October 2008

Franken: Hearings on the bailout, now

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Told you so, Al Franken said.

The DFL Senate candidate, speaking at a flower shop in St. Paul, called on Congress today to hold hearings immediately — this week if possible — to strengthen guidelines and oversight of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.

The New York Times is reporting that, quite apart from using the federal infusion of funds to unfreeze the lending market, some banks seem intent on using the money to buy up failing banks or as a backstop in the event of more bad news.

That’s an outrage, said Franken, who has said he would have rejected the bailout package because he felt it was rushed into law and didn’t adequately protect the taxpayers it was designed to help.

“Taxpayer dollars should be helping taxpayers, not going to pad the bottom lines of the Wall Street bankers whose bad bets got us into this mess. This is exactly why we should never have passed this bill without proper accountability,” Franken said.

In addition to immediate hearings, Franken called on the Bush administration to detail its plans for the bailout dollars, a guarantee that banks will use the funds for lending, and revoking Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s power to implement the plan without explaining how it helps taxpayers.

Interestingly, Franken spoke for about 20 minutes without once mentioning the name Norm Coleman — who voted for the bailout, along with DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. It might have been awkward to point a finger at Coleman when so many prominent Democrats also gave their assent to the bill.

Franken, who was campaigning Tuesday with Klobuchar, said they talked about the problem of using bailout money for acquisitions.

Congress, he said, “made a judgment that they need to do something quickly,” but that made the need for close oversight even more important. He said it’s too late to rescind the legislation, but that it should be reviewed and rewritten.

Mark Drake, communications director for the Coleman campaign, responded this way:

“The Senator did what his opponent was unwilling to do. He voted to get credit and capital flowing back into the marketplace. The sole purpose of the stabilization package was to unfreeze the credit markets in order to ensure that capital flows through our economy. Hoarding capital or using it to buy banks wasn’t Congress’ intent, which is why Senator Coleman has demanded the Treasury Department ensure that these funds are used as directed by Congress.”

Help out with blog research

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Researchers at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D., are conducting a study of political blogging, including looking at people who read and/or post comments on blogs. The Star Tribune’s Politically Connected site — specifically, the Big Question — is one they are including in their study, and they’ve asked us to post this reader survey. If you have a few minutes, we’d appreciate it if you’d answer this questionnaire.

You can simply post your response. Or, if you prefer to keep your responses private, send them in an e-mail to: DeeSleep@bhsu.edu

Thanks in advance for your help. Here’s the survey.

1. How long have you been blogging?
2. Why do you blog?
3. What kinds of issues do you blog on the most?
4. How often do you visit the political blog at this news site?
5. Have you learned anything from your participation in blogging? Yes/No
6. If you have learned by blogging, what? If not, why not?
7. Do you blog at other news sites, too?
8. If you blog at other news sites, how many do you blog at regularly?
9. What are the names of these other blog sites?
10. Do you find yourself blogging more on political topics in the past few weeks/months (in 2008) than ever before?

Endgame — sans Minnewisowa?

Monday, October 27th, 2008

For Minnesota’s political junkies, the party’s almost certainly over.

But it was fun while it lasted.

Eight days out from the Nov. 4 election, it’s highly unlikely that either Barack Obama or John McCain will return to a state that both campaigns have long targeted as one of the most cherished prizes of the 2008 campaign. Nor are they likely to return to Iowa and Wisconsin, the other two-thirds of the Electoral College trifecta known as Minnewisowa.

That these states should suddenly find themselves in the rearview mirrors of the campaigns can be explained by simple math: As Obama’s lead has consistently swelled nationwide and in a surprisingly large number of battleground states, McCain’s route to grabbing the magic number of 270 electoral votes has severely narrowed.

In essence, it appears he has no choice but to train nearly all of his firepower on the states President Bush carried four years ago. Several political commentators have zeroed in on the strategic structure of this endgame, but a good summation was published in today’s New York Times. Bottom line: Both candidates “are heading into the final week of the presidential campaign planning to spend nearly all their time in states that President Bush won last time, testimony to the increasingly dire position of Mr. McCain and his party as Election Day approaches.”

That’s one reason analysts were scratching their heads about McCain’s decision to spend Sunday in Iowa, where he has fallen behind Obama by double digits. Also telling: When Obama decided last week to suspend his campaign for two days to visit his ailing grandmother, he canceled appearances in Iowa and Wisconsin (where he just as comfortably ahead).

For folks in the Upper Midwest, that means a return to the old days, when these states were afterthoughts in the final stages of the presidential campaign. But even as both campaigns have pledged to ramp up their ground games and it’s entirely possible that surrogates will be passing through, don’t hold your breath in the hopes of catching one last glimpse of the guys at the top of the ticket.

Perk of the job?

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Congressional investigators found that government agencies have failed to collect on more than $175,000 in parking tickets incurred by employees driving government-owned vehicles, according to a report released today.

The report, commissioned by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which DFLer Jim Oberstar chairs, examined parking tickets issued to government vehicles in New York and Washington in 2007.

Investigators found that from January through December 2007, Federal employees in Washington failed to pay 477 parking tickets valued at $63,150 that were issued to U.S. Government-tagged vehicles. Federal employees in New York City neglected to pay at least 669 parking tickets valued at $112,314 accumulated through Dec. 9, 2007.

Although federal regulations state that parking fines assessed on illegally parked U.S. Government vehicles are the responsibility of the employees, the investigation found the General Services Administration – the government agency responsible for Federal property – could not identify any of its employees responsible for unpaid tickets.

“Because it lacks any sort of comprehensive procedures for tracking parking tickets or payment of fines for parking violations, GSA has enabled Federal employees who operate government-owned vehicles to simply ignore the law,” Oberstar said.

Among the report’s suggestions for fixing the problem were adding additional off-street parking spaces for government employees as well as taking away their toys in the form of making them take public transportation.

Moral of the story: If the meter maid has got you down, get a government job.

Chris Matthews responds to Bachmann’s “trap” statement

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” today dismissed U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s notion that “a trap was laid” for her on the program which resulted in her making controversial comments about Barack Obama.

Defending herself against the verbal miscues Friday that ignited a media storm and stuffed the coffers of her Democratic challenger, Bachmann told the St. Cloud Rotary Club yesterday that Matthews set the stage to make inflammatory remarks about Barack Obama.

“A trap was laid, but I stepped into it,” she said. “I made a misstatement. I said a comment that I would take back.”

Responding to the charge that he baited Bachmann into saying that Obama “may have un-American views,” Matthews said, “If you read the transcript, I just asked the questions. Her answers speak for themselves.”

Bachmann further qualified her “misstatement” when she said she wasn’t familiar with Matthews’ show and should’ve known what she was getting herself into.

“I probably should have taken a look at what the show was like,” Bachmann said, referring to the MSNBC program known for tackling controversial political issues.

“Sometimes you make a decision about going on a show,” she said. “I probably should have said no to Chris Matthews.”

As for Matthews’ thoughts on Bachmann never watching his television show before agreeing to an appearance on it?

“I wish she would watch “Hardball,” Matthews said. “She’s in our desired demo.”

You can watch a video of the original interview here.

Sarah Palin’s personal shopper?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

When Republican operative Jeff Larson finished up running the host committee for the party’s national convention in St. Paul last month, he undertook one other job: bankrolling the outfitting of the GOP’s newly-minuted vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin.

Of the $150,000 spent by the Republican National Committee to buy clothing and accessories for Palin and other members of her family ,Federal Election Commission records showed that Larson covered $132,114.91 of that cost.

The original story, broken Tuesday by the politcal website politico.com can be found here.

The story about Larson’s involvement, published Wednesday by the Atlantic Monthly, can be found here.
Larson, a telemarketer, also is Sen. Norm Coleman’s landlord in Washington, D.C. He did not immediately return calls for comment.

Best. presidential. campaign. event. ever.

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Barack Obama and John McCain put on their white tie and tails Thursday night and ascended to the dias at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. Late in a campaign that has variously been nasty, numbing and seemingly never-ending, both men brought down the house.

It was hilarious — and made a campaign junkie long for more such humanizing moments, no matter how intricately scripted.

Here’s McCain on the campaign: “It began so long ago with the heralded arrival of the man known to Oprah Winfrey as ‘The One.’ Being a friend and colleague of Barack I just called him ‘That One,’” McCain said in reference to his bully-like tactics in the second presidential debate. “He doesn’t mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me: ‘George Bush.’”

And here’s Obama: “Who is Barack Obama? Contrary to the rumors you may have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-El, to save the planet Earth…Many of you know I got my name, Barack, from my father. It’s actually Swahili for ‘That One.’ And I got my middle name, obviously, from someone who never thought I’d be running for president.”

Watch for yourself. Here’s McCain in two parts.

And here’s Obama.

Distressed homeowner wants help, not hostility

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Brian Kittridge, 42, of Bloomington, said he came to the McCain appearance because he wanted to witness something historical and called the event “pretty exciting.”

“I didn’t want to miss the opportunity,” he said. “I’ve never been able to do this before.”

He said he liked McCain’s positions on foreign policy, but also became a believer in him on economic issues, in large part because of the Republican’s recently announced plan to refinance distressed mortgages through a government program.

“I like his idea of buying the mortgages to avoid foreclosure,” he said. “We’re having trouble right now paying our mortgage,” Kittridge added, explaining that his family was two months behind on payments.

Kittridge said he was bothered by an increasingly hostile tone to the campaign.

“I think it’s gotten ugly, relating a terrorist to Obama and all,” he said. “It’s out of line.”

McCain: Obama is not ‘an Arab’

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Gayle Quinnell, 75, of Shakopee, approached McCain near the end of his hour long give and take with the crowd and told him she didn’t trust his opponent Barack Obama because “he’s an Arab.”

McCain shook his head and, taking the microphone from her, said “no, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”

After the town hall meeting, Quinnell elaborated on her position in talking to reporters.

“I don’t trust Barack Obama because he’s an Arab,” she said. “He’s a Muslim. I’m afraid if he ever got to be president what would happen to this country.”

Obama is a Christian.

McCain brings up Ayers

Friday, October 10th, 2008

After former Sen. Boschwitz urged McCain to go directly to people to get his message out, McCain repeated his attack line associating Obama with a former 1960s radical.

“One of the issues is Willliam Ayers, an unrepentent terrorist.” McCain said.

“Sen. Obama’s political career was launched in Mr. Ayers’ living room,” referrring to a meet-the-candidate gathering in the 1990s when Obama was running for state senate in Illinois.

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