Monday, September 29, 2008


I never thought I would write these words: Thank you, Republicans.

The House defeated the proposed economic rescue package today, a bill that would have authorized unprecedented government intervention in the marketplace. While I agree that the U.S. needs a comprehensive plan to avert an economic disaster, common sense tells us that attempting to redesign U.S. capitalism in a little over a week--during an election season, no less--is absolute lunacy.

While the Democrats delivered their promised votes in favor of the bill, stalwart Republicans from across the country actually listened to their constituents, and defeated the bill. We are in uncharted territory in the financial markets, but rest assured, Democracy, at least, is still breathing.

The following choice statements from the House debate are courtesy of WWJ News Radio, Detroit.

Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., said, "I wish we had a president that had enough communication skills and enough credibility with the American people to convince them there is a real problem. Unfortunately that burden hasn’t been carried sufficiently by the administration. But I'm convinced that the odds are bad enough that if we don’t do something today we will regret it for a long, long time."

Standing in opposition to the bill, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., said the government intrusion into the free market marked would, like the Bolshevik slogan of "Peace, Land, and Bread," promise short-term prosperity at the sacrifice of liberty. "The people on Main Street have said they prefer their freedom, and I stand with them," McCotter said.

Likewise, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., said the bill failed to address the root causes of the financial crisis by neglecting to provide, among other factors, foreclosure relief. "Stability should come from the bottom up," she said.

"Why isn’t Wall Street paying for the mess they created?" Woolsey asked, suggesting a surcharge on stock trades. "We can raise $150 billion a year from those who caused this mess and profited from it."

She also questioned the wisdom of giving discretion over the use of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the outgoing administration.

"Why are we willing to even make available $700 billion to this administration? Bush and Paulson have been wrong from the start on just about everything. If you think they will be responsible with this money, think again."

"Like the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, this bill is fueled by fear and hinges on haste," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Tex., who noted the bill does not require Wall Street to pay even a dime in recompense. "All of us want to avoid further economic deterioration, but action or inaction today is a false choice.

"The vultures have now come home to roost," Doggett said.

Meanwhile, his fellow Texan, Republican John Culberson, blasted the legal protections impinging oversight of the Treasury Secretary's discretionary use of the funds. He suggested other means (including reducing the capital gains tax to zero) would work better.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who is opposed, said, "Just because this bill is unpopular doesn’t mean we have to pass it immediately."

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who called the current crisis "the financial equivalent of a heart attack," said the bill is not popular but is necessary.

"I know we're tempted to see this as just another train wreck of the Bush administration," said Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Penn., who said the crisis actually threatens constituents' 401(k)s, pension funds, the ability to borrow and establish businesses, and the security of community banks.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Tex., decried the bailout of "Wall Street moneygrabbers," and wondered why it is that, the bigger the business, the more government feels it should "swoop in and save them," whereas mom-and-pop business that make bad financial decisions just fail.

"They expect Joe Six-Pack to buck it up and reward this nonsense," he said. "It's sad time to be an American taxpayer.

"Wall Street should pay for Wall Street's mistakes," said Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., who said she was reluctantly opposed to the bill.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. denounced the "trickle-down" economics behind the bill, and called the mammoth funds involved "sort of like the financial surge strategy, and just like the surge going into Iraq we know it's not sustainable."

He also said the golden parachutes for executives were merely switched for "camouflaged parachutes."

"If we vote for this bill it is the end of the Reagan era," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., who called the bill a gift to Secretary Paulson's "friends," said it was merely a stop-gap measure that did nothing to prevent further economic catastrophe.

"This is a huge cow patty with a piece of marshmallow stuck in the middle of it and I'm not going to eat that cow patty."

"I have no matching metaphor," Rep. Barney Frank responded.

Rep. Maxine Waters D-Calif. said she was voting for the bill, but called for the prosecution of financial titans who violate the law and ignore their fiduciary responsibility. "We will tighten the screws on Wall Street."

Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn. said, "This is no longer about bailing out anyone; it is about trying to put together a plan that will do less harm than we would do otherwise by our inaction to every American's financial security."

Rep, Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. said, "We cannot continue to bail out with borrowed money."

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex. was angered that management of the assets purchased from failing banks would be outsourced "to the people who caused this problem.

"Let’s save America from Congress."

Many complained of the speed of the process, and the fact that hearings and committee deliberations were not held on the legislation. "We need to take out time on this," said Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich., who noted that the Senate will not be taking up the bill until later this week. "There is a better process. I hope that we can slow down this train. I urge a 'no' vote."

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he was offended when Paulson offered a three-page proposal asking for a bank account with $700 billion in it for him. "So what happened since then, we added 107 pages of taxpayer protection to this bill.

"This bill offends my principles but I'm going to vote for it in order to preserve my principles, to preserve our financial system." He urged others to vote for it, even though, "We're one month away from an election &30151; we're all worried about losing out jobs."

"The White House brought this to a crescendo, to a crisis, so that all eyes of the world are on Congress. It’s a heavy load to bear. We have to deal with this panic, we need to deal with this fear … and if we fail to do the right thing, heaven help us. If we fail to pass this, I fear the worst is yet to come."

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., said taxpayers had a gun pointed to their heads. "This isn’t legislation, this is extortion.

"Do you like ten trillion dollars of debt? With one stroke of the pen Congress will have extended that an additional trillion.

"Make no mistake: a vote for this bailout is a vote to ratify business as usual in Washington."

Like many speaking today, Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, praised Rep. Frank (the key House member in demanding alterations to the administration proposal) for his "noble work in being handed a pile of garbage and making it better."

But LaTourette said the taxpayer should pay for it. He also called for the repatriation of offshore funds.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the "staggering" cost of the $700 billion package was "only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country.

"They claim to be free market advocates when it is an 'anything goes' mentality," she said, saying the administration's budget recklessness turned around the budget surpluses of the Clinton administration, and if a crisis got so bad, "you will have a golden parachute and the taxpayer will bail you out.

"Those days are over. The party is over in that respect."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said $700 billion spent trying to save home could really stimulate the economy, "but that's not what this bill is about," as the Treasury secretary would not have power to stop foreclosures and keep people in their homes.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., called the legislation "the biggest corporate welfare bill in history," and said fear was driving members away from reason.

Rep. Joseph Crowley, R-N.Y., confessed, "Everyone is angry," but said companies and families will suffer from a lack of credit - and said financial executives should be given metal ankle bracelets and not golden parachutes.

Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., said she "simply cannot stomach" transferring wealth from Colorado families to the benefit of Wall Street figures "whose avarice and greed put us in this situation in the first place."

She also castigated Congress for failing to take seriously the crisis of gas prices this past summer, "and yet when Wall Street faced the consequences of its actions we worked around the clock" to bail them out.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said he was confident that the protections put in during negotiations would mean that taxpayers stand to get their money back.

Bachus said he was not willing to take no action. "I'm not willing to put that bullet in the revolver and spin it. I'm not willing to take that gamble. I'm not willing to pull that trigger because I'm not willing to subject the American people to the worst-case scenario.

"I will take the political risk but I will not take the risk on the American people and their future and their prosperity and their children and grandchildren."

Rep. Rose DeLauro, D-Conn. said, with the prospect of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, "I have a responsibility to avert it."

Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, "If anything we may have overdone the oversight, but none of us want to have underdone the oversight."

"When the markets go up, Wall Street cleans up; when the markets go down, Main Street gets cleaned out," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. "We must protect Main Street across this country: Vote 'yes.'"

In confronting the opposition to the bill, particularly from the left, and the compromise needed to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said, "Meeting a national crisis does not give us the luxury of doing everything we want.

"You have got to accept reality. I wish this was a bill that more reflected my priorities. I wish I could eat more and not gain weight.

"The poor people will get nothing if we don’t compromise," he said. "This bill can put in the president's hands the power to do good; please don’t throw it out."

Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio., admitted the unpopularity of the bill: "No one wants to be anywhere around it. I don’t want to be around it.

"These are the votes that we have to look into our soul and understand and ask, 'What is in the best interest of our country?'

"While imperfect, while not having everything everybody wants, I believe we have to vote for this bill and keep ourselves from the brink of an economic disaster that would harm all of our constituents."

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D- Md., called it "a day of consequence for the American people. This is a day of consequence to our country. This is a day when the Democratic leader, myself, rises to follow the Republican leader and they speak with one voice as America faces crisis. That’s what Americans want us to do.

"Why should taxpayers loan out their own money to solve a crisis brought on by someone else's greed? Because when it comes to our economy, none of us is an island; we're all bound together, in boom or bust."

"Inaction will result in greater pain for our people and our country," he said.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


What follows is the draft of the rescue agreement reached after hours of bipartisan negotiation this weekend. While it's certainly an improvement over the initial proposal, the devil, you could say, is still in the details.

All emphasis in the following document is from the Office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- Sept. 28, 2008



Significant bipartisan work has built consensus around dramatic improvements to the original Bush-Paulson plan to stabilize American financial markets -- including cutting in half the Administration's initial request for $700 billion and requiring Congressional review for any future commitment of taxpayers' funds. If the government loses money, the financial industry will pay back the taxpayers.

3 Phases of a Financial Rescue with Strong Taxpayer Protections

  • Reinvest in the troubled financial markets … to stabilize our economy and insulate Main Street from Wall Street
  • Reimburse the taxpayer … through ownership of shares and appreciation in the value of purchased assets
  • Reform business-as-usual on Wall Street … strong Congressional oversight and no golden parachutes


Democrats have insisted from day one on substantial changes to make the Bush-Paulson plan acceptable -- protecting American taxpayers and Main Street -- and these elements will be included in the legislation

Protection for taxpayers, ensuring THEY share IN ANY profits

  • Cuts the payment of $700 billion in half and conditions future payments on Congressional review
  • Gives taxpayers an ownership stake and profit-making opportunities with participating companies
  • Puts taxpayers first in line to recover assets if participating company fails
  • Guarantees taxpayers are repaid in full -- if other protections have not actually produced a profit
  • Allows the government to purchase troubled assets from pension plans, local governments, and small banks that serve low- and middle-income families

Limits on excessive compensation for CEOs and executives

New restrictions on CEO and executive compensation for participating companies:

  • No multi-million dollar golden parachutes
  • Limits CEO compensation that encourages unnecessary risk-taking
  • Recovers bonuses paid based on promised gains that later turn out to be false or inaccurate

Strong independent oversight and transparency

Four separate independent oversight entities or processes to protect the taxpayer

  • A strong oversight board appointed by bipartisan leaders of Congress
  • A GAO presence at Treasury to oversee the program and conduct audits to ensure strong internal controls, and to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse
  • An independent Inspector General to monitor the Treasury Secretary's decisions
  • Transparency -- requiring posting of transactions online -- to help jumpstart private sector demand

Meaningful judicial review of the Treasury Secretary's actions

Help to prevent home foreclosures crippling the American economy

  • The government can use its power as the owner of mortgages and mortgage backed securities to facilitate loan modifications (such as, reduced principal or interest rate, lengthened time to pay back the mortgage) to help reduce the 2 million projected foreclosures in the next year
  • Extends provision (passed earlier in this Congress) to stop tax liability on mortgage foreclosures
  • Helps save small businesses that need credit by aiding small community banks hurt by the mortgage crisis—allowing these banks to deduct losses from investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stocks

Saturday, September 27, 2008


It was a simple question: What do you think of this bailout plan?

Although the official subject of this first presidential debate was foreign policy and national security, let's not kid ourselves--Americans tuned in to hear at least one of the presidential candidates deliver a straight answer about how they intend lead this country--both Wall Street and Main Street--through the economic crisis.

It could have been a defining moment for either candidate--a chance to demonstrate that they are indeed an Agent of Change, a Maverick, or whatever else they might claim to be. McCain could have proven that he does have mastery over basic economics. Barack Obama could have proven that he is indeed a Washington outsider committed to reform.

Instead, both McCain and Obama acted like dime-a-dozen, poll chasing politicians, afraid of making enemies or losing votes. They resorted to sacharine rhetoric and empty promises. Vote for me! I can lower taxes, improve and expand government programs, and save the economy!

So what's next: All of the drinking fountains will pour chocolate milk?

Safe to say I am not the only Obama supporter who was sorely disappointed tonight. This was the moment he had been waiting for, a moment when his leadership was sorely needed, but instead, he took the safe bet. He leads in the polls--in particular on economic issues, and so he chose to take a soft stance on the bailout plan and hope for McCain to make a critical mistake.

Well, here's a news flash--McCain didn't make a mistake. He may not have scored a touchdown, but he didn't fumble the ball, either. In a race this close, a draw is a win for McCain, and Barack Obama may have squandered one of his opportunities to break away in this race.

As for the remainder of the debate, did either candidate say anything they haven't said a dozen times already?

Tonight, the burden of proof was on John McCain. Millions of Americans tuned in expecting him to implode, expecting Barack Obama to demonstrate that he can indeed be the leader America needs. The contrast between the two candidates should have been crystal clear. Instead, what we saw was a stubborn but experienced old man, and a young, overly confident upstart content to ride the polls. As different as they may be, both were a disappointment.

The real loser tonight was the American voter.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Finished with his political theater, John McCain is now ready to resume his campaign. He will travel to Oxford, Mississippi to debate Barack Obama tonight at 9 p.m. EST.

McCain's decision earlier this week to "suspend" his campaign to address the financial crisis may prove to the largest misstep of his campaign thus far. I understand his intentions--and perhaps he was actually acting in good faith--but the notion that he had to be present to contribute to the talks in Washington is absurd, and only seemed to complicate matters.

In trying to seem above politics, McCain ended up looking desperate and unprepared. If he suffers in tonight's debate, look for his campaign to justify his performance by claiming that he was "focused on what matters--the economy," or other such nonsense.

If McCain was so integral to these talks, I'd like to see him answer these four questions tonight:

  1. What is the number one risk of the proposed bailout plan?
  2. What is the number one risk of not passing the proposed bailout plan?
  3. What specific types of assets should the treasury purchase and why?
  4. What is your plan for protecting the long term strength of the U.S. dollar?
If John McCain can speak specifically to these sorts of questions, then we will know that he was actually doing his homework this week. If not, then we know that the "suspension" of his campaign was a total sham.

Barack Obama will be ready with the answers, guaranteed.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008


Barack Obama's economic game plan is sound, but in the coming days he faces the most important vote of his Senate career--choosing whether to support or to oppose the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout plan for Wall Street banks.

Obama has widened his lead in the polls recently, as voters have increasingly placed their trust with him on economic issues. Understandably so. The GOP is profoundly out of touch with the Main Street economy. Even in recent days, as the U.S. economy teetered on the brink, the White House announced its opposition to "The Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights," a house bill that would limit the ability of credit card companies to raise interest rates on consumers.

But the danger here is that Senator Obama will take advantage of his lead to take a soft stance on the massive, unprecedented bailout plan that not only adds a trillion dollars to the national deficit, but also undermines the very principles of free market capitalism.

Contact the Obama campaign, toll-free, at
(866) 675-2008. Demand that these three common sense provisions be added to the bailout plan.

  • Executives of companies who seek government assistance should forfeit performance bonuses and "golden parachute" severance packages until the companies are stable enough to repurchase the "toxic" assets.
  • Asset purchases by the U.S. Treasury must absolutely be subject to review by the courts.
  • Government assistance should be limited only to those companies headquartered in the U.S.
Forward this to any other supporters you know. Obama may have a comfortable lead over McCain on economic issues, but this is an opportunity for him to demonstrate true economic stewardship. The stakes could not be higher. Every one of Obama's ambitious policy plans, from tax relief to health care to public education, is contingent on a healthy federal budget. A $700 billion bailout for Wall Street would be the sort of budget buster that could cripple the Obama administration well into his second term.

Click below for Barack Obama's blueprint for changing the economy. It's a good start, but now is the time for more than tough rhetoric.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Barack Obama has surged to a 5 point lead over John McCain in the latest Gallup Daily poll. Following one of the most volatile weeks in Wall Street history, voters clearly doubt McCain's ability to steer the U.S. economy toward a recovery.

Legislators will meet next week to push through a multi-pronged government rescue effort aimed at calming markets and restoring investor confidence.

In the meantime, the Republican administration has essentially put free-market capitalism on a time out, bringing billions of dollars of private enterprise onto the U.S. balance sheet, and outlawing short sales of financial companies.

We'll see next week if this last-gasp effort on behalf of regulators helps soothe the markets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Listen to Barack Obama speak at length on the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, McCain flip-flops on bedrock Republican economic principals.

Do you feel better of now than you did eight years ago?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace on the Trail

Tributes are cheesy--and it's easy to imagine David Foster Wallace rolling his eyes at the slew of tributes being rolled out online and off today, but I just want to share some of the man's thoughts on the political process. If you make time for anything today, please read his 2000 Rolling Stone article, "The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys, and the Shrub: Seven Days in the Life of the Late, Great John McCain."

For those of you unfamiliar with DFW's prose, it may be a tedious read, but give it a chance, and I assure you that you will have a more empathetic, clear-eyed view of the 21st century political process.

DWF, a sworn enemy of the sound bite, would certainly not appreciate his writing being taken out of its original structure, but it's been happening all day, so if you're pressed for time, here are some brief excerpts:

...If you are demographically a Young Voter, it is again worth a moment of your valuable time to consider the implications of the techs' point. If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who are not dumb and are keenly aware that it's in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV Spring Break on Primary Day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote...

...Obviously, a real leader isn't just somebody who has ideas you agree with, nor is it just somebody you happen to think is a good guy. A real leader is somebody who, because of his own particular power and charisma and example, is able to inspire people, with "inspire" being used here in a serious and non-cliché way. A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think are good and want to be able to do but usually can't get ourselves to do on our own. It's a mysterious quality, hard to define, but we always know it when we see it, even as kids. You can probably remember seeing it in certain really great coaches, or teachers, or some extremely cool older kid you "looked up to" (interesting phrase) and wanted to be just like. Some of us remember seeing the quality as kids in a minister or rabbi, or a Scoutmaster, or a parent, or a friend's parent, or a supervisor in a summer job. And yes, all these are "authority figures," but it's a special kind of authority. If you've ever spent time in the military, you know how incredibly easy it is to tell which of your superiors are real leaders and which aren't, and how little rank has to do with it. A leader's real "authority" is a power you voluntarily give him, and you grant him this authority not with resentment or resignation but happily; it feels right. Deep down, you almost always like how a real leader makes you feel, the way you find yourself working harder and pushing yourself and thinking in ways you couldn't ever get to on your own...

...Now you have to pay close attention to something that's going to seem real obvious. There is a difference between a great leader and a great salesman. Because a salesman's ultimate, overriding motivation is his own self-interest. If you buy what he's selling, the salesman profits. So even though the salesman may have a very powerful, charismatic, admirable personality, and might even persuade you that buying really is in your interest (and it really might be) — still, a little part of you always knows that what the salesman's ultimately after is something for himself. And this awareness is painful ? although admittedly it's a tiny pain, more like a twinge, and often unconscious. But if you're subjected to enough great salesmen and salespitches and marketing concepts for long enough — like from your earliest Saturday-morning cartoons, let's say — it is only a matter of time before you start believing deep down that everything is sales and marketing, and that whenever somebody seems like they care about you or about some noble idea or cause, that person is a salesman and really ultimately doesn't give a shit about you or some cause but really just wants something for himself...

D.F.W. 1962-2008


A great American writer has passed.

A tribute here.

And here, David Foster Wallace's famous coverage of John McCain's 2000 presidential bid.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008



It's not often that I agree with Thomas Friedman, but today I do.

I confess, I watch politics from afar, but here’s what I’ve been feeling for a while: Whoever slipped that Valium into Barack Obama’s coffee needs to be found and arrested by the Democrats because Obama has gone from cool to cold.

I never agree with Jack Shafer, but these 10-questions for Sarah Palin are worth reading.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008



Friday, September 5, 2008


Cindy McCain's RNC outfit? $300,000!

Is she out of her f-ing mind?

The median price of a U.S. home sold in June, 2008 was $230,900.

And they want folks to believe that it's Obama who's an elitist?

What sort of ass-backwards dreamworld are the Republican talking heads living in?

Details here.


The madness of the RNC has left me reeling. Watching the fervor of the Republican crowd responding to such ruthless, cynical, and hateful rhetoric, I had to wonder whether the differences between Republicans and Democrats can ever be reconciled.

These conventions have been so polarizing. (Part of their purpose, no?)

I have to keep reminding myself that while I mock the RNC and consider about 99.6% of what was said there to be utter elephant dung, there are millions of Americans who watched the DNC last week thinking the same thing about my candidate and my issues.

Please excuse this morning's dopey prose. The coffee is still brewing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


At one point during Rudy G's RNC address, the entire crowd was feverishly cheering "Drill, baby, drill!"

Oh. My. God.


What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lip stick.

-Sarah Palin

I imagine Sarah Palin's RNC address surprised a lot of people. She and her entire family have suffered a week of relentless media attacks, yet tonight, she spoke confidently, assertively, and passionately in a major speech that accomplished four vital tasks:

  1. She defended herself, her family, her state, and her values.
  2. She aligned herself with small town, working class America. From this point forward, as far as the GOP will have voters believe, an attack on Sarah Palin is an attack on rural, working class American values.
  3. She vigorously attacked Barack Obama, rehashing his infamous "bitter" comment in San Francisco, mocking him as a celebrity, and furthering the claim that he is an elitist.
  4. She evoked admiration for John McCain, breathing fresh life into his P.O.W. mythology.
The bar for Sarah Palin was not set that high, and she took advantage of that fact tonight with a speech that most certainly defied almost all expectations.

The Democrats are in a pickle--Sarah Palin has circumvented their early attacks. She can level harsh criticisms against the Democratic ticket, and at this point, they can't do much to refute her without seeming to alienate an entire, vital demographic.

Sarah Palin created a persona tonight that will be a huge boon for the Republicans. This could spell danger for the Democrats if they don't find a way to neutralize her rhetoric.


The latest Gallup Daily Poll tracking the three day average from August 30th to September 1st shows Barack Obama leading John McCain by eight points, with 50% of registered voters favoring the Obama/Biden ticket.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008



The New York times reports today that John McCain may have been a little careless about vetting Sarah Palin before appointing her to be his running mate:

"Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin’s background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice."

A little hasty? You be the judge.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin: Dynamite, or Dud?

At several weekend gatherings, I had the chance to discuss Sarah Palin with a wide variety of progressive voters. The opinions I heard were all some variation of, Worst possible pick for McCain.

At the same time, I have to think that there has to be some method to this seemingly mad decision. I have to believe that the people in charge of such decisions must have more information than I do. So allow me to speculate on what I feel are the three major advantages of having Palin on the ticket.

First of all, Palin can mobilize disaffected voters and register new ones. The GOP can only count on a tiny handful of angry HRC supporters to defect to the Republican ticket. But there are thousands of Republican women who were probably going to sit on the sidelines for this election. Now perhaps they have a reason to vote. Ditto with evangelicals. Likewise, while the Democrats have seen surging voter registration, the Palin pick at least allows the GOP to try and recruit some young Republicans from college campuses around the country. This may be hard for some of you to believe, especially if you are reading this blog from one of the coasts, but I teach at a large, Midwestern university, crawling with thousands and thousands of young conservatives with energy to spare.

Secondly, Palin can make people pay attention. Before this pick, how many people were really going to tune into the Republican convention? How many were going to watch the Vice-Presidential debate? Palin is a strange, possibly foolish choice. But an exciting one for a lot of voters. This election just got a lot weirder (read: more historic) and millions of people will tune in to watch. Right now, the McCain camp needs every minute of face time that they can get with the American people, and Palin brings a lot of attention to the campaign--certainly more than Tom Pawlenty would have.

Lastly, Palin brings two secret ingredients to the ticket: Biography and Change. Presidential campaigns--particularly this one--are all about biography. Which candidate can we root for? Which candidate can we identify with? You might think that Palin might not fit either of these criteria--but let's face it, you are reading an Obama blog right now. Wrap your mind around the idea that there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who are thrilled with Palin, excited by the prospect of having someone in the White House who shares their values.

This election has been boiled down to one issue: Change. Until last Friday, if you wanted Change, you needed to vote Obama/Biden. Now, at least it appears, Republican voters can get that change without defecting from their party.

It may not be the sort of Change with a capital C that Barack Obama has been talking about for years now, but it's change nonetheless, even if only superficial change. For plenty of GOP voters, it might be enough to convince them that it's worth coming out to vote in this election. That alone could be dangerous.