Weeding Out the Godless Texans

While students in Texas remembered God in the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of American, the writers of the pledge to the flag of Texas left this out. They have now corrected this oversight:

This year’s Legislature added the phrase “one state under God” to the pledge, which is part of a required morning ritual in Texas public schools along with the pledge to the U.S. flag and a moment of silence.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, who sponsored the bill, said it had always bothered her that God was omitted in the state’s pledge.

“Personally, I felt like the Texas pledge had a big old hole in it, and it occurred to me, ‘You know what? We need to fix that,’ ” said Riddle, R-Tomball. “Our Texas pledge is perfectly OK like it is with the exception of acknowledging that just as we are one nation under God, we are one state under God as well.”

We are dealing with young children who might have short attention spans (think Lil’ Bush) and therefore this must be drummed into them twice. Texans also were reminded why George Bush Sr. railed against “card carrying members of the ACLU” and other liberal organizations:

Most Texans do not need to say this new version of the pledge in order to be either patriotic or religious,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “This is the kind of politicking of religion that disturbs many Americans, including those who are deeply religious.”

The revised Texas pledge is “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.” Students who object to saying the pledge or this reference to God must bring a written note from home excusing them from participating.

I wonder if the country would be a better place if, instead of repeating these pledges every day, schools took a few moments to remember the principles upon which this nation was originally formed, including separation of church and state, along with some thoughts on better toleration of the views of others.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Jeopardy

Reading today’s coverage of Obama’s interview on foreign policy gives the feeling of playing a game of Jeopardy in two different ways. If all you read was the initial AP reports you might not realize that it was necessary to guess the actual question. Obama’s answer:

”I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” Obama said, with a pause, ”involving civilians.” Then he quickly added, ”Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”

From reading this we have the impression that Obama made a tremendous blunder in ruling out nuclear weapons in any circumstance. However, if we play Jeopardy we find that once we ask the right question Obama’s views sound quite different:

“In Afghanistan or Pakistan, is there any circumstance where you would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden?”

This makes much more sense as nuclear weapons would not be useful against a terrorist organization. AP did update their lead, but not until after the misleading story was out. The media’s coverage raises a few additional questions. Shouldn’t a good journalist include the actual question or say something to place the quote in context? When someone being interviewed says “let me scratch that” should this be quoted exactly, or should the article limit itself to the corrected answer? If the new standard is to ignore a candidate’s request to “scratch that,” will this be applied to all interviews and all candidates?

Obama is also playing Jeopardy in a different manner. He put himself in a situation where his comments on foreign policy are receiving a tremendous amount of scrutiny. This could either establish him as Hillary Clinton’s equal on the subject, or reinforce the impression that he’s not yet ready to be president if he fails.

Obama must contend not only with the reaction to his actual views, but how his views are portrayed. Yesterday’s statement on Pakistan has been twisted to claim Obama is threatening to invade the country, just as his comments today were open to misinterpretation.

In 2004 John Kerry often had the best answer but he lost control of the narrative and his views were distorted beyond recognition by the right wing noise machine. For a Democrat to win, they will need be show that they can control the narrative and prevent their views from being distorted. John Kerry made a fatal mistake in 2004 in not debunking the claims of the Swift Boat Liars quickly enough. More recently he waited inexcusably long to explain the botched joke on George Bush getting us stuck in Iraq. It is encouraging that Obama’s campaign did issue the clarification for this interview quickly, without waiting until a subsequent news cycle. The next question will be how Obama’s foreign policy views are ultimately perceived by the voters and how the voters respond to them.

Responses To Barack Obama’s Speech on Terrorism

While conservatives generally responded to Obama’s speech at the Wilson Center with knee jerk hostility, more thoughtful responses are starting to come in. Here’s a few:

Richard A. Clarke, former White House counterterrorism official, who has briefed Obama on terrorism related issues: I believe his speech is a comprehensive, sophisticated approach to terrorism. I was glad to see it recognized the importance of stopping repressive police and intelligence activities in countries threatened by al-Qaeda and terrorism. I’m also glad to see him say clearly that we are not at war with Islam but must partner with Muslims threatened by al-Qaeda. On Pakistan, I think it must be true anywhere that if we know of high value targets and the host government will not act, we have to do so.

Teresita C. Schaffer, Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ South Asia program and former U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka: In general, much of what he said is actually very much in line with U.S. policy, including the conditioning of military aid to Pakistan, which is about to be put into law. His statement that we would be willing to act if President Musharraf isn’t, is not dramatically different from the current administration’s attitude. Most members of the administration don’t like to talk about this, and look on it as an absolute last resort. What he said isn’t that different from what Frances Townsend [White House homeland security adviser]was saying over the weekend. He did propose additional economic assistance, and suggested that we ought to be emphasizing economic rather than military aid. This is a good suggestion.

The first two comments both make the point that Obama’s controversial comments about Pakistan is not a dramatic change from the status quo. The next comment considered the speech strong but does find some minor criticism:

Peter Bergen, author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know:” Overall it was a very strong speech. Here is a minor criticism: While there is no doubt that conflict zones can breed terrorism, the 9/11 plot was actually planned in Hamburg. The idea that weak and failingstates are causes of terrorism is wrong. There is in fact overwhelming academic literature that demonstrates the reverse is true. Terrorism is a sort of bourgeois endeavor. On a related point, the idea that madrassas are a big problem for violence against the United States is also wrong. Madrassas lead to problems regionally, and are a big problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not in terms of terrorism against the United States.

Rudy Giuliani: All Hatred, No Substance

John Edwards, who called Rudy Giuliani “George Bush on steroids,” isn’t the only one with harsh words about Giuliani. Ezra Klein describes Giuliani’s health care plan just as I did as a pretext to attack Democrats with no real plan. Kevin Drum observes:

I know this isn’t an original observation or anything, but as I was writing the previous post about Rudy Giuliani’s healthcare proposal it struck me yet again that Giuliani might be the first presidential candidate whose entire candidacy is based literally on optics and nothing else. I don’t think he’s offered one single substantive proposal in the entire time since he announced his candidacy. Rather, he’s marketed himself exclusively as a tough guy who knows how to kick butt and put liberals in their place. That’s it. There really isn’t anything more to the man.

Like I said, nothing original about this. But still. The purity of his persona-based candidacy is almost majestic.

Steve Benen adds:

That’s certainly a big part of it. I expect a certain amount of seriousness in top-tier presidential candidates and Giuliani is, by any reasonable measure, a walking, talking joke. He isn’t running on his record (which he doesn’t want to talk about), or his ideas (of which he has none), or his vision of government (which is vapid to the point of comedy). He’s running because people liked the way he talked at some press conferences six years ago, and he’s parlayed that image into one of the great political con jobs of all time. Worse, at least in the short term, a plurality of Republicans nationwide are falling for the matchstick man’s deceptive pitch.

If you get the chance to see it on C-SPAN, you should check out Giuliani’s stump speech sometime. It’s little more than an extended tirade about how much he hates Democrats.

Regarding the stump speech, been there, done that. I saw all I had to see at the 2004 Republican Hate Fest (the convention where they renominated Bush for a second term).

Before 9/11 and Iraq it is possible I would have supported a socially liberal/fiscally conservative Republican from New York over some Democrats. Giuliani’s hate filled talk has destroyed his credibility. He has also negated any advantage of his socially liberal positions of the past as he repeatedly panders to the far right. Whatever liberal tendencies Giuliani may have had have been replaced by a hatred which leaves him as little more than an authoritarian war monger.

Edwards Calls Giuliani “George Bush on Steroids”

It should be fairly clear to readers here that I don’t take John Edwards all that seriously as a contender to be president, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make a good stump speech. He has improved as a campaigner and made one of the top lines this week:

“What Giuliani is, is George Bush on steroids.” Edwards said. “Giuliani, Romney and the rest of the Republicans running for the nomination are going to give the country four more years of crony capitalism, which is exactly what we have now. We have insurance companies and drug companies and oil companies running this government. They need to be stopped. And Giuliani just wants to empower them.”

I don’t have any further transcripts of this, so I don’t mean this as criticism, but I hope that Edwards went beyond this line. Democrats need to stress the difference between capitalism and Republican crony capitalism, and no longer tolerate the manner in which Republicans define both capitalism and Democratic beliefs.

If Edwards hopes to sell this message beyond those who already agree it is not enough to say that the insurance companies, drug companies, and oil companies must be stopped. It is necessary to discuss the have done and provide further evidence of their excessive influence over the Republicans. While this may go beyond a stump speech to supporters, ultimately Democratic candidates must make this case to the nation. In doing so they must also make sure it sounds like their message comes much more from people like Kevin Phillips than Michael Moore if they want to build a national consensus.

Stop Those Tax and Spend Liberals

The Club for Growth (which fails to recognize how sometimes government-financed infrastructure contributes to business growth) is going after a tax and spend liberal from Arkansas. No, it’s not a Clinton but Mike Huckabee. Here’s the text of an attack ad being aired in Iowa:

Announcer: There once was a governor from Hope, Arkansas, who raised taxes like there was no tomorrow.

Higher sales taxes, gas taxes, grocery taxes, even higher taxes on nursing home beds.

Raised spending by 50 percent too.

Who is that liberal tax and spend Arkansas Governor?

Bill Clinton? No. It’s Mike Huckabee.

He even wants to tax the Internet too.

Tell Mike Huckabee to give lower taxes a try.

The word liberal has been used in many ways, but by no stretch of an imagination would Huckabee meet any reasonable definition of liberal. This would make Mike Huckabee the only “liberal” I know of beyond Deepak Chopra who doesn’t believe in evolution.

I don’t know the situation in Arkansas, but based upon past experience with groups like this I bet that there is some creative mathematics going on to reach the figure of a 50 percent increase in spending. Considering all I pay in taxes, for the most part I’d prefer to see tax cuts whenever possible. I’d also prefer to spend the day at the pool reading instead of working, and eat chocolate for three meals a day. In the real world we cannot always have things as we want. Nationwide, tax cuts do not make sense when we are at war. Tax increases may or may not have been necessary in Arkansas, and without such specifics it is nonsense to attack Huckabee based simply on the fact that he raised taxes.

The most amazing thing of all about this ad is that they even feel it is necessary to spend the money to attack Huckabee.

Should I Be Number 171 To Cancel Wall Street Journal Subscription?

When the word was finalized that Rupert Murdoch was taking control of The Wall Street Journal, after considering the adverse effects on the news media, I did question whether it was worth continuing to subscribe. Editor and Publisher reports that 170 people have cancelled their subscriptions so far, which is trival compared to their total 1.7 million subscribers.

I bet most have decided as I have to wait and see what will happen. While the editorial page is far right, the news portions are excellent. The Wall Street Journal is a national newspaper, and has been one of the more significant newspapers in the country. Maybe Murdoch will see some value in preserving this reputation, which can only be done if he honors the editorial-independence agreement:

While the editorial-independence agreement is aimed at stopping Mr. Murdoch from interfering with the Journal’s coverage, the News Corp. chairman is free to voice his opinion about the newspaper, Mr. Zannino told employees yesterday. Numerous journalists both at the Journal and elsewhere have raised concerns about Mr. Murdoch’s history of interfering in his newspapers, but Mr. Zannino emphasized that the editorial agreement had enforcement provisions that blocked Mr. Murdoch from making changes at the paper unilaterally.

For now I’ll keep my subscription and see what happens. I may reconsider when it is time to renew, and might even cancel before if Murdoch exerts too much influence on the paper.

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Who Needs Seasoning? Edwards Far More than Obama

Questions of experience have often come up this year, perhaps after we saw the effects of having a president who was not capable of performing the job for the last eight years. I could see if supporters of candidates such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, or Joe Biden were to use their candidate’s experience as an argument against Barack Obama. There’s no question that Obama has less experience than many of the previous presidents. However, Obama is far from the least experienced candidate running, making this claim at Talk Left rather absurd:

Why this race isn’t between Hillary and Edwards as opposed to Hillary and Obama has me stumped. I think Obama needs a lot more seasoning and experience before becoming presidential material.

Which leads me to conclude it’s still a three-way race and Edwards is very much in it.

Nobody has less experience than John Edwards. Edwards has a single term in the Senate, and he made a rather poor Senate while there. It was also clear that he had no interest in the Senate and was only using this as a stepping stone to run for president. As Bob Shrum has written, he’s “a Clinton who hadn’t read the books.”

Obama has far more experience than Edwards. Not only does Obama have his time in the Senate, he had years of previous experience. This includes working as a community organizer and in the state legislature. While he didn’t deal with national issues in the state legislature, when he did express his opinion he was right and Edwards was wrong on Iraq. While John Edward has dubious experience in the Senate where he worked on the Patriot Act, Obama has experience as a professor of Constitutional law and might know a bit more about civil liberties than Edwards. Obama also knows more about separation of church and state, with his comments sounding much more like those of a seasoned professional than Edwards’ recent statements on religion and gay marriage. Edwards’ changes in so many of the positons he previously held appears to be a matter of political expediency to go along with his internet strategy as opposed to seasoning, especially when his economic policies are best described by The Onion.

This may be a three way race, but there is a true seasoned candidate who has the best shot should Clinton and Obama both fall. Edwards continues to remain in the race by primarily from his 2004 name recognition, allowing him to register in the polls as Lieberman did early in 2004, large amounts of money from the trial lawyers, and running a continuous campaign in Iowa since 2005. While all this keeps Edwards in the race, his support has been gradually dwindling while Richardson has shown momentum, including moving ahead of Edwards in some New Hampshire polls. Richardson also came close to Edwards in second quarter fund raising, and would lead him for the year if not for Edwards’ backing from the trial lawyers. Some people looking at Richardson’s momentum and Edwards’ problem believe that Richardson will win in Iowa.

I still want to hear more from Obama before deciding on him. If experience is what is desired, it would make far more sense to look at Bill Richardson or Chris Dodd than John Edwards. While Obama may be inexperienced, his is far more experienced than John Edwards and has shown far greater ability to evaluate problems and avoid mistakes of the past. Those who see Democratic victories in 2004 as an opening to return to far left economic policies misunderstand why the Republicans lost and, more importantly, why the Democrats were a minority party for so long.

Obama Demonstrated Failure of Bush Policies Along with Hypocrisy of Conservatives

Yesterday I discussed Barack Obama’s speech at the Wilson Center, including the knee jerk opposition from conservatives who we could be certain would be supportive if the same comments on Pakistan had come from George Bush. Matthew Yglesias places this in perspective in The Guardian. He notes tha there is much less to this than is claimed by opponents who mischaracterize his statements as a threat to invade Pakistan, while also demonstrating why Bush’s policies against terrorism have been such a terrible failure:

Bold. Tough. But there’s probably less to it than meets the eye. No president would categorically rule out such action, but any president would need to think very carefully about the consequences. Accusing the incumbent of insufficient boldness in this regard is precisely what one expects from a challenger, but the need to actually make the decisions tends to instill a certain caution – even in George W. Bush.

More interesting is that Obama, unlike some of the reporters who covered the speech, refused to frame his determination to fight al-Qaida as a contrast with his dovish views on Iraq. Rather, he recalled that in the fall of 2002 he “said I could not support ‘a dumb war, a rash war’ in Iraq. I worried about a ‘US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences’ in the heart of the Muslim world. I pleaded that we ‘finish the fight with [Osama] bin Laden and al-Qaida.'”

Today, he says that “by refusing the end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want, and what the Congress voted to give then in 2002: a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” Opposition to the war in Iraq, then and now, in other words, is part and parcel of a commitment to a serious struggle against al-Qaida.

This is precisely right, and it’s precisely Obama’s ability to move the conversation in this direction that’s his campaign’s most underappreciated asset. It’s not just that Clinton took a different position on the authorization vote four and a half years ago. Rather, Obama, having established more space between his views and those of the Republicans can, in effect, punch much harder, accusing conservatives of radically misconceiving the problem.

Michael Savage Believes Democrats Caused John Roberts’ Seizure

Michael Savage has often been off the wall even by comparison to other conservative commentators. He’s now guaranteed his bragging rights as one of the nuttiest of all. Media Matters reports that Savage claims that Democrats might be responsible for John Roberts’ recent seizure. On his show on July 30 Savage said:

Chief Justice John Roberts has had a seizure in his summer home in Maine, and he fell on a dock. Now, what’s interesting to me, and almost frightening and puzzling, is that on Friday Charles Schumer gave a loud and vociferously nasty speech during which he said he would never support another Bush judge. He would never support a — it was — you know, let me ask you something. All you leftists believe in the conspiracy of Bush and Cheney, the conspiracy of 9-11. Am I to believe that there’s no connection between Charles Schumer on Friday saying that he would never appoint, or never, excuse me, approve another Bush appointment to the court, to any court? And then the chief justice suffers a so-called seizure two days later? You’re telling me there’s no possibility of a conspiracy by the Democrats to have caused this seizure in some manner? Tell me that it’s not possible. Tell me that the stakes are not so high that the liberals — who’ve finally lost the court after 50 years — that they would stop short of anything like this. Tell me it’s not possible, and I’ll tell you you’re a liar.

To provide a little fact checking, Schumer did not say “he would never appoint, or never, excuse me, approve another Bush appointment to the court, to any court.” He actually said, “Given the track record of this president and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court, at least: I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances.”

I’ve previously discussed the belief in 9/11 conspiracy theories here and here. Unfortunately there are some liberal blogs which have promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories, but these are people on the fringes who do not speak for other liberals. I would hope that most conservatives similarly feel that Michael Savage does not speak for them.