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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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April 17, 2008 5:31 PM

Former HP CEO stumps for McCain

Posted by David Postman

Former Hewlett Packard chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina, one of this year’s political celebrities, says Sen. John McCain has an opportunity to become 2008’s high-tech candidate.

That plays against type, I think, given the Clinton/Gore political bloodlines that successfully wooed much of the technology industry. But Fiorina, in Seattle today, said McCain has long supported key issues for the industry, including more visas for foreign workers, making a federal research and development tax break permanent, banning Internet sales taxes and opposing increases to the capital gains rate.

“I find it amazing the Democrats are proposing to double the capital gains tax rate,” she said. “Stock options are a critical part of what makes Silicon Valley go.”

In March, the Republican National Committee named Fiorina “Victory Chairman” for 2008. That covers the RNC’s presidential fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts. She is a major surrogate for McCain on the campaign trail.

In recent weeks, McCain’s campaign has stressed his economic policies. But given that there is a looming recession in the final year of the Bush administration, doesn’t conventional wisdom say that the party in power will take the blame from worried voters?

I think you’d agree the conventional wisdom in this election has consistently been wrong. The conventional wisdom was that John McCain could never win the nomination. Secondly, I think what John McCain can do is continue to do what he is focused on in the last few weeks and talk to the American people about what he thinks is going on in the economy and what he intends to do to strengthen the economy. …

I’d put his understanding of the economy up against Obama’s or Clinton’s any time.

Fiorina said part of that economic plan is to maintain the Bush administration’s free trade policies. She said that provides a huge opportunity for McCain at a time when “Democrats are becoming so protectionist in their language.”

“They have blocked the approval of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which is a terrible step backwards,” she said. Free trade, she said, has been good for the high-tech industry and lowers prices for American consumers. But she said “companies have to be strong enough to compete.”

McCain supports retraining programs and other aid because he recognizes that some workers are hurt by free trade, she said.

But you can’t roll up the borders. As history demonstrates, becoming protectionist is one sure way to tip a recession into a depression.

McCain and Fiorina first connected in 2000 when the then-HP exec was lobbying for more visas for foreign tech workers. She thinks McCain has a moderate view on immigration.

I think Senator McCain won the primary because the voters rejected the extreme policies on immigration that some in the Republican Party were putting forward. John McCain has been very forthright in saying, ‘America is a country of immigrants, that immigration is important to our vitality and our prosperity as a nation. But he also believes we have to be a nation of laws so we have to know who is coming to the country. We can’t have a border that is totally open and we have to deal with people who come here and break the law.

I told Fiorina that there was plenty of commentary that suggested McCain strengthened his hand in the Republican primary season by getting tougher on immigration, not by sticking to his moderate position that was proven unpopular among the base.

She said that “when someone like Tom Tancredo is rejected as strongly as he was”, that is evidence Republicans were rejecting the extreme position.

This is highest political profile Fiorina has ever had. And it’s not all about McCain. In California she is talked about as a possible candidate for governor. And she is increasingly mentioned as a possible member of a McCain cabinet, or even as vice president on the McCain ticket.

I had read enough of her polite demurrals on those subjects not to ask whether she wants to be vice president - that’s up to McCain - or any other job in the future. (The job now is to get McCain elected.) But I did ask if all that talk becomes a distraction.

It’s only a distraction if people ask about it. And usually people ask once and they go on to the real meat.

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April 17, 2008 4:06 PM

What'd you think of last night's debate?

Posted by David Postman

I missed the broadcast of last night’s Clinton/Obama debate. I feel bad about that because it appears I missed a real important event in the annals of television. This stinker will be talked about for years, just like that episode of the Newlywed Game everyone over 40 claims to have seen.

Really, someone asked about American flag pins? ABC let that question on the air? For those of you who are routinely frustrated by my lack of opinions on the news, let me say this clearly: I don’t care about American flag pins. I didn’t care when news ethicists were unhappy that newscasters sported them post-9/11 and I don’t care which politicians wear them or don’t wear them or wear them on the wrong lapel, or whether female politicians wear big, bejeweled, American flags, or not. I wouldn’t care if the flag pins waved themselves and sang God Bless America. In fact, this may be one of my deepest held beliefs. I put effort into not caring. I can exhaust myself not caring.

ABC headlines the story, “Fight night in Philly,” so the network got what it wanted. But the hardest punches come in the 16,778 comments posted by readers at the ABC News Web site. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos both come in for a pummeling. (And why didn’t Obama say anything during the debate about Stephanopoulos’ time with the Clintons? He could have started an answer with something like, “Well George, as you surely know from years working for the Clintons …”)

For a different take, see also where debate reaction is the top story with 100 comments.

The story that lead ABC’s Web site a few minutes ago was headlined, Clinton: ‘No whining from Hillary.’

"When I watched that debate last night, I got kinda tickled," the former President said at an American Legion Hall event in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania. "After the [debate], her opponents', oh, the people working were saying, 'Oh this is so negative, why are they doing this.' Well they've been beatin' up on her for 15 months. I didn't hear her whining when he said she was untruthful in Iowa or called her the senator from Punjab."

Stephanopoulos told The Associated Press:

The questions were tough and fair and appropriate and relevant. We wanted to focus at first on the issues that were not focused on during the last debates.

It’s enough to make me miss the snowman.

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April 17, 2008 11:20 AM

Dems say Sound Transit art is culturally insensitive

Posted by David Postman

Capitol Hill Democrats don’t want a New York artist’s kissing warplanes sculpture at their local Sound Transit station. The 43rd District Democrats passed a resolution this week protesting artist Mike Ross’ proposed hanging sculpture that would feature chopped and pink-painted fighter jets.

The Democrats say there “are many more culturally sensitive themes for public art in Sound Transit's Capitol Hill station instead of warplanes.” The resolution also said that given that the neighborhood is a “major hub of artistic activity,” Sound Transit should hire a local artist to decorate the planned underground station.

Janice Van Cleve, a precinct committee officer and coordinator, said that people also will send letters and e-mails “protesting the cultural insensitivity of Sound Transit to the Capitol Hill neighborhood.”

When the proposal was unveiled, Ross said he would arrange the planes in “a non-aggressive way” that would show two fuselages sort of kissing in the air.

How loud a message can the 43rd Democrats send? Well, their dislike of the Pledge of Allegiance has traveled far.

The Stranger’s Eli Sanders wrote earlier this month about the district caucus.

At the mere mention of doing the pledge there were groans and boos. Then, when the district chair put the idea of doing the Pledge of Allegiance up to a vote, it was overwhelmingly voted down. One might more accurately say the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag (of which there was only one in the room, by the way, on some delegate’s hat) was shouted down.

This week, that anecdote led the Sunday column of Jack Kelly, who writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

Kelly used it, with a mention that it is home to Congressman Jim McDermott, as a piece of evidence of what he says is the Democrat’s wrong-headed approach to the world. Other examples cited by Kelly included former President Jimmy Carter’s planned trip to Syria and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s move that stopped a vote last week on a free trade agreement with Colombia.

I'm not questioning the Democrats' patriotism. (They're doing a fine job of that all by themselves.) But Democrats do exhibit a disturbing tendency to subordinate the national interest to narrow partisan interests.

Wow, from Pennsylvania our little 43rd Democrats look as important as the House Speaker and a former president.

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April 17, 2008 7:48 AM

Clinton's new-found populism

Posted by David Postman

I wrote the other day about Hillary Clinton's new-found optimism in the United States. Well, it turns out that her love of regular folk may be something new, too. This is from the Huffington Post:

In January 1995, as the Clintons were licking their wounds from the 1994 congressional elections, a debate emerged at a retreat at Camp David. Should the administration make overtures to working class white southerners who had all but forsaken the Democratic Party? The then-first lady took a less than inclusive approach.

"Screw 'em," she told her husband. "You don't owe them a thing, Bill. They're doing nothing for you; you don't have to do anything for them."

The statement -- which author Benjamin Barber witnessed and wrote about in his book, "The Truth of Power: Intellectual Affairs in the Clinton White House" -- was prompted by another speaker raising the difficulties of reaching "Reagan Democrats." It stands in stark contrast to the attitude the New York Democrat has recently taken on the campaign trail, in which she has presented herself as the one candidate who understands the working-class needs.

The Clinton campaign says the quote was taken out of context.

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Recent entries

Apr 17, 08 - 05:31 PM
Former HP CEO stumps for McCain

Apr 17, 08 - 04:06 PM
What'd you think of last night's debate?

Apr 17, 08 - 11:20 AM
Dems say Sound Transit art is culturally insensitive

Apr 17, 08 - 07:48 AM
Clinton's new-found populism







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