Friday, June 27, 2008
Now, if John McCain had said or done something that changed the fundamentals of the race, or if the polling had radically changed, I'd say this is a discussion worth having. But I'd like to thank the MSM for reminding me that Washington reality does not necessarily bear any resemblance to, you know, reality.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I suppose McCain could say, if you like this sort of stuff, you'll love my judges. But I just don't think that you're going to be able to use this to get people to rally behind McCain by harnessing nonexistent outrage at a ruling that went the way these folks wanted it to. There is an odor here: one part consultant thinking, one part sheer desperation to try to find something, anything, where the McCain campaign can gain traction on Obama. Well, here's a thought--how about adopting some policy positions that the public likes and convincing the Republican base to accept them?
No? Okay, just offering a little advice.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
The question that one has to ask one's self, though, is why is this such an embedded principle? Why doesn't McCain say, "Well, the surge worked, and now we can leave Iraq having left the Iraqis a safe country. Maybe it works out, maybe not, but we've given them the opportunity. It's time for them to stand on their own two feet." Why this continued insistence on the residual forces?
Honestly, I don't really think McCain's thought this through, but I don't think that one can rationalize it any other way than by using the "e" word. Yes, empire. McCain likes having US power deployed across the world. So, maybe it's a softer, gentler form of empire, but it's still empire. I mean, it seems really important to him that we have those troops there, since this is something he always says. What other explanation can there be for this fixation?
Oh, and by the way, this is bollocks. McCain was wrong about Iraq every step of the way until he backed the surge. He's batting, like, .050. He deserves some credit but, then again, let's not forget about the law of large numbers. Yes, the surge has turned out to work alright--it hasn't made things worse, but it also hasn't accomplished its chief strategic objective of spurring political change by providing breathing room for political dealing. It's worked tactically by guaranteeing security but there is a difference between the two. I do think Obama ought to acknowledge these not unpleasant side effects of the surge while saying that the security gains strengthen, not diminish, the opportunity of getting out while avoiding defeat. And when one considers that the Iraqis have made noises about asking America to leave in the shadow of the security improvements I don't think that the surge's success, such as it is, is necessarily a crippling blow to Obama's argumentation on Iraq, so long as he's crafty in how he deploys the argument.
The key with Obama is to distinguish between his inside game (i.e., mechanical, procedural, largely behind-the-scenes maneuvering) and his outside game (i.e., the policies/positions/stands he takes on the public stage). Obama has been as ruthless as anyone at playing the inside game, but less cynical than most when it comes to the outside game.This is exactly what I want from a presidential candidate: someone who is going to be steadfast in terms of policy but Machiavellian when it comes to tactics and strategy. Look, politics is a rough game. There's that great high-mindedness one finds in some politicians, which is admirable, but which in recent times has tended to come hand-in-hand with losing elections. The Republicans have basically given up on policy (what issues, aside from the war, is John McCain running on again?) and have resorted to nothing but guilt-by-association, smearing, and scaring the living shit out of people to win. We need a candidate who can match wits and keep the GOP machine off balance, and based off of the GOP's inept response to Obama's declination to take public financing yesterday, it looks like we Democrats finally found our man.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
On a related topic, I have to say that I find conservative Ross Douthat's impression of McCain interesting (and persuasive). He has argued that McCain's approach to bipartisanship is to be really conservative on the meat-and-potatoes issues while giving in to liberals wholesale on the less important (to conservatives) boutique issues for liberal elites, like campaign finance and immigration, among others. I think this is correct, and while it's been a good strategy to make John McCain a very popular politician among liberals and moderates it hasn't really produced too much of note substantively, as these issues (like ANWR) are typically small-bore. The biggest threat to special interest influence right now is the Obama campaign, and that has nothing at all to do with McCain-Feingold, which was pretty much eviscerated by SCOTUS last year. McCain just isn't a serious-minded person--he's a moral crusader who loves leading the righteous charge but can't be bothered with the details. It's like he's a combination of the worst traits of the last generation of conservative leaders. Different kind of Republican, indeed.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I just find it baffling that McCain seems to want to run pages from the (failed) Clinton playbook. It's actually quite indicative of his personal philosophy--what he's doing is definitionally correct, and if it's failing it's because it's not being done enough. From everything from campaign strategy to war, it's his signature approach to life. And it scares me.
For what it's worth, I talked to eight or so GOP operatives for my Pawlenty piece and brought up Lieberman's name almost every time. About half thought it was a lunatic idea, the other half thought it was a decent idea but still highly unlikely.Seems about right. McCain picking Lieberman would make the blogosphere go apeshit, no doubt about it, and I do worry that it would lend more of a seal of approval to McCain's "centrism". Lieberman is assuredly not a Democrat anymore, but the public no doubt still identifies him as such, and him being on McCain's ticket would be embarrassing.
On the other hand, the very GOP conservatives that McCain's not exactly wowing would be less than wowed at a pro-choice domestic policy moderate-to-liberal as the #2 choice, especially considering McCain's superannuated status.
So, it's a high-risk proposition. But if Obama's recent Florida lead keeps steady McCain might decide that the risk is worth it. He can't do the Rove strategy in this election--that only works when the GOP base is as big as the Democrats' and this election cycle it isn't. This is the first data point that makes me think that McCain might actually pick Joe Lieberman as VP.
Of course, McCain should keep in mind that it wasn't as though Lieberman's presence on the ticket last time won Florida for Al Gore...
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Well, yeah. McCain is trying to hold the GOP base together while appealing to the middle. Since the GOP base and the middle have little in common it requires great verbal contortions to do both, as well as focusing on annoying esoterica like porkbusting which both groups hate, but which most people don't really give a damn about.
Mr McCain’s shift on offshore drilling – which contrasts with his strong support for upholding the moratorium in his 2000 bid for the Republican nomination – could further chip away at his reputation for being a “straight talker”.
Some even compare his shifting stances with those of John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic candidate, who was skewered by Mr Bush for his contortions over the Iraq war.
Mr McCain’s dilemma is real. Unlike Mr Bush in 2004, Mr McCain cannot win the election simply by turning out the Republican faithful, because the number of Republicans has shrunk dramatically. Since 2004, public support has shifted heavily towards the Democrats.
However, nor can he win without the Republican base, much of which remains sceptical of his conservative credentials. They point to his history of support for campaign finance reform, his continuing opposition to new drilling in the Arctic and the perception that he is only lukewarm in his opposition to abortion.
This seems like a pretty apt reading of the situation. Plus, McCain has an irritating self-righteousness about virtually every aspect of policy that he cares about, which is commented upon in this very excellent diavlog between Andrew Sullivan and Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic.
This is just odd, though:
Mr Gingrich, is spearheading an online petition to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling, which, he says, is the single biggest voter concern.
The single biggest voter concern? Maybe the gas issue generally, but I don't think this particular idea is the single biggest concern yet. It could be thorny for Obama with the enviros, though McCain's made a big deal of his environmentalism as well. I suppose we'll have to see how this all plays out, but my sense is that McCain's high-wire act isn't going to last forever, and that it would probably be better for McCain if he just said what he thought instead of trying to avoid losing any element of GOP support. A balanced budget-centric campaign could work, but he seems inclined to stick with Bushonomics.
Lots of discussion these days about why Barack Obama is underperforming the "generic Democrat" in the polls. It seems to me that this gets it right: lots of people identify as Democrats but vote as Republicans, especially in the South. Even in states like Oklahoma and Mississippi registered Democrats form a majority, but these folks vote Republican up and down the ballot. So, sure, these folks might prefer a Democratic president in the abstract, but that president would probably look a lot more like Zell Miller than, well, an actual Democrat.
I'm also not entirely convinced that John Kerry's having led at this point in the 2004 election cycle is in any way compelling. The fundamentals this year are much better for Democrats than Republicans, and Barack Obama is a hell of a politician, while John McCain is a media darling who has never run a tight race, can't deliver a speech and releases some of the oddest ads around. His campaign is substance-free and largely revolves around telling one group of people one thing about his policies (i.e. selling comprehensive immigration reform to business owners, cap-and-trade to stop global warming to the general public) while speaking out the other side of his mouth to other groups ("secure the borders" to the far right, no caps (!) for polluters). He lucked into the GOP nomination, and Obama is light years ahead in organization, money, and enthusiasm.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Bob Dole of 2008!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
CNN's Lou Dobbs is considering running for governor of New Jersey, according to the Newark Star Ledger.Now, immigration is an issue that strikes fear into the hearts of Democrats, despite the fact that I'm unaware of a single election turning on it. There's a small crowd of crazy right-wingers who feverishly talk about illegal immigration warping American culture and ramping up crime, in what is often little more than racism of a more socially acceptable form. Dobbs is one such. He and his ilk typify what's always been wrong about America instead of what's always been right--the hysteria, the fear of outsiders (all the way back to the Know-Nothings), the combination of racism with populism, and so on. America isn't like that--we've always welcomed hard-working outsiders with big dreams. The know-nothing equivalents today used to just have to sputter in the twilight, but now, thanks to "ultraliberal'' CNN, now one of them has achieved enough notoriety (and enough ignorant followers who actually believe that immigration hurts the economy) to perhaps seize a statehouse. At the very least he'll be a credible candidate who'll be able to spread his poison more expansively.
Thanks, CNN, for this and also for Glenn Beck. You suck.
Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also dissented.Now, I'm not arguing the point (I could, but not now). But what the fuck does this have to do with the constitutional argument of what the government is allowed to do in wartime--y'know, the argument that the Supreme Court is empowered to and supposed to decide? I'm well aware that Antonin Scalia basically believes that the morally reprehensible show 24 provides a basis for whatever the government wants to do. He constantly references the War on Terror in opinions such as these, and he seems to labor under the impression that it is the Court's job to ensure victory in war rather than protecting constitutional rights. What's right is what brings victory, and those things like "rights" and "laws" and "human dignity" are for those faggy ACLU types.
Scalia said the nation is "at war with radical Islamists" and that the court's decision "will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."
Yep, that's how the founders felt, too. Score one for originalism!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
So I don't really find McCain's comparison of Carter to Barack Obama very compelling. Chris Orr rips McCain a new one over this, and it's pretty devastating. What strikes me as particularly odd is that John McCain seems to believe that Jimmy Carter was a typical big government liberal, a la Ted Kennedy. But Carter was an avowed centrist, with deficit reduction and deregulation as the centerpiece of his economic platform. He was hardly a liberal: Ted Kennedy actually tried to unseat Carter, one might recall, on a solidly liberal platform. Carter was actually quite popular with conservatives at the time, especially Southern conservatives, and his approval rating was higher among Republicans than Democrats when he left office. But this has all been retconned by the right, along with the notion that Reagan was a popular president when in office. He wasn't. Reagan left office with a 51% approval rating, and that's presumably with the end-of-term bounce that most presidents get when they leave. But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good myth. Carter was a big government liberal who was slain by the great Bonzo, and there was much rejoicing, the end.
McCain's comparison is just silly, but it's not exactly like there's been a liberal in the White House since the 1960s, so his options for lazy smears are limited. Somehow, I don't think that "Obama wants LBJ's third term" makes any intuitive sense whatsoever, though at least Johnson was a liberal. Saying something like, "Obama is going to turn out like Deval Patrick" would be frankly more devastating, though it helps that nobody really knows who Deval Patrick is. Well, basically, he's the governor of Massachusetts who ran a campaign similar to Obama's and is now massively unpopular.
And I gotta say that accusing Obama of wanting to raise taxes by $1.4 billion is weak tea. Yes, every American would have to pay...four cents! The average person in the workforce would have to pay...twelve cents! You gotta love a guy who decries the couple of bucks we spend a year on earmarks but has no problem with the trillions the Iraq War will cost. There's some fiscal conservatism for ya!
"I think the legacy is that Karl Rove will be a name that'll be used for a long, long time as an example of how not to do it," - long-time GOP strategist Ed Rollins.A president with an approval rating lower than Nixon's. A Democratic congress, with a likely Dem advantage in the lower chamber next year that can conservatively be estimated at 250, and probably about 57 Dem Senators. Even Alaska, North Carolina, and Kentucky are competitive, senate-wise. And the Republicans are only up by nine in South Carolina in the presidential race. That's nine points in one of the most conservative states in the union. Ya think they're in trouble?
This is what Rove has wrought. It saddens me that now John McCain might look to use Rove's old playbook to try to win this year, but oddly fitting. McCain's response to high-profile failures isn't that we should cut our losses and learn our lessons, it's that we're not doing the thing that causing the failure enough. Iraq is obvious, but plenty of other examples abound (taxes, for one).
The problem is that McCain has no money, and I'm convinced that he's changed his tune on taxes because he can't offend the Norquist wing of the GOP (and, more importantly, their coffers) as he's already tanking in fundraising compared to Obama, and he can't afford to lose any more. The Patron Saint of Straight Talk, ladies and gentlemen.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Back to McCain: I don't know why he's wasting the energy, especially when lavishing praise on Hillary Clinton is probably not the best way to get the right enthused about your campaign. I mean, McCain isn't even at 50% in South Carolina according to the most recent poll. Couldn't he be devoting his energies to, you know, convincing conservatives who don't like him to actually vote for him, instead of some pipe dream of winning Clinton support?
Oh, wait--actually, perhaps he ought to keep on doing this, since I want him to lose. I don't necessarily object to McCain trying to snatch Clinton supporters on principle. It would be smart politics if it were possible. I'm just offended by the stupidity of it all. It's Beltway-bound CW that Obama is going to have problems with Clinton supporters, and McCain seems to get his information straight from the Washington Post rather than from, I don't know, internal considerations? An augury, perhaps...
Then, in 2006, Person A lost her seat to Person B in the midterm wave. Person A, admirably, dusted herself off and decided to make a run for governor. The run failed--she didn't even win the nomination away from a corrupt indicted member of her own party. That person eventually lost in a landslide.
So, now, Person A decides she'd like to be back in the House. Only problem is that Person B--the one who beat her, you might recall, is now quite popular in her district, and her likability seems insufficient to overcome the landslide margin he's headed toward. I was under the impression that two straight big losses = the end of a political career. And it appears that her old constituents don't much appreciate being sloppy seconds.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Schweitzer, though, is superior to Huckabee because Schweitzer knows policy and Huckabee does not. I predicted Huckabee would capture the GOP nomination, and he came damn close to doing so, despite having the entire GOP establishment arrayed against him. Had 2% of the population of South Carolina that supported McCain voted for Huck instead, I'm positive he would have won the nomination. Now, he would have been a total disaster, but I had a grudging respect for Huckabee because he had a tendency of saying things that were entirely too reasonable, such as that religious right leaders who supported Rudy Giuliani despite his many infidelities owed an apology to Bill Clinton.
Anyway, that's neither here nor there. The post notes that Schweitzer is an expert on energy policy, has executive experience, and spent time in the Middle East (he even speaks Arabic!). Not only that, but Montana might well be competitive in this election cycle, and Schweitzer might just help Obama seal the deal there. That's six safe GOP electoral votes for McCain to make up elsewhere--three added to the Dem column and three taken away from the GOP column. Plus, he's a populist reformer whose style might well mesh with Obama's. He's got a reputation as being a conservative Democrat, but aside from guns he doesn't seem to have anything too unacceptable. Even in conservative Montana a pro-choice politician can run the state. Weird, I guess. His support for liquid coal-to-oil might give environmentalists pause since Obama's been singing the same tune. That could be a problem, though Schweitzer is generally pretty green.
I suppose the main problem is that Schweitzer is largely unknown, and McCain's campaign would ramp up the experience attack. Maybe that would work (though it didn't work for Hillary Clinton) but putting together two fresh faces for new leadership does reinforce Obama's message, and I get the sense that Schweitzer would become a media darling. He's so funny. So you can sign me up as a proponent of this idea now, since Edwards does appear to sincerely not want the VP slot again.
Of course, Clinton has encountered straight-up misogyny--lots of it. At the same time, anger at obvious instances of sexism has expanded to encompass every setback she's faced, every jab thrown her way--the cut and thrust of any normal campaign. Several of her feminist defenders, for example, interpreted calls for Clinton to drop out, lest she cause a party rift, as expressions of condescending gender bias. "The first woman ever to win a presidential primary is supposed to stop competing, to curtsy and exit stage right," Ellen Malcolm, founder and president of Emily's List, wrote in The Washington Post on May 10. But that wasn't anti-woman or even anti-Clinton; it was just Democratic politics.I yield to no one in my loathing of the Clintons--the nicest thing to call them would be fair-weather liberals. But this article focuses more on what her campaign meant to its supporters, and I admit that I found it touching and persuasive. For the record, I think electing a woman president would be awesome, and I'm sure it will happen within my lifetime. I just never wanted it to be this woman. If Nancy Pelosi had run, I'd have sung a different tune.
Indeed, Clinton has never been just a victim of her gender. When it came to the deeper narratives of the campaign, Clinton benefited, as do many women in politics, from her good fortune of having married a successful political man. Hillary Clinton has spent only four more years than Obama in the Senate, but she was consistently assumed to be a more plausible commander-in-chief than her rival based on her time as First Lady. At the same time, it's been widely assumed that she's been entirely vetted, leaving many parts of her life--her disastrous leadership style on health care reform, her role in trying to silence and discredit Bill's mistresses, her husband's post-White House financial dealings--unexamined. The slimy right-wing rumor mill that tormented the Clintons in the '90s has directed its venom toward Obama...
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
For the record, I'm not big on the unity idea. Clinton is a plausible president but she'll alienate as many voters as she brings, and most of the ones she brings will end up voting for Obama anyhow. She's an obstacle to the whole "break with the past" motif. Noah Millman's article lays the case out compellingly:
The VP pick should, ideally, accomplish several, if not all, of the following objectives: reinforce the campaign narrative; strengthen the image of the nominee; bring in a valuable organization for GOTV or fundraising; win over an otherwise difficult-to-win constituency; retain a trusted counsellor; anoint an heir apparent.
Obama needs a plausible president who can speak to the cares and concerns of ordinary Americans. Somebody people know. Somebody who complements Obama's story nicely, who has a similar message. That person is John Edwards. And I've not exactly been a fan of his historically, but it makes too much sense to me not to pick him. I suppose there's the lack of executive experience--as if McCain can capitalize on that.
A Clinton pick actively undermines the campaign narrative; weakens the image of the nominee; does not provide him with a trusted counsellor; and does not anoint an heir apparent. The only reasons to add her would be: for the Clinton “network” and organization, and to win over an otherwise difficult-to-win constituency. I don’t think Obama needs the network or the organization. That leaves one reason.
Obama had trouble, in differing degrees, with four constituencies who were loyal to Clinton in the primaries: women, older voters, Appalachian whites, and Hispanics. I don’t think Clinton helps materially with Hispanics. She could very well help with Appalachian whites, but I don’t think she’s the only pick who could do so. Ditto with older voters. And I remain unconvinced that Obama has a “problem” with women voters in a general election against McCain.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The speech was shameful, and Clinton seems intent on proving critics like Andrew Sullivan correct. Maybe she lacks self-awareness (you think?) but something this ham-fisted is repellent. I don't think she gets it. She has to show loyalty to him to get a job that's all loyalty. Obama has no reason to trust her, and considering what she's said today, he's got every reason to actively distrust her.
Go to bed, please, senator!
Her aides still don't expect Sen. Clinton to formally concede and endorse Sen. Barack Obama tonight, but if, as seems likely, Obama ends up with more than 2118 delegates by the time she speaks, Sen. Clinton is certain to publicly acknowledge that Obama has crossed the threshold. That means, in essence, that the Democratic primary campaign is over.Umm...so she's doing a non-withdrawal withdrawal? This is a curious way to promote party unity, and I don't think it's going to convince a lot of Clinton critics (e.g. myself) that she's not keeping her options open to try to steal the nomination away at some point in the future.
It seems to me that the only way to promote party unity is for Hillary Clinton to admit that Obama beat her fair and square, that he's a strong candidate who agrees with her on policy, and that she'll work hard to mend fences to help Obama defeat John McCain. I'll be curious to see what she says tonight, but this inability to admit actual defeat is true to form, at least.
Monday, June 2, 2008
The distinguishing characteristic of the Clintons has always been a reverence for the Republican attack machine, and the concomitant low opinion of the American public it requires.But wasn't Obama's ability to survive the right wing's swiftboating of him (Wright, Ayers, etc.) worth anything? Those were as good as a nasty right-wing attack to me (the latter certainly was), and he was able to sustain them with poise.
I tend to think that the right-wing attack machine's power is overrated. Sure, there's the actual Swift Boat scandal, but I don't think that one thing destroyed John Kerry's campaign. I mean, the guy lost by three points, for God's sake. Had Kerry responded to it more effectively (perhaps, had he actually responded to it?) it might well have been neutralized.
I think the Clintons fear and revere the right-wing machine because they saw what it did to Bill's term in office, but I tend to think that that machine is somewhat less powerful than we might think, and that Bill just gave them a lot to work with. I mean, this guy's skeletons in his closet seemed to have skeletons in their own closets, and to say that he was a flawed man is understatement of the most extreme sort.
Barack Obama seems to lack those flaws. He does not seem to have a penchant for secrecy. He does not seem to have an unconquerable libido or a crippling desire for affection that keeps him from taking hard-edged stances on key issues. He doesn't seem to lust for power after its own sake. All in all, I'd say that Barack Obama has less to fear from the right-wing machine simply because he's a better person than Bill Clinton. But, of course, I could be wrong.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Seriously, I don't get it. A lot of these Clinton supporters seem to think that the only reason that Hillary Clinton lost is because she happened to be a woman in a mean-old sexist country. I just don't see it. She did extremely well among the groups (seniors, low-income voters) that one would presume have the most sexism, and though there has been a fair amount of sexism in the coverage of Clinton's campaign, I find it difficult to believe that she lost the election because Chris Matthews made a boneheaded comment in January. Some of Clinton's feminist supporters might think that America needs a lot more work--I tend to think it shows that feminism needs a lot more work if it's going to survive, because just waving your arms and shouting "sexism" hearkens back to the days when the Democrats' response to any argument against affirmative action, welfare, etc., was "racism." It's a cop-out, not an argument.
And I just don't buy the argument that the failure of Clinton's campaign was a referendum on the idea of a woman political leader. I think it was a referendum on Hillary Clinton. It's not the same. Hillary Clinton has quite a bit of baggage and is one of the least sincere people I've ever seen. She's like Richard Nixon without the charm. Had someone like Kathleen Sebelius or Nancy Pelosi run for president I would have probably supported one of them--Sebelius is a talented executive and Pelosi is a humane, principled liberal. I still like the idea of a woman president and I hope one happens in my lifetime. I'm beginning to think that an Obama/Sebelius ticket makes sense from this angle--it lets women know that there will be another shot in 4-8 years by making a woman the heir apparent, and Sebelius is a plausible president.
So, basically, despite what Gloria Steinem might say, I don't think I'm sexist for not supporting (and, indeed, not liking) Hillary Clinton. I just don't much care for the Clintons to begin with--their pliable relationship with the truth and with morality, their willingness to throw their allies off the train if it becomes convenient, the lack of some sort of continuity of political style or issue positions. Clinton supporters who have made her campaign into something bigger will someday, I hope, realize that this decision was best for our party and best for the country.
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.