Monday, April 28, 2008

Alan Keyes does not garner the USCP Nomination

Ha ha! No, not that USCP--the Constitution Party, of course. Okay, that's really all I've got. The story is here, just don't scroll down to the comments, as many of the commenters over at The Nation seem to be, well, unhinged.

Greatest/Worst Presidents

Ross Douthat gives his opinions on the most overrated and underrated presidents in the 20th century. His conclusions: Wilson, Kennedy, and Truman (to a lesser extent) are overrated, and Ike, Bush 41 and Harding as underrated. I'm with him on most of these (though there does seem to be a clear partisan current at work here) though I do think that Wilson and Truman generally deserve their places in history despite some high-profile failures. Wilson's domestic agenda was a stunning success during his first term in office, and he did win World War I, and his foreign policy ideas were extraordinarily influential. He didn't get his League of Nations, but he was pretty darned successful overall. And Truman did preside over the ending of WWII, the beginning of the postwar boom, and the Marshall Plan, Truman Doctrine, and so on, all of which were signal achievements. He had his missteps--cronyism comes to mind, and possibly some lax standards on communists in the government--but I'd say his big ideas, like Wilson's, prove right in retrospect. I'm with him on Ike and Bush 41, not so much on Harding, who said and did a few good (though minor) things, but left little mark on the country, aside from having presided over one of the biggest corruption scandals in American history.

My picks, I suppose, would be as follows: I think that Reagan, Kennedy, and Clinton are probably the three most overrated 20th century presidents, and Eisenhower, Carter and Ford are the most underrated. This does go against my partisan leanings a bit, but that's what I think. Reagan is such an obvious case that it almost needn't be argued--virtually everything that he's beloved for he didn't do, and virtually everything he actually did has been forgotten. Yes, he cut taxes, but then he raised them a half-dozen times to balance the budget, and then he just decided not to bother balancing the budget, thus virtually ending the (good) conservative tradition of balanced budgets. Yes, he beat the Soviet Union, but not by the force of personality or standing tall or whatever he was supposed to have done with Khadaffy, but largely by adept diplomacy. Reagan was effective, no doubt, but the messiah mythos that has developed around the man is not really earned. Kennedy isn't a hard case either: he was no liberal, indifferent to organized labor, extremely hawkish, and whose commitment to things like ending poverty (unlike his brother's) seemed little more than a political calculation. And Clinton's presidency, though well-run in most respects, was a parade of missed opportunities and personal failures.

As for the underrated ones, Ike was simply too good, and far craftier than people realized. Great on foreign affairs, and good on most domestic issues as well. Perhaps his greatest failing was putting Dick Nixon on the ticket, thus subjecting this nation to that man for decades, but nobody's perfect. Carter is generally believed to be a bad president, which is not entirely untrue, but things only really started to spiral downward during his last year in office. He was every bit as effective a peacemaker as Nixon, and were it not for the perfect storm of stagflation, the hostage crisis, and the conservative tailwinds in the country at the time he might well have won in 1980. Maybe. He wasn't great but he wasn't a bottom-five president either. And Jerry Ford wasn't too bad a president, all things considered.

The worst president of all time, though, had to be Grant. He was a pretty bad general, too. Sure, he was better than McClellan if for no other reason than that he would fight the rebels, but his tactics were no more sophisticated than just throw my guys at your guys, on the theory that I can sustain more losses than you. One wonders whether the Army of the Potomac wouldn't have been better off under Meade--who beat Lee at Gettysburg, something that Grant never really managed to do--or maybe Hancock. The Union army had worse leadership, to be sure, but someone with more imagination and talent than Grant might have ended the war sooner, I think. And as for his presidency, it's best left to H. L. Mencken, who sums it up nicely:
"His belief in rogues was cogenital, touching and unlimited. He filled Washington with them, and defended them against honest men, even in the face of plain proofs of their villainy."
Well put, characteristically.

Clinton: Globalization = The Holocaust

I am something of a free trader, so this little bit of Clinton's is not only amusingly over-the-top, but more than a little offensive--playing off of a well-known quote about the Holocaust:
Mrs. Clinton’s version went like this: “They came for the steel companies and nobody said anything,” she intoned. “They came for the auto companies and nobody said anything. They came for the office companies, people who did white-collar service jobs, and no one said anything. And they came for the professional jobs that could be outsourced and nobody said anything. So this is not just about steel,” she finished.
I'm through being anything other than bemused at Hillary Clinton's campaign. Seriously, though, she needs to stop with this sort of thing: the GOP is far better at conspiratorial analogies than the Democrats. It's bizarre. Who is the they here? Free traders? Republicans? Nazis? At least when the GOP goes off about Islamofascism we know who the "they" is. As with everything else--race, gender, class--the Holocaust is just another thing to be deployed for political gain. Has the woman no shame? Okay, need to revert back to bemusement. Obviously, I'm one of HRC's Nazis as a free trader, but what is Clinton in this analogy? That's right, she's got to be Oskar Schindler (pictured above), the man who saved thousands of Jews in the film Schindler's List. I suppose George W. Bush is Amon Goerth (or Hitler, maybe McCain is Goerth)? Clarification, please! Who is supposed to be Goering? Bill Richardson? Inquiring minds want to know!

Just as a public service, I'll toss around a few other great, great, tasteful historical analogies for Clinton to use:
  • Clinton as Moses leading the children of Israel out of a free-trading Egypt. Rule of thumb: always good to have a mental image of Charlton Heston associated with one's self. Then again, he was a Republican. One of Pharaoh's minions. That will never do.
  • Clinton as Iggy Pop, blasting the ears of free-traders with a new kind of music about fair trade. Iggy's awesome (well, at least during the Stooges era), but it might be too esoteric. Could also try the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Clash, etc., but Clinton probably doesn't want to seem too out of touch with the boomers, with their Eagles and Beach Boys and whatnot. Even though I'm sure one or two boomers had to have listened to the Ramones they've long forgotten that period. And I don't think America's quite ready for a punk rock president just yet.
  • Clinton as Terry Malloy, the protagonist of On The Waterfront, bravely ratting on corrupt free-trade union racketeers. Okay, so this doesn't sound good, but maybe it could work? Okay, so it makes no sense, but saying free-traders are Nazis does?
  • Clinton as John McCain, surviving years of torture at the hands of sadistic free-traders, for America. Well, why not.
See, there are all kinds of directions to take here. Why not, well, take one?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Useful Idiots

Over the past several weeks, especially in the lead-up to the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary, it became clear that there was a concerted effort to destroy the candidacy of Barack Obama for the office of President of the United States. We know enough now to definitively state the particulars of this onslaught. We know what the goal of this strategy was: to portray Obama as, by parts, ultra-radical, ultra-liberal, ultra-elitist, and ultra-lame, just for good measure. This is all easy to verify with the sorts of attacks one sees levied: from the trivial, like a flag pin or a bowling score, to the more serious, like Jeremiah Wright and William Ayres, people whose statements have been utilized to make Barack Obama seem guilty just by virtue of having associated with some potentially shady characters. To some extent, this is acceptable: looking at past associations in an individual's life can reveal details about said person's character, though this theory only goes so far. By this criterion, Jesus Christ, a man who hung out with lepers, dishonest tax collectors and weird cultists like John the Baptist would probably be tarred and feathers in absentia. Associations matter but are not always the sum of an individual's character.

However, as the primary came closer, such questions became the sum total of the media's coverage of the campaign. Scandals that had long since been put to rest that nobody had much cared about came to light once again. The media found itself, as it seemingly prefers to, in the business of gossip peddling and tabloidery rather than in investigating policy and reporting facts. This became starkly apparent in the ABC debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which featured nearly an hour of "character" questions (how again does wearing a flag pin indicate one's character?) out of a two hour debate. It eventually became known that Fox News's own Sean Hannity had fed George Stephanopolous a question to as of Barack Obama about Ayres, a former terrorist whose connection with Obama was tangential at best. I wasn't wild about the Wright controversy, but I was willing to concede that asking some questions was appropriate because of the deep, long-standing relationship between the two men. The Ayres question, though, is manifestly silly, especially when one considers how quickly John McCain and Hillary Clinton, both of whom have had to deal with huge scandals involving campaign finance-related issues, jumped on board this particular train.

It should come as little surprise that the Hannity wing of the GOP was behind this strategy. It's disgusting, of course, but understandable: they want to win, and the formula they are using is old and has often proven effective. I have found Obama's campaign refreshing because of his unwillingness to resort to such measures, but at some point you can't get alarmed by a leopard's refusal to change his spots. Hannity and his ilk are doing what they do.

What has come as a surprise is how willingly the mainstream media and the Clinton campaign have gotten on board this particular crazy train. One understands the motives at play here: the right wants to win in November, the media wants big ratings, and the Clinton campaign wants to win the nomination and then win in November. All three groups have converged on this strategy because it suits their particular needs. Ultimately, though, not all three groups can have their goals met. The media will win higher ratings in the short term regardless of what happens, although one wonders if their defenders on the left will continue to defend them after Charlie Gibson's capital gains tax question, among other things. In the long term, the MSM will continue to lose its legitimacy, and viewership, and will continue to breathlessly complain about how nobody in America reads newspapers or watches the news without thinking to realize that its more the result of an inferior product than anything else.

What is striking is the Clintons' willingness to hop on board. We've seen this so often this cycle it isn't funny: from Bill Clinton going on Rush Limbaugh to implore Republicans to vote for Hillary, to Clinton herself buddying up with Dick Scaife, to Clinton surrogates like Ed Rendell and Terry McAuliffe praising Fox News's coverage of the race. High-information Democratic activists and voters have been rightly appalled by the convergence of these two forces, and it has only made such people more likely to support Obama. Unfortunately, Obama's base is heavy on these types of voters at this time. Low-information voters who support the Clintons based on residual good feelings from the 1990s (which must inevitably be based on a revisionist account of that decade) have not heard about this stuff, and thus the biggest story of the cycle--and one that validates Obama's entire message--has made zero impact.

Some have speculated why this convergence has occurred. Some might say that the GOP is supporting Hillary because they think she'd be easier to beat (indeed, this is Rush's stated reason for interfering). Some others wonder if the right wouldn't prefer Hillary in office because she makes a better foil, is more polarizing and more suceptible to being demonized. My opinion is that the GOP is tacitly supporting her because they want to bloody Obama, just like they professed love for Obama when Clinton was the favorite. Then again, maybe they just think Clinton would be a better president. I don't know. But I do know that, ultimately, both the right wing and the Clinton campaign are comfortable with the blue-red paradigm. They're comfortable with the tribal politics we've seen in America the past few decades. And they're going to fight like hell to keep the status quo, because that's what they know. I got caught up in the euphoria of the Obama campaign without thinking about how hard the task at hand was going to be. Little did I know...

Still, all of this nonsense is no reason to abandon the cause. In fact, it underscores the urgency of what Barack Obama is trying to do. For too long we've been electing presidents based on things like flag pins, or whether or not they "looked French", or based on whether or not one might want to have a beer with them, and so on. It's about time that we as a country grew up. I still support Barack Obama for President, now more than ever. This battle is going to be harder than we ever thought it would be, but it is still a battle I believe we can win.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Next Governor of California...

If there is any justice, of course. I can't tell you how unimpressed I am with Newsom, Villaraigosa, etc. Debra Bowen is smart, and she seems like a great person. Here's hoping we CA Dems actually get our acts together and don't nominate someone incredibly lame this time around.

Orrin Hatch, Songsmith

Slightly bemused. I think Rick Astley might want to take legal action over the title, however...

Diabolical Thought of the Day

Clinton is being as divisive as possible so that she will have to be on the ticket to "unite" the party. I sure hope Obama doesn't take the bait. (Thanks to this Marc Ambinder post--it inspired the diabolical thought.)

Syrian Nukes

Kevin Drum provides a really good walkthrough on the Syrian nuclear situation. In essence, it looks like North Korea provided Syria with the material to build a plant which is really only for making nuclear weapons, but it doesn't appear that they're close to actually having nukes, and the plant alone isn't enough to make nukes. I don't suppose that the Kristol wing of the GOP will look closely at the salient details, however.


I find this primer on Indiana to be pretty fascinating. It asserts that the state's Republicanness means that there is no Democratic machine that Clinton can coopt (viz. Rendell's in PA) and that Obama is really, really good at building organizations in red states (just check out his wins in the interior west and Rocky Mountain states). Cause for hope. There's some of the rust belt dynamic in play in Indiana (in Gary, for example) but from what I understand it's muted there. And the polling so far seems moderately favorable. Clinton does not seemed to have gotten a polling boost out of Pennsylvania, either in Indiana or nationally. Too bad for her.

I'm ambivalent, but leaning toward saying that the long primary is not good

Well, I'm inclined to skepticism on whether the long primary is helping Democrats. On one hand, it is increasing voter registration and capturing the public imagination, and choking John McCain by sucking all the air out of the room. On the other hand, it is wasting precious time that could better be spent taking on McCain directly. On the first hand, McCain seems unable to capitalize on the expanded primary season and has been totally unable to increase his standing against Obama and Clinton in head-to-head matchups. On the other hand, the ceaseless attacks (mostly by Clinton) serve to give McCain's team pre-made attacks for the Fall with a bit of proof of effectiveness behind them. But, then again, the general election opponent using attacks from his opponents' primary challenger scenario rarely happens, and couldn't Obama now sluff off questions about Bill Ayres in the fall as old news instead of being Willie Horton-ed by them? Would they have happened in the general had the primary campaign not taken forever?

So I don't know. Plenty of grist for both mills. I do know that this campaign has lasted, well, forever, and tired people make more mistakes--mistakes that would otherwise not have happened. I'm pretty sure that's what the "bitter" comments were. And I don't really see the point of keeping the campaign going, since Obama has already won and the Clintons aren't being constructive by holding Obama's feet to the fire on issues, or just hanging around like Mike Huckabee. They're actively trying to undermine Obama's candidacy, which would be acceptable if he weren't overwhelmingly favored to be the nominee, largely because they think he's too liberal. The Clintons came of age politically in a time where liberalism couldn't win, and they don't realize that the country has changed a little bit. They still think you need to do things like Sister Souljah and gay-baiting that are ugly but necessary to show that you're not one of those liberals. In essence, the Clintons still believe that this is Reagan's America. Obama has no such baggage. So they solipsistically assume that Obama cannot win.

If they were actually trying to keep Obama honest (oh, the irony!) I'd fully support their continued presence in the process. But they aren't. They're just hitting Obama with any right-wing meme they can get their hands on, and the distinction between the "vast right wing conspiracy" and the Clinton campaign is rapidly losing any sort of meaningful difference. When you have Clinton surrogates like Ed Rendell and Terry McAuliffe praising Fox News for their balanced coverage, there's a problem there. When you're cozying up to Dick Scaife, there's a problem there. When your supporters circulate "Obama is a Muslim" emails, there's a problem there. Thankfully, most voters have realized these tactics and give Clinton low marks for honesty and character, which is as it should be. But having the right's attacks validated by Clinton gives them added credibility. Will it matter? I don't know, but imagine if Mitt Romney had, after Florida, started critiquing John McCain ferociously from the left, jumping on the bandwagon of that story about the potential affair McCain might have had with a lobbyist? He would have been a laughingstock. Yet evidently we Democrats (the party of the left, I was led to believe) don't really have much of a problem with one of our leaders cozying up not just with conservatives but right-wing extremists whose only goal is to tear down the Democratic Party. Either the Clintons are stupider than we think, or they think they can use the right wing as useful idiots, and vice versa. Can they both be right? We'll see.

Not Defending Sexism

I certainly understand the sentiment here, but I do not share it. Hillary Clinton's campaign has been hit by a fair amount of sexist garbage during this election cycle, and I abhor such things, but they really haven't made me more sympathetic toward Hillary. I think it has something to do with a sense that, despite the abhorrence of these swipes, they represent a sort of karmic justice: this is the same Hillary Clinton, after all, who deployed man-baiters like Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan to make the nasty arguments she wanted made but couldn't say herself; this is the same Hillary Clinton who has unapologetically played the gender card continually during this campaign; this is the same Hillary Clinton who has attempted to gain the sympathy of women by tearing up deliberately during New Hampshire--and anyone who thinks this was a genuine outpouring of emotion should understand that she did the same exact thing on the eve of the Nevada Caucuses a week later.

I am not defending or excusing sexism by any means, but Clinton's campaign has not exactly been very lowercase-p progressive on gender issues. In fact, a bulk of Clinton's strategy seems to be reliving the culture wars from the 1970s in order to get older women to see her election as the fulfillment of feminism. It's pretty sick, in my opinion, especially when one looks at Barack Obama's refreshing and honest approach to race relations. Clinton's campaign just saps the energy out of you as a result of this strategy, while Obama's is invigorating. And it also makes sense why younger women are less reliably for HRC--they don't remember the 70's, so the victimhood stuff doesn't work with them. Which is good for them.

I've always been fascinated by the Morgan/Steinem arguments this cycle, which basically boil down to "America is a sexist country, and you're a sexist if you don't vote for Hillary." Isn't this thesis self-defeating? If America's like, really really sexist, why should we nominate a woman? I don't think this thought is sexist, but I don't really believe it because I don't buy their premise. America has a lot of latent sexism in it, sure. I do not dispute this. It doesn't make me any more likely to vote for Clinton, though, and I don't enjoy being taken down a peg for that. So I see this sort of garbage as a kind of inevitable byproduct of Clinton's "let's open old wounds" strategy--men don't like being told this kind of stuff, and if you want to be divisive gender-wise, be prepared to face the consequences. That doesn't excuse the people making the statements, but it does illuminate them.

Monday, April 21, 2008

No deal

George Bush drops in on Deal Or No Deal by way of video. Well, I suppose doing a pretaped bit is one way to avoid getting booed.

Sanny's for McCain!

One of the most loathsome human beings around casts his lot.

Iraq to the Future (it's Iran)

I really wonder if it's possible to strengthen Sunni influence in Iraq to counteract the Shi'a majority's inevitable comity with Iran, as James Poulos suggests. At the end of the day, the Sunni minority is just that--a minority--and the Shi'a majority will understandably seek solace in the arms of Iran. I just don't see the foundations there to build institutions that will maximize our influence in the area, and since Iran seems to like Maliki just fine these days I think his position will get stronger thanks to Iran's help, and vice versa. That's what I'd do. It's good politics.

The good news is that an Iran-backed Maliki will probably have more muscle to bring things in Iraq under control, which means that a pullout next year might not be as catastrophic as once believed. The bad news might be that Iran will have a new friend, but I'm not really that worried about Iran. A nation with the GDP of the State of Alabama that aborted their attempt to make a nuke in 2004 is lower on my list of concerns than many other things. My opinion for Iran's centrality on the right wing's paranoia fantasy is that they just really don't like anyone who disagrees with them, and they really hate anyone who does it forcefully. Just look at the volumes of bile dredged up at the Corner whenever Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are mentioned. Neither one is, like, a huge threat to America in and of themselves, and there are certainly people who are both more despicable and more powerful than those two goons. But they criticize Bush and their conception of America very starkly. This is a good sign that you know you're dealing with extremists--hell, they went into arias of hatred about Howard Dean, who was pro-gun and balanced budgets. But he had the temerity to speak with an ounce of passion and anger, which the right wing does not let stand. There's plenty of anger on the left side of the spectrum as well, but Michael Moore (for example) is nowhere near the vicinity of the level of hatred in his projects that these folks have for him.

A Ron Paul Community

Is this legal? Can you discriminate on who you allow to buy housing based on their political beliefs? Does this run afoul of fair housing laws? Is that even what's going on here? It seems like a lot of hocus pocus to me, but then again that statement epitomizes the entire Ron Paul rLOVEution as far as I'm concerned.

Paul is, at the very least, a consistent federalist. But my problem with libertarians is that they presume a false dichotomy between freedom and law. Fundamentally, they hold that more laws = less freedom, definitionally. But this is obviously not true if you shift the perspective slightly: sure, having no law against murder means that you have the freedom to commit murder (though I'm not insinuating that Paulites do such things), but I'd argue that having a law on the books against murder creates more freedom, since you have the freedom not to worry about being murdered by someone without consequences. It scales upward, too: the existence of the welfare state is deemed a terrible blight on the ingenuity and will of the American worker, but my opinion is that making sure that peoples' basic needs are met can open new opportunities
(thus creating more freedom) for what they can do. Public education is, of course, one example of this. Sure, the execution gets screwed up at times, but the country the Paulites want--i.e. a federal government that polices the borders and little else--would be a country with vastly more inequality and far less prosperity than the one we're living in now. Government does education far more cheaply than the private sector, despite all those (largely illusory) administrators and unions skimming from the trough.

This thinking, in any event, is the cornerstone of American liberalism. The welfare state has failed to resolve things like the enormous burden of poverty in America, and I readily admit that these problems are more complicated than just passing a single bill, but liberalism can work. There are too many examples of it working to just discard the philosophy right off the bat. Just check out Europe, which is in pretty good economic shape these days. Better than us, arguably.

Update: Maybe this was all about a Second Life community. I think that if I were to go onto Second Life, I probably would establish a Fair Housing Commission to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Somebody has to make sure the rights of furries with 20-foot genetalia sticking out of their foreheads are being protected.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The MoveOntroversy

So, a number of bloggers have commented upon Hillary Clinton's dislike of MoveOn and, perhaps, the progressive movement in general. The quote is politically damaging, to be sure, although I'm not sure this qualifies as news. Was there ever any doubt that Clinton wasn't exactly wild about the party's progressive wing? After all, they're so mean and angry, right? They make it so hard for politicians like Hillary Clinton to make the sort of compromises that are politically necessary, right? They just don't get how the world of politics works.

I'm willing to concede that these groups are big-time promoters of a liberal vision for America, and the Liebermans of the world would just as soon not have that. But why did such institutions--MoveOn, the blogosphere, etc.--come into existence and stay relevant? The answer: largely because establishment Democrats like Hillary Clinton figured they could triangulate to the center on a host of issues without having to answer for it. It may very well have been politically necessary to make such moves, but after a point it became apparent that the Clintons were simply not very good shepherds of a progressive vision of any sort, and these institutions sprang up because the left wanted groups that would apply pressure on behalf of their interests. Bill Clinton's presidency was popular among most folks, but plenty of liberals felt that they had been given short shrift so that Clinton's approval ratings could remain stratospheric, and after things like DOMA, Telecom Deregulation and the DMCA--ultraconservative legislation that was (often enthusiastically) signed by Clinton--liberals were tired of voting for a softer version of conservatism (or "Republican-lite", as the cliche goes).

So it is unsurprising that Clinton doesn't like these folks. She is possessed of deeply centrist instincts and she undoubtedly wants to be free to pursue policy goals without being hounded by the left flank. It's understandable. But that she doesn't understand the raison d'etre for this movement reveals that she's, yes, out of touch with her own base. She's reinvented herself as the champion of the working class, but she needs MoveOn way more than they need her, and her (successful) attempts to polarize the Democratic Party into an us-versus-them, snobs vs. slobs contest is pretty silly to begin with. This is not a general election, and we're all on the same team. I suppose you go with what you know in these sorts of situations--she's comfortable playing the Rove game, and that's what she's done. Clinton seems to be too comfortable attacking liberals, overtly and convertly--these are the people she's surrounded herself with (like Mark Penn), and I suspect the sum total of her reasons for believing Barack Obama unelectable are that he's liberal. Clinton still believes that you have to attack the left in order to win--that you still have to run the DLC/New Dem playbook and provide enough Sistah Souljah moments to make sure that people know you're not one of those liberals. This is her campaign. It's one of many reasons I do not support her, in addition to a palpable character (and specifically honesty) deficit, nonexistent management skills, and a lack of charisma and political talent in general. Also, I happen to be a liberal, and she clearly happens not to be. She'd be better than McCain by a long shot but let's not pretend that the left would be a full partner at the table were Clinton to be the nominee.

Will feminists really sit out the general election if Obama is the nominee?

I do not agree with this. Obama has gone out of his way to make it easy on Clinton supporters to move on over to his camp when he wins, and while many Clintonistas will no doubt be devastated by Hillary losing it is unlikely to happen in a way that will make them bitter at Obama (irony intended). I just don't see a clear trajectory between being angry at the media for being mean to their candidate and then deciding not to vote in the general--this would only be the case if Clinton supporters were generally detached from politics and had been brought on board by Clinton's personality and policies, but that better describes Obama's support than Clinton's, and when it comes down to it, it won't be a hard choice for anyone who cares about women's rights: Obama is solidly pro-choice, McCain is not. This is, of course, not the only issue at stake with women's rights, but it is perhaps the most crucial one.

Oh, and all those polls where all those Clinton supporters say they'll vote for McCain instead of Obama in the general? Bollocks. Never happens. John McCain would be very, very lucky to snag 10% of Democrats. That's about what George Bush got in 2004, and aside from the Dixiecrats who are still registered Democrat but are de facto Republicans and some Hispanic crossover voters (and much smaller amounts of senior citizens and Black voters), the rest of the base ultimately held. Whenever there's a divisive nominating contest the people on one side say that they're going to sit out the general or vote for the other party, and they never do, with the only possible exception I can think of being 1972. Maybe 1980 (on the Democrats' side). But Bradley supporters eventually supported Gore, and Dean supporters made their way to Kerry after a time. McCain fans eventually found their way back to Bush. During the heat of a campaign, when it seems like your guy (or gal) is getting pummeled by their opponent, and all the while the media seems M.I.A., it shouldn't come as a shock that this scenario makes Candidate X's supporters angry, maybe even angry enough to say that they wouldn't support Candidate Y ever. Eventually, though, after X loses and some time passes, and the anger dissipates, it is only natural to reevaluate the situation. At the end of the day I'm hard-pressed to think of anything truly inexcusable that Obama did to Hillary, so there should be no eventual obstacle to most of HRC's contingent supporting Obama. Now, the conservative Democrats who think Obama's too liberal or too cosmopolitan (or too Black) might just find that McCain is more palatable, but McCain, as has often been noted, has never been attacked from the left. A conservative Democrat is still far to the left of a conservative Republican--Ben Nelson is about as conservative as they get among Democrats, and aside from social issues he's pretty much centrist. I doubt that socially conservative senior citizens in, say, Ohio are going to be as enthusiastic about McCain after they learn about his plans to shred Social Security, for example.

I will say this: if Obama manages to win Pennsylvania (and it's unlikely but not impossible, since stranger things have happened this election) he'll effectively knock Clinton out of the race. He will, to borrow a metaphor, reach escape velocity. And as soon as this nomination process ends Obama will get an enormous bump in the polls--he'll probably be up by 10-15 points over McCain again. I'm guessing. I'm going to go out on a ledge and say that Obama will narrowly win Pennsylvania. The narrative makes sense to me in my head. We'll see.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

McCain is oblivious

We all know he has no idea when it comes to economics, but I find it interesting that he's promising to veto any bill with earmarks attached. Does he want to have a tortured relationship with Congress right off the bat? I've heard Barack Obama compared to Jimmy Carter before, but McCain is looking to be more in that castrated-by-congress tradition than Obama with this comment. From what I've read, McCain is not exactly a favorite among his fellow senators, and it is interesting that McCain's fiscal conservatism excludes huge tax cuts for the wealthy, the costs of massive foreign wars, which will cost trillions all told. But for God's sake, someone's building a bridge in Alaska for a hundred million dollars! This aggression cannot stand! DO NOT WANT. Then again, since endless war is a philosophical first principle with John McCain, I'm sure he doesn't see that money as wasted, but rather invested in the glory of American military might, the purgative that makes everything better in McCain's world.

I find it fascinating that, at this point in history, with all the terrible stuff going on in the world, John McCain seems to think that the $18 billion spent on earmarks (compared to hundreds of billions spent on the Iraq War, for example) is the biggest problem America faces. He brings it up all the fucking time. And people say Barack Obama is out of touch?

Paging Hall and Oates

Dan Drezner has an amusing post that goes over several of the possibilities why the "bitter" quote has had, well, no effect at all on the race. Really, it hasn't. Obama's still got a big national lead and he's still close in Pennsylvania if most of the polling is to be believed. I'd say the explanation is partly that elites are out of touch, but also partly that the extended primary season has gone on for so long that voters have become desensitized to being shocked, SHOCKED every time a candidate says something poorly phrased. Think about it: it's easy to get angry every time a candidate says something moderately offensive if the race lasts two months, but if the race lasts sixteen months you stop giving a damn about these things. I wonder if this isn't an argument for the long primary season: people hear about the flag pin and Jeremiah Wright a million f-ing times and just don't care. That doesn't seem to stop talking heads from bringing them up, which leads to the "out of touch elites" argument that Obama might want to make at some point because the media sure isn't going to declare itself as out of touch, and the idea that the media is ultraliberal ought to be on its last legs following the ABC debate last night.

I didn't watch the debate, just like I haven't watched most of the debates this cycle. I know what policies Clinton and Obama favor, I voted for Barack Obama in the California Primary two months ago (it seems like much longer than that) and all of the various "controversies" that Obama has been plagued by have been unimpressive to me (as well as to most people, it seems). There is no real reason for me to watch a debate between Obama and Clinton, as I've picked my horse and debates are supposed to illuminate differences between candidates' policies, which are minor. I hear the debate was pretty terrible--half of it was devoted to cataloging the various "controversies" that nobody aside from the gossip-reporting-as-politics Beltway types and conspiratorial right-wingers (groups that seem to have more overlap than originally thought) seem to think is relevant. Does anyone really think that Obama having once received support from one of the Weathermen is really going to make Democratic voters say, "That's it! I've had it! I'm voting for Hillary!"? It is therefore, definitionally, an unimportant question. Well, that's not true, it's important so that right-wingers who have already decided that they dislike Obama can hear that he was (tenuously) associated with a former radical so that they can have their existing prejudices reinforced. And I don't mean racial prejudice necessarily (though there undoubtedly is much of that) but prejudice in the general sense: these folks have already decided that Obama is a) a Muslim, b) a radical liberal, and/or c) unpatriotic.

The right-wing press, of course, isn't about journalism but about continually feeding the seemingly boundless sense of resentment and paranoia that has come to define the right wing far more so than any commitment to small government (as if!) and keeping people in a perpetual state of outrage and helplessness so that they turn out to the polls so that the GOP can save them. The mainstream media has become, either wittingly or unwittingly, a part of this open conspiracy to try to gin up class conflicts and paranoid delusions to distract from their disastrous policies. The promise of Obama is to transcend these politics, and the first step is to start trusting other people instead of assuming that everyone who disagrees with you is acting based on insidious, hidden motives. Obama has always done that, and people have responded to it. That's why the William Ayers flap will gain no traction, just like the last dozen right-wing manufactured "controversies" haven't. Obama listens to his opponents and assumes they are arguing in good faith, and talks about why he disagrees with them. Many on the right are so consumed by a lifetime of perceived slights and an all-encompassing cynicism that they don't see that Barack Obama is such a different and unique figure in the history of contemporary American politics. They just don't get it. They only want to win, and they don't care how they do it. Here's hoping that the Democrats control everything after this election so that the Republicans become irrelevant for a while. It'd be good for the country and good for the Republicans, too--it's amazing how a spell in the wilderness does wonders for finding one's self. Just ask Thoreau.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rush Limbaugh has a big heart...

Or so our buddy Joe Lieberman tells us. I donated twenty bucks to Ned Lamont's campaign to unseat Joe Lieberman in 2006, and I have never regretted it since. Ah, Connecticut. You voted for Barack Obama in the primary, I'll give you that, but giving this clown another term is inexcusable.

Clinton's strategy fails...

It would appear that "Bittergate" is just not that big a deal--Obama's polling within the margin in this poll, and the breakdown from this poll hasn't changed in the past week. So Steve Benen appears to have been right when he said that this comment wouldn't really matter. But it has been instructive. For one thing, it has reminded us of what a mediocre politician Hillary Clinton really is, and that she wouldn't be where she is were she not married to Bill Clinton.

I know that sounds a lot like Chris Matthews's comments that landed him in a heap of trouble, but let's look at this. Clinton is smart, knows policy, and has the political "killer instinct," which are all valuable political skills. However, they aren't the only political skills that a good politician needs. There is, for example, the ability to shape public opinion, which Obama has repeatedly shown and Clinton hasn't. Just look at Obama's recent speech on race for evidence of his talent on this, and try to find an equivalent Clinton moment on this. You won't find one. Both her and her husband are expert exploiters of public opinion (they're centrists, after all!) but they aren't paradigm changers. Obama might very well be, and that's what we need at this point if we want to get past the Bush years.

There's another thing: Clinton never seems to make her own opportunities, she just exploits existing ones. This is tricky, but it's what separates the great politicians from the not-so-great ones. Just look at Richard Nixon, who made his career as a Congressman by basically doing a bunch of red-baiting. Nobody else was doing it at the time (late 1940s) and this was way before Joe McCarthy. Nixon created an opening for himself as the staunch anticommunist and rode it all the way to the presidency. Another example comes from the U.K., where Conservative leader David Cameron managed to dramatically reshape the contest with Labour by inserting the issue of the inheritance tax into the race. Cameron created his own opportunity and managed to get Gordon Brown to postpone parliamentary elections. Clinton has never shown the level of creativity to pull something like this off, and her campaign this election cycle has done a lot of what she's been doing recently: pouncing on minor gaffes from opponents, launching feeble attacks, taking excessive umbrage at any criticism of her or her family. Her few attempts to inject an issue in the campaign--such as attacking Barack Obama's healthcare plan--have fallen flat largely due to a misreading of where Democrats are on this issue. Sure, many on the left would prefer a plan that is universal to one that is not, myself included (I actually do like Clinton's plan more than Obama's, truth be told), but most Democrats could give a damn whether everyone has insurance, they just want to know that they themselves have an option if they lose their job. So Salt-of-the-Earth Clinton is a bit tone-deaf about this issue--so much for her connection to the American worker. And so much for the idea that she's a center-left Nixon. Nixon was a bastard but he was effective. Clinton fulfills one of those qualities.

Additionally, Clinton's campaign has been less than impressive, to say the least. It's become clear to me that she's not temperamentally suited for the chief magistracy. Her panicky campaign has never missed a chance to try to tear down Barack Obama, and she's never given much of an indication that she realizes that they're on the same team. She does not have a long record as a progressive champion--indeed, a fairly compelling argument can be made that her newfound liberalism is only skin deep and will be abandoned upon winning the nomination. Just look at the evolution of her thinking on the Iraq War: when it was popular, she was for it. When it became fashionable to support the war but criticize its execution, she was doing that, too. And when it became politically necessary to argue for troop withdrawals, she jumped on the boat. There is a stunning lack of principle here, and I think it stems from her fundamental lack of interest in foreign policy. In this way she's not unlike an inverse of Richard Nixon, who couldn't care less about domestic policy ("building outhouses in Peoria") and focused on foreign policy. Nixon basically let Congressional Democrats run the store on domestic policy, and as a result Nixon's record on things like civil rights, the environment, and the economy are decidedly unconservative. Clinton only cares about domestic policy, and she's more than willing to let the Republicans define the terms of the debate on foreign policy, while Barack Obama has shown a willingness to challenge the Republicans on security and defense matters. Strike two.

In the end, the idea that Democrats would vote for somebody that the Republicans call elitist is a little puzzling. They're going to call whoever we pick an elitist, and in my impression Hillary Clinton gives off a more distinctly patrician air than does Obama regardless of her successes with working class voters (which is based more on identity politics than on anything else). The Republicans will call Obama an out of touch liberal elitist if he gets the nomination, and they'll do the same to Clinton if she manages to pull it out. This is what they do, and they've done it to every Democrat running for president in the past forty years. Their only hope is to stir up class resentments so that they can continue to intensify them. I don't think it's going to work for them this time: it barely worked in 2004, Iraq and the economy are both in much worse shape than they were four years ago, Barack Obama is an infinitely more talented politician than was John Kerry, and John McCain has a lot more baggage than his patrons in the media would have us believe. I just want this process to be over, and it's beginning to look like Obama might just win Pennsylvania. If he does, it will be over regardless of whether Clinton stays in the race--she'll have lost a 20+ point lead and she'll be damn near broke, and who's going to want to give money to what will appear to be a sure loser at that point?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The pandering never stops...

Hillary Clinton says that her favorite Elton John song is Philadelphia Freedom. Seriously. I suppose it will be Island Girl when she's campaigning in Puerto Rico.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I sure hope that Steve Benen is right on this "bitter" controversy. He might very well be. We all know the conventional wisdom that Barack Obama's flap with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, threatened his campaign until he gave a brilliant speech that ended the controversy. This is a neat, elegant version of events that happens to be utterly wrong. Obama's poll numbers dipped just a little bit during the Wright controversy, but there was never any point at which is campaign was imperiled, which gives me some hope with respect to this "controversy". The media seized onto the story because it is what they do--it's the politics-as-theater-criticism that many liberal bloggers have commented upon.

At the very least, it seems like Hillary Clinton is overreaching in her response. I thought her campaign was supposed to be more positive after the departure of Mark Penn. I guess the obvious musical reference applies...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gay People Worse Than Terrorists?

I simply don't know of any explanation for this, other than that a significant portion of people in this country are simply insane.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Something to dislike about McCain

I had forgotten, but there is a really annoying streak of self-righteousness to John McCain. The positions he holds are, of course, the correct ones by virtue of his holding them, and anyone who disagrees is shifty and unprincipled. Exhibit A:

“Launching his campaign by going back on a promise to voters would be dishonest, and exposes his politics of hope as empty rhetoric out of a typical politician.”

This quote refers to Barack Obama deciding not to opt into public financing. Except not really, since his financing is overwhelmingly public and includes few fat cat and special interest donors. It's a bit overblown, don't you think, especially since literally two people might decide their votes on this issue? They're probably just angry that Obama will probably be able to outspend them 2-1 in the general election.

Seriously, though when did John McCain get all this character? He was a terrible student at the Naval Academy. After getting shot down he signed a confession denouncing the United States. He did withstand the torture of the Viet Cong with some grace, then returned home and immediately began cheating on his wife (who raised his kids and remained faithful to him when he was in Vietnam) with a young, attractive heiress who bankrolled his political career. As a member of the House and Senate he has spent the last 30 years doing jack shit. About the only notable piece of legislation that bears his name is the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act, a worthy but minor bit of procedural reform. His squeaky-clean image is belied somewhat by the Keating Five scandal with which he was associated in the past, and his notorious temper and use of abusive language suggests someone who I would rather not have with his hand on the trigger.

So, where's the much-vaunted character? Yes, during the 2000 campaign and for a few years afterward McCain moved to the center on many issues, but he's moved back to the hard right on most of them, and he's made it abundantly clear that there is no pet issue that he won't flip on if his base wants him to. Even things he professed to care deeply about, like his opposition to the use of torture or his "humane" immigration plan, have been ignored or softened during his campaign. In fact, McCain voted against a significant anti-torture amendment not a month ago.

This is not to say that John McCain is a terrible person, but if he has some great moral credibility I don't see it. Like all of us, he has some admirable things in his past and some not-so-admirable things, but I'd like to know when, exactly, the myth of McCain the Man of Character emerged. I don't really blame him for some of his recent flips (he's got to appeal to his party's base) but for a man who has claimed to embody the things he's claimed to embody it's a letdown. My opinion of him has been revised downward quite a bit.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dear Lord

This in regards to McDonald's offering some benefits to gay and lesbian employees (via Andrew Sullivan):

"And to declare war [as McDonald's has] on the civilization of liberty, independence, creativity, and humanity under God that my Dad fought for in World War II."

Never mind that this sentence is a fragment, I find this to be rather interesting. Supporting gay rights is an assault upon creativity? Gay folks are plenty creative. And humane. And just as supportive of freedom as anyone else.

This is why the right wing needs to stay on message. When they use their well-worn messages about how we shouldn't tamper with the institution of marriage which hasn't changed in thousands of years, it sorta sounds legit. It isn't, of course--marriage as an institution has changed immeasurably in just the past 200 years. In 1808, women were the legal property of their husbands in this country. Divorce was illegal, women owned no property of their own, could pursue no careers, and could only hope to accumulate any power if their husband happened to die off. The institution has changed a lot since then, and generally for the better. Sure, you have to take the good with the bad: divorce rates are way higher, to be sure, although I wonder if this couldn't be stemmed by enacting certain measures like raising the marriage age to 25, which according to the data I've seen seems to be the magic number when it comes to marriages staying together. But I digress.

The point is that the right wing does have some legit-sounding arguments against gay marriage. Some are even compelling unless you look too closely at the logic, which is generally predicated on slippery slope fallacies. However, quotes like this one only serve to underscore that many of Sullivan's Christianists' opposition to gay rights is not (surprise!) rooted in reason and logic but rather in hysteria and utter suspicion of other peoples' motives. There is, by my observation, a culture of paranoia on the right that simply doesn't have an equivalent on the left. Liberals like me generally believe that most Republicans are decent people who happen believe that shredding the social safety net and creating a theocracy in America are what's best for the country. We disagree vigorously, sometimes even vitriolically, and we might even say that the people who advance this agenda are corrupt and want to seize power and fortune for themselves, but most liberals do not tend to believe that Republicans are intentionally trying to starve poor people because they don't vote Republican. Because the Republicans aren't consciously trying to starve poor people: they just don't care about them. Maybe that's not fair, maybe it is, but that's where I stand and where I think most liberals stand. I'm not a fan of George W. Bush, to put it mildly, but I'm willing to say that I think he's doing what he thinks is best for the nation in the long run. I disagree, and that's why I support Barack Obama, but I'll admit that he does have a few principles.

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to devolve into hysterics that undermine any credibility their argument might otherwise have. It's why they frame the Left's commitment to government assistance for the needy, more often than not, as nothing but political bribery. It's why they accuse Democrats in favor of swift withdrawal of wanting the terrorists to win in Iraq when both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have shown no desire to go easy on terrorism, but rather to fight it in a more intelligent and less costly way. It's why social liberals can't just hold a different principle with respect to gay rights: we necessarily have to be declaring war on the culture as it is presently constituted. This sort of thing is one of the reasons why I left the Republican Party in 2004: for some right-wingers, it is simply inconceivable that a Democrat would hold a single principle. They're all rotten to the core, and any argument they make has to be in bad faith and just has to be malicious. What underlies this worldview? Well, the only explanation that seems to fit with what the Republicans say is an intrinsic belief that Democrats are evil. Then you can just dismiss any uncomfortable truths they say.

So, here's my advice to the right wing: please stop improvising. You're only showing the hollowness of your paranoia masquerading as political philosophy on the issues, and it makes it more difficult for all of us to get a handle on all of you when you go all apeshit on us. Stick with the tried-and-true lines, please. We'd like to argue with your most compelling arguments, and that's not easy when you're confusing everything like this.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Is Bush the worst ever? looks like Matt Yglesias is angling for some sort of wanker award today:

I also take the view that Bush is probably correct to think that history will remember him kindly. American presidents associated with big dramatic events tend to wind up with good reputations whether they deserve them or not. One possible Bush analogy would be to Woodrow Wilson, who did all kinds of things with regard to civil liberties that look indefensible today and whose foreign policy ended as a giant failure, but who was associated with both big events and with big ideas that were influential down the road. Someday, I bet there will be democracies in the Middle East and some future Republican president will figure out a way to put meat on the bones of "compassionate conservatism" and Bush will be looked upon as a far-sighted figure who made some mistakes in a difficult period of time.

I'm not sure how much good faith was put into this, but I can think of a few differences between Wilson (the only example given here) and Bush. For one thing, Wilson won his war, and Bush has, well, not. Wilson's term was marked by a dazzling record of progressive change, including the establishment of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, women's suffrage, etc. Bush's record on domestic policy is pretty sketchy: No Child Left Behind, which everyone hates, stalled immigration and social security plans and a prescription drug bill that conservatives have retroactively decided to hate.

I am aware that future generations aren't going to care about the nuances of Bush's domestic policies, just like nobody cares about Wilson's policies. The fact still remains that Wilson won his war, and by Yglesias's yardpost Lyndon Johnson ought to be a very popular president, as Johnson presided over some turbulent times. Johnson's ideas, though, became discredited by his disgrace, just as Bush's ideas have.

I guess the only way I see vindication for Bush is if the situation in Iraq significantly improves, with respect to the political process, within the next year. I know Matt doesn't believe that, and I'm not sure even an improvement viz. Iraq helps Bush's reputation. After all, fatalities have dropped in Iraq but Bush's popularity hasn't risen. It's become uncoupled from the war, and I think that's a sign that the Bush brand has been irreparably tarnished, and I don't really see much in terms of a future effort to resurrect the Bush image on the part of his followers, who I sense will be more than happy to forget his reign.

All of this is not to say that Yglesias might not be right. I do find the fixation among liberal circles on proclaiming Bush the worst president ever is puzzling. Is it really necessary that everybody believe that Bush is worse than Franklin Pierce and Warren Harding? To some extent, it's got to be that they want to have some hard evidence to correspond with Bush being their most disliked president ever. Honestly, Bush is terrible, but I could care less if historians rank him above James Buchanan.

Krugman, Obama, Race, etc.

I'm frequently critical of Paul Krugman, and I've stated why before. I think that he's basically a better-educated and liberal version of any number of right-wing ideologues who see politics as a constant process of carefully cultivating resentment and bitterness in order to keep their most radical elements coming to the polls. I'm not wild about that model because, well, just look at what it's brought us so far.

I'm also very critical of his idea of how the GOP came to power. His notion that it's due to nothing but race is questionable, to say the least. That explains the South (though the South was conservative long before the GOP started pushing for their support) but it doesn't explain increasing conservatism in other regions of the country, like the Interior West, which has no history of tortured racial politics. It's hard to imagine, for example, that Idaho used to be a liberal hotbed a half-century ago, when they were doing things like electing Frank Church to office. Not so much anymore. And I recall the Republicans winning lots of congressional seats in states like Washington and Illinois in 1994, which are relatively progressive states. All of which is not to say that the GOP's overt appeals to racists were acceptable or nonexistent, or that the Reagan Revolution would have been conceivable without them. But Ross Douthat is right that it's not the complete picture. It does not explain all the interesting phenomena. It's sloppy and it feeds into the notion that all liberals do is label the people who disagree with them as racists, sexists, and so on. It is, definitionally, that very phenomenon.

Still, the man is a world-class economist, and I generally liked his most recent book. I just find it puzzling that he, in particular, would start talking about why Obama's race makes him unelectable. Why, after arguing that racism was solely responsible for the GOP's rise and that waning racism will deliver the country back to the Democrats, doesn't he see the irony in insisting that America is still too racist to elect a Black man? Maybe there's not much of a tension there, but I would have thought that Obama's candidacy might have provided some synchronicity with his own views on the subject. Maybe he doesn't think we're there yet, but I suspect that taking Krugman's arguments seriously here is an insult to his intelligence, especially since Obama stacks up well in the polls against McCain while Clinton does not. And does he really think that there's more of a hangup associated with electing a likable Black man than a brittle White woman, especially when the latter has a gaping honesty problem that seems to spawn new crises every week?

In conclusion, Krugman probably ought to stick to economics. He's not a racist, though.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Hillary Clinton again wants to play pretend: now she was an opponent of the war before Barack Obama. This woman's pliable relationship with the truth would bother me if I didn't believe that she was being intentionally dishonest. My principle objection (well, one of them) to Hillary Clinton's candidacy is that it's apparent that, in many areas, her long-term tenure in Washington has corrupted her and has made her unwilling to challenge the Beltway CW on many subjects, and defense issues are the apotheosis of this trend. Specifically, though, Clinton has bought into the notion that she undoubtedly thinks that John Kerry fell for: that flip-flopping is a mortal political sin and that she, as the first woman president, certainly cannot ever appear to be weak by changing her mind. It's psychoanalytic, sure, but it makes sense considering the Beltway context.

I think that's just backward: Clinton admitting to making a mistake would defuse a lot of the criticism about her, and the idea that she could admit to making a mistake and say that she learned something from it would mark an effective departure from the G.W. Bush way of doing business, which isn't too popular the last time I checked. I often get the sense that such things have just never occurred to Clinton, and I've had my fill of this character flaw in my executives, thank you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Deep thought of the day

John McCain's philosophy is the opposite of Jimmy Conway's from GoodFellas: always rat on your friends, and never keep your mouth shut.

The Clintons finally release their tax returns

So that's that. Maybe. Political insider makes the case that this was the perfect time to do this, and I find points 1, 4, and 5 persuasive (basically saying that people are paying attention to other things), at least more so than the other two. Something controversial might pop up later, at a less convenient time for the Clintons, and while it's still two weeks away from the PA primary, couldn't this have been done, like ages ago to preempt the issue entirely? Maybe this wasn't a high-mileage issue, but it tied into the notion that the Clintons have something to hide and that they are secretive.

John McCain will rat you out

I rather enjoyed this quote about John McCain's newest television ad: "Obama, if he’s the Democratic nominee, wants to make the campaign about the past vs. the future. Oddly enough, McCain seems to want to do the same thing." This new John McCain ad is simply the most bizarre ad I've seen by a serious American politician since I've started following politics. Even Mike Gravel's infamous "Rock" ad isn't nearly as strange--maybe Mike was angry and just wanted to throw the rock into the lake? I'm just kidding--Mike Gravel's ad is like something out of a David Lynch movie.

This is funny. And I agree with the final analysis: "This primary is too long." Evidently we've entered the high school drama phase of the nominating process, but then again, do we ever leave high school?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

Mark Penn gets in trouble for a conflict-of-interest thing. I will resist the schadenfreude urge, although this underscores just how dishonest Mark Penn is, and someone who is so close to the Clintons and so demonstrably, er, nonprogressive on so many issues troubles many people.

Gore '08

Kaus brings up a good point on Bloggingheads: why would a Gore pick assuage African-Americans who had one of their own have the nomination snatched away after rightfully winning it? Bob Wright says that giving it to Clinton is what would be galling, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure what to think, and I'm getting sick and tired of hearing a new wave of Al Gore speculation every few months. It just keeps coming back.

Look, I love Al Gore. I do. I think he's a smart guy who has been right on so many things, and America would be much better off had he won in 2000. Hell, I think even most Republicans would probably concede that now. (Okay, not really, but it's hyperbole.) Gore was robbed, and a lot of Democrats are angry about it and see a Gore restoration as karmic justice of a sort. The idea of Gore succeeding Bush, then fixing everything up and becoming popular, is not unappealing to me. But it's time for certain people to just let it go. Gore certainly has. He's got his own thing now, and I think he's done a lot of good. Why some Democrats seem intent on taking people out of roles in which they excel and putting them in roles for which they are unsuited is a mystery to me.

Forget I ever wrote that...

I recant my earlier championship of Rob Andrews for the New Jersey Senate seat. Steve Benen has convinced me. My point, though, stands: New Jersey has run some catastrophically weak candidates in recent memory, and that state reeks of corruption.

I'm really, really worried about Obama's success in closing the gap in Pennsylvania...

it's paradoxical, I know.

But here's what I'm saying--right now, the RCP average in Pennsylvania shows Obama down by about six percentage points. Considering that that's about one-third of what Clinton's lead was about two weeks ago, and considering that the primary is still two-and-a-half weeks away (ugh!) this has got to be bad news for the Clintons.

Still, Pennsylvania is very favorable territory for the Clintons. Lots of old folks, lots of Reagan Democrats, and a fair amount of Latinos. She might just rebound in the state. She's done it before.

My worry is that Obama's recent success in closing the gap in PA will raise expectations such that a narrow Clinton win of a point or two will be treated as some great success, when it will actually be an unbelievable comeback by Obama. Remember how Clinton was back in the game after Texas and Ohio, despite actually losing the delegate count in Texas? Of course, Clinton has to win virtually every primary from here on out, and she's not going to do that, especially not with the rather lame retread of her "classic" 3 a.m. ad. What's next, "It's 3 a.m., and a phone in the White House is ringing. But this time, the call is about streamlining federal bureaucracy and preserving the solvency of our commitments to the Greatest Generation, viz. Social Security." Where's the SNL parody of this? Come on, a Bill Clinton-narrated short about a 3 a.m. call would be only too easy for those guys. Let's get this done! This is already a joke and I want it formalized as such!

There's no denying that an Obama win in PA ends this thing, and I sincerely hope he pulls it off. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ezra's right

about the Clinton campaign's discovery of little-d democratic principles here. It's not the hypocrisy and lying that bothers me, it's the self-righteousness lathered on top. And, by the way, when did Clinton get the crazy notion that the Democratic Party itself was a democracy? It's crazy to believe that, when one considers that delegates are awarded more heavily to more Democratic areas in the states. And why not? Similarly, I don't get the objection to caucuses: shouldn't the candidate with greater organizational abilities and more loyal support within the party get some reward for that? These are debatable notions, and there is a trap: Obama has actually won more of the areas where Democrats generally don't do that well. Of course, he's won a lot of areas where Democrats do really well, too. That he managed to win landslide victories in states where Democrats generally don't do well but was closer to Clinton in Democratic states is either a travesty or good strategy and organizing, depending on what side you're on. After all is said and done, reform of the nominating process is probably in order.

I'm not so sure her threat of going to the convention is genuine--maybe it is, who knows, though she's been in a more subdued mood these past few days. Maybe the truth is sinking in, I dunno. I think that her die-hard supporters would respond more to "We're going to fight for Michigan and Florida until the convention," better than "We need some more cash because we're broke and Mark Penn's got to feed his iguana. So give us some so that we can keep the vanity candidacy alive, at least until we get stomped in North Carolina and have to exit gracefully. Whatevs, Hillary Clinton."

Here's an idea on Michigan and Florida

Reading this, I was struck by the following phrase:
...Speaker Willie Brown's remarks about the Florida and Michigan delegations: let them be seated, but not give them votes for president.
I don't think this is wise in and of itself, but there's a kernel of truth to it. It seems like what Florida and Michigan want more than anything else is to have some influence in the process. Of course, they forfeited that influence during a stupid move to try to gain more influence early on in the process, but they keep insisting that they just want to have some measure of influence, so here's my idea: seat the full Florida and Michigan delegations, but since they were elected in sham elections their votes during the first ballot of the convention do not count. On any subsequent ballots they get full participation. This makes sense to me--they would have their delegations seated and could claim to still have an impact if the process moves beyond a first ballot, but they aren't being treated as though normal, fair elections were held in their states. That's the best compromise I can think of right now.

I hate New Jersey (okay, just the lame Democrats who run the state)

I really wish Rob Andrews were in better shape against Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey. Things could change, but what I never understand is why the New Jersey Democratic Party consistently winds up with weak candidates for statewide office, despite the solidly Democratic tilt of the state in general. In the past few years alone, we've seen Jon Corzine run for Governor and win in a nail-biter, we've seen Bob Menendez run for the Senate after succeeding Corzine and win in what appeared to be a close race until the last second, and we've seen Frank Lautenberg run a close race after his predecessor got in a bit of trouble. This despite New Jersey having voted solidly Democratic for twenty years on a national level, despite New Jersey having not elected a Republican to the Senate in almost forty years, and despite Democrats controlling the state's congressional delegation, both chambers of the state government, and pretty much everything else.

It just doesn't seem like we should have to run these nail-biters all the time considering the state's lean. Corzine is easily explicable--he's not popular and he just bought his elections. Lautenberg was a last-minute pinch-hitter after his long tenure in Congress. Why on earth Corzine picked Bob Menendez is a mystery to me, and it provides more than just a whiff of corruption. Or maybe that's just the breeze coming off the Jersey turnpike. I don't know. But let's not forget that these actions have consequences: the DSCC had to spend three million dollars to bail Menendez out in 2006--had that money gone to help the Democratic candidates in Arizona and Nevada we might have two more Democratic Senators in office right now. We'll never know.

It is only fair to note that Democratic politics here in California are frequently as irritating. Our state party apparatus seems intent on punishing promising political leaders (like Steve Westly) and elevating mediocre party hacks (er, Cruz Bustamante, Bill Lockyer, Phil "Phil Angelides" Angelides, etc.). I'm almost afraid to see who the party lines up behind for the Governor's race in 2010--about the only promising statewide officeholder is Debra Bowen, the Secretary of State, who has actually done some good work in the field of election reform and seems like a sharp character. No doubt she'll be disqualified early, though, in favor of someone like Loretta Sanchez. Seriously, it's embarrassing. Why do you think that we've only had three Democratic governors since 1939? And one of those was recalled!

Extended primaries not helping

Amen. Truth be told Clinton's behavior hasn't been that bad in the few days, in spite of her numbers slipping in Pennsylvania. And Obama has been engaging more with McCain anyway in the past few days, which is better than internecine fighting. Here's hoping that these trends in Pennsylvania continue--an Obama victory there would be a huge story, would secure the nod and provide an incredible amount of momentum going forward into the general election.

I'm beginning to think that maybe Clinton throwing the Pennsylvania contest might be best for everyone. It's not like her campaign isn't having money problems, or that the delegate math isn't forbidding, or that the polls seem to consistently be favoring Obama these days, and a huge comeback for Obama like this sets him up well for the general election. She, on the other hand, gets to exit gracefully without any questions being asked, and prepare for her next job, whatever that might be. Maybe it's sinking in that she's not going to win, but the past few days have felt as though she has been easing off the gas just a bit. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.

Clinton consolation prize

The 'Clinton consolation prize' sweepstakes seems silly to me. Had she bowed out after Wisconsin she could have had whatever job she wanted in an Obama administration. She threw it away at a long-shot presidential bid because of her messiah complex that demands that she be the Historic First Woman President Who Fixes All Of Our Nation's Problems, the end. She doesn't want a consolation prize, and while she has a good knowledge of policy she's showed a stunning lack of imagination when it came to maximizing her own power and position. She'll probably land on her feet when this is over, in any case.

I suppose I could be more charitable, but this woman has calculatedly tried to polarize this party along identity lines as a part of a strategy to stoke fears about the first Black nominee. This is not something you reward. Honestly, if I never saw Hillary Clinton's face again, I wouldn't be too disappointed. To be fair, my loathing of her husband (who suffered his most recent, well-publicized meltdown today) is infinitely more acute, but they're bad news and they need to depart the national stage.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.