Anti-Obama downballot boomerang?

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 14 2008 6:11 AM

Anti-Obama Boomerang?

Why more votes for McCain might mean more Dems in Congress.

The "October Surprise" that might help McCain wouldn't be a new bin Laden tape, or an Al Qaeda attack, but rather a medium-sized setback in Iraq, no? One of McCain's problems is that voters aren't paying much attention to Iraq--because it looks from our distant vantage point like the war is finally on a glide path to an honorable U.S. drawdown of troops. How much damage could Obama do?  But if suddenly the near-term outcome in Iraq seems to be in doubt, voters could decide that McCain has shown better judgment on recent strategy in the war. ... Of course, if the U.S. Iraq project suffers a huge setback, McCain's support for Petraeus' surge would look distinctly less prescient. Hence, "medium-sized." ...  3:05 A.M.

___________________________

Knock, knock. Who's there? Another McGoverniteA reader writes about "card check"  unionization-

 I'm an Obama supporter - voted for him [in] the primary, and plan to again in November - but I share your concern on this particular issue.

There's a unionization campaign going on in my company, and the organizers from the local seem to be running the campaign as if card check already existing - knocking on doors, getting cards signed, and trying to use them as leverage to get management to agree to the union without an election. They don't have the votes yet for an election, and they may be biding their time until card check is passed.

 Co-workers who've had union reps show up unannounced at their doors (with cards in hand) were freaked out by it.  When people get a first-hand taste of this, they don't like it.  I can't believe that if the basic facts of this issue were made known that a majority of people would support it.

P.S.--Fear of 59? An earlier Assignment desk asked  if any Democratic senators might turn against card-check to sustain a filibuster even if the Dems get a 60-seat majority. An informed emailer answers by noting that every Democrat voted for cloture on "card check" when the issue came up in 2007 (except Tim Johnson, who was unable to vote). Of course, their judgment might change when their cloture vote would mean the bill would actually pass. Likely-senator Mark Warner of Virginia  and possible-senator Ronnie Musgrove of Mississippi are mentioned as a potential anti-card-check apostates in the next Congress, along with incumbents Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.). ... Might any GOP senators defect the other way? Yes. Arlen Specter voted for cloture in 2007 and would presumably do it again (which means that the magic number for organized labor could be 59, not 60, Democrats). And beatable Republicans up for reelection in 2010 (e.g., Voinovich, Grassley, Vitter) might worry about angering the unions. ...

Update-Labor Fights Back! B. emails--

[W]hat your reader describes today can happen with or without card check -- in fact, it has always been part of a union drive.  In fact, unions have to get cards from 30% of employees to get a secret-ballot vote.

Yes, but the impact of possibile intimidation, the fear of intimidation and the temptation to engage in intimidation will presumably increase when a home visit by union reps is designed to collect the decisive vote, by card, instead of just simply a card that leads to a decisive vote by secret ballot. The "freaking out" potential could escalate exponentially. Under current law, you can sign the card to get the union reps to go away and then decide later for yourself whether you want a union or not. Under card check, if you sign the card to get the union reps to go away you have chosen to have a union.

C. emails--

Believe me: union organizers hate having to knock on doors and call people on the phone. The reality is that a lot of people don't like getting visited at home. ... Phone call and door knocking is inefficient -- it's common to try to visit five co-workers in an evening and not find anyone at home. It chews up an enormous amount of time.

But the rules of the current election process mean that door knocking and phone calling are the only way workers who want to form the union can reach out to their undecided coworkers, because they can't meet with the co-workers at the workplace without the employer sitting in and union organizers aren't allowed on the property of the employer.

C. continues

The one place where all the workers are in one place at the same time is at the workplace. The employer simply calls a mandatory staff meeting and inculcates every worker with an anti-union message provided by the union avoidance consultant they've brought in. Many consultants recommend that employers hold five of these meetings. It's hard to know what an advantage this is for the employer unless you've tried to help form a union recently.

C then implores me to look at the "big picture." But if we're looking at the big picture, we should also be able to consider the venerable, yet highly questionable features of our labor relations system that may bias elections in the other direction. One I remember from my Labor Law class is the perverse rule that bans employers from attempting to buy off workers by giving them raises. Why isn't that legimitate? The employer doesn't want a union and is willing to pay good money to avoid it!  Isn't the idea to benefit workers? Or is the idea to protect the institutional status of unions by making sure benefits flow through them?

If we're going to reexamine the rules, let's reexamine all the rules, not just the ones union organizers don't like. ... 2:44 A.M. link

___________________________

___________________________

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Geraghty carves up the latest Newsweek poll, which has Obama up by 11. ... Newsweek's findings that McCain is doing better among young people than old people, and better among women than men, seem especially strange. A party breakdown of 40 Dems for every 27 Republicans seems much less strange. ...  "Never pay attention to a Newsweek poll" is always a good rule of thumb. ... [Tks to reader B.K. ] 5:39 P.M.

___________________________

Alert reader M. proposes a Downballot anti-Obama Boomerang Effect, in which "The closer the Presidential race, the more likely that the Democrats will have at least 60 members in the Senate come January." Why?

white middle class guilt.  swing voters who vote for the old white guy for president even though they think he might not be the right guy, make up for it by voting for the democrat for senator

Just as you don't have to be a racist to be a "Bradley Effect" voter--you just have to be worried about being thought a racist by inquiring, politically correct pollsters--you don't have to be a racist to have white middle class guilt about it (or about voting for McCain even if you talk honestly with pollsters). ... I don't know if M. is the first to suggest this possibility--a deeply troubling one to those Obama voters who (like me) nevertheless worry about what Dems might do if they win a filibuster proof Senate majority in addition to White House.  It means that if McCain closes in the final days of the campaign--not unlikely--then the Dems are even more likely to sweep the Senate. ... I'd prefer a Downballot pro-Obama Hedge Effect, in which swing voters compensate for the bold, hopeful risk they're taking on Obama by voting to install Republicans in their local Senate and House races. Sort of like a credit default swap, except with John Sununu insted of AIG! ... P.S.: I have no idea if either effect exists, and if they do which will dominate (that would presumably depend on whether Obama surges or fades in the stretch for all sorts of other reasons). But you'd think the second, "hedge" effect would be weak, since whatever happens the Dems will almost certainly control majorities in Congress. How much of a "hedge" do voters think they can provide by voting against their local downballot Dem? Answer: A pretty good one, if they preserve the GOP ability to filibuster. But I doubt late-deciding swing voters think much about Rule 22  ... 5:06 P.M.

___________________________

Psst, Republicans! The big problem with ACORN isn't the squirrelly  voter registration efforts you are making such a fuss about. It is their efforts to water down or undermine work-based welfare reform. You'd think that would trouble swing voters more too. ... 2:25 A.M.

___________________________

Friday, October 10, 2008

And do you maybe have some change in your pocket? ... I hear jingling!  I just made a deposit at my bank. For the first time ever, the teller asked me if I maybe also wanted to pay down some of the (relatively small) balance in my check-protection line of credit.  Payments are automatically deducted from my account anyway, so they were asking for a voluntary extra payment. Just to help me, of course. ... I guess they've figured out how to avoid sowing panic-triggering doubts among their customers!... 3:21 P.M.

___________________________

What's McCain's Next Stunt? Let the speculation begin. Global Dashboard has one not-implausible scenario. ... Feiler Faster Stunting: I say there isn't time for one more stunt. There's time for two! ... 10:42 A.M.

___________________________

What does a tasered possum sound like? Harry Shearer has the answer. ... P.S.: Yes, he does Mr. Burns too. ... 2:43 A.M.

___________________________

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I've always been a champion of labor unions, but I fear that today's union leaders are turning their backs on democratic workplace elections. I've listened to all their arguments and reviewed the facts on both sides. Quite simply, this proposed law cannot be justified.

Can I vote for him? ... Done it before! [via Insta] 12:58 A.M.

___________________________

Mark Halperin almost nails Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs on the Ayers issue--"It is the case that Barack Obama at least implicitly seems to be saying 'It's Ok to have professional associations with someone who was a terrorist and by some measures is an unrepentant terrorist'"--but Halperin doesn't know to stop talking. As a result, it sounds like an argument as opposed to a question followed by fumfawing or evasion. ... P.S.: Note Gibbs' pissed-off close. .. 12:31 A.M.

__________________________

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain/ Obama Debate #2:  Before I get spun: A dull debate in a dead room. Each stole the other's theme: Obama called for service to country, McCain for a "cool hand on the tiller" even as he seemed like a hyperactive hand himself. A tie helps Obama, and this probably wasn't even a tie. ... 1) Obama's great weakness is that he's an unknown with an unusual (i.e. strange) background. By painting him as a big-spending liberal, McCain oddly made Obama seem less strange, and more acceptable. Voters are used to dealing with big spending liberals--and they also may think that the there's not enough money for that much big spending anymore anyway. 2)  Speaking of spending, McCain rails against Obama's "$860 billion" in proposed "new" spending, yet McCain wants the government to buy up all the bad mortgages in the country, give all homeowners new purchase prices and protect them from their ill-advised decisions? Sounds very expensive. Update: I was just on Tavis Smiley's TV show with Rep. Maxine Waters, who said the money to do what McCain wants to do is already in the bailout bill. But it sure sounded to me like McCain was proposing a big new initiative. More: He thought he was. "Aides to McCain told reporters" it will cost $300 billion. Waters' point may be that the existing bailout bill already authorizes such purchases; ... 3) "That one." Heh. Not racist--seemed to me like an attempt by McCain to avoid being too confrontational (by saying Obama's name) that wound up seeming more hostile than saying Obama's name would have been. ... 4) Obama still refers to economically pressured Americans as "you" rather than "we." He says, "Maybe you don't go out to dinner as much. Maybe you put off buying a new car." That's all? Is Obama trying to make the economic hardship he's talking about sound minimal?  ... 5) McCain was badly hurt by the camera angle--shooting him from above only made him look short and scuttling. ... 6) Worst format ever? Could be! Can't believe McCain wanted more of these things. ... 7) Was it awful because it was a fake town hall debate, as Maxine Waters and Slate's Jack Shafer  contend? It certainly managed to keep the worst aspects of the town hall format--the phony empathy competition between the candidates as they either ignore questions or treat them as prompts for stock answers--while leaving out the worthwhile aspects--spontaneity and risk. In the process it reduced its Real Average Americans to props in the earnest empathon!8) Brokaw didn't help by adding his own little bien pensant suggestions on top of the cherry-picked high-minded audience queries. At least when Brokaw moderated debates in 1988 he would harangue the candidates about "means-testing" Social Security, a substantive proposal. Now he wants only "a date certain to reform Social Security and Medicare within two years"--a bipartisanist gimmick ... 8) McCain has his own gimmick:

My friends, what we have to do with Medicare is have a commission, have the smartest people in America come together, come up with recommendations, and then, like the base-closing commission idea we had, then we should have Congress vote up or down.

Let's not let them fool with it anymore. There's too much special interests and too many lobbyists working there.

That's more or less what happened with the bailout bill, due to the rush of the crisis rather than any special procedural provision. I wonder if McCain is freshly enamored with the ability of the MSM to actually get Congress to approve the bailout in the teeth of public opposition? Maybe the Bailout Model now his template for top-down reform: a yes-no vote, with maximum establishment pressure focused, if only for an instant, on those selfish unbipartisan cowards who do what their constituents want instead of What Everyone Knows Must Be Done. And no pesky deal-breaking amendments. ... You just know McCain would like to go this route with "comprehensive immigration reform" too. ... 6:29 P.M./updated 8:42 P.M. link

___________________________

Monaco, gritty center of automotive innovation. ... 11:35 A.M.

___________________________

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rezko Alert! Federal prosecutors have moved to delay sentencing  of former Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko, the Chicago Tribune reports. ... The obvious suspicion is that he's talking. Or at least talking about talking ... Update: Full Tribune story. ... Of course this will also have the effect of pushing Rezko's sentencing past the election--eliminating one potentially bad bit of publicity for Obama. ..  And according to the Trib's sources, Rezko "has not yet made a firm deal." ... See also the  timeline on the local NBC affiliate's blog, where Steve Rhodes writes: "[S]ubstantively, Obama's long and intimate relationship with Rezko is of far more import than the spectacle of Jeremiah Wright and the (mostly) nonsense of Bill Ayers. ... Obama's house deal with Rezko was indeed shady." ...

P.S.: Everybody seems to agree that the main target of the federal probe is sitting Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. But that doesn't rule out the possibility that prosecutors might also extract something from Rezko about Obama. ...

P.P.S.: Barring some dramatic development, like an indictment, voters may find the accusation that Obama is really a Chicago political hack  more comforting than troubling. Better than a strange Third World Madrassa Man!** We're used to dealing with Chicago political hacks.

** Previous anti-Obama meme, discredited but not necessarily forgotten. ... 5:08 P.M. link

___________________________

He's Lost Alter! New York's John Heilemann, as evidence of a media shift against McCain, offers this:

Jonathan Alter, Joe Klein, Richard Cohen, David Ignatius, Jacob Weisberg: all former McCain admirers now turned brutal critics. Equally if not more damaging, the shift has been just as pronounced, if less operatic, among straight-news reporters. Suddenly, McCain is no longer being portrayed as a straight-talking, truth-telling maverick but as a liar, a fraud, and an opportunist with acute anger-management issues.

I know Jon Alter. Jon Alter is a friend of mine. He's very good at what he does--I couldn't do it. He wrote an excellent book, has a lot to say. But he's not exactly someone you look to as a political weather vane. Alter is totally for Obama and has been since the beginning of the campaign. If Jon has "turned" brutally against McCain in the final weeks of the campaign that is as predictable as the Giants going into a prevent defense with a two touchdown lead and a minute to go.** ... But of course he hasn't "turned"--missing from Heilemann's piece is any evidence of Alter favoring McCain at any earlier point in the campaign, let alone evidence of Alter favoring McCain once he was the nominee running against Obama. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for his fellow Chicago Dem (and head of the Slate Group) Jacob Weisberg. Nor is it exactly surprising that Klein, Cohen and Ignatius would be on Obama's side in the end.  ...

It's one thing to have pro-Democratic, pro-Obama media favoritism: That's just the way it is. Political reporters have opinions. Better blatant than latent.

It's another to have that very favoritism used as evidence that McCain is blowing it, losing his reputation for "integrity" and his "gold plated brand." ...

P.S.: It might seem as if the MSM reaction against McCain's shift to negativism has "driven the final nail into his coffin," as Heilemann suggests. The Feiler Faster Thesis says no--given the speed with which the country now processes information, there's plenty of time for several dramatic twists and turns, including lead changes. Obamaphiles (in the press and elsewhere) are deluding themselves, I think, if they think they can ride the economic crisis and the reaction against negativity to victory in a month. Plus Obama's not that far ahead

**--I worked with Alter at Newsweek in the 1988 campaign. We were for Dukakis. ... 1:57 P.M. link

___________________________

Fear of 60: If there's a good chance that the Dems will achieve a theoretically filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate,  shouldn't that change the dynamic of the race? It certainly changes the nature of the prospective Obama presidency. It means he might come under intense pressure to do something big about health care. And it is a blazing arrow pointing in the direction of the Employee Free Choice Act, more commonly known as "card check," which would constitute a fairly fundamental revision of our basic economic laws in a direction designed to unionize a large chunk of the economy (at the cost of doing away with the secret ballot in union certification elections). ... Currently about 12.6% of all U.S. jobs are unionized, though that includes the union-heavy public sector. How much of the economy would be organized after the secret ballot is eliminated? At the Dem convention I heard figures ranging from about 15% to 25% (the latter estimate derided by some as extreme). ... .

Since I think a dramatic increase in unionization is not the way to help those on the bottom of the job market--it's more likely to introduce inefficiency and inflation, compared with the proven Clintonite remedy of achieving a low unemployment rate--the looming 60-Dem threshold evokes mixed feelings, if not actual dread. I think I'd rather have Obama win a big victory while the Dems struggle to a narrow win in Congress than what we're likely to get--namely the reverse. (It's a measure of Obama's troubling weaknesses that he's lagging so far behind the underlying Dem legislative wave.) ...

This morning some idealistic, well-scrubbed 10 year olds down the street were raising funds by selling "Obama Lemonade."  Do they know it's really Card Check Lemonade?!...

Mickey's Assignment Desk: It would be good to have a seat by seat analysis of: a) Whether all 60 prospective Dems will actually side with labor to break a card-check filibuster--or whether some independent-minded Dems might defy union-enforced orthodoxy and join the McGovern wing of the party. b) Whether the unions even need 60 Dems to pass the card check bill.  Maybe they could rely on liberal GOPs like Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, or Olympia Snowe to break a filibuster even if the Dems win only, say, 58 seats. [Update: Collins, at least, is anti-card check, I'm told.] ... 1:38 A.M. link

___________________________

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Does McCain like Palin? I don't think we know. ... If he doesn't like her, and just picked her for tactical reasons, she might play only a minimal role in a McCain presidency. ... 7:15 P.M.

___________________________

Friday, October 3, 2008

kf is Confuse d: Politico's Mike Allen reports-

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) now must win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Minnesota in order to get enough electoral votes to win the presidency, his campaign says.

Huh? It looks to me as if McCain can win enough electoral votes simply by winning all the toss-up states on the RCP map--which does not require him to win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Minnesota. What am I missing? Does McCain know something about Ohio that the public polls don't show? Is it going the way of Michigan? If so, there's your lede! ... P.S.--Don't Unpanic, Dems! If Ohio is still in play, then I'm one of those who looks at the RCP electoral map and thinks, not  "McCain's path to 270 ... is narrowing," but "jeez, Obama could still easily lose," even if the polls showing his non-trivial national lead are right.  He's got to win one of seven decidedly iffy states (Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Colorado, Missouri). You want to rely on Colorado? ... Update: Several readers would add Nevada to the list--if Obama wins Nevada but loses all the other RCP swing states it would produce a 269-269 tie. That would throw the election into the House of Representatives, where each state's delegation gets one vote. Dems appear to currently control a majority (28) of the state delegations. ... Update: Reuters runs through various possible post-tie scenarios, including the not-implausible McCain/Biden Double-Beltway outcome. But they leave out at least one scenario: the Epic Hillary Backstab, in which still-fuming Clintonite Dem Congresspersons throw their state delegations to McCain. ... 2:02 P.M. link

___________________________

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Biden- Palin Debate: Before I get spun, 1) They both did fine--which is about the biggest surprise possible; 2) Seen without preexisting expectations, I would actually say Biden was a little better, because Palin was a little robotic while Biden seemed shockingly authentic. But of course there were heavy preexisting expectations. McCain's campaign not only successfully used the MSM's pro-Dem bias, jujitsu-style, to create the idea that Palin would be abysmal--all those leaks from debate prep sessions, about how badly they were going, etc.--but he also successfully made Palin the big issue: Would she even survive as a politician with a viable future, etc.? As a result, even though she pretty much failed to accomplish the traditional vice-presidential job of making voters worried about Barack Obama, she succeeded at what had become her main, selfish, task of making voters less worried about her. 3) In the debate, if it's close Palin won. It was close. In the overall campaign, if it's close, Obama won. It was close. ...

Update: 4) Palin sounded like she was campaigning in Iowa for the teachers' union vote when she talked about education. We need to spend more money. Pay teachers more. States need more "flexibility" in No Child Left Behind ("flexibility" to ignore it). I didn't hear an actual single conservative principle, or even neoliberal principle. Pathetic. 5) "He said 'Bosniaks.' Heh, heh." ["Bosniak" is a proper word--ed  Unheh!] 6) Biden was still hamstrung on Iraq by his vote for the war. He didn't come up with a winning way out. It's Obama's fault for picking him; 7) Biden also seemed imprudently hyperbolic when it came to how there would be " absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple" in an Obama administration. Is Biden really worried about losing the pro-gay-rights vote? His vehemence was  immediately undercut when he then opposed gay marriage. Isn't that, you know, a "distinction"?  8) Big loser, again, is Hillary. In two years Palin will be so much better she won't even be in the same league. ...

More:9) Biden helped by the restrictive format, as predicted! He came close to getting too revved up at several points--imagine if he'd had a couple more minutes to fill; 10) Ifill Awful? Why are we supposed to think Gwen Ifill was so bad? Sure she was bland. She's Gwen Ifill! But it was a pretty lively debate, and she got out of the way. 11) Here's the Palin sentence  to diagram, I think:

A statement that he made like that is downright dangerous because leaders like Ahmadinejad who would seek to acquire nuclear weapons and wipe off the face of the earth an ally like we have in Israel should not be met with without preconditions and diplomatic efforts being undertaken first. 

12) Save us from dial groups. Dial groups hated the 3 A.M. ad. The 3 A.M. ad worked. They hate anything negative. They would have hated Lloyd Bentsen's "You're no Jack Kennedy."  They are fatally flawed because the people with the dials only have time to react viscerally to the words without being persuaded by the arguments. They measure only effective pandering. How do you indicate, on the dial, that Candidate X made you think? Yet CNN has gone whole hog for a dial group. ... 13) Emily Bazelon seems right about Palin and "Drill, Baby, Drill":

[S]he corrected Biden, who'd said, "drill drill drill," and for emphasis she gave a little shimmy. That's the effective blend of femininity and toughness that has made a lot of us waste a lot time this fall watching her every move.

14) If you were stoned, the other great moment would be when she seemed maybe flustered, paused, smiled and said in her high thin voice, "Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq ...." 

**--Tina Fey actually helped Palin lower expectations.  Palin got points for at least not tracking Fey's caricature. ... 7:42 P.M. link

___________________________

Many Democratic friends are asking me why I'm not highlighting the National Enquirer's Sarah Palin Affair story, given the constant harpi ... I mean comprehensive coverage in this space of John Edwards' affair. It's not that I think the Enquirer's Palin reporting is necessarily off. It's not that I'm not curious! ... But Palin's spouse isn't and wasn't suffering from cancer, and Palin is not running on the basis of her good character  as demonstrated by her loyalty to her suffering spouse. ... Isn't Palin running on 'family values'? Sure. But it seems to me she's running on 'we're-an- ordinary-messy-family confronting ordinary messy problems and we'll work it out' family values, not 'we're-a-near-storybook-perfect-faithful-couple' family values. And whatever happened or didn't happen was over a decade ago ("around 1996") and they seem to have worked it out.** ... Having an affair and still saving your marriage--now that's family values in action! It's almost the opposite of hypocrisy. ... Plus if Palin gets the vote of every spouse who has ever cheated, Obama's going to lose and poor Gwen Ifill isn't going to earn out her advance. You wouldn't want that. ...

**--Reader S. emphasizes the timing: Edwards was cheating on his sick wife even as he was campaigning on the basis of his loyalty to her. If he'd simply had an affair twelve years earlier, it would have been a different case. ...

P.S.: Bill Clinton's affairs were, in part, important because they empowered Hillary in internal Clinton White House policy disputes, most notably the debacle of her health care task force. (He owed her.) If I thought Sarah Palin was so indebted to Todd Palin because of whatever happened in 1996 that he would as a result exercise extraordinary power in the McCain or Palin administration, then I'd say we should treat whatever happened in 1996 as a big deal. But I don't see that, even though Todd Palin is apparently not a passive political spouse. ... 4:30 P.M.  link

___________________________

I've tried A! I've tried B! ... I haven't tried M! McCain's behind. It's October. If Palin doesn't change the momentum tonight, isn't it getting to be about the time when you'd predict McCain would do what all the insiders said he wouldn't do, namely turn his campaign over to Mike Murphy to see if that will save him? ... It's not like Murphy's being subtle about letting on that thinks he could do a better job than current campaign manager Steve Schmidt. .... 3:15 P.M. link

___________________________

We helped bankrupt the banks. Now we're doing the same thing for health care! What does "mental health parity" legislation, which has now been incorporated into the big "rescue" bill passed by the Dem-controlled Senate, have to do with the nation's financial crisis? ... P.S.: Actually, the thinking behind the push for "parity" and the now-questionable decades-long push to extend mortgages to "underserved" groups seems eerily parallel: 1) Stodgy/greedy old bankers say they can't afford to lend to minorities who don't meet traditional mortgage criteria. But we have a noble social goal to fulfill and we know they're wrong! ... 2) Stodgy/greedy old health plan administrators say they can't afford to cover hard-to-diagnose mental problems (e.g., anxiety) and substance abuse to the same extent that they cover easy-to-diagnose physical problems. But we have a noble social goal and .... 1:55 A.M. link

___________________________

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

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. ...

Smith responds (via e-mail):

Two points. (1) Smith's Law of Inter-generational Revenge: Inflation is the revenge the young take on the old for the previous generation's overspending. Yes, I expect inflation to rise, and the question is whether its rise stalls the economy. (2) Unlike tech stocks, which rode on anticipated future earnings, real estate has earnings (homeowners' cost of occupancy); and real estate is a necessity, not a luxury. You can consume less or more real estate, but you've got to occupy something." ...

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. link

___________________________

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. link

___________________________

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 seemingly 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. link

___________________________

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

I was about to write an item about how Kirsten Powers has been producing an alarming number  of  good columns lately, when I hit this sentence:

[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). ...

P.S.: Too interesting  for  The Curve! ... 8:29 P.M. link

___________________________

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

[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 NewsAlert7:15 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 GouldObama 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.

1:47 P.M.

___________________________

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

____________________________

Tight Like That: The New York Times reports on the tighter format of the vice-presidential debate:

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.

___________________________

McCain wants to fire Chris Cox as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and appoint ... Andrew Cuomo, under whose leadership the federal  

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.

____________________________

Bail Mary! Newt Gingrich makes at least one good point about the Paulson bailout plan:

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.

4) Sebastian Mallaby and Paul Krugman both make plausible cases against the bailout. Unfortunately they seem to partially contradict each other.

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.

___________________________

Did the 1996 welfare reform kill the Bradley/Wilder Effect? A Kennedy School grad student thinks maybe, As summarized by Marc Ambinder:

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 FiveLet 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

Light This Candle! Obama's new Spanish-language ad  uses some out-of-context Limbaugh quotes to give the impression that McCain is anti-Latino. Jennifer Rubin says:

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. ...

**--Rubin's "daring McCain to go negative" is also a rich touch, also reader  B.B. notes. ... 2:13 A.M. link

___________________________

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!

5. The current lib blog- MSM- campaign  tack--getting outraged by McCain's "lies"--is a total loser strategy. Why?

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.

Bob is better than Jack. And Jill.

*****************************

--If anyone has a photo, I will post it. The sign may say "Here it is! Murdo!" ...

Update: Ad for Putz'n Glo. ... 2:43 A.M. link

__________________________

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

Serotonin-killer: Nobody plunges into fevered speculation when I don't post for a day. ... 9:55 P.M.

___________________________

"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

___________________________

Peter Brimelow thinks he has a way  for Obama to use McCain's pro-legalization immigration stand against him:

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

___________________________

___________________________

Is McCainscared of campaigning without Palin? If they "split off," as candidates usually do, the crowds will go with Palin, no? McCain will be left looking unexciting. ... 12:55 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

McCain Speech React: I predicted McCain's would be a good speech. Wrong again. That makes two successful conventions ending with weak final acts.

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?

6) Suckers!

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. ...

Update:Atrios nails it! ... 6:21 P.M. link

___________________________

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

Obama Speech React: 1) A little flat, and not just because of it's now-required State-of-the Union laundry-list passages; 2) Background off, color-wise; 3) Best graf by far:

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 [2004] 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

_____________________________

The best Obama pickup line?  ... 2:17 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 Corner6:40 P.M. link

___________________________

Most Audacious Claim of the Night:

Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from ...

Wales, right? 12:51 A.M.

___________________________

Sunday, August 24, 2008

T hings We Thought We'd Never See: Democrats Rally Against the Teachers' Unions! I went to the Ed Challenge for Change event  mainly to schmooze. I almost didn't stay for the panels, being in no mood for what I expected would, even among these reformers, be an hour of vague EdBlob talk about "change" and "accountability" and "resources" that would tactfully ignore the elephant in the room, namely the teachers' unions. I was so wrong. One panelist--I think it was Peter Groff, president of the Colorado State Senate, got the ball rolling by complaining that when the children's agenda meets the adult agenda, the "adult agenda wins too often." Then Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically--and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention! "The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he'd been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he'd gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would  "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause! Mayor Adrian Fenty of D.C. joined in, describing the AFT's attempt to block the proposed pathbreaking D.C. teacher contract. Booker denounced "insane work rules," and Groff talked about doing the bidding of "those folks who are giving money [for campaigns], and you know who I'm talking about." Yes, they did!

As Jon Alter, moderating the next panel, noted, it was hard to imagine this event happening at the previous Democratic conventions. (If it had there would have been maybe 15 people in the room, not 500.) Alter called it a "landmark" future historians should note. Maybe he was right.

P.S.: My favorite moment didn't concern the unions. It came when NYC schools chief Joel Klein called for a single national testing standard. Groff, a crowd favorite, made the conventional local elected officials' objection that you need flexibiity, one size doesn't fit all, "what works" in County X might not work in County Y. And he was booed! Loudly. By Democratic education wonks. Wow. (The "one size" argument cropped up in the welfare reform debate too--and I assume it's just as bogus in the education debate. We're a national economy with cities that look more or less alike. What works in County X is almost certainly also going to work in County Y.)

P.P.S.: John Wilson, head of the NEA itself, was also there. Afterwards, he seemed a bit stunned. He argued pols should work with unions, in pursuit of a "shared vision," not bash them. But isn't this a power struggle where you have to bash the other side to get leverage, I asked. "Then you have losers," he answered.

P.P.P.S.: Mickey's Assignment Desk: Has someone done the trend piece on all these smart, young, powerful bald,** black state and local elected officials--e.g., Fenty, Booker, Groff, Nutter--who are taking on their unions? You'd need a name. Hair Club for Men is already taken. Domeboys? ...

**--Nutter has a bit of hair on the sides. Maybe Groff too. Close enough for a trend. 5:12 P.M. link

___________________________

Here's that Biden clip, right on cue. ... Biden clearly sizes up "Frank," who asks him where he went to law school and where he ranked in his class, as a silly credentialist snob. It's hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy with the Senator there. But again, what killed Biden about this clip wasn't his anger, or even the uncomfortable "IQ" crack (followed by the trademark uncomfortable teeth-baring smile).  It was that Biden's insecure academic boasts were almost all bogus.**It certainly wasn't a Kinsley Gaffe. ... [Tks to reader J.]

**--Another class action suit! ... 2:23 A.M.

___________________________

Road Trip Report: 1) Things you don't want to hear from behind the counter as you buy a cup of coffee in Richfield, Utah: "You know, I think that water's cleared up enough it might be all right now." 2) Best part of trip: Spotted Wolf. 3) Worst part of trip: Worries about automated speeding-ticket cameras after horror stories from gas station night clerk; 4) What is probably a famous traffic warning (on the I-70 slope going into Denver):

TRUCKERS ARE NOT DOWN YET

It must be the hats. ...

Update: Several emailers say the sign reads "TRUCKERS YOU ARE NOT DOWN YET." Same joke! ... P.S.: None of these is the sign I remember seeing. But I was going fast. ... 1:19 A.M.

____________________________

Is David Brooks trying to sabotage Barack Obama? I think so. Discussing Obama on NPR Friday:

He's gotta tie himself to a theme that runs through everything. And the theme that's authentic to him is: He is the future. He is the kind of person who emerges in a global world. And that's what I'm looking for at the convention, whether he can do that. [E.A.]

Suggested slogan: "America is Over! Deal With It." ...  Brooks must know this is incredibly bad advice. Even Gore Vidal would recognize that this is incredibly bad advice. Heck, even Susan Estrich ... 12:20 A..M.

___________________________

Friday, August 22, 2008

Biden: Maybe when I get to Denver I'll find someone who'll explain to me why Biden is an inspired choice. He doesn't have gravitas. He has seniority. We've been waiting for him to mature for decades. Only Chuck Hagel (his chief competitor as Sunday morning gasbag) could make him look wise. ... Virtues: He's likable. ... I'm thinking. ... 11:19 A.M. link

___________________________

MoveOn, NeverMind: "MoveOn now calls their being listed [alongside AT&T and PG&E] as a sponsor 'a mistake' (they're apparently sponsoring an event at the same time), and swears they're going to get their name taken off the publicity for the event." [E.A.] ... Here's the poster  with MoveOn proudly listed. ...[Tks to reader J.]  ... Democratic Social Equality Watch: A bigger question is why any left-wing, or Democratic organization should sponsor an event with one "general" concert for the masses and a second, separate "invitation only" concert (with "VIP acts") for the elite. ... Subtle! ... The "general" bill looks better, though. ... 12:36 P.M.

___________________________

Warren Buffett on John Edwards--Sue! Buffett on CNBC this morning  [emphasis added]:

QUICK: You know, one of the things that the nation is watching is next week, the first of the conventions kicks off, the Democratic National Convention. Originally, John Edwards was expected to be speaking at that convention, but after some revelations and a spectacular fall about--some revelations about his private life, he will no longer be speaking at the convention. Warren, you're somebody who has been supporting Barack Obama. Did you ever give money to John Edwards along the way?

BUFFETT: No, I didn't--I didn't give money to John Edwards. And, in fact, I think if I'd given money to him, I'd probably be asking for it back now. It's an interesting situation because John Edwards essentially was soliciting money from people to further his ambitions for the presidency, and, you know, people sent him 50, $100, $200, and I would say that they sent it in while they were being misled by the person who was soliciting the money from them. And, you know, I think if I were Edwards, I might give up a haircut or two and refund at least, you know, the people that gave the 50 or $100, $200 items, because they-- if they had known the facts, they wouldn't have sent him the money, and he is the guy that didn't give them the facts. I mean, he knew that, in effect, he wouldn't be elected president. I mean, the story was out there during the campaign. He denied it, but it was out there. And, in fact, I've never heard of it, but it might be kind of interesting if somebody, some contributor, would bring a class-action suit on behalf of all these people who essentially were led to send money to a man under totally false circumstances, false pretenses, and where he knew it and didn't tell them the truth.

QUICK: Hm, that'd be ironic for a trial lawyer...

BUFFETT: Yeah.

QUICK: ...to have a class-action lawsuit brought against him.

BUFFETT: I've seen a lot of class-action suits with less to it than this particular case. The facts are clear. I mean, he solicited money and he wasn't telling the truth to the people he was soliciting it from.

QUICK: How--have you had any discussions? I mean, obviously, you talked to a lot of people who are high ranked in the Democratic Party. Is that something that's been thrown around out there, or did you cook this up yourself?

BUFFETT: No, I don't think--I don't think I've heard of that. The--I don't talk to a lot of class-action lawyers, but I really think--I think those people were defrauded. They sent money under--with the person who was soliciting the money from them misinforming them even when the National Enquirer came out with it during his campaign,he kept soliciting money and saying it isn't true. I would think that they--it might be a pretty good class-action suit.

QUICK: Even to this day, he says that he--they had 99 percent of it wrong, even in the most recent interview John Edwards came up with, although he admits that he did have an affair with a woman.

BUFFETT: Well, he would have a chance at a class-action suit to respond to that.

Heh! ... I would think this would be a difficult precedent to contain--can donors sue McCain because he didn't, in fact, get "the message" from the defeat of his immigration semi-amnesty bill--and he knew it? Maybe businesses have to live with this sort of uncertain class-action threat when they dissemble. Politicians will never stand for it. ... 12:32 P.M. link

___________________________

Sometimes you can look at the numbers, and doom stares you in the face. ... [snip] ... By the summer of 1988, the country had turned from believing we were on the wrong track to thinking we were on the right track. They thought my candidate, Governor Dukakis, was more conservative than he actually was — that's what beating Jesse Jackson every Tuesday will do for you.

Dukakis' campaign manager may be the only person in America who thinks he lost because he was seen as "more conservative than he actually was." ... [Tks to Z] ... Update: Emailer F suggests I'm misunderstanding Estrich:

She isn't saying people ultimately voted against Dukakis because he was too conservative.  She's saying that he initially was leading in the polls because people perceived him to be more conservative than he was.  When his ideological underpinnings became more apparent they turned against him.

That's not my reading of her column. In the very next sentence Estrich says, "By the fall, it was clear: right or wrong, they didn't like him." Would they be "wrong" if they came to correctly perceive that he was more liberal than they previously thought? Or is Estrich saying they persisted in their misperception of him? I think the latter. But "F" could be right. ... 11:34 A.M.

___________________________

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Don't tell Thomas Frank: MoveOn.org, AT&T and PG&E, together again. (But it looks like quite a bill.) [Tks to reader J.]12:12 P.M.

___________________________

Why Biden Would Be Bad: There's a  bit of C-SPAN tape that should surface quickly if he's named. ... Remember, it wasn't Biden's plagiarism that knocked him out of the 1988 race. It was "'I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do''--a bizarre videotaped putdown that Biden immediately called into question with five (5) boasts about his academic record, four (4) of which turned out to be easily disproved B.S. ... [you got a better candidate?--ed Zinni! ] ...  [via Brothers Judd ] 1:16 A.M.

___________________________

The Cruelty of Feiler: Comedian Bernie Mac died on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago. The following Monday, someone at the regular Slate editorial meeting--maybe me-- proposed a piece on him. The immediate, unamimous response: "Too late."  Brutal! Work all your life, become a beloved public figure, go into syndication, then die tragically young--and you get, what, a day? ...

Screw that. Mary Battiata, an accidental fan of the Bernie Mac Show, explains its peculiar genius on Huffington Post.  ... 12:44 A.M.

___________________________

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

WaPo story on Fannie Mae  suggests 1) Paul Krugman was still at least deceptive  when he glibly asserted the giant government-chartered company had "nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago" ** and 2) government regulations, which Krugman and others say prevented Fannie & Freddie Mac from taking on too much risk may also have been at least partly to blame for the risky subprime-loan-backed securities they did purchase:

Internal documents show that even late in the housing bubble, Fannie Mae was drawn to risky loans by a variety of temptations, including the desire to increase its market share and fulfill government quotas for the support of low-income borrowers. [E.A.]

[via NewsAlert]

**--Krugman might claim that 2006 and 2007, the years examined by WaPo, weren't "a few years ago." But most readers of his column would have missed that vague lawyerly qualifier. And Calculated Risk makes clear Fannie had quite a bit to do with fostering the subprime market before then, presumably also in pursuit of its "low-income borrower" goals. ...  3:21 A.M.

____________________________

BLOCKBUSTER! Rielle Hunter Holding Angelina Jolie's Baby? New Enquirer photo of Rielle Hunter and her child: 1) Distinctive-looking little girl; 2) Love lips! 3) But not the only baby who's got 'em! 4) More than arguably similar to the blurry baby Edwards is holding in the Enquirer's earlier "spy" photo.  ... 2:54 A.M.

___________________________

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sometimes it takes a while: Dick Morris says Obama should be "nominated by acclimation." So true. ...  7:18 P.M.

___________________________

Mary Ann Akers reports that "as recently as last week" John Edwards was expressing interest in attending a Denver event.

 [W]e were told by well-placed sources who asked to remain anonymous that Edwards did, indeed, express interest to One Campaign officials just last week in playing a role in Denver, where the former North Carolina senator is most certainly not welcome by party officials. (His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, is no longer scheduled to speak at the convention.)

Edwards aide Jonathan Prince now says, "Unequivocally, he is not going to Denver." ... 12:40 P.M.

___________________________

Monday, August 18, 2008

On to Denver! When it comes to rounding up John Edwards news and links, I can't hope to compete with Deceiver. ... See esp. Lee Stranahan's informed speculations about future developments in the story, which now looks like it will run right into the Democratic convention. Obama's aides are probably not pleased. ... Howie Kurtz  congratulates himself again: "I had a strong feeling last weekend when John Edwards finally acknowledged having an extramarital affair that we hadn't heard the end of this thing." Is Kurtz is the new Daniel Patrick Moynihan, able to react to any development by praising his own previous thoughts? (Even though Bill Wyman vainly pleaded, back before Edwards' semi-confession, "Howie Kurtz ...Only you can investigate why you haven't written this story.") ...

P.S.: Deceiver missed journalist Ann Louise Bardach's defense of her former tenant, Rielle Hunter, in the Santa Barbara Independent:

For two years, she rented digs from investigative reporter Ann Louise Bardach and her actor husband Bobby Lesser (Carpinteria residents) in Los Angeles, and they insist Hunter is not the Venus flytrap as portrayed on TV. They describe Hunter as smart, funny, and underneath that extravagantly New Age exterior, tough as nails and hard as rock.

P.P.S.: David Usborne asks: "Just days before the start of the Democratic convention in Denver, which will culminate in the crowning of Barack Obama, are we, in fact, seeing the early outlines of a first-rate political cover-up?" Only if Watergate was a first-rate burglary. ... 11:30 P.M.

___________________________

Last October, John Edwards phoned his local North Carolina paper's editorlied and played the cancer card in the attempt to prevent the paper from printing even his public denial of the Enquirer's original "affair" story. The only reason it can't be said the lie worked is that the paper had already wimped out, according to the editor, John Drescher. ...  P.S.: The story of the Edwards Coverup, which has only begun to trickle out, is certainly providing a useful civic education in how powerful pols actually go about attempting to influence the MSM. It's one of those situations where unsophisticated people probably think the candidate himself calls the top editor directly to baldly influence coverage, while more sophisticated people know there are institutional procedures in place to protect against that sort of crude personal lobbying. Meanwhile, the really sophisticated people know the candidate himself calls the top editor directly to baldly influence coverage. ... P.P.S.: Whom else did Edwards--or maybe Elizabeth--call? ... [via Corner via Insta ] Update: How the competing Charlotte Observer ate Drescher's lunch while his paper (The News & Observer) was demonstrating "'the restraint that has marked The N&O 'sresponsible approach to the story.'" [via Deceiver] ... 2:35 P.M.

___________________________

Once again an editor shies away from a discordant aspect of the Edwards scandal, namely the role of Elizabeth Edwards:

"Stop, stop. I don't want to go there. I do not like it, [the editor] said to a reporter's suggestion about the Elizabeth Edwards angle. "She's been hurt, she's lashed out."

Maybe the Enquirer will show up the MSM covering this angle too! Except that the editor who doesn't "want to go there" is the editor of the Enquirer. ... 1:45 A.M.

___________________________

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Obama/Kerry: The All-Snob Ticket! We're prepared. ... 2:24 P.M.

___________________________

The Unraveling--Andrew Young's Mom Isn't Buying Story #2! The mother of Andrew Young, the John Edwards aide who has claimed paternity of Rielle Hunter's daughter, makes it clear to the New York Post that she isn't buying  that story.

Jacquelyn Aldridge made clear she deeply doubts her married son--Edwards campaign official Andrew Young---cheated on his beautiful wife and impregnated Edwards' paramour, Rielle Hunter, last year. ... [snip]

Asked if she believes two-time Democratic presidential contender Edwards, 55, is the real father, Aldridge declined to answer.

"I'm not supposed to talk," said the North Carolina woman.

Time to whisk her out of the country! ... Meanwhile, MSM reporters--having deemed it unnecessary to report  on whether a leading, active Democratic pol, third-place presidential candidate and likely cabinet official cheated on his ill wife while making a big show of his loyalty and then lied about it to the public --have found an angle sufficiently tedious to be worth discussing with their readers: a possible campaign finance violation! Why does that prospect  produce sudden investigative lust? Because government investigations of campaign finance violations can last years, involving lots of lawyers and government investigators who can then leak the fruits of their subpoena power to reporters in time to let everyone make it home for their kids' soccer game. And not even the Columbia Journalism Review will object. ... Unfortunately, as difficult as it is to not break some campaign finance law, the payments from Edwards's PAC to Rielle Hunter's film company may actually have been legal, according to the WSJ. .. 11:42 A.M.

___________________________

Thursday, August 14, 2008

U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine isn't buying Story #2. ... [Tks. to D.B.3:29 P.M.

___________________________

Former Edwards Senate campaign manager Gary Pearce isn't buying Story #2. ... 1:09 P.M.

___________________________

How big a victim is Elizabeth Edwards? A decision tree:  Did John Edwards

A) finally come clean in his Friday evening Nightline interview! ... or

B) choose, when caught out in a lie, to recklessly erect a second edifice of BS regarding at least 1) whether this was his only affair; 2) when this affair started; 3) when it ended; 4) whether it was going on in mid-2007 when Rielle Hunter's child was conceived; 5) whether he thinks he might be the father; 6) whether he actually wants a paternity test; 7) why he visited Hunter at the Beverly Hilton; 8) whether he knew and/or tacitly approved of payments to Hunter and putative father Andrew Young. ...

If you opt for B--perhaps citing this, or this--you face a second, more interesting speculation: Why did Edwards tell his new lies? Were they

i) the same lies he told his wife, Elizabeth--that the affair ended in 2006, etc.--so the Nightline's Story #2 was really an attempt to save his marriage now that his political career is over or

ii) lies designed more to preserve the possibility of a political comeback some time in the future by admitting only to a "short" affair, before his wife's cancer recurred, that did not involve any questionable campaign practices (such as using contributions to give your mistress a job that allows her to travel with you)?

It's not surprising that People magazine's new cover story  portrays Elizabeth Edwards as the anguished victim motivated by "her determination to keep her family together." People is basicaly working from script (A), the one John Edwards undoubtedly wanted the MSM to work from when he prepared for Nightline. The Excruciating Anguish of Elizabeth (who "pushed her husband to finally come clean") would be a logical part of that PR strategy whether or not Edwards was telling the truth to Bob Woodruff.

What's surprising is that the non-MSM National Enquirer, which is decidedly not working from script (A)--it's out to puncture Edwards' Story #2-- also portrays Elizabeth as the victim. "He is still lying to America and his wife." the tab says. The Enquirer opts for B (i).

Let me raise the alternative, third possibility contained in B(ii): there is a Second Coverup and Elizabeth Edwards, rather than being its victim, is in on it up to her eyeballs! ** Why do I think this is a real possibility? First, Elizabeth was in on the first coverup, allowing her husband to go out and deny the initial Enquirer reports of his affair. (He admits to Woodruff that she knew these denials were false,) Second, she might see her legacy as bound up with her husband's--and also want her children to have a father with a political future.*** Third,  Elizabeth Edwards is famously smart, and a lawyer. Does still she really think the Enquirer is just making up the part about how Edwards' affair with Hunter restarted around the time Hunter got pregnant? Does she think her husband knew nothing about the payments?

She can't possibly be as dumb as People thinks its readers are. ...

_______

**--She could still be anguished!

***--I deny the Second Coverup would be designed to avoid having her children's father humiliated. If he'd actually came clean, in this scenario, it would more decisively kill his political career but arguably be less humiliating than being caught out in a second set of lies, which is what will probably happen now. Rather, the Second Coverup risked this extra double-humiliation for the sake of political survival (i.e., being able to later say "all I did was have a brief affair"). ... 2:39 A.M. link

___________________________

Kos--- characteristically gracious! ... 12:51 A.M.

___________________________

Andrew Young--paternity-claimer and ... real estate genius? [8/14 Note: See semi-major update/correction at that link] ... 12:50 A.M.

___________________________

Walter Shapiro wonders how he got taken in by the Edwardses. ... 12:06 A.M.

___________________________

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Story #2--The Unraveling: In John Edwards' I-will-have-nothing-more-to-say statement, he declared:

With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006 and today I take full responsibility publicly. But that misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. It ended then. [E.A.]

Shockingly, this statement may be roughly accurate (except maybe for the "short" part!). But it helps to place a Clintonian emphasis on the year, 2006. "It ended then." The trouble is it started up again a while later, according to the newly credible National Enquirer.

After Edwards confessed the affair to his wife, he restarted it, and was sexually involved with Rielle when she became pregnant

Oh, you mean that misconduct. ... Hey, he didn't say he took responsibility for his actions in 2007. ... 12:43 P.M.

___________________________

Ruth Marcus isn't buying Story #2. ... 12:05 A.M.

___________________________

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Katha Pollitt and Cal Thomas  aren't buying Story #2. ... They found each other through Friend Finder! ... 9:00 P.M.

___________________________

Bob Franken isn't buying Story #2. ... 12:21 P.M.

___________________________

Monday, August 11, 2008

Andrea Mitchell isn't buying Story #2. ... 10:19 P.M.

___________________________

Edwards: "This was in 2006": Here's a photo  of Rielle Hunter flying around on the campaign plane with Edwards on December 29, 2006--perilously close to, you know, 2007. ... 10:12 P.M.

__________________________

Was Narcissus Kurtzistic? Howie Kurtz actually ends his WaPo piece--on the embarrassing failure of his paper and others to cover the Edwards scandal until Edwards himself confessed--on a note of self-congratulation:

Early last year, I wrote a column about the behind-the-scenes video that Hunter produced for Edwards's presidential run, a self-absorbed episode in which he said he would campaign "based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll." After watching the smooth-talking candidate preen for the camera, I questioned whether he was engaged in "carefully choreographed candor." I didn't know how right I was. [E.A.]

P.S.: Doe he know how wrong he is in his mis-potted history of recent sex scandals?

I don't think the party favoritism charge holds up. Yes, the media went hard after two Republican senators, Larry Craig (who pleaded guilty in that bathroom incident) and David Vitter (who admitted calling an escort service). But they also pounced on New York's Democratic then-governor, Eliot Spitzer (whose taste in prostitutes was revealed by the New York Times), and, famously, Bill Clinton (whose Monica Lewinsky mess was disclosed by The Post and hotly pursued by Newsweek). [E.A.]

And here I'd thought Michael Isikoff's original Lewinsky story was withheld by Newsweek--making it an odd data point for someone arguing that the mainstream media "pounced" on a Democrat. ... The Lewinsky scandal took off only after Matt Drudge reported that Isikoff's story wasn't being published. ... [Thanks to emailers M.G. and G.R.12:45 P.M.

___________________________

Would it really hurt Obama if John Edwards went to Denver? The more he publicly defends himself, the more honest and upright he makes Obama look by comparison. And the smarter he makes Democratic primary voters look. ... 1:16 A.M.

___________________________

USA Today isn't buying Story #2  ... 12:40 A.M.

___________________________

John Tabin makes a good point about Rielle Hunter's refusal to allow a paternity test:

[Hunter's] response -- invoking her and her daughter's privacy -- is a little odd if she expects the test to come up negative. How much of an invasion of privacy is it to prove that someone isn't your child's father -- especially when you've already made public assertions about the child's paternity on the record?

Come to think of it, the statement put out by Hunter's lawyer, for all it's talking-point thoroughness, must have accidentally left out this sentence: "A paternity test is clearly unnecessary because I already know that the father of my child is Andrew Young." ... 12:27 A.M.

___________________________

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Edwards declares "it's not possible that [Rielle Hunter's] child could be mine,"  adding that he's "happy" to take a paternity test and "truly hopeful that a test will be done." The next day Rielle Hunter's lawyer says "Rielle will not participate in DNA testing."

Are you buying this? For one thing, if Edwards is really certain he isn't the father of the kid, wouldn't he have demanded a paternity test to clear his name, not just indicated his hope for a test? ... Too late to change the tone now! ...

P.S.-Story #2 is Elizabeth's too: Note also that it's not just John Edwards denying his paternity, it's his wife Elizabeth. In her Kos post  she writes:

Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private.  [E.A.]

Shouldn't she be demanding a paternity test? ... If Story #2 unravels and turns into Coverup #2, will it have been a coverup of which Elizabeth has now been an active (if not necessarily knowing) promoter? ... 2:56 A.M. link

___________________________

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Story #2, Lie # 1: Sam Stein has emails sent by Rielle Hunter that already reveal one seemingly false assertion  in Edwards' Modified Limited New Story--namely his claim that his "short" affair with Hunter didn't begin until after she began work as a campaign filmmaker in mid-2006:

Edwards and Hunter initially met each other sometime during the winter of 2006 (either late December 2005 or early January) in a hotel restaurant in midtown Manhattan. It would be another seven months before Edwards would first pay her for the documentary work. As Woodruff rightfully noted, the initial check cut to Hunter's film company was written on July 5, 2006, for the cost of $12,500.

What happened in between that winter meeting and the start of filming? Emails sent by Hunter suggest that her romance with Edwards was in full bloom that spring. In early April, Hunter wrote about a trip she had taken to North Carolina to see the man whom she affectionately referred to as "my love lips."

A week later she wrote another email in which she described the mental anguish of "being in love with a (still somewhat dysfunctional) married man."

Rather than Edwards having a fling with a staffer, Stein speculates, "Edwards hired her as a front to continue their relationship." ... But it's not true that Hunter had no filmmaking experience prior to being hired. She was actress, writer and producer for Billy Bob and Them! ...

P.S.: Hunter's lawyer has issued a statement saying she will not "participate in DNA testing" of her daughter. Convenient! No doubt some of Edwards' rich friends will now send her tens of thousands of dollars behind his back to try to persuade her to agree to the test and clear John's name (by validating Story #2's central claim that he is not the father). ... Wouldn't Hunter's statement seem a little more authentic if it wasn't PR'ed to an inch of its life to mesh with the Edwards anti-tab talking points? ("Rielle is a private individual. She is not running for public office.")

P.P.S.: According to WaPo,Enquirer editor David Perel explicitly says there were two meetings at the Hilton, not just one. ... More to explain! ... 6:46 P.M.

___________________________

[Note:Points 1 and 2 of this item are based on a misreading, which pretty much completely vitiates them. See below. Or feel free to skip to point 3] HuffPo reporter Sam Stein, who kick-started the Rielle Hunter scandal,  begins to cast a shadow  on Edwards' Story #2-- last night's semi-confession  in which Edwards admits only to a "short" affair back "in 2006 two years ago." 1) Stein notes that Hunter and Edwards didn't meet until the "winter of 2006." 2) Stein then says

Edwards would see Hunter for at least a year. How much of that time they were romantically engaged remains a mystery.

That at least suggests that 2007, not 2006, might be the relevant ending-year; [ Correction: By "winter of 2006" Stein means 'winter of 2005-2006,' not 'winter of 2006-2007." A year from 2005-2006 wouldn't necessarily take you into 2007. Never mind!] 3) As for the paternity of the child, claimed by loyal Edwards aide Andrew Young, Stein thinks

[A]llegations of Young's involvement seemed dubious both when they first surfaced and now.

Will there be a Story #3?  Our National Edwards Nightmare may not be over. ... 1:54 A.M.

___________________________

Friday, August 8, 2008

Your MSM buddy system at work: John Edwards has already broken his "will have nothing more to say" promise, calling CBS's Bob Schieffer. Schieffer admits "I've known John Edwards a long time" and starts right in building the new Edwards myth:

"He said he said he just couldn't live with the constant pounding from the tabloids. It wasn't going to stop, I was being dogged and dogged, for the sake of my family I just had to end it, for the sake of my family. ... "

Edwards also said, in Schieffer's words, that he had "no plans to go to the Democratic convention"--which somehow gets transformed, in the Politico's headline, into "Edwards to CBS: Won't appear at convention." Not the same thing. ... According to a second Politico story, "he told ABC earlier that he was leaving the option open." ...

Update: Elizabeth Edwards is already up on Kos  with a diary attacking "the present voyeurism." ... HuffPo's Lee Stranahan, a former Edwards supporter, responds  "Say It Ain't So, Elizabeth: You Knew But Let Him Run." Excerpt:

[I]f you're an Edwards supporter, let me put this bluntly; if you gave John and Elizabeth Edwards time, money, support, or goodwill, they played you.

They made a conscious decision to make their relationship a focus throughout the campaign. That emotional goodwill you feel for them? They not only let you feel, they took actions and made statements specifically so you would feel it.

Then when the rumors first surfaced, they made the worst decision of all; they decided to lie about it and to keep lying about it for months. They lied in a way that made the people who were telling the truth look like the real liars. They lied in a way that turned their supporters into attack dogs. They only started to tell the truth when John Edwards was caught at the Beverly Hills Hilton and even now both John and Elizabeth Edward are callin[g] the people who caught him the liars ...

5:56 P.M. link

__________________________

Edwards: 'I Lied. It's Friday. Can I Go to Denver Now?' John Edwards finally confesses, sort of, on ABC News. He admits he lied repeatedly about his affair with Rielle Hunter, but denies he's the father of her child and specifically seems to be trying to deny cheating on his wife after the recurrence of her illness:

Edwards made a point of telling [Bob] Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair with Hunter.

Edwards also "admitted the National Enquirer was correct when it reported he had visited Hunter at the Beverly Hills Hilton last month." ...

1) Textbook PR timing: Friday, Olympics, a small war. Not quite a Jo Moore Day, but not bad. ...

2) Obvious question: Why visit Hunter in the early morning hours if he does "not love her" and is not her child's father? ... But I think the question is actually even more difficult to answer than that. ...Look again at the Enquirer's photo of Edwards holding a baby in front of the Hilton's telltale drapes. Edwards is wearing a sweaty blue t-shirt. But the Enquirer reported that on the night they ambushed him, he was at least initially wearing a "blue dress shirt."  One possible explanation for the discrepancy: he visited her and the baby at the hotel more than once, and the photo is from an earlier visit. ... Just speculating! ... But if you read the Enquirer's accompanying text closely, they don't say the photo was taken on the same day they ambushed him, only at the same hotel. ... If this theory is right, Edwards has even more explaining to do than it initially seems. ... Update: Edwards claims to ABC  that the late July meeting with Hunter at the Hilton was an attempt to "keep this mistake I had made two years previously private." ...

3) Was it smart for Edwards to potentially annoy Rielle Hunter by saying he "did not love her"? Is she going to give her side of the story now? Doesn't he want her to think favorably of him if she does? Edwards denies paying her money but "saiid it was possible some of his friends or supporters may have made payments without telling him."  If so, are these helpful friends continuing their top secret payments?

4) A paternity test seems inevitable, no? [Update: Edwards has volunteered to take one. Make sure it's not Mudcat Saunders who gets the DNA from the kid.] If Edwards wanted to snake out of this scandal, the cunning way to do it was always to build up press anticipation of a paternity test and then have the test come back negative (after which the press will forget that he still cheated). He may have now lucked on to this strategy by accident. But paternity isn't the key moral question, it seems to me. It's whether Edwards treated his wife as honorably as he unsubtly boasted in the campaign (plus his subsequent coverup, and what it involved). Whether Edwards continuted the affair after the recurrence of her illness is one factor in making that judgment (and paternity would be damning evidence in that regard, given the timing). Whether he thought he was the father, and continued seeing Hunter for that reason, is more important than whether he actually turns out to be the father.

5) WIll the MSM, having given Edwards an epic, embarrassing pass, now question the line he has drawn (non-paternity, that the affair only occured during  "a short period in 2006,"placing it before the recurrence of Elizabeth's cancer)?** There is now one player in this scandal with far less credibility than the National Enquirer, after all. Edwards may be overestimating the willingness of reporters to roll over for him one more time. ..

6) Edwards claims in his just-released statement that he's learned, in the context of his dismissal of the Enquirer, that "being 99% honest is no longer enough." 99% honest? Edwards' rigorous self-inventory of his narcissitic moral failings ("You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself") may be incomplete.

**--Byron York reported, pre-confession,  that the commonly-held idea that MSM organizations were waiting for their own independent reporting to confirm the Enquirer was a myth--there was "not a lot of independent reporting" going on, ABC and Fox excepted:

Instead, some big-time journalists seem to believe the Enquirer has nailed the story, and they are waiting for the tabloid to release the full results of its reporting. In the meantime, they are staying away from the story because it appeared in the Enquirer. In other words, they're waiting for the Enquirer to fully report a story that they wouldn't otherwise report… because it's in the Enquirer.

The question is whether this independent reporting will now commence, or whether editors who never wanted to have to discuss the story will let Edwards' half-confession go untested. ... 1:03 P.M. link

___________________________

Thursday, August 7, 2008

John Edwards' fellow Democrats see silence as a bad move

Does it matter if the NY Times, Time and NBC News don't report it if mid-level metropolitan papers and bloggers do? I'd say a fair test is whether Jay Leno's audience gets his John Edwards jokes. He told one last Tuesday. It bombed--it was clear nobody in the seats had heard about the Edwards allegations. But that could, in theory, change, even if the biggest MSM players remain protective. ...

P.S.:Gawker's Ryan Tate effectively ridicules the MSM's Denver Excuse. ... 11:32 P.M.

___________________________

Neoliberals shout "Refine your position!" How did I miss this  (from HuffPo)?

Barack Obama is inspiring us like a desert lover, a Washington Valentino. ..[snip] My musician friends and I are writing songs to inspire people and couples all over America are making love again and shouting "yes we can" as they climax! [E.A.]

Museum quality. Not a joke!** Hard to see how it can be topped. .. [via Economist via Mortman via Insta]

**--though it's from February (before the flip-flops!) ... 9:57 P.M. link

___________________________

Bracing overseas perspective! ... Note to MSM: If you've lost Romenesko ....[via Insta9:21 P.M.

___________________________

Michael Kinsley emails about the Edwards/Hunter story:

AS for your laundry list of reasons to cover it, I think there's one more much simpler: the MSM told a story about Edwards—they told it often and loud—it was probably one of the best-known and totally accepted stories of the 2008 campaign: John loyally standing by his loyal wife as she deals with cancer. If the story isn't true, they should run a correction. My god, look at the things they run corrections over—the spelling of people's names, and so on. Yet they're leaving this huge story uncorrected, and leaving their readers misinformed.  No?

5:34 P.M. link

___________________________

___________________________

One obvious possible solution to the Democrats' Denver Dilemma (see below):Give Elizabeth Edwards a prominent speaking role, while John is off on his hurriedly scheduled Global Poverty Tour. ... 12:31 P.M.

___________________________

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

We're Taking This Thing All the Way to Denver!  Former DNC chief Don Fowler delivers the Democratic grown-ups' message, on the record, as reported in the Charlotte Observer--

If Edwards fails to clear up the story in short order, he risks party officials deciding not to have him speak or, if they do, creating a distraction from a week focused on Barack Obama accepting the nomination.

"If there is not an explanation that's satisfactory, acceptable and meets high moral standards, the answer is 'no,' he would not be a prime candidate to make a major address to the convention," said Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chair.

And the old gang is rallying around the son of a mill worker!

Friends and former staffers refuse to comment now, though they helped Edwards last fall by dismissing an October story in the Enquirer of a sexual relationship between Edwards and a campaign videographer when it initially broke.

"Sorry cannot help you on this one," wrote Jennifer Palmieri, a former top Edwards aide, in an e-mail Wednesday.

Update: In an interview with Byron York calculated to terrify Dem stage managers, Enquirer editor David Perel hints that a convention-week climax may be exactly what he is aiming for:

"Obviously, the convention has not been our driving force behind the story," Perel says. "The reporting takes however long it takes. It took seven months to go from the December story to the [Beverly Hilton] meeting… . But if it happens to be a happy coincidence — if the story just happens to be breaking around that time, in terms of maximum exposure — " Perel pauses. If the convention wasn't part of the timetable before, it is now.

How long before prominent Democrats begin telling their MSM friends that it really looks like there's something to this Edwards story? ... 8:00 P.M. link

___________________________

Ann Coulter on the bizarreness of the moment:

The mainstream media's reaction to the National Enquirer's reports on John Edwards' "love child" scandal has been reminiscent of the Soviet press. Edwards' name has simply been completely whitewashed out of the news. ... I suspect that if I tried to look up coverage of the Democratic primaries in Nexis news archives, Edwards' name will have disappeared from the debates. By next week, Edwards won't have been John Kerry's running mate in 2004.

7:58 P.M.

___________________________

Banned-by-Kos Lee Stranahan: John Edwards needs to stop taking the fall for Andrew Young. ... 7:54 P.M.

___________________________

MSM: You want photos  ...  Old MSM line: We demand photos! ... New MSM line: We demand high definition photos! ... 11:56 A.M.

___________________________

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Undernews seep: Inquirer's sister paper on Enquirer. "Are we mainstream or not? We're going to get a complex." ... 2:35 A.M.

___________________________

Monday, August 4, 2008

Why  write about the Edwards scandal? Here's a short clip-'n'-save response to those (including many friends) who argue the Edwards scandal shouldn't be pursued--or at least pursued too vigorously-- even if it is true:**

1. No "private citizen": Edwards was certainly a contender for VP, or a big cabinet post like Attorney General, or even the Supreme Court, before the scandal first erupted in the "undernews" in late 2007. Some reporters say he was still on Obama's VP list until quite recently. If he's now finished as far as those big jobs are concerned, it's in large part because of this scandal, which Obama might never have learned about if everyone had followed the MSM's lead.  Even now, Edwards may not be out of the running for an array of lesser public posts--including cabinet-grade positions--that provide non-trivial power and a platform for future advancement. Important unions back him. Until last week, he'd been traveling the country keeping himself in the public eye in a way well-designed to let him play a big national role in either the Obama administration or the opposition to the McCain administration. It's silly to say "he's just a private citizen"--he's much less of a "private citizen" than, say, William Bennett was in 2003 when Jonathan Alter and Joshua Green  torpedoed Bennett's career by revealing his gambling habits. 

What makes the scandal awful and unpleasant--as opposed to the Bennett scandal, which was delicious--is that Edwards has a very ill wife. But, as Susan Estrich has noted, that's also what makes Edwards' alleged behavior awful and unpleasant--more objectionable than anything Bennett was accused of doing.

2. Hypocrisy: Ah, but Bennett was a hypocrite-- a man whose chief claim to national attention was as a sophisticated moral scold who turned out to have a major gambling jones. Edwards is a hypocrite too, in much the same way. Why, after all, was Edwards ever considered presidential material. Is he a great executive? No. A brilliant policy expert? No. An accomplished diplomat? No. He's  an ex-Senator with one undistinguished term in office who rose in life on the basis of his singular ability to use tearjerking stories to move juries and win large verdicts . His presidential campaign has featured similarly moving anecdotes, such as the famous 10-year old girl "somewhere in America" who goes to bed "praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn't have the coat to keep her warm."

Edwards' most effective anecdote this year, however, was probably the story of his popular wife Elizabeths' struggle against cancer. He made it the emotional center of a TV ad:

And Elizabeth and I decided in the quiet of a hospital room, after 12 hours of tests and after getting very bad news, what we were going to spend our lives doing. For all those that have no voice. We are not going to quietly go away.

During a joint 60 Minutes interview focusing on his wife's illness, Edwards explicitly linked his behavior in that struggle and his fitness for public office:

Katie Couric
Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this.

John Edwards:
Here's what I would say about that.

First of all, there's not a single person in America that should vote for me because Elizabeth has cancer. Not a one. ..[snip]

But, I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make. [E.A.]

3. Relevance: If a politician is a great executive, thinker or diplomat who cheats on his brave, ill wife, you figure, "OK, We're not hiring him because of his sterling private behavior." If a politician whose chief appeal is his self-advertised loyalty to his brave, ill wife cheats on his brave ill wife, what's he good for again? And if Edwards' crucial talent as a public official is his ability to move people with tearjerky anecdotes, and those anecdotes (like the tale of his spousal loyalty, or the girl with no coat, or the anecdote that reportedly made John Kerry queasy about him)--turn out to be BS or half BS, that's more than random hypocrisy, It goes to the core of what he does and what he claims to offer. (I'd also argue that an emotional, anecdote-led liberal approach to poverty inevitably tends toward the failed solution of simply sending poor people cash welfare, but that's another argument.)

4. Irresponsibility: How irresponsible was it to seek the party's nomination knowing that this scandal was lurking around, ready to explode? What if he'd won? Are we sure it wouldn't have been discovered by the McCain campaign before November? Rock stars get to behave this badly because they're only rock stars. Worst that happens is the band breaks up. What if Edwards actually got elected--and then the scandal was discovered when he was in office? Did Democrats enjoy the Lewinsky years?

5. The Coverup:If the scandal is true, it almost certainly means that during the campaign Edwards presided over an elaborate coverup involving at least a) having an aide wrongly claim paternity and b) having other aides go out and lie to reporters. It probably also included payments of money to cooperating parties and various familiar slurs on the character of the 'other woman,' Rielle Hunter. All this would obviously be germane to Edwards' fitness to hold any office, including clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Even if Edwards were to forswear all future public employment, there'd be an interest in documenting and publicizing his role in the coverup for the same reason we track down bank robbers 10 years after the crime--to deter others from pulling the same stunt in the future.

The only legitimate reason not to cover this scandal, it seems to me, is simple sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards--and I've gotten enough emails from anguished and angry members of the MSM to conclude, with Estrich, that it's the prime reason for the MSM blackout. True, I also suspect that if Mrs. Edwards were a conservative Republican, or even an unbeloved Democrat, the MSM might somehow find a way to overcome this compassionate sentiment. But that doesn't make it wrong. Reporters don't have to print everything. You could conclude that the need to protect Mrs. Edwards her children is so great, the karma of Enquiring so bad, that all of the obvious, public-interesty reasons for covering the story should be  thrown out the window. And if John Edwards were already so damaged that in practice he'd never get a significant public office even if he wants one, I might agree (even if that meant sacrificing the deterrent effect of full exposure). 

But that's a point that clearly hasn't been reached yet, at least not while most Americans are being kept in the dark about what, exactly, has led to Edwards' mysterious disappearance from the political oddsmakers' charts.  A man arrogant and ambitious enough to think he can run for president posing as a loyal husband while keeping his second family secret, even as he visits his mistress in a famous hotel that is hosting a convention of journalists, will be arrogant and ambitious enough to keep hiding under the shield of his wife's illness until he can attempt a comeback-- if given the chance.

The alternative, it seems to me, is to let affection for Mrs. Edwards suck journalists into a Print-the-Legend world where they must spend their time burnishing--or at least accepting--the story powerful people and institutions want them to tell, the story  of the wonderful Edwards marriage, rather than figuring out and telling readers the truth. If I wanted to be in that business I'd be a publicist.

P.S.: Emily Bazelon may have said all this more economically. See generally the vigorous debate on Slate's XX Factor.

_______

**--For purposes of this item, I'm assuming we're reaching the next-to-final stage of the natural progression in cases like this: 1) Too horrible and shocking; it can't possibly be true; 2) It's not true; 3) You can't prove it's true; 4) Why are you trying to prove it's true? 5) It's disgusting that you've proved it's true; 6) What's the big deal anyway? ... 10:15 P.M. link

___________________________

The LAT is more like Daily Kos than it wants to admit (and vice versa): The Daily Kos has banned longtime blogger  Lee Stranahan for writing calm, clear-headed posts assessing the evidence in the John Edwards scandal--posts saying things like:

Edwards needs to clear this up so we can get on with the business of forgiving him and moving on. As progressives, we need to rise above the false choice between blind judgment and blind apathy. We're the reality based community, remember?  

Inflammatory! ...Now we know where Tony Pierce can always find a job. ... 1:37 P.M.

___________________________

Friday, August 1, 2008

Faster Comics--Jay Leno Beats NBC News: Charlotte's WCNC airs a hostile, smart, doomy segment on the "scandal brewing."  Pegged to Edwards "ducking reporters," plus the suggestive birth certificate. ... Leno, Conan jokes featured. Leno's is even funny. ... Resonant clip from campaign "webisode." ... Reporter Stuart Watson says Edwards is in danger of "disappearing from the national stage ... unless he finds a way to squelch this story fast." ... Maybe he did: It would be paranoid to notice that the segment isn't featured on the station's Web site. ... Update: Strangely, I am paranoid! Video is on main WCNC video playlist  and on the  "Investigators" page. ... 12:18 P.M.

____________________________

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mo' MSM: Now on the McClatchy wire. ...  Aaron Barnhart  thinks Edwards' ducking of press questions "pushed this over the edge." ("Not a good way to erase suspicion.") ... 5:38 P.M.

___________________________

One option John Edwards must be considering. If anyone could pull it off .... 3:25 A.M.

___________________________

Dissent in the MSM: Rebellious nibbling from mid-rank players who are harder to coopt than the New York and Washington elites:

"Facing Questions, Edwards Evades Reporters" ...

On Wednesday, Edwards apparently ducked out a side area used by the kitchen staff in the fourth-floor ballroom of Washington's historic Hotel Monaco. Edwards emerged from a lower-level handicap ramp near the rear of the hotel with two men. When approached by a Charlotte Observer reporter, Edwards said, "Can't do it now, I'm sorry" and quickly walked past.

Asked what he was doing at the Beverly Hilton last week, Edwards said "sorry" and got into a waiting car with the other men.

Update: The News & Observer also reports that the birth certificate for Rielle Hunter's daughter lists no father. The paper's reporters seem skeptical of Hunter's lawyer's explanation. (Birth certificate posted here.)

There are simply a lot of good questions. Edwards already squirmed out of one such query at a press conference, but his political career appears to be over unless he can talk his way out of this one.

So it's time the major media picked up the story. It's not merely the stench of liberal bias that bothers me but the unfortunate reality that we in the MSM are giving up a good story to the internet. And if we in the major media continue to cede such stories to the internet, we won't be major much longer.

So far, there has not been a denial from either Edwards or the woman, who once produced videos for the Edwards presidential campaign, about the alleged escapade in Beverly Hills.

And if it's all a simple misunderstanding, if John Edwards was dropping by a hotel suite at 2 a.m. to say hello to a former campaign worker, then maybe someone should suggest to the politician that he come out and say that. Maybe it was his $500-a-cut hairdresser, for goodness sakes! In which case, money well spent. In any case, it doesn't seem like this is the kind of story that is going to fade into the mists of time.

P.S.--Maybe it's not the coverup: Interestingly, none of these MSM stories is about the alleged "cover up." They're all about what the "cover up" would cover up. ... 2:43 A.M. link

___________________________

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

They Like to Watch: Rachel Sklar's link-rich summary analysis of the howling void in most of the MSM regarding the Edwards/Hunter controversy seems about right to me: They'll report it when they "have to"--when there are no excuses left. Meanwhile, they will desperately think of reasons to not cover it.** ... P.S.: Not covering it is not the same as not knowing about it. It's a strangely passive, yet cost-effective, attitude:

[T]he Edwards story: Alive and well on the blogs, completely absent from the MSM. Is the MSM unaware of it? Hardly — everyone knows, and they're all waiting for the shoe to drop. Back in December, I asked a veteran MSM-er about the story, and was told that "we're watching it." But watching isn't the same as reporting — and back in December, John Edwards was still a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination. [E.A.]

**--with some possible exceptions! ... 6:41 P.M. link

___________________________

Perel's plan unfolds, the Empire of Undernews expands: The Enquirer has indeed already moved on to the Edwards "coverup." Their latest issue  alleges:

John Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter – the mother of his "love child" – has been secretly receiv­ing $15,000 a month as part of an elaborate cover-up orchestrated by the former presidential contender. ...

The money is being funneled to Hunter by a wealthy colleague who was closely tied to the Edwards' campaign ... [E.A.]

Not clear from the posted summary if the Enquirer got any response from the Edwards camp to this particular charge. (The printed issue is advertised as having "more details.") ... P.S.: It's hard to believe that the name of this alleged "wealthy colleague," described by "a source" as "a super-rich pal--who was closely involved with the campaign finances," will remain a secret for long. ... Here's one place to start searching. ... Or you could just call Tom Edsall. ...[Via Gawker, which takes some precisely targeted shots at the MSM--although it's silly for Gawker to say that the Enquirer's photographs "in and of themselves" would prove "precisely nothing scandalous."  In context, the photos would be powerful evidence. Enquirer editor David Perel apparently doesn't want to win over the MSM by releasing them. He'd rather have the Edwards story all to himself.] ...  3:27 A.M. link

___________________________

More Layoffs, Please--Part XVIII: You can read a better analysis of the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal on will.i.am's Dipdive "lifestyle engine" than in the mighty Los Angeles Times. ... Of course, you can't read any analysis of the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal in the mighty Los Angeles Times. But if you could, Dipdive's would probably still be better. ... P.S.: This Bloggasm interview  with LAT omertapparatchikTony Pierce suggests the paper's metro reporters came up empty-handed in their vaunted investigation of the Enquirer's charges:

I asked Pierce if the metro desk had the chance to follow up on the story, and if so, would he send out another post allowing his bloggers to write about it. He said that to his knowledge the LA Times reporters hadn't found any additional information and expressed some skepticism of the National Enquirer story's authenticity.

I guess that's it, then. Nothing more to say about it, really. ... Fox? We know of no "Fox." ... P.P.S.: After all, as Pierce says,

"This isn't something you would normally see in a newspaper more than once. We already wrote the one post quoting the National Enquirer [which slipped out before Pierce's ban--kf] and I don't think you'd see more than that if there were no blogs and this was just a newspaper."

That must be why the LAT has all those blogs: So you won't find out anything more than "if there were no blogs." A clear strategic mission statement for the Web 2.0 era. They rockin'! ... 2:06 A.M.

___________________________

If Mike Murphy wants to take over the McCain campaign, shouldn't he stop giving semi-critical quotes to the New York Times? ... 1:08 A.M.

___________________________

Politicized hiring-- in Hollywood? Is there a Hollywood blacklist that operates against conservatives?  Andrew Breitbart argues yes. As if to provide him with fresh evidence,  Jeffrey Wells fantasizes about Jon Voight's career trajectory  in the wake of Voight's not-nearly-cracked-enough dogmatic attack  on Obama:

But you'd think an arch conservative working in an overwhelmingly liberal town would think about restraining himself for expediency's sake, if nothing else. ... [snip]

But it's only natural that industry-based Obama supporters will henceforth regard him askance. Honestly? If I were a producer and I had to make a casting decision about hiring Voight or some older actor who hadn't pissed me off with an idiotic Washington Times op-ed piece, I might very well say to myself, "Voight? Let him eat cake."

Wells later denies he's seriously urging Voight's non-hiring, but not before offering this handy and apparently familiar Hollywood rationale for doing just that:

It's been said in this town many times that the right has a debt to pay for the blacklisting of lefties in the '50s, and that in all fairness it's probably going to take a long time to make amends. The fact is that the philosophical grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today's right-wingers ruined the lives of many Hollywood screenwriters in the '50s, and so their descendants now have to suffer and make up for that. Simple. As you sew so shall you reap. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. [E.A.]

I tend to think Hollywood conservatives do face some employment barriers--but if you enter an industry that's inherently about ideas and politics can you really complain if people who disagree with you don't want to work with you? (The same might be said for the Department of Justice, but that's another item.) 

P.S.: Breitbart's blacklisted father-in-law, Orson Bean, has a nuanced memory of the 50s:

Aside from the inconvenience of having a career ruined, being blacklisted in the '50s was kind of cool. You were doing 'the right thing.' Hot, left-wing girls admired you. You hadn't 'named names.' The New York Times was on your side. And you knew it would pass.

12:02 A.M. link

___________________________

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NE to MSM--No Pix Fix: Don't expect any photos of the Edwards Hilton Hunt in the next issue of the National Enquirer. Radar's Neel Shah interviews Enquirer editor David Perel, who says the Enquirer "definitely" has photos but

he won't be putting them in tabloid's next issue, or making them accessible online.

"It's a story that we're taking a long view of," Perel told Radar by phone. "We've got a big exclusive coming out this week, and we are on the trail of some stuff that's even hotter." [E.A.]

Perel told me much the same thing when I followed up--that it's "not about the photos but about the rest of the story, and the story is just going to get bigger from here."

This seems like a tragic mistake on Perel's part. Why? Rationally or irrationally**, release of the photos has become the talismanic MSM/bien pensant test for whether the Enquirer can be believed about anything. Release them now and the big dailies and networks will all jump into the Edwards investigation, sources will talk (because they're either emboldened or terrified of looking bad), the whole story will come out in short order. Wikipedia will unlock! And the nation will be able move on.

Delay releasing the pics--in hopes of pursuing a "bigger" story, whatever that is--and you give Edwards time to regroup. You give the Protect Elizabeth lobbyists time to call up their media mogul friends (including the ones who own the Enquirer). You discourage truth-telling sources from sticking their necks out while you encourage ass-covering sources to remain loyal to Team E. We could end up with seven months of seething undernews rebellion, no MSM coverage of either the Rielle scandal or whatever "hotter" story the Enquirer documents***--and, next year, H.H.S. Secretary John Edwards.

It's like the famously parodied scene in a Bond film where instead of just shooting poor Bond the villain tries to stage some more elaborate and prolonged auto da fe, with the result that Bond is able to escape.

And it's hard not to completely suppress the feeling that the Enquirer is milking the story to boost its role (and, not incidentally newsstand sales). After being scorned by the Edwards-defending MSM last fall, Perel may understandably be content with building a separate EnquirerWorld where refugees from the mainstream matrix can go to learn the truth for the next few weeks. But that assumes he can pull off his long-term story plan without some other outfit scooping him three weeks out. Why make Dr. Evil's mistake?

Anyway, weeks and weeks of uncertainty aren't in the national interest.  And they aren't in my interest. (I'd like to go back to obsessing about something else.)

At least Perel has declared he has photos. But unless he releases them there will always be the suspicion that he's bluffing. After all, why did his reporters so quickly file a complaint against hotel security  with the local police? One obvious possible goal was to obtain the security camera tapes. Are those tapes so important because the Enquirer actually doesn't have other photographic evidence? I don't think that's the reason, but I don't know for sure. If Perel released even a little teaser photo--and I'd settle for white knuckles gripping a bathroom door--that would help erase a lingering suspicion that the Enquirer's photogarpher was out of position, or perhaps plagued by the world's only defective camera.

How about that compromise, Mr. Perel? Tease with at least one image. Then you can milk it all you want.

And they say kausfiles isn't solution-oriented!

**************

**--The answer is "irrationally," because a) the Enquirer has a better track record than that and b) there is substantial non-Enquirer evidence that Edwards was at the hotel-- Fox has interviewed a security guard, and Edwards pointedly hasn't denied it. But the MSM is demanding photos. And the customer is always right. ...

***--"Hotter"? I could see why the (possible) story of the (possible) coverup and any (possible) money transactions as suggested by Shah might be maybe "bigger," or "more significant." But "hotter"?  One part of the potential story involves sex. The other involves checks. Which one are Enquirer readers more interested in?  ... 7:02 P.M. link

___________________________

Timing is everything in the TV business. ... [via American Thinker12:11 P.M.

___________________________

Monday, July 28, 2008

Waiting for Fotot: I missed the solid item on the John Edwards "Two Families" scandal  that the Charlotte Observer published last Thursday. (Typical of the MSM--even when they have good news judgment they have poor Search Engine Optimization.) Reporter Jim Morrill's interview with National Enquirer editor David Perel seems useful for frustrated undernews followers wondering what happened to the Enquirer's rumored photographs:

I asked [Enquirer editor David] Perel about photos or eyewitness accounts. He wouldn't talk about that.

"Well, stay tuned, that's all I can say," he said. "Everything's done incrementally. So I'm not going to tell you exactly what our process is. Perhaps my time frame is different than your time frame. I'm not worried about the rest of the media. I'm worried about us." [E.A.]

Is the Enquirertiming release of the photos to coincide with the arrival of its print edition on newsstands later in the week? A week is long! Is no MSM journalist able to break the story in the meantime--or are they all lazily waiting on the Enquirer? (Note to MSM reporters: Call me. I can give you some leads.)

Morrill also gets a solid quote from former Democratic National Committee chair Don Fowler, who seems not to have gotten the omerta memo: "

"If you had this rumor about Bill Clinton it probably wouldn't cause a ripple," he said. "But given John Edwards and his public relationship with his wife, something close to a model of the perfect family and their perfect relationship, it would hurt that much more."

11:32 A.M. link

___________________________

BHTV 50 Seconds of Truth! The Usual Media Thing regarding the "n"-word, explained. ... 1:31 A.M.

___________________________

Sunday, July 27, 2008

STEPHANOPOULOS: "Opponents of affirmative action are trying to get a referendum on the ballot here that would do away with affirmative action. Do you support that?"

MCCAIN: "Yes, I do. I do not believe in quotas. But I have not seen the details of some of the proposals. But I've always opposed quotas."

STEPHANOPOULOS: "But the one here in Arizona you support?"

McCAIN: "I support it, yes."

McCain at first tried fo fudge, then got bullied into a "yes"--the same thing that basically happened with his answer on immigration at the Reagan library debate. McCain's clumsiness may indicate that his endorsement isn't exactly bankable--his spokesman was unprepared to defend it when Obama immediately brought up McCain's characterization of an earlier anti-affirmative action measure as "divisive." ("I do not have a firm enough grasp on the historical and relevant context of McCain's remark in 1998 to give you the pushback that this question deserves," the spokesman said, in a formulation that may become the Universal Punt in the idiotic daily news-cycle war.)

Yet maybe McCain has stumbled on to a strategic masterstroke. He's behind, after all. His big issue--Iraq--has just been seemingly defused. He's no expert on the economy. He's old and his formerly winning personality is starting to grate. He could do worse than make the election a national referendum on Connerly's initiative to ban affirmative action, which tends to win by large margins whenever it is actually placed on a ballot. Does Steve Schmidt have a better idea? ...

P.S.: In a precious moment of calm, Andrew Sullivan posts a sensible analysis  of how Obama might respond. [Sullivan's away. Item was written by Chris Bodenner--ed I finally know what they mean by "the exception that proves the rule."]

P.P.S.:  Weekend chat shows were bloated with talk of the McCain campaign's recent general incompetence. I know that Mike Murphy's comeback bid is over, finished, he "will not be reboarding the Straight Talk Express," and "the matter is now been resolved." Politico told us!  But at this rate don't you think Murphy will be running the campaign by August? ... 10:42 P.M. link

___________________________

More evidence of the new realism about Edwards on the left. Alex Koppelman in Salon:

I know what you're thinking: Why even bother with anything printed by the Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid you probably think of as the kind of "newspaper" that focuses on rumors that Elvis Presley is alive -- and leading a band of rampaging space aliens? ...[snip] That's not really the Enquirer's niche, though. It gets confused with publications like the defunct Weekly World News, but in fact the Enquirer is surprisingly good at reporting on these kinds of stories, and it has a decent track record with them. It was the Enquirer that published the photo of Donna Rice sitting on Gary Hart's lap. It was the Enquirer that broke the story of Rush Limbaugh's addiction to painkillers. And new information about the Edwards story makes the Enquirer's reporting on it look more solid.

Not all of Koppelman's commenters are on board! (Sample: "J.D. Rockefeller, back in the 1900's sent hired guns into a camp of striking mine workers. ...When you threaten the power base in this country, watch out.") But he has more support than you'd expect. ... 9:46 P.M.

___________________________

Blog Post of the Day: Lee Stranahan, an Edwards fan and Obama supporter, wakes up--

The truth is that I believe anyone who looks into the John Edwards / Rielle Hunter affair story will see that Edwards has, at best, acted in a very suspicious manner for over a year now. ...

Let's go with the assumption that Edwards is innocent for a moment; he didn't have the affair so the baby isn't his. If he didn't do anything wrong then it seems like he'd have good reasons to stop the rumors. A DNA test months ago would have ended all speculation about the paternity of the baby. Isn't that a better, less suspicious move than pulling down all the videos that Rielle Hunter helped produce about him for his campaign? And if there are rumors and you're innocent, WHY go visit the subject of those rumors at a hotel and leave at 2:45 in the morning? Why hide in the bathroom when reporters catch you leaving? These actions don't make any more sense to me than Craig's 'wide stance / dropped my toilet paper' defense did. ...

The mainstream media is fairly quiet but the most ominous silence right now is from the progressive blogosphere.

Stranahan goes on and on. I wouldn't cut a word. (Sample: "A blog by John McQuaid said that there's no 'physical evidence a la Bill Clinton.' Well, there's a baby.") ... 2:00 A.M. link

___________________________

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sleaze Scuppers Democrat Golden Boy": Sometimes a foreign perspective is clarifying. Effective photo. ... 2:47 P.M.

___________________________

Will  the Pro-Obama Bias Turn Anti-Edwards? At this point, does Barack Obama want John Edwards to even show up in Denver, much less give a prime time speech? Even if the Love-Child saga progresses no further than it already has, an Edwards Denver appearance will inevitably be accompanied by renewed speculation about his seemingly scandalous and politically toxic behavior. Obama's in what looks like a surprisingly close race. He doesn't need to carry Edwards' baggage. He needs a positive convention. And Obama has previously shown a willingness to bury troublesome associates without much fuss (ask Jim Johnson).  

If you're an Obama strategist, mightn't you conclude that the best thing for your candidate would be if the press weighs in quickly and definitively concludes that Edwards is guilty, with the result that he and his whole sordid story go away until after November? ...

Of course, if that was the Obama camp's desire, you'd expect Obamaphilic Web sites like Huffington Post to suddenly start billing Love Child stories on their front pages, even if they come from FOX News, and that's not about to ... Oh, wait. ...

If Edwards has lost Arianna's crowd (which only recently was sneering at the scandal  with  embarrassing, heavy-handed, unfunny satires **) we can't be far away from the Flipping Point at which Liberal Media Bias, to the extent it exist, starts working against Edwards. ...

P.S.: HufPo has even finally begun to boast, accurately, that:

The Huffington Post was the first to report on Edwards' relationship with Rielle Hunter in  September 2007  . 

**--Update: Greg Mitchell, author of the embarrassing, unfunny satire, emails to say: "Within minutes of posting yesterday, I recognized that it was, indeed, 'heavyhanded' and had it 'unpublished.'" OK. (But it's still there. 7/28 Update: Gone now. But there's still the Google text cache.) ...  2:44 A.M. link

___________________________

Friday, July 25, 2008

Here's some MSM. ... Update: Rod Dreher writing on the Dallas Morning News blog--

Still, the Enquirer, as sleazy as its tactics strike many people, has a better reputation on stories like this than you might think. Frankly, I believe them here -- Edwards refuses to comment -- but I do want to see photos.

He couldn't say that at the rockin' L.A. Times! ... Meanwhile, Fox News manages to do what the L.A.T.'s reporters are apparently unable to do, namely find some independent corroborating eyewitness evidence that Edwards was present at the hotel when the Enquirer says he was. ...  

Dunn Loring, Va.: Does the Post have any political reporters investigating the legitimacy of the Enquirer's stories about John Edwards?

Jonathan Weisman: Yes, and to be quite honest, we're waiting to see the pictures the Enquirer says it will publish this weekend. That said, Edwards is no longer an elected official and is not running for any office now. Don't expect wall-to-wall coverage.

4:07 A.M.

___________________________

LAT Gags Blogs: In a move that has apparently stirred up some internal discontent, the Los Angeles Times has banned its bloggers, including political bloggers, from mentioning the Edwards/Rielle Hunter story. Even bloggers who want to mention the story in order to make a skeptical we-don't-trust-the-Enquirer point are forbidden from doing so. Kausfiles has obtained a copy of the email Times bloggers received from editor Tony Pierce. [I've excised the recipient list and omitted Pierce's email address]:

From: "Pierce, Tony" 

Date:July 24, 2008 10:54:41 AM PDT 

To: [XXX] 

Subject: john edwards

Hey bloggers, 

There has been a little buzz surrounding John Edwards and his alleged affair. Because the only source has been the National Enquirer we have decided not to cover the rumors or salacious speculations. So I am asking you all not to blog about this topic until further notified.

If you have any questions or are ever in need of story ideas that would best fit your blog, please don't hesitate to ask

Keep rockin, 

Tony 

That will certainly calm paranoia about the Mainstream Media (MSM) suppressing the Edwards scandal. ... 

P.S.: Is the Times' edict a) part of a double-standard that favors Democrats (and disfavors Republicans like Rep. Vito Fossella and John McCain)? Or does it b) simply reflect an outmoded Gatekeeper Model of journalism in which not informing readers of certain sensitive allegations is as important as informing them--as if readers are too simple-minded to weigh charges that are not proven, as if they aren't going to find out about such controversies anyway? I'd say it's a mixture of both (a) and (b). This was a sensational scandal the LAT and other MSM papers passionately did not want to uncover when Edwards was a formal candidate, and now that the Enquirer seems to have done the job for them it looks like they want everyone to shut up while they fail to uncover it again. ...

P.P.S.: The Times apparently failed to get word of the ban to one of its bloggers in time to prevent her from shocking readers by  saying she hoped the allegations against Edwards weren't true. ...  2:55 A.M. link

___________________________

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Always trust women named Emily (and Rachael and Bonnie):  Good discussion of whether the Edwards story is "news" on Slate's XX Factor. ... Are we in the truth business or the "protect Saint Elizabeth" business? ... Anyway, if the National Enquirer'sstory is true, Elizabeth Edwards' public role as a popular and effective spokesperson will not be undermined--even though maybe it should be a bit (given her complicity in the coverup).  ... P.S.: Melinda Henneberger argues that "the Edwards family should be left alone."  But didn't Henneberger write a piece purporting to take readers "inside the Edwards' marriage," according to the headline? Wasn't that a breach of privacy? It was just a breach of privacy that Elizabeth Edwards approved of. ... P.P.S.: It was a good piece--effectively countering the attacks on Edwards for having an expensive house. But it did not tell readers what was going on "inside the Edwards marriage." ("I still don't want to know," Henneberger initially blogs--though she eventually admits: "I may be identifying with [Elizabeth] a little too closely, as an oversharing cancer survivor and all.") ... 3:24 P.M.

___________________________

Nibbling at the edges of the MSM:  Imus laments that the Edwards L.C. story is "starting to become news." ... And there's always the late-night comics' rabbithhole into public consciousness. ...

But the MSM wants photos:Dallas Morning News' Rod Dreher, like   many, complains about the lack of photographs. ... Kf says the night is young! ... Would video do? ... 1:01 P.M.

___________________________

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"At least 10 Eyewitnesses": Death By 1000 Papercuts interviews David Perel, editor of the National Enquirer, about the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scoop (excerpt):

Mondo: You have more updates planned on this latest installment?

DP: We'll be updating the story several times. We're not finished yet.

Mondo: Any other comments?

DP: We were looking for the "smoking gun": time, place, day and date. Edwards could always "deny, deny, deny". Now, Edwards can't deny being at the Beverly Hilton and visiting Rielle Hunter. There were at least 10 eyewitnesses to the affair of Edwards running on the stairs and ducking into the restroom.

There were seven reporters on the story, according to Perel. DBKP adds that Edwards ran into "at least one Enquirer photographer" when "trying to make his escape." ...  So will one of the "updates" include photos? Did the photographer forget to take off the lens cap?  11:53 P.M.

___________________________

"Get it first, but first get it second." The old Newsweek rule! I hope that's the rule the MSM is following. If so, here's an MSM mention! And here. Business Week is what, chopped liver? And doesn't Jack Shafer count? ... I fear there is a new rule: "We don't want to get it at all. Not even just a mention of the 'allegation.' Not even second." Why? Jon Fine's Business Week piece  summarizes some likely reasons. A couple of points:

--Fine notes that "Edwards isn't considered a likely vice-presidential candidate by the press." That's true. But he is a likely Obama cabinet official. Many Dems would like to see him as Attorney-General. That's what's at stake in the love-child coverage. The Enquirer has killed him as a VP candidate. But if the MSM goes into full "protect Elizabeth" mode the damage might yet not quite be enough to stop his confirmation by a Democratic Senate next year. "Protect Elizabeth" = "protect A.G. John."

--If the Enquirer story is true, Edwards didn't just cheat on his sick wife after making a big deal of his loyalty to her in the campaign. He also presided over an elaborate cover-up, involving lies and duplicitous lobbying of the MSM. What is it the CW says about cover-ups? Eliot Spitzer looks like a Boy Scout in comparison.

P.S.: If the MSM can discuss the charges in meta form ("It's so easy to jump to conclusions---and I admit, this looks bad") in blogs, chat rooms, and in press commentaries, why not on the front page in political commentaries? As things stand, here's a rundown of media performance on the John Edwards front:

--The New York Times doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--The print edition of the Washington Post doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--Newsweek doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--Time doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--Katie Couric didn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--Brian Williams didn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--Charlie Gibson didn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--RealClearPolitics doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.

-- HuffingtonPost  doesn't tell you what happened yesterday (and it's their story!). I blame the commenters.

--Mark Halperin doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--Mark Ambinder doesn't tell you what happened yesterday.

--One Roger Simon tells you what happened yesterday--but the other Roger Simon  doesn't!

Has the gap between what the MSM lets you know and what happened--and what you can easily find out happened--ever been greater? ...

Update: John Tabin argues: "If the account of him being caught in a hotel rendezvous with Rielle Hunter was false, Edwards wouldn't be changing the subject, he'd be suing."

Jim Treacher emails: "Which story gets a bigger audience: A story the blogs run with but the mainstream news ignores, or a story the news runs with but the blogs ignore? I'm thinking the news comes out ahead, but just barely. And at this rate, not for much longer." ...

More: Rielle Hunter just appeared on camera on Extra, talking about what a wonderful man John Edwards is. Not sure this helps him. ... 5:17 P.M. link

___________________________

If McCain is doing so badly, why isn't that showing up here? Or here? ... 8:25 A.M.

____________________________

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Edwards, Rielle Hunter, Busted:  HuffPo 's Sam Stein, who got the story rolling, appears to be vindicated. ... P.S.: Always trust content from   kausfiles! Never trust content from Jerome Armstrong. ... P.P.S.: Will this be the first presidential-contender level scandal to occur completely in the undernews, without ever being reported in the cautious, respectable MSM? That's always seemed an interestingtheoretical possibility--a prominent politician just disappears from the scene, after blogs and tabloids dig up dirt on him, but nobody who relies on the Times, Post, network news or Mark Halperin has the faintest idea why. If this is that case, it will  have come along sooner than I would have thought. ... P.P.P.S.: But it's hard to believe the MSM can ignore the story now. Don't think Obama will! ...

Update: Nothing yet. You'd think MSM reporters would resent being played for chumps by Mudcat Sanders, et al. ... 8:09 P.M. link

___________________________

Monday, July 21, 2008

You Can't Drill Your Way Out of This Problem! Have you seen former Energy secretary Bill 'I-was-vetted' Richardson on any of the well-sourced Obama VP lists? I haven't. ...  2:03 P.M.

___________________________

Dónde está Juan?  ... 1:36 P.M.

___________________________

Paul Begala, Friend of Angelo! ... Plus: Holbrooke saved $15,000. ... Suggested title for either man's memoirs: "Dodd is my Co-Pirate!" .... [stolen from P. Krassner's The Realist] 11:20 A.M.

___________________________

Here's Spiegel's transcript of Prime Minister al-Maliki's comments on when U.S. troops might withdraw from Iraq:

As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes. [E.A.]

And here's the NYT's own translation of the tape:

"Obama's remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq." [E.A.]

There's a not inconsequential difference between the two, no? The Times version specifically does not "endorse" the timetable of 16 months (no matter what some bloggers claim). It says 16 months isn't crazy. ...  P.S.:Hot Air has a third translation, which is somewere in between, ...  P.P.S.: Maliki does seem to endorse Obama's general approach over McCain's, though. ("Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.") ... [via Insta, Yglesias ] 12:41 A.M. link

___________________________

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why did star blogger Matt Yglesias really  defect from The Atlantic  to the Center for American Progress? It can't have been the money: The Atlantic is the last journalistic gravy train in town. Were the ideas at the Aspen Ideas Festival not up to snuff? ... P.S.: What's CAP getting in the deal? Gravitas! ... 11:49 P.M. link

___________________________

Maybe we should pay more attention to the issues on which Obama hasn't noticeably shifted to the center. For example, 1) health care and 2) tax increases. In each case, the relevant question would seem to be: Is he sticking to his guns because a) that's what he really believes his presidency should be about, or b) the issue is so central to his coalition that changing his position would disrupt his election strategy? ... My guess: Issue 1# is both a and b. But some moderate moderation** on Issue #2, taxes, wouldn't really hurt Obama politically--he could still be for raising taxes on the rich without proposing hikes that add up to marginal rates in the over-50% range on the coasts.  His failure to do that suggests that soaking the rich in myriad ways is what he really believes in.

It's a big insufficiently remarked-on vulnerability. You don't have to be against high taxes to be against high marginal tax rates, which threaten to produce a boom in unproductive tax shelters. The tax-raising alternatives are to broaden the tax base (i.e. the sorts of income that are taxed) and to broaden the range of taxpayers who face increases (instead of soaking only the very tip of the income pyramid, those making over $250,000 or $300,,000 a year).  ...

**--Obama does seem to have watered down his tax position a bit, fudging what seemed to be an inclination to impose the Social Security payroll tax of 12.4%  on high earners. Now aide Jason Furman says

[W]e are looking at a range of plans, think Congress might like to have rates that are in the neighborhood of 2% to 4%."

Good climbdown, Jason! But was Obama just winging it before? And never mind what "Congress" wants. What does Obama want? ... Are Obama's own aides already invoking Congressional Democrats as a valuable check on their candidate's leftish instincts? ... 11:20 P.M. link  

___________________________

And they say investigative journalism is endangered: Driving to the 7-11, I passed a strange, ugly car/truck vehicle I'd never seen before. All the badges and identifying lettering had been removed. It turned out to be a SsangYong Actyon. But of course. ... Or ... wait ... did it just look like a SsangYong Actyon? Yes, that's what they wanted us to believe! But Autoblog Green penetrates the mask of the phenomenal world to uncover the hidden truth.  ...  2:11 P.M. link  

____________________________

Friday, July 18, 2008

So when Obama opposes the surge it's potential "chaos" and "disaster,"  according to John McCain. But when Chuck Hagel opposes the surge it's an "informed decision"? "I respect his views," says McCain. ... GetDrunk asks: "Will McCain 'respect' Obama's views once Obama has 'studied the issue'?" ... Maybe Obama was relying on Hagel's deep knowledge! Does that make it better? ... If an "informed decision" leads to chaos and disaster, what does that say about the value of the process by which U.S. Senators go about becoming "informed"?... P.S: You'd think McCain could just say, "I think Sen. Hagel is wrong"? What is it about Hagel that has the power to fog not just his own mind but the minds of others? Does he tell great dirty stories? Is he so gloomy that his friends worry that dissing him will send him over the edge? ... 5:10 P.M. link

____________________________

Thursday, July 17, 2008

If I see one more hip twentysomething man reading a book of high-class poetry (Rilke, Larkin) I'm going to report a trend (or, rather, check to see if the Trend has been Declared already). ... Update: I suspect these people are somehow mixed up in this. ... 2:52 A.M.

___________________________

"Security First"--McCain's One-Step Two-Step: Ramesh Ponnuru admits that John McCain has given "mixed signals" as to whether he intends to a) secure the borders through an enforcement bill, wait until the borders are secure, and only then try to pass a second bill to legalize illegal immigrants or to b) try to pass one big "comprehensive" bill that includes both enforcement and a provision that automatically triggers legalization once certain statutory conditions are met.  It's a crucial issue, since the statutory conditions are likely to be easy to meet--e.g., four pro-legalization border state governors certifying that "security" has been achieved, a "trigger" McCain has suggested in the past--and there will be tremendous pressure to either declare them satisfied or water them down.

Even admitting McCain's flailing, semi-confused contradiction--sorry, strategic ambiguity--is a concession some McCain supporters won' t make.  But think about it: President McCain takes office in 2009, along with a heavily Democratic Congress. A commitment to legalization is one of the few things McCain will have in common with those Democrats. What's he going to do--pass a tough "enforcement" bill his first year, despite opposition from Dem leaders, then wait a year or two, and then try to pass a second mostly-amnesty bill either in a mid-term election year or in the second half of what is likely to be his single term in office? Or will he try to pass both parts quickly, while he's still popular, in one big bill with whatever "triggers" are needed? Answer: He'll do (b). I can't believe Ponnuru thinks otherwise. ... 2:46 A.M. link

___________________________

When I tell  my liberal friends that "card check" is one of the big issues in the 2008 campaign, they tend to roll their eyes. But when I tell my conservative friends that "card check" is one of the big issues in 2008 ... they roll their eyes too. Apparently the words "card check" are not enough, in themselves, to convey the fundamental shift in industrial organization that might result if workers could trigger unionization under the Wagner Act without a normal secret-ballot election.

Mike Murphy's initial  anti-card check ads, using actor Vincent Curatola who played Johnny Sack in The Sopranos (and who also appeared in the Clintons'  parody), attempted to bring the issue down from the eye-roll level. They seemed effective to me, but I'm pre-convinced. Murphy's new follow-up ads-- example here--will be a test of whether support of card check can actually be used against individual candidates. I'm less convinced of that. ... P.S.: The target of this particular ad is Al Franken. It's hard for me to believe that Franken, who's always struck me as a sensible yuppie neolib type underneath, actually cares that much about card check (whatever his  Web site says). ... 1:40 A.M. link

____________________________

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Chandra Story Is Back: Fred Barnes said the most discouraging words in the English language are "first of a series." But the Chandra Levy case actually deserves a 12-part series, and I'm eager to read WaPo's effort. (I admit I may wait until it's all published and I can peek at the conclusion). Here's a complicated mystery, with a real victim and all sorts of sociological and political lessons, that never got the coverage it deserved after self-righteous media scolds who mainly work for MSM organizations that are now going broke used it to symbolize the allegedly trivial, tabloidy coverage before 9/11! ... Maybe I'll even  "skip" it. ...  Bonus: Now Howie Kurtz can try to boost his CNN ratings with a tabloidy show re-denouncing tabloidy coverag e of the Levy case!   ... 4:34 P.M. link

___________________________

Can't Get Enough Fannie Mae: V-helpful op-ed by Lawrence Kudlow

a) makes it clear that Fannie's involvment in the subprime market comes not from repackaging subprime loans as securities but from buying those securities after they'd been repackaged by others (which still helped fuel the subprime lending crisis, pace Krugman):

The main mission of Fannie and Freddie is to provide liquidity into the mortgage markets by purchasing loans made by local lenders and repackaging them into bond-market security pools that are sold to investors with the U.S. government's stamp of approval. You might call this the good-cop function.

But then there's the bad-cop function: Fannie and Freddie purchased some of these mortgage pools for their own portfolios, essentially setting up a high-risk internal hedge fund. It was the sinking credit quality of this hedge fund that drove last week's shareholder run. Think sub-prime mortgages and other shaky and exotic loans.

b) suggests, startlingly, that the government has agreed to back only Fannie's "good cop" function, not the bad-cop securities purchases that are the source of Fannie's financial troubles;

c) hints that left and right are converging on the desirability of de-privatizing Fannie and Freddie, at least temporarily. When even an AEI expert calls for talking profit-making shareholder owned organizations and "making them tightly controlled government agencies," maybe they should be made tightly controlled government agencies! Letting Jim Johnson politico types build profit-making empires with taxpayer-supported credit is just too risky. (For how Johnson operated, see this 2006 WaPo piece  [via NewsAlert].)

P.S.: When toting up the costs and benefits of Fannie Mae, shouldn't Slate's Daniel Gross have taken into account the cost of dragging down the whole economy in a subprime crisis which Fannie and Freddy helped fuel maybe not as a primary but as an important secondary factor? Just asking!  .... I smell Kool Aid! ... 2:58 P.M. link

___________________________

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chart of the Day: What happened to the number of people on public assistance in New York City after the 1996 welfare reform. ... 2:52 A.M.

___________________________

Both these candidates are for the same thing: a path to citizenship--that doesn't reward people who come in illegally--but McCain did change his emphasis ...

Liasson is being very careful not to overemphasize or underemphasize the difference between the candidates. She doesn't exhibit any tilt toward Obama or toward McCain. It's all exquisitely fair--except that she almost unconsciously embeds a bit of ludicrous BS that is common to both candidates: the idea that their legalization plans wouldn't "reward people who come in illegally."

Of course they would. When you hear the candidates talk about sending illegals to the "back of the line,"  remember that there are two lines: 1) An initial, typically very long line in which foreigners patiently wait years, sometimes decades, to get green cards or other documents that enable them to live and work here legally, and 2) a shorter second line of people who have green cards and want to become citizens. Neither Obama nor McCain would send illegals to the back of the first line--that would, in many cases, be tantamount to deporting them. On the contrary, the illegals who are already here get to pay a not-huge fine and skip Queue #1 entirely. They may go to the back of Queue #2, but that's a queue they can wait out while working legally in the richest country on Earth--a reward the poor suckers who obeyed the law and are still lining up outside U.S. consulates abroad don't get. ...

Just because both candidates say something doesn't mean it's not crap! ... 2:33 A.M.  link

___________________________

kf seems to have reappeared on Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo blogroll after a mysterious absence. Thanks! ...  12:34 A.M.

___________________________

Monday, July 14, 2008

Asymptotically approa ching ... damage control: Calculated Risk has what seems like a judicious assessment of Krugman's Fannie Mae column.

Fannie and Freddie had about as much to with the "explosion of high-risk lending" as they could get away with. We are all fortunate that they couldn't get away with all that much of it. ... [snip]

But they didn't like losing their market share, and they pushed the envelope on credit quality as far as they could inside the constraints of their charter: they got into "near prime" programs (Fannie's "Expanded Approval," Freddie's "A Minus") that, at the bottom tier, were hard to distinguish from regular old "subprime" except--again--that they were overwhelmingly fixed-rate "non-toxic" loan structures. ...

Furthermore, both GSEs [Government Sponsored Enterprises--e.g. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] were major culprits in the growth of the mega-lenders. Over the years they were struggling so hard to maintain market share, they were allowing themselves to experience huge concentration risks. As they catered more and more to their "major partners"--Countrywide, Wells Fargo, WaMu, the usual suspects--they helped sustain and worsen the "aggregator" model in which smaller lenders sold loans not to the GSEs but to CFC or WFC, who then sold the loans to the GSEs. ...

I think we can give Fannie and Freddie their due share of responsibility for the mess we're in, while acknowledging that they were nowhere near the biggest culprits in the recent credit bubble. [E.A.]

In a post-column mop up operation, Krugman cites Calculated Risk's analysis and glibly says, "That's not really in contradiction to what I said  ..." Really? What Krugman said was:

Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago ....

My turn: But didn't I say that "Fannie Mae was a huge buyer of subprime mortgages"? I did. How does this jibe with Calculated Risk's assertion that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed the envelope but that the envelope still constrained them at least somewhat?  I don't know the answer ... at least not yet... but at least part of it seems   to be  that Fannie Mae mainly purchased subprime mortgage securities--i.e. mortgages that had been aggregated and repackaged as bonds--but that it didn't buy actual subrime mortgages directly. In theory buying the bonds backed by lousy mortgages might have been safer than buying the mortgages, although this 2007 Fortune article seems to argue that the protection was largely illusory, and that through the bond purchases

over the past five years [Fannie Mae] became exposed to mortgages that were made to people with poor credit - subprime mortgages.

Is there any doubt that by purchasing bonds backed by subprime mortgages Fannie Mae helped enable the "explosion of high-risk lending"? I wouldn't think so. Indeed, expanding subprime lending seems to have been the goal.  But then why doesn't Calculated Risk emphasize that aspect of Fannie's culpability? If anyone wants to explain this to me, I'll repackage it and sell it to my readers. ...

Answers! a) Yes, the explanation seems to be that Fannie Mae bought securities backed by subprime loans, not the loans themselves; b) Even Tantu says  these securities purchases were "supposed to be about supplying some 'needed' capital to the subprime market." If you're providing "needed" capital aren't you thereby enabling the "explosion of high risk lending," as Conn Carroll charges? Doesn't that leave Krugman--"Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion"--looking like he's drunk some kind of Fannie Mae Kool Aid?  ...[Thanks to readers R and S11:57 P.M. link

___________________________

Curious passage in Paul Krugman's half-defense of Fannie Mae today:

But here's the thing: Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago, an explosion that dwarfed the S.& L. fiasco. In fact, Fannie and Freddie, after growing rapidly in the 1990s, largely faded from the scene during the height of the housing bubble.

Partly that's because regulators, responding to accounting scandals at the companies, placed temporary restraints on both Fannie and Freddie that curtailed their lending just as housing prices were really taking off. Also, they didn't do any subprime lending, because they can't.

Huh? Does Krugman not know that Fannie Mae was a huge buyer of subprime mortgages, including mortgages from Angelo Mozilo's Countrywide? David Smith's eerily prescient AHI blog noted  that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reportedly bought $35 billion in subprimes in the first quarter of 2007 alone.

What you need to know here is that the right — the WSJ editorial page, Heritage, etc. — hates, hates, hates Fannie and Freddie. Why? Because they don't want quasi-public entities competing with Angelo Mozilo.

"Huh?" again. Conn Carroll responds:

The problem is that Fannie was Countrywide's No. 1 enabler. ... When he was CEO of Fannie, former Barack Obama campaign adviser Jim Johnson worked personally with Mozilo to streamline the two companies' business relationship.

Could Mozilo have done his subprime thing without Johnson and Fannie Mae as a backup to purchase his junky mortgages?

P.S.: Krugman suggests Fannie's problem is that it wasn't a true government agency, but rather a hybrid public/private partnership that privatized profits and socialized losses.

Liberals like Fannie the way it was for the first 30 years — a purely public enterprise.

Good point--according to Smith Fannie seems to have been using all sorts of tricks to turn profits using its implicit government credit guarantee.But if Fannie had been a pure government enterprise, would it really have refrained from supporting Mozilo-style subprime lending? I'm not so sure. Providing "affordable housing" was a policy crusade of Johnson, among others, and a popular goal on Capitol Hill (where Mozilo had done so much to ensure that his "friends" would be receptive to his particular method of pursuing affordability).

P.P.S.: Krugman also writes, boldly:

You could say that the Fannie-Freddie experience shows that regulation works.

You could say that--unless you read the remainder of Krugman's column, which notes the inadequate capital requirements imposed on Fannie-Freddie because 

the companies' management bought off the political process, systematically hiring influential figures from both parties.

P.P.P.S.: Is this risk of corruption any less with a) "purely public enterprise" than with b) a public-private hybrid like Fannie Mae or c) a purely private enterprise (like, say, the Blackstone Group)? Interesting question. I would think well-connected liberal operatives like Johnson would be capable of at least perverting a regulatory regime even if they headed a 100% federal, civil-servicized Fannie Mae. (Most "regulation" is in category (c) of course, where the risk of corruption seems somehow undiminished by the triumphant "Fannie-Freddie experience.") ...

Update: See semi-clarifying semi-correction. ...  2:00 P.M.

___________________________

Didn't subprime poster villain Angelo Mozilo do Barack Obama a big favor by compromising Obama's initial VP vetter, Jim Johnson, with favorable loans, causing Johnson to step down from his position? How bad would today's headlines be for Obama if Fannie Mae fatcat Johnson was still heading up his vice-presidential search effort? ... 10:45 P.M.

___________________________

A reader emails:

People seem to think it's somehow a stroke of political genius that Sen. Obama is taking Sen. Hagel with him on his trip to Iraq.  But why doesn't this highlight Obama's lack of judgment on the surge, by bringing along the man who considered it a catastrophically bad idea?

Actually, Hagel called the surge  "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." ... Is Obama cannily trying to demonstrate why Hagel would be a horrifying VP pick? Is he trying to deflect attention from his own poor surge judgment ("the surge has not worked") by bringing along as a lightning rod someone whose judgment was even worse than his? ... Imagine how embarrassing it would be if Obama went with an antiwar Republican like Gen. Zinni, who supported the surge, with what now looks like contrarian wisdom. ... 1:40 A.M.

___________________________

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

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

An Iranian Woman Was Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist. Can Activists Save Her?

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Women’s Sports Show

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now, at Least.

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 2:08 PM We Need to Talk: Terrible Name, Good Show
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Oct. 1 2014 1:53 PM Slate Superfest East How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 2:24 PM The New Interstellar Trailer Is the Most Exciting Yet
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 2:26 PM The Apple Graveyard Leave a flower for a dead Apple product.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.