Friday, October 31, 2008

Biden Time

As Joe Biden loves to say about John McCain, "God love him, but...." I say the say the same thing about Joe the VP Candidate. I love him to pieces. I jumped for joy when Barack Obama picked him to be his running mate. But as is well documented, Joe's mouth can be a loose cannon, which could violate the main axiom of a VP choice: do no harm.

When all is said and done after November 4, Joe will not have harmed the ticket at all. Certainly nowhere near the apocalyptic effect Sarah Palin has had on the McCain candidacy. Except for the extreme right wing elements in the Republican Party, Palin has alienated the more thoughtful moderate sector of the GOP, as well as independent women, and we figure to see at least 10 percent of the party faithful jumping to the Obama side, mainly because of Palin.

But Joe Biden had to be reigned in, and thankfully he was. He didn't learn the lesson offered by Obama that even at a private setting like a fundraiser, your words are not safe. Obama discovered it first in San Francisco when out came the "bitter" remarks. It almost did him in.

Biden made the same error in Seattle by predicting the new president will be confronted by a contrived international crisis to "test his mettle." While that may be a likely prospect, those leaked comments nearly and unnecessarily derailed the Obama locomotive that had been gaining so much momentum down the track. Since then, Biden has been relegated to a scripted message and instructed to avoid press conferences in mainly smaller media markets.

Without question, Biden was a superb choice--Obama's first real presidential decision. Biden offers the foreign policy bona fides that many charge that Obama lacks. His vast experience in the Senate will also help sheperd Obama's agenda should he be elected. And as it turned out, he is far more superior and ready to step in as president than Sarah Palin.

More to the point, it also contrasted the judgement of Obama with McCain's. So yes, God love him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Freedom of Speech? reported today that two pro-Obama men were surrounded by a mob of McCain supporters after they chanted "Obama" while wearing Obama tee-shirts and carrying an Obama sign at a McCain rally in Miami, FL. Police had to rescue the men from the crowd for their protection.

"People were screaming, 'Terrorist!' 'Communist!' 'Socialist!'"one of the two men told the reporter from "I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me."

Nice. If these pro-McCain folks would revere the Constitution's First Amendment as much as they do the Second Amendment, perhaps the USA will be a better place. That's not likely while dissent continues to be squashed by intimidation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

McCain's Last Missed Opportunity

On Meet the Press, John McCain could have taken the high road on race relations, but failed.

There are no more big play opportunities left for John McCain. The debates and the conventions are over. He will default to the the normal GOP tactic of "fear and smear" during the final days of the campaign.
His last remaining hope was a performance on Oct. 26's Meet the Press, which commands a sizeable viewership. This could have been the one opportunity to change the trajectory of the campaign. It was there for him to grab, to seize the opportunity. But as always, McCain, the non-maverick, stuck to talking points rather than breaking the mold.

When moderator Tom Brokaw showed the clip of Rush Limbaugh's explanation of Gen. Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama where he shouted, "it's all about race," McCain's response was disappointing if not predictable.

When asked if Powell's endorsement was about race, McCain weakly said no but quickly pivoted to the five Secretaries of State (he had trouble reeling them off) and the number of admirals and generals of whom he was proud to have their support.

Here's what John McCain SHOULD have said, which I believe would have grabbed the headlines and MAYBE peel off some of the independent voters who have been flocking to Obama:

"I am, of course, disappointed with Gen. Powell's endorsement. But as Gen. Powell said on your show, race was not a significant factor, and I take this friend and honorable public servant at his word. I know I will be offending some of Rush Limbaugh's listeners, but I fully condemn Rush's explanation that it was all about race.

"We are at a critical time in our country's history. We are deeply mired in a major financial crisis that is affecting most Americans. We have enemies abroad who would want to harm us. We have energy and climate change challenges that need to be addressed. We do not need divisive and inflammatory comments from people on the air waves. We should not separate our country according to race or by any other category. If anything, we need to rally all citizens of the United States to forge a common effort to face these crises together."

Alas, McCain didn't want to upset his base by attempting to nullify race in this election. It remains his wild card. But in sidestepping this golden opportunity, McCain missed the chance to demonstrate a characteristic that has been sorely lacking in his campaign--statesmanship.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Candidates Onstage

Letter published in the Nov. 2, 2008 issue of TIME magazine

Joe Klein would like Obama to tell the truth to the American people regarding the sacrifices they will need to make during this economic free fall [Oct. 20]. But it is clear that such truth-telling is not what the American people want to hear, nor does such directness help the candidate during an election campaign. In August, in the midst of the oil-price surge, Obama tried to suggest to Americans that maintaining inflated tires could conserve fuel. The suggestion, backed by experts, was mocked by the McCain campaign. Clearly Obama learned the lesson of Walter Mondale's attempt to tell the truth in 1984 about the need to raise taxes.

Steve Charing,


Friday, October 24, 2008

GOP's Brad Blakeman is an Idiot

The Republican strategist Brad Blakeman provided another glimpse of the "heart" of the McCain campaign and by extension his party with this gem criticizing Obama's trip to visit his ailing grandmother. It's as low as it can get. I'm surprised he beat the racist Rush Limbaugh to the punch.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coming Out Week: Just the First Step

From my friend David Burgy, a junior at Swarthmore College. Read his excellent essay here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Election Day Nov. 4: The Urgency of Now

By Steve Charing

During every presidential election cycle we’re told that the current one is the most important election in our lifetime. And the fact is, it’s usually true—especially the past few elections. But without the hyperbole, I really believe that November 4 will be not only pivotal for our country, but also to the LGBT community.

The Obama-McCain contest is surely critical. For our nation, an Obama victory will mark a dramatic shift from the atrocious economic, social, environmental, and foreign policies of the past eight years. And with an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress, Obama’s progressive and common sense agenda will find an easier path to success.

The contrast between Obama and McCain on issues that are important to the lgbt community couldn’t be more stark. While Barack Obama does not favor same-sex marriage, it must be noted that no other major candidate for president ever has to this point. But both Obama and his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden, oppose California’s Proposition 8 (more on that later).
Obama does openly support some form of civil union or domestic partnership arrangement whereby hospital visitation and economic benefits could be extended to same-sex couples. For his part, John McCain flatly opposes domestic partnerships, same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Both candidates do not favor a Federal Marriage Amendment though McCain’s stance is rooted in the proper use of the Constitution rather than any inclination towards fairness. Nonetheless, VP candidate Sarah Palin supports a constitutional amendment that would enshrine discrimination into the law of the land.

The two disagree on ENDA, the Federal Employment Discrimination Act, which has been languishing in Congress for decades that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. Obama supports it; McCain does not. The same scenario would apply to hate crimes legislation: Obama favors it; McCain opposes it.

The military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy is also an area where both candidates dissent. Obama favors repealing the vile law based on fairness and the fact it does not work. McCain would rely on the commanders on the ground for advice on that matter, and you know where it would go at that point—nowhere.

John McCain likes to call himself a "maverick" for the frequent times he crossed up his own party to sign onto bipartisan legislation. The current version of John McCain, however, is so firmly tied to the far right wing of the GOP that if he is elected, any chances for lgbt progress will evaporate. And Sarah Palin is even more socially conservative.

Besides the presidential race we must look carefully at what’s going on in California. Following that state’s Supreme Court’s ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage, anti-gay opponents succeeded in placing the definition of marriage on the ballot in November that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. That referendum is called Proposition 8.

Even though this battle is taking place on the other side of the country, it should very much matter to us. "Maryland is still one of a handful of states that can achieve marriage equality in the United States in the near future," says Equality Maryland’s Executive Director Dan Furmansky. "But the outcome of the vote on Prop. 8 in California will directly impact our timeline here. If legislators see that the tide has truly turned on this issue, they will be more willing to put themselves on the line for what we all know is truly equality for same-sex couples."

Indeed this is crucial. Being outraised by nearly two to one, equality activists who oppose Prop. 8 are seeing their support in the polls slip as the proponents have used TV ads to scare the voters.

And that should matter to us. Furmansky points out, "An electoral loss in California would no doubt negatively impact our efforts to achieve marriage equality in Maryland, to what extent, we can't fully be sure. But it would make us more reliant on legislative wins in states like New York and New Jersey to convince legislators that the time has come for our state as well."

A loss would also embolden opponents of same-sex marriage in Maryland to push harder to have the matter put to a popular vote. That’s a slippery slope with uncertain consequences. If voters in a state like California can roll back the clock, that is not a good sign for Maryland.

To help level the playing field, money, as always, is the best way to defeat Prop. 8. Please visit here to learn how you can help and now!

With a favorable election outcome, both nationally and in California, LGBT Marylanders may finally see the light at the end of a tunnel. If not, the tunnel gets longer and darker.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Candidates must do more to stifle supporters' vitriol

Letter published in the
Oct. 15, 2008 Howard County Times

Once again we are reading that political signs are being vandalized or removed from private property as we head into the climax of the election season. These acts, regardless of the source, are childish and dumb and are carried out as if such intimidation will actually influence voting choices.

I deplore this behavior whether it be from kids or adults and regardless of political party. I have had signs taken from my property and bumper stickers torn off my car. And recently someone took a key to the body of my car most likely because of the bumper sticker that was displayed. Besides the obvious destruction of property and the violation of the Constitution, it is aggravating and pointless.

Fueling this behavior is the fact that the current presidential campaign has taken an ugly, frightening turn. That is more likely to create deeper divisions and motivate vandals to act accordingly.

When campaign rallies are inflamed by hate-filled vitriol inciting some to shout, "Terrorist" or "Kill him," it is clearly the responsibility of the candidates or speakers to dial down the heat, or something more serious than a vandalized lawn sign will occur. And unfortuantely such rhetoric drives the other side to anger, adding more combustibility.

More to the point, with all this hostility, the biggest loser is democracy.

Steve Charing

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trail Mix

BRADLEY EFFECT? Nah. At this point in time during a national election it makes absolutely no sense for a McCain supporter to lie to pollsters and say that he/she is voting for Obama lest the interviewee will be viewed as a racist. All that does is inflate Obama's poll numbers and deflates team McCain's morale. There are many legitimate reasons to oppose Obama on experience and issues, and any opposition to him would be explained in those terms.

Without question race will be an issue, but I believe that has already been embedded in existing poll results; folks don't need to shy away from their actual voting intentions. The Bradley Effect MAY have been a factor in the NH primary when Obama was matched up against Hillary Clinton--a member of the same party--where he was leading the day before in the polls only to lose. But it should not rear its polls-twisting head on November 4 like it did in California back in 1982, and even if there actually were such an effect is under dispute.

LEVI STRESS. Out of the shadows of the McCain cocoon emerged Levi Johnston, the father-to-be of Sarah Palin's abstinence-averse daughter Bristol's child. He disclosed in an interview that he dropped out of high school to work in Alaska's oil fields presumably to help support the child if and when he gets hitched to Bristol.

What a shame! Here are the Palins--a million dollars in assets (oh how taxpayer-funded per diem when not traveling can add up!)--who couldn't give a little financial aid to at least allow the hockey stud dude to graduate from high school?

A million bucks they have. Doesn't sound like "Joe 6-pack" types to me. Palin's daughter may marry a high school dropout who didn't practice safe sex. A fine example they're setting for America's youth. Imagine if they were black how the stereotyping and insults would have been hurled at them.

GOTTA LOVE THE HATERS. As Palin and not as much recently, McCain, incited the crowds with fiery, hateful (and totally untrue) rhetoric about Obama's alleged "palling around" with terrorists. you can feel the vitriol just oozing from the yahoos present in the mob. Might as well get out the pitchforks and torches and chase Obama to a windmill. "Kill him." "Terrorist." "Off with his head." These are the so-called patriots who do not believe in a two-party system and would kill a fellow American because they disagree with them. Included among them is that idiot woman in Minnesota who told McCain that she read Obama was Arab. I wonder who may have given her that impression.

A number of those in the mobs--not all--are bigots and haters. The ones who are and are exorcised at Palin speeches hate Democrats, liberals, government, blacks, gays, Jews, immigrants, feminists, pro-choice folks, the media, etc. etc. etc. No, these people aren't patriots. They are white supremacists or sympathizers and many are hoping that an Obama victory would produce a huge backlash and help their cause. Tone it down extremists. Iran would welcome you.

Monday, October 06, 2008

You Betcha! The McAttack will NOT Work!

Less than a month to go to the election and John McCain is throwing caution to the wind and is beginning an all-out assault on the "character" of Barack Obama. Wanting to "turn the page" on the economy--even as the stock market is in full-throttle tank mode--McCain seems to be out of viable options.

Sarah Palin, having survived the debate and rising to the level of student council president with her winks and doggone-its, committed a huge political blunder by charging that Obama is "palling around with terrorists."

Rule No. 1 in politics: don't shoot arrows at your opponent without knowing how much he has in his own quiver.

The slimy, nefarious attempt to link Obama to William Ayres, a 60's era radical, woke up the sleeping beast in the Obama campaign. For months, the faithful like myself has been waiting for Obama to go at least somewhat negative to soften John McCain .

Palin's comments, as well as those leaked from the McCain campaign that they will go on an aggressive attack, resurrected the Keating 5 scandal that tarnished John McCain out of the Obama quiver.

Worse for McCain is that the scandal reinforces his dubious associations with those in the financial community which becomes a perfect overlay to the current Wall Street crisis.

Moreover, Obama is sharpening his attacks on McCain in other areas, such as dubbing McCain's health plan as "radical" and characterizing McCain's response to the financial meltdown as "erratic."

Obama wisely and pre-emptively criticized McCain's tactics and warned the electorate that McCain has no solutions to the economic crisis, wants to turn the page, and instead seeks to launch into Swift Boat style messaging. So when McCain fires off these so-called character missles at Obama, he will be playing right into Obama's hands. And at the same time, Obama will be demonstrating that the best defense is a strong offense.

McCain, Palin--betcha by golly wow--your strategy will not work.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Low Bar, Low Results

Why should the "bar" for a would-be vice-president be set low? We're talking about the 2nd highest office in the country. Nine vice-presidents ascended to the top spot following an uexpected departure by the president. That includes natural death, assasination and resignation.

In this global and shaky economy and at a point in time where international cooperation must be secured to fight the war on terrorsim, it is imperative that the vice-president, as well as the president, are both competent and qualified. We should not settle on individuals who are driven by ideology and is someone whom we would like to have a beer with. The past eight years proved why.

We need leaders who are capable of handling complex issues and do not resort to adolescent simplification. We need leaders who are forward thinking--not looking back to the past--and have a vision for a strong America. Through their inspiration, Americans will follow.

The vice-presidential debate provides an important window to the thought processes of the candidates regarding the issues of the day and how they would lead should either of them become the tenth VP to unexpectedly assume the role of president. It's not a contest about verbal gaffes and looking good.

It's too critical for that. The bar, accordingly, should be high, not low.


Managing to complete three sentences in a row without falling over the podium, Sarah Palin was hailed by conservatives for her brilliant effort. Among the many errors, distortions and outright lies, the most frightening aspect of Palin's perfomrance was her breathtaking lack of knowledge concerning the Constitution and the role of the Vice President.
She can wink all she wants, memorize her drilled-in talking points, say "doggone it" and "you betcha" until the cows come home, meeting an already low bar does not qualify one to occupy an office one heartbeat away from the presidency.