Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is John McCain Really Fading?

The mere fact that John McCain has made it close thus far in the presidential campaign is a testament to one of two things: he is running an amazing campaign or the American public is easily duped and refuses to come to grips with reality. Given the McCain campaign's repeated lies and just straight-up horrible decision-making, I am leaning toward the latter of the two options to explain McCain's viability.

I'm not going to sit here and rehash everything I have blogged about in the past few months about the man and his campaign, but there are some key themes that have been repeated throughout and they are starting to come to a head as McCain's gamble with "suspending" his campaign in order to work on a bailout does not seem to be paying off.

To begin with, McCain has constantly cited his ability to work with both sides of the aisle, so to speak. He claims to have the wisdom and know-how to work with both parties to get important things done. The fact that the House did not pass the bailout plan on Monday shows McCain's inability to do just that. By making a huge deal of "suspending" his campaign to work on the bailout, he essentially made himself the face of it. Thus, when it failed, it is natural that a lot of the blame fall on the man claiming to be running around Washington working behind the scenes.

When it failed, what did McCain do? He blamed Barack Obama and the Democrats in classic Washingtonian partisanship: "Senator Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process. Now is not the time to fix the blame; it is time to fix the problem." So, after blaming Obama and the Democrats, McCain said now is not the time to fix the blame. To be frank, the House Republicans are the ones who essentially told their leaders to piss off and voted against the bailout. Before McCain can say that he reaches across party lines and gets things done, he might want to start with his own party.

But it simply would not be a John McCain moment if he did not contradict himself or his campaign. You see, shortly before McCain went and blamed Obama for being too involved in the entire process and ruining everything, McCain's top economic adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, was saying that Obama had "phoned it in," when it came to getting stuff done on Capitol Hill. So on the one hand, Obama did not do enough over the weekend to help get the bailout passed, but at the same time he did too much and ruined it all. You would think they would muzzle Holtz-Eakin after his BlackBerry comment.

Then comes McCain's "gotcha-journalism" moment with Katie Couric, when he blamed the mainstream media for his running mate's lack of general knowledge of foreign affairs:

In reality, the "gotcha" quote (which is not a pizza place, by the way - what was up with that?) was from a voter, not the media. Couric was simply repeating the sentiments of a voter (something the media does not do that often). McCain hiding behind the thin veil of "the evil media out to get me" is similar to the false cries of sexism put up by the McCain campaign when Palin's credentials were questioned. Additionally, McCain's awkward (and nonsensical) jokes and his confrontational manner with Couric are not exactly ways to get swing voters.

This brings up Sarah Palin: as conservative columnists and writers begin to trip over themselves to say how horrible a pick she was, she begins to prove to everyone how inept she is. The beginning and the end of it is this: she believes dinosaurs and humans cohabited around 6,000 years ago. If one seriously and honestly believes something like that, then they should not be holding an office as important as vice-president. But people somehow looked beyond that.

So she was told to do an interview (I am utterly convinced that she makes no decisions for herself and is at the mercy of McCain's handlers 110%) with Couric. She embarrassingly stumbled through a question that she had been asked before by Charles Gibson. This was the second time she got to answer the same question and she somehow sounded even more moronic than the first time:

It's painful to watch - yet hilarious at the same time. Some follow up questions: how often does Putin invade American air space? I can't imagine we let him fly a MiG anywhere he wants to. What are "those" things that we are sending out to "keep an eye" on the Russians? Are they sent by the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, or by some governor of a tiny state who cannot even grasp the science behind the impossibility of dinosaurs and humans living together? The scariest thing: that person could be one in the same if people do not wake up.

Of course the next installment of Couric interviews did not help Palin much, either. When asked what news sources she reads and how it has shaped her world view, she went off into a ditty about her respect for the media, blah blah. When pressed not once, but twice, on which specific publications she reads, she paused and said, "All of them." This brought back memories of the box-office classic Office Space in which Michael Bolton is pressed on which of his namesake's songs he likes the best:

Having lied about liking Bolton, he stumbles and says "All of them." So the fictional Michael Bolton and the real Sarah Palin share a common ground here: they are both full of it. This is not the end of embarrassing moments for Palin before Thursday's debate, either. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz says that there are a few more buzzworthy clips of Palin expected to run in the next day or two in which Palin continues to make an ass of herself.

So where are we? With a little over a month before Election Day, Obama's lead is beginning to widen, but the fact that it has been this close thus far is a telling sign. McCain could come out with a smear or some mere bullshit ads to boost his own poll numbers or, at the very least, stop Obama's from rising. It will be interesting to see what happens on Thursday, because while I feel that Biden could mop the floor with Palin, I also think that the media and the pundits are putting way too much stake into Thursday night and if Biden does not have a perfect debate he will catch a lot of flack for it. Peace.

Photos - John McCain announcing the suspension of his campaign to work on bailout issues (The Guardian)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain Not Ready for the Bigtime: Wants First Presidential Debate Delayed

Using the cover of the current economic crisis that he has finally come to admit, McCain has asked that the presidential debate originally scheduled for Friday September 26th be postponed to a later date. He claims that his and Obama's time would be better spent in Washington helping negotiate the bailout deal, despite the fact that neither one of them sits on the Senate Banking Committee, which is the committee that is most familiar with the institutions covered by the proposed bailout and is leading the bailout talks. This brings up many issues.

It's clear what McCain is trying to do: he is attempting to make it look like he is taking the moral high road. Having exhausted his "I am willing to lose an election to win a war" bit, he is now turning to "You, my friends, are what's most important to me right now, not a silly debate." He is trying to make it look like Obama is so power-hungry that he doesn't even want to go to Washington (with all of the "insiders" that both camps keep demeaning) to work out a bailout deal to make sure that the Wall Street banks are not responsible for their actions. In reality, he is trying to gain political points by making it seem like he is not trying to gain political points.

Personally, I do not want McCain debating about the bailout plan. He clearly does not know what he is doing. Just last week he was saying that the fundamentals of our economy were strong. His head economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, tried to say that the success of the BlackBerry was due to someone who doesn't even e-mail. McCain also tried to say that the Senate Commerce Committee, which he is a member of, oversees all portions of the nation's economy. In reality, the Commerce Committee handles mostly coastal, interstate, and transportational portions of the economy and has little, if anything, to do with Wall Street. Either he is lying about what his committee does or he simply does not know; either way, I don't want him bargaining on my behalf in Congress for this bailout.

I also find McCain's timing curious. He didn't want to stop campaigning in the months before this meltdown, he only wants to do it when he has a big debate coming up. That's like watching the leaves fall all autumn and instead of putting in a little work here and there to get the lawn cleaned up, you wait until the day your wife wants to go to her parents' house to come around to dealing with it. Besides, McCain has been in the Senate for 21 years, which includes the entire time that this subprime thing was building. Why didn't he hunker down and deal with it then? He's had plenty of time to try to prevent this the past couple of years and (assuming, as he does, that his participation in the bailout talks will be seen as the second coming for the Banking Committee and others) deal with this the past week or two. To be honest, McCain will be no godsend to these talks and his presence is hardly needed.

Obama's right when he says that McCain should join him at the debate. As he said, the people want to hear from the next president of the U.S. at the debates and two people with little economic experience missing from the bailout talks will not be the end of the world. I think that the real reason McCain wants to postpone the debate is that he is not where he wants to be in terms of his poll numbers or his debating skills and wants to work a bit on both before hitting the ring with Obama. Hell, he didn't know the Prime Minister of Spain when asked about it the other day; of course he's not ready for a debate on foreign policy. It's time McCain put on his big boy hat and put some substance behind his tough talk of Obama not being ready to lead and debate him one-on-one. Because there won't always be an American crisis to hide behind when you want to avoid something. Peace.

Photo - McCain (news.bbc.co.uk)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Economic Realities: Neither McCain nor Obama Fully Experienced

The American people need to be honest with themselves for a moment: neither presidential candidate has the experience needed to run the economic cogwheels of our nation. While they will both try to convince you that they are the better leader in times like this, it is blatant rhetoric. The real issue, when it comes down to the economy, is what they have done in the past and not what they say they will do in the future. When looked at through this microscope, Obama has the slight advantage because McCain's track record on the economy is not so great. His statements this week also show that in an economic crisis like this one, he is more pandering than he is pragmatic.

First, let's look at how each candidate responded to the Wall Street mess. McCain started the week off by saying that the fundamentals of the economy were strong, even while the markets were beginning the breach their metaphorical levees. This is not an unprecedented move, as President Herbert Hoover made similar statements and tried to act like everything was normal while the country spun out of control into the Great Depression. In fact, they called Hoover "elitist" and "out of touch." No word yet on how many homes or cars he owned.

Obama played the economic game cautiously, waiting to come out with a vague proposal until the dust settled slightly on Wall Street. Personally, I like this because he avoided making mistakes that McCain did simply by stepping back for a moment and taking all of it in before commenting. A better approach than jumping the gun and making a mistake.

While the two candidates jawed at each other through mass media soundbytes, their campaign commercials certainly tell a lot about how they viewed the crisis. Obama put out a 2 minute ad in which he simply looks into the camera and discusses some of his economic plan in detail:

On the other hand, McCain put out an ad in which he says that Obama is advised by Franklin Raines, a former Fannie Mae executive:

The only issue with the Raines ad is that it is not true. Both Franklin Raines and Obama's camp have come out and said that not only is Raines not an adviser to Obama, but he never was in any capacity. Since these two ads, the two camps have put out more negative ads against each other and both sides seem to be stretching the truth.

Looking at the two's track records in Congress economically, Obama has the advantage in that he has not been in Congress long and thus has not gotten himself into trouble. McCain, on the other hand, has had a chance to prove himself and has not. In his first term he got caught up in the Keating Five fiasco, and more recently his adviser has attributed the success of RIM's BlackBerry to McCain, McCain is not clear on what his committee's responsibilities are, and in the most recent issue of the page-turner Contingencies he writes that "Opening the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation." He says later in the paragraph that "the state bureaucracies are no better than national ones." I take this to mean that he wants to remove some of the regulations from the health care industry in a similar fashion to the ones that "we" removed for the banking industry. Given what's happened recently I do not think that is a sound plan.

At the end of the day, the economy for both candidates is a wash. Neither has practical experience and they both have surrounded themselves with some questionable individuals. The only thing that gives Obama a boost is McCain's sketchy track record and his preliminary Hoover-esque response to last week's financial breakdown. If I were one of them the first thing I would do is dump anyone with questionable ties to any of the failed financial institutions or any executives who received large severance packages after doing a mediocre job and get some legitimate advisers - I'm talking PhDs, professors. Otherwise it's just more of the same. Peace.

Photos - Obama and McCain (a.abcnews.com)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Palin's Pastor Under the Microscope - Seriously?

As if we did not get enough of the presidential candidates' pastors - what with Obama's Wright and McCain's Hagee - now Sarah Palin's pastor is being given the once-over. It appears that an influential religious figure in her life - someone who she says helped her win the governorship - was Thomas Muthee. Muthee is an interesting individual, to say the least, as his career doing God's work started with an African witch hunt. Muthee went to Kenya, after he said he was called by God, and outed a witch, who was forced to leave town after the town's residents and police force turned on her. As recent as June, Palin was praising this man as an amazing person who helped her out a lot. Clearly there is something off about this guy.

I had been hearing rumors about Palin's church and some of its extreme views (such as their recent "pray away the gay" event), but did not think that they were important enough to post about. After watching tonight's Countdown with Olbermann and its piece on Muthee and his relationship to Palin, I figured I had to write something about it. My first reaction to Olbermann's piece was, "We went through enough of this with Obama and McCain, why are we continuing this." Then I thought, "Well, to be fair, Obama had to go through this pretty bad, and McCain went through it to an extent, maybe it's only fair that Palin go through it."

Then it hit me: there is so much wrong about Palin as a VP choice and a politician, that we do not have to dig so deep into her life that we try to attribute things that other people said or did to her. While the media tried to do this with Obama - that is, finding little controversial about the man on the surface or digging deeper, they grasped at straws with Wright - there really is no need to do it with Palin (and little reason to do it with McCain either, but his past had already been exposed in 2000). Palin creates enough negative press by herself (see here, here, and here) without needing to get desperate with it.

In fact, by digging up crap like this, it opens up the attack of hypocrisy to those who cried foul over the Obama-Wright scandal. It also distracts voters from the real issues - like Palin lying about the "Bridge to Nowhere" or McCain flip-flopping on AIG or calling the economy "fundamentally strong" as Wall Street was on the brink of collapse. So did Palin say very laudable things about Muthee, a nutbag for lack of a better word? Yes, but she was also in front of the church crowd and could have been pandering to them (she is a politician, you know). So trying to tie Muthee's crazy actions with Palin's beliefs is a stretch and it makes those trying to make that connection look desparate. Obama's campaign thus far has not touched this, and hopefully they will not (they already erred in the desperation department by jumping on Rove's comments). If the media jumps on it they will open themselves up to criticism of "liberal bias." Again, there are so many lies and mistruths to point out in the McCain-Palin ticket that needs to be reiterated to the public and it is this kind of stuff that should be highlighted, not crazy pastors with tenuous ties to Palin. Peace.

Photos - Thomas Muthee (wofchurchke.com), Sarah Palin (www.cbsnews.com)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Bad Week for McCain

As Wall Street implodes and the CEOs who ruined their companies walk away with millions, Obama and McCain are jockeying for position on the economy. Obama created a television ad almost two minutes long detailing his economic plan. McCain flip-flopped on the AIG issue (to nationalize or not to nationalize), spouted some populist rhetoric about "greed and corruption" on Wall Street, stated that his position on the Senate Commerce Committee gives him great experience because the committee "oversights every part of our economy," which it does not, and called for a 9/11 type commission to investigate what happened on Wall Street. Even in what is supposed to be his stronghold - foreign affairs - he showed ineptitude and tired grudges when he refused to say that he would meet with Spain's Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, (despite calling for improved Spanish-American relations back in April) and repeatedly talking about Latin America (not Spain) when Zapatero's name was repeatedly brought up by the interviewing reporter.

Additionally, reminiscent of Al Gore's infamous internet remark, McCain's top economic advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, held up his BlackBerry to reporters, stating, "He did this. Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years - comes right through the Commerce Committee - so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create, and that's what he did." Nevermind that in the past McCain has said that while he uses a BlackBerry, he does not e-mail, saying "I've never felt the particular need to e-mail."

On top of ole' Dougie's gaffe comes senior McCain advisor Carly Fiorina's statement that Sarah Palin (who apparently is beginning to call it the Palin-McCain campaign, not McCain-Palin's campaign) would be unable to run a large corporation like Hewlett-Packard (the company that Fiorina herself ran until being forced out in 2005 with $21 million severance). In an attempt to correct herself several hours later, she stated that neither McCain, Obama, or Biden could run a corporation like HP. She followed this up later saying that McCain and Palin are "fast learners." I guess that is a bit counter-intuitive to the whole "experience" argument coming from the McCain camp, but hey, throw McCain in the Oval Office, he'll pick up the hang of it in a year or two - he's a fast learner, you know (he taught himself to ride a bike in a week - a week!). In all seriousness, it's expected that Fiorina would say that Obama or Biden could not run a major corporation, but you have to think twice when she says that her own boss could not do it.

All in all, not a great week for McCain. First he's against the nationalization of AIG (a Republican position), then he's for it (a Communist position) - a position similar to Bush's regarding bailing out private companies in the past few months. Second he appears to either a) continue to hold a grudge against Spain for not being complicit in the Iraq conflict or b) does not know that Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is the Prime Minister of Spain (despite constantly spouting his foreign affairs experience) and assumed that Zapatero was the leader of a Latino country because of his name. Then his top economic advisor attributes the flourishing of the BlackBerry to McCain (despite history telling us taking credit for something you did not do is dishonest and will bite you in the ass [see: Al Gore]) and one of his senior advisors says that neither he nor his running mate would be able to run a major corporation (she knows that the President is the head of the executive branch, right?). All of this begs the question - if McCain's position on AIG is eerily similar to that of the current president, he does not know who the Prime Minister of Spain is or simply holds a grudge against him because he went by the facts when Bush & Co. did not, and he cannot even keep his staffers under control when he brags that he can rein in Washington's lobbying and corruption, how is he going to run this country differently than the man at the helm the last eight years? Peace.

Photos - McCain at a rally in Jacksonville on September 15 (abcnews.go.com), Douglas Holtz-Eakin sans BlackBerry (money.cnn.com), Carly Fiorina (www3.babson.edu)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Karl Rove Assumes Position as the Pot

The pot that called the kettle black, of course. Today Rove said that some of McCain's attack ads went "a step too far" in that they would not pass the "100 percent truth test." My first reaction to this - and the Obama campaign's reaction to this - was, "Wow, even slime ball Karl Rove is speaking out against McCain's tactics." Then I thought a bit, and realized that Rove holds no legitimate place in the political discourse for this election or any election in the future.

One disturbing thing about the way that the media is presenting the story is the fact that they are leaving out the context of Rove's rant. In the same way that the "lipstick on a pig" comment by Obama was taken out of context, Rove's diatribe began with criticisms of the Obama campaign and discussion of the McCain campaign arose when Rove was prompted by Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace. It was then that Rove said McCain's campaign has recently gone a bit too far in its ads about Obama.

The overarching irony of Rove pointing out dirty political tricks seems to be lost on the mainstream media as well as the Obama campaign. While it may seem advantageous for Obama supporters to spread the word of Rove in order to get more independents on their side, in reality this could backfire. McCain could use this in his next ad, saying "Look, the human epitome of Washington insider-ism, Karl Rove, doesn't like the way I'm running my campaign. Of course he doesn't, because he's scared of change," or something to that extent. He could also turn it to say, "Look, Obama is embracing Karl Rove. That's not change."

The reason that the media is picking it up is because it thinks that it will generate viewers. I don't necessarily think that it is because of a liberal media bias. If James Carville had come out and said something similar about Obama, I think it would have gotten the same treatment (with Ike's aftermath still being treated like a feeding frenzy for the media, this story has not garnered the absolutely massive headlines it would have on a slower news day).

Like everything, however, we need to look at the source. To begin with, Karl Rove is not really a respectable individual. He started sleazy political tricks quite young - at 19 he used false identity to enter the office of Illinois Democrat Alan Dixon, stole the state treasurer's letterhead and put out a flyer using said letterhead advertising free alcohol and women to kick off Dixon's campaign. He seems to have been a minor player in Watergate, he headed the White House Iraq Group (the group responsible for drumming up the case for war with Iraq), and he seems to be involved in the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame incident.

But one of the sleaziest Karl Rove moves (that we know of) occurred in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary, when he took the generous actions of the McCains (Cindy had brought back Bridget, a baby from Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh for medical treatment in 1991 and she and John adopted her soon after) and turned them into a vicious lie. Through push polling, Rove and his cronies helped spread the lie that the 8 year-old dark skinned girl that could be seen with McCain was, in fact, a bi-racial daughter that McCain had fathered out of wedlock. Despite winning New Hampshire in a landslide, McCain lost South Carolina, and Bush went on to win the primary and the White House. You have to be a pretty heartless individual to do something like that, and Rove seems to fit the bill.

So if Karl Rove points out the obvious (that McCain's campaign ads are not 100% true and that he went too far), why report on it? Rove pointing out that the McCain campaign is acting a little sleazy is like Hitler saying that Stalin was a bad guy - an obvious observation that is not made more or less true by that person's speaking out on it. In fact, Obama's and the media's embrace of Rove's "analysis" actually legitimize Rove's words (not a good thing considering his recent foray into newscasting). Obama's camp should not have touched this; they should have let the media pick it up (which they would have done because it is "controversial" and brings in viewers/readers). Again, the whole "self-destruct" theorem applies. Besides, Karl Rove is not someone I would want to cite to help argue my case. Peace.

Photos - Karl Rove (www.cnn.com), George W. Bush and Karl Rove (voices.washingtonpost.com), The McCain family (with Bridget third from right) in 1999, a year before Rove's infamous smear (www.nytimes.com)

Another Day, Another McCain Camp Myth Debunked

While touting Sarah Palin's foreign policy "experience," the McCain campaign was quick to point out that she had made a trip to the Middle East - stopping in Kuwait and at a "military outpost" in Iraq. While one trip to a foreign country where you do not meet a foreign leader does not qualify you for president in terms of foreign relations, it turns out that Palin's trip to Iraq never happened. Yet another lie to reach the surface in this presidential campaign.

A few days ago I wrote a post about the lies being spread during this campaign, with many of them coming from the McCain campaign. Most of those lies were really people just stretching the truth and being misleading (like Palin stopped the "Bridge to Nowhere" and Obama supported comprehensive sex education). This latest revelation, however, is a significant deviation from twisting the truth into a lie; it is an outright fabrication. For the McCain campaign to say that she has been to Kuwait and an Iraqi "military outpost" with a straight face is ridiculous. The boldness of this statement is unbelievable. Did they really think that no one would find out? This is Nixonian.

This all comes on the heels of McCain's appearance on "The View," where the hosts directly asked him about the lies spread in his recent campaign advertisements. The videos can be seen here (please excuse the fact that it's from HuffPo). It's painful to watch Joy Behar confront McCain on the untruths in his ads because McCain rolled his eyes and said "Actually, they're not lies" and was interrupted before he could explain why lies were not lies. He was actually interrupted by Barbara Walters, who reminded him that he used the expression "lipstick on a pig," the same expression that his campaign has derided Obama for using in describing change. McCain said, "Well, I was talking about the issues." In fact, the context of Obama's "lipstick" remark was tax policy and "Karl Rove-style politics," not Sarah Palin. However, as we have seen recently from the McCain campaign, McCain and company are not going to allow the facts to get in the way of a good smear.

A lot of the media is picking up on the McCain campaign mistruths/lies. It will be interesting to see if McCain continues his denial (as he did on The View) or comes clean (as his campaign has with Palin's trip to Iraq). They have already used the "sexism" card when confronted with legitimate questions of Palin's experience, and while some people ate it up, I don't think they want seconds. In many aspects of life, you reap what you sow, and if McCain's recent poll surge is based on misinformation and lies, his numbers will tank in the near future. That is, if his campaign does not counter these more recent facts with yet more lies. Peace.

Photos - Palin testing out training equipment in Kuwait - not Iraq (www.boston.com), McCain on "The View" (www.amny.com)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

American Arrogance in Pakistan: A Dangerous Path

Today the New York Times had an article describing American actions within Pakistan. What stands out about these actions is that they are occurring within Pakistan's borders, but American officials have found no need to get permission from any Pakistani authority before acting on Al Qaeda militants in the nation's tribal areas. What used to be a relationship in which Pakistan let America do whatever it wanted to a point (which seems to have come to an end with Musharaff's resignation) has now turned into America saying, "You won't give us explicit permission to do whatever we want to on your land? Too bad, we're doing it anyway." Bravado at its most dangerous.

To begin with, the Bush Administration's actions in the country of one of our only Middle Eastern allies in the "War on Terror," shows that it has yet to come to grips with the fact that America is a country that is one of many on the global scene. Certainly there is a lack of respect for Pakistani authority on its own land. While the government hides behind the accusation of "The ISI is corrupt and working with the enemy," no one is questioning how the ISI came into its modern form. During Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's reign in Pakistan, he diminished the ISI to almost nothing. When General Zia ul-Haq took power in the late 1970s he re-invigorated the ISI and took it to new levels with the help of the CIA during the Afghan-Soviet War in the 80s. The ISI is what it is today thanks to the American taxpayer, so to blame the ISI for being corrupt is like blaming the dog you raised for pissing in the house; it's your responsibility.

Let's not confuse things. Pakistan is not dragging its heels when it comes to American action within its sovereign borders. They have told the CIA that they prefer that our intelligence agency use the unmanned Predator drones to attack Al Qaeda in Pakistan, which we have done before. Apparently now, however, that is not enough for the military and the Bush Administration and ground forces must go onto Pakistani soil to complete their missions. While American officials will give limited information to Pakistan before the actions are taken, it is being reported that they do not seek any type of approval. I cannot imagine that if the tables were turned and Pakistan wanted to conduct some armed forces missions on American soil that the Bush Administration would tolerate it.

It's interesting that Bush signed these orders in June, a month before President Musharraf resigned from his post as Pakistan's leader. It makes one wonder, was Musharraf beginning to push back a little on American demands? Was he pressured to resign because his American lap dog status was beginning to change? The timing of everything is suspicious.

With the Bush Administration undermining Pakistani sovereignty by conducting military operations on their own soil, America is heading down a dangerous (though not unprecedented) past. It was less than 30 years ago when a radical Middle Eastern individual named Khomeini rallied the citizens of Pakistan's eastern neighbor when it was discovered that America had been undermining the citizens of Iran by supporting the Shah's SAVAK. We all know how that one turned out. Now we are undermining an entire country by spurning their government and performing any military action we want without answering to anyone.

As a justification for why America is doing what it is in Pakistan, an anonymous official said, "The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable. We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued." We have to understand that as a nation in a world of nations, just because something is not going the way that we want it to in another country, we cannot just go and do whatever we want with little to no regard for that country's sovereignty. Again, if another country were to do this to us, saying that things in America were "intolerable" and they were going to take matters into their own hands, we would be up in arms. In fact, people have done this in the past such as at the World Trade Center in 1993, Oklahoma City in 1995, and seven years ago to the date again in Lower Manhattan. Working with a country in pursuit of American interest is one thing, telling a country to, essentially, piss off while you do whatever you want within its borders is another thing completely. Peace.

Photos - George W. Bush, the man who signed the orders (en.wikipedia.org), Map of Pakistan (www.lonelyplanet.com)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When Misinformation Abounds in Election Coverage, the Real Victims are the Voters

Recently there has been a lot of bullshit being fed to the American public. Campaign ads, misinformed media personalities, random internet rumors, and the like have all clouded the pool of truth in the presidential election. From focusing on lipstick to talking about sex with kindergartners, the election coverage has devolved into a daytime soap opera with shittier acting than the actual afternoon dramas. Just because one person says something that is repeated over and over again, it does not make it true. It may have worked for Iraq, but hopefully we're smarter than that now.

That said, let's look at the claims being made on the campaign trail and the realities of the situation.

CLAIM: Sarah Palin stood up to the "big boys" in Juneau and changed the way that Alaska did business. Notably, she cut the fat off of some bogus Alaskan spending (like putting the state's private jet on eBay) and stood up to corruption and "politics as usual."

REALITY: While Palin may have done some fighting of corruption, her record against "politics as usual" is hardly anything to write home about. As mayor of Wasilla, AK (population: ~8,000) she hired a lobbying firm run by a former staffer of Ted Stevens - yes, THAT Ted Stevens - and got about $27 million. While it is unclear how much of that money went to Wasilla specifically, if you divide the money she got earmarked by her constituency, that's $3,375 per constituent. Additionally, a loophole in Alaska's "per diem" allowance system allowed Palin to bill Alaskan taxpayers while she worked from home for "travel expenses." Also, don't necessarily buy the bit that she sold the jet on eBay: she put it up on eBay, no one bought it, so she sold it cheap (at a $600,000 loss). And then, there's the "Bridge to Nowhere."

CLAIM: Obama supported comprehensive sex education for kindergartners as a state senator in Illinois.

REALITY: Obama voted for a bill that outlined sexual education for grades K-12, with age-appropriate topics. The reason that kindergarten was included was to ensure that the young children knew what kind of touching was appropriate between kids and adults; in other words, it was to make the children aware of pedophiles and child molesters. The McCain ad is downright wrong.

CLAIM: Obama took a backhanded swipe at Sarah Palin when he described McCain's policies as putting "lipstick on a pig."

REALITY: Obama was using an age-old phrase that McCain himself had used to describe Hillary Clinton's healthcare plan. In fact, CBS asked that the ad be pulled from YouTube because it used Katie Couric in it in a "misleading" fashion. Couric is seen discussing sexism in the campaign, but was referring to Senator Hillary Clinton and not Governor Sarah Palin.

CLAIM: As mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin either tried to band books from the local library or was successful in doing so.

REALITY: There is no proof that Palin did such a thing. While there was a time when banning books was discussed between Palin and Wasilla's librarians, it appears it was more of a general line of questioning to better understand the process than to ban individual books.

CLAIM: Obama's attacks on Governor Palin are "completely false" and "misleading" according to FactCheck.org, a non-partisan site that corroborates or debunks claims made in political campaigns.

REALITY: Obama never made any of the attacks that FactCheck found to be "completely false" and "misleading." The attacks that the FactCheck article quoted in McCain's ad refer to were found in e-mail chains and random internet postings. In fact, FactCheck itself states that "The McCain-Palin campaign has altered our message in a fashion we consider less than honest."

You can see where I am going with this. This is politics; you really think everyone tells you the truth? My advice is this: don't believe everything you see and do a little research of your own to find out the truth about things. I will overwhelmingly recommend FactCheck.org after browsing through it. It's non-partisan, it cites its sources, and it lays everything out very plainly. This is a heated race, and quite honestly, closer than it should be. Like David Eisenbach and Mike Gravel say in their book, if something is repeated in the "media echo chamber" enough, it eventually becomes fact when in reality it is far from the truth. Peace.

Photo - Obama and McCain (abcnews.go.com)

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Politicization of 9/11: Was Olbermann Wrong?

Having just seen the 9/11 tribute that the Republicans put on during the RNC, I have to say that I was surprised at the overt politicization of that day. I thought that McCain may take the high road on this and not use the Karl Roveian tactic of exploiting the tragedy for Republican gain. Alas, McCain's campaign is not above plastering images of that horrible day with a dramatic voice over convincing people that America is under constant threat and can only be protected by a Republican in the White House.

By now it is almost common knowledge to those who read the newspapers and follow politics in this country that 9/11 has previously been used as a political scare tactic. Back in the hotly contested 2006 Congressional elections, Bush infamously uttered that if the Democrats win, America loses due to the fact that if given the power, the Democrats would allow the terrorists to win in Iraq and make America less safe. In 2004, Bush used images of 9/11 in his campaign ads. The shamelessness of exploiting this national tragedy was disgusting.

And then the 2008 RNC tribute. The video showed numerous images of terrorist attacks (the U.S.S. Cole, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, etc.), blaming "Jihadists" (for a brief definition of what it means, see this post), and then culminated on the attacks of 9/11 (mysteriously leaving out the Oklahoma City Bombing). A deep voice narrated the affair, and at one point insinuated that McCain was the sole presidential candidate with the aptitude to win the War on Terror (overlooking the fact that one can never win a war on terror as it is a concept and not a tangible being). The voice says, "This is a war America will win; we'll have a president who knows how." It's pretty clear that the video meant John McCain considering it was being played before the man's speech at his party's convention.

After the clip, Tom Browkow, with Chuck Todd silently sitting at his side, tried to put the video into context, citing some polls that discussed the concern of some voters of Obama's ability to fight the War on Terror versus McCain's ability, and then went to Keith Olbermann. Olbermann was visibly upset and apologized to the viewers for what he thought was highly inappropriate and exploitative images of 9/11 (for which he got demoted). While I did not know anyone who died that day, I can imagine that if I did one of the last things I would want is for someone to repeatedly show images of it in order to try to muster up political strength. Don't forget, every time you see one of those planes crash into the Towers, that's over 200 instant deaths; you are watching over 200 people lose their lives instantly on that screen. Do you think that the victims' families and friends would appreciate the Republican Party using these images of their loved ones' deaths in order to scare people into voting for McCain?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Good Cop, Bad Cop: McCain's Nomination Speech

McCain and Palin seemed to be playing the good cop, bad cop routine with their acceptance speeches. The McCain camp had Palin come out and, in her words, act like a pitbull with lipstick while McCain came out the following night talking about how we are all Americans and that is the most important thing to remember in the end. While the end of McCain's speech was quite inspiring when he discussed his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, the rest of his speech had me quite bored and was also bad.

To begin with, McCain spent a good deal talking about the war in Iraq. He highlighted the fact that he "fought to send more troops to Iraq." Nevermind that later in the speech he said that "I hate war" and that these two statements would seem to contradict each other. I think that he pointed out his support for the war and his wanting to escalate it with more troops because he thinks that the undefined "surge" has been working and will continue to work. The more I listen to the McCain campaign, the more I think that they think they are playing a game of Hearts and attempting to shoot the moon. If the situation in Iraq gets significantly better in the next nine weeks, McCain point out how he supported the war and even said so in his Republican nomination acceptance speech. If Iraq stays the same or gets worse, then Obama's camp can point to it and say "Look what McCain has supported and has been proud to support." First Palin to win over PUMA voters, now highlighting his backing of a very unpopular war.

He also discussed his praise for President Bush action's after 9/11 when "others" thought another terrorist attack was inevitable. Despite the fact that this is another example of a Republican politicizing the worst terrorist attack on American soil after the Oklahoma City bombing, the main point here is that McCain himself, in arguing for war with Iraq, said that another terrorist attack was inevitable unless we acted upon Iraq immediately. We now know that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda, so does that mean that McCain thought another terrorist attack was inevitable (because it has been provent that invading Iraq would not stop Al-Qaeda - just the opposite, it has allowed the Taliban (an Al-Qaeda supporter) to regroup in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon)?

Another quotable from McCain's speech was "I know how the military works." The following video (I am putting it in the body of the blog post because I doubt anyone clicks on the links here) shows McCain's knowledge of the Armed Forces at work:

He also lied about the weapons that Saddam Hussein allegedly had in Iraq in a USA Today editorial to make his case to invade the smaller country in order to gain access to more of the world's oil (a phrase he used to describe Russia and Georgia). He also continues to say that Iran is developing nuclear weapons when a November, 2007 NIE report specifically states that Iran halted their nuclear weapons program in 2003. So unless McCain means "I know how to lie about weapons stockpiles held by foreign leaders and how to ignore intelligence reports stating a country I have a grudge against has stopped trying to develop nuclear weapons and how to lead people into an unjust war" when he says "I know how the military works," I don't really believe him.

Then McCain started talking about the people. He said that he would help people find a good health care provider while Obama would force them into a bureaucratic health care system. The privatized health care system right now is a private bureaucracy and his major beef is that Obama wants to make it a semi-public bureaucracy? Either McCain has never dealt with the health care system today or he is full of it. He also made allusions to those "left behind" and ignored by the government. While this bears similarities to Clinton's DNC speech where she mentioned the "invisible American," it also bears a significant similarity to Nixon's "silent majority." Given the fact that Neo-Con Nixon cronies like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have helped deteriorate the quality of this country in many ways the past 8 years, the last person I would be trying to resurrect politically is "Tricky Dick" Nixon.

And finally (there are so many points I want to cover but do not have the time to) there was one portion of McCain's speech that was foolish. He put out this plan that would subsidize people's salaries to enter job re-training for a field of work where they could get a stable job. Clearly McCain (or his speechwriter) read Obama's book Dreams from my Father or else he would know that Obama fought to get almost a carbon-copy plan for the working class on the South Side of Chicago (the description of this starts at page 184 in the 2004 Three Rivers Press edition). That was before Obama even went to Harvard Law, so that was ov er 20 years ago. Hardly a fresh idea. Plus, Palin harshly mocked the role of a community organizer the night before McCain uses this same idea. Does no one realize the hypocrisy/sleaziness of this?

All in all, McCain's speech was poor. His story of being a POW in Vietnam was inspiring and I agreed with one line of his (that the descendants of those from the Mayflower and the child of the migrant worker in America are the same: Americans), but that line drew frowns from the crowd when the camera panned it. However, his stance on the issues, his stretching of the truth, and his borrowing an idea found in Barack Obama's book and presenting it as "new" is hardly what is needed in Washington right now. Peace.

Photos - McCain speaking at the RNC (www.mtv.com), McCain and his wife Cindy (www.mtv.com), McCain and Sarah Palin (www.mtv.com), The post-speech festivities (www.mtv.com)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin Speaks!

My initial thoughts on Palin's speech have me saying that she did a good job, but it could have been better. It was at best a decent speech and at worst a mediocre affair. I liked the humor injected into it, and she is a pretty good public speaker. My main issues with a lot of it is that it, in the Associated Press' words, "stretched the truth" in many aspects. There were also some attacks on Obama that I thought were uncalled for and were absent from the Democrats' speeches last week.

One of the first issues I had with the speech was this Iraq business. The McCain camp continues to say that McCain is a man of principles because he would rather lose an election than lose a war and that victory is in sight (both concepts mentioned by Palin). The problem with this is that victory has not been clearly defined by anyone involved. Is victory even possible at this point, with the country's deficit where it is, over 4,000 service men and women dead, disgusting treatment of soldiers returning home, private contractors exploiting the situation, and misleading intelligence and deceitful government leaders? If the McCain campaign wants to continue using this campaign schtick, they need a definitive meaning of what victory in Iraq is.

Then Palin went into a long diatribe about her family and what they all do and all of that. At this point the cameras were focused on the row of Palins (and one Johnston) in the crowd, and I noticed two distinct things about them. The first is that Levi Johnston looked like he was very uncomfortable. I feel bad for this kid. One minute he has impregnated his girlfriend in a small town in Alaska, and next he is flown to St. Paul for the whole world to see, sitting with his pregnant girlfriend who he is supposed to marry. He went from being a "fuckin redneck" looking to "kick ass" who was a big fish in a small pond in Alaska to an object of curiosity for 300 million Americans overnight. The other thing I noticed is, how the hell does that baby Trig sleep through all of this? From being passed around on stage a few days ago to listening to his mother's speech as people are standing up and screaming, he sleeps through it all. Unbelievable.

After her little family ditty, Palin went into a bit about small-town folks and compared herself to Harry Truman, the same man who used nuclear weapons against the Japanese at the end of World War II. In an era when we are in a war we should not be and the Republican party (McCain especially) are seen as true hawks, to compare oneself to Truman is not the best comparison to make in my opinion.

Then there was one line (which I had already read in an excerpt of the speech before she made it, so was expecting) that I thought was a little ridiculous. When she said that being a small-time mayor is "like a community organizer, only you have responsibilities," I thought it crossed the line. It was a shot not only at Obama, but every community organizer in the country who donates their time and effort to make a better community for the people living in them. Spending a good amount of time at my local Boys and Girls Club growing up (which is run by community organizers), I resent her statement saying that community organizers have no responsibilities. She talks a lot about "the people" and giving back to "the people." If she really knew about how "the people" are, then she would know how important community organizers can be to a community's people.

She also made an assertion that John McCain is a straight-talker and always "the same man." This YouTube video here begs to differ. It has become almost common knowledge that his campaign bus, "The Straight Talk Express," is a misnomer. In fact, there were many things in her speech that stretched the truth, as I alluded to earlier. The AP put together a little fact-checking article about this and it is an interesting read.

A few final negative points about the speech: she talks about her ticket being the one of "true reform." Is focusing on drilling rather than alternative fuels really "true reform." No, it's just giving us more of the same: oil. That's not reform. If an alcoholic is going broke from buying booze, would reform be giving him cheaper booze? Another line in Palin's speech that made me bristle was the one that says Al-Qaeda is "planning to inflict catastrophic damage" upon America and Obama is worried about someone reading them their rights, as if it were the worst thing in the world. In our justice system, everyone has rights. Obviously one's first reaction to a child rapist or a ruthless murderer is to kill them with one's own bare hands because they're scum. But, as John Adams once wrote, we are a nation of laws, not men. Plus, cases like Miranda v. Arizona, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, and Boumediene v. Bush outline the rights for detainees in criminal and enemy combatant cases. Contrary to popular belief, these detainees have rights that the Supreme Court have outlined. So I guess what Palin was trying to say was that while she puts her blinders on and goes hunting for terrorists, Obama has the audacity to respect the law.

With all of these negative points, there is one thing I agreed with that Palin said. She said that when one is not a member of the political elite in Washington, they get a lot of kickback and rough initiation, for a lack of a better word, from the mainstream media. We saw it with Obama (Reverend Wright, George Stephanopoulos being an assclown). The media is now turning on Palin, with non-stop coverage of her pregnant teenage daughter. It's one thing to report on it once, maybe point out that Palin is pro-abstinence-only education, but to try to say that Bristol herself would have benefited from it (there's no way to know that at all) or to just rumor monger in general is taking it too far. So while Palin is being picked on a bit in the media, it's a two-way street, as Obama got his earlier in the campaign.

All in all, Palin gave a decent speech and she was well-spoken. The problem was that her facts were a bit off and she crossed the line with the community organizers line about responsibility. I have nothing against her as a person, I simply do not agree with her policies on nearly anything. She's going through a tough time with her family and I do not think that they were ready for the national scrutiny that awaited them with her accepting the VP spot. It's important to remember, however, that just as the media is digging into her life, the other candidates got it just as well. To sum up: she needed to do an unbelievable job last night and she did an OK one. Peace.

Photos - Palin with members of her family (and soon-to-be family) on stage at the RNC (www.latimesblogs.latimes.com), Palin delivering her speech (news.sky.com), McCain greeting Palin and her husband (www.huffingtonpost.com), Sarah Palin yesterday (www.washingtonpost.com)

McCain Campaign Pulls the Sexism Card

In an interesting turn of events, the McCain campaign yesterday cried foul against the media and the Democrats for attacking Palin based not on her lack of credentials or any of that, but because she is a woman. And while I will be the first to admit that there have been some sexist attacks on Palin (she should not be asked if she can raise a family and have a career at the same time when men are not asked the same question), she should not be able to hide behind a cloak of gender against all legitimate questions of her credentials.

What makes the McCain camp's cries of sexism a bit hypocritical is the fact that last month they were deriding Obama for, in their words, "playing the race card." Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, said, "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck." All of this because Obama said that one tactic of his opponents will be to paint him as "different from the presidents on dollar bills," implying that his skin color (or age) differentiates him from some of the Founding Fathers and Washington elite. In terms of saying, "Hey, they're going to attack me because I'm black," it never happened, but to many that is an inconsequential point.

So a little over a month after Obama allegedly cried racism, senior McCain advisor Carly Fiorina said that Obama attempting to "belittle" Palin's experience amounted to sexist treatment of the candidate. This is where my issue is: when there are legitimate issues of sexism going on (Biden calling Palin good looking in a self-deprecating joke can be seen as sexist), why attack those who are talking about Palin's experience - a gender-neutral issue? Obama got his in terms of being attacked for lacking experience and did not pull the race card because of questions of his experience, why are the standards different for Governor Palin?

In a society where sexism still exists - women make about 80 cents to every man's dollar - to use it as a shield to block legitimate questions of experience and other gender-neutral, political characteristics is wrong. As Maureen Dowd points out in her Times column this week, instead of fighting sexism, "When you use sexism as an across-the-board shield for any legitimate question, you only hurt women."
Now let's get into some reasons as to why Palin's experience is being called into question. One: Obama went through this early on in the campaign, so it's only fair that a candidate who has never served in Washington gets the same media scrutiny. Her main argument is that she has executive experience, which Obama does not. Her executive experience is being mayor of a town of, for argument's sake, about 8,000 people. The entire population of Alaska, of which Palin is governor, is 670,053. There are only three states that are smaller than Alaska (in order from highest to lowest population: North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming). Under this logic, any mayor of a town of more than 670,053 is experienced enough to be president. There are 19 cities in America with populations higher than the entire state of Alaska. They are, in descending order, New York, LA, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philly, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, San Fran, Columbus, Austin, Fort Worth, Memphis, and Charlotte.

So with this line of thinking, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has enough experience to be President of the United States. I'm not saying that Palin is as fucked up as Kilpatrick, I am merely pointing out that they both hold the experience credentials to be President of the United States. To make another comparison, the borough president of every New York City borough except Staten Island has the experience, again using the McCain campaign's definition, to be president. Can you even name any of them? (They are, by the way, Scott Stringer for Manhattan, Marty Markowitz for BK, Adolfo Carrion, Jr. for the Boogie Down, Helen Marshall for Queens, and James Molinaro for Staten Island). Can you imagine Marty Markowitz having the experience to lead this nation?

So while Palin and the Republicans tout her executive experience and hide behind the accusation of sexism from those who question her credentials, the reality of the situation gets lost somewhere in, as a former professor of mine calls, the media echo chamber. As passions flare up over true sexism and fake sexism and political rhetoric is passed around like the gravy at a Thanksgiving dinner, the truth is ignored like your aunt's shitty cranberry jam that nobody touches year after year but that she continues to insist on making and bringing. To question Palin's experience and credentials as a politician (and not as a mom or a woman) is not sexist. Just the opposite, for if we were to go easy on her because she is a woman that would be as sexist as hell. Peace.

Photos - McCain and Palin (Rocky Mountain News), The McCain and Palin families (Washington Post), Palin and her catch (LA Times)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Don Fowler Runs his Trap, Looks Like an Ass

There is a general rule not only in politics, but in life: if something is self-destructing, do not intervene. If you see a building about to collapse, you don't go and try to push it over because it could hurt you. The same goes with political campaigns: if they are falling apart, stay away. Barack Obama knows this, brushing off questions of Bristol Palin's pregnancy and asserting that the families of politicians are off-limits for political debate. Don Fowler, however, missed that memo regarding self-destruction etiquette.

Fowler is caught on camera on a plane somewhere joking with Representative John Pratt (D - South Carolina) about how Gustav's landfall coincided with the beginning of the Republican National Convention. He even went so far as to say that it proved that "God is on our side." Not a good idea.

Now many right-wingers have (justifiably) come out and condemned Fowler's comments. Fowler's defense? He claimed that he was making fun of the Reverend Jerry Falwell for his comments directly after 9/11 saying that the terrorist attack was partly the fault of gays, abortionists, paganists, the ACLU, etc. This, of course, would violate the above-mentioned rule of do not touch self-destruction. Falwell's legacy will be remembered as an intolerant person who blamed social liberals for 9/11 and fought the "good fight" when he charged the Teletubby Tinky Winky with being gay. When you cement your legacy like this, is further mocking really necessary?

To save face Fowler simply needs to say, "Yeah, I screwed up. I'm sorry." Don't offer up some half-ass excuse about making fun of some religious nut who did a fine job making himself look stupid without help. Invoking God into politics is never a good idea, and this is no different. Did Gustav interrupt and steal some of the RNC's limelight? Sure. Was it poetic justice? Maybe. Divine intervention? Hardly. Peace.

Photos - Don Fowler, possibly laughing at one of his own lame jokes (www.clevelandleader.com)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin's Daughter Pregnant, Palin's Husband Had Been Arrested for DUI

Today two large announcements were made concerning the family of Sarah Palin, the VP on the McCain-Palin ticket. The first, and most shocking, is that Sarah Palin's daughter 17 year old Bristol is five months pregnant and plans to marry the father of the child. The second revelation, and much less shocking, is that Palin's husband was arrested for DUI twenty years ago when he was twenty-two years old.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of all of this, I do want to say that I feel for Bristol Palin. To be shoved into the national spotlight as the young daughter of a Vice Presidential candidate is rough enough, but to be known as the unmarried pregnant daughter of the Vice Presidential candidate is even tougher. To make things worse (and really one of the only reasons that I am going into this at all) is the fact that Sarah Palin has, in the past, backed abstinence-only education. At this point it is almost common knowledge that sexual education that incorporates contraceptives education begets lower pregnancy rates among teens.

So where does this leave Palin? Her and her husband put out a statement saying that Bristol will marry the father of her child, saying that Bristol "has our unconditional love and support." While this is the best thing a person can do when they find themselves pregnant and in a "family values" family such as Bristol is, I sincerely hope that this is what Bristol wanted to do and not what her parents wanted her to do. While I do not think that Mrs. Palin is the type of person who would do this (simply because I do not know her), the worst thing to do in this situation is to force one's daughter to do something that she does not want to do to save political face. Hopefully Bristol and her boyfriend are in love and want to marry each other and they are simply not doing it because everyone around them is pressuring them to.

An important thing to remember here is that Sarah Palin is not 100% responsible for her daughter's actions. However, it is also important to note that Palin's support of abstinence-only education contributes to higher teen pregnancy levels (see the report cited earlier). I am not saying that if Palin had supported comprehensive sex education that her daughter would not have become pregnant - no one can paint a direct link without knowing 100% of the facts of what happened (which is really none of anyone's business by Bristol's and anyone else she would share it to). But Palin and other social conservatives who continue to support abstinence-only education can share partial responsibility for unwanted teen pregnancies.

As for the revelation that Todd Palin was arrested for DUI when he was twenty-two: this is not a huge deal in my mind. People do stupid things when they are young, and I cannot imagine that rural Alaska rarely sees these types of things. It's not like he's George W. Bush and did it at the age of 30 when he should have known better or he's Dick Cheney and did not learn from one DUI charge and got two in eight months. If he were running for something, that would be one thing, but he is simply the husband of someone running for something.

But all of this begs the question: why did Palin accept this job? Another question: why did McCain allow her to do this, knowing what he knew? If I were Palin, the last thing I would want to do is put my daughter on the national stage. She had to know that this would get out; why not save her daughter the embarassment? If I were McCain, I would thank Palin for her contributions to Alaska and the Republican Party in general but would not consider her for my VP. Not solely because her daughter was pregnant, but because she clearly had some personal issues to deal with and putting her family in the national spotlight would be unfair. But this choice begs the question: if Palin, given the personal problems that running for VP would probably only exacerbate, was McCain's best choice among the nation's Republicans, how bad were the rest of them? Peace.

Photos - Sarah Palin (www.en.wikipedia.org), McCain and Palin (www.news.bbc.co.uk), Sarah and Todd Palin (www.bostonherald.com)