Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dems Slip in Congressional Poll; McCain and Obama Now Tied

It's doubtful Barack Obama's media cheerleaders will notice since they're so in the tank for their guy, but the poll numbers for The Messiah have been steadily eroding the past two weeks to where he and Senator McCain are now tied, according to the latest Rasmussen numbers. If you look at the daily numbers the past two weeks, you'll notice Obama's six-point edge has disappeared.

How is this happening with all the slavish attention for Obama's world tour? Well, it could be people are so turned off by the fawning coverage of Obama, which has gotten so ridiculous in recent days to the point where even the leftist media is noticing how out of control it is.

Meanwhile, the generic Congressional ballot, which had the Democrats up 14 points last month has now eroded to nine points. Hmm. Might the public finally be realizing what a lousy job the Pelosi Congress has been doing? It may finally have occurred to those complaining about $4 a gallon gas that they may wind up paying much more with a No-Drill Congress and a pliable President Obama?

Just imagine if the media coverage of Obama and McCain were anywhere near remotely fair and balanced.


Andrea on Obama Trip: 'What Some Would Call Fake Interviews'

Andrea Mitchell might be a doyenne of the liberal media, but she has her reporter's pride and principles, which have been trampled by the way the Obama campaign has managed the media during the candidate's current trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. Mitchell let loose on this evening's Hardball, speaking of "fake interviews," and decrying that she was unable to report on pertinent aspects of the trip because the media has been excluded and that the video released is unreliable because it's impossible to know what has been edited out.

Before Mitchell made her displeasure known, Roger Simon of Politico, Chris Matthews's other guest during the segment, depicted the images coming out of the war zone as all Obama could have dreamed of.
ROGER SIMON: The optics are all very good on this trip. I mean, the beginning of this trip is so good, Senator Obama might just want to call off the end and just keep running the videotape.

He goes into a gym, everybody, all the service people there cheer. He shoots a basket, you know, it goes through the hoop. He's obviously standing there with troops, they seem to be liking him, smiling. They don't seem to feel that Barack Obama wants to desert them, to leave them in Iraq. This is exactly what the Obama campaign hoped for, and this was supposed to be the tough part of the trip. The meatiest part of the trip in Jordan and Israel may be tough in terms of foreign policy, but the back end of the trip to cheering European crowds will certainly be as good if not better than this. So I think he's feeling very good right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Andrea, I want to get ethnic a little bit here --

ANDREA MITCHELL: This is message --

MATTHEWS: Yeah, go ahead, please.

MITCHELL: Let me just say something about the message management. He didn't have reporters with him, he didn't have a press pool, he didn't do a press conference while he was on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq. What you're seeing is not reporters brought in. You're seeing selected pictures taken by the military, questions by the military, and what some would call fake interviews, because they're not interviews from a journalist. So, there's a real press issue here. Politically it's smart as can be. But we've not seen a presidential candidate do this, in my recollection, ever before.

When Matthews inquired about the atmospherics of the trip, Mitchell made clear her frustration as a reporter.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about access to the troops, Andrea. A lot of African-American faces over there, very happy, delighted faces. Is that a representation of the percentage of servicepeople who are African-American, or did they all choose to join someone they like, apparently? What's the story?

MITCHELL: I can't really say that. Being a reporter who was not present in any of those situations, I just cannot report on what was edited out, what was, you know, on the sidelines. That's my issue. We don't know what we are seeing.

Good on Andrea. Now, will the rest of the MSM press the Obama campaign to release the outtakes from the war zone?


Obama Comes Up Short in Approach to Poverty

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Does government do enough to help the poor? John McCain and Barack Obama could not be more divided on their approach. Obama's Web site even has a section entitled "poverty," with a large list of new antipoverty programs, while McCain's doesn't. Yet, this is part of a bigger difference between the campaigns in whether to single out specific groups for help.

While Obama's Web site includes issue headings for "women," "rural," "seniors" and "disabilities," McCain's Web site generally focuses only on broad "issues" that affect everyone, such as "energy," "education," and "economic plan." Both Web sites have sections on veterans.

On poverty, Obama has a very long list of proposals, including government-created "transitional jobs and career pathway programs," a "Green Jobs Corps," money to ensure that "low-income Americans have transportation access to jobs" and provide a large array of new social programs specifically targeted to criminals when they are released from prison.

Those are just his top four proposals. Others include trained registered nurses for home visits to all low-income expectant mothers and first time mothers, a $500 tax credit to all low and middle income people who are working, an affordable housing trust fund, other tax benefits for the poor, a new health care program for the uninsured, and so on. Other proposals -- such as expanding paid sick days for low-wage workers and higher minimum wages -- would have to be paid for by employers.

While Obama talks about personal responsibility, he proposes a government program to be involved in every aspect of people's lives. By contrast, McCain's programs are generally not set up specifically to help just the poor. The poor benefit much more from educational choice for their kids, primarily because their children are in the worse schools. Tax credits for individuals buying health insurance give individuals portability and the choice of which insurer suits them best. Both proposals help the poor, but they also help all Americans. Lowering corporate tax rates increases companies' incentives to invest in their workers.

Yet, before figuring out what new programs we should have, it might be useful to re-examine the welfare system we already have. A new book, "Stealing from Each Other, How the Welfare State Robs Americans of Money and Spirit" by Edgar Browning, an economics professor at Texas A&M University and a world-renowned expert on government finance, has added up the costs and consequences of the existing programs.

By 2005, the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives pointed out 85 separate programs that primarily aided persons with limited incomes. Total federal, state, and local expenditures amounted to $620 billion. That came to $16,750 per person in poverty, or over $50,000 for a welfare family of three, several times higher than the official poverty line for a family of three, which was $15,577 in 2005.

Browning estimates that only 10 percent of these expenditures went to administrative costs. He provides some perspective: "We are already spending more than enough to completely eliminate poverty, even if the poor have zero earnings or other sources of income on their own." The official government estimates of the number of poor people rarely count the government aid when calculating the poor's income. Browning also notes that there are so many programs and some are so complicated, "no one understands fully how the welfare system operates."

Yet even these numbers underestimate how much help the government spends on the poor. For example, Social Security does not provide benefits that are proportional to what people pay into the system. The system provides large transfers from high-income to low-income individuals. Browning estimates the welfare portion of Social Security accounts for $100 billion a year. According to him, adding this to Medicare, other uncompensated medical care, and other costs increases welfare payments to over $1 trillion in 2005. By comparison, Browning has noted elsewhere that the first five years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars cost $473 billion, less than half what the war on poverty spent in one year.

But the desire to help the poor creates its own problems. Giving more money to people, the poorer they are, also means that the more income these poor individuals make, the more government assistance is taken away from them. Just as higher taxes discourage work, the loss of a significant portion of one's benefits will also discourage work.

Unfortunately, many of Obama's proposals learn little from this lesson. Raising the minimum wage at the same time that mandates are put on companies that want to hire poor people will make it so that firms won't want to hire those workers. And the people who are hired will get fewer fringe benefits and shorter hours. Minimum wage jobs are also the first jobs people get that give them training, which makes better jobs possible in the future. At the same time, expanding the size of income support and housing allowances creates more of an incentive not to work.

Obama's plans try to offset some of these problems with other new programs that make a complicated and at times contradictory set of programs even more complicated. To offset the disincentives for training, new government training programs will be set up. There is a twist in that many will be set up in politically correct jobs such as the environment. Other subsidies will be set up to attempt to offset the disincentives to work.

The differences between Obama's and McCain's approaches couldn't be starker. While neither Obama nor McCain will eliminate any of the existing programs aimed toward the poor, McCain also doesn't try to use new programs, subsidies, and taxes to coax people into certain jobs. He wants to let people decide for themselves what choices they like best.

Obama might urge that black Americans take more personal responsibility, but his programs have government agencies trying to micromanage their lives. McCain's policies fit better than Obama's do with Obama's rhetoric.


One Conventional Bomb Can Ruin Your Whole Day

Taranto on the latest Obagaffe

We'll give you three guesses which political leader said this:
Throughout our history, America's confronted constantly evolving danger, from the oppression of an empire, to the lawlessness of the frontier, from the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor, to the threat of nuclear annihilation. Americans have adapted to the threats posed by an ever-changing world.

Hint: The speaker was born in Hawaii. Thinking that perhaps it was a transcription error, we checked the video, and sure enough, he actually said "the bomb." Could our speaker be mixing up Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, or Nagasaki? In any case, it's perhaps the biggest Pearl Harbor goof since Sept. 7, 1988, when George H.W. Bush got the month of the attack wrong.

US media in love with Obama, says McCain camp

The media and Barack Obama should get a room together if they're so in love

The wall-to-wall coverage of Barack Obama's overseas visit was too much for the campaign of Republican rival John McCain - which has accused the US media of being "in love" with the Democratic presidential candidate. "It's pretty obvious that the media has a bizarre fascination with Barack Obama," the campaign said in an email unveiling a new video, featuring television reporters praising Senator Obama. "Some may even say it's a love affair. The media is in love with Barack Obama. If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny."

The video shows pundits speaking about Senator Obama and the buzz surrounding his campaign. It includes apparent quotes from one reporter saying people who have not seen the candidate in person are "not cool". It then shows a quote of the reporter saying his knees "quaked a bit". It also shows journalists on Senator Obama's plane apparently urging him to strike a pose while on the phone and demanding an "agent" move out of their view of him. Two versions of the video are on the site, featuring different, syrupy love songs playing in the background. Readers can vote for their favourite version.

Republican spin doctors are trying to portray Senator Obama as presumptuous over his major Middle East and Europe tour with presidential trappings, and accused him of ignoring the advice of Iraq war commander General David Petraeus. But Senator Obama said he hoped he would not have to spar with Senator McCain while he was overseas talking about issues of great importance to Americans, despite grabbing a string of photo-ops that are political gold back home.

Senator McCain is himself no stranger to good relations with the US media, who portray him as a straight-talking maverick eager to stare down elements of his party. He has famously referred to reporters as "my base".

Senator Obama held his first major press conference abroad as presumptive Democratic nominee in the shadow of Jordan's Temple of Hercules, a shrine to the mighty Greek mythic hero. Overlooking sun-bleached homes and minarets of the Jordanian capital, Senator Obama spoke about his stealth mission to Iraq, against a backdrop seemingly chosen to suggest a young dynamic potential president, at home and abroad. It was another example of the Obama campaign's flair for political imagery, and a world away from frigid icebound Iowa, or hard-knocks schools in Ohio where presidential candidates usually hang out.

After knocking the dust of Iraq off his boots, Senator Obama swapped his khakis and flak jacket for a suit and red tie. The show was designed to draw a blanket television audience back home, as part of a tour that has ignited a media frenzy, despite Republican claims it is a shallow political stunt. The symbolism seemed to convince one local journalist, who yelled "Mr President" to get her voice heard above the pack at the temple press conference.

With his media pack poised for a gaffe, Senator Obama stuck largely to a news-free spiel, though did make one faux pas. "Israel is a strong friend of Israel's," he said, in a statement that even his opponents could not quibble with.


Germans love Obama -- but will not do anything for him

Germany's Social Democrats are feting Barack Obama's visit to Berlin this week, but behind the scenes they are distancing themselves from the Democratic Party's candidate. Leading SPD members are warning Obama against demanding more German troops for Afghanistan.

In the run-up to Barack Obama's visit to Berlin, leading foreign and security policy experts for Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) are warning the United States presidential candidate against making any far-reaching demands on the Germans. "Obama should only ask of us what we are able to deliver," Niels Annen -- a member of Germany's federal parliament, with the left wing of the SPD -- told SPIEGEL ONLINE Monday. "We won't increase our number of troops."

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, however, has approved a plan to increase the number of troops from Germany's armed forces in Afghanistan by 1,000 to 4,500 soldiers. All troop deployments of the Bundeswehr require a mandate from the German parliament, which is expected to consider the issue in the autumn. And SPD party chief Kurt Beck made clear over the weekend that 4,500 was the ceiling of what could be expected from Germany. The Social Democrats -- who are the junior partner in the grand coalition government with Merkel and her conservative Christian Democrats -- are hoping Obama will take heed of German sensitivities when he visits Thursday. "The senator is smart enough to give a speech here that will be met with applause," Annen said.

The party's defense policy spokesman, Rainer Arnold, also called on Obama to be cautious. "It's part of NATO custom not to overburden partners," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "There is no point in issuing demands that the partners cannot fullfil."

In his speech on Thursday at Berlin's Siegess„ule, or "Victory Column," Obama is expected to ratchet up pressure on Washington's NATO allies. In doing so, he also intends to send a signal back to voters in the United States that, in the future, the burden-sharing during war will be greater between partners.

Eckart von Klaeden, the foreign policy speaker for the Christian Democrats' parliamentary group, said one must keep in mind that, during his visit to Berlin, Obama will primarily be addressing American voters. "He may be speaking in front of Germans, but his message is aimed at Americans," von Klaeden told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Obama has already called on America's allies several times to increase their military involvement. "It would raise questions in America if he didn't say anything about Iraq and Afghanistan during his most important speech to be given in Europe," von Klaeden said, "especially right after having visited both countries."



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