Sunday, August 31, 2008
He stuck to the facts, except when he stretched them
We checked the accuracy of Obama's speech accepting the Democratic nomination, and noted the following:
Obama said he could "pay for every dime" of his spending and tax cut proposals "by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens." That's wrong - his proposed tax increases on upper-income individuals are key components of paying for his program, as well. And his plan, like McCain's, would leave the U.S. facing big budget deficits, according to independent experts.
He twisted McCain's words about Afghanistan, saying, "When John McCain said we could just 'muddle through' in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources." Actually, McCain said in 2003 we "may" muddle through, and he recently also called for more troops there.
He said McCain would fail to lower taxes for 100 million Americans while his own plan would cut taxes for 95 percent of "working" families. But an independent analysis puts the number who would see no benefit from McCain's plan at 66 million and finds that Obama's plan would benefit 81 percent of all households when retirees and those without children are figured in.
Obama asked why McCain would "define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year"? Actually, McCain meant that comment as a joke, getting a laugh and following up by saying, "But seriously ..."
Obama noted that McCain's health care plan would "tax people's benefits" but didn't say that it also would provide up to a $5,000 tax credit for families.
He said McCain, far from being a maverick who's "broken with his party," has voted to support Bush policies 90 percent of the time. True enough, but by the same measure Obama has voted with fellow Democrats in the Senate 97 percent of the time.
Obama said "average family income" went down $2,000 under Bush, which isn't correct. An aide said he was really talking only about "working" families and not retired couples. And - math teachers, please note - he meant median (or midpoint) and not really the mean or average. Median family income actually has inched up slightly under Bush.
More fact-checking of Obama
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama makes history tonight, but mars his speech with a few errors. Let's run it through the fact-checker.
1. "Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story - of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to."
FACT: His father went back to his wife and son in Kenya and had little to do with Obama, while his mother married his stepfather and they moved to Indonesia.
2. "But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change."
FACT: True. Logic does not follow that McCain has poor judgment. Considering Bush was re-elected by a majority - a re-election feat no Democrat has enjoyed since FDR - shows that perhaps the American public agreed with Bush most of teh time, at least through his first 4 years.
3. "You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country."
4. "Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it."
FACT: His vice presidential candidate has a son who is a lobbyist.
5. "I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class."
FACT: Under George Walker Bush the number of working Americans who pay no federal income tax rose from 29 million to 45 million, or roughly 30% of all people who work. It is doubtful that he could eliminate taxes for another 90 million earners to raise that percentage to 95%. And they would still have to pay FICA, and with the employer match, that is 15% of one's pay.
6. "I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan."
FACT: He called for withdrawing our troops unilaterally by March 31, 2008, despite the agreement by most observers that this would devastate Iraq and according to a New York Times editorial which advocated this position, possibly genocide. That's hardly responsible. By the way, the war is over. We won. Iraqis want us to drive home safely. Please tell Obama.
Great theater but Obama is still a long way from clinching it
At different times over the last few days in Denver I have wondered whether, instead of watching a crucial meeting of the main opposition party of the world's leading power, I had wandered in on a soap opera, a poor Hollywood film, or a dire reality TV show. It is still hard to decide. Indeed, after Barack Obama's rally in front of 85,000 people on Thursday it might also have been classed as an extended rock concert. No-one can dispute that the finale was a spectacle: but, as such, it symbolised a triumph of style over substance that had been apparent during every session of the convention during the week and, indeed, in the whole 19 months of the Obama presidential campaign. This said a lot about Sen Obama's abilities, or those of his speechwriters and spin doctors, to play an already compliant audience like the proverbial violin. It said little or nothing about his fitness to govern, or to attract the support of the so-far non-compliant.
The event in the Broncos' stadium was certainly an apotheosis of display, theatre and at times unrestrained and self-indulgent emotion. It seemed to have only a passing connection with politics. Mr Obama's speech was a masterpiece of manipulation: it added precious few clues about how he would restore the fortunes of a country that is very much not at ease with itself. Worse, in an uncertain world, it offered little evidence of why he is equipped to deal with some of the lethal challenges that could at any time confront America. The candidate's combination of old-fashioned oratorical skill, film-star looks, and determination to put his personality and "story" at the front of his approach to politics certainly seems to appeal to his party: but it is entirely shallow, and typical of the American left's confusion, or conflation, of stature with celebrity.
As the near hysteria in the stadium suggested, this hardly mattered to the Democratic faithful. All week at their convention they have sat and listened to one pile of flannel after another about "change", which can mean whatever it wants to the person who utters the word and to anyone hearing it. The real question is whether America's tens of millions of undecided voters will have been swayed by anything they might have seen, heard or read from Denver this week. It seems, it must be said, pretty unlikely.
As Mr Obama came out to speak on Thursday night a poll gave him a sudden six-point lead over his Republican rival, John McCain. This "convention bounce" is a long-recognised phenomenon of election politics in America; Sen McCain may well get his own this time next week. If so, it would suggest that the last eight weeks of the campaign will settle it, rather than anything that might happen at either convention. The three televised debates between the two candidates could be crucial in this regard, not least because Mr Obama will find it hard to come through even one of them without giving his electorate a clear idea of his policies.
The impression created this week was not one of a unified America going bravely into the future that Mr Obama talked about: it was one divided on rudimentary levels on class grounds, in which (as used to be the case in the old Labour party) the working man and woman are there to be revered and looked after and the rich (which most Democrats seem to agree is anyone on a salary of more than $250,000 a year) are there to pay for it. Mr Obama's good ol' boy running mate, Joe Biden, unwittingly emphasised these divisions in his speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination, and again in his impromptu appearance before the Obama speech. Mr Biden seems to be occupying the constitutional position in American politics that used to be filled in Britain by John Prescott: he is designed to be at the right hand of an elitist, slightly effete head of government and to be charged with mentioning, in every speech he makes, how wonderful blue-collar workers are. The inference that all other Americans are there to pay taxes for these people's benefit is something the Republicans need to get after next week, and continually until the election.
The Democrats themselves remain divided between the predominantly black, young and professional people whose happiness now seems to depend on Mr Obama winning, and the older, blue collar, white and more female supporters who remain unreconciled to the defeat of Hillary Clinton. For all the Clintons' pleas for unity, the party seems determined to remain profoundly sectarian. But it also remains profoundly superficial in its approach to politics, in love with the sound of its own voice but with little of note to articulate with it. We still don't really know what Mr Obama is going to change, how he is going to change it, and to what. And we can't tell that he has a clue what to do with uppity Iranians, aggressive Russians or any other threat to his country's security. As such, he has left himself open to sustained attack by his opponents - and therefore has by no means won this election yet.
Where's the outrage?
Several thoughts have come to mind watching the Democratic National Convention this week that I haven't seen expressed any where at the moment. The most obvious to me is the lack of control Barack Obama appears to have with the convention as a whole. There is little message coming out of the convention and where is the outrage about the job President Bush has done the past eight years? Democrats have created a separate industry in criticizing republicans and specifically President Bush and yet few references this week.
While there are a few signs indicating that John McCain is just more of the Bush administration, few democrats really believe it. Especially, since McCain has always been their favorite republican and they know he has increased Zantac sells among us.
An example of the lack of control is where the keynote speech Tuesday night by the former Governor of Virginia was moved earlier in the evening because the Governor refused to put in some critical lines about McCain. If Obama were in control of this convention, then speech content would long have been settled. Obama is also quick to say he hasn't 'vetted' the speech former President Bill Clinton will give either. Obama is forgetting that this convention is about sending a message to Americans why this inexperienced politician should be elected President of the United States. May be this lack of message is because there isn't a good reason why Americans should put him in charge?
Monday night's performance which included Michelle Obama was another missed opportunity. As a conservative republican who always enjoys watching the propaganda of the democratic convention, this one has been a snoozer.
Another observation I have is Hillary Clinton's speech and the video that preceded her onto the stage Tuesdsay night. Was I the only one to notice that the brief showing of Bill Clinton in the video was to identify him as 'Hillary's husband.' There were numerous photos in the slide show of Hillary and Chelsea but not the three of them on the campaign trail. I'm certainly no fan of the disgraced President but I did find it interesting he had such a minimal role in a video highlighting Hillary's political career. Have we forgotten the 'two for one' speeches during the 1992 campaign? Does Hillary have a political career without Bill? The answer is clearly no.
Another indication that Obama is not in control of his party was the strange but interesting comment the former President gave in a speech earlier in the day. Paraphrasing, Bill Clinton identified two candidates, an apparent reference to Obama and McCain, and said 'candidate X' couldn't deliver on his promises and 'candidate Y' could. He then said his analogy didn't refer to current circumstances but the comparison could not have been more clearer.
I think the former President's analogy echoes comments that Hillary Clinton and even Joe Biden made during the primary season: That Obama isn't experienced or qualified to be President of the United States.
The next President will be faced with increasing tensions around the world with the war in Iraq; nuclear missiles in Iran; Russia in Georgia and threatening Poland; as well as the movement of radical islam around the world. Have you heard even a mention of any of this? If you didn't know that U.S. troops are committed around the world, you would have little knowledge of it at the convention. You would know they oppose a war, but you wouldn't have a clue what the conflict is about.
The future President will also deal with a major banking crisis, slowing down of the economy, and artificial shortening of the oil supply. While you have heard some about the economy, you haven't heard any clear message about how the Democrats are going to fix it. Perhaps their lack of a coherent plan makes it imperative that they omit any discussion of a plan?
If Obama, who is supposed to be the candidate that will bring a nation together, cannot even bring his own party together then he lacks the skill to be President. If Obama, cannot control the message coming out of Denver, then he lacks the ability to control a message coming out of Washington to the rest of the world.
Hillary Supporters for McCain
West Virginia Democrats aren't warming up to Obama. And now they know the VP picks, it should be a slam dunk for McCain. Hillary has been very vocal about "glass ceings" but the GOP can say: "There's no glass ceiling in the Republican Party"
West Virginia's registered Democrats, like their cousins in western Pennsylvania and eastern and southern Ohio, are having a hard time fitting anywhere within Barack Obama's vision of the Democratic party. "Obama and his message just do not gel with me," said Mark Lamp as he climbed into his utility truck. Lamp, 47, from neighboring Weirton, is a registered Democrat who voted for Clinton in the May primary. "My first problem with him is taxes, the second is experience," he explained.
Lamp has worked in construction all of his life, and the company he works for builds houses in the tri-state area. "We have been busy all year." He sees very few signs of the economy or gas prices hurting him, and they are not what drives his vote. "I vote leadership. That is why I voted for Hillary and why I will vote McCain."
Al Gore failed to connect with West Virginia voters in 2000--the state had gone Democratic since Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign. John Kerry carried that tradition forward by only getting 43 percent of the vote in 2004. All signs are pointing to Obama facing similar numbers. "I will admit we have an uphill battle," said Tom Vogel, West Virginia's Democratic state party executive director, "but I haven't given up yet."
"West Virginia went big for Hillary Clinton in this spring's primary," admits Vogel. "They love her, and they loved her husband." Vogel's field director Derek Scarbro says part of the problem Obama has is the same problem that any national Democrat has coming to West Virginia: "West Virginians have to get to know you and develop a relationship with you."
Getting to know Obama may be a problem. Once thought to be a battleground state, all indications are that West Virginia is off Obama's campaign map. Turn on the television today and you won't find any Obama ads running, and he has no trips to the state planned in the immediate future. (Sources within the campaign say they are keeping their eye on the state.)
West Virginia is still home to the Jacksonian Democrats, those descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants who vote God, country, and guns, and have a stronger than average distrust of government. They are white, lower middle-class union members who work hard, play by the rules, have faith in God and a hefty dose of patriotism. In a change election when the country goes one way, a few states always trend the other. Kansas went Republican during the liberal trend of the 1960s, and West Virginia may go conservative during the liberal swing of today.
In a state that has just one area code (in Jackson County everyone shares the same exchange, so when you ask for a number they only give you the last four digits), the geopolitical breakdown is monolithic. The only section that has proven liberal Democratic is the eastern panhandle which is fast becoming a suburb of Washington, D.C.
But from the southern coalfields to the northern panhandle (which is really southwestern Pennsylvania, and Catholic Democrat country) you are entering the land that the national Democratic party forgot.
Obama could be worse. He shows some leaning towards the center
Comment from a Libertarian site:
There are no disciples of small government in the Democratic Party, and Barack Obama fits right in. His economic program is based on the assumption that the economy is to the president what a marionette is to a puppeteer, requiring his direction and responding to his every wish.
Anyone partial to free markets, restrained government, fiscal discipline and light taxation approaches a Democratic nominee's economic platform with trepidation, expecting one fright after another. Obama does not disappoint.
He offers a long list of things the federal government should be doing to rearrange the nation's productive sector-paying U.S. automakers to build fuel-efficient vehicles, confiscating allegedly excessive oil profits, and spending hundreds of billions to create jobs in environmental and infrastructure industries. Democrats have not given up their basic faith that the market, while useful, is always in need of Washington's whip hand.
In his windfall profits tax plan, Obama puts aside the troublesome fact that the last time we tried it, at the behest of President Carter, the tax yielded far less revenue than projected while reducing domestic energy production. And if Detroit didn't bother to invest in fuel-efficient cars when Honda and Toyota did, why should it get a $4 billion reward for its failure?
But saying a Democrat believes in big government is like saying that Chicago winters are cold-true, but inadequate. Some winters are more bone-chilling than others, and some Democrats are worse than others. There are grounds for gloom with Obama, as there would be with anyone nominated by the party of FDR and LBJ. But there are some reasons to hope he will be less bad than most:
-He's liberal, but not that liberal. Contrary to the famous National Journal ranking that put him most leftward in the entire Senate, another study found he is really the 11th-most liberal. In the primaries, when Democratic candidates are under the most pressure to veer left, he insisted on hewing closer to the economic center than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards-even when it exposed him to charges that he didn't support the holy grail of universal health care.
Obama did pander to the left's phobia about globalization by villainizing the North American Free Trade Agreement. But as soon as he had the nomination locked up, he confessed to Fortune magazine that his NAFTA rhetoric had been "overheated and amplified."
Organized labor howled about "corporate influence" when Obama hired Jason Furman as his chief economic adviser. Among Furman's sins is his longtime association with Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who pushed President Clinton to emphasize deficit reduction rather than big new spending programs.
-He's open to evidence. The New York Times recently reported that Obama "likes experts, and his choice of advisers stems in part from his interest in empirical research." Nobel laureate economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, who was asked for input on education policy by Obama's advisers, told the Times, "I've never worked with a campaign that was more interested in what the research shows."
That would be a change not only from more doctrinaire liberals but also from the Bush administration, which has never been exactly obsessed with real-world data. If Obama were a true believer, he wouldn't care so much about evidence.
Boston College political scientist Alan Wolfe says, "Ideologues don't need that information, or want it, because they know what they want to do." Ask yourself: Is there any conceivable evidence that would cause George W. Bush to question the wisdom of tax cuts?
-He's not enchanted with the big-government model. On health care, Obama opposed Clinton's proposal to require every American to buy health insurance, preferring to offer subsidies and then let individuals decide. He balked when she said all adjustable mortgage rates should be frozen for five years-with Obama's campaign quoting an expert who said, accurately, that it would be "disastrous."
He's far less suspicious of the operations of markets than most people in his party. And when was the last time a Democratic nominee openly worried about corporate tax burdens? Furman has said that if some loopholes can be closed, Obama "would like to cut the corporate tax rate."
Those who favor a less expensive and less expansive federal government will find plenty to complain about should Obama become president. For consolation, they can try chanting this mantra: It could be worse.
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