Saturday, August 30, 2008

Was Palin a bust?

The pick was pretty much about seizing attention for the immediate future, and it did that. But it seems unlikely to scrape off too many Democratic women. Interestingly enough, women are more skeptical of Palin than men, and I suppose it's understandable. Women who want a female president are nervous that, should Palin wind up being a disaster, it makes it that much harder for a woman to win down the road. And this is the key: only 9% of Obama's voters are more likely to vote for McCain with Palin on the ticket.

This pick was a gamble that evidently failed, and now the GOP is saddled with her. And I'm not entirely sure why McCain thought Hillary voters would come over in droves just because Palin is a woman--Hillary's qualifications appealed to women because she was very qualified. Palin isn't. It's not a feminist choice in any sense. It really is tokenism.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Poor Andrew Sullivan

He's spent a greater part of the day hopping mad at McCain's selection of Palin. I take it philosophically: she's clearly unqualified. Clearly. Just over a year of being a governor of a small state with a nonexistent portfolio on the issues is unacceptable. It's a pander pick, to be sure. Now, some on the right might say that Palin has more executive experience than any of the other national candidates, and this is true, but I'm not sure time is the only pertinent metric when it comes to experience. Barack Obama has spent the last four years in the Senate and is clearly well-versed in the issues of the day. He's especially versed in foreign policy and his experience keeps getting vindicated. But evidently simply running a tiny state magically prepares you to be president, while passing a number of significant bills and taking leadership on foreign policy issues on loose nukes and Afghanistan doesn't. Good to know.

I think Andrew's reader gets it right:
Looking at these two events, what do we see? Obama is cautious, conservative and highly deliberative in his approach. McCain is a risk-taker, indeed, even a bit rash.

More on Palin

I generally agree with Ambinder's sentiment here. Palin is going to make a number of women rethink their partisan alliance for this election, and will undoubtedly make a few switch sides. That's just the breaks. Obama knew it when he didn't choose a female VP, and thank God he didn't. Kathleen Sebelius might be the least promising rising star in the Democratic Party (has she ever given a good speech), and putting HRC on the ticket would be fraught with complications so extensive that it's not surprising Obama never considered it seriously. And after that you get to back-benchers and newbies. I think, for example, that Amy Klobuchar is an immensely promising civil servant out of Minnesota and might well be on a national ticket in a few election cycles, but two relatively unknown people on a ticket--that's not a good idea. Not now.

So some Dem and Independent women will take a look at McCain's ticket. And the timing is fortuitous in one respect: women who might be interested in taking a second look will be able to check out the RNC next week! (Of course, if this year's RNC is anything like the one four years ago, I doubt too many women will be enchanted.) But then again, I'm not sure a Friday announcement is the most effective way of doing things--especially a Friday announcement before Labor Day. The media world is abuzz, but this deliberate attempt to take the news cycle away from Obama (which I suspect was a nontrivial part of this selection) will come at a time when most people are away from the TV/newspaper/etc. Coulda been better.

I'm not too worried about massive Dem defections to the GOP ticket. Consider the 2006 Maryland Senate Race. The GOP cleared the field for Black Republican Lt. Governor Michael Steele, while the Dems had a close-fought primary between Rep. Ben Cardin, who is White, and former NAACP head and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who is Black. Cardin won narrowly, and there was talk of a big defection of Black voters to the GOP. Truth be told, Steele did better among the demographic than most Republicans do--he won over 20%. But he lost the race by 10 points. And the Steele campaign definitely traded on identity politics to woo Black voters--of which Maryland has a large population. Still, at the end of the day, the vast majority of Black voters stuck with the party that they felt best defended their interests (right-leaners might argue that they remained mindlessly partisan, but which is worse: mindless partisanship or mindless bowing to identity politics?).

Now, obviously, the presidency is different than a senate race. Is the identity factor going to be more or less important to voters when choosing a leader than when choosing one of 100? I simply don't know. I would hope that Gov. Palin is judged on her merits. She's a woman but she's objectively worse on women's issues from abortion to equal pay and minimum wage than the Obama/Biden ticket. I suppose that we Dems will just have to trust voters to see this pick for what it is. And you know what? In this campaign, the voters haven't let us down yet.

The Gimmick VP

Look, I don't know much about Sarah Palin, though she struck me as a promising rising star in GOP politics. But as Vice President right now? It is, at best, a hamfisted play for disgruntled Hillary voters. She lacks experience, which undercuts McCain's central argument for the presidency. I wonder how much of this was about making sure that Alaska remains out of play this year, which was beginning to look questionable (and still is, for my money). It feels like a dramatic pick that will give McCain a bit of media attention, and it's the first time the GOP hasn't opted for a white dude for national office (though Palin will not be the first female VP candidate, of course). And every media report will talk about her lack of experience.

This feels like an image-conscious pick all the way. McCain wanted to appeal to some older women, and this might be worth a few points in that demo. Coupled with a one-term pledge which would mean Palin would be fronting a national ticket in four years might win him a few more of those ninety-year-old ladies that voted for Hillary because they wanted to see a woman in the White House in their lifetimes. Andrew Sullivan is apoplectic, unfavorably contrasts McCain's pick with Obama's selection of Biden and says that McCain doesn't take national security seriously. I don't disagree with that. Noah Millman over at The American Scene is pleased and sees this as a game-changer. I think it might be, but not in the way he thinks: the backlash potential is enormous here, and the most notable think about Palin is her gender, so if it becomes CW that McCain picked a woman largely for the sake of picking a woman (and an untested one at that) he could be in some serious trouble.

Matt Yglesias agrees with me, which is always nice. The media will probably like it, though.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Are they trying to lose?

From the WTF? file of Republican statements:
"The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American -- even illegal aliens -- as uninsured... So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved."-- John Goodman, a health care adviser to Sen. John McCain, quoted by
the Dallas Morning News.

Yeah, and Barack Obama's the one who's out of touch! He likes arugula, dammit!

The Impending Trainwreck

John Cole tackles the impending nightmare for the GOP:
And the best thing is what is to come- the train wreck that will be the GOP
convention, and that can not be understated. It is going to be a disaster. The
Democratic convention was forward looking, positive, hopeful, and constructive.
For all the talks of disunity, this party is unified and ready for battle.
Contrast that with what we can expect to see next week.

First, we know for a fact that the GOP, unlike the Democrats, will not
be able to control themselves. They will launch attack after attack at Obama,
and try to destroy him. It will fail, and they will get savaged in the media,
who were all present at the DNC. The best thing about the babble all through the
Democratic convention is that they will feel duty bound to do the same during
the RNC, and they will be shocked and taken aback by the viciousness of the GOP.
Bank on it. Either the gild will come off the McCain maverick/respectful lily,
or we will have to realize that McCain wants to be President but can not even
control his own convention. I will take either narrative for 1000, Alex.

Second, the Republicans actually are not unified. Just yesterday their
platform took a step toward the troglodyte right, as a call for a ban of ALL
stem cell research, public and private, was placed in the platform. The base
currently hates their candidate, and are trying to will themselves through this
election with a greater hate for Obama. They have NOTHING positive to say about
McCain; it is all anti-Obama all the time. Not only will this not play well with
the middle of the electorate, but it also provides minute-by-minute
opportunities for them to over-reach and go to far in the attacks.

Third, forget about the PUMA’s. Ron Paul is going to outdraw the RNC.
Hell, half the Republican party is not even attending the RNC.

Fourth, it looks like Hurricane Gustav is going to make a guest
appearance on the first night of the convention, giving us all sorts of
opportunities to remember the Katrina response...Even better, Bush is speaking
the first night.

Finally, McCain is a horrible speaker. Just tragic. There may be camera
angles that can hide the growth on his face (a result of his skin cancer), but
there is no camera angle that I am aware of that covers up grating diction and
shitty delivery.

Not to mention the drama if McCain picks a pro-choice VP candidate. As I see it, he better have an ace up his sleeve, because I don't think that the anti-choice, er, choices get it done. Mitt Romney combines economic experience and executive experience with repugnant ultra-partisanship and not even a veneer to hide his phoniness, and the lowest conceivable "regular Joe" factor imaginable. Tim Pawlenty is known for being governor of Minnesota when the bridge collapsed. Seriously. This is the one thing he's known for. It will be child's play to paint Pawlenty as an extremely right-wing Republican who would let bridges fall rather than fund them, and it would be exactly right. From what I've seen of Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin they're just not ready for that yet. And they both have stories about them that could be used to define them in a negative fashion fairly easily (brother-in-law, exorcism).
More evidence that McLieberman is a bad idea. I think the likelihood of it happening is small, but wow, that'd be the end of the GOP if it did!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

McCain/Lieberman: Pretty please!

Please, please, please, please let McCain pick Holy Joe! It is a trainwreck waiting to happen. Right now, John McCain has managed to be fairly successful in his campaign--he's got the neocons locked down, always has. He's got the moneycons on board, largely because he sold his soul to get the nomination. He's got moderate Republicans because of his attacks on Obama in the past few weeks. The one group which seems uncomfortable with McCain, regardless of how much he panders to them, regardless of everything, is the social conservative contingent. They're not voting for Obama, most likely, but they sense (correctly) that John McCain really doesn't care too much about their issues and doesn't really respect them much. He'll offer them a loveless marriage for 4-8 years, but after getting their guy the last two times and having their true love in this race (Mike Huckabee) gunned down by the National Review/Club for Growth axis, they're probably not so happy. Jim Dobson famously said he wasn't helping McCain this election cycle.

So...if McCain picks a pro-choice, generally-liberal-except-on-Iraq senator not of his party he actually risks the most damage than if he were to pick an economic moderate/populist like Huckabee or a more dovish realist choice like, I don't know, Tom Ridge. Those other factions are seemingly very comfortable with McCain these days. On the other hand, sociocons are already alienated, and a pro-choice veep choice might very well trigger a convention walkout. Suddenly there'd be stories about the great Republican collapse. While liberal bloggers might go ballistic about Lieberman being McCain's running mate (though I imagine the reaction would be more along the lines of "I knew it" at this point) and while it might continue the myth of McCain's centrism and bipartisanship--which has been largely untrue for at least four years--the GOP convention would be the most contentious since 1964. I don't think it's understatement to say that such a decision could split the GOP, with the sociocons bolting the party altogether. This is the sort of stuff that partisan Dems like me pray for.

So, do I think McCain would do it? No, he won't. These stories have been too prevalent for them to be complete fabrication by McCain's camp, but McCain has sold his soul for this presidential bid, and he's not stupid enough to let this derail his entitlement. It doesn't seem to bother him that he's turned into a hack. John McCain's greatest personality flaw is becoming more manifest as this campaign goes on: he can rationalize literally anything. This is what comes from being adored for so long that you begin to believe that your shit doesn't stink, and that makes him a very, very dangerous man. He's got to be smart enough to realize VP Joe isn't going to work, and even on his own merits Lieberman's a bad choice: I don't recall him being able to speak about the economy, I do recall him being a terrible debater. It's gimmicky, and if McCain's legendary stubbornness leads him to this choice he will deserve everything that happens to him (as though he doesn't already!).

Then again, some of this stuff makes you wonder...Karl Rove knows how to keep the GOP base together, if nothing else.

The Convention through night 3

I will confess that I was a little downbeat about this convention earlier today, but tonight was pretty awesome. Bill Clinton did an outstanding job, and I was particularly impressed with Joe Biden. He managed to do the thing that most politicians try to do unsuccessfully: portray himself as being fundamentally an ordinary guy. The personal stuff was moving, and I think his evocation of middle-class economic woes was pretty heartfelt and authentic. Plus he was pretty effective at wielding the knife against McCain, though not as effective as...John Kerry.

Who would have thought the guy had it in him? I would guess that this gets a little bit of play in the media. Kerry, after all, is the boring craggy old guy. Except not so much. What is it about Democratic presidential nominees that makes them stiffer than wood when they run and then liberated afterward? I think Obama's camp would be well advised to make Kerry an even more prominent surrogate and to adopt his framework for viewing McCain, with special emphasis on the flip flops. The line evoking the old for-it-before-he-was-against-it canard will probably be the most remembered of the speech, and that's absolutely right. I had just read this great article about Kerry's rebirth as an Obama surrogate...boy was it right. And I agree with John speech of the night.

All in all, a great night, though I must confess I agree with Ross Douthat's sentiment here. I guess Obama wanted to pick speakers of "substance" but this convention has been short on fiery oratory.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another McCain VP post: Tom Ridge

I keep hearing that picking Joe Biden has invariably weakened Tom Ridge's VP prospects. I think the opposite is true. In fact, I think that Ridge has got to be a VP frontrunner at this point.

Here's why: everything I've read suggests that McCain is looking for a governor. Someone with executive experience. The GOP has a few bright young governors to choose from: Jindal, Palin, Pawlenty, Romney. Of these four, Romney has the biggest booster club within the GOP and he's the one who, supposedly, is best-equipped to speak about economic issues. So I believe the rumors that he was McCain's VP choice.

But I don't suppose he is anymore. In fact, I think that Biden might very well have buggered McCain's whole process. That's why the Biden pick was smart: Biden's good at foreign affairs plus he's good at speaking to economic concerns. He's tough. Is Bobby Jindal? I can see any of those young guvs being eviscerated by Biden in a debate. Maybe not Romney, but he's going to be at a deficit w.r.t. foreign policy experience. And this is another reason why Joe Lieberman would be a bad call for McCain's VP--he's one of the worst debaters out there. Just watch his debate with Cheney in 2000 if there is any doubt.

So, now the VP choice has got to stack up to Biden on foreign affairs/national security and have executive experience. At this point, though, I suspect the former is most critical. Plus, being able to talk about economics is helpful at this juncture. So, it's a different profile that McCain needs his VP to meet now, and that profile is simply not Mitt Romney's. It is Tom Ridge's. What other options does he have? I suppose he could try to get Condi Rice as his VP, but she's socially liberal too--perhaps more so than Ridge. This could cause problems, base-wise. This also might be why Petraeus was mentioned as a VP candidate, though I suspect not seriously. I wonder if Bob Gates isn't in contention--that would actually be a pretty savvy move by McCain's campaign, as Gates is pretty popular in the media. And Gates is an okay debater, too. I've been reasonably impressed by him, and I'd actually feel a whole lot better about a McCain administration if Bob Gates were given a central role. Of course, of course, of course, McCain doesn't seem too into foreign policy realists these days. So maybe not.

Of course, there is someone else who fits this profile...

McCain/Lieberman revisited

I wonder just how likely it is that Joe Lieberman actually gets the GOP VP nod. This Patrick Ruffini post (via Ezra Klein) offers some tepid support for the idea, though most of the right-leaning commenters tend not to see the wisdom in this course of action.

I think they're right. Sure, McCain will be able to look more "mavericky" but he's going to be saddled with a VP who he generally disagrees with on most policy issues, from abortion on down to labor rights. It's a bad call because Iraq is receding as an issue as both parties move toward timelines, and Lieberman's major defection was about Iraq. I get the sense that, post-Bush, most people aren't looking for an administration that cavalierly gets America into foreign policy adventures. On the other hand, Obama might seem a bit untested on the foreign policy front. Selecting Biden as VP might help will surely help in obviating some of the media's questioning of that experience. But is Lieberman really going to be able to argue that McCain's approach to the economy is superior? How about health care?

Ruffini gets some of the benefits right, but he misses the real downsides: McCain's campaign would become all Iraq, all the time, at a time when the economy is becoming a more pressing concern. There would be base problems. And there's another critical flaw in his reasoning: he says that Lieberman switching parties and becoming a full-on Republican would flip Senate control. He also says that Lieberman's not being a Republican makes him preferable to, say, Tom Ridge because Lieberman wouldn't seek the presidency on his own and it wouldn't be a signal to pro-lifers that the GOP is abandoning the pro-life plank. But here's the question: how on Earth can Lieberman both be and not be a Republican if he were McCain's VP candidate? Maybe if Lieberman remains an independent there'd be less base trouble, but if he formally becomes a member of the GOP why should the base feel less threatened than if Tom Ridge were the nominee? Yes, Lieberman will be 70 in four years and 74 in eight, but McCain's 72 and that attracts nary a mention in the press. If I were an ardent pro-lifer I would be worried.

Picking Joe Lieberman as veep would be a disastrous choice for John McCain. It would be akin to George W. Bush having picked Al Gonzales as his VP. Lieberman is more qualified than Al G, but it would be a self-indulgent pick that probably wouldn't help him win, and would probably cause the GOP to split up in the near future if he doesn't. Not that I don't like any of those things, but let's not forget that a McCain defeat would undoubtedly have several effects, some good, some bad, but the theocon wing would almost certainly be strengthened. James Dobson could claim he was right about McCain. And if he had base issues after picking Lieberman he'd have even more evidence to marshal. I want McCain to lose, but I don't want Dobson's microphone getting any bigger.

So, Senator McCain, for the love of God don't pick Joe Lieberman!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Return of Rudy

First he's keynoting the GOP Convention, and now this...I'm not sure why McCain's campaign is interested in keeping this guy around, as I was under the impression that he had been exposed as a buffoon during his campaign--between the constant 9/11 invocations; the constant stories about screwing around; and his cartoonish hyperventilating over terrorism I would have figured that Republicans would have wanted to keep him at arms length.

I just had a funny thought about those rumors of McCain picking a pro-choice veep...I bet you can guess what it is.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Biden? Yeah, That Works.

Works for me too. What's more important than Biden's foreign policy expertise is that he has media credibility as a foreign policy expert. Except, unlike McCain, Biden really is an expert on this stuff. I like the outsider/insider combination, I like the authenticity, and I've long thought this made the most sense out of all the running mate possibilities, despite the rampant speculation on people like Tim Kaine. So I'm liking this idea. I guess we'll find out in a few days.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Does McCain think he can get away with picking Tom Ridge as VP?

I'm actually pretty surprised by this whole episode...clearly he does, and I don't think it's entirely because he used to be Governor of Pennsylvania or Homeland Security Chief. I think he thinks that his position, thanks to the Britney ads and whatnot, is much stronger than it used to be. I'm beginning to think that he thinks he can get away with picking Ridge. I'm pretty sure he's wrong. Not just about Ridge, mind you, but also about his position: as of this printing, Obama's advantage in the RCP Poll Average is a modest but real 4.0 points.

I tend to agree with Andrew Sullivan here, though one should be fair and note that McCain obviously meant that Bloomberg was pro-gay rights in addition to being pro-choice, and that that was one step too far for the base. I think this is right:
"...[T]his may all be a tortuous way of asking if he can select Tom Ridge for his veep."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The cleverest thing I've read all day

Via Sean at 538:
One key difference between base Democratic objection to Obama choosing someone like Bayh versus base Republican objection to McCain choosing someone like Ridge is that Dems do not mistrust Obama on ending the Iraq War and would not suddenly do so if Obama picks an Iraq War-supporter, whereas the Republican mistrust of McCain is about his commitment to social conservative issues that would be badly shaken by picking a pro-choice running mate.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Between the love child buzz and his closing of his major poverty center, I'm beginning to feel vindicated about my longstanding (but occasionally waning) suspicion of John Edwards. I'm not a big believer in first impressions but my impression of Edwards during this campaign was that he was a phony lightweight who adopted progressive credentials only because he wanted to win. It was "I feel your pain," part two.

This just adds to the irony of the constant comparisons of Edwards to Bill Clinton, if it's true. Then again, there is a difference: at least Bill Clinton's going to be speaking to the convention this year...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

He never learns

Is Newt Gingrich joking about shutting down the government to get a vote on energy drilling? If so, it is both funny and well-executed. I guess because it worked so well the first time...
"Are [Democrats] really prepared to close the government in order to stop
drilling? Because I think the country will find that to be a suicidal strategy."

I'll believe him, because Newt knows a suicidal strategy to shut down the government when he sees one.

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.