Friday, August 29, 2008

Interesting Choice

Still reeling from the spectacle that became the Democratic National Convention, culminating in Barack Obama's momentous speech, John McCain announced his running mate today. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will be the second name on the Republican ticket in November, ending months of eager speculation surrounding the VP choice. This choice comes as a surprise to many as McCain passed up more well known candidates like Mitt Romney for the female from the north.

Various news outlets explain the hits and misses of this decision. In one sense, she's perfect. As a woman, she may be able to draw in some of the former Clinton supporters still reluctant to support the now official democratic nominee. And she fits right in with the traditional Republican views on key social issues, such as her opposition to both abortion rights and gay marriage. Another huge draw is her support for offshore drilling. Voters don't have to be concerned that she's an Alaskan preoccupied with preserving nature's integrity either. She recently signed a bill allowing the construction of a 1,715 mile pipeline, to be built by TransCanada Alaska.

The main flaw in this choice is the same criticism Republicans have been throwing at Obama this whole time: inexperience. Palin, 44, is three years younger than Obama, has not served in Congress and, as the former mayor of a town of just 9,000, has minimal foreign policy experience. But she would only be the vice president you say? With respect to experience, McCain's the one that really matters? Ah, but I think we may be forgetting that, in the event that, for whatever reason, McCain were to be incapable of serving, Palin would be next up to bat. And considering his age, something voters have been bothered by from the start, do voters want to take the chance of replacing the war veteran and highly experienced nominee with a rookie? Not to say that this would be a complete deterrent but it is certainly something to consider. The choice also screams of strategy in its use of a woman to draw out the more undecided or centrist voters and, potentially, some democrats too.

So, is this going to be a big enough boost for McCain to win in November? Let's face it, I'm no psychic. We'll just have to wait and see.

For more on this story visit the New York Times, CNN, the LA Times, Politico and MSNBC.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama Selects VEEP

There has been such an effort to undercut each other’s announcements by both parties. What announcements, you may ask. The announcements for VEEPS (Yes, it’s a term for vice president that was coined in the middle of the 20th century but a candidate’s grandchild). Barack Obama has just announced that Joe Biden is his running mate, who by the way gave his acceptance speech last night.

Meanwhile, to undercut the media coverage for this announcement, John McCain’s campaign announced that McCain will inform the candidate of his choice on Thursday, the day after Biden delivered his speech to the masses in Denver. In the meantime, in another effort to divert the media coverage from Obama’s speech, scheduled for later today, McCain and company will make the announcement to the rest of the world on Friday, midday.

It is also official, Hilary Clinton has stepped out of the race, saying very emphatically that there needs to be a very strong cohesiveness in the Democratic party. Right she is, given that Obama/Biden face a tough battle in the swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, who are all hurting from the economic slump. The Clintons said this much in the last two nights, as both Hilary and Bill made a big production of their exit and handed over the party reigns to the Obamas.

How effective will this succession be? Well, we’ll know when the votes are tallied up!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Nation Divided

Presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain and presumptive Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama are neck-and-neck as the season draws us into Party Conventions, debates, and soon, Election Day.

Researchers continue their scramble to analyze political stance and opinion an candidates scramble to mobilize support. A recent Reuters/Zogby poll indicates that McCain is leading Obama 47 percent to 41 percent. A LA Times/Bloomberg poll indicates that Obama's lead from the past few months has dropped, where the Pew Research Center pegged Obama at 46 percent to McCain's 43 percent, a shift from Obama's one 48 percent lead against McCain's 40 percent. With the fluctuation of political opinion, only one thing is certain: American are still largely, fairly equally, divided in choosing their leader.

This data come at the heels of Senator McCain's rounds of aggressive ads and the positive reviews about this talk at the Saddleback Forum last weekend. Additionally, it picks up on the preparation for the Party Conventions within the next few weeks and speculation about "veeps".

One of the major criticisms about the media's coverage of the election process was its imbalanced focus on Senator Obama, sometimes advantageous for Senator McCain who could slip past the sidelines unnoticed, though other times at his expense, for example when people are more interested in Obama's VP selection than McCain's. As Politico reads Obama's tea leaves and NY Times reports a tight-lipped McCain when it comes to prospects, both candidates work to sharpen their messages in preparation for the last leg of the race.

The selection of a running mate could very well be the deciding facto for either of the candidates, as they each seek to unite this divided nation in their favor. With options like Hillary Clinton and Joe Binden for Obama, and Mike Huckabee and Charlie Crist for McCain, among many others, the choice is not an easy one. We won't have to wait much longer, though, as they have both resolved to announce their VPs soon (and strategically, right after one another!), in what is likely to be another media frenzy that will simultaneously influence and be influenced by opinion polls.

Let's just that one of them truly an provide the unification this nation so desperately needs.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Price of Making a Statement

As a war veteran, you'd think it'd be relatively easy for John McCain to get the support of veterans groups from across the country because, simply speaking, he understands what they go through from his own experience as a soldier and POW. However, an article from the L.A. Times suggests that this perhaps expected support is not a voting bloc that the McCain camp should depend on too heavily.

In order to battle what McCain has called political pork barrel spending, during his years in the Senate, McCain opposed 4 important veteran benefits bills, according to some members of Disabled American Veterans, among others no doubt. McCain has developed a reputation for voting against bills that on the whole he agrees with but which also have been inserted with "pet projects" from various colleagues. These added expenses, in McCain's view, are extraneous or unnecessary and waste precious tax dollars. And he's certainly right on that point. Millions of taxpayer's dollars are wasted each year on extra, sometimes even ridiculous, projects benefiting only a few. However, the problem McCain faces is not whether people believe he is right or wrong about that. Rather the problem comes when a perception develops and voters, veterans in this case, begin to believe that McCain is more concerned with making a point in Washington rather than helping people in the rest of the country, regardless of what the cost is. What these voters see is that McCain does not always do everything in his power to help.

It's a sad state of affairs when standing up for the right thing could cost a person so much. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" certainly appears to be a dream of past political eras and gone seem to be the days when an elected official could defend responsible politics without fear of electoral retribution, though I'm not sure when these days truly existed. To be sure, the democratic nominee has faced or will face similar criticisms but the fact is, for McCain, they come from a somewhat unexpected group of people.

The Value of the American Muslim Vote

With only a few months left in the election season, communities across the nation are scrambling to organize their constituents, registering voters, educating citizens about the issues and the stances of the candidates, and working to make sure their needs are recognized and their voices are heard. With the state of our political and social climate, American Muslims have been registering in record numbers over the past 4 years, overcoming misgivings and cynicism about political participation in a nation where many of them face discrimination and violations against their constitutional rights.

While there are many cultural, linguistic, sectarian, and other natural social variations within the American Muslim population, as with any other community of Americans sharing another identity, the mobilization of Muslims as a bloc, not blindly voting for candidate or another, but as a solid group of millions of voters, looking for inclusion, working with other communities on common causes, and delivering on election day. When American Muslims do vote as a bloc, like over 70% did in support for John Kerry in 2004 whereas over 40% did in support for President George Bush in 2000 as reported by Zogby, our influence is recognized. American Muslims know: the stakes are high.

Of a population of 300 million people, only about 230 million are of voting-age, of which only 150 million register, and 100 million turn out. Even fewer play an active role in primaries, making the numbers decrease to about 6-8 million people that actually choose the president of this nation. The American Muslim vote could be enough to tip the scales, and with coalition-building and outreach to other communities with similar interests, can be a very powerful force. [Great article here that covers the importance of the American Muslim vote!]. Compare this to American Idol, with performers winning by votes of up to 100 million (though granted, it’s much easier – no restrictions on age, citizenship, etc., and you can just text immediately, but could it still say something about where our values lie?)!

Information provided by research institutions, such as the Pew Forum, indicates that American Muslims have interests and values that align with those of the rest of the American population. A report issued by CAIR gathered data about the demographics and beliefs of American Muslims, indicating the diversity within the American Muslim population, committed to concerns shared by many, including national security, the economy, the environment, education, health care, inner-city development, immigration, protection of civil liberties, and foreign policy.

As the Muslim voice is dismissed with shameful displays of our nation accepting its prejudice, such as with the recent resignation of Mazen Asbahi as an Arab American and Muslim American outreach liaison for the Obama camp, American Muslims must continue to test their capacity to participate and succeed in this nation’s political system, while engaging with fellow Americans, and measuring the extent to with this nation is willing to return the favor to its diverse communities.

I urge all citizens of this nation to exercise their right to vote. American Muslims especially must reject passive citizenship and, despite the fact that democratic participation has unfortunately become a path of resistance, we must stand together for our rights. Register to vote now at your local election office, at a voter registration drive, at the DMV, or through various online initiatives. Read up on the issues or research information about the candidates. Many organizations have already compiled the information for you, like CAIR here, or you can become informed in other ways. Take advantage of the right to vote, so that you don’t have to lose it in order to recognize its value.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Not Getting Any Easier

A L.A. Times article published today illuminates one of the problems that Republican nominee John McCain will be facing in the coming days and weeks. The senator has been known for years as something of a "maverick", constantly going against the grain of traditional G.O.P platforms and voting patterns. Now, after setting that title aside in order to actually win the nomination, his campaign is trying to reclaim that title. The reason: after efforts to ensure conservative voters of his Republican credentials, McCain now has to win back the independent and ultra centrist voters that used to see him as the forward-thinking, not-so-typical Republican senator from Arizona.

And the Obama campaign senses an opportunity. This can be seen as a chance for a new attack on their rival. McCain's re-assertion of his past departures from traditional G.O.P. politics gives his opponent the opportunity to paint McCain as a politician, shifting his course just to get what he wants; in this case, the Republican nomination. The article from the L.A. Times calls it the "dilution of the McCain brand." In other words, McCain does not appear to be the trail-blazing politician voters think he used to be. And I'll have to admit, I may be one of them, considering I grew up with a McCain who was known for constantly being more popular among democrats than his colleagues in his own party.

This is not to say that Obama does not also face a few challenges in the days ahead. First of all, Obama seems to be taking this week off, letting McCain have the spotlight for once and therefore, more opportunities to improve his image and strategies generally without interference from his democratic opponent. Second, another article from Politico quotes one pollster as saying "Every poll shows that people want a Democratic president, the problem is they’re not sure they want Barack Obama.” So for Obama, the challenge is to prove that he is not just a Democratic presidential candidate but the Democratic presidential candidate. Tall orders for both candidates. Good luck to all. You're going to need it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

To Drill or Not to Drill?

John McCain isn’t the only one who makes fun of his rival. Barack Obama did something similar the other day where he mocked Senator McCain in a speech. reports Senator Obama, poked fun at the McCain plan for drilling, sparked by the rising gas prices in the last few months.

Barack Obama mocked John McCain's call to "drill here and drill now" this morning in eastern Ohio.

"'I want to drill here, I want to drill now.' -- I don’t know where he was standing," Obama laughingly told a Youngstown, OH crowd. "I mean, I think he was in a building somewhere."

Full Story

Monday, August 04, 2008

Better Than That

Up until now, I've had such high hopes for this election year. Both nominees are respectable candidates with great credentials and a history of being above average politicians. So it saddens me to learn that both McCain and Obama are getting a bit dirtier than they've been known to become with their latest PR pushes against one another.

In a new television commercial, McCain, in an attempt to paint Obama as out-of-touch, compares his opponent to the likes of infamous tabloid stars Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Republicans seem to be divided on the tactic. Some applaud the move, while others fear that it could lead to a backlash from voters sick of bad politics. Part of the reason for the new method is to counteract certain weaknesses in his own campaign, such as the continuous lack of a clear and uniform message. This may not be the easiest thing to remedy but it certainly does not require the kind of negative campaigning coming out of the McCain strategic handbook.

In another turn toward dirtier tactics, accusations are flying from both sides of the aisle. After officials on Obama's side accused the republican nominee of inserting race into the campaign, McCain replied with a similar criticism, claiming that Obama is trying to play the "race card" and that "there's no place in this campaign for that." But apparently it's ok for McCain to put out what is frankly a ridiculous advertisement attacking Obama's perceived celebrity status, though I cannot be sure if there is any truth to race card accusations or not.

But let's not allow Obama to get off too easy. Focusing on his and McCain's energy policy, a new strategy from the democratic nominee has me skeptical about the likelihood that this campaign season will remain a clean, fair and policy-focused one. Obama has begun a fresh wave of attacks criticising McCain's connections to big oil companies and how this influences his decisions and perspectives on energy policy, namely his support for offshore drilling. CNN reports that the ad charges that the Republican nominee has recieved $1.1 million in contributions from oil and gas companies. In truth, though a significant portion of these contributions (about three-quarters) came after McCain announced his support for offshore drilling, they also came from executives and employees of these companies, not from the companies themselves.

Sure, maybe McCain's just frustrated. Obama has the kind of widespread popularity and grassroots support that McCain can only dream of right now and perhaps the Republican nominee is a bit jealous. And perhaps Obama is simply trying to combat some of his opponent's more negative attacks. And maybe they're both just following the tradition of mud-slinging in American politics that we as voters come to expect (though not welcome) from our campaigning legislators. But really? Why not try to break from this absurd and unnecessary tradition? We all know both candidates are so much better than pot-shots and low-blow political rhetoric. My advice is this: focus on a clear, positive, policy-oriented message and perhaps they will not have to resort to the politics we have come to expect in this country.

Visit Politico and the New York Times for more on this discussion.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Unemployment Rates Increase

The US unemployment rate hit 5.7% in July, the highest it has been in over four years. With the economic situation worsening, the nation is still vulnerable to a recession.

While companies have cut workers for the seventh month in a row, the rate is still better than man analysts had expected.
Although US productivity is holding strong, indicating the inflation could possibly come down once energy and commodity prices stabilize, and some sectors are steady, the US labor market looks bleak.

As the presidential candidates duel it out in Florida today, they both agree that wages have deteriorated and recognize the unemployment situation. But while one focuses on middle-class aid, the other looks to tax cuts.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama plans to announce today an economic plan that would introduce a windfall profits tax on oil companies to pay for rebate checks to families and individuals to help with the increasing energy costs. He also supports a stimulus package, including funds for developing infrastructure, which could save over a million jobs.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain's focus lies on cutting taxes, such as the federal gas tax and the corporate tax. McCain's Jobs for American Plan keeps taxes low " create good jobs here in America, and give American workers renewed confidence in their economic future." He also supports lifting taxes and other government-imposed burdens from small businesses, working to make American more competitive so as to create more jobs.

The issue of unemployment often comes on the heels of the nationwide immigration debate.

While many claim that the immigrant community - often specifically blaming undocumented immigrants - take US jobs, the relationship between the immigration and unemployment is much more complicated and affected by many more variables. Others are concerned about restrictive immigration laws that hinder the nation's ability to maintain professionals from abroad and compete internationally. With unemployment on the rise, budget gaps are expected to only further deepen in cities like New York.

Unemployment in Chicago is hard-hitting close to home, with
some sources reporting a rate of over 7%. Hopefully the next President will be able to address the issue of unemployment and turn our economic frown upside down.

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