mccain makes his vp pick

What a pleasant surprise this is — John McCain shocks us all by choosing the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.  The McCain campaign did an outstanding job keeping us in suspense until the last 2-3 hours before her official introduction. This is one heck of a risk, as we are presently seeing with the current Democrat attacks on her, but the payoff could be huge. If Friday was the country’s first introduction to Governor Palin,  it was an impressive debut for her.  She came across as very personable and as someone who can sell the conservative message in a way that McCain cannot.  Her appeal is more than just gender-based.   She has working class credibility.  She’s a mom as well as a lifetime member of the NRA.  She’s not only pro-life, but she has practiced what she preaches by deciding to have a baby that she knew would have Down’s Syndrome.  Then there’s her record of fighting corruption in Alaska even against fellow Republicans.  What’s not to like?

Conservatives dodged a bullet with this pick, because apparently McCain was very close to picking Joe Lieberman.  He was still considering it as late as this past Monday.  When I first heard about McCain’s choice, my initial reaction was that the base may have sabotaged McCain by suggesting Governor Palin.  I love her story, and I think she’s a great representative for women and for Republicans, but I’m not sure she’s ready to be Vice President.  It’s entirely possible that she’s more ready to be VP than Barack Obama is to be President, but this isn’t the best argument for her.  The following weeks before the election will give us an indication of how ready she is to handle the demands of the national spotlight, and I will be watching her and cheering her on, because conservatism needs representatives like Governor Palin in Washington, D.C.

dnc: barack’s historic night

Is anyone else tired of Al Bore’s “I really won the 2000 election” canned jokes?  If we could just find a way to harness the hot air coming from our former Vice President, we would have a endless source of renewable energy.  Give the Democrats credit though.  They have a group of skilled attack dogs who allow Barack Obama to stay above the fray.

As far as the historic nature of Senator Obama’s achievement, I want to join with Senator McCain and others in applauding the Senator for being the first African-American presidential nominee from the Democratic party.  That is worthy of note, and the country is better off for Barack’s candidacy, because it shows that we continue to make progress against racism and discrimination.

Even as a Republican who still remains skeptical of Obama and his grand plans for the country, I have to admit that there would be no way that McCain could fill up a football stadium with people willing to listen to his acceptance speech.  McCain is not and will never be Mr. Excitement,  but that shouldn’t be the determining factor in choosing a president.  The whole spectacle was impressive, and Barack gave an excellent speech.  It had quite a few center-right elements, like when he talked about individual responsibility and the desire for fathers to be there for their children.  There were many things I liked about what he had to say, but there were many more areas where Senator Obama and I sharply disagree. That’s why I cannot vote for him.

We should not underestimate Barack Obama.  He is a threat to win this election, and even though the DNC was divided at the beginning of this week — and distracted by the Clintons’ long (and temporary) goodbye speeches — Barack Obama owned the stage Thursday night and became the lasting memory of the 2008 DNC. If it weren’t for McCain’s shocking announcement Friday morning, Obama’s speech would be the main topic of discussion at the political water coolers today.  Thanks to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, it is not.  She’s quite the distraction.

For must-read hilarious coverage of the DNC, go read Dave Barry’s column.

dnc: shiny tie night

More of the Clinton show on day three — former President Clinton (the elected one) showed Hillary how a convention speech should be delivered.  I was surprised by the massive outpouring of cheers and applause for Bill Clinton, because the whole message of the primaries was that the Democrats had moved on from the Clintons and were ready to take the party in a new direction with Senator Obama.  This could have been designed to give the former president his moment in the sun and have some closure on the Clinton era before the Obama era begins.  Of course, this effort would be a massive failure since Hillary isn’t going away.

President Clinton gave a typical Clinton speech, except that it was relatively short.  The crowd was enthusiastic and cheered just about everything he said. He made a better case for Obama than his wife did, and he made what Democrats would consider to be a reasonable effort to support the current presidential ticket.  It must have annoyed a few folks that he said nice things about John McCain, since he’s the next Bush and all.

Our favorite flip-flopper John F. Kerry also made an appearance and gave a coherent speech.  Now that he’s no longer a threat to be president,  he’s much more likable and not quite as scary as he was in ’04.

I like Joe Biden.  I can’t help liking him and his story, even though I disagree with his views on about 90, 95% of the important issues of the day.  His story is a great made-for-TV narrative.  It is interesting that that personal story of him as a fighter doesn’t always translate into his views on foreign policy.  He knows that the way to deal with bullies in the real world is to hit ’em until they respect you and leave you alone.  The same should be true for rogue nations and terrorists as well, so I’m surprised that he is so willing to surrender his hawkish side to go along with Obama’s policy views.  Of course this is something all VPs do, submerging their own personal views to mirror those of the presidential nominee, so I guess he’s just following the grand tradition of Gore, Lieberman, etc.

Then there was the great Obama surprise, where he attempted to steal the spotlight from Bill Clinton and his VP pick Joe Biden.  Think he might have been tired of watching other people star at his convention?   Looked that way to me.  But it was nice of the great one to stop by and thank the little people who got him where he is today.  It’s the least he could do — to show up in person and mingle with the hoi polloi for a few minutes before his big speech to the masses on Thursday.

My prediction for tonight — Obama’s speech won’t meet expectations.  He may wow the mediots and some of the blind follower sheep he has in his flock, but the rest of us will look at what he said and inevitably find it lacking in useful substantial content.

dnc: night two

Say what you will about Hillary voters eventually falling in line and voting for Barack Obama, the rift between the Hillary campaign and the Obama campaign is not a fabrication of Fox News and the MSM.  The Clintons don’t really believe that the Democrats are about to nominate the right person for president.  That makes the job of convincing Hillary’s delegates to vote for Barack instead rather difficult to do.  She had to make the attempt to keep herself in the conversation for 2012.  Given that calculation, Hillary’s speech did more to help her future political aspirations than it did to help Barack Obama win this election.

Hillary’s speech was a great speech, and it only reinforced the belief of her supporters that she would have been tough against John McCain.  She said what she had to avoid the blame for a possible November loss by Obama, but she didn’t make the case that he’s the slam-dunk choice against McCain.  How could she?  It’s clear she doesn’t believe that.  I think Michelle Obama knew that what she was watching was Hillary going through the motions of supporting Barack.  How else could you explain the resentful look on her face as she watched Hillary’s speech?  It’s all a big charade — this appearance of unity deal between the Clintons and the Obamas.

You really can’t blame the Obamas for any annoyance or resentment they may feel about sharing a significant portion of their convention with the Clintons.  The purpose of the Democratic National Convention should be to sell the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, to the American people as a suitable alternative to John McCain.  I’m not sure the Dems will end up accomplishing this and getting the necessary bounce out of this week.  Attacks on Bush-McCain policies only go so far.  To advance the hope/change message, Barack has to set out his own bold vision, which will be hard because there’s nothing new about his ideas or proposed policies.  The only new element is the person trying to sell those bad ideas.

All of Barack’s surrogates haven’t been able to close the deal for him so far this week.  It’s up to Senator Obama to make the case to the American people, and his speech tomorrow will have a significant impact on what happens to his candidacy going forward.

dnc: the first night

Let the progressive love-in begin.

The Democrats kicked off their national convention Monday, and they decided to demonstrate their commitment to making a break from the old, partisan politics of George W. Bush and John McCain by choosing Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy to speak that night — who are stellar examples of unity and harmony and bringing people together. Good call there.  There’s no better way to demonstrate a new, different approach to the ways of Washington than to showcase the incompetent Speaker of the House and a guy who has been in the Senate forever and ever.  But wait…no tribute to past and present failure can be complete without including Jimmy Carter.  I was annoyed by Pelosi, amused by Kennedy, and I ignored whatever Jimmy Carter had said.

I continue to be impressed by Caroline Kennedy. I think that she would make an excellent candidate for public office, and she didn’t rule it out when she was on MTP with Tom Brokaw. She would be a tough opponent for Republicans, so I hope she stays on the sidelines.

Now to Michelle Obama’s speech…

My initial reaction to it was that I liked it.  If the objective of the speech was to humanize her and to make her less scary, I think she accomplished that — although the appearance of Barack and his interaction with their daughters probably did more to advance that narrative than she did in that speech.  On the other hand, I don’t think this kind of positive speech comes naturally to Michelle Obama.  Maybe it would be easier to buy into Michelle 2.0 if I hadn’t heard some of her previous speeches, but her smiles during this speech looked forced.  Even with this new tone, she still talks about remaking America.  America isn’t totally broken.  There are changes we need to make, and stuff we need to change, but America is still a great country.

What was accomplished?  Nothing much Monday night. I’m not sure that this convention will give Barack the bump he needs to regain momentum, unless the Clintons are willing to shift the focus from themselves to Senator Obama.  There’s no evidence that this will happen, so unless Barack gives the speech of his life Thursday, this convention week will be a wasted opportunity for the Democrats.

it’s biden

Did you really think that Barack would tell you his pick before the media found out?  That’s some kind of faith, I must say.  Biden’s hardly the most exciting choice, and I can understand why some of you may be disappointed.  But it does change one calculation by McCain — he can’t pick a VP who would be killed by Biden in a debate.  That narrows the field of choices a little bit for him, and probably excludes some of those conservatives we would have wanted McCain to pick.   Oh well..not like McCain would have considered those names anyway.

This is going to be fun.  Joe Biden…you have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you by the McCain campaign.

Like this (for example):

sense and nonsense

Guess I don’t know much about the VP selection process — because I thought that Obama would have to pick one of Dick Morris’s boring white guys (Evan Bayh) to bring some balance to the ticket.  He still could pick Bayh or Tim “The Eyebrow” Kaine to keep this team from getting too much buzz around it — and to keep the attention of the press on the guy at the top of the ticket.  Unless there’s a glaring weakness to fill and all this other stuff doesn’t matter…

Why else would Joe Biden be under serious consideration in the Democratic veepstakes?

I hope and pray that Senator Obama picks Joe Biden.  On some levels, it makes a lot of sense.  He has the most credibility of any Democrat on national security issues.  He is much more experienced than Obama with the ways of Washington and he could help Obama make all those tough decisions a president has to make.  There are plenty of good reasons why this pick would be smart for Senator Obama, although there would be the risk of looking like a Cheney-Bush scenario, where the VP is in charge of organizing foreign policy.

There are also good reasons to look in another direction.  Wouldn’t a Washington lifer like Biden dilute the “change” message?  After all, Senator Biden has been in D.C. a long time.  If the system is broken, then Biden gets some of the blame for that.  And then there’s the endless ad copy against Senator Obama that Senator Biden has helpfully provided for John McCain and the RNC.

Jim Geraghty gives us some of the highlights here:

Biden, on a post-debate appearance on MSNBC, October 30, 2007: “The only guy on the other side who’s qualified is John McCain.”

Then there’s my personal favorite:

Biden said in a campaign ad, “When this campaign is over, political slogans like ‘experience’ and ‘change’ will mean absolutely nothing. The next president has to act.”

For all Senator Biden’s knowledge and experience, at times he can be a loose cannon, and he’s not that skilled at keeping his random opinions to himself.  If he’s the pick, Obama’s staff also might want to consider writing Biden’s acceptance speech for the convention to keep him from stealing words from random British politicians.  Imagine how much fun it could be for Republicans if Obama chooses him as VP.   Biden could be a smart choice, but he’s hardly the safest choice.  I would think that Obama might want someone who would be more comfortable being a supporting cast member rather than the star of the show. Can Joe Biden handle just being VP?   We might soon find out.

no choice

The continuing discussion over the wisdom of Senator McCain choosing a pro-choice VP should be about more than whether conservatives would actually sit the election out.  I don’t think we can afford to make that threat.  Senator McCain has a long pro-life Senate record, and we have a clear indication of where he stands on abortion.  We also can be assured that Senator Obama could do far more damage as a pro-choice President than Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman could do as a pro-choice Vice President.  There is one important responsibility the President has that would have an impact on abortion  — the Supreme Court nominations.  Of the two men, which one would be more likely to nominate judges who strictly interpret the Constitution?  I would argue that it would be McCain.  Now, it’s hard to imagine that he could get a Scalia or Alito through a Democratic Congress, but the precedent has always been to confirm judges who have all the right qualifications for the job as long as they don’t show all their cards during the confirmation process.  We are guaranteed not to get someone we like if Senator Obama wins the election.

The argument against Lieberman, Ridge, Giuliani or any other pro-choicer should be this — what else do they bring to the table?  Can you steal any Democrat or independent votes from Barack by picking this person?  What in their resume shows that the potential nominee is a strong leader and would be ready to lead on day one if anything should happen to McCain?  Is the person someone that conservatives can support when examining their entire political record, in spite of their pro-choice views?  All of these names have one common theme — none of them adds much to the McCain ticket.  There’s more risk than benefit here for McCain, and the numbers are showing that he has been gaining evangelical support recently, with some of that due to his strong performance at Saddleback on Saturday.

There has been an attempt by the media to change the focus of evangelicals from abortion and gay marriage to more popular causes like global poverty, HIV/AIDS, and global warming. A shift like that would make it possible for evangelicals to accept a pro-choice candidate like Barack Obama.  For now, their campaign is a massive failure.  Of course we care about global poverty and some of those other issues, but the primary concern of evangelicals has always been protecting the unborn and opposing abortion.  There is a clear difference between Senator Obama and Senator McCain on this issue, and choosing a pro-choice VP would not allow McCain to emphasize that difference as much as he could if he picked someone who shared his pro-life views.

say no to joe (and tom)

John McCain sure likes yanking the conservatives’ chain doesn’t he?  The popular names we are hearing for McCain’s VP choice are Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge.  Dick Morris continues to push the choice of Lieberman, who has an undeserved reputation as a possible game-changer for McCain.   What does Joe Lieberman bring to the table?  Well…he agrees with McCain on the war in Iraq. And…he’s a Democrat — which may not be as big of an advantage as Morris and his ilk seem to believe.  For one thing, he wouldn’t necessarily bring in Democrats and independents to the McCain column.  He’s not exactly the most popular Democrat right now for supporting Bush and McCain on the war, and for ticking off local Connecticut Dems to the point that they almost turned to Ned Lamont.  Even if Lieberman does manage to pick off a few Dems and independents, they won’t be enough to prevent the mass exodus of conservatives who might just find this pander to the other side of the aisle one step too far.  And addition to that, Dick Morris doesn’t want us to pick another boring white guy, which theoretically rules out Lieberman.

It would also pick off another flavor of the month, Pennsylvania’s Tom Ridge.  Frankly, I don’t see the appeal here.  He is pro-choice, and social conservatives would have a serious objection to that. He has a nice resume of accomplishments, but that’s it.  McCain’s advisors may believe that conservatives have already made their peace with McCain as the Republican nominee and as our possible next President.  But how far does McCain want to push us before we say “enough is enough”?  How far can he go before conservatives decide to sit this election out, regardless of the consequences of electing Barack Obama by default?  If he doesn’t pick someone who is much more conservative than these two,  there will be a rather loud protest by conservatives.  I would have a tough decision to make — because I can’t sit this out and let Obama become President.  That’s how strongly I feel about this election.  But McCain should know how conservatives feel about this and we should hold him accountable here while we still have the influence to do it.

Here’s Dan Balz from the Washington Post’s “The Trail” blog:

The competitiveness of the Obama-McCain contest now argues for safe vice presidential choices. Neither is in a position to risk — nor does either need — a running mate whose selection dramatically changes perceptions of their candidacies.

The “first, do no harm” rule is especially important for Obama, given the question marks he is still dealing with. But it is similarly significant for McCain, whose still-tenuous relationship with his party’s conservative base may check his instincts to use his pick to send a message to swing voters that he is not a George W. Bush Republican. Some Republicans believe he will send that message with his acceptance speech, rather than his vice presidential pick.

As if to test how much leeway he has in picking a running mate, McCain gave an interview to the Weekly Standard in which he floated out the idea of choosing someone who favors abortion rights, someone like former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. The reaction from social conservatives has been highly negative.

That should be the expected reaction to this suggestion.  McCain needs to remember that he can’t win a general election if conservatives sit this race out…and the vice presidential pick can send a strong message to us that conservatives will have a seat at the table in a McCain administration.

dnc math

So if 1.3 million dollars in contributions from big oil means that John McCain is “in the pocket of big oil”, then what does Barack’s $400,000 from big oil mean?  Apparently nothing if you’re the DNC or the average Democrat.  Jake Tapper also mentions that employees of big oil individually have given slightly more money to Obama than to McCain.  But that doesn’t matter either because big oil money is only bad if the recipient is a Republican.  I challenge the Democrats to provide examples of McCain writing policy to support the interests of big oil.  I don’t think they have any.  McCain even voted against President Bush’s big energy bill, because he said that it provided too much in the way of corporate tax breaks for the oil/gas industry.   It’s much easier to connect Bush/Cheney to big oil than it is to make the same claim about John McCain.

And if Barack Obama is so concerned about taking money from big oil, then maybe he should return all the contributions that he has received from them.  He also might want to explain why he voted for Bush’s energy bill if it’s not just because of its support for alternative energy sources.

Senator McCain has responded to this criticism by Senator Obama by saying this:

I think Senator Obama might be a little bit confused. Yesterday, he accused me of having President Bush’s policies on energy. That’s odd because he voted for the President’s energy bill and I voted against it. I voted against it, had $2.8 billion in corporate welfare to Big Oil companies, and they’re already making record profits, as you know. Senator Obama voted for that bill and its Big Oil giveaways. I know he hasn’t been in the Senate that long, but even in the real world, voting for something means you support it and voting against something means you oppose it.

Exactly right.  The Senate vote on the energy bill wasn’t even close.  Obama could have voted against it without much political fallout, because it would have passed without his vote.  Does the DNC really want to go through the list of Dems who have received fat corporate contributions from big oil (or from big ethanol)?  Fair is fair.  They can list all the Republicans “in the pocket” of big oil, and we can make our own list of Dems, and then let the American people decide whose hands are clean here.  The answer is neither party.  But this is a very shallow case to make against McCain.  The only reason this would matter is if he were like Ted Stevens and he had designated earmarks or wrote legislation for his own financial benefit.  He’s not and he hasn’t.  So let’s move on to the next contrived grievance, ok?