Monday, June 30, 2008

Obama's still the underdog

For Obama it’s still an uphill fight
by Kevin John Sowyrda
contributing writer
Thursday Jun 26, 2008

In recent days the new titular head of the Democratic Party (sorry Nancy) has been sporting an Obama-ized version of the presidential seal, to the utter revulsion of Republicans and even to the dismay and wincing curiosity of some more prudent Democrats who think it a little arrogant. You might remember what happened to the Patriots when Mayor Menino planned a celebration parade before the first down of the Superbowl. Bad karma is bad karma.

And out of this smug attitude I see a problem for the natural constituencies of Barack Obama, which include the gay community, a voting block increasingly mentioned by all the media for its political power. McCain could win at the heels of our own complacency, and with him would undoubtedly come the likes of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, in some incarnation or another. That’s more frightening than Bela Lugosi showing up at Club Cafe and a great incentive to put any euphoric sense of pending victory in a lock box.

And yes, in this space we once extolled some McCain virtues in the event that the November ballot provided the painful choice of Hillary Rodham Clinton versus the venerable Arizona senator. I was prepared to hold my nose and vote for the war-hero and political maverick in preference to that now deceased and buried political dynasty I could never trust. I present as evidence to the court of public opinion the absurd, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," policy, which marked the point in time when I gave up the Clintons like a bad date.

But now we have the menu I prayed for and it’s better than shrimp and escargot. My Primary campaign candidate of choice pulled it off. Barack brilliantly bested the overwhelming odds and outmaneuvered the battle tested political duo. The newest problem is, Senator Obama is enjoying the final victory lap before he’s put his running shoes on, inventing his trappings of office and apparently gloating over presidential opinion polls showing him blitzkrieging the Republican in November, even though such data is bound to change dramatically in the ensuing weeks and can also be suspect for reasons of race.

For my money, Barack is doing what everybody loves to do with John McCain, and that is to write him off as the post-World War II George Patton; a great man with no more wars to fight and no more fight left in him.

But I sense that McCain does indeed have the stuff for another battle and the upcoming town meetings (still being negotiated) are potentially a turning point event Obama may be entering with overconfidence.

For all his strengths - Obama is the best communicator the Democrats have fielded since J.F.K. and he’s all the better for having jousted with Clinton - he faces a daunting task in November that Camp Obama seems to be forgetting as they watch their West Wing DVDs so they’ll know how to behave in January.

Barack needs to campaign as if he’s the underdog, as does the gay community, which may still see a McCain-Romney ticket.

For example, the senator from Illinois must still improve his connections with many key voter demographics, including the elderly, Roman Catholic males, working class females and Hispanics. There’s time to make the pitch, but not if precious hours are spent sitting on laurels and inventing new presidential seals of office.

And then there’s the proverbial elephant in the parlor. Since racism will sadly be the last disease we cure in this little Republic of ours there are many Americans who will, behind that curtain, vote against a guy with dark skin. It’s shameful but it means Obama will have to compensate the same way he did when the Clintons shamelessly played the race card in South Carolina - by working hard and taking nothing for granted.

Don’t look for any clear evidence of racism in the polling data, even though the racism is clearly out there. This theory was painfully proven in 1982 when Tom Bradley, the popular African American mayor of Los Angles, enjoyed a commanding lead in the polls in his race against George Deukmejian, a Caucasian, for governor of California. But on Election Day Bradley was buried. What happened to the polls? The same thing you’ll see this year under the similar circumstances: many white voters are going to lie to pollsters when they say they support a black man, this time named Obama, thus inflating the numbers better than any oil speculator could do.

The real test may come shortly in a series of town meetings proposed by Senator McCain. I think Obama will likely attend the foray, which plays to McCain’s strength of speaking with small groups, instead of having to rally them to exuberance in a large crowd setting, a talent Obama has clearly mastered. I sense Obama is overconfident and may forget that in this format McCain could well score some serious points and quickly narrow the polling gap between the two major party nominees.

First, McCain isn’t going to run away from Iraq. Quite the contrary. I sense that his savvy and bold move will be to link our presence there to a continued flow of needed crude oil. He’ll put it to Obama this way. "Okay, senator, you want to pull out of Iraq. Fine. But what will you do the day Iran moves in, cuts off our oil supply, and, consequently, Americans pay ten dollars a gallon for gasoline?"

It’s going to be a peppering of foreign policy brainteasers designed to show McCain as Henry Kissinger and Barack, in stark contrast, as a freshman at the Tufts School of Diplomacy.

Given the gas crisis it would be a brilliant strategy for the Republicans. To link a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. ground troops from Iraq to a dangerous spike in gas prices would be to make McCain ironically strong on an issue, which has heretofore been one of his Achilles heel.

Naturally, the scenario I provide is hypothetical. It’s next to impossible to predict the specificity of the debate strategy McCain will employ in the coming weeks and whether or not it will resonate. But my money says McCain’s about to start playing a very aggressive game of politics, utilizing his years of experience against an opponent whose own strengths don’t include, well, years of experience.

Those who are writing John McCain’s political epitaph may want put a cap on the ink well. Being written off is just what McCain relishes. That way we’ll be unprepared when he comes out swinging.

And if McCain goes to the White House, in a cabinet seat or better I predict Mitt Romney will sit.

That’s plenty of reason to stay sharp and get out the vote for Obama.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

President Russert???

Tim Russert made Mitt Romney.
By Kevin John Sowyrda

There isn't a journalist on the block who had a greater impact on gubernatorial politics in Massachusetts than did NBC’s Tim Russert, whose recent death has become a national news event. Allow me to explain, with some necessary preambles.

First, though I disagree with the journalistocracy that Tim walked on water and had a direct line to the office of Jesus Christ, I’ll grant you that he was a quick study, cresting far above the horrendously average people trying to pass as reporters at his network; and he clearly had the ability to connect with viewers so that his program, Meet the Press, reportedly profited his bosses a hefty fifty million dollars annually.

But how can you can not be above that sceptered sway, as Shakespeare would say, when your colleagues are so dreadfully mired in self absorption and the pursuit of mediocrity. Take a peak at the Peacock and you’ll wince at White House Commentator David Gregory, who once called in to the Don Imus show from India, clearly five sheets to the wind. And then there’s former sports babbler Keith what’s his name from MS-whatever, whose new ratings grabbing technique is to rant and rave at the camera like he just got bad news about his 401k balance, followed by an abrupt hurling of papers into the air as his program, watched by somebody out there, floats, mercifully, to a commercial break. (Keith is presently competing with his nemesis at Fox, Bill O’Reilly, to see who can be the most trite and ridiculous cable creature. By a razor thin margin, Keith is beating the other blowhard, over at Fox.)

Yeah, compared to the plants they grow at NBC, Tim Russert was definitely the hybrid crop. But let’s put a needed check on some of the hyperbole. On Sunday morning Tom Brokaw unabashedly pronounced of his late colleague, “Had he gone in to politics he certainly would have been President of the United States (emphasizing the word certainly).” I know they’re mourning over at Rockefeller Centre right now, but could we please confine the commentary to some semblance of Earthly reality?

And though I never needed to know about his father and personal life - I’m interminably old fashioned in that I heartily agree with Brian Lamb at CSPAN that a true journalist is someone who never makes them self the story for any, any reason - I’ll take Mike Barnicle’s word as solid gold that Tim was indeed the proverbial nice guy and I’m certain that St. Peter has found the NBC broadcaster, taken from us about thirty years too soon, a suite in Heaven superior to what I’ll ever see.

All that said, it was the late Mr. Tim Russert who unexpectedly gave birth to Mitt Romney’s political ascendancy and changed history in Massachusetts, hardly for the better if your have any progressive leanings.

It was October, 2002 and Democrats had every reason to aspire to end what already had become the Republicans’ iron grip on the governor’s office. State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien had pulled off a stunning primary win and her opponent was not the Weldian Republican voters had developed a comfort level with, but instead, in stark contrast, the very conservative Utah Republican, Mitt Romney, already known to state voters for his failed bid against Ted Kennedy in 1994. On paper, this was the chance to bring the conservative Democrats and the plethora of un-enrolled voters back to the Democratic fold.

Tim Russert didn’t let it happen. For a man who was never on a mission, Russert came to Suffolk University that Autumn carrying a dozen Garmins and a pre ordained strategy to moderate the big debate; by the end of which O’Brien was severely scathed, never to regain her footing.

Like George Patton rolling toward Berlin, Russert pummeled O’Brien on her pro-choice credentials using such an arcane inconsistency in her position that the attack was as bizarre as it was ironically affective. Russert brought to the attention of the world that O’Brien’s opposition to parental consent for a young woman’s abortion was an oddity given the fact that a Massachusetts law required same for a minor to obtain services from a tattoo parlor.

Granted, O’Brien had been poorly prepared for the debate. But the Democratic nominee for governor wasn’t given a breather by the relentless Russert. I remember watching the pouncing he gave her and I realized what it would be like if Richard Simmons had ever gone into the ring with Muhammad Ali. It just wasn’t pretty.

The questions delivered to Romney by the illustrious Russert were, well, hardly as sharp. One might have thought an appropriate Russertism would have been something like this. “Governor, you’ve recently run advertisements attacking Shannon O’Brien in her role as treasurer, but isn’t it true that your own campaign is being run by the two deputy treasurers from the past Republican administration there, during which time more than ten million dollars was embezzled by the people they appointed?”

Russert didn‘t ask it, even though I was shouting it at my T.V. set.

A devout, Jesuit Roman Catholic, Russert used abortion as a wedge issue in the O’Brien-Romney debate - rather ironic, given the fact that wedge issues are usually used by the candidates and not the moderator. As the famous quote from one of the partisans at the event went, Shannon lost to the moderator.

The rest is history. Romney sailed into the governor’s office with a lot of wind blown in his sails from Tim Russert‘s slanted moderating, resulting in four years of Big Dig largesse, presidential positioning and interminable antagonizing of the Gay Community. Tim went on to other debates, and for some reason a pattern developed - the other women were treated no better than Shannon.

Just ask Hillary Clinton what she really thinks……….privately, in a few months when the hysteria dies down.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time to consider the Nuclear facts

Just thank Paul Gunter the next time you fill up
by Kevin Sowyrda Contributor
Thursday Jun 12, 2008

You want to know who to send a Hallmark to in thanks for the present energy crisis, which may soon make the "malaise" and gas rationing of the Carter years seem like an economic stroll in the park? No problem - just address your envelope to one Paul Gunter, who in 1976 glued together a rag-tag group of misinformed radicals and dubbed them the Clam Shell Alliance.

All 1000 or so of the shellers succeeded in putting nuclear power on the back burner in New England, using propaganda, misinformation, fear mongering and naked media manipulation - to such a flawless and permanent affect that I’m thinking, in retrospect, that they must have infiltrated the ’70s via a time machine from the Bush White House. Or maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Dr. Who.

But before the Karl Roves of the world were anybodies, the Clam Shell Alliance invented the shady tactics of manipulating public opinion and they are long overdue the credit they so richly deserve for a modern day America that is completely dependent on polluting fossil fuels. It’s all so painfully ironic when one considers were it not for the propaganda, we could have had safe, clean and abundant nuclear energy and the more robust economy that would have been the fringe benefit.

The clam shellers reached their apogee in April of 1977 when, in full military fashion, they stormed the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, then under construction on New Hampshire’s Atlantic coastline. You would have thought they had taken the Bastille and their hyperbole was effective in indoctrinating an impressionable public that the expansion of nuclear power equaled Armageddon.

While the nuclear power industry in this part of the United States has yet to fully recover - Gunter’s army even succeeded in bankrupting the plant’s builder, Public Service of New Hampshire - Seabrook is cranking out more-than-ever needed electricity today, keeping the lights on for about 900,000 households, according to their web page. And Paul Gunter and his vocal minority were wrong regarding their doomsday predictions delivered via bullhorn in Eastern New Hampshire. According to the World Association of Nuclear Operators, Seabrook’s safety record is unblemished, and when I toured the facility I found the security at the plant to
be nothing less than overwhelming.

But Gunter and his ilk clearly succeeded in making their long term mark, which you can see at the gas station today. The public was scared, as it can so easily be frightened, and in the aftermath of the guerilla advertising tactics of groups like the Clam Shell Alliance, we all sat back on the petroleum cushion just like Gunter and his cabal wanted, perfectly content to damage the environment more than any China Syndrome could have.

Now, the Gunters of the world have disappeared. I’ve yet to see them giving commentary on Exxon Valdez or the Department of Energy statistic that in 1999 alone electric power plants puffed about two billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air, complimented by 19 million tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides - all the delightful ingredients for global warming.

And this is to say nothing of waste oils that dirty the oceans with more than 700 million gallons of oil each year.
Ah, yes, the virtues of keeping all those evil nuclear plants segregated in France.

And speaking of France, that’s where they’re belly laughing at us Americans: Nearly 80 percent of the French power grid emanates from third generation nuclear power facilities, leaving their petrol products much more free for automobiles. France has 59 nuclear reactors and consequently the cleanest air in Europe. What they don’t have is a lot of New Englanders having panic attacks because there will be no way to afford heating oil this winter, unless Joe Kennedy can quickly clone himself about 10,000 times before October.

Simply put, we’ve screwed ourselves royally. As per American tradition and protocol, the smallest minority with the biggest mouth set the nation’s agenda. Most lawmakers went into the fetal position when they saw the impact in the polling data. Your typical Joe Politician didn’t dare speak out to educate the public to the real facts, so the Paul Gunters of America discovered they had amassed power completely disproportionate to what should have been the reality of their shoddy research and inability to appreciate clean-energy technology.

And what is this new, clean technology commonly referred to as third generation nuclear power? As I’m still not the provost at M.I.T., my description will probably be less than perfect. But simply put, the new reactors are as different from those first built in the U.S. as a 2008 Toyota Prius is from Henry Ford’s original model T. They are more fuel efficient and vastly superior in safety.

If Governor Deval Patrick wants to put his name on the political map, and more importantly save us all from ourselves, he’ll begin an immediate public-private partnership to expand nuclear power in Massachusetts and debate - head on - the Paul Gunters of the world who will no doubt come out of retirement so as to keep us all misinformed. But I pray his years of fame are over. Given present fuel prices, the public may finally be willing to listen to the real facts about nuclear power and follow the lead of the French