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Sarah Palin in Cedar Rapids Gazette Letters to the Editor (6 for, 23 against); Read ’em all here, add your comments September 17, 2008

Posted by John in Political.
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(LETTERS published in The Gazette between September 3rd and September 17. Gazette ombudsman’s column — published on Sept. 21 — posted at end.)

From September 3, 2008 Gazette:

McCain’s VP pick is most unqualified

How can John McCain attack Barack Obama for being inexperienced and then pick an even less experienced person as his vice-presidential running mate? Sarah Palin is the most unqualified vice-presidential nominee in American history, which is pretty scary, given McCain’s age and his history of cancer.

Two years ago, Palin was the part-time mayor of a village of 8,000 people. Today, McCain thinks she’s ready to step into the presidency of the United States and run this country in the eventuality he can no longer perform those duties?

In an interview just a month ago with Larry Kudlow on CNBC, Palin dissed the job, saying it didn’t seem “productive” and wasn’t even sure “what it is exactly the vice president does every day.”

McCain could hardly have picked worse.

Danny McCone
Cedar Rapids

From September 4, 2008 Gazette:

Palin’s selection trivializes concerns of women

I don’t think John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will help the GOP ticket pick up unhappy Hillary Clinton supporters. First of all, there aren’t as many of those as people think, especially after Barack Obama’s terrific acceptance speech.

Also, it looks like tokenism. Women don’t want a woman to be picked just because she’s a woman. They want her not to be disqualified because she’s a woman. That’s a big difference. Would Palin have been chosen at all if she were male? Of course not.

Palin looks woefully out of her depth. She looks like a local morning talk show host or PTA president.

Maybe Palin’s a nice lady, a good mother, maybe even a fine first-term governor. But McCain’s selection of her trivializes the concerns of the women’s movement and, of greater danger to our nation, puts the concerns of his campaign above the need our nation has to have someone in charge who can deal with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Joan Weysler
Iowa City

From September 5, 2008 Gazette:

John McCain appears he’s pandering to women

John McCain, what were you thinking about when you chose Sarah Palin as your running mate? Surely you didn’t think about your own mortality. Palin is just one heartbeat away from being president if you are elected.

She is vivacious, a former beauty-queen, former mayor of a small town in Alaska. She may be a very good governor but does she have the qualifications to be president of our country? Does she have experience in foreign affairs?

McCain was, I feel, pandering to women. Women, unite and defeat McCain.

Elizabeth Hajek
Mount Vernon

Sarah Palin couldn’t be more unqualified

Sarah Palin is staggeringly unqualified to be vice president of the United States. She would be clueless in a national security crisis, should a 72-year-old President John McCain die or become disabled.

McCain has put politics above the security of the nation. His selection of Palin is a cynical political act. Women don’t vote for women just because they are women. Women have high standards.

We probably won’t hear so much from now on about “experience” and “judgment,” McCain’s so-called standard for the presidency until now. We certainly won’t hear him talk about the “person most prepared to take my place,” the phrase he has used repeatedly to describe his main criterion for a running mate.

Evan Hewer
Cedar Rapids

From September 6, 2008 Gazette:

Couldn’t McCain have picked a better woman?

John McCain could have picked Condoleezza Rice, Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, Susan Collins, Elizabeth Dole, etc., for vice president. Instead McCain picked a woman who is the governor of polar bears and penguins. What are Sarah Palin qualifications? Former beauty queen, mayor of a town of fewer than 10,000 people. McCain does like younger women, having married a woman 18 years younger than him. Republicans, don’t you think McCain could done better in picking vice president?

Darrin Benda

Vote for your beliefs, not for a gender

I have been a supporter of Hillary Clinton, and still think she would be a terrific president. However, to vote for Sara Palin, a hockey mom from Alaska (population the same size as Memphis), in disappointment, because she is a woman, would be the greatest insult to Clinton. Let us do what Clinton has done, and vote for the values we believe in.

Birgit Coffman
Iowa City

From September 7, 2008 Gazette:

Palin is the wrong woman to help lead our country

Some headlines say John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin helps his maverick reputation. I don’t think so. It makes him look like any other calculating politician, willing to do whatever it takes to win.

McCain’s campaign slogan is “Country First.”

If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you really put an inexperienced, untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?

McCain apparently thinks “any woman will do” to win over disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters. It’s an insult. You have to be qualified for the job. Palin is the wrong woman, lacking experience and on the wrong side of the issues that matter most.

Joyce Deboy
Mount Vernon

It seems unwise to attack Sarah Palin’s experience

Many Democrats are attacking the selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential nominee because she is supposedly inexperienced. This is perhaps unwise.

A recent letter writer noted that two years ago, she was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (which he sneeringly termed a village of 8,000 people). Sen. Barack Obama has said (interview with Anderson Cooper, Sept. 1) that his experience running his campaign is comparable to that of being mayor of Wasilla, ignoring the fact that Palin is now governor of Alaska with a budget that exceeds $10 billion and more than 16,000 employees. In addition to handling a large administration, governors have to make decisions that often impact the safety and welfare of the people of their state, as we have recently seen with Hurricane Gustav.

More telling, however, than simple executive experience is the path by which the Democratic presidential nominee and the Republican vice-presidential nominee rose to office. Palin built her elected career by taking on corruption in the Republican Party of Alaska. In contrast, rather than addressing the corruption in the Democratic Party in Chicago, Obama has had his path to elected office smoothed by that party machine.

The approach of Palin indicates she understands the job of a politician is to serve the people who elected her. Obama, in contrast, seems more committed to getting power for himself than preventing the abuse of power by politicians.

Which will serve us better in Washington, D.C.?

Wilfrid Nixon
Iowa City

From September 8, 2008 Gazette:

National power solution is priority in this election

What do you think the oil and coal industries give priority to, their profits or the environment?

Why do you think the carbon companies have spent $425 million since January to influence public policy? Are you one of the 60 percent who bought their propaganda that they needed more oil leases for offshore drilling in order to increase the oil supply and bring prices down? Are they concerned about what you are paying for gas?

Insurance companies pay for catastrophic damages that oil companies do. Swiss Reinsurance insures many oil companies and demanded that they reduce their carbon footprint or they were going to cancel their insurance. I bet you thought that oil companies’ investments in alternative energies were voluntary.

The Dakotas and Iowa wind power could supply much of U.S. electrical power and Nevada solar power could produce substantial amounts.

However, because the power grids are so antiquated, solar and wind power can’t be delivered in any substantial amounts. Updates to the grid are bogged down with local companies and political territories. A national solution is necessary.

So would you rather have Barack Obama and Joe Biden, who will act to make clean energy a reality, or John McCain and Sarah Palin, who will make oil and coal profits a priority over the environment, ignore the Congress and continue to drill?

Harold Hensel
Cedar Rapids

Obama has shown better judgment than McCain

During our flood disaster, Iowa state officials asked both Barack Obama and John McCain to stay away for a little while because their security requirements would take much-needed personnel and resources away from fighting the flooding. Obama complied but McCain came anyway. The campaign, not the country, came first.

Now we have Hurricane Gustav. Obama announced he will keep out of the way of the hurricane effort but McCain rushed south to get the TV photo ops. The campaign, not the country, came first.

“Campaign First,” not “Country First,” should be real campaign slogan, and that is why McCain should not be our next president.

Obama continues to show good judgment time and time again. McCain is a selfish politician who will do anything to get elected. He picked an unqualified woman with no experience, Sarah Palin, to be a heartbeat away from the presidency because he thinks she will help his campaign.

George Hewland
Cedar Rapids

From September 9, 2008 Gazette:

Do research, evaluate McCain, Palin on actions

Sarah Palin spoke up and spoke out Wednesday at the Republican National Convention. She asked that John McCain be evaluated for his actions, so in turn we must examine Palin for what she has accomplished as Alaska’s governor.

She has sued the Bush administration for putting polar bears on the endangered species list, feeling that global warming isn’t “man-made.” Perhaps that is why BP sponsored her inauguration. Now on a campaign to unite America, it was only six months ago that Palin told members of the Alaskan Independence Party — those who advocate for a secession of Alaska from the union — to “keep up the good work” and “wished the party luck on what she called its ‘inspiring convention.'”

The Tax Policy Center estimates McCain’s proposed tax changes would provide the middle-income earners a $325 tax cut and 0.1 percent of Americans would receive a $600,000 tax cut while providing the eight largest companies $1 billion in new tax cuts. Barack Obama plans to only increase the taxes on those making more than $250,000 annually and help pay down the $10 trillion national debt.

Regardless of party, do you know what you are fighting for? Can you stand up for what you believe? I implore you to research the issues, get the facts and think for yourselves. The fate of our country is in our hands — let us make the history books with vigor, honor and intelligence.

Leihren Cushing
Cedar Rapids

Ugly, sarcastic speech by Palin telling about GOP

Watching Sarah Palin give her speech at the Republican convention it was clear that she fits the qualifications for a GOP candidate:

1. Ability to lie without shame.

2. Questioning an opponent’s patriotism.

She is the next generation’s Phyllis Schlafly. It was an ugly, sarcastic speech, with great delivery, but that’s exactly who they are, so it’s good to have it out in the open.

George Landefer

Palin is only on ticket because she’s a woman

Sarah Palin is doing the women of America a huge disservice by accepting the GOP’s invitation to be its campaign gimmick. Hillary Clinton would have been appropriate on a national ticket because she is qualified first, a woman second.

Palin is on the ticket because she is a woman. Period. This is progress?

Anne Ylvisaker
Cedar Rapids

Campaign wrongly put pregnant teen in spotlight

I agree 100 percent with Barack Obama that families, and especially children, of the candidates should be off limits in this campaign. If only the Palins and John McCain had considered this when they chose to put a 17-year-old and her teenage boyfriend in the spotlight. This should and could have been a family matter but now the whole world knows and everyone has an opinion.

It would be one thing if this only affected McCain or Sarah Palin but it deeply affects two young people who are not ready for this kind of attention, especially at this very stressful time in their lives. I am certain McCain had to have known the repercussions this news would create. He has been around forever and has experienced it all first hand. What was he thinking? It speaks to me of lack of good judgment and that is something we do not need for four more years.

Sheila Dalton
West Branch

McCain recklessly selected Palin to win White House

Sen. John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate proved that the Republican presidential nominee will make any sacrifice necessary in his zealous pursuit of the White House, including the best interests of America.

Selecting Palin was a craven attempt to pander to disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters who the McCain campaign saw as a monolithic bloc that would move, lemminglike, to a GOP ticket featuring a female vice president. Recent polls show this is not the case; Palin’s values are too different from those of Clinton backers.

McCain’s pick was far too reckless. If he, the oldest presidential nominee in history and a cancer survivor, were forced to leave office, we would see the fate of the United States directed by an inexperienced first-term governor of a small, frontier state. One who is under a cloud of suspicion from allegations that she abused her power as governor to order the dismissal of a state public safety commission, one so chained to her belief in abstinence-only sex education that her pregnant, 17-year-old daughter is reportedly forced to marry the boy who impregnated her, which frankly serves as prime example of the failed policy so strongly pushed by the Bush administration.

Were McCain to have vetted Palin properly rather than make a hasty political gamble, he would have discovered that she does not offer the kind of leadership America needs in 2008 and beyond.

Matthew Moss
Cedar Rapids

From September 10, 2008 Gazette

Gazette should balance political letters to editor

Just for fun, I conducted an informal survey of The Gazette’s Opinion Page letters to the editor from Sept. 1 to 7. My results: Pro-John McCain, Sarah Palin, or anti-Barack Obama, Joe Biden — two letters printed.

Pro-Obama, Biden, or anti-McCain, Palin — 14 letters printed. Maybe The Gazette could try to be more subtle. Since this is not an anti-McCain letter, I guess it won’t get printed.

I’m not expecting 50-50 coverage, but come on, Gazette, you can do better.

Don Zasadny

Should media only report on what is good for Palin?

The media have treated Sarah Palin unfairly. They ask questions they shouldn’t, like: Who is Sarah Palin? What is her record? Where does she stand on the issues? Is she qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? How well did John McCain know her?

It is not the media’s job to ask questions. Their job is to endorse and support the decisions that politicians make, and stick to human interest stories like the fact she eats mooseburgers. They should only report press releases, like how she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere (after she supported it).

The media never should have reported that Palin is under investigation by a bipartisan state legislative body, with which she had promised to cooperate but now has hired a lawyer to fight to move the case to the jurisdiction of the state personnel board, whose members she appoints.

Stop asking so many questions. She gave a really good speech. As we all know, speeches cannot be written by others and rehearsed for days. They are true windows to the soul. Unless they are given by Barack Obama, in which case, as Palin said, speeches are just a “cloud of rhetoric.”

The media only should report on what is good for her campaign. That is their job, and duty. Right?

Marc Doty

From September 11, 2008 Gazette

Why would Republicans mock helping people?

Will someone please explain to me why members of the Republican Party (or at least those on stage at the convention) find it so offensive that Barack Obama worked as a social activist and a community organizer?

I was appalled to hear Rudy Giuliani mock the fact that early in Obama’s career of civil service, Obama chose to work to help those in need. I listened in disgust when I heard the same despicable comments made by Gov. Sarah Palin — who I understand claims to be a strong Christian. Isn’t working in some way to help others something to aspire to? Or at least that is what I always thought, being the Christian and Democrat that I am. (Yes — you can actually be both.)

Maybe I read a different Bible than Palin does, as mine tells me Jesus instructed us to serve others, not mock those who do.

Cynthia Sueppel
Cedar Rapids

Voting for McCain, Palin is clear-cut decision

I can’t wait until November when patriotic Americans cast their votes to put their country first. There has seldom been a more clear-cut decision to make.

Perhaps then the media will understand that Americans do not appreciate their vicious and personal attacks on the families of those who bravely run for office.

It was great to hear Sen. John McCain say, “I can’t wait to introduce Sarah Palin to Washington!”

Coral Dye
Cedar Rapids

Palin is smoke screen for McCain to hide behind

As I watched Sarah Palin’s speech at the GOP convention I turned to my husband and said, “They’re taking the low road again. I wonder who wrote it.” Later, I opened up the Wall Street Journal and lo and behold, there on page A6 I found my answer. The speech was written by Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush.

Palin’s role is to be a bright, shining, political red herring. Her down-home personality and quipping is a mighty smoke screen behind which John McCain hopes he can hide his intention to continue the Bush administration’s policies.

Carol Sheerling
Cedar Rapids

From September 12, 2008 Gazette:

Send a message to Dems about slow response

Wow! Sarah Palin and the Republican Party have struck the main artery of the liberal heart. Just before the Democratic convention, they announce Joe Biden as the vice presidential pick — Barack Obama’s numbers go south.

During the Republican convention, they announce Palin, John McCain surges 13 points. First-class lady who obviously has won the hearts of most Americans.

Finally, Americans are seeing Obama as a fine man — great speaker but nothing else. McCain has more experience than Obama. He’s a war hero and clearly a candidate that has not been influenced by either the Democratic or Republican format.

We have had two years of a Democratic, do-nothing Congress that promised change.

Now the Democratic candidates think that they can win with that slogan again?

The leader of the Democratic Congress, Nancy Pelosi, visited us this week and said she’s “stunned” three months after a 500-year storm in Iowa that wiped out our entire downtown. And the Democrats blame President Bush for being slow in New Orleans?

Our only recourse is to send a message to Pelosi by not voting for the Democratic “change” platform they seem to think Americans and Iowans want.

James Schmitz

John McCain of 2000 isn’t back this time

I like John McCain, and his nomination speech was impressive. No one can doubt his courage or the story of his life. I, myself, thought he would win the Republican nomination in 2000 but the backhanded tactics by George Bush and Karl Rove brought that to a close. I was hoping that the John McCain of 2000 would come back during this political season so that the divide that’s plagued our wonderful country could be cured, but that doesn’t seem to be the case either.

Despite his so-called ideas for a civilized campaign, he has injected personal attacks and partnered with the same religious extremists he once said were “agents of intolerance.” Then he went one step further and invited to the ticket an individual with extreme views on abortion, contraception and sex education.

The pick of Sarah Palin was surprising because her positions are well to the right of most of the Republicans I know. And the most appalling thing McCain has done is hired the same polarizing, political assassins that Bush unleashed on America and McCain himself in 2000. This, I believe, is the final nail in the guy’s coffin.

Symon Sanborn
Cedar Rapids

From September 13, 2008 Gazette:

Sarah Palin doesn’t stand for human rights at all

The only change that Sarah Palin offers is change in her extremist positions. In 2006, she vetoed a bill that would have denied same-sex couples from having health benefits and then in 2008 supported legislation effectively undoing that by banning same-sex marriage. For those of you who are not humane enough to be a humanist, this is a distrusting case of flip-flopping on a heavily important issue. The rights of humans, to live and be treated as human, not something less.

And if change is truly something we want in this election, in the next vice president, why vote for someone who sued the Bush administration over placing polar bears on the endangered species list because of fears it would cripple oil and gas development in prime polar bear habitat off the state’s northern and northwestern coasts?

If you truly want a change in your country, do your own research before you vote. If you do, you won’t have to look very hard at why you shouldn’t vote for a John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket.

Michael Markham
Cedar Rapids

From September 14, 2008 Gazette:

Democrats just need to get over Palin hatred

It is fascinating to watch the Democrats turn apoplectic over the very intelligent, honest, hardworking and tough Sarah Palin. How dare the Republicans nominate a female governor for the vice-presidency of the United States without the permission of either the narrow-minded Gloria Steinem crowd or the Democratic Party itself.

Doesn’t John McCain know that the sun doesn’t rise and qualified women are not allowed to run for anything without the Democrats’ permission?

On the other hand, if Palin were a Democrat, she would suddenly be seen by Democrats as the reincarnation of John F. Kennedy, FDR and Thomas Jefferson all rolled into one. As it is, the Democrats have to run against Palin, a governor who has much more executive experience than the Democratic nominees for president or vice-president.

Obama has never been the executive in charge of running anything (unless one considers his association with the felonious Association of Community Organizations for Reform, or ACORN).

Maybe a lot of people like Palin because she doesn’t listen to advice from people who repeatedly scream, “God damn America!”

Wayne Swanson
Cedar Rapids

McCain/Palin will save our future, Social Security

In 1869, Mark Twain wrote a book called, “The Innocents Abroad.” Judging by the current lack of national attention to the approaching Social Security crisis, there should be a new book called “The Innocents at Home.”

For five years, I have attempted to alert fellow Iowans to this calamity, apparently to no avail. Now, John McCain favors the partial privatization of the system, as do I. Barack Obama wants to plug the gaps by simply soaking the rich with additional Social Security taxes. Doing this would be little more than putting a Band-Aid on an amputation and it would not stop Congress’ ravenous borrowing of Social Security funds.

Iowa, this is almost our last chance. Support John McCain/Sarah Palin and allow them to save our future. If Obama is elected, the inertia on this issue will continue until the shortfall in Social Security funds finally arrives. Seniors, once that happens, we are done. Kaput.

Does anybody care?

Steven Bristow
Cedar Rapids

From September 15, 2008 Gazette:

Republican change promise only points at themselves

With the conventions over, the Republican Party must now prove it is the party with answers to a host of problems facing America.

They promise lots of change, but from what? From their own policies! They’ve governed the nation for more than a decade. Since their “ouster” in the 2006 elections, Republicans continue to bottle up almost all Democratic initiatives by using the Senate cloture rule, and by the presidential veto.

What have they accomplished in this time? Little. The hoopla over Sarah Palin, and the focus on John McCain’s war record conveniently obscures the fact that our problems are the result of their own policies. Republicans love deregulation, so they fired banking regulators and bear major responsibility for the mortgage crisis. They wasted a decade without even starting to wean America from foreign oil. The health crisis has worsened. They trashed the Justice Department, and played games with our constitutional rights. Finally, they’ve nearly bankrupted the federal government with tax cuts while engaging in a costly war that has weakened American prestige and clout in the world.

Republicans talk about change, and hope brilliant marketing strategies will lure voters into forgetting which party got us into this mess.

The only sensible change now is to make the Republicans into the minority party, and let the Democrats proceed with genuine change.

James Conger
Iowa City

From September 16, 2008 Gazette:

Listen to Alaska residents who know, support Palin

It is interesting to read the many letters that are critical of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (sometimes called Sarah Barracuda). I understand her favorable Alaska performance ratings range from the mid-60s to the mid-80s. Apparently, even Democrats in her home state think she is doing something right.

How do the critical Iowa letter writers suddenly become Palin experts? What do they know that the majority of her state constituents do not?

Did Palin make a mistake when she opposed the “bridge to nowhere?” When she supported such things as funds for pregnant teens and mentally disabled children, was she in error? Is she right to be pro-contraception?

Did it show character, as well as courage, to oppose and beat politicians in the pocket of big oil? This takes on special significance when one realizes the politicians were members of her own party.

Recently an Alaska resident called Palin “the U.S. answer to Margaret Thatcher.” The individual termed her “ethical to a fault” and went on to write “she became governor of Alaska by defeating the incumbent Republican governor (in the primary) and doing it without money or the support of the Republican Party.”
Frankly, I think a vote for her is not just a vote for vice president but also a vote for a future president.

Charles Handy

Palin knows basic facts like no penguins in Alaska

This is in reply to the Sept. 6 letter, “Couldn’t McCain have picked a better woman?” The writer may not like the choice of Sarah Palin for office, but I bet even she knows they do not have penguins in Alaska, as does almost everyone who studied in school.

Odessa Levasseur

McCain has worst record of attendance in Senate

In a Sept. 10 letter, “Obama missed vote in support of military,” the writer wrote: “I’ve been studying some voting records. If I showed up for work as few times as Barack Obama has, I’d be out of a job.”

The writer should have studied John McCain’s record. McCain is the senator with the worst attendance record in the 110th Congress. He missed 408 votes — 63.8 percent.

As for Sarah Palin, we are now learning that she billed Alaska taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months as governor, charging a per diem allowance intended to cover meals and expenses while traveling on state business. That’s $16,951 — for staying home. She charged the state $43,490 for (some of) her daughters’ and husband’s travel costs. Those aren’t the actions of a fiscal crusader.

Gerald Shorer

From September 17, 2008 Gazette:

Too much at stake, to vote for McCain-Palin change

Not knowing much about Sarah Palin, I decided to do a little research:

Palin doesn’t believe that humans contribute to global warming.

Speaking about climate change, she said, “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.” Being a scientist, I strongly disagree with Palin and I am not alone.

Palin’s inauguration as governor was even sponsored by BP. Oops! She must have left that out of her speech. Whose interests do you suppose she would support?

Palin doesn’t even support abortion in the case of rape or incest.

As mayor, Palin asked the library how she might go about banning books because some had inappropriate language in them — shocking the librarian, Mary Ellen Baker. According to Time (a Sept. 2 story), “news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving ‘full support’ to the mayor.”

Palin supported the Bridge to Nowhere (before she opposed it). In 2006, Palin supported the project repeatedly, saying that Alaska should take advantage of earmarks “while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.” Would this qualify as a “flip-flop”?

The McCain/Palin ticket is not the kind of change I want for America.

It is a shame too, because I strongly feel that the time for a woman in the White House is long overdue. But I would not vote for that ticket just for the history-making potential. There is too much at stake.

Jon Ryk

Answer voting quandary by writing in Hickenlooper

I find myself in a bit of a quandary. At my age, this will probably be my last opportunity to vote for a president.

If McCain is elected, Sarah Palin becomes president if McCain dies. Democrats in huge numbers say Palin is not qualified to be president.

If Obama is elected, then Biden becomes president. Biden has effectively been rejected for the presidency, solely by Democrats in his two attempts for nomination to that office.

I’ll write in Bourke Hickenlooper.

Robert Burk
Cedar Rapids

Palin repeats lies of Bush administration

John McCain and Sarah Palin keep saying how they are going to make changes in Washington and not be just like President Bush’s two terms.

Then, speaking Sept. 11 to soldiers going to Iraq, Sarah Palin said, “You’ll be there to defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.” The attacks on America had no connection to Iraq. No one has ever found any connections between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. No matter how often the Bush administration keeps saying it, it cannot turn that lie into a fact.

Bill Albert

September 21 UPDATE: Column by Gazette ombudsman Judi Whetstine

Letters based on the proportion received

Several readers recently complained about the number and proportion of published letters to the editor supporting or opposing presidential candidates.

One complaint, for example, says that on Sept. 9, all five letters were pro-Democrat and commented that: “The Gazette bias has been evident for the past several weeks.” Another complaint totaled the number of the letters published from Sept. 1 to 7. He said there were two supporting John McCain/Sarah Palin or anti-Barack Obama/Joe Biden and 14 supporting Obama/Biden or anti-McCain/Palin. “I’m not expecting 50-50 coverage … but you can do better.”

I reviewed the letters on those dates and generally agree with the counts. There are also days when the proportion of candidate support is closer. The complaints are really about The Gazette’s policy rather than a bias for a candidate.

What is The Gazette’s letters-to-the-editor policy? The Gazette does not vouch for the accuracy of information. Publishing a letter does not indicate that The Gazette supports or opposes its opinion. The Gazette does not contradict or correct the information. It gives readers the opportunity to do that in letters to the editor, and they do. The Opinion Page editor, Jeff Tecklenburg, said “we don’t want to discourage a free flow of ideas or give the impression The Gazette wants to have the ‘last say’ about any given letter or group of letters.”

What is The Gazette’s practice for letters to the editor? The Gazette does not print every letter that it receives. There are written guidelines such as not printing “multiple letters on the same topic expressing the same viewpoints.” The staff “select[s] a sampling of the opinions. Preference is given to short, succinctly expressed letters. Space limitations” may impact publication.

What happens with presidential or other political candidate letters? Tecklenburg said he and the opinion staff “consider all [letters] received for each candidate and try to publish a representative selection. [They] try to look for a variety of viewpoints, the timeliness, and try to avoid redundancy as much as possible.” He says that they then use a proportionality test. The proportion of letters published represents the percentage of letters received supporting or opposing a candidate.

“We review the trend [letters received supporting and opposing candidates] a couple of times each week and try to adjust our mix of letters accordingly as we plan the page content for the next several days.” They must also allow space for letters raising other issues.

In addition, “the proportion of letters we publish for any given candidate or issue cannot be taken as a reflection of the broad community [position] because some folks are willing to submit their names and viewpoints for publication and some are not.”

Using the proportionality test is a standard practice across the country, according to my ombudsmen colleagues. Proportionality also is used with other issues. I agree that it is useful.

Knowing the proportion of people willing to identify themselves and describe the reasons to support or oppose a candidate is newsworthy. The proportion may not represent a complete picture of the community’s position, but it can be an indicator of the level of interest.

If The Gazette only published one letter supporting each candidate each day, those letters effectively become “columns” and not the community’s letters.

One of my colleagues, Ed Wasserman, a journalism professor at Washington and Lee University, mused that newspapers could replace the proportionality approach.

Wasserman suggested creating a “plebiscite by recording an ongoing count of all letters supporting a candidate in a box in the newspaper.” Then the paper could publish “identified quotes from some of the letters to give a flavor [of] the fresh and interesting views for supporting a candidate, and publish full letters which [the opinion page staff] think have a good perspective.”

Tecklenburg expressed a willingness to consider such a practice or see if it could be incorporated into GazetteOnline.com.

In the meantime, the adage that if everyone is unhappy, then you must be doing something right may apply here. In any given week, The Gazette receives complaints claiming bias from supporters of both political parties.

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1972 article about fatal crash which took life of Joe Biden’s wife, daughter August 24, 2008

Posted by John in Accidents, Biography, Children, Family, Political.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From The Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 19, 1972:

Senator-Elect’s Wife Dies in Auto Accident

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – The pretty blonde wife of Joseph R. Biden was at his side through his campaign. They rejoiced in victory last month when he became the youngest man to be elected to the U.S. senate in this century.

Biden, an intensely family oriented man, had said earlier that he wanted his wife Neilia to get a doctorate and teach college when their children were older. In the meantime, he said, he wanted her “to mold my children.”

End in Tragedy

Biden’s plans for his family ended in tragedy Monday when a tractor-trailer truck slammed into the family station wagon near Hockessiri.

Mrs. Biden and the couple’s 18-month-old daughter Amy were killed and the Bidens’ two young sons were injured. Joseph, 4, sustained leg injuries; Robert, 3, suffered head injuries.

Also hospitalized was the truck driver, Curtis C. Dunn, 43, of Avondale, Pa.

Police said the station wagon “pulled from a stop sign” and was struck on the left side by the truck, “continuing approximately 150 feet, spinning around, going backwards down an embankment, and striking three trees.”

Biden, 30, Democrat, was in Washington at the time, working on staff appointments. He flew back to Wilmington and arrived at the hospital with his sister and campaign managers.

A half-hour later he departed with his son Robert in an ambulance.

“With You”

In an apparent effort to reassure the child, Biden said: “I’m going to jump right in there with you, son.”

The boy was transferred to Delaware Division hospital nearby.

Biden met his wife, a native of Skaneateles, N.Y., during his junior year at the University of Delaware. Two years later, in 1965, after he finished his first year at Syracuse law school, the two were married. Mrs. Biden had been on the dean’s list and was homecoming queen at Syracuse.

Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hunter of Auburn, N.Y. Biden, a Wilmington lawyer and New Castle county councilman, had been soaring on the crest of victory after defeating veteran G.O.P. Sen. J. Caleb Boggs in the Nov. 7 general election.

At that time Biden was still 13 days shy of his 30th birthday, the minimum age required to be a U.S. senator.

Boggs, when notified of the accident, said, “It’s tragic and
terrible beyond words.”


According to a December 2007 New York Times story, this is how Sen. Biden described the accident:

“Let me tell you a little story,” Mr. Biden told the crowd at the University of Iowa. “I got elected when I was 29, and I got elected November the 7th. And on Dec. 18 of that year, my wife and three kids were Christmas shopping for a Christmas tree. A tractor-trailer, a guy who allegedly — and I never pursued it — drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch, broadsided my family and killed my wife instantly, and killed my daughter instantly, and hospitalized my two sons, with what were thought to be at the time permanent, fundamental injuries.”

A drunk driver or not? Check out this article by News Journal of Delaware. [Link came from Comments for this post]

Some Gazette coverage on Sen. Biden’s 2007 Iowa visits here.

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Some Dems concerned that Iowa caucus campaigning might give GOP operating majority in U.S. Senate December 11, 2007

Posted by John in IowaCaucuses, Political.
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From Congressional Quarterly Today:

House Democrats are quietly expressing concern that the coming Iowa caucuses, on Jan. 3, might erode their party’s narrow one-vote margin in the Senate during the race to adjournment.

“If any of the four Senate Democratic presidential candidates miss votes while campaigning in Iowa, Republicans would have an operating majority in the Senate,’’ said one senior Democratic aide. … more >>


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