Archive for the ‘George W. Bush’ Tag

Obama will likely have to give up e-mail as president

The New York Times has an interesting story saying that, after taking office, Barack Obama will likely need to give up e-mailing, which the BlackBerry toting Senator and candidate has hitherto relied upon heavily.

The story says that any e-mails will be subject to later disclosure and even subpoena under the Presidential Records Act (passed in 1978).  Also, there are security concerns; e-mail is subject to interception and hacking, and it wouldn’t be much harder to send an e-mail from his account while impersonating him.  Additionally, he’s going to have a lot less time to be e-mailing and following everything on his BlackBerry soon.

The article gives some other details on how Obama, as well as George W. Bush and Al Gore, has stayed wired and connected.  He and his staff have yet to reach a final decision on whether he really will give up e-mail totally, just the outgoing variety, or not at all.

Watch football on Monday to see who’ll win election on Tuesday

Everyone who thinks that the election is important should pay close attention to tomorrow’s Monday Night Football game, when the 6-2 Washington Redskins host the 5-2 Pittsburgh Steelers.  If Washington wins, John McCain is looking at an upset victory.  But if Pittsburgh prevails, Obama could be in for a big night.  Why?  Well, as my fellow Washington Redskins fans have probably heard, it is claimed that the result of our beloved franchise’s last home game before a presidential election presages the result of that election.  That is, when the Redskins win their final pre-election home game the incumbent, or his party, retains control of the White House; and when the Redskins lose so does the incumbent, or his party’s nominee.

I am a Redskins fan who has endorsed Barack Obama, which could lead to a state of dissonance tomorrow.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), the legend about the Redskins being proficient presidential predictors is not quite true—but it used to be.

If the Chicago Daily Tribune had watched the Redskins beat the New York Yanks, 59-21, they'd have never run that headline!

If the Chicago Daily Tribune had watched the Redskins beat the New York Yanks, 59-21, they wouldn't have misreported the 1948 results.

Snopes has the facts:  Since 1936, the Redskins first have correctly predicted, via the method described above, 17 out of 18 presidential elections—a success rate of 94.4%, which ain’t bad.  (Note that this counts the correct “prediction” in 1936 when the Redskins played in Boston and ignores the incorrect “prediction” in 1932 when they played in Boston as the Braves.  Apparently, it’s the Redskins part, not the Washington part, that’s important here.)  The one that they got wrong?  It was the last election; the Green Bay Packers beat the Redskins, which should have meant defeat for George W. Bush as well, but John Kerry was the one who went on to lose.

Of course, this whole thing is all coincidence—there’s no plausible causal mechanism in place and, given all the thousands of things that could be correlated with anything else, it’d be surprising not to find one that, due to happenstance, just happens to do so.  Therefore, I’ll have no trouble pulling for Washington tomorrow.  Hail to the Redskins!

My thoughts on Biden-Palin debate

The Vice Presidential Seal.  Who will get to use it post January 20th, Biden or Palin?

The Vice Presidential Seal. Who will get to use it starting on January 20th, Biden or Palin?

Like many Americans, I was very eager to see Joe Biden and Sarah Palin go head-to-head in the first and only Vice Presidential debate. Though the two are the Number Twos on their respective tickets, I have found the veep debate has been very much worth watching in both of the past two election cycles (I thought Cheney scored clear victories in both 2000 and 2004).

This time, to use a boxing analogy, there clearly wasn’t a knockout, nor even a knockdown; but I think that there were several solid blows landed, all of them by Biden, who I’d say won on points. He didn’t commit any gaffes, nor did Palin say anything really dumb. Without repeating things that the pundits have already gone over to death, here are some disparate observations of mine that haven’t been talked about (much) in the media. Please forgive the meandering format.

The first thing that struck me during the debate came when the candidates came out and shook hands. Palin asked her Democratic counterpart “Can I call you Joe?”, a request to which he apparently assented, though his mike didn’t pick up his response. I guarantee you that this was carefully planned and done for the audience at home, to play up the governor’s friendliness and make her seem down to earth. Do I have evidence? Yes: the transcript. The word “Joe” crossed Palin’s lips exactly two (2) times: once a reference to the average American “Joe Six Pack” and the other at the end of “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” which was probably her best line of the night.

Palin tried to paint Obama as a big tax hiker, a claim that I think Biden countered effectively, stressing that 95% of taxpayers will get a tax cut and that no taxpayer making under $250,000 would see an increase under Obama’s plan. He stressed the importance of helping the middle class and their importance to our economy and painted McCain’s tax plan as simply tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations. He repeated the point—effectively, I think—and parried the Palin attempt to paint the Democratic ticket as big tax hikers. His line that McCain’s health plan is “the ultimate bridge to nowhere” was pretty lifeless, though I guess he had to get that in there somehow to remind voters of Palin’s flip-flop on the bridge.

I think that Biden also effectively defended his ticket from the charges that they want to cut-and-run from Iraq or, as Palin put it, hoist “the white flag of surrender.” Delaware’s sernior senator pointed out that Obama’s plan for withdrawing from Iraq is pretty much the same as that of its Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and will draw down U.S. troops over about a year and a half. Biden’s best line of the night came after Palin talked about McCain’s exit strategy, or, as Biden put it, the lack thereof: “With all due respect, I didn’t hear a plan.” Personally, I think the plan is just to keep repeating the words “victory,” “Iraq,” and “McCain” together in the same sentence a whole bunch of times until voters simply feel that McCain will win the war while Obama will surrender somehow.

Throughout the night, Biden tried to tie McCain’s positions to those of George W. Bush, on both domestic issues and foreign policy and; he wanted to show that there was no difference between them the nominee and the, very unpopular, incumbent. One effective moment for Biden was when he brought up each of the globe’s current hot spots seriatim and asked how McCain’s views differ from Bush’s, with the clear implication that they don’t. [Note: FireFox’s spell checker doesn’t recognize “seriatim” as a word.]

Additionally, I was surprised to learn that we spend as much every three weeks on combat operations in Iraq as we have in the past 7.5 years in rebuilding Afghanistan. If this is true, that’s almost a good sign: it won’t cost that much to significantly increase our efforts to get that poor country on it’s feet. C’mon, guys, cough up the dough.

Did you know that the Vice President of the United States has his (or her) own flag?  Too bad it's nothing special.

Did you know that the Vice President of the United States has his (or her) own flag? Too bad it's nothing special.

On climate change, an area where there is some disagreement between McCain and his running mate, Palin admitted that it’s real and that there’s “something to be said for man’s activity” in causing it, but she didn’t want to argue about the causes, just the solutions. Biden voiced what I was thinking at that point: without knowing the causes you can’t solve the problem! He pointed out that McCain has voted against alternative energy frequently and tried to make Obama look friendlier to renewables, though I don’t think he was as effective on the point as he could have been. “Drill we must,” he said, but it’ll take 10 years for that oil to hit the markets. Unfortunately, Obama’s plans—and any plans—for new technology will also probably have a time horizon of about a decade.

Joe Biden went toe-to-toe with Palin over how their family lives put them in touch with regular Americans, a possible strength for the truly and obviously middle class Governor of Alaska. Biden got genuinely choked up when talking about the death of his first wife and young daughter in a car accident that also critically injured his two sons. For a guy who has spent over a third of a century in the United States Senate, he doesn’t do too bad on the “seems like a normal guy” test.

Anyway, Palin beat expectations in the debate, but I don’t think by enough to make any real difference; vice presidential debates rarely do. To the surprise of no one, Biden’s answers on foreign policy were much more nuanced and contained more specifics and details. I didn’t get the impression that Palin’s on foreign policy questions had any depth to them, though she seems to have done a good job of studying her briefing books. I think she’s fortunate that the debate format didn’t allow for questions from the other candidate or for serious follow up questions from the moderator, either of which I think would have exposed her shallow grasp of the various issues.

She came off as being on message and my assesment of her political skills has accordingly gone up; she avoided a possible disaster and a bad performance from her in this debate could have been a mortal blow to McCain’s chances. But I still don’t think that Sarah Palin will make a good vice president at this point in time—she should have been groomed for higher office longer before being thrust onto the national stage. One thing they definitely should have worked on is her pronunciation of nuclear; she says noo-cu-lar, like George W. Bush does. That’s not a good sign.

The political futures markets have given a good sign to Barack Obama and his supporters, however. Following the debate, Intrade contracts on an Obama victory have risen to 67.0 and those for a McCain victory have fallen to 33.0, movement of about 4 points or so up and down, respectively. The chances that Palin will be withdrawn as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee fell in post-debate trading from 10.5% to just 4.1%. The chances that Biden will be withdrawn from his ticket only fell from 5.7% to 4.9%.

Anyway, the race goes on. The next presidential debate, which will be town hall format, will be held Tuesday night starting at 9:00 pm EST. The election itself will be held one month from today, on November 4th.

Obama pledges fiscal conservatism

Presidential candidate Barack Obama has vowed to make deep cuts in federal spending, if elected. He says he’d cut federal spending on contractors by 10%, saving $40 billion; spending on contractors has increased from $203 billion in 2000 to $412 billion in 2006, by 10%, saving $40 billion. He also criticized no-bid contracts, which presumably he would eliminate or greatly curtail.

“I am not a Democrat who believes that we can or should defend every government program just because it’s there,” Obama said at a rally in Green Bay. “We will fire government managers who aren’t getting results, we will cut funding for programs that are wasting your money and we will use technology and lessons from the private sector to improve efficiency across every level of government.”

“The only way we can do all this without leaving our children with an even larger debt is if Washington starts taking responsibility for every dime that it spends,” he said.

Though it is normally Republicans who talk tough about the budget, federal spending–including non-defense spending–has increased greatly during the George W. Bush administration. The budget he submitted in 2001 was for $2.0 trillion; the one he submitted this year is for $3.1 trillion.

John McCain has pledged to help the nation’s fiscal situation by aggressively going after wasteful spending, including earmarks. He has promised to make the authors of bad spending bills famous and to wield the veto pen with abandon, if needed.

Hopefully, whoever is elected actually does get the budget situation under control.