Grapes from Thorns

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Montana Standard weighs in for Obama

My home state of Montana nearly joined the rest of the progressive West in the Obama tidal wave this year. It was heartening to see that my former newspaper, The Montana Standard in Butte, weighed in with a fine endorsement of Obama. Way to go Standard Staffers, and especially my friend Roberta Stauffer, the chief author of the piece:

Obama is best choice for president

By Roberta Stauffer - 11/02/2008
Montana is a toss-up in this year's presidential election race, which makes it more important than ever to get to the polls on Tuesday, if you haven't already voted by absentee ballot.The stakes are high, with challenges looming at all levels of government, but no race is more important than the battle for the presidency. And it's been a bonafide battle, unfortunately, one that's grown more mean-spirited with each passing week.The candidate who has remained the most level-headed and diplomatic through the storms of accusations hurled is the man we at The Standard believe is best suited to lead the United States through the tough years ahead.

Time after time, Sen. Barack Obama has demonstrated his intelligence, his grasp of the issues and his sincere desire to make a break with past failed policies and move this country in a new direction.Domestically, that means pushing policies aimed at strengthening the middle class, which is the unquestioned locomotive of America's economy. For the last eight years, statistics show the rich are richer and the middle class is shrinking. From tax policy to health care, education to energy plans, Obama aims to empower Americans to help ourselves and restore some semblance of balance between corporate interests and average citizens.On the international front, Obama intends to redeem America in the eyes of a world still reeling over the fact that the United States invaded a sovereign nation six years ago based on highly questionable motives. Among other things, he has pledged to support our troops by bringing them home from Iraq as quickly as possible and to redouble efforts to track down Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, which remains alive and well in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Never before has America seen a candidate like Obama, who actually spent some of his formative childhood years overseas and is himself the product of a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, raised mainly by maternal grandparents in Hawaii. He is an Everyman in many respects, and he got to where he is today largely because of his work ethic, his intellect and his charisma. Our country needs that combination of qualities in our president now more than ever.And we in southwest Montana have been fortunate this past year to have actually hosted Obama on two separate occasions. We heard him outline his plans and hopes in real time; many of us shook his hand, conversed with him, even sang "Happy Birthday" to his daughter on the Fourth of July.Of course visits to Butte are not reason to vote for Obama, but the fact that he felt an instant kinship with this Democratic stronghold, that he decided to visit a second time and bring along his family, created a unique tie to this candidate, the likes of which we haven't seen in a long while, if ever.Sen. John McCain's campaign seems to have assumed it had Montana all wrapped up, which may prove to be a fatal mistake.

The Republican candidate's absence has been particularly conspicuous in contrast to the intense presence of Obama and his team. Montanans are independent-minded free thinkers who don't like to be taken for granted.Most all Americans agree that McCain is a great American, but that in itself is not sufficient qualification for the presidency. McCain is not George Bush, as Obama suggests, but McCain has failed to demonstrate where he is significantly different. Also, his age is a concern, given the demanding nature of the job. And he showed poor judgment in choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate. She simply is not qualified to be the vice president of the United States, let alone the president, should the need arise.Obama, on the other hand, demonstrated sound judgment in choosing Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

The two men's backgrounds and strengths complement one another well, and Biden, himself a former candidate for the presidency, does have the background and experience to assume the lead role if duty were to call. It's that kind of thoughtful, well- considered decision-making ability that we sorely need in our next president, who will be called upon to undo the damage wrought by Bush, the self-proclaimed "Decider." Obama's well-organized campaign itself has been a tour de force, engaging and exciting voters, especially young people, like never before. In Montana alone, the Obama campaign has set up 19 offices and enlisted the help of more than 14,000 volunteers. Change is in the air, and although hard times lie ahead no matter who our next president will be, Obama has proven he has the energy and the skills to lead us.

As the Washington Post said in its endorsement, "Obama has the potential to become a great president. Given the enormous problems he would confront from his first day in office, and the damage wrought over the past eight years, we would settle for very good." So would we.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist, wrote this today in his New York Times blog:

"What I mean by that is that for the past 14 years America’s political life has been largely dominated by, well, monsters. Monsters like Tom DeLay, who suggested that the shootings at Columbine happened because schools teach students the theory of evolution. Monsters like Karl Rove, who declared that liberals wanted to offer "therapy and understanding" to terrorists. Monsters like Dick Cheney, who saw 9/11 as an opportunity to start torturing people.
And in our national discourse, we pretended that these monsters were reasonable, respectable people. To point out that the monsters were, in fact, monsters, was "shrill."

Krugman is exactly right.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama rally at U. of Cincinnati stadium

On Sunday night, Obama came to the University of Cincinnati's Nippert football stadium. Nearly 30,000 folks turned out for him. Included me and my friends Mary Sue and Debby. It was great fun. Obama gave a great speech and had the crowd roaring its support. Ohio's Democratic Governor Ted Strickland gave a good warmup speech as did several Democratic candidates for office. Returning here to Cincinnati on the next to last night of the campaign shows how important Ohio is. Here's hoping it is enough.

"The Boss" stumps for Obama

Bruce Springsteen throwing his support behind Barack:

I've spent 35 years writing about America and its people--what does it mean to be an American, what's our duties and our responsibilities, what are our reasonable expectations when we live in a free society. I really never saw myself as partisan but more as an advocate for a set of ideas: economic and social justice, America as a positive influence around the world, truth, transparency, and integrity in government, the right of every American to have a job, a living wage, to be educated in a decent school, and to a life filled with the dignity of work, promise and the sanctity of home. These are the things that make a life. These are the things that build and define a society. I think that these are the things we think of on the deepest level when we think about our freedoms. But today those freedoms have been damaged and curtailed by 8 years of a thoughtless, reckless, and morally adrift administration. But we're at the crossroads today.
I've spent most of my life as a musician measuring the distance in my music between the American Dream and the American reality. I look around today and for many Americans who are losing their jobs or their homes or seeing their retirement funds disappear or their health care, or have been abandoned in their inner cities, the distance between that dream and that reality has grown greater and more painful than ever.
I believe that Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his own work. And I believe that he understands in his heart the cost of that distance in blood and in suffering in the lives of everyday Americans. And I believe as President he'll work to bring that promise back to life and into the lives of so many of our fellow Americans who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning.
Now, in my job I travel around the world and I occasionally play to big stadiums or crowds like this, just like Senator Obama does. And I continue to find out that wherever I go, America remains a repository for people's hopes, their desires; it remains a house of dreams. And a thousand George Bushes and a thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down. That's something that only we can do, and we're not going to let that happen.
This administration will be leaving office--that's the good news. The bad news is they're going to be dumping in our laps the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis. Our house of dreams has been abused, it's been looted, and it's been left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power, for influence, or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, strong hearts, strong minds. We need someone with Senator Obama's understanding, his temperateness, his deliberativeness, his maturity, his pragmatism, his toughness, and his faith.
But most of all it needs us. It needs you and it needs me, and he's gonna need us. 'Cause all that a nation has that keeps it from coming apart is the social contract between us, between its citizens. And whatever grace God has decided to impart to us, it resides in us, it resides in our connection with one another. In honoring the life and the hopes and the dreams of the man or the woman up the street or across town--that's where we make our small claim upon heaven.
Now in recent years, that social contract's been shredded. Look around today and you can see it shredding before our eyes. But tonight and today we are at the crossroads. We are at the crossroads, and it's been a long long long time coming.
I'm honored to be here on the same stage as Senator Obama. From the beginning, there's been something in Senator Obama that's called upon our better angels, and I suspect it's because he's had a life where he's had to so often call upon his better angels. And we're going to need all the angels we can get on the hard road ahead. So Senator Obama, help us rebuild our house, big enough for the dreams from all our citizens. 'Cause how well we accomplish this task will tell us just what it does mean to be an American in the new century, what the stakes are, and what it means to live in a free society.
So I don't know about you, but I know I want my country back, I want my dream back, I want my America back. Now is the time to stand with Barack Obama, and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising.