Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Final Palin/Couric Interview

I'll give CBS credit for milking their exclusive interview with Sarah Palin. What's it been, a week where they've been slowly doling out interviews while the campaign has otherwise kept her behind an iron curtain? In the final installment, Palin comes clean on three issues she actually holds and believes (as opposed to those she lip-synchs)--three which might cause her trouble.

1. Abortion. Key exchange:
Couric: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, do you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion, and why?

Palin: I am pro-life. And I'm unapologetic in my position that I am pro-life. And I understand there are good people on both sides of the abortion debate.
There's more investigation to be done here--it's not clear where Palin stands on the law ("should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not"). Still, this is definitely not in the mainstream. Polls show this view is shared by only 10%-15% of Americans, one of the most consistent findings across the years. By contrast, about 55% think it should be legal always or in most cases.

2. Creationism. Key exchange:
Couric: Do you believe evolution should be taught as an accepted scientific principle or as one of several theories?

Palin: Oh, I think it should be taught as an accepted principle.
This is actually not an unpopular position, but I suspect it will tend to further erode confidence by swing voters who already think she's dangerously nutty while endearing her all the more to the base.

3. Homosexuality as a choice. This is one of those "one of my best friends is black" comments that says a lot more about Palin than it does about gays and lesbians:
But what you're talking about, I think, value here, what my position is on homosexuality and you can pray it away, because I think that was the title that was listed on that bulletin. And you know, I don't know what prayers are worthy of being prayed. I don't know what's prayers are going to be asked and answered. But as for homosexuality, I am not going to judge Americans and the decisions that they make in their adult personal relationships. I have one of my absolute best friends for the last 30 years happens to be gay, and I love her dearly. And she is not my "gay friend," she is one of my best friends, who happens to have made a choice that isn't a choice that I have made. But I am not going to judge people.
Again, this won't hurt her with the base, but it will create a bit of a stir.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fiddling While New York Burns

People are now looting, stocking up on spam, and heading for the hills on news that the bailout crapped out today (Dow down 777 points in what sounds like a casino number--wheeee!) and I offer the most fine-grained useless detritus for you to consider. It's a blog.

Yesterday, on Fox, confronted with the reality that Obama had won the post-debate polls, the beleagered GOP go-to shill Lindsay Graham had this to say:
"It's Sunday and I'm tired. Senator Obama did well. Senator Obama helped himself."
This cold comfort I take into the looming depression that confronts us. I'll take what I can get.

Anyone have a bomb shelter I can hunker in?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate Observations

Both candidates needed to do certain things, and both did. McCain needed to stick to the talking points and not get too irritated or condescending. He needed to avoid a major error in fact. Obama needed to look presidential, speak in short, clear sentences, and not get irritated.

So fans of both candidates could be happy -- except that McCain's campaign is currently cratering. He didn't need to hold sway, he needed something that would turn the election around. He didn't get it. Worse, if you were leaning to Obama and tuned in just to see if he passed the smell test, you'd be pleased. A tie is a pretty big win for Obama.

Sometimes I think we over-analyze, too. Obama really does hold all the cards. In reality, this was a low-stakes event because he knows the issues and is right on them. It was far worse with Hillary because they agreed on everything. We had to start going to the tie-breakers to see who won, subtle things that are the height of subjectivity. But McCain versus Obama is night versus day. They don't agree on anything, and America largely agrees with Obama. As long as he didn't start jabbering incoherently, he was going to seem more reasonable simply because the guy you agree with always looks more reasonable. And most people agree with Obama.

A final point is just how much Palin may have damaged McCain. By tossing out someone who actually has no experience and demonstrates it, he has given America an object lesson in what inexperience looks like. And Obama doesn't look like that at all. In a perverse way, McCain has made the best case for Obama's experience by selecting Palin. This was thrown into sharp relief when, following Joe Biden's appearance on two networks (at least), announcers had to say that Palin wouldn't show. She couldn't because she's not ready. It made Obama's performance look less like stagecraft than actual knowledge--something Obama was having a hard time proving on his own.

Liveblogging the First Debate

Right on time--Lehrer starts things at 6pm straight up.

6:03 - Q about the financial crisis. Obama, looking straight into the camera. Standard response about the plan, the elements he wants. Pivots to a shot at McCain being part of the cause. Trying to irritate McCain right off the bat!

McCain, crocodile tears about Kennedy. Pivots to crocodile tears about homeowners. He's looking around the room, not just into the camera, like Obama. Sticks to talking points.

6:08 - Five minute open period. Obama jumps first. Looking presidential. Now talking to Lehrer. Shot at deregulators.

McCain jumps in, claims to have warned about the "train wreck coming." Hmmm. Heart not in that, he plays an old Ike talking point he's repeated 16,000 times. Sort of loses the thread trying to link Normandy up to financial crisis.

6:12 - Lehrer tries to get Obama to talk to McCain, he does, both handle it nicely. Obama repeats himself, starting it with "John..." McCain says, "what, did you think I couldn't hear him, Jim?"

6:13 - Man, I'm nervous.

6:15 - I have secured a beer. McCain rattles on about spending. "I've got a pen"--holds it up, looks surprised. "It's kind of old." What the hell?

6:16 - Obama says earmarks are just $18 billion a year, talks about larger structural problems. Good point. Split screen; McCain smirking for reasons only he knows. Perhaps he's thinking about that old pen.

6:18 - McCain goes on about earmarks. Looks a wee bit unhinged, but tries to tag Obama with only suspending his requests when he ran for President. Obama interrupts McCain, who continues with the amused smirk. Could be that we're in the weeds with tax policy, so I wonder how people are reading McCain's apparent amusement and dismissal of the lightweight to his left. Obama responds, and McCain is really grinning here.

6:24 - Uh oh, Obama's irritated now. Tries to interject dismissively. Looks bad.

6:25 - Now McCain responds. Also looks bad. Obama has rallied.

6:29 - Question is what they'd cut to pay for bailout. Obama elides the question, talks about what we need. McCain does the same. Lehrer notices; they still dodge him.

6:32 - McCain goes off the reservation: suggests a spending freeze. I don't think his advisors suggest that. Obama: what we need is a scalpel, not a hatchet. Talks about getting out of Iraq to save money. McCain plays the same notes: nukes and drilling. Wha ... ?

6:35 - Obama does look like he's engaging the questions and is transparent. McCain looks like a windup doll--pull the string and listen to the soundbite. Obama gives a nuanced description of budgeting, and McCain barks back some BS about government healthcare. Wha ... ?

6:38 - Obama really hammers McCain on being a stooge for Bush. McCain repeats a "miss congeniality" line, doesn't look at Obama, and it looks, well, pathetic. My confidence rallies. It's not the beer.

6:43 - Iraq. McCain is talking about the surge, Obama about the decision to invade. Shocking! Obama gives credit to the surge--overtly. Interesting. Then tags him pretty hard on the difference between tactics and strategy. Now going through all McCain's misjudgments about Iraq. He's stepping up.

6:47 - McCain: Obama doesn't understand the difference between strategy and tactics. McCain won't look at Obama. Won't do it. Obama constantly looks at, and tries to engage, McCain.

6:50 - As Obama and McCain trade on the subtle points of Iraq, McCain loses. Obama doesn't have to be right so much as look McCain's equal. He does--and I think this point will ultimately be borne out in polls. Palin's failure now stands as an example of how the unprepared can't fake it. Obama's not faking it--he's in command of his argument and the facts.

6:57 - Okay, I zoned out there for awhile why McCain was talking. Miss anything? Okay, Obama just mentioned McCain's famous "bomb bomb Iran" song and called him not credible. that'll wake you up.

6:59 - McCain peeved about the "bomb Iran" comment. Now talks a huge long list of things he did back in the middle-20th century that no one cares about. Moral he's attempting to send: I'm experienced. Actual moral: I'm old and rambling.

7:03 - New question! Iran. I awake.

7:06 - It occurs to me at times like this (when McCain is talking) that this debate will be condensed to three minutes of clips. Which will they show? Obama has few weak moments--and no blunders--thus far.

7:08 - Obama continues to shine as a person of substance in foreign relations. McCain cowers behind boilerplate and piquish spleen. It's not the end of the world, but Obama looks like the guy who is really in command. He has the cojones to stray from boilerplate. I'm as compromised as hell, but he's really looking good.

7:09 - McCain can't pronounce Ahmadinejad. Not a problem; no one else can, either. (I'm a dinner jacket, I'm a dinner jacket, I'madinna ... jad.)

7:12 - Ouch! Obama tags McCain on his (inadvertent) refusal to meet the President of Spain. McCain seethes, takes a shot about Obama's seal.

7:19 - Did McCain just say that Obama's naive because he doesn't understand that Russia invaded Georgia? I was in the other room.

7:24 - Obama talks about oil in his response about Georgia. Good point, but a bit dry.

7:30 - They finish on their central points. Obama's talking about terror and Afghanistan, McCain about Iraq. This theme has run throughout. It's not a right/wrong issue--it's a real disagreement. We'll see who is declared the winner on that point on Nov 4.

Strange Doomed Feeling

The last two days have been among the most politically remarkable I can recall in my not-so-short life. McCain and Sarah Palin have cratered more spectacularly than the financial companies this week. (Spectacularly?--well, maybe not. Would you believe entertainingly?)

McCain claimed to suspend his campaign in what quickly became clear was a political stunt, not an effort to bring bipartisan support to a $700 billion bailout. In fact, the bailout was close to a done deal until McCain arrived and supported minority Republicans in opposition. He said he wouldn't attend tonight's debate unless the bailout was done, helped ensure it wouldn't be, and then announced today that he'd attend the debate anyway. And he never stopped running ads nor attending campaign events.

Sarah Palin's excruciating two-day interview was the most embarrassing spectacle since either "potatoe" or "Who am I?"

The polls are really turning toward Obama, and now we have the first debate. With all the chum in the water, Obama may not have to say much--just get out of the way and let McCain continue to tank. So why does all this incredibly bad McCain news make me feel strangely doomed about tonight?


Why ...

...does Sarah Palin have a Minnesota accent?

Thursday, September 25, 2008


McCain must not be much of a chess man. Somehow he didn't see very few moves ahead. I guess he hoped Obama would suspend his own campaign and agree to skip the debate. But failing that, McCain's plan was ... ?

He now finds himself in an extremely awkward position. It looks like the bailout, for good or ill (ill, if you want my opinion) is going forward. It looks like there's very little chance the current agreement will pass by the time the debate is due to start tomorrow. This leaves McCain few choices. The best (read: least catastrophic) is to declare that the crisis has ended and go to the debate. This is still bad, because it makes his "suspending my campaign" gesture look rash and unbalanced, further evidence that he doesn't have a good sense of magnitude.

But consider the other choices. If he doesn't declare victory on the bailout and yet still shows up at the debate, it will raise far more serious questions about his gesture--effectively making the "country first" theme a self-parody. If he just blows it off, that's nearly as bad, because it now appears Obama will have an hour of face time with 40 million Americans. Word on the street is that Obama may even do a town hall, further salting McCain's self-inflicted wounds.

It's hard to see any way in which this doesn't almost certainly destroy McCain's already vanishing chances of winning the election.

On the Veep debate, I am now about to make a very bold prediction: it won't happen. Seeing Palin self destruct with Katie Couric, it's evident that she can't be trusted to spend an hour blathering ignorance in front of half the country. She is seriously, dangerously ignorant about national domestic policy as well as foreign policy. In the contest between two very bad choices--letting her debate or suffering the blowback from canceling--the safer bet is canceling. That's how bad she is.

Important Announcement

I regret to inform my reader that I will be suspending my blogging until the Packers win their next game. With the loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, the nation has been brought to the brink of disaster. We must meet in sports bars as Americans, not Bears or Patriots fans, and we must drink strong ale until this crisis is resolved.

Some version of that joke is being told thousands of times across the country today in thousands of variations. It's always bad when your grand gesture instantly becomes the butt of a thousand jokes.

Anyway, some random further thoughts and items...

On pulling his ads. Various bloggers around the 'sphere are noting everytime someone sees an ad somewhere in the country. McCain says it takes a while to get them off, and the bloggers chuckle and keep on noting the airings. I actually believe him. I think it does take a while to get them off, and I think this was actually part of the plan. McCain only had $84 million to spend, thanks to opting in to the federal financing system. By pulling ads for a few days now, he stretches his dollar. I'm sure the thinking was that the grand gesture of suspension would more than compensate for lost air time, and he'd bank the money for a November push. Plus, the RNC and 527s can still run ads, right?

They like Joe. Alaskans, I mean. Forth-three percent say Biden has the background and experience to be president; only 37% think their governor does.

Fallows hammers John. "The candidate whose first response to the financial crisis was to propose firing the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and whose second response was to run ads linking his opponent (hazily) to former Fannie Mae officials (before news came out that his own campaign manager was still on the Freddie Mac payroll), now wants us to believe that statesmanship and love of country govern his every move on this issue?" That's just one of five acid critiques he offers on the suspension.

More Palin. It's only a minute and a half long, but I bet you can't make it to the end. Wow.

Watch CBS Videos Online

You can't follow something like that. Exeunt.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


And if all that wasn't enough, Katie Couric interviewed Sarah Palin tonight. It's a painful watch (but of course, I have the vid!). I'd like to highlight two answers to two questions, just because I'm mean and sexist and an obvious coastal elite. Can't help it. (Emphasis, obviously, mine.)
COURIC: But polls have shown that Senator Obama has actually gotten a boost as a result of this latest crisis with more people feeling that he can handle the situation better than John McCain?

PALIN: I'm not looking at poll numbers. What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who's more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who's actually done it?
COURIC: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?

PALIN: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie — that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.
Warnings! Wooooo ... tough.

What a Day

John McCain was dealt two very low cards in this quadrennial edition of political Texas Hold 'em--a seven and a four, say. (Other candidates, like Romney, were the dreaded 2-3 combo of doom.) He just doesn't have a lot of options. Thus was his situation revealed this morning, when he beheld the latest ABC News/WaPo poll numbers: Obama 52, McCain 43.

(Sample analysis: " As a point of comparison, neither of the last two Democratic nominees -- John Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000 -- recorded support above 50 percent in a pre-election poll by the Post and ABC News.")

Financial crisis, advisor's on the payroll of Fannie/Freddie, debate imminent ... a rough start of the day. Well, why not call the whole thing off?

Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me....

We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis....

Following September 11th, our national leaders came together at a time of crisis. We must show that kind of patriotism now. Americans across our country lament the fact that partisan divisions in Washington have prevented us from addressing our national challenges. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country. [itals mine]

This put Obama in a slightly awkward position. As we all madly clicked around to find out what the hell this meant, there was a period of a couple hours where no one really knew. It was clearly an effort to turn that 7-4 hand into a winner, and it did sort of highlight the whole "Country First" theme. It was also, simultaneously, an obvious Hail Mary (Barney Frank: "the longest ... in the history of either football or Marys."), and so we pondered what Obama might do.

[Wrinkle: Turns out Obama had called McCain this morning so the two campaigns could draft some joint language about pulling together, and then while the Obama camp waited, McCain stormed up the high road to try to seize the day. Or not, depending on which campaign you listen to.]

I was sitting in the office of a co-worker strategizing--apparently on a wavelength Obama was tuned into--arguing that he needed to come out hard and say this is exactly the time for a debate. Oh Joy!--he did (and I'm taking the credit):

It’s my belief that this is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible with dealing with this mess. In my mind, actually, it's more important than ever that we present ourselves to the American people and try to describe where we want to take the country and where we wnt to take the economy as well as dealing with some of the issues of foreign policy that were initially the subject of the debate.

What I think is important is that we don’t suddenly infuse Capitol Hill with presidential politics.

Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It’s not necessary for us to think that we can do only one thing, and suspend everything else.

This is a world-class smack-down (cool and elegant, Obama-esque, but smack-down nonetheless), and with it Obama flipped the debate. Now it looked like McCain was charging down a blind alley, not up the high road. It gets worse. David Letterman was openly (and effectively) mocking him:
David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, "Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?"

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, "You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves." And he joked: "I think someone's putting something in his metamucil."

"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?"

"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"
Meanwhile, rather shockingly, Survey USA released a poll about the news that had happened earlier today. Major finding? 86% want the debate to go on as scheduled; only 10% want it cancelled. D'oh!

Meanwhile meanwhile, it looks like the bailout deal, the stated crisis that caused McCain to supsend his campaign in the first place, is 98% done. According to Kurtz, "Treasury has capitulated on almost every point (draft version of the deal here)," meaning that Dems will claim victory and the janitor will be cleaning up just in time for McCain to arrive and bring his own special brand of bipartisan comity.

Wait, I think I spelled that last word wrong.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Deep Thoughts

Back when Senators were hot to trot on that execrable bankruptcy bill, how many times did they lecture the poor and indigent about personal responsibility? Just a thought.

  1. If the Congress passes the bailout of all bailouts and allows the golden parachute clause, Dems will forfeit their advantage within the next two election cycles. I will be among those who wash my hands of them. This is a moment of truth.
  2. If a man shows up on your doorstep and says you must buy a bridge or millions will die, do you trust him?
  3. If the man tells you there's no time to read over the details of the deal--you must sign now!--do you still trust him?
  4. If the man tells you that he will oversee the deal and that you won't actually be managing it at all, do you still trust him?
Isn't that the situation Paulson describes?

Congress was offered the opportunity to buy a pretty new war under these circumstances. Remind me again--how'd that turn out?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do I Have This Right?

Later on, I'll run it past the professor. But here's my understanding of the problems that led to the chaos we're seeing on Wall Street. Below, Krugman and Reich say why they're down on the bailout, which is one piece. Underneath the bailout, though, is the fundamental problem which needs to be fixed in the long term. Based on what I've read, these were the problems.
  1. No Money in the Bank. Financial companies are not required to secure their debt with any assets, as FDIC-insured banks are. I believe the assets-to-debt ratio for banks cannot exceed ten to one (for every ten bucks in debt, they have to have at least a dollar in assets). Financial companies regularly had ratios of 20- and 30-to-1. They were "over-leveraged" and at massive risk.
  2. Lack of Transparency. Financial traders were making deals no one really understood, and as a consequence, no one knew how much debt they were carrying. For financial markets to function, investors need to know how much debt a company has to make sound decisions. Because the finances were buried and byzantine, no one realized just how deeply at risk companies like Lehman and Merrill Lynch were. (And apparently, part of the problem with the bailout is that no one knows what the situation is now, either.)
  3. Too Big To Fail. Normally, the market would punish companies that were insanely overleveraged. If that didn't happen because of a failure of transparency, these companies should suffer the fate of stupidity, like Enron: a quick death. But because these companies had pieces of so much of everyone else's money, letting them fail would send ripples throughout the world.
This was a massive shell game financial companies were playing, regulators were ignoring, and politicians were abetting. I understand that the risk was plain to anyone who wished too look, but of course, when the money's that good, who bothers looking?

Reich and Krugman: No Deal

I don't know nothin' bout economics, but I do know that Paul and Robert do... Krugman and Reich have looked at "the bailout of bailouts" and they're not impressed.

It's not likely to do all that much good because no one knows how much bad debt there is out there. Even if the government bought a lot of it, investors and lenders still couldn't be sure how much remained. After all, big banks have already written down hundreds of billions of bad debts, and that hasn't restored confidence in the Street. [ Link ]

If everything goes extremely well, markets move upward, and the risky loans become far less risky, it's possible that taxpayers (that is, the Treasury) might actually make money. But if the bottom falls out, American taxpayers could be on the hook for trillions of dollars. What then? The federal debt soars. What then? Interest rates go out of sight. What then? Foreigners lend us less money. What then? We're cooked. [ Link ]

So, here’s my problem: what we have now are a bunch of financial institutions in trouble, because they’re highly leveraged, and have mortgage-related assets on their books. And they can’t raise cash because nobody wants to buy those assets. The Paulson plan will in effect create a market for toxic paper, thereby supposedly unfreezing the markets.

But what if the institutions are fundamentally broke, even if the liquidity squeeze is relieved? [ Link ]

The Treasury plan ... looks like an attempt to restore confidence in the financial system — that is, convince creditors of troubled institutions that everything’s OK — simply by buying assets off these institutions. This will only work if the prices Treasury pays are much higher than current market prices; that, in turn, can only be true either if this is mainly a liquidity problem — which seems doubtful — or if Treasury is going to be paying a huge premium, in effect throwing taxpayers’ money at the financial world. [ Link ]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quacks Like a Bush

I have restrained myself from slagging Sarah Palin too much, but this is irresistable. Riddle me this, reader (and I mean all one of you)--what the hell is she talking about? She's discussing her "plan" for fixing the economy:
“Through reform, absolutely. Look at the oversight that has been lack, I believe, here at the 1930s type of regulatory regime overseeing some of these corporations.”
I highlight this quote not because I'm feeling surly and mean, but because this is her strength. She may not have any experience, but she's a good speaker, so sayeth the defenders. By dint of her flinty moose-hunting instincts, she is able to distill an issue to its essence, communicating it like, er, a pit bull. Or something. More:
“Well, you know, first, Fannie and Freddie, different because quasi-government agencies there where government had to step in because of the adverse impacts all across our nation, especially with homeowners. It’s just too impacting, we had to step in there. ”


Hot on the heels of my prediction that the post-convention numbers were a bounce, I double down with these:

Amorphous preamble: I think the next few weeks will be bad for McCain/Palin. Palin's already starting to be the butt of jokes, McCain doesn't know where Spain is, and the economy is reshuffling the deck again--and firmly away from the GOP. I expect Obama to do pretty well in the debates, and once people see him on an equal footing with McCain, the election will be decided. Palin's selection was a good call only as long as the ticket was leading in the polls. Once the novelty of the pick has passed and people get to know (and not love) Palin, the negates will swamp the campaign.

1. Obama will win the election by a comfortable popular vote (+5%), and an even more comfortable electoral college outcome. Current guess (to be revised later): 294-244. This includes a sweep of the Western swing states, Virginia, and Iowa, but neither FL or OH.

2. If he wins North Carolina, he will win in a landslide (upper limit, 340-198).

3. There's no way in hell Obama loses Michigan--I don't care what the polls say.

4. Obama will scrap hard in Florida to keep McCain honest, but it's pure defense--Florida's not in the cards.

5. Palin was the moment McCain lost the election, a view that will solidify within days following the election. History will record it as a massive gaffe. It will probably destroy Palin's future as a serious national player.

6. Dems will control the Senate 56-44 (no filibuster-proof majority) before dropping Lieberman like a sack of dirt, retaining a ten-vote majority.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The End of the Bounce

Today's polls confirm that poll findings during the past ten days have reflected a post-convention, post-Palin bounce. And now it's over.

In case the image isn't clear, Obama is now back up by two according to the Gallup daily tracker. I have no idea what will happen henceforth, but to take my victory lap, this is pretty much what I expected.

Update, 9/18: It's now at four, 48-44. Bonus findings: Palin's favorability is tanking.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Even before she melted down today and said that neither Palin nor McCain could run a Fortune 500 company, Carly Fiorina has been a terrible surrogate. She regularly lies, she hasn't a clue about anything beyond business, and grossly misunderstands economic issues. And then, recall the Viagra debacle?

So now she declares Palin and McCain unfit to run a big corporation. Question: wasn't that what HP decided when it canned her in '05? This is the kind of astute leadership she feels competent to judge? Just asking.

Brooks and the Culture Wars

David Brooks is smart and observant and also deeply conflicted and venal. The reason is because he is intellectually man enough to admit this:
Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.
While at the same time too jejune to leave aside these Rovian lies:
Palin is the ultimate small-town renegade rising from the frontier to do battle with the corrupt establishment. Her followers take pride in the way she has aroused fear, hatred and panic in the minds of the liberal elite. The feminists declare that she’s not a real woman because she doesn’t hew to their rigid categories. People who’ve never been in a Wal-Mart think she is parochial because she has never summered in Tuscany.
Why? Because he signed on with the half-wits.

What Brooks well knows is that the mass of well-educated Democrats in this country are just like me--we live modest lives informed by real information we take from NPR on our way to our (pick one: government, university, nonprofit) jobs in our Priuses. We aren't rich (no Tuscany for us), but we aren't stupid, either. Going to college doesn't necessarily mean earning enough to own seven houses, just knowing that a pinhead like Bush is dangerously incompetent, that a war in Iraq is not only illegal but abjectly stupid, and that Sarah Palin doesn't know Shiite from Shineola, never mind her world class ability to bullshit.

The thing is, Brooks is rich. He doesn't shop at Walmart (invoked in this article for the 2,347th time), and he does summer in Tuscany. And he's smart enough to know that signing onto the Bush Doctrine means sacrificing forever the claim that we modestly-compensated, educated folk take for granted--that we saw the Bush disaster coming from a mile away, that we knew he was stupid and incompetent, and that the GOP were going to sack Washington and steal away in the night with wheelbarrows full of cash. This is a pill too bitter for Brooks to swallow. He wants to be smart and right, but as a Republican apologist, the illusion is spoiled. He's wrong, and rather than owning up to that like a man, he continues to attack the dusty old straw men of the Republicans' now failed culture war.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

McCain Falling

Today's Gallup Daily tracking poll, as I suspected, is showing a return to normalcy. After the convention bounce, McCain's numbers are now falling back to earth (even as his campaign descends into the gutter).

These numbers represent a three-day rolling average, from Wednesday through yesterday. In other words, they are likely rounding the effect of McCain's fall. It's not unreasonable to expect more of the same. And then we'll see where we stand.

(More good news: Nate Silver of 538 points out that the real metric shouldn't be the tracking polls anyway. It's all about the states, and it appears that the bounce, while real, wasn't proportionately spread. In many of the swing states, there was hardly any bounce at all--red states just got redder.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What the Election Means

Yesterday, as I rode by bike home in the warmth of a late summer's dog day, I decided to take myself up Mount Tabor (a residential hill in Portland, technically a mountain--it's a dead volcano--but quite wee by any reasonable standard). The White Stripes were playing on the iPod, and I was in a relaxed, serene mood.

I have come to some calm regarding the election. Obama is running the best campaign he can, and there will be no rear-view mirror regrets that he didn't play rough or smart enough. McCain is transparently vicious, mendacious, and stupid, which is a shift from the more clever Bush campaigns. And the media for once isn't cutting the GOP any breaks. They lie and the media reports that it's a lie. So if we lose this one, it will be because there's a population sufficiently stupid to fall for the viciousness and lies. (I don't mean this as a polemical comment. I mean it seriously. There will be three types of McCain voters--habitual GOP voters who know better but vote McCain anyway, idealogues who in some cases literally believe the Dems/Obama is evil and who cannot be swayed by facts or external reality, and those so clueless that they have no political philosophy, no sense of how the candidates differ, and no clue that the selection of a president can affect their lives. If that troika is 51% of the voters, we're done.) In other words, it's out of our hands.

Today that serenity shifted to a kind of remorseful calm, not unlike the hours after a child learns there is no Santa Claus. But still, there is a reason to hope McCain doesn't lose. What follows comes from a comment I left on an old thread at BlueOregon. I fear even fewer people will read it than read this blog, so I'm trying to find that extra person to communicate to. It's a response to one of my favorite BlueOregonians, Chris Lowe, who wrote:
Obama has never inspired me. He's too much like (Bill) Clinton on policy, which I know is a good thing in many people's books but not mine. I think post-racialism is a myth & think that post-partisanship is a bad idea especially if your opponents aren't playing the same tune.
My response, and the reason I think Obama offers usch an opportunity.
Odd. I find him nothing like Clinton, who never inspired me, either. (I wrote in Mario Cuomo in '92 and voted Nader in '96.) Obama, on the other hand, is the first general election candidate who has ever inspired me. The sweep of history creates opportunities for different kind of leadership. Clinton, who was a cynical street-fighter, won in a conservative era and managed to govern successfully while conservatism was ascendent. I suspect that's the only shot we had in the 90s.

But now the times are different. Conservatism, such as the GOP have exploited it, is in tatters. The only thing left are lies and viciousness. There is a window of opportunity for re-making politics in the next decade. (If McCain wins, it will take a different course than if Obama is elected, but nevertheless, things are mid-change.) How will politics be remade? What form will they take? Obama is important because he can begin to guide that process.

I do believe in progress. I think that if he's elected, the effects on race relations will be transformed. We won't notice it for a generation, but looking back, we'll see how transformative it was. You're also right that post-partisanship is a mirage. But what's not a mirage is a turn away from hyper-partisanship and a single-minded focus on gathering and exercising power. In the dichotomy of liberty and equality, the left is the equality party. I see Obama as a figure who can re-introduce the myth of collectivism into society. I believe it will be a powerful antidote to the myth of individualism that has turned gangrenous on us.

Clinton could never have done these things. He's a creature of hyper-partisanship, and he bought into the myth of liberty. That was a dark alley Dems went down, and we were beaten brutally by the thugs of Rove and Co. But now we have a chance to come blinking into the light. I'm hopeful.

Okay, hopeful, as you know now, is stretching it. Calm. I'm calm.

Great Response on Abortion

Joe Biden offered one of the most nuanced answers about abortion I've ever heard a Democrat give. From Sunday's Meet the Press (I've cleaned the language up from the raw transcript):
JOE BIDEN: I'd say, "Look, I know when [life] begins for me." It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths--Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others--who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life--I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society....

TOM BROKAW: But if you, you believe that life begins at conception, and you've also voted for abortion rights...

BIDEN: No, what a voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it's a moment of conception. There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that's existed. Back in "Summa Theologia," when Thomas Aquinas wrote "Summa Theologia," he said there was no--it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception. How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith? And that's the reason I haven't.

But then again, I also don't support a lot of other things. I don't support public funding. I don't, because that flips the burden. That's then telling me I have to accept a different view. This is a matter between a person's God, however they believe in God, their doctor, and themselves... What we're going to be spending our time doing is making sure that we reduce considerably the amount of abortions that take place by providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children.

The issue of abortion is a religious/moral issue on the one hand and a legal/political issue on the other. For 35 years, Republicans have managed to fuse those two dimensions. Biden offers a blueprint about how to seperate them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Four of Sarah Palin's best friends love her, but they're not necessarily voting for her.

Three Reasons Not to Panic

For reasons obscure even to me, I am feeling sanguine about the presidential race. We'll know at the beginning or middle of next week, but so many things point to doom for McCain that I gotta think our ship is going to come in. To wit:
  • McCain's got no money. The conventions are over, and that means he's on the federal teat--$84 million to spend between now and election day. He'll still get lots of help from 527s and the RNC, but this limits the amount he can spend on Get Out the Vote efforts andon his ground game. Obama, by contrast, should raise in the $50 - 60 million range each month (conservatively; he raised $51 mil in July and could conceivably post numbers 50-100% higher during the last two months). That gives him tens of millions more to spend during crunch time.
  • Obama has a massive field operation--by some accounts a 3 to 1 advantage in terms of field offices. In Ohio, Obama has 33 offices to McCain's 9. He has a 28-6 advantage in Virginia, 22-11 in Michigan, 23-6 in Iowa, 18-1 in Pennsylvania, and so on. Obama's paid staff likewise dwarfs McCain's. While ads help a campaign, volunteers do a far more effective job. One of the surest ways to win votes is to talk directly to voters. Obama, the community organizer, is putting this into practice.
  • Obama looks great in the delegate race. Look at the map below, from Pollster's polling trends. You will see that Obama currently leads in every state John Kerry won except Michigan and New Hampshire, both of which are currently listed as toss-ups. Obama also leads in Iowa and New Mexico (it shouldn't be colored toss-up; Obama has a 7-point lead), states Kerry lost. None of the states Kerry won are leaning McCain. Of the toss-up states, seven were won by Bush.

Oh, and one bonus reason: McCain's message is in disarray, and the Sarah Palin record is now getting lotsa scrutiny. We'll know a lot more next week in terms of polling, but there are good reasons to think Obama's still on-track for a win.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Can't Think of a Good Title

Over at TPM, you may note some insightful analysis by "TPM reader JA." I am he. He are me. We are one. It provoked me to write a post on BlueOregon because I figured the email to Josh would never see the light of day. So now there are two versions of roughly the same analysis. I'll link to the BlueO piece and paste in the TPM stuff below.
By Josh Marshall________________09.08.08 -- 1:58PM

From TPM Reader JA ...

Josh, in dismissing the Gallup poll this morning, you describe the Obama campaign as reactive and "unwilling or unable to take the initiative." Huh? We just watched a GOP convention in which the nominee for the incumbent party agreed the election was about change. In the major speeches given by Republicans, speakers used the word "change" 30 times--more than any other theme, including "reform."

The McCain campaign wanted to frame this election on experience, but had to abandon that when the polls didn't move. The surge issue has likewise attracted no great interest. Although McCain continues to discuss it, as a theme, he has ditched it in favor of this murky "change/reform" theme. (By selecting Sarah Palin, the campaign has officially ceded the point.) This all works to Obama's advantage because if the discussion becomes one of change, it must necessarily shift to policy--the last place McCain wants to go. But he's backed himself into a corner.

Obama has run his general campaign with exactly the kind of pacing he ran the primary. It's not always clear why he's doing certain things because they don't correspond to the daily news cycle. That's because he has planned the entire campaign in advance. You can see how he's hit his marks as he's gone along: after he won the primary, he immediately tacked right and demonstrated his "working across the aisles" theme. The trip abroad was designed to elevate him to a presidential figure and deflate the claims of his inexperience. The convention was a way to simultaneously build momentum among the base and lay a foundation for elevating the discussion above Rovian BS and placing it directly on issues via the change argument.

We exit the convention right on schedule. Obama has set the table, and the Republicans have come to dine. I have little doubt but that the Obama camp feels it's right where it wants to be.

I don't think this negates my point about taking and holding the initiative. But I do think this is a very good point. And I was thinking along these same lines over the weekend. Embracing the idea that this is a change election puts McCain in a possibly winning but also extremely perilous position because the claim to represent change is inherently preposterous. The Obama camp should grab onto this concession, bank it and fight the rest of the election on these terms. How can a senator who's been in Washington for 26 six years and embraces all the policies of the president of the last eight years be change? It answers itself.


"McCain leads Democrat Barack Obama by 50%-46% among registered voters, the Republican's biggest advantage since January and a turnaround from the USA TODAY poll taken just before the convention opened in St. Paul. Then, he lagged by 7 percentage points."
--Gallup, 9/8/08
The polls mean very little this week. We'll check back next week to see how they're settling down post-conventions. In one week, we saw a swing of 17 points in this poll alone despite the absence of any news. That's pretty much the definition of a convention bounce. (Other polls have registered this same trend, though Gallup's has the widest swing.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Obama on O'Reilly

Some folks have commented that O'Reilly didn't treat Obama with respect when he had him on last night, and although they're right, this misses the bigger picture. He was O'Reilly being O'Reilly--a horse's ass--and Obama was graceful, unrattled, and persistent. For O'Reilly, it was a risk to have Obama on there. Now he can't call him scared or say he bullied him. They met, Obama disagreed, and he's off to become the President. Meanwhile, O'Reilly's piece of that was limited to an unmemorable 7 minutes of tape. Obama proved for the nth time that he's capable of handling heat with grace and elegance. It's a winner for him.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Coupla Stats

Noted with derision.

Percent of GOP delegates that are white: 93%*
(Percent white in US: 80%)**
(Percent white among Dem delegates: 56%)***

Percent of GOP delegates who earn more than $500,000: 51%*

*CBS News
** US Census

Breathe Out

As the freak show of the RNC Convention continues, I become more agitated. No worries, with a candidate like this:

"They don't have an agenda to run on. They haven't offered a single concrete idea so far in two nights about how they would make the lives of middle class Americans better. They've spent the entire two nights attacking me or extolling John McCain's biography, which is fine. They can use their convention time any way they want, but you can't expect that I'd be surprised about attacks from Republicans."

"And by the way, you know, I've been called worse on the basketball court. It's not that big of a deal."
That's the way to handle it. The way to handle a provocateur is with a shrug.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Fig Leaves

Following the Sarah Palin selection, which we in the Kremlin greeted with rapture, confusion set in. In the span of about 24 hours, I started hearing reports from the hinterland that Palin was a deal-maker for erstwhile Hillary voters (albeit very weak Dems, if Dems they be at all) and other assorted suspicious swing-voters. I have long lost any confidence in my ability to read the minds of the uneducated swing voters* who will decide the election: reports back are fragmentary, contradictory, and confused. We have no decent intel.

(As a corollary, I am equally suspicious of polls' ability to predict what will happen in November. That they even reflect what would happen in an election tomorrow, given that this great swath of uneducated swings has yet to tune in, is a dicey hypothesis. I regard Obama's post-convention bounce and other poll-watching as a parlor game. One, of course, that amuses me.)

(As a corollary to the corollary, we should mention this figure, 40 million, as another confounding data point. So many people watched Obama's speech that we don't actually know that the uneducated swings are so uneducated now. Maybe they have flipped, but who knows? Discuss.)

In any case, I do think the anecdotes can be taken too seriously. We all have relatives who have evinced to us, liberals from Portland, an open-mindedness toward, if not to Obama, rejection of the GOP. But eventually, the open-mindedness seems to calcify into the same old support for Republicans, if expressed with a greater wistfulness than in years past.

They seem to justify Obamajection with a "fact" (generally one generated in the darker fringes of the smear-o-sphere, but that's a different rant). Dispel that "fact" and another emerges. My guess is that these facts are really just fig leaves designed to justify a decision made long ago. I further suspect that any effort to strike down these rumors is a losing game of whack-a-mole; since the decision to vote McCain has already been made, the facts to justify it will just keep popping up.

Does this matter? Are these Dem voters who can't vote Obama for reasons that may or may not have to do with race? Are they the same old voters who always vote GOP? Are they not actually voters--confronted with the prospect of a super-dud GOP ticket or a black guy, will they stay at home and just watch "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader" instead?

Well, don't ask me. Both the fringe right and Portland Kremlinians agree that Palin was a beautiful choice, so you know someone's wrong.
*Politically uneducated; those whose entire critical apparatus depends on half-remembered truths passed on by family members who listen to Limbaugh and Hannity.