William Katz:  Urgent Agenda




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Posted at 7:35 p.m. ET

John Hinderaker at Power Line skewers the fading New York Times over its attempted hit piece on Cindy McCain this morning.  John says:

What is shocking about the piece is the tone it takes toward Cindy McCain. I don't think I've ever seen a Presidential candidate's spouse treated so negatively or so unfairly. It's a safe bet that the National Enquirer wouldn't have run this article; only the Times is this committed to putting politics above news judgment or basic fairness.

Sad to see what has become of a once-great newspaper. 

Back in July, Michael Gerson published a piece at Townhall.com, showing the real Cindy McCain, who has a long history of public service delivered without publicity:

KIGALI, Rwanda -- Cindy McCain's first visit to this country in 1994 was during the high season of roadblocks and machetes and shallow graves.

Following a call for help from Doctors Without Borders, McCain had assembled a medical team with the intention of setting up a mobile hospital in Rwanda. Arriving by private plane in mid-April, a couple of weeks into the massacres, she realized that the chaos made deploying her team impossible. At the airport, she paid for the use of a truck and set out for Goma in then-Zaire, where hundreds of thousands of refugees were also headed.

"I never saw anyone harmed," McCain recalls, "but I saw the bodies along the roadside."

She did set up her hospital:

The field hospital covered four acres. McCain's team provided primary care for the sick and frightened refugees, many of them suffering dehydration. For nearly a month, McCain organized food and water for the operation, collecting supplies at the Goma airport.

Now the opposition wants to portray her as just a rich lady with a lot of cars.

Cindy McCain recently returned to Rwanda, which has become far more peaceful, and whose citizens are reconciling. "The reason this will be a successful country," she says, "is the women -- some of the strongest, most inspiring women I have ever met."

Given her history of humanitarianism, these adjectives might be associated with McCain herself. The election of her husband would also bring to the White House an adventurous, traveled, intriguingly fearless first lady. Over the years, McCain has brought medical services to a Sandinista stronghold following Nicaragua's civil war; set up a mobile hospital near Kuwait City while the oil wells still burned from the first Gulf War; helped in Bangladesh following a cyclone. And while in that country in 1991, she found her daughter Bridget in an orphanage -- "She really picked me," McCain insists. Sometimes the desire to save every child is properly concentrated on a single child.

But too many on the left have little respect for people like Cindy McCain, people who actually do something, rather than meet in coffee houses to talk about it.  This doing something, it's an inconvenience, isn't it?  Can't the government do it?

Even if a first lady is not intrusively political, the whole White House responds to her priorities. Cindy McCain has had decades of personal contact with the suffering of the developing world. And in some future crisis or genocide, it might matter greatly to have a first lady who knows the smell of death.

That puts it bluntly, and correctly.  The alternative is Michelle Obama, who, according to a recent report on her visit to the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, knows the smell of lobster. 

It is shameful to see what some in the press have tried to do to Cindy McCain.   But what goes around, comes around.

October 18, 2008.       Permalink          

UPDATE AT 7:04 P.M. ET:  Add this to the update just below:   OPEC will need to order a "substantial" cut in oil output at next week's emergency meeting in Vienna, Algerian Energy Minister and current OPEC chief Chakib Khelil said.  "There will be a reduction in production at the next extraordinary meeting of OPEC, and it will have to be a substantial one to get the balance right between supply and demand," he told reporters on Saturday.

COMMENT:  We are at their mercy because we've had no real energy policy, except to obstruct every effort to develop our own resources.  I wonder if Mr. Obama will say something about this. 

UPDATE AT 5:07 P.M. ET:   From USA Today:  The national average price of a gallon of gasoline has fallen below $3 for the first time since February.  The average price for a gallon of regular gas was $2.991 Saturday, according to the AAA's daily survey of up to 100,000 self serve gas stations by the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. That's down from $3.040 Friday.

COMMENT:  We're always glad to pass on some good economic news.

UPDATE AT 4:47 P.M.:   The IBD/TIPP tracker, just out, has Obama up seven, an increase from five yesterday and three the day before.  I honestly don't know what to make of this poll.  It was the most accurate in 2004, but tracks over six, rather than the usual three days, which means it can be behind events.  Its erratic movement doesn't encourage belief.  But we'll know the story of all these polls after election day.

UPDATE AT 3:08 P.M. ET:   The Gallup tracker for today is a bit of a stunner.  In their "expanded" report for likely voters, which includes a projection of new voters thought to be voting Obama, Gallup has the race as 50-46 Obama.  The spread was six points yesterday.  The "traditional" measure of likely voters that Gallup employs has Obama up only two.

COMMENT:  Is the race narrowing?  Too early to say.  Look for the trend in the next three or four days. 

UPDATE AT 12:07 P.M. ET:  The Hotline tracker, which had Obama up ten yesterday, has him up seven today.


Posted at 10:16 a.m. ET

The great Thomas Sowell, who, as an African-American writer, exhibits great courage in his conservative writings, makes a powerful case for Sarah Palin and the McCain cause.  I wish the people around McCain could argue the case this well:

Apparently there is something about Sarah Palin that causes some people to think of her as either the best of candidates or the worst of candidates. She draws enthusiastic crowds and provokes visceral hostility in the media.

The issue that is raised most often is her relative lack of experience and the fact that she would be "a heartbeat away from the presidency" if Senator John McCain were elected. But Barack Obama has even less experience-- none in an executive capacity-- and his would itself be the heartbeat of the presidency if he were elected.

In fairness, a new McCain ad makes this point and makes it well.  But how many will see it, or remember it?

Sarah Palin's record is on the record, while whole years of Barack Obama's life are engulfed in fog, and he has had to explain away one after another of the astounding and vile people he has not merely "associated" with but has had political alliances with, and to whom he has directed the taxpayers' money and other money.

Take notes, McCain campaign.  Take notes.

About Obama:

"Clean up the mess in Washington"? He was part of the mess in Chicago and lined up with the Daley machine against reformers.

He is also part of the mess in Washington, not only with numerous earmarks, but also as the Senate's second largest recipient of money from Fannie Mae, and someone whose campaign has this year sought the advice of disgraced former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, who was at the heart of the subprime crisis.

On Sarah Palin - why the hatred of her in the media?

Sarah Palin is the one real outsider among the four candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency on the Republican and Democratic tickets. Her whole career has been spent outside the Washington Beltway.

More than that, her whole life has been outside the realm familiar to the intelligentsia of the media. She didn't go to the big-name colleges and imbibe the heady atmosphere that leaves so many feeling that they are special folks. She doesn't talk the way they talk or think the way they think.

Worse yet, from the media's perspective, Sarah Palin does not seek their Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Much is made of Senator Joe Biden's "experience." But Frederick the Great said that experience matters only when valid conclusions are drawn from it.

Wonderfully stated.  And remember that line from Frederick the Great.  You'll never hear it from Barack the not so great.

Senator Biden's "experience" has been a long history of being on the wrong side of issue after issue in foreign policy. He was one of those Senators who voted to pull the plug on financial aid to South Vietnam, which was still defending itself from Communist invaders after the pullout of American troops.

Biden opposed Ronald Reagan's military buildup that helped win the Cold War. He opposed the surge in Iraq last year.

Well, I'm glad someone noticed.  But don't expect to see any questions about Biden in the mainstream media.  He has, after all the two most important qualifications of all:  1) He's sat there for 36 years, and 2) he has lunch with reporters.

Whatever the shortcomings of John McCain and Sarah Palin, they are people whose values are the values of this nation, whose loyalty and dedication to this country's fundamental institutions are beyond question because they have not spent decades working with people who hate America. Nor are they people whose judgments have been proved wrong consistently during decades of Beltway "experience."

Douglas MacArthur once said that all defeats begin with two words:  Too late.  I fear that Sowell's wisdom, his penetrating analysis, and his truth telling, are simply coming too late. 

Rough waters ahead.

October 18, 2008.      Permalink          


UPDATE AT 9:38 A.M. ET:  Two new trackers are out.  Rasmussen has Obama up five, Zogby has him up four.  Pretty stable.  Without a major game changer, it's hard to see McCain making any real progress, unless the American voter provides that sober second look, and it leans in his direction.



Posted at 7:59 a.m. ET

We all read the polls, and, while it's entirely proper to be skeptical, the fact is that they all lean in the same direction.  This is not only true of national polls, but of polls in what were called "swing" states until the economic bomb went off.  Obama is solidly ahead, and on track to win an impressive, possibly even a landslide election two weeks from Tuesday.  He is likely to bring in large majorities in both the House and Senate.

That bunker in Australia is suddenly looking good, awfully good.

Can it be turned around?  Michael Barone cautiously suggests that it can, although he, like Karl Rove, makes it plain that he understands the statistical realities.

Can Joe Wurzelbacher, Joe the Plumber from Ohio, change the course of this campaign? That's one question that was raised at the third presidential debate. Wurzelbacher is the man who, in a moment caught on YouTube, confronts Barack Obama on his plan to raise taxes on people like him. Obama, sotto voce, replies that he wants to “spread the wealth around.” In the third consecutive week in which the headlines of the financial crisis have prompted both candidates to denounce “Wall Street greed,” the image of those whom Obama would tax higher was suddenly not an investment banker but a plumber

And, of course, the mainstream media immediately set out to destroy that image by incredible attacks on this small businessman.

The conventional wisdom going into the final debate was that the financial meltdown has pretty much finished off John McCain's campaign and has made an Obama victory inevitable. The polls — not just the national tracking polls but those in critical states — have supported this view unequivocally.

But there are two and a half weeks to go.

Both Obama and McCain have recently advanced additional economic planks to help hard-pressed, middle-class Americans. But neither can claim to have contributed much in the way of substance to the actual steps that Paulson and Bernanke — and, critically, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — have taken to get credit circulating in the blood veins of the economy once again. The fact is that neither Obama nor McCain knows precisely what he would do upon taking office Jan. 20, and voters may sense that it is naive to expect they should.

Which might give way to a rethink just before election day.  No?

Democratic spin artists have dismissed McCain's attacks on Obama as distractions amid a possible economic disaster, and I suspect they will be proved right. Yet it remains the case that about half the voters have doubts about Obama.

About 45 percent of voters in a recent AP poll said they didn't think Obama is qualified to be president.

In three debates, the spin artists go on, Obama has shown that he more than meets the minimal standards for the office, as Ronald Reagan did in the single debate in 1980, and in a year like that one, in which most voters want the in party out, that will be enough. But the 1980 debate was on the Thursday before the election, and the decisive swing came over the weekend. Voters took almost every minute they could. Will they take more time this year, and give some thought to Joe the Plumber? 

It is possible, of course.  But Obama does have one advantage that Reagan also had, his personal attractiveness.  He simply comes off as an attractive candidate on television, even when he's not saying anything, which is most of the time.  McCain has not been able to turn the negative - his age - into a positive, stressing the wisdom that age and experience bring.  America is a youth-oriented society, and Obama is benefiting from the "image" thing.

There could be that sober second look that often comes in the last weekend.  But it can go toward Obama as well as McCain, especially if someone like Colin Powell endorses Obama on national-security grounds, helping to undercut McCain's best credential. 

But we can hope, and we can fight in these next two weeks.  If the gap can't be closed entirely, at least our side can, with get-out-the-vote efforts, make the final result as tight as possible, depriving the opposition of "blowout" talk and inflated egos. 

And political miracles do happen.  Just ask the descendants of Harry Truman.

October 18, 2008.      Permalink          




FRIDAY,  OCTOBER 17,  2008


Posted at 9:25 p.m. ET

The Iranians have apparently not gotten the shooting script. Or maybe they got an earlier version.  Now, in the version that I hear is current, President Obama invites Iran to a conference without preconditions.  The young president attends, embraces and kisses all members of the Iranian delegation, makes an impassioned speech saying how proud he is of his middle name, and Iran stops developing nuclear weapons.  The nuclear-weapons factories are turned into production facilities to make remote controls for toy racing cars.

Madonna sings about it in a "Welcome home, President Change" segment.

That's the current version.  But the Iranian government-mouthpiece press seems to have a different story.

TEHRAN (FNA)- A top adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran would hold talks with the United States only if its forces leave the Middle East and Washington ends its support for Israel.

Wait!  You mean Iran has preconditions?  What the..?  This is something Sarah Palin arranged, isn't it?  Sure.  She has that sneaky look.

But will someone alert Barack?  Please! 

Mahdi Kalhor, an adviser to Ahmadinejad on cultural and media affairs, said on Saturday that as long as US forces remain in the region and the US backs Israel, talks will not take place.

There must be something illegal in this.  How can anyone turn down The One?

The United States and Iran broke diplomatic relations in April 1980, after Iranian students seized the United States' espionage center at its embassy in Tehran. The two countries have had tense relations ever since.

Of course.  See what happens when you snub the mullahs?  Barack won't do that. 

Look, maybe the Iranians are just upset with Bush.  They'll drop these preconditions as soon as Barack takes office, and we'll negotiate.

That's right, isn't it?  That's the way it has to work.  Right?  Anyone?

October 17, 2008.      Permalink          


UPDATE AT 7:41 p.m. ET:  The Dow closed down 127, but up almost five percent for the week.

UPDATE AT 7:36 P.M. ET:  The IBD/Tipp poll has Obama up five, an increase of two since yesterday.  Gallup's traditional likely voter poll has Obama up only two, but their "expanded" result, taking into account possible new voters, has him up six.  The Real Clear Politics average has Obama up 6.9 percent, with two and a half weeks to go to the election.  Overcoming that is possible, but McCain has to give voters a reason to switch, and I'm not sure he can at this point.

UPDATE AT 1:09 P.M. ET:   Dow is up 154.

UPDATE AT 12:19 P.M. ET:   The Dow is down 32.

UPDATE AT 11:08 A.M. ET:   The Politico, increasingly slanted toward Obama, is reporting that Colin Powell may endorse Obama on "Meet the Press" this weekend. 

COMMENT:  I've always found Powell to be one of the more overrated men in American government.  He is more the consummate bureaucrat than a major figure.  I don't know how his endorsement will play because of the obvious racial factor. 

UPDATE AT 10:44 A.M. ET:  The Dow has recovered somewhat and is down 90.

UPDATE AT 9:46 A.M. ET:  The Dow is down 222.

UPDATE AT 9:41 A.M. ET:  Rasmussen today has Obama ahead by four, same as yesterday.  Zogby, also unchanged, has him up five.  Battleground has Obama up four, down from six yesterday.  I get some sense that the race may be tightening a bit.  Let's see what Gallup, Hotline and IBD/TIPP say later in the day.

We'll soon be looking at the Congressional picture, although that is more difficult to assess because polls are taken in the states less frequently. 


Posted at 7:51 a.m. ET

The subject of race is an undercurrent of this campaign.  The McCain side has been accused, routinely, of racism, just as were Hillary and Bill Clinton. (Remember when Bill was called our first black president?  Ah, those were the good old days.)

Charles Krauthammer doesn't like what he sees, and sets the record straight on the playing of the highest-value card of all, the race card:

WASHINGTON -- Let me get this straight. A couple of agitated yahoos in a rally of thousands yell something offensive and incendiary, and John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just guilty by association -- with total strangers, mind you -- but worse: guilty according to The New York Times of "race-baiting and xenophobia."

But should you bring up Barack Obama's real associations -- 20 years with Jeremiah Wright, working on two foundations and distributing money with William Ayers, citing the raving Michael Pfleger as one who helps him keep his moral compass (Chicago Sun-Times, April 2004) and the long-standing relationship with the left-wing vote-fraud specialist ACORN -- you have crossed the line into illegitimate guilt by association. Moreover, it is tinged with racism.

We're giving The New York Times a rough time this morning, and for good reason.  Krauthammer nails it, and them.

The fact that, when John McCain actually heard one of those nasty things said about Obama, he incurred the boos of his own crowd by insisting that Obama is "a decent person that you do not have to be scared (of) as president" makes no difference. It surely did not stop John Lewis from comparing McCain to George Wallace.

And the Obama campaign's response to that outrage was anemic.  But a saint doesn't have to apologize.

On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek fell over themselves agreeing that the "political salience" of the Republican attack on ACORN is, yes, its unstated appeal to racial prejudice.

This about an organization that is being accused of voter registration fraud in about a dozen states. In Nevada, the investigating secretary of state is a Democrat. Is he playing the race card too?

Alter generally hovers on the edge of insanity.  I haven't checked out Maddow recently, but I understand she's pretty high on the nutty meter as well.

McCain isn't the only victim:

The reason Bill Clinton is sulking in his tent is because he feels that Obama surrogates succeeded in painting him as a racist. Clinton has many sins, but from his student days to his post-presidency, his commitment and sincerity in advancing the cause of African-Americans have been undeniable. If the man Toni Morrison called the first black president can be turned into a closet racist, then anyone can.

Anyone can, and will.  I want to see the first reporter get up at an Obama presidential news conference and really challenge him.  Will anyone dare?

Just weeks ago, in Springfield, Mo., and elsewhere, he warned darkly that George Bush and John McCain were going to try to frighten you by saying that, among other scary things, Obama has "a funny name" and "doesn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills."

McCain has never said that, nor anything like that. When asked at the time to produce one instance of McCain deploying race, the Obama campaign could not. Yet here was Obama firing a pre-emptive charge of racism against a man who had not indulged in it. An extraordinary rhetorical feat, and a dishonorable one.

And finally...

What makes this all the more dismaying is that it comes from Barack Obama, who has consistently presented himself as a healer, a man of a new generation above and beyond race, the man who would turn the page on the guilt-tripping grievance politics of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

I once believed him.

Sadly, most Americans, helped on by an unquestioning press, still believe him.

October 17, 2008.       Permalink          


Posted at 6:58 a.m. ET

Journalists love to boast that they're the eyes and ears of the public.  Of course, that's a fantasy.  Journalists are the eyes and ears of themselves.  No one elected them.  They weren't selected by an admissions committee made up of public-spirited citizens. 

And journalists love to boast of their "professionalism."  Absolutely neutral they are, regardless of their professional point of view.  I think many journalists do strive for that, and some achieve it.  But the number of strivers and achievers seems much diminished this year. 

Consider this, from a New York Times story about the now-famous "Joe the Plumber," who confronted Barack Obama in Ohio, and has now become something of a symbol for the McCain campaign:

As it turns out, Joe the Plumber, as he became nationally known when Senator John McCain made him a theme at Wednesday’s final presidential debate, may work in the plumbing business, but he is not a licensed plumber.

Thomas Joseph, the business manager of Local 50 of the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters and Service Mechanics, based in Toledo, said Thursday that Mr. Wurzelbacher had never held a plumber’s license, which is required in Toledo and several surrounding municipalities. He also never completed an apprenticeship and does not belong to the plumber’s union, which has endorsed Mr. Obama. On Thursday, he acknowledged that he does plumbing work even though he does not have a license.

His full name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher. And he owes back taxes, too, public records show. The premise of his complaint to Mr. Obama about taxes may also be flawed, according to tax analysts. Contrary to what Mr. Wurzelbacher asserted and Mr. McCain echoed, neither his personal taxes nor those of the business where he works are likely to rise if Mr. Obama’s tax plan were to go into effect, they said.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  Joe the Plumber has gotten a more detailed background check from The New York Times than Barack Obama ever did.  And asking about Joe is fair game.  Never got a license?  Does that go to his qualifications to be a plumber?  What about Obama's qualifications to be president?  Any questions?

And then there's the curious case of Joe Biden.  Now this Joe represents Delaware in the United States Senate.  What is Delaware known for, class?  That's right.  Financial institutions.  When you pay your VISA bill, the check goes to Delaware.  Many of the largest financial firms incorporate in Delaware.  And what are we in the midst of?  Right again - a financial crisis.  Wouldn't you be interested in Joe Biden's relationship with some of these mammoth financial combines?  Apparently, no editor is, for I haven't seen a single story on the subject.

From now on we should apply the Joe the Plumber test to major media:  Investigate presidential and vice presidential candidates with at least the same zeal that you've investigated Joe the Plumber.  Is that too much to ask? 

Oh, and just for dessert, consider The New York Times's review of Oliver Stone's latest idiocy, "W," the presumed story of the president: 

The megamillion-dollar question that hovers over Oliver Stone’s queasily enjoyable “W.,” his Oedipal story about the rise and fall, fall, fall of George W. Bush is: why? Neither a pure (nor impure) sendup of the president nor a wholesale takedown, the film looks like a traditional biopic with all the usual trappings, including name actors in political drag — Josh Brolin plays the frat boy who would be king, while Richard Dreyfuss creeps around in a Dick Cheney sneer — alternately choking on pretzels and spleen, and reciting all the familiar lines and lies.

No press bias there.  Just move along.  Nothing to see, nothing to see.

Journalism is taking a lot of risks these days, not only with itself, but with the future of the country it presumes to serve.  Like all forms of corruption, this will not end well.

October 17, 2008.      Permalink          




"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
    - Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
      of The New York Times.



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