Monthly Archives: May 2008

McClellan just feeding history

mcclellanColumnist Peggy Noonan came away from former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s book neither admiring nor liking him — which still leaves his number of defenders at zero — but believing him. “What matters is if it’s true. Let the debate on the issues commence,” Noonan wrote. “What’s needed now? More memoirs, more data, more information, more testimony. More serious books, like Doug Feith’s. More ‘this is what I saw’ and ‘this is what is true.’ Feed history.”

Open thread 5/31

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No offense taken in S.D.

clintonHillary Clinton was meeting with the editorial board of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader when she made the unfortunate reference to Robert F. Kennedy’s death having happened in June — and the media crowd went wild. But the editorial board endorsed her Friday. “Her mastery of complex policy detail is broad and deep, and her experience as a senator and former first lady matches that,” the board editorialized.

Did Democratic candidates dupe voters?

iraqdemvote.jpgCal Thomas argues that Democrats committed fraud in telling voters in 2006 that they would end the war in Iraq. He points to a video of Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., in which he says Democrats “sort of stretched the facts” about their intention to end the war and bring troops home. Democrats have made several votes related to ending the war, which haven’t made it through the Senate or President Bush. But Thomas argues that if that Democratic lawmakers really meant what they told voters, they could have withheld funding for the war. Of course, Thomas is disingenuous in defending voters, as he supports the war and would be furious if Democratic lawmakers withheld funding. But what do you think? Were Democratic candidates dishonest? Should they withhold funding?

More pastor problems for Obama

obamaright.jpgThe Washington Post’s On Faith blog suggested the YouTube video of Father Michael Pfleger would do well in a “What Else Can We At Trinity Do to Further Assure that the United States Does Not Have its First African-American President Any Time Soon?” video competition. In the video, the Catholic priest claims that Hillary Clinton cried before the New Hampshire primary because she felt “entitled” because she is white “and there’s a black man stealing my show.” That’s the last message Barack Obama wants as he tries to court women and white voters. Obama responded that he is “deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn’t reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.”

Clintons have become old-school insiders

clintons“The irony for us old fogies with long memories is how Bill and Hillary Clinton used to be passionately idealistic antiwar baby boomers themselves. In George McGovern’s 1972 campaign, they opposed the old-school Democratic bosses in ‘smoke-filled rooms.’ Today the Clintons have become the old-school insiders fending off the insurgent antiwar campaign of the Illinois upstart, Sen. Barack Obama.” — Columnist Clarence Page, on the Clintons’ effort to change Democratic primary rules

Open thread 5/30

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Give a teenager a job

teenjobFor lots of people, learning basic work skills — showing up on time, following directions, completing tasks — began with a summer job as a teenager.

But many traditional summer jobs for teens, such as lawn mowing and restaurant work, have dried up in recent years. Only about one-third of teens ages 16 to 19 are expected to find work this summer, the lowest share in half a century. And the percentages are even lower for minority African-American and Hispanic youths.

This is a trend that should concern not only parents but Wichita’s civic and business leaders. We need to make sure that our teens are being connected to job, internship and volunteer opportunities.

Consider giving a teen a chance to work, learn and earn some money. It’s an investment in our city’s future.

Eat your fruits, veggies

fruitThe federal Women, Infants and Children program is meant to ensure a healthy diet for low-income women and children. So it’s never made much sense that the food vouchers can’t be used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, which nutritionists tout as pillars of a healthy diet.

It’s good news, then, that the state-administered WIC program is changing this rule to allow mothers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables with the money, beginning in late 2009. It’s also good that the program will provide more incentives for mothers to breast-feed babies, a practice with proven health benefits for children.

How to get people to watch debates

jeopardyWith talk of John McCain and Barack Obama scheduling a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates, why not try a really different approach? “Change the format to game shows,” wrote John Schwartz in the New York Times. He pondered the possibilities of debates in the style of “Family Feud,” “The Newlywed Game” and, of course, “Jeopardy” (“I’ll take ‘Sunnis Versus Shiites’ for $600, Alex”). As for the idea that such formats would cheapen discourse, he said: “Game shows, we know, test general knowledge, the ability to think on one’s feet and other qualities we look for in our leaders. What have the current round of debates tested, aside from the candidates’ ability to mold a question into an opportunity to deliver the same memorized talking points?”

Poor use of Cedar Crest

sebeliuslookingright3.jpgSo Wichita abortion provider George Tiller attended a reception in April 2007 at the governor’s mansion and posed for pictures with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who has long supported abortion rights. So what? At least so far, the facts contradict anti-abortion activists’ description of the event as a “lavish secret party” honoring Tiller.

As we said in our editorial today, “Of more concern is that Sebelius was willing to auction off party time in the Kansas governor’s mansion to benefit not a charity but a political group such as the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus, which supports pro-choice women candidates. Sebelius’ involvement with such causes is to be expected, but such use of the governor’s mansion isn’t.

“That does not mean, however, that Kansas needs a new law dictating how governors can use Cedar Crest.

The puzzlement is pervasive

mcclellan2.jpgCurrent and former Bush administration officials have their talking points down in responding to Scott McClellan’s new book. Actually, they have the talking word down: “puzzled.” It seems they are all “puzzled.”

“Of course, nobody’s really puzzled about anything,” Dana Milbank wrote for the Washington Post. “They’re peeved and perturbed. But they can’t admit that, so they have retreated to the practice — time-honored in the Bush White House — of discrediting your opponents by labeling their actions confusing and irrational.” McClellan shouldn’t be surprised. Milbank noted that McClellan regularly used the p-word when he was press secretary.

Americans driving less

trafficAmericans drove 11 billion fewer miles in March than a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation — the sharpest decline recorded since 1942.

Maybe it’s sinking in with consumers that gas isn’t going to get any cheaper and it’s time to conserve. Then again, check out this Eagle story that says local big truck and SUV sales are still going strong.

Open thread 5/29

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Clean coal good times?

coalplantThe oil industry is ramping up its “clean coal” ad campaign, observes Diane Silver, complete with Kool and the Gang singing “Celebration” — and all three presidential candidates seem to be buying the coal industry’s line that “technology will fix everything.”
But experts say carbon-capture technology is years away, and may never be viable, she notes. And the energy industry, one analyst says, is facing a “de facto moratorium on coal power.”

The good times for coal might be coming to an end.

Smoking should not be growth industry

smokingAs it’s become harder to find places to smoke over the past few years, more Kansans have smoked. At least that’s what seems to have happened, judging from a new Kansas Department of Health and Environment report. The number of adults who smoke cigarettes in Kansas rose from 17.8 percent in 2005 to 20 percent in 2006, after three years of declines. The increase is small statistically, but the reversal of the trend is significant — and should give lawmakers pause as they formally conclude the 2008 legislative session today without having passed a proposed statewide smoking ban or 50-cent cigarette-tax increase. Lawmakers should give both ideas another look next year. Meanwhile, the KDHE report suggests, 3,900 Kansans will die this year from smoking-related illnesses such as heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, bronchitis and oral cancer, as smoking-related Medicaid bills cost the state $196 million.

Obama’s concentration camp confusion

obamaIt’s hardly a good thing to confuse Buchenwald and Auschwitz, as Barack Obama did Monday in telling a story about a great-uncle, Charlie Payne, who helped liberate the former in 1945. (Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviets.) But is it a big, bad thing for his candidacy? Some Republicans jumped all over it as more evidence of his youth and inexperience. Many Americans would see it as evidence of Obama’s fatigue. People also should see it as a reminder to get a firm grasp on their family stories while World War II-era elders are still around to tell them.

Bush used propaganda campaign to sell war, spokesman says

mcclellan.jpgCritics have long charged that the Bush administration misled the public in making its case for war in Iraq. Now its own former spokesman is making the same allegation.

In his new book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” former White House press secretary Scott McClellan says that the administration sold the war using sophisticated “political propaganda campaign” and “downplaying the major reason for going to war,” the Washington Post reported.

“Over that summer of 2002,” McClellan wrote, “top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. . . . In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president’s advantage.”

Looking back on it now, what does McClellan think about the decision to go to war? “War should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary,” he wrote.

Public rejecting single-issue attacks

abortionprotestanti1.jpg“If there’s one issue that epitomizes the culture wars that have so deeply divided American politics over the last eight years, it’s abortion. That’s why those who benefited most from those wars are desperate to revive abortion’s single-issue virulence in this presidential cycle,” Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten wrote in response to Robert Novak’s recent column claiming that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is a “pro-choice poster girl.” Rutten called Novak a “redoubtable right-wing hit man” who gets his dubious allegations from the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. But, Rutten argued, the public is rejecting this divisive agenda. “One of the salutary characteristics of this election cycle,” he wrote, “is the way in which voters concerned with war and a failing economy have rejected single-issue appeals for the traditional American ‘politics of remedy.’”

Age of cheap gas is over

gaspricesarmleg.jpgWhen it comes to energy and gas prices, writes Robert Bryce in this interesting piece in Slate, Americans are living in a fantasyland.

Even at $4 a gallon, our gas prices are dirt-cheap compared with most developed countries. In England, motorists pay more than $8 per gallon of gas. In Norway, it’s $8.73 — and they’re an oil exporter.
Supply trends suggest it’s not going to get any cheaper.

“The simple truth is that Americans are going to have to get used to more expensive gasoline,” Bryce concludes.

Open thread 5/28

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Can Bush fill McCain’s coffers?

mccainbush.jpgThe next few days will test whether President Bush can be of fundraising service to John McCain, despite a presidential approval rating that just fell to a record low 23 percent in a Reuters/Zogby poll. Bush will raise money for the nominee-to-be at three events in Arizona and Utah this week. McCain certainly needs help of some kind, having raised $18.5 million in April as the Democratic rivals raised a combined $51.7 million. Bush also will pay a visit to Kansas Thursday to raise money for state Sen. Nick Jordan’s challenge of Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Lenexa.

Brownback among McCain’s guests

mccainbrownback.jpgOfficially, John McCain’s GOP gathering at his Sedona, Ariz., ranch over the weekend was social rather than political. “He barbecued ribs all night,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” But the event must have seemed like a weird version of “The Bachelor,” given that so many of the 20 or so guests are known to be contenders for the vice presidential spot, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Kansas’ Sen. Sam Brownback, as well as Graham. McCain is said to be a gas griller who keeps his baby-back pork ribs moist by brushing on lemon juice.

Clinton still on defense about RFK remark

Hillary Clinton is still on the defensive about her comment last week noting how Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in June. How could she think the comment wouldn’t raise concerns about Barack Obama being assassinated? Nearly 6 in 10 Americans (and more than 8 in 10 African-Americans) have worried that someone would try to harm Obama if he were the nominee, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken in March.

Clinton’s non-apology apology didn’t help: “I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive.” So it is other people’s fault if they thought the comment was inappropriate?

Meanwhile, speaking of inappropriate, here is a clip of a Fox News contributor who accidentally messed up Obama’s and Osama bin Laden’s names, then laughingly suggested that both of them should be knocked off. Ha, ha.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/BjYpkvcmog0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

‘Pro-choice poster girl’?

sebeliushandsup1.jpgIn a column headlined “A Vice President for Abortion,” Robert Novak discusses the Kansas City, Kan., archbishop’s recent rebuke of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in light of the talk that Barack Obama might pick her as his running mate, also mentioning Sebelius’ vetoes of abortion bills. “Kansas is the fiercest state battleground for abortion wars, making Kathleen Sebelius the national pro-choice poster girl,” he wrote.