Archive for September 26th, 2008

September Madness

Friday, September 26th, 2008

As of this writing, we don’t know if the government is going to bail out Wall St., and we don’t know how it will play politically.

It’s been a good week for Obama, but the Neurotic Democrat in me knows it’s exactly 40 days too soon to celebrate. And forty days is a political eon.

Don’t believe me?

Think back a few weeks ago, when Russia invaded Georgia while Obama was on vacation in Hawaii. The restart of the Cold War is so yesterday’s news.

Poll numbers are trending the right way for Obama — which is important, because whatever it might signal for November, it definitely means the Palin bounce is over. But who knows how McCain is going to be seen, coming out of this government bailout? If he stands with the mavericks in his party against the president, it could re-launch his campaign yet again, firmly establishing his outsider, maverick cred with the whole nation watching.

In the midst of all of this, the NY Times reports this morning that Obama’s ads have gotten as sleazy as McCain’s. I was prepared to respond today with indignation — that Obama has sunk to McCain’s level — until I saw the new ad from the Republican Jewish Coalition, which links Barack Obama to Pat Buchanan. (Seriously. I couldn’t make this stuff up. You can see the ad here.) The ad is as misguided and off-putting as one can imagine, and it’s been thoroughly debunked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (“RJC (mis)plays the Buchanan card”).

Yet it made me so momentarily angry that I went directly to politifact.com, determined to prove that McCain, overall, has been a far worse offender than Obama. (He has, arguably. You can check out the scorecard for yourself at Politifact.) What caught my attention, though, was Obama’s Spanish language ad, which takes Rush Limbaugh quotes (“stupid and unskilled Mexicans”), twists them out of context, and then, wrongly, seeks to tie McCain to Limbaugh on immigration.

Neither candidate, it seems, is actively pursuing justice justly these days.

Meanwhile, here in Ohio, Joe Biden’s recent gaffe about coal plants is getting significant play. This is from Steve Hoffman’s column in yesterday’s Akron Beacon Journal:

Campaigning this week in Strongsville, McCain sought to carve out an issue by embracing investment in clean-coal technology. This issue resonates with Southeast Ohio’s swing voters and has wide appeal in a state that generates 85 percent of its energy from coal, as opposed to the national average of 55 percent.

The issue was teed up for McCain by recent remarks by Sen. Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate. ”No coal plants here in America,” Biden said on a campaign swing in Maumee last week. ”Build them, if they’re going to build them, over there (in China). Make them clean.”

Since then, Democrats, among them Gov. Ted Strickland, have scrambled to say that the Democratic ticket supports clean-coal technology.

It’s one of several pretty big mistakes Biden has made recently on the campaign trail. We knew he was susceptible to this — and so did Obama. My sense — and this was confirmed seeing Biden speak at the NJDC policy conference this week — is that Biden is simply going too fast. He delivered his stump speech to the Jewish audience at breakneck speed. At times, it was hard to keep up with the points he was trying to make. With just a short time before the vp debate, in the midst of this economic meltdown, Obama needs to find some way, any way, to get Biden to slow down.

All of which leaves me, on the eve of the Jewish High Holidays, feeling somewhat unsettled.

I don’t have a very clear sense of the political moment. The policy path forward seems uncertain. The ethical underpinnings of this campaign, in flux.

I will say this. One of the reasons I truly love the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is that it forces me to consider my own flaws, and to think about ways that I might improve. One of the things I struggle with — and this is exaggerated in a political season with an outcome I care so passionately about — is the sin of arrogance. Arrogance and self-righteousness.

I’ve put forth many opinions since the week before the Democratic National Convention, when I began blogging. I’ve tried to get the facts to support my stances; find supporting documents from the press; link to them where I can.

Still, I’m sure I’ve rushed to judgment at times. I’m sure I’ve published ill-considered opinions for all the world to see.

So, as I sign off for Shabbat just a few days before the Jewish High Holy Days, let me just say, in the spirit of relaunching my own, personal campaign:

I’m the Neurotic Democrat. I’ve been wrong before. I’ll be wrong again. And I’m not entirely sure.

My Obama Minute

Friday, September 26th, 2008

I’ve had a busy week. Went to the NJDC policy conference, in Washington DC, and have been blogging quite a bit, in particular about Obama’s strong support for Israel. I’ve been working behind the scenes to bring an Obama surrogate speaker to Akron, to further explain Obama’s positions on Israel for the local community. And I just now gave a small contribution to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which they are matching three-to-one prior to the end of September deadline.