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Elections & Voting Last Updated: Aug 15th, 2008 - 17:04:06

Preposterous polls and corrupt campaigns
By James H. Fetzer
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 15, 2008, 00:16

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Madison, WI -- What�s wrong with this picture? Everyone hates George W. Bush. Everyone wants change. Over 65 percent of the American people agree the nation is headed in the wrong direction. One candidate is brilliant, inspiring, charismatic and represents change. The other is aging, inarticulate, incoherent and stands for the status quo. The first has been running a brilliant campaign, the other a campaign in virtual chaos. Each day one candidate offers serious solutions for significant problems, while the other makes a fool of himself. Yet the polls say, �McCain is gaining ground� and �Obama is losing ground.� One national poll even has them running neck and neck or shows McCain ahead of Obama.

Do any of us stop and think that these poll results cannot possibly be correct? That when Obama meets with heads of state in the Middle East and Europe and draws 250,000 to a rally held in Berlin, while one reporter welcomes McCain in Manchester, NH, it is not credible that McCain should be competitive with Obama? Or that during a week in which celebrity Paris Hilton produces a video that very skillfully and effectively rebuts McCain�s use of her image -- along with that of Brittany Spears -- we are supposed to believe (according to The Wisconsin State Journal, August 6, 2008), that �Among voters aged 18-29, Obama lost 16 percent and McCain gained 20.� Are we supposed to be so dumb that we accept this at face value?

When you think about it, it was not that long ago that Obama was enjoying a 15-20 percent lead over McCain. The campaigns in the meanwhile have been far kinder to Obama than to his rival, if you ignore the many contrived attacks McCain�s side has launched against him. Some of them have verged on the absurd. Using the images of Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears, for example, in an attempt to belittle Obama�s �celebrity� massively backfired. The Paris video response to the use of her image was stunning, where �the bimbo� has a better energy plan than McCain! Meanwhile, McCain appears at a biker rally in Sturgis, SD, announcing that �We are going to win in Iraq by winning!� and encouraging his wife to enter the �Miss Buffalo Chip� contest (�Cindy McCain as Miss Buffalo Chip?� LA Times, August 5, 2008), completely oblivious that it is a lewd affair that even includes a topless competition.

It is beyond me how anyone can take this man seriously, yet the press still seems to adore him. I have been astonished that in spite of constant change on crucial positions -- for campaign finance reform, now against; against offshore drilling, now for it; against inflating tires, now for it -- he has not been held to account by the corporate media. Moreover, no reporter in the newspapers or on TV has ever raised any questions about the impact of 5� years of torture and interrogation upon his mental and emotional health. How could anyone endure this brutal and humiliating experience and not be severely mentally and emotionally scarred? Consult clinical psychologists about their opinions. Yet according to Poll Tracker (August 9, 2008), as recently as last week, the influential Rasmussen poll was reporting McCain leading Obama by 47 percent to 46 percent.

Time and again, McCain has shown that, whether the matter is serious or trivial, he doesn�t have a clue: the distinction between Shiite and Sunni, the (non-existent) border between Iraq and Pakistan, the �Miss Buffalo Chip� competition, the gasoline mileage benefits from inflating our tires have all proven to be beyond him. Moreover, his management skills are severely lacking.

A front-page report in The New York Times (�Embracing a Free-Form Style, McCain Leads a Camp Divided,� August 10, 2008), demonstrates as complete a lack of personnel skills as I can imagine combined with a mercurial temper. As a manager-in-chief, he would be a disaster. The very idea that this man should be taken seriously as candidate for President of the United States is beyond me. Objectively, there is nothing to recommend him.

How does this comport with report after report of dramatic increases in voter registration with an overwhelming preference for the Democratic Party? Three possible explanations have occurred to me. The first is that the pollsters are excluding those who use cell phones. Cell phone users are, no doubt, overwhelmingly young and attuned to the politics of change. The second is that Hillary has asked her followers to express support for McCain rather than Obama to make her case for the nomination stronger. The third -- and most disturbing -- is that the polls are being artificially depressed to make the contest appear closer, so that when the time come to steal the election, the American public will be less likely to notice. The benefits are potentially substantial: Doubts are created in the minds of Obama�s followers, decisions may be made to cope with imaginary problems, and a McCain win would appear more plausible.

Consider. Even after subtracting 16 percent from Obama and adding 20 percent to McCain, The Wisconsin State Journal (August 6, 2008) still gave Obama the lead among the young by 49 percent to 38 percent. The contrast if the polls were not reflecting (what I take to be) artificial adjustments would be on the order to 65 percent to 18 percent in this category. The Journal also reported that McCain had gained 10 percent among women, yet Obama still leads in that category, too, by 43 percent to 38 percent. Perhaps nominating your wife for �Miss Buffalo Chip� is a big draw among women. Among independents, Obama is reported to have lost 11 percent points, where they are now tied. Does anyone really think that women and the young find McCain attractive? He�s never even heard of Paris Hilton!

Anyone who thinks the GOP is beyond stealing elections using electronic voting machines hasn�t been paying attention. The elections of 2000, 2002, and 2004 were strongly affected, as many studies have shown. Just Google �election theft using electronic voting machines� if you have any doubts. More ominously, an extreme Bush partisan, Michael L. Connell of GovTech Solutions, has been selected to re-organize congressional web sites and has thereby gained access to the electronic records of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Ethics Committee, as the voter fraud and polling expert Bob Fitrakis has observed (�Behind the firewall: Bush loyalist Mike Connell controls Congressional secrets as his email sites serve Karl Rove,� Online Journal, July 31, 2008). Connell boasts of his loyalty to his friends and to the Bush family.

Ohio provides an instructive illustration. Ohio attorney Cliff Arnebeck held a press conference a few weeks ago to announce his motion to lift a stay on a lawsuit brought in the face of �massive improprieties, irregularities, and violations of the Voting Rights Act� that appear to have taken place during the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. At the heart of these efforts, instrumental in delivering the state to Bush, was Mike Connell (�GOP Tech Guru Mike Connell �High IQ Forrest Gump at Scene of Every Single Crime� say Ohio Attorneys,� The Brad Blog, July 22, 2008). Indeed, according to Fitrakis, the plan to steal the election is highly advanced, but the public can only be deceived if it believes the candidates are running close.

I am far from the only one who finds this situation disconcerting. Ed Garvey (�Watch out for the agenda behind the poll,� The Cap Times, August 13-19, 2008), for example, has raised questions about recent Quinnipiac University polls, which have produced similarly anomalous results. He has focused on August 7, 2008, results reported from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, which claimed that, while only 17 percent of voters think the country is headed in the right direction, the race has tightened where �McCain is within shouting distance of Democrat Obama in the state.� It turns out that WPRI is a front for the archconservative Bradley Foundation, which reporters covering this poll somehow neglected to include in their stories.

Jonathan Alter (�Where Have You Gone, John?� Newsweek, August 11, 2008), observes that McCain�s �zesty attacks on corporate greed and inspiring planes for national service are no more.� Even Republican strategists are describing his latest attack on Obama as a celebrity as �juvenile� and �immature.� His own mother called it �stupid.� But maybe it will work. E. J. Dionne (�McCain is cultivating Obama fatigue,� The Cap Times, August 13-19, 2008), thinks the strategy is to saturate the public with so much negative news -- no matter whether true or false -- that the public becomes turned off to his policies and positions, which should produce less enthusiasm for Obama and make the vote much closer. The purpose is to create the impression that the race is close -- close enough to steal. Maybe we are dumb enough to fall for it.

James H. Fetzer is McKnight Professor Emeritus at University of Minnesota, Duluth.

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