Hillary's Permanent "Mutnemom"?

A mostly political Weblog.
May 4 2008 3:47 PM

Hillary: Mutnemom Forever?

She's always on the ropes now.

Nut Graf! Psychologist Ellen Ladowsky elaborates on her Hillary Bosnia Fantasy Theory at HuffPo. I recommend navigating swiftly to paragraph #20, where she's buried the nut grafs:

There are two possibilities: Hillary may be a pathological liar. Or, more persuasive to me, Hillary believed what she was saying and her description of her Bosnia trip was a true representation of her psychic reality and not external reality. In her internal world, Hillary may feel as though she's always being shot at by sniper fire and that she's heroically managed to stay alive.

This theory makes sense of Hillary's recklessness. It didn't feel reckless to Hillary to repeat this lie over and over again, and she paid no heed to those who contradicted her, because in her mind, she was telling the truth. Only when confronted with undeniable evidence of external reality -- actual footage from her Bosnia trip - did she admit (possibly to herself as well as the public) that her version of events was not true.

It also explains Hillary's reaction when exposed. She was angry because she was forced to abandon her psychic reality for external reality. For her, this was tantamount to giving up the truth in exchange for mere facts. .... [snip]

While most of her explanations have made no sense, when Hillary told Leno that she'd had "a lapse", she was right on. She'd had an actual lapse in mental functioning. [E.A.]

To me, Hillary's Bosnia exaggeration doesn't seem that bizarre--just a particularly egregious and risky version of the sort of resume brighteners even candidates who served in the military sometimes tell. I'd be tempted to dismiss Ladowsky's argument if it didn't resonate with other bits of data in Hillary's biography: a) Her marriage! Did she stay wedded to a notorious philanderer by insulating herself within a "psychic reality"--a reality only disrupted by "undeniable evidence" in the form of Monica Lewinsky's dress? I remember during the early days of the Lewinsky scandal when Hillary's aides said she didn't read the papers. That would be one way to stay in a comfortable "psychic" cocoon. Another way would be to surround yourself with ultraloyal aides. (Hello, Sid!); b) Her refusal to face the legislative failure of her health care plan in 1994 until it was too late; and c) Her failure to take the Obama threat to her candidacy seriously enough (including, maybe soon, a refusal to admit that it's too late for her to win the nomination). .... 2:27 A.M.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Eight Belles Metaphor  is so obvious that everyone is embarrassed to use it, figuring that everyone else is already using it--a thought born embalmed as a cliche, already tiresome from anticipated over-expression before being sincerely expressed in the first place. [The thought that it's a cliche is also already a cliche, no?--ed Faster! ... I'll never get out ahead of this, will I?] ... 11:57 A.M.

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It seems like only ten years ago that policy hustler Robert Reich was confusing marginal tax rates with effective tax rates in an attempt to fool his readers into thinking the tax burden on the rich had gotten lighter than it actually had. He's still doing it, apparently. ... [via Insta]1:04 A.M.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

What if it was all a dream? (And if so, what does the dream mean?) Ellen Ladowsky and Rob Long interpret Hillary's Bosnia fantasy. ... Hint: In the end they cancelled her party! ... 4:54 P.M.

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Hillary Clinton has done best in this campaign when she's been on the ropes--the phenomenon everybody (OK, nobody) in the press calls Mutnemom, or reverse momentum. Recently, however, Clinton's been gaining in polls while Obama's been declining. You'd think that would hurt her in North Carolina and Indiana as voters focus more intently on the actual prospect of a Hillary presidency and less intently on Obama's flaws. But maybe, thanks to Hillary's seemingly hopeless elected-delegate position, she's achieved a kind of Permanent Mutnemom status, in which (happily for her) no number of primary wins can alter the perception that she's still on the ropes.  ...  4:23 P.M.

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Jon Keller revisits Obama wrang-wrang Deval Patrick--the pioneering African-American governor of Massachusetts who now has a 56% disapproval rating. What's the difference between Obama and Patrick? They were both relatively inexperienced. They were both advised by David Axelrod. They both ran on race-transcending "hope." A veteran GOP political analyst recently described to me what he considered the key analytic distinction:

Deval Patrick is an idiot. Obama is not an idiot.

OK! In that case .... 12:36 P.M.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

"Minister's Comments Hold Little Sway in Indianapolis Enclave": On the one hand there's the  New York Times report:

[N]o one interviewed here said that Mr. Wright had affected how they or anyone they knew would vote.

On the other hand, there are the actual polls, showing Obama tanking. Who you gonna believe? ... P.S.: A staple of cocooning journalism is the quickie poll showing that "Voters Say They Aren't Troubled by X," with X being an issue the polltakers don't want voters to be troubled by. Typically, these stories 1) ignore the tendency of voters to lie to pollsters, especially when it comes to admitting they might be influenced by thoughts of the sort that they suspect polltakers don't approve of; and 2) even if everyone's telling the truth, if only 10% of voters say they will vote against a candidate because of X--while fully 90% of the voters say they are untroubled--that means the candidate has been badly damaged by X. In most races a candidate can't afford to lose 10% of the vote on a single issue. ... In today's story, of course, the Times strikes a blow for transparency and cost-efficiency, dispensing with the expensive, scientific-sounding claptrap of polling and cutting right to the soothing BS, interviewing a handful of upscale Indianapolis shoppers who duly deny they would be influenced by the Wright flap (but who knows what those "less cosmopolitan" Hoosiers down South will do). ... 10:40 A.M.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sid, Busted: If Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal wants to email around Manhattan Institute articles attacking William Ayers' education theories, that's OK with me. Peter Dreier's post is almost a parody of netrootsy Obamanoia--if you're going to ask voters to tolerate Obama associating with Ayers, don't trash Blumenthal for daring to read Fred Siegel. (Or for influencing Charles Krauthammer--"an arch conservative.") Webbische kopf!Sometimes even arch conservatives have things to say. ... Still, voters should know about Blumenthal's under-the-radar emailing because a) it's sometimes very effective (if not nearly as effective these days as Dreier, or arch conservative Sid enemies, pretend); b) it threatens to create a reality-distorting echo chamber (a point Dreier makes) and c) if we elect Hillary, we're going to get Sid as part of the package. ... P.S.: From the piece: "One of Blumenthal's associates scoffs at the notion that there's anything vaguely conspiratorial about these emails." Sid, conspiratorial? ... P.P.S.: Surprising name on Blumenthal's recipient list? Reza Aslan. Otherwise, it's people you'd expect. ... Backfill: Back in February, Blumenthal wrote (to Newhouse's Jonathan Tilove) that his emails were "not intended for you, or any other reporter." I count at least 5 reporters and 6 other more thumbsuckerish political journalists, plus three public-intellectual academic types, on the list Dreier gives. ... 2:30 P.M. link

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bob Wright's apocalypse is bigger than mine. ... 10:46 A.M.

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Amy Holmes, eerily prescient? ... [via I.V.D. ]  12:27 A.M.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

HuffPo asks where John Edwards is, given the looming primary in his state. Turns out he's at Disney World. ... Kausfiles asks where Rielle Hunter is! ... Perhaps there is some connection between Hunter and Edwards' avoidance of the North Carolina spotlight. ... Update:Instapundit suggests  this is one too many references to Rielle Hunter in a short period of time. He's right. But I don't think John Edwards is going away--he's talked about as a potential cabinet secretary or even Supreme Court justice. Which means Hunter isn't going away. ... Also, Edwards' power to extract any promises in connection with such jobs would seem to be at a peak this week, given the value of his endorsement in his home state. And his decision not to endorse (so far) is a bit mysterious, no? ... 5:26 P.M.

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I'll be interviewing Michael Kinsley about his new book, "Please Don't Remain Calm," at a Town Hall Los Angeles event on the UCLA campus tomorrow, Wednesday 4/30, at 7:30. Details here.  ... 3:41 P.M.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Hope! McCain will have trouble beating the Obama who showed up on Fox News Sunday, giving a highly effective interview to Chris Wallace. It included this bait for Hillary:

I think there are a whole host of areas where Republicans in some cases may have a better idea.

Obama cited not just "merit pay" but also "experimenting with charter schools," which he said has gotten him "in trouble with the teachers union." Maybe he didn't "add more substance to his unity schtick," but after his dreary Pennsylvania performance just restating the old substance offers relief.  Harbinger of Pivot? ... P.S.: It would be a huge help in combatting the "arrogance" meme, however, if Obama would stop citing the world-historical greatness of his own speeches as if he were his own personal Chris Matthews. For example, he mentions

at the Democratic convention, giving what I would say was about as patriotic a speech about what America means to me and what this country's about as any speech that we've heard in a long time.

Eek. How about fake humility, Senator? Americans will probably settle for fake humility rather than real humility at this point. It doesn't look as if they will have a choice. ... 2:19 A.M.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

There were Santa Ana gusts today, which tend to make one stupid. I'd leave town but can't tell if they're already dissipating--when I throw grass in the air it goes all over. I need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. ...  11:34 P.M.

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We Ignored the Rielle Hunter Scandal and All We Got Was This Lousy Op-Ed! Elizabeth Edwards has a bushelful of chutzpah chastising the mainstream campaign press for its "shallow news coverage" after the mainstream campaign press cut her and her husband** a huge break on one of the great shallow stories of 2008--the mysterious Edwards Campaign Love Child  (see link for claim of an Edwards aide that he is the father of the child, and various other denials).. ...

P.S.: The E.C.L.C. must have been born by now, no? Tips gratefully accepted. ...

P.P.S.: What was so exciting about Joe Biden's health plan (which Mrs. Edwards thinks we should all have been told more about)? Couldn't she have spared a paragraph in her double-length op-ed to explain its unique, cruelly-ignored genius? It doesn't look so exciting to me. She could have steered me right. ... Or, like the MSM, was she worried about boring her readers to death, preferring to talk about process issues?  ...

P.P.P.S.:  Mrs. Edwards also complains that in 1954 the Army McCarthy hearings were televised, "but by only one network." Wasn't one enough?

***--She describes him as "a former senator from the South standing loyally beside his ill wife."  When does chutzpah become heedless Gary-Hart like taunting? ... 10:06 P.M. link

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Ping!--Obama's Cattle Futures: If Hillary had this kind of smarmily conflicted relationship  with a benefactor/constituent, it would be a big deal, no? [But all he did was write a letter--he didn't actually help his former employer get the grant--ed No, an aide did that!  See last two grafs] ... Maybe not Killerspin, but at least ModeratelydisilusioningSpin. ... [Tks. to reader W9:35 P.M.

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Self-Denial Arms Race: So Obama thinks Rev. Wright is a "legitimate political issue"  but McCain thinks making an issue of Wright is  "unacceptable"?  This is getting confusing.... Update--Gotcha! McCain comes to his senses  and notes "Obama himself says it's a legitimate political issue." So will McCain, having received his moral guidance from Obama, now apologize to those North Carolina Republicans for self-righteously preening at their expense? ... 1:24 P.M.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

What exactly is so terrible about that North Carolina GOP ad?**  Sure it's a double bank shot--X has endorsed Y who is associated with Z--but it seems like a legitimate double bank shot. Obama wrote a best-selling book casting favorable light on himself for being drawn to Rev Wright--and quoting the sermon that did it for him, a sermon that involved denouncing "white folks' greed." Did he really not know Wright was saying other inflammatory things from the pulpit? ...  Hard to say it's unfair to link Obama with Wright. And it's not unfair to link North Carolina Dems with the candidate they endorse. That's true whether or not the ad is a stunt. ... The same ad using, say, William Ayers--whose relationship with Obama is more tangential--wouldn't seem legit to me.** ... Is Howard Dean's real problem with the ad that it's, you know, devastating? ... P.S.: I'd say North Carolina GOP chairwoman Linda Daves, who has the sort of non-FM voice you don't hear on NPR too often, rather gets the better of All Things Considered's Melissa Block in this argument. ...[Via Page ]

Update: Obama'sstill boasting in campaign literature about how the "white folks' greed" sermon helped him find his faith, Ben Smith reports. Live by Wright, die by Wright, no? ...

**--McCain, for his own positioning and righteous preening reasons, is making a big issue of the less legitimate target (Ayers) while condemning the North Carolinians for making an issue of Wright. ...  1:07 A.M.

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The scales finally fall  from Bob Wright's eyes. ... 12:39 A.M.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Barack's Secret Weapon: All the talk about whether Obama can win the general election may miss the point, as far as Democratic superdelegates are concerned. They aren't necessarily thinking about that big picture, at least not all the time. Alert and experienced emailer K explains, hypothetically channeling a prominent superdelegate:

You have to look at this through the eyes of Dem super delegates.  Take Joe Biden as an example.  When Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, Joe was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.  Two years later, after HRC's hare-brained health care zeppelin crashed to earth and Bill had earned the enmity of roughly everyone, Joe Biden was in the minority. ...[snip]

What Joe sees is a repeat of 1994 if Hillary is the nominee and wins the election in 2008.  He gets to be treated like dirt by the Clinton Administration for 2 years and then he gets to be in the minority for God knows how long.  So the truth about the super Ds is that they would rather lose with Barack than win with HRC, because they KNOW that if they lose with Barack, their pal John McCain is president and they get the royal treatment for two years..AND they pick up yet more seats in 2010, thus insuring they remain Chairman of whatever committee it is that they chair.

This is the dirty little secret of the Super Ds! 

I think K may go a bit far when he says superdelegates "want Barack because they know he will lose to McCain!" But if you look at their personal and institutional interests, they certainly may have little reason to stick their necks out and overturn the judgment of primary voters and caucusers by denying Barack. And the more they are convinced that Obama is likely to lose, the less motivated they may be to defy that "pledged delegate" verdict. ...  12:56 A.M. link

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hispanic Caucus members denounce Dem Congressional leaders as "spineless" for failing to move on "comprehensive immigration reform."  Spineless? Why would they need spine? I thought we'd been told that illegal-immigrant-legalization was a surefire political winner for the Dems. ... 3:38 P.M.

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Bob Wright makes his most insane argument  yet! ... 12:21 P.M.

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Styling by Pixar: They've turned the formerly elegant Infiniti FX into a cartoon. ...Update: Emailer--"Wonder what its voice sounds like?" ... 11:24 A.M.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If Hillary Clinton is so convinced she can win, but she  desperately needs money, can't she and her husband just write her campaign a check for, say, $20 million? $109 million - $20 million still leaves $89 million, no? ... Then she'd be on solid ground asking others to sacrifice for her candidacy as well. ... [Thanks to alert reader R] ... Update: Yglesias and his commenters  on the case. This meme is headed to the MSM! ... 10:00 P.M.

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How Crappy Were the Exit Polls? Pretty crappy! They certainly didn't capture the 10 point Clinton win. [Looks like 9.2 to me--ed Print the legend!] According to National Review, the early exits even had Obama up by five. Maybe nobody believed that--but the exits still distorted the narrative of election night. The theme of the first New York Times story seemed to be

Mrs. Clinton faces major challenges going forward ...

The cable nets, primed by the exits, also spent the initial evening hours asking whether Hillary could or would go on--as opposed to why Obama had suffered an embarrassing drubbing that revealed real weaknesses. .... P.S.: Always trust content from kausfiles! ... P.P.S.: Brendan Loy has more  on the crappy exits. ... P.P.P.S.: If the exit polls are this unreliable for press' result-predicting purposes, why aren't they also unreliable for all the scholarly purposes they are supposedly put to? Garbage is garbage, no? ... Update:  John Tabin says  not to worry, pollsters can "clean up the exit poll data by weighting it to the actual vote." But it will still be garbage if the problem is that more conservative voters didn't want to talk to the kid in the hoodie with the clipboard! Ask President Kerry. .. Roger L. Simon says I've misunderstood the purpose  of exit polls. .. 9:19 P.M. link

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Brendan Loy and Mark Blumenthal  are pouring cold water over early exit poll results, noting Obama usually does much better in the early exits than when the actual votes are counted. ... 3:41 P.M.

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Headlines for Free: "Who's Bitter Now?" 1:44 P.M.

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Chris Matthews has backed off his earlier prediction of a double-digit Clinton Pennsylvania win, saying "things have changed"--leaving all the more potential pundit glory for the less cautious! ... P.S.: Matthews declared 8 to be the margin of victory Hillary must achieve to have the election count as a victory ("based upon on all the expectations").

Eight points. I think eight points is the over/under. If she gets a victory of less than 8 I think she's going to have a hard time arguing that she should stay in this race.  ....  [S]he can't call it a victory winning five or six or seven up here. She's got to get at least an 8.

I wish I could report that he said it with a winning, ironic appreciation for its absurd arrogance. ...Update: John Ellis is betting the over. ... 1:40 A.M.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Joe Conason, distinguished chronicler of George H.W. Bush's alleged marital infidelity, joins other Democrats in decrying  ABC's

revolting descent into tabloid journalism

and

excessive emphasis on tangential "character" issues

P.S.: Last time I wrote about Conason's 1992 foray into "sheet sniffing" (his phrase) he chastised me for relying on contemporary press accounts of his Bush/sex article rather than reading the full original in the defunct magazine Spy. I finally located a copy of Spy stored several stories beneath the surface of the Earth in the vaults of UCLA's Southern Regional Library Facility. Conason's article turned out to be not as sleazy as the press accounts had led me to expect. It was much sleazier! ("In addition to following up the women on the list, SPY's own investigation succeeded in finding a woman who apparently had an affair with Bush while he was running for President in 1980. ... As for Mrs. X herself, when SPY reached her to ask whether she indeed told friends aout the affair ..." etc. ) ... [Note to Conason: All emails are on the record.]  3:40 P.M.

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Greg Packer, 44, of Huntington, N.Y., traveled to Washington earlier last week for the Mass at the new Nationals Stadium and was on Fifth Avenue Saturday. ...

"The homilies bring me out and the togetherness of everybody," Packer said. "It was really beautiful. It was worth going to Washington, but this is home. I feel like he is coming over to visit me."

3:14 P.M.

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O.K., one of us is wrong. 2:31 P.M.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Help! I'm A Snob Like Obama! Greg Mitchell ridicules Bill Kristol for insinuating that Barack Obama was a Marxist for saying that residents of economically depressed small towns "cling to guns or religion ...  as a way to explain their [economic] frustrations." But of course it was a Marxist thing to say, wasn't it? If Democrats had delivered on the economy, Obama suggests, all those GOP cultural "wedge" issues would lose traction. This idea--that the economy trumps culture--isn't new. It's "materialism."  The economic "base," Marxists would argue, determines the cultural "superstructure." If the economy changes (i.e. if small town Pennsylvanians get well-paying jobs) then the superstructure will change (Pennsylvanians will feel less intensely about their religion).

Actually this isn't simply Marxism--it's what, when I was in college at least, was called Vulgar Marxism. More sophisticated Marxists hypothesized various ways the cultural "superstructure" could interact with the economy or take on a life of its own. Less supple Marxists (Engels, if I remember) hew to the crude base/superstructure idea--with feudalism you get feudal beliefs, which give way to bourgeois beliefs once capitalism takes over.

I've sniped at Obama for the condescension implicit in his argument that Pennsylvanians will stop their 'clinging' once Democrats like him start delivering jobs from Washington. But this condescension is inherent in any Vulgar Marxist explanation, isn't it? European peasants thought they were loyal to divine monarchs in a well-ordered hierarchical universe. Comes the industrial revolution and they look like fools. "All that is sacred ...

The problem for me is that I'm a Vulgar Marxist too. I've always believed that people need to eat, and want to get ahead and prosper. If you give them an avenue that lets them do that, they aren't going to let their religion, their music, their sexual habits, their families or their educational system stand in their way for long. The two most obvious contemporary applications of this economic determinism are 1) China (when the Chinese have a capitalist economy they won't be able to have a Communist government, Vulgar Marxists would say) and 2) the Muslim world (if Islam needs a Reformation in order to prosper in a global market, then Islam will eventually get a Reformation). I agree with both of those propositions.

Does that mean I'm condescending too? It's hard to avoid the charge. If a Chinese Communist Party Official somehow came to me and declared that, no, China would out-compete the West while maintaining Mao-era control over free inquiry, I'd think 'You poor deluded fool. Just wait.'  I support Western policies of bringing China into the global marketplace in large part because I think that means Chinese Communism will collapse even if the Chinese Communists don't realize it. Same with fundamentalist Muslims--e.g. Pakistan, when prosperous, will no longer be such a breeding ground of jihadist fanatics. They'll be too busy making money to blow up the world. My attitude toward Pakistan is roughly parallel to Obama's attitude toward rural Pennsylvanians: if the economy really delivered for them, they'd stop clinging to their God. And their guns.

I'm especially appalled by the possibility that I'm as much of a snob as Obama because I've made a big deal about social equality--how treating people as equals, rather than redistributing income, is the essential goal of liberal politics. Condescension, needless to say, is not treating people like equals. (Obama himself seemed to be quite aware of the problem, in his 2004 Charlie Rose interview, when trotting out his "What's the Matter With Kansas" homilies:

"If we don't have plausible answers on the economic front, and we appear to be condescending towards those traditions that are giving their lives some stability, then they're gonning to opt for at least that party that seems to be speaking to the things that are giving--that still provide them some solace." [E.A.]

Of course, he sounded a bit condescending when saying that.  .....

Seeking a way out of the Condescension Conundrum, I asked my friend Robert Wright, another Vulgar Marxist, for guidance. He wasn't much help! What he said was ... well, you can see what he said here.

Is there an answer? I'm not sure. I suppose the short response is that you worry about condescending to Muslims when you are running for office in a Muslim country, you worry about condescending to Pennsylvanians when you are running in Pennsylvania. But it's not really an answer; 1) Nobody likes to be condescended to, and nobody's likely to be convinced when they feel belittled; and 2) in my view of the world, at least, condescension--social inequality--is a grave political sin in itself whenever it's practiced.

Some other obvious potential ways out come to mind, though they make me sound like a tenth grade civics teacher (or Andrew Sullivan):

1) Always entertain the possibility that you might be wrong and those whose "superstructural" behavior you are explaining are right. Call it the "Marxism of Doubt"! The left ignored this rule when it declared opposition to welfare one of those "scapegoating" behaviors that would thankfully disappear when Democrats delivered good jobs and good wages. In fact, opposition to welfare was fairly constant through good times and bad--perhaps because the opponents of welfare were right (as I think they were). In any case, they won.

Obama ignores this rule when he dismisses opposition to affirmative action and trade and illegal immigration as similar "scapegoating" behavior. Mighty convenient to say that the doomed "superstructure" happens to include all the beliefs you disagree with.

2) Don't pick fights unnecessarily: Do Democrats have to scorn people who cling to God, whatever the reason? No. Do they have to scorn people who cling to guns? Maybe, if Democrats really think they have to believe in gun control to be Democrats. But in fact they've caved on gun control--deciding, in essence, it's not a core position. Maybe they'll soon decide that race-based preferences and legalization of illegal aliens aren't core positions either--perhaps because, heeding Rule 1, they've been convinced by the people they are condescending to. (Obama is clearly a ways away from that moment.)

3) Emphasize the common goal: A companion to rule 2. If Obama thinks Pennsylvanians will stop clinging to God and guns and ethnic prejudices once they have a real prospect of getting national health insurance--well, talk about national health insurance! Let the prejudice take care of itself (if you really think that's what's going to happen).

4) Where you have to disagree, have the respect to do it forthrightly: A modern national Democrat, contemplating religious small town Pennsylvanians, won't want to concede, say, that homosexuality is immoral. Westerners, contemplating the Muslim world, won't want to tolerate stoning adulterers or honor killings, certainly not among Muslim immigrants to the West but not in the East either. Free speech and inquiry aren't things we think Chinese Communists might be right about. In these cases,  the only thing to do is to honestly say "Yes, we think you are wrong and that you'll eventually come around."

I'm not sure rules like this really dispel the stench of condescension. Rule #3 seems like a PR gambit--hiding what you really think, maybe by keeping troublesome bloggers out of your San Francisco fundraisers. And even #4, don't the Chinese know we think we're not only "right" on a specific issue but "better" in some sense--more advanced, further along on the arc of history? I don't know that it helps if they feel the same way about us.

If anyone has the answer-even Charlie Rose!--I'm all ears.  2:44 A.M. link

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Yes, we are all waiting to see who Chuck Hagel endorses! The excitement builds. ...

P.S.: He might not endorse anyone at all! That would say so much.... 5:38 P.M.

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Voyage to Mars almost over. Prediction: No water I was going to predict that Hillary will win Pennsylvania by 8 points--defying Newsweek  and the wishful thinking  about an Obama surge/surprise. But with some  national polls now moving against Obama and the state polls still looking Ohio-esque, that isn't a very courageous call. So how about a double-digit Clinton win? Cling!  ... Pay no attention if it's wrong. ... Note also that while reporters and bloggers may have moved past the stage where they are totally exhausted with the race and into that stage where they achieve a sort of giddy high--and then past that into the stage where they are totally exhausted again--many PA voters may not even focus on the race until two days from now. What they see on TV on Monday will be bizarrely important. ... P.S.: She's got her Mutnemom on: "I have to win." Maybe she'll cry! ... 12:01 A.M. link

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Jerry Brown's War on Suburbs: The once and maybe future Gov. Moonbeam, now California's Attorney General, thinks suburbs cause global warming and he's filing lawsuits to force more density. Jill Stewart questions the underlying science. ... P.S.: Didn't Brown get into trouble with his appointment to the state Supreme Court of Rose Bird, whose jurisprudence would have led judges to make lots of decisions now made by elected legislators? Brown seems peculiarly ill-positioned to litigate his way into the governorship. ... P.P.S.: How many thousands in campaign contributions is Brown going to accept from apartment-house developers who are dumbfoundedly ecstatic to find left-wing greenies suddenly on their side. ... It's win-win!

his personal commitment is somewhat suspect since he and his wife, citing crime fears, moved from an urban loft in Oakland to a comfortable home in the Oakland hills after he took office last year.

Crime is for the non-visionaries! Let them fight global warming. ... 10:55 P.M.

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Kate O'Beirneon Peggy Noonan's recommendation that McCain promise not to run for a second term:

Should John McCain pledge to do 3 or 4 big specific things in his one and only term, he would have a mandate. 

Hmm. I think I know what one of those 3 or 4 big specific things would be. [Secure the borders!--ed Right] ... Without "comprehensive" immigration reform, does McCain even have 4 big things he wants to do? Iraq, Iraq, entitlements, Iraq? ... P.S.: The real genius behind a one-term pledge is that voters are near-desperate for an end to Republican rule. The pledge would be a signal to them that they could safely act on their anxieties about Obama, confident that they were only giving the GOPs a short-term lease extension. ... The McCain chant would be: "Just Four More Years!" ... 5:14 P.M. link

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How to tell GM's successful cars:  When struggling General Motors finally builds a car people actually want to buy, why does the plant that builds it always seem to become the target for a UAW strike? It's happened with the company's popular crossovers (GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook) and with the new Chevy Malibu. I can't tell if this is a case of UAW leaders seeking out the few successful operations of GM in order to extract maximum gain, or if the strikes at successful plants are just the only strikes that get publicized. But you have to wonder whether the UAW understands how strongly consumers might not want to buy cars made in strike-riven factories? ... P.S.: I think the answer is that the national UAW probably understands this, but the union's decentralized structure gives lots of power to the locals. That's another reason--an idiosyncratic one--why the UAW has been a disaster for the American auto industry. ... 4:22 P.M. 

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It's Too Late for Make-Up Calls Now, Arianna! How guilty does the pro-O HuffPo feel about breaking the news that made Obama's week miserable? Very, to judge by the compensatory pile-on of ABC-bashing on her home page after Gibson and Stephanopouos' persistent questioning of Obama. (See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10  ....) ... 2:21 A.M.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Knew That! Several journalists have emailed me questioning whether Obama's answer on affirmative action last night represented any sort of new position, given that he'd suggested a year ago on ABC's This Weekthat his daughters "probably" shouldn't benefit from race preferences. See update below  for why I think last night's statement was a significant strengthening of his position, and potentially a big deal. ... I will now go check the Web to see if he's backtracked yet. ... [You're getting zero pickup on this. You seem to be the only person on the planet who thinks it was significant.--ed  The official post-debate story line, laid down by The Curve himself, has to do with ABC's negative questions and Obama's reaction to them. Fair enough. The MSM isn't thinking about affirmative action and doesn't want to think about affirmative action. That doesn't mean it's not significant. Check back in a couple of months.]  5:23 P.M.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Note to HuffPo: "Screw 'em. You don't owe them a thing"  isn't condescending! It's not friendly, but it's something you say about opponents who are social equals. ... 'There, there, you poor people cling to God to explain your frustrations'--that's a violation of social equality. ... Backfill: Allahpundit made this point at 4:30. ... Maguire notes that Hillary was saying 'screw 'em' this in defense of traditional liberal policies (which were said to be alienating "Reagan Democrats.") But I don't see why that makes it different from Obama's comment. Obama is advocating traditional liberal policies too. ... P.S.: The full passage isstill a timely reminder of what a rebuke the 1994 election was to Hillary's disastrous pursuit of health care reform before welfare reform. As David Plouffe would say, experience does not necessarily equal judgment. ... 9:10 P.M.

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Philly Debate watching--Pivot Now! Am I crazy or has Obama just opened up a potentially huge Pivot Possibility on affirmative action? His proposal: Allow individualized consideration of "hardship,"  with overcoming race discrimination being one of the possible hardships that you get points for overcoming.. ... The problem, I suspect, is that this interesting intermediate position (between banning any consideration of race and having race be an automatic plus factor) would, if honestly applied, exclude a huge portion of the current beneficiaries of race preferences (who tend to be the sort of affluent African Americans who, like Obama's daughters, have a more difficult time making an individual "hardship" case). Will Obama now be denounced by the civil rights establishment? Will that help him in Pennsylvania? It would certainly get rid of the Cling. ... Developing! ...  Rick Kahlenberg, you're up! ...  Note: I think last night's statement adds to what Obama has said before. See below.

P.S.: Aside from that, I thought Obama got the worse of it in the debate. He was on the defensive, and non-inspiring. Hillary was fairly palatable,** despite a few rough moments. ... I have no criticism  of Gibson or Stephanopoulos. A relentless focus on negative character attacks can be revealing--and it was. That's especially true in this campaign, where the actual policy differences between the candidates have been small and often tedious. ...

Update: Here's a transcript of  what Obama said  about race preferences [E.A.]:

And race is still a factor in our society. And I think that for universities and other institutions to say, you know, we're going to take into account the hardships that somebody has experienced because they're black or Latino or because they're women --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if they're wealthy?

SENATOR OBAMA: I think that's something that they can take into account, but it can only be in the context of looking at the whole situation of the young person. So if they look at my child and they say, you know, Malia and Sasha, they've had a pretty good deal, then that shouldn't be factored in. On the other hand, if there's a young white person who has been working hard, struggling, and has overcome great odds, that's something that should be taken into account.

So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can't be a quota system and it can't be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person, whether that person is black or white or Hispanic, male or female.

What we want to do is make sure that people who have been locked out of opportunity are going to be able to walk through those doors of opportunity in the future.

"Shouldn't be factored in." Potential game changer! Hello? A nuclear weapon aimed like a laser at Hillary's white working class base! ... Now if only some enterprising reporter will get Jesse Jackson to take umbrage at Obama's heresy. Is that so hard? (And if Jackson approves of Obama's answer, that's news too.)*** ...  My fear is that the civil rights establishment will get to Obama in private, and he'll wuss out and walk it back. ...

1) He hasn't been saying it a lot since, so there was always a question as to whether he meant it or would backtrack, etc. His heretical position isn't featured on his Web site--it ducks the issue, as far as I can see (which itself is suggestive but not exactly clarifying). Even if he had simply repeated his This Week statement it would be significant. But he didn't.

2)  On This Week he said:

"I think that my daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged, and I think that there's nothing wrong with us taking that into account as we consider admissions policies at universities. I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed. So I don't think those concepts are mutually exclusive."

Note that this year-old passage doesn't say his daughters race shouldn't be taken into account at all. He seems more to be saying everything should be taken into account. That, plus the "mutually exclusive" language, led skeptical commentators to speculate  that he just wants to layer on another preference for disadvantaged whites--as opposed to taking it away from affluent blacks. ... 

Last night, however, he certainly seemed to say race would not be a factor at all for "advantaged" blacks like his daughters. ("Shouldn't be factored in.") That seems like a further step--a big one. Wiping out the race preference for upper class blacks would in practice wipe out most race preference admissions at elite schools, no? It strikes at the core of the actual, practical race-preference constituency. If Hillary said it, there would be a firestorm from the civil rights lobby, I think.

**--I was watching the tiny Webcast picture. Maybe she looked worse full-sized. ...

***--If Obama could simultaneously arrange for race-blindness champion Ward Connerly to denounce him--because Obama's plan still allows race to be taken into account when it causes "hardship"--so much the better. Triangulation! ... 6:45 P.M. link

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

King of Cling Update:

1) Hugh Hewitt argues  it is too about the "bitter." ...

2) David Coleman--who was there-- notes that in the very same San Francisco talk  Obama made

additional observations that black youth in urban areas are told they are no longer "relevant" in the global economy and, feeling marginalized, they engage in destructive behavior.

Coleman points out that "[n]o one has seized upon those words as 'talking down' to the inner city youth whose plight he was addressing." Was Obama condescending to blacks too?

Good question. The short answer is "yes." The longer answer, I think, is that it's different when you are explaining behavior that's unquestionably bad. Then the issue becomes whether you're making excuses (a point Coleman raises). Imagine if Obama had confined himself to explaining white Pennsylvanian racism--the "excuse-making" issue would get a lot more attention than the condescension issue. ... The trouble is Obama also tried to explain local Pennsylvania habits, like religious faith, that aren't incontrovertibly "destructive"--raising the additional question of why he felt a need to make an explanation in the first place. Imagine if Obama had tried to explain black churchgoing as a reaction to inner-city residents no longer feeling "relevant" in the global economy. Yikes! Condescension City! He'd be reamed and rightly so. ...

Making excuses for autonomous human actors is always a form of condescension, I'd say. But when you make excuses for what many people regard as normal, even laudable behavior, you double down on the disrespect, because you are also challenging your subjects' moral framework

3) Alert emailer M wonders why Obama is applying a Tom Frank analysis--of working class voters who vote Republican--to Pennsylvania, since unlike Kansas, Pennsylvania is a blue state that "hasn't voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 1988." And the most economically distressed parts of the state are the most Democratic, despite all the clinging to guns and God that's going on. [**See Correction, below] In short, Obama's explaining something that doesn't happen. ...  I suppose one answer is that Obama wasn't explaining why Pennsylvanians wouldn't vote for a Democrat but why they might not vote for him--a black, liberal Democrat.  But Obama says he's explaining why small-town Rustbelt voters don't buy the idea that government can help them, which sounds an awful lot like not buying Democratic ideology generally. ...

**Correction: I misstated emailer M's argument. He's not arguing that Pennsylvania's less prosperous areas are more Democratic than, say, Philadelphia. They aren't. He's arguing that they were Democratic in the '80s, when economic distress was at its peak, and have become more Republican since, as the distress eased. M cites The Almanac of American Politics, co-authored by Michael Barone, who wrote:

"Relieved of economic stress, voters here [Western PA] moved towards Republicans in the 1990s."

But I don't think Barone is saying that it's prosperity that bred Republicanism (which would be the opposite of the Obama "cling" theses). I think he's talking mainly about migration--the unemployed workers who voted Democratic in the 1980s have simply left, leaving behind older voters who are more content living where they are living. It's a sorting out frustration-reducing process, not a prosperity-driven frustration-reducing process. Either way, it's not the "cling" process that Obama is imagining (though in the absence of real prosperity some "clinging" could be going on too). ... P.S.: But it's mainly happening in Western PA's Pittsburgh suburbs. In the 2004 presidential race, rural towns seem to have remained pro-Republican by about the same margin as in 1988. ...

Update: Alter Untanked Jon Alter  agrees with "M," not Obama:

[i]t turns out that working-class Americans have not left the Democratic Party, except in the South, where practically everyone except the black community has turned Republican. In the north, as Princeton political scientist Larry M. Bartels establishes in an important new book, "Unequal Democracy," working-class voters have actually been trending Democratic in recent elections, which helps explain why longtime bellwether states like Illinois and Pennsylvania have been more reliably blue. According to Bartels, more affluent voters are the ones who have been swayed by social issues like abortion and guns. Working-class voters, he writes, are still motivated by economics.

5:06 A.M. link

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Suicide Marketing! Has Microsoft hit on a brilliant new sales strategy? Here's how it's done: First, you screw up your major product, replacing it with a fancier version that is widely derided and universally regarded as inferior to its main competitor. But--key point--you keep selling the old, popular product. Then you announce that you'll stop selling the popular product on June 30. This causes a predictable--and highly profitable--surge in sales. ("Last chance to buy Windows XP!") You pocket the millions from those sales, but then at the last minute announce a reprieve. Bowing to customer demand you'll keep selling XP--until you need another little boost in the bottom line, when you will announce once again that you're killing it after a date certain. Last last chance! Really. We mean it this time! Then another reprieve, and another deadline, and another surge of panic buying, etc.--on and on, seemingly ad infinitum (at least if you are a monopoly player like Microsoft). ...

It seems like a can't-lose approach for the Redmond, Wash. firm, as long as a) they continue to cultivate the image of a big, clumsy and greedy organization that's just stupid enough to kill a product consumers like in order to try to force them to purchase a product the corporate bureaucracy has ploddingly disgorged and b) their new products continue to be awful.

There hasn't been a breakthrough business plan like this since New Coke. "Suicide marketing." (Buy this before we do something rash!) ...

P.S.: The only fly in the ointment is the slim possibility that Microsoft's next operating system, due in 2010, will actually be an improvement over Windows XP. But Ballmer & Co. know better than to let that happen.

P.P.S.: Back in 2001, I was so convinced of the primacy and potential of Windows XP that I predicted its launch would end the recession then underway. This was amateurish economic idiocy--though the October 25, 2001 launch date of XP did turn out to eerily coincide with the end of the last recession (in November of that year). 

Will the debacle of Windows Vista have a conversely depressing effect on the economy--as many businesses decide to hang on to their old XP machines and hope they can make it to 2010  without having to install Vista? That wouldn't do wonders for the demand side. But to the extent that Microsoft's suicide marketing plan can keep drumming up panic demand for last-chance XP machines, the "systemic risk" presented by Vista will be contained. It's win-win--for Microsoft and for the nation. ... 1:10 A.M. link

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nein, bitter: There would seem to be four distinct, major problems with Obama's "cling" gaffe.

1) It lumps together things Obama wants us to think he thinks are good (religion) with things he undoubtedly thinks are bad (racism, anti-immigrant sentiment). I suppose it's logically possible to say 'these Pennsylvania voters are so bitter and frustrated that they cling to both good things and bad things," but the implication is that these areall things he thinks are unfortunate and need explaining (because, his context suggests, they prevent voters from doing the right thing and voting for ... him).  Yesterday at the CNN "Compassion Forum" Obama said he wasn't disparaging religion because he meant  people "cling" to it in a good wayWould that be the same way they "cling" to "antipathy to people who aren't like them"--the very next phrase Obama uttered? Is racism one of those "traditions that are passed on from generation to generation" that "sustains us"? Obama's unfortunate parallelism makes it hard for him to extricate him from the charge that he was dissing rural Pennsylvanians' excess religiosity.  

2) Even if Obama wasn't equating anything on his list with anything else, he did openly accuse Pennsylvanians of being racists ("antipathy to people who aren't like them"). 

3) He's contradicted his own positions--at least on trade and ( says Instapundit) guns.. Isn't Obama the one trying to tar Hillary as a supporter of NAFTA? Is that just 'boob bait'?

4) Yes, he's condescending. It's not just that in explaining everyone to everyone Obama winds up patronizing everyone. He doesn't patronize everyone equally. Specifically, he regards the views of these Pennsylvanians as epiphenomena--byproducts of economic stagnation--in a way he doesn't regard, say, his own views as  epiphenomena.** Once the Pennsylvanians get some jobs back, they'll change and become as enlightened as Obama or the San Franciscans to whom he was talking. That's the clear logic of his argument. Superiority of this sort--not crediting the authenticity and standing of your subject's views--is a violation of social equality, which is a more important value for Americans than money equality. Liiberals tend to lose elections when they forget that.

Please note that Obama's characterization of Pennsylvanians as "bitter" doesn't even make the top four. (See Instapundit "Bitter is the least of it" Patrick Hynes: "It's not about the bitter.")   At this point, the MSM and Hillary are only doing Obama a favor by focusing on the "bitter" dispute. ... Anyway, maybe he meant "bitter" in a good way!

P.S.: Andrew Sullivan and John Rosenberg both say that Obama's "cling" argument comes from Thomas Frank's economistic "What's the Matter with Kansas?"--which seems semi-tragic to me. I'm convinced that the great achievement of Republicanism over the past decades was getting average Americans to think that it was the Democrats who were the snobs. The person who convinced me of this (in a highly persuasive lecture) was Thomas Frank. Now Frank's theories--if you follow Rosenberg--are on the verge of convincing millions of average Americans that the Republicans were right, at least about the likely Dem nominee. ...

See also this 2004 interview, in which Obama appears totally aware of the condescension problem--though I don't think he avoids it there either. His now-familiar go-to idea--that men spend time hunting and women go to church because of deindustrialization, as opposed to because they like to hunt and believe in their religion--seems inherently condescending (see below).

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**--You might argue that this was the same 'it-will-go-away'  attitude Obama had toward the anger of parishioners of Rev. Wrights's church--which would reinforce the "he condescends to everyone" theory of Obama. But the parallel isn't there. Obama describes ongoing black anger about racism as an artifact of racism--it's an epiphenomenon only in the sense that it will eventually disappear when its legitimate cause disappears. Obama describes white anger--indeed white anger, white racism, white religiosity, white NRA membership and white opposition to comprehensive immigration reform--as an artifact of something unrelated, namely the loss of good industrial jobs. It''s fundamentally inauthentic, Obama suggests, because (unlike black anger) it isn't caused by what those who express it say it is caused by. 

And Obama never describes his own views as the products of anything except an accurate perception of reality. Come to think of it, has he ever expressed any doubt about--let alone apologized for--his views? He certainly didn't apologize in his "race" speech. He presents himself as near ominscient, the Archimedean point from which everyone else's beliefs and behavior can be assessed and explained, and to which almost everyone's beliefs will revert after the revolution. ... sorry, I mean after President Obama has restored hope! ... 10:59 P.M. link

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Watch that Myth: Hillary Clinton had apparently stopped losing ground in PA pollsbefore Obama's "cling" fling in Frisco. It's a bit unfair to say that 'Obama had been gaining ground until ...," though I think I've heard that nascent myth being spread at least three times today. ... P.S.: Obama's lead on Rasmussen (11 points a week ago) has gone and disappeared. Note that the slide began pre-gaffe. ... 7:29 P.M.

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Strike 2.5--They're bitter, left-behind, and have their little traditions: Don't think this digs Obama out of his hole. Might even dig it a bit deeper. ...  9:23 A.M.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Ann Coulter is reading Obama's autobiography  and comes up with a not-implausible interpretation of the famous Racist Grandma incident:

As recounted in Obama's autobiography, the only evidence that his grandmother feared black men comes from Obama's good-for-nothing, chronically unemployed white grandfather, who accuses Grandma of racism as his third excuse not to get dressed and drive her to work.

10:17 P.M.

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Cling Along with Barack: The always-suspect Michael Lind nevertheless sends around a useful commentary on Obama's gruesomely off-key condscension  toward downscale Rustbelt voters:

According to Obama, working class (white) people "cling to guns" because they are bitter at losing their manufacturing jobs.

Excuse me?  Hunting is part of working-class American culture.  Does Obama really think that working-class whites in Pennsylvania were gun control liberals until their industries were downsized, whereas they all rushed to join the NRA ...

I used to think working class voters had conservative values because they were bitter about their economic circumstances--welfare and immigrants were "scapegoats," part of the false consciousness that would disappear when everyone was guaranteed a good job at good wages. Then I left college. ...

P.S.: Because Obama's comments are clearly a Category II Kinsley Gaffe--in which the candidate accidentally says what he really thinks--it will be hard for Obama to explain away. [He could say he was tired and it was late at night?--ed But he was similarly condescending in his big, heartfelt, well-prepared "race speech"  when he explained white anger over welfare and affirmative action as a displacement of the bitterness that comes when whites

are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition ...

Obama's new restatement confirms the Marxist Deskwork interpretation of the race speech, removing any honest doubt as to his actual attitude.

Rather than trying to spin his way out, wouldn't it be better for Obama to forthrightly admit his identity? Let's have a national dialogue about egghead condescension!]

P.P.S.: Note that guns are not the only thing Obama says "white working class" people "cling" to for economic reasons:

[I]t's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. [E.A.]

Hmm. Isn't Obama the one who has been clinging to religion lately? Does he cling to his religion for authentic reasons while those poor Pennsylvania slobs cling to it as a way to "explain their frustrations"? ... They worship an awesome God in the blue states because they're bitter about stagnant wages! I think that's what he said in his 2004 convention address ... 4:41 P.M. link

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Iraqi Offensive Against Militia is Raising Concerns on Stability"--Headline on  April 8 NYT story. Uh oh. And it's a front-page story--sounds like the whole Maliki government might collapse. But we shouldn't hide our heads! Let's confront the bad news unearthed in "interviews with dozens of Iraqi politicians, government leaders, analysts and ordinary citizens" by the nine (9) Times reporters who contributed. Here's thestory:

A crackdown on the Mahdi Army militia is creating potentially destabilizing political and military tensions in Iraq, pitting a stronger government alliance against the force that has won past showdowns ...

"Potentially destabilizing." Hmm. That's a bit weaker, no? A lot of things are "potentially destabilizing," like having sectarian militias in control of your major port city! And what's this about "stronger government alliance." It's stronger, and as a result there are increased "concerns" about its "stability"? Perverse and dialectical!

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's military operations against the Mahdi Army that Mr. Sadr leads have at least temporarily pacified Sunni political leaders ...

So the Sunni political leaders are pissed off! Oh wait, no, they're pacified. This doesn't sound so unstable, yet. Ah, but it's only "at least temporarily." Maybe the long run is where the "concerns on stability" are raising. That must be it!

And both the Kurds and some of Mr. Maliki's Shiite political rivals, who also resent Mr. Sadr's rising power, have been driven closer to Mr. Maliki. This may give him more traction to pass laws and broker deals.

Now Maliki has two additional sets of allies, and "more traction." The instability better be coming soon, because this is beginning to sound like the makings of, you know, stability.

But the badly coordinated push into Basra has unleashed a new barrage of attacks on American and Iraqi forces and has led to open fighting between Shiite militias.

Aha! He launched an attack, which led to ... fighting! But we already know he launched the attack. That's what strengthened his ties to the Sunnis, Kurds, and other Shiite groups.

Figures compiled by the American military showed that attacks specifically on military targets in Baghdad more than tripled in March, one of many indications that violence has begun to rise again after months of gains in the wake of an American troop increase.

Violence rose in March. Maliki launched his attacks March 25, meaning that most of the rising March violence happened before the (potentially) destabilizing crackdown. Blinded by conventional notions of time and causation, you might even suspect the rising violence prompted the crackdown.

In Iraq, where perceived power is a key to real authority, Iraqis saw the Mahdi Army stopping Mr. Maliki's Basra assault cold, then melting away when Mr. Sadr ordered them to lay down their arms.

Talking about "perceived power" conveniently allows the NYT to avoid reporting whether the actual events in Basra conform to its description of "Iraqis[']" perceptions. (The one Iraqi man on the street who is quoted says something a bit different: "I think Maliki and America are more powerful than [the Mahdi Army], but Maliki alone would be smashed by it." He is the first and last "ordinary citizen" in the story.)

The rest of the piece: "Senior Iraqi officials" see the rallying behind Maliki as  "turning point" that could bring political reconciliation. "But for many Iraqis ... Mr. Maliki has cemented his reputation as a tool of the Americans." Nobody is quoted from this "many" except a Sadrist official. ... An NGO type says that the Sadrists are not going to disband, but that they are facing a dilemma because not disbanding might cost them the right to participate in elections. ... A parliamentarian says that disarming the Sadrists is "not an easy job." ... The Times opines that a "truer gauge of the two sides' real power" may come Wednesday, "when Mr. Sadr has called for a million of his followers to march through the streets of Baghdad." (He has now  called the march off.)

Then there is the final ominous kicker:

One unexpected bonus for Mr. Maliki is that the Sadrists appear to have been dismayed by the political establishment's decision, at least in public, to back him.

"We were astonished at the political blocs' stance in supporting Maliki's government," said Hassan al-Rubaie, a Sadrist lawmaker.

Even the Sadrists are dismayed by Maliki's breadth of support. Another sign of instability! But of course it's "unexpected." (Really? By Maliki?)

kf Nut Graf: The Iraqi government may be on the verge of collapse, or not, but the NYT's piece doesn't come close to substantiating increased concerns about its stabiity. It's more like the opposite.

I'm not saying that the Times editors are predictable anti-war, anti-Bush types who reflexively leaped to a pessimistic extrapolation from the muddled Basra fighting and imposed that unsupported conclusion on their reporters. But they definitely succeeded in producing the piece that predictable anti-war types would have generated given no more information than the news that Maliki had failed to take all of Basra. Arianna Huffington could have written it from her sofa after coming back from a party. Except it would probably be more convincing. ... 10:44 P.M.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Meet 'Johm McCain": Is McCain's first ad really as bad as blogger "Richelieu" says. No. It's worse! The problem is a) the voice-over voice, simultaneously pompous, condescending and saccharine, almost a parody of an announcer's voice. Think "Real Men of Genius." b) The disjointed rhythm of the script, with its fake-profound get-up-and-get-a-beer questions substituting for arguments ("What must a President believe about us. About America? That she is worth protecting? ...") in which the insertion of a groaning cliche ("Has he walked the walk?") seems almost like a bit of down-to-earth relief,** all building to a semi-anticlimactic video of a captured McCain lying in a North Vietnamese bed and reciting his name and serial number. ...

It's almost as if McCain's ad man secretly likes Obama. Correction: Not secretly!

P.S.: This one is even more awful!  A 10 on the Condescendometer. Also endless. After 30 seconds you are yelling at it "Get to the F-----g Point!" It never does. It's Barney the purple dinosaur's speech at the next Bloomberg Nonpartisanship Symposium. Repeat playing would be an excellent enhanced interrogation technique.

P.P.S.: At least they didn't misspell the candidate's name in the final frame. ... Oh, wait! "Paid for by Johm McCain 2008."

Request: Someone do a screen cap of that frame before they fix it? Thanks. ... Update: Got plenty now--much appreciated. You can see the relevant frame here and here ... and now, in an unprecedented display of multimedia mastery, here. [Click to enlarge]

Still from McCain Ad. Click image to expand.

**--Though, as Jacob Weisberg notes in his recent book, 'walking the walk' may also contain a special targeted meaning for conservative Christians who might have been turned off by McCain. ... 1:00 A.M. link

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

L.A.'s Special Order 40--a "sanctuary" rule that has been interpreted to prevent police officers from asking even known, previously deported gang members about their immigration status-- comes under attack from African American victms of crime. Touchy issue for Dems! Jill Stewart notes the discomfort. ... P.S.: The city's much-admired police chief William Bratton made his name in New York  proving the efficacy of the "broken windows" theory--the idea that cracking down on minor crimes reduces major crime. Isn't entering the country illegally a "broken window"? ... 5:02 P.M.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Bob Wright perversely--yet not crazily--thinks the muddled outcome (so far) of the intra-Shiite warfare in Iraq means we can withdraw rapidly with less worry about leaving behind a bloodbath. ... P.S.: As my Iraq-vet friend P told me, just because Iran can broker a cease fire in Basra doesn't mean they can broker a cease fire in Baghdad. (That's  quite apart from whether we even want a ceasefire that allows a non-state militia to control chunks of Iraq.) ... 11:17 P.M.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Clintons' Tax Returns: The press is focused on where all that money  ($109 million) came from. Fair enough. But where did it all go? This seems like a genuine mystery. It's not as if the Clinton's live especially lavishly, or own huge estates. It's not like Bill has to pay for all his hotels and travel. The Clintons only gave about $44 million to the IRS and to charities (including their own). Where's the rest of it? If it's all invested, what is it invested in? Green companies pursuing sustainable growth and living wages? Or hedge funds seeking the highest returns? And assuming it's invested, what are they going to do with it later?...

More: Thomas Edsall, in the face of widespread skepticism, is  sticking by his story  that Bill Clinton was "deeply angered" by a WSJ story on the dealings of his partner Ron Burkle, and "intends to sever his financial ties with Burkle" ... Possibly related: "Thinking About Sex Makes Men More Likely to Take Financial Risks."  ...

Fastest Way to Understand What May Be Fishy About Bill's Burkle Money: Dick Morris' column. Did the Emir invest in a future President's spouse? ... 2:22 A.M.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

I'm not a Porsche fan, but I passed by this car once and it's the prettiest 911 I've ever seen. Not cheap, though. And better check the brakes. ... 11:11 P.M.

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MSM Rot Watch: Another tomato farmer gives up due to the failure to legalize illegal immigrants! ... Oh wait, it's the same guy, Keith Eckel of Clark's Summit, PA., who got publicity for the same reason last week. ...  Is Eckel the only one the MSM could find? He's the Greg Packer of farmers! ... He's so famous he's already been contacted by Obama's people. ... P.S.: The NYT, unlike the Philadelphia Inquirer (which had last week's Eckel story) somehow doesn't have room to mention that Eckel is giving up tomatoes but planting corn. Instead reporter Paul Vitello deceptively says that Eckel has been put "out of business." ... And of course neither story mentions that corn prices are at record highs  due to "surging demand for the grain used to feed livestock and make alternative fuels including ethanol."   ...

So let's see:  Corn prices soar. Farmer decides to plant corn. It's the yahoos fault! ... 10:52 P.M. link

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" Edwards: No VP"--DrudgeWell, right. Would you want to vet this? ... Update: Slate headline--

Why Edwards Refuses To Be Vice President

Please tell me that's a joke. ... 2:28 P.M.

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Updates on Speaker Pelosi's Last Minute Quickie Amnesty Sneak Play from Roll Call [$], Brian Faughnan, and WaPo. It's not dead yet! ... 1:16 P.M.

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H(illar)ysteria? Christopher Hitchens blasts  Hillary Clinton's "flagrant, hysterical, repetitive, pathological lying." Stanley Crouch says that on TV she "seems by turns icy, contrived, hysterical, sentimental, bitter, manipulative and self-righteous." The common word here: "hysterical"--is the only one that doesn't seem to me to fit. I don't particularly like Hillary, but she doesn't seem that "hysterical." Certainly her embellishing seems more cool and semi-calculated than "hysterical" (in any of its definitions). ...  .P.S.: Hitchens, who did ride on a plan that made a corkscrew landing in Sarajevo, says with "absolute certainty that it would be quite impossible to imagine that one had undergone that experience at the airport if one actually had not." But that's because Hitchens has undergone the experience. Hillary has not undergone the experience, so wouldn't it be entirely possible for her to imagine she has (not knowing what that would entail)? ... [via Drudge1:35 A.M.  link

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Worried that the Dem primary fight will elect McCain? Jerry Skurnik has a reassuring scary story12:55 A.M.

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Fixing It! Whether it was an incremental success or a humiliating fizzle, hasn't the Maliki government's assault on Sadr-linked Shiite militias operated, de facto, as a highly efficient purge of the Iraqi army? According to Juan Cole, those who heeded calls for defection or who otherwise refused to fight have been fired.  ... P.S.: Meanwhile, some 10,000 militia members who did fight on the government's side have reportedly been inducted into the security forces. This second development seems not un-problematic, if the Iraqi security forces don't want to be seen as siding with the Iran-backed Badr Corps in intra-Shiite disputes (since Badr Corps members now are the Iraqi security forces). ... P.P.S.: Note that Cole responds by seeming to endorse more inductions--e.g. of Sunni Awakening Council militias--suggesting that it's one way of building the army a functional unified state would need. ... 6:05 P.M.

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John McCain: "I never miss an episode of The Hills." He was joking, right?  Or lying. We'll take lying. ... Really. Lying would be fine. ...   5:31 P.M.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

David Smith says scandal-scarred Fannie Mae and other "government sponsored enterprises" (GSEs)  have successfully dodged the threat of stronger government oversigh t, thanks to the mortgage crisis--and the 2006 election. This appears to be a case where Republicans are more amenable to stricter regulation than Democrats:

You have to click on Smith's links  to find out what the regulation (which he supported) would have entailed. Cheap visual devices are employed, as usual. 11:02 A.M.

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Crooked Listening? Before you buy into the CW that, unlike the Democratic candidates, John McCain abjures pandering in favor of principled stands, take a look at this poll on the immigration issue  (where McCain abruptly revised his position precisely to make it more pleasing to Republican primary voters). Some 35% of McCain voters wrongly think he favors an attrition strategy that would cause illegals to go home. Ten percent think he favors mass deportation! Only 34% of McCain's own voters correctly identify his support for a "path to citizenship" for illegals providing they pay a fine, learn English, etc. ... If McCain's been engaging in straight talk, it's not getting through. ... P.S.: More than 60% of Edwards voters favored either attrition or deportation, suggesting that his supporters weren't necessarily the conventional anti-poverty lefties you might have expected. In contrast, a plurality of Clinton voters and a majority of Obama voters favored the "path to citizenship." ... 1:52 A.M.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

NBC's First Read:

The problem for Clinton is that she's busier trying to prove her relevance in the process rather than debating Obama about the economy, health care, or Iraq. Indeed, Clinton told the Washington Post that she's in until the end. But it's simply not good for any campaign to have call up major national reporters to tell them that.

Really? Maybe she's just triggering her mutnemom! Hillary arguably needs to have her back to the wall, remember. If the election is about proving her "relevance in the process" she maybe does better than if the election is about the "issues." ... 9:53 A.M.

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Much is being made of Hillary Clinton's seemingly friendly interaction with conservative Pennsylvania newspaper owner--and Vast Right Wing Conspiracy funder--Richard Mellon Scaife. (See, e.g., "Hell Has Officially Frozen Over.")  But Lewinsky trivia experts will remember that in April, 1998, [** see correction below] at the height of the Clinton sex scandal, Scaife actually appeared at a formal White House dinner where he also interacted pleasantly with the Clintons. The event was designed to reward big contributors to a fund for the preservation of the White House building--and Scaife was one of those contributors. Still, at the time I remember being stunned by the Clintons' graciousness. Only now does it look like the more familiar Clinton cunning. ...

** Correction: The dinner was on January 21, 1998, the day the Lewinsky scandal broke. ... Frank Rich mockingly speculated  at the time that Scaife was a "double agent for the left ." ... 1:40 P.M.

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Crop Rot Watch: Tom Bevan on a Pennsylvania tomato grower  who's giving up because (he says) Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform!  "No one will harvest tomatoes in 90 degree weather except immigrant labor," says the farmer, Keith Eckel, who says he paid an average of $16.59 an hour. He also seems to agree that many of the documents immigrant workers showed farmers like him were fraudulent. ...But note that no tomatoes are rotting in the fields in this story. Eckel has just decided to plant another, less labor-intensive crop: "45 acres of sweet corn, and 1,200 acres of corn for grain." Is this a tragedy, or a surprisingly painless transition away from a business that used illegal labor to a business that uses legal labor? We will buy fewer Pennsylvania tomatoes and more Pennsylvania corn. So? ...  P.S.: Bevan questions whether Eckel really couldn't get non-immigrant Pennsylvanians to pick his crops for such a relatively high wage. I suspect the answer is he could, but that the (largely illegal) immigrant workers would be much better at it than the non-immgrant workers. ... That could be one dirty little secret of the immigration debate: It's not that employers can't get legal workers. It's that at any given wage they'd prefer the non-legal workers, and not only for the familiar disreputable reasons (e.g., that illegals live in fear and are therefore more docile). ...

Update: Reader G.S. emails: "Don't forget the fact that the field corn is now selling at prices much higher than a few years ago, due partially to the ethanol subsidies." 1:04 A.M. link

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Nora Ephron is the real Frank Rich: "[N]ow that we're down to two contenders, it's turned into an unending last episode of Survivor. They're eating rats and they're frying bugs, and they're frying rats and they're eating bugs; no one is ever going to get off the island and I can't take it any more." ... Also see Ephron's explanation of how Hillary stopped being a "truthful person." ... 12:46 P.M.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Two Memes Running: I'll try to keep track of the two most underdeveloped negative memes on Obama:

1) He's a wuss!  He hedges on welfare, he hedges on affirmative action. "[H]e has a major deficiency in the realm of moral courage." He won't speak up against his own church's victim mentality until he absolutely has to (because he himself gets in political trouble). In the campaign he's done a whole lot of pandering and not much Sister Souljahing--certainly nothing as bold as Bill Clinton saying welfare should be two-years-and-out.  He listens to everyone and everyone loves him for it. But he's conflict-averse--it would be more reassuring if everyone didn't love him. ... 

2) He's arrogant! His failure to even admit to the slightest mistake in the Wright affair plays into this meme, originally ratified by AP's Ron Fournier. My colleague Robert (no relation) Wright thinks he saw additional evidence  recently. ...

Are these memes contradictory? Not really. Maybe they go together. Arrogance is likely to build up in the absence of conflict, no? You can't take it out on your enemies in public so you take it out in private. Are they disqualifying? No. I'm not sure Obama can't accomplish a lot by being conflict-averse and respectful. But I don't think there was a conflict-averse way to, say, reform welfare. The liberal interest groups who supported the system weren't about to be "illuminated" or "elevated" (or fooled). They had to be beaten. The same probably goes for some conservative interest groups in, say, the health care debate.

As for arrogance--well, he's likeable enough! ...

Update: Jonathan Rauch, the anti-Sullivan,  accuses Obama of a different kind of pandering--pandering to fantasies of trans-partisanship:

[S]ometimes I wonder if that isn't many Obama supporters' real hope: Use post-partisan rhetoric to win a big partisan majority and then roll over the Republicans.

Rauch's underdeveloped argument is that with Democrats firmly in control of Congress, actual post-partisanship is unlikely. I'm not so sure.I'm with Rauch's fictitious interlocutor--he's too jaded.  Clinton passed NAFTA (whatever you think of it) with Dems in control of Congress. But it takes some triangulatin'--another circumstance in which Obama's conflict-aversion could become a major handicap. ... [via Insta ] 6:32 P.M. link

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McCain may or may not be blocking Heath Shuler's immigration-enforcement bill-- Shuler says yes, Brian Faughnan argues no, and McCain's camp denies it. But shouldn't McCain at least have to take a position on the bill, if he's such a secure-the-borders-first man? ... Of course, the same reasons why McCain hasn't taken a position (e.g., he's not a secure-the-borders-first man, and he covets Latino votes) are the reasons people would think he'd want to block the bill from coming to a vote, no? ... P.S.: The dirty secret, of course, is that the Dem leadership isn't blocking the bill because its unpopular with House Democrats. They're blocking it because it's popular with House Democrats, who'd love to have a tough-on-illegals bill to vote for before the 2008 election. ... 5:41 P.M.

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Patterico thinks there's more to the Chuck Philips/LAT scandal  and has imported a mysterious guestblogger ("WLS") to give some background. ... Update: For more, follow the links in Jill Stewart's survey of the disaster zone. ...  5:17 P.M.

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Page 293 (paperback edition): On   his radio show yesterday, Hugh Hewitt played excerpts of Barack Obama reading from his autobiography, Dreams of My Father. In one, Obama remembers a sermon by Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

[T]he pastor described going to a museum and being confronted by a painting title Hope.

"The painting depicts a harpist," Revernd Wright explained, "a woman who at first glance appears to be sitting atop a great mountaintop. Untill you take a closer look and see that the woman is bruised and bloodied, dressed in tattered rags, the harp reduced to a single frayed string. Your eye is then drawn down to the scene below, down to the valley below, where everywhere are the ravages of famine, the drumbeat of war, a world groaning under strife and deprivation.

It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks' greed runs a world in need, aprtheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere ... That's the world! On which hope sits."

And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world. While the boys next to me doodled on their church bulletin, Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpesville and Hiroshima, the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the State House. ... [E.A.]

Sounds ... controversial! Keep in mind: a) Obama isn't disapproving of this sermon. In the book he weeps at the end of it; b) Demonstrating that at least some blaming of "white greed" for the world's sins--which Obama now criticizes-- isn't an exceptional topic for Rev. Wright in a few wacky sermons ("the five dumbest things") that Obama may or may not have missed. It's at the quotidian core of the Afrocentric philosophy that Obama says drew him to the church;  c) Indeed, in his big March 18th race speech Obama reads the passage from his book that describes his emotional reaction to this very sermon (his "first service at Trinity")--how it made "the story of a people" seem "black and more than black." d) This is also the sermon that gave Obama the title of his next book, The Audacity of Hope.e) The "profound mistake" of this sermon is not that Wright "spoke as if our society was static"--Obama's analysis on Feb. 18th. The problem is that "white folks' greed" is not the main cause of a "world in need."

I'm not saying voters shouldn't cut Obama a lot of slack on Wright's anti-white fulminations. But the Senator should have spoken up publicly against the semi-paranoid "white greed" explanation a long time ago, no? And he could show a little humility. Again, this wasn't the occasion for him to be lecturing everyone else. ...

"Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church," Obama said Thursday during a taping of the ABC talk show, "The View." [E.A.]

Tom Maguire is on the case, noting that Obama has now left the rarefied air of transracial elevation and entered conventional political BS-land, given that there is no evidence of any sort of Wright apology (though maybe now one will be produced) or a previous Obama inclination to leave the church. ... Meanwhile, Perry Bacon of WaPo tries to figure out  which "controversial" or "objectionable" sermons Obama heard. Again, I don't think this is necessary. Wright's sermon at Obama's very first service, highlighted in his book and his 3/18 speech as an epiphanic moment, was controversial and objectionable enough. And it didn't make him leave the church. It made him join the church. At least a bit of self-criticism seems in order. ... [via Instapundit and JustOneMinute ]

Update/Backfill: Oddly, the "white folks' greed" line and the Haiti reference do not appear in the seemingly official version of the sermon. But Obama has them in his book within quotation marks. Sweetness & Light asks: "Did Mr. Obama hear something that Mr. Wright didn't even say." And if so, why pick those particular lines? Or did the spoken version differ from the official text? ... Here's a recording of Wright delivering the sermon, which tracks the "official" text above. It sure doesn't sound like Wright is talking in church. Maybe there are two versions, one more palatable. ... See also Lowry, Smith. ... 4:02 A.M. link

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bradley still in the race: Gallup (telephone poll) and Rasmussen (robo-poll) continue to diverge. ... 1:31 P.M.

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I attempt a Unified Obama Theory. ... Bloggingheads commenters are not appreciative. ... It's disturbingly similar to what--according to Mark Halperin--is John Edwards' theory. ... 1:15 P.M.

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He said "pivot."  Heh, heh, heh ... 1:04 P.M.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In North Carolina, Obama doesn't seem to be losing ground. He's up 21 points, according to the RPP poll. He was up only one point in the same poll a week ago--although the results aren't strictly comparable because RPP expanded its universe of "likely" voters this week to include all 2006 general election participants. Still. ... Obama gained substantially (19 points) among white voters. ... And this is a robo-poll, which theoretically minimizes the Bradley Effect. It's one sign Obama's race speech might have worked, at least temporarily--though he also visited the state and "got lots of free media."  ...

kf Fallback Position: It worked because voters didn't hear it! They only heard the MSM summaries--e.g. that he'd repudiated Wright and called for racial understanding. ... 12:49 P.M.

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The Nightmare of Illumination: Jon Alter writes of his candidate (Obama)  that "[even] if his legislative agenda founders, he might be able to help the nation raise its sights ..."

[P]residents mustdo more than rally the country enough to win backing in polls for a course of action.That's relatively easy. The hard part is using the bully pulpit to instruct and illuminate and rearrange our mental furniture. Every great president has been a captivating teacher. By talking honestly and intelligently about a subject that most Americans would rather ignore, Obama offered a preview of how he would perform as educator-in-chief. ... Barack Obama knows how to think big, elevate the debate and transport the public to a new place. [E.A.]

Hmmm. After last Tuesday, I'm not sure I want to be instructed and elevated any more by Prof. Obama. I'd kind of like to rearrange his mental furniture on welfare and affirmative action, where his vagueness suggests incoherence more than brilliance. Alter holds out the prospect that an Obama Presidency will not be four years of merely winning "backing in polls for a course of action"--oh no, that's easy!-- but ... well, four years of insufferable pedagogic condescension.

And here I thought Hillary was the self-righteous know-it-all. Obama lectures even when he's the one who's been called into the principal's office. Alter has presented the most compelling case for Al Gore I've read. ... 12:29 A.M. link

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Waiting For Pivot: A Kinsley Gaffe is offically defined as

when a politician tells the truth.

To cover the Obama race speech, we may need a second kind of Kinsley Gaffe, call it KG II, that would apply to the trouble generated

when a politican says what he or she actually thinks (whether or not it's the truth).

That is to say, whatever the result of Obama's race speech, it's hard to conclude he didn't honestly say what he believes. He believes, among other things: 1) black churches like Jeremiah Wright's are too victim-oriented; 2) it's offensively prejudiced to be wary of black men on the street.

He's also 3) reluctant to think white resentments over welfare and affirmative action are justified as objections to welfare and affirmative action, and 4) prefers to see them as expressions of "legitimate" frustration over uncertain living standards.

That's what he thinks! He's being "courageously honest." We have to deal with it.

Candor is surely the necessary starting point for a useful national conversation on race (the one that Obama didn't seem to want to have until his pastor got him in political hot water). One side says, "You're scared of young black men." The other side says, "Yes, and here's why." Progress becomes possible. One side says, "You get all these breaks just because of your race." The other side says ,"We have to be twice as good to get the same respect."  If you don't ever have the argument you probably can't get over the argument.

But candor isn't a sufficient--or maybe even necessary--quality in a President. That depends more on what you think about what Obama thinks.

For myself, I tend to agree with Obama's point 1), the passage that rightly  impressed Abigail Thernstrom. But I disagree with 2), and suspect a lot of other "typical" voters may also (and not like to be lectured about it). More important, on (3) and (4), it's hard to believe we're about to nominate a Democrat who doesn't acknowledge the lesson of the 1990s--that voters are worried about issues like welfare because they are worried about welfare, not because "welfare" is a surrogate for "lack of national health insurance." Can a Dem who hasn't learned that lesson can be elected in a two-candidate general election? That's no longer unthinkable, but it would require not only that the old Carter-Ford-Reagan-Clinton issues like welfare, crime, etc. recede into the background (replaced by Iraq and the economy). It would also require Republicans who are too stupid to find a way to bring them back into the foreground.

For those Democrats worried about Obama's seemingly old-fashioned liberalism--sorry, progressivism!-- the great hope has been that of course he'll pivot and turn toward the reformist, Clintonian center once he's got the nomination in hand. But what if The Pivot never happens (as David Frum, for one, has predicted)? That's a big issue--maybe the big issue--raised by Obama's "race" address. That's a big--maybe main--reason that it's a gaffe. Obama's honesty is bracing.  But he honestly doesn't seem to be the sort of neoliberal politician who wins national elections. ... 2:17 A.M. link

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

The 'Bradley Effect' is Back? Gallup's national tracking poll has Obama retaking the lead over Hillary  after bottoming out on the day of his big race speech. Rasmussen's robo-poll, on the other hand, shows Obama losing ground since last Tuesday.  True, even Rasmussen doesn't seem to be putting a lot of emphasis  on his survey's 6-point shift. But isn't this week's primary race exactly the sort of environment--i.e.., the issue of race is in the air--when robo-polling is supposed to have an advantage over the conventional human telephone polling used by Gallup? Voters wary of looking like bigots to a live operator--'and why didn't you like Obama's plea for mutual for understanding that all the editorial pages liked?'--might lie about their opinions, a phenomenon known as the Bradley Effect. But they might be more willing to tell the truth to a machine. ...

P.S.: I take no position on this issue. I say wait for Pennsylvania. I've previously argued that the robo-pollers' truth-divining advantage might well have disappeared  because, with all the computers now tracking expenditures and generating credit ratings, etc.--people are scared to tell the truth to machines too. But this theory was dismissed by Pollster.com'sMark Blumenthal as lacking "supportive evidence." Picky! But maybe Blumenthal's right, in which case Obama should be worried. ...

P.P.S.: Of course, the 'Bradley Effect' could be inflating Obama's numbers in both the Gallup and Rasmussen polls to at least some extent, in which case Obama should be very worried. ...

Backfill: Blumenthal posted on another bad-for-Barack robo-poll (Survey USA) on Friday, but needs to update! ...

More: First Read's daily email identifies a third robo-poll, in North Carolina, in which Obama did relatively poorly (leading by only a point in a state he's supposed to win). ...

Three. Trend! ...

Blumenthal responds:  Mystery Pollster notes  that if you average poll results since the Wright controversy broke on the 14th, Obama does slightly better in Rasmussen's robo-poll (where he's a point above Hillary on average) than in Gallup's regular poll (where he's two points down on average). But the two polls aren't that different. ... kf: But if you look at the trend since Obama's 3/18 speech--which is what arguably charged the campaign with high-minded condemnation of racism and MSM sympathy for Obama of the sort that might produce a Bradley Effect--Obama gains 6 points in Gallup and loses 6 in Rasmussen through last Friday (and he's since lost one more on Rasmussen). That seems like a non-small difference. ... 3/25 Update: Obama has now lost a net of 8 points on Rasmussen since the 18th, and 11 points since the 14th. On Gallup, he's gained several points. ...  11:10 P.M. link

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

A job for Eliot!... 1:44 P.M.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Sniper Fire: Hillary appears to have been totally busted on her claim of a dangerous landing during her 1996 Balkans trip.WaPo has photos and video. ... P.S.: Always trust content from Sinbad. ... 11:12 A.M.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Abby Thernstrom liked Obama's race speech for its anti-black-victim-mentality passages.  I think she's a bit of a cheap date in that respect, but maybe I'm being too expensive. If only he'd left out the bogus parallel with "white resentments." ... In fact, wouldn't the best parallel to a black victim mentaility be the populist victim mentality that Bob Shrum always seeks to nurture--and, to a certain extent, that Obama seeks to nurture in this very speech with his talk about how the "real culprits of the middle class squeeze" are

a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests ...

I would tend to blame ... increasing returns to skill produced by trade and technological change!  They are hard to personify and demonize--they're just problematic trends we all need to confront. But the need to demonize is the problem with a victim mentality, isn't it? ...

Update: Marc Ambinder gives Obama credit  for saying "white resentments ... are grounded in legitimate concerns." The problem is he said that only after the populist passage cited above. The clear implication was not that resentment about welfare and affirmative action was "legitimate," but that these resentments were actually misguided symptoms of the legitimate anxiety, which would be anxiety over "stagnant wages," etc. caused by "corporate ... greed" etc.. ... If you think concern over welfare and affirmative action has an independent, legitimate basis apart from anxieties about the "middle class squeeze," it's highly condescending for Obama to tell whites (and similarly disposed blacks, for that matter) that, in effect, that they suffer from false consciousness--'I know you're really concerned about economics and declining wages and in your anxiety you let yourself be distracted into blaming welfare and affirmative action.' But that's what he says, as I read it and heard it. (Obama does allow that concern over crime is in itself legitimate, but spoils this 1992-era insight when he disses his grandmother--a "typical white person," he tells us today--for worrying about getting mugged.) ... 4:38 P.M. link

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Geraldine Ferrar ... Sorry, John Kerry speaks: Obama supporter Kerry says Obama's unique selling proposition is he's black. From First Read:

Obama supporter John Kerry gave an interview with a local N.H. paper, reports NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli. In it, Kerry said the color of Obama's skin makes him uniquely qualified for president and even reach out to the moderate Islam world. During an interview with the New Bedford Standard Times, portions of which were posted on YouTube, John Kerry says bluntly that Barack Obama has the potential to "bridge the divide in religious extremism" because he is black.

"It would be such an affirmation of who we say we are as a people if we can elect an African American president, a young leader who is obviously a visionary and got an ability to inspire people," Kerry said. "It will give us an ability to talk to those countries, to in some cases go around their dictator leaders to the people and inspire the people in ways that we can't otherwise."

The Massachusetts senator said Obama has an ability to perhaps even empower moderate Islam "to be able to stand up against the racial misinterpretation of a legitimate religion." Asked by a reporter what gave Obama the credibility to do so, Kerry said, "Because he's African American. Because he's a black man, who has come from a place of oppression and repression through the years in our own country. [E.A.]

I don't think Kerry's argument is crazy at all. I just don't think the Obama campaign can then sneer at Geraldine Ferraro for saying the same thing--i.e., that Obama is where he is because voters are "caught up" in the Kerry argument. Obama's camp can't have it both ways--arguing we should vote for him "[b]ecause he's a black man" and then arguing it's racist to say being black has helped his candidacy. ... 1:51 P.M. link

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Change You Don't Want to Xerox: Cautionary Obama precursor Deval Patrick's big casino gambling plan going down to defeat  in the Massachusetts legislature. ... 12:36 P.M.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The finely tuned affirmative action "goals" ("quotas are prohibited"!) of the California Democratic delegation  to the party's August convention reminds me of Michael Kinsley's riff on the 1984 Democratic requirement of "fair and equitable participation of ... persons of all sexual preference consistent with their proportional representation in the party.":

Thirteen who prefer the lights on and thirty-seven who prefer the lights off. ...

Fourteen a cigarette afterward, ten a long talk, nine an old movie on TV, eight a shower, six chocolate-chip ice cream, three cab fare homw.

Fifty who prefer no sex at all to any cuts in Social Security.

P.S.: Part of an occasional series for whippersnappers who think everything about Democratic politics has changed since 1984. No it hasn't. ...[Tks. to JH] 10:42 P.M.

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Don't Let Caffeine Do This To You: A more ... intense discussion  of Obama's speech. The problem with Obama's choice of churches isn'tRev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial (e.g., "damn America") statements. ... P.S.: I thought I might have gone overboard, in a might-as-well-be-hung-for-a-sheep kind of way, when I said Obama's big race speech was "a disaster." But maybe   not. ... [Tks to reader C.M.10:21 P.M.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

We Can't Ignore Race, So Let's Ignore Race:  Some (tentative!) reactions to Obama's somewhat arid talk--which a) probably advanced the discussion of racial issues, b) gave me a much better (and basically appealing) idea of where Obama is coming from, but c) didn't particularly advance his case to be President--especially, I fear among doubting white, male, non-college, etc. voters:

Obama gives Archie Bunker a chance to tune out:The speech starts by talking about slavery. Yikes. Why are we talking about slavery? We know about slavery. We want to know why Obama picked his paranoid pastor! One of the troubles with African-American pastors like Wright, after all, is what seems to be an excessive emphasis on the racial sins burdens of the past. The last thing we want from Obama is more talk of slavery.

Finally in paragraph six or so, the speech starts again on a better note. ("I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.")

Troublesome Equivalence #1:

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action ... On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language ....

It won't do much to reassure voters worried about affirmative action, or worried that Obama is unqualified, to have their concerns lumped with Wright's "offensive words."

Two little Souljahs, too late? Finally, around Paragraph 13, a sentence that seems to recognize the problem:

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. ... Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America;

OK! Then:

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity;

Doesn't Obama mean Rev. Wright's comments were 'not only divisive but wrong,' rather than the other way around? Isn't it worse to be wrong than "divisive"? Is unity the overriding virtue for Obama?

The only other Souljah-esque passages I picked up were a half-sentence on welfare [E.A.]:

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened.

Also, a crucial but non-specific allusion to the way black anger "keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition," and an anti-victim paragraph about

taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

All good, but Obama can be very pointed and specific when he wants to be (e.g. "purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap"). Here he keeps the anti-victim language at a muffled level of high generality. Obama doesn't talk about never-married mothers, for example, or non-marrying non-working fathers--all things Bill Clinton was able to mention. Obama talks about general "responsibility" and a failure to spend time reading. (Also note that it's not necessarily a violation of liberal orthodoxy to say that welfare policies worsened the black family problem--many liberals lamented that welfare checks went mainly to mothers, supplanting the role of fathers. The liberal solution, though, was to put the fathers on welfare too.)

Troublesome Equivalence II

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street .... [E.A.]

The most disastrous sentence in the speech. If Obama's saying that those who fear young black men on the street are racists, the equivalents of Rev. Wright in offensiveness, then he's just insulted a whole lof ot people. If he loses the votes of everyone who fears young black men, he loses the election. People fear black men on the street--as even Jesse Jackson once momentarily admitted--because they cause a wildly disproportionate share of street crime. Does Obama want to be the candidate who says that thought is verboten?

Later, he  says:

So when [whites] are told ... that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Who would tell them such a thing? Obama, a dozen paragraphs earlier, dissing his own grandmother.

In general. Obama's explanations of black anger seem intimate and respectful. His explanations of white anger seem distant and condescending. ("They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away ....") Unfortunately for him, it's white votes he needs.

Troublesome Equivalence III**:  Drawing his central parallel between often-counterproductive black anger and white anger, Obama declares:

Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many ...

Wait. I thought Obama just told us that welfare exacerbated the decline of the black family. So white "anger over welfare" wasn't misdirected. It was directed toward what Obama himself fingers as a prime source of the black-white disparity. And if a culture of broken homes tends to produce more crime, it was also directed at a prime cause of urban disorder, the impoverishment of working class-white neighborhoods, and of white flight. In other words, it was directed at a "real culprit," not a phony culprit. Is Obama too locked into standard left "welfare is a scapegoat" ideology to admit this? If so, Bill Clinton had more "nuance" and "complexity." Obama's taking us back to 1991.

Can't we ignore race, please?

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.

Actually, a lot of voters supported Obama because they'd kind of like to ignore race, you know? Wasn't the point of his celebrated South Carolina victory speech  that thinking along racial lines was one of the "habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation"? That's the whole point of Obama, from one perspective.

These voters resent the cropping up of Rev. Wright because he represents the thrusting of race back to the center of the campaign. By lecturing them on the centrality and unavoidability of race, Obama seems to be embracing Wright's error and undermining at least one basis for his appeal. (He gets into trouble with his wacky pastor andnow he's challenging us on race?)

Fortunately, the we-cannot-ignore-race stand is a fraud. What's Obama's alternative?

Walk about the crumbling schools ... talk about ... the lines at the emergency rooms ... the shuttered mills ... the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.

In other words, the alternative to ignoring race is ...to ignore race and talk about economics.

Obama's not a race man after all. Just a standard old fashioned doctrinaire blacks-and-whites-together-for-health-care progressive. One achievement of the speech is that it makes this leftish orthodoxy come as a relief.

P.S.: Excellent closing anecdote also helped. Would have been better 15 minutes sooner! ...

**--I'm not even getting into the parallel Obama draws between Rev. Wright and Geraldine Ferraro--Troublesome Equivalence IV.  Whatever you think of the equation of the two (it's absurd!) how un-strategic is it for Obama to require white voters to disagree with Ferraro in order to agree with Obama? 4:40 P.M. link

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Early Souljah Is Like Yeast! In his Big Race Speech today, I hope Obama remembers the lesson of his breakthrough 2004 convention keynote address, which is a) say something conservative and anti-PC sounding; b) say it strongly and c) say it early. After that, you'll have the doubters on your side and you can more or less be as doctrinaire-left as you want. But the longer you wait to say something heterodox, the more heterodox you have to be to have the same effect.

In Obama's 2004 speech, the Early Souljah moment that made it work came about a third of the way in:

... children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. [E.A.]

Voters, including but not limited to the crucial white males and independents, heard that hard, unhedged dis of dysfunctional ghetto-poor identity culture--it pretty clearly isn't whites doing the slandering Obama's rejecting--and decided they liked this guy. A good way to introduce yourself as a different kind of African-American politician! After that, Obama could even sell them John Kerry.

Why do I worry Obama's forgotten this lesson?

P.S.: There are plenty of potential Souljahs still around: Race preferences. Out-of-wedlock births. Three strike laws! But most of all the victim mentality that tells African Americans (in the fashion of Rev. Wright's most infamous sermons) that the important forces shaping their lives are the evil actions of others, of other races. ...

P.P.S.: I've stolen the Early Souljah idea from an analysis I read the week of Obama's 2004 speech--I forget who wrote it. 1:32 A.M. link

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Paging Rush ... : McCain seems to say Republicans lost Hastert's House seat because of the "very strong anti-iimmigrant rhetoric"  of GOP candidate Jim Oberweis. ... P.S.: On Hannity, McCain says:

I would have the border state governors certify that their borders are secure. Americans will trust the border state governors. They won't trust us in Washington. That's the message. [E.A.]

Do you trust the border state governors? I don't trust the border state governors. Does McCain really think "Americans" will? He must. Remember, this isn't a gimmick designed to get him through the election--to accomplish that, he only has to say he'll secure the borders first, period. This is a gimmick designed to let him shift to pushing for an illegal immigrant legalization bill shortly after he's actually elected. He wouldn't bring it up at all unless that's what he planned to do. ... P.S.: Note that McCain again ducks Hannity's question on whether he'd "sign McCain-Kennedy today," lending credence to those  who thought his apparent concession on the subject in the January Reagan library debate was a misstatement. ... 4:03 P.M. link

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Maybach, kaput? Maybe the rich are not getting richer  fast enough. Or maybe it was hideous. Or both. ... 3:37 P.M.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Obama Attended Hate America Sermon"-- Newsmax's Kessler:  But not a sermon from the Greatest Hits collection. "[W]hite arrogance ... United States of White America"--sounds like one of Rev. Wright's more anodyne efforts. ... P.S.: The night is young. Obama is now at the mercy of any fellow congregant with a cell phone camera who can place Obama in the pews for, say, "God Damn America." ...

Update: Obama's campaign  says he didn't attend Wright's church on the day  (July 22, 2007) Kessler says he did.  Commenters on Andrew Malcolm's blog  claim Obama was at the La Raza event in Miami. Here's the speaking schedule. There's also video. Ball in Kessler's court! ...

More: Newsmax goes squishy on the date, saying

Our writer, Jim Davis ... stands by his story that during one of the services he attended during the month of July, Senator Obama was present and sat through the sermon given by Rev. Wright as described in the story. [E.A.]

HuffPo's Sam Stein notes that Obama was in Chicago on the morning of the 22d, though Obama's campaign says he didn't go to church.  There are only so many Sundays in July, and presumably the Secret Service has records, so it should be possible to get to the bottom of this. ... Faster: Couldn't the Secret Service just be asked to release the dates of every sermon Obama attended in 2007 and 2008, saving Stein and others a lot of effort?  ...  8:29 P.M. link

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Just asking: What do the Democrats do when Obama loses Pennsylvania, not by 10 or 15 points but by 20 or 25 points? That seems to be the way things are headed. ... 2:43 P.M.

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Obvious Non-Trivial Gotcha: These two Obama statements do not sit easily together!

1.  "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial."

2. "When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn.

... And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me .... [E.A.]

If he was so agonized "at the beginning" of his campaign that he was thinking of leaving the church, why did he then reassure people during that campaign that his church wasn't controversial? ... [And is this a "new kind of politics."--ed Yes, that one's always there too!] ... Much more  here. ... 2:25 P.M.

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Speaking of [Richard] Holbrooke, I have it on good authority that, not only does the former UN ambassador believe that he'll be Secretary of State if either Clinton or Obama wins, he genuinely thinks he'll have a comparable position if McCain wins.

Makes the whole election thing seem kind of superfluous. ... P.S.: And Steve Clemons thinks Holbrooke's already picked his deputy. ... [via Insta] 12:36 P.M.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

If it offends you I condemn it!

"All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn." -- Barack Obama

This seems to be the General Rule of Obama--if it's going to damage him, he condemns it! And rejects and denounces. Vehemently! The Rule would seem to apply to all past and future controversial statements--his campaign could get that sentence printed up on little laminated cards and hand them out to reporters, or include them after the statements of all Obama surrogates, like those fine-print 'void where prohibited' waivers. "Condemned if controversial."

Is it that easy? Noam Scheiber raise some questions, especially:

How plausible it is that Obama wouldn't have known about Wright's, er, greatest hits. Obama strongly implies he didn't know his pastor had a habit of giving nutty sermons up until the outset of his presidential campaign. Is that believable?

Obama also engaged in a bit of McCainly overdenial, Scheiber notes. Specifically, did he have to deny that he had "personally heard" Wright utter any of the "controversial" statements? Wouldn't it be smarter to say "I heard him say some wacky things on occasion but dismissed them as his own eccentric political views. Like many Americans, I don't agree with all my pastor's political preachings." Even if Obama doesn't remember hearing any of those particular controversial statements, what if he remembers wrong?

Remember, this is a controversy Obama had to know was coming since at least (by his own admission) the beginning of his campaign. Ideally, he'd have issued his HuffPo statement many months ago.** In any case, it's not something he had to hastily draft. Unless he's clueless, he's been working on it for a while.

**--The obvious analogy is to George Bush hoping he could skate through the 2000 election without having to address his DUI conviction--a bit of wishful thinking that arguably cost him a clear-cut victory, plunged the election into the Florida recount mess, and eerily foreshadowed his vastly more consequential wishful thinking on Iraq ...and immigration ... and Social Security. ... 10:04 P.M. link

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They worship an awesome God in the blue states: Back in April of 2007, Tom Maguire wondered why the MSM wasn't making a big dea l of Jodi Kantor's NYT piece on Obama's wild Afrocentric pastor. Now we know: It's because the MSM was planning to make a big deal of it eleven months later, after the Democratic race was all but over, when there was nothing voters could really do to take the controversy into account, and when it was guaranteed to cause maximum unnecessary chaos in the nominating process! ... P.S.: If Edwards had done well, imagine when they would have brought up Rielle Hunter!. ... P.P.S.: Always trust content from kausfiles!   ... 9:51 P.M.

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"Is Fannie Mae Toast?"Barron's thinks maybe. The name of James Johnson--Mondale campaign manager, Kerry veep-vetter, Slate-basher, former King of Washington as chairman of both the Kennedy Center and the Brookings Institution, and kf nominee  for Man Most Likely to Escape His Share of Blame in the ongoing FNMA disaster--is mentioned, shortly after the phrase "lush executive compensation." ... Backfill: David Smith explained back in January--using pop album covers and other cheap visual devices--how Fannie Mae's implicit government guarantee enabled it to take bigger gambles in the sub-prime market, creating "systemic" risk (not to mention the risk of a taxpayer bailout). ... 1:20 A.M. link

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Did Obama benefit from race preferences? If you go to this page  and shell out $14.00, you can read an article on black law review presidents in which Obama is quoted as saying:

"I have no way of knowing whether I was a beneficiary of affirmative action either in my admission to Harvard or my initial election to the Review. ... If I was, then I certainly am not ashamed of the fact, for I would argue that affirmative action is important precisely because those who benefit typically rise to the challenge when given an opportunity." [E.A.]

I cite this a) to save you $14.00 b) for those emailers who suggest Obama couldn't have benefitted from race-based preferences in his rise to the top at Harvard Law. ... P.S.: The affirmative action program at the Law Review is discussed here. ... P.P.S.: Obama did graduate magna cum laude,meaning he got very good grades while running the law review--and as far as I know there was no race preference program in grading. ... P.P.P.S.: Obama may not know whether he was a beneficiary of affirmative action. But there should be people who do know--people on the Harvard admissions department, and the editors of the law review who picked him after his first year. Have they been asked? ...

Backfill: Alert reader B. notes  this from Ed Whelan at The Corner two months ago:

I'm reliably informed by one of Obama's colleagues on the board of editors of the Harvard Law Review that Obama told conservative editors that he did not check the box identifying himself as a minority on his law-school applications.

As Whelan notes, there would still have been plenty of ways for admissions officials to figure out Obama's background from his application. ... As Whelan also notes, if Obama had been completely comfortable with affirmative action, wouldn't he have proudly checked the box? ...

Update: Maguire questions the second half of Obama's quote--where he says "those who benefit typically rise to the challenge when given an opportunity." Maguire wants to know if there's actual evidence to back up the "typically." ... 11:46 P.M. link

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Maybe, like me, you haven't followed the career of John Doggett, one of the great characters of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. But you kind of knew he would become a "talk-show host who embraced conservative thought," didn't you? ... [via Instapundit10:28 P.M.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

If Obama's Face Were ... : Here's Andrew Sullivan in his big, widely applauded Atlantic piece making the case for Barack Obama:

What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it's central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power. We have seen the potential of hard power in removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have also seen its inherent weaknesses in Iraq, and its profound limitations in winning a long war against radical Islam. The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West's advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in.

Consider this hypothetical. It's November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America's soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama's face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

His face. Hello! Mrs. Ferraro? If one of the "formeost" things Obama offers voters is the "face of a brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia, etc." doesn't that mean "he would not be in this position if he were white"?  If you like Obama because he might "rebrand" America to the world--well, he wouldn't accomplish that simply by having his election televised, as Sullivan suggests he would, if he were white, would he? Or think in purely domestic terms. If Obama were white, he wouldn't embody hopes of a post-racial future. Duh! That's part of his appeal. It seems obvious. Why does Obama dispute it? Why isn't Ferraro allowed to acknowledge it?  Is it OK for Obama's "face" to appeal to egghead Atlantic subscribers but not ordinary Wyoming caucusers? Or was Sullivan being "offensive"" and "ridiculous" too?

I also think it's pretty clear that Sullivan-style logic is at the core what Ms. Ferraro meant when she said "[he] happens to be very lucky to be who he is" and that "the country is caught up in the concept" of his presidency. She's not arguing that he's where he is because black voters are caught up in identity politics--more the opposite, that white and black voters alike are caught up in the idea of ending identity politics. Nor does she does she seem to be arguing it's wrong to be at least temporarily "caught up" in this concept.  But the concept wouldn't be there if Obama was white.

P.S.: Several normally canny commenters have taken issue with the idea that the Ferraro controversy hurts Obama. They suggest that, even if it loses him white male votes, what he needs now are superdelegates--and it will help turn disgusted superdelegates against Hillary. I don't know.  Superdelegates are almost by definition political pros. Are they really going to turn against Hillary, and stay that way until August 25, just because they got ticked off by one of her surrogates yesterday? Skeptical conservative Democratic voters in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana might not forget so easily, though--especially if the Obama campaign can blunder its way to keeping this story alive for a week or two. What would really, permanently impress wavering superdelegates, after all, is if Obama can carry large chunks of the white male vote in those three big states.

Why doesn't Obama just say: "I think being black helps me in some ways, and hurts me in others. I'm running on my record, on the issues, on my ability to do the best job as President for all Americans, etc."--and tell his campaign aides to leave it at that? 

P.P.S.: Would Obama be in this position if he weren'thalf-white--i.e. if he didn't have one white parent? That's a more difficult question. If embodying the post-racial future is an advantage, it would seem to help--but that's a bit ironic, isn't it (i.e., ironic if you can't lead America into the post-racial future unless you have the precisely correct mix of multiracial ancestry).

P.P.P.S.:  If the Ferarro controversy does help Hillary, that would  explain why  Ferraro herself seemed to try to keep it alive yesterday with a silly, provocative comment: "I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?" ... Second Reading: In context, Ferraro seems to be trying to parody what she claims is the Obama campaign's tendency to cry "racism" everytime someone criticizes Obama. The problem with this argument is that hasn't been the Obama camp's tendency--rather, they cry "racism" everytime someone brings up the question of race. But Ferraro may have been thinking of Orlando Patterson's less-wacky-than-you'd-expect op-ed, criticizing Clinton's seemingly non-racial "3 A.M." ad as racist--indeed, Ferarro mentioned the Patterson op-ed in an earlier TV appearance.  Maybe she just got her back up and saw perversity all around. But she's clearly not trying to tamp down the controversy. ... 10:42 P.M. link

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro (Clinton supporter): " "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

True statement (a.k.a. a  Kinsley gaffe). And if Geraldine Ferraro was Gerald Ferraro, she'd be an unknown hack ex-Congressman, not a pathbreaking former vice-presidential candidate. Now Hillaryite Democrats suddenly feel the unfairness in the logic of race-based affirmative action? Where were they when Bill Clinton was 'mending it, not ending it'? And where's that Jesse Helms ad when she needs it?

Susan Rice (Obama aide):"That's a really outrageous and offensive comment."

David Axelrod (Obama strategist):""The bottom line is this, when you wink and nod at offensive statements, you're really sending a signal to your supporters that anything goes."

Absurd and telling overreaction! Yes, Ferraro's statement is hypocritical. It drips with unseemly envy and entitlement. It's unrealistic--by the time any politician gets to the stratopsheric level of presidential contender, he or she has almost certainly had some morally arbitrary lucky breaks (like being a black, or an Italian, or a Bush, or just being in the right place at the right time). But why is it "offensive"? It is, after all, true. Maybe that's the problem. Is it 'offensive' to hit too close to the sensitive weak spot of Democratic race-preference ideology in a Democratic primary?  I guess.

Update: Obama himself says  "I don't think that Geraldine Ferraro's comments have any place in our politics or the Democratic Party." ... Ferraro saysa) she's always said that if she were "Gerard Ferraro" she would "never have been the nominee for vice president;" b) "The truth is the truth is the truth." ... She also narrows the context of her statement to the 2008 campaign, rather than Obama's entire life--including race-based preferences he may have enjoyed at Harvard--which has the effect of protecting Dem preference dogma at least somewhat. Altogether a highly effective appearance. ... 

P.S.: Does the Obama campaign really want to prolong this controversy? Doesn't he need white male votes in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina? Didn't that Jesse Helms ad work? Just asking! ... Backfill: Jesse Jackson's response, when Ferraro said a similar thing about him in 1988, seems much savvier than Obama's. ... 3:31 P.M.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Did CNN really have Bill Bennett on today to pronounce judgment on Eliot Spitzer ("Look, it's not good for him ... I think it's too much ") and Bill Clinton ("It was an intern")? I would have thought Bennett's days as arbiter of sin and virtue were over after his own humiliating public bout with vice--the 2003  Las Vegas gambling embarrassment, when it was revealed that he had a multi-million dollar slot machine jones. (At the time, Michael Kinsley argued Bennett should have "the decency to slink quietly away, as he is constantly calling on others to do."). ... I guess if Meet the Press can call on Doris Kearns Goodwin to judge Obama's alleged plagiarism ....11:07 P.M.

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"Kristen," the NEA's Worst Enemy? Here's Ben Smith's 2006 New York Observer piece on the probable next governor of New York. OK, so there have been a few little fibs on his official bio. And he aims to please everyone, Clinton style. There's also this:

A prominent advocate of publicly funded vouchers for private schools, Clint Bolick, has given [now-Lt. Gov. David] Paterson money and describes him as a "very good friend of the school-choice movement," ... [E.A.]

Could be interesting. ... Also, I'm a sucker for gratuitous candor, which seems to be another Paterson characteristic. ... [This isn't a kf item. It's a parody of a kf item. "N.E.A. SUFFERS SETBACK IN NEW YORK NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST."-ed. First, I'm too tabloidy, Now you don't like the policy angle! So unfair. I feel like Michael Chertoff.] ...

Update: Yes, Spitzer was receptive to charter schools and even private school tuition deductions. But "Paterson "is even more hardcore about school reform and not a favorite of the teachers' unions," reports Eduwonk. "[H]is pick as LG caused [the unions] some consternation but was tempered because it was only LG ...." Heh! ...  5:11 P.M. link

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Have you noticed that the Center for American Progress' "new" approach to illegal immigration--"We must require illegal immigrants to become legal, and reform the laws so this can happen"--bears an eerie resemblance to the drug policy of erstwhile presidential candidate George C. Papoon?

A Papoon Presidency would eliminate all illegal drugs in the first week of its administration.

No American would be using illegal drugs under George G. Papoon!"

5:00 P.M.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

McCain: Not Insane! It doesn't look to me like John McCain was "unhinged" or  "irate"   or losing his "cool" in his recent  videotaped airplane confrontation with the NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller. He was simply employing the debating tactic he often uses when confronted with a question he can't answer safely--which is to bully and intimidate and interrupt the questioner, using up all the available conversational space until the "questioning" moves on. (To get a word in edgwise, whoever is confronting him would have to be ready to engage in an undignified shouting match, which most are unwilling to do.) McCain used the same technique in the Republican debates when confronted with questions he didn't want to answer on immigration.

Because this is intentional, strategic behavior it isn't a sign McCain is unstable or uncontrolled or overemotional or irrational. But it's a sign that, no less than Obama, he may have been underprepared for the fall campaign by his charmed life as a national press favorite. McCain's bullying evasion is the second campaign tic--the first is his habit of  reflexive, righteous blunderbuss denials**--that he's apparently been able to get away with over the years. Neither is likely to hold up over a multi-month presidential race. And the bullying, unlike the righteous denial, doesn't even temporarily make McCain look good.

**--Indeed, Bumiller was asking McCain about one of his earlier reflexive, sweeping denials that later turned out to be inaccurate. ...

Backfill: Politico on McCain's "media strategy" of getting mad at critical home state reporters. ... 11:24 P.M. link

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Friday, March 7, 2008

3:35 A.M.-- The Trouble with Dials: Despite lots of dismissive punditry--It's a cliche! Badly executed! And look at Obama's swift response!--Hillary's "3 AM" ad appears to have worked. Intriguingly, the ad also worked despite performing poorly in the MediaCurves.com sample of 554 Democrats hooked up to reaction meters  (on which they registered their agreement or disagreement).

Which seems to demonstrate a problem I've always had with Frank Luntz-style "dial" groups: The meters measure the voter's visceral reaction to whatever the candidate is saying. If the voter hates abortion, and Candidate A attacks abortion, the meter goes up. If the voter is pro-choice, the meter goes down. What the meter doesn't capture is actual rumination--even fleeting doubts or flashes of confidence. The reaction loop's too short for that. So if something Candidate B says, in the course of defending a right to abortion, actually makes a pro-life voter think twice about the issue, that will happen later, after the meter has moved on (and probably after the meters are locked up and everyone's gone home). Indeed, the voter's immediate reaction to a candidate who prompts reconsideration of a long-held position may be more negative than usual, reflecting the voter's annoyance at being challenged and forced to think. ....

In short, the meters are good at measuring effective pandering, not at measuring effective persuasion. And sometimes candidates do persuade! ... In the case of the "3 A.M." ad, the MediaCurves "undecided" voters were viscerally turned off when they learned it was an ad for Hillary. Their dial-graphs plummet downwards. But a lot of "undecideds" seem to have been affected, non-viscerally, in a different way later. .... 4:37 P.M. link

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Obama tried pandering to Latinos in California. It didn't work. He lost. He tried pandering to Latinos in Texas. It didn't work. He lost. He tried pandering on NAFTA in Ohio. It didn't work. He lost. Maybe he should try, you know, not pandering! That would fit better with his claim to practice "a new kind of politics and a new kind of leadership,"  no? ... Update: Going negative, as recommended by Dick Morris, does not fit well with that claim--it seems like the sort of campaign mistake that might actually cost Obama a large chunk of support when he's mathematically almost home. Halperin's brief on this subject is persuasive. ... There must be other ways for Obama to "start acting like he has a pair." Like by dramatically not pandering! ... 2:57 P.M.

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Pols In Treatment: If Hillary's a "Rorschach test"--as she said in 1993-- isn't that the problem? [Unexpectedly NSFW] ... Psychologist Ellen Ladowsky also claims Obama's trying to recapture his childhood! Not that there's anything wrong with it. ... 2:17 P.M.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

7 Weeks to Pennsylvania: What's the most apt analogy for the grim prospect that now faces the American press and public? The Bataan Death March? I think there's a better comparison. ... 1:21 P.M.

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Just asking: If the superdelegates all voted with the winner of their state, would Hillary get the nomination? I think maybe. That would be one way she might colorably claim a superdelegate decision in her favor would vindicate democracy. ... Update--Just answering:  Ann Hulbert, enlisting Slate's Trailhead in an unprecedented team effort, says Hillary gets a superdelegate lead of only 3 under this winner-take-all allocation rule--so far. But there are 124.5 superdelegates from states that still haven't voted. Hillary would have to win them by something like 104 to 20 (using Hulbert's numbers) in order to make up her deficit in "pledged" delegates--unlikely, but do-able under a winner-take-all rule. ... More: Trailhead notes that even this state-by-state winnter-take-all superdelegate allocation rule probably leaves both candidates short of the necessary 2,025 delegate majority. Why? Because there are also  "about 50 nomadic superdelegates who aren't tied down to a state." Nomadic superdelegates? Yikes. ... Do they arrive at the convention in Winnebagos?.... Backfill: Steve Smith undertook this exercise before Wisconsin, noting that it's subtly biased in Hillary's favor because "Clinton's wins have generally been in large Blue states, which have a disproportionately higher number of SuperDelegates." ...  1:02 A.M. link

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Have the Obamans blamed their Texas loss on Limbaugh-directed Republican spoilers? Maybe they should. ... Update: Weigel adds non-anecdotal evidence  supporting the Limbaugh theory. ... 12:49 A.M. link

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The Downside of Mutnemom: My friend S, originator of the eerily prescient theory that Hillary enjoys "reverse momentum," reminds me that it is double-edged. Hillary does well when she's just lost and is on the ropes. But she does badly when she's just won one and tries to hamhandedly capitalize on her triumph (which then comes across as gloating and has the opposite effect).

She wins losing, loses by winning. 

Which would be good news for Obama, if there were a big primary in the next week or two. Which of course there isn't. But there's Wyoming--which the Mutnemom theory predicts Hillary will lose. ...  If only Obama could somehow avoid that victory and keep Hillary's triumphal moment alive for a month and a half until Pennsylvania ...

P.S.: Bill Clinton's declaration that a Texas loss would doom Hillary --previously considered incredibly dumb-- now shows "his legendary political instincts," according to the NYT, precisely because it triggered the "save poor Hillary" impulse that's the basis for her winning-by-losing advantage. ...12:24 A.M. link

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fear of Feiler: How much of the press drumbeat of doom designed to drive Hillary from the race is motivated by journalists contemplating the gruesome prospect of seven weeks of campaigning without a major primary--this in a hyper-covered, fast-info era in which a mere two week campaign for Texas and Ohio has seemed like a Bataan Death March? ... 1:10 A.M.

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Would "the absolute consistency of [Obama's] position on the war" allow McCain to attack him as "inflexible and without nuance"? Stanley Fish's argument to this effect  makes sense only if you assume that Obama wouldn't show new flexibility--the long-awaited Pivot--once he secured the nomination. Obama's smart enough to do that, right? ... Right? 1:04 A.M.

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And now for another view of William F. Buckley: Since Buckley can no longer defend himself, it seems bad karma to even link. But  try to stop reading it. The ruptures on the Right over immigration long predate John McCain, it turns out. ... 12:45 A.M.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

MR. RUSSERT:  Bob Shrum, it is tough trying to figure out these primaries. For example, that poll in Texas estimates the black turnout at about 22 percent...

MR. BOB SHRUM:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...of Obama's overall.  In 2004 it was 21 percent.  The Obama camp will say it might be higher because of the energy in the campaign.

MR. SHRUM:  Well, it will be.  2004 was a nonevent.  John Kerry was already the Democratic nominee for president. ...

You'd think black turnout would rise with a black presidential candidate fighting for the Dem nomination. But in California you'd be wrong, at least according to the 2008  exit poll, which put black turnout at 6% of the total, down from 8% in 2004. ... Backfill: The black percentage didn't increase in Florida or Virginia either, apparently (but did in Arizona). ... 11:37 P.M.

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I'm with Althouse on Hillary's "as far as I know" answer on theObama/Muslim canard. It seems like mere reflexive politico-legal ass-covering on her part, not innuendo-spreading. If you're Hillary, you have to have learned not to make sweeping declarations of fact about things you can't really know--e.g., "Obama is not a Muslim"--without adding a caveat. Her sin, if any, was not realizing that this instance was an exception to the normal rule --an occasion where she'd be expected to make a sweeping declaration of fact about something she couldn't really know. And to do it on 60 Minutes--where smart politicians are normally primed be very cautious.. ...8:55 P.M.

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Under-undernews Alert: Too bad the  Globe lacks the credibility of the  Enquirer. ...11:29 A.M.

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And she hasn't even cried yet: Obama slipping in Texas, falling behind in Ohio. Is Hillary's mutnemom kicking in? ... 10:16 A.M.

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Running on Blade Runner: LA Weekly unloads its magnum opus  on Mayor Villaraigosa's underdebated plan to make Los Angeles a couple of stories taller and a whole lot denser. a) The plans seem to call for 2.5 million more people. But when it comes to population growth, according to the Weekly

the two key causes are illegal immigration and the high birth rate among the poor and working poor.

If somehow various immigration-control measures actually slow illegal immigration--i.e., if the Gran Salida continues--will all those multi-story apartments actually be needed? Put another way, does Villaraigosa's growth plan depend on continued illegal immigration?b) There's a case for greater density. What's most alarming is that Villaraigosa seems to be planning greater density without first building the subway system that might move all those people around. The Weekly provides a helpful sidebar comparison with Mexico City. c) The most powerful anti-growth voice cited by the Weekly is County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. But the city's already-dense West Side would have had a subway years ago if Yaroslavsky and his Democratic ally Henry Waxman hadn't foolishly stopped it in the 1980s and 1990s  ... "He blocked the subway his city needed" is one of the things that will be on Waxman's tombstone, along with "He expanded Medicaid." ...  "He busted Roger Clemens" is unlikely to make the cut. ...

Update: Emailer S.G. notes that the political system seems structured to produce the worse of both worlds: Powerful private developers are able to push through dense, multi-story housing. The only thing anti-growth forces are able to stop is the subway, because it (unlike apartment buildings) requires public, federal funding. The result: paralysis. Even in Blade Runner, there was a monorail, no? ...  5.55 P.M. link

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Friday, February 29, 2008

HuffPo--"Study Suggests Tougher Words for Dems On Immigration": An obvious con job by the Center for American Progress, et. al.. In this "confidential" study, comprehensive reform boosters urge Democrats to seem tough by adopting the rhetorical attitude of their opponents.

"It is unacceptable to have 12 million people in our country who are outside the system," it reads. "We must require illegal immigrants to become legal, and reform the laws so this can happen."

In other words, we will take a tough stand against illegal immigrants by making them all ... legal. Sorry, by requiring them to become legal!That'll teach them to mess with our laws again! ... Of course, you can make any kind of amnesty seem like a triumph for the rule of law through this rhetorical trick: These [insert violators here] broke the law. But now we are bringing them into the system by making them all law-abiding residents again! Before: illegal. After: legal! How much more law-and-orderish can you get? ...

If the pro-legalization Dems do have to adopt faux-tough rhetoric to appeal to voters, however, that does suggest they are losing the public debate-- and bodes ill for the House Dem leadership's attempt at a last-minute Semi-Amnesty Sneak Play  that would combine some popular border enforcement measures with a new visa that would legalize illegals for five years. ... 6:53 P.M.  link

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Katrina of All Potemkin Fences! Gee, it seems like only five days ago that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was singing the virtues of Boeing's "virtual fence" on the Mexican border:

"I have personally witnessed the value of this system, and I have spoken directly to the border patrol agents...who have seen it produce actual results, in terms of identifying and allowing the apprehension of people who were illegally smuggling across the border," Chertoff said.

Today we learn, from WaPo, that the "virtual" fence "did not work as planned" and has been delayed for three years by Chertoff's department.

The border fence saga can be confusing, filled with subtle twists, turns, and feints.** But here is my brief potted history. Please explain where I've got it wrong:

1) Border control advocates want  an actual physical fence.

2) Respectable Bush comprehensivist types like Chertoff want to substitute a sophisticated hi-tech "virtual fence" for the crude actual physical fence.

3) Border control types say the "virtual fence" won't work.

4) Respectable Bush comprehensivists like Chertoff in fact cut back on actual fencing, choosing the "virtual fence."

5) Where it's installed, the actual fence works.

6) Where it's installed, the "virtual fence" doesn't work .

7) Chertoff  feels sorry for himself  ("I thought I heard myself getting roundly criticized ... as squishy and soft").

Then you can explain to me why Chertoff still has his job.

P.S.: Tammy Bruce has one unsubtle, but not implausible, explanation--Chertoff was only doing what he was supposed to do:

In other words, we've all just been taken for a ride .... In order to do whatever possible to avoid building an actual physical fence ... Bush, McCain and their amnesty cronies made sure a monumental amount of money was wasted on a fake, untested, unreal fence to placate conservatives ... .

And now, after the tens of millions of dollars spent on an unworkable, failed system, and a year of the Feds touting the genius of the 'virtual' fence, Amnesty Secretary Michael Chertoff now says the border will not be prot[e]cted by a physical fence or even a virtual fence ...

Instead, Bruce notes, Chertoff seems to be counting on plans "to double" the DHS "fleet of three unmanned aerial vehicles." That's a total of six (6) drones. Not joking. That's what he said. Three thousand miles of border. Six drones. Talk about a "light footprint"! This is the pre-Petraeus Iraq strategy applied to the border.

Except that this time John McCain almost certainly approves, at least in private. Of course, if McCain really wants to prove his bona fides as a newborn secure-the-border conservative, he might start by saying the things about Chertoff that he said about Donald Rumsfeld regarding Iraq (or that he now says he said about Donald Rumsfeld). ...

P.P.S.: Did both Democratic contenders for the presidency endorse the virtual fence in a debate only a week before WaPo reported that it doesn't work? I think they did! ...

** Note: For example, there was this deceptively simple exchange in a press conference  a month before the 2006 election:

Are you committed to building the 700 miles of fence, actual fencing?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes ...

In fact, this was like an obvious typo in the paper, something experienced Washington observers discounted immediately. What Bush clearly meant to say was "No"--that he planned to finish only 370 miles of fence and also count "300 miles of vehicle barriers."  ... [Thanks to reader S.6:54 P.M. link

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Should later primaries count more than early primaries? If Hillary wins Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, that's what she's going to claim. It's not a bogus argument. Voters in late primaries have more information than voters in early primaries. Superdelegates should be able to take note. That's different from arguing that Hillary should be able to pull strings and get superdelegates even if she keeps losing. ... kf's suggested HRC strategy: Cry. Duh. She cries, she wins! Wail Mary! It worked twice.  Why not try it until it stops working? ... 5:57 P.M.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

McCain BS Denial #2? 10:12 A.M.

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Russert Chokes in Clutch: In Tuesday's debate, Tim Russert definitely let Obama off the hook  on the issue of Obama's chosen pastor, Rev. Wright:

RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, "Audacity of Hope," you acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness." He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell." What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?

If Russert had broken it off quickly around where the boldface stops--e.g., "do you feel comfortable associating yourself with these sentiments"--he'd have had a pointed question that put Obama on the spot. By babbling on about Jews and Israel--as if only Jews could be offended by Farrakhan--he gave Obama an easy answer that let him ignore Wright and the avoid the tricky business of distancing himself from his pastor. ("Tim,  I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago ..." etc.).

Like Andy McCarthy, I don't think Russert was consciously helping Obama escape. But there are any number of potential subconscious motives for Russert's choke, including fear that his image wouldn't benefit if he were the heavy who skewered the popular, charismatic black Dem frontrunner. ... 12:33 A.M. link

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is Obama Deval Patrick II? Obama didn't steal the words of his buddy Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts. He borrowed them. OK. But what are the other similarities between Obama and Patrick? The two pols have a lot in common even aside from shared rhetoric. Has Patrick's term been a success, or has it been a cautionary example of a promising, race-transcendant Democrat squandering his mandate by governing as a hack interest-group liberal? Fred Siegel has an answer  to this question. Excerpt:

Patrick's governorship is the closest thing we have to a preview of the "politics of hope"—and that governorship has been a failure to date. As Joan Vennochi observes in the Boston Globe, "Democrats who control the Legislature ignored virtually every major budget and policy initiative presented by a fellow Democrat." Patrick's record in office, Vennochi concludes, "shows that it can be hard to get beyond being the face of change, to actually changing politics." His stock has sunk so markedly that Hillary Clinton carried the state handily against Obama in the Democratic primary despite, or perhaps because of, Patrick's support for his political doppelgänger.

In one area, however, Patrick has achieved some of his goals. In thrall to the state's teachers' unions, he has partly rolled back the most successful educational reforms in the country. Most states gamed the federal testing requirements that were part of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. But Massachusetts, thanks to Republican governors William Weld and Mitt Romney, created the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability to ensure that the state's testing methods conformed closely to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—federal tests that are the gold standard for measuring educational outcomes. In 2007, Massachusetts became the first state to achieve top marks in all four categories of student achievement. One of Patrick's first efforts as governor was to eliminate the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. [E.A.]

Isn't it incumbent on those prominent NEA-bashing neoliberal Obama supporters to explain just why his term as president won't quickly descend into a Patrick-like interest-group quagmire? Jon Alter, this means you! And Charles Peters as well. ... P.S.: Patrick could function as Obama's wrang-wrang, Vonnegut's term for a pioneer who by his bad example steers others away from a false course. Before neolibs go into a permanent campaign swoon, shouldn't Obama send them at least a subtle signal that he understands this?

Backfill: Here's Vennochi's column. She's a bit more charitable than Siegel. ... Update: Boston Globe on Patrick's strained relationship  with the legislature. Hope= casino gambling? ... 4:19 P.M. link

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"Any comment that is disparaging of either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is totally inappropriate."-- Sen. McCain today. ... Is that really how McCain is going to run for president? Why can't you disparage your opponent in a political campaign? ... I'm obviously late on picking this up, but McCain really does have a habit of making categorical, blunderbuss statements that maximize, not the truth, or his political maneuvering room, but his own sense of righteousness. ... Examples: 1) It's not that he doesn't remember various Iseman-related meetings. They never occurred. 2) The United States will not torture (except, you know, when it will). 3) Any comment disparaging of Senator Obama is not just inappropriate, it's "totally" inappropriate (except down the road, of course, when it may become necessary ...). 1:47 P.M. link

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Meet the Press Moments! 1) Doris Kearns Goodwin, absolving Barack Obama on the question of his lifted uplift. ... Writes itself! ... 2) Goodwin, on politicans' sex scandals:

But I think the serious thing that happened is just this change in relationship between the candidates and the reporters has been such a sea change.  In 1920, the reporters knew in detail that Warren Harding was having an affair for 15 years.  They thought it wasn't their business to talk about the private life, compared to a front-page article that suspects an affair on the part of some aides.  In fact, the Republican committee was so worried about this affair that they actually gave the woman $20,000 and sent her to the Orient during the entire campaign to get her out of the way.  So we've changed the whole notion of what part of a private life matters.  When the real story is what part of the public life matters. [E.A.]

Huh? If the Republican committee was so worried about Harding's mistress, doesn't that show she was considered relevant, and that there was a chance that at least some of the press would see it as their business?

Bonus PBS Newshour Moment: David Brooks defends the McCain campaign's reliance on lobbyists because

A lot of them work for no pay.

Um, doesn't that make it worse? If they work for no pay, then McCain owes them. Is he going to pay them back as President? On the other hand, if they get paid lavishly for their work in the campaign, he's freer to tell them to take a hike later, no? ...[Thanks to alert reader J] 12:14 A.M.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

'I helped Page Six for decades and all I got was this lousy squib'? I was never quite sure "Baird Jones" actually existed. He was such a flickering ominpresence in the gossip pages, he could easily have been invented. But he was apparently an actual person, who is now dead. The NY Post, which Jones practically kept afloat with a steady stream of mid-range celebrity gossip items, has covered itself with ungrateful shame in its stinting report, but Radar at least begins to do him justice, including revealing a seemingly crucial secret. ... 8:07 P.M.

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Things That Bother Media Matters: Now Tucker Carlson is echoing! Will he stop at nothing? P.S.: Either George Soros is wasting his money on MM or someone else is. ...  6:14 P.M.

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Hear No Univision, See No Univision: It's dispiriting to watch the conservatives at National Review bend over backwards to play down the New York Times' McCain-Iseman story.  What if before McCain had effectively won the nomination--say, when he and Romney were contesting New Hampshire or Michigan--it had been revealed that he may have been excessively influenced by a gorgeous  lobbyist for Univision, the Spanish language broadcaster with a vested financial interest in promoting bilingualism at the expense of a unifying common language? So much so that the lobbyist boasted of her influence at meetings? So much so that McCain's right-hand strategist tried personally to intervene and tell her to go away? You think it might have been an issue? ...

P.S.:National Review Online's David Freddoso scoffs  at the idea that McCain received a mere $85,000 from Iseman's clients since 2000, arguing that if that's all McCain got he's "pathetic" at trying to "take advantage of people" in his committee's purview. Hmm. a) Former Univision CEO, controlling shareholder and Iseman client Jerrold Perenchio is a National FInance Co-Chair of McCain's campaign. Presumably he brings in more than $85,000; b) The worry isn't that McCain was taking advantage of Univision, et. al. It's rather the other way around. Or, more precisely, that this was a smarmy, mutually self-interested alliance that helped McCain and Univision in ways that maybe went beyond promoting the national interest

If conservatives substitute "National Education Association" for "Univision" maybe the potential scandal will be easier to see. But at this point, McCain could be caught having an affair with Juan Hernandez  and it wouldn't bother the National Review. ...

Backfill: Steve Smith, Matthew Yglesias  and Matt Welch notice what the NR seems to miss. ...1:44 A.M. link

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"Hillary Should Get Out Now": Why would it help either Hillary or the Democratic party if she were to drop out before March 4 Texas and Ohio primaries, as fantasized by my friend Jon Alter? If Obama wins the two states, he'll be a much stronger candidate for it. If he loses, then Hillary would have been a fool to drop out, no?  The idea that two weeks more of a relatively tame primary campaign is going to damage Democratic chances eight months from now seems a stretch. ... If Hillary dropped out now while she still has a small but non-trivial chance, it wouldn't show "grace and class" so much as lack of judgment. ... Alter, an Obama supporter and is just going to bat for his guy. .. P.S. Also, Hillary's "beautiful closing answer" in the Austin debate wasn't a "more genuine" Hillary. It was one of her phoniest moments yet. Nice try, though. ... 12:51 A.M.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

How is letting Marketa Irglova back on stage to finish her Oscar acceptance speech like Kosovo independence? Feels good, bad precedent. [Other ex.?-ed Immigration amnesty!] 11:37 P.M. 

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Friday, February 22, 2008

The McCain camp declares "Mission Accomplished" on the Iseman story. I mean, what could happen now to give it legs? ... Oh wait. Isikoff already has BS McCain Denial #1, which is where his campaign says  that

"[n]o representative of [Iseman client] Paxson [Communications]  ...discussed with Senator McCain the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceeding regarding the transfer of Pittsburgh public television station (WQED) ..." 

It turns out McCain himself said in a deposition that he'd discussed it with Mr. Paxson himself. McCain's subsequent staff's defense doesn't help the Senator:

"I]t appears that Senator McCain, when speaking of being contacted by Paxson, was speaking in shorthand of his staff being contacted by representatives of Paxson."

Err ... McCain was fairly explicit on the issue in a sworn deposition, saying "I'm sure I spoke to [Paxson]". ****

Oh well, so he maybe got it wrong under oath. Another sign of his gruff authenticity!**

What's striking about the story so far is the extent to which core McCain supporters concede that if it's confirmed McCain is through. I don't see why that would have to be true--I'd think he could confess, cry, and weather the storm. (If the GOPs had someone to beat McCain they'd have beaten him already.) But here's McCainiac David Brooks:

At his press conference Thursday, McCain went all-in. He didn't just say he didn't remember a meeting about Iseman. He said there was no meeting. If it turns out that there is evidence of an affair and a meeting, then his presidential hopes will be over.

That means, of course, that even if the story is true, loyal McCain supporters would be under tremendous pressure--even self-imposed pressure--to deny it. Is McCain point man Charlie Black saying anything he wouldn't say if McCain did have the affair, and the meeting? A question to keep in mind.

**--Josh Marshall has more on McCain's distinctly un-Clintonesque style of blanket denial. In another politician this would just be recklessness. Does McCain do it because he hasn't been burned--i.e. the press has always given him a pass before? ...

****--Update: Paxson himself now tells Wapo he met with McCain.  ... The McCain camp asks us to accept that when both parties to an alleged romance deny it, it didn't happen--but that when both parties to a meeting say it did happen, it didn't happen either. ... 4:21 P.M.  link

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In 2006, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both voted for the Secure Fence Act, widely understood to entail building 700 miles of fence along the Southern border. Now Hillary says

There may be places where a physical barrier is appropriate. I think when both of us voted for this we were voting for the possibility that where it was appropriate and made sense it would be considered, but as with so much, the Bush administration has gone off the deep end, and they are unfortunately coming up with a plan that I think is counterproductive. [E.A.]

Hmm. Isn't that a little like voting for the Iraq War and then saying you were just voting for the possibility that if it were appropriate it would be considered? 

In this case, though, Obama is attempting the same two-step. He says he and Clinton "almost entirely agree" regarding the fence, adding

As Senator Clinton indicated, there may be areas where it makes sense to have some fencing. But for the most part, having Border Patrol, surveillance, deploying effective technology, that's going to be the better approach. ... [E.A.]

Is voting for a fence and then denying you were actually voting for a fence the old politics of Washington or the new politics of hope? I get confused. ... 2:57 A.M. link

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Dingalink of the Week: There is no excuse for our lapse in judgment. It won't happen again. ... 2:10 A.M.

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Kosovo = Aztlan? Just asking! ... 2:05 AM.

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The Scandal Is What Isn't Scandalous, Part III: Mike Huckabee's wife "attended a middleweight prize fight this past weekend in Las Vegas--where she stayed at the Hooters Casino Hotel"--which "may be problematic with conservative Christian voters," reports the S.F. Chronicle.

There's a Hooters hotel? Yikes. ... 1:42 P.M.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

My reaction to the NYT's McCain-hot lobbyist story? As McCain's supporter Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said, in a similar context:

"A lot of [what] you see in the stories is not true, but at the same time, I have to tell you that I always say, that wherever there is smoke, there is fire. That is true.

a) When the Times reports that two McCain "associates** ... said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman," the vagueness of "inappropriately" might mean the NYT doesn't have the goods on any possible romance. But it suggests to me that the paper's sources might not want to give it the salacious details or the paper itself is too decorous. If by "inappropriately" doesn't mean anything sexual, then the NYT has indeed been surprisingly sleazy. Someone should ask Mr. Rutenberg.  

b) The Scandal-is-What-isn't-Scandalous Dept. Part I: From the NYT story:

The McCain aides said the senator sided with Ms. Iseman's clients only when their positions hewed to his principles.

A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain ... introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. [E.A.]

How is introducing this bill in keeping with McCain's deregulatory or deficit cutting instincts? There is no more fetid swamp of corrupting government favoritism than the FCC's minority ownership programs. And tax incentives aren't really all that different in their budget-gutting effect from earmarks, are they? If those are McCain's principles ...

c) Part II: This paragraph from WaPo's follow up  seems like a small fire in itself:

At the time he sent the first letter, McCain had flown on Paxson's corporate jet four times to appear at campaign events and had received $20,000 in campaign donations from Paxson and its law firm. The second letter came on Dec. 10, a day after the company's jet ferried him to a Florida fundraiser that was held aboard a yacht in West Palm Beach.

That was normal practice? Isn't it less damning if he did it for love?

d) McCain's License to Lie: McCain seems convinced that his wartime heroism and general righteousness make it OK for him to lie in bullying fashion when he really has to (e.g., when he needs to pretend that under his immigration plan illegal immigrants would "not be in any way rewarded for illegal behavior"). That could be what's happening here too. ... Of course, as Michael Kinsley (and one of my emailers) has noted,  sympathetic liberal reporters perversely give McCain straight talk points  when he lies. That could happen here as well. ...

Backfill: Jack Shafer has already made many of these points. ...

**--The NYT describes these sources as two "former associates" of McCain. The text here originally said "aides." WaPo reports that "[m]embers of the senator's small circle of advisers" confronted McCain. McCain  denies that the confrontation took place. ...  3:37 P.M. link

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'I Was Nowhere Near Milwaukee': Now that he's safely won Wisconsin--a state relatively friendly to school vouchers-- Obama genuflects to the teachers' unions by denouncing "misleading reports that Senator Obama voiced support for voucher programs." ... If you were in the mood to grasp at straws in Obama's defense--i.e. the mood I'm in, don't know about you--you would note that this isn't a Full Grovel,** which would involve retracting, rephrasing or apologizing for the Obama statements that suggest an openness to vouchers (if evidence turns out to support them). Instead, Obama's campaign merely calls "out of context" and emphasizes the anti-voucher aspects of his platform. That seems more like the Minimum Necessary Grovel to keep the National Education Association happy while preserving Obama's freedom to reverse his "longstanding skepticism" in the future. ...

**--An example of a Full Grovel would be DNC then-chair Paul Kirk's statement after he gave an interview suggesting openness to a Social Security means test: "I was wrong. Our party ... is unalterably opposed to any cuts in Social Security benefits. I should not have mentioned the subject of a means test." 11:42 P.M. link

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Howie Kurtz is his own worst enemy? Not while Charles Kaiser is alive! Kaiser, who first (as far as I know) pointed out that Kurtz has the worst conflict of interest in journalism--Kurtz covers CNN while being "well compensated" by CNN for hosting a media show-- updates his anti-Kurtz brief. Best new point: Kurtz tries to compensate for his conflict by avoiding writing about CNN, which in itself is doing CNN a favor:

According to Nexis and the Washington Post's own website, during the past 12 months, the one subject the media reporter for the Post has almost never written about is ... CNN.

This sort of benign neglect couldn't come at a better time for CNN, since many of Kurtz's own colleagues believe the news network has gotten so tabloidy and superficial that it's no longer worth watching at all.

11:20 A.M.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Give me purity, but not now: If McCain adviser Mark MacKinnon is going to quit the McCain campaign because he doesn't want to "be attacking" Obama, shouldn't he have quit already? McCain's been attacking Obama for at least a week.  ... 5:12 P.M.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is Hillary better off losing Wisconsin? My friend S called with a so-crazy-it-might-be-true theory about the Democratic primary contest, which is this: Hillary does best when Democratic voters sense she's about to get brutally knocked out of the race, as in New Hampshire. That prospect taps a well of residual sympathy for a woman who has devoted her life to politics, etc. But when Hillary is triumphant she seems arrogant and unbearable, and voters feel free to express those perceptions at the polls. It follows that Hillary will do better in the crucial states of Ohio and Texas if she loses in Wisconsin and has her back to the wall. If she wins Wisconsin, and holds a big happy victory rally trumpeting her newfound momentum, the result will be a another surge of support for Obama. ... In other words, it's not that there is no momentum from a primary victory this year ("nomentum"). There's reverse momentum ("mutnemom!"), at least where Hillary is concerned. If she wins a primary one week that makes her more likely to lose the next one. .... 3:06 P.M. link

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Is that an S-Chip on Your Shoulder or Are You Just Glad to See Me? John Podhoretz argues that Michelle Obama's comment--about how "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country"--

suggests the Obama campaign really does have its roots in New Class leftism, according to which patriotism is not only the last refuge of a scoundrel, but the first refuge as well — that America is not fundamentally good but flawed, but rather fundamentally flawed and only occasionally good.

He could be right! Her comment is also of a piece with the cavalier Obamaesque dismissal of the achievements of the Clinton years  and  her church's focus on "this racist United States of America."  ** But is the explanation necessarily political? Even Dennis Kucinich would probably have no problem finding something to be proud of in the past two decades. If Michelle Obama's default position is set to "Aggrieved," it also suggests something personal, no? Maybe, like many strong wives, she wonders why her husband is the one on the top of the family ticket--which might also explain her strange occasional habit of belittling him  in public ("snore-y and stinky"  ). Beats me. For whatever reason, she sure seems to have a non-trivial chip on her shoulder and it's not a winning quality. ...

**--In a forthcoming bloggingheads episode, Bob Wright reminds me of another jarring comment from Mrs. Obama, speaking about her husband:

"[T]he realities are, as a black man, Barack can get shot going to the gas station."

And white men don't get shot at gas stations? Sure, Mrs. Obama might have meant to say, in an anodyne rephrasing, that "as someone who lives in Barack's neighborhood, he could get shot going to the gas station." There are always anodyine rephrasings. At some point there are too many of them. ... 4:29 P.M. link

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Psst--We Don't Think He's Pro-Life Either: Michael Kinsley lets out a secret Democrats have been guarding closely of late--when it comes to loyalty to conservative positions, we don't think McCain's as bad as conservatives claim. We think he's worse!  For example, Charles Krauthammer, listing McCain's apostasies, concedes that "he's held the line on abortions."  Kinsley suggests that even that may be wishful, cheap date thinking:

McCain is perceived as authentic, which is a deeper form of honesty than mere truth-telling. He says he's antiabortion? Oh, he doesn't mean that.

For Kinsley, the election's win-win. ... Update: Wash. Times--  "Pro-lifers are the first part of the conservative base to rally around Sen. John McCain ..."   Heh-heh! ... 1:38 A.M. link

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why the Right Hates Newsweek: Newsweek, in a piece on "Why the Right Hates McCain,"  contains only a short description of what the magazine calls

his compromise position on immigration reform. (McCain championed a bill with archliberal Ted Kennedy that would have allowed illegal aliens to participate in a worker-visa program. He later retreated.)

"Participate in a worker-visa program." I think the "compromise" did a little more than that! Permanent legalization, "path to citizenship," etc. How is any Newsweek reader going to understand "Why the Right Hates McCain" if the magazine rewrites recent history to make him look more reasonable? ... Nor is it clear he's really retreated. ... P.S.--The Wimp Factor! Now that McCain's the near-certain nominee, mags like Newsweek really need easy access to his aides, no? Just saying! Presidential candidates have retaliated by cutting off Newsweek'saccess before. ... 9:35 P.M.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

I'm a day behind, and I feel the crushing weight of every minute, but isn't this kind of brilliant? ... 6:55 P.M.

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'Sorry Charlie, you just didn't meet your numbers this quarter': Let me get this straight--Clinton strategist Mark Penn is McCain strategist Charlie Black's boss?... Not since James Carville battled it out with Mary Matalin in 1992 has it been so clear which campaign's top aide has the upper hand! Actually, that one was clearer. ... 3:57 P.M.

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The nose of the Pontiac Solstice appears to have been subtly degraded. (Last year/ This year). ...1:06 A.M.

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How is Obama not an unreconstructed lefty--Part III: Not only does he support charter schools, but--at least according the buried lede in the Democrats for Education Reform web site--he's willing to point out in public which major Dem interest group is against them:

At a Manhattan fundraiser I attended last April, a local charter school operator asked Obama why it was so hard to be a charter school person in the Democratic Party. His answer was thoughtful and measured, but he - not the person who asked the question - identified the teachers unions as the obstacle on the political side. He noted that the American public was hungry for change and that the unions' leadership was going to have to decide whether they want to be in on it, or be completely left behind. [Emphasis added]

Worse, from the NEA's point of view, he seems to be open to ...v-v-vouchers  ...

 But, and this is the interesting part, he said if studies end up showing that children are benefiting from vouchers, he wouldn't allow his skepticism to stand in the way of doing something to help them.

"You do what works for the kids," Obama said. [Emphasis added]

When Obama says that near the beginning of his videotaped interview  with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he seems to be maybe just be play-acting the role of someone arguing with a voucher skeptic. But at the end of the interview he declares:

I will not allow sort of my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn. We're losing several generations of kids and something has to be done.

You think that's what he said when he answered the NEA's questions earlier in the campaign? ... Update: Back in July, he responded to the American Federation of Teachers questionnaire  with what the AFT wanted to hear:

We need to invest in our public schools and strengthen them, not drain their fiscal support. And for this reason I do not support vouchers. In the end, vouchers would reduce the options available to children in need. I fear these children would truly be left behind in a private market system. [E.A.]

Hey, it's his contradiction. Let him explain it. But I note that back in July he was a dark horse candidate sucking up to the unions like every other Dem. Now the power relations is at least partly reversed--if he says something the union doesn't like, it's not clear what they can do about it. They could back Hillary, but that's not likely to endear them to Obama if he wins. [Also now he's telling the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ed board what it wants to hear--ed You don't like consistency?]

More: The New York Sun adds:

Asked the same voucher question by the Milwaukee paper, Senator Clinton had a strong response, saying she opposes vouchers because they hurt public schools and could also open up the possibility of using taxpayer dollars to finance dangerous schools including training grounds for "jihad."

Also:

The president of the National Education Association, Reginald Weaver, told The New York Sun today that he believes Mr. Obama still opposes vouchers. ... He said that in conversations he expects to ask Mr. Obama to affirm his position on vouchers.

I guess we get to find out if John Edwards is right12:31 A.M. link

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Formaldehyde makes me paranoid: From the NYT coverage of the Katrina-trailer scandal--

''I don't understand why FEMA bought trailers in the first place that were dangerous,'' said Henry Alexander, 60, who has been living in a trailer since February 2006.

1) Hmm. Isn't the issue why anyone is building trailers in the first place that are dangerous?  This doesn't seem like a FEMA scandal. It seems like a trailer-industry scandal. Most victims of poisonous trailers are probably a) not Katrina victims and b) actually paying good money for their carcinogenic trailers. 2) Is FEMA using the formaldehyde issue as a prod to move people out of the trailers--something it's apparently been trying to do for a while, perhaps to avoid creating a permanent class of free-trailer dwellers? In other words, maybe FEMA wants this scandal (and the press is obligingly giving it to them). ... 11:56 P.M.

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If a Hispanic who has performed as poorly and prominently as Patti Solis Doyle can't be fired without her employer getting grief from Hispanic leaders, isn't that a pretty big disincentive to hiring a Hispanic in the first place? Message: Stick to white males--if they screw up, you can sack them and nobody will whine. ... 9:03 P.M.

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Ellisblog makes a rare appearance to wallow in Clintonfreude. ... 8:53 P.M. 

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's hard out there for a Page: What word that he "shouldn't have"  did Mark Halperin use? ... Meow: The word appears to have been "pussy."   As in

"[Edwards]  thinks Obama is kind of a pussy. He has real questions about Obama's toughness ..."

Does that bother you? Doesn't bother me. It adds evocative oomph.  ... The Phoenix's Adam Reilly has a cheap snitfit here. Prissy! ...[via Romenesko4:09 P.M.

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It's a Dem group! It's a 'swing' group! In Mark Penn's big electability memo, he identifies Hillary Clinton's strengths when compared with Obama:

Sen. Obama will have to fall back on core Democratic voters to stay competitive with McCain. But this is where Hillary has already built a powerful base, with overwhelming support among women, Latino voters, and other stalwarts of the Democratic Party. [E.A.]

A paragraph later, women and Latinos are back, this time as a "swing" voters:

And Hillary's core voters - working class, women, Latinos, Catholics - are exactly the voters that comprise the key swing voters the party has needed in the past to win.

I suppose it's possible that women and Latinos are "core Democratic voters" who nevertheless might desert the party on a moment's notice against McCain--though that would suggest the Democratic core is near-evanescent. It's also possible that a lot of core Dem voters are women and a lot of swing voters are women--indeed it would be odd if they weren't. But it's also possible that "women" and "Latinos" have to do double duty for Penn because there aren't a lot of other groups he can brag about.  ...[Tks to emailer Y1:08 P.M.

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Didn't Ron Fournier kind of bury the lede in his story on how the Clinton's "selfishness" is coming back to bite them? This from the 15th graf:

Bill Richardson, a former U.N. secretary and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, refused to endorse [Hillary] even after an angry call from the former president? "What," Bill Clinton reportedly asked Richardson, "isn't two Cabinet posts enough?" [E.A.]

P.S.: From Fournier's piece, it's clear that what's hurting the Clintons with the Democratic "superdelegates" isn't necessarily their "selfishness," but rather their centrism:

And they are not all super fans of the Clintons.

Some are labor leaders still angry that Bill Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his centrist agenda.

Some are social activists who lobbied unsuccessfully to get him to veto welfare reform legislation, a talking point for his 1996 re-election campaign.

I thought we've been told that even mainstream liberals now accept the success of  the 1996 welfare reform? ...  Maybe that success just makes them angrier! (Not only did they lose, but they were then discredited.) ...[via Drudge12:06 P.M.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Hillary Campaign's New Pitch: You can hear the crowds chanting, "Factored In! Factored In!" ...[Thks. to reader J.P.] 5:54 P.M.

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Heck of a Job, Patti: It's Not Nice to Get Josh Green Spiked! Green opens the notebook  from his cancelled GQ piece  and lets Clinton's ex-campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle (and by extension, Hillary) have it:

She was infamous among her colleagues for referring to herself as "the queen bee" and for her habit of watching daytime soap operas in her office. One frequent complaint among donors and outside advisers was that Solis Doyle often did not return calls or demonstrate the attention required in her position

It's actually not a hatchet job, but a fairly subtle analysis of Solis Doyle's role and Hillary's disturbingly Bush-like management style. (For "Solis Doyle," read "Rumsfeld"). ...My only quibble: Don't donors always complain they don't get their phone calls returned? ...  2:55 P.M.

______________________________

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson denied Monday that the Clinton campaign was doing anything to push the cult-of-Obama meme.

But Sidney Blumenthal, a senior Clinton adviser, did e-mail the Media Matters posting to a list of influential persons, including reporters.

Asked about that, Blumenthal replied by e-mail that the e-mail in question was "off the record. I send some published articles to close friends. However you received one, it was not intended for you, or any other reporter, and you should tell me how my personal confidence was broken and you happened to receive it."

Wow. a) Controlling! In a characteristically Hillaryesque fashion, someone like Stephen Kaus might say; b) Incompletely truthful!Tilove says there are several reporters on Blumenthal's list of 'close friends,' including John Judis and Joe Conason; c) Wackily unrealistic! Who thinks they can email something to--how many? tens? dozens? hundreds?--of their "close friends" and successfully keep it secret?  Anyway, "reporting" involves writing about things that are "not intended" to fall into the hands of reporters. Duh! Blumenthal seems to think journalists like Tilove have an obligation to squeal on their sources when its his expectation of secrecy that's violated. Imagine how Nixon felt! ... P.S.: I don't doubt that Blumenthal's emails have a collegial purpose--i.e., they're not simply designed to drive press coverage. But they also have that effect. Ask Trent Lott. ... 12:12 P.M. link

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Monday, February 11, 2008

How is Obama not an unreconstructed lefty?--Part II: Asked to "[n]ame some issues where you've been willing to stand up against your party," Obama responds with charter schools:

BO: I've consistently said, we need to support charter schools. I think it is important to experiment, by looking at how we can reward excellence in the classroom.

JH: Have teacher's unions been an impediment to that kind of reform?

BO: What I will say is that they haven't been thrilled with me talking about these kinds of issues.

Obama also answers: "I think it is important for us to be in favor of trade ..."

P.S.: Alert reader J.S. digs up the following Obama quote about welfare:

"At a certain point, welfare got separated from the idea of work," Obama said. "There was the welfare rights movement, and people started talking as if you were just entitled to an income, whether you were trying or not. And ordinary working people — black and white — would hear that and say, 'Now hold on a second. I'm getting up at 4:30 in the morning and taking a bus two hours to get to a job, and you're telling me that you have a right to something,' and they resent it. Work has to be an important component of any anti-poverty agenda."

Sounds good, though it would be more reassuring if Obama didn't typically express such sentiments by putting them in the heads of others (e.g., "ordinary working people," whom progressives have to placate). The main trouble is the flexibility in the joints of his sentences. I could write a welfare bill completely consistent with that paragraph that would completely gut the 1996 welfare reform law. You'd require that someone determine recipients were "trying"--but define "trying" as attending a day of a community college class. You'd make work "an important component" but not rigorously require it--and indeed you'd prevent states that wanted to be too rigorous from trying the tougher approach.

More important, there are plenty of House Democrats who will want to write a welfare bill completely consistent with that paragraph that would completely gut the 1996 welfare reform law! Obama may not want them to do that--he may personally opppose it--but unless he has someone like Bruce Reed watching them like a hawk they're going to try to send him that bill. Triangulation ain't easy!

What kind of President would watch them like a hawk? A President who was scared to death of being labelled a backslider on welfare and work, who was heavily invested in his or her image as a neolib reformer on the issue. At the moment, Hillary Clinton seems more like that potential President. 8:32 P.M. link

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Hillary-- 'Put A Tail On Him!'** Well, maybe not quite: From The Politico:

[Senator Clinton] was asked a question from a Politico.com reader in Santa Monica, Calif., who was seeking assurance that "no new business or personal scandal involving Bill Clinton" could erupt if she were in the White House and give fodder to Republicans.

"You know, I can assure this reader that that is not going to happen," she said. "You know, none of us can predict the future, no matter who we are and what we are running for, but I am very confident that that will not happen."

Isn't that the LAT's cue (and everyone else's too) to run with whatever undernews they have on Bill? ... P.S.: I was nowhere near Santa Monica. ... OK, I was in Santa Monica. But it wasn't me. ... P.P.S.: Elsewhere in the interview Hillary sounds suspiciously Edwards-like in advocating confrontation rather than cooperation with opposing interests:

I will work with Republicans to find common cause whenever I can. But I will also stand my ground because there are fights worth having.

Taking Edwards' campaign advice for a day or two, of course, would be an inexpensive way to suck up to him while seeking his endorsement. ...

**--Wow, there is a really cheap double entendre here, isn't there? Unintended! I'm referring to this. ... 7:08 P.M link

________________________

Forget "comprehensive." Just give us the amnesty! According to Roll Call, House Democrats are plotting to move "scaled-down immigration reform legislation" this year--a five-year visa for illegals "who pay fines and pass criminal background checks." ... I'd know more if I subscribed to Roll Call! ... Malkin has a bit more. ... Initial takes:

a) Bad for McCain, right? Just when he's papered over his split with the right on immigration, this would reopen the wound. Maybe that's the Dems point. ... Maybe it's also an attempt to gin up the Latino vote for November. But the Latino vote seems already ginned up. (Does it stay ginned if the bill actually passes?) Meanwhile, it risks waking up the otherwise somnolent right-wing vote, no?

b) Bad for Rahm Emanuel's swing-district Democratic first-termers who campaigned on tough-on-illegal-immigration platforms, no? If it ever comes to a vote, will they reveal to their electorates that it was all just a pose? ...

c) But not an unclever strategy, if you are a pro-legalization Congressperson and want to strike while Hispandering Season is at its height. ...

d) Presumably McCain is now honor bound to oppose this, having pledged to push legalization only after "widespread consensus that our borders are secure."  (If he sticks to his word, it might actually wind uphelping him in November, you'd think.) But what about Hillary and Obama? If Obama supports it and Hillary opposes it, does that give her the policy contrast she needs going into Ohio and Pennsylvania? ...

e) Can you pass a big bill like this in a presidential election year? Well, welfare reform passed in 1996. The key difference? Welfare reform was overwhelming popular, virtually across the board. The fight was largely over who could claim credit for it. Congressmen weren't worried that someone might run an ad accusing them of making welfare recipients go to work.

f) Is this a tacit admission by the legalization caucus that a semi-amnesty might not be as easy to pass in the next president's first two years than you might think (given that all three contenders are formally pro-legalization). ...

g) Or is this an expression of fear that local get-tough enforcement measures, in states like Oklahoma and Arizona, might already be having a surprising effect (at encouraging emigration, and at prompting other states to follow suit).  Remember the stunning statistic that, even with current enforcement measures, the

growth rate of the U.S. Mexican-born population has dropped by nearly half to 4.2% in 2007 from about 8% in 2005 and 2006 ... [E.A.]

That's the Democrats' long-anticipated future evaporating right there. Is that why Rep. Emanuel says:

"There are things that are happening in our respective communities and districts around the country and businesses that we have to address and we can't wait for the Senate," ...

Update: Brian Faughnan suggests the idea is to combine the quickie five-year amnesty with Rep. Shuler's border-strengthening "SAVE" bill, in a sort of mini-comprehensive open-faced sandwich. ...

More: I've now read the full Roll Call piece. Much of the legislative impetus, at least according to reporter Steven Dennis, is "pressure from more conservative Democrats who back" the enforcement-oriented Shuler bill, not the five-year legalization visa idea. These conservative Dems "want to be able to cast a vote they can run on," according to Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.). Is the quickie visa just an attempt to sweeten the Shuler bill to the satisfaction of the Democrats' Latino caucus? ...  3:42 P.M. link

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Bloggingheads--Bob Wright's videoblog project. Gearbox--Searching for the Semi-Orgasmic Lock-in. Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Keller's Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column. Gawker--It's come to this. Eat the Press--Sklarianna & Co. are like Gawker if Gawker actually believed in something. ... Luke Ford--Go for the sex, stay for the self-loathing. ... [More tk]

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