Thu, Jul 31st 2008, 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - John McCain wants the presidential campaign to be about Barack Obama ? that's why he talks about him so much.
To that end, McCain is helping frame a not-so-flattering portrait of Obama for voters. His ads have become increasingly tough; a third of his commercials portray Obama negatively, a new study concluded.
Three months before Election Day, McCain's strategy raises this question: Will voters vote for the scold?
A new ad launched Wednesday suggests Obama is nothing more than a lightweight celebrity. Images of him speaking to a 200,000-strong crowd in Berlin last week are interspersed with shots of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. An announcer intones: "He's the biggest celebrity in the world. But, is he ready to lead?"
No doubt Obama has fame. He fills political venues with people. He breaks fundraising records with a massive donor base. He does not have a name recognition problem. But Obama himself concedes that his challenge is getting voters to see him as president
"It's a leap, electing a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama," he said Wednesday.
But McCain can't compete with Obama on popularity. Instead, he is working on sowing doubts about his opponent: that he's not tested, not ready to lead and too out of touch with the public.
"The Obama campaign does a wonderful job of presenting their candidate in the most popular light that they can get, and they do a very good job at it," McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters Wednesday.
"I'm going to let the American public decide what is negative and what is not negative," he added. "But I'm going to do everything in my power to protect my candidate and to define the race in terms that I think are appropriate."
In public, McCain's criticism of Obama is not as sharp: "Sen. Obama is an impressive speaker, and the beauty of his words have attracted many people especially among the young to his campaign," he said Wednesday. "I applaud his success. All Americans should be proud of his accomplishments. My concern with Sen. Obama is with issues big and small, what he says and what he does are often two different things."
For his part, Obama has managed to keep his hands cleaner on negative ads, though he has counter-punched. Instead, outside groups that support him have run commercials against McCain. On Thursday, a coalition including MoveOn.org and the Sierra Club were launching ads critical of McCain's stance on energy and gasoline prices.
Some Republicans welcomed McCain's confrontational strategy. New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen said Republicans in his state "like to see the McCain campaign on offense."
But in striking an aggressive pose, McCain is in danger letting the caricature of an angry, petulant candidate take seed ? not so much because he is one, but because it stands in stark contrast to Obama's carefully cultivated, well, celebrity, and McCain's own promises to run a respectful campaign.
McCain is popular in his own right. He ran for president in 2000 and has built his image as a maverick, challenging President Bush and fellow Republicans on some high-profile legislation. But some Republicans worry that a negative campaign will undermine his appeal, particularly with independent voters.
As of last week, more than 90 percent of the ads aired by Obama did not mention McCain, whereas one-third of McCain's ads referred to Obama negatively, according to a study of political commercials by the Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin.
"The campaign is making him seem angrier than he is and therefore it's a disservice to him," said John Weaver, McCain's former senior strategist, who left the campaign in a shake-up last year.
Others maintain that as long as Obama is the candidate who needs to prove himself, voters will pay little attention to McCain ? angry or not.
"John McCain is simply not a relevant variable in this election," said Ken Goldstein, a political scientist and director of the advertising project.
In working to sow doubts about Obama, the McCain campaign has not employed a single line of attack. It's heaviest ad placements have focused on energy, blaming Obama for high gas prices and depicting him as a tax raiser who opposes expanded oil exploration. But it also has launched ads criticizing Obama's stand on the Iraq war and his decision not to visit wounded soldiers in Germany. Obama said he did not want the visit to be seen as political.
The Iraq ads have received widespread media attention, although they appeared only a handful of times in a few markets.
"This careening from message to message makes them look like they don't have one specific thing they want to say about this guy and that there is no centralized theme, there is no centralized message," Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio said. "And that is most concerning."
Obama is projecting confidence, but he is not ready to ignore McCain.
In back-to-back days, he has retaliated with ads attacking McCain. In both, he accuses McCain of engaging in "old politics" ? a loaded phrase given that McCain turns 72 in late August.
On Wednesday, an Obama ad characterized McCain's ads as "false" and "baloney." It was unclear how broadly the campaign intended to air the ad, however, saying only that it would appear Thursday "in some markets."
But Obama also offered a personal rejoinder Wednesday. "He doesn't seem to have anything positive to say about me, does he?" he said, campaigning in Missouri. "You need to ask John McCain what he's for, not just what he's against."
Thu, Jul 31st 2008, 12:00 AM
Only a day after risking their lives on treacherous seas, in some cases leaving behind family and friends, more than 200 illegal Haitian immigrants were sent back to their homeland yesterday aboard two separate Bahamasair flights.
It is a journey that officials say takes approximately one hour and 40 minutes to reach Haiti, a far cry from the days spent on the open seas.
The first flight left the Lynden Pindling International Airport at 8am Tuesday, the second at 1:30pm the same day.
Each flight carried 114 illegal immigrants plus six security officers, including representatives from the police, defence force and the immigration department.
The plan was to book two additional repatriation flights for today (Wednesday) in order to ease the crowding at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
But according to Assistant Director at the Department of Immigration William Pratt only one flight is expected to leave the capital Wednesday morning en route to Haiti.
It was early Monday morning that defence force, police and immigration officers rounded up more than 300 illegal Haitian immigrants just after their wooden sloop pulled ashore in the South Beach/Marshall Road area.
Thirteen others were later apprehended, after having escaped into nearby bushes.
Among the group were 231 men and 64 men. Officials say five of the men and three women had to taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital for medical treatment
Monday?s apprehension came just two days after 24 Cuban nationals ? 14 men, eight women and two children ? were caught on Fish Cay just south of Andros over the weekend.
Based on figures compiled by the Department of Immigration, up to June of this year, 3,546 illegal migrants were repatriated to their respective homeland.
Immigration officials say 3,014 of those were Haitian nationals.
By Macushla N. Pinder
Wed, Jul 30th 2008, 12:00 AM
US Airways passengers bound for Reagan National will try today to get home from the Bahamas after a frightening first flight. Darya Shahbazi, a passenger from Fairfax County, tells Fox 5 their Airbus A-319 had just taken off from Nassau Monday when a large rattling sound from the engine turned into sparks and leaking fuel.
Shahbazi says the pilot then announced the plane had lost an engine and was returning for an emergency landing.
Tue, Jul 29th 2008, 12:00 AM
Tue, Jul 29th 2008, 12:00 AM
The government is doing all it can to address the scourge of crime in The Bahamas, said Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
And while Ingraham admitted that the fear of crime pervades the society, he said there was no immediate solution to the problem.
"The truth of the matter is we are doing all we can, the prime minister told The Nassau Guardian.
"We are very focused on crime, and matters relating to crime. The commission of crime is something that the state seeks to prevent as far as is humanly possible."
Last year, The Bahamas recorded its highest ever number of murders - some 79 homicides. It was also named among the most violent countries in the world in an international report.So far this year, the murder count stands at 41, and while the murder rate up to July this year is behind the number recorded for the first seven months of 2007, other crimes, such as robberies and rapes are up. Crime is also a major concern for other countries in the region, some of which recorded record-high crime rates last year.
Prime Minister Ingraham noted that beginning September 17, parliamentarians would start a full debate on crime, which will include changing a number of laws related to plea bargaining to address the chronic backlog of cases and monitoring suspects out on bail, hearing suggestions and points of view.
The government has also appointed a bi-partisan committee to report on crime.
And since coming to office last year, the prime minister said the government has spent substantial resources in the fight against crime.
"We have increased the number of police officers, we have increased their resources, in terms of vehicles and other essential equipment. We have gone to great lengths to ensure that the number of magistrates is increased. We have a serious backlog in criminal cases.
"I don't know what else we can do more than what we have been doing," said Ingraham, who reiterated that many of the crimes committed in The Bahamas are by people who know each other, including drug-related crimes and domestic violence.
As for concerns that local crime could be a turn off to foreign investors, Ingraham said there was no evidence to support that crime in The Bahamas was negatively impacting foreign investment in the country.
However, the government has been asked to consider what the impact would be on investor confidence "in allowing this level of crime and disorder to continue."
Donald Sweeting of the Bahamas International Trade Associates Ltd., whose organization works with both large and small-scale British investors, mainly interested in Bahamian resort development, expressed his concern about the potential impact of crime on investor confidence to Guardian Business earlier this year.
The call for hanging convicted murderers has also grown louder as the crime statistics have climbed; however, the prime minister maintained that The Bahamas would not be looking to remove itself from the jurisdiction of the London-based Privy Council as a way to help clear the way for capital punishment.
"It would not be in the interest of The Bahamas to decide what its highest court will be based on one issue," Ingraham said.
Asked to respond to the criticism that the Prime Minister's Office has not been vocal enough on the issue of crime, Ingraham responded: "I don't know what it is that I must do that I am not now doing. There are always many, many, many people who are arm chair generals who believe they can do this job far better than I, and I expect that would apply to crime and anything else."
By ERICA WELLS
Tue, Jul 29th 2008, 12:00 AM