Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2008 Election ProCon.org

Reportedly extensively researched pro-con list of each candidate and the views they hold in the 2008 presidential election.

"Learn about the 2008 U.S. Presidential candidates and their views on today's important issues. We've spent thousands of hours researching the candidates and getting their perspectives on issues ranging from abortion to global warming to the war in Iraq. Read our simple, nonpartisan, pro-con presentation and decide for yourself: "Which candidate would make the best President?""

Monday, January 28, 2008

Liveblog: State of the Union address and Democratic Response

President George W. Bush delivers the State of the Union address for the last time in his presidency on Capitol Hill before both houses of Congress.

State of the Union 2008

9:06 PM- President Bush enters the Chamber, makes his way down to the front for the last time in this presidency

9:09 PM- Gives copies of speech to Vice President Cheney, Speaker Pelosi

9:11 PM- Pelosi presents the President of the United States

9:12- Introduction- it's been a challenging seven years- vigorous debate- “amid our differences we acted with purpose”- Republicans and Democrats compete for votes and cooperate for results at the same time

9:13- Work remains ahead- trust in the ability of “free people to make wise decisions” > people are capable of making their own decisions about their moneys

9:14- jobs are growing, wages are up-- so is the cost of living – long term confidence in economy is still warranted but short-term concern is valid- plugs spending bill- don't add pork, delay is unacceptable

9:15- Congress must pass stimulus bill as fast as possible- work remains to do on taxes- Congress should renew tax relief- IRS joke about people who say they'd be ok paying higher taxes “I'm pleased to announce that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders”

9:17- Will veto any bill about raising taxes- need to trust Americans with their own money- budget will keep America on track to have a surplus in 2012- federal gov't must balance budget

9:18- Discusses problem of earmarks- will veto any appropriations bill that doesn't cut the cost of earmarks in half- issuing executive order to ignore any policy passed by Congress that includes earmarks

9:19- Housing- must trust and empower Americans- mentions HomeNow Alliance- Congress should pass legislation to help homeowners

9:20- Health care- must trust and empower doctors and patients- all should work together to cap costs- Obama looks less than thrilled when Bush mentions leaving things in the hands of patients

9:21- Listing stuff off about healthcare

9:22- Education- mentions NCLB- “no one can deny its results” ...... yeah sure. Need to provide extra help through strengthening NCLB

9:23- DC inner city education opportunities- need to support Pell Grants for Kids

9:24- New markets overseas- selling all over the world, open barriers to trade all over the world > free trade agreements > Peru agreement > asks for Columbia, Panama, and South Korea agreements – need to get rid of

9:26- Strategic interest agreements with Columbia- pro-democracy country

9:27- Need to address displaced worker problems

9:28- Need to keep working to reduce dependence on oil > conversions to coal, renewable resources- complete international agreement to “slow, stop, and eventually reverse” greenhouse gas emissions- commitments to keep in check every major economy

9:29- America needs to develop cleaner energy sources- keep competitive by empowering scientists through funding

9:30- Medical researchers- new treatments within moral boundaries- breakthrough with skin cells acting like stem cells- ensure all life is treated with dignity- legislation to ban unethical patents on cloning human life

9:32- Advocates strict constructionist judicial philosophy and urges confirmation of nominees

9:33- Moves on to military matters- military in Persian Gulf- hosting US, Canada, and Mexico conference in New Orleans

9:34- Entitlement spending- Soc. Sec. - Growing too fast- need reform- come up with bipartisan compromise to reform programs

9:35- Immigration- cites improvements- urges action, sensible and humane way to deal with those already here- uphold laws AND ideals

9:36- Foreign Policy- trust in people's desires to be free- cites examples in countries all over the world- Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Ukraine

9:37- Negative examples of violence- Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, London, Madrid. Aaand back to 9/11. Terrorists despise America and freedom. “We've taken the fight” to them. US is fighting for justice- engaged in “defining ideological struggle”

9:39- People, given a choice, will reject terror in favor of freedom- America is spreading the hope of freedom

9:40- Seeing success-- and adding 2300 Marines to Afghanistan forces to keep 'ensuring success'

9:41- Iraqi terrorists and extremists are fighting to plunge Iraq into chaos- cites surge strategy- change in the country- cites success of surge

9:43- Iraqi people responded with grassroots surge- people and government stepped up- enemy still dangerous and there's still work

9:44- Death toll down from last year, more insurgents in custody- Al-Qaeda being driven from country

9:45- “Among the terrorists there is no doubt- Al-Qaeda is on the run in Iraq”

9:46- Implementing a policy of “Return on success”- speaks to soldiers on the front lines- thanks them for their courage, accomplishments, and service- promises them all they need to protect the country

9:47- Asks Congress to fully fund the troops- “sustain and build on” 2007 gains and transition to next strategy of support – bringing some troops home and not replacing them – more than 20,000 troops are coming home – further draw-down to be based on conditions on the ground

9:49- Congress should not draw down too fast at the risk of worsening conditions on the ground- more progress must be made at the government level

9:51- After decades of dictatorship and sectarian violence the Iraqi people are reconciling- difficult mission- a free Iraq is beneficial all around- the enemy must be defeated no matter how difficult- difficult work now so history will look back and say that we rose to the challenge

9:52- New cause for hope in the Holy Land- cites new Palestinian president, leadership in Israel for democratic Palestine- working for peace agreement by the end of this year- 2 democratic nations

9:53- Iran oppression, working against advances of freedom in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, etc. Developing nuclear technology. No quarrel with people of Iran. Message to leaders: suspend and clarify nuclear efforts, stop supporting terror- America will support those who threaten troops, stand with allies, defend interests in Persian Gulf

9:55- Lawful and effective measures to protect the homeland- cites success in stopping attacks over past several years- commends homeland security workers- need to give workers means to monitor terrorist communications- Congress must pass liability protection by Friday before bill expires and workers lose ability to monitor

9:57- Working for freer, more compassionate, hopeful world- “America opposes genocide in Sudan.” Support freedom fighters all over the world. Cites humanitarian assistance efforts. Fight against global poverty, hunger, disease- additional $30 billion over next 10 years toward efforts

9:58- Increasing funding for veterans- need for reform for veterans' assistance, provisions for military families

10:00- Greatness lies with the American people- cites the founders- “We the people”- America has grown because of trust in people- the “State of the Union will remain strong”

10:01- “Let us set forth to do [the people's] business.” Shakes hands with Cheney, Pelosi, exits chamber

Democratic Response: Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS)

10:18- Tonight it doesn't matter what party you identify yourself with, but that you're an American

10:19- American people are not as divided as their politicians or media who obsess over reactions- offering an “American response” instead- a “wakeup call to Washington”

10:20- Struggling economy requires immediate action and sustained attention- losing jobs, homes- temporary fix only the first step toward solving problems- 357 days to get REAL results in this presidency

10:21- Democratic majority in Congress has been making encouraging progress but there's still more to be done- asks president to join with them to do the works- plugs high quality health-care, competitive industry, education-- especially health care

10:22- Discusses recovery in Greensberg, Kansas since tornadoes

10:23- Environmental movement- need to adjust energy system- asks president to join them in the work- moves on to military- impact at home of the war being waged- willing to join forces with peace-loving nations

10:24- Need to restore America's role in the world

10:25- Knows the government can work for the people- “greatest generations are still to come”

10:26- No more patience with divisive politics- “uncertainty on the horizon”- new majority rising focused on the common good

When American University is where it's at

3 Kennedys and Barack Obama at American University. Photo credit: Erin Fitzpatrick

Obviously, as an AU student, I always think American University is where it's at. But it's never more so than when politicians of the caliber and fame of Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy come to campus.

If you're wondering why Barack Obama was at AU as opposed to one of the other, better-known DC universities, it was hardly a coincidence. Please note the well-known commencement speech on peace that John F. Kennedy gave at American University in 1963, approximately 6 months before he was killed. Why is the JFK connection relevant, you ask?

Because today, the eyes of at least the country's politicos were on American University as Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, and Sen. Ted Kennedy all gave speeches endorsing presidential candidate Barack Obama. It's potentially a very important event for the Obama campaign, given the name recognition and influence of the politically elite Kennedys.

Of particular importance is the endorsement of Ted Kennedy, the patriarch of the Kennedy clan, one of the longest-serving and most respected members of the Senate. His endorsement is somewhat unexpected, given the longstanding friendship between the Kennedys and the Clintons, and is a bit of a slap on the hand to the Clinton campaign. Sen. Kennedy was originally not intending to endorse any candidate, but reportedly the negativity of the Clinton campaign-- particularly former President Bill Clinton (campaigning on his wife's behalf)-- caused him to change his mind.

It is difficult to say what kind of impact this will have on Obama's campaign. On the one hand, not everyone likes or respects the Kennedys. They're infamous as well as famous, known for controversial things and not always upright actions. Ted Kennedy's support in particular may turn off some voters who don't like the association of Obama with the Kennedys. On the other hand, Obama now has a very influential member of the Democratic establishment on his side, as well as endorsements from other leaders of the Massachusetts Democratic establishment-- namely Governor Deval Patrick and Senator John Kerry. This could potentially give him a boost going into the 22 primaries that will take place on Super Tuesday-- most especially, in delegate-rich Massachusetts. Certainly that's what the Obama campaign is hoping will happen-- that the combination of the South Carolina blowout victory and the power of the Kennedy endorsements will skyrocket their numbers in more of the Super Tuesday states. We be eagerly watching to find out what happens on February 5-- 8 days and counting.

Further reading:
CNN: Kennedy: 'It's time now for Barack Obama.'
NY Times: Kennedy Calls Obama 'New Generation of Leadership'
Washington Post: Kennedy Endorsement Gives Obama Key Boost
The AU Eagle: Obama to Hold Rally in Bender
BBC: Kennedy Backs Obama 'For Change'
The Guardian: 'I Feel Change in the Air' Says Kennedy of Obama
MSNBC: Sen. Kennedy Endorses Barack Obama

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Am Understood?

"I Am Understood?" by Relient K
From the album Two Lefts Don't Make A Right...But Three Do

Sometimes it's embarrassing to talk to you
To hold a conversation with
The only one who sees right through this
Version of myself I try to hide behind
I'll bury my face because my disgrace
Will leave me terrified

And sometimes I'm so thankful for your loyalty
Your love regardless of the mistakes I make
Will spoil me
My confidence is, in a sense,
A gift you've given me
And I'm satisfied to realize
You're all I'll ever need

You looked into my life and never stopped
And you're thinking all my thoughts are so simple
But so beautiful
And you recite my words right back to me
Before I even speak
You let me know
I am understood

And sometimes I spend my time
Just trying to escape
I work so hard, so desperately
In an attempt to create space
'Cause I want distance
From the utmost important thing I know
I see your love, and turn my back
And beg for you to go

You looked into my life and never stopped
And you're thinking all my thoughts are so simple
But so beautiful
And you recite my words right back to me
Before I even speak
You let me know
I am understood

You're the only one who understands... completely
You're the only one who knows me yet still loves completely

But sometimes that place I'm at
Is at a loss for words
If I think of something worthy
I know that it's already yours
And through the times I've faded
And you've aligned me again
You just patiently waited
To bring me back and then...

You looked into my life and never stopped
And you're thinking all my thoughts are so simple
But so beautiful
And you recite my words right back to me
Before I even speak
You let me know
I am understood

The noise has broken my defense, let me embrace salvation
Your voice has broken my defense, let me embrace salvation (4x)
Let me embrace, let me embrace salvation

Monday, January 21, 2008

Democratic Debate (Part 1) Liveblog

Not going to blog the whole thing, especially with the thoroughly entertaining but still somewhat annoying squabbling, but here's my notes on the first half of tonight's Democratic debate.

Democratic Debate Liveblog
January 21, 2008- Martin Luther King Day
Myrtle Beach, SC before the Congressional Black Caucus
CNN --- Host: Wolf Blitzer

8:01- Sen. Edwards enters, followed by Sen. Obama, and finally Sen. Clinton.

8:08- Photo opportunity and housekeeping concluded (finally); To Clinton on the economy- how would your ec. stimulus plan benefit the average SC taxpayer?- moratorium on home foreclosures for 30 days to try to work things out; interest rate freeze for 5 years; $650 to people who qualify to help pay energy bills; jumpstart jobs- clean energy jobs; fund to help communities deal with home crisis, unemployment; "the right" rebates; reference to MLK at end

8:10- Obama- same question- march on Washington was for jobs as well as justice- GWB has squandered money on war- tax rebates to working class Americans- $75k a year or less income- $500 at least per family and additional money for seniors

8:13- Edwards- his plan doesn't call for rebates- huge chasm between rich and poor getting bigger- include ALL Americans in stimulus plan- green infrastructure, create job, don't just give money out- difference between Edwards and others is on JOBS and trade deals- help states- home rescue fund for those on mortgage crisis

8:15- Obama- response- green jobs impt. but to energy plan- need to deal with short-term first, then long-term; trade- NAFTA a mistake because of lack of labor and environmental standards- Peru different- and Edwards voted for China- bigger problem

8:17- Clinton- immediate stimulus to economy- crisis is too deep to deal through spending- Bush's proposed stimulus "too little, too late"- green-collar job program would be v. helpful- stimulation AND long-term planning- Congress must play major role in fighting Bush's plan

8:19- Edwards responds to Obama- green-collar effort would have immediate effect- knows trade deals have had negative effect from personal experience- Peru would leave enforcement of environmental issues to Bush- bad

8:20- Obama responds- he's dealt with effects of trade deals too, in work with workers of Chicago factories as social worker (?)

8:21- To Obama- how do you respond to the charge that fiscal responsibility is not a priority for him?- not true- thinks people are looking for someone who will make a break with the usual Washington system

8:23- Clinton responds- record and words matter- it's sometimes hard to understand what Obama says when he's challenged on it and says it's not what he meant- you determine what someone will do in the future by what they've done in the past- clarifying distinction between words and actions on the war in Iraq

8:25- Obama responds to Clinton- spent a lifetime fighting Reagan's policies but respects how he was able to build a working majority to get his policies passed

8:28- Clinton responds...

8:29- Edwards (finally)- "Are there three people in this debate, not two?"- what good is this kind of "squabbling" going to do?- this is not about the candidates personally, it's about the issues- about fiscal responsibility- good record- plans and ways to pay for them- very explicit- Social Security needs a solution and Obama and Edwards have plans for it- Clinton doesn't- we need to be consistent and have to do something about cap on Soc. Sec. taxes- the American people need to know what's going to be done

8:32- To Edwards- do you believe that mortgage lenders have specifically targeted African-Americans?- yes- doesn't know if they're racially motivated but targeted low income people which is frequently low income- pretending the past didn't happen doesn't deny that it did- African-Americans vulnerable to mortgage predators- solutions: nat'l predatory lending law, help them save money and deal with financial institutions

8:35- To Clinton- would a freeze on foreclosures, interest rates "prolong the agony" of the housing market?- no- it's a means of working it out that needs to happen- something needs to be done to help people who need the help

8:37- Obama- need to help homeowners- history of preying on low-income people- open bank branches, access to financing- banks have dominated policy in Washington for a long time- difference with Clinton- need to stand up to special interests- respond to Clinton charge- people need to trust leaders so leaders can build consensus

8:40- Clinton- claim about bankruptcy bill- regretted voting for it first time- opposed later bankruptcy bill that Obama supported- used to taking incoming fire but this arena cannot have hands-off attitude on record

8:41- Obama responds...Edwards interjects...Obama responds...discusses consistency in how they vote as indicator of future actions

8:42- Clinton- Obama never takes responsibility for straight up or down votes- even back to Illinois State Senate (voting "present" 130 times)- always explanations- difficult to get straight answer

8:44- Obama responds...

8:46- Edwards responds...Obama responds...Edwards responds...Obama responds...

8:49- To Clinton- why would African-American women be better off in your healthcare program?- everyone would be comprehensively covered under her healthcare program with the same coverage level given to Congressional employees- need universal healthcare system where we can manage chronic healthcare problems and make demands of insurance industry

8:51- To Obama- does your healthcare plan cover illegals?- something needs to be done- responsibility needs to be put on Congress and president and need to involve American people

8:52- To Edwards- same question- no- but need to marry immigration reform and healthcare reform- strengthen public healthcare system- Obama's plan is not universal- Edwards' and Clinton's are- Obama and Clinton have taken money from drug companies and Edwards has not

8:55- Obama responds- does not take money from drug companies or lobbyists- perhaps individuals- mandate is a problem- people aren't trying to avoid getting healthcare, they can't afford it- need to reduce costs

8:58- Edwards responds- argument flawed like "you shouldn't have to have health care"- everyone is worthy of healthcare

8:58- Clinton responds- Democrats need to stand for universal healthcare- 3 ways- single-payer system, employer system, universal responsibility- willing to "go to the mat" for it- Obama contradicting himself over and over again- back to the "present" votes

9:00- Obama responds- if we aren't making it affordable enough and mandate families to buy health insurance they can't afford= problem- Edwards interjects- MA example- subsidies- people will buy healthcare if they can afford it- don't suggest that he's not in favor of having everybody covered or that he was a fan of single-payer- Clinton's presentation of his position is flawed

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Comeback (Not Quite) Kids

"I come tonight with a very, very full heart, and I want especially to thank New Hampshire. Over the last week I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice.[...] Now, together, let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me."
-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), presidential candidate

"I'm past the age when I can claim the noun 'kid,' no matter what adjective precedes it, but we sure showed them what a comeback looks like."
-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), presidential candidate

As a New Hampshire resident, I am always very proud of my state on that one day every four years when we have the opportunity to be political movers and shakers for the rest of the country-- the day of the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. I know NH has been doing this primary first for over fifty years, and that almost every election year comes with surprises. But this year, I feel, was one that shocked pundits and casual observers alike.

In this primary, once again, New Hampshire voters surprised everyone.

Not on the Republican side of things, of course. John McCain has been doing better and better in this state ever since he stopped pandering (as much) to the Republican base and brought back his successful 2000 Straight Talk Express. Straight talk is always something that New Hampshire voters appreciate, and CNN called the race for McCain by 8:30, with less than 50% of the votes in. It was clear that he was going to win as the results started coming in-- he took a comfortable lead of 10 points over Romney and held it straight through.

Since the very beginning of the election cycle, Hillary Clinton was leading all other candidates by leaps and bounds in New Hampshire and nationally. About a month ago, though, the "rock star" candidate Barack Obama started edging up closer and closer to Clinton in the NH polls, and after his upset victory in the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, polls as recently as Sunday had him either leading Clinton by a large margin (10 points by one poll) or in a statistical tie. All the pundits and Obama supporters, and many Clinton supporters too, expected another landslide victory for the senator from Chicago.

But it didn't happen. Hillary Clinton took a lead early on as the results started coming in, and held it for the rest of the night with between two and five points separating her and Obama the entire way through. Clinton took two of the largest cities, Manchester and Nashua; Obama fared better in smaller but still very significant cities like Portsmouth and Keene. After a nail-biting four hours for supporters of both Clinton and Obama who were following the race, CNN finally called the race in Hillary's favor around 11:30 PM.

I was lucky enough to be present in Manchester for almost all of primary day. Two friends from college came up for the day, and after meeting them both at the airport, we drove downtown to Hillary Clinton volunteer headquarters, where we were assigned to go canvass a neighborhood in nearby Hooksett, working to get out the vote. After working the neighborhood, my friends (Graham and Jenny) and I headed back to downtown Manchester, where we parked the car and walked up to the Radisson hotel, which turned out to be media central.

Walking around the ground floor of the hotel, we found countless radio stations broadcasting, and rooms set up (conveniently enough for tourist types like us, with glass walls so we could see in) where news networks were broadcasting. We walked by FOX News taping a segment, an ABC news dinner, the C-SPAN workroom, presidential candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), and Dennis Kucinich's ("hot") wife before happening upon NBC Nightly News broadcasting from a room in the back of the hotel. Naturally we couldn't go in, but we could still look in and see White House correspondent (and American University alum) David Gregory reporting on primary day. While we were standing there, none other than Meet the Press host Tim Russert walked out of the press room and into the bathroom.

After we left the Radisson, we made our way to Southern New Hampshire University, where at 7:00 PM the line to get in to see Hillary Clinton already stretched back out the door. The doors opened at 8 PM, and we made our way into the gym, where the atmosphere was already electric. Then it was basically just 3 1/2 long hours of standing around waiting. They had a big screen up, onto which they were projecting CNN's Election Night coverage. The crowd cheered every time Hillary's numbers changed. Music was blasting- everything from "Life is A Highway" to "American Girl" to "A Change'll Do You Good." The crowd was biting their nails much of the time, but was regardless jazzed the entire night.

But never more so than when CNN finally projected that Hillary Clinton would win the primary. The crowd went wild- jumping up and down, hugs and high fives all around the room, screaming at the top of their lungs, chanting "Hillary, Hillary" and "Comeback Kid."

And when Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea Clinton came in the room, the crowd went crazy again. Emotion was high-- many started tearing up, including former President Clinton as he watched his wife, the potential future President Clinton, speak.

It took Senator Clinton several minutes to calm the crowd down long enough to be able to speak. And she was interrupted frequently by cheers and applause. She didn't speak for long before she came down into the crowd and circulated, shaking hands. (Yes, including Graham's, Jenny's, and mine.)

New Hampshire made history last night by handing the primary victory to a woman-- the first woman to win a primary ever in US history. That is not a fact to brush off.

Nor is this: From (according to some pollsters) 10 points behind to taking the primary by about a 4% margin...it was indeed a comeback for Hillary Clinton. Will it give her the bounce she needs to take the nomination? Tough to know. South Carolina's coming up, as is Nevada; most likely she will lose SC and take NV. The race is going to be close between Clinton and Obama. Super Tuesday will be the real test. Stay tuned.

Further Reading:
Manchester Union Leader: The Democrats: As Usual, The Undecideds are the Key
ABC News: Clinton Wins in N.H.: I 'Found My Voice'
Tim Kash Blog: Hillary Clinton Supporters Jump for Joy at NH Headquarters
CNN: Clinton, McCain Bids Energized in New Hampshire
The Carpetbagger Report: Dewey defeats Truman Clinton defeats Obama in New Hampshire
The Carpetbagger Report: When A Funny Thing Happens on the Way to the Nomination