Thursday, September 30, 2004

Questions for the Candidates

One of my old English teachers from high school has some questions for John Kerry and George W. Bush that I think are worth taking a look at in the Dayton Daily News...
Questions for Kerry

• You have been accused by Republicans of changing your mind on some of the major issues of this campaign. To what extent do you agree with this portrayal? Is the ability to change one's mind a plus or a minus for a leader of this country?

• You were a decorated war hero on the one hand and one of the Vietnam War's leading critics upon your return. In what ways does your Vietnam experience influence your thinking about the role of the Department of Defense?

• Your voting record is coming under close scrutiny, as it should for any candidate. What have been your greatest contributions as a senator? Your greatest shortcomings?

• Abortion may be the most controversial issue in this country. In your heart of hearts, how do you reconcile your private stance against abortion with your public stance in support of a woman's right to choose to have one?

• Money and how it is spent is always a key issue for American citizens. Will it be possible to enact the programs you have proposed without raising taxes or increasing the national debt?
I won't pretend to know how John Kerry would answer these questions, but I can hazard a good guess or two.

Personally, I don't think John Kerry could answer the first question without clarifying the meaning of "nuance." Every issue seems to be "complicated" for John Kerry. There are some issues that just aren't complicated, but Kerry seems to make every issue harder on himself with his stunning ability to nuance. (That is not a compliment.)

Outside of character issues, Vietnam really should not be an issue in this campaign at all. Our military has changed dramatically since Vietnam specifically BECAUSE of the impact of Vietnam. Whatever John Kerry's answer to this question would be would be out of date with the reality of the modern military.

The answer for question three would be rather entertaining. No bill bearing Kerry's name as a sponsor has ever passed. Part of being a lawmaker is, you know, making laws. Kerry didn't do a whole lot of that.

Re: Abortion. John Kerry is a liberal Democrat. THAT is how he lives with himself on the abortion issue. He'll try to take both sides of this issue too. The better question would be whether or not John Kerry believes abortion is a sin.

That last question is a hoot. I think Kerry would say his goal is to reduce taxes on the middle class, but there is no way he'll be able to pay for the programs he's promised without either raising taxes on the middle class or raising the national debt.
Questions for Bush

• The governor of Illinois stopped utilizing the death penalty when reliable research showed that a significant number of innocent people convicted of capital crimes were put to death. During your tenure as governor, more people were executed in Texas than in any other state. How do you feel about the possibility that innocent people were put to death during those years?

• Credit problems contribute heavily to the ruin of individual lives and family relationships in this country. Shouldn't the federal government be a model in this regard instead of accumulating the staggering sums known as our national debt?

• What was running through your mind during those first seven minutes when our nation was under attack on Sept. 11, 2001?

• The gap between the rich and poor is ever-widening. How can you justify tax cuts when ever-increasing numbers of Americans live without any form of health care?

• What has it been like to serve in the shadow of your father? What have you learned from him about what to do and what not to do as a political leader?
The first question is all about capital punishment, which I think the President would be open to discuss. The problem with capital punsihment is that the punishment has to fit the crime. Capital punishment is intended as a deterent. The alternative is life-long sentences which would bankrupt the system and be a tremendous waste of taxpayer funding. It is tragic when we learn that an innocent person has paid for a crime they didn't commit, but that's why the appeals process takes as long as it does.

I think the President would address the national debt problem like this: The national debt is currently a very small percentage of our GNP. With the war on terror and the state of the economy at the beginning of Bush's term, drastic measures needed to be taken. The President has in his budget, a plan to reduce the deficit in half in five years. The trick is that in order to do it, we're going to have to be smart about what our government spends its money on for a few years.

As for the Michael Moore question, Bill O'Reilly asked the President that very same question in an interview aired just last night. I'm paraphrasing here, but the President asnwered that he was collecting his thoughts and didn;t want to emotionally disturb the children. As an educator, Mr. Brooks, I'm sure you can appreciate that answer.

The federal government was never supposed to provide health care for the citizenry. Where that idea ever come from I have no idea, but it is a crazy one. Remember the asnwer to your first question? We're going to have to watch our spending. The Bush administration spent a tremendous amount on health care in its first term. What we need for health care is medical liability reform and the ability to personally invest money in health care that the government can't touch.

(As a side note on that last question, the rich/poor setup to that question really isn't appropriate. Comparatively, our poor have it pretty good in this country. Is there still room for improvement? Sure, but let's not place the blame for whatever "gap" there may be between the rich and poor on the President.)

That last question is really a good one. I have no idea what the President would respond with to that. I know that he learned a lot about campigning from his father (both what to do and what not to do). But I'm not sure about what he learned about the Presidency itself from his father.
• If you had known then (March, 2003) what we do now about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, would you still have favored going to war against that country?

• How does a person of affluence who has been given so many opportunities for education and advancement become a viable advocate for those who have not?

• Name one religious conviction that has greatly influenced your political policies and one that you have violated or compromised in public office.

• How have your wife and children influenced your political thinking?

• How do you really feel about gay marriage, and what is the best way for political leaders to proceed with this issue?

• How can we best improve race relations in this country? What personal story can you share that would inspire others to help with this issue?

• What has been the proudest moment of your life? How has it inspired you?

• What was your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?

• Who or what makes you laugh?

• Is it possible for the federal government to have a significant impact on American education? And is it possible to reduce poverty in urban areas such as our own?
These are all great questions and I think the American people would benefit from hearing the answers.

I'm not going to go through all of them, but the first one has the most significance.

Diane Sawyer recently asked John Kerry this question and his answer left a lot to be desired:
DIANE SAWYER: Was the war in Iraq worth it?

JOHN KERRY: We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today.

DS: So it was not worth it.

JK: We should not — it depends on the outcome ultimately — and that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully, but I would not have gone to war knowing that there was no imminent threat — there were no weapons of mass destruction — there was no connection of Al Qaeda — to Saddam Hussein! The president misled the American people — plain and simple. Bottom line.

DS: So if it turns out okay, it was worth it?

JK: No.

DS: But right now it wasn’t [ … ? … ]–

JK: It was a mistake to do what he did, but we have to succeed now that we’ve done what he’s — I mean look — we have to succeed. But was it worth — as you asked the question — $200 billion and taking the focus off of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? That’s the question. The test of the presidency was whether or not you should have gone to war to get rid of him. I think, had the inspectors continued, had we done other things — there were plenty of ways to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.

DS: But no way to get rid of him.

JK: Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely.

DS: So you’re saying that today, even if Saddam Hussein were in power today it would be a better thing — you would prefer that . . .

JK: No, I would not prefer that. And Diane — don’t twist here.
Diane asks the real question at the end...

DDN's Jeff Bruce Starts the Excuses

Check out Dayton Daily News editor Jeff Bruce distancing himself and the paper from their endorsements:
Election editorials are commonly called "endorsements," although I dislike that term as it implies a closer relationship to candidates and causes than is intended. A more accurate word is "recommendation." In that sense, a recommendation for a candidate is really no different than the opinions expressed on this page on a host of other issues ranging from war to water rates.

Except that unlike a lot of what goes on in public life that seems beyond the direct influence of ordinary people, come Election Day every vote counts.

The best way to choose isn't by casting ballots based on a candidate's political party, but on his or her qualifications.

Readers of this page know that the newspaper over the course of many elections has recommended Republicans and Democrats alike. We've twice recommended the candidacy of GOP Gov. Bob Taft over his Democratic opponents; in the last presidential election the nod went to Al Gore over George Bush. In fact, despite the general impression that this is a "liberal" newspaper, in recent years we've recommended more Republicans than Democrats.
Jeff, the "fact" that the DDN has "endorsed" or "recommended" more Republicans than Democrats doesn't absolve you or the paper from charges of bias.

How many conservatives are ON the editorial board of the Dayton Daily News? Where does the local conservative voice get heard?
Some critics of the newspaper say that's because we place too high a value on experience and incumbency in a state that, of late, has been dominated by Republicans. In fact, we do believe experience counts.

We also realize that the higher the race on the ballot, the less influence our recommendations are likely to have. I would be surprised if our eventual editorial on the presidential race will change many voters' minds. On the other hand, most people won't have paid much attention to a wide range of lower-profile races, such as the Ohio Supreme Court contest we editorialize on today.
Well, Jeff, if you are endorsing...I'm sorry...recommending John Kerry, you would be correct.

Here is something that we do agree on, Jeff:
Even if you don't agree with our conclusions, our editorials might stimulate you to engage in the election debate. And that's a good thing. We want these pages to be a forum not only for our views, but others, too.
Discussion is important. I encourage everybody to check out every candidate as much as possible.

DDN Endorses John White

From the Dayton Daily News:
State Rep. John White has spent four years proving he didn't run for legislative office so he could go on a pro-life and religious tear. Without abandoning his religious principles, he's tempered the overzealous instincts he showed early in his political career.

Rep. White, who is running in the 38th Ohio House District for a third term, deserves to be re-elected. Though part of a Republican majority that has been timid to spineless about confronting important problems, Rep. White has been a voice of reason in his party. The GOP-dominated Legislature needs Republicans who aren't itching to jerk their knees.
Rep. White's experience counts. And the fact that he's willing to try to temper Republican ideologues who want to posture rather than govern makes his service all the more valuable.
Is the Dayton Daily News trying to get me to call John White a RINO? Surely not.

While I disagree with a lot of the caricature of Rep. White presented in the piece, I wholeheartedly agree with the editorial board on this one: John White deserves to be re-elected.

DFD Begins Charging for Services

From Ohio News Network:
When firefighters show up at a traffic accident to pry victims out of wreckage, clean up spilled fuel or perform other services, they will send a bill - $550 to be exact.

An increasing number of towns are charging for fire department services as they look for new revenue sources.

"Like a lot of urban areas right now, we're struggling financially," Dayton Fire Chief Larry Collins said. "And it's very difficult to raise taxes at this time given our tax rate."

Susan Smith, who drives to her job at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, called the fee outrageous.

"I think I'll keep a mop in my car and mop up my own spill," said Smith, 39, of suburban Miami Township. "It's going to cause a lot of people to be upset."

Smith said she will be less likely to vote for a tax increase to fund the fire service now that this fee is being imposed.
I discussed this issue breifly with Montgomery County Commission candidate Peggy Lehner on episode 15 of the "Weapons of Mass Discussion" television show. It doesn't sound like the county will be able to pitch in and solve this problem, so it is up to the Mayor and the city to get it done.

My reasearch team has learned that there are only five ambulances for the entire city of Dayton. It is unclear if that number was a reference to the number of actual vehicles or the number of crews available to man the vehicles. Either way, city management and the mayor have a serious problem on their hands.

What has caused this critical shortage of funds? And more importantly, what is the mayor going to do about it? Will she cut some of her beloved social programs in favor of fulfilling the city government's responsibility to provide for the safety of its citizens?

Enquiring minds want to know...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I've been a little wrapped up over at WMD, but I haven't entirely forgoteen about the Dayton Daily Democrat and their sneaky editorial board.

Here's our old friend Marty Gottlieb taking a jab at Republican strategists:
It's 1988 all over. A vulnerable Republican has surged by painting a Massachusetts liberal who was strong in the polls but fuzzy on the issues the way the brilliant, experienced and ruthless Republican operatives wanted to paint him.

Last time it was Lee Atwater. This time it was Karl Rove. Both times, the Democratic candidates were slow on the uptake, were caught off guard, unlike the great Bill Clinton, who knew that you must hit back immediately.

As Atwater painted Michael Dukakis as too liberal to be president, Rove painted John Kerry as too liberal and too indecisive.

Going negative works.
Going negative? That is who the man IS, Marty. Funny how there is no mention of the Carville's or Begala's (and, oh, by the way, that whole Clintonista crew is BACK).

And Marty, you really need to talk to some, you know, actual Vietnam veterans if you think they are all part of some Vast Right Wing Conspiracy getting marching orders from Karl Rove.
True — the experts will say — Rove got some help from the anti-Kerry swift boat veterans. They got Rove the denunciation of Kerry that he wanted without saddling him with the task of defending the indefensible charges against Kerry. But, all will acknowledge, that was really Rove, whether it was Rove or not. His wealthy Texas friends knew what he wanted. Everybody knew.
These guys are seriously ticked off at John Kerry, the man who incited civilian hatred of the military in general and of Vietnam veterans specifically. We lost an entire generation of heroes. Even the ones that survived were scarred by what happened when they came home. Don't denigrate their service, Marty.

At least Marty gets this right:
[I]t's not the strategy that matters. It's the underlying circumstances of the year.
But what Marty doesn't tell you is that the partisan media is doing everything they can to create "news" that is negative for the President. They downplay the economy all the time. We hear more casualty statistics than good stories from Iraq (for some good stories, try Defend America - a journalist worth half his weight in donuts could find some stories that focus on the positive effects of our being in Iraq). CBS' Dan Rather just passed off forged documents in order to create a scandal.

I think Marty is running out of material. This is the second or third article in my recollection involving Dr. Lichtman and his predictions. Marty, get out there, man, see the world and, you know, report on it. Or opine if that's what you call it...