October 2008

by Perry Diaz

October Surprise

Rumors were abounding in the media about an “October Surprise” by John McCain that would shatter the presidential aspiration of Barack Obama. But as it turned out, the “October Surprise” was on McCain — Obama pulled ahead of McCain in the battleground states.

On October 4, 2008, it was reported on the news that “Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama’s character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat’s judgment, honesty and personal associations.” By attacking Obama’s character, McCain hoped that it would put Obama on the defensive; thus, distracting him from discussing the economic crisis and outlining his economic recovery plan.

As soon as the decision to assault Obama’s character was made, McCain unleashed his running mate Gov. Sarah Palin to attack Obama. That day, she told three separate rallies that Obama is “not a man who sees America like you and I see America,” and accused him of “palling around” with William Ayers — co-founder of the radical Weather Underground in the 1960’s — whom she called a “domestic terrorist.” She told the agitated crowds that Obama is “not one of us.” On that same day, McCain who was addressing a crowd in New Mexico called Obama a “mystery, a liar, complicit in the economic crisis and an unaccomplished naif, at all the same time.”

For two weeks, McCain and Palin were doing their demolition job on Obama. But Obama was indestructible only because he chose not to respond to the “low blows” of McCain and Palin. McCain finally realized that these “low blows” were hurting him more than it hurt Obama. The polls were showing Obama’s rating going over 51% while McCain’s was hovering at around 42%. With less than two weeks left in the campaign, McCain changed his strategy back to selling his economic plan. But to his dismay, a lot of Americans had already bought Obama’s economic plan and many have already cast their votes in states that allowed early voting.

If that was the “October Surprise” that McCain had bandied about, it turned out to be nothing more than a distraction. However, a series of surprises occurred that helped Obama’s campaign. The “Big Surprise” came on October 19 when retired Gen. Colin Powell announced on NBC’s Meet the Press that he will vote for Obama . He said, “I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — and you have to take that into account — as well as his substance — he has both style and substance. He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.”

Powell was critical of McCain’s campaign tactics including the controversial “rob calls” that tried to link Obama to Ayers. He was also critical of McCain’s judgment in selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate. Powell said, “Now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don’t believe she is ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president.”

Powell also criticized some Republicans for insinuating that Obama is a Muslim. He said, “Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim, he is a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no; that is not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He is a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”

Many believe that Powell’s endorsement of Obama and blistering critique of McCain’s campaign tactics could have a devastating blow to McCain’s candidacy and which could sway the undecided voters to Obama, particularly in the battleground states.

Four days later, there were a cluster of surprises. Scott McClellan, President Bush’s former Press Secretary announced on the “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News” that he is going to vote for Obama. McClellan said, “From the very beginning I’ve said I am going to support the candidate who has the best chance of changing the way Washington works and getting things done. I will be voting for Barack Obama.”

On the same day, Alison Goldwater, granddaughter of former Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, voted early for Barack Obama. She said of McCain, “I don’t have respect for him.” It’s interesting to note that McCain has oftentimes claimed to be a “Barry Goldwater” Republican. Apparently, Alison didn’t think so.

Also on the same day, Arne Carlson, former Republican Governor of Minnesota, endorsed Obama for president. She said, “He has laid out for this nation a vision for a national purpose.”

And in a desperate act, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the fund-raising arm of Republican senatorial candidates across the country, is now running ads that “presume” that McCain will lose.

Yesterday, I was surprised when I was reading an email from a friend who was a supporter of McCain. She said that she checked her IRA account in preparation for her retirement and was shocked to find out that she lost $36,000! She was devastated because she may not be able to retire next year. She promised that she will vote for Obama.

My friend’s story is not uncommon. In early October, about 100 million Americans received a letter that shattered their dreams. Everyone received the same message. The letter told them that their savings — IRAs, 401Ks, mutual funds, etc. — were 30% down this year.

The pain, loss, and stress suffered by these 100 million Americans is a testament to the failed economic policies of President Bush. Are they going to vote for McCain or Obama? More than likely they — like my friend who lost $36,000 — would vote for Obama. This election is not about politics, it’s all about the economy. That… is the “October Surprise.”


by Perry Diaz

Why I am Supporting Barack Obama

Last October 7, 2008, I withdrew my endorsement of John McCain and endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States. News of my support for Obama spread like wildfire in the Filipino-American community. After all, I have been known to be an active and loyal Republican for the past 25 years.

I sent the following message by email to the members of the Executive Council of the National Federation of Filipino-American Republicans (NFFAR), an organization which I founded in 2004:

“Effective immediately, I am resigning as Chairman of NFFAR. It was a hard decision on my part. However, I believe that I have to do it because of what has been happening in the McCain campaign. I endorsed McCain before the California primary believing that he was the right man for the job. I was wrong. His selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate and his decision a few days ago to resort to personal attacks on Obama’s character and integrity run counter to my personal beliefs and core values. I have lost my respect for McCain and I believe that a McCain/Palin administration would only worsen the economic situation in the country.”

Severing my ties to a party that I worked tirelessly for 25 years — campaigning for every Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan — never crossed my mind… until McCain shifted his campaign strategy to launch negative attacks against Obama. McCain’s characterization of Obama as “terrorist” and a “Muslim” reeked with racism. And unleashing his vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, to do the dirty job against Obama further solidified my support for Obama who — despite the negative attacks against him — has maintained an honorable and respectful campaign.

Watching their third presidential debate where McCain incessantly attacked Obama reinforced my perception that McCain is an angry and erratic man unworthy of occupying the highest position of the land. What the American people need is someone who is cool under fire and can articulate his program of government clearly without ambiguities. Obama has consistently demonstrated his cool-headedness time and time again during the course of his campaign. On the other hand, McCain has the propensity to go off tangent.

Unable to market McCain’s fuzzy economic plans to the electorate, the McCain campaign launch its “October Surprise” in an attempt to recover lost ground. Negative ads were shown on television and “whispering” campaign — most of which were lies and half-truths — pervaded in the Internet.

Palin’s attacks began on October 4 when she told three separate rallies that Obama is “not a man who sees America like you and I see America,” and accusing Obama of “palling around” with a William Ayers — co-founder of the radical Weather Underground in the 1960’s — whom she called a “domestic terrorist.” She told the agitated crowds that Obama is “not one of us.” That same day, McCain who was addressing a crowd in New Mexico called Obama a “mystery, a liar, complicit in the economic crisis and an unaccomplished naif, at all the same time.” In boxing, that’s called “low blow.”

Recently, the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) launched a massive “rob call” campaign whose purpose was to link Obama to Ayers. Interestingly, Obama was only eight years old when Ayers was involved in the anti-Vietnam War student movement in the 1960’s. Today, Ayers has reformed and is now a respectable professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois and holds the title of “Distinguished Professor.”

Compared to the “politics of fear” tactics of the McCain campaign, Obama’s campaign by contrast took the high road, continually articulating the various programs that Obama plans to implement in his administration. And they are resonating with the people, particularly the middle class which is the group that is hurt most in the economic crisis and financial meltdown that plagues the nation today. Polls have shown that the people believe that Obama is more capable than McCain in handling the economic crisis.

In my opinion, Barack Obama is the right man for the job as President of the United States of America. In times of crisis, I believe that Obama would have better judgment in dealing with domestic issues as well as international issues. I believe that he has the vision to bring the nation into the 21st century. I also believe that Obama will bring the American people together. And ultimately, I believe that Obama will regain the world’s respect for America.


by Perry Diaz
Politics of Fear

Never in the history of the United States was “politics of fear” used to bring out the worse in people and sow fear in them. And by doing so, John McCain has created a “lynch mob” mentality among white voters.
McCain unleashed his running mate, Sarah Palin, to attack Barack Obama with lies and innuendoes. At a Florida rally, the event turned so ugly that it prompted the Secret Service to investigate an alleged death threat when someone shouted “Kill him! Kill him!” Others shouted “terrorist” in reaction to Palin’s inflammatory rhetoric that Obama was palling around with Bill Ayers — co-founder of the radical Weather Underground in the 1960’s — whom she called a “domestic terrorist” As Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist, says in his column, “Unleashed, Palin makes a pit bull look tame.” Yes, indeed. Palin’s vitriolic attacks against Obama have earned her the moniker “Attack Dog.”
It is interesting to note that Obama was only eight years old when Ayers was involved in the student unrest in the 1960’s. Today, Ayers has reformed and is now a respectable professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois and holds the title of “Distinguished Professor.”
In an attempt to tone down Palin’s hate-mongering tirades, McCain told a Minnesota rally, “We want to fight, and I will fight, but we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments and I will respect him.” McCain said further, “I want to be president … but I have to tell you that he is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States.” But the crowd booed him — Sarah had already turned his supporters into a lynch mob.
Obama, who never digressed from his focus on the country’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression 80 years ago, rebuked McCain for preaching “anger and division.” At an Ohio rally, Obama said, “In the last couple of days we have seen a barrage of nasty insinuations and attacks and I am sure we will see much more over the next 25 days.” Indeed, the intensity of personal attacks against Obama has increased dramatically. At another Palin rally, a supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African-American camera man and told him, “Sit down, boy!” — an apparent warning that tells African-Americans to stay away from McCain rallies.
In his column titled “McCain and Palin’s lynch-mob tactics,” Tod Robberson said, “It’s increasingly worrying that John McCain and Sarah Palin are embracing the acceptability of campaign tactics that play to the most racist and intolerant tendencies among their supporters. John McCain knows that Barack Obama has no links whatsoever to terrorism, and yet he’s doing everything he can to create that linkage. And he’s unleashing Sarah Palin to do his dirty work while McCain claims to be above this condemnable form of negative campaigning. This is unconscionable, and it shows how desperate John McCain has become. He promised repeatedly that he wouldn’t campaign this way. And he said that when politicians campaign that way, it shows how little vision they have of the future. But most dangerous in this form of campaigning is that he and Sarah Palin are standing by, with smiles on their faces, while their supporters yell things like, ‘Kill him!’ in reference to Obama. They have done nothing to calm down this lynch-mob mentality. Instead, they are doing everything they can to promote it. John McCain must make a full-court, public push to stop this ‘kill him’ mentality now.”
These hate-mongering attacks by the McCain campaign started in earnest after the Vice Presidential Debate two weeks ago; however, I have been receiving hundreds of hate Obama emails since the primary season from — of all people! — Filipino-Americans. I received an email from Ed F. titled “More Family Pictures of the new First Family??” which contains photos of Obama’s “African heritage.” I received another email from Elena A. titled “Is America FOR SALE to the Arabs?” which seems to suggest that Obama is an “Arab” and therefore a Muslim.
I received an email from Thelma E. criticizing support of Obama. She said that she is not voting for Obama because he is a Muslim. She said that Obama used the Koran when he took his oath of office as Senator. I replied saying that there is a picture in the Internet which shows that he used the Bible, not the Koran.
The other day, I got a call from Celly C. She told me that Obama grew up in Indonesia and since Indonesia is a Muslim country, therefore Obama is Muslim. She also said that Obama is linked to terrorists including Libya’s President Kaddafi. I told her that these statements aren’t true.
I received another email from Jess H.R. which says: “Hi you all!!! Hope you don’t mind me sharing this open letter with you all which is written by someone I don’t even know but I truly agree with his opinions about Barack Obana as a future president of this country. In all my life time here in the United States, I never thought that there would be a time when I would really fear for the security of this country. The opinions expressed in this letter are so much like mine, and also really like my opinions as well. It is only that the author expressed them better than I can ever do. My mind is so worried , and my physical being so scared and being so I don’t think I would be able to delineate those same opinions better myself. Urging you all therefore to read and give this letter some thought, and decide whether which of the two candidates have the best interest and serve this country better.” The open letter that Jess attached to his email was another hate Obama letter. It has nothing to do with real issues such as the economic crisis and financial meltdown.
What I found distressing from all the emails I received is that the senders didn’t seem to care about the real issues. They indulge in “politics of fear.” As one of my readers said, “I think they’re trying very hard to out-white the whites, out-conservative the conservatives, and out-Republican the Republicans.” If that is the case, I feel sorry for them. This election will be won by the candidate who can convince the voters that he is the one who can handle the economic problems of the country. And recent polls showed that a majority of American believed that Obama is the man who can do the job.
As Bill Clinton said in 1992 when he ran against then President George HW Bush, “It’s the economy, stupid,” Obama can say the same thing. But this time around, the economy is worse than it was in 1992.

by Perry Diaz
Who Won the Palin-Biden Debate?

The much-ballyhooed vice presidential debate turned out to be a “presidential” debate by surrogates of John McCain and Barack Obama. Both surrogates — Sarah Palin and Joseph Biden — attacked and defended the presidential candidates and hardly questioned each other’s qualifications.
However, odd as it may seem, it was the right thing to do for both surrogates. After all, the office they’re seeking is a “do nothing” job until a situation arises where the presidency is vacated at which time the vice president would ascend to the top job of the land. And that’s one reason why the Palin-Biden debate had attracted a lot of attention and anticipation. The American people — due to McCain’s age — wanted to know if Sarah Palin is qualified and ready to assume the presidency should it become vacant.
As a debater, Palin excelled in form and style. She was able to think on her feet and has the uncanny ability to digress from the issue and talk about something else, usually about “energy” which she claimed to be an expert on. Or she would blurt out something about “change” or “reform” and promise to stop the “greed and corruption in Wall Street” — a line that she repeated numerous times. With a smiling face and an occasional flirtatious wink at the audience and television viewers, Palin charmed her way out of situations where she didn’t have any idea what the issues were all about.
There was a moment during the debate when the moderator asked her: “As Vice President, there’s nothing you’ve promised as a candidate that you would take off the table because of this financial issue?” Palin’s response was: “There is not, and how long have I been at this? Like five weeks?” Whoa! Five weeks of exposure in national and world affairs? This only reinforced what people have been saying all along: Palin does not have the qualifications to hold the office of Vice President or — God forbid! — President of the United States.
So, who won the debate? All things considered, Palin won on “form and style” which were not quantifiable and Biden won on “substance” which was what really counts. Simply put, Biden’s 35 years of experience in the U.S. Senate was just too much for Palin to match. Indeed, Palin’s refusal to answer some of the questions manifested her abject ignorance of the issues confronting the nation and the American people.
All the polls conducted after the debate gave thumbs up to Biden. A CBS News/Knowledge Networks surveyed 500 uncommitted voters of which 46% thought that Biden won and 21% thought that Palin was the winner. On important issues, 98% found Biden to be more knowledgeable compared to Palin’s 65%.
Another survey conducted by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. showed Biden did better with 51% to Palin’s 36%. The survey also showed that 87% believed that Biden was qualified to be president while only 42% favored Palin.
It is interesting to note that 84% of the those polled said that Palin exceeded their expectations compared to Biden’s 64%. Does this means then that Palin did a better job than Biden? I don’t think so. All it proved was that the viewers’ perception of Palin prior the debate was below par. Her performance may be categorized as “most improved.” And the “improvement” comes from the fact that she did not repeat the blunders she made during her interview with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. It’s like improving her grade of F to a C. Had it been another F, Palin would have flunked the finals and she would have dragged McCain down the drain as well.
The debate came to and end with no knock-out punches. Obviously, Biden restrained himself from “slugging” Palin. He did the right thing. And Palin didn’t even attempt to throw a real punch at Biden. In essence, the two protagonists were just sparring — or, more aptly, shadow boxing — for 90 minutes.
The Palin-Biden debate may go down in history as the “Debate to Nowhere.” It was a draw in the sense that it wouldn’t have any considerable impact on the McCain-Obama presidential contest. McCain and Obama have two more debates to come. Obama scored high on their first debate and he is enjoying a slim but stable lead of about 5% over McCain in surveys.
McCain finally realized that the economy and the Iraq war are two issues he cannot win but could not afford to lose. As a consequence, McCain made a decision to resort to attacking Obama’s character and integrity. Right after the Palin-Biden debate, McCain unleashed Palin — the “pit bull with a lipstick” — to immediately attack Obama and attack she did. The campaign has gotten really nasty.
Indeed, the 2008 presidential campaign season could become the dirtiest in the history of the United States. With McCain unabashedly and purposely using “character assassination” tactics to capture the presidency, it could cause a backlash against him and his attack dog Palin.
In my opinion, with the financial meltdown and the spectre of an economic collapse, the American people will be looking for a leader who can deal with these problems. Thus far, the polls showed that Obama is perceived to be the one who can do it.