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We Haven't Had That Spirit Here Since 1992 We Haven't Had That Spirit Here Since 1992

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THE FIELD

We Haven't Had That Spirit Here Since 1992

Panelists on an influential cmte that determines whether the U.S. is in a recession "have contributed to and are advising presidential campaigns." The Business Cycle Dating Cmte (BCDC) has top economic advisers to both McCain and Obama. Berkley profs. David and Christina Romer informally advise Obama on fiscal policy and have contributed $3K each this cycle, according to the FEC. Harvard prof. Martin Feldstein endorsed McCain in 1/08 and contributed $2K to him that month. Like, McCain, Feldstein "believes the nation has entered into a recession, though it's still too early for the BCDC to reach a final determination." Members of the BCDC "maintain that political considerations do not enter their calculations." Instead, the panelists say they produce a nonpartisan analysis of straight economic data to determine when a recession begins and finishes, typically many months after the downturn was initiated (Bogardus/Malmgren, The Hill, 4/16).

Where's The Money, Lebowski?

Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's camps "have failed to update" their Web-posted lists of top fundraisers since 1/08, although they have have received at least $180M in donations in the first three months of this year. Both camps said they have a policy of identifying bundlers on a quarterly basis and that the next updates will be issued shortly after each camp files its 3/08 fundraising report, due by 4/20. Univ. of VA prof. Larry Sabato thinks the camps have delayed releasing more names "to avoid adverse publicity at a crucial point in the race. Sabato: "If the information were innocuous, they would have released it" (Gordon, McClatchy, 4/16).

Holy Smokes

The 4/16 meeting between Pres. Bush and Pope Benedict XVI is the 25th between a pope and a sitting president, and only the second at the White House. Jimmy Carter hosted the first White House visit by a pope, when Pope John Paul II came on 8/6/79. Since then, every president has met with the pope at least once, and often more. Bush is the Oval-Office holder to do it the most, with 5 meetings with 2 popes. Bush and Pope Benedict "will agree on some things" such as opposition to fetal stem cell research, abortion, and same sex marriage, but disagree on others, such as the death penalty and the trade embargo on Cuba. The pope has opposed the Iraq War, but the Vatican is more concerned now with protecting what remains of the Christian community here- "making it stable and safe" (CBSnews.com, 4/16).

Party Crashers

"'Crash the Parties '08' has already drawn dozens of online application" from "wannabe-embedded" Latino reporters. The chosen 2 will produce newscasts, video blogs and interviews with candidates and convo delegates for a growing audience of hip, bicultural Latinos who "may not be all that plugged in yet to the political process." Voto Latino dir. Maria Teresa Petersen: "Young people aren't participating because they don't really know how the process works." Contestants have until 5/6 to upload a video discussing why they should represent young Latinos at the convos. Then viewers can vote and those votes will be considered by a panel of judges, including actress Rosario Dawson, Craiglsit fouder Craig Newmark, and CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, who will also train and mentor the 2 younf reporters (Hendricks San Francisco Chronicle, 4/16).

The Economy Again, Stupid

CBS News dir. of surveys Kathy Frankovic writes: "The current assessments of the president and the economy are eerily reminiscent of April polls from other election years, when the economy was the issue. The public's worries about the economy" in '92 and '80 "are good examples of what can happen to a President and a party when things turn bad." This year, as in '80, "the war in Iraq has been eclipsed by economic concerns. The economy was even more dominant in those other election years. Americans did not give the Presidents any leeway on the issue." Something else set those 2 years apart from today. In each year, the incumbent president "made an unsuccessful attempt at re-election." This year, John McCain "has done much to try to separate himself" from Pres. Bush. McCain "still represents the incumbent's party, and now supports two Administration policies he originally criticized- the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq War." The economy always matters when it has problems. The question this year is how it will effect the fall campaign. This election could be more like '92, "where long-term Administration weaknesses were on the voters' minds in the fall." But this election could be more like '80, where the outcome wasn't apparent until the end, and most pollsters missed it. "This year, the impact of the economy is yet to be seen" (4/16).

Pimp My Ride

Detroit News' Manny Lopez writes: "If you believe the candidates," MI's auto industry "now matters." Clearly, politicians "are trying to win a few votes. But it's broader than that. The Dems need America's union members to stick with them. Clinton is so desperate to prove she's got bluer blood than Obama that she's pimping the UAW-built SUV that she's chauffeured around in." McCain "knows he can rally against high gas prices to get a few needed crossover votes, even if that means alienating the right-wingers in his party." And Obama's "bashing of the auto industry in Detroit last year won't soon be forgotten." The candidates "are disingenuous. The have about as much interest in truly helping the auto industry as they do in drafting fuel economy or climate change legislation that's comprehensive." "If their interest in those things were real, they would have supported" Rep. John Dingell (D)'s comprehensive carbon tax proposal "that he floated last year in which he promoted a gas tax and carbon fee for all industries" (4/17).

One More Strike And You're Out

When Obama and Clinton released statements backing 2K Volvo strikers and slammed conditions of the VA plant, media outlets around the world picked up their comments. Mack Trucks vice chair Paul Vikner: "What [the candidates] were saying about all this money we invested here and what a lousy employer we are, I have to tell you, it set us back probably two or three years." Foreign companies with large American branches are increasingly "worried about a tide of protectionist sentiments" being made by lawmakers, candidates and lobbying groups. Many foreign companies "are realizing they must engage in Washington." The companies "believe their defensive moves are a necessity as politicians of all ideological stripes embrace more protectionist world views in response to increased American economic insecurity." So far, politics hasn't slowed long-term investments by foreign companies. But "there is a growing perception that the investment environment is worsening." In part, the fall is due to overall economic downturn. But executives also blame the U.S. legislative climate, "citing long-standing business lobby complaints about the high corporate tax rate, a litigation-friendly legal system and the high cost of health care" (Lerer, Politico, 4/16).

Did Somebody Pass Gas?

Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman writes: "Obama and Clinton are pandering with a proposal to punish oil companies with a windfall profits tax. McCain has targeted the same group by urging a federal gas tax holiday from Memorial Day to Labor Day." One common defect of the candidates' measures, though "is that they would not actually reduce prices." Under Clinton's plan, if a company's profit rose above a specified excess level, the gov't would take 50% of the windfall- in addition to what it "reaps" from the existing corporate income tax. The expropriation "would deter investment in exploration and drilling by reducing the potential payoff." It would depress the supply of oil over the long run, which would push prices up, not down. McCain wants to stop collecting federal gas taxes for 3 months. Cato Institute energy analyst Jerry Taylor points out that prices are now at the level required to balance supply and demand. Cut prices by the amount of the gas tax, and consumption will rise, pushing prices back up. About the only effect would be to "transfer money" from the gov't "to the oil companies. If the oil companies don't deserve a windfall profits tax, neither do they deserve an additional windfall." The gas tax hiatus would also enlarge the federal deficit, since McCain would take general revenues to make up the loss to the highway trust fund" (4/17).

Shame On You

Chicago Tribune's Julia Keller writes: "Both [Dem] candidates have readily employed the rhetorical formulation of 'shaming' her or his opponent during public addresses." Earlier this week, Obama "irritated at" Clinton's "continued references to his alleged elitism, declared, 'Shame on her. Shame on her. She knows better,'" at a rally in PA. In 2/08, "Clinton's anger at Obama's depiction of her health care plan culminated to this: 'Shame on you, Barack Obama.'" And while shame is a venerable concept in child-rearing manuals and literary criticism, "somehow it sounds different when declaimed from a stage before multitudes." How did shame ever find its way into the middle of the brutal world of politics? "Dr. Arnold Goldberg is not surprised that shame is showing up on the campaign trail." Goldberg: "We are a shame-driven culture. We train our children by way of shame, embarrassment. It's noticed early in babies, who are easily humiliated. Shame is very effective." "Obviously, neither Clinton nor Obama expects the other actually to be ashamed. Political shaming is strictly for effect." Goldberg says what they're doing "is deliberately using a word they know will resonate with audiences. They're tapping into our deep familiarity with shame, into our discomfort with how shame feels, in order to isolate their opponent. Goldberg: "Shame is effective in politics because politicians are always trying to get you to join them in saying, 'We are all one,' but the other guy is isolated" 4/17).

This article appears in the April 17, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.

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