Reminder, Moms for Obama Nationally Rally Day Coming Soon

Here’s a reminder of a previous item: Saturday, November 1, 2008 will be Moms for Obama Nationally Rally Day:

Women and men across America are signing up by the hundreds to plan and participate in organized rallies as a show of support for Senator Barack Obama days before Election Day. Moms for Obama, a national grassroots group on my.barackobama.com, are coordinating the event, billed as “MOMS FOR OBAMA NATIONAL RALLY DAY” by its organizers.

On Saturday, November 1, at 12:00 pm PST (3:00 pm EST), on the same day, at the same hour all across America, mothers, fathers, grandparents and their children will participate in marches and rallies. This event is for women to have their voices heard in their community. Moms for Obama believe that a nationwide rally across America is a tremendous opportunity for mothers and families to gather and share their concern for all of our children. As well as to demonstrate to the American people that mothers will be out in force on Election Day and we will be supporting the Democratic ticket of Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

76 American Nobel Laureates in Science Endorse Obama

Seventy-six American Nobel Laureates in Science have endorsed Barack Obama for president. Their letter cites the hostility towards science under George Bush. Examples of how John McCain and Sarah Palin are continuing the Republican war on science were discussed two days ago. Their letter of endorsement follows:

An Open Letter to the American People

This year’s presidential election is among the most significant in our nation’s history. The country urgently needs a visionary leader who can ensure the future of our traditional strengths in science and technology and who can harness those strengths to address many of our greatest problems: energy, disease, climate change, security, and economic competitiveness.

We are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is such a leader, and we urge you to join us in supporting him.

During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country’s scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government’s scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk. We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy.

We have watched Senator Obama’s approach to these issues with admiration. We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation’s competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation’s and the world’s most urgent needs.

Senator Obama understands that Presidential leadership and federal investments in science and technology are crucial elements in successful governance of the world’s leading country. We hope you will join us as we work together to ensure his election in November.

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The Economist Endorses Barack Obama

The Economist has endorsed Barack Obama. While endorsements mean very little, and possibly even less when coming from a publication from outside the United States, I was curious to see what they would decide. The Economist is conservative from a European viewpoint, which means that a centrist Democrat can still fall closer to their beliefs than a Republican. While economically conservative, they do not support the cultural conservativism of the GOP. This has led to a set of endorsements in past issues which would not always have been easy to predict.

The Economist endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980 but then apparently became disenchanted with the Republican Party, not making an endorsement in 1984 or 1988. By 1992 they were ready to endorse a Democrat, backing Bill Clinton. in 1996 they weren’t happy with either candidate, backing Bob Dole but writing, “he choice is a lousy one.” They stuck with the Republicans in 2000 endorsing George Bush but learned the error in this and backed John Kerry in 2008.

They have avoided endorsements of an incumbent, and perhaps their lack of an endorsement for McCain could be explained by if they considered McCain to be running for George Bush’s third term. If they accepted the view that John McCain is an independent Republican who would be moderate on social issues their past history would suggest that he would receive their endorsement. Unfortunately for John McCain, they have followed the race closely, leading them to reject McCain for Barack Obama. They did suggest they would have followed this logic, “If only the real John McCain had been running.”

…the Candidate McCain of the past six months has too often seemed the victim of political sorcery, his good features magically inverted, his bad ones exaggerated. The fiscal conservative who once tackled Mr Bush over his unaffordable tax cuts now proposes not just to keep the cuts, but to deepen them. The man who denounced the religious right as “agents of intolerance” now embraces theocratic culture warriors. The campaigner against ethanol subsidies (who had a better record on global warming than most Democrats) came out in favour of a petrol-tax holiday. It has not all disappeared: his support for free trade has never wavered. Yet rather than heading towards the centre after he won the nomination, Mr McCain moved to the right.

Meanwhile his temperament, always perhaps his weak spot, has been found wanting. Sometimes the seat-of-the-pants method still works: his gut reaction over Georgia—to warn Russia off immediately—was the right one. Yet on the great issue of the campaign, the financial crisis, he has seemed all at sea, emitting panic and indecision. Mr McCain has never been particularly interested in economics, but, unlike Mr Obama, he has made little effort to catch up or to bring in good advisers (Doug Holtz-Eakin being the impressive exception).

The choice of Sarah Palin epitomised the sloppiness. It is not just that she is an unconvincing stand-in, nor even that she seems to have been chosen partly for her views on divisive social issues, notably abortion. Mr McCain made his most important appointment having met her just twice.

Ironically, given that he first won over so many independents by speaking his mind, the case for Mr McCain comes down to a piece of artifice: vote for him on the assumption that he does not believe a word of what he has been saying. Once he reaches the White House, runs this argument, he will put Mrs Palin back in her box, throw away his unrealistic tax plan and begin negotiations with the Democratic Congress. That is plausible; but it is a long way from the convincing case that Mr McCain could have made. Had he become president in 2000 instead of Mr Bush, the world might have had fewer problems. But this time it is beset by problems, and Mr McCain has not proved that he knows how to deal with them.

Some have endorsed McCain based upon the McCain of the past believing this will be what we would have in the White House. The Economist is correct in realizing that it is too risky to place someone who has campaigned as McCain has in the White House. They are not alone in citing the choice of Sarah Palin is reason not to support McCain. While they have reservations which would be expected from a conservative magazine, they endorsed Barack Obama:

Is Mr Obama any better? Most of the hoopla about him has been about what he is, rather than what he would do. His identity is not as irrelevant as it sounds. Merely by becoming president, he would dispel many of the myths built up about America: it would be far harder for the spreaders of hate in the Islamic world to denounce the Great Satan if it were led by a black man whose middle name is Hussein; and far harder for autocrats around the world to claim that American democracy is a sham. America’s allies would rally to him: the global electoral college on our website shows a landslide in his favour. At home he would salve, if not close, the ugly racial wound left by America’s history and lessen the tendency of American blacks to blame all their problems on racism.

So Mr Obama’s star quality will be useful to him as president. But that alone is not enough to earn him the job. Charisma will not fix Medicare nor deal with Iran. Can he govern well? Two doubts present themselves: his lack of executive experience; and the suspicion that he is too far to the left.

There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama’s résumé is thin for the world’s biggest job. But the exceptionally assured way in which he has run his campaign is a considerable comfort. It is not just that he has more than held his own against Mr McCain in the debates. A man who started with no money and few supporters has out-thought, out-organised and outfought the two mightiest machines in American politics—the Clintons and the conservative right.

Political fire, far from rattling Mr Obama, seems to bring out the best in him: the furore about his (admittedly ghastly) preacher prompted one of the most thoughtful speeches of the campaign. On the financial crisis his performance has been as assured as Mr McCain’s has been febrile. He seems a quick learner and has built up an impressive team of advisers, drawing in seasoned hands like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Of course, Mr Obama will make mistakes; but this is a man who listens, learns and manages well.

It is hard too nowadays to depict him as soft when it comes to dealing with America’s enemies. Part of Mr Obama’s original appeal to the Democratic left was his keenness to get American troops out of Iraq; but since the primaries he has moved to the centre, pragmatically saying the troops will leave only when the conditions are right. His determination to focus American power on Afghanistan, Pakistan and proliferation was prescient. He is keener to talk to Iran than Mr McCain is— but that makes sense, providing certain conditions are met.

Our main doubts about Mr Obama have to do with the damage a muddle-headed Democratic Congress might try to do to the economy. Despite the protectionist rhetoric that still sometimes seeps into his speeches, Mr Obama would not sponsor a China-bashing bill. But what happens if one appears out of Congress? Worryingly, he has a poor record of defying his party’s baronies, especially the unions. His advisers insist that Mr Obama is too clever to usher in a new age of over-regulation, that he will stop such nonsense getting out of Congress, that he is a political chameleon who would move to the centre in Washington. But the risk remains that on economic matters the centre that Mr Obama moves to would be that of his party, not that of the country as a whole.

He has earned it

So Mr Obama in that respect is a gamble. But the same goes for Mr McCain on at least as many counts, not least the possibility of President Palin. And this cannot be another election where the choice is based merely on fear. In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.

Big Brother and Joe the Plumber

This report is rather disturbing. Joe the Plumber might be wrong when he talks about taxes and wrong when he speaks out on foreign policy, but he does have the right to express his views. The Columbus Dispatch writes:

A state agency has revealed that its checks of computer systems for potential information on “Joe the Plumber” were more extensive than it first acknowledged.

Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, disclosed today that computer inquiries on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher were not restricted to a child-support system.

The agency also checked Wurzelbacher in its computer systems to determine whether he was receiving welfare assistance or owed unemployment compensation taxes, she wrote.

Jones-Kelley made the revelations in a letter to Ohio Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, who demanded answers on why state officials checked out Wurzelbacher.

Harris called the multiple records checks “questionable” and said he awaits more answers. “It’s kind of like Big Brother is looking in your pocket,” he said.

If state employees run checks on every person listed in newspaper stories as buying a business, “it must take a lot of people a lot of time to run these checks,” he said. “Where do you draw the line?”

The government certainly has an interest in denying welfare to those who do not qualify and to seek out people who are failing to pay child support, but there is also a strong interest in preserving freedom of expression. If a case worker were to see that someone they were actually sending welfare benefits to was mentioned in the newspapers as having substantial resources, I could see them questioning the situation. It is a different matter when a search is conducted on somebody simply because they make the news and there is absolutely no evidence presented that they are involved in any form of fraud related to the investigations.

People in the Middle for Obama

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The 2008 Election and the Santos vs. Vinick Campaign

The New York Times notes some of the similarities between the Obama campaign and the Santos campaign on The West Wing:

The parallels between the final two seasons of the series (it ended its run on NBC in May 2006) and the current political season are unmistakable. Fiction has, once again, foreshadowed reality.

Watching “The West Wing” in retrospect — all seven seasons are available on DVD, and episodes can be seen in syndication — viewers can see allusions to Mr. Obama in almost every facet of Matthew Santos, the Hispanic Democratic candidate played by Jimmy Smits. Santos is a coalition-building Congressional newcomer who feels frustrated by the polarization of Washington. A telegenic and popular fortysomething with two young children, Santos enters the presidential race and eventually beats established candidates in a long primary campaign.

Wearing a flag pin, Santos announces his candidacy by telling supporters, “I am here to tell you that hope is real.” And he adds, “In a life of trial, in a world of challenges, hope is real.” Viewers can almost hear the crowd cheering, “Yes, we can.”

Similarities between McCain and Arnold Vinick are also noted. Others have also noted the similarities to The West Wing as I discussed here, along with important differences between Vinick and McCain. Vinick was pro-choice and also seemed to be far more sensible on foreign policy than McCain. I can’t imagine Obama offering the position of Secretary of State to McCain as Obama offered to Vinick. McCain was like Vinick in his attacks on the religious right in 2000, but he differs from Vinick’s views in keeping religion out of politics by referring to the United States as a Christian nation.

There are also analogies with the vice presidential picks: “the Democrat picks a Washington veteran as his vice presidential candidate to add foreign policy expertise to the ticket, while the Republican selects a staunchly conservative governor to shore up the base.”

More similarities to The West Wing were also noted in the article, as well as a reminder that McCain of 2000 was much more like Arnold Vinick than the McCain of 2008:

As the primaries unfolded this year, “I saw the similarities right away,” said Lawrence O’Donnell, a producer and writer for the series who has appeared on MSNBC asa political analyst. Mr. O’Donnell had used Mr. McCain as one of the templates for the Vinick character in the episodes he wrote, though he said that “McCain’s resemblance to the Vinick character was much stronger in 2000 than in 2008.”

Echoing the criticism Mr. McCain faced during the primaries, a White House aide in “The West Wing” contends that Vinick is “not conservative enough” for the Republican base. Sometimes the two candidates’ situations are almost identical: when the press starts asking where Vinick attends church, he tells his staff that “I haven’t gone to church for a while.” Asked in July by The New York Times about the frequency of his church attendance, Mr. McCain said, “Not as often as I should.”

Mr. Alda and Mr. McCain are the same age. When a hard-edged strategist played by Janeane Garofalo joins the Santos campaign, she immediately alludes to Vinick’s age. “He’s been in the Senate for like 90 years. He was practically born in a committee room,” she says.

In the same way that Obama surrogates have subtly knocked Mr. McCain’s lack of computer skills, the Garofalo character remarks to the Santos campaign manager, Josh Lyman: “Why are you always talking about high-tech jobs? Because Vinick uses a manual typewriter.”

Conversely, Santos staffers talk about getting video of the candidate with his “adorable young children hugging their hale and vital dad.” The casting of Mr. Smits introduced story lines about the prospect of a minority president. But when an aide suggests a fund-raising drive in a Latino community, Santos snaps: “I don’t want to just be the brown candidate. I want to be the American candidate.” The Obama campaign has made similar assertions.

Francis Fukuyama Endorses Barack Obama

Another conservative endorsement for Barack Obama, this time from Francis Fukuyama writing at The American Conservative:

I’m voting for Barack Obama this November for a very simple reason. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush. It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term. But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come. As a general rule, democracies don’t work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure. While John McCain is trying desperately to pretend that he never had anything to do with the Republican Party, I think it would a travesty to reward the Republicans for failure on such a grand scale.

McCain’s appeal was always that he could think for himself, but as the campaign has progressed, he has seemed simply erratic and hotheaded. His choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate was highly irresponsible; we have suffered under the current president who entered office without much knowledge of the world and was easily captured by the wrong advisers. McCain’s lurching from Reaganite free- marketer to populist tribune makes one wonder whether he has any underlying principles at all.

America has been living in a dream world for the past few years, losing its basic values of thrift and prudence and living far beyond its means, even as it has lectured the rest of the world to follow its model. At a time when the U.S. government has just nationalized a good part of the banking sector, we need to rethink a lot of the Reaganite verities of the past generation regarding taxes and regulation. Important as they were back in the 1980s and ’90s, they just won’t cut it for the period we are now entering. Obama is much better positioned to reinvent the American model and will certainly present a very different and more positive face of America to the rest of the world.

Francis Fukuyama is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

While numerous Republicans and conservatives have endorsed Obama over McCain, it is hard to think of any prominent Democrats who have endorsed McCain (unless you still consider Joe Lieberman to be a Democrat). (Some other recent endorsements here and here). The future of the Republican Party looks even bleaker. Hopefully they will reexamine where they have gone wrong, but at present it looks more likely that the party will be taken over by people who think Palin would have been a better choice than McCain. The social conservatives appear to be the dominant force remaining in the Republican Party, with the Democratic Party turning into a big tent representing the views of both Democrats and former Republicans excluding the social conservatives of the far right.

McCain’s Choice

While Barack Obama didn’t attack John McCain in his infomercial Wednesday night, he is doing so in other commercials, such as in the one above. He held off on a devastating attack which links together both McCain’s admitted lack of knowledge about the economy with his choice of Sarah Palin.

Barack Obama’s Infomercial, And Why McCain Can’t Do Anything Similar

Barack Obama had the infomercial in the above video on three broadcast networks as well as a couple cable networks. The show seems to be aimed at those who might still feel uncomfortable about him being president. He avoids the standard political attacks and I don’t even recall a single mention of John McCain. He also avoided detailed discussion of his policies which could be found elsewhere and concentrated on evoking good feelings about an Obama presidency, similar to the manner in which Ronald Reagan dispelled negative views of him with promises of “morning in America.”

John McCain will not be airing anything similar. This is primarily because of lack of funds, but even if he could afford to do so, it is hard to imagine a Republican candidate doing anything other than attacking their opponent. Take away distortions of Obama’s positions, claims that he is a celebrity, a terrorist, and a socialist, and there isn’t much left for McCain to say.

The other problem is that McCain has nothing to offer. If you could cut through all the spin, these would be some of the effects of a McCain presidency:

  • John McCain will undermine the free enterprise system by continuing the Bush policies of taking more money from the middle class, small businessmen, and many of those who create wealth to redistribute it to the ultra-wealthy.
  • John McCain will undermine our national security by continuing Bush’s war in Iraq, possibly attacking Iran, and avoiding negotiations with other nations.
  • John McCain will further reduce the freedom of Americans by assisting the religious right in promoting their agenda of using the government to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of the country.
  • John McCain will worsen the health care crisis by forcing more people to obtain their coverage in the individual market, despite lack of affordable coverage for those who are older or have pre-existing medical conditions, and will have a greater portion of health care costs paid for by the patients instead of insurance coverage.

With policies like this, it is no surprise that John McCain couldn’t put on a campaign commercial without lying about Obama’s views and disgusing the impact of his own views.

Fox News Debunks Joe the Plumber on Israel

First Sarah Palin went rogue. Then Joe the Plumber went off message for the campaign with his claim that a vote for Obama would lead to the death of Israel. It’s good to see that even Fox  was willing to debunk this one in the video above.

Joe was wrong when he claimed Obama would raise his taxes and now he is wrong in his assessment of Obama’s foreign policy views.