News release on voter rolls gets it wrong
A recent news release caught our attention. The bold-faced headline: “Study Finds Oklahoma, Other States Possibly Purging Millions of Voters in Secret, Often Erroneously.” Just below, the text said Oklahoma was among a dozen states that do a questionable job purging voters, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Juicy stuff. But also wrong. Turns out Oklahoma was not among the dirty dozen. Apparently the PR firm that e-mailed the news release got some of their “O” states mixed up (Ohio and Oregon were on the list). The firm e-mailed a corrected version of the news release, and also called state Election Board Secretary Michael Clingman to apologize for the mistake. For the record, Oklahoma purges voter rolls within a few months of each November election held in even-numbered years. In early 2009, the election board will remove the names of those who haven’t voted in any local or state election in the past six years. The last purge, in early ’07, involved about 90,000 names from a list of 2.1 million registered voters.
The biggest questions coming into the vice-presidential debate had little to do with Democratic nominee Joe Biden. After a rough few weeks, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was on the spot — to show whether she could make coherent arguments and handle hard questions off the top of her head. Frankly, Palin had to prove she could get through 90 minutes with someone like Biden without making an embarrassing mistake. Palin did fine. More than fine, actually. She nimbly dodged questions beyond her depth and repeatedly used language, mannerisms and overall body language to connect with average Americans. She speaks the language of America. She didn’t seem afraid, engaged the more experienced Biden and scored some points. She wasn’t as specific as Biden, but she easily exceeded the low expectations set for her before the debate. Biden deserves credit. He performed as a 35-year member of the Senate should in such a setting. He was gracious toward Palin, kept his focus on criticizing Republican John McCain and pretty much did what he had to do in the debate. Game changer for McCain-Palin? Who knows? But certainly Sarah Palin answered many questions about her poise, presence and command that will serve her well going forward.
The debate shifts to foreign policy, and both candidates make points for themselves and their respective presidential candidates. Joe Biden gets sidetracked arguing about whether Barack Obama did or didn’t vote against funding for the troops in Iraq. Sarah Palin has her best line of the evening to this point, looking at Biden and declaring that Obama and Biden are “waving the white flag” with their plan for troop withdrawals. Palin’s answer about Iran as a nuclear threat, while vague, ends well by saying the regime can’t be allowed to acquire nukes, “period.” Palin hits Obama for his declaration to meet enemy leaders without preconditions, calling it “bad judgment” and “dangerous.” Biden rises to the challenge, saying America’s allies want the U.S. to “talk, talk, talk” to adversaries. Biden is effective criticizing U.S. policy in the Middle East, and Palin lets it go. At one point Biden appears to try to bait Palin into specifics on how John McCain’s policies would be different from the Bush administration’s on the Middle East and Pakistan, but moderator Gwen Ifill changes the question. Palin scores well after a long, winding Biden explanation of the ins and outs of Senate voting procedures by smiling and saying average Americans just want straight answers from politicians.
Joe Biden is strong where you’d expect him to be strong: facts, figures and statistics. Sarah Palin is sticking to big-picture themes of battling corruption and abuse, getting government on the side of average Americans. Both are punching through pretty well at the presidential candidates. Palin at times seems like she’s delivering from a script, but she’s making sense and doesn’t seem rattled. She’s giving brief answers to moderator Gwen Ifill’s questions and then getting in the points she wants to make even if they don’t have much to do with the original question
Just looking at the style points early in the vice presidential debate. Both are doing well, but Palin seems especially on her game. She talks the language of regular Americans and is looking straight into the television camera, talking to that audience. Which makes sense. Her troubles recently in set-piece interviews with the broadcast networks have cut into the wide appeal she enjoyed when her candidacy was announced. So she’s working to re-establish that rapport with a confident, straight-ahead style. Biden is smooth and cool but seems to be talking mostly to Gwen Ifill, the moderator.
Will it be two against one?
There’s a flurry of online commentary over whether Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate moderator, Gwen Ifill of PBS, should excuse herself — or be excused — from the assignment for authoring a book extolling Barack Obama and a number of other black politicians. “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” is scheduled to come out in January. Certainly, the title suggests Ifill’s leanings in the presidential race and had some Republicans asking that she be replaced at the debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. But not GOP nominee John McCain, who told Fox News that while Ifill’s book is problematic, he’s confident she’ll do a professional job. Still, it’s hard to believe that if the roles were reversed — if Ifill or anyone else moderating one of the debates — had a book due out praising McCain, the protests would be deafening. But Ifill’s not going to be replaced, and Republicans shouldn’t demand it. With all the attention given her book, Ifill would be nuts to do anything but play things right down the middle in St. Louis.
More nonsense from U.S. House
Here’s how skewed the thinking on free trade has become in the U.S. House of Representatives. This week the House unanimously approved a bill extending an agreement letting Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador ship their goods to the United States duty-free. Meanwhile, a new free trade agreement opening Colombia’s markets to American products remains locked away by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Go figure: We’ll keep our markets open to imports from Colombia and the others, a couple of which often aren’t very good neighbors, but we’ll keep the door closed to U.S. exports that could be gaining new markets in Colombia. All because free trade is a convenient whipping boy for Democrats in an election year. The other point is noting who continues to get the stiff arm from congressional Democrats. Colombia wants closer ties to the United States and is a democratic bulwark in a region where America’s friends are few. Makes little sense. That’s politics.
AG loses on two fronts
There were two pieces of bad news this week for Attorney General Drew Edmondson. The first came Monday when a federal judge in Tulsa rejected Edmondson’s bid for an injunction to stop the spread of poultry litter inside the Illinois River watershed. Judge Gregory K. Frizzell said the state hadn’t made its case that the litter, which is used as fertilizer, needed to be banned because it threatened human health. Later in the week, the Tulsa World reported that the amount of litter used in the watershed actually increased this year. One reason? The AG’s move to ban it. Farmers “just panicked” and “ended up probably using more litter in the watershed than they would have initially planned to over the last season,” Sherri Herron with the nonprofit BMPs Inc. told the World. “They were afraid that they might not get to use it again.” The law of unintended consequences at it again.