Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

I have supported The Nation with contributions in the past but I have asked them to remove me from their e-mail alerts. I no longer find this site a fair and balanced discussion of the issues. A candidate's character is important in the voting decision. When a candidate surrounds himself with people of questionable background the media has a responsibility to question those relationship. The Senate has the right to vet cabinet-level appointments but has no authority on a President's "kitchen cabinet"; it is therefore the responsibility of the media. It is the people a leader surrounds himself with who have his ear and are at times the biggest influence on his decisions. If these people were lobbyists, the editors of The Nation would be in a uproar because of undue influence; by that same token, a person with a radical opinion can be said to have an undue influence. This is a very hypocritical position the editors have taken and I don't want to participate in it. In its zeal to support Obama, The Nation has thrown out all journalistic integrity.

T. Zellner

Rose Valley, PA

Apr 18 2008 - 10:56pm

Web Letter

The debate was about as offensive as every one prior to it. How and why this debate has raised such a kerfluffle while every one prior to it that largely lambasted Clinton for every little nuance is beyond me. The idea that everyone is offended by Obama in particular having similar scrutiny, as crude and tasteless as it was, being focused on him is a case in point of how biased the media is.

It seems that the assumptions about Clinton, established by the right-wing media, are that, "Well, everyone knows she's a divisive calculating bitch, so let her have it." Why the press and blogs (particularly those who declare to be progressive) haven't been shouting from the rooftops until now seems to be indicative of mass ingestion of the Obama Kool-Aid. Tell me, Nation, where has your outrage been before now? If this can't get people to wake and see the bias that has been playing out in this campaign season, I don't know what will. Everyone seems to be reacting as if this is a new phenomenon, simply because Obama took a few bumps.

What do I think a debate should look like? Better question. How can we even expect to have a professional debate when the so called professionals, as qualified by their self-declared outrage and disgust, only proclaim said reaction when one candidate is put through the wringer? If the press hasn't bothered to try and self-regulate this issue until now, that my friends, is a problem that hasn't even been touched on by the current line of thought.

The outrage about the debate is a straw man. The underlying issue is the disparity in mass reaction to Obama receiving similar treatment to which Clinton has been getting since day one. If that dynamic is not understood then there is little likelihood that the press and media can hope to present a balanced and appropriate debate to the public.

At least that's my take,

A No-Vote FL Independent, critical of both Dem candidates,

Todd C. J. Workman

Hollywood, FL

Apr 18 2008 - 10:54pm

Web Letter

First, all of the debates have been poorly designed because all the journalists had decided that there were no major differences among the candidates, and that minor differences were unimportant. Besides which, journalists today have no expertise in anything other than gaffes & gossip.

Ideally, each debate (especially once the numbers had been reduced to three people), would have focused on a different general topic: the economy, foreign policy, domestic policy etc. The questioners would be experts in the particular fields (unknown but widely admired, in their fields, professors--none of the overexposed talking heads). One would be a journalist specializing in the field with access to the Internet to do rapid checks on credibility and honesty in the answers.

Here are some of the topics that have received little or no attention in all of those debates and examples of the kinds of questions I would like to see asked:

1. Signing statements
Both Obama & Clinton support them. Ask their justification. First question to Obama because he apparently taught Constitutional Law. Press the issue. The Constitution gives the President three options (sign, veto, pocket-veto). Signing statements are not mentioned. Demand a constitutional justification. If they say a President has to point out unconstitutional components of a law, point out that determining the constitutionality of a law is the province of the courts. (That's why the questions need to be asked by experts.)

2. Habeas corpus, Guantánamo, rendition, torture.
We now know that torture was discussed and approved at the highest level of our government. Do they believe a President has the right to establish standards for torture? If they don't, have they thought about some way to prevent some future President (including themselves) from taking on such dictatorial powers?

3. Poverty
The guidelines were written some fifty years ago and do not take into account either changes in the relative percentage of family budgets spent on food, housing, energy or the different COLs around the country. Has either candidate a plan to develop new and more rational standards?

4. Taxes
The tax code gives preferential treatment to unearned income (dividends, capital gains). Interest on savings is taxed at a higher rate than dividends. Why? Wages are taxed at a higher rate. Why? What is the economic justification for this difference? (Prove to me that all capital gains are reinvested in businesses that generate new jobs. If the free market is so good, why do we have to bribe people--capital gains/losses--to participate in it?)

5. Prison reform
We jail a greater percent of our population than any other country. Why? Do you support reform? Be detailed. What kind? Is jail the right place for drug addicts or the mentally ill?

6. Science policy
Will the candidate depoliticize and support science over religion? Climate change & evolution are obvious issues, but there are others.

7. Education
We rank near the bottom of industrialized countries. Instead of arguing over phonetics, why don't we study the systems in other countries that produce a more highly educated population and adopt similar educational policies? Why do we insist on local funding and local control when we live in a global world? Is it fair or smart to create pockets of millions of children who, because of where they live, will never be able to compete in that world?

8. Foreign policy
What standards will they apply to the people who will represent the United States in foreign countries? Will they be expected to have expertise in the language and the culture?

9. Gays in the military

10. The country's infrastructure

11. The Internet
Here again, the US lags far behind other industrialized countries, even Korea, in terms of broadband access, speed and cost. The free market is clearly not working here. How would they fix it?

12. Healthcare
On almost all measures, our "best healthcare in the world" produces the worst outcomes among industrialized countries. How will your plans change this?

For Hillary: yes, everybody must buy in if we are to keep costs under control, but how do you design mandates that don't negatively impact the less economically fortunate? After all, many people who don't have insurance don't have it because they can't afford it (they have to pay the rent, the mortgage, buy food, clothes). And a bare-bones policy in their situations may be worse than nothing. This relates back to the question about the definition of poverty.

Since pharmaceutical companies don't want to spend resources on orphan diseases or vaccines, why not set up a non-profit, governmental organization (along the lines of the NIH) whose sole purpose would be the research, development and distribution of drugs for diseases that Big Pharma says it can't afford to invest in? (We should not as taxpayers have to pay huge, multimillion-dollar salaries to CEOs to entice them to do things that are in the public good.)

I could come up with more, but these questions would be a good start.

A. Banks

Philadelphia, PA

Apr 18 2008 - 10:19pm

Web Letter

Oh please. What a bunch of wimps. Obama gets serious questions for one fucking time and you pussies can't take it?

You people are despicable. Just remember: we're watching you. And in short time we will look back and analyze you and laugh at you. You're being watched. You should be fucking embarrassed.

Now go home and wash mummy's dishes, clean your faces and get ready for bed.

Kourian Negladeh

Mogadore, OH

Apr 18 2008 - 9:32pm

Web Letter

You seem rather outraged that Obama was asked actual questions. In previous debates the moderators fawned over him and asked the tough questions to Hillary. Where was your outrage then?

Why are you outraged that a presidential candidate was asked questions about his character? Seems rather ordinary to me.

Maxim Ledoux

New York, NY

Apr 18 2008 - 9:25pm

Web Letter

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to weigh in on this matter.

What does a meaningful debate look like to me? A meaningful debate is exactly what I saw on ABC Wednesday, April 16, 2008. In fact, it was the first debate where I felt both candidates were treated fairly.

Senator Obama was asked some probing questions about events that transpired since the last debate. These events were not "silly" or "tabloid" topics as some have tried to suggest. We really needed to hear what he had to say when he did not control the questioning on the topic. Presidents must do this all the time.

I heard the Senator complaining that it took too long to get to the issues that mattered to people. That is wrong. He does not understand that some of the questions asked in the first half of the debate do indeed matter to a great many primary voters and they will matter even more in the general election. I also want to point out that the Senator has spoken out on many occasions about the number of debates that have been held during the campaign. Those other twenty-something debates focused a lot on the issues. The way I view it, there is nothing wrong with covering topics that have never been discussed before, including events that occurred since that last debate.

Let me give you just one example. In lieu of Senator Obama having provided a substantive service to this country during his rather brief political career, some voters need proof of the Senator's patriotism. The Reverend Wright issue goes straight to the heart of the matter of voter mistrust of Sen. Obama's patriotism. If he is going to be the President, then he must convince the voters that he deeply cares for this country, especially since he will go up against a war hero in the general election.

Rev. Wright is not a casual acquaintance. He was a spiritual advisor and like an uncle to Obama for twenty years. The videos of Rev. Wright's screed against America only days after September 11, 2001, were for sale to anyone. After seeing those videos, people are completely justified in their concerns even though the Senator did not speak the words himself. Sometimes standing by in passive silence when something bad is happening is almost as bad as committing the act itself.

At first Sen. Obama said he never heard inflammatory rants while sitting in church. Then in his speech on race he admitted that he did. When questioned about reversal he tried to weasel-word it, saying he hadn't heard some specific comments. His reversals destroyed his credibility with me on the matter.

As a voter, I still have a lot of questions and concerns about this issue. I would like to know exactly which inflammatory comments Senator Obama heard in church, when he heard them and what he did about them.

We needed a speech from Senator Obama about patriotism and instead, he delivered a speech about race and expected to be done with it. But wait: not so fast.

He absolutely needed to discuss the Wright issue in a question and answer press conference or town hall format. That would have enabled the dialog on race that he claims we need in this country. And yet, he allowed no dialogue. It was a monologue of his point of view and subsequently, he did not actively pursue a path that would have made it possible for the dialogue to happen.

So given the lack of a forum where both sides could express a viewpoint, it had to come up in a debate. That is my opinion on the matter, and I am still not convinced that Senator Obama truly understands anyone else's point of view other than his own and Rev. Wright's.

We don't know that much about Senator Obama, and if he is to be the Democratic nominee, he must be thoroughly vetted before the general election campaign begins, so there will be few if any surprises.

If people haven't caught on, one problem with Senator Obama is that he is not very good in having a two-way conversation. He shines as long as he controls the audience and the message. Frankly, though, he stinks when he has to go off script. This is why he prefers giving speeches to having debates. Nobody can ask questions when you are giving speech. His lack of being able to think quickly on his feet or at least to prepare a response in case he is asked concerns me greatly. I guarantee that while serving as President of the United States of America he will not be able to follow a script. He must hope for the best, prepare for the worst and be able to come up with a completely new game plan pronto if something he didn’t expect happens.

It is my opinion that all of the other debate moderators have be unduly harsh with Senator Clinton while at the same time pitching soft balls to Senator Obama. You tell me: how fair was it to have a debate moderator (Chris Matthews) who announced on television that listening to Senator Obama speak sends tingles up his leg?

It was refreshing to finally see that the moderators were not fawning over either candidate. Both were asked hard questions. It might have tilted a tad in favor to Senator Clinton, but this was a first so I consider it payback for Senator Obama.

I also appreciated that audience interruptions were disallowed. The rule was applied to both candidates and that was fair. I was watching on television. I would rather make up my mind without the influence of audience reaction. Let's face it. Either candidate can get people there as cheerleaders. I do not want cheerleading to interfere with my own reactions to debate. It is impossible to do this if you have cheering and standing ovations. You can save the rah, rah for campaign stump speeches as far as I am concerned. This is a presidential primary, not American Idol.

I apologize for rambling on, but sometimes one cannot express one's opinion fully in soundbites. In closing, I want to thank ABC for providing the first substantive debate of the election. My hat is off to Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos for their journalistic integrity.

Again, thank you for allowing me to express my opinion.

Virginia L. Smith

Tacoma, Wa

Apr 18 2008 - 8:57pm

Web Letter

I just reviewed your open letter to ABC. Sheer hypocrisy and sanctimonious nonsense on the part of The Nation. Have you no integrity? Where were you and all your signers when Senator Clinton was unfairly attacked and grilled during the last twenty debates. Or is it just objectionable when the media darling, Senator Obama, is attacked? Should we restrict ourselves to only petting him on his pedestal? I congratulate ABC on being the first media organization to have the guts to grill Senator Obama on all those many troublesome issues he has, each of which makes him electorally radioactive for the general election. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, isn't it? Or did you lose sight of that basic rule of journalistic fair play and balance?

Naomi Rustomjee

Berkeley, CA

Apr 18 2008 - 8:44pm

Web Letter

The debate on ABC was a farce. I understand the claim that Obama should be vetted. However, a presidential debate is not an appropriate setting for a personal vetting interrogation.

The majority of questions directed at both Senators were superficial and lacking in substance.

The sort of queries directed at Obama in the first fifty minutes of the debate in particular, were questions that could never be answered satisfactorily. Questions about measuring love and donning lapel accessories will not truly reveal the depth of a person's patriotism. In fact, there is no question to really determine a person's loyalty to their country. Patriotism is revealed in deeds and actions.

I would further argue that the kind of questions about radical political affiliations, American flag pins and love of country were directed at Barack Obama because he is black. I feel that many mainstream journalists and voters feel they must probe the depth of Obama's Americanism. I think much of this occurs on a subconscious level and is paraded under the guise of "questions of character." The underlying assumption is that a black person's patriotism is always in question until they prove otherwise.

Even withstanding these racist assumptions because black people are used to it and Barack expects it--ask them in a press conference or on Nightline. They have no place in a presidential debate.

Mei Campanella

Brooklyn, NY

Apr 18 2008 - 8:37pm

Web Letter

Are you people serious? I mean, this is a spoof open letter right?

“Mr. Gibson's claim that the government can raise revenues by cutting capital gains tax is grossly at odds with what taxation experts believe.” That’s a brazen lie. An outright lie. You are just shameless to print an untruth grossly at odds with reality.

Moving along. Are you seriously saying that if John McCain had worked with a man who not only bombed abortion clinics thirty years ago, but was unrepentant and actually thought he didn’t do enough… that he shouldn’t be asked why he had worked with him, sat on boards with him? Are you kidding me? You expect me to believe that you wouldn’t be screaming blue bloody murder that he wasn’t asked hard about that?

Are you seriously saying it is unfair and not relevant to ask a man who wants to be President of the United States about his racist pastor? It's unfair to ask about Hate Preach? The fact is Senator Obama has received a fawning pass from the media for over a year. Nobody knew a damn thing about him or his friends, or his land deals or his racist pastor. But they do now and you loath it.

All you shills want to do is shut down anything that is even half way critical. You guys are scary Stalinists alright. Trying to use the special privileges granted to the press in the Constitution to intimidate against open and free debate. That's your game: to intimidate and to get others to self-censor. To chill free speech.

And please, the fact that an ill-prepared amateurish Obama was forced to spend forty-five minutes on this did him a favor. Less time to misstep, vacillate, bore, stutter and lose focus on all those issues you think he should have been answering. But couldn’t. He doesn’t even have a clue about capital gains tax and the 100 million stockholders who have to pay it. Talk about being not ready for prime time without a teleprompter.

This whole “open letter” is a shoddy, despicable performance masquerading as something serious. It falls far short of anything tangentially related to journalism and is nothing less than the ramblings of hacks cheering on the sidelines for one candidate. It’s another nail in the coffin of what used to be real journalism.

You should be ashamed, but the fact you wrote it proves you have no shame.

David Smith

London, England

Apr 18 2008 - 8:33pm

Web Letter

Debates need to be for the issues people want to hear. Not for the petty back-biting that went on.

Teri Benjamin

Missoula, MT

Apr 18 2008 - 7:48pm

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