The "progressive" netrootsy left often discounts the importance of welfare reform. Worrying about welfare--that's outdated '90s neoliberal thinking! But when Democrats want to actually get elected, as opposed to blogged, what issue do they emphasize?
"That's why I passed laws moving people from welfare to work ..."-- Barack Obama, in his first post-primary TV ad.
Is Obama's new faux-presidential, alternative-reality seal his "Mission Accomplished"? If you wanted to emphasize to voters that the Democrats' nominee is a bit stuck up, it would be hard to do better. I suppose he could start requiring reporters to stand when he enters the room. ... The seal probably started out as a bit of fun. But unless David Axelrod is insane, the thing will never be seen again. .. 2:15 A.M. link
A few responses to criticisms of Wednesday's exciting Social Security item:
-- Andrew Biggs questions whether Social Security's "work test"--you only get it if you've worked--would "keep a more progressive Social Security program from being seen as welfare." He notes that the Earned Income Tax Credit also goes only to workers, and asks "does a work test keep the EITC from being seen as welfare?" The answer is yes! The EITC helps only the poor and yet remains very popular (despite occasional criticism from the right). Even Biggs concedes "the EITC has fared much better than welfare programs without a work test." He needs a better counterexample.
-- Ramesh Ponnuru, citing Biggs, says a "means test"--reducing or eliminating the benefits of seniors who don't need them when they become eligible--would discourage savings. He and Biggs propose instead fiddling with benefit schedules so that high earners earn lower benefits --but they'd get to keep those benefits whether they retire poor (having failed to save) or retire rich. The Pozen Plan, endorsed by President Bush, is one way to gradually adjust benefit schedules in this fashion.
The Pozen Plan is fine if all you want to do is balance the books on the current Social Security system. It falls short if you want to go further and actually shrink Social Security by a few hundred billion in order to make room in the budget for, say, universal health insurance. Then you need to do something more dramatic, like eliminating--not reducing--benefits for the richest 25% of retirees. They did it in Australia. It worked. (I'd be interested to learn if Australia's means-test had any effect on savings.)
Backfill: On KCRW's Left, Right & Center, Matt Miller (center) and Amity Shlaes (right) were both alarmed by the high marginal tax rates produced by Obama's preferred Social Security fix (which is to subject over-$250,000 taxpayers to the 6.2% payroll tax). ... Tune in about 16:30 into the progam. ... Shlaes, like Biggs, supports an alternative self-contained Social Security fix:
[I]t is possible to fix Social Security without doing too much, you can fix most of it by adjusting the formula, so that each cohort gets just what the proceeding cohort got. adjusted for inflation, no more. What we have now is real increases and that's more than half of the problem in the Social Security system.
Again, this is easy to say if you don't also want a big, expensive health care addition to our welfare state, which I assume Shlaes doesn't. If you do though, and you don't want a counterproductively high tax burden, then you may eventually have to endorse a more drastic Social Security diet plan. ... 1:31 P.M. link
Friday, June 20, 2008
Uckers-say: From the A.P.:
Republican presidential John McCain assured Hispanic leaders he would push through Congress legislation to overhaul federal immigration laws if elected, several people who attended a private meeting with the candidate said Thursday. ... [E.A.]
Hmm. If McCain is going to sell out his party's conservatives, renege on his primary campaign repositioning and return to his righteous push for "comprehensive immigration reform," wouldn't it be better to do it in public than in a closed-door meeting, where it looks like a guilty, furtive secret pander? ... P.S.: AndThe Corner stays silent! ... Backfill: Tapper has more, including a report from a Latina Minuteman who got into the meeting:
"Then he said, 'I bet some of you don't know this -- did you know Spanish was spoken in Arizona before English?'"
I bet they did! ... Update: AP's Espo notes that McCain "['a]ides ... had kept word of the event secret ...." 2:33 P.M.
The Man Has the Magic Touch: Who introduced Democratic Senator Kent Conrad to Angelo Mozilo? ... Could it have been respected ex-veep-vetter Jim Johnson?
Conrad on Tuesday sought to clarify a subsequent report that he spoke to Mozilo by phone about his mortgage, saying he didn't call the lending executive or realize that talking to him could result in any special treatment.
"I didn't call him. I called my friend who happened to be with him at the time," he said, referring to James Johnson, the former chairman of Fannie Mae, whom Conrad says he called to ask for advice on getting a new mortgage.
By pure coincidence, according to Conrad, Mozilo was sitting next to Johnson, who suggested the senator speak to him directly. Conrad doesn't recall whether Mozilo referred him to a Countrywide loan officer, or whether the company contacted him.
Johnson has a fine-honed ethical sensor, no? ... P.S.: Do you call the head of Fannie Mae when you need a mortgage? Why would Conrad call Johnson unless he was looking for some kind of deal? ... Backfill: Powerline made that last point and has some home state TV coverage. ... 1:44 P.M.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Does Earl Ofari Hutchinson really not think absentee fatherhood is a huge problem for African-Americans? ... I'm not sure Cosbyesque scolding by public officials the way to solve it, but that's a different issue. ... P.S.: If Hutchinson didn't write this unconvincing, wounded PC attack on Obama, Obama's staff would have had to recruit someone to do it. ... Sample: Hutchinson makes a big deal of a study showing that "black fathers who aren't in the home are much more likely to sustain regular contact with their children than absentee white fathers, or for that matter, fathers of any other ethnic group." But he doesn't say what percent of black fathers--vs. fathers of other ethnic groups--aren't in the home. Seems relevant! ... 11:55 P.M.
Jason Linkins buries a good idea: Obama should fight smears against McCain on the same site where he fights smears against himself. He'd get credit for civility and decency while publicizing the dirt on his opponent! ... P.S.: It's better than the old "I would never consider making Cindy McCain a campaign issue" dodge. ... 11:24 P.M.
Oy, Hollywood Liberals: DreamWorks Animation mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg on a red carpet:
"Obama is the greatest ... Nothing this great has happened to us in a long time. The only thing we have to worry about is what we'll have to wear to the inauguration." [E.A.]
I don't think it will be that easy! ... P.S.: You see what we have to put up with out here. ... 8:23 P.M.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"DHS moved swiftly on Obama's request for protection": Recently-obtained documents reveal that the Department of Homeland Security approved Barack Obama's 2007 request for Secret Service protection in six days. This is apparently moving "swiftly" at DHS. ... 3:36 P.M.
Can't He Just Eat His Doughnut? (Is Obama Setting the Stage for a Social Security Means-Test?) Ramesh Ponnuru, opposing Obama's plan to apply the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax to earnings above $250,000--it now stops at $102,000--says it would undermine the rationale of the system:
Social Security is structured so that the more you pay in, the more you get back. That's what supposedly makes it a compact among the generations and not a welfare program. Actually, what it does is make it an inefficient, disguised welfare program. [E.A.]
A couple of points:
1) Changing how we finance Social Security won't turn it into a welfare program, or unmask it as a welfare program. A "welfare" program pays out benefits according to need whether or not the recipient works--at least that's the distinguishing characteristic of "welfare" people don't like. Social Security, in contrast, pays out benefits only to those who work for them (for the required number of quarters). Because of this "work-test," Social Security wouldn't be "welfare" even if it was funded entirely out of general revenues generated by the regular progressive income tax.
2) That said, funding Social Security through a payroll tax underscores the "work test" by mimicking the contributions in an ordinary pension plan. In this Contributory Model, you pay in part of your paycheck until you've paid enough to "cover" your benefits, then (if you keep earning) you don't have to contribute any more. Some liberals may hate this "capped" payroll tax as regressive, but it's served the system well, emphasizing that you only get benefits through contributions, that rich and poor both contribute as well as benefit, that benefits are a finite foundation for retirement and not part of some general liberal redistributional impulse.
When Obama fuzzes up the "contribution" part of the tax--by starting up the payroll tax again above $250,000 in income--he risks undermining support for the system (even though he'd keep other regressive "contribution" aspects in place, including a) taxing low-income workers from their first dollar** and b) taxing only earned income and not investment income.) The new Obamified system wouldn't be welfare, but in order to make that point defenders would have to rely more heavily on the "work test."
3) The third basis of support for the system--one emphasized by its traditional defenders--is a political calculation based on crass economic self-interest. Call this the Crass Calculation. Specifically, the system has to benefit enough people far enough up the income ladder to seem worthwhile to them. After all, even if it's not a welfare program it might not be a program voters want to support. The political fear is that the middle class or upper middle class will say "hey we're contributing all this money but not getting much back in benefits, so the hell with this system." By asking the affluent to pay what by historical standards is a big extra chunk of their income--at least 6.2% at the margin, maybe double that if you assume workers wind up paying for their employer's additional 6.2% share, definitely double that for the self-employed--Obama risks provoking the bailout reaction. That's one reason he creates his "doughnut hole" of no payroll tax between $102,000 and $250,000--there are lots of voters in that range he doesn't want to chase away. (If he has to eat the doughnut hole to get more revenue, the whole plan could collapse, politically.)
Krugman's right that the size of this one Obama hike in marginal tax rates for the rich has been vastly underplayed in the press. High-marginal rates in themselves are not a good thing--they encourage tax evasion, for starters, as well as elaborate legal schemes that funnel money not into the most productive uses, but into tax shelters that avoid the high marginal rates (by, say, reclassifying it as capital gains). Lots of laywers and bankers take their cut in these wasteful shelter shenanigans. If Obama really will hike the top rate into the 60% pre-Reagan range, as Krugman and the Tax Policy Center suggest, that's a big deal. And if 6-12 points of that 60% will come from Obama's Social Security hike, we'd better make sure we're getting something pretty important in exchange.
There's an alternative to raising Social Security taxes on the rich, after all. It's cutting Social Security benefits for the rich. The simplest way to do that is through a "means test"--people who were wealthy when they retired would have their benefits drastically cut. Maybe at the very top they'd get no benefits at all. The sums that could be saved through a means-test are staggering, hundreds of billions--money that, as Krugman notes, Obama will need for health care.
Means-testing wouldn't turn Social Security into welfare--again, because of the "work test." Social Security would become government insurance for workers against the possibility that they won't be very well-off in retirement! Yes, means-testing might undermine political support for the system, by violating the "contribution" model (nobody could even think they were getting their contributions back) and by altering the Crude Calculation so that those who confidently expected to be affluent would have little selfish reason to support the stystem. But--and here's the key point--Obama's already diluting or dispensing with those other two sources of support. He's fuzzing the Contributory Model. He's undermining the Crude Calclation. He can still rely on the work test--he can say, "Hey this is to help old folks who've worked all their lives," etc.. But as long as you're relying on the work test, why not rely on the work test to justify a more radical, more progressive and more lucrative reform of the system that would not just tax the rich but stop shelling out unneeded benefits to them.
There might be reasons. Maybe Obama feels it's politically easier to tax the rich than to cut their benefits. But it's not wildly obvious why this should be so. Both tax hikes and benefit cuts involve imposing economic harm. But (a) tax hikes are immediately felt by people of all ages. Benefit cuts impact most immediately only on the old. (b) High tax rates, as noted, have bad side effects that hurt the whole economy. Means-testing wouldn't have those effects (though it might have others, such as discouraging savings). (c) Means-testing could be sold as a shrinking of the program--as Ponnuru points out, why run lots of money through the system by taxing the rich in order to pay benefits to the rich?
The rich aren't uninfluential! At some point the people making $275,000 a year may wonder why they are paying an extra 10% of their last dollar to send a check to the couple down the street who make $240,000 but don't have to pay any of that extra 10% at all (because they're in the lucky doughnut hole)--or to the vastlyy more numerous couplee making $120,000 who would also get full benefits but pay no new tax to fund them At some point, the $275G plus crowd may say, "The hell with it. None of these folks in my neighborhood need the benefits. Just stop taxing us to pay for them"--and support means-testing.
I think you can argue Obama's opening the door to this outcome. Since I like the outcome, this doesn't bother me. Means-testing isn't necessary to keep Social Security solvent--the system's not that out of whack--but it might be necessary if you want to generate lots of money (in the form of budget saving) you could then spend on a decent universal health care plan. Orthodox Democrats who've rigidly opposed means-testing for decades might want to think twice about Obama's payroll tax plan, though.
**--But Obama would apparently offer low income workers a "Making Work Pay" tax credit in an amount equal to their "employee's" half of the payroll tax for the first $8,100 in income. ... 12:47 A.M. link
Monday, June 16, 2008
I See a Chair at the Annenberg School: Joe Conason responds to my suggestion of an on-the-record email (regarding his hypocritical condemnation of "revolting ... tabloid journalism" given his own 1992 Spy investigation of George H.W. Bush's sex life):
I just saw your item from last April
and finally realized that you don't just pretend to be a bonehead.
Well argued! ......P.S.: Joe: Let's keep these lines of communication open. ... P.P.S.: But it still takes two to go off the record. ... 7:32 P.M. link
The Genius of Jim Johnson, Part XXVIII: Craig Crawford has a Jim Johnson story that's a little too bad to be true.
For a clue about Johnson's questionable political acumen, here's what I remember from my own experience as a field operative in Mondale's presidential campaign. Johnson blew the only moment when it looked like Mondale might actually have a chance at overcoming Ronald Reagan's reelection bid.
Following Reagan's disastrous debate performance against Mondale, when the media began to seriously question the president's mental fitness, many Democratic insiders counseled their nominee to go in for the kill in the next debate. But Johnson, apparently believing that Mondale had a lock on the election, advised his candidate to back off, counseling that it would seem mean-spirited to do otherwise.
Johnson could not have been more wrong, as many of us in the campaign thought at the time. Still, Mondale followed his manager's advice and Reagan won the day - and probably the election - at the subsequent debate as the Democrat foolishly held his fire.
If Mondale had not "held his fire" he'd have lost anyway. Still. ... [You are kicking this guy when he's down--ed Yes! Otherwise he'll be back. With guys like Johnson, if you don't kick them when they're down you'll wind up kicking them when they're up.] ... P.S.: If Johnson quit as veep-vetter of his own volition last Wednesday, should Obama get credit for having taken "decisive action"? ... 1:58 P.M.
Suckers! Part XVIII: John McCain met privately with some Clinton supporters in the diehard group Party Unity My Ass, and tried to wobble his way into their hearts:
"He stayed for a good almost half hour afterwards shaking hands, listening to our concerns, talking to us," said PUMA founder Will Bower, who said he thought many of the people there would vote for McCain.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina stayed to mingle with the crowd, whose members also included Clinton backer Harriet Christian, made momentarily famous on YouTube for getting ejected from the Rules & Bylaws press area.
Bower said he'd liked McCain's answer on judges, in which he "pointed out that he supported Bill Clinton with both Ginsberg [sic] and Breyer." [E.A.]
You actually believed that stuff about Roberts, Alito and Scalia? [McCain could easily support Ginsburg and Breyer's confirmation--maybe on the grounds that they were the best Republicans could expect from Clinton--even if he wouldn't nominate them himself--ed True. But this is the sort of leftward wink that will drive conservatives crazy, with reason. Do you really think McCain wants to appoint another Alito to the Court? Or does he want he want to appoint Lindsey Graham?] ... P.S.: If McCain keeps this up for two months, the Republican convention could be more interesting than expected. ... P.P.S.: The late convention seems like a problem for McCain--if he's inhibited from moving to the center by a fear of prompting televised discord and disruption in Minneapolis in September. (Obama seems much less inhibited--his party is not as restive.) ... It's hard to believe Dick Morris hasn't already made this point. ... P.P.P.S.: Are there cougars in PUMA? ... 1:01 A.M.
Friday, June 13, 2008
More Friends of Angelo? Dodd, Conrad, Shalala. ... Holbrooke! ... 12:31 P.M.
Will Obama Kill Bling? Mary Battiata thinks maybe. ... Now that she mentions it, I kind of hope Obama's election will kill off much of hip-hop, at least the gangsta-inspired parts. But just killing off bling and gangsta fashion would be a start. ... 3:08 A.M. link
Obama's new anti-smear website looks more effective than I expected. ... And I'll be checking back regularly to find out the latest charges! It's the new go-to spot for Obama dirt. ...P.S.: That's the problem. The site creates an expectation that the Obama camp will respond quickly and persuasively to every accusation and rumor. Should it fall short, the damage will be magnified, no? ... P.P.S. Obama recently chastised reporters for asking him about the Michelle "whitey" rumor:
"We have seen this before. There is dirt and lies that are circulated in e-mails, and they pump them out long enough until finally you, a mainstream reporter, asks me about it," Obama said, bristling. "That gives legs to the story."
But according to Time, when the Obama camp "got wind" of the "whitey" rumor, his aides took it so seriously they confronted Michelle and "grilled her on the particulars." So why can't bloggers and reporters do the same thing? ... 3:05 A.M. link
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Wages of Sid? Buried in GQ's interview with Mark Penn:
So when they come out with, like, "Mark Penn was paid $4 million," 3.4 million of that was postage?
The actual consulting fee is, you know, we received $27,000 a month, which is split between me and Sid Blumenthal [a senior adviser]. So it makes the net around half that.
Wait, Sid makes as much as you?
You know, again, I don't own these companies, so—
No, really, Sid Blumenthal makes as much as you?
His fee is about the same.
To me the interesting angle here isn't whether Penn was making that little-- Crowley doubts that half of $27,000 a month was all he got--it's whether Sid was making that much. Also what did he do for it? ... Half of $27,000/month is a rate of about $160,000 a year. ... I'm getting jealous. ... P.S.: I've emailed Blumenthal to get his comment, if any. ... 4:20 P.M.
"Auntie has been beaten and they threw her in the fire." ... [via Insta] 2:23 P.M.
Undernews Update--"samztiF" Edition: The Chicago Tribune reports
Two months before he was convicted of federal corruption charges, political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko told his trial judge that "overzealous" prosecutors were pressuring him to tell them about any wrongdoing involving Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama or Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
But in a two-page typed letter, Rezko said he was never involved in any wrongdoing with either of the Democrats and wouldn't make up stories about them in an attempt to benefit himself. [E.A.]
Jim Johnson's ambitions (from WaPo):
In 2004, he had hoped a Kerry victory would make him White House chief of staff or Treasury secretary, former Kerry campaign aides said yesterday, and he had similar ambitions with Obama.
Lorenzo Cachón, a sociologist at Complutense University, analyzed the program's "call effect" by studying municipal records. Most immigrants in Spain, legal or not, register with local governments to obtain benefits like health insurance. Their numbers grew 20 percent the year after the program was announced, compared with 3 percent the year before.
"That means the maximum call effect is 17 percent," he said.
A 17% rise seems like a lot to me, especially only one year after an amnesty. You'd think the incentive "call effect" might actually grow over time--after all, would-be illegal immigrants would know that the next amnesty is probably at least a few years away. ...
P.S.: I'd like to see American advocates of what the Times now frankly calls "amnesty" argue "It will only produce an immediate 17% increase in immigration." ...
P.P.S.: According to The Hill, "Hispanic Democratic lawmakers" are warning:
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) must commit to helping illegal immigrants achieve citizenship or else risk losing the vital Latino vote in the general election ... [E.A.]
I thought the party line after the California primary was that it was a mistake to assume that Latino voters cared only about legalization. It seems to be practically all Latino politicians in Congress care about, though. ...
P.P.P.S.:The Hill's Jared Allen adds
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Obama's Republican opponent, is also liked by Latinos. He co-sponsored with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) the immigration bill that the CHC is demanding, which would put the country's 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. And he did not buckle under pressure to abandon that position during the GOP primary. [E.A.]
You don't mean he only tried to con conservatives into thinking he'd abandoned that position? Uckers-say! ... 2:00 A.M. link
Instead, in Zell, what Los Angeles has is a visiting Visigoth, whose civic influence is about as positive as that of the Crips, the Bloods and the Mexican mafia.
And Meyerson says Zell's the one producing "dumbed-down" writing. ... P.S.: Meyerson complains that the LAT's "editorial staff is about two-thirds its size in the late 1990s." Jesus, how bloated was it in the late 1990s? ... [Tks to reader MDL] 145 A.M.
Wednesday was maybe not the best day for Mark Halperin to explain how brilliant and on-offense the Obama campaign's message operation is. But he could be right! ... 12:34 A.M.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Change We've Been Waiting For: Jim Johnson bails as Obama's veep-vetter, after Obama defended him in what NBC's Chuck Todd said could "be the worst answer Obama has ever given in print" (Johnson was only a "volunteer," he was doing a "discrete" job; he was "tangentially related to our campaign;"' "these aren't folks who are working for me;" what's Obama supposed to do, "vet the vetters"? etc.)
But vetting wasn't necessary in this case. Just Googling!. ...
P.S.: If Johnson is so honorable, shouldn't he have vetted himself? Obama has now pulled off the Johnson Band-Aid, but not before Johnson cost him a few days of bad news and tarnished his image. And not before other juicy Johnson stories came out: Johnson "angling for a job" in a possible Kerry administration, his lucrative consulting deals at Fannie Mae, his (lucrative) role "on the board of five companies that granted lavish pay packages to their executives ." ... Question: Will Johnson come back in an Obama administration? Samantha Power similarly quit the Obama campaign, but everybody expects her to be back. I would think Johnson is now radioactive in a way that Power is not. ...
P.P.S.: Why pick Johnson in the first place? One possible answer is implicit in Kerry's pre-bail defense: In the course of his veep-vetting, Johnson learns all the dark, damaging secrets of all the potential #2s. This means that Johnson effectively already has the dirt on a lot of Democratic pols from his previous vetting stints--but, as Kerry notes, he has been discreet with this "very sensitive" info.** By appointing Johnson as vetter yet again, Obama was limiting the number of people potential Dem VPs would have to bare their souls to--limiting them, essentially, to Johnson. Now Obama will have to name a new vetter, and the potential Dems VPs--many of whom, like Biden, are repeat Veepstakes customers--will have to tell their secrets to a second person. That can't be a comfortable feeling. ...
**--Still, if you were one of those vetted pols, would you want to tell Johnson "no" if he came around later asking for your support on a piece of legislation? ... 1:15 P.M. link
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Suicide Marketing Update:
"Want Windows XP pre-installed? Time's running out."--Promotional email from Dell Small Business Systems
After that, you'll have to buy the product Microsoft actually wants to sell you! ... A strong vote of confidence in Windows Vista from Dell. ... P.S.: "Dell makes it easy to migrate [to Vista] on your schedule .... " Let's see. How about never? That fits my schedule. ... [The interesting piece now would be a defense of Vista--ed Typical reflexive contrarian.] 2:54 A.M.
Scarlett Johansson doesn't understand why Barack Obama finds time to return her emails. ("You'd imagine that someone like the senator who is constantly traveling and constantly 'on' — how can he return these personal e-mails? But he does ....").
Monday, June 9, 2008
took at least five real estate loans totaling more than $7 million from Countrywide Financial Corp. through an informal program for friends of the company's CEO, Angelo Mozilo. ...
Mozilo and Countrywide were deeply enmeshed in the subprime meltdown, of course, and Mozilo has been denounced by Obama for his business practices and multi-million dollar compensation. ...
a) Always trust content from kausfiles!
b) Obama's response suggests these were "completely above board transactions," which is a little different from saying they were "arms-length" or "market-rate" transactions. Why would Johnson avail himself of Mozilo's "friends of Angelo" program unless he got some kind of special deal, better than the deal Joe Citizen would get? (And if it's so difficult to tell "the factors that went into these arrangements," as the Obama camp contends, then how "above board" were they?)
c) Johnson headed Fannie Mae. If Fannie Mae was really "the biggest buyer of Countrywide's mortgages," should Johnson really have gotten enmeshed as a consumer with Countrywide, particularly if it was hard to tell if he was getting a special deal or not?
d) I don't know if Mozilo is a benevolent genius or evil. I saw him at a conference once and he's clearly an impressive person. But it's also quite clear that Obama has made him a symbol of the subprime mess, as McCain has noted. Update: As the RNC has been pointing out, Obama's campaign previously attacked Hillary strategist Mark Penn because he did some P.R. work for Countrywide--and attacked Hillary's campaign because it took contributions from representatives of Countrywide. ** (Now-embarrassing self-righteous David Plouffe quote below.)
e) Johnson was an atrocious, tin-eared choice on many other grounds. He's a symbol of old Democratic elites--the Mondale Restoration!--and of Beltway business as usual. He's gotten obscenely rich off of public service while pursuing a failed liberal antipoverty theory (community develpment) and taking credit for spreading around other peoples money. He failed to catch Geraldine Ferraro's problems before they blew up on Mondale. He helped lead Fannie Mae into a multi-billion dollar debacle (even though he let his successor catch most of the blame). He said Mozilo's firm had "done a brilliant job of insulating itself for the down cycle" shortly before Mozilo's firm was clobbered in the down cycle, eventually selling itself to Bank of America for about a tenth of it's former value, according to the Sun.
Why would Obama, in his first big personnel decision, choose a paleoliberal greedhead with a track record of failure? You tell me! He's described Johnson as "a friend." It looks as if he was at best highly susceptible to amicable overtures from someone he about whom he should have retained some critical perspective.
f) Is Obama really going to let this story drag out all week? Are Johnson's allies so powerful he must be protected--the way Rev. Wright was protected, for a time? Why not say "This is not the Jim Johnson I know" and throw him overboard? Remember the Parable of the Band-Aid. ...
"Obama aides also said Clinton is in no position to stiffen oversight after taking contributions from mortgage industry lobbyists, including funds from representatives of Countrywide, which has been at the center of the mortgage meltdown. 'If we're really going to crack down on the practices that caused the credit and housing crises, we're going to need a leader who doesn't owe these industries any favors,' campaign manager David Plouffe said." [E.A.]
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Rewards are nice, but recognition is better. So if I'm one of Starbucks's best customers, I want to have elite status, as I do on American Airlines. I want shorter lines, better freebies, special seating (Aeron chairs, preferably) and electrical outlets reserved just for me and my laptop. [E.A.]
A creep, no? It's one thing for Starbucks to give Lieber free wi-fi and discounts. It's another to reward him by undermining the essentially egalitarian experience that's part of the appeal of a good American "third place." ...
P.S.--The Welfare State Angle: Lieber's elision of consumerism and snobbery is similar to the mistake doctrinaire Democrats make when they defend universal Social Security receipt as an egalitarian institution just like universal health care. It isn't--because getting health care is an actual communal experience (going to doctors, chatting in their waiting rooms, complaining in their waiting rooms, etc.) while getting Social Security checks is just ... getting checks. It's only money. A little more money for well-off Social Security recipients isn't going to bolster solidarity with the working poor any more than a little discount for Lieber is going to destroy the vibe at his local Starbucks. Letting him flounce around in his Aeron in the roped-off Starbucks Select VIP section, on the other hand . ... well, things could get ugly! ...
"I'm glad to report that Starbucks is indeed considering some sort of elite status," says Lieber. Next: Skyboxes? ...
P.P.S.: [Isn't Lieber just clinging bitterly to his Starbucks status because of stagnant middle class living standards?--ed Don't be condescending.]
Backfill: Lieber also wants to be invited to "a members-only party when new products come out." Wow. You can be condescending now. ... [Backfill via Gawker ] 3:02 A.M. link
Phillippe Reines Memorial Item explaining why there's no Hillary post-mortem in kf: "We don't comment on campaigns that are utter and complete failures." ... 2:19 P.M.
The numbers suggest that McCain's image has suffered after a competitive GOP primary in which he renounced some of the moderate views on immigration popular among many Latinos.
It couldn't be that Latino voters don't care about immigration as much as reporters at the LAT assume, preferring to focus more on other domestic and foreign policy concerns (health care, the economy the war) that they share with voters in general, could it? The numbers "suggest" that explanation too. ...
P.S.: Defenders of the Times' bloated staff argue that new owner Sam Zell's aides are being unfair when they compare the "51-page" annual output of LAT writers with the 300 page output of Hartford Courant writers. That's true. The comparison is unfair to the Courant journalists, who surely aren't permitted the pointless verbosity of "quality" LAT writers. Wallsten's story is a case in point: a) He opens with a back-in anecdote about Obama's Spanish-language ad in Puerto Rico that he eventually has to admit makes the opposite of the point he's trying to make, since Obama got "trounced" in P.R. and Wallsten's story is supposed to be about how well Obama's doing with Hispanics; b) He wastes column inches on bland, predictable, if not actively misleading stop-reading-this-story quotes from Latino consultants and activists who argue that McCain and Obama must pay more attention to Latino consultants and activists ("they need to beef up that operation"); c) He then has no room for the obvious counter-thesis--that Obama leads among Hispanics because Hispanics aren't receptive to Latino-specific campaigning. ...
Update: I stole the "verbosity" point from Michael Kinsley who has now deviously gone ahead and stolen it from himself. ... 1:11 A.M.
Friday, June 6, 2008
[Tribune COO Randy Michaels] also warned of further cuts in newsroom expenses, based in part on a company study of its journalists' productivity. "You find you can eliminate a fair number of people without eliminating much content," Michaels said.
The review found that reporters at the company's smaller papers were more productive than those in the biggest markets of Chicago and Los Angeles. Michaels did not address findings for the Chicago Tribune, but said the average Los Angeles Times journalist produced "51 pages" per year, while the average journalist in Baltimore or at the company's Hartford Courant produced "300 pages" per year. [E.A.]
[Tx to reader J.L.] 12:14 A.M. link
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Undernews Update: The Michelle Holy Rail/"Whitey" rumor is disputed by David Weigel, Robert George, and Barack Obama (who argues he shouldn't be asked about it). See also Geraghty. ... Since it's hard to prove a negative, former Gingrich aide George's appeal to history is probably the most effective of the latest debunkings:
No tape exists. I am willing to bet my first-born on it.
You know why I know no tape exists? Because all copies of it were wrapped up in an American flag and burned on a woodpile ignited by Hillary Clinton and Kitty Dukakis. I didn't see it, but my best friend's cousin's boyfriend saw the whole thing.
Let me explain.
This is the '08 version of a really weird conservative urban legend that pops up every four years, The names change, but the basics remain the same: 1) It always involves the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate; 2) It always portrays the wife -- not the candidate -- committing some anti-American, unpatriotic act.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Emailer Z, who knows business and politics--and isn't a liberal (or even a Democrat)--writes to usefully amplify David Corn's Mother Jones piece, which blamed Sen. Phil Gramm for engineering an ill-fated non-regulation of financial services that contribuled to the sub-prime meltdown:
The non-regulation of the not banking system has been a team effort in Washington. Major financial services firms, hedge funds and private equity groups set out in the 1990s to own Washington and they have succeeded completely. 80% of banking activity used to be regulated. Today, 20% of "banking activity" falls under regulatory guidance. (See Charles Morris's The Trillion Dollar Meltdown). Capital networks own the Democratic and Republican parties. Barney Frank didn't even bother to try to get the tax on "carried interest" increased after the Ds recaptured control of Congress in 2006 ... the members understood that such a tax would make their fund-raising lives a LOT harder.
This is the part of Kevin Phillips' analysis of Washington that is exactly accurate. The power of private capital sources hasn't been as overwhelming since the days of JP Morgan. [E.A.]
Update: Maguire elaborates. ... 10:40 P.M.
Bob Wright and I discussObama's cosmopolitanism. ... 10:01 P.M.
Fitzmas in Reverse: Steve Bartin speculates on the potential Rezko Shoe. ...Update [also via Bartin]: The Chicago Sun-Times Mark Brown wonders why Rezko elected to go directly to jail rather than trying to remain free on bond:
There's a more interesting way to look at this, which paints a scenario you'd more likely see in a trial where there is some sort of mob connection.
Tony Rezko is a guy who knows a lot about a lot of people. Those people have a very serious stake in him keeping his mouth shut. Rezko is also known to be a very security-conscious guy.
I know this is going to sound overly dramatic, but it's not really that far-fetched to think Rezko may well believe he's in danger if he goes free and that by reporting to jail it's proof that he's not cooperating.
It's one way of saying, "You don't have to worry about me."
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Unions Make the Wage-Price Spiral Go Round: Paul Krugman argues we aren't about to see a return of 70's style stagflation because
there's no sign whatsoever of the wage-price spiral that, in the 1970s, turned a temporary shock from higher oil prices into a persistently high rate of inflation.
He also identifies a mainspring of that wage-price spiral: union power,
Here's an example of the way things used to be: In May 1981, the United Mine Workers signed a contract with coal mine operators locking in wage increases averaging 11 percent a year over the next three years. The union demanded such a large pay hike because it expected the double-digit inflation of the late 1970s to continue; the mine owners thought they could afford to meet the union's demands because they expected big future increases in coal prices, which had risen 40 percent over the previous three years.
At the time, the mine workers' settlement wasn't at all unusual: many workers were getting comparable contracts. Workers and employers were, in effect, engaged in a game of leapfrog: workers would demand big wage increases to keep up with inflation, corporations would pass these higher wages on in prices, rising prices would lead to another round of wage demands, and so on.
The point isn't that unions were greedy. They were doing what they were supposed to do under the Wagner Act--protecting their members interests--in a period of inflationary expectations (fueled in part by the big contracts won by other unions). Yet the larger social result of this institutional arrangement was a destructive game of leapfrog in which the most powerful labor organizations (like the UAW) did quite well, but those without collective bargaining power--that is, most people--got it on the chin. And it took the brutal early-80s recession to wring inflation out of the economy.
Today, though, there's little union power--and little threat of stagflation, says Krugman:
But where are the unions demanding 11-percent-a-year wage increases? ...
And since there isn't a wage-price spiral, we don't need higher interest rates to get inflation under control.
OK. But then why do Democrats want to legislate a restoration of organized labor's power by allowing unions to sign up workers without secret ballots? Do they want to bring back the wage price spiral? The irony seems lost on Krugman, though it's hard to believe it really is.
I suspect it's simply a train of thought Krugman doesn't want to follow right now. His plan for reducing income inequality is built, in part, on rebuilding union strength. Doubt about the wisdom of that effort would complicate things--quite apart from whether it's what his Democratic fan base wants to hear ... 2:59 A.M. link
Dare to Gush: He's not excitable. He's "open to the moment"! ... 1:32 A.M.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Bill Clinton calls Todd Purdum a "sleazy ...slimy ... scumbag:"HuffPo'sMayhill Fowler delivers again. ... P.S.: Why'd he do that! ... P.P.S.: Brendan Nyhan notes the creepiness of Clinton aide Jay Carson demanding that Dems "protect" the "brand" when talking to reporters. ... P.P.P.S.: What about the zippy Burkle brand? That took decades to build! ... 3:48 P.M.
Undernews Alert: Have Michelle-bashers finally found the Holy Rail? ... Update: Larry Johnson describes a tape, but doesn't show it. It may be more like Annie Hall. ("Jew eat?") ... NRO speculates. .. More: Johnson counterattacks, not very convincingly. ...But NRO's increasing skepticism ("the evidence suggests this is a hoax") isn't 100% convincing either. Ditto Reason's Dave Weigel--though he makes a good point about Farrakhan's alleged presence on the tape:
If anyone wants to compare Louis Farrakhan's travel records to dates the Obamas appeared at Trinity, go ahead (the last Farrakhan appearance at Trinity was 11/2/07, when the Obamas were presumably busy trying to win the Iowa caucus), but it beggars belief that he could join a panel with Obama's wife as late as 2005 and no one would hear about it . [E.A.]
Powerline posts a satsifying collection of now-embarrassing gushes from Andrew Sullivan, Joe Klein and Garry Wills about Obama's Great Philadelphia Race Speech. PL leaves out the gushiest parts of Sullivan's reaction,, though:
Alas, I cannot give a more considered response right now as I have to get on the road. But I do want to say that this searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime. It is a speech we have all been waiting for for a generation ... [snip]
I love this country. I don't remember loving it or hoping more from it than today. [E.A.]
Sunday, June 1, 2008
A few words about Chuck Hagel (as a possible Obama VP) that will probably get me into trouble. ... 12:42 P.M.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Tight Like That in Iowa: I don't want to make too much of this, since John Leland's story concerns a tight labor market for skilled workers, not necessarily those at the bottom of the labor market. But a) This is the condition we should want the national labor market to be like, for all skill levels, right? b) Unions not required! c) Low immigration seems to have something to do with increasing the competition among employers for workers. ... They're scouring the prisons. And they're competing for $14/hour welders, which means the tightness isn't restricted to salaried "symbolic analysts. "... 12:50 P.M.
Friday, May 30, 2008
David Corn argues that McCain co-chair Phil Gramm helped bring on the subprime crisis by preventing regulation of something called "credit default swaps." Corn almost succeeds in making these "newfangled financial products" understandable. ... P.S.: Henotes that Gramm's legislation was "supported by Fed chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury secretary Larry Summers." You sort of want to hear fromthem on whether they now think they were wrong. ... 11:39 P.M.
Chinese Economy Grinds to Halt: China is suspected of surreptitiously trying to hack into computers at the U.S. Department of Commerce? ... Isn't that sort of like sleeping with the writer? ... Next target: HUD! ... [via Insta ] 11:05 P.M.
Where does Obama get that "hate crimes against Hispanic people doubled last year"--an alleged increase he blamed on "people like Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh ginning things up"? The latest FBI statistics I can find are from 2006, not last year. They show about a 14% increase from 2005, by my calculation. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center only claims
According to hate crime statistics published annually by the FBI, anti-Latino hate crimes rose by almost 35% between 2003 and 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available.
A 35% increase over four years is not "doubled last year." (Never mind why the SPLC may have picked 2003 as their base of comparison).
Am I missing some Obama data source? Or is this an overly overlooked incident of Obama pulling convenient facts out of the air? ...
Suppose John McCain had said the same thing! ... Er, actually, McCain probably will say the same thing. And he'll probably get a pass too. Who'd attack him for it? Obama? The Dobbs-deriding MSM? This is not an area where you can rely on the normal adversarial political process to yield the truth, because Obama, McCain and the MSM essentially agree on immigration. ...
Backfill: Dobbs questioned Obama's stats, as did Lonewacko. But who else? ...
P.S.--Who's #1? Ruben Navarette, struggling to defend Obama, wrote:
Nevertheless, Hispanics in 2006 were considered by the FBI as the No. 1 victim of hate crimes motivated by one's ethnicity or national origin, and by a margin that was the highest since records have been kept.
What Navarette's hiding is the FBI's category of crimes motivated by "ethnicity or national origin" does not include crimes motivated by "racial bias"--a far larger category. In 2006, there were about 4 times as many attacks on African-Americans because of "racial bias" as attacks motivated by "anti-Hispanic bias."
Of course, it's entirely possible that many attacks on illegal immigrants go unreported due to those immigrants' fear of coming into contact with authorities. That means the FBI stats might be off. It doesn't remove the suspicion that Obama's stats are essentially made up. ...
P.P.P.S.: "Hate Crimes Surge in Valley"--L.A. Daily News Aha! Here we can see the effects of Limbaugh and Dobbs' "ginning"! ... But no again. It turns out "Jews and African Americans" suffered "most of the attacks. ... 6:42 P.M. link
Thursday, May 29, 2008
"FNC stays on top" says TVNewser. But it's closer than you'd think, at least in the prime-time 25-54 demographic, notes commenter pdxuser. .. Make that 'the prized prime-time 25-54 demographic.' ... Indeed, on any given day you might find MSNBC beating FOX in that prime time "demo."... I had no idea. I thought Roger Ailes still ruled cable. Fox News' slide is the story, no? ... [via Drudge].4:59 P.M.
The Gall of Gallup! In a release that apparently excited Hillary aide Howard Wolfson, Gallup compared Hillary vs. McCain and Obama vs. McCain in the swing states where Hillary beat Obama, and then performed the same comparison in the swing states where Obama beat Hillary. Hillary came off looking better (mainly because her swing state group has more electoral votes).
But that was a bizarre way to organize the results, no? Who cares who won the party primaries or caucuses in what state? We want to know who'll win the general. Just as it's a well-known fallacy to assume that a primary loss by Obama in Pennsylvania, say, will translate into a November Obama loss to McCain, isn't it also a fallacy to assume that just because Obama lost to Hillary among Democrats he'll do worse in the general against McCain than she will? (Maybe more Republicans who didn't vote in the Dem primary will cross over to vote for Obama in the general--who knows?)
By grouping states into "Hillary states' and "Obama states'--and lumping together all the states in each group-Gallup may miss individual states that buck their group's trend (only to see that anomaly washed out when their results are averaged in with the other states.) For example: Hillary did better against McCain when the six swing states she won (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Arkansas) are lumped together. But does she really do better in each of those states? Maybe Obama does better in New Mexico by a few hundred thousand votes--but they get swamped in the overall 6 state average by his deficit in Ohio. We have no way of knowing--or at least Gallup gives us none.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I missed the death of Claus Luthe, who designed some very attractive German cars (NSU, Audi, BMW) in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The really great BMWs appear to have predated his tenure, but he carried forward the clean, "modern" traditions that current design chief Chris Bangle would later destroy. ... P.S.: Some of the most familiar Euro car styling tricks appear to have been borrowed from the Chevy Corvair, in contravention of what I've always reflexively assumed (that good designs start in Europe and get copied here). ... See also. ...[Thanks to reader T.S.] 2:50 A.M.
Undernews Alert: With friends like Roger Stone. ... 1:48 A.M.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
What if the Dems aren't serious about health care? The immigration angle! Bubbling around the blogosphere is an inconclusive debate on whether Dem Senators are preparing to go slow on health care, staging endless hearings but passing little actual legislation. ... I'd been counting on the Dem push for universal health care to crowd out other big, difficult issues, such as ... immigration semi-amnesty. Congress can only do so much at once, even if the Dems also control the White House. But if the Dems don't push for health care, that raises the troubling possibility that they will push for something that important business and ethnic constitutencies (plus cynical party builders) desperately want, namely mass legalization for illegals.... P.S.: This is still only the second most nightmarish scenario facing skeptics of such "comprehensive" reform. Nightmare Scenario #1 remains a McCain Presidency coupled with a large Democratic congressional majority--in other words, a president who has nothing more important he wants to do, domestically, than pursue his ancient goal of legalization--which would also be the only major domestic issue where his views coincide with those of the Democratic leadership. ... Both nightmares would still require comprehensivists to override the worries of Rahm Emanuel's swing-seat Dem candidates, many of whom ran on tough-on-illegal-immigration platforms. ... 3:10 P.M. link
Payday! Why isn't it transparently obvious that the main point of the controversially inconclusive last episode of The Sopranos wasn't to show that Tony got whacked, or to show that Tony didn't get whacked, or to provoke a profound existential discussion of whether Tony got whacked, but to enable a lucrative theatrical follow-up, a la Sex and the City? ... 2:17 P.M. link
McWhorter and Loury parse the various reasons whites might vote against Obama--including "He's the radical type who might bring in Farrakhan" and "[I'm] more comfortable with a white candidate"--that aren't "racist.". ... Also: McWhorter--
There seems to be this tacit idea that if the college-educated brie-eating Blue American has not been for Obama, then it's because they have an intelligent, principled interest in Hillary Clinton ...[snip] .. but if the beer bottle person decides that they like Hillary Clinton better, it's because they're tribalists who are more comfortable with their own and/or they're outright racists ...
[via Baltimoron ] 3:15 A.M.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Nearly 1,000 state employees in California make more than $200,000 a year, according to the S.F. Chronicle. That's excluding university employees. ... The month before Gov. Schwarzenegger took office, there were only eight. ... Mainly, the high earners seem to be dentists, doctors, and psychiatrists in the state prison and mental health systems. ... The total state employee head count has gone up by 26,000 under Schwarzenegger. ... [via Newsalert] 2:05 A.M.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Senator Dianne Feinstein takes a stand:
Simply put, I cannot vote for another $165 billion to give President Bush a blank check and fund the continuation of the war in Iraq, without condition, for over another year.
This is a difficult decision and not one I take lightly. But I believe that the time has come for Congress to exercise the power of the purse and bring this war to a conclusion.
But, hey, if they'd included her sneak 5-year amnesty for illegal ag workers ... 9:42 P.M.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
L.A. Times--"Californians narrowly reject gay marriage ..." By, er, 19 points (54-35% among registered voters). ... Patterico reviews the LAT's embarrassing history of pretending polls are close when the paper wants them to be close. Ask Gov. Davis. ... Note to Zell: More layoffs please! The chain of editors who worked on yesterday's poll story would be a good place to start. Are there still four layers? Or is it down to three? ... 1:18 A.M.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
"But we must enact comprehensive immigration reform. We must make it a top agenda item if we don't do it before, and we probably won't, a little straight talk, as of January 2009." [E.A.]
Media Matters, in its clueless way, has been trashing the press for reporting McCain's pro-legalization position "without noting his reversal on the issue." But that ignores his reversal of his reversal, which now appears complete. ... P.S.: If McCain even contemplates possible enactment of "comprehensive" reform (i.e., including semi-amnesty) before January, 2009, what does that say about the seriousness of his promise to "secure our borders first"? ... Backfill: See also SacBee. ... NYT reports: "Mr. McCain has made some gains in reassuring conservatives nervous about his views on issues like immigration, polls suggest." Time to become un-reassured? ... It's tempting to call these conservatives cheap dates. But that would be unfair to cheap dates. Cheap dates aren't spending their own money! ... 4:50 P.M. link
Fewer Americans than forecast applied for unemployment benefits last week, indicating companies are reluctant to fire more workers even as the economy slows.
Hmmm. Next consumers will be unexpectedly reluctant to cut back on purchases even as the economy slows. And manufacturers will be unexpectedly reluctant to cut production even as the economy slows. ... Slowly, the realization may dawn that the economy is not slowing anymore! ... But reporters will be not-unexpectedly reluctant to stop reporting that it is. ...[via Insta ] 2:53 P.M.
"The same old Washington game with the same old players":Please tell me that Obama has not picked Jim Johnson, Walter Mondale's campaign chairman and an an architect of the multi-billion dollar Fannie Mae debacle, to lead his vice-presidential selection process. ... Johnson helped Walter Mondale pick a nominee who immediately became mired in controversy, as Ambinder notes. (He also helped John Kerry pick a running mate who didn't help the ticket --and creeped the candidate out.) ... Obama's rhetoric about avoiding the old Washington players always seemed to me the phoniest part of his message. Now we know just how phony. Johnson's exactly the sort of veteran Dem Party bigshot--now rich off the wages of doing good--whose clutches you'd hope a smart freshman Senator would avoid. What's next? Terry McAuliffe as Secretary of the Treasury? ... Obama says: "He is a friend of mine. I know him." ... Starter Tip for Johnson: The Edwards Campaign Love Child has been born! ... Traditional link: Here's a prescient Slate piece on Johnson and Fannie Mae that Johnson called"unbelievable trash." .. 1:27 P.M. link
Now the success of the our counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq represents a "vindication of a left of center worldview": Even dour Bob Wright is softening on the Surge--to the point of making a surprise preemptive appointment to Obama's cabinet. .... 1:29 A.M.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Paul Maslin's Electoral College math looks surprisingly grim for Obama:
If Obama wins the 255 votes in the states where he's favored, then to get to 270 he needs to choose from the following menu: 1) Win Ohio, which takes him to 275; 2) win in the West -- Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, for 274; 3) win the three N's (Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire) for 269, plus one other state; or 4) win two of the three N's and either Colorado or Virginia.
I think this means he basically has to win either Ohio or Colorado. Not the odds-on bet you would expect in a Democratic year. ... See also Karl Rove's maps. [via RCP ] ... Update: Indefatigable Dem emailer K.B. pushes an Obama strategy of a) holding all the Kerry states plus b) winning Iowa and Virginia. That would avoid the need to win Ohio or Colorado. But it would also require Obama to win New Hampshire, where both Maslin and Rove currently give McCain the edge. ... 1:34 A.M.
You know the primaries are getting dull when even Mystery Pollster turns in early on election night. ... 12:59 A.M.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
My favorite bit of analysis from CNN's Indiana/N.C. primary election coverage two weeks ago:
GLORIA BORGER: One thing, Anderson, in looking, again, through these exit polls, there is a clear correlation between which candidate a voter believed was better on the economy and the candidate they voted for.
We'll see if they can top that tonight. ... 5:29 P.M.
Model Two Isn't Everything: I've become sensitive to compliments that have the effect of putting you in your place. ( "I love your writing about cars!") My friend Jon Alter pulled this trick a couple of weeks ago while berating me for not weighing in against Hillary Clinton's proposed gas-tax holiday:
"There were not all of these pundits and bloggers and everything who were all over it. I had to do reporting to find out what was wrong with it. ... If you had last Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday even Thursday, if you had written about it you know you could have gotten maybe the thing rolling sooner. ... I wanted you to be ahead of me. You would have saved me some work. I would have linked off your site. .... I wanted you to be ahead of me.
Translation:, "You bloggers do a great job digging up stories for us in the MSM. Keep it up." Grrr.
There's an implicit model underneath Alter's comments--blogs as the minor leagues, Off Off-Broadway, trying out storylines and scoops that may or may not make it to the Big Show. I have to admit I've embraced this model myself, as "Model Two." I think blogs are (for the moment***) particularly suited to functioning as a sort of intermediate tryout area for burgeoning scandals ("undernews").
But Alter adds a revealing bit of the newsweekly reporter's traditional self-loathing:
Look I write for Newsweek. It doesn't matter if I'm behind you. I rely on you and other great bloggers--you know, Josh Marshall and other people like that to give me links cause you see all kinds of stuff, you're much better at you know being on top of this early.,And it's not a problem for me , because I writer for the MSM, you know, or on television and I can come to it a little later.
Exactly. Alter makes big bucks because he's called on to write about the story of the day at the precise moment it breaks out into the mainstream--and not a moment too soor! If the US bombs a Syrian nuclear reactor, the public wants to know about it right then--and Alter more or less has write about it or have a pretty damn good excuse why not. Newsweek's editors, in effect, can make Alter jump. He's very good at it. I'm not.
The problem with the "minor league" model of the blogosphere, is that it's simply an extension of this "just in time" model of journalism--blogs are a conveyor belt, if you will, delivering news. ideas and angles to the MSM on a precise production schedule.
But I didn't start a blog because I wanted to be yoked, no less than poor Alter, to the story of the moment--certainly not so I could be yoked more firmly but in a subordinate capacity. It's all well and good for blogs to be feeders of the MSM. But it's also desirable to have freedom from the MSM and from the imperative to cover what's hot now--or even the imperative to generate what's going to be hot tomorrow.
P.S.: Of course, the commercial incentive to cover the "story of the day" isn't as bad in the blogosphere as it is in the MSM. It's worse. If Senator X gets hit by a bus, Slate's editors don't want a retrospective by the next day. They want a retrospective in an hour. That's what gets hits--and hits are how Slate makes money. The ideal type here is Christopher Hitchens' appraisal of John F. Kennedy, Jr.--which was probably one of the worst articles Hitchens has ever written, but which made the Web within minutes of the grim news. It got about 18 billion hits, if I recall.
The Web holds out the technological possibility of something better, however, or at least different: People writing about what interests them, when it interests them, maybe writing better for that--and maybe finding an audience. You have the whole planet to troll, after all.
***--Blogs now work comfortably as a "middle" tryout area because 1) they are technologicallly distinct from most of the MSM, which still mainly operates in print and broadcast formats and 2) the vast majority of Americans still get their news from the MSM (the Major Leagues), not blogs (the minors). If both these conditions disappear, as seems quite possible--if newspapers stop being distinguishable from blogs and if the public stops getting its news from the MSM--then the "minor league" or "undernews" model of blogging would seem to break down. There would be no "major league." The conveyor belt will have nowhere to go. In that case, we'll need a new model. But it will presumably still be one in which tips, rumors and angles are proffered, sifted, sorted, and tested until a consensus somehow emerges as to whether they are valid. .. 1:25 A.M. link
Why does every establishment I enter play Sara Bareilles' "I'm Not Gonna Write You A Love Song" in the background? That goes for both upscale cafes and 7-Elevens. It's an awful song, full of forced vigor. Not a new song either. Does it have some proven stimulative effect on consumers? ...1:23 A.M.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Michelle Malkin is tracking the Feinstein sneak half-decade amnesty for illegal immigrant farmworkers, which currently looks like it will come up for a vote on Wednesday. ...See also Numbers USA for updates. .. P.S.: What's John McCain's position? Didn't he promise to "secure our borders first," holding off on "other aspects of the problem" (i.e. legalization) until a "widespread consensus" that border-security had been acheived? I think he did! He will presumably have to vote one way or the other (or else be conveniently absent). A not-small test case of whether he'll keep any of his promises to the right when he decides he'd rather not. ... 4:47 P.M. link
Mutnemom in Action: RCP's chart shows Hillary closing in Oregon, of all places. ... Backfill: See Faughnan--"Is her mutnemom kicking into overdrive now that even Senator Obama seems to be tossing dirt onto her grave?" ... [Thanks to reader P.F.] 10:32 P.M.
The Possibilities of Push-Off Politics: 1) David Frum argues Republican Congressional candidates should treat the presidential election as "already lost" and campaign "on a message to balance the crazy left-wing things a President Obama is sure to try." 2) Jennifer Rubin argues the Republican presidential candidate should treat the Congress as already lost and campaign on a message to moderate the things a lopsidedly Democratic legislature is sure to try.
It's hard to see how both these strategies could plausibly be successful, assuming polls on the week before election day offer an accurate picture of whether the GOP has a chance to control either branch of government. At the moment, Rubin's strategy looks closer to reality--McCain has a shot at the presidency, so writing him off doesn't resonate. But even the Republicans in Congress think the Republicans in Congress are doomed.
Would Rubin's proposed McCain strategy of running against the looming Congressional Democratic majority make it impossible for him to "triangulate" by dissing Congressional Republicans? Not really--presumably he could do both, contrasting himself with the conservative GOP caucus and with the Pelosi Democrats.
What about "reverse triangulation" (noitalugnairt!)--the possibility that a party's Congressional delegation could get closer to the center than its presidential candidate? That seems impossible for the Republicans. It's not impossible for the Democrats. If Obama fails to pivot to the center (as Frum, at least, predicts) Rahm Emmanuel's House candidates could easily position themselves as moderate checks on a very liberal prospective President, no? ... 1:15 A.M.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Strange piece on the huge, attractively Apollonian Ford Flex in Automobile, in which the editors get driven around but don't say much about the actual car. ("Sadly, the dog ate our notes.") Is that because the Flex, er, sucked? Maybe Ford's PR department restricted what the editors could say and do, envisioning a benign pre-rollout teaser. But if the car's any good, that approach backfired by raising doubts. ... P.S.: When is the last time a Ford interior was criticized for being "luxuriously upscale"? Ford should have that problem. ... 12:26 P.M.
Note that, Dick Morris, in his cynical advice to McCain, advocates that he appeal to Dems and independents by moving to the center--but not on McCain's signature issue of "comprehensive immigration reform" (which Morris has supported). Indeed, Morris thinks McCain should:
Attack Obama for favoring federally subsidized health insurance for illegal immigrants.
Says something about the vaunted popular appeal of immigration semi-amnesty, no? It's not like welfare reform--a popular initiative policy elites resisted for decades. If it happens, which it might, it will be because political, policy and business elites (plus ethnic lobbies) manage to finesse it through Congress despite unenthusiastic popular sentiment. ... 12:05 P.M.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
"What it says is that I'm not very well known in that part of the country," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle." [E.A.]
Cling Alert! ... As emailer "S" notes: 1) "Last time I checked, Illinois was more 'nearby' Kentucky than Arkansas. Heck, they even touch." 2) "[I]sn't there something a tad condescending in his reference to "some of those states in the middle"? ...
P.S.: Obama also said that Kentucky Democrats are fools who let themselves get pumped full of false rumors by Fox News, or words to that effect. But he'll rally them in the fall! ...
Note to Sen. Obama: Please stop explaining! ... 6:43 P.M. link
"Forget 'Comprehensive.' Just Give Us the Amnesty!"--Senate Version-- Senator Dianne Feinstein's quickie last minute amnesty sneak play--tacking a 5-year amnesty for 1.5 million agricultural workers onto the Iraq supplemental--has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. ... Full Senate vote expected next week. ...
Note that this isn't what I've called a "semi-amnesty." It's not that "semi". What illegal ag workers have to do to get the 5-year legalization appears to be minimal--no learning English, or paying back taxes, etc. Just a $250 "fine." ... I don't know whether there is a serious threat of Feinstein's bill passing, or if she's just trying to show big farmers and Hispanic groups that she's trying. Or to see if the other side's machine guns are still working. ... Best to assume it's a serious threat. ... Bush would surely sign the bill if it passes. ... Other than that, comments on the House's earlier sneak play apply to the Senate's version.:
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. ...
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.)
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
P.S.: Is there a clearer way to signal to potential new illegals, now in Mexico and Central America, that they should come on over--because if they make it across the border and work for a couple of years, their employers will have the lobbying muscle to get them legalized? ... Note also that the House version of the quickie last-minute amnesty was designed to hitch a ride on Rep. Shuler's popular border security bill (the SAVE Act). There's no such immigration-related locomotive for Feinstein's bill...
P.P.S.: Feinstein's website features a pathetically unimpressive trio of ag horror stories, including the now-familiar Bush appointee who stopped growing tomatoes in order to plant corn, and Steve Scaroni:
Steve Scaroni couldn't find enough workers to work at his lettuce processing plant in California. So he moved the plant to Guanajuato, Mexico to get the labor force that he needed. He now has 2,000 acres in Mexico and 500 employees. He exports to the United States about 2 million pounds of lettuce a week.
Is it crazy to ask why the Scaroni horror story is horrifying? We still get the lettuce. Mexican workers still get the jobs (which, according to Feinstein, were jobs Americans weren't willing to do anyway). Mexico builds its economy, and we don't have to create a group of disenfranchised second-class residents. Nor do we open the borders to workers who can then compete, not just in ag jobs but in all sorts of other jobs that unskilled, hard-pressed Americans will do.
Seems like a sensible deal. If this is really an "emergency situation" requiring a last-minute sneak addition to a must-pass Iraq war bill, you'd think Feinstein would be able to come up with more gripping examples. Some crops rotting, maybe? Wilting a little around the edges? Losing their traditional succulence? Have the Farm Bureau put an intern on it. ...
Friday, May 16, 2008
Slopposition Research: Tom Bevan's pragmatic single-factor explanation for Hillary's loss seems inarguable. She was Wright too late! But of course, then you have to explain why she didn't get the Wright videos out into the MSM earlier. Was her campaign staff so cocooned they didn't read Jodi Kantor's NYT story? (How about Kantor's second story?) Were they so PC they thought they'd be attacked if they used Wright? Were they so PC they didn't see what was wrong with Wright? Did they think the MSM was so tanked for Obama that they'd bury the story? Were they so arrogant they thought they didn't need to use it, or only realized the trouble they were in until it was too late (which would suggest that Hillary didn't learn one lesson of her disastrous 1994 Hillary's health care campaign). ... As Bevan notes, it's not like they didn't go negative on Obama and get grief for it. They just went negative with embarrassingly trivial and ineffective ammo--most famously, Obama's kindergarten essay. ... It's almost as if Chris Lehane was secretly calling the shots! ...
P.S.: This is not hindsight! ... 5:16 P.M.
Sliattaoc! If McCain should win the presidency, isn't he likely to have reverse coattails? THe voters seem near-desperate to throw out the Republicans. If they vote for McCain in the end, it will almost certainly be simply because they have too many doubts about Obama. But they'll feel guilty about that, and will make sure to vote Democratic at the Congressional level in an attempt to compensate and satisfy the pent-up anti-GOP demand (which will be even more pent-up if a Republican succeeds President Bush). ... It's a theory, anyway. ... P.S.: And that's before you even factor in the likelihood that McCain will be running half-against the Congressional Republicans throughout the campaign. ... P.P.S.: Note that McCain's age also works for him in this resepct. Voters can console themselves with the thought that he won't seek a second term--so they won't be delaying the Democrats' return to the White House for all that long. ... 2:15 A.M. link
Anita Busch, the journalist allegedly threatened by Anthony Pellicano, wants the L.A. Times to investigate "every story that Chuck Philips has written about the Pellicano case." ... 1:17 A.M.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
"I disliked Obama almost instantly": Cinque Henderson outlines a plausible Paranoid Revisionist view of Obama. Henderson may not be bitter, but he sure is crabby and contrarian -which makes for good bloggin'. And he doesn't waste your time. He's the black Marty Peretz! Sign him up. ... 10:37 P.M.
Mr. Edwards has carefully played down his aspirations for an administration role. In an interview in January, he said he would not accept a vice-presidential spot or Cabinet position. "No, absolutely not," he said, shaking his head emphatically when asked.
But privately, he told aides that he would consider the role of vice president, and favored the position of attorney general, which would appeal to his experience of decades spent in courtrooms as a trial lawyer in North Carolina; and his desire to follow in the footsteps of Robert F. Kennedy, one of his heroes.
Not long after Mr. Edwards dropped out of the race, John C. Moylan, a close friend and adviser who ran his South Carolina campaign, said Mr. Edwards he would consider a Cabinet spot. "You don't run for president unless you want to work in the administration," Mr. Moylan said.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
What "change" may mean: Dave Weigel of Reason describes the confident union push for "card check" legislation in the next Democratic administration. This is a much more significant issue than the manufactured debate over a gas tax holiday (sorry, Jon!). It's a permanent structural change in the economy. With "card check," unions wouldn't have to win the right to represent workers in a regular secret ballot election. They'd merely have to collect cards from a majority of workers. ...
You can be against "card check" for all the various process reasons we normally favor secret ballot elections--privacy, freedom from intimidation--and still favor greater unionization of the American work force. That would not be my position! It seems to me that a) a tight 90s-style labor market and b) direct government provision of benefits (e.g. health care, OSHA) accomplishes what we want traditional unions to accomplish, but on a broader basis and without encouraging a sclerotic, adversarial bureaucracy that gets in the way of the productive organization of work. ... And here's an example: Ford has developed a seemingly efficient new manufacturing system at its Camacari factory in Brazil, where employees of the company's suppliers work side by side with regular Ford workers assembling cars. But there is a problem transferring the new system to the U.S.:
Ford sources said it is the sort of plant the company wants in the United States, were it not for the United Auto Workers, which has historically opposed such extensive supplier integration on the factory floor. ...[snip] As in the United States, [Brazilian] assembly workers make more than those employed by suppliers, and the union is eager to ensure that work reserved for the higher paid Ford employees is not being done by lower wage supplier staff. Labor expert Harley Shaiken of the University of California, Berkeley, said similar concerns are one reason why the Camaçari model is unlikely to be duplicated in the United States. He said the UAW has relaxed work rules at many Ford factories to allow workers to do more than one job, and has even allowed experiments with limited supplier integration. But he said the UAW is concerned that giving too much on these fronts will just allow the companies to speed up production and transfer more and more work to lower-paid supplier employees. "Clearly, what is going on in Brazil is pushing that envelope," he said. "I would never say never, but it would be a hard sell." Even if the union would eventually negotiate a compromise, a firm that doesn't have to negotiate a compromise over every innovation is likely to beat a firm that does, no? And for the same reason a blogger with zero editors should beat a blogger with six editors: Fewer meetings! ... The Wagner Act is not designed for an era of continuous change and improvement. ... ___________________________
Ford sources said it is the sort of plant the company wants in the United States, were it not for the United Auto Workers, which has historically opposed such extensive supplier integration on the factory floor. ...[snip]
As in the United States, [Brazilian] assembly workers make more than those employed by suppliers, and the union is eager to ensure that work reserved for the higher paid Ford employees is not being done by lower wage supplier staff.
Labor expert Harley Shaiken of the University of California, Berkeley, said similar concerns are one reason why the Camaçari model is unlikely to be duplicated in the United States. He said the UAW has relaxed work rules at many Ford factories to allow workers to do more than one job, and has even allowed experiments with limited supplier integration.
But he said the UAW is concerned that giving too much on these fronts will just allow the companies to speed up production and transfer more and more work to lower-paid supplier employees.
"Clearly, what is going on in Brazil is pushing that envelope," he said. "I would never say never, but it would be a hard sell."
Even if the union would eventually negotiate a compromise, a firm that doesn't have to negotiate a compromise over every innovation is likely to beat a firm that does, no? And for the same reason a blogger with zero editors should beat a blogger with six editors: Fewer meetings! ... The Wagner Act is not designed for an era of continuous change and improvement. ...
Get-Up-And-Get-A-Beer Line of the Day: The Hill asked various Senators whether they would consider an offer to be vice-president. One answer stuck out:
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho): "I would say, "No, Hillary."
I think he meant that he's more likely to be tapped at this point by the Democrats than Republicans. But there are so many other possible meanings. Let's get up and get a beer and think about them! ... P.S.: And if he's joking that only a Democrat would pick him, why isn't it "No, Barack"? ... 12:27 P.M.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
From Mark Halperin's Page summarizing the Sunday chat shows:
Clinton campaign chair McAuliffe, who some consider the greatest chairman in the history of the Democratic Party, said the race isn't over and laid out Clinton's path to the nomination ... [E.A.]
Halperin may have been saying that ironically. But not ironically enough! ... Under Terry McAuliffe's chairmanship, Dems failed to take the White House. They lost House seats in the 2002 and 2004 elections. They lost Senate seats in the 2002 and 2004 elections. As party spokesman, McAuliffe lent a slimy money-focused veneer to the Democratic brand. The party didn't win until Howard Dean took over. ... If McAuliffe's not the sort of Washington insider Obama would banish, it's hard to know who is. ... 9:08 P.M.
kf Mother's Day Special--Vito Finito? You mean your political career is destroyed just because you father a love child? ... Does that punishment only apply to family-values Republicans? Or does it apply to everyone? ... Does you-know-who know this? (He keeps thrusting his personality into the vortex!) ... Update: Rep. Fossella seems to be about to follow one of the key rules from James Boyd's famous "Ritual of Wiggle"--
At the moment of deepest personal disgrace, announce for reelection.**
**--That's from memory. I can't find a copy of Boyd's 1970 Washington Monthly article. ...
Update: Alert reader J.S. asks: "Don't you think there's a major difference between a pol who admits he sired a love child and one who denies it?" I think J.S. believes this distinction cuts against Edwards. But you could read it another way! ... 7:55 P.M.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Newsweek's Jon Alter accuses me of being a mindlessly contrarian crypto-conservative. I accuse him of being an Obama tankster. A good time is had by all. ... P.S.: Alter also calls Hillary's gas tax holiday "the worst pander ever in modern politics." I think he's lost historical perspective. ... 10:55 A.M.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Update-- Did McCain Refuse to Vote for Bush in 2000? The number of people excitable McCain aide Mark Salter is having to call liars and otherwise slander is growing at an alarming rate. It's up to 4 now. (Arianna, Brad Whitford, Richard Schiff and the LAT's anonymous diner). ... Of course, when Salter says that McCain
"voted for George Bush; I know it for dead certitude."
that doesn't rule out the possibility that McCain merely said he didn't vote for Bush in order to suck up to a group of prominent Hollywood liberals. ... P.S.: Unless Salter was in the voting booth with McCain, he doesn't "know ...for dead certitude" what his boss did. He has no choice but to deny the charge--but his sneering Lehane-like invective, which he obviously thinks is brilliant ("I know neither actor, but I assume they were acting.") isn't helping him sound more credible. ... P.P.S.: At least, for McCain's sake, this same Salter isn't also one of the key aides who denied the NYT's Vicki Iseman story. ... Oh, wait. ... 3:46 A.M. link
Let the record show that Tuesday's Dem results are almost completely explicable by reference to:
1) Mutnemom:Hillary has won when she's been losing and on the verge of elimination. But after Pennsylvania, she seemed to be surging. The CW became that she could win big in Indiana and come close in N.C. She had the opposite of mutnemom--actual momentum. That's a killer! Voters were forced to contemplate her actualy becoming President (instead of worrying about Obama as President). ... [So how did you go wrong?--ed Speculating that Hillary had "Permanent Mutnemom" despite her CW surge.]
2) The Feiler Faster Thesis: Rev. Wright reappeared on BIll Moyers' show on April 25, eleven days before the primaries. He spoke at the National Press Club April 28, eight days before the primary. Obama cut him loose the next day, but still fell in the polls. Would he have time to recover in the mere 7 days before the vote? Rev. Wright may have thought no. And in 1988 or 1992 the answer might have been no, as voters gradually found out about the pastor controversy and weighed Obama's reaction. But information is comfortably processed more quickly these days! There was plenty of time for Obama to fall and rise again, just as there was time in 2000 for McCain to recover from the damage of the South Carolina primary and win in Michigan three days later. If Wright wanted to screw Obama, he should have waited a week before delivering his speech. ... (Maybe Osama will make the same mistake if he tries another pre-election video release.) ...
P.S.: Note the implication of the Feiler Faster Thesis for what Obama now has to worry about--not that he won't have enough time before the general election to reposition himself or negatively "define" his opponent, but that there's so much time we'll get tired of him, he'll lose his freshness (and maybe stop embodying "change"). By the same token, voters who are now put off by him will have plenty of time to start finding him comfortingly familiar. ...
[Thanks to alert reader J.D.] 10:12 P.M. link
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Hail, Columbia, Hail Mary: John Ellis sees "one last chance" for Clinton. ... 7:34 P.M.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Hillary's campaign sends out a message to supporters:
So Hillary's victory in Indiana – fought out against the backdrop of an ailing economy – is all the more incredible. We started out behind in both the public and internal polls.
For example, our March 13 poll showed Hillary trailing by 8 points, while our latest poll gave Hillary a 5 point lead.
Huh? What do Hillary's internal polls mean at this point? We have actual results now, and she doesn't have a 5 point lead. ... 9:53 P.M.
LAT finds a witness who contradicts excitable McCain aide Mark Salter's "totally false" charge. ... 9:24 A.M.
Obama may win/steal Indiana. Only Wolf Blitzer could make this not exciting!Where is Pat Caddell when you need him? ... P.S.: Isn't it almost better for Obama if he loses Indiana by a few hundred votes? The nomination campaign is almost certainly over anyway, yet if he loses Indiana he won't have to contend with lingering charges of vote-counting mischief. ... P.P.S.: OK, CNN eventually had a reasonably dramatic momentary dispute between the mayors of Hammond and Gary, with the pro-Clinton Hammond mayor openly suggesting possible impropriety. ... 9:02 P.M. link
Why don't the networks tell us who "won" according to the exit polls? The polls have closed, so they can't affect the results?
Good question. It's mildly infuriating how the networks--even on the Web-- pompously present all the various permutations of the exit poll data except the permutation you are most interested in: the result. After the polls have closed, why not be transparent and release the overall horse-race numbers--especially since those numbers have almost certainly shaped their coverage? Is it because the nets want to avoid being embarrassed when their bottom line exit poll estimates turn out to be wrong? Does CNN think viewers are so pathetically passive and needy that they will sit there happily as Bill Schneider and Soledad O'Brien spoonfeed them third-order tidbits on how white working class independents and male suburban Catholics broke down? If you're watching CNN, you're into politics enough to understand that early exit numbers can be off for legitimate reasons. ... P.S.: Mark Blumenthal gives a somehwat unsatisfying statesmanlike response to DWA. [See his 9:32 P.M. entry]... 8:45 P.M.
A note on NBC's attempt to disprove the Limbaugh Effect with exit poll data: Why do we assume that mischievous dittohead Republicans will make the effort to vote in the primary of a party they don't even believe in, but that then these same people won't lie to exit pollsters (i.e., about which Democratic candidate would do better against McCain, or even about which candidate they voted for)? ... See also. ... 7:56 P.M.
The rehabilitation of John Zogby would be a heavy price to pay for transcending America's historic racial divide:Kf remains skeptical of early exit polls showing a double-digit Obama win in North Carolina. Remember that some very early exits had him actually winning in Pennsylvania. ... P.S.: Mark Blumenthal is liveblogging the shifting exit polls. ... 4:55 P.M.
Johnny Sack on 'card check': Mike Murphy's ad (which is running on MSNBC) seems effective. 2:56 P.M.
The Arizona senator also seemed to move past his usual "secure the borders first" mantra in favor of calling for, as he put it, "comprehensive immigration reform." ...[snip]
"Unless we enact comprehensive immigration reform I don't think you can take it piecemeal," he explained Monday, answering a question about providing visas for skilled workers.
"In other words," he said, "because as soon you and I start to talk about the highly skilled workers, our agricultural interest people are going to say, 'Look we need ag workers, too.' And then somebody's going say, 'We need the DREAM Act,' and then somebody's going to say, 'We've got to enforce our border.'"
Throughout the Republican primary battle last fall, McCain faced relentless questions about his support for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, the 2007 bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants to remain in the United States if they faced certain penalties. Opponents labeled it "amnesty."
Since clinching the nomination, McCain has largely avoided speaking about wide-ranging immigration reform, arguing primarily that the government needs to focus on securing the border with Mexico before taking on other measures.
On Monday, he lobbied for a broader approach that includes a temporary guest worker program and tamper-proof ID cards.
"We get in this kind of a circular firing squad on immigration reform in the Congress of the United States," McCain said, "and the lesson I learned from it is we've got to have comprehensive immigration reform."
McCain's "secure the borders first" position was always a transparent deception designed to get him through the Republican primaries. I just didn't expect him to drop it before the Republican convention. Won't there be at least a mini-rebellion? Or is that what McCain wants? ... [via KLo]
P.S.: Wasn't this supposed to be Reassure Conservatives Day for McCain? Why should they believe his insincere promises on judges when he's already backsliding on his insincere promises on immigration? ... Watch McCain's judge speech. Does he seem like he believes a word he's saying? ... 2:23 P.M. link
Monday, May 5, 2008
"Obama by double digits" in N.C.: Predicted by a blogger using a sophisticated model that ignores ... what's been happening in the campaign. Like Rev. Wright. I predict this person is wrong! ... Update: He was right. ... [via Insta] 9:27 P.M.
McCain didn't vote for Bush in 2000?Did he vote for Gore then?** (Rush--you want to continue with Operation Chaos?) ... After saving this nugget for 8 years, shouldn't Arianna have dropped it at the beginning of her book tour? ... Of course, the anecdote makes a point opposite from the one Arianna wants to make. Her argument is that McCain is now a doctrinaire right-winger. Isn't it much more likely that his current GOP orthodoxy is mainly an appearance? What he told Arianna in 2000 would be the reality. [That assumes he'll act on the reality and not the appearance--ed. True. The reality is already taking over.] ...
Update: McCain camp denies. Excitable aide Mark Salter calls Huffington "a flake, and a poser, and an attention seeking diva." Arianna posts a useful compendium of righteous McCain falsehoods. This is getting good. Certainly good for Arianna. ...
**--Correction: Item originally, erroneously had Kerry instead of Gore as the 2000 Dem candidate. I am living in my own "psychic reality." Watch out for the snipers. ... But hey, maybe McCain voted for Kerry too! 3:06 P.M.
We Build Excitement: The Insider Advantage non-robo poll has Hillary within striking distance in North Carolina and Obama within striking distance in Indiana. ... A perversely self-cancelling double-upset? (Or, if you correct for the Bradley Effect, are these polls just grim for Obama?) ... More: Marc Ambinder on the seemingly unlikely black/white Clinton/Obama breakdowns that would be required for a Clinton North Carolina win. ... 1:54 P.M.
The New York Times has now completed the bogus cocooning poll exercise anticipated in this space last week. To repeat: If 21 percent of Democrats are willing to say Rev. Wright has made them "less favorable" to Obama, and 15 percent say the controversy has made them "less likely" to support Obama, that doesn't mean
In Poll, Obama Survives Furor, but Fall Is the Test [ the NYT hed ]
It means Obama Badly Damaged by Furor, May Not Make It to Fall. ... Obama can't really afford to lose 10% of Democrats to the Wright controversy. ... P.S.:USA Today does not make the NYT'smistake. ... [via RCP] ... P.P.S.: The NYT poll is of only 283 Democrats. Mighty thin. USA Today surveyed 516. ... Has Pinch Sulzberger's visionary leadership so depleted the Times' resources that it can't even afford to take a decent-sized poll? If so, should the paper still run this now-iffy self-generated news on the front page? ... 1:23 P.M.
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. link
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.
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.
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.
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. link
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.
Friday, May 2, 2008
[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. link
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
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Bob Wright's apocalypse is bigger than mine. ... 10:46 A.M.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 W] 9:35 P.M.
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.
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.
The scales finally fall from Bob Wright's eyes. ... 12:39 A.M.
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
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.
Bob Wright makes his most insane argument yet! ... 12:21 P.M.
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.
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.
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
Headlines for Free: "Who's Bitter Now?" 1:44 P.M.
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.
Monday, April 21, 2008
revolting descent into tabloid journalism
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.
He's still out there: The Deseret News snags an interview with "the entire media's designated 'man on the street' for all articles ever written." Good get!
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."
O.K., one of us is wrong. 2:31 P.M.
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. .....
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
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.
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
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!
Update: SacBee's Dan Walters notes that while Brown "has been suing, or threatening to sue, just about anyone who doesn't immediately adhere to his vertical vision,"
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ...
Nathan Thurm Memorial Update: I know that Obama said a similar thing about his daughters a year ago on George Stephanopoulos' This Week show. But
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
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
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
Sunday, April 13, 2008
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 way! Would 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).
**--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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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]
**--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
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.
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.
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?...
Update: They did have "an interest of an undisclosed size in a private investment fund known as the Quellos Alpha Engine, based in the Cayman Islands." OK, that's a start. ...
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.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
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
Why Edwards Refuses To Be Vice President
Please tell me that's a joke. ... 2:28 P.M.
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 Drudge] 1:35 A.M. link
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Worried that the Dem primary fight will elect McCain? Jerry Skurnik has a reassuring scary story. 12:55 A.M.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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. ...
Update: On The View, Obama suggests Wright has sort of apologized:
"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
Thursday, March 27, 2008
He said "pivot." Heh, heh, heh ... 1:04 P.M.
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.
[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
Monday, March 24, 2008
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.
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
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]