Archive for the ‘Sarah Palin’ Tag

Palin protected from the probing presence of the press

If this woman can't handle questions from the American press corps, do we really want her meeting with foreign leaders when it counts?

She can give a speech, but if this woman can't take questions from the American press corps, do we really want her meeting with hostile foreign leaders when it counts?

Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin visited with foreign heads of state yesterday and today, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and Pakistan’s newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari. Palin has accumulated little to no foreign policy experience so far in her political career and didn’t travel outside of North America until last year. This is her first opportunity to meet with foreign leaders.

The meetings are designed in part as a photo op, to show her meeting world leaders and thus enhance her foreign policy credentials in the eyes of voters. It is also to continue her crash course in foreign affairs ahead of the upcoming Vice Presidential debate with Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. To this end she also met with former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissenger.

The meetings have all been tightly choreographed and carefully controlled. Palin has taken no questions from the media. Initially, John McCain’s campaign wanted to exclude reporters even from the photo ops, in case they might overhear something worth reporting or maybe ask a question. However, the five major TV networks threatened to boycott the meetings and not broadcast the pictures and video if no reporter could be present. The McCain campaign relented; a journalist was allowed to be there, but not to ask any questions.

Today, the foreign policy crash course continued with Palin and McCain scheduled to meet with the Presidents of Urkarine and Georgia, Viktor Yushchenko and Mikheil Saakashvili, respectively.  They were also to speak with U2 singer Bono and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  Previously, Palin had cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as evidence of her international exposure and her foreign travel has been so scant that her campaign initially counted a touchdown in Ireland as a visit.  She has backed away from both claims.

Today, First Lady Laura Bush, while openly acknowledging Palin’s lack of foreign policy experience, characterized her as a “quick study.”  We’d better hope so.

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Obama up by nine in poll out today

Barack Obama is ahead by nine points, 52-43, over John McCain among likely voters in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.  Analysts credit economic worries with boosting Obama, who is trusted by more voters to handle economic affairs.

I suspect the numbers also demonstrate that the good will, intrigue, and buzz created when McCain picked Palin has been used up.  Her favorable rating is down and her unfavorable rating is up in these most recent polls.

The poll is, of course, bad news for McCain; neither Al Gore in 2000 nor John Kerry in 2004 ever cracked the 50% mark in the Washington Post-ABC News poll.  Additionally, only 9% of respondants rate the economy as good or excellent–the lowest number since 1992 when an incumbent president was tossed out of office.  McCain isn’t the incumbent, but he is near to it.  Additionally, only 34% of his supporters are “very enthusiastic,” whereas 62% of Obama’s supporters are.

Presidential debates

The first of three presidential debates between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama will be held this Friday, September 26th.  The Commission on Presidential Debates reports that the schedule is as follows:

  • First presidential debate: Friday, September 26
    Moderated by Jim Lehrer
  • Second presidential debate: Tuesday, October 7
    Moderated by Tom Brokaw
  • Third presidential debate: Wednesday, October 15
    Moderated by Bob Schieffer

The first debate will focus on domestic issues, the third on foreign policy, and the second will be town hall format featuring a variety of questions from citizens.  Conventional wisdom states that stakes are higher for Obama, whose campaign has been partly based on his ability to inspire people.  The two candidates have very different styles, as demonstrated at the Saddleback forum and the Public Service forum; both candidates spoke at both events, but did not share the stage.

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden will debate once, on Thursday, October 2nd.  Conventional wisdom is that Biden, a much more skilled and experienced politician, should outperform Palin, especially on foreign policy matters.  As with the first and third presidential debates, the candidates will be seated at a table with the moderator, Gwen Ifill.  All four debates will begin at 9pm EST and will last 90 minutes. 

The AP has an interesting story on notable presidential debates through history, “Hazards in a half century of presidential debates.”

Monday Miscellany: Fundraising, Palin, and the Pope

My previous miscellany entry proved to be popular, so I’ve decided to make it a regular staple of my blog. I’ll note interesting news items and articles throughout the week and then bring them to your attention with some comments of my own, usually on Monday, since I can get some alliteration going there. Though “Sunday Sundries” would also sound cool. So, check out the links for more interest on the items that interest you and please comment.

If he'd be as good a president as he is a fundraiser we should all vote for this guy!

If he'd be as good a president as he is a fundraiser, we should all vote for this guy!

While John McCain may have a slight, within-the-margin-of-error lead in the polls, Barack Obama raised $66 million during August, his biggest one-month haul yet. His campaign reports $77 million on hand and is not subject to limits on how much they can raise and spend since he refused federal funding, becoming the first presidential candidate to ever do so. McCain, on the other hand, is now committed to spend no more than the $84 million he has received from the federal government.

Over 2.5 million people have financially contributed to Obama’s campaign. OpenSecrets.org reports that through 31 July, Obama’s campaigned had raised $390 million, 96% of which is from individual contributions. With his haul from August, he’s raised $467,000,000. That’s more than the nominal gross domestic product of Vanuatu, Comoros, or East Timor.

The New York Giants and the New York Jets have broken off negotiations with Allianz, a German insurance company, for the naming rights to their new stadium due to the company’s significant ties to the Nazis and the Holocaust. According to Wikipedia:

Allianz insured both the facilities and personnel at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and the Dachau concentration camp. Allianz also provided accident insurance for engineers at the I.G. Farben chemical company, manufacturer of the Zyklon B gas used to exterminate 1.2 million Jews and others at the Auschwitz and Majdanek extermination camps during the Holocaust. Allianz also provided insurance to the Nazis for valuables seized from Jews prior to their forced relocation to the camps.

Additionally, several company executives served in the German government and were responsible for policies which terminated or denied payment of life insurance policies issued to Jews. The payments instead went directly to the Nazis. The issue is more sensitive in the New York City area than it perhaps would be elsewhere due to the regions many Jewish people in general and Holocaust survivors in particular.

More is coming out about Sarah Palin’s tenure as chief executive of Wasilla and Alaska. The New York Times reports that, as governor, she hired five former high school friends for high ranking jobs in the state government and that “the Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government.” They imply that Franci Havemeister, a former real estate agent who now makes $95,000, may not be qualified to run the State Division of Agriculture, her childhood love of cows notwithstanding. Some of Palin’s firing decisions may also have been politically motivated; in 1997, she fired Wasilla’s longtime city attorney, Richard Deuser, after he issued the stop-work order on a home being built by Don Showers, one of her campaign supporters. The article also provides examples of what they call extreme secrecy, like the wide use of personal e-mail accounts, not subject to subpoena and freedom of information laws, to conduct state business. Over 60 legislators and other Alaska and local officials were interviewed for the story, quite a few of which defend and support Palin. I highly recommend the article.

Pope Benedict XVI is visiting France where he held mass with an estimated 220,000 in attendance. France is, of course, a heavily Catholic nation–on paper, at least. Recent polls indicate about 51% of French people self identify as Roman Catholic, down from about 80% in the early 1990s. According to various, somewhat contradictory polls cited by Wikipedia:

  • half of French Catholics don’t believe in God
  • 17% of French Catholics don’t believe in God; and among those who do, most (79%) described Him as a “force, energy, or spirit” and only 18% as a personal god
  • 32% of French people are agnostic; 32% are atheists; and 27% believe in God
  • 34% of French citizens ” believe there is a God”; 27% “believe there is some sort of spirit or life force”; and 33% “do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force”
In Italy, it is illegal to insult this man. Why?  He occupies Saint Peter's chair, he can take it!

In Italy, it is illegal to insult this man. Why? He occupies Saint Peter's chair--he can take it!

Benedict has made challenging Europe’s increasing secularization a major part of his pontificate and France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, also wants the public sphere in France to be more open to people expressing religious belief. Sarkozy, due to a pair of divorces, is ineligible to receive communion.

In other Benedict-related news, Sabina Guzzanti, a popular Italian actress and comic, is facing possible jail time for insulting the Pope. Yes, according to Article 313 of the Italian Penal Code, it is illegal to “insult the honor” of the Pope and the Italian president. The offending remark, delivered at a political rally, was that the Pope would “go to hell and be pursued by two big, gay and very active devils” as a result of his views on homosexuality. Probably not helpful for advancing the public discourse on the subject, but hardly something a person should go to jail for. Thank God for the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Campaign developments

While it is impossible to say how much Palin’s selection has to do with it, new polls do seem to confirm that McCain has pulled even with or gained a slight lead over Barack Obama since the conventions ended.  The New York Times reports that Obama’s campaign is preparing to respond to recent McCain charges and to more strongly criticize the GOP candidate.

Obama has been put on the defensive in the past week by having to counter charges that his “lipstick on a pig” comment was a dig at Palin–a charge that even McCain surrogate Mike Huckabee thinks isn’t true.  It seems obvious to me that Obama was saying that just because McCain is now talking so much about change doesn’t mean that he would be able to deliver it: McCain is just changing the packaging, in other words.  “Lipstick on a pig” is an old expression and McCain used it himself to criticize a policy of Hillary Clinton’s earlier in this election cycle.

Obama has also had to respond to a McCain ad that implies that, while in the Illinois Senate, Obama supported a measure that would have taught kindergarteners “about sex before learning to read.”  The ad is very dishonest.  The measure in question included a parent opt out and all material would be age-appropriate; students in kindergarten would learn about inappropriate touching, not sex.  FactCheck.org has said, in no uncertain terms, that the ad is off base.

For information on what Obama has said about education matters, see my blog post here.

Gibson’s Palin interview

Charlie Gibson of ABC news has gotten the first and, so far, only interview with Alaska Governor and GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.  This is important since it is our first chance to see her answering tough questions, as opposed to giving prepared remarks.  Gibson apparently spend a full day with her and the interview itself is being released in installments.

Slate magazine thinks Gibson did a good job, though he didn’t closely follow their suggested questions. They say Palin was “flummoxed” by his question on the Bush Doctrine, which required her to be able to identify it. Apparently, the governor’s views on foreign policy are close to those of President Bush: she would be willing to launch a preventative invasion of another country–which is different from a preemptive invasion.  In another article, Slate correspondent Fred Kaplan characterized the governor’s answers as very shallow:

But it was painfully obvious—from the rote nature of her responses, the repetitions of hammered-home phrases, and the non sequiturs that leapt up when she found herself led around an unfamiliar bend—that there is not a millimeter of depth undergirding those recitations, that she had never given a moment’s thought to these matters before two weeks ago.

And why should she have? As governor of Alaska, nothing in her line of duties has compelled her to pay attention to such matters—and that is precisely the point.

The Telegraph has collected some excerpts on foreign policy questions here.  A longer transcript of the first part of the interview is available here.  Readers may also want to view some video clips of the interview, as some have accused Gibson of being condescending or sexist in his questioning.  Readers are encouraged to inform themselves and to make up their own minds.

Miscellany

Here are a number of quick new items that I have found interesting; hopefully readers will think likewise about at least some of the following.

Time‘s Michael Kinsley has a good article on “Sarah Palin’s Alaskanomics” that challenges how much experience she has with fiscal conservatism, even besides her early support for the “bridge to nowhere.”  The economy of the state has more to do with Alaska’s natural resources than with Governor Palin, but the details are nonetheless interesting. 

Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 2.5 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska‘s government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.

Alaska is, in essence, an adjunct member of OPEC. It has four different taxes on oil, which produce more than 89% of the state’s unrestricted revenue.

Former New York City mayor Ed Koch predicts that the “Election Will Hinge on Abortion Issue.”  He says that “the outcome of the presidential election will depend not on the economy, not on the Iraq war, not on the price of gasoline or the issue of national health insurance, but on the issue of the right to abortion.”  He credits McCain’s selection of Palin for making the abortion issue prominent in the race and says she’ll drive evangelicals to the polls just as Obama will drive more minorities, possibly leading to a high turnout election.  Koch will announce his presidential endorsement next week.

To our north, Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has dissolved his country’s Parliament.  To those not familiar with the terminology of parliamentary government, this simply means that he has called for new elections, which will be held October 14th.  Harper’s Conservative party has 127 seats, a plurality, in the House of Commons.  He hopes to gain an outright majority to form a more stable government without having to rely on any opposition parties to pass legislation. Some recent polls say Conservatives may win as many as 168 seats in the 308-member House of Commons, but Harper been downplaying the chances of this, publicly predicting another plurality government.

In other prime ministerial news, Japan’s PM, Yasuo Fukuda, has resigned.  This article has some interesting observations on how two decades of mostly weak and ineffective Prime Ministers have affected Japan’s position and relationship and role with their region and with the United States.  Not really touched on in the article is Japan’s need for some fundamental and painful economic reforms, which probably won’t happen without an executive with some clout. The upcoming leadership election likely won’t produce such an executive.

One of my favorite columnists, Gregg Easterbrook,  has a lengthy item (1356 words) on vehicle fuel efficiency and horsepower in the latest entryto his only partly football-related column, Tuesday Morning Quarterback.  Easterbrook writes that “Less horsepower would mean better fuel efficiency, diminished petroleum imports and lower carbon emissions … [and] would reduce highway deaths” by diminishing speeding and road rage.  He argues for government regulation, writing that:

Courts consistently rule that vehicles using public roads may be regulated for public purposes, such as safety and energy efficiency. NASCAR races occur on private property — there, horsepower is nobody’s business. On public roads, horsepower is very much everybody’s business. You’d be laughed at if you asserted a “right” to drive a locomotive down the freeway. Where is it written we have the “right” to operate an overpowered car that wastes oil and pollutes the sky?

In less important news, KFC is moving Colonel Sanders’s secret recipe.  Apparently, KFC literally has a piece of yellow notebook paper on which Sanders himself hand wrote the secret recipe; the paper is kept in a vault and will be moved while it’s security arrangements are enhanced.  Only two company executives have access to the whole recipe at any one time; people in their supply chain have access only to a small portion thereof.

In other fast food news, 54-year old Dan Gorske has eaten 23,000 Big Macs since 1972.  That works out to about 640 Big Macs per year, or about 1.75 Big Macs per day.  That can’t be good for you.  Gorske credits this feat to his obsessive-compulsive disorder, which also leads him to save every McDonald’s receipt.  The only day he hasn’t eaten a Big Mac was the day his mother died and he says that eating a Big Mac is the highlight of his day. No word on whether he’s considered the possibility that he likes Big Macs perhaps a bit too much.

In slightly more important news, Physicist Stephen Hawking predicts that the Large Hadron Collider, which will come online Wednesday, will not destroy the world.  He puts the chance of it creating microscopic black holes (which would not be dangerous) at less than 1%, but says “I don’t think there is any doubt I would get a Nobel Prize, if they showed the properties I predict.”  Hawking’s main prediction is that microscopic black holes would quickly “evaporate” due to so-called Hawking Radiation produced by quantum effects.  The physicist also doubts that the LHC will produce evidence of the Higgs bosun, which he doubts exists; he has put his money where his voice synthesizer is by making one of his well-known bets: he’ll lose $100 to Michigan University’s Gordy Kane if the Higgs exists.

Librarygate

It has now been revealed that, while mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin was interested in having some unspecified books removed from the Wasilla library.  She mentioned this at at least one city council meeting and broached the subject with the librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, balked.  Palin later gave Baker a letter of dismissal, for not fulling supporting her as mayor, but retracted it when the community rallied to support the librarian.  The matter went no further and no books were removed or banned from the library.

There is no indication in any story I’ve seen about just what books, authors, or topics Palin was thinking about banning.  Time‘s story on it just says that some voters apparently thought that some books had inappropriate language.

The American Library Association keeps track of challenges to books.  Here is a list of the 10 most frequently challenged books between 2000-2005 and here are the 100 most challenged between1990-2000.  It’d only be a guess, but it seems likely that the books that Palin was concerned with would be on these lists; most of the books in question were challenged by people with a socially conservative point of view, as opposed to a more liberal one.  Wikipedia also has a list of frequently challenged books, many of which link to articles about the books in question.

Palin picking process

Well, more information has come to light on Sarah Palin, Alaska’s governor and presumptive GOP Vice Presidential nominee  (previously blogged about here and here).  The most salacious detail is that Palin’s 17-year old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant.  This detail is newsworthy–but only barely–on account of the culture wars which often play a role in politics.  I’m sure the past few days have been terrible for her, and hopefully the press will leave Miss Palin alone henceforth.  That said, McCain has been vague about when and how he learned of the pregnancy, which, since it is potentially embarrassing, is the sort of thing a person needs to mention when he or she is being considered for the Veep spot.

The New York Times reports that the vetting process for Ms. Palin doesn’t appear to have been very thorough.  Party, government, and business leaders in Alaska report not having been contacted for information on her background, nor was a background investigation conducted on her by the government agency which normally handles that and did handle that for other possible candidates. 

The aforementioned article puts forth a good case that the vetting process for Palinwas woefully inadequate and that her selection was made at the last moment in an attempt to shake up the race and placate the social conservatives who have so much control over the Republican Party.  Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney would not have stirred things up enough, according to the Times article.

Apparently, McCain preferred either his good friend Joe Lieberman, Independent Senator from Connecticut who caucuses with the Democrats, or Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania and adviser to the McCain campaign.  However, both of those gentlemen are pro-choice on the abortion issue, and thus totally unacceptable to social conservative power brokers in the party.

Tom Ridge would make a totally kick awesome Vice President.  As indicated, he has a sterling resume: he was twice elected Governor of vote-rich swing state Pennsylvania, in 1994 and 1998, before resigning to become President Bush’s Assistant for Homeland Security and then as the first United States Secretary of Homeland Security.  He thus has experience as a chief executive at the state level and as an executive official at the Federal level.  He earlier served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983-95.  After leaving government, he has served on the boards of Hershey and Home Depot, gaining private-sector business experience. 

But, he’s pro-choice so none of that matters and we get a small state governor with 20 months of experience after being a small town mayor, who is now under investigation for possibly misusing her power.  This reminds me of the Harriet Myers nomination, which I opposed at the time and was glad to see withdrawn.  I’m also opposed to this nomination: Sarah Palin, despite her legitimate strengths and accomplishments, should not be on the Republican ticket.  She’d make a great convention keynote speaker, but she needs more grooming and experience for any higher office.  Her nomination is a gimmick; do you really think there is any chance she’d be the nominee if she were a man?  I sure don’t.

My best wishes to Bristol Palin, her fiance, and their unborn child.  Congratulations–and God bless.