's really taken off during the Bush administration—maybe because W (or, more likely, Dick Cheney) remained conscious that he only got into the White House through vote suppression, and could only stay there through more vote suppression. The administration's zeal to advance the myth of voter fraud was key to what has become one of its biggest scandals: the politically motivated firings of nine U.S. attorneys by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2006.

Powell on Being Muslim in America

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:16 PM EDT

I thought the most interesting thing about Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama, other than the indictment of the current state of the Republican Party, was his heartfelt defense of something that really shouldn't have to be defended: being Muslim in America.

Here's what he said:

I'm also troubled by — not what Senator McCain says — but what members of the Party say, and it is permitted to be said: such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian; has always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, "What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" The answer's "No, that's not America." Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be President? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own Party drop the suggestion he's Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery. And she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards -- Purple Heart, Bronze Star; showed that he died in Iraq; gave his date of birth, date of death. He was twenty years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Kahn. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey, he was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he could go serve his country and he gave his life.

That photo can be found here. As a country, we've let anti-Muslim bigotry run rampant these last 12 months. And part of the blame rests with the left: it has been politically expedient to say "Barack Obama isn't a Muslim" but it hasn't been politically expedient to defend Muslims themselves, and so we haven't done so nearly as much as we should. I'm glad Colin Powell took this stand on so public a stage, and I hope others follow.

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| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:12 PM EDT

INFRASTRUCTURE....Time to rebuild our nation's infrastructure? Support for the idea is growing:

Public officials, engineers and policy experts have been warning for years that crumbling infrastructure is a ticking time bomb....A third of the nation's major highways are in poor shape, according to the Department of Transportation. The list of unsafe dams is growing. Mass-transit systems, water-treatment plants, hazardous-waste sites and more are falling apart.

The civil engineers association gave the country a "D" on its 2005 infrastructure Report Card. It called for a $1.6 trillion five-year improvement program.

Now, sure, you'd pretty much expect a civil engineers association to back a program of civil engineering projects. Still, the time is right. The usual argument against infrastructure projects as fiscal stimulus is that they take too long: you have to identify projects and draw up plans first, and only then do you put people to work building stuff. By the time the projects get started, the recession is over.

But not this time. The recession we're going into now promises to be deep and long, and a big slug of infrastructure improvements would not only be handy things to have, their timing is pretty good too. And politically it's doable too since there are plenty of projects available for all 50 states.

McCain hasn't bought into this because (I'd guess) he still doesn't really appreciate the scope of our financial problems. Plus he probably associates infrastructure projects with earmarks, so he has a Pavlovian reaction against them. Obama has done a little better, but only a little. It would be smart, both politically and substantively, for him to at least start making more aggressive noises on a big, bold infrastructure plan.

Palin Confuses on Proper Direction of Campaign

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 11:00 AM EDT

Sarah Palin on October 5, suggesting to Bill Kristol that the McCain campaign ought to go more negative:

"To tell you the truth, Bill, I don't know why [the Revered Wright] association isn't discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don't know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn't get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up."

Sarah Palin on Sunday, telling the press that she wants to focus on the issues:

"If I called all the shots, and if I could wave a magic wand, I would be sitting at a kitchen table with more and more Americans, talking to them about our plan to get the economy back on track and winning the war, and not having to rely on the old conventional ways of campaigning that includes those robocalls, and includes spending so much money on the television ads that, I think, is kind of draining out there in terms of Americans' attention span."

Those robocalls she's denouncing as "conventional ways of campaigning" are exactly the sort of negative, association-based campaign tactics she was urging just two weeks ago. It's almost as if her complete lack of experience on the national stage forces her to make it up as she goes along!

Security Agreement Update***

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 1:23 AM EDT

SECURITY AGREEMENT UPDATE....Negotiations to put in place a long-term security agreement with Iraq aren't going well:

Key members of the Iraqi parliament's largest political bloc have called for all American troops to leave this country in 2011 as a condition for allowing the U.S. military to stay here beyond year's end, officials said Sunday.

The change sought by the influential United Iraqi Alliance would harden the withdrawal date for U.S. troops....The Shiite bloc, which includes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party, also insists that Iraqi officials have a bigger role in determining whether U.S. soldiers accused of wrongdoing are subject to prosecution in Iraqi courts, said Sami al-Askeri, a political adviser to Maliki.

....It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. side would accept the changes to the draft agreement. The document would provide legal authority for American troops to remain in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31. If there is no accord or other legal cover for U.S. forces, they must leave.

The Bush administration has long resisted setting firm dates for the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq, saying that the decision should be based on security conditions. U.S. authorities ultimately accepted a compromise, which set the 2011 withdrawal date but provided for an extension if Iraq requested one.

Normally, I'd say that this is probably yet another sign of hard bargaining, and in the end an agreement will almost certainly be signed. And that still seems the most likely course to me. On the other hand, the U.S. occupation is unpopular with the Iraqi public, and with elections coming up soon no politician in the country can afford to be seen as soft on the Americans. That's democracy for you. Could be interesting times ahead.

Limbaugh: Colin Powell Endorsed Obama, He Must Be Destroyed

| Sun Oct. 19, 2008 6:04 PM EDT

This is like clockwork, folks. Limbaugh takes just a matter of hours to claim Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama because both men are African-American.

Rush Limbaugh said Colin Powell's decision to get behind Barack Obama appeared to be very much tied to Obama's status as the first African-American with a chance to become president.
"Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race," Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail. "OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with."

Here's George Will making the same point with a little more subtlety.