In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obama, Obama, OBAMA.

As you can see to the right, if it were Feb. 12th today (the day of the Virginia primary), my vote would be cast. About two to three weeks ago I decided, based on the build-up of personal research and observation. I say that to preface a few posts that will explain some of why I feel this way; with those posts, I hope to address some of the main questions as I understand them regarding Obama and Hillary.

I'm big on audio books, and have listened to Obama's newest, the Audacity of Hope, but hope to do so again. It was over a year ago, and the details of his policy thoughts in there will stick out to me more now. I'm currently listening to Dreams from My Father, and it's great, and really reveals the diversity of his experience. So hopefully I'll be able to drop some lines from both in here as it makes sense, and if there's time (Super Tuesday next week may or may not bring it down to one candidate, the reviews are mixed right now). I will be interested to see if any other supporters of his are out there among readers, or if there are any votes in the opposite direction for Hillary or some of the Repub's still left in it--if so, feel free to email me, to drop your thoughts in the comment section, or to voice your support in the poll below (as you'll see, I started Obama off there with my vote). May the best man/woman win.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards and Kucinich Hang it Up

Kucinich decided to stop his run last Friday, and Edwards today. As I reflect on whether there is any more to say about this, I find that there is. There is around 12 months of these two mens' lives that they spent campaigning, and as the media's cameras quickly turn on to the remaining candidates, I think it's merited to take a minute to consider our view of men such as these.

For the most part, respect for politicians is scattered in America. There's plenty of reason for this, but a broad brush for all politicians just isn't accurate. It is helpful to take a moment to consider those who are adding to (or apathetic towards) what is wrong in this country: the over 100 white supremacists that protested the existence of a Martin Luther King holiday last week; those such as Timothy McVay who killed 168 in Oklahoma City years ago; the VA Tech shootings that left 30 some odd people dead; the more subtle areas of society where subprime lending sharks knowingly set up bad interest packages for low-income home-buyers, and high government officials neglect the development of a solid FEMA program to deal with natural disasters. The list goes on to health care issues, issues of war and taxes, and so on.

With those considerations in mind, a John Edwards standing up for poverty issues, or a Dennis Kucinich calling for a smarter trade program to improve US employment, both take on a different light. We all have imperfections that would face scrutiny in the constant eye of the media, but there is something powerful that comes from considering those who would to better our country, our life experience, our humanity. It is something we easily ascribe to the social workers, the Bill Gates', and other non-politicians, but might there be a more honorable place for some in politics? This is not a new perspective for all, to be sure. But even for those who can look at a given candidate with respect, I believe that perspective more easily diminishes for, in the case of this election, those on the second tier. Perhaps the media's easy categorizing of candidates into the "angry" or "long-shot" statuses is one of the major problems. Similarly, I think the often quick coverage of candidates begets a lesser view of them--e.g., more information, in-depth information, reveals policies and lifestyles that often are worthy of respect. But the public's common view from the media sets them up as horses, and not as those who desire to be change agents (as some certainly do).

There is a related category I find myself in, from which I see Republican lawmakers and candidates as something less than they likely deserve. That is, as a self-professed Democrat, I, and I'm sure many others, would do well to remember that those on the opposite side of us politically often come from genuine intentions. The reality of good intentions not equaling good policy is where the dialogue must happen; but assuming good intentions, choosing respect, and having open ears makes for an honest starting place, for citizens and politicians alike. So I would just end by saying that it has been a healthy thought experiment personally to consider the energy spent by candidates such as Edwards and Kucinich, trekking across our wide country; their engagement with, and difficult stances on, weighty issues; the ugly public scrutiny that they are subject to, particularly when taking principled, but perhaps not popular positions; the months and months of personal time they offer up with the hope of bettering the lives of those outside of themselves (the electorate); and lest we forgot, the disaster that is our campaign financing rigamarole, having to ask for money endlessly just to stay competitive.

With that said, I think both had some solid things to say in their campaigns, as their two exit speeches indicate for any interested:



Kucinich-



Edwards-



Update: In a CNN article, it discusses the idea of where Edwards supporters may turn, either via his endorsement or the simple reconsideration of voters. The question is a significant one, and one I would hope Edwards would consider prior to next week's Super Tuesday primary, as that's when it will be most necessary. From the CNN article:

"You could make an argument that the change issue does benefit Barack Obama, that he picks up that support. You could also make the argument that there's a lot of support out there amongst people that will go to Hillary," [strategist Peter Fenn] said. "The big issue here is who will he endorse."

Some political pundits predict Edwards' supporters are more likely to lean in Obama's direction. [Watch analyst Mark Halperin explain endorsement possibilities]

"The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama will pick up maybe 60 percent of them, and in some places, that makes a huge difference," former presidential adviser David Gergen said.

Time magazine journalist Joe Klein said, "I don't think he endorses Hillary Clinton. The question is whether or not he endorses Barack Obama." "

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kennedy for Obama = Big Endorsement

A quick note to highlight Obama's big endorsement from: Sen. Ted Kennedy (Senator of 43 years from Massachusetts and JFK's brother); Representative Patrick Kennedy (Ted Kennedy's son); and Caroline Kennedy, JFK's daughter. Clinton did receive the endorsement of another Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's oldest daughter, Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

A few quick links to learn more:

-A Washington Post piece explaining Clinton's endorsement from Townsend

-To start, a video that has each of the first three above announcing their support for Obama, with each explaining why (the video runs for a while, but is neat to hear why these guys support Obama):



-A Washington Post piece on it, where it notes: "In a clear reference to the criticism repeated by the Democratic senator from New York [Hillary Clinton] and the former president that Obama (D-Ill.) does not have the experience for the White House, Kennedy -- borrowing one of the Clintons' favorite phrases -- said Obama is "ready to be president on Day One."

Update: Here is the op-ed piece Caroline Kennedy, JFK's daughter, wrote in the New York Times Jan. 27th endorsing Obama:

"OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."

Update 2: Another piece from the Washington Post that discusses, among other things, how Kennedy's popularity among Latinos is an important benefit for Obama.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nevada Primary Results...


These results below are with 89.9% of precincts reporting, and show Hillary in the lead by about 5% over Obama. Edwards is coming in a full 42% behind Obama though, surprisingly low with only 3.75%. You can find the results here on the NV Democratic website, and here on CNN. CNN has the same numbers as below right now, but also has the Republican numbers, with Romney taking 52% of the vote, with Paul and McCain in second place with only 13%! That's with 79% of the precincts reporting. I guess Romney has some real pull there, what an incredible lead though. CNN has predicted Clinton and Romney are the winners, but it's hard to take much from the media projections, wrong as they were in FL in 2000. The final results should be in soon enough though, and you can keep checking the links above for updates. Here's another neat link that breaks down who voters chose among Democrats by gender, main issue, etc.


Senator Hillary Clinton: 50.77%
Senator Barack Obama: 45.13%
Senator John Edwards: 3.75%
Uncommitted: 0.3%
Congressman Dennis Kucinich: 0.05%
Senator Mike Gravel: 0%

Update: As everyone may have seen by now, with 98% of precincts reporting, Hillary apparently received the highest percentage with 51%, Obama 45%, but it appears that Obama may have received one more national delegate because of the way votes from certain parts of the states are weighted. I found two somewhat conflicting takes on it though:

1. NY Times article:
"Mrs. Clinton scored a clear victory measured in the number of people attending the caucuses on her behalf. But Mr. Obama’s campaign was successful by another measure — in the allocation of delegates to the national nominating convention, a result of a complex formula that gave more weight to votes in some parts of the state."
2. Congressional Quarterly article:
"But the Obama campaign caused a stir by spinning the outcome into a win for its candidate — claiming he had clinched 13 of the state’s national convention delegates to 12 for Clinton, based on the fact that he performed well around the state while Clinton’s overall lead was built on her big edge in Clark County (Las Vegas), the state’s major population center. Both the Clinton campaign and the state Democratic Party disputed Obama’s claim, noting that no national convention delegates were actually allocated on the basis of Saturday’s results, only the first stage in a multi-step process."
There have been similarly different takes from each of the two candidates, with each basically claiming the victory for themselves. Here's an excerpt from each:

-Clinton (in an email sent to supporters):
"Dear Friend,

Have you heard? We just won the Democratic caucuses in Nevada. You have done so much to make winning moments like this possible. Thank you!

People across the country are placing their faith in our campaign, especially those hardest hit by the recent downturn in the economy. We can't let them down. We're working together to bring about change, and America is responding to our efforts..."

-Obama (in a statement released tonight):
"We’re proud of the campaign we ran in Nevada. We came from over twenty-five points behind to win more national convention delegates than Hillary Clinton because we performed well all across the state, including rural areas where Democrats have traditionally struggled. The reason is because tens of thousands of Nevadans came out to say that they’re tired of business-as-usual in Washington and ready for a President who can bring this country together, take on the lobbyists and special interests, and end the politics of saying and doing whatever it takes to win an election..."
By the way, with 95% of the vote in, McCain looks to have taken South Carolina, winning 33% of the vote, with Huckabee next with 30%, Thompson 16%, Romney 15%, Paul 4% and Giuliani 2% (the Democrats' SC primary won't be until next Saturday, Jan. 26th). Also, it's no small thing that Paul, at this point, beat McCain by a percentage point (14% to 13%) in Nevada.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Judge Tells MSNBC, Include Kucinich or Cancel the Debate

A note to readers: I must admit, as has likely been clear, I have been quite taken with Congressman Dennis Kucinich and his stand on various issues. This blog was, as I explained in the summary at the top of the page, part of my attempt to make sense of who the options were and who I would like to support in whatever ways I could. That has placed me tentatively in his camp*, but I'm still thinking as I go here, and intend to offer more variety on the other candidates going forward. Now, on to the news:

As stated in the New York Times yesterday:

"A Nevada judge has ordered MSNBC to include Representative Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic presidential candidate, in Tuesday night’s debate in Nevada, the Associated Press reports.

The debate was expected to feature Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

Charles Thompson, a senior district court judge for Clark County, Nevada, said he would issue an injunction stopping the debate if Mr. Kucinich is excluded."

The Kucinich campaign's press release on the subject begins in the following way:
"Less than 44 hours after NBC sent a congratulatory note and an invitation to Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich to participate in the Jan. 15 Democratic Presidential debate in Las Vegas, the network notified the campaign this morning it was changing it announced criteria, rescinding its invitation, and excluding Kucinich from the debate.
NBC Political Director Chuck Todd notified the Kucinich campaign this morning that, although Kucinich had met the qualification criteria publicly announced on December 28, the network was “re-doing” the criteria, excluding Kucinich, and planning to invite only Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former senator John Edwards.

The criteria announced last month included a fourth-place or better showing in a national poll. The USA/Gallup poll earlier this month showed Kucinich in fourth place among the Democratic contenders."

Another look at some of the details is available here, and a link to the court document here. MSNBC has appealed the ruling, and the hearing was supposed to happen at 4:30 this afternoon. MSNBC must not be very confident about their chances though, with the top story on the debate section of their website including details on how Kucinich will likely be included. Apparently some of the questions will be asked by the candidates, one to another, so Dennis could really spice things up if he's there. Nothing is finalized though, so we may just have to wait till the debate airs tonight to find out (it'll be on MSNBC and MSNBC.com from 9-11 pm EST).

* I am trying to consider if I will cast my vote his direction come the Virginia primaries. As mentioned here, on the Huffington Post's blog, with much stacked against him, Kucinich may simply be staying in it to influence the positions taken by the other candidates--a laudable goal for sure; if that's the case, I'll have to think through some strategy in terms of whether a vote for him would be better spent on another candidate that has a greater likelihood of being elected. Either way though, here's what the writer in that Huffington Post piece said about all this:
"Kucinich is not running to win the nomination. He knows he is not going to succeed...He is running to influence the political discourse within the Democratic party --- which is critically important. He is running to show the frontrunners what the full spectrum of Democratic opinions might be...in a real debate. We cannot elect the really "perfect" until we see it. Which is why Kucinich and his Democratic positions are so important. I know that history is on his side and his positions are the right direction for democracy. I can only hope that Hillary and Obama see it too. One day we will have universal medical care, we will ban corporate control and corrupt financing of the political process, we will legalize gay marriage, we will get rid of the Patriot Act, and we will stop fighting stupid wars. So thank you Dennis, for speaking truth to power. And you will have my vote in the primaries."
Update: Alas, the Nevada Supreme Court apparently just ruled tonight that Kucinich could indeed be excluded from the debate, overturning the above ruling.

Update 2: Kucinich discussed the ruling and his sentiments on it outside the debate while people protested his exclusion. At least for some of the night tonight, the video screening is available here: http://arqiva-dc-node-005.wm.llnwd.net/arqiva_DC_NODE_005 The debate was worth watching though, and did give a good idea of the other candidates; I'll see if there's a link at some point to add to the full debate (although I do still feel Kucinich would have added a lot, and brought a real challenging voice to the discussion).

Update 3: The radio/TV show "Democracy Now," carried on public radio and television, used a unique format the morning after the MSNBC debate to include Rep. Kucinich. They aired the questions and answers of parts of last night's debate, one section at a time, and followed each section with the answers of Rep. Kucinich (i.e., Kucinich was live on Democracy Now, and explained how he would have answered each question had he been included; he also responds to the other candidates' comments). Audio and video of the show are available here.

Update 4 (gotta be the last one): More links--1. Video by the Las Vegas Sun on the exclusion; and 2. Columbia Journalism Review article on the exclusion.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Candidates Asked About Crime & Punishment, Economic Disparity, Darfur, AIDS

"This week billionaire Warren Buffet said that the very wealthy aren't taxed nearly enough. In fact he noted that he's taxed at a lower rate than some of his employees that earn much less. Do you agree that the rich aren't paying their fair share of taxes, and what would you do about it?"
So begins the "economic disparity" section of the Democratic portion of the "All American Presidential Forums on PBS." On the website, the forum was described in this way:
"Inspired by the book the Covenant with Black America, The All-American Presidential Forums on PBS marks the first time that a panel comprised of journalists of color is represented in primetime. Many of the questions asked of the candidates focus on key domestic priorities that were originally outlined in the book."
The forum was held for Democratic candidates on June 28th, and Republicans on Sept. 27th. I just discovered this today, and really appreciate the pressing subjects that were covered in both forums, along with the effort this represents to consider issues particularly affecting the African American community. The length of the primary race--running over a year as it has--makes a forum held seven months ago feel irrelevant, but that's simply not so when you are a voter considering where to place your support; what the candidates who are still in the race said in this debate is key, and offers insight into who they are and where they stand (and there's of course importance in understanding issues holistically by listening to those candidates who have dropped out if possible; if you are looking for a particular candidate's responses though, the video screen is setup a little differently than most online videos, and you have to use the fast forward button on there to do so). The uniqueness of the subjects covered in this debate really do make for a standout forum though, and although the amount of time given to candidates is fairly quick in some parts, this does allow for short, to the point clips on each topic. Here is a link to the page with a video screen and a list of all of the topics for the Democrats' section, or you can just click on any of the links below to go a video on a specific topic:
And the same for Republicans, with a link to the video page of all the sections here, and a list of the topics covered below, each with a link to a video on that section:

Monday, January 7, 2008

Who IS Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich?


For all those who are not sure who Congressman Kucinich is, I felt it appropriate to do a quick piece on him, particularly since he was, it is increasingly clear, wrongfully excluded from the final New Hampshire Democratic debate. It's funny to me how incredibly easy it is to give a helpful picture of who someone is via the internet, with the plethora of videos available online. So I'll simply place some videos below that come to mind as especially representative of Kucinich in a few areas. Most of them are just a few minutes long, but I note the ones that are a bit longer.

As a brief primer though, he is a six term Congressman from Ohio , he was a state representative for years, as well as the mayor of Cleveland. You can read a concise overview on his website bio, as well as on Amazon, where it describes his most recent book about the challenges of growing up in a family of seven, going around through 21 different homes in his first 17 years, watching his parents count pennies to pay rent, etc. I am actually reading it now, and it's a fun read with his wit and detail, but was clearly a tough childhood that wrought some important qualities of service, hard work, and so forth in him. His positions are organized into a few easy-to-navigate categories here on his regular site, and here for short videos of him, organized by the issue that each focuses on.

In terms of the videos I'll list here, I've broke them into a few sections to make it easier for readers to find what they may be particularly interested in:

1. Overview videos
2.
Debate clips
3. Health care videos
4. Social justice-related videos
5. Impeachment teach-in video with the Nation magazine
6. Endorsements
7. Clips of his wife, Elizabeth, speaking
8. Question and Answer/Other

--
1. Overview videos

Who is Dennis Kucinich video (about six minutes)



Bill Moyers Journal interview on Jan. 4, 2008 (about 15 minutes)

video

2. Debate clips

On the need to stand by one's voting record, along with an important highlight of how many of the other Democratic candidates have voted on various issues



On "Making abortions less necessary and protecting a woman's right to choose"



Brown and Black Forum, 12/1/07 (brief clip)



CNN debate, 11/15/07 (his responses only, about 9 minutes)



AFL-CIO debate, 8/7/07 (his responses only, about 7 minutes)



On the link between war and poverty, 6/28/07, PBS Tavis Smiley Debate



3. Health care video

Available here (just under an hour of in-depth questioning of Rep. Kucinich about the details of his plan with NPR, Wall Street Journal, ABC and PBS reporters):

http://www.kaisernetwork.org/health_cast/presidentialhc.cfm?hc=2418

4. Social justice-related videos

At the Heartland Presidential Forum Dec. 1st in Des Moines, Iowa (lasts about 15-20 minutes with parts 1, 2 and 3). From the Forum's site: "Representative Dennis Kucinich answers questions from grassroots community leaders about comprehensive immigration reform, worker rights, environmental protection, and campaign finance reform."

Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



5
. Impeachment-related videos (Congressman Kucinich brought a resolution to impeach Vice Pres. Cheney in April 2007)

CNN interview of Kucinich the day after filing



Impeachment teach-in video with the Nation magazine (around 10 minutes)


6. Endorsements

Sean Penn



Viggo Mortensen of Lord of the Rings



7. Clips of his wife, Elizabeth, speaking

Campaigning in New Hampshire



On Politics and Religion



8. Question and Answer/Other

Q&A period in Charlottesville, VA, 12/7 (around 20 minutes)



On Fox's Hannity and Colmes, 12/6/07



Ron Paul talking about Kucinich



On the House floor in 2006 calling for an end to the war



A lot of these I listed and various other videos of his can be found on his YouTube site, his website's video section, and here, where a number of Constitution-related videos can be found.

Update: Here is a great article/in-depth interview with Kucinich, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer Jan. 4th, 2008.