Report from Hawaii
Let's hope he manages to pick up a copy of his real birth certificate while he is there
Democrat Barack Obama, beset this week with new attacks from Republican rival John McCain, says there will be little or no politicking over the next seven days as he takes a vacation in his childhood home of Hawaii. ``I'm going to go body surfing at some undisclosed location,'' Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told the crowd at a welcoming rally yesterday in Honolulu. ``I'm going to go get some shaved ice.''
Obama, 47, the first major party White House candidate to visit Hawaii since Richard Nixon in 1960, today began his first full day of a weeklong vacation on the island of Oahu. While he plans to relax, see his grandmother and visit old hangouts, Obama also said he will work on his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this month. Obama, joined in Hawaii by his family as well as strategist Robert Gibbs, campaign treasurer and longtime friend Martin Nesbitt and others, is likely to announce his pick for a running mate some time after returning to the campaign trail on Aug. 16.
So far, Obama's only official campaign event next week is a fundraiser to be held Aug. 12 in Hawaii. Today he took a walk on the beach and played golf with Gibbs and others.
The trip marks Illinois Senator Obama's first extended holiday since declaring his candidacy in February 2007. It follows a week in which his campaign organization sought to remain focused amid the hubbub over McCain's advertisements tweaking the Democrat about his celebrity and media exposure.
Arizona Senator McCain, 71, also hammered Obama throughout the week over his energy proposals, particularly the Democratic candidate's advice that Americans make sure their tires are fully inflated to conserve energy.
Today, the Obama campaign went on the energy offensive with the release of a television ad criticizing McCain's support for storing nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, a longtime issue of dispute in the battleground state. McCain's campaign fired back by noting that in 2005 Obama voted twice for a measure that would have provided funding to the Yucca disposal site. ``Apparently Barack Obama is also taking a vacation from the facts,'' McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. ``Either Barack Obama is too inexperienced to understand that his votes on the floor of the U.S. Senate are recorded for Americans to review, or he's simply showing incredible hypocrisy.''
Obama's campaign this week also faced renewed questions about whether Democrats are sufficiently united behind him. Obama rejected suggestions that supporters of former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, a senator from New York, might disrupt the party's display of unity at the nominating convention in Denver. ``I don't anticipate any problems,'' he told reporters on Aug. 7. He declined to say whether he expects Clinton delegates to place her name in nomination at the Aug. 25-28 convention as a way to acknowledge her level of support in the party and move toward the November election.
Obama also dismissed speculation that former President Bill Clinton is less than enthusiastic about his candidacy. The Illinois senator said this week that Clinton has been ``very supportive'' and ``gracious.'' New questions about the former president's support arose after he was asked in an ABC interview that aired on Aug. 4 whether he thought Obama was ready to be commander-in-chief. ``You could argue that no one is ever ready to be president,'' Clinton responded. He added that Obama is ``smart as a whip, so there's nothing he can't learn.''
Meanwhile, national polls show the presidential contest has been mostly static, with Obama holding a lead over McCain ranging from 2 to 5 percentage points. Still, taking time off could be potentially helpful as Obama and his campaign faces questions about ``Obama fatigue.'' A poll released last week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 48 percent of survey respondents said they have heard too much about Obama lately while 26 percent said they had heard too much about McCain.
Obama yesterday appeared happy to step out of the spotlight. He also suggested that any photographs of him surfing or enjoying similar activities might be hard to get. In 2004, pictures of then Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry windsurfing off the coast of Massachusetts were used in ads against him by President George W. Bush's campaign. ``I'm going to watch my girls play on the beach,'' Obama said at yesterday's rally. ``Maybe once in a while I'll go in the water but mostly I'm just going to sit there and watch them.''
Obama, who won the Hawaii caucuses in February with about 75 percent of the vote, also spoke at length about Hawaii's ``Aloha spirit'' and what it means to him ``We look out for one another and deal with each other with courtesy and respect,'' he said. ``When you come from Hawaii you start understanding that what's on the surface, what people look like, that doesn't determine who they are.''
Obama Tax Plan Would Balloon Deficit, Analysis Finds
Democrat's Promise to Cut Taxes Without Adding to Debt Relies on Bush Fiscal Policy
On the campaign trail, Sen. Barack Obama bashes President Bush for "reckless" economic policies that are "mortgaging our children's future on a mountain of debt." But the Democratic presidential candidate has adopted a key component of Bush's fiscal policy: A novel bookkeeping method that guarantees that the $9.5 trillion national debt will get much bigger.
When Obama promises to cut taxes for the middle class without increasing the deficit, he is measuring his proposals against the large deficits that would result from Bush's plan to extend his signature tax cuts beyond their 2010 expiration date. Because Obama wants to eliminate some of the Bush tax cuts, he would bring more money into the Treasury, permitting him to pay for new programs without increasing the deficit even more.
But under current law, all the tax cuts expire and the deficit disappears completely. Democrats in Congress have vowed to preserve the Bush tax cuts only if they can cover the cost and keep the budget in balance. Measured against current law and against the promises of his fellow Democrats, Obama would rack up huge deficits. According to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Obama's tax plan would add $3.4 trillion to the national debt, including interest, by 2018.
"Obama has criticized Bush for his fiscal irresponsibility, and now he's using Bush's baseline as a yardstick by which to measure fiscal responsibility," said Leonard E. Burman, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. "Congress hasn't agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts because they don't have the money to pay for it."
By adopting Bush's bookkeeping system, Obama has frustrated deficit hawks who say government should live within its means, especially given a new White House forecast that the next president will face a record $482 billion deficit during his first year in office. Obama also appears to undercut congressional Democrats who have made pay-as-you-go budgeting a central tenet of their leadership, insisting that new policies should be paid for instead of adding to the nation's debt.
"It's not unreasonable to say, 'We're inheriting a budget that's going to have substantial deficits into the future' . . . But after we've been saying, 'Bush has irresponsible policies we can't afford,' he will be asking us to replace them with different policies we can't afford,' " said a Democratic congressional aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity so he could speak candidly.
Privately, some Democrats acknowledge that they may be forced to follow Obama's lead and abandon their pay-as-you-go pledge if they want to keep the Bush tax cuts that benefit the middle class, including a $1,000 child tax credit, a reduction in the marriage penalty and a new 10 percent tax bracket. Beginning in 2011, those provisions will increase the deficit by at least $100 billion a year unless lawmakers can raise the money elsewhere.
"Leaving some of the tax cuts in place would cost us a small fortune," said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), a member of a group of conservative House Democrats known as the Blue Dogs who have been adamant about following pay-as-you-go rules. "I don't know that any Blue Dog has a good way to pay for that."
Unlike his Democratic colleagues, Obama has never made balancing the budget a priority. He concedes that he would not be able to do it during his first term, and probably not during his second, either.
Elitism on Parade: Ignorance Edition
Over at Townhall.com, Amanda Carpenter points us to another new and devastating elitist insult from Barack Obama:
Barack Obama called Republicans "ignorant" for making fun of him because he encouraged Americans to properly inflate their tires to conserve gasoline. "It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant!" Obama told an audience in Berea, Ohio on Tuesday.
Whoa nelly! Them's fightin' words. Seriously, maybe the pressure has gotten to Obama, but he certainly seems to have lowered the discourse a notch. Calling someone "ignorant" is not something casually thrown about in civil conversation. Probably because it is normally, and rightly, considered an insult. Is his new message is "Vote Democrat, or Vote Ignorant"?
So while McCain is a racist for calling Obama a "Celeb", I am sure that Obama will be considered 'brutally honest' for calling McCain, and by extension the right side of the political spectrum, "ignorant". Seems like a strange way to heal a divided nation.
Ultimately this is a grand case of the pot calling the kettle..errrr..anyhow.. This label of 'ignorant' comes from a man who's very own energy plan called for a major reduction in electricity consumption, AND an increase in cars the you can plug into an electrical socket and recharge. Does he even notice the conflicting goals here, or did they just quickly poll the interns for good energy ideas, and stick the list in a brochure without proof-reading it?
It seems to me that this could well be another "clinging to guns and religion" moment. He has just handed the GOP a great sound bite to hound him with until November. McCain should flood Ohio, PA and other flyover states with ads using the message: "John McCain and 75% of America are calling for more drilling here in America to lower oil prices. Barack Obama wants you to inflate your tires. And if you don't agree with him, he says you must be ignorant. [CLIP] So much for the message of hope and change."
I guess we should re-write that now famous line to read "Clinging to their guns, religion, and gasoline..."
Obama's energy plan could spark trade war
Buried within Barack Obama's energy plan is an industrial policy that is even more naive and disturbing
Obama says that changing our energy mix requires an economic transformation as well. According to Obama, his plan will create 5 million "green jobs." These will be American jobs. They will be high-paying. And, according to Obama, they will even be union jobs. Obama also claims that the new flex-fuel and hybrid plug-in cars his plan calls for will be produced in the United States. He would give American car manufacturers $4 billion in taxpayer money and guarantees to retool their plants to make the new cars.
Now, there are some jobs in the renewable-energy field that have to be domestic: installing solar panels, assembling concentrating solar plants or windmills. Basically, construction jobs. However, there is nothing about using renewable energy that gives the United States a competitive advantage in manufacturing the components for it. Nor is there anything about using flex-fuel and plug-in cars that gives American automakers a competitive advantage in making them.
The only way to ensure that these jobs are as Obama is promising is to erect trade barriers against foreign manufactured renewable-energy components and alternative-fuel cars. That, of course, would invite retaliatory actions against U.S. manufacturing exports, which have been one of the bright spots in the American economy. In short, if Obama means what he says, he's threatening a trade war.
This is the most disturbing feature of Obama's energy policy. Even as president, he simply wouldn't have the power to command the production of energy from specific sources at precise times in the future, as his plan calls for. However, Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress would have the power to adopt ruinous trade policies.
3am and Obama didn't hear the phone
John McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, defended McCain's direct criticism of Russia in the early hours of the crisis. "Sen. McCain is clearly willing to note who he thinks is the aggressor here," he said, dismissing the notion that Georgia's move into its renegade province had precipitated the crisis. "I don't think you can excuse, defend, explain or make allowance for Russian behavior because of what is going on in Georgia."
He also criticized Obama for calling on both sides to show "restraint," and suggested the Democrat was putting too much blame on the conflict's clear victim. "That's kind of like saying after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, that Kuwait and Iraq need to show restraint, or like saying in 1968 [when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia] ... that the Czechoslovaks should show restraint," he said.
A foreign policy adviser for Obama, Ben Rhodes, said Obama was deliberately measured in response to the conflict, balancing his disapproval of Russia's "troubling behavior in its near-abroad region" with "the fact that we have to deal with Russia to deal with our most important national security challenges."
Rhodes declined to discuss McCain's statement directly, but did indirectly criticize it. "The temperature of your rhetoric isn't a measure of your commitment to Georgian sovereignty," he said, noting that the two candidates' statements shared a substantive commitment to Georgia's borders. "You don't want to get so far in front of a situation that you're feeding the momentum of an escalation."
Critics of McCain's stance said he'd imposed ideology on a complicated situation in which both sides bear some blame. "McCain took an inflexible approach to addressing this issue by focusing heavily on one side, without a pragmatic assessment of the situation," said Mark Brzezinski, a former Clinton White House official and an informal adviser to Obama. "It's both sides' fault - both have been somewhat provocative with each other," he said.
A fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Ariel Cohen, praised McCain's statement as "robust and tough." The candidates' stances also reflected their broader goals in the region. Obama, Rhodes noted, has argued that the American interest in controlling nuclear material in the former Soviet Union and in other national security concerns means that the country should maintain a constructive relationship with Russia, even when Russia mistreats its population and threatens its neighbors.
McCain, meanwhile, has offered more sticks than carrots, and suggested that Russia will respond primarily to American toughness and resolve. He's also called for Russia to be expelled from the Group of Eight industrial nations, a move unlikely to be supported by its other members, but one that makes his disapproval of Russia's conduct very clear. Friday, as the crisis unfolded, he reiterated that stance.
Reparations By Another Name
Barack Obama says Washington shouldn't just offer apologies for slavery, but also "deeds." Don't worry, he says, he's not talking about direct reparations. Relieved? Don't be.
'I consistently believe that when it comes to . . . reparations," Obama recently told a gathering of minority journalists, "the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds." A few days later, he clarified his remarks, saying he's not calling for direct cash payments to descendents of slaves, but rather indirect aid in the form of government programs that will "close the gap" between what he sees as white America and black America.
He says government should offer "universal" programs - such as universal health care, universal mortgage credits, college tuition, job training and even universal 401(k)s - that "disproportionately affect people of color." In other words, reparations by another name.
Obama knows that if he pushes too hard on reparations, he might scare off white voters. So he couches race-specific welfare as "universal" social programs that appeal to broad-based political coalitions - "even if they disproportionately help minorities," he confides in his book, "Audacity of Hope."
Obama has a name for his scheme: "universal strategies." "An emphasis on universal, as opposed to race-specific, programs isn't just good policy," he wrote. "It's also good politics."
Maybe so. But not all his plans for reparations are roundabout. His book and Web site outline a separate plan calling for essentially a government bailout of the inner cities. Among other things, he proposes:
Doling out faith-based grants "targeting ex-offenders."
Subsidizing supermarket chains that relocate to the inner city to deliver "fresh produce" to blacks, helping wean them off unhealthy fast food.
Imposing "goals and timetables for minority hiring" on large corporations whose work forces are deemed too white.
Continuing to fund the Community Development Block Grant program, Head Start and HUD public housing subsidies.
Funding Small Business Administration loans for minority businesses who train ex-felons, including gangbangers, for the "green jobs" of the future, such as installing extra insulation in homes.
Doubling the funding for federal after-school programs such as midnight basketball.
Subsidizing job training, day care, transportation for inner-city poor, as well as doubling the funding of the federal Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program.
Expanding the eligibility of the earned income tax credit to include more poor, and indexing it to inflation.
Adopting entire inner-city neighborhoods as wards of the federal government.
Spending billions on new inner-city employment programs, including prison-to-work programs.
This is just a down payment on the "economic justice" Obama has promised the NAACP - financed by "tax laws that restore some balance to the distribution of the nation's wealth," he says in his book.
And the indirect aid he's proposing now could quickly turn into cash transfers once Obama is safely ensconced in the White House.
Claiming "blacks were forced into ghettos," Obama is certainly sympathetic to the idea of reparations. His church has actively petitioned for them for decades. And he's strongly suggested there's a legal case to be made for them.
"So many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow," he said. "We still haven't fixed them."
He assumes the economic gap is a legacy of discrimination and largely unrelated to personal responsibility. He also makes it seem things haven't gotten better for blacks.
In this, Obama is intellectually dishonest. In his book, he cites statistics showing a 70% rise over the past two decades in the number of "Latino families considered middle class," but never cites one stat showing the even more impressive gains of the black middle class. He complains about low black wages, but never mentions the quantum leap in black home-ownership rates.
Why? Such stats would undermine his case for roundabout reparations. Even if it were true, he says, "better isn't good enough." "The problems of inner-city poverty arise from our failure to face up to an often tragic past," Obama said.
Now it's payback time.
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