Sunday, August 31, 2008

Good For Them

The Democrats' War Room..."dropped."

The headline: Democrats Drop ‘War Room’ at Republican Convention

Yes, the Democrats took the high road tonight and decided not to kick the GOP when it looked vulnerable, what with John McCain, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Laura Bush all canceling their speeches.

"ST. PAUL — Democrats in town to staff an aggressive “war room” operation during the GOP convention have instead laid down their arms as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast," so said the Associated Press.

It's the right thing to do. Instead of concentrating on something that isn't there (and being viewed as more interested in the St. Paul party than they are the Gulf Coast pain), they've decided to play smart.

This Should Be Interesting...

...or just plain ridiculous (again).

"Look at us! Look at us! We need attention!"

The ad above is being circulated/posted for every anarchist, Code Pink member, former Weather Underground bomber and angry! person to see. No word yet on the size of the crowd expected, but local police have been working hard to uncover the even less savory folk who'd planned to get really nasty. (Nice work!)

If the GOP scales back its party/coronation this week so that it doesn't evoke any additional bad storm-related feelings, will these folks do the same?

Extra: Sometimes there just ain't nothin' as fun as protests/street theatre. To get a flavor of what the protest folks have on their docket, I submit the following (honest-to-goodness) planned activities --
Wouldn't miss 'em for the world. How about you?

Extra! Extra!: In the spirit of "peaceful protest," I present some of my samples from the GOP convention in NYC four years ago.

Reporting From The Convention Media Center...

For the next four days, this will be the Media Center/Place of Repose for your humble correspondent. At least the GOP convention folks are setting aside rooms for bloggers. (Don't pay any heed to the fact that it's 10 miles from the Xcel Energy Center.

(I will try to snap random photos here and there to give you a little glimpse into what's going on in these parts.)

If you look carefully, you can see my room...with a beautiful
view of the Country Inns & Suites parking lot. (Obviously 5 stars!)

When you're talking feasts, well, it just doesn't get any
better than Mickey D's Steakhouse. (Conveniently located
in the hotel's parking lot! Bring on the cholesterol!)

Minnesota: The land of 10,000 lakes, including a few
in the parking lot. (Absolutely breathtaking, don't you think?)

Extra: Everyone here seems to be on tenterhooks waiting to see what Gustav brings to the Gulf Coast...and to the Twin Cities.

McCain Calls It Right

Where the delegates and I will be -- Gustav and John McCain willing...

No sooner did I land at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and I got the news: "the 2008 Republican National Convention announced substantial changes to the convention's program and actions being taken to help with Hurricane Gustav relief efforts."

Good call.

"It just wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster," McCain said in an interview taped Saturday with "Fox News Sunday." "So we're monitoring it from day to day, and I'm saying a few prayers, too."

Almost three years to the day that Katrina swept through New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, John McCain and his team showed, 1.) They learned the lessons provided by the debacle that was Katrina; and, 2.) They are interested in showing who is in charge.At a time when the GOP and the country needs a Reaganesque leader, someone strong who rides into town wearing the white hat...ready to throw out the corrupt and provide a vision for better days...McCain is trying to do that very thing. Whether he will be successful or not remains to be seen. We've got what looks like several hurricanes on their way and 66 days of stormy campaigning to weather -- first.

But McCain's made a good start: being seen as taking control of a party that has seemed adrift by bringing on Sarah Palin (who successfully took on the dirty pols in Alaska) and by taking charge of the convention; by showing voters that he is willing to live up to his campaign's slogan -- "Country First" -- by possibly postponing or at least toning down his Big Moment; and by already working/communicating with leaders of Gulf Coast states (aka: "The Affected States Working Group") to better understand the ongoing situation and help out wherever possible.

It will be interesting to see how Team Obama deals with Gustav. I'm sure he and/or Joe Biden will have access to Homeland Security Sec. Michael Chertoff as well as any of the Gulf States' governors and such. But you've got to wonder who is going to pull more attention -- and votes -- through all this (even if both handle the situation correctly). Who will carry more weight, the guy who called off his Confirmation Party and is already working with groups with impressive sounding names like The Affected States Working Group, or the untested newcomer?

Extra: FOX's Bonney Knapp, who is covering the Obama campaign, got some interesting responses from the U.S. senator from Illinois --

"Yesterday Barack Obama told reporters that he would not go to the hurricane zone to avoid taking away resources needed to evacuate the region facing Gustav’s threat. 'I think you all are aware of now that we have a very big, uh, tail,' Obama said, referring to the large entourage of press, staff, Secret Service, and local law enforcement that creates the 'Obama bubble.' He continued, 'Sometimes we can be a distraction in these kinds of situations…I will do whatever is required that is useful, but right now the main thing that’s useful us letting everyone evacuate out there now.'

This morning John McCain traveled to Mississippi - with his own “tail,” while Obama campaigned in Ohio - far from Gustav’s destination.

When asked if he thought the trip was appropriate, Obama gave him the benefit of the doubt. “A big storm like this raises bipartisan concerns and I think for John to want to find out what is going on is fine. The thing that I always is concerned about in the middle of the storm is whether we are drawing resources away from folks on the ground, because the Secret Service and various security requirements sometimes it pulls police and fire and other departments away from concentrating on the job. I am assuming that where he went that wasn’t an issue and we are going to try to stay clear of the area until things have settled down and then we will probably try to figure out how we can be as helpful as possible,” Obama told reporters in Lima.

The Obamas and Bidens keep an eye on Gustav from a diner in Ohio.

Denver Omelette Leftovers

The Mile-High Airport. (I'm in the far tent on the right...see me waving?)

Here I am in Denver, waiting for the second leg of my trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul to cover the GOP convention.

It's hard to judge what the Democrats' convention in Denver this week did to the city, but if the leftover souvenirs in the airport's shops is any indication, there must be one heckuva fire sale going on downtown.

Every concourse has corporate posters and signage welcoming the Dems to Denver, and the "please buy me!!" tables in front of the stores are stacked with convention t-shirts.

There do seem to be a few leftover delegates and protester-types making their final exits, but they are far, far outnumbered by the many military men and women transiting between home bases and outposts elsewhere.

I expect my next post will land sometime later tonight after I get into the Twin Cities and do a short stint on John Batchelor's radio show.

Extra: Upon arrival in Denver, I was surprised to see the news ticker on the waiting area TV proclaiming that Hurricane Gustav might never reach above Category 3. Let's hope for less.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sharpening Their Claws

Just a couple days after John McCain made history by naming Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the long knives came out.

Or should I say, the claws came out?

On Saturday, the New York Times' Gail Collins got, well, snippy (and only a media blueblood can) in her sniping at Palin.

Gail Collins -- a woman's best friend

Likewise, the eternally bitter Maureen Dowd took her shots at Palin and showed (again) why she has become irrelevant. Once upon a time, MoDo was The Read inside the Beltway, but no more. Sure, some of the oldtimers still chortle at her little digs and puns, but she stopped being funny -- and interesting -- around the time of the Louisiana Purchase.

Maureen Dowd -- If looks could kill, we'd all be dead.

It's perfectly understandable and respectable to disagree with candidates, policies and parties...but for Susan B. Anthony's sake you'd think some people would take a minute and appreciate the fact that a woman -- for whatever reason -- has made it onto a presidential-VP ticket. Why just a few days ago we were all being told that even if we didn't agree with Barack Obama, we should all revel in the fact that a black man finally made it to the presidential slot on one of the parties' tickets (I agreed...check out the first blog below). So where's the love for Gov. Palin?

Hugh Hewitt, in addressing the early excoriations of Palin, writes, "Scan the lefty blogs and you will see furious, even unhinged, attacks on Governor Palin. Which has to mean that the Obamians are unsettled."

Unsettled, indeed.

And like cats backed into a corner, they've got their claws at the ready.

The sign reads, "Columnist will write diatribes for food."

So Much For The Post-Convention Bounce


McCain/Palin 47%
Obama/Biden 45%...

The Gathering Storms

From The Sage of Manhattan: John Batchelor, one of the best at prognosticating on Things That Matter, is keeping a close eye on the Perfect Storm -- the simultaneously occurring GOP convention and two major hurricanes headed to the U.S. mainland..."John McCain has underlined the drama of GUSTAV by declaring that he might suspend the convention if the storm wrecks New Orleans and the coast. Landfall now projected to be Monday September 1. (And there is a second storm HANNA to the east, headed toward Florida's 25 electoral votes.) No celebrations while people are at risk and without power and security. In case any of the fifteen thousand journalists missed the lesson, John McCain is in charge and unpredictable. This would make history in the most Youtube precedent-minded of ages. There has never been a Republican convention suspended for a storm, or a war, or any sort of catastrophe."

John Batchelor, ready for any occasion -- stormy or formal.

While McCain and the GOP might be viewed as doing the right thing and handling a natural disaster better than what happened three years ago during and post-Katrina, the results will likely reach far beyond the Gulf Coast. No, it looks like the Perfect Storm this time could be about more than flooded cities, dislodged coffins floating down streets and looters running wild (with television news crews there to capture the scenes for posterity). This time the pain will be felt nationwide...and most likely by the McCain campaign. If Gustav and his sister storm to the east, Hanna, continue to interrupt oil production and eventually wreak havoc on petroleum platforms and refineries in the region then energy prices will probably jump. And that won't be good for the party in power...or its standard bearer.

Gustav: Coming soon to an oil rig -- or gas pump -- near you?

Extra: Adam Housley, one of the hardest working guys in the TV news biz is headed to hurricane country to cover the approaching storms. Housley, one of the unsung stars at Fox News, really made his mark covering disasters, conflicts and all of the exciting stuff that journalists dream of doing. I highly recommend watching him whenever possible on Fox or catching his blog (which he faithfully updates as he is able to).

Adam Housley -- another day, another disaster to cover.

What The Folks Are Saying...

The political shockwave that is Sarah Palin washed over America -- and the world -- yesterday, nearly obliterating the short-term memories of Barack Obama's acceptance speech in Denver the night before.

Twenty-four-hours-and-some-change later, the opposition and much of the mainstream media (granted, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two) have gotten back up, dusted off their frocks and put up their dukes for the next round(s) of action.

I still contend that John McCain's choice of Palin for the VP slot was a masterstroke. Will the momentum still be with us 67 days from now when the voters hit the booths? Hard to say. In today's world of the 24/7 news cycle, talk radio, and the Web and blogosphere even 24 minutes is a lifetime...nevermind 67 days.

Long-time friend and radio talk show host Dave Congalton disagrees (mightily) with me: "McCain may have won the day, but if you're reading the national press, you already are seeing the red flags being raised over this." Dave's own blog, linked above, is always worth checking out.

Dave Congalton hard at work.

The convention is ahead and after that the really hard work begins. But until the GOP shindig gets its final gavel, Team McCain will be Living Large -- perhaps for the first time in his campaign -- in the limelight and momentum.

I've found a few remarks from across the Web and blogosphere that might be worth your time:

From an email Jonah Goldberg received over at National Review Online's "The Corner"--To borrow from Ross Perot (not always a good idea), would you hire any of these people as a manager at your company? Palin you'd offer the job to right away, and then you'd sweat until she accepted it. McCain would seem like a decent choice, but wouldn't make or break you either way. You'd wonder how Obama possibly thought he was qualified, and you'd leave him to be hired by some other company where they fall for people who say all the right things. And you'd be telling stories about Biden's interview, and making jokes about it, for years.

Ed Morrissey, picks apart the Dem's responses to the Palin choice...

Here's what Jim Vendehei and John Harris are saying about McCain's pick over at POLITICO...
(hat tip: Mr. Congalton)

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of "The Corner," received this email -- "On Palin and experience: The question we all should be asking is, does Barack Obama have the experience to take over, if – God forbid – something happens to Joe Biden?"

And The Genius That Is Mark Steyn (also writing at NRO...yes, I do read other online offerings):
  • "First, Governor Palin is not merely..."all-American", but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew?...And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.
  • Second, it can't be in Senator Obama's interest for the punditocracy to spends its time arguing about whether the Republicans' vice-presidential pick is "even more"inexperienced than the Democrats' presidential one.
  • Third, real people don't define "experience" as appearing on unwatched Sunday-morning talk shows every week for 35 years and having been around long enough to have got both the War on Terror and the Cold War wrong. (On the first point, at the Gun Owners of New Hampshire dinner in the 2000 campaign, I remember Orrin Hatch telling me sadly that he was stunned to discover how few Granite State voters knew who he was.) Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain't run nothin' but his mouth. She's done the stuff he's merely a poseur about. Post-partisan? She took on her own party's corrupt political culture directly while Obama was sucking up to Wright and Ayers and being just another get-along Chicago machine pol (see his campaign's thuggish attempt to throttle Stanley Kurtz and Milt Rosenberg on WGN the other night).
  • Fourth, Governor Palin has what the British Labour Party politician Denis Healy likes to call a "hinterland" - a life beyond politics. Whenever Senator Obama attempts anything non-political (such as bowling), he comes over like a visiting dignitary to a foreign country getting shanghaied into some impenetrable local folk ritual. Sarah Palin isn't just on the right side of the issues intellectually. She won't need the usual stage-managed "hunting" trip to reassure gun owners: she's lived the Second Amendment all her life. Likewise, on abortion, we're often told it's easy to be against it in principle but what if you were a woman facing a difficult birth or a handicapped child? Been there, done that.
  • Fifth, she complicates all the laziest Democrat pieties. Energy? Unlike Biden and Obama, she's been to ANWR and, like most Alaskans, supports drilling there.

Media mix-master John Batchelor on the approach of Hurricane Gustav and its possible implications:

"John McCain's luck continues. When it looked as if the drama was gone from the Republican Convention in Minneapolis, the climate change script writers called up Hurricane GUSTAV (left, 5 am Saturday 30) and aimed it at New Orleans....There is no better way to emphasize the failure of Katrina and the triumph of the last three years, with the wunderkind Bobby Jindal as Louisiana governor, with FEMA rebuilt by Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, with John McCain now master of the remnant GOP that failed in '05, then to replay the video with new results...Rainswept vistas for the cameras, with John McCain on the phone to the head of his Louisiana delegation, Bobby Jindal. Cross-cuts of New Orleans preparedness then and now, the disaster of 2005, the trim success of 2008...this is a spectacular showcase for the new New Orleans. And it provides the opera of severe weather to challenge the new Republican Party gathered to crown its new maverick leader and his new maverick VP. Will Jindal, Chertoff and FEMA succeed?...Have the Republicans learned from their defeat? Will New Orleans survive? Hold onto your hat! Lights! Camera! GUSTAV!"

John Batchelor keeping an eye on Gustav.

Hurricane Gustav keeping its eye over the Gulf.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More On His Choice

What some of the pundits and pols are saying about John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate:

Palin exactly the veep McCain needs

Palin: Pioneer, maverick -- and now game-changer

Clinton congratulates Palin

Palin and the Women's Vote

Memo To Team Obama

Barbara Boxer on Sarah Palin: A harsh attack

Sarah Palin is Vladimir Putin's Dilemma

Missed By A Mile

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Executing one of the biggest/best political "head fakes" in memory by not picking a "potential" from among the usual suspects -- and doing the previously unbelievable...stealing the headlines from Obama's big speech last night -- John McCain named Alaska's governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

First reaction among many -- including me, a big Palin fan -- was that picking a relatively unknown person from a distant state (with just three Electoral College votes and already solidly Republican) was a mistake.

Alaska...nuf said.

But upon further reflection, this move by Team McCain might just be one of the better political moves in recent memory.

Yes, she's only been in office about two years (but Obama's relative inexperience hasn't appeared to nick into his lovefest); she's not familiar with day-to-day doings in DC; and she has little to no foreign policy experience...but she does balance McCain in some areas or add to the GOP's positions in others: she's sure to energize female Republicans and might even lure away some of Hillary Clinton's disaffected supporters; Palin, who has been out in front on energy issues, strengthens McCain's standing on related issues and might even give him an opportunity to backtrack on his earlier insistences on not wanting to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); her strong, outspoken pro-life stance and lifelong membership in the NRA are also likely to cement key blocs within the GOP who, always uncomfortable with McCain, are now about to come back on board.

The undeniable beauty of ANWR?

My original reaction, based on having listened to her speeches and meeting the governor in DC in February, was that a toe-to-toe battle with Dem VP candidate Joe Biden would be problematic for her. But listening to her give a speech in Dayton, Ohio, with McCain today leaves me feeling otherwise. He'll be a tough opponent in a debate, but he'll have to be careful not to be seen as bullying/beating up a woman. Biden, given to long-winded harangues, won't have it as easy as some think. (HT: RyWright)

Palin at the DC speech (Feb. 26.).
Photo: Goodman/Van Riper Photography.

So the press, pundits and pols begin the long march this weekend to Minnesota, having decamped from Denver last night thinking they had experienced The Second Coming. Now they're scrambling to recover, recalibrate and recalculate. Obama's bright, shining moment has been reduced to just that: a moment. The new mega-point headline, PALIN CHOSEN, doesn't erase the great historical moment America experienced last night...taking one more step toward a more perfect union...but it eclipsed the politics of the moment.

Extra: Let's get an over-under pool going on the day of Hurricane Gustav's possible arrival along the Gulf Coast next week. Already, plans are being made for President Bush and Vice President Cheney to cancel their speeches at the convention so they can attend to the likely crises. Speaking cynically, this is not a bad thing for the GOP (unless you're a Republican from the Gulf Coast). There is no way a sitting president can be excluded from speaking at a party's convention -- it would draw more attention than if he/she appeared. But the popularity ratings-challenged George W. Bush presents a "problem" for McCain: the more they are seen/put together, the harder it is for McCain. If Bush is called away and forced to cancel, it not only keeps McCain safe from side-by-side photos with the president, but it shows -- along with the possible move to stay home and handle things by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (both GOPers) -- that in times of hardship Republicans would rather attend to important matters rather than going for the photo op.

Hurricane Gustav: how hard will it hit
Gulf Coast? Will it change the GOP
schedule of speakers? And
who is going to clean
up all the paint
someone has spilled on
this map?
(Credit: NASA/JPL)

The Next Big Thing(s)

I'm not in Minneapolis/St. Paul yet, but I thought I'd take the ol' blog out of storage, dust it off and warm it up for next week's big confab in the Twin Cities.

The big news has yet to move to Minnesota as the Dems and news media are still basking in the limelight that was history in Denver tonight: United States Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made his indelible mark on our national story as he accepted the Democrats' nomination as their standard bearer.

His nomination and acceptance, occurring on the anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, marked his individual (and a collective) ascent to the top of the mountain King described. It was nothing short of incredible. For Democrats it was a glorious coronation, but for Americans as a whole -- regardless of political leaning -- it was the glorious fulfillment of promises made two centuries ago. There are plenty of reasons to disagree with Obama, but for a country still stung by the horrors and hurt of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and bigotry, the fact that a black person could be our next president says a great deal about our nation.

Now, as the Democrats bask in the afterglow, GOP stalwarts are bracing themselves for their presumptive candidate,U.S. Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz) choice of his running mate. Obama, obviously courting and utilizing a much younger group of supporters, attempted to reach out earlier this week -- in a somewhat technologically new way -- by sending out his VP choice announcement -- U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) -- via cell phone text. The joke today, playing off McCain's age was that "the message would be sent over a new, emerging technology called the "telegraph." All humor aside, the money seems to be on Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the frontrunners.

Mitt Romney (top) and Tim Pawlenty

Extra: I heard a few weeks ago that the convention's overall theme would be "Country First." While I understand the underlying ideas and history behind the theme, I'm still struck by two things: first, it makes me automatically think of Country-Western music; and second, it seems old and the opposite of "lively." If the 2004 GOP convention in New York City was any indication, I'm sure the entire week will be "lively," but it's going to be tough for a political party represented by a wealthy/older/white man to shake its image as the party for wealthier/older/white men.

Extra, extra: Kathleen Parker writing at the National Review Online's "The Corner": "Jimmy Carter called Barack Obama a "black boy" during a chat with Jim Lehrer."

(Transcript) JIMMY CARTER: "Around the world. Around the world. And I think it already has sent a wave of approbation and admiration in many countries around the world, just knowing that this black boy who grew up with just a loving mother and grandparents — and that was about all he had to start with — does now have a chance to become the nominee of the Democratic Party for president."

I wonder what might have happened if a Republican had said that...