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  • April 19, 2010

    Tea Partiers softer on gays than GOP

    Posted by: Chris

    Tea party movement obama gay rights
    Call it the Ron Paul wing of the Tea Party movement, but a sizable portion of the colorful, spelling-challenged protesters are at least consistent about wanting the government out of our pocketbooks and out of our bedrooms:

    In general, those who turned out for the April 15 Tea Party event tended to be less culturally conservative than national Republicans.

    Asked to rate their level of anger about 22 issues on a scale of one (not angry at all) to five (extremely angry), the issue that drew the most anger: the growing national debt. The least: courts granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Twenty-four percent said they’re “not at all” upset about gay marriage.

    Politico neatly divides the Tea Parties thusly, into Sarah Palin and Ron Paul camps:

    The results suggest a distinct fault line that runs through the tea party activist base, characterized by two wings led by the politicians who ranked highest when respondents were asked who “best exemplifies the goals of the tea party movement” — former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a former GOP presidential candidate. …

    Specifically, 51 percent of tea party activists say “government should not promote any particular set of values,” while 46 percent said “government should promote traditional family values in our society.” Compare this to national Gallup Polls, which recently found 67 percent of self-identified Republicans think government should promote such values.

    What can you say about conservatives who believe it's a betrayal for government to promote basic medical care for its citizens but who fully expect it to promote their own theological beliefs about marriage and family? That their anger underlies a deeper-seated, ugly tradition of conservative resistance? Or maybe that it's just way past time that they reread the Gospels?

    (Photo via USA Today)

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    July 07, 2009

    President Palin (not an obituary)

    Posted by: Andoni


    I'm a little nervous that a lot of the liberal chattering class is proclaiming the death of Sarah Palin's political career. I'm old enough to remember a similar situation with Richard Nixon in 1962 after he told the press that they wouldn't have Nixon to kick around any more. The liberals were dancing in the streets with joy. By 1968 he was elected president.

    The short version of how Palin can be elected president is as follows. In a 2 party system, your choices are either A or B. If the public turns on candidate A (or his party), they then vote for candidate B no matter who it is. The prime example of this happening is incumbent President Herbert Hoover losing to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. The public turned on Hoover because of the economy. The Democrats could have run anyone against Hoover and would have won.

    Only two things have to fall in place for Palin to become president: 1). she gets the Republican nomination in 2012 and 2.) Barack Obama cannot turn the economy (or the unemployment rate) around and it gets worse. When the public turns on A, the only alternative in a 2 party system is B, even if B was fairly well despised at one time (Think Richard Nixon). The public has a short memory.

    Richard Nixon was much disliked by the public when he left politics in 1962. He was regarded as mean and not to be trusted ('tricky Dick"). But between 1962 and 1968 he traveled the country helping other GOP candidates raise money and win elections. The IOU's he gathered were immense. As a result he got the Republican nomination in 1968 largely due to all the favors owed him.

    Sarah Palin's popularity among the base will put her in a position to raise enormous amounts of money for other GOP candidates and help them win in Red states. The IOU's she collects could help her get the Republican nomination, just as it did Nixon. The other half of the equation of course depends on Obama's ability (or luck) in turning the economy around.

    Herbert Hoover was one of the smartest people of his day and he followed the advice of supposedly wise economic advisers .... who turned out to be wrong. As a result the public turned on Hoover and the Republicans after a 70 year dominance of the White House. Like I said, it didn't matter who the Democrats ran against Hoover, the people did not want Hoover.

    Other examples of the public turning on a party in power and choosing the other candidate are as follows: Richard Nixon (the despised) beat Lyndon Johnson's chosen successor largely because of the public's turning on the Vietnam War ...as well as the disgust over the police beatings at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. The public turned on Gerald Ford for pardoning Richard Nixon and elected a rather inexperienced, unknown Jimmy Carter in 1976. In 1980 the public turned on Jimmy Carter because of rampant inflation and the Iran hostage debacle and turned to Ronald Reagan, someone the left thought could never, ever be elected president.

    So the bottom line is the pundits don't know everything and don't have a good track record in predicting the political future. And when the public turns on the incumbent, the other person has a darn good chance of winning, no matter what their previous reputation was.

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    Filed in: Palin

    October 03, 2008

    Roger Ebert on Sarah Palin

    Posted by: Chris

    Sarah_palin_wink Leave it to a movie critic, quoting an 18th century Englishman, to nail it exactly:

    [It was] like a dog's standing on its hind legs. It is not done well, but one is surprised to find it done at all.

    (H/t: Andrew Sullivan)

    UPDATE: In case you missed it, check out this bit of political humor. (Try treating it like a political cartoon, Palin fans, and not a literal viewpoint).


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    October 02, 2008

    Palin and Biden on gay marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Bidenpalindebateap_2 UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    Taking a closer look at the gay Q&A from the vice presidential debate (transcript excerpt below), Joe Biden was surprisingly strong in his answer. Moving beyond the bromides about hospital visitation and the like, he said: "Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple."

    In fact, Biden even went so far as to essentially declare the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- which he voted for! -- is unconstitutional. If in his view the Constitution requires that gay married couples be treated the same as straight married couples, then federal DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from giving any recognition or benefits to gay married couples, is unconstitutional.

    That kind of affirmative support for legal recognition of gay couples is a real rarity at a national level, and absolutely so in a general election presidential or vice-presidential debate. He even addressed the marriage third rail, saying that "committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits" as straight couples.

    Biden was at his weakest claiming that the question of civil unions vs. marriage is a decision to "be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it." Bullshit, of course, considering that civil marriage is something the government decides, and no one has proposed legislation that would decide for individual faiths whether to "marry" gay couples.

    As for Sarah Palin, it's unclear why Biden and the post-debate pundits think she was agreeing with Obama-Biden on legal recognition for gay couples. As close as she came was this: "No one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties." Not prohibiting is entirely different from guaranteeing, and she in fact echoed McCain's misleading rhetoric in this area.

    What Palin was really saying is that gays won't be stripped of hospital visitation and the right to contract if John McCain is president. Gee thanks. And through all her protestations of tolerance, she says she doesn't want to go "round and round" about what exact rights and recognition same-sex couples deserve. I wonder how her "dear friends" who are gay feel about her unwillingness to take that time.

    Responsibility for the muddle in Palin's answer (on this and other questions) faIls in part on moderator Gwen Ifill. Even with format limitations, I agree with Andrew Sullivan that Ifill was not effective, failing to follow up in a way that makes clear to voters the differences between the tickets.

    For one thing, she failed to note that Alaska's benefits for gay couples -- limited to state government employees, by the way -- was mandated by the state's supreme court and Palin backed a constitutional amendment to overturn that ruling.

    Here's the transcript excerpt from the New York Times:

    IFILL: The next round of -- pardon me, the next round of questions starts with you, Senator Biden. Do you support, as they do in Alaska, granting same-sex benefits to couples?

    BIDEN: Absolutely. Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

    The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera. That's only fair.

    It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.

    IFILL: Governor, would you support expanding that beyond Alaska to the rest of the nation?

    PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. And unfortunately that's sometimes where those steps lead.

    But I also want to clarify, if there's any kind of suggestion at all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves, you know, I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don't agree with me on this issue.

    But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.

    But I will tell Americans straight up that I don't support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means.

    But I'm being as straight up with Americans as I can in my non- support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage.

    IFILL: Let's try to avoid nuance, Senator. Do you support gay marriage?

    BIDEN: No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it.

    The bottom line though is, and I'm glad to hear the governor, I take her at her word, obviously, that she think there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple. If that's the case, we really don't have a difference.

    IFILL: Is that what your said?

    PALIN: Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not.
    IFILL: Wonderful. You agree. On that note, let's move to foreign policy.


    UPDATE: The mainstream media coverage of gay rights is often confused and superficial, but the Reuters story just out about the vice presidential debate is particularly egregious. Even the headline -- "Biden, Palin agree on gay rights at debate" -- is mostly wrong. The only gay rights point they agreed on was opposing full civil marriage for same-sex couples.

    Reuters reports: "In an otherwise contentious debate, both Biden and Palin said they did not support civil marriages for same-sex couples, but both backed a range of other legal protections." In fact, as noted above, Palin was saying only that a McCain White House would not work to prohibit gay couples from entering private contracts of visit each other in a hospital; which is not at all the same thing as guaranteeing those rights through government recognition of same-sex relationships.

    "Such rights already exist in Alaska, where Palin serves as governor," Reuters goes on to mis-report. In fact, Alaska offers domestic partner benefits to the state workers, which means nothing to the vast majority of Alaskans who aren't government employees, and even for state workers, the D.P. benefits don't guarantee anything more than health and other financial benefits (which unlike those for hetero workers are taxable, by the way).

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    Filed in: Biden , Palin

    Live-blogging the V.P. debate

    Posted by: Chris

    Bidenpalindebate Taking a stab at live-blogging the veep debate...

    9:01 p.m.: Did you hear that from Sarah Palin when she shook Joe Biden's hand? "Can I call you Joe?" This is pre-emptive so that the campaign can avoid hypocrisy charges since they complained that Barack Obama called John McCain "John" instead of "Senator McCain."

    9:04 p.m.: Both Biden and Palin look to be aggressive, though Palin's "save" attempt on what McCain meant by "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" was weak. He meant "the ingenuity of American workers"? Please.

    9:10 p.m.: How many times can Sarah Palin say the word "that" in one sentence? Palin says we should demand "strict oversight"? Since when is that something John McCain stood for? Palin's call for personal responsibility, however, was a clever change of subject. Biden comes across stuffy in response.

    9:13 p.m.: That's the second "darn right" from Palin. I guess you love it or hate it. Biden slams Palin on the tax standard and for not defending McCain on deregulation. Is she spunky or annoying for saying she'll refuse to answer questions like Biden or moderator Gwen Ifill wants?

    9:15 p.m.: Palin takes issue with "that redistribution of wealth principle you're talking about there." Apparently Palin and "Government" are on a first-name basis, since that's the way she talks to them. Palin defends McCain's health care plan -- how is a $5,000 tax credit "budget neutral"? Biden's attack on McCain's health care plan explains that somewhat, pointing out the tax on employers to pay for it, but he gets bogged down in numbers and verbosity in making his point. Definitely Biden's weakness.

    9:23 p.m.: Palin opposes the idea of "greed" at the center of corporate operations? Does she understand capitalism? Isn't she a Republican? Now she says she and McCain will "stop greed and corruption on Wall Street"? How exactly do you "stop greed"?

    9:29 p.m.: First Palin gaffe: She reflexively says "That is not so" in response to Ifill when it's clear from context that she hadn't listened to Biden's answer and doesn't have any clue what the question was about (i.e., the Biden proposal to allow troubled homeowners to adjust the principle and not just the interest rates paid on their mortgages).

    9:34 p.m.: Another Palin bluster through the Ifill question about carbon emissions and clean coal to get to the sound byte ("Drill baby, drill.") Good for Ifill for circling back to the question, and getting a clean answer from Palin that she supports carbon emission limits.

    9:36 p.m.: Biden backs "benefits" for same-sex couples "like in Alaska." Of course the Alaska Supreme Court forced the state to offer the benefits and Palin backed an amendment to reverse the policy. Palin doesnt support "exporting" the Alaska policy on D.P. benefits elsewhere if it "approaches marriages." Palin says the McCain administration won't try to prevent gays from visiting loved ones in hospitals or entering contracts. Wow. Gee, thanks.

    I can't wait to see the transcript on this because I didn't hear Palin promise "no civil rights distinction between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples," as Biden claims she did.

    9:40 p.m.: Palin says "we can't afford early withdrawal from Iraq" even though one of her few public statements on foreign policy before being selected by McCain was that she wasn't sure about the surge unless it had a "clear exit strategy." That was two years ago. Nice response from Biden, getting good response from the "uncommitted voters" on the CNN graph. Palin looks positively ridiculous to me when she tries to be tough.

    9:47 p.m.: Palin completely misses the point that the central front in the war on terror is in Iraq because the invasion allowed Al Qaeda to -- for a time at least -- recruit at will against the U.S. invaders. Biden references President Bush, in a complimentary way, reminding me that there have been very few attacks painting McCain as more Bush. Very surprising.

    9:54 p.m.: Palin's smugness, especially in light of her weak record, grates on me on ways that very few have before. Just the idea that you can grin and smile your way through a serious debate really irks.

    10:08 p.m.: Biden brings up "the Bush doctrine." Clever.

    10:11 p.m.: "Say it ain't so, Joe. There you go again, pointing at the past" because he brought up Bush. I can understand why she wants to change the subject; that's for sure. Her answer on education is as vapid and nonsensical as the one on nuclear proliferation. Can't wait to see the transcript.

    10:14 p.m.: Oh lord, she wants "more authority" than the Constitution provides for the veep... No mention at all to the vice president's primary responsibility -- being informed and ready to step in and become president should the worst happen.

    10:18 p.m.: Asked what is her own worst weakness, Palin wanders off into Ronald Reagan's "shining city on the hill" in a way that reminds me of Reagan wandering off near the end of his last debate with Walter Mondale in 1984. Biden's emotional remark about his son came off very genuine, something I wouldn't always say about him.

    10:28 p.m.: Palin's use of cliche, ad nauseum, also grates, at least with me. "I like to be able to answer the tough questions," she says. So why doesn't she hold some friggin press conferences?!

    All in all, the debate was as expected: Biden was more substantive, Palin managed through without any major gaffes. Whatever your views on the substantive issues, I can't imagine not being very uncomfortable with the idea of Sarah Palin as vice president, much less commander in chief.

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    Filed in: Palin

    October 01, 2008

    Sarah Palin on Roe vs. Wade

    Posted by: Chris

    CBS News has finally released the videoclip of Sarah Palin stumbling through her view of how the Supreme Court has handled constitutional questions throughout American history.

    Watch CBS Videos Online

    The questions begin easily enough, focusing on Roe vs. Wade, although Palin remarkably says she agrees there is an unenumerated "right of privacy" in the Constitution -- a position directly at odds with basic conservative legal theory challenging not only Roe but also the sodomy decision (Lawrence vs. Texas) and going back four decades to Griswold vs. Connecticut, which threw out state prohibitions against contraception sales.

    Palin's support for the right to privacy would be newsworthy except for the fact that it's clear from the context of the interview that she has no clue what that right actually means or how it plays out in abortion or any other controversial legal issue.

    Then, of course, there is her stammer/filibuster over what opinions besides Roe she disagrees with. Considering conservative opposition to much of the Supreme Court's modern constitutional jurisprudence, her non-answer not only underlines her lack of preparedness, but can't make conservatives too happy.

    I do not count myself among those who believe Palin is stupid or even poorly educated, but she is very clearly way out of her league, and not nearly prepared to be one (septuagenarian) heartbeat away from the presidency.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    September 15, 2008

    Financial Times to Dems: You're in a hole. Stop digging.

    Posted by: Kevin

    Ftdems_inholeClive Crook, of the Financial Times of London, joins in urging the Democrats to stop digging themselves deeper in the hole their in:

    For Mr McCain to win the election against the odds that faced him pre-Palin – with the economy in the tank and the incumbent Republican president setting records for unpopularity – would be sensational enough. For this to happen because of his vice-presidential pick, a decision that is usually of next to no consequence, beggars belief. The Democrats had to bring all their resources to getting themselves into this fix. They proved equal to the task. ...

    Certainly, the Democrats can see they are in a hole. Somehow, though, the word has gone out: “Keep digging.” Mr Obama is also urged to be less cool and lose his temper. Voters adore an angry candidate, you see. “Dig faster, and be more angry,” is the advice coming down from the political geniuses who decided it was a fine idea to laugh at Ms Palin in the first place. A recurring television image in the past few days has been the split-screen contrast between a serenely smiling Republican operative and a fulminating red-faced Democrat about to have a stroke.

    Efforts to smear the governor proceed at a frantic pace. ... Of course, they will find things. They may even find something important. But the sheer swarming zeal for trivial malfeasance and family embarrassments is rapidly raising the bar for impropriety. I think that many voters – and not just committed Republicans – find this whole spectacle disgusting, so on top of everything else Ms Palin is now getting a sympathy vote.

    Democrats will deny it, but they opened this new front in the culture war by their response to the Palin nomination. The mess they are in is their own fault. They still seem intent on driving significant numbers of women and moderates over to the other side and Mr McCain’s political instinct is doubtless to help this rift in the electorate widen further. It could be a winning strategy. But good politics is not the same thing as responsible leadership. I intend it as a compliment to Mr McCain when I say that if his means to victory in this election is to divide the country, it is a victory he should not want.

    Read the whole piece.  Crook is not a GOP fan at all, but a very incisive British observer in Washington.  I'm still undecided in this election.  And I think that unless things change direction in the Obama camp, this will indeed be another 1988 and not another 1980, no matter how I vote.  Frankly, Crook is speaking for me when he says many voters find the current spectacle disgusting.  I'd hoped this would be an unprecedentedly issues-driven, honorable race.  Now, I'm tuning out.

    If you're an Obama fanatic, it does your cause no good to continue operating in a fog of denial.  Pull yourselves together, people.  You're blowing this election.

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    Filed in: McCain , Obama , Palin

    September 14, 2008

    Memo to Democratic activists: you're missing the point, and you're blowing it for Obama

    Posted by: Kevin

    A little unsolicited advice for my friends on the anti-Republican side (termed so from the explosion of negativity they ushered into the discourse on the day after the Democratic Convention).

    Stop blaming Barack Obama for the sinking prospects of his ticket -- and your vain hopes for winning the election without a real fight.  Stop crying about racism or unfairness or "two Americas".  Stop turning Sarah Palin into a martyr to millions of suburban white women and rural working class Americans (who didn't back your guy in the primaries, mind you).  Stop questioning the sanity and the intelligence of half of your country.

    And listen up.  Time is running out.

    You want to earn this election, or simply caterwaul all the way to the finish line and blow it yet again?  Well, go back and watch the greatest hits of Obama's thundering primary speeches and tweeze out the most salient political messages which set him apart from Hillary Clinton more than anything else.  He called for an end to exactly what you're doing right now.  He promised to end the division in this country and unite people behind a broad mandate for change.  He promised to bring radical change in tone and spirit, embodied in his own face, mind and life experiences.  And he appealed for -- and rightly earned -- the nation's respect without regard to his young age, his relative lack of experience, or his race.

    And the day after Obama's crowing triumph at becoming the party's nominee, you suddenly veered into an out-of-control orgy of hateful, negative attacks on Sarah Palin that became so thick, so noisy and so ridiculous that nearly all of the undecided voters out there (who will decide this election) quickly tuned you -- and the media, for the most part -- out.  Now, whatever real and genuine criticism that can be leveled at her is being ignored by a chunk of voters whose backs got up fast, and who saw someone in Palin that they could relate to, both in her strengths and in the attacks leveled against her.  An impressive and confident wife and mother being disrespected, talked down to, underestimated, ripped apart with vicious intensity -- even martyred.  (You'd think politically saavy and experienced African American or gay activists would get it and see it, and knock it off.)

    Folks - from a purely Democratic partisan point of view, you are creating a political monster here, and you're revealing how unprepared you were to win over the middle.  Indeed, your contempt for the very voters you need on your side to win is showing.  And the "elite" label will stick if you keep it up.

    So many pro-Obama commentators (most of them white) are carrying on about the "sea of white faces" in the GOP convention hall.  I just watched Palin's speech again.  What I saw was a sea of white female faces.  Mostly older.  Yes - the same faces who opposed Obama in the primaries in many vital states you need to win in November.  And if the delegate opinion polls were any indication, these were not your Republican church ladies of yore.  They were quite a bit more diverse than ever.  I also noticed some old white male faces -- Senators, governors -- smiling and clapping a bit nervously.  I saw a sort-of-downcast Newt Gingrich, despite his follow-on hackery in support of the ticket.  Those old bulls saw the wild reaction in that hall - and it wasn't a bunch of Pat Robertson acolytes down there screaming.  It was a whole lot of women, full of energy, who in some state parties have been itching to take over.  It was something that must have unnerved those guys, too.  It might be another patented McCain fuck-over.

    This year should be favoring the Democrats, and the issues should be deciding everything.  And yet you've turned this into a clash between two sets of change-agents, and an ugly one at that.  You're ruining Obama's strategic narrative, and you're giving a woman you claim to be unqualified a set of knee-guards and a sharper sword in the battle against you're own guy.  And she's winning the first round!!

    You really think Obama is better on the issues, and better qualified?  Good.  Then stop acting like high school children and talk about the issues like adults.  Stop making fun of her hair, her clothes, her family, her accent and her church.  Stop inventing nonsense, and mauling her teenaged children.  Stop being that nasty elitist pack of snots that the Republicans are saying you are.  You're managing to take up so much airtime that Obama himself is finding it hard to break through the noise.

    Take a look at this video from a BBC docudrama on the rise of Margaret Thatcher.  And before you roll your eyes and screech about the comparison, just take a look.  And you'll see how the men (and women) in Britain who had their heads up their asses in all political quarters turned her into the political giant she became, simply by underestimating her, and all the folks out there like her in the electorate.  Whether she was right or wrong politically in your judgment, you have to admit that all of her opponents (until her own downfall after an historic 11 1/2 year reign) were eventually crushed under her heels from the moment she grabbed the nation's attention.

    Watch, and learn.  Or lose.

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    Filed in: Palin

    September 10, 2008

    Party on the verge of a nervous breakdown

    Posted by: Kevin

    Women_on_the_verge_of_a_nervous_breThere is no question that Barack Obama and his senior aides ran an astounding primary campaign, right through to the nomination acceptance speech at the end of their triumphant convention in Denver.  Obama broke out of the pack early on, raised a gigantic amount of money, and took on the Clinton machine head-to-head.  He fought off endless efforts to smear him, both on the internet and in the media, and didn't relent.  Even in his announcement speech, he upstaged the establishment and dominated the scene whether he'd won or lost that day.  Against the odds, he made history on several fronts, not the least of which being the first African American nominated for President of the United States.

    I celebrated his victory over Hillary Clinton, and all that her cynical, soulless borg came to represent.  To me, a Hillary victory would mean the Democratic Party would be "assimilated" into a cynical enterprise meant to serve the Clintons and their Ideology of Me, weakening the party at a time when gays are dangerously - perhaps fatally - dependent on its flagging interest in delivering on our issues.  I agreed fully with the heart and the spirit of the very first notable YouTube fan video for Obama, which portrayed his primary challenge as nothing less than a one-person revolution against a cowed and brainless mass, sitting agape upon having the thin TV screen of their droning and predictable psychodrama (starring Herself) shattered and destroyed.  Hope was alive.

    Obama's Denver acceptance speech was hands down the most electric and ballsy feat of political drama since the day in 1912 in Milwaukee when Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest in on the campaign stump and went on to give a thundering 90 minute speech anyway.  Obama will be remembered for the 80,000 cheering fans, the fireworks shooting into the sky, the stagecraft, the music and the iron confidence he showed in himself, despite being the insurgent.  And every African American alive today and for the next hundred years will be able to say that the glorious history of that moment was fully honored and fully inhaled by the nation for time and memorial.  It was, in all sincerity, spectacular.

    But I sat down and read Obama's speech without the fanfare, putting aside the history around his race and the stirring artistry of the scenery.  It was, as the Associated Press rightly pointed out, very light on specifics, despite promises that it would have many.  Most people I know who watched the speech can't remember a single line from it today.  Obama needed to unite his party, yes.  That was definitely achieved.  But he also had to make his case to the vast number of undecided or skeptical voters who, like me, would put aside the historic and visual implications and pay attention to what he actually said and stood for.  Was he really so different?  Was he really bringing "change" that was more than skin deep?

    He didn't break out for me in Denver.  On foreign policy, it was all meringue and no candor or recognizable philosophy.  On education, it was essentially no-child-left-behind-plus-Americorps.  On energy, it was embarrassingly light on comprehension and almost identical to the current policies of George W. Bush (who is pouring money into R&D on biofuels, campaigned on clean coal technology as early as 2000, and is protecting the corn ethanol industry like Obama wants to do).  On taxes, it was about raising them.  And on the issue of gay equality, there were a couple of placating words but, in terms of policy, only a vague reference to hospital visitation rights.  (Noted lesbian reporter Karen Ocamb noticed, and raised an alarm on this.)  Ironically, McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt said about as much to a placated room full of Log Cabin activists in Minneapolis as Obama said in that stadium to the nation.

    To me, this points to a larger weakness in the campaign's central strategy.  Obama is still campaigning as the insurgent despite being the nominee and the presumed President-to-be, given the horrendous approval ratings of the Republican lame-duck.  This is a mistake.  He hasn't yet made the vitally important leap to statesman and "presidential", not in my mind and not in the mind of many undecided Americans. 

    He seems to have thought he'd just shift his insurgent campaign against Hillary to an insurgent campaign against George W. Bush, and simply win the election.  It was exciting in the primaries, at least for us non-Democrats or for new voters, and not for any cynical reason.  I truly like Barack Obama.  I admire his communication skills and his flair for the emotional, the dramatic, the inspirational -- all of which is sorely lacking in honorable U.S. politicians.  I envy his charisma.  To be honest, there were moments a few months ago when I really wanted to be in his corner all the way.  But I was waiting for him to close the deal.  It didn't happen.  And with the ever growing scale of his production values, I grow more doubtful that a deal-closer is there behind the curtain.  (Still time to prove me wrong.)

    Then I looked at the Denver performance again on my DVR and realized I was seeing something interesting.  The agape faces of the Democrats.  The happy, satiated activists.  They had a new psychodrama to latch onto, a new giant jumboscreen to watch.  So what that it was now starring the man who demolished their last one?  They were in their seats again.  Mouths open.  That's what they always wanted.  They didn't need to hear specifics.  They just needed the right lyrics to go with the music.

    I need more than that if you're going to ask me to toss aside nearly everything I believe on every issue besides gay rights and vote the way you say I must.  In the words of Madonna, I've heard it all before.

    And then, the unexpected game-changer.  Sarah Palin happened to Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Aside from what it actually meant in reality, in terms of the Democratic psychodrama it was a sudden, horrifying, Hurricane Katrina of a different sort.  Something suddenly went awry inside their heads.  (Indeed, speaking of hurricanes and kookiness, several noted Democrats publicly likened the arrival of Hurricane Gustav to God's punishment of the GOP that weekend.  Jerry Falwell would be proud of them for that - and it was surreal to hear it coming from their lips.)  And rather than spend the next week sitting back, confident that their man was more than up to this pitiful challenge to him, it seems that much of the party's activist wing began to quickly descend towards a nervous breakdown as independents began to break hard for the McCain-Palin ticket in most polls.

    Obama's faulty strategy hasn't helped him.  He had to leave the stadium and lightshows behind and close the deal, but he's flailing now.  The ridiculous boomlet over his "lipstick" remark was notable not for whether he intended to liken Palin to a pig (I say he didn't), but for the speed in which so many fell for the agile McCain reaction and recoiled.  That was a red warning light that needs to be heeded.  It was one of those bizarre moments where Obama pulled a Bill Clinton -- he said something really stupid (perhaps too candid about his true feelings of contempt?  I hope not) and seemed to almost know it a moment later.  Then he added a metaphor about a stinking fish, and maybe compounded the error.  That this was the only line of his stump speech that got attention that day is a glaring reflection of his failure to move with the shifting direction of this campaign (and he blamed the media for it), and how there is much more going on in the body politic for which repetitive doses of "hope" and "change" rhetoric aren't enough.  If Obama doesn't change strategic direction soon, a whiff of Dukakis will be in the air.

    And the crack-ups going on among the activist base, on glaring display across the internet in the last two weeks, is a troubling sign of the Democratic Party's deeper institutional hollowness that Obama's victory has not addressed.  This party is not ready for prime time if this is all they've got coming out of Denver.  And intelligent people of high note on the blogosphere seemed to go loco and wallow in the lowest depths of conspiracy theories and smears.  The alarm among cooler heads was such that Andrew Sullivan, for instance, had to post a note to readers acknowledging their "concern" and to say that he is "absolutely fine".  It was only days after seeming to demand that Palin submit to a maternity test to prove that her youngest child was her own (he has since backed off such crazy talk).

    Camile Paglia, a partisan Democrat herself, said it best:

    The witch-trial hysteria of the past two incendiary weeks unfortunately reveals a disturbing trend in the Democratic Party, which has worsened over the past decade. Democrats are quick to attack the religiosity of Republicans, but Democratic ideology itself seems to have become a secular substitute religion. Since when did Democrats become so judgmental and intolerant? Conservatives are demonized, with the universe polarized into a Manichaean battle of us versus them, good versus evil. Democrats are clinging to pat group opinions as if they were inflexible moral absolutes. The party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances.

    Some of the charges, exaggerations and pure inventions about Sarah Palin were so loud, numerous and deafening that they seem to have backfired egregiously.  The waters are so muddy and polluted now that undecideds are refusing to believe almost anything being said about her, and any rightful critiques or discrepencies in her record or statements are being painted with the same broad brush of mistrust as the crazy talk.  For a party that has long -- and rightly -- denounced such campaigning to turn so ferociously, chaotically and ineptly to the same tactics was a jolt in the face of Obama's sunny and uplifting style.  And it leaves the undecided voter cold and cynical about whether there is anything about them that has "changed."

    And the fact that simply by writing all this, I will probably be subject to a volley of truly hateful comments says even more about what is going wrong with Obama's quest.  There is still far too much window-dressing and preaching to the choir, mixed with a really shocking level of sleaze from the activists that must be driving Obama crazy.  Perhaps it's because he knows that so long as it continues, voters like me (the ones who will decide this election) will see no difference between him and the Republicans, and when the artistry and emotion is wiped away, he is dead even with John McCain -- and maybe won't hold up.

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    Filed in: DNC , McCain , Obama , Palin

    September 08, 2008

    Log Cabin's McCain mistake revisited

    Posted by: Chris

    Johnmccainsketch Just as I expected, Kevin has made by far the strongest argument I've seen anywhere in favor of the Log Cabin endorsement of McCain-Palin. His general point is that the decision was necessary for Log Cabin to retain any influence within the Republican Party, and to preserve access in a McCain White House.

    Fair enough. I certainly understand that motivation and guessed as much before they announced the endorsement. Also, I will defer to Kevin's far superior knowledge about the control (or lack thereof) that GOP presidential nominees have over the platform process.

    Still, before I respond to Kevin's argument, a word about motives. Kevin says he "can only speculate as to why [I've] been on such a tear" about the Log Cabin endorsement, although he believes I was motivated by "truly want[ing] more progress in the GOP" because I know he knows "as absolute fact that [I don't] want Log Cabin to fail."

    Of course he's right on both counts -- I believei that I recognize more than most gay non-Republicans how critical support from the GOP will be to hastening our full equality under the law. I regularly defend Log Cabin in part because I know how critical they will be to bringing the GOP around. In fact, that's precisely why I went on "such a tear": because I see Log Cabin mishandling what should be an enormous opportunity, not just to its own detriment but to the movement's as a whole.

    Kevin agrees with me that Log Cabin needs to raise the bar each election cycle, and yet he somehow misses that in reality LCR set the bar in roughly the same place as 2004 and only infinitesimally higher than way back in 2000.

    Eight years ago, Kevin reminds us, "Karl Rove did meet with Rich Tafel face-to-face at the 2000 GOP convention, and came to an agreement on a number of items in return for an endorsement, [but] he never -- EVER -- would have given a speech before our organization that convention week." Kevin doesn't let us in on what "items" Rove agreed to, and we've got no indication what "items" McCain's camp signed off on -- so comparison there is rather difficult.

    The only visible difference we can see between eight years ago and now is the brief public appearance made by two McCain campaign officials at Log Cabin meetings during the convention, as well as the official credentials LCR received in St. Paul. Do those differences really amount to raising the bar -- commensurate with the growth in support for gay rights in general, and among Republicans in particular? It certainly doesn't to me.

    Kevin portrays these mini-advances as achievements made in spite of the non-endorsement four years ago, bu I would argue that's got the politics backwards. The LCR refusal in 2004 served notice that an endorsement this time around was no sure thing, and the McCain camp had to worry about a repeat, along with a series of press appearances that to distract from wooing moderates and independents.

    Most disappointing for me, however, was Kevin's failure in almost 1,800 words to say anything at all about how McCain in reality failed to chin even the meager bar that he says Log Cabin set for presidential candidates this cycle: opposition to a federal marriage amendment.

    To make their case, Log Cabin and Kevin are still reaching back before this campaign season to a time when McCain fervently opposed an amendment as "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." That's ancient history, as they know far too well. A fair and objective assessment is that McCain is at best "conditionally opposed" or, I would argue, "conditionally in favor" of amending the nation's founding document to ban states from marrying same-sex couples.

    As I've written until blue in the fingertips, McCain has been backing away from his opposition to a federal amendment throughout this campaign season, just as he backed away from condemning the Pat Robertsons of the party as "agents of intolerance." McCain's slow-motion flip-flop climaxed last month in pledge to support a federal marriage amendment if even one judge rules the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

    My issue with the Log Cabin endorsement isn't just the way it papers over what is supposed to be its line in the sand. I think those inside the Log Cabin bubble -- and those who spent years there -- underestimate their own potential to influence the party and the debate. Kevin would measure LCR's political power by the size of membership rolls orby the number of gay Republican voters.

    They're forgetting the percentage of committed party activists -- like Republican delegates -- and GOP-leaning who are sympathetic to gay rights.  Not to mention those who see scapegoating the gays as a sign of Republican intolerance and judgmentalism, however they feel about gay rights itself.

    If Log Cabin were to play it's P.R. cards more effectively, it could play a major role in defining whether Republican candidates -- at whatever level -- are perceived as hard core conservatives or those of the "compassionate" variety.

    That's why I think Kevin is off base in imagining Log Cabin would have been "declared finished" if it had "endorsed McCain by press release and gone home" to fight Proposition 8 in California. To the contrary, if Log Cabin had withheld its endorsement and done the media rounds to explain why, the media would have eaten it up -- just look at the press the hardcore Hillaryites got. The message would be clear thata candidate like McCain will pay a serious price for opposing every form of gay rights protection ever proposed, and backing away even from opposition to a federal amendment.

    Instead, I'm afraid, the take-away message for GOP politicians and operatives is the one I took last week: opposing our equality doesn't really matter, even if like McCain the record is grossly out of touch with Republicans generally, so long as they say a few placating words.

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    September 04, 2008

    Tracy Flick for vice president

    Posted by: Chris

    SarahpalinconventionCount me among those not particularly impressed by Sarah Palin's speech last night at the Republican National Convention. I do understand why the delegates went ga-ga for her and why Kevin loved it.

    Considering all the hits she took in her short time in the spotlight, the feisty speech served notice she can give as good as she gets. Palin is an engaging public speaker, certainly more effective than John McCain and those who preceded her at the podium last night.

    For Republican partisans and others turned off (or envious) of Barack Obama and his adoring masses, the speech was a clear home run. A woman's softer delivery is better suited for using humor to mock and belittle because it doesn't come off as mean-spirited -- so long as it isn't shrill.

    Annrichardsconvention To that extent, Palin's dismissive tone about an opponent she seemed to pity more than dislike harkened back to Ann Richards' legendary stemwinder against George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Democratic convention. ("Poor George, he can't help it if he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.") Then and now, the anti-elitist rhetoric was the perfect red meat for energizing the base.

    I was a Republican back in those days but at least interested in what the other side had to say. I remember laughing along with Richards -- how could you not like her? But in the end, all those raucous applause lines Richards delivered so well had done little to convince undecided voters to ditch Bush (despite his frighteningly unqualified running mate), much less pull the lever for Michael Dukakis. I would say the same about last night.

    That's my sense about Palin's speech, which included surprising little substance about the economic issues that will decide the election.  She did, at least, come off as a more formidable campaigner than Dan Quayle, though she wind up as tarnished by scandal as Geraldine Ferraro.

    Tracyflick What's more, Sarah Palin is no Ann Richards. Last night at least, she came off half as genuine and twice as smug. Andrew Sullivan absolutely hit the nail on the head when he compared Palin to Tracy Flick, the annoyingly smirky candidate for student body president that Reese Witherspoon played so brilliantly in "Election." (Speaking of annoying, it really rubbed me the wrong way to see Cindy McCain chortling along to Palin's shots at Obama, the supposed elitist. Talk about someone born with a silver foot in her mouth.)

    If that seems like way too many comparisons, it's because Palin remains an empty vessel at this point, partly because she's still unwilling to submit to tough questioning by the "media elite." (This weekend's Sunday talk shows will feature McCain on "Face the Nation," Obama on "This Week," and Joe Biden on "Meet the Press." Notice anyone missing?)

    Time will tell if I was off-base in my first reaction, thinking McCain had "blown the election" by selecting someone so clearly unqualified. At this point, I agree with those (including conservatives) who point out the Palin pick ultimately says less about her than it does McCain's reckless, knee jerk approach to decision-making.

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    September 03, 2008

    Take that, bitches

    Posted by: Kevin

    Palinrnc Tonight, I came in after a solid 36 hours of work (in the real world, where I have a job) to Mitt Romney droning through a speech that appeared to be written in 1980.  Thank God this was his exit from the stage for now, hopefully for good.

    Then I saw Rudy Giuliani speak, and was reminded why I fought, and marched, and campaigned, and bled for that man in 1993 and 1997 in New York's gutter politics with the kind of energy a 20-something activist has plenty of to spare.

    And then the speech of the night.  I spoke to my 68 year-old mother, a registered independent, who was born in New York and lives in a swing state today.  She voted for Hillary in 2000, and again backed her this year.  She was in love.  My sister, who lives around the corner from Mom, who is Palin's age, is a soccer-hockey-baseball-wrestling mom who sleeps about 5 hours a night and drives a minivan, and was on her feet.  My dad, the only registered Republican of the bunch of them, who said to my horror in 1984 that a woman could never handle being President, said he thinks the "other three should step aside and let her do it."

    I say this purely as someone who did politics and campaigns for a decade, and not even a voter or a white guy or a right-handed vegetarian or a homosexual or an itinerate anti-car pedestrian: from what many very clever Democrats (and some temporarily whacked-out bloggers) have done to turn her into a monster, and what some marginally lunatic trolls on the internet have tried to do to her children, the speech given moments ago by Sarah Palin ought to send a chill down your spine tonight.  She represents an America you apparently don't realize is out there, and you'd better get with the program if you don't want to blow yet another election.  This is not Dan Quayle you're dealing with.  That's obvious now.

    And aside from everything that has been said about her record (and what yet might be said by her on the campaign trail), and this was only round one of a two-month long campaign ahead, I can tell you -- I agreed with every word, comma and period in that speech.  I am really, really undecided now.

    More later.  I'm on fumes, and I'm going to bed.  (Chris, you'll have to wait for the tome on the LCR endorsement.  But I think I've hit some of the points already right here.  We'll talk about the issues in a bit, but read through the blogosphere and you'll see why about a million gay Republicans feel a kinship with Sarah Palin tonight.  Emotion cuts both ways, ladies.)

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    September 02, 2008

    Log Cabin's big McCain mistake

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATES embedded and at the end of the post. Be sure to refresh your browser because I've added in quite a lot.


    Is political insanity running rampant among Republicans these days?

    First, John McCain threw good sense to the wind and tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate, even though she is untested and astonishingly unqualified to be one septuagenarian heartbeat away from the presidency.

    Now Log Cabin joins in the fall foolishness by going forward with an endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket without even waiting to ask, much less get answers, about the Alaska governor’s unknown views on a range of issues important to gay Americans. We only learned today, for example, that she opposes hate crime laws.

    (UPDATE: LCR told Reuters it is taking "a wait and see approach with Gov. Palin about her views on gay issues." Huh? A bit late for that at this point.)

    My understanding is that Mike DuHaime, the McCain campaign's political director, thanked Log Cabin from the podium today at the group's luncheon. That's encouraging, though let's see if there's any acknowledgment from the podium of the convention itself. Then again, why wouldn't the political director say thanks? The LCR nod helps confuse voters into believing McCain is a "compassionate conservative" on social issues, and he had to do next to nothing to get it.

    (UPDATE: DuHaime told Congressional Quarterly the Log Cabin endorsement is "very helpful" because McCain is "running an inclusive campaign." I rest my case.)

    It’s as if our gay Republican friends forgot the basic politics of the carrot and the stick. Now that McCain and Palin are happily chomping away on the endorsement carrot that Log Cabin could have kept dangling in front of them, all they’re left with is the stick. With apologies to my friends among their number, including my beloved co-blogger Kevin, gay Republicans aren’t exactly known for carrying a big stick.

    With the Log Cabin endorsement in hand, the pressure is off Palin to commit either publicly or privately to what some accounts suggest is her “openness to anti-discrimination legislation.” If McCain is elected, inside support from Palin might be the best shot at avoiding a veto of workplace protection, since the “inclusive” senator from Arizona has voted against such legislation multiple times.

    Cynics will no doubt see the rushed endorsement as a desperate ploy by Log Cabin to gain entree into the GOP’s “big tent,” a concept that gay and pro-choice Republicans have demonstrated a much greater commitment to than has the rest of the party.

    Ridgeliebermanmccain Witness how McCain picked Palin after he was forced to bypass his first two choices, Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman, because social conservatives vowed a floor fight over their selection solely because Lieberman is pro-gay and both favor abortion rights.

    This two-issue litmus test gives no credit to the eminent qualification and political advantages of both: Ridge, a former Homeland Security secretary, was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state, and Lieberman, a longtime Connecticut senator, was Al Gore’s running mate and has broad appeal among independents, conservative Democrats and Jewish voters.

    Yet these same conservatives are ecstatic about Palin despite her obvious weaknesses because she chose not to abort her fifth child after learning he’d be born with Down’s Syndrome. (It also mattered not that this special-needs child is still an infant and requires far greater attention than Palin could give as vice president or president.)

    (UPDATE: After reading the early comment train to this post, I officially regret including the above parenthetical about Palin's infant son. Not because I think I was wrong, but because it's a total tangent from the rest of the post.)

    Pete Kingma, Log Cabin’s board chair, defended the endorsement by claiming McCain enjoyed “overwhelming support” among members. Listening to the grassroots is a good thing, and no doubt some gay Republicans will conclude that non-gay issues outweigh McCain's opposition to every form of gay rights legislation ever introduced at any level of government. But a record like that ought to preclude official backing from a gay rights group like Log Cabin.

    The national board's decision not to endorse President Bush four years ago divided Log Cabin's members and donors, even though he had pushed for a federal marriage amendment. Even so, a rushed decision to satisfy internal critics who insist on a litmus test based on party affiliation is exactly what Log Cabin has for years rightly criticized the Human Rights Campaign and gay Democrats of doing.

    Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon insists McCain earned the nod by opposing Bush’s marriage amendment:

    Sen. McCain showed courage by bucking his own party’s leadership and the president – twice voting against the amendment. He gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, calling the amendment "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans."

    Sammon’s statement is most remarkable more for what it leaves out — for one, McCain’s opposition was entirely based on states’ rights, not support for legal recognition of same-sex couples. He even appeared in TV ads backing an amendment to his home state’s constitution that was so extreme – banning gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and even D.P. benefits – that Arizona voters rejected it back in 2006.

    Sammon also neglects to mention that for awhile now McCain has been backing away from his opposition to a federal amendment, and he pledged last month to back an amendment if even one judge rules the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

    McCain’s motive is transparently political, considering that DOMA itself is profoundly “antithetical” to states’ rights, since it requires the federal government to completely disregard those states that recognize gay relationships, and allows sister states to do likewise.

    It’s no surprise, then, that even though McCain controls an overwhelming majority of delegates, he went along with a Republican platform plank saying that to “preserve our children’s future,” the country needs a federal amendment to block marriage and “other arrangements equivalent to it,” meaning civil unions.

    When McCain completes his inevitable, slow motion flip-flop, he will actually be worse on gay issues than President Bush.

    (UPDATE: Sammon told Reuters that "Sen. McCain is no George Bush when it comes to gay issues. We are much more optimistic and enthusiastic about Sen. McCain." Why is that? President Bush has never said how he feels about non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation. Despite veto threats from his staff, there was some indication he might have signed ENDA or the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill if they had passed the Democratic Congress after certain limiting amendments.)

    Log Cabin has made a big deal of its “productive” relationship with the GOP nominee's campaign, which they hope will translate into White House access if McCain is elected. Declining to endorse might risk that door slamming shut, but going along to get along sends the more dangerous signal that opposition on the issues doesn’t matter so long as Republicans answer the phone when Log Cabin calls.

    NOTE: Sammon offered one other justification that's worth noting, praising McCain as "a different kind of Republican" from those who "use divisive social issues in an effort to win elections." That whopper is deserving of its own post, so stay tuned for that…

    UPDATES: Sammon exaggerated McCain's record even more in an interview with CNN:

    He’s a very inclusive Republican, a different type of Republican. At the same time we have honest disagreements on some issues.

    "Very inclusive"? "Some issues"?! Does Sammon qualify as a "partisan hack" at this point, Kevin? ;)

    And this in the same CNN report from Log Cabin member David Valkema, a director of a fine arts foundation in Chicago:

    He's teachable.

    Exactly where does Valkema see that in McCain's decades-long record of opposing every form of gay rights legislation?

    Have these good folks forgotten entirely how they gave George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt back in 2000 and got royally burned as a result? Do they realize how much more they are giving to McCain than he has or will give back to them?

    Shame on Reuters, by the way, for reporting Sammon's praise for McCain "not inflaming passions around the issue of gay marriage," then noting "proposals to ban same-sex unions will be on the ballot … in California and Florida" and failing to mention McCain gave his public support for the California measure.

    I've also yet to see a single MSM press report that notes how McCain has backed away from his opposition to the federal marriage amendment.

    This from Roll Call:

    The nod is significant not just because it allows the party a semblance of unity between its socially conservative and moderate wings but also because Log Cabin is announcing its decision earlier than it has in any recent presidential election. … Four years ago, the group made its non-endorsement [of Bush] by the end of September. In 2000 and 1996, the group endorsed Bush and former Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), respectively, after the GOP conventions.

    With this history in mind, Log Cabin's early nod this time around is even less defensible -- especially since Sammon says they're taking "a wait and see" attitude toward Palin.

    This important nugget courtesy of Marc Armbinder:

    A CBS News / New York Times poll finds that 48% of Republican delegates support either gay marriage or civil unions for gay people.

    With very encouraging numbers like that, Log Cabin ought to have raised the bar on what it takes to win their backing, especially considering McCain opposes absolutely any form of recognition, including largely symbolic domestic partnership registries by local governments and not-so-symbolic D.P. benefits by any level of government or public universities and the like.

    Jimmy LaSalvia, director of programs and policy for the Log Cabin Republicans, told Reuters  yesterday in the video interview below that Sarah Palin's "priorities are our priorities," and "if being anti-gay was a priority for her, we would know about it."

    This is the problem with rushing to endorse, Jimmy, since Palin actually indicated in a 2006 questionnaire to the conservative Eagle Forum that her No. 2 priority as governor would be "preserving the definition of 'marriage' as defined in our constitution." That definition, of course, was established by a 1998 ballot measure that amended the constitution to overturn a preliminary ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court that excluding gay couples from marriage violated equal protection.

    LaSilvia also credited Palin (in a mainstream press interview, no less) for her D.P. benefits veto without any mention of her reluctance to do so, her opposition to any benefits for same-sex couples or her support for yet another constitutional amendment to accomplish what the bill she vetoed legally could not.

    Alas, the "fall foolishness" continues unabated…

    Another video interview, this time Patrick Sammon on CNN.  It's actully less bad than the other MSM interviews Log Cabin has done, but that's not saying much. Sammon corrects anchor Soledad O'Brien's suggestion that McCain supports a federal marriage amendment but (a) never answers her central question about why the nominee who controls the delegates allowed a platform plank to contradict his supposedly fervent opposition, and (b) never acknowledges how McCain has backed away from his opposition on the issue.

    The big problem here, of course, is that Sammon does a huge disservice to gay rights by misrepresents McCain as a "much different Republican" than President Bush, when in fact he is worse than the president on issues besides the amendment (i.e., non-discrimination and hate crime laws, and Bush has spoken somewhat approvingly of civil unions, which McCain would ban, along with domestic partnerships and D.P. benefits by public entities). Hat tip: Rebecca Armendariz/Blade Blog

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    More Palin problems

    Posted by: Andoni

    Mccain_eyes_shut Drip, drip, drip.

    When Senator John McCain chose and then introduced Sarah Palin as his running mate in Ohio, he stressed how she was a reformer who fought against Washington pork, just as he had. Well, in addition to the "bridge to nowhere" pork she sought and then accepted money for as governor which I posted  on yesterday, today's Washington Post  details another $27 million in earmarks (pork) which she lobbied for and got as mayor of her small town of Wasilla when she was mayor. That's over $1000 for every resident.

    As mayor, Palin was so into federal pork, that she hired a lobbying firm to get federal money. This is not the modus operandi of a fighter against pork.

    McCain introduced Palin as his compatriot against wasteful government spending. There is nothing wrong with that so long as it is true. But what we have is a myth. They are trying to tell us that red is blue and think that we are too stupid to notice.

    As I noted in Reckless and hypocritical, McCain's decision to pick Palin was hurried and based on impulsive instinct, not careful judgment. Today's New York Times reveals just how little vetting Palin underwent before McCain announced her.

    In the most important decision to date for him in this campaign, McCain demonstrated how he makes important decisions. It is not a model I want to see for anyone sitting in the Oval Office.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    September 01, 2008

    Sarah Palin's lies

    Posted by: Andoni

    Palinmccain UPDATE at end of post.

    It's been only 3 days since Senator John McCain introduced us to his chosen running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. During that time several public lies have come to light vis a vis Palin's political career.

    The first lie relates to her words after McCain introduced her in Dayton, when she said she opposed the infamous "bridge to nowhere." She claimed that opposition as the basis to portray herself as a Republican who opposes earmarks or pork projects. The problem is that Palin strongly supported the "bridge to nowhere" when she was running for governor in 2006 and then accepted money for it. Only after the bridge got negative publicity and Congress decided not to continue funding it, did she voice opposition to the project, but in more of an expedient "you can't cut our funding, we don't want it" manner. Of note is that she gladly took the pork money already funded for the bridge and built a road to where the bridge was supposed to be. Andrew Sullivan jokingly calls this the "the road to nowhere."

    The second lie relates to her attempt to get her brother in law, a state trooper going through an ugly divorce with Palin's sister, fired , using her influence as governor. She initially denied any involvement of her office in the incident, that is until tapes surfaced linking in her office to the attempt.The whole episode is under investigation and a full report is expected a few days before the November election. Of note, is that Palin fired the state police chief after he refused to summarily dismiss her brother in law. In my mind this is a real abuse of power. The circumstances of what her brother in law did are irrelevant. If what he did was wrong or bad, she should have used legal means to challenge him.

    Finally, is the accusation that the Trisomy 21 (Down's Syndrome) baby that Sarah Palin and her husband have publicly proclaimed as their 5th child is really the child of her daughter Bristol. (It was just announced today that Bristol is pregnant as a 17 year old unmarried teen.) See UPDATE at the end.

    However the facts eventually turn out for this Trisomy 21 baby - and at the moment with the UPDATE it looks like the baby is hers, at best Sarah Palin showed utter disregard for the welfare of her "about to be born child."

    You can read all the circumstantial evidence that the baby is really Bristol's, not Sarah's here. Note in UPDATE this story has been walked back.

    Let's assume Sarah's story is true. According to Sarah her water broke at 4 am while she and her husband were in Dallas for a conference. As a physician, I can tell you statistically, that for a 5th pregnancy, when the water breaks the baby is coming very very soon and you should get to a hospital ASAP. Additionally, this was a high risk birth because it was a special needs baby (they knew this). To complicate matters further, the water broke early. Certainly they should have gone to a tertiary care medical center that has a neonatal intensive care unit. Dallas has many hospitals that fit this bill. But did Sarah go to a Dallas hospital? No, she decided to give her speech later that morning. After that, she got on an airplane and flew 8 hours to go to Alaska.

    Ask any obstetrician if someone whose water breaks in the 8th month and is carrying a special needs baby should get on an airplane and fly 8 hours, and he will tell you that that would be reckless behavior. It could also be considered malpractice (by the mother) ........ against the baby. These are not the actions of parents who claim to love a baby so much.

    The plane landed in Seattle (which also has great hospitals) and then in Anchorage. Instead of going to the closest hospital in Anchorage which is a tertiary care facility, she drove 45 minutes more to go to a rural, non tertiary care hospital that does not have the facilities that she could need due to the early term birth or the special needs a Trisomy 21 child might have.

    So what's going on here? Is this "right to lifer" totally irresponsible with the life she is about to give birth to and claim they love and want so much.....or is she hell bent on rendezvousing at the rural hospital where her daughter is in labor or has already given birth so Sarah, not the daughter can be the one to emerge from the hospital with the new baby?

    From a medical point of view if Sarah's story is true, she acted totally inappropriately for the welfare of her baby. Her actions do not match her professed words of love for that child. But from a logical point of view, her irrational actions give credance to the rumors that flew on the Internet.

    UPDATE: Fellow blogger Kevin emailed me that the Daily Kos considers the story that the Trisomy 21 baby is really Bristol's ended with the surface of a photo of a clearly pregnant Governor Palin. So my post should be re-titled "2 Lies and one bad behavior." Also, Barack Obama has issued a statement today that he does not want the privacy of Bristol invaded after her mother Sarah Palin today announced that Bristol is pregnant. He said people's family's and people's children are off limits.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    August 31, 2008

    Log Cabin's big decision

    Posted by: Chris

    Mccainpalinhug All signs point to a forthcoming Log Cabin endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket, which would be profoundly disappointing from a group I believe is committed to the struggle for gay civil rights and equality.

    As much as my co-blogger Kevin predicted "gay Democratic hacks" would exaggerate Sarah Palin's mixed record on gay issues, the nation's largest GOP group is so far playing the same game:

    Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon
    She's a mainstream Republican who will unite the Party and serve John McCain well as Vice President.  Gov. Palin is an inclusive Republican who will help Sen. McCain appeal to gay and lesbian voters.

    Log Cabin spokesperson Scott Tucker
    Sen. McCain’s choice for Vice President, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is a smart choice on many levels.  She unifies the GOP across the spectrum.  Plus, Gov. Palin will help appeal to disaffected Hillary supporters.  Also, so-called “pro-family” groups love her because she’s solidly pro-life. …
    But, let’s remember one thing: pro-life doesn’t equal anti-gay. Her record on gay issues is unclear, but it’s not anti-gay and news reports say she has expressed sympathy for gays who face discrimination.  In 2006, she said she’s “not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay.” Her record doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to support pro-gay issues, but it indicates she’s an inclusive leader who isn’t a bigot. …
    The only decision she made as governor affecting gay people benefited our community.  In late 2006, many social conservatives wanted her to sign a bill that would’ve blocked benefits for the same-sex partners of state employees.  She vetoed the bill.  Though she disagreed with the Supreme Court order that directed the state to offer the benefits, she said the anti-gay bill was unconstitutional.

    Tucker at least acknowledges Palin disagreed with the Alaska Supreme Court ruling that denying gay government workers equal benefits violated the state constitution, but he leaves out that also she opposed granting the benefits as a policy matter -- a different and more question than the constitutional one. That's especially the case since the Democratic-controlled Congress will likely pass a bipartisan bill (praised by Log Cabin) that would extend D.P. benefits to federal employees.

    Our gay Republican friends at GayPatiot, frequent critics of Log Cabin, are even more ebullient and appear no more interested in scrutinizing Palin's record:

    Gay Patriot
    Just as I couldn’t imagine me disliking the Obama ticket more after he picked Biden, I’m shocked to now find myself EXCITED about McCain’s pick and Vice President Sarah Palin.  I almost can’t believe that he has done it.

    Gay Patrot West
    Sarah Palin is anything but a Bush Republican. And we gay Republicans have something to cheer in her record. Shortly after taking office, she vetoed legislation that would have prevented the state from providing benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.

    Another prominent gay Republican blogger, BoiFromTroy, is refreshingly skeptical of her overall qualifications and does a good job of analyzing her on the issues (details in his post). But ultimately he, too, sets a pretty low bar:

    Boi From Troy 
    So the person with the most executive experience of any Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate is a 44 year-old woman who served as Governor of Alaska and Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin. … Regrettably, [she is] about as progressive as a Republican can be on gay issues and be at the top-of-the ticket these days, but also makes me hope that Sarah Pallin can be persuadable if need be.

    There are still important blanks to fill in about Palin -- on a whole range of issues, but on gay rights as well. Although Log Cabin credits "news reports" that she's "open" to non-discrimination laws to protect gays, all I've seen so far was a Wikipedia entry to that effect, without any supporting citation. The reference has since been deleted from the entry.

    With those specific questions still hanging, there remains a much bigger question, for Log Cabin as a civil rights group and for gay Republicans individually: Is the McCain-Palin ticket one they can in good conscience support?

    Logcabinbigtentevent As much as Log Cabin wants to be a part of the GOP "big tent," I cannot see how this ticket has earned their endorsement. McCain has a full record of opposition to every form of gay rights legislation -- state, federal or local -- ever introduced.

    The only thing that separates him from George W. Bush, who Log Cabin under the leadership of former president Patrick Guerriero declined to endorse, is McCain's opposition to a federal marriage amendment.

    That's old new, unfortunately. Even though McCain said during that 2004 Senate debate that such an amendment is "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans," this month the GOP delegates he controls voted in favor of a draft party platform that backs it. At the recent Saddleback forum, McCain softened his own opposition, saying he would support amending the U.S. Constitution if even one federal court concludes the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

    Surely Log Cabin requires more of a presidential candidate than such weak, conditional opposition to the FMA, especially since McCain is on the wrong side of every other gay rights issue.

    Richtafel Consider that none other than former Log Cabin leader Rich Tafel, who along with Guerriero and my co-blogger Kevin is most responsible for the group's prominence, publicly supported Barack Obama during the Democratic primary. Kevin has also had very positive things to say about Obama, if less so recently. Rich and Kevin haven't yet said whether they prefer Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin and no one expects Log Cabin to back a Democrat for president. Still, endorsing McCain isn't the gay GOP group's only option. 

    With so little in McCain's record or positions that merit praise, Log Cabin has made a big deal of trumpeted its "productive" relationship to the McCain campaign, pointing out that it netted a personal meeting between Sammon and the candidate himself back in June. Putting aside that the campaign initially said the meeting was unplanned and coincidental, an open door is nonetheless important. If McCain is elected, Log Cabin might well be the only gay rights group with White House access.

    Log Cabin's leaders no doubt worries that open door will slam shut if they decline to endorse, but still they should consider the very real cost of going along to get along. It sends the message that whatever their opposition on the issues, Republican politicians need only answer their phone calls to win their support.

    Considering the very justified grief that gay Republicans have given the Human Rights Campaign and other D.C. groups for confusing cocktail party access with real progress, that's not the message Log Cabin needs to send now.

    (Photo of John McCain and Sarah Palin via AP)

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    August 30, 2008

    What was he thinking?

    Posted by: Chris

    Mccainpalin What a day for my Internet service to be interrupted! Right after I learned yesterday that John McCain had basically blown the presidential election by picking a singularly unqualified vice presidential candidate, the signal cut off. I am overstating the point, of course, but what the hell was he thinking?

    My hat's off to my friend Kevin and others for trying to put lipstick on a pig, but McCain has just punted on the single issue that was most likely to beat Barack Obama. Sarah Palin is completely unprepared to be vice president, much less president -- and far, far less experienced than Obama.

    The only point the McCain camp can tout is her executive experience as small town mayor and, for two years, governor of a small population state. Even that can't compare to Obama's management of a massive undertaking like a presidential campaign. (Just ask Hillary Clinton.)

    Kevin is right about gay political groups grossly overstating the case against her on civil rights issues, although he's overstating the point himself to predict "press releases calling her the girlfriend of Satan and the most dangerous, hateful maniac in history are no doubt flying off the laser printers of gay Democratic hacks as we speak." A great turn of phrase, though!

    Our friends at the Human Rights Campaign wasted no time in labeling her "anti-gay" and "a fierce opponent of equality":

    “America may not know much about Sarah Palin, but based on what our community has seen of her, we know enough,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Sarah Palin not only supported the 1998 Alaska constitutional amendment banning marriage equality but, in her less than two years as Governor, even expressed the extreme position of supporting stripping away domestic partner benefits for state workers.  When you can’t even support giving our community the rights to health insurance and pension benefits, it’s a frightening window into where she stands on equality.”

    The truth, as Kevin points out, is far more subtle. Palin backed a 1998 state constitutional amendment that overturned a preliminary ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court on gay marriage, but then again, so did John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago. He nonetheless received a hearty endorsement from HRC.

    Gov. Palin also vetoed a bill that attempted to defy an Alaska Supreme Court ruling that gay state employees could not be denied health benefits for their domestic partners. She backed an advisory ballot measure on the question and made clear that she disagreed with the court decision but ultimately abided by it:

    "We may disagree with the foundation [of the court decision]," she said, "... but our responsibility is to proceed forward with the law and abide by the constitution."

    Solmonese is right that it's a bit extreme -- and heartless, I would add -- to oppose health insurance coverage, especially since she claims to have many gay friends. After all, D.P. benefits are the norm throughout the private sector. But these days it's still something for a conservative Republican to respect the role of the judiciary.

    It's premature and a bit silly to label Palin "a fierece opponent of equality." (The blogs are a bit more bombastic, of course.) Unlike the man at the top of the ticket, Palin is said to be open to the idea of anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation, though I've yet to see a solid citation on that.

    With many reasons already to doubt Palin's qualifications and McCain's judgment for selecting her, it's entirely unnecessary to caricature her on gay rights.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    Reckless and hypocritical

    Posted by: Andoni

    Sarah_palin Call me shocked but not surprised by Senator John McCain's pick of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee.

    Palin would be a heartbeat away from the oldest president ever elected to a first term, and one who has had the most malignant form of skin cancer times two. Malignant melanoma can re-appear any time, any where, even years after a "cure."

    So let's get right to the readiness to be president issue. It is arguable that Palin has the same experience Barack Obama had 18 months ago when he first declared for the presidency. However, since then we have all watched Obama grow tremendously. For the past 18 months he has been vetted by the national media, tested by 20 debates, and been approved by millions of voters in all 50 states. He ran one of the most sophisticated and successful campaigns in history. You could say that his character has been tested and forged over the past 18 months by running the grueling minefield our country demands of future presidents and passing with flying colors. 

    Even if Palin is equal in experience to what Obama was 18 months ago when he began his campaign, McCain has chosen someone who 99% of America does not know and there are only 67 days to put her through the tests to become familiar with her and to determine if she is ready. This is impossible and demonstrates a carelessness on McCain's part. The fact that he only met her twice and is now vouching for her to all of America is reckless. If he had known Palin for years before he pulled her out of a hat and then vouched for her to America that she was ready, that would be an entirely different story.

    Furthermore, just as politicians criticize an activity that we later find out they themselves are doing (think Larry Craig, Elliot Spitzer), McCain now is a member of that club. For months he has been condemning Obama on the grounds that he is inexperienced, not ready, and untested. Now McCain does the opposite of what his words would indicate, and picks someone with less experience and readiness than Obama has. (By her own admission, she knows nothing about the Iraq War, and doesn't even know what the vice president does.) In addition, McCain attacked Obama for not choosing Hillary Clinton, the person who criticized him the most during the primaries, saying Obama could not stand to run with a critic of his because the criticism was true. Guess what? Mitt Romney criticized McCain most during the primary season and was the leading candidate for V.P. until the last minute. Could McCain not stand to take as his veep the candidate who was his sharpest critic? Another hypocritical moment for McCain.

    McCain has been described as a maverick over the years. I think this is a euphemism for "loose cannon" or even reckless, just as you would describe a spoiled brat child as precocious if you want to pretty it up a bit. Remember McCain is the guy who does whatever he wants regardless of the rules or conventions. He was a hell boy in the Naval Academy, breaking all the rules just to break them and barely graduated. Some think he graduated only because he came from a family of admirals and privilege. During pilot training he crashed 3 planes and was considered one of the worst pilots ever by his instructor. And in both his marriages, he has exhibited reckless, oh make that maverick, behavior.

    People don't really change that much over the years. You may wish to use the term maverick to describe McCain. However, I think reckless or loose canon is a better description --- and this latest episode makes me conclude that he really is not fit to be president.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    August 29, 2008

    Suddenly Sarah

    Posted by: Kevin

    SarahpalinlgWell, she's not Mitt Romney.

    But many Americans down in the lower 48 are asking themselves, who the hell is Sarah Palin?

    The Governor of Alaska is perhaps best known anywhere for having an approval rating of around 90% in her home state, which for any Republican these days is a remarkable achievement.  And Palin is 44 years old, three years younger than Barack Obama.

    And no matter who she is or what she believes on a full range of federal matters of interest to gay people, the press releases calling her the girlfriend of Satan and the most dangerous, hateful maniac in history are no doubt flying off the laser printers of gay Democratic hacks as we speak.  They will wisely leap on how unknown she is, and will burst into a chorus of screeching like the finger-pointing little girls in "The Crucible."  They saw Goody Palin with the Devil.

    What little I know about her is that she is a native of Idaho and a social conservative, but cut from the Alaska cloth in terms of her politics.  She is much more active in the pro-life movement, largely tied to the symbolism of her personal experience (she gave birth to her fifth son in April, who was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome early in the pregnancy). 

    On gay issues, there is a discordant mix.  Palin said during her 2006 campaign for governor that she has many close gay friends, and that she is "not out to judge anyone."  She used her first veto as Governor to strike down a law which would ban domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, effectively clearing the way for those benefits to be granted, when the state's Supreme Court found the measure unconstitutional.  She complied with the decision, but also said she would support putting the issue to the voters in a referendum.  "Signing this bill would be a direct violation of my oath of office," she said at the time.  In April 2007, 53% of the voters in Alaska gave their approval to putting the issue on the ballot this year, but the measure has not been put forward.  Palin also supported the state's ban on gay marriage in 1998, and said she didn't know whether being gay is a choice or not, but the exact quotes on those positions are not available anywhere.  All of this needs a lot more definition from Palin herself.

    However, for those who continue harboring a concern that Barack Obama does not have the experience to be President, Palin's resume is even thinner.  A year and a half in office as governor, and years of experience in civic politics before that.  No national experience and no foreign policy background.  The one area where she has some real gravitas is on energy policy, which is a crucial one in this election.  However, as those who doubt Obama's experience may persist in them, one could also argue that Obama's camp couldn't credibly lob the same criticism at the number two on the GOP ticket when their number one has the same problem.  McCain would win that draw in the minds of many.

    Palin was elected in 2006 -- an upset victory against better funded and better known candidates, on the worst year for Republicans in a generation.  For those who followed that race, she truly earned it.  At a time when the state's GOP establishment is sinking in sleaze - embodied in the now-indicted Senator Ted Stevens on corruption charges - Palin personally went public with her knowledge of a corruption scandal that involved the state's Republican Party chairman and the Republican state Attorney General, both of whom were brought down by the scandal, and she crusaded against much of the pork barrel spending that Stevens himself became famous for, including the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere".  All of this is in line with McCain's own reformist agenda, and she is probably the most successful maverick Republican in office.  Perhaps McCain will bask in her success, and the pick is more one of synchronizing attitude on reformist zeal.  Palin will also be a ferocious running mate, and an effective attack dog, if her upset 2006 campaign is any indication.  She will also spend her time going after every disaffected Hillary voter she can sink her nails into, especially in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Iowa and Michigan, among other states.

    I'll leave it to Log Cabin to do the grunt work of reaching out to Palin and McCain and reporting back to all of us on their progress.  Nobody else will have any hope of impacting the ticket.  Their endorsement is not a dead letter now, as Romney has been brushed aside.  The question is whether McCain wants to gain it, no matter which non-Romney has joined as his veep.

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