Thursday, September 18, 2008

Education of the Candidates

Sam's remarks, posted on MSNBC, took the words right out of my mouth. He wrote:

Subject: FW: Food for Thought

You are The Boss... which team would you hire?

With America facing historic debt, multiple war fronts, stumbling health care, a weakened dollar, all-time high prison population, skyrocketing Federal spending, mortgage crises, bank foreclosures, etc. etc., this is an unusually critical election year. The idea of “leadership” must be broadened from mere “experience” to include knowledge, learnedness and insight.

Let's look at the educational background of your two options:

Occidental College - Two years.
Columbia University - B.A. political science with a specialization in international relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

& Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in history and B.A. in political science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)


United States Naval Academy - Class rank 894 of 899

& Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in journalism

Now, which team are you going to hire ?

SAM, USA (Sent Thursday, September 18, 2008 11:26 AM)

Thanks, Sam!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In a Pig's Eye

“Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”
–Robert Heinlein

While the McCane campaign seems to be stubbornly and obsessively stuck on the subject of pigs, I thought it might be an appropriate time to suggest that the Republican Party consider changing its mascot. Elephants are noble creatures, but pigs are so personable—and so quintessentially American. (How many elephants do you see in the American heartland?)

Just think how well the noble pig would represent the current character of the GOP.

First, pigs like to wallow in mud. In 2006,, which keeps track of these things, made the following statement about the National Republican Campaign Committee’s TV ads: “What stood out . . . was a pronounced tendency to be petty and personal, and sometimes careless with the facts.” That certainly seems to characterize the current presidential campaign, in which the Republicans wasted days trying to accuse Obama of sexism for using a common expression—one that McCain himself has used to make a similar point.

Second, pigs will swallow anything. Since “change” seems to be a concept that resonates with the American people right now (for obvious reasons), McCain has taken to calling himself an agent of change. As many others have pointed out, he’s voted for Bush’s initiatives more than 90% of the time. How can a man who’s always identified so closely with George Bush now expect us to believe that he’ll somehow turn the great ship of state around and do things differently? We’ve asked, Senator Obama has asked, and McCane has refused to answer. He’d rather talk about lipstick and pigs.

Finally, pigs don’t do a whole lot of thinking. Mr. McCane has stated that he doesn’t know much about the economy. Ms. Palin believes in creationism but not global warming. George Bush has long since admitted that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (signifying that our brave American troops have been fighting the battle against terrorism in the wrong place and for the wrong reasons). But McCane thinks we can “win” the Iraq war. (What does “win” mean?) We’ve got assertions, slogans, and quips from the Republicans. From Barack Obama, we’ve got deep analysis that can really help us understand what needs to be done for America and the world. (If you don’t believe me, read his book, The Audacity of Hope.)

Today’s Republican Party is the tight group of insiders that have brought the country to where it is today—economically, militarily, and in the eyes of the world. John McCane thinks he can teach this pig to sing.

To this, I say hog wash.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You Don't Think She Wrote It, Do You?

In 1967, I was a winner in the Spokane area American Legion Oratorical Contest. I still remember the thesis statement of my seven-minute speech, which was based on a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

I spent weeks writing the speech, and untold hours repeating it in front of mirrors, before I nervously presented it to my high school debate class. The audience picked it apart. I rewrote parts of it, memorized the changes, and presented it again. By the time the contest rolled around, I could say it in my sleep. My biggest challenge was making the speech sound off-the-cuff, as though I was making impromptu remarks. When I stepped off the stage, I felt an enormous sense of triumph. Win or lose, I’d tackled a daunting task and pulled it off. Later, I would become a debate coach and talk other young people into torturing themselves in a similar fashion.

I know a thing or two about speech making. So after Sarah Palin’s triumphant performance at the Republican National Convention, it took me a few days to realize why some people were so impressed: they thought she wrote the speech!

Trust me, she didn’t.

Didn’t you hear the echoes? That speech was constructed by the same speech writers who have put the words into George Bush’s mouth for the past eight years and who are now the handlers for John McCain. Those clever little quips—the lipstick, the “actual responsibility”? Made by committee. (Barack Obama, by contrast, writes his own speeches, long hand, on yellow legal pads.)

As for delivery, I could have done it in a few days, too, if they’d had Teleprompters back then (or allowed them to be used in oratorical contests).

I’m not saying Sarah Palin didn’t do a bang-up job of presenting the speech. She’s a good little actress and delivered her lines well. And nature—in the form of Hurricane Gustav—gave her an extra day to practice.

But that doesn’t mean she’s qualified to be President—not even close.

Hitler made great speeches, too.

When we allow ourselves to be moved by political rhetoric, it’s important to consider the source.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Slinging Mud

When children fight, things can get ugly. They may call each other names, throw anything they can get their hands on, and scream so the other person can’t be heard. Responsible adults, seeing that kind of behavior, usually intervene to give the kids a little lesson in good citizenship.

But what can we do when the ruffians are allegedly adults? How can we protect our democracy when the hoodlums have the power to vote?

Since the presidential conventions, I’ve been browsing the editorials to see what people are saying. It’s the time for national dialogue about so many crucial issues that affect every one of us: the U.S. economy, jobs, education, health care, the health of the planet. After the editorials, come the comments. Some are reasonable remarks that contribute meaningful facts or insights. But all too often, they are vicious, hate-filled attacks on the person of a candidate the writer knows nothing about. Undoubtedly that’s occurring on both sides of the bipartisan debate. But it certainly seems to me that it’s people who call themselves Republicans who are doing most of the screaming and name calling.

Just in the past half hour, I found snide and sarcastic remarks alluding to Senator Obama’s religious affiliation, voting record, and occupations, as well as to Senator Biden’s ability connect with everyday people. In each case, it was obvious that the writer didn’t have the facts and was simply slinging incendiary words (like “Islamic”) and second hand rumors (like “All he’s ever done is . . .”). What about the energy problem? What about the war? What about bin Laden?

In a perfect world, all citizens who vote would be able to pass a little quiz to ensure that they at least have a few basic facts on which to base a decision. In the absence of such a policy, I guess those of us who think and reason have to work just a little bit harder to quietly speak our truth to those who don’t. Sometimes seeds of understanding can take root, even in hostile soil.