Thursday, July 31, 2008

McNasty, Obama, and Race

The recent descent into the gutter by the McCain camp has led to wide speculation about what they're trying to say. The guy who's out in front of it with the best and most cutting analysis is Josh Marshall, who is determined not to let McNasty have it both ways--playing the race card and keeping his hands clean.
Effective messages hit multiple themes, different messages in different people's minds and even read differently on the first or the third reading. So is the Britney ad about emasculating Obama, as Robert George says? Yes. Is it also about simply pairing Obama up with Britney and Paris? Absolutely. It's both. And a lot more. In many cases, this game is simply a matter of taking charged images out into the public consciousness. They don't necessarily 'mean' one thing or another. You just push them out and they take on a life of their own.

In this case, if the point is to say that Obama's a celebrity, how exactly do you get from there to Britney Spears? Paris Hilton? Mull on that for a second. Are those the most logical analogues to Obama? Play it any way you want but somehow at the end of the day we end up with a campaign message based on promoting Obama as a song and dance man and paired with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. How'd we get here? It's the GOP race and sex equivalent of all roads lead to Rome.

Newsday is more succinct:

So, they didn't pick other big celebrities, who were either men, or black, or married.

What they picked was two sexually available white women.

But it must have been a coincidence, because we know John McCain wants to run an elevated campaign focusing on the serious issues that America faces.

The race was always going to be about race, at least in part. I am actually pleased that McCain is going so negative so early. Cards on the table. Now we'll see where we are as a country.

Polls Not as Bad as They Look

Feeling a little anxious that Obama's in apparent freefall in the polls lately? I have been. Fortunately, Five Thirty Eight has our back:

But focusing on only the last month risks failing to see the forest for the trees. Fundamentally, the news is that Obama is ahead in all three states -- two of which are states that Democrats have made a habit of losing. Moreover, if you compare his performance not just to the most recent number, but to all other instances of the Quinnipiac polls -- this is how our model looks at things -- the results are pretty decent for him:
Month      FL       OH       PA
Feb M+2 M+2 O+1
March M+9 O+1 O+4
April M+1 M+1 O+9
May M+4 M+4 O+6
June O+4 O+6 O+12
July O+2 O+2 O+7
See, if you skip June and look at the trendlines going backward, Obama's actually continuing to make ground. Breathe, breathe...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Daily Gaffe: the Politics of No-Visitgate

This isn't one of McCain's traditional gaffes of knowledge, but one of strategy. It is wrapped in some pretty stinky paper, to boot. The issue is McCain's insistence that the reason Obama didn't visit wounded vets in Germany was because "he wanted to bring media people and cameras and his campaign staffers" and wasn't allowed to. The attack was accompanied by a nasty little commercial McCain has been running for a few days. Although instantly discredited, McCain continued swift-boating.
The attacks are part of a newly aggressive McCain operation whose aim is to portray the Democratic presidential candidate as a craven politician more interested in his image than in ailing soldiers, a senior McCain adviser said. They come despite repeated pledges by the Republican that he will never question his rival's patriotism.
The gaffe, however, is this: McCain is not George W. Bush, and pushing a story he knows is false has begun to backfire. The WaPo has a front page story debunking the McCain spin today (the link above). The NYT has a similar critique. Josh Marshall captures it nicely:
As I alluded to at the top of this post, it is the norm that obvious campaign tactics that are treated as obvious after a campaign is over are nonetheless treated by most reporters as ambiguous or unclear during a campaign. But in this case it would be nice if that were not the case. Because here we have a candidate, John McCain, who is running on a record of straight talk and honorable campaigning running a campaign made up mainly of charges reporters are now more or less acknowledging are lies.
Josh is a little skeptical that the MSM will criticize McCain for the internal contradiction (honorable straight-talker vs. swift-boating liar), but I'd say that horse is already half-way out of the barn. McCain has never known how to modulate his attacks, and at this level, and for this duration, he can't get away with being McNasty and a kindly old war vet simultaneously.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Corruption: Systems versus People

There are currently three stories of major corruption in Washington: the EPA corruption scandal (in which the White House changed reports, bullied administrators, and now issued a gag order); the DOJ corruption scandal (in which Monica Goodling, senior liaison to the White House, asked DOJ job applicants, "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" and "Why are you a Republican?" When one applicant expressed admiration of the Secretary of State, Goodling frowned: "But she's pro-choice." Goodling even committed crimes, as when she sacked Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie A. Hagen because of a rumor Hagen was gay), and now the Ted Stevens corruption scandal (the breaking news in which the aging Alaska senator was indicted on seven charges of corruption for taking kickbacks).

I wrote about this at BlueOregon this morning, but it bears repeating: this stuff is not usual. It is corruption of the kind functioning western democracies should never see, much less see in a single issue of a newspaper. The collective yawn directed at the first two does not bode well. Based on the early internet reaction, the Stevens news is getting more play, but that's probably because a bigger horse's ass has rarely served in the Senate; whenever a jerk goes down, there are always lots of rubberneckers.

But Stevens' corruption is usual, ironically. Throughout American history, there have always been pols on the take. More disturbing is the corruption of agencies of the government--this is far more damaging to the republic and not so easily remedied. Once the institutions of government have become corrupt, it's difficult to uncorrupt them. Power is like electricity--it flows along the course of least resistence. Once it become usual (and politically acceptable) to alter reports, apply loyalty tests, and lie to the public, it is hard to back off. Will Democrats use their power more wisely now that the Republicans have begun to remove resistence in the agencies of government?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama's Judgment

This does a lot to confirm it. He was overheard in England chatting with Tory leader David Cameron by ABC news. Jake Tapper posts the transcript:
"You should be on the beach," Cameron told Obama. "You need a break. Well, you need to be able to keep your head together."

"You've got to refresh yourself," agreed Obama.

"Do you have a break at all?" asked Cameron.

"I have not," said Obama. "I am going to take a week in August. But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House who -- not Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process -- said that, should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you're doing is thinking. And the biggest mistake that a lot of these folks make is just feeling as if you have to be -- "

"These guys just chalk your diary up," said Cameron, referring to a packed schedule.

"Right," Obama said. "In 15 minute increments …"

"We call it the dentist's waiting room," Cameron said. "You have to scrap that because you've got to have time."

"And, well, and you start making mistakes," Obama said, "or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel-- "

"Your feeling," interrupted Cameron. "And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions."

"That's exactly right," Obama said. "And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."
More revealing, perhaps, than his speech in Germany.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Daily Gaffe: Anbar Awakening

Is it possible that this neglected blog will become nothing more than an erratic collection of posts on the gaffes of John McCain? I wouldn't rule it out, especially not before the Oregon Brewers Fest ends. Anyway, the current run bodes badly doesn't it? Nevertheless...

Katie Couric is doing interviews with both presidential candidates. In the McCain installment, she asked this question:
Senator McCain, Sen. Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?
McCain's response is typically touchy (he chafes when questioned on subjects over which he claims mastery), but includes another basic factual error.
I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane (phonetic) was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn't make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.
But McCain (in another irony) is the one with the bad history:
The surge wasn't even announced until a few months after the Anbar Awakening. Via Spencer Ackerman, here is Colonel MacFarland explaining the Anbar Awakening to Pam Hess of UPI, on September 29 2006. That would be almost four months before the President even announced the surge. Petraeus wasn't even in Iraq yet.
Ilan Goldenberg, tracking down the quotes at Democracy Arsenal, adds another. This is from a story in Foreign Affairs by a scholar of the Iraq war, Colin H. Kahl:
The Awakening began in Anbar Province more than a year before the surge and took off in the summer and fall of 2006 in Ramadi and elsewhere, long before extra U.S. forces started flowing into Iraq in February and March of 2007. Throughout the war, enemy-of-my-enemy logic has driven Sunni decision-making. The Sunnis have seen three "occupiers" as threats: the United States, the Shiites (and their presumed Iranian patrons), and the foreigners and extremists in AQI. Crucial to the Awakening was the reordering of these threats.
It should be noted that I was unclear about the timing of the Anbar Awakening and might well have made this gaffe myself. But then again, I'm neither running for President nor a self-professed expert on military strategies. If this is McCain in his area of expertise, how will he do in a debate where he'll be expected to discuss policy in subjects in which he can't express even passing interest?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Daily Gaffe - Iraq/Pakistan Border

McCain, chiding Obama for his misjudgment, issues a gaffe that would have been a 48-hour story had Obama made it:

McCain: We have a lot of work to do, and I'm afraid it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border. And I would not announce that I'm going to attack Pakistan, as Senator Obama when he was did ... during his campaign.
As you know, Iraq's eastern border is Iran. Iran's eastern border is Iraq. The particular amusement in this quote for me is McCain's lecturing, faux-polite dig there at the end. It's a tasty scoop of irony for an old man who gets confused about where the fronts of our wars are.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Daily Gaffe

New Feature!

It seems that almost every day, John McCain makes what should be a campaign-ending gaffe, be it calling Social Security a "disgrace," failing to adequately explain his position on the economy after his national chair and chief economic advisor Phil Gramm describes America as "a nation of whiners" or this, from today's news:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday that his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, is likely to be in Iraq over the weekend. (Rueters)
As Josh Marshall points out, this is a big no-no. Quoting a "knowledgeable insider," he writes:
If it is true that Obama is going to Iraq this weekend, it is a very serious mistake for McCain to have disclosed it publically. Even for run-of-the-mill CODELs the military gives guidance like, "Please strongly discourage Congressional offices from issuing press releases prior to their trips which mention their intent to travel to the AOR and/or the dates of that travel or their scheduled meetings. Such releases are a serious compromise to OPSEC." If Obama is going to Iraq this weekend, I can not begin to imagine how much this is complicating the security planning for the trip.
This is the guy who has such broad foreign policy experience, remember.

No doubt my 12 daily readers will form the nucleus of support that will one day force the media to cover McCain responsibly, all due to this new feature. No doubt.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama Joke

You've probably seen this, but for posterity:
A Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Barack Obama says, "This joke isn't going to work because there's no Muslim in this boat."
I have seen it four times, and it still cracks me up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The New Yorker Cover

Over at BlueOregon, I posted some thoughts about the New Yorker cover that's attracting so much attention. I made the mistake of writing a ruminative rather than pointed piece (the thesis of which eluded many commenters), and if I had to do it over again, this is the post I'd write.

The cover of the New Yorker, for those unfamiliar with the form, employed satire. To miss this rather obvious fact is to miss the entire point of the cover.
Satire (n) - Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.
Since it is the use of sarcasm to expose folly and stupidity, what folly and stupidity is being exposed? Here's one interpretation, from the comments:

So implying that the next President of the United States is a flag burning, afro wearing, muslim, fist bumping radical is satire and those of us who find no humor are too dumb to get it...please.

Racism continue because good people don't see the harm.

This commenter exactly inverts the target. The target is not Obama nor blacks nor Muslims; it is those who characterize Obama as a "flag burning, afro wearing, muslim, fist bumping radical." It is a critique of racism and political smearing and stupidity, not an affirmation of those things.

I think there was something more to the cover. In addition to satirizing the very nasty form of smear politics and covert racism, it also pokes fun at the entire enterprise of outrage that currently fuels our political discourse. Everything is the cause for outrage in this election. Sometimes satire is critical to cut through the BS. Outrage can be a powerful motivator--all revolutions are founded on it. But outrage as political maneuvering is base and offensive. And a perfect target for satire.

Finally, the purpose of satire is to tweak. Let's go back to the definition: it employs sarcasm or caustic wit. It's not a rhetorical device designed to persuade, it's a mocking form. Mark Twain is the most famous of our literary satirists, and he was brutal. It's designed to shock and offend and, ultimately cause a sudden flash of insight.

I'm not surprised so many people found the cover unfunny. Half of them didn't realize it was satire, and the other half commiserated with the targets of the satire. Those being satirized never find it amusing, almost axiomatically. It's not the purpose of the satirist to edify but to outrage. In this way the cartoon was a massive success. That the cover itself perpetuated yet another round of outrage is a perfect irony and perfect vindication to the cartoonist Barry Blitt and the New Yorker. I'm sure they're toasting its success with a twinkle in their elitist, blue-state eyes.

Outraged? Good; that was the point.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Who's Getting the Vetting?

The formal vetting process is underway. That's when veep candidates submit to the deep probes of the presidential nominee in what is probably, in YouTubey 2008, a pretty fine-grained investigation. Hillary? Not so much.
On Fox, former Clinton chief strategist Howard Wolfson indicated that Hillary Clinton is not being formally considered as Obama's running mate, in that she has not been asked to undergo the formal vetting process.
(Though Wolfson adds, hopefully, that since she's been in the public eye so much, maybe Hillary doesn't need a formal vetting. Yeah, and you're gonna lock up the nomination on Feb 5.)

Chris Dodd? Kathleen Sebelius? Much.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Intensity Gap: 51% of GOP Dissatisfied with McCain

As a follow-up to the post below, Pew has a new poll out on intensity, which bolsters the case.
The outlook for the presidential election at mid-year is substantially different than at comparable points in time in recent campaigns. First, turnout is likely to be higher this fall -- perhaps much higher than in previous elections -- as voter interest continues at record levels. Second, as has been the case since the start of the campaign, Democrats enjoy a substantial engagement advantage over Republicans that may significantly alter the composition of the November electorate.
And what an advantage. Pew asked a series of questions to judge intensity, and Dems have a huge lead. In particular, one statistic absolutely leaps off the page. Less than half the Republicans are satisfied with their candidate (49%), as opposed to 77% of Dems. Have a look:

Given quite a lot of thought to the election:


More interested than four years ago:


Following election news closely:


Satisfied with candidate:


Really matters who wins:


Fascinating stuff....

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Christian Vote

Barack Obama is making a serious effort to woo religious voters, and not just those fringey lefty evangelicals Jim Wallis represents. He's going for Bush's evangelicals.
"In my own life, " he said, "it's been a journey that began decades ago on the South Side of Chicago, when, working as a community organizer, helping to build struggling neighborhoods, I let Jesus Christ into my life. I learned that my sins could be redeemed and that if I placed my trust in Christ, that he could set me on the path to eternal life when I submitted myself to his will and I dedicated myself to discovering his truth and carrying out his works."
As I listen to the pundits talk about this, they point out that Obama doesn't have to win the Christian vote, he just has to make inroads. True enough, but that's not really the whole picture. Leaving aside the issue of the electoral college, have a look at how Bush did in 2000 and 2004 among Christians. He barely lost the popular vote to Gore and beat Kerry by three percent. Overall, Bush did well both years among major religious blocs:
___________ 56%________59%
White evangelical
An initial visual inspection seems to suggest that religious voters didn't really make up the difference, never mind that that following the election pundits fingered the 22% of voters who called "moral values" their most important issue (voting 4-1 for Bush). But wait. There's some texture that makes these numbers pop. Let's start with two other numbers: 50,456,169 and 62,040,606. Those are the totals voting for Bush in '00 and '04. Kerry improved on Gore's totals too, but by 3.5 million fewer than Bush.

Bush rallied the troops, and there was something to that statistic about "values." The troops he rallied were in the churches, and they were motivated to make one last push to see if the GOP could establish the permanent ruling majority they needed to roll back abortion rights and put a stop to gay marriage. Abortion foes had been banging the drum on "partial birth abortions" in 2003 and when you look back through polling of that period, you see that it was a major issue--and two-thirds of Americans thought it should be illegal. At the time, somewhere between a quarter and a third of Americans thought abortion should be illegal. Combine that with the gay marriage--Massachusetts had legalized it in May--and you had a very intense group of activists trying to get Bush elected. And these weren't just protestant evangelicals--Catholics were also brought into this effort. Despite the fact that Kerry was a practicing Catholic, he lost voters to the Methodist Bush.

So, instead of focusing on the percentages, let's have a look at actual bodies. It is there where you see the real change.
_________23.7 mil_____33.5 mil
Catholic ___________6.2 mil______8.7 mil
White evangelical___5.7 mil_____11.1 mil
Bush did marginally worse in terms of percentages of white evangelicals in 2004, but fully 23% of the electorate were in that bloc--up from 14% in 2000.* So, among these groups, Bush picked up 17.7 million more votes in '04 than he did in '00.

So while cutting into Bush's percentages will obviously help Obama, merely reducing their desire to beat him, as they did Kerry, may more than win him the White House. How motivated are Americans now on religious issues? Way less. In 2004, a CBS/NYT poll asked respondents if they would consider voting for a candidate who didn't agree with them. 38% said no. Last month, Time asked respondents the same question, and only 23% said no. With gay marriage, 33% said they wouldn't vote for a candidate who didn't share their view in '04, but only 22% say that now.

And, even more to the point, evangelicals are less motivated by McCain, who has never been a friend to evangelicals. He has no serious outreach in the churches and absolutely no ground game to use church-goers as activists, as Bush famously (and probably illegally) did in 2004.

This is potentially a huge demographic shift, and one folks haven't been paying close enough attention to.
*Exit pollsters used slightly different terminology, perhaps confusing the issue slightly. In 2000, they used the term "white religious right," while in '04 they used "white evangelical."

Wealth and Quintiles

Over at BlueOregon, I posted the second of my "myth-busters" series recently, this one on wealth. Wealth_changeI won't reprint it here, but I will offer the key graph that illustrates the point: the poorest 40% of Americans lost nearly 60% of their actual wealth between 1983 and 2004. The graph is particularly potent because you see them hanging way below the zero line.

As with the first myth-buster, this one drew insightful, entertaining comments, including this one by David Wright:
From the report you cited, it looks to me like the top 10% of Americans went from holding 68.2% of total wealth in 1983 to holding 71.3% of total wealth in 2004. An increase, to be sure -- their piece of the pie got about 4.5% bigger over those 20 years (put another way, they got 3.1% more of the total pie)....

Rich people have a whole lot of the pie. Poor people have not much of the pie at all. And while the slices have shifted a bit over the past 20 years, that fundamental situation does not seem to have changed very dramatically, in real terms, despite the alarming numbers you quote.
Numbers are flexible, and it's not always obvious what they mean or how to interpret them. But where David's analysis is technically true, it conceals rather than reveals the impact at both extremes. Examining the dollar effect (this was a post about wealth) by analogy is helpful.

Let's say there are $100 and 100 people in 1983. Ten of those people have $68 and one has $34. Sixty people share $6. (These are figures taken from the report I cited.) That $100 appreciates 75%. In 2004, ten of those people have $125 and the richest of them has $60. The poorest sixty share $7, and of those, the poorest 40 share just 35 cents--less than the 90 cents they shared in 1983.

Put another way: if US policies has changed so that instead of the already-rich garnering 3% more of the pie they had lost 3% that instead went to the poorest 60%, that group would share $14. Could the richest 10% have squeaked by with 65% of all US wealth? What if they had to squeak by with, say 60%? Would that catastrophically damage the economy?

(Incidentally, David does a similar calculation and factors in population growth. But remember, these are mean figures, so it doesn't matter how much the population changes. The analogy relies on the 100 to stand in as the average or mean of the sub-population.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Litigating Weakness -- End of an Era?

So I've been listening to my various Sunday news show podcasts, and there's an interesting phenomenon: no one ever talks about McCain. Every issue is looked at through the lens of Obama. Iraq: is Obama going to withdraw soon enough to please the lefties? Christians: can Obama appeal to them? Swing voters: is Obama too [pick one: weird, Muslim, liberal]? Apparently, this is the frame the MSM has adopted: Americans don't particularly like John McCain, but he's a known quantity. There's nothing he can do to win or lose the election. The whole questions comes down to whether Obama is, to use objective and talented* Rich Lowry's phrase, "minimally acceptable." That the MSM buys into this says something about the MSM, but that's another post for another time.

What's more interesting is that it reveals the last hail-mary in a strategy that the GOP have deployed since 1980. It is the strategy of litigating the Democrat's weakness. In 2004, the GOP put several memes into play that ultimately dominated conversation about the entire election: was Kerry a flip-flopper, was he unpatriotic (the swift-boating), and was he too elite and too liberal for America? We did not litigate the presidency of the incumbent. We didn't even investigate the record of George W. Bush, despite the fact that it was riddled with more failure, inexperience, drug use, and cowardice than any president in my lifetime. Those were verboten, apparently. Rather, Gore was on trial for being dressed by a woman, for his sighs and elitism, and because he was wooden. We elected a man** because the other guy was tried and convicted of being wooden. Helluva nice electorate, that.

Now comes Obama, who is perpetually on trial. Let us sift through the various crimes:
  • Association with a demagogic pastor
  • Being a Muslim
  • Elitism***
  • Dangerous inexperience
  • Lack of sufficient, GOP-sanctioned patriotism***
  • Excessive liberalism***
Did I miss any? Up next: flip-flopping!***

Strangely enough, it works. The media devote single-focused attention on these bogus issues, and in election after election, the Dem is found guilty of these crimes. The pattern is repeating itself now, as Obama must nearly daily defend himself against one unhinged assertion or another. (Today's charge and rebuttal summed up in the AP headline: "Obama denies shifting to reach political center." You expect exclamation points and the issuance of a scarlet letter--"F" for flip-flop, one imagines.)

But maybe it won't work this year. The strategy is effective up until the point when a party's brand is so badly damaged that it must constantly be judged. After the Andy Jackson revolution in 1828, the opposition party was judged so harshly that it folded. Following the humilation of the civil war, the Democratic party was judged time and again as crooks like Grant were re-elected. Following the Roosevelt landslide of 1936, the scarlet letter of greed was affixed to the breast of Republicans, who weren't able to remove it until 1968. This last generation, the old puritan judgment of the citizens held Democrats in contempt. And so we must appear before our interlocutors, the Gibsons and Stephanopouluses, and answer for our shameful affiliations and past crimes.

But the Bush administration has tempered the judgment. Republicans are running the same old crap up the election flagpole, yet they have spent eight years running their own corruption and incompetence up the governance flagpole. It takes a long time of the ship of American public opinion to turn itself around, but once the process starts, it's not clear that baseless attacks hold the same sway they once did. Rich Lowry thinks the Dem has to be just "minimally acceptable" to be elected. He may regret, however, that the rules of acceptance have changed, and that his team no longer dictates them.

**okay, elected isn't the best word.
***how original!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

GOP Fatigue

Sometimes all you need to do is show a graph. Pew, in a poll taken June 27-30, found that just 28% of Republicans were following the news of the campaign "closely." Fifty-two percent of Dems were following it closely. Americans are tired of Republicans and Republicans are apparently tired of the campaign.

Oh yeah, McCain's really gonna make this one close.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What's the Matter With Obama?

Campaign finance, AIPAC, expansion of faith-based programs, the death penalty for molesters, and critically, FISA. What the hell has gotten into Obama? As an early and vocal supporter of "The Hope," I have encountered over the past week approaches from folks that were so gentle they bordered on the medical: inquiries of a kind only cancer-victims expect. For the record, I am not cool with all this. And no, I have no explanation, either.

Upon careful reflection, though, I think we can narrow the explanations to these three. Two of which are bad. Ah well, we never had odds like those with Bush.
1. He actually believes these are the right positions. Not good.

2. He doesn't believe them, but he's a black man trying to get elected in America--cut a brother a break. Not as bad, but it does tend to undermine his "change" promise.

3. He recognizes that generation-changing, massive-scale change can only be done by someone who is not seen as a revolutionary and who has the help of his foes. He is therefore offering a small token of his bipartisanship so that when he tries to push something like single-payer healthcare or radically greening agendas through, he'll have allies abounding. Call this the benevolent Machiavelli. It's a longshot, but I'm an optimist.
Oh come on, it's not that inconceivable. If I were Obama, I'd be deploying strategy number three.