Sunday, September 07, 2008

Defining the Debate

Further thoughts on my last post.

One of the big problems we progressives have had for quite a long time now is that we let the opposition get away with defining the boundaries of each debate. Take the current experience debate, and its current boundaries. With the Palin pick, Democrats said that the 'experience' issue was off the table. This has led the Republicans to argue that Palin is actually as experienced or more so than Obama and the debate is off. The terms of the debate, however, are years in public office, time and range of executive responsibilities and so on. What I pointed out in my previous post is that these issues are not the best ground for us to fight on, rather we should argue that Obama has the experience and has gone through an intense vetting process, which Palin has not. That point seems oddly missing from the debate. And the reason it is missing, it seems to me, is only because the Republicans have not brought it up. But of course they're not going to bring it up. We need to make it part of our rebuttal.

Now I agree that on a pure debate of national issue experience Obama will win. But we will do better to argue on easy ground rather than on more difficult ground. To understand what I'm gettig at follow me for a moment on a bit of a degression. We'll get back to the election soon enough.

If, on a clear day, you look up into the daylight sky you will see a uniform field of blue (we'll look away from the Sun for now). If, on a clear night, however, you look up, you will see bright points of light here and there, against a black background, stars and the night sky right. But if you think about this for a minute, this might seem odd. After all, when you are looking up in daylight the stars are still there. In the daylight sky there should be bright points of light, pluss the blue background here and there and just the blue backgrouhd in between, so the stars should be visible day and night, right? But that's the thing, it is very hard to distinguish a small difference between large values. In the day, the blue background is very much brighter than the stars. The small difference between star + blue sky and blue sky alone is generally impossible for the human eye to tell. The equally small difference between the star and no background, however, is easily distinguished. The general problem of small differences between large values is an issue in the design of much scientific equiptment.

Ok, now back to the election. For most of your neighbors the foreign policy experience of any of the candidates is a lot more than what your neighbor has. Thus the difference among the candidates becomes a small difference between large values and we could spend hours trying to persuade one undecided voter that Obama really comes out on top. On the other hand, to argue that Obama and Biden have been thouroughly vetted by the American people over their careers and the campaigning they've done, versus the complete lack of vetting of Sarah Palin is a difference that is easy to see.

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Obama's Experience

Check out this diary listing Obama's experience. We need to have these facts on hand to counter the false charges that he lacks experience. Particularly the patently false charges that he has authored no bills (see Ethics Reform) or has no foreign policy experience (Member of the Foreign Relations Committee).

There is another thing, however, related to Obama's 'experience' as opposed to another candidate on the current tickets, something that is being missed. Obama's level of 'experience' was, yes, a question mark when he announced his campaign back in Springfield. And certainly, while I agree with the diary that Obama's level of 'experience' comfortably exceeds that of Palin's, that debate doesn't seem to me to be a good one to get into. Rather, while Obama is no 'old hand', he is a new face in politics, he has done the leg work for the past year to be a candidate for President. He has organized, run and lead a national campaign, he has had news conferences, interviews with Journalists both national and local, both hostile and friendly, he has given talks, and speeches to audiences of all sizes, he has pressed the flesh and addressed issues in States throughout the Union. In short he has gone through a grueling interview process and come out looking quite good.

Indeed, three of the candidates on the two national tickets have gone through such a national interview process, in one form or another, to get to the point where the nation needs to choose between the tickets. One candidate stands out for having never undergone any such national inspection. That is the problem with the Republican ticket so far. That is why the choice of Sarah Palin for VP calls into question John McCain's fitness for office, his judgement. The American People deserve to have leaders who have given evidence to the American People that these leaders are fit for these offices. Leaders who have been inspected, and checked-out by the
American People before they take on their responsibilities.

So, please be aware of the many accomplishments of Barack Obama, and be prepared to point them out in debate, but also point out that he has done the hard work of campaigning, has put himself up for inspection by the American People and has passed.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Walter Reed Middle School?

As reported by TPM it would appear that the McCain campaign got the Walter Reed Medical Center with the Walter Reed Middle School, at least for McCain's back drop for his acceptance speech. The story so far is that for the acceptance speech backdrop the McCain team wanted a view of the Walter Reed Medical Center as a kind of reference to wounded troops from Iraq. However, they went about getting the image they got a picture instead of a Middle School in California which also carries the name Walter Reed.

Now this may seem like a really foolish and avoidable error, and it is. However, I think that it is exactly the kind of thing one might expect from the McCain team. To avoid this kind of error, you really need to have someone find the material, and someone else check the work with a critical eye. I've written on a number of occasions on critical review as a basic and essential tool for reaching correct conclusions. It seems to me that the current conservative crowd is ideologically opposed to critical review. Much of what we've seen over the past seven years has been shaped by the refusal of the Bush/Cheney administation to subject their gut reactions to any kind of critical review. From the treatment of all outside questions regarding the Iraq war, to the Cheney stovepiping of intelligence, to Bush's isolation from questioning during the '04 campaign, and may other examples, this administration has refused to consider review of its decisions. It looks to me like the McCain team takes the same approach and therefore one can only expect many more of these kinds of avoidable mistakes.

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Monday, September 01, 2008


Ok, so a bunch of folks have commented on Ms. Palin's missing the extent to which the founding father's supported the Pledge of Allegiance, see here,
11. Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

SP: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.
courtesy of Think Progress here. Given that the Pledge wasn't written until 1892 and the words "under God" weren't added until 1954 her answer is a bit ahistorical. However, what I want to know is this, would she consider the answer "If it was good enough for the founders to do without the phrase "under God" or even without a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, is it good enough for today's Americans to do without them as well, should they choose to do so." Just asking.

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