Red State Realizes The Republican Candidates “All Suck”

Red State might not realize the right reasons, but they understand one fundamental problem faced by the GOP when we look at their potential candidates for 2008: They All Suck.

They certainly do. While the Democratic field also has its faults, at least they aren’t either a bunch of right wing extremists who follow the dictates of the religious right, regardless of their previous views (I especially mean you Romney), and support a foreign policy which has greatly undermined our national security. Red State asks, “who would be our Ronald Reagan, or in current political vernacular, the Republican Barack Obama?” If the Republican Party wants a chance to return to power they should recall the words of Ronald Reagan who promised to get the government off our backs. As long as the Republicans remain an authoritarian movement which promotes greater government intrusion in individual’s lives they will remain a minority party.

To really succeed, Republicans must learn to actually do what they say, as most voters don’t buy their empty rhetoric  any more than they believe their typical smears against Democrats. In other words, Republicans need to engage in honest discussion of the issues rather than persist with their usual obfuscation and dishonest attacks. The reason the Republican nominees all suck is that none of those listed have shown any ability to do this. It no longer works for Republicans to claim to be the party of small government when they are the party of greater government intrusion in individual’s lives. Republican attacks on Democrats as “socialists” are unconvincing when it is Republican “crony capitalism” and not the Democrats which is damaging the free market system. Republican claims to to greater strength on national security are no longer believed as they allow al Qaeda and Iran to become greater threats while they support bogging down our troops in Iraq.

Rolling Stone: Run, Al, Run

Rolling Stone begs, Run, Al, Run:

A stiff Vice President campaigns on his administration’s legacy of unprecedented prosperity. Looks terrible on TV. Bows out, following a disputed vote count. Then, two terms later, with no incumbent in the race, he re-enters the fray. Promises to change the course of a disastrous war founded on lies. And charges to victory. I’m referring, of course, to the 1968 campaign of Richard Milhous Nixon. But four decades later, history has a chance to repeat itself for Albert Arnold Gore.

If the Democrats were going to sit down and construct the perfect candidate for 2008, they’d be hard-pressed to improve on Gore. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has no controversial vote on Iraq to defend. Unlike Barack Obama and John Edwards, he has extensive experience in both the Senate and the White House. He has put aside his wooden, policy-wonk demeanor to emerge as the Bush administration’s most eloquent critic. And thanks to An Inconvenient Truth, Gore is not only the most impassioned leader on the most urgent crisis facing the planet, he’s also a Hollywood celebrity, the star of the third-highest-grossing documentary of all time.

“He’s perceived very differently now than he was six years ago,” says Frank Luntz, the Republican consultant who advised George W. Bush to dispute global warming during the 2000 and 2004 elections. “He’s an icon. Imagine that: Al Gore, Mr. Straight and Narrow, Mr. Dull on Wheels — now he’s culturally cool.”

Indeed, Gore is unique among the increasingly crowded field of Democratic contenders. He has the buzz to beat Obama, the substance to supplant Hillary, and enough stature to enter the race late in the game and still raise the millions needed to mount a successful campaign. “Very few people who run for president can just step in when they want, with a superstar, titanic presence,” says James Carville, the dean of Democratic strategists. “But Gore clearly is one of those. He’s going to run, and he’s going to be formidable. If he didn’t run, I’d be shocked.”

Sure, Gore says he’s not running, but they don’t believe it:

But the nation’s most experienced political strategists agree that Gore is carefully laying the groundwork for a possible run. “He’s running in a nontraditional way, which has been powerful,” says Bill Carrick, a veteran Democratic consultant. “It has made him look much more interesting than if he had just been the former vice president sitting out there and thinking about a run.”

It might all come down to whether Hillary can lock up the nomination early. If Obama, Edwards, and other weaken her, Gore just might walk in late and grab the prize.

Obama Responds to Right Wing Smears

Although CNN has already debunked the false claims on Fox News and elsewhere in the right wing media that Obama attended an Islamic “madrassa” school as child, Obama’s office has also sent out a rebuttal:

In the past week, many of you have read a now thoroughly-debunked story by Insight Magazine, owned by the Washington Times, which cites unnamed sources close to a political campaign that claim Senator Obama was enrolled for “at least four years” in an Indonesian “Madrassa”. The article says the “sources” believe the Madrassa was “espousing Wahhabism,” a form of radical Islam.

Insight Magazine published these allegations without a single named source, and without doing any independent reporting to confirm or deny the allegations. Fox News quickly parroted the charges, and Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy went so far as to ask, “Why didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised — spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father — as a Muslim and was educated in a Madrassa?”

All of the claims about Senator Obama raised in the Insight Magazine piece were thoroughly debunked by CNN, which, instead of relying on unnamed sources, sent a reporter to Obama’s former school in Jakarta to check the facts.

If Doocy or the staff at Fox and Friends had taken [time] to check their facts, or simply made a call to his office, they would have learned that Senator Obama was not educated in a Madrassa, was not raised as a Muslim, and was not raised by his father – an atheist Obama met once in his life before he died.

Later in the day, Fox News host John Gibson again discussed the Insight Magazine story without any attempt to independently confirm the charges.

All of the claims about Senator Obama’s faith and education raised in the Insight Magazine story and repeated on Fox News are false. Senator Obama was raised in a secular household in Indonesia by his stepfather and mother. Obama’s stepfather worked for a U.S. oil company, and sent his stepson to two years of Catholic school, as well as two years of public school. As Obama described it, “Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, tailors, and clerks.” [The Audacity of Hope, p. 274]

To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa.

These malicious, irresponsible charges are precisely the kind of politics the American people have grown tired of, and that Senator Obama is trying to change by focusing on bringing people together to solve our common problems.

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Christian Wellness Kills Patients

The Wall Street Journal reports on “Christian Wellness” which hides behind religion to sell their modern snake oil. They report, “Sales by religiously affiliated companies have surged since the mid-1990s to account for 5% to 10% of the dietary-supplements business, which had about $21 billion in 2005 sales, says Grant Ferrier, editor of Nutrition Business Journal in San Diego.”

Just as there are far too many people who ignore basic biology and believe the religious arguments against evolution, many will ignore medical science to use unproven remedies based upon their religious faith:

The products are heavily promoted on religious TV, radio and Web sites through ads featuring testimonials akin to those that evangelicals share in church services. “Rather than sending money to the guy on TV who promised to heal you, you now can send your money for a book on diet and a list of supplements,” says Donal O’Mathuna, a chemist and co-author of a book on alternative medicine.

Federal authorities are investigating:

Federal authorities have identified at least three dozen people who drank Dr. Daniel’s mixtures, says a person familiar with the matter. Among those, at least eight people died of cancer, according to a Food and Drug Administration investigator’s affidavit. Some patients bypassed conventional therapies for Dr. Daniel’s regimen, according to the affidavit, patients and family members…

According to the FDA investigator’s affidavit, on a 2002 religious broadcast Dr. Daniel touted cancer cure rates of 60% or better. In an interview with the California Medical Board, she denied making that claim, the affidavit said. It said she acknowledged selling vitamin mixtures but said they had no regulated ingredients. A prosecutor said there’s no evidence she’s still selling the products.

Former patients and the affidavit say Dr. Daniel sold at least six different liquid formulas. FDA analysis found some of the formulas contained various herbal compounds, as well as protein powder, vitamins, alcohol, and beef extract. Some patients said they paid as much as $6,000 weekly for care at Dr. Daniel’s wellness clinic, while others report paying a similar amount for a monthly supply of her mixtures. For some patients, office visits were covered by their medical insurance.

The FDA is looking into allegations that Dr. Daniel violated federal law by introducing an unapproved drug into the market, misbranding a drug, and committing mail and wire fraud, the affidavit says. Prosecutors filed the affidavit under seal in U.S. District Court Los Angeles in January 2006 to obtain a search warrant of Dr. Daniel’s home and office. “There is nothing wrong with a medical doctor claiming that they can cure someone,” said lead prosecutor Joseph O. Johns, an assistant U.S. attorney. “What is illegal is selling an unapproved new drug and claiming that it can cure cancer.” A federal grand jury has heard testimony in the case, say lawyers for a witness and for Dr. Daniel, who both testified last year.

The full article is under the fold. (more…)

Sam Harris Takes Lead in Debate With Andrew Sullivan

I gave the lead to Andrew Sullivan in the early stages of his debate with Sam Harris, but Harris has successfully overcome Sullivan’s arguments and is taking a clear lead. While I remain somewhat sympathetic to Sullivan’s arguments in favor of moderate believers, I am reminded of what was said about the Earth in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Mostly harmless.” While I give some credence to Sullivan’s arguments that those who keep religion out of politics are substantially different from the fundamentalists who do not believe in separation of church and state, Harris’s points that moderate religious beliefs do act to enable the more extreme (but more consistent) fundamentalist beliefs.

Harris’s argument was initially weakened by the appearance that he was dismissing all religious moderates, but he has clarified his position. He responds to Sullivan saying, “Contrary to your allegation, I do not “disdain” religious moderates. I do, however, disdain bad ideas and bad arguments–which, I’m afraid, you have begun to manufacture in earnest. I’d like to point out that you have not rebutted any of the substantial challenges I made in my last post.” He repeats this general argument in later writing, “You have also made the false charge that I think religious people are “fools” or “idiots.” Needless to say, I do not think Blaise Pascal was an idiot (nor do I think you are, for that matter). But I do consider certain ideas idiotic, and idiotic ideas can occasionally be found rattling around the brains of extraordinarily intelligent people.”

Harris makes several other points in his last post, including refuting Sullivan’s fundamental arguments claiming his religion provides a true answer about the Creator of the universe:

Needless to say, your attempt to pull theism up by its bootstraps (“since God is definitionally the Creator of such a universe; and the meaning of the universe cannot be in conflict with its Creator”) could be used to justify almost any metaphysical assertion. “The Flying Spaghetti Monster who created the universe” is also “definitionally” the Creator of the universe; this doesn’t mean that he exists, or that the universe had a Creator at all. Many other chains of pious reasoning could be cashed-out in the same way: “Satan is the Tempter; I find that I am tempted on a hourly basis to eat ice cream and have sex with my neighbor’s wife; ergo, Satan exists.” Or what if I suggested that what we know about the brain renders the idea of a human soul rather implausible, and one your brethren countered: “The immortal soul governs all the activity in a person’s brain; I have no fear about what neuroscience will tell me about the brain, because the soul is definitionally the brain’s operator.” Would this strike you as an argument for the existence of souls? Granted, there are still many gaps in neuroscience into which a soul might still be inserted, just as there are gaps in our understanding of the cosmos into which the faithful eagerly insert God, but such maneuvers are utterly without intellectual merit. You can insert almost anything “definitionally” into those gaps. The Muslims have inserted Allah, and the Qur’an is His perfect word. The Hindus have inserted Gods of every color and flavor. Why don’t these efforts persuade you?

Kerry Made The Wise Decision

While we can forever second guess some of the day to day decisions made while campaigning, I supported John Kerry because he made shown a propensity towards making the wise choice when looking at the big picture, from opposing the war in Vietnam, to opposing going to war in Iraq, to his solutions for health care. While I would have supported John Kerry if he had run as he would make the best President of any of the candidates running, the regrettable fact is that he had little chance of winning in 2008. John Kerry once again made the wise decision in deciding not to run for the nomination.

John Kerry has fought for principles and improving the country throughout his life. He will be in a far stronger position to continue these battles as a party leader in Congress, and possibly in the cabinet of a different Democratic President in 2009. Kerry can now concentrate on fighting to end the war in Iraq. I hope he will also continue to be a strong voice on health care. In 2003 he proposed a health care solution which avoided the problems of Hillary Care and which a panel of experts assembled by the National Journal ranked the highest of all plans proposed. The specifics of a candidate’s position on health care will play a large part in my decision as to whether to support a candidate for the nomination. I’ve already made my views on Hillary Clinton’s plans clear in previous posts. So far Barack Obama has stated vague generalities but avoided specifics, and John Edwards prefers to run a feel-good campaign as opposed to an issues oriented one.

It is still very early and it is certainly possible that the top three candidates now might be replaced should someone else catch on. It is far more likely this will be a new face, or perhaps a new Al Gore, than it could be John Kerry. While I disagree with the viewpoint, the fact remains that Democrats are very unlikely to renominate a loser as they ignore the influence of the right wing noise machine and repeatedly blame their candidates for problems which the party as a whole must do a better job of responding to.

As a blogger, this puts me in position where I feel more comfortable, leaving me free to examine the views of all candidates of all parties and commenting favorably when I agree and criticizing when I disagree without having to consider how it plays into the campaign for a candidate I support. While partisans often hope for the opposition party to nominate the candidate they think they can most easily beat, often rooting for someone they see as too extremist to be elected, as an independent I root for the nominees of each party which I believe would make the best President. I only wish that the Republicans would abandon the far right and show the possibility of coming up with an acceptable candidate, and hope that at least one Democratic candidate shows more reason to support them than I see at present.

Kerry will continue the fight, and we know that the right wing noise machine will continue their smears. We will continue to have his back.

Ic To You, Mr. President

There’s not much meaningful to say about the State of the Union Address–a statement so weak in ideas that it seemed like Jim Webb was the real speaker tonight and George Bush was just his amateur warm up act. His domestic policies will go no where, including his health care proposals which I already discussed here and here. His Iraq plan is just more of the same failed strategy.

In a speech which lacked substance the tone might be more important. Bush typically uses code words which must be evaluated to determine the real meaning of his statements. Past speeches have included code words to the religious right to reassure them that he is on their side even if he is claiming to be a compassionate conservative. Rather than taking advantage of the State of the Union to bridge the partisan gap, Bush carefully chose his words, deviating from the prepared text, to show that he has no intention of cooperating with Democrats. Washington Wire, a blog at the Wall Street Journal, describes the important variation from the prepared text:

President Bush departed from the prepared text of his State of the Union address to graciously congratulate Nancy Pelosi on her history-making selection as the first female Speaker of the House. Then he departed from the prepared text a second time to take a jab at Pelosi and the rest of the new Democratic majority of Congress.

[George Bush]
George Bush

In the prepared text of the speech, sent out by the White House some 40 minutes before Bush ascended the House rostrum, the president was to say, “Some in this Chamber are new to the House and Senate – and I congratulate the Democratic majority.” When Bush delivered the line, however, he paid tribute to the “Democrat majority.”Dropping the “ic” from the word “Democratic” may seem insignificant, but it was almost certainly a deliberate move by Bush, who has used the phrase “the Democrat Party” for months as a way of needling his opponents.

[Nancy Pelosi]
Nancy Pelosi

Republicans have periodically referred to their opponents as belonging to the “Democrat Party” for many decades, and the phrase was a particular favorite of former Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy. A recent Washington Post column filled in the backstory: according to the Columbia Guide to Standard American English, McCarthy “sought by repeatedly calling it the Democrat party to deny it any possible benefit of the suggestion that it might also be democratic.”The phrase lay largely dormant for years, however, until President Bush resuscitated it during last fall’s midterm election season and made it a mainstay of his public remarks about the opposition party. It has since been widely adopted by many Republican lawmakers, conservative political activists, and conservative commentators and pundits at media outlets like Fox News.

For all of Bush’s talk tonight about crossing party lines to work with the new Democratic Congress, it is the missing two letters that may offer the clearest indication of whether partisan tensions are really like to fade in the waning years of Bush’s presidency.

They did make one error in attributing the resumption of “Democrat” to Bush last year. Actually Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz have been promoting this since the 1990’s. Hendrick Hertzberg, writing in The New Yorker, also quotes Bob Dole as once resorting to this insult. It isn’t as important whether it was Bush who resumed this McCarthyite tactic. What matters is that Bush chose to perpetuate this, quickly providing an answer to those watching the State of the Union for clues as to whether Bush has learned anything about bipartisan cooperation after losing control of Congress.

What Hillary Learned About Iraq–From John Kerry

Hotline On Call reports that Hillary Clinton is sounding a lot more like John Kerry on Iraq in trying to justify her IWR vote:

Clinton Advisor Said Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) Vote For Use Of Force Was Vote For Negotiations:

Clinton Advisor Terry McAuliffe: “She voted to give the President the authority to negotiate and to have a stick to go over there and negotiate with Saddam Hussein.” (NBC’s “Today Show,” 1/22/07)

Sound Familiar? Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) Kicked Off Campaign Claiming Use Of Force Was Not A Vote For Force, Either:

Sen. Kerry Announcement Of Candidacy In 2003. Sen. Kerry: “I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations.” (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks At Announcement Of Candidacy, Patriot’s Point, S.C., 9/2/03)

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) Claims Kerry Believed “Use Of Force” Vote Was A “Use Of Negotiations” Vote. “Levin said Kerry believed the resolution would help President Bush negotiate with Iraq but didn’t think Bush would use it to go to war.” (Dee-Ann Durbin, “Levin, Stabenow Endorsing Kerry,” The Associated Press, 2/5/04)

There is a substantial difference between Kerry’s and Clinton’s postions on Iraq. It is not the IWR vote that is important as the vote was never really a vote on whether or not to go to war. Chuck Hagel says the same thing in an interview in GQ:

Do you wish you’d voted differently in October of 2002, when Congress had a chance to authorize or not authorize the invasion?
Have you read that resolution?

I have.
It’s not quite the way it’s been framed by a lot of people, as a resolution to go to war. That’s not quite what the resolution said.

It said, “to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.”
In the event that all other options failed. So it’s not as simple as “I voted for the war.” That wasn’t the resolution.

It is not the vote on the resolution that is important but the candidate’s actual position on going to war. It is one thing for Clinton to say this now. Kerry was explaining his vote in this manner from the start as I discussed in several posts available here. Kerry made his opposition to going to war clear in his Senate floor statement at the time of the IWR vote, in op-eds in the New York Times and Foreign Affairs, in his pre-war Georgetown Speech, and when he protested going to war by calling for regime change in the United States at the onset of the war.

John Kerry spoke out against going to war before the war started. Hillary Clinton has just recently begun opposing the war to position herself for the Democratic primaries. For Clinton to quote Kerry in 2007 does not alter the fact that Kerry was the one who got it right from the start, while Clinton was on the wrong side.

Has Hillary Learned Nothing On Health Care?

In the early 1990’s Hillary Clinton came up with a health care plan so bad that it led to the Democrats losing control of Congress for over a decade. Since then many far better ideas have been proposed. It appears Clinton has not learned anything. The Hill quotes Bill as suggesting Hillary plans to run on her old plan:

Former President Clinton has signaled privately that his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), will include aggressive healthcare proposals in her campaign for the White House, despite the debacle of what critics labeled “Hillary Care” 14 years ago.

In remarks to Democratic operatives last month, the ex-president caused a buzz by strongly defending the substance of his wife’s 1990s plan, claiming it was a moderate, private-sector approach grossly mischaracterized by its critics.

The former president’s statements, delivered during a Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) conference at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., have been interpreted as signaling that candidate Clinton could revive aspects of her 1993-94 approach that was vilified by Republicans and health-industry groups.

Rather than learning that she had the wrong approach, it appears that the lesson Hillary took from this defeat was to try to find a better way to push the same old plan:

She could use the issue to her advantage, a former Clinton administration official said, because she is “extremely knowledgeable about how the system works.”

Shalala agreed, saying, “I believe, knowing Mrs. Clinton, the senator, as well as I do … that no candidate understands healthcare as well as she does.” Shalala added, “She also understands the politics.”

John Kerry’s Response to the State of the Union Address

Kerry to propose legislation to set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq:

“The President missed a golden opportunity tonight to admit that he made a mistake in Iraq and to share with the American people a plan for gradually removing our troops and allowing the Iraqis to solve the political crisis in Iraq. Instead, he glossed over the disastrous war and its multi-billion-dollar price tag and implied again that our presence in Iraq is somehow improving the situation in that chaotic and turbulent country. The Congress must stand up against Bush’s plan to escalate the war with a new surge of troops and I will be introducing legislation shortly to demand that the Administration set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq. The President’s address came up short in other areas as well – like his idea to tax worker health benefits and his failure to seriously address the challenge of global climate change. Our economy is headed in the wrong way; wages are barely keeping up with inflation and family income is on the way down,” Kerry said.