Monday, January 28, 2008

When Will Al Gore Endorse Barack Obama?

Now is the time. With the leading figure among northern democrats now comparing Obama's campaign to his brother's 1960 campaign and the tactics of the former democratic president to those of Harry Truman, the time has come for the south's other leading democrat to have his say.

Sure, Mr. Gore may be a little gun shy. After all, he was early to endorse Howard Dean in 2004 only to see his potential influence as elder statesman and kingmaker in the democratic party evaporate with a scream. And, of course it is by no means certain that Barack Obama will win the nomination, but this time, Al Gore has nothing to lose.

He is now clearly established as an elder statesman and one with a Nobel Prize. He has established himself as a leading voice on one of the most significant challenges we face in the future Barack Obama is vying to lead. Al Gore would do us all a favor by linking the cause of combating global warming to a president with Barack Obama's vision. While we are going nuts with JFK parallels, it must be said that the Kennedy challenge of going to the moon is probably exactly what we need to address the challenge of global warming through technological advances sure to bolster our economic well-being rather than the inevitable and draconian conservation mandates that will emerge if we wait too long. It is possible that a clear conversation about the urgency of such an approach, combined with Obama's clearly established ability to inspire and motivate with great vision, could produce the "moon shot" that would make Gore's lifetime commitment to fighting global warming a reality.

And if not, what has he to lose? I suspect that the personal scars from his relationship with the Clinton's makes endorsing Hillary out of the question, and endorsing Edwards is so unlikely to produce a victory for him that Gore has only one choice left. It is a good choice.

Al Gore should endorse Barack Obama this week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is this the best we can get?

Lamar Alexander has introduced legislation to "protect English." The frequently repeated reason to offer this protect is that in America most people speak English. But because most people speak English, you will forgive my not seeing the threat that English needs to be protected against. Curious, I searched further.

The law that Mr. Alexander is proposing would bar the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from bringing discrimination suits against companies with English-only rules. Simple enough. The argument seems to be that businesses have the right to tell their employees how to speak.

Now, if such a rule were actually related to job performance (speaking Spanish to an English-speaking customer and blowing a sale, for example), anti-discrimination laws would not prohibit the rule. Bona fide Occupational Qualifications are not discrimination, and a "Protect English" law would be unnecessary.

So, Alexander's law could only apply to employers who want to discriminate based on the language ability of an employee in situations NOT related to job performance.

The Protect English law is a pro-discrimination bill. To prove that, consider these two cases in which the EEOC became involved:

One was against a Houston ship captain who reportedly threatened sailors with a knife after they spoke Spanish in violation of his English-only policy on board. It was settled in December in favor of the plaintiffs for $31,000.

The other is pending against the Salvation Army, which fired two Spanish-speaking clothes sorters who violated the English-only policy at a branch near Boston. (The Tennessean, January 15, 2007)

Why is anyone in the Senate, let alone the person who is supposed to represent Tennesseans, spending time on legislation that protects an employer's right to pull a knife on a Spanish-speaking employee? And, if you can explain the safety issue associated with allowing Salvation Army clothes sorters to speak Spanish at work, I will be impressed. I remind you that if te Salvation Army can make that case to a jury, then they will be absolved. The only reason they need this protection is because the company must not be able to make a convincing job-related argument.

What about the economic health of the state? What about getting the Fort Campbell troops back home? What about securing nuclear materials abroad? What about finding Osama Bin Laden? What about balancing the federal budget? What about caring for the health of citizens and reducing the burden of excessive health care costs on our small businesses? What about promoting renewable energy technologies to ensure the health of our economy as well as the health of our planet?

English is not threatened. Discrimination is. Spending time protecting discrimination that is unrelated to job performance ought to raise some criticism. Here's mine.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Democratic Challenger Missing

Since Mike McWherter decided not to run for Senate against the popular Lamar Alexander, the Democratic Party of Tennessee has yet to identify any serious challenger. That's too bad. I know it would be a long shot and then some to defeat Lamar Alaexander, but the Party ought to be able to find someone who can try. This election does, after all, have the potential to be a good one for Democrats, and I happen to believe that a young and inspirational figure campaigning to change the tone in Washington might do alright in Tennessee.

Of course, 2006 was a good election for Democrats, and Tennessee was the only place where that general trend went unrealized.

So, back to the question I asked at that time...the question on which I began this blog. What's the Matter with Tennessee? Has Tennessee become so conservative that anyone with a D by his/her name is doomed from the start? Surely not. What about moderate Democrats who believe in strong national defense (like Jim Webb) and/or who consider abortion worthy of limitation (like Bob Casey)? Couldn't a bipartisan who is not indebted to special interests, willing to accept reasonable limits on abortion rights, and strongly supportive of rationality in our national defense (that means avoiding over extension and sending troops into battles without a clear plan for post-war stability and reconstruction) do pretty well against Lamar? Sure Lamar is popular, and he is a good man who clearly favors discussion and compromise more than many of his GOP colleagues in the Senate, but he is a kind man in a bitter and divisive system. He is a leader because he knows how to operate in tat system, and he is popular, at least in part for all the earmarked funds he can bring to Tennessee from that post. It would take a serious challenge and a fairly significant vote shift, but don't the people of Tennessee at least deserve an option?

Partisan rancor is alot like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but nobody ever seems to do anything about it. The big question for Obama is can he? If he can do something about it, then he will need a new generation of Senators to help. Is Alexander up to the task? He may well be. I certainly respect his long record of service to the state of Tennessee, and he has always been kind to me, but a challenger is needed to force him to consider the new state of affairs and show us he is able to deliver what we increasingly want as a new tone in Washington.

Six years is a long time. He has not had to campaign since 2002. He beat Bob Clement that year. If he does not face a challenger this time, he will be able to serve 12 years without explaining to the people how he sees his job as our representative in the Senate.

If no one challenges this time, Tennessee will not even HAVE a Senate race until 2012 when Bob Corker's term finishes.

Is there no one available?

Friday, January 11, 2008

What's to Come?

If Peggy Noonan is correct in this Wall Street Journal editorial, Hillary's new voice won't be all that new. I hope she is wrong. I wonder if Barack Obama's hope can sustain these approaches and stick to the message? I hope so.

And if we are to believe the new voice will be a softer, more conciliatory and more engaging one, how to square that with what is going on at, a Web site that is for all intents and purposes a back door to her war room? There you will see that federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will soon "destroy" Barack Obama in a "scandal" involving an "indicted slumlord" who is Mr. Obama's "friend of 17 years" and with whom Mr. Obama has been involved in "shady deals."

This isn't a new voice, it is the old one, the one we know too well. The item was posted on Thursday, two days after Mrs. Clinton announced her new approach.
Between sobs she is going to try to destroy Mr. Obama. She is going to try to end him. She will pay a price for it--no one likes to see the end of a dream, no one likes a dream killer. But she will pay that price to win, and try to clean up the mess later.
(Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2008,

What's the Difference?

People are now beginning to question Barack Obama's claim to being different. They say he votes the same way, uses the same advisers, and stands for the same ideas. People argue that Obama has accomplished little legislation in the present, bitterly divided Congress. The Clintons even say that Obama is no different for these reasons and follow that claim with accusations that his campaign is a "fairy tale," hoping to make the criticism stick both ways.

The goals that Barack Obama has do not have to be different. Those goals are clear. No one can reasonable argue that the goals he stands for are not clear and unequivocal. For too long, though, a candidate's goals have been lined up as litmus tests to determine whether or not one belongs in either party. That is how ideology works in a politics of partisanship. But partisanship shifts our attention to the goals that divide us and connects all reasonable approaches to those conflicting goals. When all the policy goals are listed, the top goal remains: To advance the political fortunes of the party or the individual.

The Barack Obama difference lies not in the goals he would pursue (health care for all, strong and unwavering national security, powerful education, and job creation) but in the MANNER in which he would pursue them and consequently in the likelihood that he would achieve them.

Critics of Barack Obama must answer one point first. Can you point to significant progress toward these goals that has come from divisiveness, bitterness, and attack?

Why was Hillary Clinton unable to achieve significant expansion of health care availability in 1993? Was it because she was not divisive enough? John Edwards thinks so, but Hillary Clinton doesn't answer that question very well.

Our greatest recent successes in legislating to solve our problems came as a result of the genuine bipartisanship following 9/11. Since that good will has been undone by the Bush administration's aggressively partisan approach, little or nothing of substance has been accomplished.

Cooperation and collaboration may be naive. It may not work, but it is a process worth trying since little progress can be identified by those who defend the divide and stalemate approach of the past 30 years.

There's Something Happening in Tennessee

The Barack Obama HQ in Nashville is definitely an inspirational place. It is filled with people from all over the city who are drawn together by the common themes of the Obama campaign. I atended a meeting there last night, and I was struck by the energy and enthusiasm of the assembled group. Not only did the group seem to represent a wide variety of the people of Nashville, it also put forward a can do spirit that is refreshing in the age of wholesale politics.

All politics is local, and the people in the Obama capaign seem to understand that in ways that have been out of vogue in presidential politics for some time. The inspirational theme of the Obama campaign draws people into political action who have previously stayed on the sidelines. People turned off by the process, too busy to get involved, and too cynical to begin to hope are now talking to friends, wearing buttons, and putting their hopes into words.

The news since New Hampshire has been slowly, but consistently in Obama's favor. The close second place finish was really a significant gain compared with all pre-Iowa expectations, and the post-Iowa expectations aside, those gains seem to be holding in South Carolina, while significantly well-organized unions (SEIU and Culinary Workers) in Nevada and prominent Democratic leaders (John Kerry) keep breaking for Obama.

While the national endorsements and other state organizations are significant, I am most impressed by the way in which the New Hampshire results seem to have energized the Obama supporters to work harder. The room at the meeting was packed, and the ideas were good. There are many ways to get involved using your own skills and abilities whatever those may be, and people across the city and across the state seem to be responding to the call.

There's something happening in Tennessee. There is something happening here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is Karl Rove looking for a new job?

Karl Rove, apparently with time on his hands since his lobotomy as Bush's Brain, has decided to take on Barack Obama and offer Hillary Clinton some free political advice. Testing what is sure to be the main GOP strategy against Obama in the fall, Rove trotted out charges of "lazy," "misstatements," and "saying one thing and doing another."

Karl Rove is getting tough on Barack Obama.

The man behind President Bush's two successful presidential bids, who once offered advice to Obama on how he could defeat Hillary Clinton, is now taking direct aim at him — calling the Illinois senator "lazy" and "given to misstatements and exaggerations."

"Mr. Obama has failed to rise to leadership on a single major issue in the Senate," Rove writes in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. "In the Illinois legislature, he had a habit of ducking major issues, voting 'present' on bills important to many Democratic interest groups, like abortion-rights and gun-control advocates.

And in a rare move, Rove praises Clinton for her "humanizing" moments on the campaign trail, and calls Obama just "as calculating" as the New York Democrat.

"For someone who talks about a new, positive style of politics and pledges to be true to his word, Mr. Obama too often practices the old style of politics, saying one thing and doing another," he said. (

Of course, Karl, praising Hillary's political genius now previously tried to advise Barack Obama on how to deal with that very "humanizing strategy."

The comments are the latest musings from the man often refereed to as "Bush's brain" on the Democratic race for the White House. In an "open letter" to Obama last month, Rove suggested he "Blow the whistle on Clinton when she tries to become a victim."

"Find a way to gently belittle her whenever she tries to use disagreements among Democrats as an excuse to complain about being picked on," he said then. "The toughest candidate in the field should not be able to complain when others disagree with her. This is not a coronation." (

Isn't there a Republican candidate who could use Karl's advice?

Primary News of the Day

Richardson pulls out.

Kerry backs Obama.

Thompson plays well in GOP debate in South Carolina.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Is Obama Too Elite?

Some of the exit poll data from New Hampshire has the pundits speculating that, because Barack Obama is doing better among higher educated, and more well-off Democrats while Hillary Clinton polled better among the lower classes, he is now becoming a favorite of the narrow, new media elite, and Hillary Clinton is likely to roll on by capturing the real people.

If so, this impression will go down as one of the greatest hoaxes in political history. Hillary Clinton is no doubt sincere in her support for people in need. Heaven knows that I would be very happy with the empathy she could muster as president, but to suggest that she is a better candidate than Barack Obama for dealing with broken communities is to misjudge the case dramatically and, if you will pardon the irony, to completely ignore his superior experience. Barack Obama is a community organizer who understands both the multifaceted causes and consequences of poverty while simultaneously understanding that neither fierce class populism (Edwards) nor extensive government programs (Clinton) can alone address the challenges of America's communities in need.

I almost want to stop writing my reflections about Obama on a blog, since that seems to lend credence to those pundits who label him the candidate of the elite blogosphere (How these random musings have anything to do with elitism is hard to see, but I do understand the critique). Just because our (to borrow Kleinheider's phrase) parallel universe supports Obama does not mean that he all of a sudden loses his genuine EXPERIENCE in building communities and fighting poverty.

A good analysis of Obama and Edwards on the question of poverty and approaches to need can be found at:

Time to CHANGE our EXPERIENCE with Washington

Obama is genuine in his claim to approach politics without the rancor and divisiveness of the boomers caught in the culture wars (of whom the Clintons have become (willingly or not) the patron saints). Their idea is that to be a part of a Clinton or Bush America, one must walk in lock-step with his/her fellow ideologues that stymie action to deal with issues and challenges that we know (and have known for a long time) must be dealt with. After all, says the partisan, to deal with the issues and compromise is to "sell-out." If we solve the problems, what will accuse the other side of being responsible for in our next campaign?

Generational change is underway, and Obama speaks for it. Old politics, where taking a side means keeping the other side from accomplishing anything or even maintaining its dignity has to end, and as those of us born after 1960 come of age, we will increasingly be able to work together because we know that the challenges we face are more significant than the petty partisanship that keeps CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and a million polarizing Internet sites operational. I believe it was Bill Clinton who said, "That which unites us is far more significant than that which divides us." I bought it in 1992, but he was not able to deliver, and in the last 72 hours, his attacks on Obama have cast great doubt on his sincerity in having made that pronouncement.

Obama has really not wavered. Politics of unity and a refusal to vilify the opponent is called naive. It is taken as a sign of inexperience, but we have all had plenty of experience with the divide and stalemate approach, and Obama offers genuine hope that we can change that experience.

Is hoping for a better day naive?

I made another small contribution to Barack Obama's campaign today. I want to help show that New Hampshire results have done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm I have for the important new politics that Barack offers. I believe that we will have to work hard to enact the change we want to see - not only the changes in policy that we desperately need, but also (and more importantly) change in the process of politics that our generation hopes for.

The politics of fear and division have done little to deal with issues that will impact our generation - warming, health care costs, social security, economic stability. I know that we need a unifying and collaborative politics to move forward.

When Barack stands up and says we can change the system, he is called naive and inexperienced. They say he needs to understand that only rancor and discord can ultimately win an election, and for too long, that has been true. But, as voters, we get what we pay for, and I for one am ready to shop for change.

Are Tennesseans ready to join me? I think they are.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

If you want change, you have to work for it

Once again, we have learned tonight that polls are no more valuable than anyone else's educated guess. If you pay attention and talk to people, you are as likely to predict the outcome of a race as any vaunted pollster. They will all seize glory when they get it "right," but there are always days like today in New Hampshire. In every election, there are more polls that are wrong than those that are right. Those who are right more often, however, gain credibility and currency that helps their predictions to translate into self-fulfilling prophecies often enough that they can make a living with prognostication little better than those predicting the imminent Patriots Super Bowl victory.

The Des Moines Register poll was the closest in Iowa, and I have heard it frequently celebrated since last Thursday. But the day of the caucuses, it was widely regarded as an anomaly when compared with the other polls. Today, 10-15 point margins for Obama in New Hapshire were predicted, so that the final 2% margin of defeat (something incomprehensibly fantastic from Obama's perspective just 1 week ago), is now reported as a crushing defeat for him. Is it possible the polls were wrong? Not if you listen to the pundits. The polls were right, and the people changed...maybe, but it is at least equally likely that polls are like broken clocks...right twice a day.

The campaign for this country is underway, and it is coming soon to your neighborhood. Who wins will be up to you and to me. Discuss, deliberate, talk with others, contribute, campaign, and vote. Leave prognostication to Chris Berman. Don't ever stay home because your candidate is supposed to win easily, or you will continue allowing others to make decisions for you.

Be the change you want to see. Get out of the armchair and into the game, because, unlike the Super Bowl, in this game there are no players but us.