All Obama on Television Sunday Morning

If we could start this year’s fight for health care reform over, one thing which should have been different would have been to make better use of Barack Obama. The speech he gave before Congress last week probably should have been delivered months ago, before the debate became dominated by misinformation from the right. When Obama did not speak out enough, the vacuum was filled by people such as a crazy lady in Alaska writing on Facebook.

Obama is now making up for this mistake. After being all over last week, he will be on virtually all the Sunday interview shows. This weekend he will appear on all three of the network Sunday interview shows: This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, Meet the Press on NBC and Face the Nation on CBS. He will also be interviewed on CNN and Univision. Apparently Obama is limiting his interviews to legitimate news organizations. As of now there are no plans to be interviewed on Fox.

Newt Gingrich Defends Palin’s Claims of “Death Panels”

Newt Gingrich portrays himself as someone who is serious of ideas but in discussing health care reform he showed that he is as willing to distort the facts as Sarah Palin and other Republicans. Gingrich has defended Sarah Palin’s fictitious claims that the health reform bill contains provisions which would set up “death panels.” George Stephanopoulos repeatedly pointed out that there is nothing which would set up such panels in the bill. The closest the bill comes to this is to provide Medicare reimbursement for voluntary discussion with patients of end of life decisions. The idea, incidentally, was proposed by a Republican Senator in May.

Edwards Staffers Were Ready To Sabotage Campaign To Protect Party

As the rumors of John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter spread his staffers eventually began to believe them. They realized how damaging it would be to the party if Edwards won the nomination and the rumors were later verified. George Stephanopoulos reports that some were prepared to sabotage the campaign prevent this from happening:

I’ve talked to a lot of former Edwards staffers about this. Up until December of 2007, most on Edwards’ staff didn’t believe rumors about the affair.

But by late December, early January of last year, several people in his inner circle began to think the rumors were true.

Several of them had gotten together and devised a “doomsday” strategy of sorts.

Basically, if it looked like Edwards was going to win the Democratic Party nomination, they were going to sabotage his campaign, several former Edwards’ staffers have told me.

They said they were Democrats first, and if it looked like Edwards was going to become the nominee, they were going to bring down the campaign.

Sean Hannity: Misinformer of the Year

Congratulations to Sean Hannity on an award he certainly deserves–Misinformer of the Year. Media Matters for American presented him the awared writing:

As Media Matters for America has demonstrated time and again, Fox News’ Sean Hannity has been a prolific and influential purveyor of conservative misinformation. But never has he so enthusiastically applied his talents for spreading misinformation as he did to the 2008 presidential race, focusing his energies primarily on President-elect Barack Obama. Day after day, Hannity devoted his two Fox News shows and his three-hour ABC Radio Networks program to “demonizing” the Democratic presidential candidates, starkly explaining in August: “That’s my job. … I led the ‘Stop Hillary Express.’ By the way, now it’s the ‘Stop Obama Express.’ ” Hannity’s “Stop Obama Express” promoted and embellished a vast array of misleading attacks and false claims about Obama. Along the way, he uncritically adopted and promoted countless Republican talking points and played host to numerous credibility-challenged smear artists who painted Obama as a dangerous radical. When he was not going after Obama, Hannity attacked members of Obama’s family, as well as Sen. Hillary Clinton and other progressives, and denied all the while that he had unfairly attacked anyone.

Hannity’s attacks may have also influenced mainstream media coverage. ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos appeared on Hannity’s radio program on April 15, during which Hannity suggested to Stephanopoulos that he ask Obama at the Democratic presidential debate the following evening about his “association with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist from the Weather Underground.” Stephanopoulos assured Hannity that he was “taking notes right now.” Stephanopoulos then did ask Obama at the debate to “explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won’t be a problem,” though he later denied that Hannity had exerted any influence on his questioning.

Because of the unending stream of falsehoods and character attacks that fueled the “Stop Obama Express,” and the countless other distortions he promoted throughout 2008, Sean Hannity is Media Matters for America‘s Misinformer of the Year.

Media Matters proceeds to provide a long list of examples of falsehoods presented by Hannity, including a distortion of Obama’s comments on Pakistan to claim he would invade the country, repeating the false claim that Obama is the most liberal senator, distorting Obama’s views on defense spending, and repeating the usual right wing falsehoods about Obama’s associations.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Provides Path For Republicans

Republicans love to pull out Arnold Schwarzenegger when they feel they will benefit from campaigning with a celebrity, but Arnold would have never made it into office if he had to win a Republican primary first. While many in the party mistakenly believe they lost because they were not conservative enough, they would benefit from paying more attention to Schwarzenegger. He was interviewed on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and began by explaining why he has been busy, saying something most Republicans would never say:

Through global warming, we have now a fire season all year round. We used to have fire seasons only in the fall. But now the fire seasons start in February already. So this means that we have to really upgrade and have more resources, more fire engines, more manpower, and all of this, which, of course, does cost extra money.

While many Republicans are denying the existence of global warming, Schwarzenegger is working with the implications. He also has a more realistic view of taxes than conservative like Grover Norquist who insists that Republicans pledge not to raise taxes under any circumstance:

I don’t want to do it. I hate taxes. I hate the word “taxes” and all of those things. But there’s certain times when you have to forget about the ideology, and, you know, all of this, and fix problems…

Stephanopoulos noted he sounded much like Barack Obama when trying to look beyond partisanship:

I think it’s a bunch of nonsense, talking about parties and all of those things — because in the end, the American people are not that interested in Democrats versus Republicans and them arguing in Washington about is this a Democratic principle or is this a Republican principle.

Let me tell you something. When it comes to building roads and people driving on the roads — it’s Democrats, Republicans, independents, decline to state — everyone wants to use those roads. Everyone’s kids — Republicans’ kids, Democrats’ kids — everyone is in the school. They want to have great education. When it comes to clean air and protecting our environment and fighting global warming, everyone in America wants to be part of that.

So I think that it’s only the politicians that always divide things up and they draw and line and say this is a Republican idea and this is a Democratic idea. And in the meantime, it doesn’t help the people to stay in their homes.

Schwarzenegger questioned the idea that moving further to the right is what is required for Republicans to return to core values:

Remember that so many times there’s dialogue about, you know, we have to go back to our core values.

What is that? What is core? How far does core go back in history in America, the word core? Does it go back 30 years? Does it go back 50 years? Because we know that Teddy Roosevelt talked about universal health care. So they’re off the core for a long time ago already. He has talked about protecting our environment. So they’ve been off for a long time on that.

I mean, let’s be honest. Ronald Reagan — let’s go to Eisenhower, for instance. Eisenhower has built the highway system in America and he’s poured billions of dollars into infrastructure. Where Republicans today say, well, that’s spending. We shouldn’t spend. That’s not spending. That’s investing in the future of America.

So there’s a lot of things that they have been off on, if they want to go and talk about the core values. But maybe their definition of core values is maybe different.

But I mean, so I think it’s all nonsense talk. I think if they just talk about one thing, what do we need now?

Now, America needs to be rebuilt, because we haven’t really rebuilt America for decades. So we need to rebuild America, fix the bridges, fix the highways, fix the buildings, tunnels and all of those kind of things we need to do. And then we have to go and create great relationships with our partners overseas, with the world, and to build those relationships again. And we have to take care of health care. We have to take care of our environment. And we have to build an energy future. Those are the things that people want right now.

He differs from the right wing in questioning the constitutionality of prohibiting gay marriage, regardless of his own views on the subject:

I personally am — for me, marriage is between a man and a woman. But I don’t want to ever force my will on anyone.

I think that the Supreme Court was right by saying that it’s unconstitutional. And that everyone should have the right, just like we had the battle in 1948 and the Supreme Court decision came down, that, you know, it was unconstitutional for blacks and whites not to be able to get married with each other, and they overturned that. And since then, that has been taken care of.

And now the Supreme Court says that it’s also unconstitutional to not let gay people get married, the same-sex marriage. So to me, that is the important decision here, and everything else is not that important. So people can pass initiatives, like Proposition 187 passed under Wilson that said we should not give, you know, Latinos and those that are illegally here any educational services or any kind of medical services. The Supreme Court said, well, the people maybe had some intentions there, but it’s unconstitutional.

The Republicans will have a much better shot of remaining as a viable political party if they adopt Schwarzenegger’s more moderate outlook, but this is not very likely to occur.

Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State

I first heard Hillary Clinton’s name mentioned as a possible Secretary of State when watching George Stephanopoulos on This Week last Sunday. This had me wondering if it was a case of either Stephanopoulos having inside information regarding Clinton, or if perhaps he was helping the Clintons launch a trial baloon. The story has taken off and become a major matter of speculation by the end of the week. While we do know that Obama and Clinton have talked about this, we do not really know if it is a serious offer.

It is possible that Obama is only talking with Clinton to avoid the appearance of ignoring her as when he did not vet her for the vice presidency. Obama might be considering Clinton as part of the Team of Rivals approach to government. There have been many comparisons between the Obama vs. McCain race and the Santos vs. Vinick campaign on final season of The West Wing. The show ended with Matt Santos offering the position of Secretary of State to Arnold Vinick. For Obama to offer this to Clinton would be an analogous example of bringing in a rival, but would be far more likely than for Obama to offer the position to John McCain.

This could also be a shrewd decision on Obama’s part to reduce the mischief that Clinton could cause. As Marc Ambinder suggested:

The CW in Washington is that Obama wants Clinton in his cabinet more than Clinton wants to be in the cabinet, the theory being that the moment she steps into the administration, she loses her power base, she loses her Senate seat forever, and she loses her voice on domestic policy. She concedes her political identity.  Actually, on policy: uncuriously silent in all this is Sen. Joe Biden, who has strong foreign policy ideas of his own and a bigger platform to share them with Obama.  Would Clinton become a glorified PR tool for Obama if she accepted the job? A Powell, rather than a Rice?

Andrew Sullivan considers this an inspired idea:

Obama has to offer something to Clinton. She’s his main threat now and rightly regards part of his victory her doing. The primaries helped him. Left to fester in the Senate, Clinton will plot against the president if he doesn’t actively seek her support and engagement and “spread the political wealth” of his mandate.

If Barack Obama receives a call at 3:00 a.m., will Hillary Clinton be one of the people called to the White House at 3:15? For the sake of the country I would prefer that Obama receive advice from a Secretary of State such as John Kerry, although he could also be consulted as the possible next Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Hillary Clinton has something in common with George Bush–both have been wrong on virtually every major decision they have every made in public life. I might welcome her becoming Secretary of State if this meant totally shutting her out of domestic policy, especially health care, but only if she did not really have a voice in foreign policy. From her position on the Iraq War to her opposition to the ban on cluster bombs, her judgement on foreign policy has been as flawed as her judgement on domestic policy. If this keeps Clinton under control it might be worthwhile, but is it really safe politically to have both Hillary and Bill running around the world?

McCain Claims To Tell 100 Percent Absolute Truth

In an interview with The Des Moines Register, John McCain claimed he tells “100 percent absolute truth” even in campaign ads. This is, of course, yet another lie. I doubt any politician could honestly say this. I’ve even criticized Obama for some misleading statements about McCain’s position on immigration and Social Security, although these have been far less inaccurate than the gross lies told in many of McCain’s ads.

I’ve reviewed many of the lies in previous posts, along with linking to various fact checking sites. The Democatic Party, admittedly biased on this topic, has compliled a lengthy list of McCain’s lies here. The Politco also reports on this claim from McCain and responds with a shorter list of lies:

With the help of the truth-squad crew over at the invaluable Politifact and factcheck.org, as well as other fact-checking websites, here is a list of some of McCain’s biggest whoppers:

1. On “The View,” McCain claimed Sarah Palin did not take or request earmarks as governor of Alaska. “Not as governor, she didn’t,” McCain said. But in her first year in office, she requested $256 million in earmarks from the federal government.

2. Shortly after announcing Sarah Palin as his running mate, the McCain campaign ran an ad claiming, “She stopped the bridge to nowhere” — perhaps the most thoroughly debunked claim about the Alaska governor, who supported the bridge project before changing her position late in the game. Asked about the bridge during her 2006 gubernatorial bid, Palin replied: “I’m not going to stand in the way of progress.”

3. At the Republican National Convention, McCain claimed Obama’s national health insurance plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.” But according to factcheck.org, Obama’s plan does not place burdens on small business, and people would have the option of keeping their existing insurance plans.

4. In a campaign ad, “Dome,” McCain claimed Obama’s election would result in “painful income taxes, skyrocketing taxes on life savings, electricity and home heating oil,” the clear implication being that Obama wants to hike these tax rates. But factcheck.org says Obama hasn’t proposed a tax on electricity or home heating oil and wouldn’t raise taxes on investments for individuals earning less than $200,000 a year.

It’s possible Obama’s election would result in these tax rates increasing. But this McCain-Palin claim is a little like the Obama camp’s misleading attack on McCain’s Social Security plan, tagging his opponent with the most undesirable, unintended and far from certain consequences of his policy proposals.

5. McCain has repeatedly accused Obama of supporting higher taxes on people making as little as $42,000 a year. “Two times, on March 14, 2008 and June 4, 2008, in the Democratic budget resolution, he voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000 per year,” McCain said this week. But this is a misleading claim: Obama’s votes were for nonbinding resolutions, which supported allowing certain Bush administration tax cuts to expire but didn’t actually have the effect of raising taxes.

6. In a July visit to Colorado, McCain told voters: “I want to look you in the eye: I will not raise your taxes nor support a tax increase. I will not do it.” Last Sunday, however, McCain acknowledged to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that his health care plan could lead to some people paying taxes on employer-provided health insurance.

“It depends on what plan they have,” McCain said. “But that’s usually the wealthiest people.”

7. McCain’s campaign claimed adviser Rick Davis had taken a leave of absence from his firm, Davis Manafort, and vigorously attacked a New York Times story suggesting that Davis had profited from Davis Manafort’s relationship with mortgage lender Freddie Mac. “Mr. Davis has seen no income from Davis Manafort since 2006,” wrote McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb, who called the Times story “demonstrably false.”

“Mr. Davis has never — never — been a lobbyist for either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.”

But Davis Manafort was receiving $15,000 monthly payments from Freddie Mac as recently as August, and while the payments didn’t go to Davis personally he still stands to gain from the success of his firm.

8. McCain has boasted of never requesting a single earmark, saying in January: “I have never asked for nor received a single earmark or pork-barrel project for my state.” But he has requested federal funding for special projects back home, including $10 million for a center at the University of Arizona, $5 million for a home-state water project and spending authority to purchase land around Arizona’s Luke Air Force Base.

Politifact says it’s a matter of debate whether these projects constitute pork-barrel spending — but clearly McCain has searched for federal help in his own backyard.

9. In last Friday’s debate, McCain accused Obama of “voting to cut off funds for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.” But Obama has consistently voted in favor of war funding bills, including an earlier version of the bill McCain was discussing. The Illinois senator voted against this particular proposal because it did not push the Bush administration toward a timetable for withdrawal. McCain’s comment was technically defensible — but rather too sly to be called “absolute truth.”

10. In July, McCain accused Obama of skipping his visit to a military hospital in Germany because he was told he couldn’t bring reporters and video cameras. McCain ran an ad saying: “Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras.” But when pressed to provide evidence that Obama had canceled the visit for this reason, McCain’s campaign could not support their claim — and media reports found no evidence that Obama had ever planned to bring media with him.

McCain Lies On Obama’s Record and Immigration Reform

John McCain was interviewed on This Week With George Stephanopoulos and continued to be dishonest in his portrayal of both his record and the record of Barack Obama. One lie which I found particularly irritating was this: “Senator Obama has not been involved in reforms. In fact, he walked away from the immigration reform issue.”

Obama has been involved in passing reform legislation both in the Illinois legislature and in the Senate.  The votes which contributed to Obama’s liberal rating from The National Journal, which McCain cited in the debate, included support for reform legislation.

It is bad enough to deny this important part of Obama’s record, but I was particularly annoyed by the claim Obama walked away from immigration reform. As I’ve noted in the past, parts of Michigan and  other tourist areas have had problems this year since visas for seasonal workers could not be renewed  because John McCain was afraid to have immigration come up during an election year. McCain didn’t walk away–he ran away from the issue.

David Gergen Explains Racial Signals in McCain Ads

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfXvK84MPqQ]

McCain might not have any substance to his campaign and many of his negative attacks may backfire, but he did do an excellent job of using misdirection to convince many that he was not using race when he brought race into the campaign. Many have been fooled by the method in which McCain has accomplished this. As Obama said, “If you think about this week, what they’ve been good at is distraction” and that McCain transformed general comments about his unusual biography into a “racially incendiary remark.”

The above video from Talking Points Memo shows a clip of David Gergen on This Week explaining the racist overtones to some of McCain’s recent ads. As George Stephanopoulos stated, much of this is below the radar screen.

The General Election Campaign Begins: Barack Obama vs. John McCain

After last night’s devastating loss for Hillary Clinton, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama can now begin the general election campaign against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. I previously noted how the media has begun declaring Obama the winner, beginning with Tim Russert, Chuck Todd, and Matt Drudge. This continued on the morning news shows, increasing the sense that the nomination battle is over. Even George Stephanopoulos managed to break free of Hillary Clinton’s grasp on his balls and say, “More superdelegates will come out today for Barack Obama –they will come three, four, five at a time, and this nomination will be locked up.”

For Hillary Clinton it now comes down to preparing the exit strategy. There are reports (along with denials) that she is canceling public appearances, perhaps to give her more time to come up with reasons to justify remaining in the race. She might want to continue a battle which has now come down to satisfying her ego, but the decision might be made based upon the money. After initial denials, it has become known that Hillary Clinton, the new hero of the common working man, has loaned herself another 6.4 million dollars on top of the earlier five million dollar loan. With contributions drying up, for all practical purposes she must resort to self-financing if she is to continue. At this point she might remain in the race a little longer only to attempt to raise a little money to offset her debts, or perhaps to make a deal with Obama to assume her campaign debts.

Update: The exodus of Clinton supporters has begun. Former Clinton backer George McGovern is calling the Clintons to urge Hillary to drop out of the race and inform them of his decision to now endorse Obama. I expect many more to switch in the next couple of weeks.