3 October 2008

Must read...

Hockey Mom on Thin Ice
E. J Dionne

Early in last night's vice-presidential debate, Sarah Palin said that she might not answer the questions as moderator Gwen Ifill posed them. This was the Alaska governor's way of saying she was going to stick to the talking points she had stuffed into her head, no matter what the subject.

When Palin described John McCain's health-care plan, she talked about his offer of a $5,000 tax credit so families could buy insurance. She failed to mention that McCain would pay for the credit by taxing existing insurance benefits. Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden -- politely -- pounced on her omission, warning that McCain's plan could lead millions to lose their insurance coverage. Palin didn't come back to defend her running mate.

Nor did she come back when Biden challenged her false claims about how many times Barack Obama had voted for tax increases. Palin just plowed forward, piling one attack on top of another, with leavening references to "Joe Six-Pack" and "hockey moms."

Oh, yes, she did correct Biden on one thing. When he said the Republican energy slogan is "drill, drill, drill," she quickly reminded him that "the chant is drill, baby, drill." Thanks for clearing that up.

Last night's debate took place at the moment when a majority of American voters had decided that Palin was unprepared to be president if she were called upon to assume the office. Surveys by The Post and ABC News and by the Pew Research Center both found that doubts about Palin have risen sharply since the beginning of September.

The key to understanding how McCain chose Palin as his running mate was provided by the New York Times last weekend when it described an episode in which he "tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table." Americans are increasingly uneasy about the gamble they might take by putting Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Expectations for Palin were so low that the mere fact that she managed to keep talking and to keep assailing Obama will be rated as a great victory by McCain's lieutenants. But it was Biden who knew what he was talking about, who could engage in argument and who showed he actually understood the issues. In recent interviews with CBS anchor Katie Couric, Palin came off as profoundly uninformed, as someone who had given little thought to the issues that will matter. Nothing Palin did last night changed that. Those rooting for her were relieved. Those who doubted her readiness going in were not persuaded by her endless repetition of the word "maverick."

Palin has also brought out the very worst in McCain, forcing him to -- and I do not use this word lightly -- lie about her. In an interview broadcast Wednesday, National Public Radio's Steve Inskeep asked McCain if there would be "an occasion where you could imagine turning to Governor Palin for advice in a foreign policy crisis?"

McCain replied: "I've turned to her advice many times in the past. I can't imagine turning to Senator Obama or Senator Biden, because they've been wrong."

"Many times in the past?" McCain met Palin only twice before he selected her. What McCain said could not be true. And would anyone who listened to her last night really consult Palin on foreign policy?

This week, McCain's backers signaled their fears that Palin would fail by trying to discredit the debate in advance. Although it has been known at least since July that Gwen Ifill was writing a book on "Politics and Race in the Age of Obama," the usual right-wing attack squad waited until two days before the debate to mount a campaign to the effect that Ifill's book project turned her into a biased moderator. In her measured questioning, Ifill showed that the attack was nonsense.

The core issue, of course, is the contrast between how Obama and McCain chose their running mates. Say what you will about Joe Biden - and last night, he was far from being either the gaffe machine or the windbag so many predicted would appear on stage - no one loses sleep at the idea of his being in the Oval Office. Obama picked a vice president more likely to help him govern the country than win the chance to do so.

As for McCain, he found himself in a political hole and threw the dice with Palin. At the time of her selection, voters were often compared with "American Idol" watchers who put personality and stage presence above everything else. But it turns out that Americans take the presidency very seriously. And surviving 90 minutes on a stage with Biden did not transform Palin into a plausible president.

Watch the full debate

So who won?

House to re-vote on bailout tonight!

The House of Representatives is preparing to vote once more on the $700bn financial bailout plan following its shock defeat on Monday.

Drama at the debate? No Chance.

So very little of note happened in the television debates so far. Those Obama supporters rubbing their hands in anticipation of a Palin meltdown live on TV were disappointed. Surprise, surprise. The truth is that they were always going to be disappointed for one simple reason – nothing of note ever happens in presidential or vice-presidential debates. They have always been the set pieces that promise the most but deliver the least.

A quick recap of those TV debate bombshells throughout history. 1960, Richard Nixon sports a five o’clock shadow and looks a little sweaty. No debates are held again until 1976 where Republican VP candidate Bob Dole appears to blame World Wars One and Two on the Democrats. In 1988, Democrat Veep nominee Lloyd Bentsen delivers his “you’re no Jack Kennedy’ zinger to a startled Dan Quayle. Bush-Quayle win the election. 1992 George Bush is spotted glancing at his watch and third party VP candidate Admiral James Stockdale admits to having his hearing aid turned off. 2004 a suspicious looking crease in President Bush’s jacket leads to theories that he is being fed lines from offstage. And... that’s about it.

Actually, I must admit to exaggerating for effect. There are two moments that stand out as genuinely injurious to the candidates: in 1976 Gerald Ford’s assertion that “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” and Michael Dukakis’s 1988 unemotional and rambling answer to an outrageous question about what his reaction would be to his wife being raped and murdered. But those moments, at best, can be said to have confirmed existing doubts surrounding the candidates rather than blowing the campaign wide open.

The problem is that these set pieces are just that – set pieces; endlessly prepped, rehearsed and largely devoid of spontaneity – and because of this (with some rare exceptions) the result is mostly the same. The only time a person ‘wins’ (a meaningless term loved by the punditry) is when there was someone who was expected to lose, just because they surpassed their low expectations. The bumbling Ronald Reagan was expected to be roasted by the experienced President Cater in 1980 but held his own and so came out on top. A similar scenario played out in 2000 with the tongue-tied George W up against Harvard debater Al Gore.

So no surprise that Sarah Palin didn’t morph into her Saturday Night Live parody, Joe Biden failed to stray recklessly off-message, McCain didn’t lose his famous temper and Obama managed to avoid insulting small town America once again. They know their lines, they’ve been here before and the road-show will plough on until the next debate where – hopefully tempting fate here – not much will happen.

By Ross English

1 October 2008

Congress leaders optimistic on revived bailout

AP - Congressional leaders from both parties said they are hopeful that a $700 billion financial industry bailout that derailed in the House is back on track for quick passage, thanks partly to a provision increasing insurance for people's deposits. President Bush planned to call lawmakers asking for their support ahead of a crucial Senate vote Wednesday night.

"I think the Senate thinks it has the votes and I think it probably will pass," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. House Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri agreed that prospects for passage have improved, and he said he was particularly heartened by indications the legislation has become more appealing to constituents back home.

The plan for Wednesday night's vote was set after leaders there agreed to add tax breaks for businesses and the middle class and increase deposit insurance in an attempt to revive the legislation rejected by the House.

Remarks by John McCain on the Economy in Independence, Missouri

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

ARLINGTON, VA - U.S. Senator John McCain today will deliver the following remarks as prepared for delivery in Independence, Missouri, at 10:00 a.m. CT (11:00 a.m. ET):

Thank you all very much. I appreciate the hospitality of the Harry Truman Library Institute. I'm honored to be here in the town that sent Harry Truman to Washington, and the town that welcomed him back when his work was done.

President Truman was a student of history, and he knew how suddenly a crisis could come about. And while so many things have changed in the 35 years since his passing, Harry Truman would surely recognize the sources of the financial crisis that now threaten the livelihoods of millions and the future of the entire American economy. Only the vast sums of money would surprise him. But the costs of unbridled greed on Wall Street, the foolishness of politicians who fed the problem, and the recklessness of politicians who failed to meet the crisis -- all of these would have a familiar feel to the man from Independence.

We are square in the greatest financial crisis of our lifetimes. And I am pleased to report that today, I will be returning to the floor of the Senate to vote on a bill that marks a decisive step in the right direction. The original proposal was flawed. I urged additions of taxpayer protections, stronger oversight, limitations on executive compensation and more protections for people's bank accounts. I am pleased that these are being added to improve the original bill. It took Congress a while, and there were costs to these delays. But they have awakened to the danger. And today, with the unity that this crisis demands, Congress will once again work to restore confidence and stability to the American economy.

There will be a time to fix the blame for all that has happened -- especially in the case of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the abuses and political deal-making that corrupted those institutions. But our duty right now is to fix the problem, and that is the business that will shortly take me back to Washington. Following September 11th, our national leaders came together at a time of crisis. Now, with this measure, we have another chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country.

If the financial rescue bill fails in Congress yet again, the present crisis will turn into a disaster. As credit disappears, students will no longer be able to get loans for college, and families looking for a new home will be unable to get a loan. New car sales will come to a halt. Businesses will have difficulty securing credit for operations and may be unable to pay employees. If we fail to act, the gears of our economy will grind to a halt.

This is a moment of great testing. At such moments, there are those on both sides of this debate who will act on principle. Of course, there are always some who think first of their own interests, who calculate their own advantage instead of rushing to the aid of their country. But in the case of this bill, I am confident there are enough people of good will in both parties to help see America through this crisis. And when the last vote is cast, we can be grateful to all of them -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- for helping to solve the crisis instead of merely exploiting it.

Crises often have a way of revealing our better selves -- of showing what we are made of, and how much we can achieve when we are put to the test. This is true as well of the grave challenges we face in Washington. Yet it should not require extreme emergencies -- when the future of our entire economy is on the line -- to bring out the best in us, or to bring us together in service to the common good. We are supposed to do that even in the calmest of times. And if we worked together more often in that spirit, perhaps there would be fewer crises, close-calls, and near-disasters confronting our nation.

Just consider the day-to-day routine of Congress -- even as the 110th Congress ends, there remains a long list of challenges unmet. Congress has failed to pass many of the appropriations bills funding the regular business of our government. From agriculture to the labor department to transportation, the majority of appropriations bills have not passed. Even funding for the operations of the legislative branch itself has not passed. Congress can't even find agreement on the yearly bill to pay for the Congress itself.

And while these routine funding issues are addressed at the last minute behind closed doors, the big challenges facing our country continue to languish. We still have made no progress to resolving our energy crisis. While we seek solutions to the economic crisis we face today, Washington has been ineffective in addressing the housing crisis that started it. And in the face of mounting job losses, we still have not taken action to put our economy back on track with policies that would encourage job creation, or with updates to an unemployment system and job training programs that were created for the 1950s.

Our government is on the wrong track, our economy is struggling, and I expect we will receive more bad news with Friday's unemployment report. It is a time for leadership and a plan to create jobs and get our country on the right track.

I believe in low taxes; spending discipline, and open markets. I believe in rewarding hard work and letting people keep the fruits of their labor. We will keep the current low tax rates. We will simplify the current tax code. We will double the child exemption from 3500 dollars to 7000 dollars. We will give every family a 5000 dollar tax credit to buy their own health insurance or keep their current plan, and we will open up the national health-care market to expand choices and improve quality. And my administration will reduce the price of food by eliminating the subsidies for ethanol and agricultural goods. These subsidies inflate the price of food, not only for Americans but for people in poverty across the world, and I propose to abolish them.

I believe in a government that unleashes the creativity and initiative of Americans, so they can create more jobs and keep our economy growing. So we will cut business taxes from 35 percent to 25 percent, to give American businesses a new edge in competition. We will spur new investment through R&D tax credits and expensing of equipment. And we will protect the right of workers to decide for themselves, by democratic vote, whether to unionize.

Keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs. Cutting the second highest business tax rate in the world will help American companies compete and keep our best jobs from moving overseas. Doubling the child tax exemption will improve the lives of millions of American families at a time when the cost of living is rising. Reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs will let you keep more of your own money to save, spend and invest as you see fit. Opening new markets for our goods and preparing workers to compete in the world economy is essential to our future prosperity.

As president, I will also set this country on the straightest, swiftest path to energy independence. As a nation, we will embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. We will attack the problem on every front. We will produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and we'll drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles. And in all of this, we will create millions of new jobs, many in industries that will be the engine of our future prosperity -- jobs that will be there when your children enter the workforce.

Some still insist that we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that. We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and to restore the health of our planet. It's an ambitious plan, but Americans are ambitious by nature, and we have faced greater challenges. It's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead.

As president, I will also act immediately with reforms to restore fairness, integrity, and financial sanity to the institutions that have failed us on Wall Street. We will apply new rules to Wall Street, to end the frenzies of speculation by people gaming then system, and to make sure that this present crisis is never repeated. We will bring regulatory agencies built for the 1930s into the 21st century. On my watch, the rules will be enforced, and violations will be prosecuted. And there will be new rules to shrink, sell, and clean house at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

We must also realize that this rescue plan has serious implications for future spending. We cannot dedicate more than a trillion dollars to rescue failing institutions, and then go right back to business as usual in Washington -- as if there were no end to the resources of government or to the patience of taxpayers. Therefore, as president, I will impose a one-year spending freeze on every agency of the federal government, excepting only national defense, the care of our veterans, and a few critical priorities. Leadership requires candor. And I will tell you bluntly that America is already ten trillion dollars in debt, and to make our economy strong again we must reduce the burden of federal spending. We cannot tax our way to prosperity. I am committed to billions in spending reductions that will balance the budget, and get us on the path away from ruinous debt.

The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems in Washington isn't a cause, it's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you.

Again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it.

I offer this not just as a campaign slogan, but as the way to solve our country's problems. Instead of rejecting good ideas because we didn't think of them first, let's use the best ideas from both sides. This great country can do anything we put our minds to. I will ask Democrats and Independents to serve with me. And my administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability. We're going to finally start getting things done for the people who are counting on us, and I won't care who gets the credit.

That is the spirit of can-do patriotism, Harry Truman, that humble, good man from Independence, Missouri, brought to the presidency. When, to his and everyone's surprise, he assumed the office of the President and the mantle of leader of the free world, he faced the grave and difficult decisions that would end the World War and remake the world out of its ashes.

He was a man of principle, of wisdom and a deep and abiding love for our country. His accomplishments in war and peace are among the most significant of any president in the Twentieth Century. He succeeded beyond everyone's expectations -- perhaps, even his own -- because every day Harry Truman woke up determined to put his country before party and self-interest. We would all be better public servants and the country would be better served if we tried a little more often to keep the example of this good American before us.

Thank you and God bless you.

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama in La Crosse, Wisconsin

As prepared for delivery

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

We meet here at a time of great uncertainty. Our economy is in crisis. The dreams of so many Americans are at risk. And the American people are waiting for leadership from Washington.

On Monday, over the course of a few hours, the failure to pass the economic rescue plan in the House led to the single largest decline of the stock market in two decades. Over one trillion dollars of wealth was lost by the time the markets closed. And it wasn’t just the wealth of a few CEOs or Wall Street executives. The 401Ks and retirement accounts that millions count on for their family’s future are now smaller. The state pension funds of teachers and government employees lost billions upon billions of dollars. Hardworking Americans who invested their nest egg to watch it grow are now watching it disappear.

But while the decline of the stock market is devastating, the consequences of the credit crisis that caused it will be even worse if we do not act and act immediately.

Because of the housing crisis, we are now in a very dangerous situation where financial institutions across this country are afraid to lend money. If all that meant was the failure of a few big banks on Wall Street, it would be one thing.

But that’s not what it means. What it means is that if we do not act, it will be harder for you to get a mortgage for your home or the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. What it means is that businesses won’t be able to get the loans they need to open new factories, or hire more workers, or make payroll for the workers they have. Thousands of businesses could close. Millions of jobs could be lost. A long and painful recession could follow.

Let me be perfectly clear. The fact that we are in this mess is an outrage. It’s an outrage because we did not get here by accident. This was not a normal part of the business cycle. This was not the actions of a few bad apples.
This financial crisis is a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street for years. It’s the result of speculators who gamed the system, regulators who looked the other way, and lobbyists who bought their way into our government. It’s the result of an economic philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else; a philosophy that views even the most common-sense regulations as unwise and unnecessary. And this crisis is the final verdict on this failed philosophy – a philosophy that we cannot afford to continue.

But while there is plenty of blame to go around and many in Washington and on Wall Street who deserve it, all of us now have a responsibility to solve this crisis because it affects the financial well-being of every single American. There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out.

I know that many of you are feeling anxiety right now – about your jobs, about your homes, about your life savings. But I also know this – I know that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. Because that’s who we are. Because this is the United States of America. This is a nation that has faced down war and depression; great challenges and great threats. And at each and every moment, we have risen to meet these challenges – not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans. With resolve. With confidence. With that fundamental belief that here in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us. That’s who we are, and that’s the country we need to be right now.

This is not just a Wall Street crisis – it’s an American crisis, and it’s the American economy that needs this rescue plan. I understand why people would be skeptical when this President asks for a blank check to solve a problem. I’ve spent most of my time in Washington being skeptical of this Administration, and this time was no different. That’s why over a week ago, I demanded that this plan include specific proposals to protect the American taxpayer – protections that the Administration eventually agreed to, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

First, I said we needed an independent board to provide oversight and accountability for how and where this money is spent at every step of the way.
Second, I said that we cannot help banks on Wall Street without helping the millions of innocent homeowners who are struggling to stay in their homes. They deserve a plan too.

Third, I said that I would not allow this plan to become a welfare program for the Wall Street executives whose greed and irresponsibility got us into this mess.

And finally, I said that if American taxpayers are financing this solution, then you should be treated like investors – you should get every penny of your tax dollars back once this economy recovers.

This last part is important, because it’s been the most misunderstood and poorly communicated part of this plan. This is not a plan to just hand over $700 billion of your money to a few banks. If this is managed correctly, we will hopefully get most or all of our money back, or possibly even turn a profit on the government’s investment – every penny of which will go directly back to you, the investor.

The rescue plan now includes those four principles. It also includes a proposal I made yesterday morning to expand federal deposit insurance for families and small businesses across America who have invested their money in our banks. This will boost small businesses, make our banking system more secure, and help restore confidence by reassuring families that their money is safe.

Even with all these taxpayer protections, this plan is not perfect. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have legitimate concerns about it. I know many Americans share those concerns. But it is clear that this is what we must do right now to prevent a crisis from turning into a catastrophe. That’s why I’ve been reaching out to leaders in both parties to do whatever I can to help pass this plan. That’s why I’ll be flying back to Washington today to cast my vote to safeguard the American economy. And to the Democrats and Republicans who have opposed this plan, I say – step up to the plate and do what’s right for the country, because the time to act is now.

I know many Americans are wondering what happens next. Passing this bill will not be the end of our work to strengthen our economy – it’s just the beginning of a long, hard road ahead. So let me tell you exactly how I’ll move forward as President.

From the moment I take office, my top priority will be to do everything I can to make sure that your tax dollars are protected. I will demand a full review of this financial rescue plan to make sure that it is working for you. If you – the American taxpayer – are not getting your money back, then we will change how this program is being managed. If need be, we will send new legislation to Congress to make sure that taxpayers are protected in line with the principles that I have put forward. You should expect nothing less from Washington.

If we do have losses, I’ve proposed a Financial Stability Fee on the financial services industry so Wall Street foots the bill – not the American taxpayer. And as I modernize the financial system to create new rules of the road to prevent another crisis, we will continue this fee to build up a reserve so that if this happens again, it will be the money contributed by banks that’s put at risk.

This will only work if there is real enforcement and real accountability. And that starts with presidential leadership. So let me be very clear: when I am President, financial institutions will do their part and pay their share, and American taxpayers will never again have to put their money on the line to pay for the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street. That’s a pledge that I’ll make to you today, and it’s one that I’ll keep as President of the United States.

Accountability must start with this rescue plan, but it cannot end there. Across Wisconsin – and across the country – families are sitting down at the kitchen table and making hard choices. You’re planning for your future in tough times. You’re squeezing just a little bit more out of next month’s paycheck so you can pay next month’s bills. It’s time for Washington to do the same.

We cannot mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt. It’s time to put an end to the run-away spending and the record deficits – it’s not how you would run your family budget, and it must not be how Washington handles your tax dollars. It’s time to return to the fiscal responsibility and pay as you go budgeting that we had in the 1990s. Many in Congress have been fighting for these commonsense principles, and I will be a President who supports them and makes sure they succeed. That’s why I’m not going to stand here and simply tell you what I’m going to spend – I’m going to start by telling you how we’re going to save when I am President.
I will go through the entire federal budget, page by page, line by line, and eliminate the programs that don’t work and aren’t needed. We should start by ending a war in Iraq that is costing us $10 billion a month while the Iraqi government sits on a $79 billion surplus. We should stop sending $15 billion a year in overpayments to insurance companies for Medicare, and go after tens of billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid fraud. We need to stop sending three billion a year to banks that provide student loans the government could provide for less. And we can end the hundreds of millions a year in subsidies to agribusiness that can survive just fine without your tax dollars, and use some of the money to help struggling family farmers. That’s what I’ll do as President.

And we can’t stop there. We lose $100 billion every year because corporations set up mailboxes offshore so they can avoid paying a dime of taxes in America. In the Senate, I worked across the aisle to crack down on these schemes. And as President, I will shut down those offshore tax havens and all those corporate loopholes once and for all. You shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes because some big corporation cut corners to avoid paying theirs. All of us have a responsibility to pay our fair share. That’s accountability. And that’s what we’ll have when I’m President.

As for the programs we do need, I will make them work better and cost less. I will create a High-Performance Team of experts that evaluates every agency and every office based on how well they’re serving the American taxpayer. I will save billions of dollars by cutting private contractors and improving management and oversight of the hundreds of billions of dollars our government spends on contracts. And I will finally end the abuse of no-bid contracts once and for all – the days of sweetheart deals for Halliburton will be over when I’m in the White House.

Make no mistake: we need to end an era in Washington where accountability has been absent, oversight has been overlooked, and your tax dollars have been turned over to wealthy CEOs and well-connected corporations. You need leadership that you can trust to work for you – not for the special interests who have had their thumb on the scale. And together, we will tell the Washington lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda are over. They have not funded this campaign, they won’t work in my White House, and they won’t drown out the voices of the American people when I’m President.

Now, people have asked whether the size of this rescue plan, together with the weakening economy, means that the next President will have to scale back his agenda and some of his proposals. The answer is yes and no. With less money flowing into the Treasury, some useful programs or policies that I’ve proposed on the campaign trail may need to be delayed.

But there are certain investments in our future that we cannot delay precisely because our economy is in turmoil. You can always put off giving your house a new paint job or renovating your kitchen, but when your roof is crumbling or your heater goes, you realize that these are long-term investments you need to make right away.

The same is true of our economy. We cannot wait to help Americans keep up with rising costs and shrinking paychecks by giving our workers a middle-class tax cut. We cannot wait to relieve the burden of crushing health care costs. We cannot wait to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our roads and our bridges and investing in the renewable sources of energy that will stop us from sending $700 billion a year to tyrants and dictators for their oil. And we cannot wait to educate the next generation of Americans with the skills and knowledge they need to compete with any workers, anywhere in the world. Those are the priorities we cannot delay.

As soon as we pass this rescue plan, we need to move with the same sense of urgency to rescue families on Main Street who are struggling to pay their bills and keep their jobs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we need to pass an economic stimulus plan that will help folks cope with rising food and gas prices, save one million jobs by rebuilding our schools and roads, and help states and cities avoid budget cuts and tax increases. A plan that would extend expiring unemployment benefits for those Americans who’ve lost their jobs and cannot find new ones.

Beyond this stimulus, we need an economic agenda to restore opportunity for Americans and prosperity to America. So that we’re not borrowing debt from China and buying oil from Saudi Arabia. So that the jobs of the future don’t go to better-educated workers in India and the cars of the future aren’t made in Japan. So that we can leave a legacy of greater opportunity to our children and their children. That is how we will emerge from this crisis stronger and more prosperous than we were before, and that is what I will do as President of the United States.

I will begin by reforming our tax code so that it doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it. I will eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups, so that we can grow our economy and create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all workers and their families. And if you make less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime – because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

I will reform our health care system to relieve families, businesses, and the entire economy from the crushing cost of health care by investing in new technology and preventative care. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

To create new jobs, I’ll invest in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure – our roads, schools, and bridges. We’ll rebuild our outdated electricity grid and build new broadband lines to connect America. And I’ll create the jobs of the future by transforming our energy economy. We’ll tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here the United States. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced

And if I am President, I will meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. But in exchange, I will ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Finally, I will modernize our outdated financial regulations and put in the place the common-sense rules of the road I’ve been calling for since March – rules that will keep our market free, fair, and honest; rules that will make sure Wall Street can never get away with the stunts that caused this crisis again.

These are the changes and reforms that we need. Bottom-up growth that will create opportunity for every American. Investments in the technology and innovation that will restore prosperity and lead to new jobs and a new economy for the 21st century. Common-sense regulations for our financial system that will prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.

I won’t pretend this will be easy or come without cost. We will all need to sacrifice and we will all need to pull our weight because now more than ever, we are all in this together. What this crisis has taught us is that at the end of the day, there is no real separation between Main Street and Wall Street. There is only the road we’re traveling on as Americans – and we will rise or fall on that journey as one nation; as one people.

This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven’t seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? When we allowed our own petty differences and broken politics to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession?
Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other’s success?

This is one of those moments. I realize you’re cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you’re disappointed and even angry with your leaders. You have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask you to believe – believe in this country and your ability to change it. I ask you what has been asked of the American people in times of trial and turmoil throughout history – what was asked at the beginning of the greatest financial crisis this nation ever endured. In his first fireside chat, Franklin Roosevelt told his fellow Americans that “..there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people themselves. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. Let us unite in banishing fear. Together, we cannot fail.”

America, together, we cannot fail. Not now. Not when we have a crisis to solve and an economy to save. Not when there are so many Americans without jobs and without homes. Not when there are families who can’t afford to see a doctor, or send their child to college, or pay their bills at the end of the month. Not when there is a generation that is counting on us to give them the same opportunities and the same chances that we had for ourselves.

We can do this. Americans have done this before. Some of us had grandparents or parents that said maybe I can't go to college but my child can; maybe I can't have my own business but my child can. I may have to rent, but maybe my children will have a home they can call their own. I may not have a lot of money but maybe my child will run for Senate. I might live in a small village but maybe someday my son can be president of the United States of America.

Now it falls to us. Together, we cannot fail. And I need you to make it happen. If you want the next four years looking just like the last eight, then I am not your candidate. But if you want real change - if you want an economy that rewards work, and that works for Main Street and Wall Street; if you want tax relief for the middle class and millions of new jobs; if you want health care you can afford and education that helps your kids compete; then I ask you to knock on some doors, make some calls, talk to your neighbors, and give me your vote on November 4th. And if you do, I promise you - we will win Wisconsin, we will win this election, and we will change America together. Thank you La Crosse, God bless you, and may God bless America.

Worth a watch

There is a great video on The New York Times website (which unfortunately I can not embed) that is worth a watch.

It compares and contrasts the debating styles of Joe Biden, from his Presidential debates from 2007/08 and Sarah Palin's debates from her campaign to become Governor of Alaska.

Ron Paul: 'It's a bad bill'

CNN - Two days after the House rejected the $700 billion bailout bill, the Senate is set to vote on the rescue plan for financial institutions.

Former Presidential candidate Ron Paul talks about the bailout to CNN.

Rep. Ron Paul: I think it's a bad bill. I think it's bad for the taxpayers. I think it's doing more of the same thing. The same policy that we're following now with this bill is exactly how we got into that trouble.

And you know, I really don't have that much clout in Washington, D.C. And I recognize it. But there are a couple people outside of Washington that care about what I'm thinking and care about free market ... economics. And they will respond. And I think we did help generate a little bit of mail to the House members.

So you go where you can have the influence. And I think that people -- the grassroots -- understand this a lot better than members of Congress give them credit for.

I think he might have a point...

Obama in Wisconsin!

OK, so it might not be that exciting, but its my alma mater!

Rasmussen: Obama 51, McCain 45


White House backs revised bailout bill

(Reuters) - The White House expressed hope on Wednesday the Senate would pass a revised $700 billion financial rescue package in the evening, after the House of Representatives voted down a bailout measure earlier this week.

"We look forward to the debate, and hope to see strong support," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "The president will be speaking with senators today."

"We're seeing increased evidence of the credit squeeze on small businesses and municipalities all across the country, so it's critically important that we approve legislation this week and limit further damage to our economy," he added.

Part 2 of Couric interview with Sarah Palin

Watch CBS Videos Online

It didn't work for Hillary...

When Hillary Clinton told a tall tale about "landing under sniper fire" in Bosnia, she was accused of "inflating her war experience" by rival Democrat Barack Obama's campaign.

But the campaign has been silent about Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, telling his own questionable story about being "shot at" in Iraq.

"Let's start telling the truth," Biden said during a presidential primary debate sponsored by YouTube last year. "Number one, you take all the troops out - you better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone, where I have been seven times and shot at. You better make sure you have protection for them, or let them die."

But when questioned about the episode afterward by the Hill newspaper, Biden backpedaled from his claim of being "shot at" and instead allowed: "I was near where a shot landed."

It has emerged that this apparently isn't quite true...

Obama and McCain on NBC Night News

Palin questions Obama tax plan

Is Palin in trouble?

The scandals just keep on coming for Sarah Palin and she just can't seem to shake questions about her experience.

CNN has 'exclusively revelealed' that the foundation of Governor Palin's foreign policy experience - the fact that she can see Russia from Alaska might not be as solid (!?) a claim as it first appeared. According to the report, Palin has never actually seen Russia from Alaska.

OK, so that is fairly petty as far as Presidential scandals go.

But the troopergate probe continues, new questions are being asked asked about her use of a private email account and that Katie Couric intrview is still worrying many.

And it all started so promisingly...

But... House discussions ongoing

Senate to vote on bailout today

Senate leaders scheduled a Wednesday vote on a $700 billion financial bailout package after accepting tax breaks and a higher limit for insured bank deposits in a bid to win House approval and send legislation to President Bush by the end of the week.

Top lawmakers said the Senate proposal, worked out after a day of behind the scenes maneuvering, would include tax breaks for businesses and alternative energy and higher government insurance for bank deposits.

“It has been determined, in our judgment, this is the best thing to move forward,” said Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, in announcing the surprise move.

The senators issued no details of their proposal and said none would be available until Wednesday. The lawmakers were gambling that the tax package would appeal to lawmakers who helped sink the measure in the House on Monday, without driving off Democrats who have opposed extending the tax incentives without offsetting spending cuts elsewhere.

A proven Mitt-stake?

Heaven forbid, but, say two weeks ago, if an Al Qaeda inspired terrorist had happened somewhere in the United States does anyone really doubt that the political aftermath would see a rise in John McCain’s poll ratings to Barack Obama’s fall?

I certainly believe so, as McCain has a reputation as a tough-talking foreign policy and defence brain with a fair bit of experience in such matters. Voters know this and would flock to him if such a dreadful event occurred.

Yet such a dreadful event did not occur, what actually occurred is a meltdown of Wall Street and the credit crunch - and this has seen voters desert McCain.

Latest polls have shown Senator Obama open up leads over Mr McCain approximately between 4-8 percentage points in the Presidential race destroying the considerable post-GOP convention bounce the Republican ticket did seem to be gathering.

A fair few pundits have pointed to the electorate’s worry that McCain simply isn’t up to scratch with the money markets, as he is so visibly in the security realm, as rationale for the Obama bounce .The former Vietnam POW has even been quoted on record in the past saying he still needs to be “educated on the economy”.

The real question is if McCain had picked, as many wrongly hedged he would, Mitt Romney - who has a reputation as a tough-talking economic and business brain with a fair bit of experience in such matters - instead of Sarah Palin as his VP Nominee, could the Arizonan have weathered this storm?

Even if the ever sure-headed McCain is not asking himself the question, I am sure many in his campaign team are!

Romney could even claim to have more knowledge in treasury matters than Obama who does not even carry some sort of a particular status as a financial whiz-kid, but is still thought of as a lot more grounded on the topic than the Republican Presidential nominee.

By M J Watkinson

29 September 2008

So what now?

President Bush thought it would pass. As did congress. So did Obama and McCain. And now no one seems to know what to day.

Everyone is waiting to see how the markets on Tuesday react. I think the FTSE opening on Tuesday morning could see dramatic falls.

Expect another House vote within days.



DEFEATED: 228 - 205


Palin’ in comparison: a look back at that slightly awkward interview

“I think the leader of the opposition forgets I have been in this job for five days”. These were the words of Gordon Brown when David Cameron asked him during his first Prime Minister’s Questions whether he planned to ban extremist group Hitz ut Tahrir. Despite the fact that Brown had been an MP since 1983, Shadow Chancellor since 1992, and a member of Cabinet since 1997, he was happy to admit that he did not have sufficient experience as the head of government to respond to Mr Cameron’s question.

Sarah Palin will make no such admission. In her first interview since becoming John McCain’s running mate, Palin fiercely defended the experience which she believes she has acquired during her time as Mayor of Wasilla and Governor of Alaska. She attempted to differentiate between the international shock at her sudden political ascent, and any shock she herself might have felt at being nominated by McCain. When Charles Gibson, her rather dismissive interviewee, asks her, “Haven’t you said to yourself at some point in the past two weeks, ‘Holy cow’?”, Palin touches his arm and smiles cautiously, stating that she has not “had time to think that yet”.

No doubt she has been a busy woman over the past two weeks. There has been a lot of national policy—past, present and future—to catch up on. Yet the interview is, at times, uncomfortable viewing. Palin could not afford to answer consistently in the negative (though she conceded, when pressed, that she had never met a foreign head of state); yet many of the questions were designed to force her into answering ‘no’. Though she squirmed her way through much of the interview with non-committal responses, she could not avoid reiterating her personal views on the divisive topics of abortion and guns.

Appearing on The View earlier this week, McCain faced boos from a section of the audience when he stated that Roe v Wade had been a bad decision. Because Gibson’s interview with Palin was one-on-one, she was spared any such reaction to her views on abortion.

Yet the aggressive interview technique of Charles Gibson (or, as Palin refers to him constantly during the interview, “Charlie”) was a force to be reckoned with for the pitbull-in-lipstick. She repeated the phrase “You can’t blink” twice within one twenty second period, yet she blinked sixteen times within this period. The average rate of blinking for a human adult is between ten and fifteen times per minute—was this just a nervous twitch, or a Freudian slip-up?

Palin did not live up to the dazzle of her convention speech, and the interview paled in comparison. The comparison is, of course, terribly unfair. Her convention speech was prepared and polished, steering away from any contentious ground. The interview was on-the-spot, wide-ranging and largely hostile. Nevertheless, with less than four months to go before Palin could be Vice-President, a competent, confident interview is not too much to ask for. Palin did well enough under the circumstances, and she remains likeable. It is clear, however, that she needs a lot more prepping before she faces Biden in the looming Veep debate. She has until 2nd October to know all there is to know about absolutely everything.

—Robert Black

Both Obama and McCain will return for bailout vote

AP: Obama plans return to Senate for bailout vote

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama plans to return to the Senate this week so he can vote for the Wall Street bailout package.

The Illinois senator is expected to support the plan, but hasn't committed yet since he's still examining the details. The $700 billion compromise legislation is up for a vote Monday in the House, with the Senate vote expected as early as Wednesday.

A spokesman for John McCain said the Republican nominee plans to be in Washington and hopes he'll be able to vote, depending on the schedule.

Obama was scheduled to campaign Wednesday in La Crosse, Wis. It was unclear if his morning rally there would still go on, depending on when the vote is scheduled, but campaign organizers said they hoped he could still attend.

Could we have a tie?

Click to enlarge...

Political pull out?

Though this month’s political news has been dominated by the money markets, there has been a couple of interesting developments in the ‘War on Terror’. A couple of weeks ago John McCain’s good friend, General David Petraeus, the outgoing Commander of US troops in Iraq, said he would never declare victory in Iraq as “this is not the sort of struggle...it’s not war with a simple slogan”.

This piece of news won’t be music to the ears of Senator McCain who frequently puts the Iraqi conflict in the context of a zero-sum win/lose scenario.

The other bit of significant news - the announcement that President Bush will be withdrawing 8,000 troops from Iraq with 4,500 relocating to the Afghan theatre - may also pain the McCain-Palin ticket.

Barack Obama jumped straight on the withdrawal announcement as proof that the war in Central Asia should take priority over the war in the Middle East as he has constantly preached and John McCain has resisted.

However, ‘Dubya’s’ announcement in long term may actually benefit the Arizonan politician over Senator Obama in the long run.

We have certainly seen over the last few months that any past animosity between Bush and McCain, after the bruising 2000 Republican Presidential Primary contest, has all but dried up.

We have also seen, as proved by polling in the aftermath of the Republican convention, that the American people are not totally against voting for another four years of Republican Presidential rule despite the unpopularity of the Iraq adventure.

Could it be then Mr Bush is planning a number of politically shrewd and positive Iraq announcements before the November General Election in order to boost the Republican brand, and hence Mr McCain, in the run-up to the vote?

This is not a new tactic. In 1968, as the unpopular Vietnam War was raging and with Vice-President Humphrey trailing Republican Richard Nixon in the polls, President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced a bombing halt and the possibility of peace-talks with Ho Chi Minh and his allies.

LBJ’s tactical peace effort eventually came to nothing and Nixon defeated Humphrey. Saying that though just because the Democratic-led initiative failed in 1968, it doesn’t mean a similar Republican scheme would be unsuccessful in 2008...

By M J Watkinson

President McCain in new ad

McCain will be in Senate for bailout vote

McCain Aide: “He Will Be There to Vote on the Bill”

Latest Polls...

Rasmussen: Obama 50, McCain 45

Daily Kos: Obama 51, McCain 42

VP problems...

There are some very interesting - if not slightly odd - rumors abound that the campaigns of both Barack Obama and John McCain are somewhat unhappy with their Vice Presidential picks - with conservative commentators calling for Sarah Palin to drop out for family reasons and speculation that Joe Biden may pull out 'for health reasons' and thus open the door for Hillary Clinton to step up!

Silly season indeed!

How McCain Wins by William Kristol

This is a great article from todays New York Times

The conventional wisdom is that it was a mistake for McCain to go back to Washington last week to engage in the attempt to craft the financial rescue legislation, and that McCain has to move on to a new topic as quickly as possible. As one McCain adviser told The Washington Post, “you’ve got to get it [the financial crisis] over with and start having a normal campaign.”


McCain’s impetuous decision to return to Washington was right. The agreement announced early Sunday morning is better than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s original proposal, and better than the deal the Democrats claimed was close on Thursday. Assuming the legislation passes soon, and assuming it reassures financial markets, McCain will be able to take some credit.

But the goal shouldn’t be to return to “a normal campaign.” For these aren’t normal times.

We face a real financial crisis. Usually the candidate of the incumbent’s party minimizes the severity of the nation’s problems. McCain should break the mold and acknowledge, even emphasize the crisis. He can explain that dealing with it requires candor and leadership of the sort he’s shown in his career. McCain can tell voters we’re almost certainly in a recession, and things will likely get worse before they get better.

And McCain can note that the financial crisis isn’t going to be solved by any one piece of legislation. There are serious economists, for example, who think we could be on the verge of a huge bank run. Congress may have to act to authorize the F.D.I.C. to provide far greater deposit insurance, and the secretary of the Treasury to protect money market funds. McCain can call for Congress to stand ready to pass such legislation. He can say more generally that in the tough times ahead, we’ll need a tough president willing to make tough decisions.

With respect to his campaign, McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her — aides who seem to have succeeded in importing to the Palin campaign the trademark defensive crouch of the Bush White House. McCain picked Sarah Palin in part because she’s a talented politician and communicator. He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.

I’m told McCain recently expressed unhappiness with his staff’s handling of Palin. On Sunday he dispatched his top aides Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis to join Palin in Philadelphia. They’re supposed to liberate Palin to go on the offensive as a combative conservative in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday.

That debate is important. McCain took a risk in choosing Palin. If she does poorly, it will reflect badly on his judgment. If she does well, it will be a shot in the arm for his campaign.

In the debate, Palin has to dispatch quickly any queries about herself, and confidently assert that of course she’s qualified to be vice president. She should spend her time making the case for McCain and, more important, the case against Obama. As one shrewd McCain supporter told me, “Every minute she spends not telling the American people something that makes them less well disposed to Obama is a minute wasted.”

The core case against Obama is pretty simple: he’s too liberal. A few months ago I asked one of McCain’s aides what aspect of Obama’s liberalism they thought they could most effectively exploit. He looked at me as if I were a simpleton, and patiently explained that talking about “conservatism” and “liberalism” was so old-fashioned.

Maybe. But the fact is the only Democrats to win the presidency in the past 40 years — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — distanced themselves from liberal orthodoxy. Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal. He also has radical associates in his past.

The most famous of these is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and I wonder if Obama may have inadvertently set the stage for the McCain team to reintroduce him to the American public. On Saturday, Obama criticized McCain for never using in the debate Friday night the words “middle class.” The Obama campaign even released an advertisement trumpeting McCain’s omission.

The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama’s eloquent memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend Wright’s church — a passage entitled “A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.”

So when Biden goes on about the middle class on Thursday, Palin might ask Biden when Obama flip-flopped on Middleclassness.

All hail McCain, king of the knee jerk reaction!

Someone in McCain's office should really explain to him about video conferencing. That way he can contribute to a meeting in DC without missing the debate. Or he could take Obama's point about the fact they both have jets that can fly them there and back without missing the debate. But no the team McCain seem to believe that the politics of governance are the same as those of campaigning. Saying "the fundamentals of the economy are sound" doesn't make it so. Calling for someone's head won't suddenly calm peoples fears, and failing that calling for someone else's head won't work either. If it didn't work first time round....

Bringing everything to a screaming halt, to saddle his horse and lead a one man Calvary to save the day won't help deliver a plan that will stabilise the economy. In a crisis such as this sound bites and knee-jerk reactions only antagonise the situation and do less than nothing to calm the panic that is affecting the markets.

This sudden move by McCain has had many people scratching their heads. What kind of message does this send out. The only way we can deal with something is to drop everything else. God forbid there's a housing crisis, economic recession looming, a war being waged in two countries and sensitive and precarious international relations for McCain to deal with if he were to be elected president....oh wait a second. As Obama pointed out in his statement "you know, presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It's not necessary for us to think that we can only do one thing and suspend everything else". Ouch.

I realise that a measured response isn't half as exciting as a dramatic and sudden cross country dash throwing off all other ties on the way, but it would help to establish the beginnings of a resurgence of confidence if the country's potential leaders weren't flapping around screaming "don't panic Mr Mannering". If this is how McCain reacts as a candidate imagine what he'll be like as a leader! Now contrast with the firm but calm response from Obama.

Facing a crisis? Who do you want in charge: a man who bolts from one position to another or the man who responds "it's one that I'm glad to be a party to, because one of the things that we have to be clear with the American people about is that this is a serious problem. We need to solve it. But I think the American people also need to understand that it can be solved...what I'm going to do is, I'm going to -- what I have told the leadership in Congress is that, if I can be helpful, then I am prepared to be anywhere any time".

By Elizabeth Connor

Breaking: Stocks fall sharply on opening

The one that really matters? - Previewing the Palin-Biden debate

It’s the debate that could possibly do more to shape the outcome of November’s presidential election than any other event and it will involve neither Barack Obama nor John McCain. Next week’s Vice-Presidential debate will put Sarah Palin to her toughest test yet, against the experienced Joe Biden. It’s extremely important for both candidates, with Sarah Palin looking to gain credibility and Biden trying to make up for a gaffe-strewn week.

Fortunately for Governor Palin the Republican’s have got their wishes for the format of the debate granted, with one that contains few chances for free-flowing arguments which would favour Biden. Instead it will be in a more rigid design that allows pre-prepared monologues to be used in almost its entirety. Veteran broadcaster Gwen Ifill will be moderating the debate and will be weary not to be accused of softballing the candidates, in particular Governor Palin.
Despite many predictions of a massive Biden victory it seems many political commentators are underrating Sarah Palin. She managed to debate very convincingly to help win the role of Governor of Alaska and has a kind of folksy charm that worked for George W.Bush, an ability to connect with ordinary people (with the emphasis on ‘Hockey Moms’). However this is not Alaska, this is America and she must perform to avoid appearing out of her depth. This is without question stepping up a league.

Although Biden is expected to win the debate handily he must also conquer some questions around his candidacy. An week of errors has seen him conflict with Senator Obama on the issue of an advert attacking McCain for not being able to use a PC, as well as comments about President Franklin Roosevelt appearing on TV to the nation after the Wall Street Crash, when he was not even President yet. Avoiding his trademark reputation for talking too much is something that must be addressed if he is too appear cool under the pressure of the sharp media glare that will be on him during the debate. Furthermore Biden could also potentially be susceptible to the ‘beating up on the girl’ accusations used by the Clinton Camp in the primary season.

This will undoubtedly be one of the most closely watched Vice-Presidential debates ever, as the role of VP has become more and more important whilst Gore and Cheney held it. After the relatively quiet Obama-McCain exchange on Friday this will be a night where people will hope for some fireworks, something both candidate wish to avoid.

By Chris Tarquini

Bailout bill goes to vote TODAY