Archive for October 10th, 2008

My Grandmother’s Idea

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Once, a few years back, I was having some career trouble.

I was working for a publication, performing the duties of the top level editor — who had been dismissed — but, still, my title was “assistant editor.” I was being paid accordingly.

I’d been lobbying for a new title, one that reflected my actual responsibilities, as well as a pay increase. But my boss had been stonewalling. At one point, he promised an answer by a specific Friday. When that day came, I approached my boss and asked for his decision. He said he wanted to think about it some more.

So I phoned my grandmother, a communications expert, and asked for her advice.

She said that if I was up for it, I should write my boss a simple, straightforward note: “The delay doesn’t work for me.”

I was just angry enough to do it. I thought I might be fired, but also, I knew that I wasn’t being treated respectfully, and I needed to do something to change the dynamic.

I left the note for my boss on a Friday. When I walked in Monday, he had cleared out the files — he thought I was quitting. When I assured him that I wasn’t, he demanded to know what I meant by my note.

“I mean: The delay does not work for me,” I said. (I was nothing if not well-coached by my grandmother.)

He blinked. “Oh,” he said.

Then he put down the files. Within the hour, I had a new title and a pay raise.

Perhaps it’s this penchant for spot-on communication advice that prompted me to call her today, to get her take on the state of the election campaign, particularly regarding the latest McCain-Palin incitements.

I reached her in the hospital, where she has been the past two days, being treated for an irregular heart beat. If I was concerned that perhaps she’d been isolated from politics in her convalescence, I needn’t have been. Within a minute, she’d asked me if I’d read the David Brooks column in the Times this morning.

I had, I told her. The one-time McCain supporter appears to have reached a tipping point:

This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clichés took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.

Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.

“I have to tell you,” Grandma said, “all the nurses here — I say to them, ‘I’m thinking of voting for Obama,’ and they say: ‘I’m voting for him!’ That’s good.”

She went on to explain that she thinks Obama is going to be somewhat inoculated to these latest attacks, because this stuff has been discussed before.

But, in typical Grandma fashion, she’s got some advice for Sen. Obama:

“My gut tells me that what he has to do Wednesday at the debate is to say, in a very respectful way: ‘Sen. McCain, You’ve said this stuff about Mr. Ayres. Please tell me what it is you heard or know. What did you mean when you said that?'”

“He ought to demand the confrontation at the debate,” she continued. “He should take the initiative, be straight, forceful.”

She said that when you call someone on something they’ve been saying behind your back, “it almost always leads to an unravelling of the bullshit.”

(Grandma’s always had a way with a word.)

If McCain responds by attacking Obama on Ayres, Obama can address it, forcefully — name the tactic (“guilt by association”) — and perhaps, by putting McCain on the defensive, help put the whole sordid mess behind him.

Alternatively, the moderator could bring it up — which leaves Obama exposed, with not nearly the same upside potential.

“We know McCain won’t confront him in person,” she said, echoing something that both Obama and Biden have pressed in recent days:

“All of the things they said about Barack Obama in the TV, on the TV, at their rallies, and now on YouTube … John McCain could not bring himself to look Barack Obama in the eye and say the same things to him,” Biden said this morning. “In my neighborhood, when you’ve got something to say to a guy, you look him in the eye and you say it to him.”

Memo to Sen. Obama: People are craving bold, assertive, respectful leadership. You might want to consider my grandmother’s assertive, direct approach.

It worked for me.

While I’m at it …

Friday, October 10th, 2008

… Because the NY Times reported yesterday that swing states are illegally dropping thousands of voters from the voter rolls, especially in states where Obama has made a large effort to register new voters.

Here’s the nut:

Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times …

Although much attention this year has been focused on the millions of new voters being added to the rolls by the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama, there has been far less notice given to the number of voters being dropped from those same rolls.

States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and remove the names of voters who should no longer be listed; but for every voter added to the rolls in the past two months in some states, election officials have removed two, a review of the records shows.

This is especially true in Michigan, Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio.

And speaking of Ohio, a NY Times editorial yesterday notes that Diebold electronic voting machines are dropping votes. Here’s the nut:

Election officials, who will have plenty on their minds on Nov. 4, have one more thing to worry about: Diebold electronic voting machines that drop votes. Ohio’s secretary of state raised the alarm after local officials reported problems with the March primary count. Diebold has since notified more than 30 states to be on the lookout for missing votes …

Computer scientists have shown that electronic voting machines are easy to hack. And voters report errors like vote flipping, in which the vote they cast for one candidate is recorded for another. Ohio’s secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, is suing Diebold over the vote-dropping and noted that its machines crashed repeatedly during last year’s voting in Cuyahoga County.

Did I mention that Cuyahoga County is perhaps the key county in Ohio for Democrats to turn out Democrats?

And, while we’re at it, the Times reports this morning that the Obama campaigns has not been vetting its donors carefully enough. A small percentage of donations have come in from fictitious donors like “Test Person.” The Times, while noting there’s no evidence yet, raises the “ominous possibility” of fraud, “perhaps in order to donate beyond the maximum limits.”

Here’s the nut:

Even a contributor who used the name “Jgtj Jfggjjfgj,” and listed an address of “thjtrj” in “gjtjtjtjtjtjr, AP,” was able to contribute $370 in a series of $10 donations in August.

A pair of donors named “Derty West” and “Derty Poiiuy,” who listed “rewq, ME” as their addresses and “Qwertyyy” or “Qwerttyyu” as either their employer or occupation, contributed a combined $1,110 in July.

In some cases, campaign finance records showed refunds from the Obama campaign, presumably to donors’ credit cards, even as other contributions were accepted. Obama officials said most of their vetting occurred after a donation came in.

How long before we see the McCain campaigns titled “Derty West”? I’d be surprised if they didn’t have something out by lunch.

And speaking of those ads, in addition to mentioning Ayres at every stop, McCain-Palin is launching a new, national campaign linking Obama to Ayres. Here’s the nut, from ABC news:

New from the McCain campaign Friday: An ad that casually drops the L-word and touches on both Ayers to the economic distress, with Democrats portrayed as anti-regulation.

The ad:“Obama’s blind ambition. When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers. When discovered, he lied. Obama. Blind ambition. Bad judgment. Congressional liberals fought for risky sub-prime loans. Congressional liberals fought against more regulation. Then, the housing market collapsed, costing you billions. In crisis, we need leadership, not bad judgment.”

This, from the candidate who once said: “I pledge again a respectful campaign. A respectful campaign based on the issues and based on the stark differences we have on the vision for the future of America.”

And Carville thinks this election is over?