Palin Speech: Very effective, as expected. Big loser: Hillary. Maybe Hillary's handicaps (e.g., inability to zing opponents without seeming haughty or testy) aren't barriers facing all women after all. [Point stolen from someone in the crowd.] ... Trig is already becoming a bit of a prop, however. ... 11:39 P.M.
Model 3 is Born? Howie Kurtz notes the essential weirdness of McCain strategist Steve Schmidt's fury at the press: Normally, campaigns say they are angry at reporters who print stories without asking them for their side of the story. "A simple phone call would have told X the truth." etc. The McCain camp's complaints against Elisabeth Bumiller fall into this traditional mold.
But Schmidt is now angry because reporters are making the simple phone calls to ask about Sarah Palin before they've actually run with anything. It's the questions he doesn't like! Kurtz: "Schmidt did not contend that [his questioners] were publishing or broadcasting false information about Palin and her family."
What we're witnessing, I think, is the death of a media paradigm that we lived with comfortably for, oh, the last year or two. And John Edwards is to blame! Here's the relevant typology:
Model One: There's the press, and the public. The press only prints "facts" that are checked and verified. That's all the public ever finds out about. The press functions as "gatekeeper."
Model Two: Model One broke down with the rise of blogs, which (along with tabloids and cable) often discuss rumors that are not "verified." The public finds out about these rumors, as rumors. And it turns out that blogging obsessively about rumors is a pretty good way to smoke out the truth (see, e.g., Dan Rather).
But in Model Two, the rumors still don't get reported in the "mainstream media"--the respectable print press, the non-cable networks--until they are properly confirmed. Blogs and tabloids are a sort of intermediate nethersphere between public and the elite MSM that serves as a proving ground where the truth or falseness of the "undernews" gets hashed out. Stories that are true then graduate to the MSM.
Model Three: I thought Model Two would be a workable model for years, until either the MSM itself went totally online or until almost all voters stopped paying attention to it. I was wrong! The Edwards scandal did Model Two in. For months, the MSM failed to report the increasingly plausible rumors of John Edwards' extramarital affair even as it became the widespread topic of conversation in blogs, in the National Enquirer, and among political types. The disconnect turned out to be painfully embarrassing for the MSM, especially when the rumors were finally "verified" with Edwards' confession. A lot of what we are seeing now is the MSM not wanting to go through another Edwards experience.
Why can't the MSM bear to fulfill its Model Two role? a) No press person likes to not be the center of attention. You want to talk about what people want to talk about. That's how you make money, for one thing. And maintaining a disciplined silence on a rampant undernews rumor--even an unverified one--made too many reporters feel as if they worked for Pravda; b) Suppressing an undernews scandal about a Democrat subjected the MSM to charges of pro-liberal political bias (to which respectable organizations are particularly sensitive, because they are largely true); and c) even much of the left was disgusted by the MSM's behavior regarding the Edwards rumor.
We are now, I think, making the next logical leap, to a model in which unverified rumors about public figures are discussed and assessed not just in the blogosphere or the unrespectable tabs but in the MSM itself. I say welcome! With NYT reporters and bloggers all openly discussing unverified reports,, whatever is true will become un-unverified that muhch faster. And the public is proving, by and large, to be quite capable of distinguishing between stories that are true and rumors that are still being investigated.
We're not quite there yet--the unverified rumors that Palin had faked her pregnancy were printed in the MSM, but the McCain campaign itself gave the MSM implicit permission by saying it was releasing the news of Gov. Palin's daughters real pregnancy in order to scotch the fake pregnancy speculations of bloggers. And Schmidt's tormenters were still only checking out rumors, not printing them. But the avalanche of questions to which Schmidt is being subjected--and his discomfort--suggests that the MSM is in the process of shifting to a new role, in which it aggressively investigates and discusses rumors rather than waiting for the industrious blogosphere to force its hand.
They waited with Edwards. They don't want to go through that again. It helps, of course, that this week's rumors involve a Republican.
Once reporters start peppering campaigns with questions, after all, I suspect it will be impossible to keep a lid on whatever rumors the MSM is peppering the campaigns about. That's particularly true in a "synergistic" world where a reporter like Howard Fineman not only writes for Newsweek but also appears on cable shows that have an imperative to discuss whatever is hot now. It's particularly true in a Drudgian world where the activities of MSM reporters-what they're working on, what questions they're asking--is itself news for the Web. In that world, the line between "checking out" tips and open discussion of at least the non-actionable rumors can't really be maintained and shouldn't be, given the truth-divining virtues of widespread publicity (which functions as an APB to the citizenry to come up with evidence).
It's tempting to assume Steve Schmidt's cries are cynical, reflecting a desire to gin up a war between his candidate and the intrusive, condescending elite media--a war in which voters will side with his candidate. Why doesn't he just do his job, under Model 2, and answer the MSM's questions? But it's also likely Schmidt's anguish is at least in part authentic shock at the looming inability of even Model 2 to keep a lid on unrestrained speculation. When even MSM reporters start behaving like bloggers--when candidates' can't squelch discussion of their rumored sins, but have to wade into a non-stop public debate about them--the job of a campaign strategist will get a whole lot harder. ...
Shrum /McCain '08: Is Bob Shrum working for McCain too? I just went back and watched the video of the McCain/Palin rollout in Dayton, Ohio. I hadn't realized that McCain's introductory remarks were boilerplate Shrumian populism. McCain says he wants the government
to understand what you're going through, to stand on your side and fight for you. That's why I'm running for President, to fight for you to make government stand on your side and not in your way. [E.A.]
a) Doesn't it show how meaninglessly vague the Shrum formulation is if it can be comfortably adopted by the Republican candidate?; b) Of course, McCain doesn't blame mysterious unspecified "powerful forces" for "standing in your way," as Shrum's man Gore did in 2000. McCain names one--the government. Maybe Republicans can be more concrete, all-encompassing Shrumian populists than Democrats. They'll fight all the forces! c) Or is McCain hoping that his appropriation of cliched, contentless but historically Democratic rhetoric will lead voters to assume he's something that he's not? d) Shrumcainian populism suffers from the same defect as Shrumgorian populism, which is that most of our toughest national problems aren't caused by outside forces that can be fought and beaten but either by ourselves (e.g.,,voting ourselves too many Social Security benefits) or by ineluctable trends in demography (aging population), science (expensive new medical treatments, more jobs that require tech skills), or world history (e.g., rise of China). ... P.S.: If McCain's going to chase madly after blue-collar Midwest swing votes, does that rule out making an issue of labor's precious "card check" initiative to allow unionization without a secret ballot? ... 4:56 P.M. link
You know how sometimes you put on one of your favorites songs and you're tapping your feet and listening very closely to the singer and you suddenly realize ... he's faking it. It's the fifth take and he doesn't care anymore. Or that's what it sounds like. It could be a good song, by a good group--it happened to me recently with the Decemberists. It happens all the time. But it sort of kills the effect.
I'm sorry but that's how I feel about Fred Thompson. It's how I feel about his campaigning; it's how I feel about his movies, from the very first one I saw--Die Hard II, where he played an aircraft controller (unconvincingly). Thompson's not just a politician who's a bad actor, an actor who always seems to be reading lines. He's a politician who's a bad actor and therefore a bad politician. Last night he had a solid speech to deliver. (As blogger Stephen Green told me, it didn't just throw some red meat. It slaughtered a small cow.) But except for one line (on Iraq, ending in "and now we're winning") and a moving bio section on McCain's aircraft carrier service, Thompson seemed to be a guy reading his lines. He's no Zell Miller. And I don't think he'll have theZell-like effect the McCain people probably hoped for. ... 3:17 A.M. link
Moose and Squirrel: Eli Lake detects signs of "being spooked" in the McCain campaign. ... P.S.: Palin found time to meet privately with the leaders of AIPAC, according to Lake, who also found out what she told them. ... 12:44 A.M.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Semi- amnesty in St. Paul: I asked Sen. Graham how soon, in his first term, President McCain would declare the borders secure (which would let him to move to revive "comprehensive immigration reform"). Graham said "We'll know it when we see it," but emphasized that "comprehensive" reform was "still on the table" and seemed as much of an enthusiast as ever. "He will take that up," Graham predicted.** ... Later, in another WaPo chat, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis mentioned Hispanics as a battleground voter group, arguing that Republicans had to offer them something "other than a deportation center"--which is sort of offensive, when you think about it (as if Hispanic-American voters, who are by definition citizens, are illegals subject to deportation). ... Not just an appeal to ethnic identity politics, but a stereotyping appeal to ethnic identity politics, no? ...
In any case, I urge Graham and Davis to ensure that McCain makes these points forcefully in his acceptance address. That will make for a dramatic convention. Perhaps McCain could reprise Sen. Graham's promise to pass immigration semi-amnesty and "tell the bigots to shut up." ... Of course, I don't expect McCain to push hard on his now un-recanted pro-"comprehensive," views, even as he ostentatiously takes on his party. It's much easier to go after the evil Sen. Stevens and earmarks, which only requires offending some Congressional poohbahs, not the vast mass of Republican voters. (Remember the apparent formula is: 'McCain + grassroots vs. GOP Congress,' not 'McCain vs. grassroots + GOP Congress'--or, worse, 'McCain + GOP Congress vs. grassroots,' even though the last is more or less the real array of forces on immigration.) ...
P.S.: I think I've now cherrypicked most of the best Graham and Davis quotes, but Chris Cillizza has more from Davis, who was pretty talkative for someone who looks like he badly needs a visit to the HuffPo oasis. WaPo has also posted video of part of the Davis interview. ...
**--Quotes based on my notes. The sessions were recorded, but not by me. ...3:17 P.M. link
More of Lindsey Graham on President Palin: "She can do fine on foreign policy because of the infrastructure we have around [us]." Reassuring! ... 3:01 P.M.
I'm starting to worry that McCain's acceptance speech may actually be good. As described by buddy Sen. Lindsey Graham at an on-the-record WaPo chat, McCain will a) tell his own party to wake up, realize they've screwed up and need to regroup; b) attack the culture of Washington (meaning mainly Congress, but also the Pentagon, etc.) and c) proclaim that his term will be very different than the past 8 years. Emphasis on the focus of evil in the modern world, the "hard core appropriators" who benefit from the earmark system.** ... Hey, you can't beat up his party any more than he's beaten up his party himself! ... Plus a possible explicit comment on the unlikelihood of Joe Biden being an "agent of change."
None of this is shocking, but Gov. Palin's popularity with the base may have relieved McCain of some pressure to grit his teeth and demonstrate uncharacteristic institutional loyalty. The formula might be: McCain + grassroots vs. Congressional GOPs. ... P.S.: I'm not saying McCain will be persuasive--for one thing, he wildly overemphasizes the importance of earmarks, even as a proxy for the "culture of Washington." And of course I think his righteous appeals for immigration semi-amnesty are misguided. I'm not even saying the speech will necessarily move his poll numbers much. I'm saying the dramatic tension of McCain taking on his audience, and the possibility he'll have fun doing it, should make for a dramatic, idiosyncratic address that contrasts favorably with Obama's unimaginative, muffled, methodical normalcy. ...
**--Graham on Palin: "If you can take on Ted Stevens and that crowd you can take on the Russians." Hmmm. (There are some things the Russians won't do!) ... 1:54 P.M. link
Monday, September 1, 2008
Well, that's one way to knock down those pregnancy rumors. ... 5:30 P.M.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Note to Cass Sunsteinand internet alarmists who argue that the Web results in partisans who listen only to their own facts, reinforcing their extreme opinions, etc.: A Daily Kos blogger is refuting the Kos-fueled Palin-baby rumor with a photo found on right-wing site Free Republic, of all places. Moral: The Web encourages cocooning but (unlike other cocoon-generators like cable TV, or gerrymandered congressional districts) it's also the solvent of cocooning, as a) bloggers actually read the web sites of the other side, in order to attack them; b) bloggers defend themselves against such attacks; and c) the Web makes learning from the other side extremely easy. ... In this case, viciously partisan Kos bloggers seem to have investigated and knocked down a bit of undernews that many of them would have dearly liked to be true. What's wrong with that? As of this writing, it looks like they got to the truth pretty rapidly. ...
P.S.: If only Kos crowd had behaved like that with the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter rumor. Banned blogger Lee Stranahan is still pissed (and rightly so). But even Stranahan's case largely contradicts Sunstein, since he did dissent from the Kos consensus, did investigate the Edwards rumor on his own, didn't go away and still made himself heard (and was ultimately vindicated in a way even most Kossacks would presumably acknowledge). ...
P.P.S.--The Case for Excitability : Andrew Sullivan's role in publicizing the rumor seems legit too. The feeding frenzy of publicity is what flushes out the counter-evidence quickly (and then that evidence gets a lot of attention).
[Why didn't kf, self-appointed Guide to the Undernews, write about the rumor?--ed. It seemed more likely that an older woman would have a Down syndrome child. Nor do I see what the huge moral scandal would be if the Palin rumor were true. So I didn't get to it. I'm not Guide to the Undernews! At least not to All the Undernews. That's a full time job.** My argument is that the Web as a whole potentially functions as the Guide to All Undernews, as bloggers argue about whatever rumors interest them. ...
**--The Edwards/Hunter undernews was also different, from my perspective--I pushed it because I knew with reasonable certainty, from off-the-record sources, that it was true. But I defend obsessed bloggers who hash out undernews rumors about public figures when they don't know if they're true or not. ... 10:30 P.M. link
Cram, Sarah, Cram: The AMC enjoyably mocks McCain aide Charlie Black's latest gaffe, which has been underplayed in the overnews--even if he Black was half-joking about how Palin will "learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he'll be around at least that long." ... Black's gaffes are a peculiar perverse subclass of Kinsley gaffes, which normally occur when a politician impulsively blurts out the truth. Black's genius is to inadvertently convey the truth (that Palin doesn't know enough, that McCain's health is a worry) while attempting ingratiating, self-serving spin. ... 9:20 P.M.
Friday, August 29, 2008
They just don't get it! Out-of-step Heather Mac Donald says McCain "has just ensured that the diversity racket will be an essential component of presidential politics." In contrast, Obama "stood up to the diversity imperative in selecting Joe Biden," while his acceptance speech made "minimal allusion to his race." ... Krauthammer calls the Palin pick "near suicidal." ... David Frum: "How serious can [McCain] be if he would place such a neophyte second in line to the presidency?" ... Ponnuru: "a reckless choice." ... 12:54 P.M.
Emailer J games out Hillary's response to McCain's VP pick:
It's well understood that if Obama wins he is president for eight years, at the end of which time Hillary may be too old to run. But now if McCain wins, Palin is vice president and at least gets a very good shot at becoming the heir apparent to Republican nomination for the presidency. This would take Hillary's issue -- her firstness -- away from her, and Hillary would become a lot more like just another Democratic pol. Therefore, the most important thing for Hillary's future now is for McCain to be defeated. The notion, indulged in by Maureen Dowd, among others, that Hillary and McCain have a common interest in McCain winning and being a one-termer, ought to be gone, if it ever was realistic. [E.A.]
But if Obama wins she's still probably out for eight years, no? It might be much easier for her to beat Palin in 2012 (if Palin even survives the primary) than to challenge a sitting Democratic president, Kennedy/Carter style. ... 3:12 A.M.
Talking with an MSM reporter on the possibility of the GOPS delaying their convention. He was skeptical of the story. "Drudge hasn't picked it up." ... A decade ago, Drudge was a menace to journalism. Now he's the validator of what's actually news. ... Is that because journalism has changed or Drudge has changed? A bit of both, I suspect. ... 2:31 A.M.
Does the Department of Homeland Security have technology as sophisticated as that used at the Vanity Fair/Google party in Denver? Man, if those guys were running the border, nobody would get in. ... 2:23 A.M.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.
MLK grafs also good. But not enough like those; 4) Gave voters little sense that he understands and can master the pressures--bureaucratic imperatives, unions, civil service rules-- that have often caused previous idealistic liberal presidents to fall short while sucking up taxpayer dollars. The only sentence addressing this concern (that I heard) was;
I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
Actually, this sentence suggests he doesn't understand the problem. "Twentieth century bureaucracy" wasn't very effective at meeting twentieth century challenges; 5) The one carefully non-controversial mention of immigration was met with ... silence; 6) In general, Obama went all euphemistic and vague when discussing controversial domestic topics. On education, for example, he wants "higher standards and more accountability." What you mean "accountability"? Nothing here with the bite of his 2004 putdown of "the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." The implied message about Obama's character is that he's a bit of a wimp, at least in public. Or at least he chose to be a bit of a wimp on an occasion when he didn't have to; 7) Why the slow, angsty movie-music at the end? I thought someone in the Politburo had died. 8) Some of the professionals' doubts about the move to an outdoor setting were validated. The confetti immediately blew to one side of the stage and got tangled in the exploding Barackopolis, where it looked like a Halloween spider's web. Symbol of overreach! 9) Didn't you want to see Obama, more than previous nominees, "validated" by being surrounded by other more familiar Dems in the traditional group greet-and-hug scene (in which they implicitly both approve him and show that he will have support)?** Instead, he asks us to buy him as the unknown loner savior, striding on and off the stage with just his family and running mate. It's a tougher sale, and an unnecessary one I think. ...
**--Of course, then Hillary and Bill might have been up there. Still, it would be in a subordinate role. ...
P.S.: I'm not saying the speech won't help him. I expect it will. I'm saying it seemed flat. ... 8/29 Update: Bounce. ...
P.P.S.: Peggy Noonan notes the lack of "humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy." ... Michael Goodwin saw a mismatch between the speech and the stage. And the speech might have seemed better if the setting hadn't raised expectations of a monumental performance. ... Jeremy Lott: "This address was not nearly as good as his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. His lines this time ran from serviceable to pretty awful." ... David Broder:
His  Boston speech -- and many others early in this campaign -- suggested that he was sincere in wanting to tamp down partisanship and would be creative enough to see the need for enlisting bright people from both parties in confronting the nation's problems.
But the Denver speech, like many others he has given recently, subordinated any talk of fundamental systemic change to a checklist of traditional Democratic programs.
More: Obama said, "[W]hat I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes." Clever. It seems like a slap at netroots incivility. But taking positions "for political purposes" is actually a fairly honorable thing to do compared to the venality and other forms of bad faith of which politicians are routinely accused on the Web. (Think Halliburton.) And it's hardly a sacrifice for Obama to forswear this tactic. On issues where McCain has flip-flopped, such as immigration, taxes and torture--Obama plans to make precisely the opposite charge anyway: that McCain's new position reflects McCain's real views. Of course, McCain probably actually took these new positions "for political purposes"--but that's the argument McCain's defenders will make. ("Oh, he had to say that to get the nomination.")
Valued reader feedback: Emailer J.G. wonders why I didn't like this passage:
We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.
I agree the graf outlines an appealing compromise-based model of how President Obama might actually operate--a model that jibes with his state house history. But it still leaves his own views annoyingly vague and mysterious. ...
Handicap: Maybe I didn't feel the full impact of the speech because I watched it from behind a glass barrier in the Invesco press box, an unfortunate situation documented in this Slate V video. My colleagues seemed to like it more than I did.
... 9:49 P.M. link
Effective day for Dems. 1) Bill Clinton outlined a simple, substantive framework for the election. As James Taranto noted, he built a stronger case for Obama than Hillary did--an inversion of how the two Clintons are said to actually feel about the nominee. ... 2) Joe Biden makes a good first impression. Not sure about the second. ... 3) It would be hard to fashion a blunter appeal to social equality ("[T]he American creed: No one is better than you. You are everyone's equal, and everyone is equal to you.") Biden's the anti-snob, cleansing the odor of bitter clinging from Democrats' campaign. He owes Mayhill Fowler a fruit basket, no? Without her HuffPo post, would he have gotten the call? ... 1:03 A.M. link
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
On the record Time coffee featuring Obama campaign manager David Plouffe: Plouffe argued for paying less attention to the ups and downs of the polls because a) Obama would beat McCain on turnout and b) swing voters would probably break one way or another after the debates. The audience consensus--which in this crowd was almost by definition CW--seemed to be that Plouffe was whistling past the graveyard, relying on turnout machination to make up for a worrisome message problem. ... P.S.: Plouffe also said the McCain campaign was "obsessed with news cycles." ... Update: See also Noonan. ... 4:11 P.M. link
You know how when you give a party, you have a great time and there's this warm glow as you think about it? And then you start remembering the guests who didn't show up, and you get a little annoyed? Hillary's speech last night was like that. Effective, but then you realize the things she didn't say: 1) Obama won fair and square; 2) "Things get a little rough in the course of a campaign, and the Republicans will no doubt try to use some words said in the heat of battle against our nominee. But I came to respect Barack Obama for his ____________ [insert sterling character trait]." 3) Specifically, he's more than ready to be commander in chief. ... 3:33 A.M.
John Edwards on Nightline on August 8: "[M]y wife has forgiven me." Are we sure this is still true? ... 3:10 A.M.
Time magazine's "hot shots" breakfast in Denver Tuesday morning showcased Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Artur Davis, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and D.A. Kamala Harris. 1) Booker and Davis are very impressive. Newsom, who seems kind of goofily egomaniacal, not so much. 2) Oprah BFF Gayle King was there, agreeing vigorously with Booker's comments; 3) Note to Pete Wehner: Joe "divided loyalties" Klein is not only still alive and employed but appears to be very much in favor at Time; 4) Davis said that although immigration wasn't a major area of dispute between McCain and Obama, it was "the most toxic issue" in the South, with "as many African Americans" as whites intensely concerned. He predicted it would be a huge issue in the 2009-2010 midterm election, at least if Obama wins. Why? Because the out of power GOP leadership will come to the strategic decision that the way to effectively discredit the Democrats is to unify in opposition to "comprehensive" reform (i.e., including semi-amnesty).
Right. That's why I'll be happy if Obama wins. Or, rather, why opponents of "comprehensive reform" should support Obama, even if on paper he's even more of a comprehensivist than McCain. Davis did not seem eager to hand unified Republicans an issue by voting on amnesty in Obama's first two years--a sentiment I suspect is widely shared among moderate Dems. ... 2:40 A.M. link
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Am I crazy to think this independent anti-Obama ad (on the William Ayers issue) is really, really effective--just shy of devastating--while Obama's fight-back response ad is only an 80% answer (ignoring the question of why Obama associated with the perpetrator of these "crimes"). ... That's the problem with the constant grassroots demands for aggressive Dem pushback. 1) The pushback is apt to be produced by partisans who think GOP "Swift Boat" attacks are sleazier than the voters think they are; and 2) partly as a consequence of (1), the pushback is apt to leave pregnant gaps; and 3) making a big deal of a GOP attack makes it a big deal. ... Is an 80% response under these circumstances better than no response? I'm not sure. ... But at least you'd think Obama wouldn't start the publicity-generating pushback until he'd defined himself in his big speech. Unless so many Ohioans had already seen the ads, and they were so damaging, that Obama had no choice. ... [via The Corner] 6:40 P.M. link
Most Audacious Claim of the Night:
Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from ...
Wales, right? 12:51 A.M.
Sunday, August 24, 2008