Update: Mark Krikorian, who knows more about the subject than I do, seems to back me up on the legislative odds. ...
Update 2: Obama today tells the Congressional Hispanic Caucus "this election is about the 12 million living in the shadows" and pledges
"to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, and rise above the fear, and rise above the demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform."
Harmless pandering! Pay it no mind. ... [Tks to M.M.] 4:33 P.M. link
It's not only Dems who are nervous: Some conservatives are not happy with McCain's conversion of his campaign into the Umbrage Express. Ramesh Ponnuru:
[T]he Republicans are coming across as whiny grievance-mongers. Don't they realize that this harping on ambiguous slights is what people hate about political correctness? It was bad enough when liberals were trying to destroy Palin. Now Republicans are trashing her brand. They're undermining the basis of her appeal as a different, tougher kind of female politician.
But, hey, they won the news cycle! Or so they think. ... P.S.: Ponnuru also questions whether Jane Swift is the best GOP spokesperson. ...
Update: Steve Smith (not a conservative) argues McCain won the news cycle while losing the war:
Think about the ways the McCain campaign has bulloxed this. First, they publicized an unfavorable image of the best thing it has going right now. I suspect one of the big reasons why Sarah Palin has struck a nerve among white voters is her attitude: tough, sassy, one-of-the-guys, a "pitbull with lipstick," to use her memorable phrase. By equating that phrase with the line, "lipstick on a pig," they have now created a counter-image that will float in the subconscious of every voter from now until Election Day, foe and supporter alike. [E.A.]
It's certainly true that the Obama command believes McCain strategist Schmidt is too concerned with "winning" each day. If they're right about that, it should be possible to set a trap in which Schmidt lunges to win the cycle in a way that does McCain's cause long term damage. Whether that's the result here--and whether if so it's the product of intentional baiting by Obama--are unclear. Maybe not. But there are six more weeks for the Obama camp to set just that sort of News Cycle Trap, now that they know it can be done.. ... 3:41 P.M.
What doesn't destroy her makes her stronger. ... 1:44 P.M.
Road trip report:
Best business name: "Putz n Glo"--miniature golf course near Mt. Rushmore.
Best business concept: Wings, Pizza and Tanning (Cheyenne, Wyoming).
Best sign: On I-90, outside the small town of Murdo, South Dakota. Weathered, almost decaying. It says
"This is it! Murdo!"
I wish I had taken a picture.**
Musical highpoint: Sir Victor Uwaifo on the BBC.
Recommended cafes for blogging: Pier 347 in Pierre, S.D.. Coal Creek Coffee Company in Laramie, Wyoming.
All college radio is now better than all non-college radio.
The state of mainstream, altless country music is even worse than the state of presidential nominnee acceptance speeches. I didn't hear one recent song that wasn't phony.
--If anyone has a photo, I will post it. The sign may say "Here it is! Murdo!" ...
Looking into a crowd for your friends: Matt Lewis agrees that McCain is much more likely to enact "comprehensive immigration reform" than Obama. ... Have all the conservatives who plan to "get drunk and vote for McCain" thought hard about this? .... 1:52 A.M. link
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
"Model 3" was there all along: The most respectable, cautious members of the MSM--like National Public Radio--have no problem sifting and assessing scandalous, unverified rumors when it comes to ... Kim Jong Il. ... He's had a stroke, he uses a look-alike stand in, he collapsed at an event, one report has a high "level of confidence" level, others don't, "a couple of people" say another report is "solid." ... Why is doing the same thing for presidential candidates irresponsible and tabloidy? ... 9:50 P.M.
"Lipstick on a pig": Either (a) shockingly clumsy and hack, using a tired DC line in a way that (intentionally or not) seems to suggest unchivalrously that Palin isn't attractive or (b) brilliant, memorably undermining three of her central virtues** at once. ... I tend to think (a). ...
**--What three virtues? 1) Attractive 2) Anti-pork 3) Non-Bush anti-Washington reformer. ... 3:49 P.M. link
All Obama has to do is ask John McCain (who, despite appearances, is still the GOP presidential nominee) to pledge, in the spirit of " bipartisanship" he was going on about Thursday night, that they will both work together for amnesty in the next Congress, regardless of which of them goes to the White House and which of them remains in the U.S. Senate.
Brimelow argues McCain would be "stuck"--he might accidentally say what he thinks (i.e., yes) and demoralize his base. I'm not so sure. It's much more likely McCain would give his usual carefully-crafted answer--he got the "message" in 2007, he'd would secure the borders first and then move on to semi-amnesty. In the meantime, Obama would have emphasized that he's also for semi-amnesty, potentially alienating a lot of working class and union voters who aren't on board the Democrats' train in this regard. ....
Instead of inviting McCain to join him on the "left" in support of legalization of illegals, what about a strategy of getting ever so slightly and tenuously on McCain's "right" by unexpectedly expressing some doubts. For example: "I support comprehensive immigration reform. But we have to do it in a way that doesn't further depress the wages of blue-collar American workers." That would at least plant the seed in blue collar voters' minds a) that Obama understands their concerns, and understands that their concerns aren't necessarily the same as the concerns of Latino leaders or righteous--and, yes, elite--bipartisan reformers; and b) specifically that Obama might move cautiously and avoid a headlong PC rush to legalization, of which McCcain was a crucial cheerleader. Point (b) would even appeal to many in McCain's base, driving the same wedge that Brimelow wants to drive.
Obama wouldn't renounce legalization (which he supports) and indeed wouldn't be committing himself to doing or not doing anything in particular, since as President he would presumably declare that any bill he promotes will not depress blue collar wages.
Effectively weaselly--but in a straightforward, Obamaesque 'understand-both-sides' kind of way! ... 3:05 P.M. link
Obama buries the lede: "[W]e can't settle for schools filled with poor teachers." Where was this Obama in Denver? ... 1:11 P.M. link
Monday, September 8, 2008
The companies have been famous for hiring big political names. Among them: former Clinton budget director Franklin Raines, Democratic operative Harold Ickes, Republican lobbyist and fundraiser Wayne Berman and former Republican congresswoman Susan Molinari.
Aren't they leaving someone out? Someone who, but for the grace of Angelo Mozilo, would even now be dragging the Obama campaign through a tar pit of bad publicity? ...
P.S.: David Smith on the genesis of the Fannie crisis. Now with hindsight! 7:30 P.M.
Just a thought: The Obama "Bush's third term" tactic of portraying McCain as just like President Bush was always insultingly crude and doomed. McCain isn't just like Bush. Voters are smart enough to realize that (especially when McCain, equally crudely, drives the point in ads and speeches). ... Plan B would seem to be to attack McCain for the things he actually is--dangerously bellicose, for example. ... Of course the most powerful example of McCain's poor judgment,** his media-pleasing embrace of a misguided chattering class consensus on immigration semi-amnesty--is one Obama apparently believes he can't use. ...
Another thing Obama should find a way to say: Earmarks aren't everything. Would you rather have secure health care and earmarks or no earmarks and no health care? ...
**--That on immigration McCain's poor judgment echoes Bush's poor judgment--in ways disturbingly parallel to Bush's judgment in going to war in Iraq--would just be a bonus. ... 1:56 P.M. link
Psst: Did anyone notice that Peggy Noonan's account of that open mike snippet-- that when she said "it's over" she meant the GOP impulse to win by appealing to its base was "over," not that the election was over--was backed up by Daniel Finkelstein, who remembers Noonan making that point on a prior occasion using the same phrase. ... P.S.: Noonan also said she was "pretty certain that is exactly what [open mike mates] Todd and Murphy understood I was referring to"--and Murphy indeed posted a Palin-skeptical Swampland comment suggesting the base-is-not-enough point is exactly what's on his mind:
In a high turnout Presidential year, I am not worried about turning out the base. I'm worried about everybody else we need to win and I fear that among those voters, Sarah Palin will be a dud. ... [snip] In a year where the Democrat generic numbers are 10+ points better than the Republican, I don't like the math of a strategy that just polarized the election along party base lines.
P.P.S.: So if you are a Republican pundit and go on MSNBC not only do you have to worry about your open-mike comments being overheard. You have to worry about pro-Dem MSNBC employees excerpting little bits that weren't overheard and distributing them to embarrass your party (whether or not the excerpt captures what was actually being said)? Even Fox doesn't do that. [Update: Well, there was this.] Does NBC realize that MSNBC has become a freakish joke? ... Guess so! .. .1:26 P.M. link
Saturday, September 6, 2008
(Pierre, S.D.) McCain wouldlike everyone to think his campaign imploded last summer because of his courageous support for the surge in Iraq:
I fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq, when it wasn't a popular thing to do. And when the pundits said my campaign was finished, I said I'd rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.
--McCain's acceptance speech, 9/4/08
This bit of history was repeated by the McCain campaign in at least one WaPo group interview I attended--suggesting it's an accepted talking point. It's also bogus. McCain's campaign imploded last summer because of his support for "comprehensive"immigration reform, including legalization of existing illegals (semi-amnesty). At the time, the Official MSM Story line centered on budgetary problems (still not Iraq!), but McCain himself admitted the truth to New Yorker's Ryan Lizza:
Over lunch in Arlington, McCain had given the stock explanation for what caused last summer's difficulties. "The problem, which was my problem, was that our fiscal expectations weren't met by reality," he said—in other words, he couldn't raise enough money. But the next day, as I travelled with McCain around South Carolina, he told me that his campaign's brush with death had less to do with fund-raising than with his role in championing the ambitious immigration-reform bill, supported by the White House, that died in Congress this year. "It wasn't the budgetary problems. That was an inside-the-Beltway thing," he said, referring to press coverage of his campaign's setbacks. McCain gets animated whenever he discusses the immigration issue. After a town-hall meeting in Anderson, South Carolina, he recalled how the Irish were discriminated against in America. As he quoted a placard that hangs on the wall of an aide's office ("Help Wanted—No Irish Need Apply"), he jabbed his finger in the air with such emphasis that he knocked my voice recorder to the ground and erased our conversation. "It was immigration" that hurt his campaign, he said when he continued, after a series of apologies on both sides. "I understand that. I was told by one of the pollsters, 'We see real bleeding.' " [E.A.]
McCain bucked the political/media CW on the "surge." He was right, it appears, and he should get lots of credit--though no more than President Bush, who doesn't seem to be getting any at all. But McCain's surge position wasn't what (temporarily) sank his campaign--it was how he revived his presidential campaign after it had been derailed by immigration, the issue he'd now like to hide (and an issue where he embraced the political/media CW). McCain was running in the Republican primary, remember,** which makes his behavior last summer not quite as courageous as he boasts it was. Same goes for his behavior now. ...
**--Supporting the surge was no more a huge courageous risk in a GOP primary than opposing the war was a huge courageous risk for Obama in a Dem primary. ... 12:30 P.M. link
What kind of all-night truck stop doesn't have the National Enquirer? ... (A very nice one in Mitchell, S.D., actually. Marketing suggestion for editor D. Perel:N.E. "Graphic Audio" Edition.) 12:02 P.M.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
1) McCain screwed up what was potentially the most effective part of the speech, where he blames his own party for losing the "trust of the American people." Maybe the delivery was garbled or maybe the passage wasn't written to maximize the drama of the face-to-face dressing-down. You got the feeling McCain was so mad at himself (or someone) when the anti-GOP passage fell flat that he was off rhythm until the concluding paragraphs;
2) Uninspired language: "It's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead." You betcha! "Opening new markets and preparing workers to compete in the world economy is essential to our future prosperity." Where was Mark Salter for the first 4/5 of this thing? Vetting failed VP candidates?
3) Even the Salteresque final passages were undermined by an unnecessary contradiction--in a speech about the need to replace "me first" thinking with "a cause greater than yourself", the passages were all about McCain. And his heroic selflessness. At the beginning of the speech that wouldn't have seemed so odd. At the end, shouldn't McCain have made the transition to ... a cause larger than himself?
4) Another good line spoiled by clumsy delivery:
I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me.
Helpful italics indicate where emphasis should have gone.
5) Mismatch with the facts on the ground:
We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.
When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. ...
Oh yeah? You and what Congress?
I'm not in the habit of breaking promises to my country and neither is Governor Palin. And when we tell you we're going to change Washington, and stop leaving our country's problems for some unluckier generation to fix, you can count on it. ...
Again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as President
Am I crazy or are these passages a blazing arrow pointing toward ... comprehensive immigration reform, one big bipartisan "solution" that the Democratic Congress will be all too happy to work with President McCain to achieve? What else is he talking about? OK, maybe Social Security (where Congress will be far less helpful.) ... Surprisingly, immigration reform--which McCain's friend Lindsey Graham pledged he "will" take up--wasn't actually mentioned at all in the speech. I'd thought McCain would at least "flick" at it as part of his pitch to the Latino swing vote. Maybe the convention really was all about the base (which doesn't like the semi-amnesty parts of McCain's reform). They can always be betrayed later.
7) On top of this tepid refusal to offend conservatives, McCain layered a few blanded-out Classic Rock themes borrowed from liberal candidates of decades past. We've got a little ur-Shrum ("that's just what I intend to do: stand on your side and fight for your future") and some information age/"reinventing government" insights borrowed from Bill Clinton, version 1991.
All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and we have to change the way we do business in Washington.
The chant of "Re-Go, Re-go!" failed to catch on.
8) "I know some of you have been left behind in the changing economy ..." Politicians often seem to think it's more effective to embrace cliches--as if the public will understand them better because they are so familiar. This one seemed more a little condescending. Do people want to be told they've been "left behind"? Isn't it better to use "we" and "us" rather than "you"? And better to jolt the audience awake with new words rather than feed them familiar message pellets.
9) Evening almost saved by "Barracuda." Why do I suspect Gov. Palin hates that song? ... Also good to hear Robert Earl Keen's double-edged "Feeling Good Again." ...
Update--The Larger Issue: The speech reeked of extra cooks making too many unintegrated additions. What does it say about McCain's management ability if he let the process for this crucial effort get out of control? It's not like he didn't have months to prepare. Or were the months the problem? Palin's Wednesday night text, presumably written in a few days, was much better. Maybe the McCain campaign didn't have time to kill it with improvements. ... 10:48 P.M. link
Double-Edged Anecdotes: From National Review's Corner:
[W]hen Tony Rezko was indicted Obama held a press conference and answered all of eight questions before he tried to duck out. The media was so upset they lept out of their seats and demanded he return — one news report called it "mayhem." (You can watch the video here.)
NRO is arguing that McCain has been as open as Obama. But doesn't the press' frustration also offer some evidence undermining the usual conservative contention that there's a total pro-Dem MSM double standard at work? MSM reporters "demanded" answers from Obama! Who knew? ... 4:54 P.M.
Edwards cancels pre-election speeches: When did John Edwards realize that cranking up his 'I'm Not the Daddy' Solo Comeback Tour in October might not endear him to his fellow Democrats? Only in the past few days, judging from this August 30th story. ... The man is a once-in-a-generation political talent. ... [via NewsAlert] 4:23 P.M. link
Tomorrow's Marching Orders Today: If therewere some sort of tacit liberal MSM conspiracy--a hypothetical!--Plan 1 was to knock Palin off the ticket out of the box with various unvetted home state scandals. Plan 2, the plan currently in place, is to force Palin to submit to "real interviews" where she will supposedly reveal her embarrassing unpreparedness for the office.
May I suggest to my fellow conspirators that we move directly on to Plan 3: Forget Palin. Stop writing about her. If we make the election about Palin, we will lose. She'll probably win her debate and will almost certainly handle the interviews well enough (to the satisfaction of the voters, at least, if not the experts). The election's not about Palin. It's about McCain. We can beat McCain. ... 1:29 P.M. link
Bob Wright makes the case that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a problem even if she marries the father of her child. It's bizarrely persuasive. ... 12:06 A.M.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Immigration is, as of today, the great unmentioned issue at both conventions. ... 11:44 P.M.