Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lead, follow or get out of the way

"Obama reverses two positions in new energy plan" - AP, Aug. 5
"Obama reverses, passing up on public campaign money" - AP, June 20
"Obama reverses (fill in the blank)"

You heard it here first: Obama has lost the election.

Shower me with pooh-bahs if I'm proved wrong in November, but I believe John McCain's growing poll numbers are tied as much to his well-crafted image (Obama ain't the only one with PR people!) as with the Democrats' inability to lead with a message.

Why else would Obama's campaign start looking more at poll numbers on issues like Iraq, gun control, the death penalty, off-shore drilling, public campaign funding and (reportedly) wearing a flag pin rather than sticking to his message of leadership and change?

It's called the middle voter. The swing voter. The undecided voter. But Democrats can't be so stupid to think that playing to the middle while dissing the support that brought Obama the party nomination will win an election, right? Right?

The middle should be led to Obama's positions not pandered to so Obama is led to them. Obama's reversals -- call them "moving to the middle," if you will -- may be few, but they have created a perception of Obama as a waffler instead of a leader.

Are these policy reversals because the Democrats are so inept at running a national campaign or is it because the GOP has infiltrated the upper echelon of the Democratic Party? Yeah, I believe Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone, but Republicans are the Kings of Dirty Tricks. Remember the implosion of Ed Muskie's campaign? Or how the hostages in Iran were magically released when Ronald Reagan became president and after Jimmy Carter's presidency had become saddled with hostage images? Or how John Kerry lost to the most unpopular president in American history?

The real reason George II was re-elected in 2004 wasn't because he knew the issues and tried to collect a few more votes by shifting his position. He's no brainiac. The man (by perception) leads -- albeit down the path to destruction! -- but he (with his shadow advisors) leads. And American voters will follow anyone as long as they believe he/she inspires them. That's why Obama's campaign surged, and that's why McCain's is gaining now.

Democrats better find and shoot the pig in the Obama campaign right now, or they've lost - again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Enough already

San Francisco, my friends, ain't all about guys in frills and clam chowder on the Wharf.

In a good number of parts of The City, people are just trying to get by. And that's getting tougher to do while staying alive. This morning, on the other side of the street from our old apartment, two men were found shot dead in their car.

Out-in-the-open violence is becoming more of the norm here. Our old neighborhood, for example, was pretty quiet (except when University of San Francisco students were partying). Students smoked pot (and crack) outside our apartment and drunk students pee'd on car doors. But they didn't go around capping each other.

It's one of the most striking differences from the San Francisco we left six years ago. The violence now is everywhere -- not confined to downtrodden areas like the Tenderloin or Bayview or Hunter's Point -- and more and more it's hitting the innocent who happen to be in its path. A couple months ago, a father and two of his teenage sons in their car just happened to block a narrow street; as they were backing up, someone fired into the car, killing all three. A longtime gangbanger was arrested.

The two guys found dead this morning may not have been innocents. I suspect a drug deal gone bad, with their assailant(s) driving them to our old off-the-beaten-path street and firing bullets into their heads from the backseat. We'll see.

Yet the city's leaders are asleep, thinking that regulating pharmacies from selling tobacco products or setting recycling standards or banning trans fats from fast foods (all fine causes normally) makes up for shirking basic services like protecting the lives of residents. But that might require tough decisions that take money away from the politically powerful.

Friends, you still can come to San Francisco, and of course bring your money. Rest assured, Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, the Castro and crooked Lombard Street will continue to be the safest spots in San Francisco.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A good day

Am I on vacation or working from home? My last couple weeks at work left little time to think about how I REALLY was going to spend the first three days of the two weeks 4-year-old Benny's preschool is closed.

So I wasted Tuesday waiting for (nonexistent) return telephone calls. And Wednesday looked like it was toast, with one story needing an update and another story started from scratch two hours before deadline. Meanwhile, Benny's running up to me every five minutes wailing, 'When is somebody going to play with me?'
(For the record, I spent every Tuesday and Wednesday morning moment not dedicated to my paying job to playing with him.)

So when I finished the story, looked outside and saw the curtain of daily fog lifting to expose a beautifully sunny, blue sky, I threw the kid in some clothes, brushed his teeth and headed out the door. 'Let's make something of this day!' I grumbled.

Within minutes we were on a 6 bus headed downtown, through the Haight, the edge of the Tenderloin, down Market and stepping off at the foot of Powell Street, where the tourists wait ... and wait ... and wait for a ride on a cable car.

Benny and I walked up Powell into Union Square, to my favorite all-beef hot dog cart, where for $11 we got two dogs and two canned lemonades. We sat under a tree in Union Square and watched the world go by, while behind us a country-soul-blues-whatever-else-ya-want band played far enough behind us to enjoy.

We then walked into Chinatown, through the Chinatown Gate. This was the best part of all. Benny had never been to Chinatown, so every sight, smell and sound was new to him. It was a little bit of a walk, but not bad -- especially since I easily found our destination: the fortune cookie factory on a tiny alley between Washington and Jackson. Inside a narrow building with a retail floor (I'm being generous) about five-feet-by-five-feet, we saw how fortune cookies are made. One of the women slipping messages inside the cookies and folding them into their familiar design handed a couple of warm, unfolded cookies to Benny and me, and then we slipped out with a large bag of regular and chocolate fortune cookies for $4.50.

We popped out of the alley onto Jackson and walked toward the Financial District, taking in the Transamerica Pyramid, the Redwood grove, a fire station ... anything ... until we settled in at Baskin Robbins, where I told Benny his morning patience would be rewarded. He was in heaven.

We finished and moved on to work -- to see Christine. Benny and I rode the elevator to the ninth floor, where he sneaked into the deadline-day newsroom and handed Christine a fortune cookie. Benny and I then went to a 15th-floor rooftop garden a block away and nibbled on fortune cookies, bought some apple juice and jumped on the California Street (and drastically less crowded) cable car. We rode it to the end of the line, jumped on the 49 bus down Van Ness to Market Street, waited five minutes and caught the 6 bus home.

It's not how you start the day, I told Benny, it's what you make of it.