By Al Giordano
The conventional wisdom has it that Obama draws the younger voters and McCain will carry the day with the elder ones, but McCain's words on July 7 - calling the Social Security program "a disgrace" - are being used today, on the seventy-third anniversary of the program, by Democrats and senior citizen advocates in a concerted grassroots messaging campaign to portray the Republican nominee as a threat that wants to "privatize" Social Security.
That card, above, is just one of the pieces being moved out onto the chessboard today.
The AFL CIO is simultaneously rolling out this mailer:
"McCain's worth over $100 million... He owns 10 houses...he flies around on a $12.6 million corporate jet...he walks around in $520 Italian loafers."
"If John McCain lost his social security, he'd get by just fine. Would you?"
The mailer will go out tomorrow to 50,000 retirees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, and more mailings will soon be dropped in those states, where the union is also planning a series of Social Security events.
Elderly protestors will shadow McCain today and tomorrow in Aspen, Colorado as he tries to wine and dine high-ticket campaign donors there, according to the Aspen Daily News.
The DNC posted this web ad yesterday featuring party rules chief and FDR grandson Jim Roosevelt suggesting that McCain is a danger to social security recipients:
Letters to the editor at local newspapers also seem to be part of the roll out:
At a July 7 "Town Hall" meeting in Denver, Sen. John McCain said, "Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. It's a disgrace, and it's got to be fixed." Yet the same McCain received $23,157 in Social Security payments last year, according to his own income tax returns. If the program is so bad, why didn't he return his checks?
Let me put it bluntly: I am very concerned that John McCain would dismantle and destroy what is perhaps the single most important federal program for all Americans: Social Security. Like Bush, he supports privatization of Social Security.
A DNC press release (which isn't yet found on its website, suggesting that the organizing on this targeted campaign isn't yet quite as seamless as most Obama efforts to date) lists events in Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, Vermont, Ohio, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nebraska, Mississippi, Arizona and Utah, including the launch, by former vice president Walter Mondale, of a "Seniors Talking to Seniors" campaign to spread the talking points.
It's nascent, and still has a ways to go before gaining traction, but it's a smart move and should be deepened. This strategy puts McCain on his heels to defend himself (and expend resources) among his own aged constituency, gives working-class elderly Democrats - who largely supported Clinton in the primaries and whose comfort factor with Obama still wavers - a concrete and self-interested reason to come back into the fold (and offers senior activists a campaign to organize around and materials with which to do that), and it plants the seeds in the national media to force the question of privatization of Social Security onto the Q & A docket for the presidential debates to begin in September.
And to the extent this gambit forces McCain to make reassuring statements that he won't privatize Social Security, it will cause him trouble with the wealthier parts of his base that - like their ancestors from which so many of them inherited their privilege - have long considered Social Security to be a form of socialism inflicted on them by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The meme is still forming but here's betting that the words "privatization of Social Security" hit the national presidential debate and that the third rail will be touched. And that can only benefit Obama's chances in November.
By Al Giordano
Jay Newton-Small over at Time magazine's online Swampland is doing similar "process of elimination" math as we've been doing here regarding Obama's vice presidential pick. Her logic - which is sound - is that if someone already has a speaking slot at the Democratic convention it's less likely he or she will also be the grand focus of Wednesday night's vice presidential rollout. Here's her list:
Warner (keynote speaker)
Strickland (speaking, took himself out)
Webb (took himself out)
John Edwards (took himself out)
Podesta (hosting a brunch)
Napolitano (hosting a women governor's event)
People who "took themselves out" could still cause a surprise. Don't totally count out Webb quite yet, for example. I also don't rule out Sebelius yet.
There are some names missing from that list:
Gore: He's the 900 pound gorilla in the room, and will certainly have a speaking slot. That it hasn't been announced yet has at least one of my eyebrows raised. Also, with Bill Clinton slated to speak on Wednesday veep night, okay, my other eyebrow is now up, too.
Graham: Nobody from Florida has been put on the convention list yet (add Wexler as the darkest of dark horses for the VP nod).
Chaffee: He's the only (ex) Republican name that's been floated that I take seriously (I really don't see how Obama could sell Hagel or Bloomberg to the party faithful, but the former Rhode Island senator did vote against authorizing the war in Iraq and left the GOP on his own accord. If there's a bipartisan pick it's going to be him.)
Hamilton: The gray eminence from Indiana. He's old but still spry, and he's no Bayh!
Kerry: Those that groan aren't looking at polling data that show he'd be a solid choice that would drive his old friend McCain batshit crazy.
Schweitzer: Mountain west cowboy and social justice libertarian. We love 'im!
A couple more thoughts:
At Obama HQ in Chicago there is already staff hired not just for the vice presidential nominee, but also for the veep's spouse. Is that the "tell" that it won't be a bachelor or bachelorette (such as Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano)?
And the logic of tapping Warner - US Senate candidate in Virginia - as keynoter echoes John Kerry's logic in '04 of giving the keynote slot to help a Democratic US Senate candidate. That was the skinny kid with the big ears from Illinois, of course. And here's a whacked out conspiracy theory to chew on: What if Warner would prefer to be VP than Senator? I don't see it, but, if so, Kaine is set up nicely to take his place in the senate race should there become a vacancy. I still think that if the pick is Virginian it is so much more likely to be Kaine than the other two guys, but thought I would toss that out there for kicks.
I do think a Sunday night, Monday or Tuesday announcement - just as Obama gets back from Hawaii - is most likely, in terms of timing.
And isn't "Greek Drama Week" going according to script quite well? Other than some people in Atlanta and Savannah wondering why the press says they're under attack from Russia (when they look out their windows and see nice summer days instead), McCain can't seem to get any oxygen or exposure unless Obama is on stage, too. Maybe Obama should extend his vacation through November! As Baudrillard theorized, there's something to be said for "presence through absence."
So there's your tote board, gamblers. Bet early and often.
Update: Nate reads into recent statements by Sebelius and others that her veep star could be rising, and says that the choice of Warner-as-keynoter does not bode good omens for a Kaine pick, which he says could end up feeling like "sloppy seconds." (It's a tribute to the discretion of Caroline Kennedy, Eric Holder, Axelrod, Plouffe and company that none of us have a friggin' clue as to what is really going on!)
Update II: Usually the keynote speaker comes on the first night of the convention, but this year the non-cable networks won't be broadcasting it. Thus, it makes sense to put Warner on Tuesday instead of Monday. And as for those that will grouse that he might upstage Senator Clinton on that night, well... that's up to Senator Clinton, who can certainly hold her own next to him. The Clinton fan club has to get used to the reality that there's a new sheriff in town, and the party - while it's still gracefully including them in a big way - doesn't exclusively belong to their faction anymore. I shudder to think of what this convention would look like had the superdelegates overturned the primary results and put the nomination back into the hands of the infighting Clinton machine (and me, out in the streets with Plan Jericho! Missed that rubber bullet, thankfully. And that's the best thing about that lobbyist defender of Colombian death squads Howard Wolfson having a new home at Fox News: we won't have to attend his daily press briefings in Denver!).
Update III: In the comments section, Bonkers floats another plausible contender to complete the tote board:
Dean: A well known name and excellent attack dog who even after a term as DNC chair would reinforce the outside-the-beltway message that is so vital to Obama's chances in November.
Update IV with a bullet!: The Tuesday night convention speakers' list has just grown by leaps and bounds, with Senator Clinton now sharing the night with a bevy of "short lister" Governor: Sebelius, Napolitano, Schweitzer, Rendell, and Strickland in addition to keynoter Warner.
Quick! Who's missing from that list, below? The schedule seems to be, ahem, raising Kaine.
Tuesday night's featured speakers include Convention Co-Chair Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, both early supporters of Barack Obama, who will outline his detailed economic plan to grow the economy, create jobs, restore fairness and expand opportunity.
Governors Ted Strickland of Ohio and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania will discuss how the failed policies of the last eight years have betrayed our values and left an economy out of balance.
Barack Obama believes you can't have a strong economy when you have a weak middle class, and speakers like Senator Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania and Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts will share how Obama's policies have been directly shaped by the people he has met as he traveled the country.
Building on Obama's New Economy with New Energy message, Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Federico Peña, former Mayor of Denver and Secretary of both Energy and Transportation, will speak about the nexus between energy and the economy and highlight new and innovative policies to help working families in rural, urban and suburban communities.
As announced earlier this week, Mark Warner, former Governor of Virginia, will deliver the Convention's keynote address, and Senator Hillary Clinton, who is a champion for working families and one of the most effective and empathetic voices in the country today, will be the headline prime-time speaker on Tuesday night.
Jeez. When Tuesday night seemed as if it was going to be "That 90s Show" I was harboring a fantasy of sneaking out to the Denver Jazz and Blues Festival that night, and handing over the blogging duties to our mystery guest blogger. But now I guess I'll be blogging it, too!
By Al Giordano
Chicken Little-ism has found its latest evolution in the chorus of wanna-be presidential campaign managers that tell us that they know best what their favored candidate ought to be doing to win the 2008 election.
I hereby bestow a new moniker on the advanced Chicken Littles of that particular tendency: The Armchairmen.
Typically, the advice goes like this: "Obama should hit back," or "Obama should hit back harder!"
Um, when the fighter in the ring is already pounding his rival, that's not advice. It's the raving of a willfully blind and deaf spectator.
The members of the Hit Back Lobby must have covered their eyes and ears to this TV ad, "Embrace," which is airing on nationwide cable TV (but, smartly, not as part of the the $5 million package during the feel-good Olympics games broadcasts):
Here's the script:
Announcer: "For decades, he's been Washington's biggest celebrity - John McCain. And as Washington embraced him, John McCain hugged right back. The lobbyists - running his low-road campaign. The money - billions in tax breaks for oil and drug companies, but almost nothing for families like yours. Lurching to the right, then the left, the old Washington dance, whatever it takes. John McCain. A Washington celebrity playing the same old Washington games."
Obama: "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message."
Typical of those that overlook factors like that of building an unprecedented grassroots field organization as an especially lethal kind of attack, they seem to have also missed the local advertising offensives that the Obama campaign is slamming McCain with in swing states.
(A month or two ago the news came out - if anybody can redirect again me to the link where it was reported, please do so the comments section - that the Obama campaign had formed regional ad production teams with political consultants and admen from those regions, from which, I strongly suspect, three recent ads came out of: As Tip O'Neill used to say, "All politics is local.")
The Armchairmen must have missed the roar of the Harleys (on the radio airwaves in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania).
Talking Points Memo has posted the audio.
Here's the transcript:
Announcer: Listen to John McCain speaking to motorcycle enthusiasts in Sturgis, South Dakota, on Tuesday.
McCain: Not long ago a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day...
Announcer: But when it comes to his record, American-made motorcycles like Harleys don't matter to John McCain. Back in Washington, McCain opposed the requirement that the government buy American-made motorcycles. And he said all buy-American provisions were quote "disgraceful." Surprised? You shouldn't be. This is the same John McCain who supported billions in tax breaks for companies who ship American jobs overseas.
(More motors revving)
Announcer: It's time to hear the roar of the strong American economy again -- and stop John McCain from shipping our jobs overseas.
Obama: I'm Barack Obama, candidate for president, and I approved this message. Paid for by Obama for America.
Likewise, The Armchairmen must not have been home to sign for this package when it arrived, via the radio, in Ohio. Here's the ad script:
Announcer: July 9. 2008. Portsmouth, Ohio. Here's what John McCain said about DHL's plans to eliminate 8,200 Ohio jobs.
John McCain (from Ohio town hall): I gotta look you in the eye and give you straight talk. I don't know if I can stop it or not or if it will be stopped.
Announcer: But there's something John McCain's not telling you: It was McCain who used his influence in the Senate to help foreign-owned DHL buy a U.S. company and gain control over the jobs that are now on the chopping block in Ohio.
And that's not all: McCain's campaign manager was the top lobbyist for the DHL deal...helped push it through. His firm was paid $185,000 to lobby McCain and other Senators.
Now 8,200 Ohioans are facing layoffs, and foreign-owned DHL doesn't care.
John McCain (from Ohio town hall): I gotta look you in the eye and give you straight talk.
Announcer: John McCain. Same old politics. Same failed policies.
Barack Obama: I'm Barack Obama, candidate for President, and I approved this message. Paid for by Obama for America.
And The Armchairmen must have been sitting in the front yard when this TV ad, titled "Backyard", went on the air in Nevada:
Here's that script:
Announcer: "Imagine trucks hauling the nation's nuclear waste on our highways to Yucca Mountain? John McCain supports opening Yucca. He's not worried about nuclear waste in our state - only in Arizona."
Clip from May 2007 television interview: Reporter: "Would you be comfortable with nuclear waste coming through Arizona on its way, you know going through Phoenix, on its way to Yucca Mountain?
John McCain: "No, I would not. No, I would not."
Narrator: "John McCain. For nuclear waste in Nevada, just not in his backyard. Barack Obama opposes opening Yucca. He'll protect our families.
Obama: "I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message."
That's pretty tough stuff, all of it.
Actually, have any readers here heard or seen evidence that McCain is hitting back at these local offensives in swing states Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania? He's getting bloodied up where it counts - in the Electoral College - and McCain's problem is that he really has no good defense against the fact-based charges in these ads.
They're not attacks for attacking's sake. They're carefully executed and delivered to effectively plant the seeds of doubt about McCain in voters' minds.
Matt Stoller, yesterday at Open Left, counted seven different TV ads in which Obama has hit McCain hard. You can see all of them here.
Paradoxically, his co-blogger Mike Lux waded into the false "Obama is not hitting back" meme just last week, in which he claimed that, "Obama is drifting down in the polls" (uh, evidence, please?) and blamed this imaginary phenomenon on "Capitol Hill caution."
Oh, Christ. The Obama campaign uprooted practically the entire DNC staff and is running the campaign out of Chicago with the same street fighting outsider instincts that beat bloody the "Capital Hill caution" of... the Clinton machine.
Those who are grousing or typing that "Obama has to hit McCain" or "Obama has to hit back" seem to be living in a parallel universe from that in which the campaign is taking place.
I suspect that some are innocents that simply can't get over the post traumatic stress of seeing other Democrats in the past not hit back like the current one is doing.
Others seem to think that unless there's blood on his hands, Obama must not be hitting (they don't "get" what I call The Mack The Knife Technique of slipping the dagger into one's opponent while wearing white gloves that reveal "never a trace of red").
Others are just typical insider cynics of the kind that surround every political campaign: this is what gives them the bragging rights to say "I told you so" after November if, as they seem to expect, the sky does fall. It sure is easier than, say, registering new voters.
What I've failed to see from most of The Armchairmen are specific suggestions. "Hit back" is not a strategy or even a tactic. A proposal for an ad script, a new idea, a better set of talking points on a particular issue... those are the sorts of things that constitute strategic and tactical advice. And as is our credo here: Why ask a presidential candidate to say something that in this viral age we can each say ourselves and get millions repeating it? (I mean, there once was a little blog that introduced the term "Chicken Littles" and that's gone pretty fast around the world, but, ah, I digress...)
Ideas are advice.
Complaining and accusing are not.
Some people want to be armchair coaches. Fine. It's human nature. Get them a director's chair with "campaign manager" emblazoned on the back, and leave them typing into their keypads. Or better yet, somebody invent them an Armchairmen computer game to simulate the fantasy. But what's annoying (in the way that a mosquito is annoying) and provokes me to hit them back is when the armchair campaign managers distort the true facts - whether out of intent or out of ignorance, it doesn't really matter: a public commentator's first duty while making any claim is to back it up with evidence and facts.
So when (as I mentioned in the comments section the other day) Drew Westen made this claim last week in his latest advice column, he called it a "fact" when it was, rather, a falsehood:
What is not as clear is what the Obama campaign learned from the relentlessly negative campaign Hillary Clinton ran against him in the last half of the primary season. They clearly remember that he won. But what is not so clear is whether his campaign took away anything from the fact that he lost two-thirds of the primaries after Hillary turned to her slash-and-burn strategy and that many voters came away with an uneasy feeling about him.
Let's review the facts. A simple Internet search would have spared Westen the embarrassment of misstating that Clinton had won "two-thirds" of the final contests as a "fact" (his word). Clinton began ratcheting up the attacks on Obama after his 11-state winning streak in February, right before the Ohio and Texas primaries. She won nine of the final 17 contests: Ohio, the Texas primary, and Rhode Island in March, Pennsylvania in April, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky in May, and in June: Puerto Rico and South Dakota.
During that same time period Obama won the Texas caucuses, Vermont Mississippi, Wyoming, Guam, North Carolina, Oregon and Montana: eight contests in all. And frankly, if not for Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" voters backing Clinton, Obama won more votes in the Texas primary and in Indiana than Clinton did.
A 9-8 record does not "two thirds" make (and, certainly, a 7-10 record, subtracting the Limbaugh voters, falls even shorter).
It is true that many voters came away from Clinton's attacks with an "uneasy feeling" about Obama, but also about Clinton, the attacker, who couldn't and didn't seal the deal. Holding up the Clinton campaign as a model of how to attack and "hit" is just silly. There are winning ways to attack, and there are also losing ways to do so, and I fear that what many Armchairmen of the "hit back" lobby desire is that Obama wield the kinds of ham-handed attacks that Clinton waged during the primaries: the kind that boomerang on the attacker.
Since he became the presumptive nominee, Obama's campaign has been hitting hard at McCain and he has been hitting back at his rival's attacks. And his punches have been connecting in ways that soften McCain up for harder punches come autumn, while also giving McCain enough rope to behave in such a way that drives up the Republican's own negatives.
Obama has aired 9,785 TV ads in Florida alone, where McCain has aired none, according to a report that just came over CNN (in part, that's been necessary because there was no campaigning in Florida during the primaries: Obama had to catch up and introduce himself to voters there).
So what are the members of the "hit back" lobby looking for? Could it be an excuse not to get out from behind the keypad and make phone calls or knock on doors or register voters or get themselves trained as community organizers to be better at all those things?
Oh, poor babies, did I just hit you?
I was only following your advice!
By Al Giordano
Jed posted this video of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine on Face The Nation this weekend.
The guy is growing on me.
The number one rule in choosing a vice presidential nominee is "first, do no harm." If you're a presidential nominee, you don't want a running mate that will distract from you, commit gaffes, speak off-message, or that secretly thinks he or she is too good to be number two.
And the second rule is, "then, do some good." You want a VP that will reinforce your messages and make voters more comfortable with you.
Kaine is so far passing both tests with flying colors.
Faced with the typical trick questions of television anchors, Kaine had a magic word to dispel each attempted curve ball: "Virginia!"
In the nine-minute interview, Kaine mentioned "Virginia" fourteen times. Virginia, Virginia, Virginia... Yes, Virginia... there is a Virginia!
And for those believing the hype about the titling of the Wednesday night convention show "Securing America's Future" somehow being a "tell" that General Clark will be the vice presidential nominee, I bring as our first witness Wes Clark, Jr., posting comments tonight on DKos about dad's VP chances.
About him as a VP choice or being on any list whatsoever. Dad doesn't really know anyone on the search committee, so my guess is that he is not going to be Obama's VP choice.
Don't hold your breath on the VP nom. I've seen no sign that Obama ever considered him for the job.
And also here:
I don't want to dash anyone's hopes, I just don't see the VP thing happening. Obama'll probably go with somebody like Bayh, Kaine or Sebelius.
Remember: Dad doesn't lack ambition. Without ever having served in elected office, Clark ran for president in 2004. This is most certainly daily chatter among Clark family members. If young Wes thinks it's down to Bayh, Kaine or Sebelius, in all likelihood that's what he's heard from Senior. If Clark was under serious vetting, you would definitely not find his son posting such comments on the Internet.
With Sebelius taking on a more institutional role at the convention, it seems to be down to Kaine or Bayh or a dark horse.
Kaine - in this TV interview and elsewhere - emanates a fundamental decency (and in a mild and unforced southern accent) that Bayh simply does not. After the 1990s, there's a "slick factor" that must be avoided at all costs in choosing the vice presidential nominee.
A couple more points:
Indiana has 11 electoral votes. Virginia has 13.
(That's, literally, a couple more points!)
And the comfort factor is always easier with the ally that's been with you all along.
Kaine would make for a very solid - comfort building - Wednesday night at the convention.
I'm thinking, at least right now, that this guy is looking like the wingman of 2008.
That's not yet a prediction. It's an instinct.
To be continued...
Morning Update: The Bayh boomlet hits a wall:
Mr. Bayh's support of authorizing force in Iraq stands in sharp contrast to Mr. Obama's oft-stated view that he showed the good judgment to oppose the conflict from the start. After his vote, Mr. Bayh in early 2003 joined Mr. McCain as an honorary co-chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which made regime change in Iraq its central cause.
By Al Giordano
Last month, presidential candidate Barack Obama visited Iraq, six years into his vocal opposition to the war there, and forced the hand of those that got the United States into the war and even got them agreeing aloud to a sixteen month timetable to get the troops out.
First spoke Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to call Obama's plan a reasonable timetable, then Senator McCain and President Bush - who had been attacking Obama's position for months already - suddenly caved, each repeating, "me, too!"
But as The Field has reminded time and time again, pressuring a candidate - McCain, in this case - to change a policy position in the middle of the campaign almost never leads to real policy changes once elected.
(I'm tempted to offer a nice fat cash reward for anybody who can demonstrate an example of how election-year efforts to pressure a presidential candidate to change what he says about a a major policy issue led to that change being translated into governmental action later on: The last example I can think of is Franklin Delano Roosevelt coming out, in 1932, for the end of alcohol prohibition after having first supported it and then, in his first year as president, repealing the 18th Amendment. I imagine that there must be a more recent example out there, but I can't think of a single one in the past 32 years that I've followed presidential politics, and nobody - not even those that insist that it can be done and dedicate so many waking hours to such attempts to "use an election to pressure a candidate" - has taken me up on the challenge: just one example, please!)
McCain, of course, doesn't mean it. He may say today that he favors withdraw in 16 months, but as the chart above demonstrates he has changed his timeline multiple times already since the war was proposed and launched, and will no doubt change it again, with projections of how fast the US occupation out of Iraq can end so far waging from "three weeks" to "a hundred years."
That chart - brought to our attention by the GutCheck08 blog, and made available for reprinting via this online .pdf document - serves as an effective response to those that are fond of saying there is no difference between the two leading presidential candidates' Iraq war policies.
The flyer, in combination with this very high impact viral video (hat tip, NwTerriD at DKos) that so convincingly captures McCain's warmongering character, is the sort of thing that the Obama campaign can't push itself without getting drawn into a sideshow over the use of the word "warmonger," no matter how well the shoe fits. When radio talker Ed Schultz used the Dubya-Word during an Obama campaign event in North Dakota last April, the McCain camp used it as an opening to create a sideshow:
McCain then called on Obama to condemn Schultz's words. The Democrat's campaign issued a statement saying that "John McCain is not a warmonger and should not be described as such. He's a supporter of a war that Senator Obama believes should have never been authorized and never been waged."
Schultz, to his credit, didn't back down and kept using the phrase on his radio show.
Still, it's much harder for the McCain camp to pick a fight with an inanimate object, such as a viral video. Check this out:
(You can read a transcript of the video, here.)
I mean, what's McCain to do about that? Call on Obama to condemn Pat Buchanan? (The right-wing pundit said, in a TV appearance captured on this video, that McCain, as president, would make Dick Cheney seem like Mahatma Gandhi... In doing so, Buchanan made Ed Schultz seem almost Gandhian, too!)
I've read more than a few complaints here and elsewhere when a national-level Obama surrogate or Democratic Party leader says something counterproductive, or doesn't say anything at all in the face of some attacks against their candidate.
But it would be so much more productive if instead of waiting for somebody else to speak the effective hard truths, people deputized themselves as "surrogates from below," and set to work targeting friends, associates, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, whomever, with materials like these.
Think of the flyer together with the video as a virtual "Happy Meal" of effective propaganda, especially toward those so fond of claiming that there's no difference between the presidential candidates on Iraq policy (and "war and peace" issues in general). Nothing prevents any of us from being the surrogate we hope that others might be. And, frankly, people listen more to their peers than to famous people or politicians when it comes time to decide whether to register to vote or for whom to cast a ballot.
Come to think of it, the next time some purer-than-thou activist, armchair pundit or verbose academic tries to tell me that there's no functional difference between Obama and McCain on ending the Iraq war, I think I'll just send ‘em this "Happy Meal."
By Al Giordano
What can be read into two moves by the Obama campaign today regarding the pending pick of a vice presidential nominee?
The whole world has been invited to "be the first to know" when the VP choice is announced, via text message to every cell phone that requests it (and, reading the missive carefully, the news will move simultaneously via email to the millions already on the campaign's list).
The news came in a mass email from campaign manager David Plouffe:
You will receive an email the moment Barack makes his decision, or you can text VP to 62262 to receive a text message on your mobile phone.
Once you've signed up, please forward this email to your friends, family, and coworkers to let them know about this special opportunity.
No other campaign has done this before. You can be part of this important moment.
To pull this off, they'll have to throw the national media off the scent of the real choice (perhaps they'll do as Kerry's people did four years ago and "leak" a decoy choice to one of Rupert Murdoch's media outlets: I'm cool with that... as long as it's not The Field!).
Most likely, the decision to drop the news from the bottom up and horizontally, bypassing the middlemen of the media, reflects a confidence that the person chosen will be satisfactory to the grassroots supporters.
Or - an alternate and opposite reading might suggest - that if it is a tooth-puller of a choice (i.e. a Bayh, a Biden, or a Clinton) it will be even more vital to deliver the talking points and arguments in favor of that person to the supporters on the ground.
But more likely this reflects the former: in which he or she will either be an outside-of-the-beltway (Kaine, Sebelius, Schweitzer, Richardson, etcetera) change agent, or someone inside Washington that would nonetheless excite the Internet bases of Obama supporters (i.e. Dodd).
But another email arrived today from the (Obama campaign controlled) Democratic National Convention Committee, that also might contain a hint. It said:
"The 2008 Convention will highlight Americans coming together to change the course of this nation," said Kansas Governor and Convention Co-Chair Kathleen Sebelius. "We are at a critical moment in our nation's history. The politics and policies that have divided us will not allow us to achieve the change we need. Barack Obama is a leader to move America in a new direction and bring us together to turn moments of great challenge into moments of great opportunity. This year's Democratic Convention is the story of people from across the country who believe it is time for change."
Sebelius noted that the Convention will use innovative techniques to highlight the people fueling this national movement for change.
"Just as the Obama Campaign uses the energy and passion of grassroots volunteers combined with state-of-the-art technology to bring people into their positive campaign for change, so will the 2008 Convention use the voices of the people through technology and innovative programming to lay out Barack Obama's vision and policies for how to move America in a new direction," Sebelius added.
Now, does that prominent a featuring of Sebelius as convention co-chair make it more likely that she might become the veep candidate? Or does it suggest that it's less likely? (After all, do you really want to portray your running mate as that much of a party insider?) I don't know. But if Sebelius is going to be prominent on stage and in the press as a convention co-chair, my sense is that the pre-convention exposure takes away some of the mysterious allure that the VP choice should have. The decision may have already been made to pick someone else, or narrowed down to a smaller list that doesn't include her, and therefore feature Sebelius - clearly an A-lister in the Obama pantheon and possible administration - in this way instead. In any case, it's a role she'd be good at.
Another tealeaf to read: In recent weeks, we've been through press cycles of joint appearances by Obama with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, and Obama with Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. One or both could be head fakes. But here's an interesting tidbit: after Barack Obama spent his time on the trail with Kaine, Michelle Obama went to Virginia last week and did her own mini-tour with him. No such Michelle touring happened with Bayh. And as much as nobody would admit it aloud, the spouse's opinion weighs very heavily in a vice presidential choice.
I'm inclined to think that Kaine's star is still very high up on the tree. But don't keep your eyes off the others - yet.
In any case, you and a few million close personal mutual friends will be the first to know... unless we figure it out here, first!
Instant Update: No sooner had I published this post, when this email arrived:
DENVER - TOMORROW at 10:00 AM Eastern Time/8:00 AM Mountain Time, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Co-Chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and a senior advisor to the Obama campaign will hold a conference call for reporters to discuss the nightly themes for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Co-Chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention
Senior Advisor, Obama for America
Conference call to discuss nightly themes for the 2008 Democratic National Convention program.
What's interesting, is that in the earlier email today a basic schedule was offered:
2008 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION HEADLINE SPEAKERS
Monday August 25th's headline prime-time speaker will be Michelle Obama.
Senator Hillary Clinton, who is a champion for working families and one of the most effective and empathetic voices in the country today, will be the headline prime-time speaker on Tuesday August 26th.
The headline prime-time speaker on Wednesday August 27th will be Barack Obama's Vice Presidential nominee.
On Thursday, August 28th, the DNCC will throw open the doors of the Convention and move to INVESCO Field at Mile High so that more Americans can take part in the fourth night of the Convention as Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination.
Note: There is no "keynote" speaker listed. Could it be that the vice presidential nominee will be the same person as the keynoter (the role that Obama played at the convention four years ago)?
Monday Morning Updates:
Didn't Obama say last week that he was looking for a vice president who would "help me get stuff done"? In that context, the hands-on role of Sebelius as, now, the face and the voice of the convention could be a kind of "tell" in her favor. By contrast to the Kaine and Bayh media cycles, she's actually "helping him get stuff done."
Also, if it ends up being Schweitzer, there's conveniently a biography about him hot off the presses: Blue Man in a Red State by Greg Lemon (2008, Two Dot Press). McJoan has just reviewed it for Daily Kos:
Schweitzer was rather dubious about the whole prospect. "I don't know who you think's going to buy this thing," Schweitzer told him. Nonetheless, through dogged determination, Lemon got his story.
His occasional frustration in getting there periodically peeps through, and is something to which I can relate. Last fall I scheduled an interview with Schweitzer, expecting to have 45 minutes or an hour with the Governor to talk about how the West was shaping up in 2008. Three hours, and a personal tour of the state capitol, later, I'd heard about Montana's most famous stray dog, pine bark beetles, sagebrush, carbon sequestration, his family's immigrant roots, and the last few weeks of th Tester campaign. The man can dodge a question like nobody's business, and you don't even really notice it's been dodged until you go back to the transcript. But the getting there is fascinating and always entertaining.
Lemon's book provides an excellent sketch of the career of this unlikely Montanan, from his family's ranch near Geyser, to a Catholic high school in Colorado, to Libya and Saudi Arabia, where he headed up some experimental and innovative agricultural programs, and learned more about the middle east than arguably any other governor in the country--and understanding that has made him a vociferous opponent of the Iraq War. What drove Schweitzer to politics isn't entirely clear, His emergence from nowhere to seriously challenge Senator Conrad Burns in 2000 still has some Montanans baffled, but after that solid run, his taking the governor's seat in 2004 seemed to surprise few.
Read the whole thing.
Morning Update II: I'm listening to Governor Sebelius on the conference call right now, and she just referred to "the vice presidential candidate" who will speak on Wednesday night of the convention, "who Barack will announce before the convention."
That's the first statement by a senior campaign advisor that the pick will come prior to the convention.
They're also rolling out another participatory factor for the convention:
Monday through Wednesday of Convention week, the Convention program will feature a nightly segment in which elected leaders, national policy experts and other Convention speakers will respond to voters on topics including how to change politics as usual, fix our economy, make America safer and restore our nation's standing in the world...
Starting today, text and video questions can be submitted online at www.DemConvention.com/townhallthrough Wednesday, August 27, though participants are encouraged to submit their questions as early as possible. A variety of questions will be answered live from the Convention floor in front of thousands of delegates in the Convention hall, millions of Americans watching the Convention at home on television and millions more watching online. In addition, elected leaders and policy experts will also answer questions online during Convention week at www.DemConvention.com.
In addition to submitting questions online, Americans in eight cities across the country will have the opportunity to record their questions and individual stories in person at a series of "open calls" starting Wednesday, August 13. Open calls will take place in Atlanta, Ga.; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; Detroit, Mich.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; and Tampa, Fla. The exact times and locations of those tapings will be posted to www.DemConvention.com/townhall as they are scheduled and released to local media in those markets.
And they're teasing "more to come" later this week.
Morning Update III: And GOP nominee McCain is doing his own version of a VP roll-out and/or head fake: He's touring Pennsylvania today and tomorrow with the commonwealth's former governor, Tom Ridge.