Holding a Losing Hand

The headlines today concerning the Republican politicians’ response to President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality either refer to a tepid, tiptoe response or make note of the general lack of response altogether.

While a few foolhardy mouthpieces tried to frame Obama’s statements as some kind of a flip-flop on gay issues, most GOP politicians were uncharacteristically quiet or guarded about their response.  (The usual suspects in the “religious” right wasted no time in mouthing off, but that’s par for the course.)

I’m sure there are a number of theories circulating as to why this has happened.  But my guess is that the Republican politicians are relatively certain that they cannot win by focusing on this issue.  I suspect that many of the Republicans have LGBT staffers, know LGBT people, perhaps even have gay family member (except for the occasional member of Congress who boasts overconfidently that they don’t).  I’d like to believe that there is sufficient conscience remaining in at least some of the GOP not to continue the tradition of claiming that their personal beliefs are one thing and their policy decisions are completely detached from those personal beliefs.  That “some-of-my-best-friends-are-gay” line will not work in this day and age.

The only outcome for Republicans if they raise a stink about this issue is that they will make themselves look even more extreme than they already have.  There may still be some Republicans who have a concern for their respective political legacy.  As many others have said, they’re clearly on the wrong side of history.

Pundits today have been talking about the risk that Obama took today, and there may indeed be some.  But the Republicans need to attract moderate voters in the upcoming election, as well; the risk may be even greater for them than for the President.  They’ve already done their best to drive away women, Latinos, and the LGBT community.  If they veer much farther to the right, they may go over a cliff.

Read more on Politico about the GOP’s silence:

Afterglow Reality Check

The LGBT community and progressives are understandably celebrating yesterday’s interview with Barack Obama in which he announced his support for marriage equality.  He did so with considerable political risk, because he knew that, in addition to galvanizing support among LGBT folks, he would also galvanize his opposition among the uber-conservatives.

With his announcement, everything change and nothing changed.

Everything changed, because for the first time, an American president has publicly stated his full support for true equal rights.

Nothing changed, because in practical terms, the needle hasn’t moved one bit between May 8th (the day before he made the announcement) to May 10th (the day after he made the announcement).

There are still monumental hurdles to be overcome before LGBT people enjoy the same rights and freedoms that the rest of Americans enjoy.

How and when that parity is to be achieved is still to be determined.  If it’s via the legislature, there’s truly a steep uphill climb to convince many of our less-than-forward-thinking Senators and Representatives to move away from the dark side.  If it’s via the courts, there are likely years of court battles and challenges ahead.

But we can take a moment to feel pride and relief that this president has chosen to be on the right side of history.

Mind the Gap

In a poll released today, Public Policy Polling shows Barack Obama with a 7-point lead over Mitt Romney in the state of Ohio, a swing state in the fall election and one that has been considered a “must-win” for any presidential candidate.   This is immediately after a campaign push by Romney in Ohio aimed at chipping away at Obama’s lead.

Obama leads Romney 50-43. That 7 point margin is unchanged from late January when he was ahead by a 49-42 spread. Obama also led 50-41 when PPP polled the state in early November so this makes three polls in a row over the span of six months with him leading by 7-9 points. Obama certainly looks like the favorite in Ohio at this point.

This seems to be another example of how voters don’t see Romney as either likeable or believable. The more voters learn about him, the less they want him to be president.

Read the Public Policy Polling news release here:

The CNN Effect

The election is getting down to the wire, and the 24-hour news channels, the blogs, the newspapers all seem to have fallen into the same pattern. Almost as soon as the polls started to reveal a commanding lead for Obama, the media all seem to be providing strategic advice to the fumbling McCain campaign. We keep seeing headlines and hearing teases along the lines of “How McCain Could Turn the Tables.”

It’s clear that the news media have a distinct interest in keeping their viewers and readers engaged by making the race seem much closer than it actually is. A race in which a horse wins by a nose is much more exciting. So the media keep harping on the idea that the 9 or 10 or 14 point lead that Obama has in the popular vote, along with the 100+ lead in electoral votes, can be closed up if only McCain can magically come up with the right formula. Never mind that nothing even close to a formula of any kind has emerged thus far from the McCain campaign.

Perhaps as close as we come to a formula is an extension of the vile tactics used in 2000 and 2004 to suppress the (Democratic) vote, as described last night on Rachel Maddow’s show by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.:


Considering the gravity of the issues that Kennedy raises, it’s somewhat shocking that the media (with Rachel Maddow and Rolling Stone being two notable exceptions) have given virtually no play to this story.

I want to believe that the effect of this most recent round of media apathy will be offset by the foolishness of dim bulbs like Michelle Bachman, whose neo-McCarthy-esque proclamations about a litmus test in Congress to determine whether our elected officials are pro-America or anti-America have had the unintended consequence of filling the campaign coffers of her Democratic opponent. The almost universal rejection of her statements and of other similarly extremist positions seems to indicate that America just isn’t willing to buy this load of crap any more.

Back in the Saddle

It was fairly stunning, during last night’s Christian dog-and-pony show at the Saddleback Church, to see the contrast between Obama’s responses to the questions that were asked of him and McCain’s responses. But if you’ve been following the campaign at all, it wasn’t all that surprising.

Barack gave thoughtful answers to the questions as they were posed. McCain, on the other hand, gave calculated answers formulated with two parts campaign rhetoric and one part jingoism, and squeezed them in to make them fit (even though they often weren’t really even answers to the questions that were posed). Obama spoke from the heart; McCain spoke from talking points.

It was also pretty revealing to see how McCain used so many of his answers to interject military options at every juncture. In fact, his entire perspective is a military one.

The other thing that was so surprising was that the (right-wing) pundits immediately said what a great job McCain did, using the number of times he got applause to support their claims. Well, hello! He’s a Republican speaking in front of a church audience in Orange County, the right-most place on the left coast. Big deal. Anyone can get applause in front of an audience that already agrees with his positions. What was more telling was that Obama got such a significant positive response from this crowd. Kudos to Barack for going into the lion’s den. (C’mon. I couldn’t get through a post like this without at least one Biblical reference.)

Do Not Listen …

… to the pundits. Do not listen to Joe Scarborough, or Wolf Blitzer, or Larry Elder, or Rush Limbaugh, or Rachel Maddow, or David Gregory, or Gene Robinson, or Sean Hannity, or any of other those losers on Fox News, or any of the other talking heads.

Just listen to the speech.

The television coverage of Barack Obama’s speech today has consisted of hour upon hour of pundit blather, peppered with a few selected soundbites from the speech itself. But, aside from the initial live airing, they haven’t seen fit to air the whole speech. The underlying message is twofold: First, their viewers aren’t smart enough or interested enough to make assessments of news events for themselves. Second, they don’t care that their viewers abandon them for YouTube in order to get the real story.

Hillary’s Monstrous Choice

On the evening of the Texas and Ohio primaries, I got on my soapbox (oh, alright, I got on the phone) with my friends and stated that Hillary Clinton would now face a choice that will inevitably reveal her true colors. A number of analysts have concluded that it’s mathematically impossible for Mrs. Clinton to achieve enough delegates to win the nomination, even if she wins all the remaining states by a 55% to 45% margin and if the DNC decides to give her the delegates from Michigan and Florida. Obama would still be ahead.

Many are saying that, given this arithmetic, it’s appropriate for Mrs. Clinton to be conciliatory, at the very least, towards Mr. Obama and perhaps even to concede the nomination. Nobody believes that a protracted battle between the two candidates will be good for the Democratic party. Such a fight may even jeopardize the nominee’s chances against McCain and will certainly provide fuel for the right-wing misinformation machine.

But then there’s the issue of Mrs. Clinton’s ambition and ego. Her reputation is that both are enormous.

So here’s the choice that we spoke about: Will Hillary serve her party and her nation first, or will she serve her ego and ambition first?

I thought it would take at least a few weeks for the answer to that question to be revealed. But the events of the last few days have indicated that Hillary’s choice is most assuredly the latter.

Hillary came out of the Texas and Ohio primaries slugging. She and her campaign have compared Obama to Kenneth Starr. They have fanned the flames of ignorance and fear by providing a photo of Obama dressed in Sikh garb. And, perhaps most odious of all, she has denigrated his experience by saying that she and John McCain had sufficient foreign policy experience but Obama didn’t. (There are those who interpret that statement as, “If I don’t win the nomination, please vote for John McCain.”)

Pretty monstrous behavior.

Is That a Swiftboat I Hear?

Barack Obama lately has been accused, both by his fellow Democratic candidates and by his Republican opponents, of being long on rhetoric and short on policy. (He used to be criticized for being too wonky, so go figure.) His campaign speeches have done what those of no candidate in my lifetime have ever done. Namely, they’ve inspired voters and instilled a sense of hope and optimism in these most negative of times. Because these more recent speeches are meant to inspire rather than simply rattle off a litany of policy statements, he’s been perceived as not having fleshed-out positions on matters of importance.

The most recent criticism came last night from Republican frontrunner John McCain’s “victory” speech in Wisconsin:

“I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change.”

I refer Senator McCain to a 64-page document, entitled “The Blueprint for Change: Barack Obama’s Plan for America,” which describes in detail Barack Obama’s positions and plans for his Presidency. If anyone (including the Clinton campaign and the mainstream media) would care to look at that document (along with the Issues section of Obama’s website), they might be surprised at how empty it isn’t.

I find it particularly ironic that McCain is attacking Obama for his oratory. Is it because that’s one of his own many weaknesses? The grammar cop in me likes to point out how often McCain fails even to match subject and verb, so how can he be expected to energize the electorate? McCain may have silver hair but he sure doesn’t have a silver tongue. Frankly, I find it unlikely that he could inspire a good bowel movement in his demographically challenged base.

Here’s the extent to which McCain inspires. The total of all Republican primary voters in Wisconsin is less than the total cast for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama on the Democratic side. This is in a state that is usually pretty evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. (The numbers, according to the Associated Press, are adjacent.)

This kind of criticism of a candidate may be new to Democratic rivals, but the Republicans are quite familiar with such tactics. It was the same kind of approach the Bush campaign used against John Kerry in almost identical circumstances. Kerry’s positions also were very clearly defined and posted on his website. That document was available for anyone who cared to view it, but few cared to, including the press.

The next step in the Republican’s attack on John Kerry was the now-legendary swiftboat ads. If the right-wing attack machine is on schedule — and we have no reason to believe it isn’t — there’s some severe nastiness in store.

Watch your back, Barack.