Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Republican National Committee has put out a new ad (in Spanish) promoting John McCain's work in immigration "reform":

Title: "Commitment V. Rhetoric"

How do you know someone is a friend?

You know because they stand up and defend you when it is hard.

When Hispanics needed a friend in Congress during the immigration debate... Who stood up? Who spoke out?

John McCain.

Senator McCain worked with Republicans and Democrats alike to form immigration legislation.

And while the bill didn't pass, only McCain demonstrated a real commitment to reforming immigration in a way that honored our laws as well as our immigrants and traditions.

And Barack Obama?

Obama did not stand up. Obama did not speak out. And when the time came for him to do the right thing, he did not.

Obama supported measures designed to insert a deadly "poison pill" to kill the immigration legislation.

If Obama didn't even have the courage to stand up for immigrants, how can he claim to have the strength to change the way Washington works?

John McCain is ready to lead. Barack Obama is not.

There are a lot of vague charges and statements here. This ad seems to be conflating support of McCain-Kennedy-style immigration bills with friendship with "Hispanics." Does this imply that opponents of such bills are not "friends" of "Hispanics"? If so, it's pretty critical of many of McCain's fellow Republicans (and some Democrats) in the US Senate.

This ad's assertion is also troubled by the fact that the "Hispanic" community in fact has a variety of opinions about immigration and immigration reform and that there is considerable controversy within that community about some of the key provisions of bills like McCain-Kennedy. For example, according to a Pew poll last year, only 9% of "Hispanics" believe that there are too few immigrants (42% believe that there are too many), but most "comprehensive" bills would lead to an increase in the number of immigrants.

After biding his time, Barack Obama has picked Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. Many analysts seem to think that Biden would be able to fulfill the "attack dog" capacity of the VP candidate.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Wall Street Journal and Hot Air are picking up on some recent comments by Obama on a "single-payer" health care plan (as is found in Canada, for example):

“If I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system,” Obama told some 1,800 people at a town-hall style meeting on the economy.

A single-payer system would eliminate private insurance companies and put a Medicare-like system into place where the government pays all health-care bills with tax dollars.


Obama’s health-care plan aims for universal coverage by offering a new government-run marketplace where Americans could buy insurance, mostly from private plans. He would offer subsidies to individuals and to small business owners that offer their workers coverage. His plan also would require that parents get insurance for their kids. And he aims to lower health-care costs to make coverage more affordable. His plan includes one small step toward single payer. His new marketplace would create a new government-run plan, like Medicare, to compete against the private plans.

But Obama repeated that he rejects an immediate shift to a single-payer system. “Given that a lot of people work for insurance companies, a lot of people work for HMOs. You’ve got a whole system of institutions that have been set up,” he said at a roundtable discussion with women Monday morning after a voter asked, “Why not single payer?”

“People don’t have time to wait,” Obama said. “They need relief now. So my attitude is let’s build up the system we got, let’s make it more efficient, we may be over time—as we make the system more efficient and everybody’s covered—decide that there are other ways for us to provide care more effectively.”

Obama's said things like this before about single-payer health care as an ideal system (witness this January 2008 dust-up between him and the Clinton campaign). While Obama isn't saying that he wants to immediately implement a single-payer system, he also seems to be indicating that he doesn't mind working towards that end; short-term political changes pave the way for other changes.
This focus on incremental change is a key theme of the Obama campaign, perhaps as a legacy of his community organizing. It also allows him to keep his options open for longer-term planning. Will he ultimately work to implement single-payer health care? Maybe. Would he work to ban handguns? Well, he thinks that banning them now is "not politically practicable." Circumstances can change, and, when you have the power of the presidency, you can change a lot of circumstances.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's tough being an incumbent (Republican) in Alaska: This USA Today story talks about the challenges faced by Republican senators across the country. It mentions how the recent corruption charges against Alaska Senator Ted Stevens have increased his seat's vulnerability to Democratic challenger Mark Begich. According to these poll numbers, it looks like both Stevens and GOP Rep. Don Young could be in significant trouble.
Alaska's primary elections occur on August 26. Right now, Stevens leads his closest Republican challenger, Dave Cuddy, 63-20, but he would also lose to Begich by 17 points; Begich leads 55-38. The upcoming elections might be tough for Don Young, too. He only leads his closest GOP challenger (Alaska Lt. Governor Sean Parnell) by about 5 points and would lose to Democrat Ethan Berkowitz by about 10: 51-41. Parnell, however, leads Berkowitz 46-41, so his defeat of Young in the GOP primary may improve Republicans' hopes of holding on to Alaska's only seat in the House.