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Sunday CNN Blog Buzzing

(UPDATE: the video is up now.)

Barring breaking news that bumps scheduled programming, I’ll be on CNN Newsroom Sunday’s four-minute Blog Buzz segment during the 7:30-8:00 PM half hour. It’s hosted by Tony Harris, and the format pairs a progressive and conservative blogger to discuss the newsworthy political stories of the week.

I did a pre-interview with the booker on Friday, and the topic is the 2008 elections, specifically focusing on this week’s Dem and GOP Des Moines Register Presidential Debates in Iowa.

Big endorsements: The Register just endorsed Hillary Clinton, btw (and take a look at the eruption in the comments). The Boston Globe gave its nod to Obama. On the GOP side, John McCain picked up the endorsement of both newspapers.

I also learned who the blogger on the other side of the political fence will be — Town Hall’s Amanda Carpenter, who’s been on several talking head shows on CNN and the other newschannels, including Faux News’s Hannity & Colmes, and MSNBC’s Hardball. She’s also the author of The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy’s Dossier on Hillary Clinton.

Among the topics up for discussion (and chat away about them in the comments):

* Since there are so many of these debates, are these meaningful or affecting the polls at this point? Are you still watching/reading about them?

* Are the candidates not addressing certain issues of importance to the American people — civil rights/justice issues, poverty, LGBT, immigration, etc.

* Are there any standouts in either party at this point?

More below the fold.Of course, it’s always possible that other, unrelated topics will come up. A reporter buddy of mine had her own set of Qs that are equally interesting to think about:

* Can candidates – now with the growing power of online media – better circumvent the MSM? Does someone like Biden or Ron Paul have shot?

* Also – there seems to be a difference in the issues the MSM thinks are important to each party, but aren’t things like fixing healthcare and the economy and our image abroad bipartisan issues?

* Are the debates tackling the right topics? When Iowans get together to caucus, is any of it going to really matter?

That’s a lot to chew on; I think the MSM has largely missed good opportunities to probe candidates on a host of issues in these broad debates. When they are issue-specific, like the HRC/Logo (LGBT), Univision (Latino), Tavis Smiley/PBS (black) or Values Voter (fundie) forums, coverage of issues is a bit better. The questions are more pointed because the moderators and panelists are well-informed on the issues at hand, and challenge the candidates to do more preparation and rely less on stock talking points.

These issue-based debates also point out the discomfort of both parties in key areas — none of the GOP candidates accepted invitations to the HRC/Logo forum (and only Tancredo attended the Smiley forum at Howard U.), and Dems declined to participate in the Values Voters debate in Ft. Lauderdale. BTW, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson also were afraid to take questions from The Base.

As far as LGBT issues and whether it’s important for them to be addressed by the candidates, I think we have a clear idea of where the Democrats and Republicans fall on these issues, and bottom line, any Dem is going to be far superior to any of the Clown Car occupants in this area. The fact is that our issues have been discussed and addressed by the candidate with candor via thorough responses to the HRC questionnaire on LGBT issues, as well as the Logo debates. We may not like all of the answers this time around, but it is a far cry from 2004, where all of Democrats would have rather walked across hot coals than address their positions on marriage equality or address the homophobic vitriol coming from the right.

An appropriate question for the candidates would be hear their opinions about Democratic leadership during the ENDA and hate crimes debacles this year, and what they feel it pass this legislation, as well as the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal DADT, given the reticence of the Democrats on the Hill to act boldly when they are in charge, and the ramifications of coddling the Democrats-In-Name-Only/Blue Dogs, and tossing the LGBTs under the bus to keep the peace.

I think many of us would welcome more discussion of LGBT topics, but quite frankly the issues of Iraq, health care and even immigration affect us all as well and both the GOP and Dem presidential candidates are doing a fairly miserable job of addressing these in the debates particularly because the formats that are used leave only a minute or two, or even seconds, to present a coherent answer. Even so, this year we managed to see questions on marriage equality come up CNN’s YouTube debates (Dem) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (GOP), we didn’t learn anything new, but it’s good to see the issues on the public radar.

Take immigration, topic poorly addressed at these forums. No solution is going to be pretty, and in none of the forums that I’ve seen has anyone described a realistic way to address the administrative nightmare of any prospective solution. Never mind the build-the-fence bleating, our government can’t even handle processing the folks who are legally applying for citizenship, or fulfill passport demands. How on earth will any government entity, new or existing, process the 12+ million people who are here illegally? And the big question — how will this all be paid for?

I would have liked to see more discussion at these debates about privacy and civil rights violations happening right here in this country. Wouldn’t you want to know what these candidates for the White House think about Jena 6, or the widespread misuse of tasers by law enforcement.

Personally, I think the MSM just likes the whole horse race aspect of this, the gotcha moments, the sexy sound bite. There seems to be a disconnect, a lack of understanding of the oddities of this race vs. 2004. I’d like to learn more about what impact has the Internet had (given the FEC is turning its eye to entities like ActBlue), including blogs. But I doubt the MSM has much interest in this, since it represents, in many ways, an unpredictable factor, an influence of unknown power. Will the Ron Paul maniacs actually bring in votes? They certainly can raise dough.

I do think it’s odd that John Edwards really seems to be the only one running out there on economic populism theme. Given the fertile ground — from Iraq and Katrina waste and profiteering, to the oil companies and their bursting coffers while we’re paying upwards of $3/gallon, to the outsourcing of jobs to countries with low-wage workers, to corporations relocating headquarters offshore to avoid paying taxes, people are fed up. Nina Easton of Fortune:

Search the debate transcript for the word “terrorist” and you’ll come up empty-handed. Search for terms related to “corporate greed” and you’ll hit a gold mine.

…Edwards, in particular, has hit on an effective formula with populist-minded Iowans: While the two frontrunners, Obama and Clinton, stab-wound each other, Edwards catches attention by dropping a bomb on corporate America. On Thursday, a focus group of Iowa voters holding dial-meters and organized by Fox News (where I am a contributor) showed a mediocre response when Clinton talked about controlling healthcare costs, but off-the-chart support when Edwards let loose against corporate interests.

“I’ve been fighting these people my entire life,” declared the former trial lawyer. “Some people argue that we’re going to sit at a table with these people and they’re going to voluntarily give their power away. I think it is a complete fantasy. It will never happen….We have an epic battle in front of us.”

Well, there are other reasons that the other two top tier candidates don’t turn on the populist flamethrower — many of them don’t want to be seen as hostile toward business because that’s where the donors are.

Clinton and Obama both have deep ties with supporters and contributors in corporate America – Clinton, especially, because of her tenure as New York’s senator (see “Business loves Hillary“).

…Clinton and Obama are more nuanced. Clinton talks of “raising taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.” Obama uses the term “special interests” and corporate “tax scams” rather than “corporate greed,” and he advertised his speech in Detroit earlier this year telling automakers he would force them to pursue more environmentally-friendly technology.

The other reasons, and this may have more to conventional wisdom than reality, is the notion that the average American aspires to be wealthy, and thus many will vote Republican despite it being against their economic interests. Conventional wisdom also says that since average Joe/Jane wants to believe wealth will either trickle down their way eventually, or they have the entrepreneurial spirit themselves, they will benefit from the supported “success” of Corporate America, even as voter pockets are picked and they are left behind.

People couldn’t ignore the blatant greed  when they heard testimony before Congress about the spiraling of gas prices from former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond:

Exxon CEO Lee Raymond blamed the problem on”global supply and demand” and assured the public that “we’re all in this together.” Last year, Raymond made do with “a total compensation package” of just $69.7 million or $190,915 a day, including weekends.

And when he retired, the announced package boggled the mind — $400 million, including pension and stock options, plus a $1 million consulting deal, a car and driver, use of a corporate jet “for professional purposes.”  

That isn’t an abstract economic paper — people could see the corporate windfall for what it is, and in the real world there is dissatisfaction and economic distress out there because of corporate greed.

And we see it today, as the Fed moves to address the the banks and mortgage industry woes, since lenders went hog-wild doling out those sub-prime loans to home buyers that now threaten to take the economy down with them as they default. When it becomes a greed-provoked catastrophe of this magnitude, that’s when business runs right back to the government teat — because of the “too big to fail” matter. We all pay for their mistakes.

But you don’t see it bluntly addressed, with the exception of Edwards; the reticence of the Clinton or Obama to hitch onto the issue says a lot about politics in the country today. That’s a real disconnect in our political system.

Ah, anyway, toss in your two cents.

I have to drive all the way to north Raleigh to a studio to do this gig via satellite. Basically I’ll be in the car 40 minutes each way to spend four minutes on the air.

I won’t actually see anyone, I have to interact via earpiece, so it will be more like doing radio, I suppose.

If you miss the segment, that’s ok (Joe at Americablog plans to YouTube it); 60 Minutes looks more interesting, as it will feature a segment on gays and lesbians who are openly serving in the military as their peers and superiors ignore DADT.


* Clinton campaign: iceberg dead ahead  

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding