Election Connection

July 2008 Archives


How Do You Fix a Broken Economy?

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Today, President Bush signed a bill aimed at providing housing relief. But what will our next president need to do to stave off more trouble?

As economic woes have crept back to center stage in the campaigns, it's fascinating to look at how past presidents have dealt with a faltering market.

Recently, the federal government decided to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In the late Eighties, it was the first President Bush who cleaned up the savings and loan crisis, taking a political risk that may have cost him re-election.

Giving some perspective on the current housing troubles, economist Allen Sinai told NOW's David Brancaccio in a March podcast "What we have in the current situation is classic. We had a boom." "The boom gave us a bubble in the price of residential real estate and we now have an asset price bubble that has burst," he said. "We're in a recession now, and this was a lever."

But is it really a recession? A Nightly Business Report piece explores the definition of recession and the varying opinions of where we actually stand.



The Running Mate Game

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In the calm before the storm of the conventions starts later in August, the media is keeping busy speculating over vice presidential picks for Sens. Obama and McCain.

A VP pick rarely makes a huge difference in the way campaigns are run, but with current Vice President Dick Cheney's increased role in White House politics during the Bush administration, there's more of a focus on the number two slot now than ever in recent history.

A look back on Gwen Ifill's interview with Cheney and his former House colleagues just after Bush chose him as running mate in 2000 sheds light on Cheney's deep ties in politics and how that led to the VP slot.

"It's a great testimonial to Governor Bush that he feels secure reaching out to a person of such great stature, and it's a testamonial to Dick Cheney that he's still willing to go back and contribute some more to government," former GOP Rep. Vin Weber said at the time.

But there have also been moments in history when the vice presidential pick meant more in retrospect than it seemed at the time.  Watch as Lyndon Johnson becomes JFK's vice presidential pick at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, taking on new meaning after Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

With the extraordinary news following the 2008 campaign has created, both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain's picks are sure to drum up interest as the hot summer in Washington winds down. But will their picks move the polls? That remains to be seen.


Cheat Sheet

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Who says young people don't care about politics? While media outlets (including this one) are endlessly trying gimmicks to reach younger audiences, the most relevant content seems to come through when the tables are turned and the coverage is coming from young people themselves.

VoteGopher is a project started by a group of Harvard students that uses interactive features (like a virtual ballot) and blogs to aggregate election information on the candidates.

Scoop 08 is an online newspaper, by and for college students across the country.

Tavis Smiley's Young Voices gathers a select group of diverse young bloggers to talk about political and social issues.

NewsHour Student Voices is topical project that collects editorials and essays by students.

So is this is the Year of the Youth Vote?  Tell us what you think.


A Third Candidate?

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As coverage of Sens. Obama and McCain intensifies, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr is causing a stir behind the scenes.

Today's Los Angeles Times feature on the social conservative paints Barr as a possible spoiler, noting that his policies are rarely the focus when he makes the news.

But given his lengthy time in Congress, there's actually quite a bit we do know about the four-time GOP representative from Georgia.

In a Tavis Smiley interview from 2004, Barr spoke about his book, "The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton". In the interview, just after the Democratic National Convention, Barr criticized both John Kerry and John Edawards.

"They really missed a tremendous opportunity to lay out an agenda for the American people," he said.

NOW's profile of the congressman in 2005 pits him against actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo, discussing his views on privacy issues and civil liberties.

More recently, NewsHour's candidate profiles have included Barr and echo the Times' predictions that he could earn a significant number of votes in some states.


Digging Deeper on Iraq

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As the media parade follows Sen. Obama through Iraq this week, here are a few quick resources to help navigate the confusing territory of the country's national and ethnic divides.

For an overview of the history of the Iraq war, Frontline's collection of in-depth reporting on Iraq provides analysis of the on-the-ground tactics and the politics of war in the U.S., including Bush's War.

NPR's 'Origins of the Shia-Sunni Split' explains the decades-long conflicts between sects in Iraq. It also offers a cast of the historic and contemporary players.

Finally, a statistical report from Bill Moyers Journal earlier this year outlines the Iraq conflict from the data side, surveying numbers of both civilian and military casualties.


There's Something About Austin

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New music emerges yearly at Austin's South by Southwest conference. So will new politics emerge from a pair of events this week in the Texas capital?

The third annual gathering of a group of liberal bloggers known as NetRoots Nation converges on Austin this week. But they aren't alone. As the Washington Post reported today, they'll be joined by the conservative response summit, RightOnline.

As news comes out of Texas this week, it's interesting to look back at how the blogosphere has shifted since 2004. Earlier this year, NOW on PBS spoke with Matt Bai, New York Times reporter and author of The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, who addressed how candidates view the influence of bloggers.

"Now you get bloggers coming into your district saying I can get you money, I can get you support. A lot of people who wouldn't have listened a couple years ago are listening now," he said.


Cartoons and controversy

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In politics, a cartoon is never just a cartoon. So how do editors at the New Yorker decide when to push the envelope?

This week's New Yorker cover portraying Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle as scheming terrorists caused a stir, and editor David Remnick paid a visit to Charlie Rose to give some perspective on the issue.

"The intention of this cover ... was to confront all the subterranean dark imaginings, lies, rumors, distortions about Obama, put them all in one image, and shine a harsh light on it," he said. "Satire is not always easy to take for a lot of people."

Even before the video was available online, commenters on Charlie Rose's site were perplexed by the story. Diane Hartley wrote, "If the New Yorker wanted to target political fear-mongers, why weren't people like Rush Limbaugh, O'Reilly and the like caricatured demonizing the Obamas?"


Reviewing Political News

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In the sea of election stories this week, our News Hunt turned up several trustworthy tales - and a few big fish stories.

Reviewers took the lead from the new film Election Day to seek out good reporting by media outlets big and small on topics ranging from the latest political polls to McCain's health care plan.

One story from the Washington Post compares the 2004 'swiftboating' of John Kerry to an Internet rumor that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Walter Cox said in his review on NewsTrust that the Post could be used to disprove the rumor: "So the next time I receive one of these e-mails I will also be able to link to this article, which effectively discusses their genesis."

In a 2006 story from the National Voter about election reform, one reviewer points out that "registering voters just as important as getting voters to the polls."

For more on the News Hunt or to add a story you've found to the list, visit NewsTrust.net.


Stealth Audio

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The days of the 'Bushism' may be nearing a close, but now there's a chance to find the best Obamaisms and McCainisms. With a raw audio tool from PRX you can hear unfiltered gems directly from the trail to get the real story of the day's events ... or maybe just to make a fun spoof.

PRX, a non-profit radio distribution service, allows listeners and producers alike access to a variety of programming. With the Campaign Audio project, you can search for topics like Money in Politics, and find primary sources, from McCain talking about earmarking funds at a stump speech to an original Obama campaign press conference call.

The PRX project is also drawing together original stories from radio journalists and raw audio feeds from the campaign trail.

Then again, using a particularly catchy piece of raw audio for something like the Colbert Report's McCain Green Screen competition would certainly draw the buzz (or maybe 'bump') that any candidate would dream of.


A Seat at the (Blogging) Table

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The lines drawn at the Democratic National Convention may be more than just partisan ones.

In a story for Online NewsHour, National Minority Consortia reporter Adam Serwer explored the disparities perceived by some black bloggers in getting credentialed for the Democratic National Convention coming up in August.

"I don't get the excuses they make. It's almost insulting. All they'd have to do was do the outreach," said blogger L.N. Rock, known online as the African American Political Pundit. "It's almost as extreme as 'we couldn't find any black people for that position.'"

The National Minority Consortia includes producers and reporters focused on creating content that addresses a range of minority issues.


What makes good news?

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What's the difference between a New York Times story and a BBC story? Are blogs credible? Using NewsTrust.net's review technology, we're sending you on a News Hunt to find the best election stories.


NewsTrust aims to improve readers' understanding of political journalism by having users review news and opinion pieces, and rating them on a 1-5 star scale. Here's a selection of what the News Hunt reviewers have dug up so far:


This BBC story on McCain's town hall style gets only 3-stars for accuracy from one reviewer. "This gives the article an opinion-piece feel, not that of a factual ground-level report, of this Pennsylvania meeting," said Kristin Gorski.


A piece on national security from The Nation got a 4-star Reviewer Denise Clendening said it "raises valid questions about the media's double standard. Since McCain is running on his military service as evidence of his experience in national security and foreign affairs his record should be vetted."


Join in, add a review, and identify what you think is good (and bad) reporting out there.


Follow the candidates' paths

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There are metaphors galore to describe the rise of a candidate to the White House, so why not literally map it out? Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama have lived, worked, and served all over the world. While they are both Senators with deep ties to their home states, they've moved around far more than the average American.

To really get a perspective of where both candidates have been, check out Google's Election maps, which pushpin every move the candidates make, from childhood home to last night's campaign stump speech.


Liberties with Obama's image?

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With a striking font and bright colors, Barack Obama's campaign posters have given politically motivated artists more to work with than the usual red, white, and blue.  But are artists' takes on the images going too far?  


BallotVox--a public media project from PRX that is finding quirky election content from around the web--discovered one graffiti artist who misquotes an Obama speech, perhaps on purpose.


NPR's Bryant Park Project explores the mythology behind the campaign poster's far-off gaze.

And in a Bill Moyers Journal piece from last December, the program investigates Hollywood iconography and the Oprah influence in Obama's campaign.


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Recent Comments
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  • Bob Anderson said: Sure, Cheney's thinking before becomming Bush's running mate is interesting, but what about how he... More
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