Friday, March 23, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
At the end of 2005, at the same time that the specifics of FOCUS On Poverty were being aired on the local community radio station that serves both John and me, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I submitted a summary of FOCUS to a web-site called SinceSlicedBread.com.
SSB is a project run by the Service Employees International Union, and its purpose is to serve as a national clearing-house for ideas from regular people about how to help America's working families - in particular, those that fall below the poverty line.
FOCUS On Poverty was the suggestion that received the most reviews during the competition phase, back in January 2006.
FOCUS On Poverty is the idea that has received the most flags in the past year. And...
FOCUS On Poverty is the proposal currently being adopted by the most visitors to SSB.
This is great news for all of America's working poor, who struggle every day to achieve some small measure of dignity, in the face of obstacles they believe are insurmountable. It sends them a message that they are not alone.
Be a part of that same message.
Lend your voice. To ensure that SEIU hears it. That the other visitors to SSB hear it. And, perhaps most important of all, that John Edwards hears it.
You can do this in a number of ways:
- Go to the SSB site, create an account, and then review FOCUS On Poverty.
- Flag FOCUS On Poverty as a slice above the rest! When you have signed in, go to FOCUS On Poverty, and below the idea, click on the 'yes' icon, where it asks if this idea is a slice above the rest.
- Adopt FOCUS On Poverty as an idea that needs implementation - now! Once you have signed in, go to FOCUS On Poverty, and left-click once on the light-bulb icon. Note: when it asks if you want to set it loose - don't!
- In the Comment box, in the Act section, make suggestions as to what you think can be done to make FOCUS On Poverty a reality.
- In particular, in that Comment box, openly lend your support to W9's campaign to get John Edwards to accept our outstanding invitation to come and be interviewed on his local, grass-roots radio station, and give detailed, irredeemable specifics on how he intends to implement FOCUS On Poverty when he becomes President.
- Leave a comment on this blog, why not? SEIU and John Edwards will be sure to see it!
W9 and FOCUS On Poverty are not about me. They're not even about John Edwards - even though he is the only Presidential Candidate to make America's poor the central focus of his Campaign.
I don't care a fig for myself whether or not you take any of the action outlined above. I care only about helping those 50 million of our friends and neighbors who have done all they can to make ends meet. It's time we remembered the generous spirit that was behind the founding of this country, and gave our friends and neighbors a helping hand.
Ask him to agree to give a detailed interview to his local, grass-roots radio station. To prove to all of us that he is staying on message. I'll make it easy for you - just paste the following into John's Questions/Ideas box:
"Hey John. Here's an idea. Why don't you agree to give a live interview to Geoff Gilson on your local, grass-roots radio station. Show us the 'real' you. Convince us you're still on message about America's poor."
Go to SSB, support W9 and John Edward's FOCUS On Poverty, and help to get some real 'focus' on the 50 million Americans who live below the poverty line.
In the Cricket World Cup, Ireland defeated Pakistan. On a Saturday which was also (quite fittingly) St. Patrick’s Day.
Pakistan is a powerhouse on the international professional cricketing scene. The Irish team, on the other hand, is that rarity which has virtually disappeared from the whole American approach to 'serious’ sports – the Irish cricket team is composed entirely of part-time, unpaid amateurs.
That means Irish team members do not make their trade at the sport. They are doctors and farmers and laborers. They do what they do for the love of the sport, and for the honor of representing their country.
Half a world away in geography, maybe. But many lifetimes removed from what we have become in America, without a doubt.
To put the Irish achievement in perspective, imagine your local community college putting together a basketball team of adult part-timers, and that team then taking out Ohio State in the NCAA Championship. That’s the equivalent.
So, let’s celebrate what a team of ordinary guys, in true blue-collar, gritty fashion, can actually pull off.
But let’s also view their success as a triumph of real human spirit and soul over the co-option of human endeavor by selfish, professional greed – a living example of what a few good men can do in the face of a society that says, it can’t be done, because corporatism wins over humanity every time.
And let’s see it as a good omen for what we in America can achieve, after the next Presidential Election, on behalf of the 50 million of our friends and neighbors who still live below the poverty line.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
"You're entitled to not agree with me, but you will know
what I stand for and you will not get politician double-talk"
MSNBC tell us that they have got hold of a galley-proof of a memoir by Bob Shrum, one of John's former political consultants.
Conveniently, Bob confesses that it was his fault that John voted for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002.
And we simple working men and women are supposed to believe that this galley-proof just dropped into MSNBC's lap...?
John. Bless your heart. Reality check.
Inviting a former adviser to fall on the sword is not perceived by ordinary working men and women as an act of political courage.
Regular folk do not expect a straight talker to slip around in the shadows and get books leaked, just to help him with his polling figures.
The worst part, John, is that the book doesn't actually help you. Not only was its leaking naked political calculation - which you pretend to eschew. It was bad political calculation.
Far from helping you, the book actually undermines your claim to have (naturally) heightened levels of political testosterone. Bob thinks he's doing you a favor with his 'candor.' And you obviously think so too. But in truth, both the book and its leaking are helping to dig you a grave.
Bob writes that he regrets advising you to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. He says that if you had followed your instincts, instead of the advice of political professionals, you would have been a stronger presidential candidate in 2004.
This doesn't tell us, John, that you are a man of steely conviction, prepared to stand your ground no matter what. Rather, it seems to suggest political weakness and calculation - which you keep telling us you reject.
Now, your spokesman, David Ginsberg, has done his best to dispute the suggestion that you were making a political calculation with the vote that you have called the most important of your career:
"John Edwards cast his vote based on the advice of national security advisers and the intelligence he was given, not political advisers," David has said. "He got political advice on both sides of the argument, and made his own decision based on what he thought was right, not political calculation."
Bob disagrees. He writes that you called your foreign policy and political advisers together in your Washington living room in the fall of 2002 to get their advice. You were "skeptical, even exercised" about the idea of voting yes, and Elizabeth was forcefully against it, according to Bob.
But Bob says the consensus among the advisers was that, after just four years in office, you did not have the credibility to vote against the resolution and had to support it to be taken seriously on national security.
Um. John. That's called basing a national security decision on political calculation.
Far from helping you, this whole contrived episode serves only to suggest that you have no conviction; you are the prisoner of political calculation; and that you change your mind whenever the political wind demands it.
Plus, if we really want to know who the 'real' you is on any given day, there's no point in asking you - what we need to do is take a straw poll of your family and advisers...I know...ouch...but I tell it like I see it...and I only do it because I care...
John, I will say it again: I want so very badly to believe that you are 'real,' because I want so very badly to believe that the 50 million people who fall below the poverty line in this country finally have a 'real' champion.
You have tied the credibility of their plight to your own political credibility. If people come to believe that you are not 'real,' then they will also conclude that there is no 'real' poverty problem.
When you say you are one thing, but are proven to be another, that disconnect damages you credibility - and it hurts poor people.
When you say we will know what you stand for, but your beliefs keep changing, that damages your credibility - and it hurts poor people.
When you say we will get no politician double-talk, but that's all you dish up, then that damages your credibility - and it hurts poor people.
Even after forty years, regular folk still feel the authenticity of Robert Kennedy - and he came with a lot more baggage than you do, John.
But the baggage didn't matter. What people remember is that Robert Kennedy had true political courage. He took risks. He crossed lines. And he didn't care about the consequences. He did what was right. Because it was right. And damn the consequences.
There wasn't a hint of contrivance or calculation in his looks, his policies, his speeches, his strategy or his tactics.
Frankly, John, if you are to overcome the credibility chasm that your advisers have opened for you, then you need visibly to start taking risks. You need to find a line to cross. To appear really authentic.
You claim to speak for 50 million people who do not know about living the lifestyle you have created for yourself - commendably. They know only about surviving, day-to-day.
If you want to bring those in poverty along with you - if you really do - then they need to see that you are prepared to risk your plans, your comfortable lifestyle, your political ambitions. To stand by them. They need to see you cross a political line, over which you can not return.
Otherwise, all they will see is someone whose political credo is based on political self-interest - not political courage or honesty. All they will see is political calculation. And they will not put their lives, let alone their votes, in your hands.
John, if you want to be a champion of the poor, then you need to be a warrior, not a politician. If you want working folk to see the warrior, and not the politician, then you need to get away from the Hollywood Campaign that has you trapped.
Convince us, John. Before it is too late. And if I can help you...well...the invitation to engage in some 'real' straight talk in a 'real' radio interview continues to be open.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
I want to say something about my party," John said. "I'm so tired of incremental, careful caution. Where is our soul? Where is our soul? We are [at] our most powerful when we speak from here" -- he touched his heart -- "and not from a poll."Time to take stock, John.
At first, I was worried that maybe you weren't doing enough to let real people see the 'real' you. I thought that was the only problem.
I thought that might be because you were so involved at the center of your campaign, and so controlled by the intricate choreography of it, that you simply weren't allowing yourself to get to ordinary folk.
And don't go believing your own press, John. 'Getting out' is not 'getting to' the people. You are never so alone when you are at the center of a crowd. On a platform. Behind a mike. Remembering the phrases from that last focus group poll.
But now, I have another fear. In a way it's the same problem, but in reverse. Now, I 'm troubled that, being so in control, you are allowing that control to keep you out of touch. With reality.
There are too may continuing miscues, missteps, mistakes...hmm, I'm beginning to sound a bit like an old, broken record.
Listen John. I'm going to give this a rest for a while. I'm still with you. But there are problems you need to address - in my opinion. You know what they are. I've covered them already. And you know what I think would be a large part of the solution.
I want you to pop down to your local radio station. I want you to give a grass-roots interview. No props. Totally open and honest. From the heart.
I want you to address the issues you are not addressing.
I want you to address them in a way that you are not - at the moment.
I want you to deal with the disconnect between your rhetoric and your actions.
I want you to tell ordinary people why the issue of poverty is so important.
I want you to tell those regular folk why they should trust you to keep your promises - all of them; not just the ones about alleviating poverty.
I want you to convince all of us that changing your mind and being calculating will not mean that you will change your mind about poverty, and 'calculate' that its elimination is not so important, once you get to the White House.
I want you to explain your specifics, without the hedging and the fudging you are employing at the moment.
I want to give you a real opportunity to convince ordinary working folk that you are not the same old, same old - that you are, indeed, a breath of fresh air.
And I want to give you the best opportunity possible to speak to and to speak for real working class people.
Of course, you can go on avoiding the invitation. But there it is. It's open. I don't need to go on reminding you.
In the meantime, you know what might be useful, John? Aside from picking on you? It might be interesting if I spent a little time explaining just why I am so passionate about the plight of America's poor.
And if I did this by sharing with you and with my other readers the journey that brought me to this conversation with them and with you.
Why? Because in so many ways, John, when I look at you, I see parts of me.
One of the biggest criticisms of me is that I am overly calculating. But I'm not. I mean, yes, I calculate. I can't help the brain that God gave me. And I care enough about what I do, to care about doing it in a way that gives it the best chance of success. But I'm not calculating.
I try to help those of my friends who are less fortunate than myself. I feel about them the way you say you feel about working people. In your anecdotes. I just wish I had the same opportunity as you to help so many more disadvantaged people.
So. When I see what I see in your Campaign, John. When I see what I am seeing with you. When, in particular, I see what may be disconnect. The possibility, however remote, that you may not be exactly who you say you are. I want to do something about it. I want to help you get back on message.
And I believe that a grass-roots radio interview with me would really help to start that process.
But, as I say, John, I think it only fair that you get to see why I believe all of this so fervently. And so you will.
In among the continuing commentaries, I will include some autobiographical notes about me, my journey to this conversation, and to my conversion to the cause of eliminating poverty in America.
In other words, 'the real story' about me...
You know you've got problems when the Campaign staff start saying behind your back that you might just be out of touch with reality. Really.
And I don't mean one of those "gosh, I'll tell you, but don't tell John" unattributable quotes you and Dave have been libbying...I mean, leaking to Newsweek and The Washington Post.
I mean Campaign grunts expressing real concern about the direction of your Campaign.
For example. There is, apparently, a big question mark over the disconnect seen within your own media-response task force.
On the one hand, you, Dave and the Campaign team hit the ground running before Ann Coulter even had a chance to adjust her titanium make-up - after her totally ineffectual remarks at Con-PAC.
- The continuing perceived disconnect over your house and you championship of the poor.
- A similar disconnect concerning your luxury National Campaign HQ.
- Your seeming lack of achievements while at the UNC Center for Poverty.
- The absence of pro-bono work when you were a lawyer.
- The less-than-stellar relations with ordinary folk in your new hometown of Chapel Hill, NC.
- Stories of isolation when living in Raleigh, NC - plus episodes of bird-flipping while jogging...?
Your staff remember your declaration at the beginning of your Campaign, when you stated boldly that you would be fully alert to any and all allegations of disconnect on your part.
You Campaign was going to be one of engagement and connection - with ordinary people and with the media.
Those same staff are now beginning to wonder why the rhetoric is not being matched with action...
Do you remember Deirdre?
Well, she came up to me the other day, all a-fluster. It would seem that you sent her an e-mail asking her for money.
Now, in case you don't immediately recall, Deidre is my friend from work, whom I persuaded to pop across the green - to your National Campaign HQ - to ask for help.
"So why," Deirdre cried, "why is John asking me for money? He lives in a big mansion. I live in a small apartment. I need to help my mom. I can't help John as well. Doesn't he understand that...?"
I tried to calm her down. Told her that it's the quid pro quo. You help her. She goes on the mailing list. But with that, Deirdre just got a flinty look in her eye.
She looked at me with ice in them eyes, and she said: "No, Geoff, no. He's supposed to be different. He told us he was going to be different."
You lost a vote, John. You lost a vote because a good, honest working lady saw the disconnect between what you say you are doing and what you are actually doing.
Deirdre will not vote for you now because she can not trust you to keep your promises. She now takes the view that you're just another calculating lawyer.
Deirdre no longer believes that you are a breath of fresh air. That you mean it when you say you won't use the old political ways. You won't hide. You won't horse-trade. You'll be open and honest. Show us all the 'real' you.
Well, she thinks she's now seen the 'real' you. She now thinks everything you do and say is just a new take on the same old, same old. That you're no better or worse than other politicians. Just a little more slippery.
Of course. Deirdre's just one vote. Just one worker. Maybe she doesn't matter. But she matters to me.
And she ought to matter to you, John. If you're real. If you really have soul...
You see, John, what gets me itchy is that when I talk with my mates, who are down-to-earth working-class types, they don't ask any of the questions you seem focused on answering.
Take Iraq and oil for starters. My mates, untroubled by the so-called complexities of geopolitics, see 150,000 heavily-armed American soldiers in Iraq - I think that would be without The Surge ("the insurgent cleaner that kills 99% of all known germ warriors").
They see American military bases in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Taken all together, that accounts for, what, about two-thirds of the world's known oil reserves?
They see a brand-spanking new, western-suited, probably American-educated, Iraqi oil minister, striding into the latest meeting of OPEC - no doubt with George's marching orders tucked into that oh-so-pretty Gucci briefcase.
And they can't help but wonder, ever so gently, why gas prices are still so high?
Now, I may think this a silly question. Indeed, I may have a clever answer. But they don't want to hear me. They want to hear you.
They want me, as an ordinary person, just like them, to ask you precisely this sort of question in a real radio interview. On your local grass-roots radio station.
And why? Because they know I won't back off. And because they don't hear the fancy media asking you this sort of question - the sort of question that interests real working people like them.
It doesn't matter what I think of their questions. Or what you think. You should want to answer them because they are the questions on the minds of the ordinary folk you claim to want to speak to and speak for.
So, what about it, John? Real questions. Real answers. Real feelings. Real credibility. Lots of reality, all around. Really.
Are you game for some real tough reality, John?
John was in Nashua, New Hampshire recently. Talking to a group of 125 residents at the home of a State Senator. And attempting to highlight the differences between him and Hillary on the issue of Iraq.
Now, John has to create what we in England call clear blue water between him and Hillary on this topic, because he's trailing a distant third in this all-important first Primary State. That's politically sensible.
And he's doing it by picking on the one aspect where there is both clarity - and not only in the color of the water - and distance.
Hillary won't apologize for her 2002 Senate vote. John, on the other hand, has made sackcloth and ashes his motif de couture on this issue. This plays well to the anti-War activists. And so, again, it is politically sensible.
The problem with political expediency is that it often ignores the real issue - and even ordinary people can see that.
My favorite demographic - the boys and girls down at the VFW - know all too well that what's done is done. We're in Iraq. And it's a mess.
What worries them is not who did what in 2002. Nor who is saying what now. They ain't stupid. They know we are going to withdraw. The only questions are when and how.
And that is what worries Jonny Nascar and Wynette Walmart. What is going to happen when we do eventually withdraw from Iraq? Particularly, what is going to happen to the price of gas?
And no-one, not John, not Hillary, not even McCain, is talking half-way sensibly about that. And that is what really worries the boys and girls down at the VFW.
And John. Take note. If they are still worried come the General Election, it may well be the issue that pushes them into what they continue to see as the 'safe arms' of the Republican Party.
So. Maybe, it's time to get real on this subject. Maybe this is somewhere where "it's really important for us to be honest with the country..."
On a positive note, John, I am happy that you were addressing an intimate group of 125 people in Nashua. I know they were probably hand-picked.
David Kuo is a conservative Christian, who served as Deputy Director of President Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003.
David is currently the Washington editor for Beliefnet.com. He wrote a book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, in which he claimed that Bush aides had privately called conservative Christians "nuts,'' "ridiculous'' and "goofy.''
What follows is an article David posted on Beliefnet.com on the same day that Ann Coulter called John a "faggot" at the Con-PAC annual conference:
I believe John Edwards.
I believe his passionate statements on behalf of the poor. I believe that the faith he says animates him is real.
I believe that he has made quiet and selfless trips to care for the suffering around the world. I believe he knows what poverty is like and that his faith in Jesus requires him to care for the poor.
I believe that those who criticize him for living in a huge house while talking about the poor should shut up - by that standard should only the sick get to talk about health care?
I really, truly, absolutely believe John Edwards.
But I'm skeptical. Blame President Bush for that.
I walked away from a long meeting with Gov. George W. Bush in early 1998 believing certain things - that compassionate conservatism motivated him, that his talk of "racial, social and economic justice" was sincere, that he really was a "different kind of Republican."
I believed it so much I went to work for him and ended up spinning the facts so I wouldn't have to have my beliefs disturbed. I've been set straight.
John Edwards has many distinct advantages over the George W. Bush of1998. Bush had been moved by a single question asked him by a young man in a juvenile detention facility. "What do you think of me?" He didn't have an answer but nobly wrestled with it and out of the wrestling came his compassionate conservatism.
Like Jesus' parable of the seed and the sower, however, it sprung up quickly but had no roots and just as quickly it died away.
Edwards has more than anecdotes. He actually did grow up poor as he has talked about perhaps a bit too much. But more than that he has put himself in suffering's way.
Casual mentions of trips to some of the world's poorest places mingle with talk of the suffering he has experienced in his own life - the loss of a son, his wife's breast cancer.
To John Edwards combating poverty and fighting for the poor isn't a novel idea - there isn't any starry-eyed talk about solving poverty, just a firm resolve to address it. That is good.
He is also less brazen about his faith. He obviously understands the great political benefits (and increasing necessity) of talking about it - this very successful litigator knows how to win a case after all.
Still, there is a striking and attractive reticence for being too spiritually naked. Then again, that may simply be the trial lawyer judging the jury.
Ultimately, however, the proof will be in the actions. Will he continue to make the poor a center of his agenda? With increasingly success - if it comes, and I believe it will - will he still display that same passion?
And, if elected, will he actually follow though on his promises? That is the only question that ultimately matters.
Promises to the poor are sacred promises, a test of character and of faith because they depend more than most promises on the person making them.
There are no great lobbyists who push the poor, no Fortune 500 companies throwing parties for candidates who support the poor, in fact, no one really cares about the poor in politics except for those who make the promises.
Is John Edwards real and genuine? He may have the chance to prove it.
I am not a conservative Christian. But John - and David - I could not have said it better.
John, the only people who care about Ann Coulter are Ann Coulter and the 1,705 registrants who voted in the Con-PAC straw poll. Get real! You'd have suffered more damage being savaged by a sheep.
So, the contrived tone of injury was...well...contrived. And frankly, we ordinary folk - your very best friends - are beginning to get a teeny-weeny bit tired of it. That is a shade of color up from 'concerned.'
There are real problems in this country to be talking about. And I'm beginning to wonder if your avoidance of them is purely accidental.
There are serious problems within your campaign which need attention. And I'm beginning to wonder if you're becoming...well...out of touch, John.
And I'm not the only one. I'm hearing it from former supporters of yours. I'm even hearing it from inside your campaign, John.
We all want you to get back on track, John - before it's too late.
This from an organization which had just chosen an airhead pretty-boy ("Mitt-ens the Face-Lift") as its favorite Republican Presidential Candidate.
To make matters worse, it was Mitt-ens who introduced Ann Coulter to the conference before she made the speech where she used the offending word. Socially conservative she may be, but Christian she clearly ain't.
The Republicans' Second Primary should have been the annual conference last week of the American Conservative Union Political Action Committee. However, it would seem that a liberal dose of March Madness was in the air (pun intended). And so it was that Mitt Romney came first in a straw poll of the GOP activists attending.
Despite his record of inconsistency on some social issues, the former Massachusetts Governor received 21 per cent of the 1,705 votes cast by paid registrants to the three-day conference. They were asked who their first choice would be for the Republican nomination.
Now, don't go getting your knickers in a twist. My predictions in The Preacher Primary still stand. The Con-PAC straw poll has little real meaning. The voters were just pissed that John McCain had decided not to attend, and they acted out their anger in the straw poll.