Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

RNC Deja Vu

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

As Hurricane Isaac barreled its way up the Gulf Coast, the GOP was forced to cancel the first day of its Tampa-based 2012 nominating convention because of the whims of Mother Nature.

The storm brought back unwanted memories of 2008’’s Hurricane Gustav, which forced the Republicans to postpone the start of the convention that nominated John McCain for president  — a gathering that was held more than 1,000 miles away in St. Paul.  In fact, Gustav caused outgoing President George W. Bush to cancel his planned convention speech and stay in Washington, D.C., to monitor the storm‘s progress.

Republican strategists believe that the storm will limit the media coverage that the GOP receives to launch Romney.   “We are going to make sure that we monitor the storm as it proceeds,” said Russ Schriefer, a Romney adviser who is helping to produce the convention.  “Obviously, our first concern is for the people who are in the path of the storm.  We have a wait-and-see attitude.”  Monday’s streamlined program consisted of RNC chair Reince Priebus’ ceremonial rap of the gavel to a virtually empty convention hall.  The television networks, which planned just one hour a night of prime-time coverage, divided their attention between the convention and the storm.  An editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, referred to the gathering as “the incredible shrinking convention

The convention was more or less back to normal scheduling on Tuesday,  with the highlights expected to be prime-time speeches by Ann Romney and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Television programming on Monday night mostly reverted to the networks’ usual schedules.  According to Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief,  while the network hasn’’t moved any staff covering the convention out of Tampa to cover the storm, it plans to contrast the weather story with the political one.  “”You’’ll see us mixing both stories together, because they’’re both connected, and you’’ll see us covering both,” Feist said.  “We certainly can walk and chew gum at the same time.””

Writing in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank notes that “the RNC’’s Priebus contributed to the irrelevance with his seven-minute show on Monday.  He took the stage to tepid applause from a sparse crowd. “‘Wow!’ he said.  ‘It is my privilege to proclaim the 2012 Republican National Convention in session and called to order”,’ Priebus said.”

On a more serious note, the slow-moving Isaac — which hit the Crescent City as a Category 1 hurricane with heavy rain and winds up to 100 mph — is also likely to test the federal response to a natural disaster in the region on the seventh anniversary of the tragic Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans.  Although Tampa was spared the worst of Isaac’s wrath, landfall in Louisiana could create painful split-screen images of the convention juxtaposed with the hurricane.

AmeriCorps Funding Is on the Congressional Chopping Block

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Budget cutters on Capitol Hill are aiming their scissors at AmeriCorps, which was created in 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed into law the National Community Service Trust Act. With the stroke of a pen, Clinton created the Corporation for National and Community Service and brought domestic community service programs under a single umbrella organization.  This legislation built on the first National Service Act signed by President H.W. Bush in 1990 as part of his “Points of Light” campaign.  AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that engage Americans in a year of public service to meet the nation’s needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.

Writing in The New Republic, former AmeriCorps member Tiffany Stanley says “Now, 17 years after its creation, AmeriCorps is on the chopping block.  The most recent continuing resolution passed by the House would cut all federal funding for the agency that oversees the program, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), effectively wiping out AmeriCorps.  Ending the program would not only eliminate jobs for the 85,000 individuals who serve each year through AmeriCorps, it would also significantly burden organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America (TFA) and City Year that depend on AmeriCorps participants for their cost-effective labor.”

“This is potentially a devastating disaster, a civic tsunami,” said Karen Baker, California state Cabinet secretary for service and volunteering.  AmeriCorps is one of many programs targeted for cuts by the House of Representatives’ new Republican majority, which campaigned on a promise to slash spending in Washington.  The House’s conservative caucus, the Republican Study Committee, disagrees with the living stipends and education awards offered to AmeriCorps members.  “With the federal budget going $4.3 trillion — plus interest -=-into the red in just the last three years, paying people to ‘volunteer’ is not an appropriate use of taxpayer money,” caucus spokesman Brian Straessle wrote.  A House of Representatives spending bill approved in February cuts $1.15 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service, effectively shutting down the federal agency that operates AmeriCorps.

According to Stanley, AmeriCorps had much bipartisan support throughout its history.  “Perhaps the most objectionable element of the proposal is that many of the programs that AmeriCorps funds are exactly the kind that so-called compassionate conservatives are supposed to support,” she writes.  “Rather than offering a government hand-out, AmeriCorps-backed programs like Habitat for Humanity which require low-income recipients to work alongside volunteers.  (As Newt Gingrich once wrote:  ‘I am proud to work with Habitat for Humanity, which helps poor people build their own homes.’)  And, over the years, AmeriCorps’ efficacy has won over a host of conservatives, including John McCain and Colin Powell.”

Exactly what do AmeriCorps members do?  Stanley notes that “Corps members spend a year or two in the most blighted neighborhoods in America, serving in non-profits, social service agencies and community- and faith-based organizations.  They teach in schools, clean up parks, create affordable housing, and respond to natural disasters.  Last year, for example, 650 AmeriCorps members serving with Habitat for Humanity helped manage 200,000 volunteers, completing 3,500 houses.”

Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), the House Appropriations Chair, claims the cuts are necessary and will “weed out excessive, unnecessary and wasteful spending, making tough choices to prioritize programs based on their effectiveness.”  Considering that AmeriCorps attracts more than $800 million annually from private and non-federal resources, Stanley says that its proven results and sound funding hardly makes it “excessive” or “wasteful.”

A Boston Globe editorial also questions cutting the AmeriCorps program.  “Beyond that, the national service program has become an incubator for initiatives — in areas ranging from housing to urban education –promising a more entrepreneurial, participatory approach to addressing public needs.  This kind of innovation should appeal to budget-conscious lawmakers, even if it involves some up-front expense.  The national service agency mobilizes more than five million Americans — mostly unpaid volunteers — who fan out into schools, food banks, senior developments, homeless shelters, and other areas in need of experienced hands.  Some Republicans look askance at the modest stipends offered by some of the service programs.  AmeriCorps members, for example, scrape by on about $12,000 in living expenses during their year of service.  What Republicans ignore is that each AmeriCorps member is expected to recruit 30 or more unpaid volunteers.  And that the commitment to public service lasts long after the stipend disappears.  Thankfully, many senior Republicans, including former President George W. Bush, have stepped forward to defend it as a means of leveraging Americans’ community spirit.  Even in a time of deficits, when all acknowledge that some worthy programs will have to be cut, the agency looks completely out of place on the chopping block.”

Economy Grows 3.3 Percent During 2Q

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Contrary to the recent grim news about home foreclosures, bank failures, the credit crunch, rising unemployment rates, soaring oil prices, inflation and stock-market jitters, the United States’ economy — surprisingly — grew by 3.3 percent during the second quarter of 2008.

The economy grew at its fastest pace in nearly a year, thanks primarily to foreign buyers purchasing inexpensive U.S. exports, as well as the tax rebates that sent Americans on a shopping spree.

According to Commerce Department statistics, the GDP increased at a 3.3 annual rate from April through June.  This revised statistic represents a significant improvement over the initial 1.9 percent estimate, and exceeded economists’ expectations of a 2.7 percent growth rate.

The rebound was welcome news after two grim quarters.  The economy contracted during the last three months of 2007, and registered a feeble 0.9 percent growth rate during the 1st quarter of 2008.  Spring’s 3.3 percent performance was the best result since the third quarter of 2007, when the economy grew by an impressive 4.8 percent.

Still, the good news is something of a fluke.  The economy is still quite fragile, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who recently warned that the weakness will remain throughout 2008.  Analysts expect the economy to hit another pothole during the 4th quarter, once the glow of the tax rebates dims.  Additionally, exports could decline if other nations experience similarly slowing economies.

Add presidential politics into the mix.  Democratic nominee Barack Obama favors a second government-stimulus package, while Republican John McCain supports free trade and other business measures to energize the economy.  With less than two months remaining until the election, the candidates are certain to have a lot more to say on how they plan to energize the economy.

Branding the Candidates

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

As an avid follower of presidential politics since the age of six, this year’s protracted primary process has been interesting.  The talking heads’ endless dissection of every policy statement; speculation as to which of the all-powerful super-delegates will back whom; the endless round of debates; the questions of who made the best impression.  One of the more interesting stories behind the story was National Public Radio’s (NPR) look at how the candidates have branded themselves.  Reporter Scott Horsley portrayed the Barack Obama brand as an accidental (McDonald’s was mentioned) franchise that harnessed activists’ energy and got them “fired up and ready to go”.  The catalyst was a 2006 chance meeting between Obama and a Texas community activist named David Kobeirowski, who was planning to start a book club to discuss “The Audacity of Hope”.  Obama approved of the idea, saying, “David, that is fantastic.  This is the kind of grassroots spirit I want to have all over the country.”  In effect, NPR reported, Kobierowski had become a Barack Obama franchisee – not a paid staffer, but an independent booster, acting with Obama’s blessing.According to Horsley, “Harnessing that kind of energy is one way for a start-up enterprise to quickly establish a national presence – whether they are selling hamburgers or Obama’s health care policy.”  The signature “O” logo has become a recognizable symbol – similar to interstate signs for franchise hotels and fast-food chains.  Next up was John McCain’s roller-coaster campaign, which has survived more ups and downs than the stock market.  According to NPR correspondent David Kestenbaum, McCain “started out as big and powerful before nearly going out of business.  Now he finds himself in the forefront again.  Business professors compare his campaign to products such as Apple computers or the Mars Bar, which have had similar boom-and-bust business patterns.”  The McCain candidacy – like the Mac computer – is perceived as a maverick.  Says David Brady, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of political science at Stanford University, the Mac computer “is never mainstream, in the sense that it doesn’t sell as many computers as Dell or HP, but they’ve got a nice loyal following.”  The same can be said of John McCain.  In NPR’s final report on presidential candidate branding, David Kestenbaum noted that the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign comes across as a well-established national brand – but with a difference.  Clinton had a definite advantage coming into the race, having spent eight years in the White House as First Lady, as well as eight years in the Senate.  Like on “Cheers”, everybody knew her name.  Susan Jung Grant, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, posits that if Bill Clinton is an established brand such as Lay’s Potato Chips, then “Senator Clinton could be sour cream and chive potato chips.  It’s the idea of a flanking brand that’s a little bit different from the main category.”  While an established brand can be perceived as hackneyed because of overexposure, an innovative variation can energize the candidate’s image and increase the appeal to consumers.  So which brand are the American people buying?  Stay tuned.