3 September 2008

GOP bigs caught on open mic trashing Palin pick

The Page -

Former McCain strategist Mike Murphy: “It’s not going to work!”

Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan: “It’s over… They went for this, excuse me, political bull**** about narratives. Every time Republicans do that… they blow it.”

Murphy: “You know what’s really the worst thing about it? The greatest of McCain is no cynicism, and it is cynical.”

Palin working nonstop on convention speech

Romney: Obama spent his three years in the Senate running to be President

Appearing on MSNBC this evening, former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney hit out at Barack Obama claiming he had spent his time in the senate preparing to run for the Presidency.

He also claimed that “in Sarah Palin a candidate who has the executive and management experience."

Palin – can she talk the talk?

They say the press coverage of her has been so bad that all she needs to do tonight is walk on stage straight and put together a few coherent sentences and she’ll win the backing of the Republican Convention.

Palin’s first few days in the candidacy for VP have certainly been a rough ride for her and the Republican Party, with fresh scandals about her family and conduct emerge on a daily basis. So far we’ve heard news that she allegedly tried to use her power as Governor to have her brother in law fired from his job in retaliation for him divorcing her sister, that her husband was caught drink driving, that her teenage daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant by a hockey player who boasts on his MySpace page that he’s a ‘’f***in redneck‘’ who ‘’doesn’t want kids’’.

And today we are greeted with fresh controversy as a video of Palin appearing at the Alaskan Independence Party Convention earlier in the year wishing them ‘’good luck on a successful and inspiring convention’’ does the rounds on newspaper websites and YouTube. As various pundits have pointed out, the AIP’s motto ‘’Alaska First’’ and the support of many within the Party for secession from the United States sits rather uncomfortably with McCain’s attempt to pitch himself as the patriotic candidate encapsulated in his own election motto of ‘’Country First’’.

Surely this spells disaster for the Republicans. The first day of the Convention was put on hold because of Hurricane Gustav and now the woman given the task of reinvigorating the Party at Minneapolis has proved herself perhaps a little too Maverick, even for McCain.

But rather surprisingly Palin appears to be weathering the storm pretty well. Her staunch support for guns and even stauncher opposition to abortion has endeared her to social conservatives, a crucial base which the Republicans will need to mobilise if they hope to win the election, and one that up until now McCain has found it hard to connect to. And whilst in the past the slightest misdemeanour of a candidate in the Presidential race saw a drop in polling points amongst the Right wing evangelical vote (Bush dropped four points amongst this group when it was revealed in the run up to the 2000 election that he had a twenty year old drink driving conviction) Palin’s team are doing quite the damage limitation job. By weaving these stories of scandal into a narrative which pitches her as just an everyday American hockey mom they have managed to endear her to conservatives.

So the story of her teenage daughter’s pregnancy out of wedlock rapidly becomes the story of a family standing by their daughter, and (importantly) of a young woman who has rejected abortion and is set to marry her unborn child’s father. A sex scandal melts away to be replaced by the shining example of good old American family values. If the responses of the delegates in Minneapolis are anything to go by this seems to have worked. One delegate told a TV crew ‘’I think she’s (Palin) shown that her family have taken on her values and are living it’’.

All eyes will be on Palin as she gives her speech tonight in which she is expected to lay out her details of her policy objectives, but by the look of things a straight walk and a bit of talk will be enough.

New McCain ad links Obama and 'Congressional Liberals'

New McCain ad: Palin more experienced than Obama

McCain meets Bristol Palin and fiancé Levi Johnston

Sen. John McCain minutes ago in St Paul for the Republican National Convention and was met by his wife and seven children. Interestingly, he was also met by Gov. Sarah Palin and family - including her pregnant 17 year old daughter and her fiancé Levi Johnston.

Cindy McCain at RNC

A glamorous looking Cindy McCain met staff working the Republican National Convention and practiced her speech ahead of the address she is scheduled to give this evening.

Palin practices biggest speech of her career

Gov. Sarah Palin did an early morning walk through of the Excel center today and began preparations for her Convention speech this evening.

More on Palin's vetting

From Dan Balz of the Washington Post:

"Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was not subjected to a lengthy in-person background interview with the head of Sen. John McCain's vice presidential vetting team until last Wednesday in Arizona, the day before McCain asked her to be his running mate, and she did not disclose the fact that her 17-year-old daughter was pregnant until that meeting, two knowledgeable McCain officials acknowledged Tuesday."

A look at the 2008 Senate races

Here is a brief look at the 2008 Senate races. It shows how the odds are stacked against the Republicans. The Democrats are defending 12 seats with the Republicans trying to keep hold of 21.

McCain, Palin and the Boondoggles

With the political newswires dominated by running mates and teenage pregnancies it is refreshing that the mainstream media still finds room for talk of run-of-the-mill issues such as earmarks.

Earmarks – the ability of members of congress to sneak claims for large sums of public money for their pet projects into legislations and conference reports – have been a regular theme of John McCain’s stump speeches from his earliest primary election. Or rather his stated opposition to those earmarks which can be labelled as ‘pork barrel’ (i.e. unnecessary), electorally-motivated, spending.

The issue has elbowed its way into the broadsheets not because of a sudden fascination with detailed fiscal policy but rather the sniff of a chance to further question the wisdom of McCain’s choice of VP. In his introduction of Sarah Palin to a dumb-founded public, the Republican nominee boasted of her record as the taxpayer’s saviour. In fact, records show that Palin was rather less reticent about federal earmarks when the money was winging its way to Wasilla during her tenure as Mayor – $27 million for a town with a population of 6,700 according to the Washington Post.

For years Republicans attacked Congressional Democrats for their reckless spending and addiction to ‘boondoggles’. Once in control of Congress, however, Republicans (including those, like Palin, from outside of the beltway) found the power of pork barrel just as attractive as Democrats had. Unlike in Western Europe, where party ties are often enough to carry the day, incumbents in the US need to boast how their period in office has benefitted their voters and thus the path to re-election has always been paved with taxpayers money. To demand greater fiscal responsibility of Congress is one thing, to miss out on grabbing your share of the pie is entirely another (not to mention the relationship between spending and powerful interest groups).

Anxiety over spending runs deep with much of the Republican base. Fiscal conservatives, deficit hawks and tax-cutters railed against the inability of Congressional Republicans to act against earmarks. This disillusionment, however, created an opportunity for candidate McCain. Distrusted by many Republicans on issues such as immigration and stem cell research, by championing fiscal restraint he taps into an important section of Republican support that felt overshadowed by the recent emphasis on cultural conservatism.

Whether a President McCain could actually make a difference here is moot. His call for a line-item veto allowing the President to strip legislation of individual provisions would, no doubt, run foul of the Supreme Court. This would leave him unappetising decisions to make; whether to veto large, important Bills because of a where a section of the money will end up?

In the end pork barrel is purely subjective – one person’s wasteful congressional spending is another’s much-needed public investment. The bottom line is that, while the electoral incentives to allow members of congress to claim parts of the federal budget for their own constituency exist, party leaders, in Congress and the White House, will find ways to make it happen.

by Ross English

Is Sarah Palin's daughter any of your business?

Reports out today seem to suggest that a man's reluctance to marry, or settle down with a single woman, may be down to a 'genetic flaw'.

Interesting though that the evidence seems to be based around a hormone which affects voles' abilities to remain monogamous.

Surely then that makes voles the original 'love rat' then? ;-)

Anyway, it seems that relationships are in the spotlight in politics at the moment following news in America that John McCain's Vice Presidential running-mate's daughter is expecting a child outside of wedlock.

Yes, you did hear that right. The daughter of the deputy of a potential President is pregnant and people are therefore questioning whether McCain and his V-P can do their jobs properly if elected?

It's madness.

I for one have never been particular interested in the private lives of politicians - no matter the political hue. Financial mismanagement or fraudulent behaviour is one thing - but personal relationship problems are usually another.

Do such problems stop you being able to do your job? Usually, no. What we need are honest polticians, who should not have to pretend to be something they are not in order to get on in life. Real people, with real families and real problems.

In my opinion, if you want all your politicians to be super-human, what you will generally end up with is one of two things:

1) Politicians who are not representative of the society they are called to represent, as they are likely to have tried to live apart from anything that could possibly be seen as tarnishing their reputation.


2) Politicians who are very good at hiding their past/present problems, so they are kept from public view.

Neither is particularly healthy.

Perhaps the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's daughter will give the Vice-Presidential nominee a new insight into the issue of unmarried motherhood. Or maybe Sarah Palin and her daughter have nothing to apologise for and we should leave them alone so her daughter and grandchild can get on with their own lives. Do politicians have to be answerable for the personal conduct of their friends and relatives - possibly if those friends and relatives were also up for election, but otherwise, generally speaking, no.

Don't get me wrong, I do not support Palin, but that is my point. There are many reasons NOT to vote for Palin (being a right wing conservative Republican, is a reason enough in my book) or for John McCain, but whether her daughter is married or not is not one of them.

Being an unmarried mother does not make you a bad politician or a bad person. Neither does your daughter being an unmarried mother.

And by the same token, having a wife who is pregnant does not make you any more capable as a politician either. Just in case there are any Lib Dems reading this. ;-)

After all, “private lives” are called that for a reason.
(Photo Source: Bruce McAdam, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Field_Vole_by_Bruce_McAdam.jpg)

By Kerron Cross

OK, I know this is cruel... but...

The Morning Shows

Morning show review - The Page

Last night at the Republican Convention

President Bush addresses the Convention via video link

Former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman

Former Tennessee Senator and 2008 Presidential candidate Fred Thompson

2 September 2008

McCain, Palin oppose sex education

Republican John McCain, whose running mate disclosed that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, has opposed proposals to spend federal money on teen-pregnancy prevention programs and voted to require poor teen mothers to stay in school or lose their benefits.

McCain's record on issues surrounding teen pregnancy and contraceptives during his more than two decades in the Senate indicates that he and Palin have similar views. Until Monday, when the subject surfaced in a deeply personal manner, teen pregnancy and sex education were not issues in the national political campaign.

Palin herself said she opposes funding sexual-education programs in Alaska.
"The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support," she wrote in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates.
McCain's position on contraceptives and teen pregnancy issues has been difficult to judge on the campaign trail, as he appears uncomfortable discussing such topics. Reporters asked the presumptive GOP presidential nominee in November 2007 whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives and whether he supports President Bush's policy of promoting abstinence.

Pollster: Obama 48.3, McCain 44.9

Click to enlarge:

Laura Bush and Cindy McCain on Fox News

Laura Bush and Cindy McCain appeared on Fox News this lunchtime talking about the campaign and Hurricane Gustav. I have to say, they both came across really well - they give new meaning to the phrase 'my better half'.

More on Palin's vetting

The Swamp:

"Nobody was vetted less or more than anyone in the final stages, and John had access to all that information and made the decision," Davis said. "It's really not much more complicated than that."

Today, in the New York Times, we learn this:

Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin’s background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice. The campaign was still calling Republican operatives as late as Sunday night asking them to go to Alaska to deal with the unexpected candidacy of Ms. Palin.

And this:

People familiar with the process said Ms. Palin had responded to a standard form with more than 70 questions. Although The Washington Post quoted advisers to Mr. McCain on Sunday as saying Ms. Palin had been subjected to an F.B.I. background check, an F.B.I. official said Monday the bureau did not vet potential candidates and had not known of her selection until it was made public.

Oh, and this:

In Alaska, several state leaders and local officials said they knew of no efforts by the McCain campaign to find out more information about Ms. Palin before the announcement of her selection, Although campaigns are typically discreet when they make inquiries into potential running mates, officials in Alaska said Monday they thought it was peculiar that no one in the state had the slightest hint that Ms. Palin might be under consideration.

The Democratic Convntion in one minute

I know its the Republicans turn this week, but incase you missed the Democrats last week, here's a recap!

President Bush, Joe Lieberman, Fred Thompson to address convention tonight

Fox News - The Republican National Convention tries to get back to normal Tuesday, after the threat posed by Hurricane Gustav gutted the agenda on the convention’s kick-off day.

Topping the revised agenda will be an address by President Bush, scheduled for 9:30 p.m. EDT via satellite remote.

Convention officials said other prime-time speakers will be Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Connecticut Sen Joe Lieberman.

Thompson was inserted in place of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger, who canceled his appearance due to a state budget battle.

Palin hires attorney for 'Troopergate' inquiry

A number of outlets have this morning reported that Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has appointed an attorney to handle the ongoing inquiry in to her involvement in the sacking of an Alaskan state trooper.

Having taken a look over some of the evidence being presented against Palin (information that is publicly available, and with my non legal background!), I don't think there is a particularly scandalous case against Gov. Palin. Barring a discovery of some smoking gun I would expect this scandal to end with a whimper rather than a bang.

But it might be worth wondering what would happen if she were found guilty of an abuse of power...

In case you missed it...

This is the statement released by Sarah and Todd Palin yesterday:

"We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.

"Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates."


The day after Obama comes out and says 'families are off limits', McCain's ad man is going after Barack Obama's half brother in the latest campaign spot.

"Television ads are the background rhythm of a presidential campaign, and Republican Sen. John McCain's drummer - ad man Fred Davis - is already accelerating the beat and playing his signature riffs.

He has in the works a television ad that contrasts Democratic nominee Barack Obama's life as a politician in Chicago with that of his half-brother in Kenya, who lives in a shack on an unpaved street. Davis, chairman of Strategic Perception, McCain's advertising firm, said that the images are meant as a sharp-edged counterpoint to a theme in Obama's acceptance speech last week, in which he declared, "I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper."

Is it just me, or is this a cheap shot?

A good day to bury bad news

I thought these were an interesting few comments tucked away in a New York Times article about Bristol Palin's pregnancy today:

"Mr. McCain’s aides disclosed the news at the same time as Hurricane Gustav struck land in what they said was an orchestrated attempt to minimize attention to it. Yet still it dominated discussion among delegates here, and in the news coverage that was devoted to politics, on the opening day of Mr. McCain’s convention."

"Mr. McCain’s campaign, which has shown itself adept at handling the news media, tried to influence coverage of the disclosure by releasing it as Hurricane Gustav was slamming into the Gulf Coast. (The Palin news was not mentioned on the “CBS Evening News” until 15 minutes into the newscast). It was also by every appearance tucked into a series of problematic tidbits released about Ms. Palin’s past, including news that her husband, Todd, was arrested for driving while impaired in 1986.

“We are going to flush the toilet,” said Tucker Eskew, who is a senior adviser to Ms. Palin, describing the campaign’s plans for Labor Day, when much of the nation was busy with family and social activities."

And these was me thinking politics had been dropped for the day because of Gustav! How naive!

Laura Bush and Cindy McCain at the RNC last night

Five Reasons Why Things Are Now Looking Up For The Republicans

Over at the Spectator Magazine, Fraser Nelson claims that the Republicans might just be on the up-swing.

1) Gustav has been downgraded to a Category One hurricane. No levees were breached. So no disaster - and McCain may deliver convention speech in person after all.

2) To an extent, Gustav may atone for Katrina in showing lessons were learned and that McCain is a decisive leader who didn’t dither about the convention.

3) Bush and Cheney cancelled their speeches due today. No one in Team McCain will shed a tear for that.

4) Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy is an issue, but looks likely to be treated sympathetically and may yet augment her appeal. Time Magazine is on the scene in Alaska, and says it was “no secret”.

5) General interest in Palin has negated any Obama post-convention bounce. It’s still a tie between him and McCain.

Gallup: Obama 50, McCain 43

The Democratic National Convention significantly boosted Americans' views of Barack Obama as a strong leader who "shares your values" and can manage the economy and Iraq, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Saturday and Sunday finds.

"This is a convention bounce," said Robert Eisinger, a political scientist at Lewis & Clark College and author of The Evolution of Presidential Polling. The results reflected the impact of themes the Democrats hammered at their convention in Denver last week.

Eisinger cautioned, "The Republicans haven't yet had their convention, and John McCain will be exposed to a large segment of the population as well" with their convention this week. The GOP has had to deal with competing events, however, including Hurricane Gustav and Monday's news that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's teenage daughter is pregnant.

In the head-to-head race, Obama leads 50%-43% among registered voters. In the USA TODAY Poll taken Aug. 21-23, the Illinois senator held a 4-percentage-point lead.

CBS: VP Poll

CBS has also conducted a poll following Sen. John McCain's announcement that Gov. Sarah Palin would be his running mate.

CBS: Obama, 48, McCain 40

Some interesting post-Democratic Convention polls released by CBS today showing Obama is enjoying a bounce following his acceptance speech in front of 84,000. The numbers also show Obama making limited progress on areas typically perceived as weaknesses.

It brings up some interesting numbers:

George Stephanopoulos: Republicans vetting Palin NOW

George Stephanopoulos has claimed that Republican operatives arrived in Alaska yesterday to begin vetting Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin.

Stephanopouloshas claims that a 10 person strong 'rapid response' team, including lawyers, have been sent to search for any future issues that may surface.

This of course raises the question - what else do we not know? Talk Left is even placing bets on when she will be forced to leave the race.

The big question: Was Palin vetted?

With the revelation that Bristol Palin is expecting her first child at the age of 17, questions are being asked about just how much John McCain knew and how throughly Gov, Palin has been vetted.

With the press initially being surprised by the pick, they have quickly swung in to action trawling through every aspect of Sarah Palin's history.

This morning, further details of Gov, Palin's involvement in the 'Troopergate' scandal in Alaska surfaced, with claims that electronic records have emerged that may implicate Palin in the sacking of a State Trooper due to a family grudge.

ABC are reporting that Palin used to be a member of the Alaskan Independence Party - a group that calls for Alaska to be given a vote on whether it should leave the Union.

The Washington Post reports on Palin employing a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal funds for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, a practice that McCain has railed

Her husband was arrested for DUI back in the 1980's and speculation was rampant last weekend that the Palin's had faked Sarah's pregnancy so they could hide the fact that her daughter was really pregnant last year.

She has previously been quoted as saying she hadn't paid much attention to Iraq and has agreed with Obama's energy policy

I am not saying she is not a good candidate for McCain, but what does this say of McCain's decision?

Press finds Father of Palin baby

This is Levi Johnston, or as the NY Daily News describes him, "a superhunky bad-boy ice hockey player from cold country.'

He is the 18 year old fiance of Bristol Palin, who is expecting her first child wirh Johnston in December.

1 September 2008

McCain knew of pregnancy

Senior McCain campaign officials said McCain knew of the daughter's pregnancy when he selected Palin last week as his vice presidential running mate, deciding that it did not disqualify the 44-year-old governor in any way.

In the short period since she was announced last Friday, Palin has helped to energize the Republican Party's conservative base, giving the McCain camp fresh energy going into the campaign for the November 4 election against Democrat Barack Obama.

McCain officials said the news of the daughter's pregnancy was being released to rebut what one aide called "mud-slinging and lies" circulating on liberal blog sites.

According to these rumors, Sarah Palin had faked a pregnancy and pretended to have given birth in May to her fifth child, a son named Trig who has Down syndrome. The rumor was that Trig was actually Bristol Palin's child and that Sarah Palin was the grandmother.

A senior McCain campaign official said the McCain camp was appalled that these rumors had not only been spread around liberal blog sites and partisan Democrats, but also were the subject of heightened interest from mainstream news media.

"The despicable rumors that have been spread by liberal blogs, some even with Barack Obama's name in them, is a real anchor around the Democratic ticket, pulling them down in the mud in a way that certainly juxtaposes themselves against their 'campaign of change,'" a senior aide said.

- Reuters

To rebut rumors, Palin says daughter, 17, pregnant

The 17-year-old daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant, Palin said on Monday in an announcement intended to knock down rumors by liberal bloggers that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child.

Bristol Palin, one of Alaska Gov. Palin's five children with her husband, Todd, is about five months pregnant and is going to keep the child and marry the father, the Palins said in a statement released by the campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Bristol Palin made the decision on her own to keep the baby, McCain aides said.

"We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us," the Palins' statement said.

"Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support," the Palins said.

The Palins asked the news media to respect the young couple's privacy.

"Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media, respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates," the statement concluded.

- Reuters

Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter is pregnant!

When Michelle met Hillary...

I loved these candid Time magazine snaps of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama backstage at the Democratic National Convention.

Sen. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama meet on the Tuesday of the Democratic National Convention.

The former and potential future First Lady discuss the upcoming November Election.

Sen. Hillary Clinton introduces her daughter, Chelsea, to Michelle Obama.

Sir Rock Obama: Are there any black people in Alaska?

First look at GOP convention stage

CNN: Biden cancels event due to Hurricane Gustav

Hurricane Gustav is having an impact on both sides of the aisle: hours after prompting Republican John McCain to scale back the GOP convention schedule, the storm is affecting the plans of his Democratic counterparts as well.

Citing the dire situation along the Gulf Coast, Senator Joe Biden cancelled his plans to march in Pittsburgh's annual Labor Day parade Monday. Instead, Biden was to give a statement on the hurricane at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The campaign still planned to hold two afternoon events in Scranton, Pennsylvania, including a discussion on jobs and the economy at Biden's childhood home.

Former DNC chair: Gustav shows God favours Democrats

Palin arrives in St. Paul for Republican Convention

The Morning Shows

Morning show review - The Page

Stakes high for McCain as Bush tours storm zone

The stakes are high for John McCain this week as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast.

Both President Bush and John McCain have headed to the Gulf coast to meet with officials overseeing operations in soon to be affected areas and survey the evacuation procedures.

However, any signs that mistakes seen three years ago, as Katrina destroyed New Orleans, are being repeated could spell disaster for the Republican party.

The campaign and Russia

John McCain and Barack Obama have a long road ahead of them until Election Day. There will be many tests and obstacles to overcome. Some will be tougher than others. However, the eventual winner of this captivating duel will have their hands full come January 21st. Not least with issues such as energy, healthcare, the Middle East and the economic down turn. However, they will also be faced; presumably, with an issue American politicians thought had died in the early 1990’s. Russia is once again at the forefront of Washington’s attention.

It had seemed that America and Russia were drawing closer together, forging new partnerships and great cooperation with one another. Yet the old sense of mistrust and anxiety seems to be sinking back into the minds of many in Washington and Moscow. These feelings will also be playing heavily on the minds of Obama and McCain.

The tones of both Presidential hopefuls could not be different when it comes to foreign policy, just look at Iran. However the issue of Russia shows that there are some similarities. John McCain has cited that the controversial missile defence shield, to be stationed in the Czech Republic and Poland, is most definitely a reaction to the threat posed by Russia. The very notion of the Shield has drawn great hostility from Moscow, who has always argued that it is aimed at them. Although the Bush administration has always strenuously denied this; Senator McCain’s comments will have led to greater resentment towards the idea.

A general notion floating around is that although America and Europe are keen to have the missile defence shield in place because they feel threatened from ‘rogue’ nations, such as Iran; it is in fact Russia who is feeling threatened. Her actions in Georgia last week suggest that this notion may be true. Russia is sending a warning to the West that she is still strong, and will not be pushed about. The fact that Georgia was comprehensively and disproportionately routed by Russian troops is a message aimed at the West.

Georgia was subject to much press coverage earlier in the year, when she (along with Ukraine) was temporarily refused entry into NATO. This did not sit well with the Russian hierarchy of Medvedev and Putin. Although the two former Soviet states were not granted entry into the Western alliance, it was more of a ‘not yet’ than a definite no. Both NATO and the EU have been encroaching into former Soviet territory, with the Baltic States and former Warsaw Pact nations joining both organisations. This has led Russia to feel, once again, isolated and surrounded by American proxies.

Russia has rejuvenated itself over the past eight years. The military which looked far from superpower-esque during the Chechen campaigns of the 1990’s, has had a much needed re-vamp. Spending has increased, and it shows with modern hard-wear now at their disposal. The signs were there for all to see that Russia would not sit back and watch her power and authority diminish, not least in her own backyard. The Litvenenko murder, the reinstatement of Soviet style long range air patrols and diplomatic flexing of muscles, such as the UN Mugabe debacle back in July, were all clear signs that Russia was back on the horizon as a possible sore spot for America. Now the actions of the Russian military in Georgia complete the package. Russia is a force once more.

How will America act towards this? The current, so-called, ‘lame-duck’ administration of George W Bush has reacted strongly, albeit, verbally to the Russian onslaught on Georgia. However, surely Bush knows that there is little he can do in the short time he has left in office. It really is a problem for the next incumbent in the Washington hot seat. Contrasting to McCain’s rhetoric towards Russia, Senator Obama has again been more diplomatic in his approach; a policy which has become common for the Illinois Senator. Obama is portraying himself as being more cooperative with the Russians in cases where Moscow feels threatened, such as Missile Defence.

However, what is the right way to approach Russia? Is McCain right in offering a tough line with Moscow. Showing them that their aggression to their sovereign neighbours will not go unchallenged by his administration? Or is Obama right to try and rein Russia in, and rebuild their trust, without compromising the security of America or Europe. The fact is whatever position is taken with Russia there will still be great difficulties and complexities when concerning the relationship between America and Russia. These are testing times in the relationship. However, one does not simply turn into friends over night, after being enemies for the past forty five years. The next President will have to learn that, and most probably learn that the hard way.

Nevertheless, I feel that although both Presidential hopefuls have said that they would not be dictated to by Russia when it comes to their national security, this may lead to other concessions. Giving in to Russia demands about NATO expansion may be one area of compromise. America needs Russia more than she knows. Oil and gas flow from Russia into Europe, and with the flick of a switch Europe could be cut off. Not only that, but Russia is needed by America in its fight against global terrorism. Having Russia as an enemy, along with Islamic extremists is not an ideal situation for the Pentagon, already stretched by commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Securing loose nuclear materials throughout the ex Soviet Union nations is another area where America will need Russian cooperation (something which Barack Obama has previously highlighted).

Barack Obama and John McCain have a lot of issues that need dealing with if they are successful in their bid for the White House, some more important than other. Can the next President find the right tactic to deal with Moscow? The importance of how to deal with Russia is, as always for Washington, very high on the agenda.

By Stewart Munn

The DNC: A week of double standards?

The past week has seen some strange manoeuvrings by the campaign teams of both Presidential candidates. As the Clintons moved to back Obama and to oppose McCain, the Republican presumptive nominee appeared to align himself with the Clintons against Obama. The very nature of the Presidential race necessitates double standards, and this has been painfully apparent during the last week. Comments made by both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden have come back to haunt the Democrats’ attempts to make a firm and decisive show of unity.

Most damaging have been Hillary Clinton’s concerns, made clear during her own campaign earlier this year, about Obama’s viability as commander-in-chief. Although she made clear in her speech at the DNC on Tuesday that she is throwing all her political weight behind the Democrat’s nominee, she did not take the opportunity to retract her statements concerning Obama’s foreign policy experience.

Bill Clinton, during his speech on Wednesday, compared himself to Obama, stating that the Republicans had said that he, too, lacked sufficient experience to be commander-in-chief in 1992. Yet the way in which Mr Clinton’s speech separated Obama’s competence in areas of national policy and foreign policy highlights the challenges which the nominee faces in convincing the public he is ready to lead the armed forces. Clinton stated that Obama’s “policies on the economy, on taxes, on health care, on energy, are far superior to the Republican alternatives. He has shown a clear grasp of foreign policy and national security challenges”. Why not group foreign policy together with the economy, taxes, health care and energy? Obama has a glaring chink in his armour. Unsurprisingly, McCain’s campaign team are refusing to back down on the issue.

On Wednesday, a McCain team press release condemned Obama’s suggestion that the special US envoy to Northern Ireland should be removed. The press release applauded Bill Clinton’s decision as President to instate the envoy, an action which McCain spokesperson Brian Rogers believes was “critical to fostering pace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland”. Whilst explicitly criticising Obama’s command of foreign policy, the statement simultaneously sides with the Clintons in an attempt to undermine Obama’s campaign from within.

McCain’s team are focusing not only on Obama’s inexperience in foreign policy, but also on his general lack of leadership. Curiously, Hillary Clinton is being painted as the pinnacle of strong leadership, nowhere more so than in a new online ad launched this week. It shows Debra Bartoshevick, a former Clinton delegate, speaking of Hillary’s strong “experience and judgement”, against a backdrop of Clinton looking proudly and patriotically towards the future.

But now Bartoshevick is supporting McCain, because he holds the qualities which, she believes, Clinton possessed. She reassures uncertain Democrats that “A lot of Democrats will vote McCain. It’s okay. Really”. This is a far cry from Clinton’s catchy verbal attack on Tuesday: “No way, no how, no McCain”.

It is difficult to predict how these mixed messages will be received by voters. The transparency of double standards on both sides means that cynicism is likely to abound. This week’s double standards smack of opportunism on every level, but this opportunism seems to be necessary to maintain momentum on both sides. Some commentators have dismissed the Clintons’ endorsements of Obama as self-serving PR stunts which might help pave the way to a 2012 or 2016 Clinton presidency. It is also safe to assume that McCain’s campaign team could not have been as positive about Hillary Clinton had she beaten Obama in the nomination process. No way, no how, no shame.

By Robert Black

After Denver, could the Democratic Convention be worth 9 electoral votes?

With Denver wrapped and the Democratic party packing up to go home it is worth considering the electoral impact on the Centennial State following the Convention.

Obviously Obama's Convention address will make an impact across the county, but there may also be an additional effect of hosting the convention in a swing state. The importance of Colorado is that Clinton won Colorado by 4% in 1992 and lost it by just 1% in 1996. The swing to the Republicans hit 8% when it voted Bush in 2000 but then fell in 2004 to just over 4%. The latest polls show somewhere between Obama +3% and McCain +3%. It is the definition of a swing state this year and the pendulum is headed for the Democrats. Colorado elected a Democratic Governor in 2006 with a swing to the Democratic Party of over 20%.

50,000 or so attendees, thousands of which are party members, wall to wall media that is more intense than anywhere else in the US and lots of politicians falling over themselves to praise the Denver and Colorado, is bound to have an impact in the states perceptions of the party. The Democratic Congressmen and women, Senator and the Governor will get a big boost to their profiles and local activists will feel a boost from being centre stage. Hosting the convention in Colorado could give the Democrats an extra 0.1% in November and potentially 9 electoral votes.

In a tight election, that could be the margin of victory.

By Beyond New Labour

The Issue Of Faith

It has been lurking over Barack Obama and John McCain ever since they entered the primaries and more importantly since they secured their presumptive nominations from their respective Parties. However, it had been in the background and not been able to force itself to the forefront of people’s attention. Until now that is. Last Saturday saw its introduction to the Presidential election. The it that I speak of is religion, and more to the point, Christianity. The Christian forum in California last Saturday brought both Senators together for the first time in the campaign. Although they were not drawn into a debate with one another, the forum was nonetheless very important, and could prove to be so in the long run.

Religion matters in American politics. Politics matters to religion. The relationship is not always smooth, but they do seem to go hand in hand. Christianity is very strong in America, much more so than in Europe. Estimates say that one in four Americans is an Evangelical Christian. They are a huge voting bloc to be targeted by the Presidential candidates. With a population of nearly eighty million, the Evangelical Christians are understandably very influential in American society. This influence is felt quite prevalently in Washington. Christian lobby and pressure groups are in fact some of the best funded and important. The reach and influence of the Evangelicals is great. They are deeply involved in matters such as education, civil partnerships and abortion. But also on foreign policy issues such as the so-called American “civilising mission” to the third world, and on Middle Eastern policies especially concerning Israel.

These Lobby Groups are able to raise large amounts of money, via donors and Church donations, thus making themselves influential in and around Congress. They also receive huge support from Senators and Representatives who share the same faith. Religion is very prominent in American politics, therefore it is important to a large number of voting Americans who there President is, and more importantly, how much their faith means to them.

The Christian Forum in California was a chance for both Presidential candidates to woo America’s Christians. For John McCain, the forum was of huge importance. The Christian right does not trust him, and they have not taken to him with open arms, like they did with George W Bush. There seems to be a distrust of the Arizona Senator, which first emerged when McCain challenged Bush in the Republican Primaries back in 1999. Evangelical Christians tend to vote Republican. The polices of the Republicans go hand in hand with the wishes of Evangelical Christians. However, the Evangelical camp could prove to be McCain’s and the Republican’s undoing in the 2008 Presidential Election; such is the animosity they feel towards John McCain.

Yet, Barack Obama is a whole different beast for the Evangelicals. He is a professed Christian. His hour long appearance at the faith forum showed that his Christianity runs deep, it means a lot to him. He was very in depth and open about his faith. You could sense that the crowd appreciated his honesty. It was crucial Obama showed his religious side, because it was a side of him that has been tainted over the past months, or even years. Obama has had to put up with the rumours that he is a Muslim (some 10% of Americans still think Obama is a Muslim). He has had to deal with the same old drivel: Obama sounds like Osama; his middle name is Hussein; the photos of him in Kenyan dress etc. All of these factors have made Barack Obama seem alien to the Evangelical Christians. Their distrust of McCain was equalled and then some, by Senator Obama. Therefore, the forum gave Obama the chance to put the record straight. He did an ok job. But not a great job. McCain came out on top with his “conception starts at birth” speech, compared to Obama’s not so decisive “above my pay grade” response, when asked about when life begins.

This proves he still has a long way to go to win over this hardcore Republican bloc. Issues such as gay rights and abortion may prove to be a stumbling block for Obama in this case. Yet if he can make some progress with the Christian right it might go a long way to helping him win in November. Maybe his openness on religious and moral matters will endear him to the right, but it may also alienate himself from the left. The right balance needs to be found for the Illinois Senator to win this very open Presidential race.

By Stewart Munn

31 August 2008

The weekends TV

Obama on '60 Minutes'

Palin on CNBC

McCain talks about Palin pick on Fox News

Can Palin charm America?

The video footage of McCain’s speech at the Republican rally in Dayton, Ohio last night is more interesting for the out-of-focus faces standing behind the podium than for McCain’s performance. As McCain mentions that his Veep pick was once a mayor and is now a governor, cheers resound around the stadium; yet the predominant poses struck by those standing behind McCain are of shocked confusion.

As it becomes clear that the Vice Presidential candidate will be a woman, one female member of the audience behind McCain gasps with a mixture of elation and surprise.

Until just minutes before Palin was announced as McCain’s running mate, no-one even guessed that the Alaskan governor could so suddenly have been launched onto the national—and even international—arena.

If this sudden exposure was a nerve-wracking experience for Palin, she didn’t show it. Confident, focused and determined, she stole the spotlight away from Obama’s convention speech as soon as she walked to the podium. The trouble for the McCain campaign is that she may also steal the spotlight from him. Standing next to her, McCain looked rather stiff and even a little older than normal.

Palin’s charming demeanour is a breath of fresh air for McCain’s campaign, and initial reactions of excitement are inevitable. As the dust settles over the next few days and weeks, however, American voters will want to know more about the woman currently under investigation in her own state. Though she may have the charm to woo Clinton supporters with her image, her pro-life, pro-guns and anti-gay marriage stances may prevent a significant swing in her favour. The emotive factor of these issues cannot be underestimated.

McCain now has some contemporaneous evidence to back up his recent TV and online ads depicting him as a maverick. Though we might not know until polling day whether the choice of Palin has been one of the shrewdest or one of the most foolish political moves in recent American history, Obama and Biden are correct in thinking that she “will add a compelling new voice to this campaign”. All eyes will be on Palin at the Republican convention next week.

By Robert Black

GOP cancels convention opening night

The Huffington Post is reporting that the Republican party will scrap its entire Monday night schedule - including speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

"It is doubtful that there will be any kind of program tomorrow night" when the four-day convention was scheduled to commence, he told reporters. "The convention is going to be handled on a day-to-day basis." House Minority Leader John Boehner said today.

McCain calls for convention changes

John McCain called for sweeping changes to the GOP convention schedule next week in the wake of Hurricane Gustav threatening the Gulf Coast just over three years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city of New Orleans.

“We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans,” the Republican presidential candidate said standing alongside his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Bush, Cheney to miss convention.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will skip the Republican National Convention because of mounting concerns about Hurricane Gustav, the White House said Sunday.

His Homeland Security chief warned that Gustav could prove more challenging than Katrina and the nation's disaster response coordinator worried about New Orlean's fragile levees.

In a telephone call to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Bush said he was "checking in and getting ready to go through this again with him," spokeswoman Dana Perino said. Nagin told Bush the forecast did not look good, but that he was pleased so far with the coordination with the federal government.

Nagin told Bush that residents were heeding the evacuation notice, roads were full and the elderly were getting the message to leave, Perino said.

The White House was working on possible alternatives that would allow Bush to make a speech at the convention, Perino said. But Cheney is to leave Tuesday on a four-country trip that includes a stop in Georgia.

- AP

Obama campaign launches first Biden ad

McCain has raised $7m since Palin pick!

Donations are pouring in to the Republican’s campaign since Friday morning’s announcement. Social and religious conservatives have been particularly energized by the VP pick.