Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Nightmare Ends: Assessing Eight Years of Bush

On Tuesday, George W. Bush will ride off into the long sunset after eight years in the White House. He’ll retire to his stately Texas manor and live out the remainder of his days with Laura and his trusted dog, Barney. His daddy’s oil money has ensured that he and all future generations of Bushes won’t have to worry about seven percent unemployment or whether they’ll have to fight some other president’s needless war.

I’ve thought for years about what I’d write when the George W. Bush presidency came to a close. I had not yet entered high school when Bush first assumed office. His last day in the White House will the same day I start my last semester of college. The Bush Years have occupied the most important years of my development from teenager to adult, spanning my schooling in Bartlett, Conway and Durham.

So now that it’s here, I’m struggling to sum up these Bush Years. Maybe I’m having difficulty because all these things—all this—is just so much bigger than me, and so hard to understand in totality.

The depth and breadth of the treachery, dishonesty and shamefulness of his administration has left me spellbound. The sheer number of atrocities committed under Bush’s watch is impossible to calculate at this time, and won’t be known in full for potentially decades to come. What I do know is this: Bush was so bad that for a period of time he made me not care about politics, something I never thought would happen after falling in love with it at the age of six. Worse yet, he made me feel embarrassed to be an American by cheapening everything we hold dear about it.

Let me begin by saying I’ve never really thought George W. Bush was that bad of a guy. He was reelected in 2004 based on the premise that voters would rather “have a beer” with Bush than John Kerry (a moot point considering Bush hasn’t had a drink in over 20 years). I’m sure, based on my observations of him over most of the last decade, that Bush is probably a fun guy, a nice guy, and a respectful guy. You’d like to hang out with him just because he might say something hilarious.

I have plenty of problems with Bush the President, but my problems with Bush the Man have to do with his lack of curiosity and inability to move off his stubborn beliefs (like the ludicrous assumption that terrorists want to kill us because they “hate freedom” when the truth lies in our unwelcome militaristic presence in their part of the world). I also don’t think Bush is a strong judge of character, and most of the reason why we’re in this mess is because of the people with whom he surrounded himself.

I’ll get to that later. There’s a lot of other disappointment and anger we need to get through first.

Bush, his minions, and his supporters have clamored for years about how the administration has kept us safe from a domestic terror attack since 9/11. They never mention how Bush had intelligence at his desk five weeks before the attacks in the form of a CIA briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.” Bush brushed aside the intelligence, doing nothing while a plot to invade Iraq had already been hatched.

9/11 stopped the world, and everyone’s eyes turned to the new president. In the weeks following the most horrific world event of my lifetime, Bush helped bring the nation together. That four-to-six week period after the attacks was the only time in eight years that I actually liked President Bush.

With overwhelming public goodwill, his administration devised the USA-PATRIOT Act, the ill-named legislation that cut down civil liberties and smacked of the Alien and Sedition Acts of the Adams administration. Between this, warrentless wiretapping, and the suspension of habeas corpus for “enemy combatants” at Gitmo, I find it amazing that Bush could launch two wars in the name of our freedom while trampling on our Constitution and freedoms so many times at home.

(A fascinating aspect of Bush’s presidency is the initiatives, projects and actions with names that actually accomplished the opposite of what they were to nominally set out to do. The USA-PATRIOT Act restricted freedoms; the Clear Skies Act hoped to reduce air pollution controls; the No Child Left Behind Act has left millions upon millions of children behind; and Operation Iraqi Freedom has not created much freedom for thousands of Iraqis, not to mention the thousands of other Iraqis dead as a result of the conflict).

Despite there being no connection whatsoever between Iraq and al-Qaeda, Bush and his lackeys never believed it. Well, maybe they believed it, but they didn’t bother to tell us. Bush left Colin Powell, the most respected member of his Cabinet, out to dry by forcing him to spew mountains of bullshit in front of the international community about Iraq. We were going to war, and I was along for the ride. I believed what the administration told me, partially because they put the trusted Powell out front and because I had faith their intelligence was right.

Within a few months, I would know better than to put faith in any aspect of the administration ever again.

I watched from a hotel room in Concord in March 2003 has the Shock and Awe campaign destroyed Baghdad. We marched to “victory,” and in May our fearless leader proclaimed “Mission Accomplished” from an aircraft carrier. In case you didn’t believe him, there was a huge banner on the carrier emblazoned with just those words. Yet over 98 percent of overall casualties from this war have occurred since Bush spoke on the aircraft carrier.

The more important war, that one in Afghanistan, was forgotten in many ways. We allowed the people who really attacked us to hide in the mountains, and the Taliban has now returned stronger than ever.

Osama Bin Laden still walks free seven years after 9/11.

Bush handed out no-bid contracts to his buddies in the business world when it came to rebuilding the country he destroyed (that’s Iraq I’m referring to, not the U.S., although there’s still time). There was never a plan to win the peace. Servicemen and women were asked to stay for long tours while the government they pledged allegiance to cut their health benefits. The Bush administration has failed to live up to many (if not most) of the mistakes committed in our most important military action since Vietnam. All the public faith Bush had surrounding the war at its start disappeared by the end of 2003.

Our nation developed a reckless foreign policy that alienated us from the rest of the world. “You’re either with us, or against us” just doesn’t win you a lot of friends in the international community. Similarly, the Bush Doctrine (listen up, Governor Palin) of preemptive war went against every American militaristic principle handed down through the ages. Of course, it was never like Bush to examine, or care, about history, so there’s little reason to be surprised.

Bush put hacks like Paul Bremer in important decision-making roles following the invasion. You may recall Bremer as the genius who unilaterally dissolved Saddam Hussein’s army without disarming them, a move that ensured the years-long Iraqi insurgency. But Bremer is only one of probably hundreds of Bush administration officials so incompetent, corrupt, or just plain evil that, once again, my mind reels.

A about a year ago Bill Maher proclaimed on his show that our country was so screwed up because Bush put mediocre people in important positions to make himself feel better about his own inadequacy.

His second attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, had no business occupying such an important office. He apparently suffered from amnesia during Senate testimony about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. In case you’d forgotten that scandal (so many to keep track of, I know), the Justice Department fired these eight attorneys in 2006 so they could put in lawyers more loyal to Bush, a grievous breach of the line between politics and the justice system.

Bush tried to nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court in 2005. Miers had never even been a judge before, but because she was part of Bush’s Texas inner circle, that qualified her to be a Supreme Court justice. The nomination was such an embarrassment that Miers herself begged Bush to withdraw her from consideration.

The list goes on. Mike “you’re doin’ a heckuva job, Brownie” Brown’s name has become synonymous with government incompetence. Bush probably never figured Brownie would manage any serious emergencies as the head of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Oops.

Condoleezza Rice, for all her pre-2001 hype, proved to be nothing more than a Bush enabler as National Security Adviser and one of the most unremarkable Secretaries of State in U.S. history.

Scott McClellan was only good at looking sweaty and uncomfortable as press secretary, and his tell-all book begged the question, “Why didn’t he speak up sooner?”

Tom Ridge seems like a nice guy, and a good public servant, but why Bush thought he was qualified to be the first Homeland Security Secretary is beyond comprehension. Then again, I’m sure people eventually found good use for all that duct tape and plastic sheeting.

It’s hard to imagine history being kind to the three men who, in my opinion, were the true brains behind the Bush presidency: Don Rumsfeld, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

As I wrote upon learning of his resignation following the mid-term 2006 elections, Rumsfeld “will be written about in American history books for posterity to learn how government leaders should not conduct themselves. Not only did this man create a war plan to be remembered for generations as senseless and terrible, he came across at all times as being uncooperative, insensitive, agitating, and, for all intents and purposes, a complete asshole.” Rumsfeld was the face of the Iraq War, and what a face that was. One of his lasting indiscretions will be the endorsement of torture techniques against prisoners at Abu Ghraib, stating it was OK to make prisoners stand four hours at a time as an interrogation method when he himself stood for “eight to ten hours a day.” Unbelievable.

Karl Rove once spoke in frightening terms about creating a “permanent Republican majority.” Thankfully, that didn’t work out so well. Rove was the mad political genius who shaped Bush’s rise and was personally responsible for the endless cycle of bullshit emanating from the White House during his tenure there.

Whenever something shifty or underhanded happened involving this administration, it always seemed Rove had something to do with it. The most egregious of these actions, in my opinion, came in the form of the Plame Affair.

When Joe Wilson, an American diplomat and retired ambassador, publicly called BS on Bush’s claims that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, the White House leaked the covert identity of Wilson’s CIA-operative wife, Valerie Plame, to Bob Novak. It was Dick Armitage who told Novak, and eventually Scooter Libby took the fall (until Bush commuted his sentence, of course). But Rove’s fingerprints were all over this, and I’m still angry he was never truly held accountable. By blowing Plame’s cover as revenge for Wilson’s dismissal of part of the argument for the Iraq War, Rove and the other officials involved committed an act tantamount to treason. Yet only Libby was (kind of) punished for lying under oath. Somehow, Rove came away unscathed.

Mention of Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, brings us inevitably to Richard Bruce Cheney, who’ll always be a Dick to everyone who observed him.

I can’t think of a worse example of a major public official than Dick Cheney. He lurked in the shadows, appeared smug and unforgiving in interviews, never laughed or smiled (except in the most satanic way possible), gave little regard to the Constitution, and never seemed to care what anyone thought about him. He even became the first VP since Aaron Burr to shoot a guy in office and get away with it.

I’m most scared about what’s happened with Cheney because he set precedents for his office that could have detrimental effects. The Vice President is not supposed to set policy for an entire administration. The Vice President is not supposed to cut backroom deals with energy companies over environmental legislation. The Vice President is not supposed to have the final say on issues where, you know, the President needs to have final say. I’m afraid of how a young, ambitious future Vice President could use Cheney’s precedents for vile purposes.

I'll be happy these people will soon be out of our lives. They are mostly going to be footnotes in history, with Bush as the central figure to be remembered. I’ll certainly remember how Bush is leaving office, beginning with the fabled shoe-throwing incident. I thought his indifference to what happened (“So what if a guy threw his shoe at me?”) wound up being the perfect precursor to the futility of his final public appearances. Not finding WMD’s in Iraq was characterized as a “disappointment” and nothing else. His last press conference was a delusional, shameful, un-presidential event highlighted by mock whining. His last address to the nation made Dick Cheney briefly fall asleep, and the term “grasping for straws” came to mind when listening to Bush’s attempts at championing whatever good things he’d done in eight years.

Truth be told, we deserve the government we get. Sure, Bush stole the election the first time, but 51% of Americans apparently thought very, VERY little of John Kerry. The strategy to keep Bush in office, as primarily concocted by Rove, can be summed up in one word: fear. If we don’t keep Bush in office, we’re all gonna die. The “you’re either with us or against us” foreign policy strategy was flown into the campaign with devastating results. People (a lot of people) actually bought it. I’ll never understand how it worked, or how my party could let it happen.

Less than a year after the election came the tragic mishandling of the Katrina disaster, and I wrote that we “desperately need new leadership in this country.” Short of a California-style recall (no way would the ball-less Democratic Congress bring impeachment charges despite numerous opportunities), I’d never get my wish.

For the remainder of his presidency, Bush’s approval ratings hovered somewhere from the mid-20s to the mid-30s, among the lowest in history. No wonder the 2008 election really started in 2006.

I resolved following Katrina that I would not let Bush bring me down anymore. I couldn’t get so upset every time something bad happened because otherwise I’d give myself a heart attack before I could legally drink. I stopped caring. I stopped following politics. It just wasn’t worth it.

The President of the United States was no longer worth my time.

Of course, I couldn’t stay away for long. How else would I have been able to write all this?

And even though I’ve already written over 2,500 words, there’s so much I can’t and won’t get into in the depth it deserves. Bush completely sold out the environment in the name of big business, ignoring scientific truths about global warming and placing profit before planet. Speaking of ignoring science, his administration put the brakes on stem cell research that could have saved many lives. Bush endorsed the deregulation of the financial system that led to our current economic malaise, not to mention the deregulation of oil speculation that drove up gas prices. Bush’s tax cuts only benefited the very wealthy, and we’ve perhaps seen the end of the absurd “trickle-down” theory of economics. Bush vetoed few spending bills in eight years and caused members of his own party to pull their hair out as a result. There’s so much more I could say on these and so many more topics, but I think my point is clear.

The biggest lesson that I hope we can learn from Bush is “never again.” Never again can we allow this to happen. My generation needs to lead the charge in never again letting someone become president who is too incompetent to lead and too idiotic to care what we think. We can never again go down this road. For my generation, we can never forget these eight years and the dangers associated with poor national leadership.

But it’s still too much, and too soon, to fully make sense of it all. I suppose I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering what could have happened, how much progress as a nation we could have made but missed out on because of one man. It’s amazing to think with all the things we have at our disposal, as the greatest nation on earth, that in the first decade of the new millennium we took such a huge step backward.

As a nation, and a people, “George W. Bush” is a name that will haunt us forever. But the great thing about America is that every four or eight years we can start over. On Tuesday, we’ll start over. It will take a long time to heal from the maelstrom of negativity that we’ve experienced.

But we’re Americans. We survive. But we can never forget.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We Did It

"My heart is filled with love for this country."

I've used that phrase in this blog before. That was the final sentence of President-Elect Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, the beautiful pronunciation of ideas and beliefs for a new America laid out before he announced his run for the presidency. I used it when he came through the most difficult primary season ever to become the first black major party nominee for president.

Now, Obama is only 10 weeks away from his historic inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, finally removing the "whites only" sign from the Oval Office. His decisive victory in tonight's election has implications so far reaching that I can't begin to even grasp all of them three hours after capturing the election.

The election took an irreversible turn in Obama's favor around 9:30 tonight when Ohio was called in his favor. That made the McCain path to victory even more narrow than it already had been. It would only be a matter of time before Obama's victory of improbability would be declared. It happened at 11, and after expressions of adulation my thoughts turned to this nation's long suffering black community.

I thought about how the first slave ships touched American shores in 1619. I thought about how this country was founded as a slave-holding republic, and how a compromise was rendered in our original Constitution counting every black man as three-fifths of a person. I thought about how debate over the "peculiar institution" of slavery tore America asunder over the 40 years between the Missouri Compromise and Abraham Lincoln's election. I thought about Elijah Parish Lovejoy, William Lloyd Garrison, Dred Scott, and Frederick Douglass. I thought about how a war was fought in this country over the right to enslave a race. I thought about the racially-charged stories by William Faulkner I've been reading this semester, taught to me by the great-grandson of a slave and the first black professor at my school. I thought about the idiocy of Plessy v. Ferguson and the fight for Brown v. Board of Education. I thought about Jim Crow, the Selma marches, "I have a dream," polling tests, Rosa Parks, and the Voting and Civil Rights Acts.

I thought about all the work done by the millions and millions of nameless, faceless individuals across the races who worked tirelessly through the decades to bring racial equality to a country purporting a belief "that all men are created equal."

And then, at midnight, I watched a black man with a black wife and black children speak to 100,000 onlookers in Chicago as the next man to be President of the United States. The only thought running through my mind at that point was: "My heart is filled with love for this country."

I was overcome with a feeling of community. Earlier in the night Chris Matthews mentioned a "secular communion" we have in this country when it comes to voting, how it's something we as a nation do together. When Obama was declared the victor tonight, it didn't feel like something Obama had done. It felt like something we had done. We had rejected the politics of fear and distraction for the politics of hope and progress. We had told the rest of the world that we were ready for change, turning our place and opinion in the world 180 degrees from where it was yesterday. We, as a people and a democracy, had done this amazing thing.

That might be the thing that has separated Obama from all recent presidential candidates. He wants all of us to take responsibility for what happens in our country, and he made several calls to that effect in his speech tonight, which may have been his best thus far (and that's REALLY saying something). Bush never asked us to do anything except to go shopping after 9/11. I can tell things will be different from Obama. Americans need to feel uplifted, and not embarrassed, by their leaders again. Obama is just what we need in that regard.

It's late, it's been a very emotional day, and I'll have more feelings about what has just transpired very soon. But for now, I feel so privileged to be alive in this country to see this. This is a night that will live in my heart until it stops beating. I'm so excited to see where we'll go as a nation with Obama guiding us. I'm ready to do my part. I'm ready to believe again in the power of good America possesses.

My heart is filled with love for this country. And it always will be.

Election Day Post #1: First Thoughts

The day is finally here. It's about 4:30 here and Durham and the anticipation of those first returns coming in around 7 from Virginia, Georgia and Indiana is becoming unbearable. I've been holding my breath for 14 months, and I don't want to hold it anymore.

Walking around the UNH campus today felt different than just about every other day in my four years here. The tenor was different, the attitudes were different, the conversations were different. The election seemed to be what everyone was talking about. And on every street corner there were volunteers encouraging students to get on buses to go to Oyster River High School to register and vote.

All these volunteers were from the Obama campaign. Every single one of them. Nowhere on campus did I see any volunteers from the McCain campaign doing this. Hell, I don't think I even saw any McCain volunteers all day. There's no question the enthusiasm is squarely on Obama's side, and there's also no question that enthusiasm is paramount amongst the younger generations.

They always said our generation was apathetic, that we didn't care about anything but ourselves. In many ways, the self-indulgence compounded by texting and Facebook and AIM is still significant. But what I saw today around the UNH campus was a taste of an amazing future. This is a future where we won't allow skin-deep differences to get in the way of real progress. I'm hopeful that exit-polling will show a record turnout for younger voters, and it's partly because of us that Obama is in this position.

In short, I've never been more proud of my generation that I was today walking around. We have officially arrived.

OK, I have some brief things that I will be watching as the early parts of the evening. Virginia and Indiana will have their polls close at 7. If there's an early call for Obama in Virginia, and Indiana goes down the the wire, McCain's goose will probably be cooked early. If you don't believe me, check out this post at The 538 from a couple hours ago. The know more about this stuff than I do.

I'm also very intrigued by Georgia. There's been a massive push in black voting registrations and participation that could tilt the results towards not only Obama but Jim Martin in his Senate race against incumbent Saxby Chambliss. The state has been safe Republican for much of the race but I won't rule out an outright Obama win there.

Essentially, if Obama wins both Pennsylvania and Virginia, McCain is not likely to be able to win tonight. That's the most simple thing I can come up with for you.

The most compelling race of the night could potentially be a downballot one. The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota has no favorite and no predictability. Incumbent Norm Coleman and comedian Al Franken will have their vote split by an independent, Dean Barkley. We likely won't know the final result of this election until Wednesday afternoon.

With that, I will leave you to watching the returns. I hope everyone appreciates the history of this night. I will check back in if I feel it right to do so.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thoughts on the Final Day

OK, I know I lied and didn't come back with a post last night. But here I am with a quick little posting before I head off to TNH for the evening. Here's my game plan for next 48 hours or so: I've got this post, then probably a post when I get back from classes tomorrow around 4, and then I'll post at times that I feel appropriate throughout the evening. I'm not sure if I'll have time to post since I figure I'll be flying around my apartment for upwards of 12 hours, watching multiple TVs, refreshing web pages, and taking and making lots of phone calls. It's going to be sick night, one that I've been waiting a long, long time for.

I've finalized my electoral map, and you can see it here. I think Obama will pull out wins in Ohio and Florida, but I've still got McCain taking Indiana, North Carolina, and the Great Plains states. He won't win NC by more that a 52-48 margain. The only state I really have no idea about is Missouri. I'm throwing it to McCain solely because Obama hasn't been able to carry any significant momentum there in recent weeks. It would not shock me a great deal if either MO or NC went Obama's way. Either way, my map doesn't give McCain much of a shot. Chris Cillizza's final map is the same as mine except that he has McCain winning Ohio and Obama taking Nebraska's 2nd Congressional Disctrict.

Indiana is definitely in play as well. Typically, the first polls to close on Election Day in the U.S. are in Indiana and Kentucky. If you're watching the networks tomorrow night and Indiana gets called for Obama around 8 p.m., it's going to be a tough night for McCain and Republicans all across the board.

Speaking of that, I'll also give you a very brief synopsis on where each of the contested Senatorial races stand heading into this final day of campaigning.

Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico: These are all going to be safe, easy wins for the Democrats tomorrow. All Mark Warner had to do was announce he was running in VA and he would win. The Udall Cousins, Mark and Tom, are also poised to glide to easy victories tomorrow.

Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon: These next three are a little tougher to gauge, but I feel confident the Democrats will win all three. Ted Stevens wrote his own epitaph by being convicted on seven felonies. John Sununu has never led in any polls against Jeanne Shaheen, and Gordon Smith doesn't have much of a chance in Blue Oregon against Jeff Merkely.

North Carolina: Kay Hagen will unseat Liddy Dole, but it should be close. Dole's horrendous decision to go after Hagen's religiosity has backfired in an unbelievable manner.

Minnesota: Flip a coin on this one. Norm Coleman has taken some hits in recent days, Al Franken looks strong, and independent Dean Barkley could split the vote either way. I'm really excited to see how this goes down tomorrow.

Georgia: Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin are locked up in a massive tete-a-tete that should come down to the wire. If neither candidate gets to 50 percent, there'll be a run-off in December to decide the winner. I have a feeling that will happen. If this is the potential 60th seat for the Democrats, and it comes down to this It'll be awesome.

Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi: Likely all to stay with the incumbents. Although I'd love to see McConnell get picked off in Kentucky just to stick it to him.

With that I have to go. What a year it's been. I can't believe it's almost over.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

T-Minus Two Days

I haven't check in recently because, frankly, the end of the longest presidential election campaign ever seems to be drawing to an anti-climactic finish. Unless the pollsters have been completely dead wrong, and as long as people actually show up to vote, Barack Obama should be elected the 44th President of the United States Tuesday night. There's very little in the way of plausible scenarios for John McCain to count on. It's gotten bad enough for McCain that places like Arizona (which happens to be his home state) and Georgia are no longer safe Republican bets.

In short, McCain needs a major Obama catastrophe or an outright miracle to beat Obama in the electoral college. Since no reputable poll has had McCain ahead nationally since the 3rd week of September (and even that was from Republican-biased Zogby), there's no chance Obama loses the popular vote to McCain Tuesday. Repeat: no chance. So a narrow electoral college win or tie (that possiblity is mentioned by Nate Silver on today's polling thread over at The 538) is the only way McCain will be elected barring a game-changer between now and then. I outlined in my last post McCain's painful truths about an electoral college win. Basically, he needs to make up tremendous ground in Pennsylvania, win it, and then win EVERY swing state. No wonder Silver gives him 3.8% chance of winning the election.

Now we already have excellent Washington reporters like Mike Allen postulating the makeup of an Obama Cabinet. I'm not ready to go down that road yet, but I will certainly have a post within a few weeks of my potential Obama Dream Team. I will say this: I would love to see Rahm Emanuel in the post of Chief of Staff (for those "West Wing" buffs out there, Aaron Sorkin based Josh Lyman on a young Emanuel. That gives you some idea of the type of brilliant political mind Emanuel is). But I am preparing myself for the eventuality of an Obama win, and the unbelievable truth that this campaign is coming to an end.

I've been paying close attention to the goings-on of this campaign for the last 14 months. I've witnessed every twist and turn, heard every fact and spin, and experienced the full range of emotions all along, from tremendous joy (right after Obama won the Iowa caucus) to the depths of sadness (the death of Tim Russert). There's part of me that will be glad when it's all over, but the void left by the incredible horse race will be difficult to replace.

We have seen perhaps the greatest individual presidential campaign in history with Barack Obama's unreal rise to a potential electoral blowout Tuesday. When he sewed up the nomination, I remarked that Obama needed to run a perfect campaign to beat Hillary, and he did just that. Well, considering all the mistakes made by John McCain and his campaign of schizophrenia, Obama didn't need to run perfectly to win.

In my opinion, the election hinged on the reactions of the two candidates to the onset of the economic meltdown. In the key moment of the campaign, at the time of our nation's biggest crisis of any type since Hurricane Katrina, Obama appeared cool, composed, and presidential. McCain, on the other hand, appeared frazzled, erratic, and, quite frankly, old. That was where Obama won this thing and McCain lost it.

Anyway, I am still attempting to sort out my feelings about what has happened and what is about to happen. I will try to write something in this space later today (Sunday), Monday, and I'm still trying to figure out what I'll do here for Tuesday. I could do a running diary sort of thing, but I'm not sure I want to spend time away from watching the returns writing. I'll figure it out.

If you haven't voted yet, make sure you figure out some way to do it before or on Tuesday. It's important. I hope that you've learned at least that much from me. Later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Simple Truth of the Electoral Map

In a moment of epiphany during my Justice and the Political Community class this afternoon, I figured out the electoral map. Yup, I know who's going to win. Lucky for you, I'm not like John McCain knowing the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. I'm actually going to tell you what I came up with.

First, I listed all the states the Obama and McCain are both either going to or are very likely to win. I will do that right here for you with electoral votes for each state in ().

McCain: AK (3), AL (9), AR (6), AZ (10), GA (15), ID (4), KS (6), KY (8), LA (9), MS (6), NE (5), OK (7), SC (8), SD (3), TN (11), TX (34), UT (5), WY (3).

Obama: CA (55), CT (7), DC (3), DE (3), HI (4), IA (7), IL (21), MA (12), MD (10), ME (4), MI (17), MN (10), NJ (15), NY (31), OR (7), RI (4), VT (3), WA (11), WI (10).

The only one of those above states that some might have a dispute with is Minnesota. Take a look at the recent polls. In my opinion the Land of a Thousand Lakes is safe for Obama.

Next let's take a look at the ever-important "lean" states. This has become a shrinking category for both candidates as voters have begun taking sides for good two weeks out of the election.

McCain: ND (3), MT (3), WV (5).

Obama: CO (9), NH (4), NM (5), PA (21).

Again, some might disagree with Colorado and Pennsylvania being added so surely to the Obama column. McCain spent all day today in PA, suggesting that the Republicans will be trying to turn around a sizeable gap in recent statewide polling. As for Colorado, the polls remain tight, but the trend definitely favors Obama.

Before I take a look at the seven true "swing" states remaining, let's add up what each candidates have from their previous categories.

McCain: 163.

Obama: 273.

Well, spank my ass and call me Chuck Todd! We have ourselves a winner. Obama successfully gets to 270 without needing the help of the those seven swing states: FL (27), IN (11), MO (11), NC (15), NV (5), OH (20), and VA (13). It can be reasonably argued that Virginia should be at least an Obama "lean." Pollster even has VA solidly for Obama, with legitmate reason.

So that's it. It's over. McCain might as well pack it in right now. Okay, maybe it's not that cut and dry. Anything can and will happen over the course of the next two weeks, but the general electoral truths that I've just outlined can't be overlooked.

It doesn't seem to be a question of whether Obama is going to win. Since he doesn't very much help from the swing states, it's now become a question of margain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Campaign With No Purpose

Three weeks to go until the Big Day, less than 24 hours until the final presidential debate of this election cycle, and roughly about an hour before I finish writing this Blue Musings post. I'm not sure what that has to do with the election, I just like sentences that have three parts like that.

Obama has extended his lead nationally over the last few weeks, including a new poll out tonight from CBS and the NY Times show a whopping 14-point lead for the Democrat.

Obama has put away McCain targets in Pennsylvania and Michigan. He's opened up modest leads in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and our beloved New Hampshire. Things remain very close in Virginia, Missouri, and Nevada, but the flood of Obama support has put Indiana, West Virginia, and North Carolina in play. (Pollster even has North Dakota in the tossup category, but there hasn't been much polling there and I think McCain can rest easy). I'm sure Republicans never thought they'd have to worry about those latter states breaking for Obama this late in the going.

So why has this happened? Why does it appear if the election were held today Obama could potentially take the electoral college by 150 votes? There's several factors to consider.

I remember just a month ago the undecidedes were still making up 10-15% in national polling. Well, it's safe to say a HUGE number of those undecided voters a month ago have broken for Obama, and given the current political climate, it will be extremely difficult for John McCain to lure them away. The aforementioned poll has Obama winning independent voters by 18 points, a truly staggering figure.

While Sarah Palin roused the Republican base, she's done nothing to attract middle-of-the-road voters. I think her interviews and non-performance in the debate have totally disgusted most of the sensible people in the United States. No one, even the most ardent conservatives, can successfully argue that she is qualified to be in a position to be president. Check out the legendary David S. Broder's most recent "Man on the Street" interview column, where he heads to a typically-swing Philly suburb to canvass the masses. Let's just say most of the people he talked to don't really like Palin.

McCain hasn't actually lost the election yet, but Palin is such a bust one has to wonder if the gamble to put her on the ticket may go down as the worst in political history. I never thought I'd see the day when a campaign was dumb enough do put someone on the ticket that would actually lose the election for the party.

However, the biggest reason why Obama is poised to win in three weeks is this: John McCain has overseen the most erratic, schizophrenic, purposeless presidential campaign over the last month that anyone (so it seems) can remember.

It all began with the campaign suspension over the economic crisis (just a week after McCain claimed the "fundamentals of the economy are strong"). McCain went to Washington, didn't help anything get done, and when the dust settled, everyone and their brother blamed the financial chaos on deregulation-loving Republicans in Congress.

McCain has attempted to shift the focus from the issues to Obama's tangential relationship with Bill Ayers, a 1960s-era radical that exactly zero people in Youngstown, Scranton or Albuquerque give a flying fuck about. Voters in both the Broder column and the Times article about today's poll reflect that exact feeling during this time of unrest both at home and abroad. Obama is speaking more about them and McCain is, well, who the hell knows what he's talking about anymore.

Earlier this week McCain seemed to be ready to play nice, saying he'd give up the negative attacks and run a respectful campaign. Today, the campaign released a memo attacking Obama on Ayers. Nothing these guys do make any sense, it seems.

I feel people have watched these unpredictable, erratic happenings from the McCain campaign and have seen a glimpse of a potential McCain presidency. Obama criticized McCain's temperament in his DNC speech, and we all see why now. If McCain were to act in this manner as president, we'd all be screwed. Not that we aren't already.

Obama has represented that steady hand, that calm demeanor needed to do well in a crisis. McCain's been like that, only the exact opposite. With an astronomical 89 percent of Americans believing our country is on the wrong track, people want someone with a different approach and a different attitudes towards finding solutions. That bodes well for Obama.

Americans have turned off the BS factor of the Republican spin machine, and they are ready for change. With three weeks left, I'm ready for history.