Mojo - August 2008

Obama's Grand Speech: Reason for Hope

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 1:34 AM EDT

It was a historic speech on a historic night--in a remarkable setting. A crowd of tens of thousands of Americans, filling an entire stadium in the middle of the country, waved American flags and signs calling for "Change." Never in the nation's history had more Americans attended such an event. Never before had an African-American accepted the presidential nomination of a major party in the United States. And the speech of Barack Obama matched the moment.

He connected his own history--the history of a not-quite-ordinary American family--to the mythical promise of America. His rhetoric soared--as usual--but it was tethered to reality: in particular, the stark differences between how Obama would approach the challenges the nation now faces and how John McCain would do so. Obama laced his criticism of the Bush years and the possible McCain years with a dose of populism, which gave portions of the speech a sharp edge. And he brought his pitch for hope and change down to the ground with a succinct description of policy ideas he would work for as president.

Obama, as convention dictates, began with a high-minded theme: America is a land of promise, but, he declared, that promise--especially for hardworking Americans--is in jeopardy, placing the nation at a critical juncture. "These challenges are not all of government's making," he said. "But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush. America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this." Given that polls show that at least seven out of ten Americans--maybe more--believe the country is on the wrong track and a similar number of Americans disapprove of Bush, his criticism was not at all radical.

In one of the more important passages, Obama, taking a populist turn, made the case that his opponent does not understand this:

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Fox. Is. Amazing.

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 1:18 AM EDT

What can you do when you see something like this? Just bow in reverence, right?

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Update: Rumors on the internets say this is a fake...

Gore's Speech: A Reminder of What's Missing

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 10:42 PM EDT

There's been some talk among pundits and progressives that the Obama campaign could use a touch more populism--especially to reach those working-class voters (read: white working-class voters). So maybe the Democratic convention could have used someone talking like this:

My focus is on working families--people trying to make house payments and car payments, working overtime to save for college and do right by their kids. Whether you're in a suburb, or an inner-city. Whether you raise crops or drive hogs and cattle on a farm, drive a big rig on the Interstate, or drive e-commerce on the Internet… Whether you're starting out to raise your own family, or getting ready to retire after a lifetime of hard work

So often, powerful forces and powerful interests stand in your way, and the odds seemed stacked against you--even as you do what's right for you and your family.
How and what we do for all of you - the people who pay the taxes, bear the burdens, and live the American dream--that is the standard by which we should be judged.

That's a passage from Al Gore's feisty I-will-fight-for-you-against-powerful-interests acceptance speech at the 2000 convention. This time around, on the final night of the convention, Gore appeared at Invesco Field an hour before Barack Obama was scheduled to come out, and he spoke--no surprise--mostly about climate change. He was eloquent on the subject, as he usually is. He did take a whack at the oil and coal industries and "the forces of the status quo." But he sure did not tailor his remarks to the sort of voters he focused on in his 2000 speech.

Of course, it's not Gore's job to populist-ize the Obama campaign. That seems to be Joe Biden's mission. But Gore's speech on Thursday night--given the obvious comparison to his 2000 speech--was a reminder that something's been missing.

THIS JUST IN: Shortly after Gore spoke, the convention presented several working- or middle-class voters who explained why they were supporting Obama. One of them, Smith Barney, who lost his job in a Marian, Indiana, factory, had what was (so far) the best populist line of the night: "We need a president who puts Barney Smith before SmithBarney."

Hezbollah Operating From Venezuela?

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 4:02 PM EDT

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Eighty-five people were killed in Buenos Aires in July 1994, when a truck filled with explosives detonated outside the Jewish Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA). Since then, conspiracy theorists have had a field day speculating about who was responsible, but it is generally believed to have been the work of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militia group listed on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist groups. The presence of Islamist militants, including Hezbollah, in South America—in particular, in the anarchic Tri-border Region, where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet—has long been suspected. According to the Los Angeles Times, though, terrorism analysts fear that Hezbollah is expanding its base in Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez's government enjoys warm relations with Iran, Hezbollah's financial and ideological patron. The countries have established numerous business ties, and in March 2007 agreed to flights between their capitals on IranAir—flights that include a layover in Damascus. (The State Department complained early on that passengers arriving in Caracas seldom were checked against immigration databases or had their passports stamped. Venezuela has reportedly stepped up security procedures as a result.) In June, the US government accused two Venezuelans of working with Hezbollah, obtaining finances and arranging travel. Such activities may represent things to come.

From the Times:

Obama's Speech Tonight: What to Expect?

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 2:10 PM EDT

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There are some weird dynamics surrounding Obama's speech tonight. All of them, I think, point to a more subdued and workmanlike performance than many Democrats are hoping for.

Republican Solution to Health Care Crisis: Head, Meet Sand

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 1:26 PM EDT

Check this guy out.

Texas once again led the nation with the highest percentage of residents without health insurance, a U.S. Census Bureau report showed Tuesday...
But the numbers are misleading, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank. Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain's health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)
"So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime," Mr. Goodman said. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American — even illegal aliens — as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.
"So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved."

The fact that this guy is anywhere near actual public policy is scary. He is aware, of course, that you can't get a dental exam, mental health care, or any kind of preventative care at an emergency room? He is also aware that emergency room care is the most expensive of all kinds of health care, and that we should be taking active steps to minimize it, not ignore it?

Just tuck this little nugget away: The man who helped write John McCain's health care plan believes the solution to the health care problem in this country is to literally pretend we don't have one.

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God Understands Irony, Part 2

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 1:13 PM EDT

Remember when the meeting of global warming deniers in Florida was canceled due to an impending tropical storm? This might top that. President Bush's speech at the Republican National Convention may be postponed from its current Monday slot because tropical storm Gustav may hit the Gulf Coast that day.

John McCain Does Not Understand Cause and Effect

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 1:06 PM EDT

Others are focusing on the more bizarre moments of Time's McCain interview, but I want to highlight a passage near the end. Here's McCain:

I believe that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I believe it's clear that he had every intention to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. I can only imagine what Saddam Hussein would be doing with the wealth he would acquire with oil at $110 and $120 a barrel.

Are there any sixth graders available who can explain to John McCain why that last sentence makes no sense?

Dep't of Rapid Response: 1968 Edition

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 12:44 PM EDT

obama_seven_years.jpg Posted on the McCain campaign's blog yesterday:

Flashback: 40 Years Ago Today, Bill Ayers Arrested at DNC

Emailed to reporters by the Obama campaign shortly thereafter:

Flashback: 40 Years Ago Today, Barack Obama Was Seven Years Old

They made sure to include the photo at right.

Mitt Romney Would Be Karl Rove's Handpicked VP

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 12:25 PM EDT

According to Politco:

"Rove is pushing Romney so aggressively some folks are beginning to wonder what's going on," grumbled one veteran Republican strategist.
From his perch on Fox, Rove has touted McCain's fierce primary rival as strong vice presidential material.
"Romney is already vetted by the media, has strong executive experience both in business and in government, has an interesting story to tell with saving the U.S. Olympics, and also helps McCain deal with the economy, because he can speak to the economy with a fluency that McCain doesn't have," Rove said on "Fox News Sunday" in June.

Rove is specifically worried about one guy.

Rove called Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) late last week and urged him to contact John McCain to withdraw his name from vice presidential consideration, according to three sources familiar with the conversation. Lieberman dismissed the request, these sources agreed.
Lieberman "laughed at the suggestion and certainly did not call [McCain] on it," said one source familiar with the details.

I'm kind of stunned that the conversation has narrowed to these two guys. Romney, who McCain despised in the primaries because of his transparent lack of principle, and Lieberman, a conservative Democrat who threatens to rip the Republican Party apart. Surely the McCain campaign is smart enough to find a dark horse that will surprise the media (thus resulting in even more breathless coverage) and excite the base?

Update: Rove's denial on this story is so lame even Fox News says he's "waffling."