Archive for the ‘John Edwards’ Category

South Carolina Debate: The Lowdown On The Dust-Up?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

I’ve been stewing on last evening’s debate for the better part of the day. Generally speaking, I found it to be rather disquieting. It took me until this evening to discern the source of my anxiety…and my belief that it was little more than a quid pro quo demonstration of status quo politicking. My first instinct was to be angry with the candidates…and then I began to reconsider. That would have been the easy conclusion…but it would have also been an exercise in self-deception.

I’ll now attempt a reasoned explanation of my newfound hypothesis; that being that despite reading and listening to the many protestations that Senators Clinton and Obama engaged in petty bickering…and the fact that they did…both candidates simply provided the stick that most voters are seeking with which to unleash their own particular bias…upon the candidate they oppose…regardless of the actual facts.

Think about it for a moment. Logic should tell us that candidates engage in such tactics because they have been proven to be effective. Therefore, logic should also tell us that they are effective because it is what we the voters accept, want, and expect. Here’s the thing. As the election process unfolds and we each select the candidate we prefer, we then pivot in search of the means to discredit the candidates we reject.

So what does that mean with regards to my hypothesis? Two things. One, we select for the truth we prefer; not the truth we ascertain or uncover. Two, once a candidate speaks the truth we prefer, we’re willing to accept untruths about the other candidates in order to bolster our own biased beliefs.

Hence, as with Pavlov’s dogs, our actions train candidates to perform the deeds and actions that result in the positive rewards they seek…our votes. Here’s how it works. Over time, voters make known to candidates their beliefs and expectations which is then transformed into a subtle but certain acquiescing to the assaults upon the enemy in order to obtain the power that we believe will allow us to reinforce (legislate) our shared beliefs. In the end, this process succeeds in conditioning politicians to launch the spurious attacks upon their opponents in order to receive the primary benefit they desire…an Election Day victory.

Here’s the disconnect. Pavlov’s dogs began to salivate at the sound of a bell once it was linked with being fed. Politicians also begin to link negative campaigns with Election Day votes. Once this happens, the quest for satiation on the part of the candidate and the voter (victory for the candidate and power for the voter) sets aside what ought to be the ongoing prioritization of truth. Thus the affirmation of our shared truth (the goal)…the truths (beliefs) we prefer…the truths (or lack thereof) that achieves the goal (reward) we seek…becomes the acceptable and/or preferred stimulus-response construct.

Once this model is cemented into the collective psyche, winning is the objective and the pursuit of truth…a truth that is just…not just the truth we like…is no longer the relevant priority. Our own particular bias becomes the driving force and all actions are viewed through this skewed prism…including a willingness to discount the truths of the opponent and to accept the attachment of untruths to the enemy if they have the potential to succeed in sullying and defeating that enemy. Simultaneously, we’re outraged at the similar tactics of the opposition…though fully in denial as to the inevitable tit-for-tat reality.

Looking specifically at last evening’s debate, we begin to see the pull of this deeply ingrained construct. Let’s assume Obama had intended to conduct the campaign he initially outlined…one that focused upon bringing unity…or at the very least a shared respect for the truth we can mutually agree upon as opposed to the truth we can impose. However, following his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada…coupled with indications the Clinton attacks may be resonating with voters…he is forced to reconsider.

I believe he feels forced to do this because the strategy he has employed seems to be failing to overcome the established expectations. In essence, the long-standing stimulus-reward conditioning prevents voters from properly attributing his actions. His hesitation, or refusal to participate in the process as it is designed, leads voters to conclude his truths mustn’t be valid or, at the very least, his convictions about his beliefs aren’t all that strong (see also Fred Thompson). The problem is that the prevailing mind set posits that all parties share the same goal and those unwilling to do what it takes to achieve those goals must lack the conviction (or the truth) to do what is necessary to win the reward (the power to impose that truth).

I suspect Obama’s original strategy was premised upon the notion that the truth he would support when elected would first be as much of the truth as he had already espoused…but it wouldn’t stop there. He believed he would also endeavor to get more or most voters to coalesce around a shared truth. Unfortunately, in the existing stimulus-reward system, that proposed outcome would often seem insufficient to the highly conditioned voter. It feels like the glass would be half-empty rather than half-full…and that is apt to fall short of satisfactory.

This results in what we saw last night…a skirmish fully adorned with the trappings that have become all too familiar…and by and large…demanded by the voters.

In the end, Obama has presumably realized the need to engage the negativity despite his dislike for such a system. The open question is whether he can muster the motivation to participate in the existing dynamic in order to win the opportunity to change it…assuming I’ve ascertained his actual goal. It’s possible his objective is no different than that of his opponents and that he has, to this point, simply attempted a novel strategy.

Regardless, as long as the public’s objective remains the attainment of the power necessary to implement our own coalitions (tribe) selective truths, the execution and the outcome of our political process will remain the same. We can continue to feign our disgust at what transpires while signaling our acceptance…or we can begin to abridge our bias and forego the fabrications and falsifications we have institutionalized in favor of a rational and reasoned reality.

Until such time as we make that choice, we’ll continue our self-sustaining system of salivating each and every time someone succeeds in repackaging the same old rancid red meat. I’m of the opinion that we need to end our dogged dependence on this tired old trick.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Primary Thoughts

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Pundits are idiots. I’ve spent a lot of time on blogs, opining, then vigorously defending said opine, and never have I assumed that just because I said something, it must be so. I take my readers seriously. They are investing time in our argument, and even if they piss me off to the point I have to step away for a moment and regroup, the real reason we’re here, the exchange of ideas and information, is being served. Some bloggers aspire to be pundits. They aren’t there to argue, they are there to inform that their weighty opinion matters, and that of their reader does not. Really? Honey, it y’all were all that, you’d have jobs as analysts.

These days, our news media loves pundits. In the fast slide from fact based journalism to political columnist, we suffer through media dictatorship. Our information is filtered through somebody else’s parameters, blared like so much propaganda, and leaves the average intelligent adult nonplussed.

Take Iowa and New Hampshire, for example. At the conclusion of the Iowa caucus, Obama sported a 10 point lead. He’s off to a good start. His campaign strategy on the ground worked in Iowa. Clinton’s did not. Edwards did well, considering he is less well funded. These are the facts.

Instead we hear Clinton is one step from out. Obama is the new inevitable winner. The race is now between Edwards and Obama. Obama can’t lose in NH. Blah, blah, blah, BS-cakes.

Yesterday in NH, Clinton won by 3 points. People in that state responded better to Clinton’s campaign. They also responded well to Obama’s, but in slightly smaller numbers. Edwards came off with a third place, and needs to do well in Nevada and South Carolina to keep his campaign on track. Somebody in NH had heard of Kucinich. These are also the facts.

Instead we get that Clinton’s victory is a stunner. That her campaign is no longer dead. That Obama is on the hot seat and Edwards is dead. That, well, we don’t know a damn thing, but when has that stopped us from telling you what we think you should think?

The heart of the matter is drive and money. Facts are stubborn little buggers, they take time and patience to procure. They require ability; you have to want to dig them out. Espousing an educated guess, or worse, just what you think will sell a paper, requires little ability and even less character. Yet, are the papers selling? Uh, no. What they offer is readily available on blogs, with the added bonus of human interaction and argument, something Americans love.

This country was founded on an argument, and we’ve argued ever since. We believe that it’s the only way to rip off the fluff and find the prize: truth. We like truth. From childhood we’ve believed it should be self-evident. This is so ingrained in our national ideal of what it is to be American, that we are having a hard time collectively, watching our national psyche tarnish on the international stage. In our gut, we crave shining beacon status.

This is one reason why newspapers are failing. The time for filling space with speculation and expecting people to believe it is over. Thanks to blogs, we all have our places where we can go and read the ridiculous, the inspiring, and the original thoughts of our peers. We know this medium well; we tap it daily. We don’t need punditocracy disguised as journalism.

We need facts. More importantly, we need a media infrastructure that supports, protects and holds high expectation for factual journalistic endeavor. We need tough questions and good editing. They need to stop sucking the profit pipe to the point that the whole reason for the industry is bastardized.

There are 48 states to go; you’d never know it, based on what you read today. That, my friends, is a very sad fact.

Political Strategy: How Should Democrats Define Victory?

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Having read numerous internet postings on the Iowa primary and last evenings New Hampshire debate, I decided to share my thoughts on some overarching issues which frequently get lost in the melee.

Generally speaking, most postings and comments offer valid points for consideration and discussion. Notwithstanding, human nature is prone to the promulgation of biased rhetoric, which can distract one from seeking to explore and understand obvious, though unspoken, fundamentals.

Before proceeding, let me expose my own bias in favor of the Democratic Party to those who may not know my political leanings. With that in mind, the following is primarily addressed to those like-minded individuals who are undoubtedly hoping for a Democratic victory this coming November.

The prevailing tone found in what I’ve read in the last few days is focused on which candidate people prefer followed by the justifications they offer in that regard. I personally feel this approach leaves one vulnerable to overlooking the prevailing considerations for the achievement of a meaningful victory by the Democratic Party.

In a nutshell, our basic task is to understand the nature and tactics of the opposition, the attributes of the candidates they enlist, how each of our candidates match-up against the opposition and each of it’s candidates, and the voter appeal we can anticipate from each candidate. Before we can actually begin analyzing our candidates, we must first look at the perceptions we hold regarding the level of partisanship we can expect from the GOP.

Recent history tells us that bi-partisanship and compromise haven’t been part of the Republican agenda under the guidance of George Bush and his minions. While this isn’t a guarantee of the nature of future behavior on the part of the GOP, prudence suggests one should anticipate more of the same.

With that in mind, we can begin to explore our optimal strategy. From a very simplistic perspective, the best means to combat the opponent we’ve identified would be for the Democrats to get behind a candidate that can best help the party win the White House and take enough seats in the House and the Senate to thwart what seems to be a state of perpetual procedural stalemate.

Doing so would solve many of the problems enumerated in the postings and the comments I’ve read. Further, if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, Democrats are never going to go toe to toe with the GOP in the playing of “cut-throat, take no prisoners” partisan politics. I say as much not because we couldn’t eventually learn to do so…but it would no doubt require even more focus upon manipulating the media and the voting public and it frequently demands that politicians be willing to forego or modify their beliefs in order to score political points.

Reality and a review of history should tell us few true Democrats are inclined to do so. It should also encourage us to know they possess the integrity to forego acting accordingly. Besides, it’s also unlikely we can beat them at their game. Additionally, to do so is to succumb to that which we despise. Defeating one’s adversary by adopting the same methods they employ is little more than capitulation…and it runs the risk of further alienating one’s voters. The bottom line is we mustn’t ignore or abandon who we are.

So what are Democrats to do? First, we should take pride in our identity and offer no apologies for choosing to act honorably. Secondly, the best way to defeat the GOP is to give them an Election Day bloody nose…by beating them silly…in the ballot box. If we did this, we wouldn’t have to worry about playing games we’re not comfortable navigating and we wouldn’t have to resort to cut throat tactics at every turn of the road…tactics that lead voters to conclude the only difference between the two parties is how they spell their names.

In our haste to change our modus operandi, we’ve forgotten the power of our message and the need to impart it, which essentially means we’re losing our identity…the very thing we have to offer the electorate. Democrats need to stop fighting with each other about whether to adopt the GOP’s suspect strategic methods and start convincing people to get out and vote Democrats into office because we offer clear and credible alternatives. The more we become a watered down amalgam; the more voters lack tangible choices and forego voting.

I would argue that understanding and appreciating the above should allow us to begin an informed and illuminating evaluation of our candidates and our prospects for achieving the type of success that voters notice and reward.

It is my contention that what we are witnessing with the Obama campaign …and to a lesser degree with the Edward’s campaign…proves my point. The best thing about Obama…at this moment…is his apparent (not yet proven) ability to bring people (from all persuasions) to the ballot box with his message…an unapologetic attempt to impart essence and empathy instead of affectation and animus.

The problem he and we face is whether he can turn his “magic” into enough votes to render the Republicans irrelevant. If he can’t, one must wonder if he’s got the stomach for the inevitable battles he will face from a GOP that is comfortable with a “we don’t negotiate” mentality.

In support of Clinton, she is probably more adept (and willing) to engage in perpetual partisan warfare. I suspect she may be able to win a general election, but she, in my estimation, unfortunately lacks the ability to change hearts and minds…a requirement to draw enough votes to meaningfully change the numbers in Congress. The comfort that may come with her track record is no doubt accompanied by ongoing gridlock.

John Edwards says the right things and he has a track record of fighting and winning…but not in the political arena where the rules are far less defined than in the courtroom. Notwithstanding, his experience may well translate…but in all honesty, his track record in the Senate probably doesn’t offer convincing evidence.

I personally like his populist theme…but if Iowa is any indication of the best way to sell that message…in a manner that it engenders a groundswell of first time, independent, and crossover voters…perhaps Obama has proven to be the better tactician?

With Iowa as the backdrop, if Huckabee ends up being the GOP candidate (with his populist leanings), then a match up with Edwards is likely a wash in terms of who can draw like-minded (populist) voters. What Huckabee lacks in populist substance in comparison to Edwards is probably offset by the former Governor’s affability and articulation. The same may not be true when comparing Huckabee with Obama.

All of these observations are simply intended to force us to define the meaning of victory as well as the degree to which a win by each of our candidates would constitute meaningful results. It’s far too easy for each of us to get lost in the allure of our particular candidate being elected to the presidency. While each of us may feel this potentiality justifies our support of our chosen candidate, it may not equate with measurable success…success that ought to be defined as the implementation of the objectives we share as Democrats.

Today, I fear voters believe they must look for magic in the absence of substance. Until one of the political parties decides to forego it’s prop filled jacket and places its hidden cards face up on the table, we will continue to spin our wheels while trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Wouldn’t it be far simpler to extend an honest hand to the American people than to craft the next sleight of hand?

I may be wrong, but I have a hunch voters have reached the point where they are first and foremost looking for a little hope. I also believe they’re prepared to reward the party that backs it up with an observable measure of hard work.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Presidential Politics: Iowa In Pictures

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Given my own level of ambivalence at this particular juncture in the Presidential campaign (aside from supporting the eventual Democratic nominee), I decided to offer my own commentary on the Iowa primary in pictures.

Feel free to offer your own observations.

The Prince Of Prayer Nails One

Mike Huckabee Nails One

The Diva Comes Out On Top

Barack Obama Diva Power

Hair Today - Gone Tomorrow

John Edwards & Mitt Romney: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Not The Last Leg For Hillary

Not Enough Support For Hillary

Iowa Dishes Rudy, Rudy…Far Too Fruity

Rudy Giuliani: Far Too Fruity

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

The best Presidential Forum you haven’t heard about.

Friday, December 7th, 2007

On Saturday December 1st, 3600 individuals braved the nasty weather in Des Moines IA to attend a forum. This forum was special in the fact that the everyday people would be able to ask five of the Democratic Presidential candidates questions that mattered to them. The Democrats who showed up were: John Edwards, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and my pick for President, Representative Dennis Kucinich. Only Hillary phoned it in, unable for some reason to attend in person.


The Heartland Presidential Forum has received scant notice, hell NO notice by the MSM…which shouldn’t surprise us, but it should piss us off. This Forum was unique in that the questions weren’t filtered through a cadre of network heads like CNN, MSNBC or Fox Noise. Real Americans asked their real questions and voiced their real concerns to the candidates. The Forum was sponsored by community groups across the nation. It should be noted that the Republican candidates were also invited, but only one of them accepted the invitation. The forum lawyers ruled that to only allow one Republican to attend might appear to be an illegal political endorsement and therefore he was not allowed to attend.


This wonderful forum allowed everyday Americans to address the candidates of their choice directly on the stage, face to face. The entire video of the event can be seen at or portions can be watched on their YouTube channel. The one MSM writeup I could find was the San Francisco Chronicle. Below are some of the individuals and their stories they highlighted from the event:


Erica Fernandez, a 17-year-old student from Ventura County, spoke eloquently of her community’s struggle against the siting of a liquefied natural gas facility - and asked John Edwards to address questions of environmental justice (the first time I’ve heard the issue raised at the presidential level).


Patricia Divine Wilder, a small business owner from Walla Walla, Wash., spoke to Hillary Clinton, choking back her own tears (and ours) as she struggled through a story of a nephew whose recurrent neck pains went unaddressed because he lacked health insurance. When he finally broke down and saw a doctor, it turned out to be inoperable lung cancer. Clinton responded at length about the arcane details of her health care plan - and was then cut off for exceeding time limits so that she could hear from an undocumented immigrant student. Identified by first name only, she noted that she had graduated at the top of her high school class, is two years away from finishing a B.A. in education, and will never be able to teach. Following her, Larry Ginter, a white family farmer from Iowa, pleaded that “to save our national soul, we have to stop treating immigrants like common criminals.” Echoing the theme, Tam Tran from Los Angeles told Dennis Kucinich her tale: she and her family fled from Vietnam, were rescued by a German boat, and came to the United States when she was 6. Now the United States wants to deport her - to Germany - and agents have followed up by raiding her parents’ mobile home two months ago.


And Barack Obama found himself floored by Dedra Lewis from Springfield, Mass. She recounted her shock when her 10-year-old daughter, Alexsiana, developed a sight-threatening eye condition - and her relief when the State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) program threatened by President Bush’s veto pen had saved her when she lost her job and her private insurance. Alexsiana was there - she and Obama exchanged hugs and quiet words before he went on to outline his health care plan.


There are many more stories like these on the pages of the SFChron writeup as well as the writeup by the MovementVisionLab author Sally Kohn who calls these folks this years swing voters in her article. There were white folks, brown folks and black folks that brought their issues to the Presidential candidates. Many of the stories rang true for me or people I know and love. I would like to suggest you watch the entire presentation, but if you don’t at least watch some of the YouTube video’s of the speakers and the candidates response, it will make you proud to be an American least it did me.


We need more of these types of events for the candidates, where the questions are asked by those who will be voting for our next President. Nothing was canned or phony to me, it was genuine concern based in living a life in these here United States. The American’s were from all walks of life, investors, farmers, undocumented immigrants who have worked hard to make a life here and still fear being deported. Single mothers who worry about making ends meet and feeding their children every day. I could go on and on..but hopefully you get my point dear reader. So watch our Americans in action and how the candidates responded to them.

Do yourself that favor today ok?


Crossposted at Leftwing Nutjob