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During a Hannity & Colmes interview last night (11/24/08), Republican Governor of North Carolina Mark Sanford, introduced as “one of the rising stars of the Republican Party,” cracked up when Alan Colmes asked if Sarah Palin might be one of the future stars of her party. He quickly recovered by offering the faint praise that she’d be “among the mix.” But then he soon moved on to name other names that did not include hers. With video.

In their discussion about the future of the GOP, Sanford told Colmes, “If you look at the Bobby Jindals of the world, who’s the governor of Louisiana, or look at Rick Perry in Texas or Mitch Daniels up in Indiana, there are a lot of governors, there are a lot of folks at the precinct level, at the county level who are working very hard to bring back the conservatism in the Republican Party.”

Colmes asked “Who else would you put in that category? …Sarah Palin for example?”

Sanford laughed heartily. Then he added, “Uh, certainly. She’s among the mix. I think it’s a broad swath that literally goes from Jim Douglas, who won in the most blue of blue states there, in Vermont… or it is indeed somebody who’s like a young rising star like Bobby Jindal. It is somebody like Sonny Perdue there in Georgia, who’s been working on a lot of neat reforms. It’s a broad swath of different folks.”

He never mentioned Palin again.

Source: News Hounds

The GOP selected Sarah Palin as its VP to stoke its base, but expanding that base should be the partys goal.

The GOP selected Sarah Palin as its VP to stoke its base, but expanding that base should be the partys goal.

In the wake of the Republican defeat, there has been much recrimination and finger-pointing over tactics and strategy. Was the Sarah Palin choice fatal? Should John McCain have suspended his campaign during the financial crisis?

But the larger issue is whether 2008 was a “realigning election” that went deeper than the candidates or the current issues. The jury is still out as to whether Democrats can turn one sweeping victory into a generation-long dominance of the White House. A key element in a possible structural shift favoring Democrats is the changing demographics of the electorate. The U.S. is growing bigger, increasingly diverse and more cosmopolitan — and the GOP seems on the wrong side of all these trends.

The United States is the only developed country that is projected to add lots of new residents by mid-century. In 2006, the nation’s population reached 300 million. The Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. will get to 400 million by 2039. To put this growth in perspective, consider that even China (yes, China) will not add 100 million people by that date. The U.S. will gain more new residents in the next three decades than the current population of Germany — the largest European Union nation.

With each decade, more than 22 million potential new voters will enter the electorate. Parties that fix on a strategy may find that it is unworkable in just a few cycles. The Republican Party’s idea of stoking its base to gain office assumes a somewhat static voting public, which, given the dynamic nature of American demographics, is a faulty notion.

So who are most of these new people? The quick answer is both recent immigrants and their American-born offspring. By 2043, the U.S. may be a majority minority nation. Another scenario is that a high rate of intermarriage among whites and minorities may open to question the whole notion of who is “majority.” The bottom line for Republicans is that no matter how this population is defined, an increasing number of current minorities are voting for Democrats.

Republicans can, of course, switch their strategy and make more direct appeals to minority voters. As recently as 2004, President George W. Bush almost won the Latino vote. But at the moment, the Republicans seem branded as the party of white people. Furthermore, much of the Republican base — especially those listening to talk radio — believe the U.S. is being flooded with immigrants (legal and illegal). It may be hard to pivot and embrace diversity without alienating the GOP base. By contrast, many whites in the Democratic Party are comfortable with diversity and now form a transracial coalition with minority voters.

As the U.S. expands and diversifies, it is becoming more urban. The Census finds that 83 percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas and that well over half live in regions with more than 1 million residents. By other calculations, two-thirds of people added by 2040 will settle in just 20 megapolitan areas — massive urban complexes that contain more than 5 million residents.

Were just the big metro areas to vote, the presidential race would be a rout every time. The Democrats dominate major urban regions. An analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech found that Barack Obama won the votes in the nation’s top 50 metro areas — often by double-digit margins.

Worse for Republicans, in 2006 and 2008, Democrats significantly expanded the areas of the metros they won. Their electoral dominance has spilled out of cities and close-in suburbs and now reaches into the kinds of sprawling subdivisions that were once reliably Republican. The suburbs in key swing states such as Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia played a particularly decisive role in delivering the presidency to Democrats.

Republicans must adjust to the demographic shifts sweeping America or risk being politically marginalized. Most significantly, the party needs to recognize that there are simply not enough rural white voters to balance the growing number of minority voters and cosmopolitan whites living in big metro areas. If Republicans think 2008 went badly, try running the same kind of small-town-flavored campaign in 2020. At that point, the vastly expanded and racially diverse metro areas in Texas and Georgia could tip those once reliably red states to the Democrats.

Robert E. Lang is co-director of the Alexandria, Va.-based Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech and an associate professor in urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech’s School of Planning and International Affairs.

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11-20-2008-3-02-03-pm

TIME

A new poll out Thursday paints a bleak picture for the GOP.

A new poll out Thursday paints a bleak picture for the GOP.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Republican Party has hit a new low.

 

Just 34 percent of Americans in a Gallup Poll released Thursday say they have a favorable view of the party, down 40 percent from a month ago, before the election.

What’s worse: 61 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

According to Gallup, that unfavorable rating is the highest the polling organization has recorded for the GOP since the measure was established in 1992.

The poll of national adults was conducted on November 13-16 with a three percent margin of error.

The numbers are slightly up from a CNN poll released last week that indicated a 54 percent unfavorable rating for Republicans. Only 38 percent of those polled had a favorable rating for the party.

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to bask in the glow of President-elect Barack Obama’s historic victory on November 4. The Gallup poll suggests that 55 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, with 39 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Those numbers are mostly unchanged from a mid-October survey.

As the debate rages within GOP ranks over where to take the party, the poll might offer some guidance.

Most Republicans — 59 percent — want the party to become more conservative, according to the poll. Another 28 percent want it to remain about the same ideologically, while only 12 percent would prefer to see the Republican Party become less conservative.

Independents are split on whether the party should track left or right: 35 percent of independent voters say the GOP should become more conservative, and 35 percent say less conservative.

Source: CNNPoliticalTicker

791418113_64c2a7cdc2_m Consultant Roger Stone, the notorious political hitman who helped George W. Bush prevail in the 2000 Florida recount, tells The Daily Beast that he wishes he hadn’t.

Roger Stone is one of the last guys on Earth one would expect to feel guilty over an episode of rough and tumble politicking. As a self-admitted hit man for the GOP, Stone has had a hand in everything from Nixon’s dirty tricks to Eliot Spitzer’s resignation to spreading discredited rumors of a Michelle Obama “whitey” tape during the 2008 Democratic primaries. You might call Stone the Forrest Gump of scandal, popping up to play a bit part in the most notorious negative campaigns in recent history.

The capstone of Stone’s career, at least in terms of results, was the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House. Though he is quick to rebut GOP operatives who seek to minimize his role in the recount, Stone lately has been having second thoughts about what happened in Florida.

When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade.’

“There have been many times I’ve regretted it,” Stone told me over pizza at Grand Central Station. “When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there hadn’t have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn’t become president.’ It’s very disturbing to me.”

Read more..

By Kathleen Parker

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

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To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it.

But they need those votes!

So it has been for the Grand Old Party since the 1980s or so, as it has become increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners.

Short break as writer ties blindfold and smokes her last cigarette.

Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.

Here’s the deal, ‘pubbies: Howard Dean was right.

It isn’t that culture doesn’t matter. It does. But preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party — and conservatism with it — eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one’s heart where it belongs.

Religious conservatives become defensive at any suggestion that they’ve had something to do with the GOP’s erosion. And, though the recent Democratic sweep can be attributed in large part to a referendum on Bush and the failing economy, three long-term trends identified by Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz have been devastating to the Republican Party: increasing racial diversity, declining marriage rates and changes in religious beliefs.

Suffice it to say, the Republican Party is largely comprised of white, married Christians. Anyone watching the two conventions last summer can’t have missed the stark differences: One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting.

With the exception of Miss Alaska, of course.

Even Sarah Palin has blamed Bush policies for the GOP loss. She’s not entirely wrong, but she’s also part of the problem. Her recent conjecture about whether to run for president in 2012 (does anyone really doubt she will?) speaks for itself:

“I’m like, okay, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is…. And if there is an open door in (20)12 or four years later, and if it’s something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”

Let’s do pray that God shows Alaska’s governor the door.

Meanwhile, it isn’t necessary to evict the Creator from the public square, surrender Judeo-Christian values or diminish the value of faith in America. Belief in something greater than oneself has much to recommend it, including most of the world’s architectural treasures, our universities and even our founding documents.

But, like it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian. The change Barack Obama promised has already occurred, which is why he won.

Among Jewish voters, 78 percent went for Obama. Sixty-six percent of under-30 voters did likewise. Forty-five percent of voters ages 18-29 are Democrats compared to just 26 percent Republican; in 2000, party affiliation was split almost evenly.

The young will get older, of course. Most eventually will marry, and some will become their parents. But nonwhites won’t get whiter. And the nonreligious won’t get religion through external conversion. It doesn’t work that way.

Given those facts, the future of the GOP looks dim and dimmer if it stays the present course. Either the Republican Party needs a new base — or the nation may need a new party.

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Lieberman will keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee despite hard feelings over his support for GOP nominee John McCain during the presidential campaign.

The Connecticut independent will lose a minor panel post as punishment for criticizing Obama this fall.

Lieberman’s colleagues in the Democratic caucus voted 42-13 Tuesday on a resolution condemning statements made by Lieberman during the campaign but allowing him to keep the Homeland Security Committee gavel. He loses an Environment and Public Works panel subcommittee chairmanship, however.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was very angry by Lieberman’s actions but that “we’re looking forward, we’re not looking back.”

Added Reid: “Is this a time when we walk out of here and say, ‘Boy, did we get even?’” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Lieberman’s grasp on his chairmanship has gotten stronger since President-elect Barack Obama signaled to Democratic leaders that he’s not interested in punishing Lieberman for boosting McCain and criticizing Obama during the long campaign.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter, and I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus were moved not only by the kind words that Senator Reid said about my longtime record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself that the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems,” Lieberman said after the vote.

Anger toward Lieberman seems to have softened since Election Day, and Democrats didn’t want to drive him from the Democratic caucus by taking away his chairmanship and send the wrong signals as Obama takes office on a pledge to unite the country. Lieberman had indicated it would be unacceptable for him to lose his chairmanship.

Lieberman, who was Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, was re-elected in 2006 as an independent after losing his state’s Democratic primary. He remains a registered Democrat and aligns with the party inside the Senate.

“It’s time to unite our country,” said Lieberman supporter Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

On the other side were senators who feel that one requirement to be installed in a leadership position is party loyalty.

“To reward Senator Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement Friday. “Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not ‘change we can believe in.’”

Source: AP

11-18-2008-5-04-46-pm
It was likely that Barack Obama genuinely believed that he would take or have to take public financing. But when the primary was unexpectedly extended, the Obama team saw their money raising potential - and more they knew they were going to need fist fulls of it - if they were going to have any real chance of defeating the Republican election machine. With Al Gore’s loss in 2000 and Kerry’s Swift-Boating back in 2004 – they concluded that public financing would place serious limits on their ability to act. And they were right. John McCain promised to run an honorable campaign, and without adequate finance – Obama would likely not be President-elect – as was McCain’s plan. It is doubtful that in 2012 the Republicans will allow themselves to be hamstrung by public financing either. They might be moaning right now - but they are also learning. It was just a little TKO!

President-elect Barack Obama and vanquished rival John McCain talked Monday about reforming parts of the political process, but they skipped a good governance issue of mutual interest over which they sparred bitterly during their campaign: fixing the public financing system.

Obama this summer said he was “firmly committed to reforming the system as president,” even as his reversal of a pledge to participate in it drew fire from McCain, editorial boards and campaign finance reform advocates, all of whom accused Obama of virtually killing the system.

Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for the Obama transition team, said Obama and McCain “share a common belief that the system needs to be reformed,” but she said “they didn’t speak about it today.”

Instead, a different Obama aide said, the discussion focused on “a common sense of reform being needed” on government spending, earmarks, military procurement, corporate welfare, climate change, immigration and Guantanamo Bay, among other areas.

McCain’s Senate and campaign staffers did not respond to questions about why campaign finance reform wasn’t discussed, but it clearly is a sore point for the Arizona senator and his team. They believe Obama was never held to account for his public funding flip-flop, which put him at a huge cash advantage over McCain in the final months of the campaign.

McCain did participate in the system, which limits candidates to spending only the amount of a taxpayer-funded grant. This year, the grant was $84 million for the general election. Meanwhile, Obama’s historic fundraising effort pulled in well more than $640 million for the primary and the general, allowing him to dramatically outspend McCain on ads, offices and get-out-the-vote efforts.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, McCain blamed Obama’s rejection of public financing and his prolific fundraising for “completely breaking whatever idea we had after Watergate to keep the costs and spending on campaigns under control.”

McCain told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace in October that Obama had “unleashed now in presidential campaigns a new flood of spending that will then cause a scandal and then we will fix it again. But Sen. Obama has broken it. And he broke his word to me and the American people when he signed a piece of paper, when he was a long-shot candidate, that he would take public financing if I would.”

That was a reference to a questionnaire Obama submitted last year to a coalition of non-profit groups advocating a reduction in the role of money in politics.

The questionnaire, from the Midwest Democracy Network, asked, “If you are nominated for president in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?”

Obama answered “Yes.” Then, in the space provided for comments, he wrote: “I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests.”

In response to another question, Obama wrote that he supported strengthening the public financing system, which was enacted after Watergate to minimize the corrupting influence of money on electoral politics.

Obama’s policy advisors still consider it a priority to revamp the public financing system, according to David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch, a non-profit group that pushes for stricter campaign finance rules.

Obama’s “priorities Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are the economy, but I don’t think his commitment to (public financing) has changed,” said Donnelly. Still, Donnelly added “it’s important for him to take up this issue and show that he’s willing to follow through on his commitment.”

If Obama does champion campaign finance reform from the White House, McCain could be a key ally in Senate, predicted Donnelly, whose group during the campaign accused McCain of backing away from the issue.

McCain’s seminal legislative accomplishment was a 2002 overhaul of the campaign finance system, and for years before and after that, he sponsored legislation to revamp the public funding system. But Donnelly and other McCain critics accused McCain of shying away from campaign reform as he positioned himself for his 2008 campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.

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Famous for being famous! This election was amazing in that the things which were first said to hurt Obama - came back in the end to help defeat McCain – for example, Obama’s ability to attract large crowds – would go on to mean he would attract 200,000 plus in Germany – but rather than admit this was a great accomplishment (given Germany’s history) – Republicans chose to deride it – saying that Barack Obama was merely a celebrity – not to be taken seriously. Enter Sarah Palin, who for some really is a celebrity – who literally doesn’t know enough – to put together a concise argument on any number of critical issues – important to those seeking the highest office. Without substance Sarah Palin becomes famous for being famous – a celeb politician – who ‘ain’t in it for naught’.

She failed to save John McCain from presidential election doom, but Sarah Palin, the Republican senator’s controversial running mate, may yet emerge as the saviour of the American publishing industry. Literary agents are queueing up to sign her to a book deal that could earn her up to $7m.

With Barack Obama’s election victory certain to generate dozens of volumes from politicians, strategists and journalists – and with another shelfload of memoirs expected from members of President George W Bush’s administration – Palin’s personal account of her tumultuous introduction to national politics is widely regarded as the book most likely to repay a multi-million-dollar advance.

“She’s poised to make a ton of money,” said Howard Rubenstein, New York’s best-known public relations adviser.

“Every publisher and a lot of literary agents have been going after her,” added Jeff Klein of Folio Literary management.

Palin’s profile showed no sign of diminishing last week, despite McCain’s defeat and embittered Republicans seeking a scapegoat for the party’s collapse.

She now finds herself in a position similar to Obama’s in 2004, when the then mostly unknown Chicago politician delivered a mesmerising speech to the Democratic convention, was elected to the Senate and swiftly wrote a bestselling book – The Audacity of Hope. This proved to be the springboard for his presidential launch.

Like Obama, Palin has come from nowhere – in her case, Wasilla, Alaska. She is considered a likely candidate to move to Washington as Alaska’s senator if one of the state’s two seats falls vacant next year. Her book may reach a vast audience fascinated by her journey from the moose-hunting wastes of the Alaskan tundra to a historic battle for the White House.

Undaunted by her poll defeat, Palin was in fighting form last week, inviting cameras into her home, serving visiting interviewers home-cooked moose chilli and haddock and salmon casserole.

She scoffed at untrue reports that she initially thought Africa was a country and that she didn’t know members of the North American Free Trade Agreement. She said much of the criticism levelled at her came from “bloggers in their parents’ basements just talking garbage”.

At a sombre meeting of Republican governors later in the week, Palin’s megawatt celebrity far outshone her more experienced colleagues. Frank Luntz, a prominent Republican consultant, called her a “rock star”, but Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, warned that she would be only “one of the voices” leading the party forward.

Yet there are already signs that conservative Republicans, thrilled by Palin’s right-wing views, are manoeuvring to keep her in the public eye with a view to the 2012 elections and beyond. One group, called Our Country Deserves Better, last week collected tens of thousands of dollars to pay for television advertisements to run over the forthcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The adverts are to thank Palin for her efforts.

Despite polling evidence that Palin failed to make much impact on any of the groups that McCain strategists hoped she might deliver – women, independent voters and suburbanites – her supporters insisted that she should not be blamed for either McCain’s shortcomings or the legacy of the Bush administration’s failures. Palin herself noted that in view of the Bush record, “it’s amazing we did as well as we did”.

Although anonymous McCain aides had variously described her as a “diva” and a “whack job” and Maureen Dowd of The New York Times derided her last week as “Eliza Know-little”, she has earned plaudits from a surprising range of friends and former foes for keeping her cool under fire.

Camille Paglia, the radical feminist, declared that she had “heartily enjoyed [Palin’s] arrival on the national stage”. She had been subjected to “an atrocious and sometimes delusional level of defamation”, Paglia added. “I can see how smart she is and, quite frankly, I think the people who don’t see it are the stupid ones.”

Joanne Bamberger, the liberal author of the popular PunditMom blog, praised Palin for not “fading into the Alaskan woodwork”, and added: “She’s got some serious chutzpah . . . Palin has taken charge of this moment . . . and she’s making the most of the notoriety that was offered her”.

With publishers as nervous as everyone else about next year’s economic prospects, Palin’s popularity has become a boon. “Nobody is waiting for George W Bush’s memoirs,” one New York agent noted.

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By FRANK RICH

ELECTION junkies in acute withdrawal need suffer no longer. Though the exciting Obama-McCain race is over, the cockfight among the losers has only just begun. The conservative crackup may be ugly, but as entertainment, it’s two thumbs up!

Over at Fox News, Greta Van Susteren has been trashing the credibility of her own network’s chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron, for his report on Sarah Palin’s inability to identify Africa as a continent, while Bill O’Reilly valiantly defends Cameron’s honor. At Slate, a post-mortem of conservative intellectuals descended into name-calling, with the writer Ross Douthat of The Atlantic labeling the legal scholar Douglas Kmiec a “useful idiot.”

In an exuberant class by himself is Michael Barone, a ubiquitous conservative commentator who last week said that journalists who trash Palin (more than a few of them conservatives) do so because “she did not abort her Down syndrome baby.” He was being “humorous,” he subsequently explained to Politico, though the joke may be on him. Barone writes for U.S. News & World Report, where his 2008 analyses included keepers like “Just Call Her Sarah ‘Delano’ Palin.” Just call it coincidence, but on Election Day, word spread that the once-weekly U.S. News was downsizing to a monthly — a step closer to the fate of Literary Digest, the weekly magazine that vanished two years after its straw poll predicted an Alf Landon landslide over Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936.

Will the 2008 G.O.P. go the way of the 1936 G.O.P., which didn’t reclaim the White House until 1952? Even factoring in the Democrats’ time-honored propensity for self-immolation, it’s not beyond reason. The Republicans are in serious denial. A few heretics excepted, they hope to blame all their woes on their unpopular president, the inept McCain campaign and their party’s latent greed for budget-busting earmarks.

The trouble is far more fundamental than that. The G.O.P. ran out of steam and ideas well before George W. Bush took office and Tom DeLay ran amok, and it is now more representative of 20th-century South Africa during apartheid than 21st-century America. The proof is in the vanilla pudding. When David Letterman said that the 10 G.O.P. presidential candidates at an early debate looked like “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club,” he was the first to correctly call the election.

On Nov. 4, that’s roughly the sole constituency that remained loyal to the party — minus its wealthiest slice, a previously solid G.O.P. stronghold that turned blue this year (in a whopping swing of 34 percentage points). The Republicans lost every region of the country by double digits except the South, which they won by less than double digits (9 points). They took the South only because McCain, who ran roughly even with Obama among whites in every other region, won Southern whites by 38 percentage points.

Blue areas show Democrat gains.

Blue areas show Democrat gains.

Read it all….

11-10-2008-5-56-15-pm A few days before the election, a Democratic strategist privately worried that a Vice-President Joe Biden was destined for a White House career of dissatisfaction and idle-hands mischief.

“You can’t just have a guy like him at loose ends, he’d go crazy,” said a Democratic consultant who knows the affable, bright and mercilessly quotable soon-to-be ex-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “They need to keep him busy. Nobody over there wants him getting into the Secretary of State’s [business].”

Harnessing Biden’s considerable talents and containing his flaws will be an ongoing challenge for Obama. But Democratic insiders say the appointment of tough-guy Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff—and the administration’s need to forge a governing coalition that includes some Republicans—has brought Biden’s upcoming role more clearly into focus: He’ll play the good cop.

The Democrats’ apparent failure to win the 60 Senate seats necessary to halt a GOP filibuster has created the need for inter-party ambassadors like Biden who are practiced at the art of aisle crossing. In his 36-year Senate career, Biden was never considered a bomb-throwing ideologue, and he still has plenty of chits to cash in with Republicans on the Hill.

“He’s probably got more friends among Senate Republicans than John McCain does, and that’s a huge plus for Barack Obama, who is committed to breaking the partisan roadblock of recent years,” said Biden spokesman David Wade shortly before Election Day.

And while Emanuel’s bad-cop reputation may be overstated, all those F-bombs and threats to pulverize GOP incumbents during his tenure of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee boss create an opening for Biden, who maxes out on the Mr. Nice Guy scale.

“I really have genuine relationships with Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. I mean, I—I hope this is not self serving, but I’ve gained the respect,” Biden told an Ohio campaign rally in late October. “I’ve been able to literally work with the Republican leaders, of the committees as well as, as well as the Senate,” he added. “And Barack knows that, Barack has served there and sees that… I’m confident that I’ll be spending a fair amount of time [in Congress].”

In an interview with the New Yorker last month, Biden selected a lofty, if somewhat dubious role model: Lyndon Johnson, who plunged into a deep depression when John F. Kennedy assigned him the role as emissary to a Senate he had bullied, cajoled and utterly dominated as majority leader in the 1950s.

Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who’s fond of Biden, painted a different picture: “I can see Joe in his room [just off the Senate chamber], smiling, slapping people on the back, making his points, working the members.”

Indeed, Biden told the New Yorker that his style would be more honey than sting: “I have never ever, ever screwed another senator,” he said.

On top of that, Biden could not be more different than the outgoing vice president, who never visited the weekly Democratic caucus lunches in the Senate and had virtually no relationships with the other side of the aisle. It’s unlikely that Biden will ever be caught telling another senator to “Go [expletive] yourself” as Dick Cheney famously said to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy. Unless he’s kidding.

Biden’s best Republican friends in the Senate are centrists, including retiring Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and the top Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, with whom he’s forged a close working partnership.

Biden is equally popular with some GOP staffers, drawing top-level Republican aides into free-ranging discussion on nettlesome policy problems, even setting up secure computer forums where aides can swap ideas without partisan recrimination, according to a person who participated in one of the chat groups.

The veep in waiting is not a favorite with Republicans hard-liners, though, who still hold grudges over his tough questioning of former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The conservative bloc in the Senate remains unified, and could still engineer a filibuster of Obama priorities.

“Joe’s really well liked—and he can be a real stand-up guy—but it’s going to be tough for him,” said an aide to a top Senate Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We’re not in the mood to make deals. People like him, sure, but people are going to change their votes on defense or health care or taxes just because Joe Biden’s a great guy?”

Biden may find it even tougher with Democratic senators—thrilled to have one of their own in the White House again—who may want to simply bypass the vice president and forge a relationship directly with Obama.

“He will carve out a role for himself, the problem is that he’s going to have a lot of competition—and it’s competition that won’t be willing to step aside for him,” says Jennifer Duffy, who covers the Senate for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Obama hasn’t served a full term in the Senate but he’s got plenty of friends in the Democratic caucus: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, up-and-coming Missouri freshman Claire McCaskill and an ailing but still powerful Ted Kennedy. Obama also has a unique relationship with one of the most conservative senators, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, with whom he shares a passion for government reform.

Then there’s former Majority Leader Tom Daschle—a well-connected kitchen-cabinet Obama adviser who is likely to play some kind of role in the administration.

But Biden’s biggest competition may come from the president-elect himself.

“Obama already has his own relationships in the Senate so, in a sense, he doesn’t need an emissary,” Duffy adds. “He’s his own go-to guy.”

Obama has gone to great lengths to establish personal relationships with legislators, creating direct lines of communication that will be handy even if he runs into problems with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“Barack’s been seriously keeping touch with the [fiscally conservative Democratic] Blue Dogs and all the other foot soldiers—he’s intent on not making the same mistakes we did,” said a former aide to Bill Clinton, who worked his congressional transition team in the early 1990s. “We thought all we had to do was to keep in touch with the leaders and we left the members and committee chairs alone. That was a huge mistake and it killed us on the health care… Barack’s not making that mistake.”

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It is interesting how Rove is not drawn into Bill O’Reilly’s dog fight with the Democrat leadership. And more he directs the Republicans to have a look at what their party stands for – and how best to convey that message. Which I am pretty sure, he is also clear on – that this is how they were beaten in this election.

College students on the NAACP’s ‘Vote Hard’ bus tour encourage people to vote in the George Washington Carver Homes housing project in Selma, Ala.

WASHINGTON — The national and state Democratic parties are spending far more heavily than their Republican counterparts on field operations, after years of ceding the advantage in ground-level organizing to the Republican voter-turnout machine.

Finance records show Democrats have hired five to 10 times more paid field staff in swing states than the Republicans.

Democrats have set up 770 offices nationwide, including in some of the most Republican areas of traditionally “red” states — like one in Goshen, Ind., a manufacturing town with a population of about 30,000. It is the seat of Elkhart County, which voted for President George W. Bush in 2004 by more than 40 percentage points. By comparison, Republicans have about 370 offices nationwide.

The focus on the ground-game is a change from past election cycles, when the Democratic party’s prime objective was getting as many broadcast ads on the air as possible. In recent campaigns, Democrats outsourced their ground organization to outside groups, such as labor unions and liberal activists.

The year’s change is made possible by Democratic Sen. Barack Obama’s historic fundraising. His campaign is doing its own advertising, taking that pricey burden off the parties. Campaign-finance data show the Democratic Party has essentially ceded television advertising to Sen. Obama’s campaign. In 2004, the Democratic Party spent nearly $120 million on advertising in support of then-nominee John Kerry, compared to only $500,000 this fall.

And the Obama campaign also is pouring money into state-party budgets. The senator’s presidential campaign along with the Democratic National Committee have put at least $112 million into state parties in recent months, a review of campaign-finance filings shows. They have poured $6 million into both North Carolina and Virginia and even sent $1.8 million into Montana — nearly two dollars for every resident of that state.

We really feel that this election is going to come down to our ground organization and what happens in the final days of the campaign,” said Jen O’Malley, the Obama campaign’s battleground-states director.

Four years ago, the party’s get-out-the-vote effort was largely run by an independent group named America Coming Together, or ACT, which was financed with $164 million from rich liberals but legally prevented from coordinating with their candidate. The group was criticized by some Democrats for not reaching deep enough into the outer suburbs and rural areas, where Republicans were victorious. ACT was also legally restricted when it came to mentioning candidates, and was fined $775,000 after allegedly attacking President Bush in its voter drives.

Republicans say their volunteer-based turnout machinery from 2004 is intact and more than twice as productive as last cycle in making phone calls and house calls. “This operation is working on all eight cylinders,” said Rich Beeson, the political director of the Republican National Committee and a veteran of the 2004 effort. “It’s doing what it was designed to do.” The party has been honing the same model for eight years, developing veteran volunteers who often work full-time without pay.

Republican spending on field staff has grown just slightly since 2004, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis covering reports from the presidential campaigns, as well as national and state parties. The GOP spent an estimated $22 million on personnel from June 1 to Oct. 15, compared to $19 million over the same period in 2004.

Democrats have increased their staff expenditures from $30 million to $56 million — and they employed an estimated 4,500 workers making more than $1,500 a month as of mid-October, the latest information available. Sen. McCain and the Republicans had about 1,100 at that point.

The expansion was made possible by Sen. Obama’s decision to decline public financing for his campaign, freeing himself from its spending caps. Instead he has relied on the legions of supporters who have already contributed over $600 million.

Sen. McCain is limited to spending the $84.1 million he accepted from the government after his September nomination. Sen. Obama is on track to spend more on television advertising than any candidate in history, likely spending more than $100 million on ads in October alone.

Source: WSJ

Former White House adviser Karl Rove, credited with winning two elections for President Bush, on Sunday said GOP nominee John McCain has a “very steep hill to climb” in his quest for the presidency.

Rove, who often puts a positive spin on things for the GOP, on “Fox News Sunday” offered a bleaker assessment of the state of the race from a Republican point of view. In his own electoral map, Rove has Democratic nominee Barack Obama ahead with 317 electoral votes after moving Ohio, Indiana, Colorado and Virginia to the Illinois senator’s column.

The GOP analyst noted that McCain would have to turn things around in all four states and sweep the remaining toss-up states in order to win the necessary electoral votes to prevail.

“It’s a steep uphill climb,” he said.

Rove added that McCain could turn the race if he is only down up to six points in national points. However, with the RealClearPolitics average of national polls putting Obama ahead by eight points, Rove said it would be “difficult” to make up that ground.

“What he’s got to do is pound home on two big messages. One message is, ‘I’m right on the issues and he’s wrong when it comes to taxes and the war on terror, and I’m experienced and ready to be president, and whatever his strengths and skills are, he, Sen. Obama, is not ready to be president’,” Rove said. “And you’ve got to make that message in a handful of states and repeat it constantly and hope that your ground game on Election Day is able to give you a point or two more beyond what the polls show you having.”

The GOP strategist also commented on signs that there is dissension within the ranks of the McCain campaign, including stress between vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her handlers.

“It is a sign of undisciplined people who do not have the loyalty that they ought to have to the candidate whom they’re serving,” he said. “And it’s a sad sight to see. Nobody makes themselves look good by this process.”

Rove also acknowledged that this kind of infighting generally happens “in campaigns that are behind, and people want to make certain they escape with the best reputation they can.”

The Hill

Palin's Fashion statement

One for Palin ~ she should keep the clothes ~ if she has to pay taxes on them fine ~ if she can’t afford it ~ one of those donors should folk it up for her!

The Republican National Committee’s $150,000 investment in Sarah Palin’s wardrobe has prompted some teeth gnashing among the party’s big donors about its political sensibility and a feisty debate among campaign finance specialists about its legality.

“As a Republican Eagle and a maxed-out contributor to McCain’s general campaign, I’d like my money back – he can still have my vote,” complained one irate donor on Tuesday.

“I’m not one who says a candidate shouldn’t wear fine clothes,” he added. “I’d just like to think they were successful enough in the private sector to have afforded their wardrobe with their own money, not the party’s or the campaign’s, which is really our money as contributors.”

Another big donor was sympathetic to the effort, but critical of the execution.

The Alaska governor was tapped by Arizona Sen. John McCain to become his vice presidential running mate just days before the Republican National Convention in Minnesota, the donor noted.

Given the short notice and the Palins’ relatively modest means, “she could probably not go into her closet at home in Alaska to come up with a wardrobe appropriate for her status as a vice presidential candidate,” he said.

“Having said that, $150K is big money,” he added. “It kind of makes it worth running. Even if you lose, you’ve got a whole new closet.”

Other donors, in other e-mails and interviews, said the costs were worth the investment.

Palin has proven to be a major draw at campaign rallies, and her strong performances and appearance provides a polished and professional image on television, one donor noted.

In addition, he suggested, the bad press only means the GOP base will unite even further behind the McCain-Palin ticket.

As Republican donors absorbed the news, the consensus among several prominent Washington-based attorneys was that the purchases were legal, albeit in a fuzzy area of the law.

Campaign finance laws prohibit candidates from spending donor cash to their authorized personal campaign committee on costs “that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign,” including clothing, vacations and gym memberships.

But the law does not prohibit such expenditures by party committees, and Congress has killed legislation to expand the personal use ban to those and other types of political committees.

The fuzzy part in the Palin case is that the RNC used money from an account designated for “coordinated,” or shared, expenditures with the McCain-Palin candidate account.

The Federal Election Commission, which interprets federal campaign finance laws, has never been asked to address this issue. And legal experts say the key question is: From which side of the joint account was the money drawn?

Noting that the expenses were reported by the RNC and not the McCain-Obama campaign, Ken Gross, a law partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who advises corporations on campaign finance laws, concluded: “The bottom line is that this is party committee money. These are not campaign funds.”

Wiley Rein lawyer Jan Baran, an adviser to several Republican candidates and committees, agreed with Gross, but added that the Palins may still be forced to comply with tax laws.

“The receipt of goods and services by the taxpayer usually constitutes reportable ‘income’,” Baran said. Consequently, Palin may have to declare the value of the fashion gifts as income and pay taxes on it.

“She might be able to offset some of the taxes by donating the items to charity after the campaign, Baran said, “although she will only be able to deduct the fair market value at that time.”

The campaign said Monday that Palin intends to donate the clothes to charity after the election.

Source: Politico

Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley, in an exclusive for The Daily Beast, explains why he left The National Review, the magazine his father founded.

I seem to have picked an apt title for my Daily Beast column, or blog, or whatever it’s called: “What Fresh Hell.” My last posting (if that’s what it’s called) in which I endorsed Obama, has brought about a very heaping helping of fresh hell. In fact, I think it could accurately be called a tsunami.

The mail (as we used to call it in pre-cyber times) at the Beast has been running I’d say at about 7-to-1 in favor. This would seem to indicate that you (the Beast reader) are largely pro-Obama.

As for the mail flooding into National Review Online—that’s been running about, oh, 700-to-1 against. In fact, the only thing the Right can’t quite decide is whether I should be boiled in oil or just put up against the wall and shot. Lethal injection would be too painless.

Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails.

I had gone out of my way in my Beast endorsement to say that I was not doing it in the pages of National Review, where I write the back-page column, because of the experience of my colleague, the lovely Kathleen Parker. Kathleen had written in NRO that she felt Sarah Palin was an embarrassment. (Hardly an alarmist view.) This brought 12,000 livid emails, among them a real charmer suggesting that Kathleen’s mother ought to have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a dumpster. I didn’t want to put NR in an awkward position.

Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it’s pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land. One editor at National Review—a friend of 30 years—emailed me that he thought my opinions “cretinous.” One thoughtful correspondent, who feels that I have “betrayed”—the b-word has been much used in all this—my father and the conservative movement generally, said he plans to devote the rest of his life to getting people to cancel their subscriptions to National Review. But there was one bright spot: To those who wrote me to demand, “Cancel my subscription,” I was able to quote the title of my father’s last book, a delicious compendium of his NR “Notes and Asides”: Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription.

In 1969, Pup wrote a widely-remarked upon column saying that it was time America had a black president.

Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.

My father in his day endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman. One of his closest friends on earth was John Kenneth Galbraith. In 1969, Pup wrote a widely-remarked upon column saying that it was time America had a black president. (I hasten to aver here that I did not endorse Senator Obama because he is black. Surely voting for someone on that basis is as racist as not voting for him for the same reason.)

My point, simply, is that William F. Buckley held to rigorous standards, and if those were met by members of the other side rather than by his own camp, he said as much. My father was also unpredictable, which tends to keep things fresh and lively and on-their-feet. He came out for legalization of drugs once he decided that the war on drugs was largely counterproductive. Hardly a conservative position. Finally, and hardly least, he was fun. God, he was fun. He liked to mix it up.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for.

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

Thanks, anyway, for the memories, and here’s to happier days and with any luck, a bit less fresh hell.

Related: Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama

Source: Daily Beast

Good article – one of the main points is Palin’s coldness or detachment from emotion. You can see an example of this in her answer here – when she was asked on abortion and what if her teenage daughter was raped and become pregnant – it is interesting to see the difference between her answer and the answer given by the others – responding to the same question.

This article makes reference to Palin’s answer in the VP debate – to what if the worst happened – to your respective – presidential running mates – when it was Palin’s turn – through the next two statements she was smiling – glee she seemed hard pressed to control – the writer calls it weird – I’m glad I’m not the only one who found it more than strange.

More when she was asked the question in the debate on what would be an acceptable trigger for use of a nuclear weapon – Palin was way to flippant for me — nervousness about Palin – might be the least of out problems.

See OFKR take on the VP Debate here.

SARAH PALIN’S post-Couric/Fey comeback at last week’s vice presidential debate was a turning point in the campaign. But if she “won,” as her indulgent partisans and press claque would have it, the loser was not Joe Biden. It was her running mate. With a month to go, the 2008 election is now an Obama-Palin race — about “the future,” as Palin kept saying Thursday night — and the only person who doesn’t seem to know it is Mr. Past, poor old John McCain.

To understand the meaning of Palin’s “victory,” it must be seen in the context of two ominous developments that directly preceded it. Just hours before the debate began, the McCain campaign pulled out of Michigan. That state is ground zero for the collapsed Main Street economy and for so-called Reagan Democrats, those white working-class voters who keep being told by the right that Barack Obama is a Muslim who hung with bomb-throwing radicals during his childhood in the late 1960s.

McCain surrendered Michigan despite having outspent his opponent on television advertising and despite Obama’s twin local handicaps, an unpopular Democratic governor and a felonious, now former, black Democratic Detroit mayor. If McCain can’t make it there, can he make it anywhere in the Rust Belt?

Not without an economic message. McCain’s most persistent attempt, his self-righteous crusade against earmarks, collapsed with his poll numbers. Next to a $700 billion bailout package, his incessant promise to eliminate all Washington pork — by comparison, a puny grand total of $16.5 billion in the 2008 federal budget — doesn’t bring home the bacon. Nor can McCain reconcile his I-will-veto-government-waste mantra with his support, however tardy, of the bailout bill. That bill’s $150 billion in fresh pork includes a boondoggle inserted by the Congressman Don Young, an Alaskan Republican no less.

The second bit of predebate news, percolating under the radar, involved the still-unanswered questions about McCain’s health. Back in May, you will recall, the McCain campaign allowed a select group of 20 reporters to spend a mere three hours examining (but not photocopying) 1,173 pages of the candidate’s health records on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Conspicuously uninvited was Lawrence Altman, a doctor who covers medicine for The New York Times. Altman instead canvassed melanoma experts to evaluate the sketchy data that did emerge. They found the information too “unclear” to determine McCain’s cancer prognosis.

There was, however, at least one doctor-journalist among those 20 reporters in May, the CNN correspondent Sanjay Gupta. At the time, Gupta told Katie Couric on CBS that the medical records were “pretty comprehensive” and wrote on his CNN blog that he was “pretty convinced there was no ‘smoking gun’ about the senator’s health.” (Physical health, that is; Gupta wrote there was hardly any information on McCain’s mental health.)

That was then. Now McCain is looking increasingly shaky, whether he’s repeating his “Miss Congeniality” joke twice in the same debate or speaking from notecards even when reciting a line for (literally) the 17th time (“The fundamentals of our economy are strong”) or repeatedly confusing proper nouns that begin with S (Sunni, Shia, Sudan, Somalia, Spain). McCain’s “dismaying temperament,” as George Will labeled it, only thickens the concerns. His kamikaze mission into Washington during the bailout crisis seemed crazed. His seething, hostile debate countenance — a replay of Al Gore’s sarcastic sighing in 2000 — didn’t make the deferential Obama look weak (as many Democrats feared) but elevated him into looking like the sole presidential grown-up.

Though CNN and MSNBC wouldn’t run a political ad with doctors questioning McCain’s medical status, Gupta revisited the issue in an interview published last Tuesday by The Huffington Post. While maintaining a pretty upbeat take on the candidate’s health, the doctor-journalist told the reporter Sam Stein that he couldn’t vouch “by any means” for the completeness of the records the campaign showed him four months ago. “The pages weren’t numbered,” Gupta said, “so I had no way of knowing what was missing.” At least in Watergate we knew that the gap on Rose Mary Woods’s tape ran 18 and a half minutes.

It’s against this backdrop that Palin’s public pronouncements, culminating with her debate performance, have been so striking. The standard take has it that she’s either speaking utter ignorant gibberish (as to Couric) or reciting highly polished, campaign-written sound bites that she’s memorized (as at the convention and the debate). But there’s a steady unnerving undertone to Palin’s utterances, a consistent message of hubristic self-confidence and hyper-ambition. She wants to be president, she thinks she can be president, she thinks she will be president. And perhaps soon. She often sounds like someone who sees herself as half-a-heartbeat away from the presidency. Or who is seen that way by her own camp, the hard-right G.O.P. base that never liked McCain anyway and views him as, at best, a White House place holder.

This was first apparent when Palin extolled a “small town” vice president as a hero in her convention speech — and cited not one of the many Republican vice presidents who fit that bill but, bizarrely, Harry Truman, a Democrat who succeeded a president who died in office. A few weeks later came Charlie Gibson’s question about whether she thought she was “experienced enough” and “ready” when McCain invited her to join his ticket. Palin replied that she didn’t “hesitate” and didn’t “even blink” — a response that seemed jarring for its lack of any human modesty, even false modesty.

In the last of her Couric interview installments on Thursday, Palin was asked which vice president had most impressed her, and after paying tribute to Geraldine Ferraro, she chose “George Bush Sr.” Her criterion: she most admires vice presidents “who have gone on to the presidency.” Hours later, at the debate, she offered a discordant contrast to Biden when asked by Gwen Ifill how they would each govern “if the worst happened” and the president died in office. After Biden spoke of somber continuity, Palin was weirdly flip and chipper, eager to say that as a “maverick” she’d go her own way.

But the debate’s most telling passage arrived when Biden welled up in recounting his days as a single father after his first wife and one of his children were killed in a car crash. Palin’s perky response — she immediately started selling McCain as a “consummate maverick” again — was as emotionally disconnected as Michael Dukakis’s notoriously cerebral answer to the hypothetical 1988 debate question about his wife being “raped and murdered.” If, as some feel, Obama is cool, Palin is ice cold. She didn’t even acknowledge Biden’s devastating personal history.

After the debate, Republicans who had been bailing on Palin rushed back to the fold. They know her relentless ambition is the only hope for saving a ticket headed by a warrior who is out of juice and out of ideas. So what if she is preposterously unprepared to run the country in the midst of its greatest economic crisis in 70 years? She looks and sounds like a winner.

You can understand why they believe that. She has more testosterone than anyone else at the top of her party. McCain and his surrogates are forever blaming their travails on others, wailing about supposed sexist and journalistic biases around the clock. McCain even canceled an interview with Larry King, for heaven’s sake, in a fit of pique at a CNN anchor, Campbell Brown.

We are not a nation of whiners, as Phil Gramm would have it, but the G.O.P. is now the party of whiners. That rebranding became official when Republican House leaders moaned that a routine partisan speech by Nancy Pelosi had turned their members against the bailout bill. As the stock market fell nearly 778 points, Barney Frank taunted his G.O.P. peers with pitch-perfect mockery: “Somebody hurt my feelings, so I will punish the country!”

Talk about the world coming full circle. This is the same Democrat who had been slurred as “Barney Fag” in the mid-1990s by Dick Armey, a House leader of the government-bashing Gingrich revolution that helped lower us into this debacle. Now Frank was ridiculing the House G.O.P. as a bunch of sulking teenage girls. His wisecrack stung — and stuck.

Palin is an antidote to the whiny Republican image that Frank nailed. Alaska’s self-styled embodiment of Joe Sixpack is not a sulker, but a pistol-packing fighter. That’s why she draws the crowds and (as she puts it) “energy” that otherwise elude the angry McCain. But she is still the candidate for vice president, not president. Americans do not vote for vice president.

So how can a desperate G.O.P. save itself? As McCain continues to fade into incoherence and irrelevance, the last hope is that he’ll come up with some new game-changing stunt to match his initial pick of Palin or his ill-fated campaign “suspension.” Until Thursday night, more than a few Republicans were fantasizing that his final Hail Mary pass would be to ditch Palin so she can “spend more time” with her ever-growing family. But the debate reminded Republicans once again that it’s Palin, not McCain, who is their last hope for victory.

You have to wonder how long it will be before they plead with him to think of his health, get out of the way and pull the ultimate stunt of flipping the ticket. Palin, we can be certain, wouldn’t even blink.

There’s evidence that the GOP is doing the same elsewhere: Montana GOP challenges voter eligibility

In an escalation of a dispute between the Democratic and Republican parties over voter suppression, a Michigan G.O.P. official, with the backing of the Michigan Republican Party, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Michigan Messenger blog. The suit arises from a September 10 story by the Messenger, titled “Lose Your House, Lose Your Vote”, which quoted the official, James Carabelli, about Republican plans to challenge the voting rights of citizens whose homes were in foreclosure. That story drew national attention and became the basis of a lawsuit brought by several Michigan citizens, the Michigan and national Democratic parties, and the Obama campaign, seeking an injunction against the use of foreclosure lists to disenfranchise voters. (Motions in that earlier lawsuit, one by the Democrats to obtain a preliminary injunction and one by the Republicans to dismiss the lawsuit altogether, are scheduled for October 20.)

The new defamation lawsuit, which according to reports has nominally been brought only by Carabelli in his personal capacity, actually appears to have been brought in collaboration with the state Republican Party. When I spoke this afternoon with Carabelli’s attorney, Matt Davis, he politely apologized for not being able to speak with me but said he had been instructed to direct all media inquiries to his “client” and gave me the contact information for Bill Nowling, communications director for the Michigan Republican Party. (My call to Mr. Nowling was not immediately returned.) Similarly, the TPM Muckraker describes Davis as evading the question of whether Carabelli himself, or the G.O.P., is paying his legal bills:

    Matt Davis, the attorney for the plaintiff in the defamation suit filed against the Michigan Messenger was quite talkative about the particulars of the suit when TPMmuckraker called him this morning, but declined to say who was paying his legal fees.
    “I don’t comment on my clients,” Davis said in answer to inquiries about who was employing him, but directed us to the spokesman for the Michigan Republican party for further questions.

Davis has represented Carabelli and the state party jointly in the past. On September 18, The American Lawyer’s Rachel Breitman reported that Davis had issued a letter on behalf of both Carabelli and the Michigan Republican Party demanding a retraction and threatening to sue the Messenger if one was not received within a week. The Messenger declined to retract its story and continues to assert that its reporter accurately recounted her conversation with Carabelli.

The threat of a defamation lawsuit, if not the lawsuit itself, was a fairly predictable countermeasure from the political and public relations perspectives. As noted above, Davis demanded a retraction and threatened suit back on September 18. On Sept. 20, based on national G.O.P. spokesmen’s harsh statements and predictions of an imminent retraction during a press conference call that morning, I predicted the possibility of such a lawsuit actually being filed to pressure the Messenger to recant its story:

    Shorter RNC conference call: kill the Messenger. Watch for a possible defamation suit against the M.M. next week to help make the RNC’s predictions of a retraction come true.

The threatened lawsuit did not materialize the following week, possibly because, on Monday, September 22, the House Judiciary Committee announced plans to hold a hearing on voter enfranchisement issues, including the “lose your house, lose your vote” story. A retaliatory defamation lawsuit against the Messenger probably would have received extensive unfavorable publicity in that hearing, which occurred on Sept. 24. However, now that an emergency financial bill has been signed into law, Congress has adjourned to allow members can engage in election activities.

The defamation lawsuit against the Messenger faces an uphill battle, because the Supreme Court has ruled in several cases that the press has First Amendment protection against such suits unless there is strong evidence of actual intent to inappropriately injure the plaintiff — the so-called “absence of malice” rule. TPM Muckraker’s report that the parties already are battling over whether or not the Messenger is truly a nonprofit organization or is a partisan one suggests that the Republicans may try to prove that the Messenger is not a legitimate media outlet worthy of First Amendment protection. The Republicans also may be hoping that threats to the Messenger’s favorable tax status may pressure it to recant its story.

The escalation of combat over voters’ rights and public opinion is predictable in some ways, as both parties increase their efforts to manipulate the turnouts of their own and each other’s voters on Election Day. The new developments in Michigan, however, are somewhat surprising given yesterday’s decisions by both the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee to effectively concede the entire state to Democrats and refocus their resources elsewhere. In light of that development, the defamation suit against the Messenger may be an effort to counter negative publicity the “Lose Your House” story received in other states, especially nearby, battleground Ohio; a bargaining chip to pressure Democrats into agreeing to a mutual dismissal of both parties’ lawsuits; or a simple mistake in communication and timing, the defamation suit having been filed just one day before the G.O.P.’s withdrawal from Michigan was announced.

Source: HP

I Killed A Moose and I liked it!

ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos reports: Stakes are high for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin going into tonight’s vice presidential debate with Sen. Joe Biden, D-Dela., with the latest poll finding she has become a drag on the Republican ticket.

Any mistake or gaffe by Palin could be fatal with a new poll finding voters are now questioning their commitment to Republican presidential candidate John McCain because of her.

About one third of likely voters, 32 percent of likely voters now say Palin makes it less likely they’ll vote for McCain, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll released today.

Palin is beginning to have a big credibility problem: 60 percent of Americans are now doubting her qualifications for office, up 15 points from an ABC/Post poll last month.

The poll found a minority of likely voters, 35 percent, believe she is experience enough to be president.

The ABC poll also suggests that questions about Palin are reinforcing concerns about McCain’s age. Almost half of voters, 48 percent, now say the senator’s age is a worry — a new high — and 85 percent of that group say that Palin is not qualified to serve as President.

It hasn’t been an easy month for the Alaska governor. Palin initially boosted McCain’s poll numbers, but after refusing to speak to the media she gave a few select interviews where she gave muddled responses.

Contributing to her perception problem: more voters have likely seen the Saturday Night Live sketches making fun of her rather than hearing her speak on the campaign trail.

It’s all cementing in the minds of voters a preconceived notion that Palin is ill-prepared for the job.

Biden’s poll numbers contrast starkly with Palin’s with 75 percent of Americans saying he understands complex issues, 70 percent saying he has suitable experience to take over as president if necessary, and just 13 percent saying the Delaware senator makes them less apt to support Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

In his debate against Palin tonight, Biden will try to show gracious restraint, and focus his attacks against McCain, Obama campaign aides tell ABC News.

Meanwhile McCain campaign aides say Palin will attempt to aggressively take the fight to Obama.

Source: ABC

Palin doesn’t take kindly to being criticized – she has gone out her way to ruin people who she feels have crossed her ….

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn’t, I should “off” myself.

Click for Spilling the Beans ~ when Palin says the facts and figures don't matter.

Click to see spilling the beans - when Palin says the facts and figures don't matter.

Those are a few nuggets randomly selected from thousands of e-mails written in response to my column suggesting that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down.

Who says public discourse hasn’t deteriorated?

The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I’m familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.

Some of my usual readers feel betrayed because I previously have written favorably of Palin. By changing my mind and saying so, I am viewed as a traitor to the Republican Party — not a “true” conservative.

Obviously, I’m not employed by the GOP. If I were, the party is seriously in arrears. But what is a true conservative? One who doesn’t think or question and who marches in lock step with The Party?

The emotional pitch of many comments suggests an overinvestment in Palin as “one of us.”

Palin’s fans say they like her specifically because she’s an outsider, not part of the Washington club. When she flubs during interviews, they identify with that, too. “You see the lack of polish, we applaud it,” one reader wrote.

Of course, there’s a difference between a lack of polish and a lack of coherence. Some of Palin’s interview responses can’t even be critiqued on their merits because they’re so nonsensical. But even that is someone else’s fault, say Palin supporters. The media make her uncomfortable.

Or, it’s the fault of those slick politicos who are overmanaging her. “Let Sarah be Sarah” has become the latest rallying cry among my colleagues on the right. She’ll be fine if we just leave her alone, they say. Between prayers, I might add.

Not all my mail has been mean-spirited. A fair number of the writers politely expressed disappointment; others, relief and gratitude. Still others offered reasonable arguments aimed at changing my mind. I may yet.

In the meantime, though, I would note that this assault and my decision to write about it aren’t really about me — or even Sarah Palin. The mailbag is about us, our country, and what we really believe.

That we have become a partisan nation is no secret. This week has provided a vivid example of where rabid partisanship leads with the failure of Congress to pass a bailout bill vitally needed to keep our economy from unraveling.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a partisan speech, blaming the credit crisis on the Bush administration (omitting the Clinton administration’s role in launching the subprime lending debacle). Republicans responded by voting against the bill.

Everyone’s to blame, by the way.

But when you have been in power for eight years – it’s your hands on the wheel – sorry – i.e. that’s the Republicans.

And subprime mortgages will continue – but need to be better regulated – against such things as the lying on the application form – by unscrupulous mortgage brokers – in addition people should be given all the facts about their mortgages – up front – especially where the low interests starters or incentives are concerned.

Such extreme partisanship has a crippling effect on government, which may be desirable at times, but not now. More important in the long term is the less tangible effect of stifling free speech. My mail paints an ugly picture and a bleak future if we do not soon correct ourselves.

The picture is this: Anyone who dares express an opinion that runs counter to the party line will be silenced. That doesn’t sound American to me, but Stalin would approve.

Readers have every right to reject my opinion. But when we decide that a person is a traitor and should die for having an opinion different from one’s own, we cross into territory that puts all freedoms at risk. (I hear you, Dixie Chicks.)

I’m sure it is coincidence that, upon the Palin column’s publication, a conservative organization canceled a speech I was scheduled to deliver in a few days. If I were as paranoid as the conspiracy theorists are, I might wonder whether I was being punished for speaking incorrectly.

Unfortunately, that’s the way one begins to think when party loyalty is given a higher value than loyalty to bedrock principles.

Our day of reckoning may indeed be upon us. Between war and economic collapse, we have enormous challenges. It will take the best of everyone to solve them. That process begins minimally with a commitment to engage in civil discourse and a cease-fire in the war against unwelcome ideas.

In that spirit, may Sarah Palin be fearless in tomorrow’s debate and speak her true mind

Source: Washington Post

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