ABC Poll Shows Voters Had Different Priorities

In remarks to Greg Sargent about the questions asked at ABC’s Democratic primary candidate debate the other day, co-moderator George Stephanopoulos is quoted as saying:

“We decided to focus at the top on the issues that had been at the center of the debate since the last debate. Everything we brought up in that front section had not come up since the last debate. And they all focused on the same theme — which candidate would be a stronger Democratic candidate in Novembber.” [sic]

“This is the core question for the campaigns, and a lot of Democratic voters right now. That’s why we decided to lead with it.”

Interestingly enough, that’s at some variance with what ABC’s own poll reported today, based on data collected between April 10th and 13th.

The poll — embargoed until more than 24 hours after the debate but certainly available to Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson — asked right up front what voters through was “the single most important issue in your choice for president.”

Was it the candidates’ pastors?

Was it the candidates’ flag pins?

Was it vague associations they had with former ’60s radicals?

No. 41% of the respondents said that the most important issue in their choice for president was the economy and jobs. That’s up from 11% last September.

The war in Iraq was a distant second, at 18% (down from 35%).

Health: 7% (down from 13%). Terrorism, government ethics, illegal immigration, they all came in as the top choice of 4-5% of the respondents.

Maybe the hour Gibson and Stephanopoulos spent talking about Bittergate and Bosnia fit into the 7% Other category, but it’s hard to weigh that time against the 59% of the people — from ABC’s own poll — who thought the economy and Iraq were the most important issues in their presidential choice.

It makes you wonder if perhaps Charlie and George are out-of-touch elitists.

NBC Peddles the Pope, Pushes Iraq Off the Air

Here’s the list of topics from the broadcast of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, for 15 April 2008:

  • Welcome to Nightly News
  • Pope confronts child sex abuse scandals
  • Inflation causes more wallet woes
  • McCain’s new math
  • The mothers’ side of the story
  • Did Texas oficials go too far?
  • Will Delta and NWA fuel more merger fervor?
  • Remembering Bob Curry
  • ‘God’s Rottweiler’: Pope Benedict XVI
  • Saved by salsa dancing

Notice anything missing?

If you go to the NBC web site, you can see a report titled “Deadly day in Iraq” about the car bomb that killed more than 40 Iraqis (and the other four bombings in Iraq yesterday) that made it the deadliest day in months.

But you won’t see that on the TV. At least not at NBC.

Free Ride

Whatever happened to Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Rule: “You break it, you buy it”?

Iraq’s Financial Free Ride May End


WASHINGTON (AP) — Iraq’s financial free ride may be over. After five years, Republicans and Democrats seem to have found common ground on at least one aspect of the war. From the fiercest war foes to the most steadfast Bush supporters, they are looking at Iraq’s surging oil income and saying Baghdad should start picking up the tab, particularly for rebuilding hospitals, roads, power lines and the rest of the shattered country.

“I think the American people are growing weary not only of the war, but they are looking at why Baghdad can’t pay more of these costs. And the answer is they can,” says Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Ben Nelson, of course, was one of the bright lights who voted to invade Iraq in the first place.

Nelson, a Democrat, is drafting legislation with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana that would restrict future reconstruction dollars to loans instead of grants.

So were Susan Collins and Evan Bayh.

Likewise, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he wants to add a provision to a defense policy bill that would force the Iraqi government to spend its own surplus in oil revenues to rebuild the country before U.S. dollars are spent.

These senators, who are well-known war skeptics, could find allies in lawmakers who support President Bush’s current Iraq policies. In hearings last week, Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates whether Baghdad should start paying some U.S. combat costs, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised the possibility that an anticipated Iraqi budget surplus this year could be used to help Afghanistan, whose $700 million in annual revenue represents a small fraction of Iraq’s $46.8 billion budget.

Levin voted against the Iraq AUMF, but calling Nelson and Collins “skeptics” is sort of like calling “surge” advocate Michael O’Hanlon a skeptic.

American troops in Iraq are buying fuel on the open market at $3.23 a gallon and spending some $153 million a month, according to a recent report by The Associated Press.

Collins says the Iraqis should cover those costs.

“It’s really difficult for Americans who are struggling with the high cost of the energy to see us paying for fuel costs in a country that has the second-largest oil reserves” and a burgeoning budget surplus, she said.

So, we invade a country for no reason (or on trumped-up reasons, take your pick), blow its fragile infrastructure to smithereens, let people suffer with little electricity (“the energy”) or running water and streets full of sewage for five years, then we expect them to pay for the damage we unleashed. Oh, and we’re going to charge them for the costs of occupying their country which we’re not going to leave any time soon (and when 79% of Iraqis in a recent poll answered “not much” or “none” when asked how about their confidence level in US forces), and we might even skim some off to pay for this other little war we’ve got going on in an entirely unrelated country.

That should make everyone happy.

Who Lost Vietnam?

New Yorker writer Steve Coll’s been making the rounds (including The Daily Show) promoting his newest book on the bin Laden family, but I’ve been reading his previous book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, and noted one item from its early pages a while back that I wanted to circle around to.

Coll doesn’t place much faith in former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1998 claim that he forsaw bringing down the Soviet Union by ensnaring them in “the Afghan Trap.” But he does reproduce portions of the memos Brzezinski sent to President Jimmy Carterat the time, including one from the day the Soviets sent combat troops into Afghanistan, 26 December 1979.

Brzezinski has been credited a lot by Democrats following foreign policy, apparently because he wasn’t gung-ho on the Iraq war and because he’s backing Barack Obama.

What caught my eye about this particular memo wasn’t anything to do with Afghanistan, the Soviet Union, or anything directly related to the situation he addressed, however. It was how he compared the situation of the mujahedeen vs. the Soviet military to a previous war.

D. The Soviets are likely to act decisively, unlike the U.S., which pursued in Vietnam a policy of inoculating the enemy. As a consequence, the Soviets might be able to assert themselves effectively, and [in] world politics nothing succeeds like success, whatever the moral aspects.

If, by “inoculating the enemy” you mean dropping more tonnage of bombs on North Vietnam than were used throughout World War II, that it. What’s appalling — but not surprising — to me is that Brzezinski still thought the Vietnam war could have been “won” in 1979, as his time as National Security Advisor was coming to an end. Here was a guy with access to as much military and intelligence information as anyone — supposedly an expert in his field — and his view after more than a decade, with as many as 600,000 troops deployed, nearly 60,000 dead Americans and a couple of million dead Vietnamese (not to mention Laotians and Cambodians) was that we just hadn’t worked hard enough or been “decisive.”

Like I told people at the time of his endorsement, I suppose Obama needs the foreign policy cred, but I hope he takes any advice from the man with a big grain of salt.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From The Addams Family

The DVR’s hard drive is on the fritz, so looking for something to watch late last night I tuned into TV Land’s “The Addams Family” festival for an hour or so.

Three things were realized (or driven home to me in the last case) while watching an episode from near the end of the first season: “Uncle Fester’s Toupee”:

  1. Comedian Norm Macdonald‘s delivery style owes an incredible amount to John Astin’s portrayal of Gomez Addams.
  2. The next time someone tries to make points off of Barack Obama’s bowling skills, he ought to have a clip from this episode of Gomez bowling handy. Gomez knocks down one pin in his first ball, then knocks it back up with his second. Crappy bowler, but an affable fellow.
  3. I’m a lot closer in age to Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester than I am to Astin playing Gomez. Deep sigh.

It’s Gotta Happen

The Hindenberg in Flight

The Hindenberg Certainty Principle
If it’s big, it’s got a Nazi symbol on it, and it’s filled with flammable gas, it’s certain to blow up.


A major criticism levelled against Oregon Democratic senatorial primary candidate Steve Novick by supporters of one of his opponents, state Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley is that Novick is critical of other Democrats (by which they mostly mean Merkley). Indeed, Merkley himself raised the issue of Novick’s criticism of Democrats as recently as last week.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Democratic Senate hopefuls Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick clashed over tax policy, party loyalty and some nasty campaigning during a debate Friday at the City Club of Portland.

On Friday, Merkley tweaked Novick for unflattering comments he’d made about Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Merkley’s current television commercial starts out with the words: “Tired of his party’s inaction, Jeff Merkley led Democrats back to power.”

I wonder how flattering Oregon Democratic leaders find that portrayal in the Merkley-approved ad, or if perhaps the whole issue’s been overstated by the Merkley campaign for months.

The Poor Will Be With Us Always

Chuck Sheketoff of the Oregon Center for Public Policy posted a piece at Blue Oregon on how the gap between the top wage earners and the bottom wage earners has widened in the US over the past two decades, based on a national study from the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Now I know why this commenter thinks I’m some sort of radical leftist socialist bent on destroying the Democratic party.

I’ve become more inured to these kinds of statistics over the years. The poor vastly outnumber the rich. They could vote and change this overnight if they wanted to. But by supporting Republicans, they clearly show they don’t. They’re far more concerned with “getting into heaven” by exhibiting hatred for gays, feminists, atheists, Muslims (many who themselves hate gays, feminists, and atheists), Mexicans, and all sorts of other scapegoats of the day.

The American poor have made their own bed. Let them lie in it.

If it’s a Democratic party made up of people who think like that, then I say the sooner the better for the destroying.

The Science Debate 2008 Invitation, Round 2

Dear Candidate,

The weekly PBS television broadcasts NOW on PBS and NOVA, the PBS science series, along with Public Television Stations KOPB (Portland, OR), WNET (New York) and WGBH (Boston), together with Science Debate 2008, representing the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Council on Competitiveness would like to invite you to participate in

Is America Losing its Competitive Edge?  A Presidential Debate on the role of Science in America’s Future,

a nationally televised event currently being planned for Portland State University, Portland, Oregon on the evening of Friday, May 2, May 9, or May 16.

We will broadcast even if only one candidate confirms, and we will publicize who confirmed first, so this could be a major win for your candidate with these communities both nationally and in Oregon, whose economy is dominated by the tech industry and whose largest employer is Intel, whose Chairman is one of the supporters of this initiative.

The moderator for the event will be David Brancaccio, the host of NOW on PBS, with a panel of internationally recognized scientists selected by the organizers, Science Debate 2008. 

The idea for A President Debate on the role of Science in America’s Future is a national, non-partisan discussion endorsed by most of the American science, academic, medical and technology communities, Including thousands of major business leaders, university presidents, Nobel laureates, scientists, and journalists. Please visit here for a detailed list.

This is not a science quiz; it is intended as a serious policy debate about several major issues Americans are concerned with that fall along this theme, including climate change, economic competitiveness in the new global knowledge economy, energy security and sustainability, health and medicine, science education, and other related issues.  We will give all confirmed candidates a copy of the anticipated questions five days in advance so that you may prepare.  These are some of the most important challenges the next president is going to be facing, and we would hope that your candidate has plans for tackling them already.  The voters are highly interested to see what they are, and how your candidate differs, or does not differ, from the others.

Please feel free to have your staff contact me if you are interested in exploring the logistics of this further.

Best Regards,

Shawn Lawrence Otto

On behalf of the Steering Committee and the Signers of Science Debate 2008

Plan B From Science Debate 2008

Science Debate 2008 Blogger Coalition

The various presidential campaigns have been unresponsive to the invitations by the coalition of groups attempting to lure them into a debate on the place of science in America, despite them apparently being willing to talk ad nauseum about their religious affiliations and views.

Since time’s running out before the Pennsylvania primaries, organizers have floated the possibility that Oregon could be a potential venue.

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2008 6:52 PM by Alan Boyle

A presidential campaign debate over sci-tech issues in Pennsylvania is looking less and less likely, but the activists behind Science Debate 2008 have a Plan B: If the candidates don’t show up for this month’s date in Philadelphia, organizers say the debate could still take place in early May during Oregon’s vote-by-mail primary.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been noncommittal, while Barack Obama’s campaign took a pass, Otto said.

Meanwhile, on the GOP side, presumptive nominee John McCain’s campaign has not responded to the Science Debate invitation, Otto said.

If the candidates pass up the Pennsylvania opening, Science Debate 2008 will shift its focus to Oregon, Otto said. Portland State University is being lined up as the proposed venue. Otto said the media partners in the effort would be “Nova,” the venerable public-TV science program; and “Now,” a more recent public-affairs series on PBS. A panel of scientists and engineers would be asking the questions, with “Now” host David Brancaccio serving as moderator, Otto said.

This is post number 1,000 on this blog.