Does MSNBC (Olbermann et. al) really want Obama to win? Won't their ratings be higher in 2009 if they represent the angry opposition--as opposed to the disillusioned party in power? Just a thought. ... P.S.: This factor might cause them not to worry too much whether their exaggerated anti-Palin and anti-McCain theatrics actually help the Democratic ticket. (Or it might not--I am playing crude Marxist here.) ... P.P.S.: Emails I've gotten in response to the item immediatley below suggest that "base" conservatives are well aware of McCain's unrecanted heresies on immigration and stem cells--but these mere issues are overwhelmed by their cultural hostility to the MSM's treatment of Obama and Palin. They're being cheap dates and fools--putting evanescent emotion over consequential legislation--but that seems to be the operative dynamic at the moment. Olbermann doesn't help. (The more firmly the GOP base is nailed down by MSM-hatred, remember, the more McCain can lunge for swing voters by running as a semi-Dem "maverick.") ... 2:33 P.M.
Mark Halperin's three pieces of advice for Obama seem sound. (They are 1. Ignore Palin; 2. Get in McCain's head the way McCain's getting in Obama's; and 3. Refocus on the economy in an accessible way.) ... To which I'd add:
4. It's a good week for point 3!
a) MSM outrage doesn't sway voters anymore. It didn't even back in 1988, when the press tried to make a stink about George H.W. Bush's use of "flag factories," etc. After this year's failed MSM Palin assault, it certainly won't work;
b) When Dems get outraged at unfairness they look weak. How can they stand up to Putin if they start whining when confronted with Steve Schmidt? McCain's camp can fake umbrage all it wants--the latest is that an Atlantic photographer took some nasty photos that the mag didn't run!--and nobody will accuse MCain of being weak. That's so unfair. A double standard. Dems can learn to live with it or complain about the unfairness for another 4 years. Their choice.
c) It's almost always impossible to prove that a Republican attack is a 100% lie. Either there's a germ of truth (Kerry did hype his wartime heroism at least a bit) or the truth is indeterminate (i.e., there's no way of knowing what Obama meant by "lipstick"--just because he and McCain used the word earlier doesn't mean he didn't think using it now, after Palin's speech, didn't add a witty resonance).
d) Lecturing the public on what's 'true" and what's a "lie" (when the truth isn't 100% clear) plays into some of the worst stereotypes about liberals--that they are preachy know-it-alls hiding their political motives behind a veneer of objectivity and respectability.
e) Inevitably the people being outraged on Obama's behalf will phrase their arguments in ways well-designed to appeal to their friends--and turn off the unconverted. ('This is just what they did to John Kerry and Michael Dukakis!' As if the public yearns for the lost Kerry and Dukakis Presidencies. 'Today's kindergarteners need some sex education. Just because Republicans are old fashioned ...' etc. Or 'These are Karl Rove tactics,' which signifies little to non-Dem voters except a partisan rancor they'd like to put behind them.)
Lots of people like bad Disney movies, and don't like the kind of people who sneer at bad Disney movies.
6. There must be some way to disillusion the conservative base with McCain, at least a bit. I know the CW--Palin has locked in the base, freeing McCain to move left. But jeez, McCain isn't moving to the left just on immigration, and he isn't moving subtly. Listen to this new radio ad, which might as well be titled "Stem Cell Research, Stem Cell Research, Stem Cell Research, Stem Cell Research." That's how often the phrase is repeated. How much more Screw-You-I'm-Taking-You-for-Granted can McCain get? Are conservatives complete suckers?
7. McCain's made great progress with independents by going against his party. Obama can do the same thing. Obvious areas of potential anti-Dem apostasy: Charter schools, firing incompetent teachers, class-based affirmative action, welfare. At least express some doubts about liberal legalism or the headlong rush to immigrant semi-amnesty. Last Tuesday Obama may have tried to make waves by talking about "schools filled with poor teachers"-- a Dem no-no if there ever was one. It got buried by the lipstick pig. So don't complain. Say it again! ...
Backfill: See also this helpfully unimpressed Michael Goodwin column.("No more Mr. Nice Guy, Obama vows. He's going to really start hitting John McCain now. He's going to make voters understand that McCain equals four more years of George Bush. It's a weird decision because Obama has been doing exactly that for four months. The problem is not that Obama hasn't hit McCain hard enough or linked him to Bush often enough. The problem is that he hasn't done anything else.. ...[W]hat happened to that post-partisan uniter who took the country by storm during the early primaries ... Why not bring him back?") ... 11:17 P.M. link
Only McCain can stop McCain! Mark Krikorian notes that if McCain wins big enough to drag in a Republican Congress, those Republicans might thwart his immigration plans. Krikorian quotes this email from a reader:
The best thing to happen to anti-amnesty Republicans in Congress is the rise of McCain/Palin bringing back the GOP 'brand' and the increasing the generic GOP ballot.
I am helping a local Republican get elected. His message is partly anti-illegal-aliens and the safety issue. We need to end 'sanctuary cities'.
McCain's coattails may help stop amnesty even if he himself will not
That's one reason I suspect McCain would rather win, but maybe not win too big. Or, rather, win without any coattails. A Democratic Congress may be the best partner for him (and not just when it comes to immigration) ...
On immigration, though, there's a counter-counter-factor, which is that any Republican majority dragged in on a McCain/Palin tide is likely to splinter (between anti-amnesty enforcement types and pro-business we-need-labor types) while a Republican minority might well form a united anti-amnesty opposition (after making a strategic decision to get back in power using the hot immigration issue). ...
In any case a) McCain is unlikely to win big, if he wins at all; b) it's very unlikely the GOPs will win control of either half of Congress, and c) if the Dems do retain a majority, then President McCain is significantly more likely than Obama to actually enact a "comprehensive" legalization plan. ...
The one box in the matrix I'm not sure of is President Obama/GOP Congress. In that case, with most of his grander legislative ambitions (on health care, etc.) blocked, you'dthink Obama might well turn to immigration as the one area where he could push through a major, party-building reform (by combining Democrats and pro-business Republicans). But this divided electoral outcome seems the least likely possibility by far--if Obama wins, he will almost certainly have a Dem Congress to work with. ... [Thanks to reader S.G.]... 5:21 P.M.
Friday, September 12, 2008
You lost me at "de": Headline/byline of an op-ed in yesterday's WSJ--
Democrats Need to Shake
The "Elitist' Tag
By Lynn Forester de Rothschild
Does Lynn Forester de Rothschild actually exist, or did Paul Gigot invent her? ... [That's Lady de Rothschild to you, buddy-ed. Even better.] ... 4:48 P.M.
Attention Ms. Coulter:John McCain is running an ad in Spanish attacking Obama for allegedly failing to support the "comprehensive immigration reform" bill that McCain himself has said he no longer supports. ... I guess McCain got the "message" but not the mensaje. ... P.S.: The picture of Sen. Patrick Leahy is especially terrifying. ... P.P.S.: Would McCain ever run this ad in English? ...
Coulter responds: Excerpt--
Kausfiles is maniacally obsessed with McCain's boneheaded support for amnesty, a position Kausfiles admits Obama shares -- but with slightly less enthusiasm -- as this year's excuse to vote for the Democrat.
In the end, Kausfiles will vote for the Democrat because Kausfiles always votes for the Democrat and not because of amnesty. Kausfiles pretends to be waffling only to trick conservative girls into arguing with him.
Coulter is on to me. Except I'm not waffling this time. I'm for Obama. That Obama is significantly less likely to actually enact amnesty is highly convenient for me, I agree. But it's also true. (See Krikorian.) It's equally convenient for Coulter to ignore this truth because it allows her to support the Republican in the race, after she seemed to waffle (or more than waffle) by endorsing Hillary over McCain. If McCain wins, I think Coulter will regret getting drunk and voting for him. ... Actually, let me link to that video again. Repays rewatching! (Coulter: "John McCain is not only bad for Republicanism, which he definitely is. He is bad for the country ... very, very bad for the country.") ... 11:41 A.M. link
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Take back their Kramlers: Ron Rosenbaum gets his head out of Pale Fire long enough to give Obama some strategic advice. I normally don't like us vs. them populism, but Rosenbaum's version might be the exception--because it has a precise and legitimate target:
What the campaign needs to do is focus on Wall Street. ... On the fact that the Republican party through its obsessive, greedy, lobbyist driven fetishizing of financial de-regulation has allowed the economy to be turned into a casino ...
Yes, it's true that the Clintonians were in bed with them (and Biden was a shill for the credit card industry) but six years of pure Republican rule handed the economy to the hedge fund creeps, virtually turned the economy into a hedge fund, a huge financial scam. Rather than re tooling it for the new century, they retooled financial instruments for their own disgraceful enrichment. ...
So what if many are Democrats, the more the shame. Obama should run against them too. I think there is a vast untapped resentment out there against the sharpies who have ended up bankrupting and selling out our economy. It's time to hold them responsible, and in a democracy a presidential campaign is the time and the way to do it. [E.A.]
Not a crazy idea. Everybody hates the "hedge fund creeps." And the need for Obama to turn on his own party's leaders (because both parties have effectively been bought by Wall Street) is a feature not a bug. ... Suggested tweak: It's not that Big Finance high earners were greedy, or necessarily lacking in "decency," or that they "[sold] out the economy." They're supposed to be greedy. Their greed was supposed to drive them to create innovative new financial instruments and risk-avoiding strategies that would benefit everyone and justify their absurd paychecks and--here's the winning social-egalitarian theme--the sense they exuded that they were better and smarter than even their Ivy League classmates who went to med school, let alone non-college graduates on "Main Street." The problem is simply that their innovative deregulated instruments and strategies--carefully protected by bipartisan mercenary lobbying--didn't work, producing a calamitous meltdown. Whether they knew this would happen or not doesn't matter. They "screwed up," as Rosenbaum says. Yet they're keeping the inflated paychecks, the lobbyists and (so far) their dominant place in the economic and social pecking order. Wouldn't hurt to humble them. ... 6:22 P.M. link
McCain on the Follieri Yacht. Moral: They're all celebrities. [Even Biden?--ed. I'm thinking ...] ... 12:42 P.M.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Ann Coulter responds, on behalf of getdrunkandvote4mccain.com, to the argument that conservatives should consider that McCain is more likely than Obama to actually enact "comprehensive immigration reform" with its misguided semi-amnesty for illegal immigrants. [See the little column on the right side of her blog, linked above.] Excerpt:
Even assuming McCain were more likely to enact "comprehensive immigration reform" than Obama, the difference is between a 10% chance and a 9.99999% chance.
Meanwhile, Obama is more likely to jump-start Islamic terrorism by rapidly withdrawing from Iraq and insanely sending more troops to Afghanistan and bombing Pakistan. In a few years, it won't matter how many illegals we have -- they'll be forced to convert to Islam like the rest of us.
I'd say the difference is more like a 50% chance of passing a semi-amnesty under McCain, compared with a 20% chance under Obama, who will have lots of other things to do and lots of Dem Congresspeople from swing districts he doesn't want to endanger. Amnesty is irreversible, remember, as will be many of its consequences (e.g., an incentive for more illegal immigration, plus a change in the electorate, creating pressure for further amnesties, etc.). ... Meanwhile I think Obama would, overall, put a damper on world terrorism by automatically and at least temporarily lowering the planet's anti-Americanism quotient, translating into fewer radicalized recruits with less tacit support from their neighbors. (Even John Kerry would have done that.) ... Will Obama want to go down in history as the President who snatched defeat from semi-success in Iraq? It's a worry, I agree! But it was much more of a worry before the perception sank in among voters that the "surge" has succeeded. ...
P.S.: What's Coulter's case against sending more troops to Afghanistan? Needs fleshing out! Coulter and the Code Pink protesters in my Venice neighborhood have more in common than I thought. ...
Update: Mark Krikorian, who knows more about the subject than I do, seems to back me up on the legislative odds. ...
Update 2: Obama today tells the Congressional Hispanic Caucus "this election is about the 12 million living in the shadows" and pledges
"to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, and rise above the fear, and rise above the demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform."
Harmless pandering! Pay it no mind. ... [Tks to M.M.] 4:33 P.M. link
It's not only Dems who are nervous: Some conservatives are not happy with McCain's conversion of his campaign into the Umbrage Express. Ramesh Ponnuru:
[T]he Republicans are coming across as whiny grievance-mongers. Don't they realize that this harping on ambiguous slights is what people hate about political correctness? It was bad enough when liberals were trying to destroy Palin. Now Republicans are trashing her brand. They're undermining the basis of her appeal as a different, tougher kind of female politician.
But, hey, they won the news cycle! Or so they think. ... P.S.: Ponnuru also questions whether Jane Swift is the best GOP spokesperson. ...
Update: Steve Smith (not a conservative) argues McCain won the news cycle while losing the war:
Think about the ways the McCain campaign has bulloxed this. First, they publicized an unfavorable image of the best thing it has going right now. I suspect one of the big reasons why Sarah Palin has struck a nerve among white voters is her attitude: tough, sassy, one-of-the-guys, a "pitbull with lipstick," to use her memorable phrase. By equating that phrase with the line, "lipstick on a pig," they have now created a counter-image that will float in the subconscious of every voter from now until Election Day, foe and supporter alike. [E.A.]
It's certainly true that the Obama command believes McCain strategist Schmidt is too concerned with "winning" each day. If they're right about that, it should be possible to set a trap in which Schmidt lunges to win the cycle in a way that does McCain's cause long term damage. Whether that's the result here--and whether if so it's the product of intentional baiting by Obama--are unclear. Maybe not. But there are six more weeks for the Obama camp to set just that sort of News Cycle Trap, now that they know it can be done.. ... 3:41 P.M.
What doesn't destroy her makes her stronger. ... 1:44 P.M.
Road trip report:
Best business name: "Putz n Glo"--miniature golf course near Mt. Rushmore.
Best business concept: Wings, Pizza and Tanning (Cheyenne, Wyoming).
Best sign: On I-90, outside the small town of Murdo, South Dakota. Weathered, almost decaying. It says
"This is it! Murdo!"
I wish I had taken a picture.**
Musical highpoint: Sir Victor Uwaifo on the BBC.
Recommended cafes for blogging: Pier 347 in Pierre, S.D.. Coal Creek Coffee Company in Laramie, Wyoming.
All college radio is now better than all non-college radio.
The state of mainstream, altless country music is even worse than the state of presidential nominnee acceptance speeches. I didn't hear one recent song that wasn't phony.
--If anyone has a photo, I will post it. The sign may say "Here it is! Murdo!" ...
Looking into a crowd for your friends: Matt Lewis agrees that McCain is much more likely to enact "comprehensive immigration reform" than Obama. ... Have all the conservatives who plan to "get drunk and vote for McCain" thought hard about this? .... 1:52 A.M. link
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
"Model 3" was there all along: The most respectable, cautious members of the MSM--like National Public Radio--have no problem sifting and assessing scandalous, unverified rumors when it comes to ... Kim Jong Il. ... He's had a stroke, he uses a look-alike stand in, he collapsed at an event, one report has a high "level of confidence" level, others don't, "a couple of people" say another report is "solid." ... Why is doing the same thing for presidential candidates irresponsible and tabloidy? ... 9:50 P.M.
"Lipstick on a pig": Either (a) shockingly clumsy and hack, using a tired DC line in a way that (intentionally or not) seems to suggest unchivalrously that Palin isn't attractive or (b) brilliant, memorably undermining three of her central virtues** at once. ... I tend to think (a). ...
**--What three virtues? 1) Attractive 2) Anti-pork 3) Non-Bush anti-Washington reformer. ... 3:49 P.M. link
All Obama has to do is ask John McCain (who, despite appearances, is still the GOP presidential nominee) to pledge, in the spirit of " bipartisanship" he was going on about Thursday night, that they will both work together for amnesty in the next Congress, regardless of which of them goes to the White House and which of them remains in the U.S. Senate.
Brimelow argues McCain would be "stuck"--he might accidentally say what he thinks (i.e., yes) and demoralize his base. I'm not so sure. It's much more likely McCain would give his usual carefully-crafted answer--he got the "message" in 2007, he'd would secure the borders first and then move on to semi-amnesty. In the meantime, Obama would have emphasized that he's also for semi-amnesty, potentially alienating a lot of working class and union voters who aren't on board the Democrats' train in this regard. ....
Instead of inviting McCain to join him on the "left" in support of legalization of illegals, what about a strategy of getting ever so slightly and tenuously on McCain's "right" by unexpectedly expressing some doubts. For example: "I support comprehensive immigration reform. But we have to do it in a way that doesn't further depress the wages of blue-collar American workers." That would at least plant the seed in blue collar voters' minds a) that Obama understands their concerns, and understands that their concerns aren't necessarily the same as the concerns of Latino leaders or righteous--and, yes, elite--bipartisan reformers; and b) specifically that Obama might move cautiously and avoid a headlong PC rush to legalization, of which McCcain was a crucial cheerleader. Point (b) would even appeal to many in McCain's base, driving the same wedge that Brimelow wants to drive.
Obama wouldn't renounce legalization (which he supports) and indeed wouldn't be committing himself to doing or not doing anything in particular, since as President he would presumably declare that any bill he promotes will not depress blue collar wages.
Effectively weaselly--but in a straightforward, Obamaesque 'understand-both-sides' kind of way! ... 3:05 P.M. link
Obama buries the lede: "[W]e can't settle for schools filled with poor teachers." Where was this Obama in Denver? ... 1:11 P.M. link
Monday, September 8, 2008
The companies have been famous for hiring big political names. Among them: former Clinton budget director Franklin Raines, Democratic operative Harold Ickes, Republican lobbyist and fundraiser Wayne Berman and former Republican congresswoman Susan Molinari.
Aren't they leaving someone out? Someone who, but for the grace of Angelo Mozilo, would even now be dragging the Obama campaign through a tar pit of bad publicity? ...
P.S.: David Smith on the genesis of the Fannie crisis. Now with hindsight! 7:30 P.M.
Just a thought: The Obama "Bush's third term" tactic of portraying McCain as just like President Bush was always insultingly crude and doomed. McCain isn't just like Bush. Voters are smart enough to realize that (especially when McCain, equally crudely, drives the point in ads and speeches). ... Plan B would seem to be to attack McCain for the things he actually is--dangerously bellicose, for example. ... Of course the most powerful example of McCain's poor judgment,** his media-pleasing embrace of a misguided chattering class consensus on immigration semi-amnesty--is one Obama apparently believes he can't use. ...
Another thing Obama should find a way to say: Earmarks aren't everything. Would you rather have secure health care and earmarks or no earmarks and no health care? ...
**--That on immigration McCain's poor judgment echoes Bush's poor judgment--in ways disturbingly parallel to Bush's judgment in going to war in Iraq--would just be a bonus. ... 1:56 P.M. link
Psst: Did anyone notice that Peggy Noonan's account of that open mike snippet-- that when she said "it's over" she meant the GOP impulse to win by appealing to its base was "over," not that the election was over--was backed up by Daniel Finkelstein, who remembers Noonan making that point on a prior occasion using the same phrase. ... P.S.: Noonan also said she was "pretty certain that is exactly what [open mike mates] Todd and Murphy understood I was referring to"--and Murphy indeed posted a Palin-skeptical Swampland comment suggesting the base-is-not-enough point is exactly what's on his mind:
In a high turnout Presidential year, I am not worried about turning out the base. I'm worried about everybody else we need to win and I fear that among those voters, Sarah Palin will be a dud. ... [snip] In a year where the Democrat generic numbers are 10+ points better than the Republican, I don't like the math of a strategy that just polarized the election along party base lines.
P.P.S.: So if you are a Republican pundit and go on MSNBC not only do you have to worry about your open-mike comments being overheard. You have to worry about pro-Dem MSNBC employees excerpting little bits that weren't overheard and distributing them to embarrass your party (whether or not the excerpt captures what was actually being said)? Even Fox doesn't do that. [Update: Well, there was this.] Does NBC realize that MSNBC has become a freakish joke? ... Guess so! .. .1:26 P.M. link
Saturday, September 6, 2008
(Pierre, S.D.) McCain wouldlike everyone to think his campaign imploded last summer because of his courageous support for the surge in Iraq:
I fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq, when it wasn't a popular thing to do. And when the pundits said my campaign was finished, I said I'd rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.
--McCain's acceptance speech, 9/4/08
This bit of history was repeated by the McCain campaign in at least one WaPo group interview I attended--suggesting it's an accepted talking point. It's also bogus. McCain's campaign imploded last summer because of his support for "comprehensive"immigration reform, including legalization of existing illegals (semi-amnesty). At the time, the Official MSM Story line centered on budgetary problems (still not Iraq!), but McCain himself admitted the truth to New Yorker's Ryan Lizza:
Over lunch in Arlington, McCain had given the stock explanation for what caused last summer's difficulties. "The problem, which was my problem, was that our fiscal expectations weren't met by reality," he said—in other words, he couldn't raise enough money. But the next day, as I travelled with McCain around South Carolina, he told me that his campaign's brush with death had less to do with fund-raising than with his role in championing the ambitious immigration-reform bill, supported by the White House, that died in Congress this year. "It wasn't the budgetary problems. That was an inside-the-Beltway thing," he said, referring to press coverage of his campaign's setbacks. McCain gets animated whenever he discusses the immigration issue. After a town-hall meeting in Anderson, South Carolina, he recalled how the Irish were discriminated against in America. As he quoted a placard that hangs on the wall of an aide's office ("Help Wanted—No Irish Need Apply"), he jabbed his finger in the air with such emphasis that he knocked my voice recorder to the ground and erased our conversation. "It was immigration" that hurt his campaign, he said when he continued, after a series of apologies on both sides. "I understand that. I was told by one of the pollsters, 'We see real bleeding.' " [E.A.]
McCain bucked the political/media CW on the "surge." He was right, it appears, and he should get lots of credit--though no more than President Bush, who doesn't seem to be getting any at all. But McCain's surge position wasn't what (temporarily) sank his campaign--it was how he revived his presidential campaign after it had been derailed by immigration, the issue he'd now like to hide (and an issue where he embraced the political/media CW). McCain was running in the Republican primary, remember,** which makes his behavior last summer not quite as courageous as he boasts it was. Same goes for his behavior now. ...
**--Supporting the surge was no more a huge courageous risk in a GOP primary than opposing the war was a huge courageous risk for Obama in a Dem primary. ... 12:30 P.M. link
What kind of all-night truck stop doesn't have the National Enquirer? ... (A very nice one in Mitchell, S.D., actually. Marketing suggestion for editor D. Perel:N.E. "Graphic Audio" Edition.) 12:02 P.M.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
1) McCain screwed up what was potentially the most effective part of the speech, where he blames his own party for losing the "trust of the American people." Maybe the delivery was garbled or maybe the passage wasn't written to maximize the drama of the face-to-face dressing-down. You got the feeling McCain was so mad at himself (or someone) when the anti-GOP passage fell flat that he was off rhythm until the concluding paragraphs;
2) Uninspired language: "It's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead." You betcha! "Opening new markets and preparing workers to compete in the world economy is essential to our future prosperity." Where was Mark Salter for the first 4/5 of this thing? Vetting failed VP candidates?
3) Even the Salteresque final passages were undermined by an unnecessary contradiction--in a speech about the need to replace "me first" thinking with "a cause greater than yourself", the passages were all about McCain. And his heroic selflessness. At the beginning of the speech that wouldn't have seemed so odd. At the end, shouldn't McCain have made the transition to ... a cause larger than himself?
4) Another good line spoiled by clumsy delivery:
I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me.
Helpful italics indicate where emphasis should have gone.
5) Mismatch with the facts on the ground:
We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.
When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. ...
Oh yeah? You and what Congress?
I'm not in the habit of breaking promises to my country and neither is Governor Palin. And when we tell you we're going to change Washington, and stop leaving our country's problems for some unluckier generation to fix, you can count on it. ...
Again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as President
Am I crazy or are these passages a blazing arrow pointing toward ... comprehensive immigration reform, one big bipartisan "solution" that the Democratic Congress will be all too happy to work with President McCain to achieve? What else is he talking about? OK, maybe Social Security (where Congress will be far less helpful.) ... Surprisingly, immigration reform--which McCain's friend Lindsey Graham pledged he "will" take up--wasn't actually mentioned at all in the speech. I'd thought McCain would at least "flick" at it as part of his pitch to the Latino swing vote. Maybe the convention really was all about the base (which doesn't like the semi-amnesty parts of McCain's reform). They can always be betrayed later.
7) On top of this tepid refusal to offend conservatives, McCain layered a few blanded-out Classic Rock themes borrowed from liberal candidates of decades past. We've got a little ur-Shrum ("that's just what I intend to do: stand on your side and fight for your future") and some information age/"reinventing government" insights borrowed from Bill Clinton, version 1991.
All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and we have to change the way we do business in Washington.
The chant of "Re-Go, Re-go!" failed to catch on.
8) "I know some of you have been left behind in the changing economy ..." Politicians often seem to think it's more effective to embrace cliches--as if the public will understand them better because they are so familiar. This one seemed more a little condescending. Do people want to be told they've been "left behind"? Isn't it better to use "we" and "us" rather than "you"? And better to jolt the audience awake with new words rather than feed them familiar message pellets.
9) Evening almost saved by "Barracuda." Why do I suspect Gov. Palin hates that song? ... Also good to hear Robert Earl Keen's double-edged "Feeling Good Again." ...
Update--The Larger Issue: The speech reeked of extra cooks making too many unintegrated additions. What does it say about McCain's management ability if he let the process for this crucial effort get out of control? It's not like he didn't have months to prepare. Or were the months the problem? Palin's Wednesday night text, presumably written in a few days, was much better. Maybe the McCain campaign didn't have time to kill it with improvements. ... 10:48 P.M. link
Double-Edged Anecdotes: From National Review's Corner:
[W]hen Tony Rezko was indicted Obama held a press conference and answered all of eight questions before he tried to duck out. The media was so upset they lept out of their seats and demanded he return — one news report called it "mayhem." (You can watch the video here.)
NRO is arguing that McCain has been as open as Obama. But doesn't the press' frustration also offer some evidence undermining the usual conservative contention that there's a total pro-Dem MSM double standard at work? MSM reporters "demanded" answers from Obama! Who knew? ... 4:54 P.M.
Edwards cancels pre-election speeches: When did John Edwards realize that cranking up his 'I'm Not the Daddy' Solo Comeback Tour in October might not endear him to his fellow Democrats? Only in the past few days, judging from this August 30th story. ... The man is a once-in-a-generation political talent. ... [via NewsAlert] 4:23 P.M. link
Tomorrow's Marching Orders Today: If therewere some sort of tacit liberal MSM conspiracy--a hypothetical!--Plan 1 was to knock Palin off the ticket out of the box with various unvetted home state scandals. Plan 2, the plan currently in place, is to force Palin to submit to "real interviews" where she will supposedly reveal her embarrassing unpreparedness for the office.
May I suggest to my fellow conspirators that we move directly on to Plan 3: Forget Palin. Stop writing about her. If we make the election about Palin, we will lose. She'll probably win her debate and will almost certainly handle the interviews well enough (to the satisfaction of the voters, at least, if not the experts). The election's not about Palin. It's about McCain. We can beat McCain. ... 1:29 P.M. link
Bob Wright makes the case that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a problem even if she marries the father of her child. It's bizarrely persuasive. ... 12:06 A.M.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Immigration is, as of today, the great unmentioned issue at both conventions. ... 11:44 P.M.
Palin Speech: Very effective, as expected. Big loser: Hillary. Maybe Hillary's handicaps (e.g., inability to zing opponents without seeming haughty or testy) aren't barriers facing all women after all. [Point stolen from someone in the crowd.] ... Trig is already becoming a bit of a prop, however. ... 11:39 P.M.
Model 3 is Born? Howie Kurtz notes the essential weirdness of McCain strategist Steve Schmidt's fury at the press: Normally, campaigns say they are angry at reporters who print stories without asking them for their side of the story. "A simple phone call would have told X the truth." etc. The McCain camp's complaints against Elisabeth Bumiller fall into this traditional mold.
But Schmidt is now angry because reporters are making the simple phone calls to ask about Sarah Palin before they've actually run with anything. It's the questions he doesn't like! Kurtz: "Schmidt did not contend that [his questioners] were publishing or broadcasting false information about Palin and her family."
What we're witnessing, I think, is the death of a media paradigm that we lived with comfortably for, oh, the last year or two. And John Edwards is to blame! Here's the relevant typology:
Model One: There's the press, and the public. The press only prints "facts" that are checked and verified. That's all the public ever finds out about. The press functions as "gatekeeper."
Model Two: Model One broke down with the rise of blogs, which (along with tabloids and cable) often discuss rumors that are not "verified." The public finds out about these rumors, as rumors. And it turns out that blogging obsessively about rumors is a pretty good way to smoke out the truth (see, e.g., Dan Rather).
But in Model Two, the rumors still don't get reported in the "mainstream media"--the respectable print press, the non-cable networks--until they are properly confirmed. Blogs and tabloids are a sort of intermediate nethersphere between public and the elite MSM that serves as a proving ground where the truth or falseness of the "undernews" gets hashed out. Stories that are true then graduate to the MSM.
Model Three: I thought Model Two would be a workable model for years, until either the MSM itself went totally online or until almost all voters stopped paying attention to it. I was wrong! The Edwards scandal did Model Two in. For months, the MSM failed to report the increasingly plausible rumors of John Edwards' extramarital affair even as it became the widespread topic of conversation in blogs, in the National Enquirer, and among political types. The disconnect turned out to be painfully embarrassing for the MSM, especially when the rumors were finally "verified" with Edwards' confession. A lot of what we are seeing now is the MSM not wanting to go through another Edwards experience.
Why can't the MSM bear to fulfill its Model Two role? a) No press person likes to not be the center of attention. You want to talk about what people want to talk about. That's how you make money, for one thing. And maintaining a disciplined silence on a rampant undernews rumor--even an unverified one--made too many reporters feel as if they worked for Pravda; b) Suppressing an undernews scandal about a Democrat subjected the MSM to charges of pro-liberal political bias (to which respectable organizations are particularly sensitive, because they are largely true); and c) even much of the left was disgusted by the MSM's behavior regarding the Edwards rumor.
We are now, I think, making the next logical leap, to a model in which unverified rumors about public figures are discussed and assessed not just in the blogosphere or the unrespectable tabs but in the MSM itself. I say welcome! With NYT reporters and bloggers all openly discussing unverified reports,, whatever is true will become un-unverified that muhch faster. And the public is proving, by and large, to be quite capable of distinguishing between stories that are true and rumors that are still being investigated.
We're not quite there yet--the unverified rumors that Palin had faked her pregnancy were printed in the MSM, but the McCain campaign itself gave the MSM implicit permission by saying it was releasing the news of Gov. Palin's daughters real pregnancy in order to scotch the fake pregnancy speculations of bloggers. And Schmidt's tormenters were still only checking out rumors, not printing them. But the avalanche of questions to which Schmidt is being subjected--and his discomfort--suggests that the MSM is in the process of shifting to a new role, in which it aggressively investigates and discusses rumors rather than waiting for the industrious blogosphere to force its hand.
They waited with Edwards. They don't want to go through that again. It helps, of course, that this week's rumors involve a Republican.
Once reporters start peppering campaigns with questions, after all, I suspect it will be impossible to keep a lid on whatever rumors the MSM is peppering the campaigns about. That's particularly true in a "synergistic" world where a reporter like Howard Fineman not only writes for Newsweek but also appears on cable shows that have an imperative to discuss whatever is hot now. It's particularly true in a Drudgian world where the activities of MSM reporters-what they're working on, what questions they're asking--is itself news for the Web. In that world, the line between "checking out" tips and open discussion of at least the non-actionable rumors can't really be maintained and shouldn't be, given the truth-divining virtues of widespread publicity (which functions as an APB to the citizenry to come up with evidence).
It's tempting to assume Steve Schmidt's cries are cynical, reflecting a desire to gin up a war between his candidate and the intrusive, condescending elite media--a war in which voters will side with his candidate. Why doesn't he just do his job, under Model 2, and answer the MSM's questions? But it's also likely Schmidt's anguish is at least in part authentic shock at the looming inability of even Model 2 to keep a lid on unrestrained speculation. When even MSM reporters start behaving like bloggers--when candidates' can't squelch discussion of their rumored sins, but have to wade into a non-stop public debate about them--the job of a campaign strategist will get a whole lot harder. ...
Shrum /McCain '08: Is Bob Shrum working for McCain too? I just went back and watched the video of the McCain/Palin rollout in Dayton, Ohio. I hadn't realized that McCain's introductory remarks were boilerplate Shrumian populism. McCain says he wants the government
to understand what you're going through, to stand on your side and fight for you. That's why I'm running for President, to fight for you to make government stand on your side and not in your way. [E.A.]
a) Doesn't it show how meaninglessly vague the Shrum formulation is if it can be comfortably adopted by the Republican candidate?; b) Of course, McCain doesn't blame mysterious unspecified "powerful forces" for "standing in your way," as Shrum's man Gore did in 2000. McCain names one--the government. Maybe Republicans can be more concrete, all-encompassing Shrumian populists than Democrats. They'll fight all the forces! c) Or is McCain hoping that his appropriation of cliched, contentless but historically Democratic rhetoric will lead voters to assume he's something that he's not? d) Shrumcainian populism suffers from the same defect as Shrumgorian populism, which is that most of our toughest national problems aren't caused by outside forces that can be fought and beaten but either by ourselves (e.g.,,voting ourselves too many Social Security benefits) or by ineluctable trends in demography (aging population), science (expensive new medical treatments, more jobs that require tech skills), or world history (e.g., rise of China). ... P.S.: If McCain's going to chase madly after blue-collar Midwest swing votes, does that rule out making an issue of labor's precious "card check" initiative to allow unionization without a secret ballot? ... 4:56 P.M. link
You know how sometimes you put on one of your favorites songs and you're tapping your feet and listening very closely to the singer and you suddenly realize ... he's faking it. It's the fifth take and he doesn't care anymore. Or that's what it sounds like. It could be a good song, by a good group--it happened to me recently with the Decemberists. It happens all the time. But it sort of kills the effect.
I'm sorry but that's how I feel about Fred Thompson. It's how I feel about his campaigning; it's how I feel about his movies, from the very first one I saw--Die Hard II, where he played an aircraft controller (unconvincingly). Thompson's not just a politician who's a bad actor, an actor who always seems to be reading lines. He's a politician who's a bad actor and therefore a bad politician. Last night he had a solid speech to deliver. (As blogger Stephen Green told me, it didn't just throw some red meat. It slaughtered a small cow.) But except for one line (on Iraq, ending in "and now we're winning") and a moving bio section on McCain's aircraft carrier service, Thompson seemed to be a guy reading his lines. He's no Zell Miller. And I don't think he'll have theZell-like effect the McCain people probably hoped for. ... 3:17 A.M. link
Moose and Squirrel: Eli Lake detects signs of "being spooked" in the McCain campaign. ... P.S.: Palin found time to meet privately with the leaders of AIPAC, according to Lake, who also found out what she told them. ... 12:44 A.M.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Semi- amnesty in St. Paul: I asked Sen. Graham how soon, in his first term, President McCain would declare the borders secure (which would let him to move to revive "comprehensive immigration reform"). Graham said "We'll know it when we see it," but emphasized that "comprehensive" reform was "still on the table" and seemed as much of an enthusiast as ever. "He will take that up," Graham predicted.** ... Later, in another WaPo chat, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis mentioned Hispanics as a battleground voter group, arguing that Republicans had to offer them something "other than a deportation center"--which is sort of offensive, when you think about it (as if Hispanic-American voters, who are by definition citizens, are illegals subject to deportation). ... Not just an appeal to ethnic identity politics, but a stereotyping appeal to ethnic identity politics, no? ...
In any case, I urge Graham and Davis to ensure that McCain makes these points forcefully in his acceptance address. That will make for a dramatic convention. Perhaps McCain could reprise Sen. Graham's promise to pass immigration semi-amnesty and "tell the bigots to shut up." ... Of course, I don't expect McCain to push hard on his now un-recanted pro-"comprehensive," views, even as he ostentatiously takes on his party. It's much easier to go after the evil Sen. Stevens and earmarks, which only requires offending some Congressional poohbahs, not the vast mass of Republican voters. (Remember the apparent formula is: 'McCain + grassroots vs. GOP Congress,' not 'McCain vs. grassroots + GOP Congress'--or, worse, 'McCain + GOP Congress vs. grassroots,' even though the last is more or less the real array of forces on immigration.) ...
P.S.: I think I've now cherrypicked most of the best Graham and Davis quotes, but Chris Cillizza has more from Davis, who was pretty talkative for someone who looks like he badly needs a visit to the HuffPo oasis. WaPo has also posted video of part of the Davis interview. ...
**--Quotes based on my notes. The sessions were recorded, but not by me. ...3:17 P.M. link
More of Lindsey Graham on President Palin: "She can do fine on foreign policy because of the infrastructure we have around [us]." Reassuring! ... 3:01 P.M.
I'm starting to worry that McCain's acceptance speech may actually be good. As described by buddy Sen. Lindsey Graham at an on-the-record WaPo chat, McCain will a) tell his own party to wake up, realize they've screwed up and need to regroup; b) attack the culture of Washington (meaning mainly Congress, but also the Pentagon, etc.) and c) proclaim that his term will be very different than the past 8 years. Emphasis on the focus of evil in the modern world, the "hard core appropriators" who benefit from the earmark system.** ... Hey, you can't beat up his party any more than he's beaten up his party himself! ... Plus a possible explicit comment on the unlikelihood of Joe Biden being an "agent of change."
None of this is shocking, but Gov. Palin's popularity with the base may have relieved McCain of some pressure to grit his teeth and demonstrate uncharacteristic institutional loyalty. The formula might be: McCain + grassroots vs. Congressional GOPs. ... P.S.: I'm not saying McCain will be persuasive--for one thing, he wildly overemphasizes the importance of earmarks, even as a proxy for the "culture of Washington." And of course I think his righteous appeals for immigration semi-amnesty are misguided. I'm not even saying the speech will necessarily move his poll numbers much. I'm saying the dramatic tension of McCain taking on his audience, and the possibility he'll have fun doing it, should make for a dramatic, idiosyncratic address that contrasts favorably with Obama's unimaginative, muffled, methodical normalcy. ...
**--Graham on Palin: "If you can take on Ted Stevens and that crowd you can take on the Russians." Hmmm. (There are some things the Russians won't do!) ... 1:54 P.M. link
Monday, September 1, 2008
Well, that's one way to knock down those pregnancy rumors. ... 5:30 P.M.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Note to Cass Sunsteinand internet alarmists who argue that the Web results in partisans who listen only to their own facts, reinforcing their extreme opinions, etc.: A Daily Kos blogger is refuting the Kos-fueled Palin-baby rumor with a photo found on right-wing site Free Republic, of all places. Moral: The Web encourages cocooning but (unlike other cocoon-generators like cable TV, or gerrymandered congressional districts) it's also the solvent of cocooning, as a) bloggers actually read the web sites of the other side, in order to attack them; b) bloggers defend themselves against such attacks; and c) the Web makes learning from the other side extremely easy. ... In this case, viciously partisan Kos bloggers seem to have investigated and knocked down a bit of undernews that many of them would have dearly liked to be true. What's wrong with that? As of this writing, it looks like they got to the truth pretty rapidly. ...
P.S.: If only Kos crowd had behaved like that with the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter rumor. Banned blogger Lee Stranahan is still pissed (and rightly so). But even Stranahan's case largely contradicts Sunstein, since he did dissent from the Kos consensus, did investigate the Edwards rumor on his own, didn't go away and still made himself heard (and was ultimately vindicated in a way even most Kossacks would presumably acknowledge). ...
P.P.S.--The Case for Excitability : Andrew Sullivan's role in publicizing the rumor seems legit too. The feeding frenzy of publicity is what flushes out the counter-evidence quickly (and then that evidence gets a lot of attention).
[Why didn't kf, self-appointed Guide to the Undernews, write about the rumor?--ed. It seemed more likely that an older woman would have a Down syndrome child. Nor do I see what the huge moral scandal would be if the Palin rumor were true. So I didn't get to it. I'm not Guide to the Undernews! At least not to All the Undernews. That's a full time job.** My argument is that the Web as a whole potentially functions as the Guide to All Undernews, as bloggers argue about whatever rumors interest them. ...
**--The Edwards/Hunter undernews was also different, from my perspective--I pushed it because I knew with reasonable certainty, from off-the-record sources, that it was true. But I defend obsessed bloggers who hash out undernews rumors about public figures when they don't know if they're true or not. ... 10:30 P.M. link
Cram, Sarah, Cram: The AMC enjoyably mocks McCain aide Charlie Black's latest gaffe, which has been underplayed in the overnews--even if he Black was half-joking about how Palin will "learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he'll be around at least that long." ... Black's gaffes are a peculiar perverse subclass of Kinsley gaffes, which normally occur when a politician impulsively blurts out the truth. Black's genius is to inadvertently convey the truth (that Palin doesn't know enough, that McCain's health is a worry) while attempting ingratiating, self-serving spin. ... 9:20 P.M.
Friday, August 29, 2008
They just don't get it! Out-of-step Heather Mac Donald says McCain "has just ensured that the diversity racket will be an essential component of presidential politics." In contrast, Obama "stood up to the diversity imperative in selecting Joe Biden," while his acceptance speech made "minimal allusion to his race." ... Krauthammer calls the Palin pick "near suicidal." ... David Frum: "How serious can [McCain] be if he would place such a neophyte second in line to the presidency?" ... Ponnuru: "a reckless choice." ... 12:54 P.M.
Emailer J games out Hillary's response to McCain's VP pick:
It's well understood that if Obama wins he is president for eight years, at the end of which time Hillary may be too old to run. But now if McCain wins, Palin is vice president and at least gets a very good shot at becoming the heir apparent to Republican nomination for the presidency. This would take Hillary's issue -- her firstness -- away from her, and Hillary would become a lot more like just another Democratic pol. Therefore, the most important thing for Hillary's future now is for McCain to be defeated. The notion, indulged in by Maureen Dowd, among others, that Hillary and McCain have a common interest in McCain winning and being a one-termer, ought to be gone, if it ever was realistic. [E.A.]
But if Obama wins she's still probably out for eight years, no? It might be much easier for her to beat Palin in 2012 (if Palin even survives the primary) than to challenge a sitting Democratic president, Kennedy/Carter style. ... 3:12 A.M.
Talking with an MSM reporter on the possibility of the GOPS delaying their convention. He was skeptical of the story. "Drudge hasn't picked it up." ... A decade ago, Drudge was a menace to journalism. Now he's the validator of what's actually news. ... Is that because journalism has changed or Drudge has changed? A bit of both, I suspect. ... 2:31 A.M.
Does the Department of Homeland Security have technology as sophisticated as that used at the Vanity Fair/Google party in Denver? Man, if those guys were running the border, nobody would get in. ... 2:23 A.M.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.
MLK grafs also good. But not enough like those; 4) Gave voters little sense that he understands and can master the pressures--bureaucratic imperatives, unions, civil service rules-- that have often caused previous idealistic liberal presidents to fall short while sucking up taxpayer dollars. The only sentence addressing this concern (that I heard) was;
I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
Actually, this sentence suggests he doesn't understand the problem. "Twentieth century bureaucracy" wasn't very effective at meeting twentieth century challenges; 5) The one carefully non-controversial mention of immigration was met with ... silence; 6) In general, Obama went all euphemistic and vague when discussing controversial domestic topics. On education, for example, he wants "higher standards and more accountability." What you mean "accountability"? Nothing here with the bite of his 2004 putdown of "the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." The implied message about Obama's character is that he's a bit of a wimp, at least in public. Or at least he chose to be a bit of a wimp on an occasion when he didn't have to; 7) Why the slow, angsty movie-music at the end? I thought someone in the Politburo had died. 8) Some of the professionals' doubts about the move to an outdoor setting were validated. The confetti immediately blew to one side of the stage and got tangled in the exploding Barackopolis, where it looked like a Halloween spider's web. Symbol of overreach! 9) Didn't you want to see Obama, more than previous nominees, "validated" by being surrounded by other more familiar Dems in the traditional group greet-and-hug scene (in which they implicitly both approve him and show that he will have support)?** Instead, he asks us to buy him as the unknown loner savior, striding on and off the stage with just his family and running mate. It's a tougher sale, and an unnecessary one I think. ...
**--Of course, then Hillary and Bill might have been up there. Still, it would be in a subordinate role. ...
P.S.: I'm not saying the speech won't help him. I expect it will. I'm saying it seemed flat. ... 8/29 Update: Bounce. ...
P.P.S.: Peggy Noonan notes the lack of "humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy." ... Michael Goodwin saw a mismatch between the speech and the stage. And the speech might have seemed better if the setting hadn't raised expectations of a monumental performance. ... Jeremy Lott: "This address was not nearly as good as his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. His lines this time ran from serviceable to pretty awful." ... David Broder:
His  Boston speech -- and many others early in this campaign -- suggested that he was sincere in wanting to tamp down partisanship and would be creative enough to see the need for enlisting bright people from both parties in confronting the nation's problems.
But the Denver speech, like many others he has given recently, subordinated any talk of fundamental systemic change to a checklist of traditional Democratic programs.
More: Obama said, "[W]hat I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes." Clever. It seems like a slap at netroots incivility. But taking positions "for political purposes" is actually a fairly honorable thing to do compared to the venality and other forms of bad faith of which politicians are routinely accused on the Web. (Think Halliburton.) And it's hardly a sacrifice for Obama to forswear this tactic. On issues where McCain has flip-flopped, such as immigration, taxes and torture--Obama plans to make precisely the opposite charge anyway: that McCain's new position reflects McCain's real views. Of course, McCain probably actually took these new positions "for political purposes"--but that's the argument McCain's defenders will make. ("Oh, he had to say that to get the nomination.")
Valued reader feedback: Emailer J.G. wonders why I didn't like this passage:
We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.
I agree the graf outlines an appealing compromise-based model of how President Obama might actually operate--a model that jibes with his state house history. But it still leaves his own views annoyingly vague and mysterious. ...
Handicap: Maybe I didn't feel the full impact of the speech because I watched it from behind a glass barrier in the Invesco press box, an unfortunate situation documented in this Slate V video. My colleagues seemed to like it more than I did.
... 9:49 P.M. link
Effective day for Dems. 1) Bill Clinton outlined a simple, substantive framework for the election. As James Taranto noted, he built a stronger case for Obama than Hillary did--an inversion of how the two Clintons are said to actually feel about the nominee. ... 2) Joe Biden makes a good first impression. Not sure about the second. ... 3) It would be hard to fashion a blunter appeal to social equality ("[T]he American creed: No one is better than you. You are everyone's equal, and everyone is equal to you.") Biden's the anti-snob, cleansing the odor of bitter clinging from Democrats' campaign. He owes Mayhill Fowler a fruit basket, no? Without her HuffPo post, would he have gotten the call? ... 1:03 A.M. link
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
On the record Time coffee featuring Obama campaign manager David Plouffe: Plouffe argued for paying less attention to the ups and downs of the polls because a) Obama would beat McCain on turnout and b) swing voters would probably break one way or another after the debates. The audience consensus--which in this crowd was almost by definition CW--seemed to be that Plouffe was whistling past the graveyard, relying on turnout machination to make up for a worrisome message problem. ... P.S.: Plouffe also said the McCain campaign was "obsessed with news cycles." ... Update: See also Noonan. ... 4:11 P.M. link
You know how when you give a party, you have a great time and there's this warm glow as you think about it? And then you start remembering the guests who didn't show up, and you get a little annoyed? Hillary's speech last night was like that. Effective, but then you realize the things she didn't say: 1) Obama won fair and square; 2) "Things get a little rough in the course of a campaign, and the Republicans will no doubt try to use some words said in the heat of battle against our nominee. But I came to respect Barack Obama for his ____________ [insert sterling character trait]." 3) Specifically, he's more than ready to be commander in chief. ... 3:33 A.M.
John Edwards on Nightline on August 8: "[M]y wife has forgiven me." Are we sure this is still true? ... 3:10 A.M.
Time magazine's "hot shots" breakfast in Denver Tuesday morning showcased Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Artur Davis, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and D.A. Kamala Harris. 1) Booker and Davis are very impressive. Newsom, who seems kind of goofily egomaniacal, not so much. 2) Oprah BFF Gayle King was there, agreeing vigorously with Booker's comments; 3) Note to Pete Wehner: Joe "divided loyalties" Klein is not only still alive and employed but appears to be very much in favor at Time; 4) Davis said that although immigration wasn't a major area of dispute between McCain and Obama, it was "the most toxic issue" in the South, with "as many African Americans" as whites intensely concerned. He predicted it would be a huge issue in the 2009-2010 midterm election, at least if Obama wins. Why? Because the out of power GOP leadership will come to the strategic decision that the way to effectively discredit the Democrats is to unify in opposition to "comprehensive" reform (i.e., including semi-amnesty).
Right. That's why I'll be happy if Obama wins. Or, rather, why opponents of "comprehensive reform" should support Obama, even if on paper he's even more of a comprehensivist than McCain. Davis did not seem eager to hand unified Republicans an issue by voting on amnesty in Obama's first two years--a sentiment I suspect is widely shared among moderate Dems. ... 2:40 A.M. link
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Am I crazy to think this independent anti-Obama ad (on the William Ayers issue) is really, really effective--just shy of devastating--while Obama's fight-back response ad is only an 80% answer (ignoring the question of why Obama associated with the perpetrator of these "crimes"). ... That's the problem with the constant grassroots demands for aggressive Dem pushback. 1) The pushback is apt to be produced by partisans who think GOP "Swift Boat" attacks are sleazier than the voters think they are; and 2) partly as a consequence of (1), the pushback is apt to leave pregnant gaps; and 3) making a big deal of a GOP attack makes it a big deal. ... Is an 80% response under these circumstances better than no response? I'm not sure. ... But at least you'd think Obama wouldn't start the publicity-generating pushback until he'd defined himself in his big speech. Unless so many Ohioans had already seen the ads, and they were so damaging, that Obama had no choice. ... [via The Corner] 6:40 P.M. link
Most Audacious Claim of the Night:
Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from ...
Wales, right? 12:51 A.M.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
T hings We Thought We'd Never See: Democrats Rally Against the Teachers' Unions! I went to the Ed Challenge for Change event mainly to schmooze. I almost didn't stay for the panels, being in no mood for what I expected would, even among these reformers, be an hour of vague EdBlob talk about "change" and "accountability" and "resources" that would tactfully ignore the elephant in the room, namely the teachers' unions. I was so wrong. One panelist--I think it was Peter Groff, president of the Colorado State Senate, got the ball rolling by complaining that when the children's agenda meets the adult agenda, the "adult agenda wins too often." Then Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically--and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention! "The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he'd been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he'd gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause! Mayor Adrian Fenty of D.C. joined in, describing the AFT's attempt to block the proposed pathbreaking D.C. teacher contract. Booker denounced "insane work rules," and Groff talked about doing the bidding of "those folks who are giving money [for campaigns], and you know who I'm talking about." Yes, they did!
As Jon Alter, moderating the next panel, noted, it was hard to imagine this event happening at the previous Democratic conventions. (If it had there would have been maybe 15 people in the room, not 500.) Alter called it a "landmark" future historians should note. Maybe he was right.
P.S.: My favorite moment didn't concern the unions. It came when NYC schools chief Joel Klein called for a single national testing standard. Groff, a crowd favorite, made the conventional local elected officials' objection that you need flexibiity, one size doesn't fit all, "what works" in County X might not work in County Y. And he was booed! Loudly. By Democratic education wonks. Wow. (The "one size" argument cropped up in the welfare reform debate too--and I assume it's just as bogus in the education debate. We're a national economy with cities that look more or less alike. What works in County X is almost certainly also going to work in County Y.)
P.P.S.: John Wilson, head of the NEA itself, was also there. Afterwards, he seemed a bit stunned. He argued pols should work with unions, in pursuit of a "shared vision," not bash them. But isn't this a power struggle where you have to bash the other side to get leverage, I asked. "Then you have losers," he answered.
P.P.P.S.: Mickey's Assignment Desk: Has someone done the trend piece on all these smart, young, powerful bald,** black state and local elected officials--e.g., Fenty, Booker, Groff, Nutter--who are taking on their unions? You'd need a name. Hair Club for Men is already taken. Domeboys? ...
**--Nutter has a bit of hair on the sides. Maybe Groff too. Close enough for a trend. 5:12 P.M. link
Here's that Biden clip, right on cue. ... Biden clearly sizes up "Frank," who asks him where he went to law school and where he ranked in his class, as a silly credentialist snob. It's hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy with the Senator there. But again, what killed Biden about this clip wasn't his anger, or even the uncomfortable "IQ" crack (followed by the trademark uncomfortable teeth-baring smile). It was that Biden's insecure academic boasts were almost all bogus.**It certainly wasn't a Kinsley Gaffe. ... [Tks to reader J.]
**--Another class action suit! ... 2:23 A.M.
Road Trip Report: 1) Things you don't want to hear from behind the counter as you buy a cup of coffee in Richfield, Utah: "You know, I think that water's cleared up enough it might be all right now." 2) Best part of trip: Spotted Wolf. 3) Worst part of trip: Worries about automated speeding-ticket cameras after horror stories from gas station night clerk; 4) What is probably a famous traffic warning (on the I-70 slope going into Denver):
TRUCKERS ARE NOT DOWN YET
It must be the hats. ...
Update: Several emailers say the sign reads "TRUCKERS YOU ARE NOT DOWN YET." Same joke! ... P.S.: None of these is the sign I remember seeing. But I was going fast. ... 1:19 A.M.
Is David Brooks trying to sabotage Barack Obama? I think so. Discussing Obama on NPR Friday:
He's gotta tie himself to a theme that runs through everything. And the theme that's authentic to him is: He is the future. He is the kind of person who emerges in a global world. And that's what I'm looking for at the convention, whether he can do that. [E.A.]
Suggested slogan: "America is Over! Deal With It." ... Brooks must know this is incredibly bad advice. Even Gore Vidal would recognize that this is incredibly bad advice. Heck, even Susan Estrich ... 12:20 A..M.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Biden: Maybe when I get to Denver I'll find someone who'll explain to me why Biden is an inspired choice. He doesn't have gravitas. He has seniority. We've been waiting for him to mature for decades. Only Chuck Hagel (his chief competitor as Sunday morning gasbag) could make him look wise. ... Virtues: He's likable. ... I'm thinking. ... 11:19 A.M. link
MoveOn, NeverMind: "MoveOn now calls their being listed [alongside AT&T and PG&E] as a sponsor 'a mistake' (they're apparently sponsoring an event at the same time), and swears they're going to get their name taken off the publicity for the event." [E.A.] ... Here's the poster with MoveOn proudly listed. ...[Tks to reader J.] ... Democratic Social Equality Watch: A bigger question is why any left-wing, or Democratic organization should sponsor an event with one "general" concert for the masses and a second, separate "invitation only" concert (with "VIP acts") for the elite. ... Subtle! ... The "general" bill looks better, though. ... 12:36 P.M.
QUICK: You know, one of the things that the nation is watching is next week, the first of the conventions kicks off, the Democratic National Convention. Originally, John Edwards was expected to be speaking at that convention, but after some revelations and a spectacular fall about--some revelations about his private life, he will no longer be speaking at the convention. Warren, you're somebody who has been supporting Barack Obama. Did you ever give money to John Edwards along the way?
BUFFETT: No, I didn't--I didn't give money to John Edwards. And, in fact, I think if I'd given money to him, I'd probably be asking for it back now. It's an interesting situation because John Edwards essentially was soliciting money from people to further his ambitions for the presidency, and, you know, people sent him 50, $100, $200, and I would say that they sent it in while they were being misled by the person who was soliciting the money from them. And, you know, I think if I were Edwards, I might give up a haircut or two and refund at least, you know, the people that gave the 50 or $100, $200 items, because they-- if they had known the facts, they wouldn't have sent him the money, and he is the guy that didn't give them the facts. I mean, he knew that, in effect, he wouldn't be elected president. I mean, the story was out there during the campaign. He denied it, but it was out there. And, in fact, I've never heard of it, but it might be kind of interesting if somebody, some contributor, would bring a class-action suit on behalf of all these people who essentially were led to send money to a man under totally false circumstances, false pretenses, and where he knew it and didn't tell them the truth.
QUICK: Hm, that'd be ironic for a trial lawyer...
QUICK: ...to have a class-action lawsuit brought against him.
BUFFETT: I've seen a lot of class-action suits with less to it than this particular case. The facts are clear. I mean, he solicited money and he wasn't telling the truth to the people he was soliciting it from.
QUICK: How--have you had any discussions? I mean, obviously, you talked to a lot of people who are high ranked in the Democratic Party. Is that something that's been thrown around out there, or did you cook this up yourself?
BUFFETT: No, I don't think--I don't think I've heard of that. The--I don't talk to a lot of class-action lawyers, but I really think--I think those people were defrauded. They sent money under--with the person who was soliciting the money from them misinforming them even when the National Enquirer came out with it during his campaign,he kept soliciting money and saying it isn't true. I would think that they--it might be a pretty good class-action suit.
QUICK: Even to this day, he says that he--they had 99 percent of it wrong, even in the most recent interview John Edwards came up with, although he admits that he did have an affair with a woman.
BUFFETT: Well, he would have a chance at a class-action suit to respond to that.
Heh! ... I would think this would be a difficult precedent to contain--can donors sue McCain because he didn't, in fact, get "the message" from the defeat of his immigration semi-amnesty bill--and he knew it? Maybe businesses have to live with this sort of uncertain class-action threat when they dissemble. Politicians will never stand for it. ... 12:32 P.M. link
Susan Estrich on why she knew early on that the candidate whose campaign she was running would lose in 1988:
Sometimes you can look at the numbers, and doom stares you in the face. ... [snip] ... By the summer of 1988, the country had turned from believing we were on the wrong track to thinking we were on the right track. They thought my candidate, Governor Dukakis, was more conservative than he actually was — that's what beating Jesse Jackson every Tuesday will do for you.
Dukakis' campaign manager may be the only person in America who thinks he lost because he was seen as "more conservative than he actually was." ... [Tks to Z] ... Update: Emailer F suggests I'm misunderstanding Estrich:
She isn't saying people ultimately voted against Dukakis because he was too conservative. She's saying that he initially was leading in the polls because people perceived him to be more conservative than he was. When his ideological underpinnings became more apparent they turned against him.
That's not my reading of her column. In the very next sentence Estrich says, "By the fall, it was clear: right or wrong, they didn't like him." Would they be "wrong" if they came to correctly perceive that he was more liberal than they previously thought? Or is Estrich saying they persisted in their misperception of him? I think the latter. But "F" could be right. ... 11:34 A.M.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Why Biden Would Be Bad: There's a bit of C-SPAN tape that should surface quickly if he's named. ... Remember, it wasn't Biden's plagiarism that knocked him out of the 1988 race. It was "'I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do''--a bizarre videotaped putdown that Biden immediately called into question with five (5) boasts about his academic record, four (4) of which turned out to be easily disproved B.S. ... [you got a better candidate?--ed Zinni! ] ... [via Brothers Judd ] 1:16 A.M.
The Cruelty of Feiler: Comedian Bernie Mac died on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago. The following Monday, someone at the regular Slate editorial meeting--maybe me-- proposed a piece on him. The immediate, unamimous response: "Too late." Brutal! Work all your life, become a beloved public figure, go into syndication, then die tragically young--and you get, what, a day? ...
Screw that. Mary Battiata, an accidental fan of the Bernie Mac Show, explains its peculiar genius on Huffington Post. ... 12:44 A.M.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
WaPo story on Fannie Mae suggests 1) Paul Krugman was still at least deceptive when he glibly asserted the giant government-chartered company had "nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago" ** and 2) government regulations, which Krugman and others say prevented Fannie & Freddie Mac from taking on too much risk may also have been at least partly to blame for the risky subprime-loan-backed securities they did purchase:
Internal documents show that even late in the housing bubble, Fannie Mae was drawn to risky loans by a variety of temptations, including the desire to increase its market share and fulfill government quotas for the support of low-income borrowers. [E.A.]
**--Krugman might claim that 2006 and 2007, the years examined by WaPo, weren't "a few years ago." But most readers of his column would have missed that vague lawyerly qualifier. And Calculated Risk makes clear Fannie had quite a bit to do with fostering the subprime market before then, presumably also in pursuit of its "low-income borrower" goals. ... 3:21 A.M.
BLOCKBUSTER! Rielle Hunter Holding Angelina Jolie's Baby? New Enquirer photo of Rielle Hunter and her child: 1) Distinctive-looking little girl; 2) Love lips! 3) But not the only baby who's got 'em! 4) More than arguably similar to the blurry baby Edwards is holding in the Enquirer's earlier "spy" photo. ... 2:54 A.M.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sometimes it takes a while: Dick Morris says Obama should be "nominated by acclimation." So true. ... 7:18 P.M.
Mary Ann Akers reports that "as recently as last week" John Edwards was expressing interest in attending a Denver event.
[W]e were told by well-placed sources who asked to remain anonymous that Edwards did, indeed, express interest to One Campaign officials just last week in playing a role in Denver, where the former North Carolina senator is most certainly not welcome by party officials. (His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, is no longer scheduled to speak at the convention.)
Edwards aide Jonathan Prince now says, "Unequivocally, he is not going to Denver." ... 12:40 P.M.
Monday, August 18, 2008
On to Denver! When it comes to rounding up John Edwards news and links, I can't hope to compete with Deceiver. ... See esp. Lee Stranahan's informed speculations about future developments in the story, which now looks like it will run right into the Democratic convention. Obama's aides are probably not pleased. ... Howie Kurtz congratulates himself again: "I had a strong feeling last weekend when John Edwards finally acknowledged having an extramarital affair that we hadn't heard the end of this thing." Is Kurtz is the new Daniel Patrick Moynihan, able to react to any development by praising his own previous thoughts? (Even though Bill Wyman vainly pleaded, back before Edwards' semi-confession, "Howie Kurtz ...Only you can investigate why you haven't written this story.") ...
P.S.: Deceiver missed journalist Ann Louise Bardach's defense of her former tenant, Rielle Hunter, in the Santa Barbara Independent:
For two years, she rented digs from investigative reporter Ann Louise Bardach and her actor husband Bobby Lesser (Carpinteria residents) in Los Angeles, and they insist Hunter is not the Venus flytrap as portrayed on TV. They describe Hunter as smart, funny, and underneath that extravagantly New Age exterior, tough as nails and hard as rock.
P.P.S.: David Usborne asks: "Just days before the start of the Democratic convention in Denver, which will culminate in the crowning of Barack Obama, are we, in fact, seeing the early outlines of a first-rate political cover-up?" Only if Watergate was a first-rate burglary. ... 11:30 P.M.
Last October, John Edwards phoned his local North Carolina paper's editor, lied and played the cancer card in the attempt to prevent the paper from printing even his public denial of the Enquirer's original "affair" story. The only reason it can't be said the lie worked is that the paper had already wimped out, according to the editor, John Drescher. ... P.S.: The story of the Edwards Coverup, which has only begun to trickle out, is certainly providing a useful civic education in how powerful pols actually go about attempting to influence the MSM. It's one of those situations where unsophisticated people probably think the candidate himself calls the top editor directly to baldly influence coverage, while more sophisticated people know there are institutional procedures in place to protect against that sort of crude personal lobbying. Meanwhile, the really sophisticated people know the candidate himself calls the top editor directly to baldly influence coverage. ... P.P.S.: Whom else did Edwards--or maybe Elizabeth--call? ... [via Corner via Insta ] Update: How the competing Charlotte Observer ate Drescher's lunch while his paper (The News & Observer) was demonstrating "'the restraint that has marked The N&O 'sresponsible approach to the story.'" [via Deceiver] ... 2:35 P.M.
Once again an editor shies away from a discordant aspect of the Edwards scandal, namely the role of Elizabeth Edwards:
"Stop, stop. I don't want to go there. I do not like it, [the editor] said to a reporter's suggestion about the Elizabeth Edwards angle. "She's been hurt, she's lashed out."
Maybe the Enquirer will show up the MSM covering this angle too! Except that the editor who doesn't "want to go there" is the editor of the Enquirer. ... 1:45 A.M.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
The Unraveling--Andrew Young's Mom Isn't Buying Story #2! The mother of Andrew Young, the John Edwards aide who has claimed paternity of Rielle Hunter's daughter, makes it clear to the New York Post that she isn't buying that story.
Jacquelyn Aldridge made clear she deeply doubts her married son--Edwards campaign official Andrew Young---cheated on his beautiful wife and impregnated Edwards' paramour, Rielle Hunter, last year. ... [snip]
Asked if she believes two-time Democratic presidential contender Edwards, 55, is the real father, Aldridge declined to answer.
"I'm not supposed to talk," said the North Carolina woman.
Time to whisk her out of the country! ... Meanwhile, MSM reporters--having deemed it unnecessary to report on whether a leading, active Democratic pol, third-place presidential candidate and likely cabinet official cheated on his ill wife while making a big show of his loyalty and then lied about it to the public --have found an angle sufficiently tedious to be worth discussing with their readers: a possible campaign finance violation! Why does that prospect produce sudden investigative lust? Because government investigations of campaign finance violations can last years, involving lots of lawyers and government investigators who can then leak the fruits of their subpoena power to reporters in time to let everyone make it home for their kids' soccer game. And not even the Columbia Journalism Review will object. ... Unfortunately, as difficult as it is to not break some campaign finance law, the payments from Edwards's PAC to Rielle Hunter's film company may actually have been legal, according to the WSJ. .. 11:42 A.M.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine isn't buying Story #2. ... [Tks. to D.B.] 3:29 P.M.
Former Edwards Senate campaign manager Gary Pearce isn't buying Story #2. ... 1:09 P.M.
How big a victim is Elizabeth Edwards? A decision tree: Did John Edwards
A) finally come clean in his Friday evening Nightline interview! ... or
B) choose, when caught out in a lie, to recklessly erect a second edifice of BS regarding at least 1) whether this was his only affair; 2) when this affair started; 3) when it ended; 4) whether it was going on in mid-2007 when Rielle Hunter's child was conceived; 5) whether he thinks he might be the father; 6) whether he actually wants a paternity test; 7) why he visited Hunter at the Beverly Hilton; 8) whether he knew and/or tacitly approved of payments to Hunter and putative father Andrew Young. ...
i) the same lies he told his wife, Elizabeth--that the affair ended in 2006, etc.--so the Nightline's Story #2 was really an attempt to save his marriage now that his political career is over or
ii) lies designed more to preserve the possibility of a political comeback some time in the future by admitting only to a "short" affair, before his wife's cancer recurred, that did not involve any questionable campaign practices (such as using contributions to give your mistress a job that allows her to travel with you)?
It's not surprising that People magazine's new cover story portrays Elizabeth Edwards as the anguished victim motivated by "her determination to keep her family together." People is basicaly working from script (A), the one John Edwards undoubtedly wanted the MSM to work from when he prepared for Nightline. The Excruciating Anguish of Elizabeth (who "pushed her husband to finally come clean") would be a logical part of that PR strategy whether or not Edwards was telling the truth to Bob Woodruff.
What's surprising is that the non-MSM National Enquirer, which is decidedly not working from script (A)--it's out to puncture Edwards' Story #2-- also portrays Elizabeth as the victim. "He is still lying to America and his wife." the tab says. The Enquirer opts for B (i).
Let me raise the alternative, third possibility contained in B(ii): there is a Second Coverup and Elizabeth Edwards, rather than being its victim, is in on it up to her eyeballs! ** Why do I think this is a real possibility? First, Elizabeth was in on the first coverup, allowing her husband to go out and deny the initial Enquirer reports of his affair. (He admits to Woodruff that she knew these denials were false,) Second, she might see her legacy as bound up with her husband's--and also want her children to have a father with a political future.*** Third, Elizabeth Edwards is famously smart, and a lawyer. Does still she really think the Enquirer is just making up the part about how Edwards' affair with Hunter restarted around the time Hunter got pregnant? Does she think her husband knew nothing about the payments?
She can't possibly be as dumb as People thinks its readers are. ...
**--She could still be anguished!
***--I deny the Second Coverup would be designed to avoid having her children's father humiliated. If he'd actually came clean, in this scenario, it would more decisively kill his political career but arguably be less humiliating than being caught out in a second set of lies, which is what will probably happen now. Rather, the Second Coverup risked this extra double-humiliation for the sake of political survival (i.e., being able to later say "all I did was have a brief affair"). ... 2:39 A.M. link
Kos--- characteristically gracious! ... 12:51 A.M.
Andrew Young--paternity-claimer and ... real estate genius? [8/14 Note: See semi-major update/correction at that link] ... 12:50 A.M.
Walter Shapiro wonders how he got taken in by the Edwardses. ... 12:06 A.M.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Story #2--The Unraveling: In John Edwards' I-will-have-nothing-more-to-say statement, he declared:
With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006 and today I take full responsibility publicly. But that misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. It ended then. [E.A.]
Shockingly, this statement may be roughly accurate (except maybe for the "short" part!). But it helps to place a Clintonian emphasis on the year, 2006. "It ended then." The trouble is it started up again a while later, according to the newly credible National Enquirer.
After Edwards confessed the affair to his wife, he restarted it, and was sexually involved with Rielle when she became pregnant
Oh, you mean that misconduct. ... Hey, he didn't say he took responsibility for his actions in 2007. ... 12:43 P.M.
Ruth Marcus isn't buying Story #2. ... 12:05 A.M.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Bob Franken isn't buying Story #2. ... 12:21 P.M.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Andrea Mitchell isn't buying Story #2. ... 10:19 P.M.
Was Narcissus Kurtzistic? Howie Kurtz actually ends his WaPo piece--on the embarrassing failure of his paper and others to cover the Edwards scandal until Edwards himself confessed--on a note of self-congratulation:
Early last year, I wrote a column about the behind-the-scenes video that Hunter produced for Edwards's presidential run, a self-absorbed episode in which he said he would campaign "based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll." After watching the smooth-talking candidate preen for the camera, I questioned whether he was engaged in "carefully choreographed candor." I didn't know how right I was. [E.A.]
P.S.: Doe he know how wrong he is in his mis-potted history of recent sex scandals?
I don't think the party favoritism charge holds up. Yes, the media went hard after two Republican senators, Larry Craig (who pleaded guilty in that bathroom incident) and David Vitter (who admitted calling an escort service). But they also pounced on New York's Democratic then-governor, Eliot Spitzer (whose taste in prostitutes was revealed by the New York Times), and, famously, Bill Clinton (whose Monica Lewinsky mess was disclosed by The Post and hotly pursued by Newsweek). [E.A.]
And here I'd thought Michael Isikoff's original Lewinsky story was withheld by Newsweek--making it an odd data point for someone arguing that the mainstream media "pounced" on a Democrat. ... The Lewinsky scandal took off only after Matt Drudge reported that Isikoff's story wasn't being published. ... [Thanks to emailers M.G. and G.R.] 12:45 P.M.
Would it really hurt Obama if John Edwards went to Denver? The more he publicly defends himself, the more honest and upright he makes Obama look by comparison. And the smarter he makes Democratic primary voters look. ... 1:16 A.M.
USA Today isn't buying Story #2 ... 12:40 A.M.
John Tabin makes a good point about Rielle Hunter's refusal to allow a paternity test:
[Hunter's] response -- invoking her and her daughter's privacy -- is a little odd if she expects the test to come up negative. How much of an invasion of privacy is it to prove that someone isn't your child's father -- especially when you've already made public assertions about the child's paternity on the record?
Come to think of it, the statement put out by Hunter's lawyer, for all it's talking-point thoroughness, must have accidentally left out this sentence: "A paternity test is clearly unnecessary because I already know that the father of my child is Andrew Young." ... 12:27 A.M.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Edwards declares "it's not possible that [Rielle Hunter's] child could be mine," adding that he's "happy" to take a paternity test and "truly hopeful that a test will be done." The next day Rielle Hunter's lawyer says "Rielle will not participate in DNA testing."
Are you buying this? For one thing, if Edwards is really certain he isn't the father of the kid, wouldn't he have demanded a paternity test to clear his name, not just indicated his hope for a test? ... Too late to change the tone now! ...
P.S.-Story #2 is Elizabeth's too: Note also that it's not just John Edwards denying his paternity, it's his wife Elizabeth. In her Kos post she writes:
Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private. [E.A.]
Shouldn't she be demanding a paternity test? ... If Story #2 unravels and turns into Coverup #2, will it have been a coverup of which Elizabeth has now been an active (if not necessarily knowing) promoter? ... 2:56 A.M. link
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Story #2, Lie # 1: Sam Stein has emails sent by Rielle Hunter that already reveal one seemingly false assertion in Edwards' Modified Limited New Story--namely his claim that his "short" affair with Hunter didn't begin until after she began work as a campaign filmmaker in mid-2006:
Edwards and Hunter initially met each other sometime during the winter of 2006 (either late December 2005 or early January) in a hotel restaurant in midtown Manhattan. It would be another seven months before Edwards would first pay her for the documentary work. As Woodruff rightfully noted, the initial check cut to Hunter's film company was written on July 5, 2006, for the cost of $12,500.
What happened in between that winter meeting and the start of filming? Emails sent by Hunter suggest that her romance with Edwards was in full bloom that spring. In early April, Hunter wrote about a trip she had taken to North Carolina to see the man whom she affectionately referred to as "my love lips."
A week later she wrote another email in which she described the mental anguish of "being in love with a (still somewhat dysfunctional) married man."
Rather than Edwards having a fling with a staffer, Stein speculates, "Edwards hired her as a front to continue their relationship." ... But it's not true that Hunter had no filmmaking experience prior to being hired. She was actress, writer and producer for Billy Bob and Them! ...
P.S.: Hunter's lawyer has issued a statement saying she will not "participate in DNA testing" of her daughter. Convenient! No doubt some of Edwards' rich friends will now send her tens of thousands of dollars behind his back to try to persuade her to agree to the test and clear John's name (by validating Story #2's central claim that he is not the father). ... Wouldn't Hunter's statement seem a little more authentic if it wasn't PR'ed to an inch of its life to mesh with the Edwards anti-tab talking points? ("Rielle is a private individual. She is not running for public office.")
P.P.S.: According to WaPo,Enquirer editor David Perel explicitly says there were two meetings at the Hilton, not just one. ... More to explain! ... 6:46 P.M.
[Note:Points 1 and 2 of this item are based on a misreading, which pretty much completely vitiates them. See below. Or feel free to skip to point 3] HuffPo reporter Sam Stein, who kick-started the Rielle Hunter scandal, begins to cast a shadow on Edwards' Story #2-- last night's semi-confession in which Edwards admits only to a "short" affair back "in 2006 two years ago." 1) Stein notes that Hunter and Edwards didn't meet until the "winter of 2006." 2) Stein then says
Edwards would see Hunter for at least a year. How much of that time they were romantically engaged remains a mystery.
That at least suggests that 2007, not 2006, might be the relevant ending-year; [ Correction: By "winter of 2006" Stein means 'winter of 2005-2006,' not 'winter of 2006-2007." A year from 2005-2006 wouldn't necessarily take you into 2007. Never mind!] 3) As for the paternity of the child, claimed by loyal Edwards aide Andrew Young, Stein thinks
[A]llegations of Young's involvement seemed dubious both when they first surfaced and now.
Will there be a Story #3? Our National Edwards Nightmare may not be over. ... 1:54 A.M.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Your MSM buddy system at work: John Edwards has already broken his "will have nothing more to say" promise, calling CBS's Bob Schieffer. Schieffer admits "I've known John Edwards a long time" and starts right in building the new Edwards myth:
"He said he said he just couldn't live with the constant pounding from the tabloids. It wasn't going to stop, I was being dogged and dogged, for the sake of my family I just had to end it, for the sake of my family. ... "
Edwards also said, in Schieffer's words, that he had "no plans to go to the Democratic convention"--which somehow gets transformed, in the Politico's headline, into "Edwards to CBS: Won't appear at convention." Not the same thing. ... According to a second Politico story, "he told ABC earlier that he was leaving the option open." ...
Update: Elizabeth Edwards is already up on Kos with a diary attacking "the present voyeurism." ... HuffPo's Lee Stranahan, a former Edwards supporter, responds "Say It Ain't So, Elizabeth: You Knew But Let Him Run." Excerpt:
[I]f you're an Edwards supporter, let me put this bluntly; if you gave John and Elizabeth Edwards time, money, support, or goodwill, they played you.
They made a conscious decision to make their relationship a focus throughout the campaign. That emotional goodwill you feel for them? They not only let you feel, they took actions and made statements specifically so you would feel it.
Then when the rumors first surfaced, they made the worst decision of all; they decided to lie about it and to keep lying about it for months. They lied in a way that made the people who were telling the truth look like the real liars. They lied in a way that turned their supporters into attack dogs. They only started to tell the truth when John Edwards was caught at the Beverly Hills Hilton and even now both John and Elizabeth Edward are callin[g] the people who caught him the liars ...
5:56 P.M. link
Edwards: 'I Lied. It's Friday. Can I Go to Denver Now?' John Edwards finally confesses, sort of, on ABC News. He admits he lied repeatedly about his affair with Rielle Hunter, but denies he's the father of her child and specifically seems to be trying to deny cheating on his wife after the recurrence of her illness:
Edwards made a point of telling [Bob] Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair with Hunter.
Edwards also "admitted the National Enquirer was correct when it reported he had visited Hunter at the Beverly Hills Hilton last month." ...
1) Textbook PR timing: Friday, Olympics, a small war. Not quite a Jo Moore Day, but not bad. ...
2) Obvious question: Why visit Hunter in the early morning hours if he does "not love her" and is not her child's father? ... But I think the question is actually even more difficult to answer than that. ...Look again at the Enquirer's photo of Edwards holding a baby in front of the Hilton's telltale drapes. Edwards is wearing a sweaty blue t-shirt. But the Enquirer reported that on the night they ambushed him, he was at least initially wearing a "blue dress shirt." One possible explanation for the discrepancy: he visited her and the baby at the hotel more than once, and the photo is from an earlier visit. ... Just speculating! ... But if you read the Enquirer's accompanying text closely, they don't say the photo was taken on the same day they ambushed him, only at the same hotel. ... If this theory is right, Edwards has even more explaining to do than it initially seems. ... Update: Edwards claims to ABC that the late July meeting with Hunter at the Hilton was an attempt to "keep this mistake I had made two years previously private." ...
3) Was it smart for Edwards to potentially annoy Rielle Hunter by saying he "did not love her"? Is she going to give her side of the story now? Doesn't he want her to think favorably of him if she does? Edwards denies paying her money but "saiid it was possible some of his friends or supporters may have made payments without telling him." If so, are these helpful friends continuing their top secret payments?
4) A paternity test seems inevitable, no? [Update: Edwards has volunteered to take one. Make sure it's not Mudcat Saunders who gets the DNA from the kid.] If Edwards wanted to snake out of this scandal, the cunning way to do it was always to build up press anticipation of a paternity test and then have the test come back negative (after which the press will forget that he still cheated). He may have now lucked on to this strategy by accident. But paternity isn't the key moral question, it seems to me. It's whether Edwards treated his wife as honorably as he unsubtly boasted in the campaign (plus his subsequent coverup, and what it involved). Whether Edwards continuted the affair after the recurrence of her illness is one factor in making that judgment (and paternity would be damning evidence in that regard, given the timing). Whether he thought he was the father, and continued seeing Hunter for that reason, is more important than whether he actually turns out to be the father.
5) WIll the MSM, having given Edwards an epic, embarrassing pass, now question the line he has drawn (non-paternity, that the affair only occured during "a short period in 2006,"placing it before the recurrence of Elizabeth's cancer)?** There is now one player in this scandal with far less credibility than the National Enquirer, after all. Edwards may be overestimating the willingness of reporters to roll over for him one more time. ..
6) Edwards claims in his just-released statement that he's learned, in the context of his dismissal of the Enquirer, that "being 99% honest is no longer enough." 99% honest? Edwards' rigorous self-inventory of his narcissitic moral failings ("You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself") may be incomplete.
**--Byron York reported, pre-confession, that the commonly-held idea that MSM organizations were waiting for their own independent reporting to confirm the Enquirer was a myth--there was "not a lot of independent reporting" going on, ABC and Fox excepted:
Instead, some big-time journalists seem to believe the Enquirer has nailed the story, and they are waiting for the tabloid to release the full results of its reporting. In the meantime, they are staying away from the story because it appeared in the Enquirer. In other words, they're waiting for the Enquirer to fully report a story that they wouldn't otherwise report… because it's in the Enquirer.
The question is whether this independent reporting will now commence, or whether editors who never wanted to have to discuss the story will let Edwards' half-confession go untested. ... 1:03 P.M. link
Thursday, August 7, 2008
John Edwards' fellow Democrats see silence as a bad move
Does it matter if the NY Times, Time and NBC News don't report it if mid-level metropolitan papers and bloggers do? I'd say a fair test is whether Jay Leno's audience gets his John Edwards jokes. He told one last Tuesday. It bombed--it was clear nobody in the seats had heard about the Edwards allegations. But that could, in theory, change, even if the biggest MSM players remain protective. ...
P.S.:Gawker's Ryan Tate effectively ridicules the MSM's Denver Excuse. ... 11:32 P.M.
Barack Obama is inspiring us like a desert lover, a Washington Valentino. ..[snip] My musician friends and I are writing songs to inspire people and couples all over America are making love again and shouting "yes we can" as they climax! [E.A.]
Michael Kinsley emails about the Edwards/Hunter story:
AS for your laundry list of reasons to cover it, I think there's one more much simpler: the MSM told a story about Edwards—they told it often and loud—it was probably one of the best-known and totally accepted stories of the 2008 campaign: John loyally standing by his loyal wife as she deals with cancer. If the story isn't true, they should run a correction. My god, look at the things they run corrections over—the spelling of people's names, and so on. Yet they're leaving this huge story uncorrected, and leaving their readers misinformed. No?
5:34 P.M. link
Obama: "We don't want to return to marginal tax rates of 60 or 70 percent." Good to hear! He was getting close, by some calculations. ... 3:17 P.M.
One obvious possible solution to the Democrats' Denver Dilemma (see below):Give Elizabeth Edwards a prominent speaking role, while John is off on his hurriedly scheduled Global Poverty Tour. ... 12:31 P.M.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
If Edwards fails to clear up the story in short order, he risks party officials deciding not to have him speak or, if they do, creating a distraction from a week focused on Barack Obama accepting the nomination.
"If there is not an explanation that's satisfactory, acceptable and meets high moral standards, the answer is 'no,' he would not be a prime candidate to make a major address to the convention," said Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chair.
And the old gang is rallying around the son of a mill worker!
Friends and former staffers refuse to comment now, though they helped Edwards last fall by dismissing an October story in the Enquirer of a sexual relationship between Edwards and a campaign videographer when it initially broke.
"Sorry cannot help you on this one," wrote Jennifer Palmieri, a former top Edwards aide, in an e-mail Wednesday.
Update: In an interview with Byron York calculated to terrify Dem stage managers, Enquirer editor David Perel hints that a convention-week climax may be exactly what he is aiming for:
"Obviously, the convention has not been our driving force behind the story," Perel says. "The reporting takes however long it takes. It took seven months to go from the December story to the [Beverly Hilton] meeting… . But if it happens to be a happy coincidence — if the story just happens to be breaking around that time, in terms of maximum exposure — " Perel pauses. If the convention wasn't part of the timetable before, it is now.
How long before prominent Democrats begin telling their MSM friends that it really looks like there's something to this Edwards story? ... 8:00 P.M. link
Ann Coulter on the bizarreness of the moment:
The mainstream media's reaction to the National Enquirer's reports on John Edwards' "love child" scandal has been reminiscent of the Soviet press. Edwards' name has simply been completely whitewashed out of the news. ... I suspect that if I tried to look up coverage of the Democratic primaries in Nexis news archives, Edwards' name will have disappeared from the debates. By next week, Edwards won't have been John Kerry's running mate in 2004.
Banned-by-Kos Lee Stranahan: John Edwards needs to stop taking the fall for Andrew Young. ... 7:54 P.M.
MSM: You want photos ... Old MSM line: We demand photos! ... New MSM line: We demand high definition photos! ... 11:56 A.M.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Undernews seep: Inquirer's sister paper on Enquirer. "Are we mainstream or not? We're going to get a complex." ... 2:35 A.M.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Why write about the Edwards scandal? Here's a short clip-'n'-save response to those (including many friends) who argue the Edwards scandal shouldn't be pursued--or at least pursued too vigorously-- even if it is true:**
1. No "private citizen": Edwards was certainly a contender for VP, or a big cabinet post like Attorney General, or even the Supreme Court, before the scandal first erupted in the "undernews" in late 2007. Some reporters say he was still on Obama's VP list until quite recently. If he's now finished as far as those big jobs are concerned, it's in large part because of this scandal, which Obama might never have learned about if everyone had followed the MSM's lead. Even now, Edwards may not be out of the running for an array of lesser public posts--including cabinet-grade positions--that provide non-trivial power and a platform for future advancement. Important unions back him. Until last week, he'd been traveling the country keeping himself in the public eye in a way well-designed to let him play a big national role in either the Obama administration or the opposition to the McCain administration. It's silly to say "he's just a private citizen"--he's much less of a "private citizen" than, say, William Bennett was in 2003 when Jonathan Alter and Joshua Green torpedoed Bennett's career by revealing his gambling habits.
What makes the scandal awful and unpleasant--as opposed to the Bennett scandal, which was delicious--is that Edwards has a very ill wife. But, as Susan Estrich has noted, that's also what makes Edwards' alleged behavior awful and unpleasant--more objectionable than anything Bennett was accused of doing.
2. Hypocrisy: Ah, but Bennett was a hypocrite-- a man whose chief claim to national attention was as a sophisticated moral scold who turned out to have a major gambling jones. Edwards is a hypocrite too, in much the same way. Why, after all, was Edwards ever considered presidential material. Is he a great executive? No. A brilliant policy expert? No. An accomplished diplomat? No. He's an ex-Senator with one undistinguished term in office who rose in life on the basis of his singular ability to use tearjerking stories to move juries and win large verdicts . His presidential campaign has featured similarly moving anecdotes, such as the famous 10-year old girl "somewhere in America" who goes to bed "praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn't have the coat to keep her warm."
Edwards' most effective anecdote this year, however, was probably the story of his popular wife Elizabeths' struggle against cancer. He made it the emotional center of a TV ad:
And Elizabeth and I decided in the quiet of a hospital room, after 12 hours of tests and after getting very bad news, what we were going to spend our lives doing. For all those that have no voice. We are not going to quietly go away.
During a joint 60 Minutes interview focusing on his wife's illness, Edwards explicitly linked his behavior in that struggle and his fitness for public office:
Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this.
Here's what I would say about that.
First of all, there's not a single person in America that should vote for me because Elizabeth has cancer. Not a one. ..[snip]
But, I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make. [E.A.]
3. Relevance: If a politician is a great executive, thinker or diplomat who cheats on his brave, ill wife, you figure, "OK, We're not hiring him because of his sterling private behavior." If a politician whose chief appeal is his self-advertised loyalty to his brave, ill wife cheats on his brave ill wife, what's he good for again? And if Edwards' crucial talent as a public official is his ability to move people with tearjerky anecdotes, and those anecdotes (like the tale of his spousal loyalty, or the girl with no coat, or the anecdote that reportedly made John Kerry queasy about him)--turn out to be BS or half BS, that's more than random hypocrisy, It goes to the core of what he does and what he claims to offer. (I'd also argue that an emotional, anecdote-led liberal approach to poverty inevitably tends toward the failed solution of simply sending poor people cash welfare, but that's another argument.)
4. Irresponsibility: How irresponsible was it to seek the party's nomination knowing that this scandal was lurking around, ready to explode? What if he'd won? Are we sure it wouldn't have been discovered by the McCain campaign before November? Rock stars get to behave this badly because they're only rock stars. Worst that happens is the band breaks up. What if Edwards actually got elected--and then the scandal was discovered when he was in office? Did Democrats enjoy the Lewinsky years?
5. The Coverup:If the scandal is true, it almost certainly means that during the campaign Edwards presided over an elaborate coverup involving at least a) having an aide wrongly claim paternity and b) having other aides go out and lie to reporters. It probably also included payments of money to cooperating parties and various familiar slurs on the character of the 'other woman,' Rielle Hunter. All this would obviously be germane to Edwards' fitness to hold any office, including clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Even if Edwards were to forswear all future public employment, there'd be an interest in documenting and publicizing his role in the coverup for the same reason we track down bank robbers 10 years after the crime--to deter others from pulling the same stunt in the future.
The only legitimate reason not to cover this scandal, it seems to me, is simple sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards--and I've gotten enough emails from anguished and angry members of the MSM to conclude, with Estrich, that it's the prime reason for the MSM blackout. True, I also suspect that if Mrs. Edwards were a conservative Republican, or even an unbeloved Democrat, the MSM might somehow find a way to overcome this compassionate sentiment. But that doesn't make it wrong. Reporters don't have to print everything. You could conclude that the need to protect Mrs. Edwards her children is so great, the karma of Enquiring so bad, that all of the obvious, public-interesty reasons for covering the story should be thrown out the window. And if John Edwards were already so damaged that in practice he'd never get a significant public office even if he wants one, I might agree (even if that meant sacrificing the deterrent effect of full exposure).
But that's a point that clearly hasn't been reached yet, at least not while most Americans are being kept in the dark about what, exactly, has led to Edwards' mysterious disappearance from the political oddsmakers' charts. A man arrogant and ambitious enough to think he can run for president posing as a loyal husband while keeping his second family secret, even as he visits his mistress in a famous hotel that is hosting a convention of journalists, will be arrogant and ambitious enough to keep hiding under the shield of his wife's illness until he can attempt a comeback-- if given the chance.
The alternative, it seems to me, is to let affection for Mrs. Edwards suck journalists into a Print-the-Legend world where they must spend their time burnishing--or at least accepting--the story powerful people and institutions want them to tell, the story of the wonderful Edwards marriage, rather than figuring out and telling readers the truth. If I wanted to be in that business I'd be a publicist.
**--For purposes of this item, I'm assuming we're reaching the next-to-final stage of the natural progression in cases like this: 1) Too horrible and shocking; it can't possibly be true; 2) It's not true; 3) You can't prove it's true; 4) Why are you trying to prove it's true? 5) It's disgusting that you've proved it's true; 6) What's the big deal anyway? ... 10:15 P.M. link
The LAT is more like Daily Kos than it wants to admit (and vice versa): The Daily Kos has banned longtime blogger Lee Stranahan for writing calm, clear-headed posts assessing the evidence in the John Edwards scandal--posts saying things like:
Edwards needs to clear this up so we can get on with the business of forgiving him and moving on. As progressives, we need to rise above the false choice between blind judgment and blind apathy. We're the reality based community, remember?
Inflammatory! ...Now we know where Tony Pierce can always find a job. ... 1:37 P.M.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Faster Comics--Jay Leno Beats NBC News: Charlotte's WCNC airs a hostile, smart, doomy segment on the "scandal brewing." Pegged to Edwards "ducking reporters," plus the suggestive birth certificate. ... Leno, Conan jokes featured. Leno's is even funny. ... Resonant clip from campaign "webisode." ... Reporter Stuart Watson says Edwards is in danger of "disappearing from the national stage ... unless he finds a way to squelch this story fast." ... Maybe he did: It would be paranoid to notice that the segment isn't featured on the station's Web site. ... Update: Strangely, I am paranoid! Video is on main WCNC video playlist and on the "Investigators" page. ... 12:18 P.M.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
One option John Edwards must be considering. If anyone could pull it off .... 3:25 A.M.
Dissent in the MSM: Rebellious nibbling from mid-rank players who are harder to coopt than the New York and Washington elites:
"Facing Questions, Edwards Evades Reporters" ...
On Wednesday, Edwards apparently ducked out a side area used by the kitchen staff in the fourth-floor ballroom of Washington's historic Hotel Monaco. Edwards emerged from a lower-level handicap ramp near the rear of the hotel with two men. When approached by a Charlotte Observer reporter, Edwards said, "Can't do it now, I'm sorry" and quickly walked past.
Asked what he was doing at the Beverly Hilton last week, Edwards said "sorry" and got into a waiting car with the other men.
Update: The News & Observer also reports that the birth certificate for Rielle Hunter's daughter lists no father. The paper's reporters seem skeptical of Hunter's lawyer's explanation. (Birth certificate posted here.)
There are simply a lot of good questions. Edwards already squirmed out of one such query at a press conference, but his political career appears to be over unless he can talk his way out of this one.
So it's time the major media picked up the story. It's not merely the stench of liberal bias that bothers me but the unfortunate reality that we in the MSM are giving up a good story to the internet. And if we in the major media continue to cede such stories to the internet, we won't be major much longer.
So far, there has not been a denial from either Edwards or the woman, who once produced videos for the Edwards presidential campaign, about the alleged escapade in Beverly Hills.
And if it's all a simple misunderstanding, if John Edwards was dropping by a hotel suite at 2 a.m. to say hello to a former campaign worker, then maybe someone should suggest to the politician that he come out and say that. Maybe it was his $500-a-cut hairdresser, for goodness sakes! In which case, money well spent. In any case, it doesn't seem like this is the kind of story that is going to fade into the mists of time.
P.S.--Maybe it's not the coverup: Interestingly, none of these MSM stories is about the alleged "cover up." They're all about what the "cover up" would cover up. ... 2:43 A.M. link
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
They Like to Watch: Rachel Sklar's link-rich summary analysis of the howling void in most of the MSM regarding the Edwards/Hunter controversy seems about right to me: They'll report it when they "have to"--when there are no excuses left. Meanwhile, they will desperately think of reasons to not cover it.** ... P.S.: Not covering it is not the same as not knowing about it. It's a strangely passive, yet cost-effective, attitude:
[T]he Edwards story: Alive and well on the blogs, completely absent from the MSM. Is the MSM unaware of it? Hardly — everyone knows, and they're all waiting for the shoe to drop. Back in December, I asked a veteran MSM-er about the story, and was told that "we're watching it." But watching isn't the same as reporting — and back in December, John Edwards was still a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination. [E.A.]
**--with some possible exceptions! ... 6:41 P.M. link
John Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter – the mother of his "love child" – has been secretly receiving $15,000 a month as part of an elaborate cover-up orchestrated by the former presidential contender. ...
The money is being funneled to Hunter by a wealthy colleague who was closely tied to the Edwards' campaign ... [E.A.]
Not clear from the posted summary if the Enquirer got any response from the Edwards camp to this particular charge. (The printed issue is advertised as having "more details.") ... P.S.: It's hard to believe that the name of this alleged "wealthy colleague," described by "a source" as "a super-rich pal--who was closely involved with the campaign finances," will remain a secret for long. ... Here's one place to start searching. ... Or you could just call Tom Edsall. ...[Via Gawker, which takes some precisely targeted shots at the MSM--although it's silly for Gawker to say that the Enquirer's photographs "in and of themselves" would prove "precisely nothing scandalous." In context, the photos would be powerful evidence. Enquirer editor David Perel apparently doesn't want to win over the MSM by releasing them. He'd rather have the Edwards story all to himself.] ... 3:27 A.M. link
More Layoffs, Please--Part XVIII: You can read a better analysis of the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal on will.i.am's Dipdive "lifestyle engine" than in the mighty Los Angeles Times. ... Of course, you can't read any analysis of the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal in the mighty Los Angeles Times. But if you could, Dipdive's would probably still be better. ... P.S.: This Bloggasm interview with LAT omertapparatchikTony Pierce suggests the paper's metro reporters came up empty-handed in their vaunted investigation of the Enquirer's charges:
I asked Pierce if the metro desk had the chance to follow up on the story, and if so, would he send out another post allowing his bloggers to write about it. He said that to his knowledge the LA Times reporters hadn't found any additional information and expressed some skepticism of the National Enquirer story's authenticity.
I guess that's it, then. Nothing more to say about it, really. ... Fox? We know of no "Fox." ... P.P.S.: After all, as Pierce says,
"This isn't something you would normally see in a newspaper more than once. We already wrote the one post quoting the National Enquirer [which slipped out before Pierce's ban--kf] and I don't think you'd see more than that if there were no blogs and this was just a newspaper."
That must be why the LAT has all those blogs: So you won't find out anything more than "if there were no blogs." A clear strategic mission statement for the Web 2.0 era. They rockin'! ... 2:06 A.M.
If Mike Murphy wants to take over the McCain campaign, shouldn't he stop giving semi-critical quotes to the New York Times? ... 1:08 A.M.
Politicized hiring-- in Hollywood? Is there a Hollywood blacklist that operates against conservatives? Andrew Breitbart argues yes. As if to provide him with fresh evidence, Jeffrey Wells fantasizes about Jon Voight's career trajectory in the wake of Voight's not-nearly-cracked-enough dogmatic attack on Obama:
But you'd think an arch conservative working in an overwhelmingly liberal town would think about restraining himself for expediency's sake, if nothing else. ... [snip]
But it's only natural that industry-based Obama supporters will henceforth regard him askance. Honestly? If I were a producer and I had to make a casting decision about hiring Voight or some older actor who hadn't pissed me off with an idiotic Washington Times op-ed piece, I might very well say to myself, "Voight? Let him eat cake."
Wells later denies he's seriously urging Voight's non-hiring, but not before offering this handy and apparently familiar Hollywood rationale for doing just that:
It's been said in this town many times that the right has a debt to pay for the blacklisting of lefties in the '50s, and that in all fairness it's probably going to take a long time to make amends. The fact is that the philosophical grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today's right-wingers ruined the lives of many Hollywood screenwriters in the '50s, and so their descendants now have to suffer and make up for that. Simple. As you sew so shall you reap. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. [E.A.]
I tend to think Hollywood conservatives do face some employment barriers--but if you enter an industry that's inherently about ideas and politics can you really complain if people who disagree with you don't want to work with you? (The same might be said for the Department of Justice, but that's another item.)
P.S.: Breitbart's blacklisted father-in-law, Orson Bean, has a nuanced memory of the 50s:
Aside from the inconvenience of having a career ruined, being blacklisted in the '50s was kind of cool. You were doing 'the right thing.' Hot, left-wing girls admired you. You hadn't 'named names.' The New York Times was on your side. And you knew it would pass.
12:02 A.M. link
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
NE to MSM--No Pix Fix: Don't expect any photos of the Edwards Hilton Hunt in the next issue of the National Enquirer. Radar's Neel Shah interviews Enquirer editor David Perel, who says the Enquirer "definitely" has photos but
he won't be putting them in tabloid's next issue, or making them accessible online.
"It's a story that we're taking a long view of," Perel told Radar by phone. "We've got a big exclusive coming out this week, and we are on the trail of some stuff that's even hotter." [E.A.]
Perel told me much the same thing when I followed up--that it's "not about the photos but about the rest of the story, and the story is just going to get bigger from here."
This seems like a tragic mistake on Perel's part. Why? Rationally or irrationally**, release of the photos has become the talismanic MSM/bien pensant test for whether the Enquirer can be believed about anything. Release them now and the big dailies and networks will all jump into the Edwards investigation, sources will talk (because they're either emboldened or terrified of looking bad), the whole story will come out in short order. Wikipedia will unlock! And the nation will be able move on.
Delay releasing the pics--in hopes of pursuing a "bigger" story, whatever that is--and you give Edwards time to regroup. You give the Protect Elizabeth lobbyists time to call up their media mogul friends (including the ones who own the Enquirer). You discourage truth-telling sources from sticking their necks out while you encourage ass-covering sources to remain loyal to Team E. We could end up with seven months of seething undernews rebellion, no MSM coverage of either the Rielle scandal or whatever "hotter" story the Enquirer documents***--and, next year, H.H.S. Secretary John Edwards.
It's like the famously parodied scene in a Bond film where instead of just shooting poor Bond the villain tries to stage some more elaborate and prolonged auto da fe, with the result that Bond is able to escape.
And it's hard not to completely suppress the feeling that the Enquirer is milking the story to boost its role (and, not incidentally newsstand sales). After being scorned by the Edwards-defending MSM last fall, Perel may understandably be content with building a separate EnquirerWorld where refugees from the mainstream matrix can go to learn the truth for the next few weeks. But that assumes he can pull off his long-term story plan without some other outfit scooping him three weeks out. Why make Dr. Evil's mistake?
Anyway, weeks and weeks of uncertainty aren't in the national interest. And they aren't in my interest. (I'd like to go back to obsessing about something else.)
At least Perel has declared he has photos. But unless he releases them there will always be the suspicion that he's bluffing. After all, why did his reporters so quickly file a complaint against hotel security with the local police? One obvious possible goal was to obtain the security camera tapes. Are those tapes so important because the Enquirer actually doesn't have other photographic evidence? I don't think that's the reason, but I don't know for sure. If Perel released even a little teaser photo--and I'd settle for white knuckles gripping a bathroom door--that would help erase a lingering suspicion that the Enquirer's photogarpher was out of position, or perhaps plagued by the world's only defective camera.
How about that compromise, Mr. Perel? Tease with at least one image. Then you can milk it all you want.
And they say kausfiles isn't solution-oriented!
**--The answer is "irrationally," because a) the Enquirer has a better track record than that and b) there is substantial non-Enquirer evidence that Edwards was at the hotel-- Fox has interviewed a security guard, and Edwards pointedly hasn't denied it. But the MSM is demanding photos. And the customer is always right. ...
***--"Hotter"? I could see why the (possible) story of the (possible) coverup and any (possible) money transactions as suggested by Shah might be maybe "bigger," or "more significant." But "hotter"? One part of the potential story involves sex. The other involves checks. Which one are Enquirer readers more interested in? ... 7:02 P.M. link
Monday, July 28, 2008
Waiting for Fotot: I missed the solid item on the John Edwards "Two Families" scandal that the Charlotte Observer published last Thursday. (Typical of the MSM--even when they have good news judgment they have poor Search Engine Optimization.) Reporter Jim Morrill's interview with National Enquirer editor David Perel seems useful for frustrated undernews followers wondering what happened to the Enquirer's rumored photographs:
I asked [Enquirer editor David] Perel about photos or eyewitness accounts. He wouldn't talk about that.
"Well, stay tuned, that's all I can say," he said. "Everything's done incrementally. So I'm not going to tell you exactly what our process is. Perhaps my time frame is different than your time frame. I'm not worried about the rest of the media. I'm worried about us." [E.A.]
Is the Enquirertiming release of the photos to coincide with the arrival of its print edition on newsstands later in the week? A week is long! Is no MSM journalist able to break the story in the meantime--or are they all lazily waiting on the Enquirer? (Note to MSM reporters: Call me. I can give you some leads.)
Morrill also gets a solid quote from former Democratic National Committee chair Don Fowler, who seems not to have gotten the omerta memo: "
"If you had this rumor about Bill Clinton it probably wouldn't cause a ripple," he said. "But given John Edwards and his public relationship with his wife, something close to a model of the perfect family and their perfect relationship, it would hurt that much more."
11:32 A.M. link
BHTV 50 Seconds of Truth! The Usual Media Thing regarding the "n"-word, explained. ... 1:31 A.M.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
STEPHANOPOULOS: "Opponents of affirmative action are trying to get a referendum on the ballot here that would do away with affirmative action. Do you support that?"
MCCAIN: "Yes, I do. I do not believe in quotas. But I have not seen the details of some of the proposals. But I've always opposed quotas."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "But the one here in Arizona you support?"
McCAIN: "I support it, yes."
McCain at first tried fo fudge, then got bullied into a "yes"--the same thing that basically happened with his answer on immigration at the Reagan library debate. McCain's clumsiness may indicate that his endorsement isn't exactly bankable--his spokesman was unprepared to defend it when Obama immediately brought up McCain's characterization of an earlier anti-affirmative action measure as "divisive." ("I do not have a firm enough grasp on the historical and relevant context of McCain's remark in 1998 to give you the pushback that this question deserves," the spokesman said, in a formulation that may become the Universal Punt in the idiotic daily news-cycle war.)
Yet maybe McCain has stumbled on to a strategic masterstroke. He's behind, after all. His big issue--Iraq--has just been seemingly defused. He's no expert on the economy. He's old and his formerly winning personality is starting to grate. He could do worse than make the election a national referendum on Connerly's initiative to ban affirmative action, which tends to win by large margins whenever it is actually placed on a ballot. Does Steve Schmidt have a better idea? ...
P.S.: In a precious moment of calm, Andrew Sullivan posts a sensible analysis of how Obama might respond. [Sullivan's away. Item was written by Chris Bodenner--ed I finally know what they mean by "the exception that proves the rule."]
P.P.S.: Weekend chat shows were bloated with talk of the McCain campaign's recent general incompetence. I know that Mike Murphy's comeback bid is over, finished, he "will not be reboarding the Straight Talk Express," and "the matter is now been resolved." Politico told us! But at this rate don't you think Murphy will be running the campaign by August? ... 10:42 P.M. link
More evidence of the new realism about Edwards on the left. Alex Koppelman in Salon:
I know what you're thinking: Why even bother with anything printed by the Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid you probably think of as the kind of "newspaper" that focuses on rumors that Elvis Presley is alive -- and leading a band of rampaging space aliens? ...[snip] That's not really the Enquirer's niche, though. It gets confused with publications like the defunct Weekly World News, but in fact the Enquirer is surprisingly good at reporting on these kinds of stories, and it has a decent track record with them. It was the Enquirer that published the photo of Donna Rice sitting on Gary Hart's lap. It was the Enquirer that broke the story of Rush Limbaugh's addiction to painkillers. And new information about the Edwards story makes the Enquirer's reporting on it look more solid.
Not all of Koppelman's commenters are on board! (Sample: "J.D. Rockefeller, back in the 1900's sent hired guns into a camp of striking mine workers. ...When you threaten the power base in this country, watch out.") But he has more support than you'd expect. ... 9:46 P.M.
The truth is that I believe anyone who looks into the John Edwards / Rielle Hunter affair story will see that Edwards has, at best, acted in a very suspicious manner for over a year now. ...
Let's go with the assumption that Edwards is innocent for a moment; he didn't have the affair so the baby isn't his. If he didn't do anything wrong then it seems like he'd have good reasons to stop the rumors. A DNA test months ago would have ended all speculation about the paternity of the baby. Isn't that a better, less suspicious move than pulling down all the videos that Rielle Hunter helped produce about him for his campaign? And if there are rumors and you're innocent, WHY go visit the subject of those rumors at a hotel and leave at 2:45 in the morning? Why hide in the bathroom when reporters catch you leaving? These actions don't make any more sense to me than Craig's 'wide stance / dropped my toilet paper' defense did. ...
The mainstream media is fairly quiet but the most ominous silence right now is from the progressive blogosphere.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Sleaze Scuppers Democrat Golden Boy": Sometimes a foreign perspective is clarifying. Effective photo. ... 2:47 P.M.
Will the Pro-Obama Bias Turn Anti-Edwards? At this point, does Barack Obama want John Edwards to even show up in Denver, much less give a prime time speech? Even if the Love-Child saga progresses no further than it already has, an Edwards Denver appearance will inevitably be accompanied by renewed speculation about his seemingly scandalous and politically toxic behavior. Obama's in what looks like a surprisingly close race. He doesn't need to carry Edwards' baggage. He needs a positive convention. And Obama has previously shown a willingness to bury troublesome associates without much fuss (ask Jim Johnson).
If you're an Obama strategist, mightn't you conclude that the best thing for your candidate would be if the press weighs in quickly and definitively concludes that Edwards is guilty, with the result that he and his whole sordid story go away until after November? ...
Of course, if that was the Obama camp's desire, you'd expect Obamaphilic Web sites like Huffington Post to suddenly start billing Love Child stories on their front pages, even if they come from FOX News, and that's not about to ... Oh, wait. ...
If Edwards has lost Arianna's crowd (which only recently was sneering at the scandal with embarrassing, heavy-handed, unfunny satires **) we can't be far away from the Flipping Point at which Liberal Media Bias, to the extent it exist, starts working against Edwards. ...
P.S.: HufPo has even finally begun to boast, accurately, that:
The Huffington Post was the first to report on Edwards' relationship with Rielle Hunter in September 2007 .
**--Update: Greg Mitchell, author of the embarrassing, unfunny satire, emails to say: "Within minutes of posting yesterday, I recognized that it was, indeed, 'heavyhanded' and had it 'unpublished.'" OK. (But it's still there. 7/28 Update: Gone now. But there's still the Google text cache.) ... 2:44 A.M. link
Friday, July 25, 2008
Still, the Enquirer, as sleazy as its tactics strike many people, has a better reputation on stories like this than you might think. Frankly, I believe them here -- Edwards refuses to comment -- but I do want to see photos.
He couldn't say that at the rockin' L.A. Times! ... Meanwhile, Fox News manages to do what the L.A.T.'s reporters are apparently unable to do, namely find some independent corroborating eyewitness evidence that Edwards was present at the hotel when the Enquirer says he was. ...
Update 2: From a WaPo online chat with reporter Jonathan Weisman:
Dunn Loring, Va.: Does the Post have any political reporters investigating the legitimacy of the Enquirer's stories about John Edwards?
Jonathan Weisman: Yes, and to be quite honest, we're waiting to see the pictures the Enquirer says it will publish this weekend. That said, Edwards is no longer an elected official and is not running for any office now. Don't expect wall-to-wall coverage.
LAT Gags Blogs: In a move that has apparently stirred up some internal discontent, the Los Angeles Times has banned its bloggers, including political bloggers, from mentioning the Edwards/Rielle Hunter story. Even bloggers who want to mention the story in order to make a skeptical we-don't-trust-the-Enquirer point are forbidden from doing so. Kausfiles has obtained a copy of the email Times bloggers received from editor Tony Pierce. [I've excised the recipient list and omitted Pierce's email address]:
From: "Pierce, Tony"
Date:July 24, 2008 10:54:41 AM PDT
Subject: john edwards
There has been a little buzz surrounding John Edwards and his alleged affair. Because the only source has been the National Enquirer we have decided not to cover the rumors or salacious speculations. So I am asking you all not to blog about this topic until further notified.
If you have any questions or are ever in need of story ideas that would best fit your blog, please don't hesitate to ask
That will certainly calm paranoia about the Mainstream Media (MSM) suppressing the Edwards scandal. ...
P.S.: Is the Times' edict a) part of a double-standard that favors Democrats (and disfavors Republicans like Rep. Vito Fossella and John McCain)? Or does it b) simply reflect an outmoded Gatekeeper Model of journalism in which not informing readers of certain sensitive allegations is as important as informing them--as if readers are too simple-minded to weigh charges that are not proven, as if they aren't going to find out about such controversies anyway? I'd say it's a mixture of both (a) and (b). This was a sensational scandal the LAT and other MSM papers passionately did not want to uncover when Edwards was a formal candidate, and now that the Enquirer seems to have done the job for them it looks like they want everyone to shut up while they fail to uncover it again. ...
P.P.S.: The Times apparently failed to get word of the ban to one of its bloggers in time to prevent her from shocking readers by saying she hoped the allegations against Edwards weren't true. ... 2:55 A.M. link
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Always trust women named Emily (and Rachael and Bonnie): Good discussion of whether the Edwards story is "news" on Slate's XX Factor. ... Are we in the truth business or the "protect Saint Elizabeth" business? ... Anyway, if the National Enquirer'sstory is true, Elizabeth Edwards' public role as a popular and effective spokesperson will not be undermined--even though maybe it should be a bit (given her complicity in the coverup). ... P.S.: Melinda Henneberger argues that "the Edwards family should be left alone." But didn't Henneberger write a piece purporting to take readers "inside the Edwards' marriage," according to the headline? Wasn't that a breach of privacy? It was just a breach of privacy that Elizabeth Edwards approved of. ... P.P.S.: It was a good piece--effectively countering the attacks on Edwards for having an expensive house. But it did not tell readers what was going on "inside the Edwards marriage." ("I still don't want to know," Henneberger initially blogs--though she eventually admits: "I may be identifying with [Elizabeth] a little too closely, as an oversharing cancer survivor and all.") ... 3:24 P.M.
Nibbling at the edges of the MSM: Imus laments that the Edwards L.C. story is "starting to become news." ... And there's always the late-night comics' rabbithhole into public consciousness. ...
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Mondo: You have more updates planned on this latest installment?
DP: We'll be updating the story several times. We're not finished yet.
Mondo: Any other comments?
DP: We were looking for the "smoking gun": time, place, day and date. Edwards could always "deny, deny, deny". Now, Edwards can't deny being at the Beverly Hilton and visiting Rielle Hunter. There were at least 10 eyewitnesses to the affair of Edwards running on the stairs and ducking into the restroom.
There were seven reporters on the story, according to Perel. DBKP adds that Edwards ran into "at least one Enquirer photographer" when "trying to make his escape." ... So will one of the "updates" include photos? Did the photographer forget to take off the lens cap? 11:53 P.M.
"Get it first, but first get it second." The old Newsweek rule! I hope that's the rule the MSM is following. If so, here's an MSM mention! And here. Business Week is what, chopped liver? And doesn't Jack Shafer count? ... I fear there is a new rule: "We don't want to get it at all. Not even just a mention of the 'allegation.' Not even second." Why? Jon Fine's Business Week piece summarizes some likely reasons. A couple of points:
--Fine notes that "Edwards isn't considered a likely vice-presidential candidate by the press." That's true. But he is a likely Obama cabinet official. Many Dems would like to see him as Attorney-General. That's what's at stake in the love-child coverage. The Enquirer has killed him as a VP candidate. But if the MSM goes into full "protect Elizabeth" mode the damage might yet not quite be enough to stop his confirmation by a Democratic Senate next year. "Protect Elizabeth" = "protect A.G. John."
--If the Enquirer story is true, Edwards didn't just cheat on his sick wife after making a big deal of his loyalty to her in the campaign. He also presided over an elaborate cover-up, involving lies and duplicitous lobbying of the MSM. What is it the CW says about cover-ups? Eliot Spitzer looks like a Boy Scout in comparison.
P.S.: If the MSM can discuss the charges in meta form ("It's so easy to jump to conclusions---and I admit, this looks bad") in blogs, chat rooms, and in press commentaries, why not on the front page in political commentaries? As things stand, here's a rundown of media performance on the John Edwards front:
--The New York Times doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--The print edition of the Washington Post doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--Newsweek doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--Time doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--Katie Couric didn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--Brian Williams didn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--Charlie Gibson didn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--RealClearPolitics doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--Mark Halperin doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.
--Mark Ambinder doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.
Has the gap between what the MSM lets you know and what happened--and what you can easily find out happened--ever been greater? ...
Update: John Tabin argues: "If the account of him being caught in a hotel rendezvous with Rielle Hunter was false, Edwards wouldn't be changing the subject, he'd be suing."
Jim Treacher emails: "Which story gets a bigger audience: A story the blogs run with but the mainstream news ignores, or a story the news runs with but the blogs ignore? I'm thinking the news comes out ahead, but just barely. And at this rate, not for much longer." ...
More: Rielle Hunter just appeared on camera on Extra, talking about what a wonderful man John Edwards is. Not sure this helps him. ... 5:17 P.M. link
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Edwards, Rielle Hunter, Busted: HuffPo 's Sam Stein, who got the story rolling, appears to be vindicated. ... P.S.: Always trust content from kausfiles! Never trust content from Jerome Armstrong. ... P.P.S.: Will this be the first presidential-contender level scandal to occur completely in the undernews, without ever being reported in the cautious, respectable MSM? That's always seemed an interestingtheoretical possibility--a prominent politician just disappears from the scene, after blogs and tabloids dig up dirt on him, but nobody who relies on the Times, Post, network news or Mark Halperin has the faintest idea why. If this is that case, it will have come along sooner than I would have thought. ... P.P.P.S.: But it's hard to believe the MSM can ignore the story now. Don't think Obama will! ...
Update: Nothing yet. You'd think MSM reporters would resent being played for chumps by Mudcat Sanders, et al. ... 8:09 P.M. link
Monday, July 21, 2008
Dónde está Juan? ... 1:36 P.M.
Paul Begala, Friend of Angelo! ... Plus: Holbrooke saved $15,000. ... Suggested title for either man's memoirs: "Dodd is my Co-Pirate!" .... [stolen from P. Krassner's The Realist] 11:20 A.M.
As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes. [E.A.]
And here's the NYT's own translation of the tape:
"Obama's remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq." [E.A.]
There's a not inconsequential difference between the two, no? The Times version specifically does not "endorse" the timetable of 16 months (no matter what some bloggers claim). It says 16 months isn't crazy. ... P.S.:Hot Air has a third translation, which is somewere in between, ... P.P.S.: Maliki does seem to endorse Obama's general approach over McCain's, though. ("Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.") ... [via Insta, Yglesias ] 12:41 A.M. link
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Why did star blogger Matt Yglesias really defect from The Atlantic to the Center for American Progress? It can't have been the money: The Atlantic is the last journalistic gravy train in town. Were the ideas at the Aspen Ideas Festival not up to snuff? ... P.S.: What's CAP getting in the deal? Gravitas! ... 11:49 P.M. link
Maybe we should pay more attention to the issues on which Obama hasn't noticeably shifted to the center. For example, 1) health care and 2) tax increases. In each case, the relevant question would seem to be: Is he sticking to his guns because a) that's what he really believes his presidency should be about, or b) the issue is so central to his coalition that changing his position would disrupt his election strategy? ... My guess: Issue 1# is both a and b. But some moderate moderation** on Issue #2, taxes, wouldn't really hurt Obama politically--he could still be for raising taxes on the rich without proposing hikes that add up to marginal rates in the over-50% range on the coasts. His failure to do that suggests that soaking the rich in myriad ways is what he really believes in.
It's a big insufficiently remarked-on vulnerability. You don't have to be against high taxes to be against high marginal tax rates, which threaten to produce a boom in unproductive tax shelters. The tax-raising alternatives are to broaden the tax base (i.e. the sorts of income that are taxed) and to broaden the range of taxpayers who face increases (instead of soaking only the very tip of the income pyramid, those making over $250,000 or $300,,000 a year). ...
**--Obama does seem to have watered down his tax position a bit, fudging what seemed to be an inclination to impose the Social Security payroll tax of 12.4% on high earners. Now aide Jason Furman says
[W]e are looking at a range of plans, think Congress might like to have rates that are in the neighborhood of 2% to 4%."
Good climbdown, Jason! But was Obama just winging it before? And never mind what "Congress" wants. What does Obama want? ... Are Obama's own aides already invoking Congressional Democrats as a valuable check on their candidate's leftish instincts? ... 11:20 P.M. link
And they say investigative journalism is endangered: Driving to the 7-11, I passed a strange, ugly car/truck vehicle I'd never seen before. All the badges and identifying lettering had been removed. It turned out to be a SsangYong Actyon. But of course. ... Or ... wait ... did it just look like a SsangYong Actyon? Yes, that's what they wanted us to believe! But Autoblog Green penetrates the mask of the phenomenal world to uncover the hidden truth. ... 2:11 P.M. link
Friday, July 18, 2008
So when Obama opposes the surge it's potential "chaos" and "disaster," according to John McCain. But when Chuck Hagel opposes the surge it's an "informed decision"? "I respect his views," says McCain. ... GetDrunk asks: "Will McCain 'respect' Obama's views once Obama has 'studied the issue'?" ... Maybe Obama was relying on Hagel's deep knowledge! Does that make it better? ... If an "informed decision" leads to chaos and disaster, what does that say about the value of the process by which U.S. Senators go about becoming "informed"?... P.S: You'd think McCain could just say, "I think Sen. Hagel is wrong"? What is it about Hagel that has the power to fog not just his own mind but the minds of others? Does he tell great dirty stories? Is he so gloomy that his friends worry that dissing him will send him over the edge? ... 5:10 P.M. link
Thursday, July 17, 2008
If I see one more hip twentysomething man reading a book of high-class poetry (Rilke, Larkin) I'm going to report a trend (or, rather, check to see if the Trend has been Declared already). ... Update: I suspect these people are somehow mixed up in this. ... 2:52 A.M.
"Security First"--McCain's One-Step Two-Step: Ramesh Ponnuru admits that John McCain has given "mixed signals" as to whether he intends to a) secure the borders through an enforcement bill, wait until the borders are secure, and only then try to pass a second bill to legalize illegal immigrants or to b) try to pass one big "comprehensive" bill that includes both enforcement and a provision that automatically triggers legalization once certain statutory conditions are met. It's a crucial issue, since the statutory conditions are likely to be easy to meet--e.g., four pro-legalization border state governors certifying that "security" has been achieved, a "trigger" McCain has suggested in the past--and there will be tremendous pressure to either declare them satisfied or water them down.
Even admitting McCain's flailing, semi-confused contradiction--sorry, strategic ambiguity--is a concession some McCain supporters won' t make. But think about it: President McCain takes office in 2009, along with a heavily Democratic Congress. A commitment to legalization is one of the few things McCain will have in common with those Democrats. What's he going to do--pass a tough "enforcement" bill his first year, despite opposition from Dem leaders, then wait a year or two, and then try to pass a second mostly-amnesty bill either in a mid-term election year or in the second half of what is likely to be his single term in office? Or will he try to pass both parts quickly, while he's still popular, in one big bill with whatever "triggers" are needed? Answer: He'll do (b). I can't believe Ponnuru thinks otherwise. ... 2:46 A.M. link
When I tell my liberal friends that "card check" is one of the big issues in the 2008 campaign, they tend to roll their eyes. But when I tell my conservative friends that "card check" is one of the big issues in 2008 ... they roll their eyes too. Apparently the words "card check" are not enough, in themselves, to convey the fundamental shift in industrial organization that might result if workers could trigger unionization under the Wagner Act without a normal secret-ballot election.
Mike Murphy's initial anti-card check ads, using actor Vincent Curatola who played Johnny Sack in The Sopranos (and who also appeared in the Clintons' parody), attempted to bring the issue down from the eye-roll level. They seemed effective to me, but I'm pre-convinced. Murphy's new follow-up ads-- example here--will be a test of whether support of card check can actually be used against individual candidates. I'm less convinced of that. ... P.S.: The target of this particular ad is Al Franken. It's hard for me to believe that Franken, who's always struck me as a sensible yuppie neolib type underneath, actually cares that much about card check (whatever his Web site says). ... 1:40 A.M. link
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The Chandra Story Is Back: Fred Barnes said the most discouraging words in the English language are "first of a series." But the Chandra Levy case actually deserves a 12-part series, and I'm eager to read WaPo's effort. (I admit I may wait until it's all published and I can peek at the conclusion). Here's a complicated mystery, with a real victim and all sorts of sociological and political lessons, that never got the coverage it deserved after self-righteous media scolds who mainly work for MSM organizations that are now going broke used it to symbolize the allegedly trivial, tabloidy coverage before 9/11! ... Maybe I'll even "skip" it. ... Bonus: Now Howie Kurtz can try to boost his CNN ratings with a tabloidy show re-denouncing tabloidy coverag e of the Levy case! ... 4:34 P.M. link
a) makes it clear that Fannie's involvment in the subprime market comes not from repackaging subprime loans as securities but from buying those securities after they'd been repackaged by others (which still helped fuel the subprime lending crisis, pace Krugman):
The main mission of Fannie and Freddie is to provide liquidity into the mortgage markets by purchasing loans made by local lenders and repackaging them into bond-market security pools that are sold to investors with the U.S. government's stamp of approval. You might call this the good-cop function.
But then there's the bad-cop function: Fannie and Freddie purchased some of these mortgage pools for their own portfolios, essentially setting up a high-risk internal hedge fund. It was the sinking credit quality of this hedge fund that drove last week's shareholder run. Think sub-prime mortgages and other shaky and exotic loans.
b) suggests, startlingly, that the government has agreed to back only Fannie's "good cop" function, not the bad-cop securities purchases that are the source of Fannie's financial troubles;
c) hints that left and right are converging on the desirability of de-privatizing Fannie and Freddie, at least temporarily. When even an AEI expert calls for talking profit-making shareholder owned organizations and "making them tightly controlled government agencies," maybe they should be made tightly controlled government agencies! Letting Jim Johnson politico types build profit-making empires with taxpayer-supported credit is just too risky. (For how Johnson operated, see this 2006 WaPo piece [via NewsAlert].)
P.S.: When toting up the costs and benefits of Fannie Mae, shouldn't Slate's Daniel Gross have taken into account the cost of dragging down the whole economy in a subprime crisis which Fannie and Freddy helped fuel maybe not as a primary but as an important secondary factor? Just asking! .... I smell Kool Aid! ... 2:58 P.M. link
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Chart of the Day: What happened to the number of people on public assistance in New York City after the 1996 welfare reform. ... 2:52 A.M.
Embedded Error: Here's NPR's Mara Liasson, covering the candidates' appearance before Last Week's Latino Group:
Both these candidates are for the same thing: a path to citizenship--that doesn't reward people who come in illegally--but McCain did change his emphasis ...
Liasson is being very careful not to overemphasize or underemphasize the difference between the candidates. She doesn't exhibit any tilt toward Obama or toward McCain. It's all exquisitely fair--except that she almost unconsciously embeds a bit of ludicrous BS that is common to both candidates: the idea that their legalization plans wouldn't "reward people who come in illegally."
Of course they would. When you hear the candidates talk about sending illegals to the "back of the line," remember that there are two lines: 1) An initial, typically very long line in which foreigners patiently wait years, sometimes decades, to get green cards or other documents that enable them to live and work here legally, and 2) a shorter second line of people who have green cards and want to become citizens. Neither Obama nor McCain would send illegals to the back of the first line--that would, in many cases, be tantamount to deporting them. On the contrary, the illegals who are already here get to pay a not-huge fine and skip Queue #1 entirely. They may go to the back of Queue #2, but that's a queue they can wait out while working legally in the richest country on Earth--a reward the poor suckers who obeyed the law and are still lining up outside U.S. consulates abroad don't get. ...
Just because both candidates say something doesn't mean it's not crap! ... 2:33 A.M. link
kf seems to have reappeared on Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo blogroll after a mysterious absence. Thanks! ... 12:34 A.M.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Fannie and Freddie had about as much to with the "explosion of high-risk lending" as they could get away with. We are all fortunate that they couldn't get away with all that much of it. ... [snip]
But they didn't like losing their market share, and they pushed the envelope on credit quality as far as they could inside the constraints of their charter: they got into "near prime" programs (Fannie's "Expanded Approval," Freddie's "A Minus") that, at the bottom tier, were hard to distinguish from regular old "subprime" except--again--that they were overwhelmingly fixed-rate "non-toxic" loan structures. ...
Furthermore, both GSEs [Government Sponsored Enterprises--e.g. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] were major culprits in the growth of the mega-lenders. Over the years they were struggling so hard to maintain market share, they were allowing themselves to experience huge concentration risks. As they catered more and more to their "major partners"--Countrywide, Wells Fargo, WaMu, the usual suspects--they helped sustain and worsen the "aggregator" model in which smaller lenders sold loans not to the GSEs but to CFC or WFC, who then sold the loans to the GSEs. ...
I think we can give Fannie and Freddie their due share of responsibility for the mess we're in, while acknowledging that they were nowhere near the biggest culprits in the recent credit bubble. [E.A.]
Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago ....
My turn: But didn't I say that "Fannie Mae was a huge buyer of subprime mortgages"? I did. How does this jibe with Calculated Risk's assertion that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed the envelope but that the envelope still constrained them at least somewhat? I don't know the answer ... at least not yet... but at least part of it seems to be that Fannie Mae mainly purchased subprime mortgage securities--i.e. mortgages that had been aggregated and repackaged as bonds--but that it didn't buy actual subrime mortgages directly. In theory buying the bonds backed by lousy mortgages might have been safer than buying the mortgages, although this 2007 Fortune article seems to argue that the protection was largely illusory, and that through the bond purchases
over the past five years [Fannie Mae] became exposed to mortgages that were made to people with poor credit - subprime mortgages.
Is there any doubt that by purchasing bonds backed by subprime mortgages Fannie Mae helped enable the "explosion of high-risk lending"? I wouldn't think so. Indeed, expanding subprime lending seems to have been the goal. But then why doesn't Calculated Risk emphasize that aspect of Fannie's culpability? If anyone wants to explain this to me, I'll repackage it and sell it to my readers. ...
Answers! a) Yes, the explanation seems to be that Fannie Mae bought securities backed by subprime loans, not the loans themselves; b) Even Tantu says these securities purchases were "supposed to be about supplying some 'needed' capital to the subprime market." If you're providing "needed" capital aren't you thereby enabling the "explosion of high risk lending," as Conn Carroll charges? Doesn't that leave Krugman--"Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion"--looking like he's drunk some kind of Fannie Mae Kool Aid? ...[Thanks to readers R and S] 11:57 P.M. link
Curious passage in Paul Krugman's half-defense of Fannie Mae today:
But here's the thing: Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago, an explosion that dwarfed the S.& L. fiasco. In fact, Fannie and Freddie, after growing rapidly in the 1990s, largely faded from the scene during the height of the housing bubble.
Partly that's because regulators, responding to accounting scandals at the companies, placed temporary restraints on both Fannie and Freddie that curtailed their lending just as housing prices were really taking off. Also, they didn't do any subprime lending, because they can't.
Huh? Does Krugman not know that Fannie Mae was a huge buyer of subprime mortgages, including mortgages from Angelo Mozilo's Countrywide? David Smith's eerily prescient AHI blog noted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reportedly bought $35 billion in subprimes in the first quarter of 2007 alone.
On his blog, Krugman casts the Fannie problem in ideological terms:
What you need to know here is that the right — the WSJ editorial page, Heritage, etc. — hates, hates, hates Fannie and Freddie. Why? Because they don't want quasi-public entities competing with Angelo Mozilo.
"Huh?" again. Conn Carroll responds:
The problem is that Fannie was Countrywide's No. 1 enabler. ... When he was CEO of Fannie, former Barack Obama campaign adviser Jim Johnson worked personally with Mozilo to streamline the two companies' business relationship.
Could Mozilo have done his subprime thing without Johnson and Fannie Mae as a backup to purchase his junky mortgages?
P.S.: Krugman suggests Fannie's problem is that it wasn't a true government agency, but rather a hybrid public/private partnership that privatized profits and socialized losses.
Liberals like Fannie the way it was for the first 30 years — a purely public enterprise.
Good point--according to Smith Fannie seems to have been using all sorts of tricks to turn profits using its implicit government credit guarantee.But if Fannie had been a pure government enterprise, would it really have refrained from supporting Mozilo-style subprime lending? I'm not so sure. Providing "affordable housing" was a policy crusade of Johnson, among others, and a popular goal on Capitol Hill (where Mozilo had done so much to ensure that his "friends" would be receptive to his particular method of pursuing affordability).
P.P.S.: Krugman also writes, boldly:
You could say that the Fannie-Freddie experience shows that regulation works.
You could say that--unless you read the remainder of Krugman's column, which notes the inadequate capital requirements imposed on Fannie-Freddie because
the companies' management bought off the political process, systematically hiring influential figures from both parties.
P.P.P.S.: Is this risk of corruption any less with a) "purely public enterprise" than with b) a public-private hybrid like Fannie Mae or c) a purely private enterprise (like, say, the Blackstone Group)? Interesting question. I would think well-connected liberal operatives like Johnson would be capable of at least perverting a regulatory regime even if they headed a 100% federal, civil-servicized Fannie Mae. (Most "regulation" is in category (c) of course, where the risk of corruption seems somehow undiminished by the triumphant "Fannie-Freddie experience.") ...
Update: See semi-clarifying semi-correction. ... 2:00 P.M.
Didn't subprime poster villain Angelo Mozilo do Barack Obama a big favor by compromising Obama's initial VP vetter, Jim Johnson, with favorable loans, causing Johnson to step down from his position? How bad would today's headlines be for Obama if Fannie Mae fatcat Johnson was still heading up his vice-presidential search effort? ... 10:45 P.M.
A reader emails:
People seem to think it's somehow a stroke of political genius that Sen. Obama is taking Sen. Hagel with him on his trip to Iraq. But why doesn't this highlight Obama's lack of judgment on the surge, by bringing along the man who considered it a catastrophically bad idea?
Actually, Hagel called the surge "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." ... Is Obama cannily trying to demonstrate why Hagel would be a horrifying VP pick? Is he trying to deflect attention from his own poor surge judgment ("the surge has not worked") by bringing along as a lightning rod someone whose judgment was even worse than his? ... Imagine how embarrassing it would be if Obama went with an antiwar Republican like Gen. Zinni, who supported the surge, with what now looks like contrarian wisdom. ... 1:40 A.M.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
BMW 3 series needs a Seven Level DeBangling, gets minor tweaks. Now slightly less ugly. ... 12:41 P.M.
William Bradley on why Schmidt might be a good fit: He helped Schwarzenegger move to the center in 2006. A beat sweetener, but that doesn't make it wrong! ... 12:28 A.M.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Moving to a more responsible position on Iraq: Valuable.
Having Jesse Jackson say he wants to cut your nuts out: Priceless
Maybe the Newsweek poll is off (always a good bet). Maybe Obama's rapid-fire--and, therefore, seemingly calculated--pivots on a series of issues really have hurt his image, as Halperin suggests. Maybe there will be a delayed Jackson bounce. ... Or maybe Obama needed to respond to Jackson more forcefully, given that Jackson implicitly, but rather graphically, raised the "wuss" meme. ... 4:40 P.M. link
Thursday, July 10, 2008
According to Rasmussen, voters reject Obama's Scarsdale Bien Pensant Dinner Party Lecture about bilingulalism by, oh, 83% to 13%. ... See also Gateway, Clegg, and Maguire. ... Maguire makes the seemingly obvious point about having a common language: that it allows America to welcome and integrate immigrants from all over the world, whose native tongues may be Vietnamese, Chinese, or Polish, etc. ... Clegg:
If a fat, rich American goes to Paris and can't speak French, that's too bad but it is no tragedy. When a child growing up in America, or anyone who wants to live here and get ahead, doesn't learn English, that IS a tragedy.
McCain makes what, in other circumstances, might be a candidacy-crippling Social Security gaffe,** but few except Josh Marshall notice. ... I don't know if this means that the new Schmidt regime is already floundering or that it's working brilliantly. ...
Reader D.L. emails:
Jackson may be right. Let us assume for argument's sake that Obama is condescending and arrogant etc. I am black but I am not so sure that really matters. All I can say is close your eyes and look at the damned statistics. We in the black community need to face up to the fact that we are the primary cause of our own demise. That may only be partly true but, by golly, it is better than thinking it is someone else's fault. One of these days white people are going to wake and realize that they do not have to respond to black guilt anymore. Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and their ilk are dying and we need to start looking inward. What Obama says might only be partly true but in this case I will take it to heart. Arrogant, condescending, who cares? We need to start hitting the books (yea, learning to speak Spanish is not a bad place to start), taking responsibility for our children (I am aware that welfare is not a "black" problem, but I guarantee you that the majority of white people think it is which, in some respects, makes it our problem). Maybe we need to hear more of that, not less.
Fair enough. But Steven Waldman helpfully links to a Father's Day talk in which Obama gets this point across without any downtalking that I can discern. Effective! The biggest problem with Obama's occasional "I'm a big success and I'm telling you losers what to do" tone, in other words, may be that's it's not effective. My guess is it's likely to eventually produce a non-trivial, intense anti-Obama movement within the black community that will partially undermine the message D.L. wants delivered. ... P.S.: Of course, Obama's effectively non-condescending Father's Day talk my be what really annoys Rev. Jackson, as Waldman, Jack White, Eric Easter and Kathleen Parker have all suggested. ... See also Daniel Finkelstein, who employs a Shelby Steele-ish template, but whose argument dovetails with Easter's description of blacks worrying that whites want Obama to bring "a change in the racial dynamic." I know I do! ... 2:57 P.M. link
"You are probably not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil' Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school," Obama, D-Ill., told a cheering crowd, brought to a standing ovation at a town hall meeting in Powder Springs, Georgia.
The presumptive Democratic nominee was speaking about high school drop out rates and the need for people to be committed to working hard in school so they can get a job after school.
Obama said he knows some young men think they can't find a job unless they are a really good basketball player.
"Which most of you brothas are not," Obama, who played basketball in high school, a sport he continues to play to this day, said jokingly. "I know you think you are, but you're not. You are over-rated in your own mind. You will not play in the NBA." [E.A.]
Isn't there a better way to phrase it that doesn't set up Obama as a commanding know-it-all--something along the lines of, "I urge you all to stay in school. I've seen what happened to friends of mine. I know what would have happened to me. The odds against people who drop out of high school are not good." (Something along the lines of this, in fact.) ... P.S.: If you were a conscientious African-American parent who carefully rationed your kids' TV time, how would you feel if Obama came to town and told you, "So turn off the TV set, put the video game away." ... Even Bill Cosby is less condescending, I think. He's just a pissed off old geezer comin' right at ya. He doesn't claim to venerate Lil' Wayne and then put down kids who aspire to live the life Lil' Wayne boasts about. ...
P.P.S.: Obama's lecture to parents about how "you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish"? Also condescending! Especially since, as Abe Greenwald points out, Obama doesn't speak Spanish.*** ... He's insultingly missing the point about the need for a common language, of course. If we want a common language, and the common language of Americans is English, then learning Spanish, however beneficial, is not going to achieve that goal. It's perfectly reasonable for native English speakers to worry if enough new immigrants whose ethnic leaders demand bilingual education will learn English. They probably will, but Obama's saying it's wrong to even worry about it. ... [via Corner] ... And then there's the whole embarrassed-by-boorish-Americans-who-don't-know-French riff. A provien vote-getter! ... P.P.P.S.: He also seems really tired! ...
P.P.P.P.S.: Is the lecturing style one that wears well in a President? I think the answer is so obviously "no" that it's never been tried. Mayhill Fowler tried to warn us. [I had a snide comparison to Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech here, but that was unfair to Jimmy Carter. The "malaise" speech was an exercise in self-loathing--and if it insulted voters it insulted them by attributing to them the same flaws and failures Carter attributed to himself.] ...
***: From a Jorge Ramos interview with Obama--"Obama studied Spanish in high school and for two years in college. "My Spanish used to be OK," he said. Now, however, he has all but forgotten it." ... 12:44 A.M. link
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Even kf is not this paranoid. ... 2:35 P.M.
From WaPo's bio of new Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli:
The Los Angeles Times has a U.N. bureau chief? More layoffs please! ... [Thks. to alert reader E.] 2:27 P.M.
"Many Americans, with good cause, didn't believe us when we said we would secure our borders, and so we failed in our efforts. We must prove to them that we can and will secure our borders first, while respecting the dignity and rights of citizens and legal residents of the United States of America." [E.A.]
Byron York is impressed. I hate to be picky, but even if you think McCain actually believes his constantly-shifting formal position, the statement remains ambiguous. Is McCain saying he first must actually secure the borders or that he first must prove to the voters that he can secure the borders? I don't think it's crazy to believe the second interpretation is the correct one--or at least that McCain's drafters left it open to potentially give him wiggle room later (i.e., "We wouldn't be passing this historic comprehensive reform today, with the help of my Democratic friends, if we hadn't convinced the voters that we can and will secure the borders.") ... The ambiguous formula also leaves open the more obvious possibility of quickly passing a bill that contains a future "trigger"--with semi-amnesty automatically taking effect after, say, the four Mexico-adjacent governors sign some sort of artful finding that the borders are "secure." ...
Murphy is through! Finished! There is noone named Mike Murphy. I don't quite see how Mike Allen of the Politico can write sentences like this:
Mike Murphy, a political consultant who helped Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) mastermind his 2000 campaign, will not be reboarding the Straight Talk Express. ... [snip].
With Steve Schmidt taking over operations last week, the matter is now resolved. Murphy will be seen on television and may offer McCain private counsel. But he won't be in the bubble. [Emphasis on overly definitive statements added.]
Yes, Murphy isn't coming on board in the current shakeup. But if McCain is still behind and flailing at the end of the summer, is he really going to say, "We resolved that matter of my campaign's structure back in July." Or is he going to panic and bring in Murphy? I don't know, but neither does Allen. (Or the NYT fool who titled Nagourney's item "Count Murphy Out for McCain Campaign.") ... Murphy certainly didn't close the door. ("I do not expect to join the campaign.") He had to say something to tamp down overheated reports of his imminent arrival.) ... Backfill: Zengerle refines his position. Search for "knife." ...
Jim Johnson's Legacy Builds: Politico gravy-train Fannie Mae in trouble despite its massive implicit government subsidy, because new accounting rules would apparently require it to list billions of dollars of now off-the-balance-sheet mortgage guarantees as liabilities. Of course, the agency formerly headed by Obama's ex-veep-vetter will probably wriggle out of the new rule thanks, as always, to political pressure:
"I would bet my firstborn that they will be excluded from the accounting change. It would bankrupt them," said Paul Miller of the investment firm Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group.
So everything's OK then! ... Backfill: Eerily prescient David Smith post here. See also this E-Z-2-Follow post on Fannie Mae's balance sheets. Cheap visual devices are used, and also the word "Augean." ... 12:35 P.M. link
Monday, July 7, 2008
Getdrunkandvote4mccain.com The Republican base comes home, plastered. ... 1:49 A.M.
PearSneak of the Day-- "Employers Fight Tough Measures on Immigration": Robert Pear is the acknowledged master at sneaking not-as-important-as-they-sound policy stories into the lead position on the NYT front page on slow news days. These Pear pieces are often leaks from liberal interest groups, who then benefit from the prime placement. But it was Julia Preston who pulled a Pear yesterday, with a lead A-1 piece that seemed to be mainly a press release for Tamar Jacoby's new lobbying organization, ImmigrationWorks USA.
1) Some of Preston's evidence of an employer fight-back against the immigration crackdown is ludicrously weak. "Unhappy California business won the support of Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, who wrote a letter" protesting immigration raids. Yes, a letter! From a mayor! Meanwhile:
Arizona businesses rallied behind a bill to create what would have been the first state guest worker program in the country. Their advertising campaign used the slogan "What part of legal don't you understand?"—a tweak of the battle cry of their opponents, who use the same phrase with the word "illegal." ...[snip]
Although the bill never came to a vote, employers said the debate helped make their views known in Washington.
"It's a message to the federal government," said Joe Sigg, director of government relations for the Arizona Farm Bureau ... [E.A.]
Then, a cautionary note:
Employers' groups have not succeeded everywhere.
They can't all be as successful as in Arizona, where their bill never came to a vote. ...
2) Does the employer resistance help or hurt the cause of "comprehensive immigration reform"? The "comprehensive" deal, after all, is supposed to be a) a guest worker program and b) semi-amnesty for existing illegals coupled with c) tough enforcement measures to make future amnesties unnecessary. That's why it's "comprehensive." To the extent powerful employers are fighting those enforcement measures--like "the federal system to check the working papers of new hires"--that would seem to undermine the "comprehensive" rationale and support the anti-comprehensivist claim that we'll end up with the amnesty but not the enforcement (as happened with the 1986 immigration reform).
And how is President John McCain going to plausibly claim he's "secured the borders first" if the chamber of commerce is suing in federal court to poke holes in that security? ...
P.S.: Preston's article seems to be part of a "series" titled "Getting Tough" and introduced by the NYT as follows:
This is the second article in a series that explores efforts by the government and others to compel illegal immigrants to leave the United States.
Isn't that description more than a bit tendentious? You can support enforcement efforts for lots of reasons other than a desire to have "illegal immigrants leave the United States." You might want to discourage further illegal immgration by those not yet in the U.S. for example, but not be especially bothered if current illegals continue to live "in the shadows" for many more years. That's basically my position. ... It's true that Mark Krikorian and others explicitly advocate a strategy of "attrition." Yet it's tendentious to describe even their position as being an effort to "compel" illegals to leave. If the government changes the desirability of staying in the U.S.--by requiring employers to check Social Security numbers or by simply failing to pass McCain's reform bill, thereby increasing "uncertainty about obtaining legal resident status any time soon"-- many illegals will decide to leave. Many won't. That doesn't seem like compulsion. ... 1:22 A.M. link
Sunday, July 6, 2008
More than two weeks ago the New York Times mentioned that the Iraqi city of Mosul was " in the midst of a major security operation" against one of the last bastions of Al Qaeda in Iraq. So how's that going? Should we have to read the London Times (or Belmont Club) to learn about its success or failure? (It looks like relative success, Juan Cole notwithstanding.) ... If the NYT has reported the outcome, I missed it. (A June 1 story only went so far as to say that "hopes" had been "raised" and that the "Iraqi Army may soon have tenuous control." ) ... P.S.: Sorry to be crude, but does the NYT realize that we may be at the point where reports of military success in Iraq help Obama (because stability enables the rapid pullout he seeks) while reports of contiuing turmoil and difficulty help McCain (by raising doubts that U.S. forces can be safely withdrawn in the next few years)? ... [via Insta]11:56 P.M. link
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Hey, I thought Leon decides what's anti-Semitic around there! ... 4:01 P.M.
Out-of-Context Dingalink of the Week: NSFW. But true. ... 3:04 P.M.
Carbon/Silicon's "The News" would make a good Obama campaign song. You could skp the crunchy verse about people "caring about what they eat." ... [Unrealistically sunny?-ed Happy days are here again] ... 3:02 P.M.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
The difference between Bill Clinton's "pivot" and Obama's "pivot". ... P.S.: Clinton's is better! ... 11:02 P.M.
Aims at False Modesty, Misses: You'd think and Obama's Conceit-o-meter would have sounded the alarm before he let this sentence ship:
"I find comfort in the fact that the longer I'm in politics the less nourishing popularity becomes, that a striving for rank and fame seems to betray a poverty of ambition, and that I am answerable mainly to the steady gaze of my own conscience." [E.A.]
At least he fudged it with "mainly." ...[Quoted by Dominic Lawson]... 8:26 P.M.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I tried to cause Hugh Hewitt at least some momentary pain over McCain's renewed commitment to illegal immigrant legalization. I failed. Transcript:
MK: ... It was a terrible week for McCain, because he made it clear, Hugh, to people like you, that he's still for some form of amnesty, and he's much more likely to produce it than Obama. That's why I'm not for McCain. That's your problem.
HH: Well actually, I like where he is, since he's gone security first. Glenn, what do you think about the week? ...
He is such an apparatchik. ... P.S.: The whole point of last week is that McCain's dropping the "first" from "security first." ... 3:39 A.M.
TNR's Jason Zengerle analyzes the McCain campaign shake-up:
[I]'s hard to see how or why McCain would bring back Mike Murphy--as has been rumored for a little while now--since [Steve] Schmidt's now playing the role McCain would have presumably wanted Murphy to fill.
So wrong! McCain has plenty of time to bring back Murphy by the end of the summer if/when whatever Schmidt does between now and then doesn't seem to be working. ... Backfill: Chait made the same point. ... Update: Zengerle doubles down! "I don't think McCain can afford to do any more major reshuffling without running the risk of key Republicans concluding that he's hopeless and abandoning him en masse ..." Really? McCain has a shakeup before Labor Day and that's it, he's through? (Certainly voters won't care about it in November. By October even Mark Halperin will have forgotten about it.) ... Zengerle must be a) suffering from a clinical bubble-insider's loss of perspective and b) oblivious to the implications of the Feiler Faster Principle. ... It seems to me McCain has enough time to fire Schmidt, hire Weaver, fire Weaver, hire Murphy, fire Murphy, bring back Rick Davis, re-demote Davis and hire Schmidt again before the final debate. ... 2:58 A.M.
Obama's campaign has posted a response to that Boston Globe article on the failure of the "public private" housing partnerships Obama and his allies championed. The response seems weak and amateurish to me--with some good points (one housing project, for seniors, is a success) mixed with ineffective responses. For example:
RHETORIC: Obama translated that belief into legislative action as a state senator. In 2001, Obama and a Republican colleague, William Peterson, sponsored a successful bill that increased state subsidies for private developers. The law let developers designated by the state raise up to $26 million a year by selling tax credits to Illinois residents. For each $1 in credits purchased, the buyer was allowed to decrease his taxable income by 50 cents.
REALITY: SB 1135 WAS A BIPARTISAN BILL THAT HOUSING ADVOCATES SUPPORTED
Well, that settles it! Because bipartisan bills that housing advocates support always produce more clean, safe afforadable housing, and never enrich developers who wind up managing slums. ... P.S.: In general, it's hard to believe that Obama's fact-check site, heavy with pro-forma testimonials from other pols, will convince anybody who's not already a firm supporter. ... 2:51 A.M.
So the Fourth of July newspapers will have John McCain in ... er, Mexico plotting how to achieve comprehensive immigration reform with Felipe Calderon. ... And some people say the McCain Team has a tin ear! ... 1:16 A.M.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives--people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary--plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.
Max Boot, Pete Wehner, Jennifer Rubin, Paul Mirengoff and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League all wrote confidently outraged responses to Klein's raising of the "divided loyalties" possibility--and, indeed, it's not the sort of assertion that has typically gone unpunished in the past. When Klein stubbornly failed to back down in a second post, Wehner somewhat smugly anticipated his near-certain demise:
It's like watching a movie that you now know is going to end very badly, and very sadly.
But here's the thing: It's now a week later, and as far as I can tell Klein still has his job. He's still blogging (wondering "why Lieberman is so fixated on Iran"). He hasn't been publically rebuked by his employer. He hasn't been forced to issue a groveling apology.
Can it be that the rules have changed? I suspect they have. And I think this is progress, for reasons outlined here and here. It should be possible to publicly debate whether some "Jewish neoconservatives," among others, too easily convinced themselves that America's and Israel's interests happily coincided in the prosecution of the war. Meanwhile, Foxman's view that
Neoconservatives have the right to make their case without having their religion brought up. ... [snip] Religious beliefs are personal, and matters of faith belong in the heart, in the church and in the home
seems preposterously artificial. Note to Foxman: I worked at The New Republic! The magazine supported the war. I consider its editor, Martin Peretz, to be a friend and mentor. But if you think Marty's views are uninfluenced by his affinity for Israel--and that the views of many of the eminent neocons who visited our offices were uninfluenced by "matters of faith" and/or religious identity--then you don't know Marty and you don't know The New Republic. In fact, you're more than a bit clueless. But you are not clueless.
This isn't to say that the decision to go to war in Iraq was necessarily wrong or right. It's not to say that "Jewish neoconservatives" were more than what Klein calls a "subsidiary" source of support for the war. It's not to say that anyone is more patriotic than anyone else. The influence of pro-Israel sympathies (or pro-wherever sympathies) invariably takes the form of encouraging the belief that what you think is right for the United States is also what is right for Israel (or wherever), and vice-versa. But that only begins the discussion of whether this belief is itself distorted by those sympathies. It doesn't end it. At least it doesn't seem to any more. ...
Monday, June 30, 2008
Just Don't Hire Bangle: Schwarzenegger steals the new Tesla plant from New Mexico (and its governor, Bill Richardson). Tesla will now apparently attempt to build electric sedans in the S.F. Bay Area. ... P.S.: It's one thing to build a fast $100,000 two-seat sports car--the car nuts who buy it are probably willing to overlook a few flaws (as long as it goes from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds). It's another to build "a mid-size sports sedan for $60,000, a competitor to the BMW 5-series and Jaguar XF " by the "end of 2009." Tesla is going up against decades of expertise in, for example, achieving both a supple ride and good handling. They'd need to set up a network of high-quality parts suppliers. Plus they need to sell in volume to bring the price down. Seems a longshot. But I'm all for them trying. ... 3:43 P.M. link
Dana Stevens' Unified Semi-Contrarian Theory of M. Night Shyamalan ... 3:45 A.M.
P.S: A friend emails: "Obama's KATRINA. A little dramatic?" Maybe. Obama's record on "affordable housing," as described in the Globe story, isn't a case of gross ineptitude in a catastrophic regional emergency. It's not even a symbol of endemic governmental dysfunction. (Although: Is there a bigger Petri dish for corrupt incompetence than the "public-private partnership"? Think cable TV franchises.) But the Globe account does seem to capture what's most likely to be wrong with an Obama administration. After all, Obama's career has been unusually limited for a presidential contender. Housing and "community development" has been a big part of it. If the result has been a disaster in which Obama's friends made lots of money while his poor constituents lived in dangerous squalor, that seems like a big warning sign, no? At least an expectations-lowerer! George W. Bush, in contrast, hadn't dedicated a large chunk of his life to FEMA. ... P.S.: Plus Valerie Jarrett, one of the people who comes off poorly in the article, remains a central Obama advisor. It's as if Brownie had Karen Hughes' job. ... 3:16 A.M. link
Bring Back Bode: Why not bring back Ken Bode to host Meet the Press? His Washington Week in Review was just getting really good when he was fired to make room for the anodyne Gwen Ifill. ... Bode's about as far away in style from Keith Olbermann as you can get, something that seems to be important to MTPers who see their show as a holdout against creeping cable culture. ... 2:43 A.M.
McCain, speaking first, promised the approximately 700 attendees that resurrecting the bipartisan immigration bill he helped shape last year would be at the forefront of his agenda as president.
"It would be my top priority yesterday, today and tomorrow," McCain said in response to a question about whether he would pursue a comprehensive approach beyond his campaign promise to secure the border in his first 100 days in office.
Seeking to win some points for his initial support for a comprehensive immigration bill, McCain noted that his position "wasn't very popular ... with some in my party."
And, in remarks that could inflame those Republican border hawks, the Arizona senator made clear he would not just seek to secure the border first, as he promised in the primary.
"We have to secure our borders — that's the message," McCain said. "But we also must proceed with a temporary worker program that is verifiable and truly temporary."
1) It looks as if the folks at The Corner are no longer in denial on whether McCain's "I got the message" talk during the primaries was a sincere shift to to a tougher stand on immigration. It wasn't.
2) Note that in the above remarks, and the remarks highlighted by McCain campaign bloggerr Michael Goldfarb, the candidate says "we have to secure our borders" rather than "we have to secure our borders first."[E.A.] The missing "first" matters. With it, McCain's position sounds like Lou Dobbs'. Without it, McCain's position threaten to shade into full immediate support of semi-amnesty, with the inconsequential notation that of course reform wouldn't pass unless the public is convinced the borders are sufficiently "secure." Comprehensivists have always claimed their legislation would secure the borders, remember. It's the "first" that made the difference for McCain, or seemed to.
3) Is there any convincing evidence that actual Latino voters care as much about illegal immigrant legalization as Latino elected offiicials (or the journalists who cover them)?
4) Won't McCain's expedient abandonment of his expedient primary position produce loud conservative protests at the GOP convention? Does McCain worry about this--on the theory that discordant conventions make for losing presidential campaigns? Or does he welcome it, on the grounds that a noisy fight with his right wing would effectively distinguish him from his unpopular party (even though McCain's side in this fight would also be President Bush's)? ...
Update: Mark Krikorian argues Obama is goading McCain into emphasizing "in increasingly strident terms his commitment to legalizing all the illegal aliens," which further inflames anti-legalization Republicans. McCain seems to be taking the bait, which would seem to make sense only if he hopes to win over, not just swing Latinos but also swing centrists of all ethnicities who've become allergic to the GOP. But is immigration the issue on which Mike Murphy's "white females and ticket-splitting independents" crave a break from Republican dogma? Aren't they equally uneasy about rushing to a Grand Comprehensivist Solution? You'd think there would be more promising Souljah-esque, anti-base battlefields for McCain: Congressional corruption, excessive deregulation, stem cells and even abortion, no? ... 2:27 A.M. link
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Isn't this the plot of House of Sand and Fog? It looks as if Cindy McCain's elderly aunt was a year away from having her San Diego house sold by local tax authorities (when McCain's trust failed to pay property taxes). Did Newsweek save her? ... [via HuffPo] 10:34 P.M.
Friday, June 27, 2008
That's the Lanny Davis we know! He says to Obama:
"I don't want you to take out of context what I said during the campaign."
The press has played yesterday's Washington meeting as a way to let Obama, worried about losing the election, suck up to Hillary supporters. But maybe it was also a way to let erstwhile Hillary supporters, worried about losing access to power, suck up to Obama. ... 10:37 A.M.
Mike Mur ... I mean the blogger Richelieu thinks McCain shouldn't overdo his support of gun rights, especially handgun rights.
In the end, this election will be decided by white females and ticket-splitting independents. The handgun issue is no huge winner among this group.
Richelieu suggests that he's armed, however. So don't call him "Mike" to his face. ... 10:34 P.M.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Zinni, Zinni, Zinni! ... 9:02 P.M.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Why do Democrats "hope to pressure McCain strategist Charlie Black to resign"? He might! Then what? Black's been doing a distinctly mediocre job so far. McCain would probably replace him with someone like Mike Murphy, who might do a much better job. ... 7:44 P.M.
Obama throws Scarlett Johansson under the bus!
"[S]peaking to reporters aboard his campaign plane, Obama said the actress doesn't have his personal email address. "She sent one email to Reggie, who forwarded it to me," Obama said, referring to his 26-year-old personal assistant, Reggie Love. "I write saying, 'thank you Scarlett for doing what you do,' and suddenly we have this email relationship"
This seems inexplicably clumsy. Johansson's a supporter who helped make Obama a highly effective video. She probably thought she was helping Obama again when she told the press how impressed she was that he returned her "personal emails." ("I feel like I'm supporting someone, and having a personal dialogue with them, and it's amazing.") Surely there's a way to get across the point that she's just an occasional emailer without making her look like a fantasist. ... 8:50 A.M. link
Comprehensivist Down! In 2006, the primary victory of GOP Rep. Chris Cannon was offered by many pundits as comforting evidence that the immigration issue didn't have legs. After all, Cannon had supported "comprehensive" immigration reform--including legalization (i.e. semi-amnesty)--yet he survived in a conservative Utah district. Here's Michael Barone two years ago:
If Cannon had lost, House Republicans surely would have panicked and stonewalled any approach but border-security-only. But his victory -- and the fact that he ran ads with endorsements from George W. Bush, who supports a comprehensive bill -- indicates that his positions are not political death, even in a district that went 77 percent to 20 percent Republican in the 2004 presidential election
Well, yesterday Cannon lost-- to a fellow Republican who had no paid staff or polling but did attack Cannon's support of "amnesty." And Cannon lost by a large margin (60-40) primarily because he "failed to generate the kind of [Republican primary] turnout typically enjoyed by House incumbents." ...
Hmm. As if by eerie coincidence, John McCain has been having trouble generating the kind of popularity among Republicans typically enjoyed by Republican presidential candidates! And he's also been pushing "comprehensive" reform of late, potentially winning Latino support but further jeopardizing his GOP support. Kausfiles notes that there are more Republicans than Latinos. If McCain win's an extra 10% of Latino voters but loses an extra 10% of Republican voters, he loses, right? Maybe on his forthcoming trip to Mexico he will do the math. ... [Thx. to alert reader M.]
Update: The impulse in the respectable Washington MSM will be to downplay the impact of the immigration issue. But here's what the Daily Herald in Cannon's district thinks:
The most important issue may have been illegal immigration. For years, a segment of the GOP electorate has longed to punish Cannon over his past moderate stands. Cannon this year has pointed to numerous votes to improve border security. But that didn't seem to be enough to placate much of the electorate. One might theorize that voters' anxiety about immigration is so great that Cannon's more recent votes to fight illegal immigration only reminded voters of his original stands. The inescapable conclusion is that immigration is a more potent and durable issue than many political experts realize. [E.A.]
1:31 A.M. link
I'm alarmed to hear reports that the prospect of a second John Edwards VP run is actually being taken seriously. Hello? Obama team? Aternity-pay est-Tay! ... And get the DNA yourself. ... 12:29 A.M. link
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Jerry Skurnik isn't buying the NYT's report of an 86% Muslim turnout in Virginia in 2006. ... 8:30 A.M.
Save the Seal! "A one-time seal for a one-time event." ... P.S.: I should add that the faux seal was a disaster not just for the reason I gave (that it suggested Obama is "stuck up"). It also carried this counterproductive connotation: that there is a separate Obama Nation, grown up in opposition to Bush's nation. Obama Nation has its own insignia and its own reality. It is somewhat alarmingly devoted to its leader. And this blue tribe is about to completely conquer the current ruling red tribe. ... Voters didn't much like this kind of revolutionary swagger in the 1960s. They may not like it now. . 8:25 A.M. link
Saturday, June 21, 2008
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.
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. Josh 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]