Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Bad Bailout

Pending a more in depth analysis here, my sense of the economic bailout idea being considered in Congress is that it is a bad idea. Haste makes waste. Problems cannot be solved properly without being first understood. Instead of understanding, this bailout is being pushed with speculative hyperbole playing on fear. Consider the sources. Treasury Secretary Paulson is a Wall Street Investment Banker, which is totally skewing his view. Fed Chairman Bernanke is an academic, specializing in the study of the Depression, who lives in fear of being part of a repeat.

What is the hurry? Supposedly those of us on "Main Street" cannot get needed loans for our businesses and for our personal needs. Also, we have to act to protect the markets from lack of confidence. My sense is that we should have been lacking confidence in the inflated markets for some time and we also should not have been buying into the hype of being joyful that "the Dow was up today". Main Street concerns are more legitimate, but I think they can be met immediately at the local level. The first move should be to encourage people to put their savings in local banks and to encourage local banks to make local loans.

For the time being, let the sharks feed on one another. Some banks have been acquiring others, with little or no government assistance. With all the cash deposits they are acquiring, they should not have a problem loaning some of that back on good loans for immediate needs. The current crisis has been caused by mega banks gone wild and under regulated. We need to work back toward the micro finance model from Asia that won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Once the new administration and Congress start up in January, thorough investigations and hearings should be held to help us all learn what the problem is and how we got into it. Then proposals for getting us out can be more intelligently considered.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Presidential Debate

Last night, as a climax to the McCain soap opera farce about having to cancel the First Presidential Debate, so McCain could solve the financial crisis, the event took place. I watched the debate and also watched various post debate commentaries and focus group presentations. I will present here two of my senses, the first formed as I was watching and the second after absorbing commentaries, viewing repeats and focus group presentations, and reflecting further. I consider the second sense more valuable.

The format of the debate actually was fairly good and the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, was excellent as expected. Lehrer tried early to get the candidates to take advantage of the format's five minute sessions to directly engage each other, but the candidates never did fully warm up to the opportunity, especially McCain, as I will discuss later.

This was supposed to be a debate on foreign policy, on which McCain is supposedly seen as more experienced and knowledgeable. The McCain campaign has been slipping in the polls since the Palin related convention bounce, so McCain needed to do well at the debate to make a climb in the polls. He needed to verify he was a knowledgeable leader, and also to show Obama lacks knowledge and leadership. Obama needed to show his own knowledge and leadership strength, and also to show McCain has poor judgement and a defective leadership style.

Because of the economic crisis, the first 39 minutes of the 90 minute debate, were directed to how the candidates viewed the crisis, how they would solve it and how the solution would affect their plans if they become President. Not surprisingly, since the public is overwhelmingly outraged with the crisis and with the possibility of having to pay as taxpayers to bail it out, both candidates were reluctant to fully respond to the questions. McCain blamed greed of a few high ranking people on Wall Street [the Republicans always like to blame the collapse of their ill-conceived management of our institutions on "a few bad apples"]. Obama blamed the Bush-McCain program of de-regulation. Both admitted the government bailout was needed, McCain more grudgingly than Obama. Both avoided acknowledging the bailout would have any significant impact on their Presidency.

McCain cleverly turned the economic discussion to his pet topic of earmarks, which have absolutely nothing to do with the crisis. He immediately started attacking Obama for requesting earmarks and put Obama on the defensive about that, when Obama should have been on the offense about McCain the de-regulator being a big part of the problem, and McCain the soap opera economy rescuer being a sideshow distraction of those working on a solution. I was upset that Obama was not more on the attack, but later reflection encouraged me that he actually handled himself well, in the overall strategic context, as opposed to the tactical opportunities of the present.

Strategically, Obama must show that his youth and inexperience relative to McCain are not really liabilities, and that his better temperament, judgment and grasp of the future far outweigh any experience advantage of McCain. In addition, Obama carries the extra burden, as Eugene Robinson, an African American Washington Post writer and MSNBC commentator points out, of having to be the least angry African American male in America. Gene is right, that many whites live in fear of angry black people. Part of the wonderful appeal of Obama is that he may actually be able to carry that burden. He certainly did a good job with it last night. Though there were many times a white Democrat in his place could have angrily counter-punched McCain, Obama had to hold his punches until later, when he had earned enough audience respect and had endured enough cheap and irrelevant shots to be able to defend and attack without feuling prejudice.

Once the campaign turned to foreign affairs, I was actually surprised to see how much McCain knows and how few mistakes he made, like his mispronunciation of a tough name and mistaken designation of the new President of Pakistan. McCain also referred to Pakistan as a failed state before Musharraf staged a coup and became dictator and Bush ally, though in fact Pakistan was a democracy before the takeover. Obama made no such mistakes and most impressively displayed a knowledge of world affairs and history at least equal to McCain and in fact surpassing that of McCain in some areas. One particular area where Obama excelled in the opinion of the focus groups was his identification of the need to restore America's credibility and standing with other nations in the world.

McCain made one laudatory passing reference to Sarah Palin, which only served to remind people what a totally inadequate candidate she is, what a poor choice McCain made (particularly in the night's context of foreign policy needs), and how scary it would be if she should have to take over for a dead or disabled President McCain [McCain did appear physically strong and capable last night, however]. Obama made a reference to Joe Biden's vast experience being available in an Obama Presidency , and nothing else needed to be said; a Presidential succession by Biden would, if ever necessary, obviously be quite reassuring.

Two McCain tactics backfired on him. One I noticed immediately. The other I did not realize until commentators pointed it out. Most noticeably McCain continually dismissed what Obama was saying as demonstrating "Obama just does not understand". This condescension was quite misplaced. Nobody seriously doubts Obama's intelligence, and his grasp of all the issues was quite evident last night. For McCain to try to put Obama down so readily made McCain look like the close minded pontificator he is, exactly the opposite of the false image he tries to create of himself as an open minded proponent of bi-partisan co-operation. By contrast, Obama often readily agreed with parts what McCain said and then went on to point out where they disagreed and why Obama believed his approach was the correct one and McCain's was not. Republican spinners are trying to portray Obama's expressions of agreement as bows to McCain's better knowledge, and at first I did not like Obama leaving that opening. But after reflection, I see Obama was right to show that there is no reason to disagree just to be disagreeable, and that a good negotiator can accomplish a lot more by not creating disagreements where they do not exist.

The failed McCain debate tactics and the smooth effectiveness of the Obama strategy was a clear demonstration of the difference between the styles and temperaments of the two men. If you want to get into a needless brawl like sailors in a bar, then McCain is your man. If you want someone who can listen to all the bar sailors and keep them from brawling and get them to work together, Obama is the one. And by the way, if some sailor executes a terrorist sucker punch and needs to be arrested or taken out, Obama is the one to handle that too, as was clearly shown by his statement that we took our eye off the ball by invading Iraq and we need to go after bin Laden and if he is in Pakistan and they will not cooperate, we need to go get him anyway. McCain expressed his belief Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism and demonstrated timid reluctance to upset our allies in Pakistan, even if that meant bin Laden might escape again.

A discussion of when and how to talk to unfriendly nations worked to the benefit of Obama, particularly with the focus groups. McCain tried to speak against "legitimizing" unfriendly leaders by talking to them, but Obama was able to point out how even the Bush administration and McCain's own adviser, Henry Kissinger, have now come to agree with Obama about the wisdom of such talks.

Obama showed an important understanding that McCain does not seem to grasp, in the area of nuclear weapons. McCain, the self-proclaimed cost cutter wants to fund unproven missile defense systems and gear up for potentially more military "victories" in the future, but rarely speaks of the inherent danger of nuclear proliferation. Last night Obama pointed out that the greatest threat to the United States is that a suitcase type nuclear weapon, from any of way too many possible sources, would fall into the hands of a terrorist. He pointed to his bi-partisan work with Senator Lugar to try to stop the spread and reduce the number and control over nuclear weapons.

McCain is fond of including personal anecdotes as to how he acquired his wisdom. The facts of the anecdotes change from time to time and sometimes are obviously not true, but they do personalize him to audiences. Obama is more private and more respecting of the privacy of others. A case in point last night was McCain again using the bracelet story about the mother of a dead soldier who gave him a bracelet to remember her son and work for victory in Iraq so her son would not have died in vain [under this argument, once a soldier of each side is killed in a war, both sides should pursue the war as fully as possible, as long as possible, without regard to the number of lives lost or the cost of the damage done, and regardless of whether the war turns out to have been based on lies or mistakes or reasons which no longer exist]. Obama, somewhat uncomfortable about using the name of a deceased soldier, even at the request of his mother, countered with his bracelet, given with the hope of the mother that more American children would not die in needless wars. McCain did not make any reference to his POW status until the very end but it had no impact as it came at a time when he ridiculously tried to portray Obama as being a stubborn man like George Bush, which prompted a spontaneous smile from Obama , who appreciated the irony of such an inapt comparison being made by McCain, who had just finished showing America how much he is just a stubborn, angry old man in maverick clothing.

Near the end of the evening, Obama had come to the time when he could take his strongest shot at McCain, which he did by pointing out that McCain talks like the war in Iraq started with the surge in 2007, while in fact it started with the invasion in 2002, and repeating to him all the things McCain had said would happen after that invasion and how McCain had been wrong on every single one of them. A little earlier, Obama had some fun at McCain's expense by saying McCain was so unwilling to use diplomacy that he had even expressed reluctance to talk with the leader of Spain, one of our NATO allies. McCain had actually spoken in mistake when he made that comment about Spain, getting his world leaders confused and trying to gloss over his confusion. Now Obama was putting him back in that bind, out of which McCain could only escape by admitting to confusion.

The most significant observation that I failed to notice, but was picked up by some commentators was that, in spite of the engagement purpose of the format, McCain never made eye contact with Obama all night. Obama tried to talk to McCain directly, turning toward him and addressing him in a respectful personal manner, but McCain always responded in the third person, never talking directly to him. Those who know McCain said this was probably a mental device McCain invoked to envision Obama as a faceless enemy who deserved only contempt and annihilation. I suppose that may be an effective approach for some fighter pilots, but it is not one that is well received by the independent and undecided voters, who are looking for a change for this Bush type attitude. Treating the duly chosen candidate of the Democratic Party as some sort of an evil enemy to be trashed is not the way to convince Americans you are the agent of the change we need.

Commentators were somewhat split, predictably along party lines, as to who won. Focus groups gave the nod to Obama. Since McCain seems to be slightly behind and foreign policy was supposed to be his strong suit, he needed a consensus victory, which he did not get. All in all, Obama comes out better than McCain in my opinion. Next Thursday is the VP debate. In her recent interview with Katie Couric, Palin did a very poor job, and it now appears she is not really such a quick study after all and even her marginal intellectual credentials were vastly overrated. McCain twice last night used his stale joke about not being elected Miss Congeniality in the Senate, which fell flat with the focus groups who could see why and did not think it so funny, and which reminded them that Palin's Miss Congeniality prize as a beauty queen is about all that is left on the positive side of her resume.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Campaign Update

The Republican post-convention bounce is falling back and the Palin appeal is diminishing as people learn more about her. Since she first appeared with her unique but canned biography, the only news to come out about Palin has been negative. She used all her good shots at the beginning and now some of them have turned out be blanks and some are ricocheting and some people who she shot in the back are taking shots at her. After first saying she welcomed the troopergate inquiry, Palin now has been given a huge team of top Republican lawyers doing everything they can to stop the investigation or at least delay it until after the election. It appears they will win this battle and block the inquiry, but the cost may be that they lose the election war, partly because voters see that in stonewalling the inquiry Palin is as big a fraud as George W. Bush.

Obama and Biden are making twice as many appearances as McCain and Palin, since the GOP handlers are nervous about separating the Republicans - Palin being an untested neophyte and McCain being too boring alone to draw crowds. This advantage could pay dividends for the Democrats in working the close Counties in the crucial States. Let's look at four battleground States to see how Obama and McCain did there in the primaries. In the New Hampshire election in January, Both Clinton and Obama got more votes than McCain. In the Colorado caucuses on Super Tuesday, February 5, Romney beat McCain 3 to 1, while Obama beat Clinton 2 to 1 and Obama got eight times as many votes as McCain. On February 12, in the Virginia election, McCain got 50% of the Republican vote and Obama got 64% of the Democratic, out polling McCain by 380,000. In Ohio on March 4, McCain topped Republicans with 60% while Obama finished as the second Democrat with 44%, but Obama still got almost 1,000,000 votes compared to 636,000 for McCain.

McCain better be careful of Palin, as she seems to know how to take advantage of older men. She has had a brief political career as Mayor and as Governor, and she got both those jobs by turning against the man who helped her climb the political ladder. When a position came open on the Wasilla City Council, the Mayor helped recruit Palin for the job. She thanked him a few years later by blitzing him at the polls. The Governor put her in charge of a State Commission as a rising Republican star and she thanked him by piling on as his troubles came to a head and she knocked him off in the primary. Yesterday she made a Freudian slip at a campaign speech, saying the Republican ticket, when elected, will be the Palin-McCain Administration.

Palin plays her capably coy act by saying she is working to change McCain to her point of view on issues on which they disagree- most notably on drilling in ANWR. She does not defer to him or even consider that he might change her to his point of view. Of course nowadays McCain seems to have two kinds of positions, those which have changed to more Bushian, and those which were always Bushian and which he now claims have always been different. I am sure Palin sees the Cheney model as ideal for a VP, even one as obviously unqualified as she is.

The campaign advertising has turned quite negative. McCain's has also turned quite false. Obama seems to be making up for the McCain falsehood advantage by running a greater volume of negative ads. This is not the campaign voters say they want, but the experts tell us negative ads work. Obama probably does not have to worry about having been pulled down from the clean pedestal, since voters now seem to be more concerned whether he is tough enough to fight back, and negative ads are seen as being tough.

The terrible financial events of this week should be a Democratic campaign advantage. Despite portraying themselves as the fiscal conservative pro-business party, Republicans have a knack for screwing up the economy in a big way. Voters seem to figure that out, once the bottom has fallen out, but then the Republicans come along later with their same shams, and too many voters fall for it again. There is a simplistic appeal in the Republican blaming the government for screwing everything up while robbing you with taxes. Never mind that the government has been run by Republicans who work to make government a failure in order to prove their point, or that Republicans actually make the middle class pay a disproportionate share of taxes, while tax breaks for the rich throw the country into record levels of debt. Democrat Jimmy Carter inherited financial troubles from Nixon and unsuccessfully tried a Republican idea, de-regulation, as part of a fix. Bill Clinton presided over eight years of apparent successful growth, though in the long term that may be found to have been somewhat of an overrated bubble. LBJ was the last true Democrat President and his economic legacy regarding the War on Poverty and the Medicare program has been admirable.

I would like to see the Obamas and the Bidens appear at events together a couple times. I think seeing the two couples together shows how the Obamas really are not that different from the classic idea of a male politician and his wife. Also, as recommended by Democratic pundit Mark Shields, I think Obama needs to start making his appeal to the voters more personal, especially to new young ones, by including a specific request for their vote. People need to be asked and to feel personally important and empowered. A candidate needs to let the people know, not only that he cares about their needs, but that he needs them to care about voting for him. Young people failed to turn out in sufficient numbers to vote for Kerry. Admittedly, Kerry was much older than Obama, but young voter turnout will still be a key this time around.

Pundits seem to agree the debates will be crucial determiners this year, but I have doubts about that. The polls show the contest is close, so I think the candidates will play debate defense. Biden could be good on offense, but having a woman opponent might make him ease up. McCain likes to ad lib, but his new trainers have been keeping a tight rein on him. Obama could gain strength points by going on the offense, but he has to be careful not to appear as an "angry black man", though his image is so easy going and congenial, it is hard to imagine any intelligent voter being turned off by Obama adding a touch of strength.

The VP debate and two of the Presidential matches will consist of eight ten minute issue segments, supervised by a moderator, with give and take between the candidates. The first Presidential debate will cover domestic issues and the last will cover foreign policy. The VP debate, scheduled second, will cover both. The third debate, a Presidential town hall with questions from the audience, has the most potential for surprise. The short amount of time for each candidate on each issue means Obama has to avoid giving too scholarly and all considerate answers. He needs to start on each issue with a short statement to grab audience attention and make them prone to agree, then follow with a quick enumeration of major policy points and how they differ from McCain, and then close with a return to the opening grabber.

Barring a major gaffe or an absolute zinger, I think the debates will only move a few swing or undecided voters, and the only ones of those voters that really matter are the ones in the battleground Counties, which are already being targeted with lots of ads and appearances. I suppose if there is a consensus debate winner, that buzz can be part of a sense of momentum shift that could have some bandwagon effect, but we are so overloaded with campaign media by this point that people are glutted. Ironically, elections are a high point of democracy, but campaigns seem to be a low point.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Queen Sarah?

It is hard not to fall into the "Sarah soap opera" trap the Republicans have laid to get us away from discussing the important issues. She is quite unique for a VP nominee and so little is known about her that curiosity is at an all time high, aided by the fact that every day something new and a little strange is learned about her.

Here are a few recent things I have learned about Sarah. Instead of working at the State Capital in Juneau, she works from an office in Anchorage, so she can live in her own home. But, waste cutter though she claims to be, Governor Palin charges the taxpayers per diem for not staying in the Governor's mansion, nearly $17,000 in 19 months for 312 nights spent in her own bed. And she also charges them for transporting her family to State events, about $45,000 so far Though Alaska has the highest rape rate in the nation, Wasilla under Mayor Palin was one of a minority of cities in Alaska that charged rape victims for the cost of rape kits to collect evidence [though the Police Chief said they would try to get reimbursement from the criminal]. As Governor, Palin has spoken at the Assembly of God where she used to attend, and told them to pray that God's will be done that a pipeline be built and that the US be victorious in Iraq. Her Dad sounds interesting too. For some reason, a few months after Sarah was born in 1964, the third of four children, her science teacher father moved the family from Idaho to Alaska to take a teaching job, and then when she was about 12, the family converted from Catholicism to the Assembly of God. I wonder what her Dad thinks about global warming and evolution.

Since Palin was introduced to Americans a couple weeks ago, all she has done is give the same speech over and over - you know the one where she lies, "On that bridge to nowhere, I told Congress, thanks but no thanks" and where she falsely implies she sold the State jet on E-Bay. It is unprecedented for a nominee for VP to be sequestered from questions for so long. They are not only afraid of the media, but also of the public; Palin does not take questions from the audience at her speeches.

Scheduling her first interview for 9/11 was a ploy. Palin's son is leaving for military service, so she has to be in Alaska for that. The solemnity of the day and the departure of her son give heroic overtones and demand attention from the interviewer, cutting into time for issue questions. The chosen interviewer, Charles Gibson of ABC will be sitting down with her Thursday and Friday and broadcasting portions on each of those days. Gibson has a reputation as a knowledgeable political reporter who is a nice guy and somewhat of a softball thrower.

Palin's handlers say other media opportunities will depend on whether she is treated with "respect and deference". Respect should come with any civil discussion, but deference presupposes superiority. Palin may have over-esteem problems. Her hard line demand for staff loyalty when she assumed the high office of Wasilla Mayor caused a local paper to remind her that she was elected, not coronated. The paper might also have been subtly reminding readers Palin finished second in the contest for the Miss Alaska crown. Her animosity to the media may trace to that Mayoral time, when she manifested it by ordering that no city employee should talk to any member of the media without first obtaining Palin's specific consent.

I don't know how Palin will do with Gibson. She is smart and has honed her political skills, especially with all the top level Rovian style coaching she has been getting. I think she will just try to follow her own script, regardless of the questions and count on the fact that Gibson will not press her. If he does press her, then they will try to use that as an excuse for not doing further interviews, claiming that as a woman she is being treated in a sexist way.

All the hoopla over Sarah has been distracting, as planned. Joe Biden gets no air time at all. Obama is trying to keep his eye on McCain and the real issues and not fall for the bait to get involved in Sarah Soap. Democrats are still trying to figure out how to deal with Sarah, including how to use women like Hillary as surrogates. Unfortunately, after a way too long primary process, this general election campaign is comparatively quite short.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Samuel Maverick was a slave owning entrepreneur descended from a long line of Southerners. He became a Texas land baron, politician and cattleman before he died in 1970. When cattlemen adopted branding to avoid confusion over cattle ownership and to eliminate the violent confrontations that sometimes resulted from such confusion, Samuel was the only one who stubbornly refused to brand his cattle. When stampedes or wanderings mingled herds, the animals were separated by brands and the those with no brand, "Mavericks", were given back to Samuel. The name then started to be applied to a person with a streak of stubborn single-mindedness and apparent unwillingness to work cooperatively. Over time, perhaps aided 50 years ago by the James Garner western TV series, "Maverick", the name has acquired a more admirable association, as an individual who courageously stands up to abusive power.

John McCain has been a Republican all his life. Early in his long tenure as a U.S. Senator, McCain got into serious conflict of interest trouble involving campaign contributions. He was so scared by the experience that he turned in the other direction, proposing campaign finance limits, much to the chagrin of the Republican power holders who became annoyed at McCain and kept him out of the power loop in retaliation. McCain paid them back by once in a while bucking them on a vote and by cultivating good will with the press who liked his poking at Republican power. The Maverick label was applied, even though there was no question he belonged to the Republican herd. He was like a branded calf who occasionally strays for a little run and but always skedaddles back where he knows he belongs.

McCain has long had Presidential aspirations. For the 2000 election, he made his run. After a quick start, he was cut off at the ankles by Bush/Rove. He fumed about that for a while, but then as the very long 2008 campaigning was coming on, he thrust his sometime arguably marginal Maverick rump into the hot iron and became 90% Bush/Cheney branded.

Sarah Palin bears the brand of a Republican of extreme right wing views. She was hand picked for Republican boot camp, to learn how to work the culture wars and how to avoid giving honest answers on the issues. She played the Alaska Republican game and then, while serving as a commission appointee, she seized an opportunity to jump ahead by joining in condemnation of wrongdoing by fellow Republican commissioners and resigning the little time left in her appointment. Next, seeing the crooked incumbent Republican Governor was vulnerable, Palin claimed courageous reformer credentials as a result of her commission experience and entered a congested primary and won. For these actions, she is now claiming to be a fellow Maverick with John.

After eight years of Bush/Cheney, America is in terrible shape and headed in the wrong direction, as over 80% of Americans honestly admit. The branding iron shows McCain and Palin belong to the same Republican herd as Bush/Cheney. That is why they are claiming to be Mavericks. They don't want to be sent back where they belong, with the rest of the Republicans, to that bogus ranch in Crawford. Democrats need to keep riding herd to make sure everyone knows where these two head belong.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Republican Convention

If you ever attend a gathering of Republicans, be sure to wear sunglasses. The reflection of light off all those white faces is hard on the eyes. When John McCain introduced Sarah Palin to a Republican crowd last week, the day after he met her for the second time and picked her to run with him, I counted four black faces in the crowd. One was a secret service agent. One was a face back in the crowd who must have done something to disqualify him from a more visible spot. The third was a somewhat dorky looking chap in a "Leave it to Beaver" striped polo shirt who was prominently placed in second row central. The fourth was a young girl with number three, who was picked up and put down by him several times to alleviate her boredom. When Beaver got a chance to take Sarah's picture up close, he could not get his camera to work.

Last night at the Republican Convention, the whiteness was overwhelming, with a few Spanish brown overtones, a periodic Asian face and an extremely light peppering of black. From the late 1960s, the GOP has cultivated and embraced white people who resent the disassembling of America's historical white privilege. Southern segregationists, the Dixiecrats, converted to Republicans, as did northerner white flighters, who ran to suburbia to be more distant from inner city blacks.

Adding to the injury of this racial prejudice was the vilification of our American government. Republicans turned whites against our own government, making it the villain that was supposedly taking their money and rights away and giving them to non-whites. A thin disguise of legitimate conservatism has been maintained in claims of fiscal restraint and individual rights. But in fact, the GOP has been fiscally irresponsible, running record deficits with tax breaks for the rich, corporate welfare and imperialism for the benefit of war profiteers. For Republicans, individual rights does not mean protecting civil liberties, but rather protecting white privilege and its spinoffs, homophobia, evangelical Christianity and the right to bear arms to shoot anyone seen as a threat.

This week's Republican production had all the potential to be a classic dud. Bush and Cheney speeches would remind America that the hugely unpopular Bush administration was a Republican creation. On the big stage, McCain would be playing to his weak suit. Some of the losers from the primaries would bore us again. Only turncoat Lieberman would offer a spark, particularly if McCain bucked tradition and chose him for VP. Hurricane Gustav threatened to be a reminder of Bush eating McCain birthday cake in Arizona while Katrina ravaged New Orleans, but the Republicans were able to use supposed storm care duty as an excuse to dump out on the first day's schedule, thereby eliminating Cheney and reducing Bush to a brief video appearance.

Last night, ho-hum Fred Thompson relived the McCain POW horrors for us, in an evening celebrating military service in general and McCain heroism in particular. McCain's heroism is all about his imprisonment, nothing about his actual combat missions, except about being shot down. Thompson did say being a POW does not automatically qualify one for the Presidency, but the whole evening seemed to be intended to send the opposite message. Also speaking was turncoat Joe Lieberman. Every time I see Lieberman, I wonder why Gore picked him in 2000. I also wonder why Connecticut Democrats did not stick to their guns after voting him out in the primary. I guess they figured his seniority was good for getting earmarks, which offers another reason why earmarks should be eliminated - getting rid of earmarks might get rid of some senior dead weight politicians.

Tonight's menu includes Rudy Giuliani, whose $50,000,000 primary campaign did not net one delegate. His nouns, verbs and 9/11s will be sales pitches to expand his extremely lucrative security business, especially overseas. Then comes the star of the evening, Sarah Palin. I started writing about Sarah in Sense comments on the Democratic Convention. Stories continue to pop up daily confirming what an untested choice she is. Her 17 year old daughter is pregnant due to lack of the abstinence her mother advocates in lieu of sex education about birth control. Sarah's first child was born early following an elopement, and around the same time her husband had a DUI arrest. The daughter will marry the young putative father, whose now privatized My Space pages said he is a "f__king redneck" and did not want to have a child. Sarah's husband, who at first was referred to as a commercial fisherman, now is reported to get his primary income as an employee of BP oil company. Compounding concerns about Sarah's priorities as a mother is the word Sarah went back to work only three days after the birth of the child with Down's. One does wonder who takes care of this special needs child and why Sarah accepted the VP nod, knowing the story of her daughter's pregnancy would subject the girl to international embarrassment.

John McCain is a solid 95% Bush Republican, which should make him a loser in itself. He is supposedly a maverick who will stand up to power. But many people wonder whether he is actually a man of bad temperament and poor judgment. His pugnacious saber rattling over the Russia-Georgia conflict, even jumping the gun on George Bush, shows how eager he is to get into a fight, as if he needs to make up for all those years of being tortured without being able to strike back. The Palin pick shows how poor his judgment can be, shooting from the hip and taking a gamble on an unknown. And it also is apparently an example of him not standing up to power in his own organization, because he actually wanted to pick Lieberman, but backed down when Republican powers rejected that idea.

In picking Palin, McCain may have been persuaded as much by her good looks as by anything else. Republicans like former beauty queens. At least two of their U.S. Senators are in that category, Dole and Hutchinson, and McCain even volunteered his wife for the Miss Buffalo Chip contest at Sturgis, apparently unaware it is an uncouth pageant that includes a topless segment and is sponsored by a beer company competitor of Cindy's.