Thursday, July 31, 2008


I like Barack Obama's response to John McRove's "Celebrity" ad, though I'm not sure it's enough:

"Given the seriousness of the issues, you'd think we could have a serious debate," Obama said. "But so far, all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I mean, I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election is about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?"

The crowd yelled: "NOOOOOOOOOO."

"Even the media has pointed out that Senator John McCain -- who started off talking about running an honorable campaign -- has fallen back on predictable political attacks and demonstrably false statements. But here's the problem. All of those negative ads spending all this time talking about me, instead of talking about what he's going to do, that's not going to lower your gas prices...

"It's politics as a game," Obama said. "But the time for game-playing is over. That's why I'm running for President of the United States of America."

Here's what else I'd like to hear him say:

Don't worry about me, though -- I can handle a few hard knocks. Worry about yourselves. Worry about this country, and what's going to happen to it if people who campaign this way get control of the White House.

Because make no mistake about it: If this is the way John McCain is
campaigning, then this is the way his administration would govern for the next four years. We'd have four more years of my-way-or-the-highway politics. We'd have four more years in which, if you dared to disagree with the president, you'd have your patriotism questioned and your right to speak questioned. We'd have four more years of a president who spends more time devising ways to ruin the reputations of people who disagree with him than he spends on trying to do what's right for the country. We'd have four more years of no compromises, no coming together for the common good, because, to the president, there simply is no such thing as honest disagreement -- there are only enemies who must be crushed.

We know this because that's precisely what we've had in the eight years of Bush/Cheney. And John McCain, who was once on the Bush enemies list, is now demonstrating that he's learned a few character assassination tricks from Bush and from Cheney and maybe even from Nixon. The kind of campaign John McCain is running now is the kind of presidency he'd have -- and we must not allow that to happen.

Come on, Barack. Really make his character the issue.

If you were paying attention to the story of the new Ludacris rap, you might have thought the Obama campaign had condemned the song, which praises Obama but says very nasty things about Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

But you'd be wrong.

The American Spectator's Philip Klein explains:

Obama Aide Calls Ludacris a 'Talented Individual'

The Obama campaign has bungled its initial response to the Ludacris firestorm. Via the Brody File, I see that campaign spokesman Bill Burton has issued the following statement:

"As Barack Obama has said many, many times in the past, rap lyrics today too often perpetuate misogyny, materialism, and degrading images that he doesn't want his daughters or any children exposed to. This song is not only outrageously offensive to Senator Clinton, Reverend Jackson, Senator McCain, and President Bush, it is offensive to all of us who are trying to raise our children with the values we hold dear. While Ludacris is a talented individual he should be ashamed of these lyrics."

The need to add the qualifier, "While Ludacris is a talented individual" is absolutely outrageous. Most Americans won't see talent in these lyrics --they'll see them for what they are -- blatantly racist and sexist garbage. This is a major bungle by the Obama campaign.

In other words, according to Klein, Burton said:

"Blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. WHILE LUDACRIS IS A TALENTED INDIVIDUAL blah blah blah blah blah blah blah."

Got it? If not, here it is in visual form:


Newsday's John Riley, bloging about McCain's Britney/Paris ad:

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

What they picked was two sexually available white women.

Kevin Hayden, responding to that notion:

I don't think miscegenation was part of the Video from McStupid. I don't think it was racist. It was just amateurish, irrelevant to most voters and plain old dumb.

I agree with Kevin about the miscegenation -- although it won't disturb me a bit if McCain and his army of Rove monkeys have to answer that charge. This ad isn't saying that Obama wants vacuous Hollywood blondes. This ad is saying that Obama is a vacuous Hollywood blonde.

Unlike Kevin, though, I think it's quite effective.

It's effective because every Democrat who becomes nationally prominent, just by dint of being a Democrat, has multiple albatrosses around his/her neck: dirty hippie, elite, Hollyweird, gender-inappropriate, etc., etc. This ad plays on the latter two.

Remember: Republican attacks have a high rate of success because they play on stereotypes Republicans themselves have spent decades planting in the minds of voters. It's the only thing Republicans do well (besides line their contributors' pockets), but they do it very, very well.

Yesterday, Politico's Ben Smith noted that John McCain was getting bad press, from The Washington Post and The New York Times in particular, in reaction to his recent attack-dog posture. Smith concluded:

[McCain's] campaign has clearly done the math and decided it's worth the cost....

But does the McCain campaign really think there's a cost attached to increasing negativity from the mainstream press? Or is the campaign trying to induce that negativity, knowing that it will never go too far (we're talking about the press and McCain, after all) and believing that bad press is very, very good for McCain?

The Times blames Roveites:

...[McCain] clearly tossed his inhibitions aside earlier this month when he put day-to-day management of his campaign in the hands of one acolyte of Mr. Rove and gave top positions to two others.

I assume the culprit is Rove himself, working behind the scenes. I assume he's trying to turn McCain back into what McCain was in his youth, a bad boy -- and not just a bad boy, but pretty much the bad boy of Rove's dreams.

Let's recall what Rove said about his first meeting with George W. Bush:

"I can literally remember what he was wearing: an Air National Guard flight jacket, cowboy boots, complete with the -- in Texas you see it a lot -- one of the back pockets will have a circle worn in the pocket from where you carry your tin of snuff, your tin of tobacco. He was exuding more charisma than any one individual should be allowed to have."

Now compare McCain as a youth. Here's Robert Timberg's description of McCain at his prep school, from page 32 of The Nightingale's Song:

He was known as Punk, alternatively as Nasty, in another variation, McNasty. He cultivated the image. The Episcopal yearbook pictures him in a trench coat, collar up, cigarette dangling Bogart-style from his lips.... he mocked the school's dress code by wearing blue jeans with his coat and tie and otherwise affecting a screw-you raffishness. He would later describe himself in those days as a rebel without a cause....

Rove did quite well for himself tapping into his own dreamy idealization of Bush. With Bush, he mostly kept the baby-kissing-reformed-sinner side in the foreground and used the bad-boy side as seasoning. That made sense -- Bush ran against two guys who were portrayed as geek losers, so it made sense to run Bush as the popular Big Man on Campus.

But McCain's opponent is no unpopular geek -- so how does Rove run against him? Maybe he runs his candidate as a rebel, a cool guy, someone who gets bad press because he shocks respectable society.

Hell, if you were Rove, you might even try to get ex-aides to say things like this:

John Weaver, for years one of John McCain's closest friends and confidants, has been in exile since his resignation from McCain's presidential campaign last year. With the exception of an occasional interview, he has, by his own account, bit his tongue as McCain's campaign has adopted a strategy that Weaver believes "diminishes John McCain."

With the release today of a McCain television ad blasting Obama for celebrity preening while gas prices rise, and a memo that accuses Obama of putting his own aggrandizement before the country, Weaver said he's had "enough."

The ad's premise, he said, is "childish." ...

The blog post I'm quoting, from The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, goes on to note that

Weaver remains in contact with senior McCain strategists and, for a while early this year, regularly talked to McCain.

OK, maybe that's a bridge too far -- maybe Weaver wasn't really dispatched by the campaign to express a "square's" horror at McCain's rakishness. But I think his reaction to McCain-as-James-Dean, and the reactions of the Post and the Times, are just what Rove and McCain want right now.


MORE GOP GASPS REPORTED IN THE "LIBERAL MEDIA": Steve Benen points to this quote at the Huffington Post:

Alex Castellanos, one of George W. Bush's media mavens in 2000 and 2004, had a different take: "The problem is that 'advertising', i.e., anything that smells even faintly false, contradicts his persona," Castellanos said. "John McCain is the un-cola of politics, the anti-politician. And few things are more political than negative commercials that draw attention to themselves as 'advertising' designed to manipulate voters and not as 'information' designed to inform them. You can't be the un-cola and Coca Cola too."

So McCain loyalist Weaver and GOP operative Castellanos blabbed like this, on the record and for attribution, to the press. Curious.

But wait, there's more: The Huffington Post also has a piece titled "Conservatives Wonder If Negative Ads Could Reduce McCain's Stature," which quotes David Frum's concerns. Another loyalist going on the record for an "enemy" journalist!

And even before these people went public, Marc Ambinder was telling us that "The cadre of McCain allies who aren't part of the campaign are very worried" about McCain's negative attacks. When I read that a couple of days ago, I took it at face value, but now I'm thinking maybe I was gulled. Maybe all these journalists are being gulled. Maybe Team McCain (i.e., Team Rove) is gleefully feeding expressions of shock to the press in the hope that the press will eat it up -- which is precisely what's happening -- so the McCain attacks will garner more attention and McCain will be seen as the bad boy whose back-alley tactics are controlling how this contest is being fought.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Damn, she's doing all the writing for Team McCain, isn't she? Even though she's letting other people take the credit:

...McCain campaign manager Rick Davis ... sent a memo out earlier today....

Writes Davis: "... Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day, demand 'MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew -- Black Forest Berry Honest Tea' and worry about the price of arugula."

And this line bears the mark of MoDo, wouldn't you say?

Staying very personal, the McCain campaign responds to Obama's suggestion that Republicans will attack his unusual name and his race:

"This is a typically superfluous response from Barack Obama. Like most celebrities, he reacts to fair criticism with a mix of fussiness and hysteria," says McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds....


BY THE WAY: That "hard-to-find" Black Forest Berry Honest Tea? You can buy it at Target.

And it's distributed by a crunchy-chewy hippie-granola company known as Coca-Cola.


(Once again: The headline is a joke. At least I think it is.)


UPDATE: In comments, merl writes, in reference to the "gym three times a day" reference:

doesn't chickengeorge bush work out a lot? what the fuck is wrong with these idiots?

The line is just preposterous. That was reported to have happened once -- just before a trip to Iraq, a trip that was supposed to be kept secret for security reasons until just before it happened.

Think it's possible he wasn't actually exercising on all those gym trips? Think it's possible he was planning security for a trip to a place where, if too much information leaked out, he and everyone with him might die?

I had no idea the Times let its columnists moonlight this way.

Watch the first five seconds of the ad, just as the announcer says, "He's the biggest celebrity in the world":


Yup, he's not just a celebrity -- he's a girl celebrity. Because being respected by non-Americans makes your penis fall off.

Talking Points Memo says the message is that Obama is a "puffed-up dandy." That's one way of putting it -- effeteness and effeminacy all at once. I'm reminded of the recent attempts by the GOP to float the notion that Obama is a "fancy lad," an echo of the "Fancy Ford" site the GOP put up against Harold Ford when he was running for U.S. Senate. ("Fancy," of course, also has that extra meaning of "pimp," so I suspect we'll be hearing it again from the GOP.)


(Note to literalists: The headline is what scholars of blogging refer to as a "joke.")

Barack Obama is a Muslim terrorist and a self-styled Messiah and a Nazi and a commie and a phony-progressive centrist and an elitist and a sexist and an egomaniac and a flip-flopper and an empty suit and a priss and a gaffe machine and a flag hater and a troop hater and a hater of rural and working-class white people and is full of hubris.

Oh, and according to Jack Shafer of Slate, nothing negative ever sticks to him.

...What's unique about Obama and his candidacy is that almost none of the stuff the press throws at him sticks. Nor is the press alone in its inability to stick him. Hillary Clinton hurled rocks, knives, and acid at her rival even before the primaries (see this Jake Tapper piece from ABC News) and later upped the ante in desperation. She claimed that he was unprepared to serve as commander in chief and accused him of insulting gun owners and the religiously faithful. The eleventh-hour tactics may have won Clinton votes, but they failed to undermine Obama.

You could call Obama the Teflon-coated candidate, but this would miss the fact that his slickness goes all the way to the core. What has gone unexplored until now is this: How did Barack Obama achieve superslipperiness without becoming greasy?....

Yup, nothing sticks to Obama -- you can read Shafer if you want his thesis about why that's the case. I'll just point out that we know Shafer is right because Obama has a 98-point lead in the polls even though he's running an uninspiring campaign against the most brilliant Republican campaign operation of our generation at a time when the incumbent Republican president is overwhelmingly popular and voters just want more of the same. If it weren't for the Teflon, Obama would be in a tight race!

I don't know what the hell this is about. I never said what I'm being accused of saying. The only comments I've ever made about the guy were this and this, both years ago. And that's all I'm going to say about it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I read Atrios, so I know I'm not allowed to say this, but I fear that the indictment of this Republican senator by a Republican Justice Department helps the GOP, unfortunately.

The right-wing line since about ten minutes after the polls closed in November '06 is that the GOP lost Congress because of corruption (plus Mark Foley), not because of Iraq or health care or the economy or Katrina; this is one talking point on which McCain didn't have to do a flip-flop to get in sync with his party's conventional wisdom. Prominent righty bloggers disowned Stevens a long time ago -- all right, all right, they threw him under the bus -- and a lot of them seem either somewhat pleased or even excited at the opportunity.

Somewhat pleased:

Stevens' indictment isn't exactly good news for the G.O.P., but he's a corrupt politician first and a Republican second. Patrick Ruffini notes that the right thing to do to safeguard the tarnished Republican brand is to demand he abandon his reelection campaign. Once that's done, if anyone dares to use Stevens as an example of how the Republicans are uniquely corrupt, you can remind them that Democrats apparently don't have too much of a problem with the fact that William Jefferson is still in Congress.

Somewhat excited:

McCain should absolutely unload on Stevens, and frame it as the sort of dysfunction and corruption in Congress that he has long railed against. A good way to get some indie cred without upsetting any conservatives.

I guess the only question is whether Stevens will resign and/or withdraw from his reelection bid. I sure hope not, and I hope he beats his primary challenger -- after all, he's trailing the Democrat in the latest (pre-indictment) Rasmussen poll. But if he's out of the race and out of the Senate soon, as I suspect he will be -- yeah, I know he's a hard-ass, but I think the party will put a horse's head in his bed if he balks -- then this just gives McCain a golden opportunity to be praised by the press as the wonderfully incorruptible anti-Stevens. Blecch.

(Oh, and wouldn't removing Stevens as an issue hurt Obama's chances to pull off an upset in Alaska?)


Correction: Stevens has two primary challengers, and so far he's blowing them away in the polls. We'll see how that turns out.


Amanda Marcotte, sneering at the idea that this could help McCain:

...there's a certain hopefulness that's kind of cute in the idea that the average voter---especially all-important low information swing voter---will connect Senator Stevens with John McCain in any way except to add Stevens to the long list of dirty Republicans people are sick to the teeth of.

Um, even if the press flat-out tells those low-information voters that McCain is the bracingly wonderful antithesis of all that sleaze?

No, he didn't. The beer and food were for sale, despite what wingnuts and (mostly) PUMAs are saying. Kevin at Rumproast actually has evidence, as well as links to the lies.

I keep citing Kevin's posts about PUMA disinformation because the PUMAs' lies work exactly like right-wing lies, and the GOP clearly finds them useful. I'm actually more concerned about the PUMAs than Kevin is -- he's said in comments here that he thinks they'll fade into irrelevance after the Democratic convention, whereas I suspect that the GOP plans to increase its focus on their whining in the weeks to come, probably as soon as Obama picks a running mate, assuming it's not Hillary Clinton. Certainly the PUMAs themselves aren't going to go willingly.

I'm probably being naive, but this post by The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder gives me hope that the press might actually be rethinking its love for John McCain.

Ambinder tells us that

USA Today calls a new McCain ad "a marker on the path toward the kind of simplistic, counterproductive demonizing that many expect will poison the fall campaign." Andrea Mitchell of NBC News describes the McCain campaign's latest ad, about Obama and injured troops, "literally not true."

Ambinder says these are signs of (as he puts it) an elite (i.e., media) backlash against McCain's tone. Is he right?

It seems hard to imagine the media turning on McCain; then again, until sometime in 2005 it seemed hard to imagine the media turning on George W. Bush. The change resulted came not because journalists finally figured out that the administration's policies were awful, but because they concluded that the administration had deceived them on a number of issues. That was unforgivable.

Something like that may be happening again. McCain did promise that, even though 527 groups run by unwashed troublemakers might go negative in this campaign, he, heaven forfend, wouldn't. The press actually believed McCain. And now, shockingly, he's gone negative! The press loses its innocence!


Ambinder advances a theory about what's going on with McCain:

The cadre of McCain allies who aren't part of the campaign are very worried. They believe that McCain's current crop of advisers are playing to his worse instincts, particularly his pride and his ego. When McCain is privately content, he comes across publicly as happy-go-lucky and magnanimous; satisfied; when he is combative, he comes off as combative and reactive. They worry that he is obsessed with Obama's character and willing to attribute motives to Obama that are simply unbelievable outside of an echo chamber filled with those who are predisposed to believe Obama's a phony.

On one hand, this theory jibes with the myth of McCain -- that he's unusually noble and that he's not really a partisan Republican, except when evil forces conspire to make him that way.

On the other hand, maybe there's something to this -- maybe McCain really is abandoning his usual McCain-advancing jujitsu, the appearance of eclecticism that's made him a Republican big-leaguer by concealing his Republican-ness, and he's doing so because he's fallen in with advisers who are basically Freeper/Limbaughnista cultists, with the result that now, in the eyes of the press, he's losing the veneer of maverickness that's always preserved his brand. In other words, maybe the cultists pushed his temper buttons until he started acting like them because they wake up every day shouting "All Democrats are pure evil!" into the mirror and couldn't stand working with anyone who didn't, much less working for someone who didn't.

If so, it's yet another sign of the Monica Goodling-ization of John McCain. All by himself, of course, McCain has spent this campaign flip-flopping to bring himself into compliance with right-wing dogma, and he's gotten himself to the point where he could almost certainly pass Goodling's hiring litmus tests. But that's not good enough -- either he or his aides want him not just to advance wingnut policies but to sound wingnutty. Maybe it's the last step in his gang initiation. Whatever's going on, maybe it really will open the press's eyes -- I doubt it, but let's hope.


...OR: As Aimai says in comments, a simpler explanation is that this is McCain's real (i.e., angry) personality -- excessive anger is something he can pull off without assistance, thank you very much.

Well, sure -- but the crafting of the message, particularly the ads, isn't something he can do solo. So we have an angry McCain and a team helping him turn that anger into the public face of the campaign.

A hallmark of Bush's team was always thuggish attack politics on the part of surrogates, accompanied by a pious insistence that the president himself despised partisan attacks and wouldn't engage in them. I imagine the Bushies were comfortable with that division of labor because they felt secure in the knowledge that Bush, like them, really did despise Democrats. The dogmatists don't trust McCain on that score, so they want to hear him get nasty. And, yes, he's clearly willing to comply.

In today's Washington Post, Richard Cohen lists things he admires about John McCain, including the following:

... last but not least, his very early call for additional troops in Iraq. His was a lonely position -- virtually suicidal for an all-but-certain presidential candidate and no help when his campaign nearly expired last summer.... McCain stuck to his guns.

Er, McCain's campaign nearly expired in '07 because he was sinking in the polls among Republicans. So what were we hearing from the Republican candidates whose campaigns didn't seem to be expiring?

Rudy Giuliani: "In every speech he makes, Rudolph W. Giuliani talks about Iraq and makes clear that he sides with President Bush, endorsing the war and the deployment of 21,500 more troops."

Mitt Romney: "Mitt Romney today endorsed President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq...."

Fred Thompson: "I would do essentially what the president's doing. I know it's not popular right now...."

Let's sum up: According to Cohen, McCain's brave support for sending more troops was very, very harmful to his campaign -- as we saw when polls showed McCain slipping behind, um, a bunch of guys who also supported sending more troops.

By the way, Republicans hated the idea of sending additional troops so much that a mere 73% of them endorsed the idea, according to a poll conducted in January '07 by Cohen's own newspaper.

Brave, brave John McCain!

Monday, July 28, 2008


Gee, what a coincidence -- Barack Obama just came back from his overseas trip a couple of days ago, and in the short span of time since then:

* General Petraeus gave an interview to AP,

* General Petraeus gave an interview to Reuters,

* General Petraeus gave an interview to ABC,

* General Petraeus gave an interview to NPR, and

* General Petraeus gave an interview to McClatchy.

And although the quote isn't in either the text version or the online video version of the ABC story, in the broadcast version Petraeus actually had the gall to say,

Well, I've sought to avoid minefields throughout my military career and actually to stay out of domestic politics in our country....

Yeah, right.


UPDATE: Oops -- there's been yet another Petraeus interview, this one with USA Today.

Yesterday, a hater of liberalism and reader of Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity opened fire at the performance of a children's play at Unitarian church that prides itself on its decades-long support of "desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women's rights and gay rights."

Two people were killed, seven injured.

According to the right-winger blogger known as Confederate Yankee, that's terrible, but not that terrible:

...The two people that died were 60 and 61. Those wounded were 38, 41, 42, 68, 69, 71, and 76. Though Adkisson walked past an assembled group of children outside the sanctuary awaiting their stage call, he did not fire on them. No children were physically injured, and no parents of young children were killed, creating orphans. There is reason to be thankful for that.

Though he was found with 73 live 12-gauge shotgun cartridges, he was only able to fire 3 before being tackled while trying to reload. Most semi-automatic and pump shotguns hold 5 rounds of 12-gauge ammunition, unless plugged for bird-hunting. Those two additional shots would have taken less than a second to fire, and could have hurt several more people, at least. There is reason to be thankful that the previous owner of the gun was probably a bird hunter. There is reason to be thankful that Adkisson apparently didn't know enough to remove the plug.

Sunday was a horrible day for the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and there will be terrible days ahead as they seek to recover, and to heal.

But most will heal, and a day that could have been far worse was not, thanks to small miracles.

Yeah, every so often this gun-culture thing doesn't work out quite right, but why be a gloomy Gus about it? You've got to look on the bright side!


ALSO: You may know already from Pam Spaulding that the Freepers think this just means we need more guns in church, and you probably also know that right-wingers can't get themselves to acknowledge that the shooter's motives were largely political.

Bad enough -- but I'm waiting for the next wave, when the real crazies come out and tell us that this was a deadly ruse cooked up by the evil Obama campaign to score political points.

Think that's nuts? Recall that some right-wingers argued that the Clinton White House knew about the Oklahoma City bombing in advance, and took advantage of it politically -- or actually plotted the attack.

You wait -- Obama will be blamed.

Last week I found one Lyndon LaRouche follower being quoted by CNN in an article about Clinton diehards. Now Kevin at Rumproast finds that there were LaRouchenik PUMAs at the Obama speech in Berlin. Go read.

Bill Kristol in today's New York Times: I drove around the Washington suburbs, I saw not one but two cars -- rather nice cars, as it happens -- festooned with the Obama campaign bumper sticker "got hope?" And I relapsed into moroseness.

Got hope? Are my own neighbors' lives so bleak that they place their hopes in Barack Obama? Are they impressed by the cleverness of a political slogan that plays off a rather cheesy (sorry!) campaign to get people to drink milk? ...

Yeah, because no Republican would ever fall for a parody of that cheesy campaign, right?


Robert Novak today (also here):

...That [Obama] lingers below the 50 percent mark is a mystery among politicians of both parties.... In 1976, Jimmy Carter took a 33-point summer lead over President Gerald Ford....

Michael Barone a couple of weeks ago:

...Ford's political situation then was far more parlous than McCain's today. An early summer Gallup poll showed him trailing Carter by 62 percent to 29 percent....

Yeah, why did Carter have a huge lead in the summer of '76, and Obama doesn't now?

Oh, yeah, a little incident intervened to give Carter that big number, one that neither Novak nor Barone bothers to mention -- the Democrats had their convention.

Yes, Obama doesn't have a huge lead in July, and Carter did, in part because Carter had an earlier convention, and thus got an earlier convention bounce. Not in every poll, by the way, and not for very long:

...The Gallup poll showed [Carter] dropping from 62% (and a 33-point lead) in late July to 48% (a six-point margin) as of last week [October 1976]. Harris had him at 66% (a lead of 39 points) in July, which fell to 47% and a five-point edge last week. Yankelovich, who conducts opinion soundings for TIME, never gave Carter more than 48% and a ten-point lead, and right after the first debate had him running dead even with Gerald Ford.

...Carter's decline, however, is rather readily explained. Both Gallup and Harris gave Carter his biggest lead immediately after the Democratic National Convention in July, when his visibility was highest and when Ford was trying to fend off the challenge of Ronald Reagan....

Yes, not only was Carter having his convention in July, Ford was still going through his Obama-vs.-Hillary period. So the two Julys really aren't comparable.

I'd also argue that the GOP caricature of evil dangerous freak Democrats is so much better established now than in 1976 that, until it loses all its power, no Democratic nominee will ever get out to a 33-point lead.

Republicans have also benefited from the Mafia-like loyalty they've shown on Iraq, the #1 issue in America until recently, in contrast with many prominent Republicans' desire in 1974 to cut Nixon loose (and thus make disloyalty to the party seem OK).

Oh, and yeah, there is that melanin difference between Obama and Carter....

Sunday, July 27, 2008


McCain's been working on this for a while, but now I think he really has that Nixonian "I'm just like you, Joe Average Man, and the swells are screwing both of us" thing down pat:

"With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to 'the people of the world,' I'm starting to feel a little left out," Senator John McCain said in a radio address on Saturday. "Maybe you are too."

"I'm starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are too." That's primal. That's the bitter tone of resentment that got Nixon elected twice. You shouldn't mock it -- it works. In our Bizarro World political climate, it doesn't come off as impotent whining; it comes off as toughness.

(Oh, and since the subject matter here whether Obama is acting prematurely presidential, isn't delivering Saturday radio addresses the kind of thing only presidents do?)


More from the New York Times article linked above:

While Mr. Obama said he knew the risks of "flying too close to the sun," as he put it, his confidence has swelled since he claimed the Democratic nomination early last month. These days, his public statements and news conferences often contain four words -- "in an Obama administration" -- as he settles to find the proper measure of confidence and humility in his pitch to voters.

Oh, that arrogrant, presumptuous Obama. "In an Obama administration"! John McCain would never use a phrase like that!

...Well, maybe "never" is too strong a word:

As McCain has said before, "anyone serving in a McCain administration must commit not to lobby the administration during his presidency."

Yeah, maybe he has talked like this once or twice:

I will ask Democrats to serve in my administration. My administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability.

Or more than once or twice:

In my administration there will be no more subsidies for special pleaders -- no more corporate welfare -- no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people's money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas.

And, yeah, I guess there are also those pesky surrogates:

Fiorina: Anything that has to do with achieving energy independence will obviously have a very very high priority in the McCain administration....

But Obama's still the arrogant one because -- well, just because he is!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I don't know what the hell the Obama people are doing sending out hints that Ann Veneman, the former Bush agriculture secretary, is being considered for VP -- as the story at the link notes, she was a lousy regulator of the food industry, which would seem to be a glaringly obvious dealbreaker in an era of multiple food safety scares. All I can imagine is that they're planning to announce a pick soon and it's a male, so they're trying to damp down criticism from Clintonites -- as if this would help -- or they think McCain's going to beat them to an announcement and his pick is going to be Carly Fiorina or Sarah Palin.

When I saw a teaser for the linked story at another site, it said Obama was considering a female former Bush cabinet secretary, and I thought, "Oh, he's floating Christie Whitman's name -- that's not a bad move." Yes, Whitman deserves a lot of the blame for health problems of Ground Zero workers, but she's an old-school moderate Republican, and pro-choice to boot, not to mention a critic of her own party's ideologues, so a float of her name would send the signal that Obama intends to appeal to the left and center and that he thinks McCain is crouching in the far right corner.

Did Team Obama want to float Whitman's name, but she refused to let her name be floated? I really don't know how these things work. If that's the case, they would have done better just to drop the whole idea. This comes off as a bit desperate.


UPDATE: I'm reminded in comments that I'm being awfully nice to Christie Whitman and forgetting this appalling incident. My apologies.

David Bossie's Citizens United will soon release an anti-Obama "documentary" called Hype. The trailer is below. Notice something odd about it -- I mean, besides the fact that midway through it seems almost impossible to distinguish from McCain's own "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" ad?

Er, what's up with that flipping and fading TV signal? I recognize that effect -- because I'm old and I remember bad TV reception. I experienced bad TV reception until I got cable -- about twenty years ago. Apart from poor people (who aren't usually the target marget for right-wing propaganda, at least not propaganda you have to have high-speed Internet service to watch), how many American even have TV reception like this now?

Mr. Google tells me that 58.4% of U.S. households have cable and 25% have satellite; or, to put this another way,

In 2006, the average home received 104.2 channels, an increase of almost eight channels since 2005. The percentage of homes receiving 100+ channels rose from 42% in 2005 to 47% in 2006, with 33% receiving between 60 and 99 channels....

That means 80% of the public never has reception like this. I imagine most of those people barely remember it.

As it turns out, I happen to know a fair number of people who don't have cable or satellite -- but they're voracious book readers and, well, liberals. Sorry to reduce you right-wingers to a cultural stereotype, but I assume most of you have (or soon plan to buy) the biggest, flattest, baddest TV you can possibly buy.

What's next in McCain ads? Dial telephones? Telegraph operators?


Oh, and I guess I understand why Bossie would want to lead with Obama's appearance on Ellen DeGeneres's show (even though, um, McCain went on her show, too) -- but why does this preview spend the first half a minute on the credits to Ellen's show? It's Obama's fault that her show has a happy-go-lucky, perky title sequence? Or is Bossie just really, really creeped out at the sight of an out lesbian giving low fives?

Friday, July 25, 2008


A couple of days ago, in a post about Jonah Goldberg's intellectually bankrupt but disturbingly influential Liberal Fascism, Jesse Taylor made a good point about what's going on in politics now:

... what Goldberg has done is provide intellectual cover for a growing meme: Obama is the leader of a new fascist revolution....

The Goldbergian view of fascism ... is that the marriage of any measurable popularity whatsoever to any state action whatsoever outside the boundaries of Reaganite conservatism is
de facto fascist. The point was ... to ... provide a way to brand any popular Democrat or liberal as the handmaiden of evil....

The term has been neutered, left to describe nothing and everything at once and to turn even the most basic of campaign traditions - rallies, fundraising, sloganeering - into the drumbeat of tyranny....

That's absolutely right -- after two straight presidential elections in which the GOP argument could be boiled down to Look at the freak! Everybody hates him!, Republicans are now facing a candidate who -- horrors! -- inspires genuine enthusiasm, and their response is a unified cry of "FASCISM!!!" And there's nothing more to their warning cry than that. No one's liberties need to be curbed. No new instruments of power need to be created. Fascism is just nonconservatism (i.e., any amount of government intervention Ayn Rand wouldn't approve of) plus popularity. That's it. That's the full right-wing definition of the term in 2008.

The only question I have is which approach the Republicans would have used if Hillary Clinton had been this year's Democratic nominee. I think if she'd won easily by February or March, they'd be going with Look at the (hippie lezbo) freak (with fat ankles)! On the other hand, if she'd managed to win after that long primary fight, having become a hero to blue-collar whites, Republicans would now be saying that it's typical fascist behavior for a would-be dictator to whip up frenzied crowds of angry workers.

And all those PUMA women -- they wouldn't be right-wing heroines, courted by John McCain's female surrogates; Goldberg himself would be telling us that they, like Hillary, are fascists because they're feminists, "people who want to reduce the independence and sovereignty and influence of the family," people who are obsessed with "breaking into the bunker of the nuclear family, cracking its shell and getting the state in there." Republicans would be mining their life stories for evidence of fascist feminism (e.g., living in a commune forty years ago) and brandishing it on Fox News on a daily basis. And Goldberg would probably reissue his book with its original Hillary-baiting subtitle.

(Cross-posted at the Carpetbagger Report.)

Yesterday I argued that Barack Obama needs to make more mistakes -- he makes a good impression (as he's done throughout his overseas trip) and then he gets good press coverage, but then he's blamed for getting good press coverage, often by the same news organizations that gave him good press coverage in the first place, and voters hear (from the media) that the media is trying to throw the election to Obama and then those voters seem to become more receptive to McCain. (This was in response to polls suggesting that Obama is having trouble holding on to a lead in key swing states, precisely when his news coverage is much better than McCain's.)

Well, perhaps Obama has figured out a different way to work the refs in reverse. This is all we saw first thing this morning on the front page of the New York Times Web site about Obama's Berlin speech:

Today's print Times is similar -- the "vague on issues" "news analysis" made page one, while a straight report on the speech was tucked back on page A19.

Has some disillusionment settled in at the Times? And could the more negative tone have anything to do with the resentments recounted in Gabriel Sherman's New Republic article "End of the Affair: Barack Obama and the Press Break Up" -- for instance, this?

Around midnight on July 16, New York Times chief political correspondent Adam Nagourney received a terse e-mail from Barack Obama's press office. The campaign was irked by the Times' latest poll and Nagourney and Megan Thee's accompanying front-page piece titled "Poll Finds Obama Isn't Closing Divide on Race," which was running in the morning's paper. Nagourney answered the query, the substance of which he says was minor, and went to bed, thinking the matter resolved.

But, the next morning, Nagourney awoke to an e-mail from
Talking Points Memo writer Greg Sargent asking him to comment on an eight-point rebuttal trashing his piece that the Obama campaign had released to reporters and bloggers like The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder and Politico's Ben Smith. Nagourney had not heard the complaints from the Obama camp and had no idea they were so steamed. "I'm looking at this thing, and I'm like, 'What the hell is this?' " Nagourney recently recalled. "I really flipped out."

... the episode still grates. "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others," Nagourney tells me. "I thought they crossed the line. If you have a problem with a story I write, call me first. I'm a big boy. I can handle it. But they never called. They attacked me like I'm a political opponent."

I hope Obama's coverage turns more negative -- right now, the one thing that seems to be holding the listless and dispirited McCain semi-coalition together is the sense that voting for the old guy is a way of sticking it to "the messiah" and the media simultaneously. We know Obama can handle a wave of attacks in the press -- remember the Jeremiah Wright days? -- but I worry that his campaign can't take too much more good press.

Illustration at today

If the McCain campaign and the right blogosphere are horrified by Barack Obama because he called himself a "citizen of the world" in his Berlin speech, then they should be really furious at the liberal hippie who said this:

I've had to make some very difficult decisions, as you know, and I made the decisions based upon what I think is in the best interest of my country, the security of my country. But I also believe the decisions I have made will end up helping people realize the great blessings of liberty. I believe people ought to be able to worship freely, or not worship at all, but you're equally a citizen of the world. I believe that poverty and hopelessness in the spirit can be changed. I believe the United States has got an obligation to help others.

...And so the purpose of my visit here to Vienna has been to work with my European Union counterparts to join in a common alliance for the good of mankind.

Wait -- that was no liberal hippie, that was George W. Bush in 2006!

And here's Bush praising Bono at the National Prayer Breakfast the same year:

So I've gotten to know Bono. (Laughter.) He's a doer. The thing about this good citizen of the world is he's used his position to get things done. You're an amazing guy, Bono. God bless you. (Applause.)

OMG! Bush thinks being a "citizen of the world" is a good thing!

He also apparently thinks that not being a "citizen of the world" is a bad thing. In 2004, he criticized John Kerry's stance on the Iraq War by saying,

Does he think if we weren't in Iraq that Mr. Zarqawi would become a peaceful citizen of the world?

Oh, those "Kumbaya"-singing lefties....


UPDATE: A Kossack did some of the same research, plus a lot more about Bush and other prominent Americans. Also see this post from Andrew Sullivan's blog.

(Cross-posted at the Carpetbagger Report.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008


National Review's Byron York:

It's a small passage from Obama's Berlin speech, but this formulation, common in some circles, grates on some ears, like mine:

The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

Yes, the victims were from all over the globe -- places like Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and Manhattan, and Queens, and Staten Island, and New Jersey -- all over. And most were Americans, weren't they? Wasn't that the point of the attack? ...

Yeah, that's an appalling Obama statement.

In fact, it's almost as appalling as this:

Among the many innocent victims of September 11th were hundreds of citizens from over 90 countries....

The attacks of September 11th were the worst assault on the American homeland in our country's history, but they were more than that. They were an attack on the universal ideals of peace and liberty and human rights that civilized nations like ours embody and strive to uphold. The September 11th attacks were not only an attack on our people, but also on the noblest aspirations of all people.

What kind of globalist "Kumbaya"-singing liberal would have said something like that?

Oh, wait -- that was Condi Rice, on the fifth anniversary of the attacks.


(Via Steve Benen.)


UPDATE: Another Birkenstock-wearing hippie made similar remarks on 9/20/01:

Nor will we forget the citizens of 80 other nations who died with our own: dozens of Pakistanis; more than 130 Israelis; more than 250 citizens of India; men and women from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico and Japan; and hundreds of British citizens.

That hippie was Condi's boss.

In the past week or so, Barack Obama hasn't put a foot wrong, while John McCain lurches from embarrassment to embarrassment.

And what's the result? This:

McCain Makes Significant Gains in Four Key Battleground States

Republican John McCain has quickly closed the gap between himself and Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama in several key battleground states even as the Arizona senator struggles to break through the wall-to-wall coverage of Obama's trip to Europe and the Middle East this week.

McCain and Obama are in a statistical dead heat in Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota....

A month ago, Obama led McCain among Independents by anywhere from 21 points (Minnesota) to eight points (Michigan). In the most recent set of data, McCain actually outperforms Obama by three points among independents in Michigan while losing that crucial voting bloc far more narrowly in Colorado (Obama +8), Minnesota (Obama +8) and Wisconsin (Obama +9)....

Why is this happening? Well, like every presidential election since 1988, this is shaping up as a one-question referendum: Should we vote for the guy we agree with on most issues, namely the Democrat, or would that be the end of civilization as we know it because he's a weirdo with evil superpowers?

It's actually been somewhat difficult to fit Obama into that neurotic-monster template -- he's passed the has-human-feelings test (the one that tripped up Dukakis), he doesn't have excessive sexual appetites (Clinton), and he's not an alleged know-it-all-slash-compulsive-liar (Gore) or the owner of a skintight windsurfing costume (Kerry). Hell, we'd actually like to have a beer with him!

In fact, he's so likable that we're told that the fact that lots of people like him is how we can tell he's a monster. He made us love him -- we didn't want to do it! And if he continues, we'll have to destroy him -- before he destroys us with his fiendish admirability.

That's why, every time he has a run of good days on the campaign trail, what we hear from the press is: He's forcing us to cover him favorably, and to cover the other guy unfavorably. That's why he's a bad person. He has to make us stop doing that. So every wave of good stories about Obama is followed by a wave of stories from the same news organizations saying, "Good Lord, there are too many good stories about Obama!"

Therefore, he needs to screw up, and fast. In fact, he needs to screw up every week or two between now and November, or he won't get elected.

We know he's adept at getting himself out of trouble -- we saw that during the two waves of Jeremiah Wright Mania in the media -- so he can manage the risk. He needs to get himself in hot water the way he did then, because then journalists will write bad stories, and will (temporarily) stop criticizing him for making them write so many good stories, which is what's making swing voters think he's a scary monster.

Please, Barack -- make some big mistakes. Soon.

... this guy:

Jack Shafer and Mickey Kaus are absolutely right in what they're implying -- that the press has a double standard and simply refuses to embarrass Democrats with stories about sex.


In all seriousness, John Cole has a simple explanation for why the mainstream press isn't covering the story about the alleged John Edwards affair and "love child," and I think what Cole says is persuasive:

...You guys [Republicans] have made standard affairs boring.... No one is claiming Edwards was seen in two wetsuits hanging from the ceiling with a dildo lodged in his rectum. There is no DC madam with a black book involved. No one has transcripts of him instant messaging teen-age congressional pages or crashing their dorms in a drunken stupor. There is no arrest record for soliciting oral sex in an airport bathroom, complete with feisty confrontations with the arresting officer on video tape. There is no religious hypocrisy and gay prostitution and meth-fueled sodomy binge to talk about.

In short, aside from the fact that all there is to the story is an Enquirer report, it is just boring. You all have made standard affairs pedestrian and dull. Even when you use the phrase “love child,” what it boils down to is a guy allegedly sleeping with a woman. Pretty tame stuff, given what the GOP has provided us for the past few years.

The GOP has set the sleaze/hypocrisy bar high. You have to be at the level of a Spitzer to clear it, and Edwards, even if the Enquirer is right about him, hasn't come close.

CNN does a story about anti-Obama "PUMAs" and quotes Webster Tarpley in all seriousness...

...Kim Mann said she thinks that Obama is too liberal. Webster Tarpley said the senator from Illinois is too conservative. But Mann, a 52-year-old project manager from Manassas, Virginia, and Tarpley, a self-described 62-year-old "controversial author," agree on one thing: Neither wants Obama to be the Democratic nominee.

... Tarpley said he would turn his gaze towards Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr or independent candidate Ralph Nader.

Tarpley said a McCain victory might be the best result if Obama is the Democratic nominee. It would allow the party an opportunity to reflect and perhaps "radicalize it in a New Deal direction." ...

...without noting that Tarpley is a LaRouchenik and a 9/11 truther who thinks Obama is a puppet of the Trilateral Commission and "the candidate of the U.S. intelligence community," Obama apparently having been recruited by The Conspiracy in his "lost years where nobody knows anything about what he was doing, we're not even sure where he was. 1981, 1982, 1983 his last two years in college," all of which Tarpley recounts in his new book, Obama: The Postmodern Coup: Making of a Manchurian Candidate, the cover of which pairs a photo of Obama waving and a photo of Mussolini giving a fascist salute.

Hey, CNN -- there's a guy outside my building who's wrapped in tinfoil and claiming space aliens are communicating with him through his fillings. Maybe you want to interview him next about the election.


(Via Ron Chusid.)


UPDATE: OK, I have to post this, er, tribute to the PUMAs, from Rumproast, bookended by the worst rap ever and the longest autoharp jam in human history, with some creamy white racism in the middle:

Yowza. These people really are nuts. And Mother Maybelle Carter is rising up from the dead as we speak to kick the autoharp woman's ass.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Does he have one? Oh, yes. From The Wall Street Journal:

Richest Americans See Their Income Share Grow

In a new sign of increasing inequality in the U.S., the richest 1% of Americans in 2006 garnered the highest share of the nation's adjusted gross income for two decades, and possibly the highest since 1929, according to Internal Revenue Service data.

Meanwhile, the average tax rate of the wealthiest 1% fell to its lowest level in at least 18 years....

According to the figures, the richest 1% reported 22% of the nation's total adjusted gross income in 2006. That is up from 21.2% a year earlier, and is the highest in the 19 years that the IRS has kept strictly comparable figures. The 1988 level was 15.2%. Earlier IRS data show the last year the share of income belonging to the top 1% was at such a high level as it was in 2006 was in 1929, but changes in measuring income make a precise comparison difficult.

The average tax rate in 2006 for the top 1%, based on adjusted gross income, was 22.8%, down slightly from 2005 and the fifth straight year of declines....

Mission accomplished.

Yeah, this hasn't worked out well for John McCain -- Bobby Jindal has taken himself out of consideration for VP (was that because of the flurry of exorcism posts on the Internet after the VP rumor surfaced? was the rumor just a trial balloon meant to sample potential negative reaction to Jindal? and did Team McCain really not know we'd react this way?). And now John McCain's real secret plan for Thursday -- or Plan B, perhaps -- has also had to be canceled: because of Hurricane Dolly, McCain can't fly over oil rigs on the Gulf Coast to promote coastal drilling. Oh, and there's an embarrassing oil spill in the Mississippi. D'oh. Time for Plan C, which involves not stopping in Louisiana at all.

But I have to say I disagree with Digby:

CNN is now reporting that this spill is up to 400,000 gallons of fuel oil and the Coast Guard has closed 29 miles of the river. This could effectively end the "drill now" campaign.

That's hard to imagine -- an unintended consequence of Obama's trip is that most Americans won't even notice that the spill took place, and now they won't connect it to McCain. Domestically, the GOP has put all its chips on "drill now," and it jibes perfectly with the Republicans' view of the dichotomy between the parties (real men who get their hands dirty vs. prissy virtuecrats). So don't blow "Taps" for coastal drilling just yet.

Let's see -- how many aspects of the GOP stereotype of Democrats does this Norm Coleman attack ad on Al Franken manage to squeeze into thirty seconds?

Hypocrisy. Coarsening of the culture. Seemingly dangerous character flaws. And elitism -- definitely elitism. (The ad doesn't charge Franken with being a rootless cosmopolitan, but this one does.)

Script of the ad above:

Bowler: The guys and I have been talking. We've read all this stuff about Al Franken: Not paying taxes. Going without insurance for his employees. Foul-mouthed attacks on anyone he disagrees with. Tasteless, sexist jokes. Writing all that juicy porn. And we've decided were running for U.S. Senate. Why not? We're just as qualified as Al Franken, and were better bowlers.


In what ought to be a big Democratic year, a couple of polls have Franken trailing Coleman by double digits, even though Obama seems to have a huge lead over McCain in Minnesota.

Remind me again: Why was it a good idea to run Franken?

I gather that, earlier this year, he polled better than other Democrats who wanted the nomination. That means nothing -- I've seen unknowns here in New York knock off big names (Schumer over D'Amato, Pataki over Cuomo), and believe me, the head-to-head polls nine or ten months before the election were not predictive. Name recognition in the winter means nothing. You need political skill, money, and a unified party to beat a vulnerable incumbent -- all those things are how you build name recognition.

Rule #1: The Democratic Party should never run big-name entertainers. Republicans can do that anytime they want, because Republican Party membership pre-acquits you on the charge of being an elitist or a degrader of the culture. Democrats don't have that luxury. Democrats have the opposite problem: All Democrats are treated as if they're culture-degrading Hollywood elitists, even when they're from Podunk. Why compound the problem by running an actual celebrity?

Yeah, Franken has specific problems -- mismanagement of his taxes as an entertainer, authorship of a sexually explicit Playboy article that's being called porn. But just seeking office as a celeb and a Democrat is hard enough. Decades of GOP propaganda have persuaded a lot of Americans that Democrats look down on the little guy. How do you disprove that when the main line on your resume is a job people associate with wealth and ego?

UPDATE: Well, there is this: Rasmussen's latest poll showing Coleman and Franken neck and neck, contradicting the SurveyUSA and Quinnipiac polls, which show Coleman up by double digits.

Reading the blogosphere these days, I get the feeling that a lot of people think the election is over. Obama's withdrawal plans have been seconded by Maliki; he's being cheered by GIs in Iraq; McCain looks old and tired and cranky. Here's Michael Crowley of The New Republic:

...I can hardly believe how badly John McCain is getting routed in the television-imagery game. As Obama saunters through the Middle East, looking cool and relaxed, McCain has been holding events where he looks stiff, uncomfortable, and, in his bracing claim today that Obama would lose a war to win an election, sounding bitter to the point of nasty. (McCain flashed another bizarre forced smile after his scathing shot at Obama tonight, but it didn't prevent him from coming across as whiny and petulant.)...

And look, there's Obama in a helicopter with General Petraeus while McCain sits in a golf cart with Poppy Bush! McCain has really lousy optics these days, right?

And yet:

For the first time since shortly after clinching the Democratic nomination, we now have Barack Obama as less than a 60 percent favorite to win the election. Our simulations presently project Obama to win the election 58.4 percent of the time, with McCain winning the remaining 41.6 percent.

The main culprit for the decline are the new numbers out of Ohio, where Rasmussen shows John McCain jumping into a 10-point lead.... Obama's numbers had declined among Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike....

There is also new polling out from American Research Group, which has Florida and New Hampshire moving in John McCain's direction. In Florida, Obama now trails by 2 after having led by 5 points, and in New Hampshire, he leads by 2 after having led by 12....

And Gallup still sees a close race -- Obama's up by 3.

What's going on here?

Practically everyone in the left blogosphere has been reading Nixonland recently. I confess I haven't cracked it, but I think I grasp the premise: that Nixon won over a massive coalition of voters by persuading them that they were the bedrock of America and their enemies were radicals and elitists who wanted to destroy our civilization -- and we still live in Nixonland.

It seems to me that this wouldn't be a race at all if a significant percentage of the electorate didn't see McCain as Nixon rather than, say, Bob Dole. Being stiff and awkward was a mark of virtue for Nixon, as was being the object of sneers from the press; McCain wants you to feel the same way about him, and it's possible that some voters are responding.

Yes, I know: McCain has been a media darling for years. But he's getting some bad press now -- at just the right time.

And yes, I also know that in 2000 Al Gore was called stiff and awkward and that was supposed to be a sign of his lack of genuineness, while George W. Bush's backslapping marked him as "real." Well, that's the problem: Democrats can win elections under certain circumstances, but the deck is always stacked in favor of "real" Republicans as opposed to "slick," "phony," "elitist" Democrats.

This is a long way of getting around to the fact that I -- alas -- think McCain's videos accusing the press of excessive "love" for Obama could be the most effective ads he's done (yes, I know that's a low standard), and may really be sending a message that resonates with a not insubstantial bloc of voters.

The ads have some energy and a reasonably light touch. The songs are catchy chestnuts by Frankie Valli. And, somewhere in hell, Nixon is smiling: the point of the ads is that frou-frou East Coast media superstars are gushing over the new young star. The cringe-inducing thrill-up-my-leg remark by Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson's invocation of a schoolboy crush make the ads seem largely about sex; that's appropriate given the fact that Nixon's culture war was as much about discomfort with sex as anything else.

This all makes me wish Obama would turn around and come home right now, before he gets to Europe. He's established his foreign policy bona fides; far too much of what's left is the movie star/sex god part, and that has the potential to hurt him in Nixonland. This is the part where he runs the risk of seeming less like a political figure and more like a celebrity with political notions -- Richard Gere talking to the Dalai Lama or, to put it in Nixon-era terms, Warren Beatty in a turtleneck flashing a peace sign next to a kohl-eyed ingenue in a miniskirt. I fear Obama may actually drop in the polls until he gets back home and stops seeming like, as they'd have said in Nixon's day, a jet-setter.


UPDATE: No, this (from Joe Klein) isn't going to hurt McCain one bit.

John McCain said this today in Rochester, New Hampshire:

This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.

This is the ninth presidential campaign I've covered. I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad.

My hat's off to Klein and the left blogosphere for trying to make this an issue, but it's always acceptable to accuse a Democrat of disloyalty to country. This isn't going to get traction.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Jonah in the L.A. Times today:

...the tragic Catch-22 for [John McCain] is that the more the surge succeeds, the more politically advantageous it is for Obama.

... If [the war] were going worse, McCain's Churchillian rhetoric would match reality more. But with sectarian violence nearly gone, Al Qaeda in Iraq almost totally routed and even Shiite Sadrist militias seemingly neutralized, the stakes of withdrawal seem low enough for Americans to feel comfortable voting for Obama....

Is Goldberg serious? Is he actually arguing that voters would be less impatient with the war, and thus less inclined to kick the GOP out of the White House, if everything were going exactly the way it was two years ago, and the Republican nominee was still saying, "Stay the course"?

Here's your Catch-22, Jonah: Voters want out when Iraq looks as if it's not improving and voters want out when there's improvement. Voters just want out.

Americans are dying. Money is being squandered. We didn't find weapons and bin Laden's still on the loose and gas is more expensive than ever. Out. That's the key word. Voters don't give a good goddamn about Churchillian rhetoric when it's in defense of a war that isn't accomplishing anything and never will.

Today David Brooks looks at indebtedness in America and says that one of the causes is our atrophied sense of sin:

...Some of the toxins were economic. Rising house prices gave people the impression that they could take on more risk. Some were cultural. We entered a period of mass luxury, in which people down the income scale expect to own designer goods. Some were moral. Schools and other institutions used to talk the language of sin and temptation to alert people to the seductions that could ruin their lives. They no longer do....

(Emphasis mine.)

So Madalyn Murray O'Hair is more responsible for the bankrupting of America than the CEO of Countrywide Financial. Got it?

But surely there are some institutions in America that still talk about sin and temptation -- y'know, churches? And if that kind of talk keeps people from financial trouble, surely it stands to reason that there'd be less bankruptcy among churchgoers than among non-churchgoers -- right?

Um, apparently not. A 2006 ranking of states by weekly or near-weekly church or synagogue attendance is here. The top ten states are as follows:

Alabama 58%
Louisiana 58%
South Carolina 58%
Mississippi 57%
Utah 55%
Arkansas 55%
Nebraska 53%
North Carolina 53%
Tennessee 52%
Georgia 52%

Now here's the top ten from a 2006 list of bankruptcy filings per capita:

#1 Tennessee: 1.099 per 1,000 people
#2 Georgia: 0.953 per 1,000 people
#3 Alabama: 0.809 per 1,000 people

#4 Michigan: 0.661 per 1,000 people
#5 Arkansas: 0.643 per 1,000 people
#6 Indiana: 0.609 per 1,000 people
#7 Kentucky: 0.542 per 1,000 people
#8 Mississippi: 0.538 per 1,000 people
#9 Missouri: 0.534 per 1,000 people
#10 Ohio: 0.512 per 1,000 people

I've highlighted the states that overlap.

Similar correspondences appear at the other end as well: Maine and Vermont, for instance, have the lowest rates of church attendance among the 50 states -- and the 3rd- and 7th-lowest rates of bankruptcy.

(The bankruptcy numbers for 2007 are here; they're not very different.)

Maybe churches have just gotten more liberal and relativistic in ... um ... Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia. No that doesn't sound right, does it? OK, I'll try again: Maybe these churches would get around to talking about the sinful temptations of materialism if they weren't too busy talking about the evils of gay marriage and the Democratic Party. Yeah, that's a bit more plausible.

You know the classic definition of a liberal or a Democrat -- someone who's too polite (or broad-minded) to take his own side in argument? Well, as The Washington Times has just learned, the problem with getting a disaffected old-school Democrat to try to undermine his party's nominee (as that nominee makes an apparently quite successful overseas tour) is that the Democratic turncoat is going to be just too polite (or broad-minded) to fully adopt the anti-Democratic side in the argument.

I'm talking, of course, about Lanny Davis. Here's Davis's latest Washington Times column:

I remember the exact moment I had my first serious doubts about whether I was 100 percent right that the U.S. pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and the take-out of Saddam Hussein was a serious mistake.

I had been strongly opposed to the U.S. intervention from the start.

...why risk the uncertainties of a pre-emptive invasion, loss of life and treasure, and diverting our attention from 9/11 and the war against terrorism, which most U.S. intelligence indicated had nothing to do with Saddam?

Of course, all these remain good reasons for opposing starting the war, even as I look back now.

Damn, he's setting us up for a really melodramatic Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment -- and then he wimps out by saying he was probably right in the first place!

No, wait --

But ... then came my first moment of doubt.

... there was that indelible image -- an older woman shrouded in a carpetlike cape, smiling gleefully and holding her purple finger in the air for the TV cameras, purple with ink showing that she had voted....

Wow, I thought. Is it possible I was wrong?

This does lead Lanny to spout every right-wing talking point from the purple-finger era ever....

Is it possible, I wondered, that Iraqis truly did want democracy and freedom and the right to vote and government of the people, just as we Americans do? And were willing to fight for it, with our help?

... Maybe another democracy, however imperfect, other than Israel in the Middle East could lead to more moderation, possibly other democracies? Democracies that could serve as bulwarks against al Qaeda-type of terrorist states?


No, wait --

...Then in 2005-06 came the increased violence from the Sunni insurgents against American kids, then the sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites, with young Americans caught in the crossfire. My certainty in opposing the war and supporting a deadline for getting out re-emerged.

So the war was a bad idea, hunh, Lanny?

No, wait again --

And then in early 2007 came the surge, which so many of us in the antiwar left of the Democratic Party predicted would be a failure, throwing good men and women and billions of dollars after futility. We were wrong....

So this op-ed is, at long last, a stinging rebuke to the Defeat-o-crats and their defeat-obsessed message of defeat? So BUSH WAS RIGHT!!!?

Er --

I think there are a lot of antiwar Democrats who, like me, are impressed by these facts and who now see a moral obligation, after all the carnage and destruction wrought by our military intervention, not just to pick up and leave without looking over our shoulders.

Surely we owe the Iraqis who helped us, whose lives are in danger, immediate immigration rights to the U.S. Yet the shameful fact is that most are still not even close to having such rights....

Dude! Why are you talking about the refugees, fer crissake? WE'RE WINNING!!! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Surely we owe the al-Maliki government and the Shi'ite and Sunni soldiers who put their lives on the line against Shi'ite and Sunni extremists and terrorists at our behest some continuing presence....

The only question is, for how long?

Forever? No. 100 years? No.

But for how long? I don't know....

Damn! You're almost making the case for McCain ... and then you make the case against McCain! Lanny, what is your problem?

And what do you mean, you "don't know" how long? Everybody knows the answer to that -- until VICTORY!!!

So it appears that Lanny Davis (unlike, say, Dick Morris or Tammy Bruce) is a real Democrat after all -- as a traitor, he doesn't even have the courage of his enemies' convictions.