Blogs

"True Conservatives" Love the Super Bowl. And Mitt Romney, Apparently

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 5:47 PM EST

Sunday was a great day for New York Giants. For me, not so much—I'm a Pats fan, and I was there to watch the debacle unfold. I still wake up screaming.

So my trip to the Super Bowl didn't work out so well. But I did take some time out from tailgating to do some actual work: I had a very interesting chat with some passionate Mitt Romney supporters. They weren't hard to find. In the endless expanse of parking lots that surrounds University of Phoenix stadium, they were the only ones without sports paraphernalia. Their enormous "Mitt Romney for President" signs also made them stick out.

Rachael Proctor was among the Romney faithful spreading Mitt's message around Glendale Sunday afternoon. Longtime Arizona residents all, Rachael and her crew said they were supporting Romney because "true conservatives" and "true Republicans" disliked McCain.

Proctor and her fellow Mitt-ens did have something to say about the issues. They said the economy and illegal immigration were both incredibly important to them, and they trusted Romney more on both. "McCain's been here [in Arizona] 25 years, and [illegal immigration] has only gotten worse," Proctor said. But their main message was the same one that Romney himself has been spouting since the South Carolina primary: Mitt Romney is a true conservative, and John McCain isn't.

Despite the signs and the earnestness, Super Bowl fans weren't having it. I saw Rachael's group one more time after our chat in the parking lot. They were standing by the entrance to the stadium, holding their signs and shouting (politely) about Romney's conservatism. Thousands of fans just walked right by, ignoring them. It was the Super Bowl, after all. But if Mitt's going to have any sort of chance against John McCain, that "true conservative" message is going to have to start resonating.

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Head Start: Dying On The Vine

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 5:16 PM EST

head%20start.jpgWhen George W. Bush took office in 2001, he came in with grand plans for Head Start, the popular early childhood enrichment and education program for low-income kids. Bush talked about beefing up standards, improving teacher training and quality, and working hard to make sure low-income preschoolers were ready to hit the kindergarten playground running. Oh, and he also wanted to turn the program into a block grant, slash its budget, and force 3-year-olds to undergo standardized testing twice a year.

Consequently, it took Congress five years to reauthorize the program, a last vestige of the Great Society poverty programs. Members of Congress from both parties saved Head Start from the block grant, better known as a stealthy way to defund the program by turning it over to the states. And in December, Bush grudgingly signed the bill that officially killed off the misguided testing regime. But one part of Bush's original ambitious plan for Head Start has actually succeeded: the budget cuts. It hasn't come all at once, but through erosion.

The new omnibus budget bill, signed just two weeks after Head Start was reauthorized in December, would put the program's budget at 12 percent below the funding level for 2002, according to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, mostly because Bush has failed to let Head Start funding keep up with inflation. The budget cuts translate into about 20,000 kids who may not have access to the program anymore. This is all happening at a time when child poverty is on the rise, and the number of poor kids under the age of 5 is increasing. Insert your own favorite "child left behind' kicker here...

New CDs Out Today and a Word From Critics

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:46 PM EST

Hey, there's actually a couple interesting albums hitting stores and internet emporiums today. Perhaps I shall list them in order of how much I'm enjoying them (or anticipating I'll enjoy them), from "most" to "least"?

Live Blogging From Obama HQ in California

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:40 PM EST

I'll be writing to you today from the Obama campaign office in San Jose, California. It's one of six Obama offices in the Bay Area, but the battle here will be one of the most closely fought and important anywhere in the state (more on this shortly). The office is a small storefront in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood just outside downtown. Inside, posters on the wall say, "Fired up!" and, for those who've been here a bit too long, "Bang head here." The space lacks any heat (save for two space heaters--any more and the circuit breaker pops) but the 20 people packing into the place are keeping things warm enough. I've sandwiched myself into a row of clicking laptops on a fold-out table in the middle of the room. Everyone is working on getting out the vote; whenever a phone-banker convinces someone to vote Obama, he rings a bell and the room erupts in applause.

The volunteers here have their work cut out for them. San Jose's CA-15 congressional district is one of only 22 in the state with an odd number of delegates; whoever wins 51 percent of the vote in these districts will automatically pick up an extra delegate. (Most California districts are even-delegate and will likely to split between the candidates 50/50). Only about half of the odd-delate districts in the state will be truly competitive. CA-15 is one of those: Here in the Bay Area, Obama leads Clinton overall, but San Jose is predominately working class and has more Latino voters than any other county in the region--two groups that tend to support Clinton.

Anti-War Candidates Receive Most Money from Troops

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:38 PM EST

The Center for Responsive Politics highlights an interesting fact about the 2007 fundraising numbers:

In 2007, Republican Ron Paul, who opposes U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the top recipient of money from donors in the military, collecting at least $212,000 from them. Barack Obama, another war opponent, was second with about $94,000.

Think Progress points out that this contradicts prominent pro-war figures who use the troops and their supposed continued enthusiasm for the war as part of their rhetoric. President Bush: "Our troops want to finish the job." John McCain: "The message of these brave men and women who are serving over there is: Let us win. Let us win." Hmm...

First Winner on Super Tuesday? Huckabee!

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:30 PM EST

Mike Huckabee has won the West Virginia Republican caucuses. Thus begins Mother Jones' 12-hour coverage of Super Tuesday results.

Oh. How do you think Huck will do in San Francisco?

Update: Looks like there was some intrigue. McCain urged his supporters to vote for Huckabee in order to stop Romney. John McCain and Mike Huckabee are so in love.

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Eli Manning: Budding Environmentalist?

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 3:56 PM EST

escalade.jpgIn his 2002 book High and Mighty, New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher wrote that automakers' own market research revealed that SUV buyers tended to be "insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities. They are more restless, more sybaritic, and less social than most Americans are. They tend to like fine restaurants a lot more than off-road driving, seldom go to church and have limited interest in doing volunteer work to help others."

The research, in short, describes your average professional sports star. So no surprise, then, that on Sunday, New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning picked the enormous, six-ton Cadillac Escalade as his prize for winning the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award. But in a new twist, Manning picked a 2009 Escalade hybrid, which will get 18 miles to the gallon, compared to the measly 12 mpg of the non-hybrid version. Still, the Escalade remains an utterly gargantuan car, capable of flattening a Ford Focus and parking lot pilings with ease. But perhaps in the pro-sports world, this has to be considered progress.

Clinton's New Ploy: Debate, Debate, Debate Obama to Death

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 3:54 PM EST

Just ask us to debate. Please ask us to debate.

That was the message the Clinton campaign sent to the MSM this afternoon. During a conference call with reporters, Mark Penn, the campaign's chief strategist, and Howard Wolfson, its communications director, called for at least one debate a week between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the next month. They announced that the Clinton campaign has already accepted invitations from ABC News (this Sunday), Fox News (this Monday), CNN (February 27), and MSNBC (February 28). "It's critically important we continue the debate," Penn remarked.

Obvious point alert: The Clintonites believe Clinton does better than Obama during the debates. They're probably right. He beats her on oratory. His rallies are bigger and better. But she can talk policy details well. At the debates, she demonstrates she's in command of facts and ideas. Usually, it's the trailing candidate who demands debates during a campaign, for he or she needs the attention. But in this case, the Clinton campaign is most likely looking for an insurance policy. If Obama happens to surge after Super Tuesday, each debate will give Clinton a chance to slow him down. And if a whole series of debates are scheduled, he will have to spend time off the campaign trail prepping for the face-offs--that is, there will be less time for those impressive, inspiring rallies.

"A lot will depend on the one-on-one debates," Penn commented. Such debates, he added, "will determine some of the outcomes" of the big states coming down the road, such as Ohio and Texas (March 4). The voters, he suggested, need and deserve them.

So, the Clintonites signaled to the big media outlets, just get those debate invitations in ASAP, we're willing to say yes to almost anything. ("ESPN3 Presents the Democratic Presidential Debate.") It's a smart ploy for the Clintons. And it will be hard for Obama to say no.

Hear My PRI "Fair Game" Election 2008 Discussion...

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 3:49 PM EST

...with Faith Salie. Smart host, good interview that made me think. Didn't call anyone a sphincter.

Note: PRI = Public Radio International. Quality stuff.

PBS Does its DNA Magic with Celebrities for Black History Month Again

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 3:17 PM EST

Skip the usual suspects ranting and raving in kente cloth this month and check out some worthy black history:

"African-American Lives 2," a four-part series on PBS that begins on Wednesday night, belies its sleepy name with the poetry of history, the magic of science and the allure of the family trees of Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Tina Turner, Don Cheadle, Tom Joyner and Maya Angelou.
It is the latest incarnation of the highly rated, critically successful star genealogy program that its host, the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., presented in 2006. Then Oprah Winfrey, Chris Tucker, Quincy Jones and Whoopi Goldberg were among Professor Gates's eight guests for "African-American Lives." That was followed in 2007 by "Oprah's Roots."
This time scientists use DNA samples, and scholars peruse slave ship records, wills and other documents to recreate the histories of 12 people, including Professor Gates and one Everywoman guest.

Check the link for a video excerpt of the show in which Chris Rock learns that his great great grand daddy fought in the Civil War, or that Tom Joyner's two great uncles were likely lynched back in the day.

Yes, yes, non-blacks want to know their history, too. The only difference is, that if your ancestors didn't keep your stories alive, that's on them. Keeping us invisible, except as property or criminal cases, was against our will.

I got myself invited onto the Colbert Report. Wonder how I get myself a free DNA test and have PBS investigators find out how I came to be me.