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Archive for September, 2008

13 Cars for the McCains–and not all American
By Michael D. Shear
First it was his seven houses. Now, Sen. John McCain has to explain his fleet of 13 cars.

According to a Newsweek item published online today, McCain and his wife, Cindy, own more than a dozen cars, including three electric bubble-shaped cars, called GEM’s that the magazine says are popular in retirement communities.

But the ones getting him into trouble are the foreign-made cars. According to the magazine, the McCains own a Honda sedan and a Volkswagen convertible — despite having once claimed to always buy American-made cars.

In an interview with Detroit station WXYZ-TV, McCain bragged that “I’ve bought American literally all my life and I’m proud.” That was after explaining to the anchor that his daughter, Meghan, bought her own Toyota Prius.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, in a conference call organized by the Democratic party, blasted McCain on Sunday for not being truthful with voters.

“When he’s in the midwest, he tells voters he supports the industry,” Gettelfinger told reporters. “That’s really a nice campaign line. But it turns out that John McCain wasn’t being straight with the people of Detroit.”

Gettelfinger cast McCain as an enemy of auto workers for supporting trade deals that he said would ship jobs overseas.

“We need a president who’s committed to rebuilding the auto industry in America, not a president who buys foreign cars and then falsifies the truth when he thinks auto workers aren’t watching,” he said.

The magazine reported that the only car in McCain’s name is a Cadillac. The others are in Cindy McCain’s name. Another Japanese car — a Lexus that Cindy McCain drives with the plates ‘Ms BUD’ — is registered to the beer distribution company that she heads.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the senator’s comments to the Detroit TV station were referring to the one car in his name: the Cadillac. “And [he] has in the past driven Corvettes and other American cars,” Rogers said. McCain aides said some of the 13 cars are actually used by their four children and others are “recreational
vehicles and pickups and such” that they use on their vacation property in Sedona.

Newsweek noted that the Obamas own a single car–a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid.

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Obama Hug

Obama Hug

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Barack Obama - Change We Can Believe In

Barack Obama - Change We Can Believe In Collage

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Poll: Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama
By RON FOURNIER and TREVOR TOMPSON, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) — Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them “lazy,” “violent,” responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about two and one-half percentage points.

Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He’s an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation’s oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.

More than a third of all white Democrats and independents — voters Obama can’t win the White House without — agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don’t have such views.

Such numbers are a harsh dose of reality in a campaign for the history books. Obama, the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a seminal moment for a nation that enshrined slavery in its Constitution.

“There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s only a few bigots,” said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.

The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush’s unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.

The findings suggest that Obama’s problem is close to home — among his fellow Democrats, particularly non-Hispanic white voters. Just seven in 10 people who call themselves Democrats support Obama, compared to the 85 percent of self-identified Republicans who back McCain.

The survey also focused on the racial attitudes of independent voters because they are likely to decide the election.

Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren’t voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn’t vote for any Democrat for president — white, black or brown.

Not all whites are prejudiced. Indeed, more whites say good things about blacks than say bad things, the poll shows. And many whites who see blacks in a negative light are still willing or even eager to vote for Obama.

On the other side of the racial question, the Illinois Democrat is drawing almost unanimous support from blacks, the poll shows, though that probably wouldn’t be enough to counter the negative effect of some whites’ views.

Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger, the poll indicates. More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that.

Three in 10 of those Democrats who don’t trust Obama’s change-making credentials say they plan to vote for McCain.

Still, the effects of whites’ racial views are apparent in the polling.

Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama’s support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.

But in an election without precedent, it’s hard to know if such models take into account all the possible factors at play.

The AP-Yahoo News poll used the unique methodology of Knowledge Networks, a Menlo Park, Calif., firm that interviews people online after randomly selecting and screening them over telephone. Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to report embarrassing behavior and unpopular opinions when answering questions on a computer rather than talking to a stranger.

Other techniques used in the poll included recording people’s responses to black or white faces flashed on a computer screen, asking participants to rate how well certain adjectives apply to blacks, measuring whether people believe blacks’ troubles are their own fault, and simply asking people how much they like or dislike blacks.

“We still don’t like black people,” said John Clouse, 57, reflecting the sentiments of his pals gathered at a coffee shop in Somerset, Ohio.

Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word “violent” strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with “boastful,” 29 percent “complaining,” 13 percent “lazy” and 11 percent “irresponsible.” When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.

Among white Democrats, one third cited a negative adjective and, of those, 58 percent said they planned to back Obama.

The poll sought to measure latent prejudices among whites by asking about factors contributing to the state of black America. One finding: More than a quarter of white Democrats agree that “if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites.”

Those who agreed with that statement were much less likely to back Obama than those who didn’t.

Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks “intelligent” or “smart,” more than one third latched on the adjective “complaining” and 24 percent said blacks were “violent.”

Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they “try harder.”

The survey broke ground by incorporating images of black and white faces to measure implicit racial attitudes, or prejudices that are so deeply rooted that people may not realize they have them. That test suggested the incidence of racial prejudice is even higher, with more than half of whites revealing more negative feelings toward blacks than whites.

Researchers used mathematical modeling to sort out the relative impact of a huge swath of variables that might have an impact on people’s votes — including race, ideology, party identification, the hunger for change and the sentiments of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s backers.

Just 59 percent of her white Democratic supporters said they wanted Obama to be president. Nearly 17 percent of Clinton’s white backers plan to vote for McCain.

Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well, a finding that suggests many of her supporters in the primaries — particularly whites with high school education or less — were motivated in part by racial attitudes.

The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

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Associated Press writers Nancy Benac, Julie Carr Smyth, Philip Elliot, Julie Pace and Sonya Ross contributed to this story.

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Sarah Palin’s Rise and Fall
September 19, 2008 04:58 PM ET | Bonnie Erbe | Permanent Link

I have been back-and-forth and back-on-forth on Gov. Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s running mate. My first reaction: It was a brilliant decision to energize his base and woo Hillary Clinton supporters to the McCain camp. Then, when the news broke about her pregnant daughter and the child’s pending (and seemingly forced) marriage to another teen, I started having serious doubts. My doubts deepened as more news reports revealed Palin’s harsh treatment of rape victims in Alaska, and her extreme views on religion and government, and her apparent love of animal slaughter and cruelty (to wit, aerial slaughter of wolves). I ricocheted in the opposite direction. Then polls started to show her Barack Obama-like rise in popularity among voters. Now the American public is starting its own round of rapid-fire ricochet-like freneticism.

As U.S. News’s Katherine Skiba reports:

But John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute also points to a new poll that suggests “the Sarah Palin phenomenon may have passed.” A CBS News/New York Times poll published Thursday shows that McCain’s convention bounce has dissipated and support for Palin has dropped. Her favorable rating is at 40 percent, down 4 points from last week, while her unfavorable rating stands at 30 percent, having risen 8 points in the same period. Among women, Palin’s favorable rating has fallen 11 points in the past week, the poll said.

The poll showed Barack Obama has a 48 percent to 43 percent lead over McCain, indicating the race remains a toss-up.

Did Palin peak too soon? Sure looks like it at this moment in time. Keep watchin’ those polls, pals!!!

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Todd Palin (Among Others) a No-Show at Troopergate Hearing
By Nathan Thornburgh Friday, Sep. 19, 2008

In the end, the First Dude wasn’t the only no-show. The five other witnesses who had been subpoenaed with Todd Palin were also, as expected, missing from the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing into the so-called Troopergate scandal. In fact, the committee itself didn’t even show up. Twenty minutes after the 10 a.m. scheduled start time, the second-floor conference room of the utilitarian Legislative Information Offices building in downtown Anchorage still had nothing but bystanders: a few legislative aides and two dozen or so journalists who sipped coffee, traded business cards and wondered exactly what there would be to see.

The action finally came in the form of Senator Hollis French, the Anchorage Democrat who is leading the investigation into whether Governor Sarah Palin abused the power of her office to get her little sister’s ex-husband, state trooper Mike Wooten, fired by pressuring — and then dismissing — Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan. French has been the focal point of the McCain campaign’s objections to the Troopergate investigation. They say French, as a Democrat, has a partisan ax to grind. And while the mostly Republican committee had voted unanimously to start the investigation before Palin was on the McCain ticket, French, the committee chair, did make some incautious statements to the media weeks ago, suggesting the committee’s findings might be an “October surprise” or even grounds for impeaching Palin.

So French was on his best behavior here. He read from a prepared statement and took no questions. His statement warned that the six people who had received subpoenas and did not show, including Todd Palin, may be held in contempt by the legislature (he didn’t mention, though, that the legislature won’t be in session to do that until next January). And he explained that seven other witnesses, who have said through lawyers that they too will not appear, weren’t given subpoenas because the investigator had relied on the word of assistant attorney general Michael Barnhill that they would testify without a subpoena. That cooperation was “abrogated,” said French, who called the investigator’s reliance on an informal agreement “regrettable.”

Regret was certainly the order of the day for both sides. Just as French must have regretted giving his opponents ammo by seeming to take sides, Sarah Palin may be regretting her earlier command to Alaska voters to “hold her accountable.” Troopergate has quickly devolved into a farce of empty witness chairs and very conventional partisan politics, including the recent involvement of a former New York federal prosecutor (no, not Rudy Giuliani) whom the McCain campaign flew to Alaska to tidy up the mess. His name is Ed O’Callaghan, and his main tactic seems to be to stall the investigation as much as possible. He said that Todd Palin submitted “objections” to the subpoena that needed to be answered before he would take the stand. Another lawyer for the Palins has said that Todd was too busy with the campaign to testify, as if standing stage left behind Sarah Palin, holding Trig and grinning during her speeches, were a matter of national security.

There was, however, news from the morning’s proceedings: French, at the end of his statement, said that the investigator Steve Branchflower will deliver his findings, as planned, on Oct. 10, regardless of who testifies or doesn’t.

A Palin ally, Anchorage Republican Senator Gene Therriault, formed an impromptu spin room after French’s statement, telling the cameramen and reporters who crowded around him that Oct. 10 was an “artificial deadline” and that the real question of the investigation was already solved in his mind — Palin had the right to fire Walt Monegan because he was an at-will employee. But the other question is still germane: Did Palin, her staff and her husband pressure Monegan to remove Wooten from the force? There’s evidence to suggest they did, starting with Palin’s own admission that there were over two dozen contacts between her allies and Public Safety officials about Wooten.

The stonewall-and-stall strategy could pose a danger for Palin, since the findings will likely be the same regardless of whether the staffers — or the First Dude — testify. And all she will have accomplished by not cooperating is to have looked evasive, in contrast to her very effective branding as a proponent of reform and transparency in government.

She and the McCain campaign will have one more chance to cooperate, when the committee issues subpoenas for the remaining seven staffers to come in and testify on Sept. 26. The question is: Will they come in as ordered? Or will that hearing look like this one — no witnesses and all politics as usual?

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Exclusive: New Doubts Over Palin’s Troopergate Claims
Internal Government Document Contradicts Sarah Palin, Campaign
By JUSTIN ROOD
September 19, 2008

SHARE An internal government document obtained by ABC News appears to contradict Sarah Palin’s most recent explanation for why she fired her public safety chief, the move which prompted the now-contested state probe into “Troopergate.”

Fighting back against allegations she may have fired her then-Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, for refusing to go along with a personal vendetta, Palin on Monday argued in a legal filing that she fired Monegan because he had a “rogue mentality” and was bucking her administration’s directives.

“The last straw,” her lawyer argued, came when he planned a trip to Washington, D.C., to seek federal funds for an aggressive anti-sexual-violence program. The project, expected to cost from $10 million to $20 million a year for five years, would have been the first of its kind in Alaska, which leads the nation in reported forcible rape.

The McCain-Palin campaign echoed the charge in a press release it distributed Monday, concurrent with Palin’s legal filing. “Mr. Monegan persisted in planning to make the unauthorized lobbying trip to D.C.,” the release stated.

But the governor’s staff authorized the trip, according to an internal travel document from the Department of Public Safety, released Friday in response to an open records request.

The document, a state travel authorization form, shows that Palin’s chief of staff, Mike Nizich, approved Monegan’s trip to Washington D.C. “to attend meeting with Senator Murkowski.” The date next to Nizich’s signature reads June 18.

Last week a legislative panel approved a subpoena for Nizich to be interviewed by Stephen Branchflower, the prosecutor hired to conduct the Alaska Legislature’s inquiry into Troopergate. The Attorney General informed the Legislature earlier this week that Nizich and other state employees subpoenaed in the matter would not submit to interviews.

Nizich did not respond to a message left Friday afternoon.

In Palin’s court filing Monday – to stop an investigation by her state Personnel Board she earlier had requested – her lawyer, Thomas V. Van Flein, included numerous emails from her staff expressing confusion and incredulity over Monegan’s planned D.C. trip. None of those emails were sent by or to Nizich, although he was cc’d on several.

Contacted Friday, Monegan confirmed the travel authorization was to pursue funding for the anti-sexual-violence program. He said the travel authorization form was completed in a fashion consistent with practice, even though it showed no expenditures. The signed form approved the travel, he said, and authorized him to use a government credit card or seek reimbursement for expenses he incurred during the trip.

Monegan said he didn’t know why Palin’s chief of staff approved a trip that confounded her other aides. “It sounds like it’s a breakdown of communication internal to the governor’s staff,” he said.

The McCain-Palin campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

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