TARP, Baby! Veteran Fannie Mae critic David Smith builds on Andy Kessler to explain why Paulson's "troubled-asset" purchase plan may make sense. The taxpayers could even make so much money that the governement could fund ... national health care! (Take that, Jim Lehrer.) ... As usual, Smith's post is exceptionally easy to follow for those (like me) who don't understand fancy financials. ... It's a particularly useful antidote to Krugman's critique--which seems to assume, in at least one of its forms, that the government will only pay the current, going, distressed market price for the assets it buys. Smith argues it could pay more than this going, "immediate" "market" value and still a) be driving a reasonably hard bargain, b) boost the economy by freeing up capital, and c) make money down the road. ... In part that's because the market in "troubled assets" isn't completely rational right now, something that shouldn't surprise leftish economists. In part it's because, as Smith and Kessler note, the government (unlike an ordinary purchaser) can goose the economy to make sure its "troubled assets" regain some of their value. ... Two obvious problems: 1) Goosing the economy usually means inflation. Kessler is not wildly convincing on why this isn't a threat; 2) Smith seems to assume that of course real estate will bounce back if the economy does. But why? A bubble is a bubble. A growing economy didn't bring back the tech stocks that were overpriced in the 90s--unless someone got rich off their old Pseudo.com stake without telling me. ... 5:11 P.M. link
Monday, September 29, 2008
If Nancy Pelosi had wanted to screw Sen. McCain, could she have done a better job? Just asking! ... 8:19 P.M.
Mo' Rezko: He "has been quietly visiting Chicago's federal courthouse, setting off" ... you know. ... speculation! ... [Do you really think Rezko is going to impact the election?--ed Seems unlikely. I have no inside info. But a contingency worth following.] 7:08 P.M.
McCain sure brought those House Republicans along, didn't he. They love him over there! ... P.S.: The failure of the bailout in the House today helps Obama, no? The longer economic turmoil leads the news, the longer Obama gains an advantage--at least that is the pattern so far. ... P.P.S.: Just as the vote vindicates McCain's declaration, last Wednesday, that the bailout bill was in deep trouble (despite Dem announcements of a "deal") it undermines his claim to have saved the day. ... [If the bill really was in trouble, why were McCain's actions last week a "stunt"?--ed The stunt wasn't spotting the trouble. The stunt was trying to delay the debate. Whether McCain's intervention helped or hurt the negotiations, nothing required him to punt on the debate. One bit of evidence, of course, is that, in the end he didn't punt on the debate, and did fine.] ... 11:32 A.M. link
The L.A. Daily News on its city's seeming unshrinkable downtown education bureaucracy:
[A] Daily News review of salaries and staffing shows LAUSD's bureaucracy ballooned by nearly 20 percent from 2001 to 2007. Over the same period, 500 teaching positions were cut and enrollment dropped by 6 percent.
Also "2,400 administrators ... earn more than $100,000 annually." Want to fire some of the less useful ones? Ah, they have "'bumping' rights to displace other workers." ... 2:29 A.M.
McCain's Stunt Gridlock? This week's obvious game-changin' stunt for McCain to pull would be opposing the unpopular bailout bill, as Dick Morris advises.** But McCain probably can't pull that stunt because of Last Week's Stunt, which involved McCain dramatically trying to delay a debate while he parachuted into Washington to save the bailout bill. .... If the end result was a bad bill, then McCain didn't do much of a salvation job, did he? He's seemingly trapped--and it would be hard to weasel out of his almost-endorsement of the current deal yesterday on Stephanopoulos.. But he must be sorely tempted to follow Morris' advice. ...
**--This wouldn't necessarily involve irresponsibly scuttling the bill. McCain could rail against provisions that he claimed would send taxpayer money to Wall Street malefactors, get the benefit of popular backing, and then settle for a few more changes in the legislation. Newt Gingrich pulled that stunt during budget talkes in George H.W. Bush's presidency, if I recall. (And House Republicans may already have pulled a similar stunt this past week--depending on whether you believe the modifications they were able to make represented a tremendous improvement.) Morris, for his part, admits that the changes he'd have McCain advocate are "largely cosmetic." ... 1:59 A.M. link
Sunday, September 28, 2008
[T]he fact that someone of Biden's experience and intellect can make as many gaffes as he has since joining the ticket shows how treacherous the presidential trail is.
Update: [What are you saying?--reader J.T. Biden? Intellect? The fact that Biden can make as many gaffes as he has since joining the ticket shows only that he is still drawing breath. This is someone who makes a gaffe looking in the mirror in the morning. You could not imagine a presidential trail sufficiently non-treacherous that Biden would not say something embarrassing.] 1:57 A.M.
Fitzmas in Reverse, Update: More drama-- Chicago Tribune on Tony Rezko's "possible change of heart":
"Rezko ...met with federal prosecutors and is considering cooperating in the corruption probe of the governor's administration, sources told the Tribune." ...
Or are prosecutors just bluffing (trying to spook other potential witnesses)? ... Or is Rezko merely trying to send some sort of alarm?... Just speculating! ... As Steve Bartin and the Trib note, Rezko previously complained that prosecutors were pressuring him "to tell them the 'wrong' things that I supposedly know about ... Senator Obama." ... Rezko also said at the time that he's "never been party to any wrongdoing that involved" Obama, and pledged not to "fabricate lies." ... But, speaking completely hypothetically, even inaccurate testimony, by Rezko or anyone else, that seemed to implicate Obama in something fishy could, if precisely timed, do a lot of damage. (Note that, in theory, before it got out it would have to be credible enough for prosecutors to actually believe it). ...
Friday, September 26, 2008
I've just heard Chris Matthews make three seemingly insane points in rapid succession: 1) McCain somehow defamed soldiers or America or something by worrying about whether they "died in vain"; 2) It was surprising that Obama didn't make a point of the specific economic problems of African Americans; 3) It was an incredibly winning, decisive moment when Obama laughed after McCain (somewhat effectively, I thought) compared his inflexibility to Bush's. ... That's not even getting to the official MSNBC obsession with whether McCain looked at Obama when he criticized him. ...
Update: Matthews just asked John Heilemann about McCain: "Do you think he was too troll-like tonight? You know, too much of a troll?" ... 9:52 P.M.
Debate #1: Before I get spun, I'd say: small, Pyrrhic victory for McCain. McCain wanted to make Obama seem naive and inexperienced. He did about 40% of that. Obama wanted to make McCain seem dangerously ambitious, bellicose and hotheaded. He did 0% of that. But a) the foreign policy stuff came after a long period on the economy, where McCain seemed a bit frenetic and Obama had the upper hand; and b) Obama didn't seem non-credible, which may be enough to carry him through given all the other advantages he has. ..
More: c) When Obama talks about the struggling middle class, etc., he always says "they" (seems distant) or "you" (seems condescending). Why not "we" or "us."? Or "my buddy Joe down the street"? A core problem, and one that shouldn't be that hard to fix; d) The big areas where Obama could scare voters about McCain are Georgia/Ukraine/Russia and Iran. On Georgia, Obama threw away his leverage by essentially moving toward McCain's position, up to including Georgia in NATO. I guess we really are all Georgians now. On Iran, McCain didn't say anything particularly scary--if anything, he seemed able to dispel some of those legitimate fears, Reagan-style.He achieved that effect even more clearly on Pakistan:
[I]f you're going to aim a gun at somebody, George Shultz, our great secretary of state, told me once, you'd better be prepared to pull the trigger. ...
I'm not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I'm not prepared to threaten it ...
(e) Even more important, Obama did little to bring home what a nightmare the last six years have been for Americans, since the decision to attack Iraq. Wasn't there something sound-bitey he could have prepared? ("Do you want to go through another eight years like the last eight?") f) McCain has that candidates' shorthand disease--when he recycles old campaign rhetoric he so sick of it he shortens it down to code words: "Pen. Veto. I'll make them famous." If you weren't already sick of the rhetoric you probably didn't have the faintest idea what he was saying. (When I worked for Sen. Hollings, it seemed as if by the end of the campaign he'd invoke an old chestnut from Pogo by barking "Pogo. The enemy! Us!") g) McCain could have effectively hit Obama on his big spending plans ("$800 billion") earlier and harder. Maybe this wasn't the right week to make $800 billion seem like a big number. ... h) I don't understand the difference between "strategy" and "tactics." Is there something wrong with me? ...
P.S.: Jim Lehrer ostentatiously noted that he wanted the candidates to mix it up. But every time they began mixing it up it seemed as if Lehrer interrupted them to cut the argument off. Too interesting! ...
Post-spin Update:i) Does Keith Olbermann's show make it seem like their guy must have lost because their guy lost--they sound like the Politburo meeting after the Cuban Missile Crisis--or would Keith Olbermann's show make it seem like their guy must have lost even when their guy won? ...
j) If actual undecided voters who watched the debate favored Obama, as this CBS poll suggests, is that because, after the events of the past week, they were just looking for Obama to pass a threshold test? Add if that's the case, how would McCain now be doing if he'd just gone ahead and had this debate, and done as well as he did, without pulling The Stunt first? (Whether you think McCain's trip to Washington helped or hurt the chances of resolving the current financial crisis, it seems clear he could have gone to D.C. and had whatever influence he had without trying to delay the debate. Think how good that would have looked.) ... 7:43 P.M. link
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The Refs Dream They're Being Worked: When McCain's campaign attacks the press, he's not "working the refs." That implies McCain's strategists still care how the "refs" make calls. I think it's pretty clear they're doing something else (and they're perfectly happy if the refs keep making calls against them). ... P.S.: Of course the MSM "refs" like to think McCain's "working the refs," because that implies they're worth working--that their refereeing role is still all-important (as opposed to their role as, say, a totemic focus of political, class and cultural resentment!)... 3:50 P.M. link
The Palin-lovin' conservatives at GetDrunk on the McCain bailout/debate delay maneuver:
Not that anybody asked us, but we think this is nonsense.
P.S.: If McCain is driving pro-Obama pundits crazy, what has he done to Newt Gingrich?
"This is the greatest single act of responsibility ever taken by a presidential candidate ...."
[He's done nothing. Gingrich was always an excitable megalomaniac--ed Correct answer!] 3:08 P.M.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The Shorts Ate My Homework. From TPM:
[I]f you were living in the real world, if you were some hotshot young executive at a Fortune 500 company trying to rise in the ranks, and you pulled some whacked crap like this, it would probably get you blackballed permanently. People would think you were either deeply unreliable or maybe just had a screw loose.
Marshall calls it 'the biggest 'dog ate my homework' in history." I do think there's something to that--McCain's debate-delaying move seems more than a bit immature and self-indulgent. (As a kid, didn't you used to think, 'Gee, if there was a huge disaster I wouldn't have to take that test'?') ... 11:44 P.M.
I'd missed George McGovern coming out against "card check." ... Meanwhile, Eduwonk makes a not-completely-clear argument that "card check" might help school reform--apparently by expanding private sector unions (i.e., SEIU) and diluting the influence of public sector teachers 'unions within the labor movement. There's also some woolly language about how workers in "hard hat" unions are logical allies of reform because "[i]t's their kids ...who are stuck in lousy schools." True, but they're stuck in lousy schools whether their parents are unionized or not--and unionizing them seems more likely to force them to support their brother teachers' locals than it is to force the teachers' unions to give up their demands for seniority hiring, barriers to dismissal, etc. (which are, after all, traditional union demands). It seems easier just to beat "card check" and beat the teachers' unions, with the "hard hat" parents exercising their power as parents. ... I think Eduwonk is being political here--looking desperately and somewhat naively for potential school reform allies in the Democratic party power and money structure. ... 10:30 P.M. link
Timing Is Everything! ... Second Prize: Dinner! ... Write Your Own Hed! Tom Daschle invites John Kerry, Richard Holbrooke, and James Carville to breakfast with former Fannie Mae CEO (and ex- Obama-veep-vetter) Jim Johnson. Hard to see how they can pass that one up. .. Premature Comeback Syndrome: Shouldn't Johnson go have breakfast with John Edwards, wherever he is, is until, say, December? ... [Via NewsAlert] 7:15 P.M. link
Drama Queen: No convention today! ... OK, it's on! ... The economy's sound... No, wait, it's going to fall apart unless I go to Washington tomorrow! ... We need a commission! ... We need to fire somebody! ... Get me Andrew Cuomo! ... I want ten more debates! ... But let's postpone the one we've scheduled! ... Do you get the impression a McCain presidency would be a bit exhausting? ...
P.S.: Remember Tom Wolfe's description of a fighter pilot's decision-making protocol: "I've tried A! I've tried B! I've tried C! ..." Update:Delmarva Now's J. Fisher has posted the Wolfe quote in full. It's eerily resonant! ...
P.P.S.: Why does McCain think he is the person who can whip conservative House Republicans into line behind the bailout? Just like he did with "comprehensive immigration reform." ... But wait, that suggests a possible deal conservative House Republicans might strike: Senator, you say there will be "devastating consequences" to our country if we don't pass this bailout bill. So devastating that you've halted your campaign and want to postpone a crucial debate. Are they so devastating that you're willing to postpone your own controversial immigration reform until, say, after the 2010 elections? ... I think they'll discover there are some things McCain won't sacrifice for his country. ... 5:29 P.M. link
Item Status Notification (Delay): I was going to write an item making another argument for Obama: That we shouldn't worry about him getting rid of the secret ballot when it comes to recognizing unions because, according to no less an authority than Dem labor expert William Gould, Obama would need a filibuster-proof 60 vote majority in the Senate to make that change--and a 60 seat majority is out of reach. Planned headline: "Vote Obama: He Won't Get It Done!"
But I can't write the item because a 60 seat Democratic majority is not out of reach, apparently, if Dems can win Senate seats in North Carolina, Mississippi and Minnesota. ... A lot more is riding on Al Franken than I thought possible. It's like a bad Disney movie! ...
P.S.: Gould's fallback proposals for quick secret ballot elections seem like a much more sensible reform than the official Dem plan to completely replace secret ballot elections with the non-secret, individual signing of cards ("card check"). Gould's reforms also don't seem like nearly enough to reverse the decades-long slide in private sector unionization rates, which has a deep, rational basis. (Most obviously: Would you want your industry to look like Detroit's unionized Big Three?) ... 12:16 A.M.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
"[T]he charitable reaction was that it was insane."
P.S.: What does McCain's impulse say about his predictabiity when it comes to Supreme Court appointments? Just a thought.** ... Hey, Cuomo's a lawyer! ...
**A thought George Will already had. ...11:40 P.M.
"Is Obama really that good a speaker?" Daniel Finkelstein's valued overseas perspective:
I find that too often he can be an empty, rather woolly speaker. Someone who likes the sound of his own voice a bit much.
Did They Blow the Fit? Honda's new Fit is positioned to be the perfect vehicle for the times--tiny, sporty, roomy, very economical. The 2007 version was all those things (see Seth Stevensons's rave) but also a little ugly. All Honda had to do was correct its few flaws--make it slightly larger, smoother riding and prettier--and they'd have the ideal $4/gallon car. The 2009 version is, according to previews, slightly larger, smoother riding, and prettier. How could they screw up a car by correcting its flaws?
Happens all the time. Making cars slightly larger and more refined seems especially to bring out the Brezhnev in auto engineering bureaucracies. ( See, e.g., VW 412, Volvo 144S, Mazda 3.) ... So has Honda screwed up the Fit? Car and Driver's posted a debate on the subject.My reading: Yes, they have. The new Fit has 10 cup holders, but the steering "has lost on-center feel." Nothing is as important as "on-center feel"! And CD's colloquy includes several cues (e.g., "This is a great car for people who are coming from larger vehicles") that experienced readers will recognize as secret distress codes. ... Used Fits are starting to look less ugly already. ... 3:07 A.M. link
At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.
McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive [E.A.]
But would a looser format really disadvantage Palin in the encounter? 1) She seems like a scrapper who can handle herself in a "free-wheeling" exchange; 2) Biden, on the other hand, isn't someone you want to liberate. Set him free and who knows what he'll say. He's already way too free-wheeling. He needs limits, no? The tighter format will force him to focus; 3) Point #2 is doubly relevant given the difficulties Biden will have facing off against a woman. He's not supposed to condescend. He's not supposed to bully. (He's not supposed to be Biden, in other words.) Set him loose in an open format and it's a near certainty he would get the tone wrong, maybe even get carried away and go all Lazio on her.
Those "McCain advisers" may have just done him a big favor. ... [Tks to D.] 2:03 A.M. link
Monday, September 22, 2008
We Shall Overarch! Jacob Weisberg says Obama needs an economic "message," by which he means a "simple, lucid theme" or slogan or "overarching narrative" that unites and organizes Obama's his "sensible economic policies." Good point. But, oddly, Weisberg doesn't suggest any slogans himself. Is that because the obvious slogan is not clever or especially electrifying:
PROSPERITY FOR ALL, AGAIN
Or something like that (i.e., "Prosperity for all, for a change."). ... Name a policy this doesn't overarch! ... Meanwhile it addresses the central and legitimate Dem complaint, which is that while the economy has grown quite rapidly, in GDP terms, median income has not. .. The main problem with the slogan: It's depressingly banal. But it's no worse than "Bridge to the 21st Century." ...
P.S.: Economic egalitarians note that if the economy is growing, but the wealth isn't trickling down, that's almost by definition because it's been going increasingly to the top. The slogan implies that. But while it contains this buried "money-egalitarian" grievance, it doesn't imply a redistributive or egalitarian solution. If Obama could goose the economy so everyone was getting richer, nothing in the slogan would be violated if the rich were still getting wildly richer, making the overall income distribution more unequal. ...
P.P.S.: Yes, this slogan fails to incorporate Obama's usual anti-Washington theme. No loss. Palin reduces that theme's bite, anyway. And if any Washington insiders can bring us "shared prosperity," don't we want Obama to make use of them? Most of Obama's economic advisers (Summers, Rubin, Tyson, Sperling, Furman) are Washington veterans. At this point in the economic crisis, that gives voters confidence, which is why Obama recently had his picture taken with some of them. ...
P.P.P.S.: I'm not saying Obama's policies actually will achieve "prosperity for all." Card-check unionization certainly won't. But the slogan reflects what they're intended to achieve--it's aspirational. And diagnostic. ...
Backfill: See also William Galston's "message" memo from last week, which also touches on Obama's non-crisp style of communicating.
**--Or maybe Weisberg has sources, knows the real slogan, and doesn't want to give it away. ...10:44 P.M. link
Priorities: McCain pledges to present a 'comprehensive immigration reform' plan to Congress (i.e. including some form of amnesty) "the first day" in office. ..
Update: He's so desperate he's pandering in English! Speaking before "a largely Irish-American crowd," McCain focuses on "50,000 Irish men and women who are in this country illegally at this time," promising them a "path to citizenship"
I want to assure you that we will enact comprehensive immigration reform ...
Does the GOP base "get the message" yet? ... Progress! Note pro-Dem blog Think Progress eschewing official bipartisan euphemisms and calling it "amnesty." ....[Tks. to J.S.] 10:27 A.M.
Department of Housing and Urban Development damaged several New York neighborhoods when it permitted scam artists to bilk the government out of federally secured mortgage and construction loans in the late 1990's.
Seems like just the right man to solve the toxic mortgage crisis. ... P.S.: This wasn't a tiny fraud. It was a quarter-billion dollar scandal that severely disrupted the redevelopment of Harlem, among other places, by gumming up the market. But hey, it was non-profit fraud! ... Apparently, McCain's not just going populist left. He's going irresponsible, opportunist populist left. ... More Cuomo embarrassments here and here ("Mr. Cuomo's complaints that [a primary opponent] was not aggressive in investing state pension money in concerns that would further social causes, like affordable housing.") ... See also Wayne Barrett (alleging that as HUD secretary Cuomo pushed Fannie Mae into the subprime market) ... Note to my conservative friends: Hope Palin's worth it! ... 12:30 A.M. link
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Now a Ford Maverick would be a cool car for McCain to own. (Rear drive. Famously robust. Old. Ironic.) Alas, it appears to be just a cheap graphic device by Huffington Post. ... Of the 13 vehicles McCain does own, only the 3 electric golf-cart-like things are at all interesting. Even HuffPo likes them. ... The others aren't even ostentatious or obnoxious. Where is a Porsche Cayenne Turbo when you need it? ... . 9:53 P.M.
Implementation of the Paulson plan is going to be a mess. It is going to be a great opportunity for lobbyists and lawyers to make a lot of money. Who are the financial magicians Paulson is going to hire? Are they from Wall Street? If they're from Wall Street, aren't they the very people we are saving? And doesn't that mean that we're using the taxpayers' money to hire people to save their friends with even more taxpayer money? Won't this inevitably lead to crony capitalism? Who is going to do oversight? How much transparency is there going to be? We still haven't seen the report which led to bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is "secret". Is our $700 billion going to be spent in "secret" too? [E.A.}
Some other points!--
1) Gingrich claims it's dangerous to push a dramatic long-term solution in response to a shorter-term "crisis." But of course he uses the crisis to push his own long-term solution, a "zero capital gains tax." I personally think we need to respond to this crisis by immediately providing universal health care while postponing indefinitely all plans for "comprehensive immigration reform" and "card check" unionization. Racial preferences in college admissions and contracting should to be suspended for 15 years while the government creates a $700 billion entity to fund charter schools and another of similar size to finance public works projects that provide unskilled, last-resort jobs. This no time to rush into untested schemes;
2) I don't have to imagine what a future administration might do with the unchecked power to spend $700 billion, potentially rewarding friends, etc. I'm worried what the current administration would do. Paulson seems like a straight shooter--but these are Bushes we are talking about. They value loyalty and keep lists. The President tried to put his personal lawyer on the Supreme Court. Enough said. ...
3) Gingrich worries about "a one-week solution that becomes a 20-year mess." I don't see the danger of a 20-year mess. It's only a trillion dollars. It won't take 20 years to spend.
Krugman (like Joe Nocera) wonders what price the government will pay for the toxic assets its buying--will it drive a hard bargain, paying no more than"fair value"-- in which case it wouldn't seem to be doing much to help the firms it's buying from. Or will it overpay, in effect lavishing a taxpayer windfall on Wall Street screw-ups without asking anything in return? The scheme only makes sense, Krugman notes, if
this is mainly a liquidity problem. So if the government stands ready to buy securities at "fair value", all will be well.
Mallaby, on the other hand, worries that there is no market price--no "fair value"--at all, and no way of knowing whether the government will have overpaid:
But under the current proposal, the government would go out and shop for bad loans. These come in all shapes and sizes, so the government would have to judge what type of loans it wants. They are illiquid, so it's hard to know how to value them. Bad loans are weighing down the financial system precisely because private-sector experts can't determine their worth.
In other words, as I understand it, Mallaby says there is too a big liquidity problem, which is precisely what (as Krugman notes) Paulson's bailout is designed to fix--by pricing the toxic assets via a "reverse auction," in which the government pays the lowest possible price, and in effect answers the question "private sector experts" can't.
I don't know if it will work (and I don't see why, to make it work, the government needs to spend all $700 billion). But I don't think both Krugman and Mallaby can be right about why it won't work.
5) Mallaby worries that the government might prop up "the sickest institutions." But in a "reverse auction," in which the government was not overpaying, wouldn't it be mainly the healthiest institutions who could take the low price and still be happy to get the toxic assets off their balance sheets? Or would, in fact, only the weakest and most desperate institutions jump at even a lowball offer?
I don't know the answer. If I did I'd have 13 cars by now. ...
Update: This WaPo analysis is very useful. It doesn't resolve any of the issues, but confirms that the issues, and others, really are issues! ... Key point-: A "reverse auction" is tricky because the securities offered will be different in complicated ways. Hard to compare. But the same--on a lesser scale--goes for houses, no? There's still a market for them. The government would presumably do the best it could, with more of a cushion for error than a typical private buyer (but also with a lot of discretion that could be used to reward friends, etc.).. .... 9:26 P.M. link
Friday, September 19, 2008
Don't unpanic yet, Dems: I know state-by-state polling sometimes lags. But after a week as tumultuously favorable to the Democrats as this past week, if I were an Obama supporter--wait, I am!- I'd want the electoral map to look a whole lot better than this. Or this. ... 3:19 P.M.
His theory is that when racially charged issues like welfare and crime dominated the political rhetoric, racial factors affected voting behavior and the Wilder effect asserted itself. But once welfare disappeared as a salient issue in 1996, political discourse was deracialized and race was less of a factor in voters' mind.
Such a deracializing effect was not unanticipated (if, for example, you read Thomas and Mary Edsall's Chain Reaction.) ... All the more reason for Obama to present himself as a strong welfare reform supporter, whether or not he actually was one in 1996. ... 3:11 P.M. link
McCain Finds His Voice! Or Paul Wellstone's Voice!
"[F]orcing mortgages on people who couldn't afford them"
That's how McCain's now talking in his desperate lunge to the demagogic left. Can you imagine Reagan saying such a thing? I can't. No wonder the Heritage types are on lockdown. ... P.S.: I'd say McCain's new rhetoric was Shrumian, except that would libel Shrum, who's either not that demagogic or knows he could never get away with it. ... Update: David Corn thinks McCain's new mad-as-hell populist act might work. ... More: Alert reader R.A., and also my mother, say it's time to bring up the Keating Five. Let McCain explain that scandal away. Even assuming he did nothing illegal, he certainly wasn't "changing the way Washington does business" when he met with banking regulators on behalf of a rich buddy He was playing the "old Washington game" as it's always been played: Businessmen befriend you and give you contributions while you either intervene or pretend to intervene on their behalf. ... 2:32 P.M. link
Hack Blowback: Obama so deserves to, finally, take this hit for choosing Fannie Mae macher Jim Johnson to vet his VP prospects. (See earlier.)... Did Obama tap Johnson because after two years in the Senate Obama had become part of the "Washington culture of lobbying and influence peddling" as McCain charges--or because as a newcomer he was naive about that Washington culture and quickly got co-opted? Either way, it was an obvious, conventional, atrocious choice. ... P.S.: The Obama campaign has countered by releasing a list of McCain aides who lobbied for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. What the release demonstrates is that while Fannie Mae was a peculiarly Democratic scam--habitually justified as a way to bring home-ownership to the less advantaged--its leaders successfully tried to buy both parties. Still, lobbying for Fannie Mae's disastrous operation (McCain campaign manager Rick Davis) isn't the same thing as running Fannie Mae's disastrous operation (Johnson). ... Update: Even TPM's Greg Sargent concedes, "The hit on Johnson is a rough one for Obama." ... More: "Give it back! Give it back!" ... Raines and Johnson should have taken that sound advice in 2004. They'd be heroes, not radioactive losers. ... 12:02 P.M. link
St. Elizabeth, Mythmaker: Even when she by all rights should be reassuming her position a highly sympathetic figure--maybe she really believed her husband's line about how he couldn't be the father of Rielle Hunter's child--Elizabeth Edwards finds a way to be annoying! From the Detroit Free Press:
Asked whether she has forgiven her husband, Edwards replied: "I don't want to feed the monster, if you don't mind." [**]
She said that had her leg been amputated, instead of a child dying or her husband having an affair, people would not ask: "Are you over that leg thing yet?"
That's it--it's all our fault for being curious! The leg analogy is perfect--I mean, it's not as if she wrote a self-dramatizing book about a child dying ... Oh wait:
... Edwards will visit Detroit on Oct. 15 to talk about coping with life's setbacks, including the loss of her son Wade at age 16 in an auto accident and her 2004 diagnosis of cancer, which recurred last year. Those issues frame the themes of "Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers," her 2006 book, updated last year (Broadway Books, $14.95).
In short, she wants publicity when it helps her, and when it doesn't you're a monster for asking. ... P.S.: Mrs. Edwards described her new role as making sure her three children "have an image of their father as an 'advocate for poverty, not for this current picture picture of him to be the only one they carry with them .... So I need to create the picture for them that I want them to have." [Emphasis added] Doesn't sound like she's in the truth business anymore, if she ever was. ...
**--Last month, her husband said, "My Lord and my wife have forgiven me ..." She could have told the Free Press "yes." Or even (if she didn't want to make news) "John addressed that on Nightline." ... 1:37 A.M. link
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Plainly, Obama is testing what the market for his negativity and non-New Politics will bear, daring McCain to go negative.**
Or maybe (just between us) Obama's not-so-plainly persuing the cunning Krikorian Strategy of "baiting McCain as being insufficiently committed to [immigration] amnesty in order to provoke a politically damaging response by the Republican nominee."
Unlike the similar Brimelow Gambit--in which Obama would politely invite McCain to pledge to pursue "comprehensive" immigration reform--Krikorian would have Obama goad McCain into inadvisedly embracing 'semi-amnesty' by ticking him off. An unfair and infuriatingly deceptive ad is much better for this purpose than a fair and honest ad! And an infuriatingly deceptive ad in which Obama doesn't directly reiterate his own support of amnesty is better still. ... Plus you know McCain probably detests Limbaugh. Being tarred by a farfetched association with him should be especially aggravating. ...
P.S,: The point is not simply to get McCain to rub his pro-amnesty position in the faces of his Palin-struck conservative GOP "base." Supporting amnesty--in English as well as Spanish, preferably in a televised debate--could also directly cost McCain non-Republican votes in key battleground states. As alert kf reader J.S. notes, such a McCain statement
would mean that at the height of economic fears, in a fight for the working class vote, as we head into a recession, McCain is reminding everyone about his support for comprehensive immigration reform. This hurts McCain with his base and with low wage workers. [E.A.]
Think immigration and amnesty couldn't be an issue in an area like, say, Scranton-Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania? Ask 11-term incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski, "who is now in serious jeopardy of losing his seat to an anti-immigration upstart." Kanjorski's 9 nine points behind in a recent poll. ... [via Corner ]
Bogus CW Alert: The easy, pro-McCain CW on Obama's ad:
The big problem with this ad: McCain and Limbaugh don't agree on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. It's a pretty low blow, particularly since McCain did see his campaign nearly die because of his support for immigration .... -- MSNBC's First Read, 9/18/08
No! The big problem with the ad is that it brutally misconstrues Limbaugh while attempting to implant an ethnic grievance in the Latino community--not just sleazy but profoundly irresponsible ("divisive," as someone like Barack Obama would say). The ad doesn't directly talk about immigration reform--rather it claims McCain is allied with anti-Latino bigots. ... An attack that actually focused on immigration reform and accused McCain of agreeing with Limbaugh wouldn't be that unfair--McCain did try to pretend he'd flipped against his own immigration reform during the GOP primaries, when flipping was in his interest. ... 9/19 Update: The NYT opts for the E-Z CW, ignores the distortion of Limbaugh's statements--leaving the impression that the ad's characterization of "the nativist wing of [the GOP] and Mr. Limbaugh" is accurate. ...
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Lady de Rothschild denounces Obama as an "elitist," endorses McCain. ... She "splits her time living in London and New York." ... P.S.: Lloyd Grove's description --"the flashiest hostess in London." ... P.P.S.: Is McCain saving Ferraro for October? ... . 1:44 A.M.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Can the $9 million raised tonight by Obama at that Beverly Hills Barbra Streisand celebrity fundraiser possibly win him as many votes as the bad publicity from the fundraiser is losing him? I don't think so. ... P.S.: I'm from Beverly Hills! I've learned the hard way that there is no way to make it go down well with the rest of America. (I used to joke that I was from the poor side of Beverly Hills. It didn't help.) 11:36 P.M.
Suckers, Part XVIV: "We expect to see almost all of the original McCain-Kennedy bill become law during the first six months of a McCain Presidency." Don't just take it from me and Mark Krikorian. Here is what pro-comprehensive immigration lawyerr-types say about whether McCain or Obama is more likely to pass an amnesty-type bill. ... It's not even close:
If we get President Obama, Democrats are going to be euphoric on Jan 20, 2009, and rightly so - being back in the White House, at last, after 8 long and bitter years. Democrats have not been able to pursue their priorities for 8 years and we can expect them to act aggressively on their big priorities immediately after a President Obama takes office. There are at least four Democratic priorities ahead of immigration: the Iraq war, universal health care, budget/taxes and energy policy. These are all large, complex issues and Congress will take most of a President Obama's first term to work on these. In such a scenario, we will not see any significant immigration benefits in the foreseeable future.
If we get President McCain, we will still have a powerful Democratic majority in Congress on Jan 20, 2009. This Congress will be at loggerheads with him on all the major Democratic priorities. ...[snip] ... In this bitter fighting hardly anything will get done legislatively, and both Democrats and Mr. McCain will be looking for opportunities to show the country that they can work on something together.
While there are a few areas of agreement between Mr. McCain and Democrats, immigration is the largest issue on which Democrats and McCain agree. While the current Republican Party platform is the most anti-immigrant one in memory, there were news reports that Mr. McCain, who has a long track record of being pro-immigration, tried to make it more immigration-friendly and failed. This is the issue on which he is most likely to stab his party's anti-immigrationist wing in the back both in his political interests and due to his own convictions (Mr. McCain had to fight his party's anti-immigrationists tooth and nail during the Republican primaries). We expect to see almost all of the original McCain-Kennedy bill become law during the first six months of a McCain Presidency. [E.A.]
Of course, he'll secure the borders first! ... More: In Florida, McCain declares immigration one of his "first priorities," blasts Obama for insufficiently supporting the 2006-7 McCain-Kennedy legalization bill. ... Note to Nigerian scam artists: Save your emails and focus them on McCain's "base" conservative supporters. They are the biggest suckers on the planet! Just tell them you hate the MSM and they'll do anything you say. ... 3:56 P.M. link
Monday, September 15, 2008
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 immediately 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. link
Sunday, September 14, 2008
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
Saturday, September 13, 2008
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. link
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