Sunday, August 31, 2008


This morning I was arguing with several progressive, Obama-backing people about Maureen Dowd. They insisted that Dowd loathes John McCain and likes Barack Obama; to them, today's column was a smoking gun.

But to me, today's column is just more Obama-bashing in the guise of McCain- and Palin-bashing; I'd agree that it's equal-opportunity bashing (that's what people always say when you remind them of how often Dowd bashes Democrats -- "Oh, she hates everybody"), but it's just obvious to me where, on a gut level, her sympathies really lie.

The conceit of the column is that McCain's pick of Sarah Palin is a chick flick -- not just any chick flick but a "guilty pleasure ... a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick." So this is something Dowd likes.

Now, I know I'm supposed to read that as sarcasm, as irony, but I don't see it -- her recounting of the "plot" of this "flick" is so full of joy that you know what she's really thinking: those Republican rascals, those awful-and-thus-delightful bad boys (they're only awful-awful after they're elected), are really going to get away with it.

And they're going to get away with it because Barack Obama is such a limp loser:

...It begins, of course, with a cute, cool unknown from Alaska who has never even been on "Meet the Press" triumphing over a cute, cool unknowable from Hawaii who has been on "Meet the Press" a lot.

(That's Obama's level of qualification: he's been on Sunday chat shows a lot.)

Americans, suspicious that the Obamas have benefited from affirmative action without being properly grateful, and skeptical that Michelle really likes "The Brady Bunch" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," reject the 47-year-old black contender as too uppity and untested.

Do you know anyone rational who doesn't believe Michelle Obama grew up liking The Brady Bunch? Or who even considered that this might be a calculated statement? The only people who doubt this are insane PUMAs, racists who think black people only like black things ... and Maureen Dowd.

...Obama may have been president of The Harvard Law Review, but Palin graduated from the University of Idaho with a minor in poli-sci and worked briefly as a TV sports reporter. And she was tougher on the basketball court than the ethereal Obama, earning the nickname "Sarah Barracuda."

Obama is decidedly more qualified than Palin ... but he's a wuss! She could kick his butt in b-ball!

Sarah is a zealot, but she's a fun zealot. She has a beehive and sexy shoes, and the day she's named she goes shopping with McCain in Ohio for a cheerleader outfit for her daughter.

As she once told Vogue, she's learned the hard way to deal with press comments about her looks. "I wish they’d stick with the issues instead of discussing my black go-go boots," she said. "A reporter once asked me about it during the campaign, and I assured him I was trying to be as frumpy as I could by wearing my hair on top of my head and these schoolmarm glasses."

Here's where you see Dowd's sympathies. It doesn't take long in Googling Palin before you realize that she drops little interesting factoids about herself into practically every sentence she utters in the presence of the many, many reporters who just so happen to flock to her. And yet she somehow comes off as a who-me? naif who just so happens to live a life full of these cute details.

Now, a genuinely cynical person would call bullshit on this. People think Maureen Dowd is just such a person -- in fact, people think Maureen Dowd is the most cynical person ever. But not only is she swallowing this bull, she's retranmitting it, in a way that reveals zero skepticism.

And now for the end of the chick flick:

The movie ends with the former beauty queen shaking out her pinned-up hair, taking off her glasses, slipping on ruby red peep-toe platform heels that reveal a pink French-style pedicure, and facing down Vladimir Putin in an island in the Bering Strait. Putting away her breast pump, she points her rifle and informs him frostily that she has some expertise in Russia because it's close to Alaska. "Back off, Commie dude," she says. "I'm a much better shot than Cheney."

Then she takes off in her seaplane and lands on the White House lawn, near the new ice fishing hole and hockey rink. The "First Dude," as she calls the hunky Eskimo in the East Wing, waits on his snowmobile with the kids -- Track (named after high school track meets), Bristol (after Bristol Bay where they did commercial fishing), Willow (after a community in Alaska), Piper (just a cool name) and Trig (Norse for "strength.")

"The P.T.A. is great preparation for dealing with the K.G.B.," President Palin murmurs to Todd, as they kiss in the final scene while she changes Trig's diaper. "Now that Georgia's safe, how 'bout I cook you up some caribou hot dogs and moose stew for dinner, babe?"

Am I crazy to believe Dowd really digs this scenario? Maybe she doesn't even know she digs it, but she digs it. She's seeded the column with all the points against Palin, but the point of the column is to entertain you with everything about Palin that Palin calculatedly uses about herself, and to do it within a scenario that's essentially John McCain's argument for her suitability.

Am I wrong about this? I'll happily entertain other readings of this column. But I say it's pro-Palin -- and anti-"ethereal" Obama.

I'll try to check in later today.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


John McCain picked himself for vice president.

He picked someone whose life story is so heavy on the colorful that the media doesn't want to ask boring old policy questions; he picked someone people hesitate before criticizing because of that life story (ex-POW! working mom with Down syndrome baby!); and he picked someone who clearly spends an inordinate amount of time working that life story and courting that media love (not working crowds or climbing the political ladder swiftly, a la Obama).

In other words, he picked John McCain in a skirt.

You've probably seen the clip in which Sarah Palin asks what a vice president does. On the left it's being treated as just an embarrassing error -- she essentially admitted that she doesn't have a clue about the job she now seeks.

But I think there's something Rove-like about it -- she's trying to go at the strength of the Democrats' anticipated inexperience argument and trying to turn it into a weakness. (See, she's a real person in the least fancypants state in the Union who does something for a living, not like someone in a job in Washington -- boo! hiss! -- that has very few constitutionally mandated responsibilities.)

Thus, I suspect she had help with it from people in the campaign who were prepping her a month ago (the interview took place on July 31). I think they thought she was very appealing but had, er, obvious liabilities, and they wanted her to give the line a tryout on national TV (but on a low-rated show hosted by a friendly interviewer, in this case the veteran right-wing operative Larry Kudlow).

Here's the clip. The remark comes at about 2:51:

As for that VP talk all the time: I tell ya, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me, what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I'm used to being very productive and working real hard and in administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S. before I can even start addressing that question.

Smell the Rove? I do. I'm not saying it works -- I think it's a disaster -- but I think it was meant to.


In fact, I think the whole thing was part of an effort to inoculate Palin against the worst she'd face if she got the nod -- with the right-wing media providing a big assist.

The interview took place just after the appearance of an article in Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal titled "Alaska's Palin Faces Probe." The Journal article ostensibly focuses on the scandal surrounding Palin's attempt to get her former brother-in-law removed from his job as an Alaska state trooper. But it's clearly one more attempt at inoculation -- the opening paragraphs actually touch on the scandal only briefly, in among assertions that read more like a Palin press release than journalism:

When Sarah Palin was elected governor as a Republican outsider in 2006, she didn't just take on an incumbent from her own party. She took on Alaska's Republican establishment.

Ms. Palin vowed to clean up a long-cozy political system that had been sullied by an FBI corruption investigation. She endeared herself to Alaskans by making good on her reform promises and showing homey touches, like driving herself to work.

...This is the first real chink in the armor of Alaska's first woman governor, whose popularity soared above 80% as she enacted an ethics bill [and] shelved pork-barrel projects by fellow Republicans....

Ms. Palin has shown similar boldness in going after Big Oil....

"People see her as the symbol of purity in an atmosphere of corruption," says Anchorage pollster Marc Hellenthal. "She is almost Saint Sarah."...

Ms. Palin's supporters dismiss the so-called Troopergate incident as trouble stoked by her enemies.

"Many of those who had been in positions of power and authority have been very envious over the past year and a half, with Ms. Palin's great popularity," says Soldotna Mayor David Carey.

The story of the scandal is in there somewhere, but Murdoch's paper buries it under all this pro-Palin gush (and more).

And this sets up the Kudlow interview. The first 2:50 of the clip is mostly Palin using this very safe media forum to do a dry run of her scandal rebuttal points.

So I think the big guns were preparing her for this moment a month ago. I don't think what she said worked, but I think it was a professional effort.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Apart from the fact that it took her until nearly the end of Obama's speech to figure out what Josh Marshall, among others, figured out almost immediately -- that the backdrop for Barack Obama's speech was meant to invoke the Lincoln Memorial -- what's peculiar about today's Peggy Noonan column is this gloss on the speech:

... This was not a "Happy Days Are Here Again." This was not Smiling O. He was not the charmer or the celebrity, and he didn't try much humor. Mr. Obama often looked stern, and somewhat indignant, certainly serious throughout.

... It was all very interesting, and surprising. You could see it coming in the biographical film they used to introduce Mr. Obama. It was lovely, full of unusual shots and lingerings on images, but it was similarly muted, low-key, without any particular joy....

... Mr. Obama left a lot of space for Mr. McCain to play the happy warrior next week. He left the Republicans a big opportunity to wield against him, in contrast, humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy.

Well, maybe there was no joy for Peggy, but I enjoyed Obama's speech a lot -- I think every Democrat who ever watched a Democrat not hit back enjoyed it. Come on -- "Eight is enough"? "Ten percent chance on change"? That's feisty. To those of us who've slogged through the last eight (or twenty-eight) years, that was comedy gold.

And really, what makes Noonan think there'll be joy in the Twin Cities next week? Obviously I know the answer -- her old boss would have had a swell old time. But that was Reagan. Other Republican convention speakers -- Zell Miller in '04, for instance -- have seemed to take a lip-licking pleasure in below-the-belt attacks. And Schwarzenegger always blows the dust off a couple of his old movie lines for the thousandth time and gets a few yuks.

But can McCain even do anything like that this year? Perky, chirpy Sarah Palin might get kinda happy, but McCain? Or surrogates such as Giuliani and Lieberman?

I don't think they can, because they have to convince us that if Obama is elected we're all going to die. Or at least be forced into a millenial cult while praying to Mecca. Oh, and did you know John McCain was a POW? That might get a passing mention at the convention once or twice, don't you think?

I assume the whole damn convention is going to be about (a) arguing that Obama is even scarier than Kerry, Gore, Dukakis and Clinton and (b) endlessly rehashing John McCain's POW years. I think there really could be ten or fifteen solid minutes of POW narrative in McCain's speech, just as there was a somber, melodramatic recitation of Saddam's crimes (real and fictional) in Bush's '03 State of the Union address.

These folks might squeeze in a yuk or two, but I say (Palin excepted) they're going to act Very, Very, Very Serious.

And Noonan will do a 180 and tear up at that.

Gallup says Obama now has an 8-point lead.

And the conservative Democrats, among whom, Gallup said, Obama's support had slipped from 68% to 63%, he's now up to 77% in a matter of days.

The fact is, people want to vote the Republicans out. Unfortunately, they're receptive to the argument that Obama is risky, but they really want to believe. The party just needs to keep rallying the faithful.

Oh, and while we're all distracted by Sarah Palin, remember that the message needs to be: It's the policies of the parties, stupid. Republicans are bad. The last eight years prove it. And Sarah Palin may be a feisty mom with a Down syndrome child, but she is a Republican.

McCain picks a formy beauty pageant contestant who won Miss Congeniality?

Anyone else see a bit of a disconnect there?

(I think it's really, really going to be hard for a lot of Americans to reconcile "beauty pageant contestant" and "heartbeat away from the presidency." I think that's true even in the heartland. And it's not sexist to say that -- hell, thirty-five years ago beauty pageants were regarded as sexist by anyone who claimed to be a feminist, and a lot of people still feel that way. Entering a beauty pageant does not equal being a woman, and no rational person swallows the nonsense that beauty pageants are all about well-roundedness and leadership skills.)

Is McCain's choice really Sarah Palin? If so, be prepared: Every PUMA who furiously declared that Barack Obama shouldn't pick Sebelius or McCaskill or any woman other than Hillary as his running mate because it was unacceptable to offer a "substitute" for Hillary will now hypocritically lavish praise on Palin and say that McCain is infinitely less sexist than Obama. And the press will lap it up.

Oh, and the pro-choicers among the PUMAs will say that putting an unswerving opponent of abortion a heartbeat away from a 72-year-old melanoma-survivor president is meaningless, because ... well, er, um, because of some reason they won't be able to articulate.


AND: I wonder how long the PUMAs are going to say "experience counts" after their hero picks a running mate "who has been governor of a small state for less than two years and prior to that was mayor of a town with roughly one-twenty-seventh of the citizens that Barack Obama represented when he was a state senator in Illinois." (Alaska has a population about a quarter the size of Brooklyn's. And the town of which Palin was mayor has a population of 7,738.)

David Brooks, "A Speech to the Delegates," in today's New York Times:

One path before us leads to the past, and the extinction of the human race. The other path leads to the future, when we will all be dead. We must choose wisely.

Woody Allen, "My Speech to the Graduates," published in Side Effects (Random House, 1980):

More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

To me, that was a terrific Obama speech. It was a very good mix of poetry and biography and a roll call of policies. (In that way it was a lot like Bill Clinton's best-received speeches, and Clinton should get over his jealousy and take some satisfaction in the fact that Obama's clearly watched and learned from him.) I really loved the rebukes to the McCain campaign ("So I've got news for you, John McCain: We all put our country first" and so on). In my lifetime, no Democrat at Obama's level has ever been that pugnacious toward a Republican. I think the tough talk stung.

What I can't tell is whether everything worked for the voters Obama needed to persuade. My main worry is that invocations of "change" and the future were used to bring home specific points. Here, for instance:

And today, today, as my call for a timeframe to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration, even after we learned that Iraq has $79 billion in surplus while we are wallowing in deficit, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgment we need; that won't keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.


You don't defeat -- you don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances.

If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but that is not the change that America needs.

I worry that older voters and other Obama skeptics would like to be assured that "the future" will just go away, or will be enough like the present that they don't have to think about how different it's going to be. I worry that when you talk about, say, foreign policy, they want you to say we'll go back to the (glorious) past, not the future. I worry that, even in a country that desperately wants a change of course, Obama skeptics think "change" is a weird Obama cult word.

But I just don't know if it was a home run. But it was very good.


And holding it in the football stadium was just fine. Shortly before the speech I was reading "Democrats Try to Minimize Stadium's Political Risks" in The New York Times -- and the Dems really did pull it off:

...On Thursday afternoon, workers were still making changes to Invesco Field, home to the Denver Broncos, so it would feel more intimate, less like the boisterous rallies that served Mr. Obama so well early in the primaries, but also created the celebrity image that dogs him....

They were still testing camera angles to the very end, so Mr. Obama would appear among the giant crowd, not above it. They took steps to reduce the echo effect, familiar to football fans, of speaking in such a cavernous space....

It didn't seem like the site of a huge ego trip. We seemed instead to be watching a big but very traditional outdoor rally. In fact, Obama on TV looked as if he was speaking at an indoor venue -- the much-mocked backdrop worked.

I don't know what advantage the campaign got out of the big outdoor setting -- it's odd that the speech was shifted out of the Pepsi Center and then the new venue was rendered as Pepsi Center-esque as possible. But it worked. McCain's inevitable six thousand new "celebrity" ads are going to fall flatter than he hoped if they feature footage from last night. (And, yes, thumbs up to Obama for "Now, I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine" -- great line.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Barack Obama is going to get a lot of attention tonight. Every four years, of course, there's a night like this on which the Democratic nominee monopolizes the news, just as there's a night when the Republican nominee does -- but John McCain and his people just can't stand it, and they keep desperately trying to get attention, like a first-grader who can't sit in his seat and focus.

In addition to floating a hundred different rumors about a running mate -- has McCain made up his mind? has he still not made up his mind? will the name leak tonight? -- there's McCain's absurd attempt to grab attention by running an ad tonight. First, the McCain people announced that there would be a "very exciting" ad in which McCain would speak directly to the camera, an ad "a lot of people are going to focus on." Now, you'd think the point of all this would be to keep us in suspense -- but that didn't get them enough attention, apparently, so they released the ad, which turned out to be a somewhat unusual but utterly unexciting spot in which McCain congratulates Obama and alludes to the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech.

And that still doesn't seem to have been enough. Yet another attention-getting move appears to be emerging from the McCain camp.

Six days ago, Team McCain released one of its near-daily attack ads, Now, suddenly, a local TV news outfit has discovered that a shot of Obama in the ad with the word CHANGE in the background may have been altered so CHANGE kinda-sorta looks like HANG.

But here's the thing: The TV news operation that first noted this was a Fox affiliate.

I smell a rat. A lot of people on the left side of the Internet are treating the Fox report as just good journalism, but I suspect the McCain people couldn't bear to wait for this to emerge on its own, so they arranged to leak it themselves to a friendly news outfit -- just in time for Obama's speech. Now they get to have the usual song-and-dance -- you know: they say "Who, us?" and accuse the "nutroots" of paranoia. (That's what happened in 2000 when the word RATS was spotted in a Bush campaign ad.) This time, though, there's a racist component, so, if the story gets traction in the press, it's a dog whistle to voters who might be uncomfortable voting for an African American (ducks we assume Team McCain will be hunting all fall), and who might actually think it's kind of funny if the McCain people did this deliberately. (Such people will certainly be pleased to hear it said that Obama supporters see racism everywhere.)

If I'm right about this, it's rather interesting counterprogramming for McCain's gracious words in tonight's ad -- and if I'm right about how this all emerged, it reveals a campaign in desperate need of attention.

A lot of people are chuckling about "McCain's Prickly TIME Interview":

...McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured. The McCain on display in the 24-minute interview was prickly, at times abrasive, and determined not to stray off message. An excerpt:

What do you want voters to know coming out of the Republican Convention -- about you, about your candidacy?
I'm prepared to be President of the United States, and I'll put my country first.

There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I've read your books.
No, I'm not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books....

Don't fall for this. McCain may have a bad temper, but this is just an act. He wants to be sure there are no new "McCain chats warmly with the press" stories so low-information voters (i.e., people who’ve been in a cone of silence since early 2000) will swallow the line that the “liberal media” hates him, which means he can go to the heartland and say what every Republican presidential candidate since Nixon has said: “Liberals don't like me! Liberals don't like you! I’m just like you and the other guy is just another member of the liberal cabal! So vote for me!”

I keep reading that the first two days of the convention were a disaster, but guess what? It's bounce time. Gallup shows an eight-point turnaround in Obama's favor in just three days.

Democratic candidate Barack Obama has gained ground in the latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking average from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and now leads Republican John McCain among registered voters by a 48% to 42% margin.

The latest three-day Gallup Poll Daily tracking average (Aug. 25-27) is directly coincident with the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.... the current three-day average would reflect any impact of Monday night's speech by Michelle Obama, and Tuesday night's speech by Hillary Clinton, but would not completely reflect Wednesday night's lineup of speakers....

So only a third of the interviewing took place last night? And mostly before the big speeches? This bump is based primarily on the earlier part of the convention?

But that's impossible! The "first two days of the convention were wasted"! They were "McCain's dream"! They were "a big fat missed opportunity"! We "lost two nights"!

My theory? There's a disconnect between the people I've just quoted -- convention attendees, political pros -- and the rest of us, who are watching all of this unfold from the couch, with the remote in hand. The speeches have been wildly uneven, but the ones in prime time have been first-rate. That's what America's seeing, and America's comfort level with an Obama vote is increasing. Apparently they're the right mix of red meat and reassurance.

I've had big doubts about Barack Obama's decision to do the big stadium speech for a while now, and today there's a Politico story quoting a couple of Democrats expressing similar doubts. I'll be honest -- after the Berlin speech, I don't see how it helps him to go big, and I see how it can really hurt him. I would have liked him to change his mind. But at this point I just don't know how it will go over.

(Two differences between Berlin and Denver, though, both of which work in Obama's favor: Denver is in America, and much of America will actually hear the Denver speech rather than just seeing clips of the spectacle.)

But in any case, the McCain campaign is squandering a chance to focus on shooting spitballs at Obama for hubris by announcing the VP choice tomorrow. Yeah, the campaign can do both at once, but that weakens both the anti-Obama and pro-running-mate messages. (Look at how the "houses" message got lost for the Democrats when Biden's pick was announced.)

And hey, if the Obama speech looks hubristic, then maybe we want the Republicans to hijack the news cycle.

I'm inclined to believe rumors that say Mitt Romney is the pick. And if that's the case, I'm rather pleased.

We know the Obama campaign is ready:

Should John McCain tap Mitt Romney to be his running mate, Democrats already have what they believe to be a potent line of attack.

They'll say that the Republican ticket has a dozen homes between them, a symbolic indicator of McCain's and Romney's combined wealth, which Barack Obama's campaign will try to exploit to further in its message that the GOP is out of touch with the struggles of average Americans.

Combined, the 12 properties owned by the McCains and Romney tally up at approximately $35 million....

Yup -- the "houses" attack gets a fresh start, and the total goes to double digits. As David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, says,

"They're doubling down on out-of-touch."

But there's more. Let me take you back to something Tom Schaller wrote last summer:

...Does the GOP really want to nominate Romney? ... GOPers should take a gander at head-to-head match-ups between the three "tier 1" Republican and Democratic nominees. If you look at the six match-ups on that involve either John McCain or Rudy Giuliani -- who, respectively, were the first and then second GOP frontrunners, at least until recently -- the Arizona senator and former NYC mayor run more or less even with [Clinton, Obama, and Edwards]. Ah, but notice that when Romney is paired with either Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John Edwards, his numbers are much worse; for the moment, Democratic landslide worse. Maybe it's an issue of lack of name identification, but if that were true, wouldn't that mean Fred Thompson ought to be trailing by similar lengths?...

Some of that (and some of Romney's struggle in the primaries) was the result of evangelical mistrust of Mormons, but the rest -- if my hunch is right -- is something the political pros simply haven't grasped: that people just don't like Mitt Romney. Have you seen his polling numbers from the winter, when he was in the thick of the race?

* USA Today/Gallup Poll. Feb. 8-10, 2008: Favorable 34%, Unfavorable 46%
* ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Jan. 9-12, 2008: Favorable 34%, Unfavorable 46%
* CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Jan. 9-10, 2008: Favorable 31%, Unfavorable 39%

Romney exudes slickness and phoniness. He's a used-car salseman. Want to run with him, John? Be my guest.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Look, I've had moments of despair watching the undercard speakers at this convention, but come on, Ezra Klein -- you actually prefer the one we had four years ago? The one that produced no bounce? The one where the most memorable moment for a lot of voters was that dorky Kerry salute?

...What is this convention arguing? What is it arguing about Barack Obama? That he's an American with a recognizable history of growing up in a place and doing some stuff and loving his family? That he doesn't hate Hillary Clinton's supporters? What is it arguing about John McCain? ... If you're watching the primetime speeches, it's not saying anything at all about him. What will anyone remember from the first two days of this convention?

Ezra goes on to compare this to '04 -- "The second night of the 2004 Convention saw Barack Obama tearing apart the arena." But what did Obama actually argue? The word "Bush" didn't even appear in his 2004 speech. But he did tell us that people worship an awesome God in the blue states. Good speech. No red meat.

Ezra continues:

...the first night of the 2008 Democratic Convention had Michelle Obama bring the warm and fuzzies.... You had Hillary Cinton giving a powerful address [on the second night], but it was an address that was broadly aimed at problems in the Democratic Party, not the problems with the Republican Party.

But the problems in the Democratic Party are the only things standing between Obama and victory. Democrats have a 10-point advantage in party identification, according to the latest ABC/Washington Post poll. If Democrats vote Democrat, Obama wins. (And if Democrats don't look like squabbling toddlers and Michelle Obama looks like the engaging, likable person she clearly is, independents will vote for them too.)

Ezra does admit that

Tonight, Joe Biden will rip into McCain.

Er, yeah, I'll say. (Granted, I get to respond after seeing Biden's terrific, engagingly old-school, red-meat-filled speech.)

And tomorrow, Obama will do whatever he does. Then on Friday, at noon, John McCain will announce his vice presidential nominee, strangling any convention bounce in the crib.

Er, maybe not. I'm essentially with Oliver Willis: nearly every possible choice is either minor league (Cantor, Pawlenty, Palin) or objectionable to a big part of the GOP base (anyone pro-choice, Satanic Mormon Romney). That's the buzzkill?

Then the Republican Convention will begin, and you can be assured that they will remember Barack Obama's name. They will remember how to make fun of him, how to mock his celebrity and inexperience. And the media will not cover Ron Paul's protesters with the vigor or attention they gave to Hillary Clinton's diehards. Instead, they will cover four days of straight attacks on Barack Obama, culminating with a grave address about sacrifice and service from John McCain.

Yeah, all true. But ...

And unless Obama's convention makes a sharp turn tonight and tomorrow, they will have done nothing to soften the impact of these attacks and themes or create a counternarrative for the media to cover.

Sorry, I don't agree -- the Democrats don't have a deep speechifying bench, but they've put good people in prime time, and the buildup to hard-hitting attacks seems to be working now.

What's the narrative? The narrative is: Now you remember that Republicans can't govern their way out of a paper bag. Now you remember that a lot of Democrats are sharp and capable. You're more familiar with a lot of other Democrats than you are with Barack Obama -- but please note that those Democrats are with him and behind him.

So? You too?

Politico's Jonathan Martin continues to make clear that John McCain desperately wants to pick Joe Lieberman as his running mate -- but howls of protest from McCain's masters in the GOP base (see, for instance, Robert Novak's column) suggest that McCain won't be allowed to pick Joe.

Assuming he doesn't even try, I think the Obama campaign should razz him just the way his campaign razzed Obama for not picking Hillary Clinton. The Obama campaign's ad, of course, would be somewhat different -- something along the lines of this:

John McCain wanted to pick his pal Joe Lieberman to be his running mate. But Joe supports a woman's right to choose, and Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, the leaders of the religious right, and other political partisans told McCain, "Uh-uh -- we're not going to let you do that." And even though John McCain says he's a maverick, he did just what the partisan forces in his party told him to do.

John McCain: afraid to challenge his party. Four more years of the same old Republican politics.

(UPDATE THURSDAY: I just added Karl Rove because I see that he called Lieberman trying to compel him to withdraw.)


But if McCain, somehow, does summon up the nerve to pick Joe, I wouldn't start by attacking his war record or his phony-Democrat act. I'd go straight at him for his support for John Hagee (Joe, of course, spoke at Hagee's summit last month and said of him last year, "He is an Ish Elohim. A man of God.... Like Moses, he's become the leader of a mighty multitude. Even greater than the multitude that Moses led from Egypt to the Promised Land"). And I'd focus on Hagee's anti-Catholic statements -- his linking of the Catholic Church with Nazis, his references to the Catholic Church as "the whore of Babylon," and so on. Maybe Joe Biden would like to lead the charge.

I know that Hagee's apologized. But do you think that would stop the Republicans if the situation were reversed?

Yes, folks, Fox thinks this is big news:

Documents released Tuesday by the University of Illinois at Chicago shed some light on Barack Obama’s relationship with William Ayers, a founding member of the 1960s and 1970s radical group the Weather Underground.

...The massive collection of newly released documents -- 140 boxes full of them -- includes agendas that clearly put Obama and Ayers in the same room for meetings of Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an educational initiative that Ayers was instrumental in starting and that Obama chaired in the 1990s.

... In one agenda, a March 15, 1995, meeting featured Obama making introductions and Ayers giving a briefing....

Yes, it's true -- Ayers gave a briefing! Presumably while Obama sipped coffee several seats away at a conference table!

Wait -- it gets worse:

But more than a year later, Obama pushed the group to be bolder in its reforms, according to the Associated Press, which also reviewed the documents. Minutes from an October 1996 gathering show that Obama, a guest at a meeting of the collaborative, raised questions about what the group should be doing.

The AP reports the minutes characterized Obama’s concerns as twofold: Whether the group was raising additional money and whether money was being used “to prop up existing organizations as opposed to creating fresh educational practices in the schools?”

“At the end of five years, will we have broken the mold? Not much seems to be bubbling up that is inspiring or substantive,” the minutes say, paraphrasing Obama....

He wanted the group's work to be "inspiring" and "substantive"! Aren't those secret code words meaning "Off the bourgeois pigs"????

This is the lead story at right now. Michelle Malkin says, "Obama's Ayers problem deepens." (Yeah,it sure does -- examination of further documents might prove he poured a cup of coffee for Ayers, or nodded in agreement at Ayers recommendation on educational practices!)

I shouldn't laugh -- the press will obviously help the GOP make this a huge story, at a time and place of the GOP's choosing. But the fact is, there's no there there.

Ayers was deemed a free man by the government. That's not Obama's doing. He was welcomed into influential political and policy circles. That's not Obama's doing. He was doing legitimate work that overlapped with Obama's. So Obama worked interacted with him. End of story.

OK, I'm confused. I saw Hillary Clinton's speech last night and thought she hit a 565-foot home run -- surely not enough to persuade every diehard, but a resounding, McCain-rebuking, PUMA-rebuking show of support for Barack Obama. And now, of course, I'm being told by the usual Democrat-bashers in the media that the speech was a failure -- but they can't agree on why.

The New York Post says it failed because it was too tepid and off-message:

Maureen Dowd says it failed because it was too intense and too on-message:

She added insult to injury by coming out Tuesday night looking great in a blazing orange pantsuit and teaching the precocious pup Obama something about intensity and message....

She offered the electrifying fight that the limpid Obama has not -- setting off paranoia among some Democrats that they had chosen the wrong nominee or that Obama had chosen the wrong running mate....

While Patrick Healy, a few pages back in the Times, tells us the speech was sometimes not particularly intense (probably deliberately!):

Some parts of the speech devoted to Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, in turn, had a bit of a workmanlike quality....

And then, from The Washington Post, we find out that the on-message, off-message, electrifying, sometimes perfunctory speech failed at creating unity, which we know because some Hillary diehards among the delegates were, er, definitely converted...

...John Burkett, a Pennsylvania delegate and staunch Clinton supporter, attached an Obama button to his shirt. A New Mexico delegate said the "H" on his shirt will be replaced with an "O" come Thursday.

"She hit it right out of the ballpark," said Terie Norelli, New Hampshire's House speaker. "I've never been prouder of a Democrat than I was tonight." Norelli said the speech made her want to work hard for Obama. "She said it better than I ever could have: Everything I worked for and that she worked for would be at risk if we do anything less." ...

...and one (1) vows not vote for Obama in November:

..."I'm not going to vote for Obama. I'm not going to vote for McCain, either," said Blanche Darley, 65, a Texas delegate for Clinton. Darley wore a button saying "Obamination Scares the Hell Out of Me."

"We love her, but it's our vote if we don't trust him or don't like him," said Darley, who was a superdelegate for Bill Clinton in the 1990s....

Darley is such a good Democrat, by the way, that, back in May, she was e-mailing false anti-Obama propaganda taken from a GOP congressional candidate's Web site. She also lied to Texas Democrats when, back in June, she (half-heartedly) pledged to support Obama as the nominee. This speech was not for her -- she's unpersuadable. It was for people like John Burkett and Teri Norelli, and it sounds as if it worked.


One lesson from this: The press is not Obama's friend. Any good press he got months and months ago is a distant memory; the press isn't hankering to treat him well again, as it was hankering for the opportunity to treat John McCain well again during the period when McCain seemed like a joke. Obama's going to have to put McCain on the defensive, probably with a negative attack that catches on, before the press will decide he's manly enough to treat as any different from every other Democratic presidential candidate this century. And even then, party disunity and Democratic haplessness are such easy stories for the media that they'll be written no matter what's really going on, unless Democratic strength becomes simply undeniable. Think back to all to those "the public loves Bush" stories that were written as he fell through the 40s in the polls; reverse that and you've got Obama's media treatment from now on, unless he gets out to a double-digit lead.


In comments, Bulworth says:

MoDowd can't say anything about Hillary without mentioning what color her pantsuit, or dress, or whatever, was.

Yeah, but now that Obama is The Enemy, Dowd likes what Hillary's wearing. If Hillary were accepting the nomination in exactly the same outfit, you just know that Dowd would've spent half her column trashing it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


"No way, nohow, no McCain" -- great, great line, aimed directly at the PUMAs, who love to say "Nobama." (AND: "Just Say No Deal," obviously.) Thank you for that, Hillary.


Forget it -- the whole speech was terrific. The brilliant "Twin Cities" line about McCain and Bush, the -- dare I call it scolding (which I mean in a good way)? -- of holdouts, asking them whether they were in the race just for her or for the (shared) principles of Obama and herself, even the frequent mentions of the importance of uniting behind Obama (she never let the speech go on too long without getting back to that point) ... it was everything I could have wanted and more.


Well, now I accept the C.W. that this convention is pathetic. One exception: Lilly Ledbetter -- just about the only righteously indignant person I've seen on the stage at a moment when everyone on the stage should be righteously indignant. Please, if Obama fails, run her next time.

I said it this morning and now a Wall Street Journal blog post confirms what I said:

McCain's Hillary-Themed Ads Are Barely Broadcast

...McCain's campaign, sensing an opportunity to rub salt in Democratic wounds, has since Sunday released three television ads dominated by Sen. Clinton....

But don't expect to see many show up in battleground state living rooms. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which monitors political advertising across the country, only one of the three Clinton-themed ads has been broadcast so far –- and that ad, featuring a Clinton delegate who now endorses McCain, is only airing in Toledo, Ohio.

That doesn't mean these McCain ads won't be seen by voters. The national media, which has its sensors tuned to any signs of Clinton-Obama drama in Denver, have readily amplified the messages....

The press loves them because they're fresh content and they presumably stir the blood; the press loves them, in other words, because they make the press's job easy. (The press also likes them, obviously because they transmit GOP memes, which the press feels an obligation to do every election cycle because otherwise Republicans will be mean to them.)

Obama needs to make a lot of truly feisty negative ads -- as I said in the earlier post, it's how the press is keeping score this year of who deserves to be president. It's this year's have-a-beer -- a measure of manliness, and also of helpfulness to the press. His might not get taken as seriously by the press (until one goes viral), but he at least has to be competitive on this measure, or he'll be seen as wussy and weak.

Why? Well, just read these poll results. They may seem familiar, but I guarantee there's a surprise at the end:

President Bush's job approval rating remains anemic, creating a big drag on the Republican Party....

Likely voters have grown even more pessimistic about the direction of the country.... Sixty-eight percent say the country is on the wrong track, while only 23 percent say it's heading in the right direction....

Among likely voters, 49 percent would select the Democratic candidate and 36 percent the Republican candidate if the election were held today....

OK, here's the surprise:

But when the names of actual candidates were plugged into the question ... the spread narrows dramatically.

Democrat Hillary Clinton leads Republican Rudolph Giuliani by 3 percentage points -- 47 percent to 44 percent....

Yup -- this poll is from October 2007, and features the since-vanquished front-runners.

The race between a real flesh-and-blood Democrat and a real flesh-and-blood Republican is close because such races have always been close -- even last fall, when the real names were different. Republicans work so hard at demonizing any Democrat who even vaguely emerges as a potential national figure, in election seasons and between election seasons, and the press abets that effort so readily, that real Democrats always perform more poorly than generic Democrats, and always struggle to get out to decisive leads.

This would have been a close race no matter who was running. And it really might be that no Democrat will ever win the presidency until Democrats finally confront and neutralize the media's dutiful advancement of GOP memes every four years.

First, the numbers:

... Gallup had the candidates tied yesterday at 45% each, today McCain edged ahead to a two point lead over Obama 46-44.

Rasmussen showed an even bigger overnight move. Yesterday Obama led McCain by 3 points, 48-45, today he shows the race tied at 46.

(Rasmussen link here.)

No surprise that Biden didn't provide a bounce -- he's never been a real political star, and his pick wasn't meant to win instant acclaim from the general public. Biden's value to the campaign, if everything works out right, will be for all the reasons you've read everywhere: long resume, foreign policy experience, pugnaciousness, Catholicism, et cetera. He'll help the ticket as people see him in action.

This is offset by the fact that a fair number of people wanted Hillary Clinton on the ticket and hadn't quite grasped (or come to terms with the fact) that that wasn't going to happen. However, there are clearly fewer than 18 million such people, or Obama would have plummeted in the polls.

Now here's why the dip ought to be temporary (and I stress "ought to"): the polls you're seeing now are the few polls taken between the running-mate announcement and the Clintons' convention speeches. If the Clintons give the speeches the party needs them to give -- gracious to Obama, tough on McCain and the GOP -- then a lot of Hillary supporters (especially the ones who aren't paying attention to every twist and turn in the race, who are likely to be the same people who thought she had a chance to be #2) will accept the passing of the torch. That's a big if, but I take hope from Hillary's "I do not approve that message" remark.

So get back to me after the convention, and don't panic about today's polls (based on interviews conducted Saturday through Monday) -- or even tomorrow's (conducted Sunday through today). It's going to tak a few days, if the convention goes well.

This morning on NPR, Renee Montagne interviewed two Hillary Clinton delegates, Awilda Marquez and Daniel Kagan, who still feel loyalty to their preferred candidate. Fine, I accept that -- vote for Hillary in the roll call if you must. What I care about is what you'll do in November. And (starting at about 2:43 of the audio) it seems at first as if these are loyal Democrats and everything's fine:

RENEE MONTAGNE: What about it? Are either of you planning to vote for John McCain?


DANIEL KAGAN: Definitely not voting for John McCain. There is so much anger out there that there will inevitably be some people who will vote for John McCain, but I'm not one of them.

AWILDA MARQUEZ: I'm a proud Democrat. I would never even think of voting Republican. No.

Ah, but for Ms. Marquez, this is a two-part question, and here's the second part:

RENEE MONTAGNE: Does the fact that neither of you say you'll vote Republican, does that translate into you're both going to vote for Barack Obama come November?

AWILDA MARQUEZ: I'm not sure yet. He hasn't asked me for my vote. He's asked me for money, but he's not asked me for my vote.

Kagan says he'll vote Obama but won't work for him. Fine -- I can live with that.

But Awilda Marquez, you're an idiot.

You know why? Because this is not about you. We are not electing the president of you -- we are electing the president of the United States. Voting is not something you do for yourself -- voting is something you do for your country. You do it for your kids and grandkids, you do it for your neighborhood and neighborhoods like yours, you do it for schoolchildren and workers and elderly people and servicemembers and everyone else around you. It is not an act of self-actualization. It is an act of citizenship.

I've seen this movie. I saw it in 2000. Back then, the invocation of self came from Ralph Nader supporters, who said, "Democrats think I owe them my vote." The answer to which was at the time: No, nobody thinks you owe anything to Democrats. But you owe it to your country to keep the party of Ken Starr and Tom DeLay and Trent Lott and William Bennett and Antonin Scalia and Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter the hell out of the White House, especially since they already control both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. But no -- for Naderites, it was about not being courted and stroked and placated. It wasn't about what was good for the country.

And we see the result.

The demonstrators outside the Democratic convention call their movement Re-create '68" We should call the Hillary-absolutist movement "Re-create 2000." That's really what it is.

I think the Michelle Obama speech worked. I think the video chat after the speech really worked. The sense of family connection was unfakeable. I think a lot of Americans saw that and said not "Oh, those are brown snooty radicals from Elitist Weirdistan," but rather "Oh, that's us." Also unfakeable were Michelle's good-heartedness and nervousness. Americans saw that she's not angry, i.e., angry all the time, contrary to what a billion spam e-mails (and other below-the-radar bits of gutter trash, like this racist crap from PUMAs) have told a lot of the country. They needed to see she isn't, and they really saw it last night.

I'm thinking back to Peggy Noonan, just after the '04 election:

I think Mr. Bush, the better man in terms of character, was also the more normal man. And we like normal. He loves sports and business and politics, and speaks their language. Normal. His wife is important to him, and his kids seem a bit of a mystery to him, and perhaps even to some degree intimidating. Normal.

Noonan goes off on a right-wing tangent after that, but I'll stop her there. Isn't that exactly what we saw on that video conversation after the speech? Shouldn't Noonan now abandon her party and embrace the utter normality of the Obamas?

I'm joking, of course. But I'm convinced that a lot of ordinary Americans were disarmed. Remember, they liked the Gores after the '00 convention -- even the kiss worked, and that looked more stagey than this did.


Yeah, I know: James Carville and CNN's Jeff Toobin and David Gergen think there's been as surprising dearth of anti-GOP, anti-McCain red meat. Sure, I'd like more. But if there's plenty of red meat from now through Thursday, the lack of attacks last night won't matter.

That red meat has to come. The Clintons have to deliver it, along with Obama and Biden and Gore. But setting the table with a positive, myth-busting night was not a bad idea. I think last night played a hell of a lot better in America than it did with the pros.


I do think the Obama campaign could be a bit better at meeting the new very high standards for speed and variety of attack ads. Getting out attack ads that really seem to sting and getting them out in bulk and as quickly as possible is what you have to do this year to impress the press -- it's the new fun-to-have-a-beer-with. (The press wants to be given material by the campaigns just the way it wants to be given food and friendship.)

Note how impressed Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times is:

In a modern production studio about a mile from where the Democrats were opening their convention here Monday, a SWAT team of Republican operatives dispatched to crash Senator Barack Obama's party was reveling in its accomplishments.

Two new advertisements devised to stoke the sore feelings of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's devotees were widely covered online and on cable news channels; a news conference the Republicans produced with former Clinton supporters who said they were now backing Senator John McCain drew a standing-room-only crowd of reporters; and a "Happy Hour for Hillary' cocktail party was planned, to be followed by an appearance by Mr. McCain on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." ...

The Republicans' ability to get a message through at the convention has surprised campaign veterans....

If I were running the Obama campaign, just to impress the Jim Rutenbergs, I might have rushed out an ad featuring Senator Clinton's "I'm Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message" remark. Yes, I know she's speaking tonight, and yes, I know I just said above that it was good for the campaign to spend one night just being positive. But this ad didn't have to be in heavy rotation, or even on the air at all. Just cranking it out and getting it online would be a way of telling Rutenberg et al. that the fight was being taken right back to McCain. Really, the Obamaites can't let themselves lose a 21st-century media war to a guy who can't even get on the damn Internet without assistance.


ALSO: TV is our main means of communication in this country; Americans believe what they see repeatedly on TV. Assuming she cooperates, there have to be Hillary Clinton TV ads for Obama, and they have to be on TV a lot. I say the sooner the better -- starting just after her speech would be ideal. Bill, too. It's the only way the Obama campaign can really hope to counter the media-fueled drumbeat of PUMA resentment.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I have to disagree with Ezra Klein about McCain picking Lieberman, not just for the obvious reason -- he's pro-choice -- but for the other obvious reason: he was actually endorsed by the Human Right Campaign in his last Senate race (yes, over Ned Lamont), and HRC says he had the pro-gay votes to earn that endorsement:

In the Human Rights Campaign's most recent scorecard ranking members of Congress on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, Sen. Lieberman scored an 88 percent and in the 107th, he scored a 100 percent. Additional scores follow: 100 percent (106th), 83 percent (105th), 89 percent (104th), 78 percent (103rd), 75 percent (102nd) and 90 percent (101st).

It doesn't matter that a lot of gay people and lefties thought that was a terrible endorsement -- he got it, and he has a voting record that seems to have merited it. (And this goes way back for him -- he got a gay rights bill through the Connecticut House in the 1970s.)

John McCain has been all over the map on gay marriage and civil unions, but Lieberman is going to seem way too far to the left on this for the GOP base, so I say it's not going to happen.

Via Eve Fairbanks at The New Republic, I see that John McCain is running an ad featuring Debra Bartoshevich of Wisconsin, who calls herself a "proud Hillary Clinton Democrat":

Funny -- a month ago, after her McCain endorsement led to her (understandable) removal from the Wisconsin delegation to the Democratic convention, she told a local news reporter she wouldn't even vote for an Obama-Clinton ticket -- she was "finished with the party, the Democrat Party":

So, which is it? Is she a Democrat or an ex-Democrat?

And yes, she does say "Democrat Party." Somewhere along the line, this allegedly devoted Democrat learned to refer to the party the way only Republicans refer to it. And she does this over and over again. To last month:

"I'm done. I will never support the Democrat Party again, not after how they treated me," she said.

And in discussions with other party members, also last month:

... Debra Bartoshevich was a newcomer to the state Democratic Party who had outworked more senior local party leaders and been elected a delegate to the Aug. 25-28 national convention in Denver.

But Bartoshevich had a big problem: She is an all-out, passionate backer of Hillary Clinton....

Bartoshevich said she plans to vote for Republican Sen. John McCain for president in November, which got her voted out as a delegate to Denver on Friday.

But, before the vote, in her explanation of why she should still be seated as a convention delegate, she repeatedly referred to the "Democrat Party" -- and, to party leaders, those are fighting words....

When corrected again and again -- "it's the DemocratIC Party" -- she fell silent at one point. "I don't understand," she finally stammered....

Now, where would she have picked this little verbal tic up? Well, the McCainiacs connected with her in June:

Encouraged by her sister, who has served in Iraq, Bartoshevich signed up as a supporter with "Citizens for McCain," an arm of the campaign targeting Democrats and independents. She said she got a call from the McCain campaign, which then provided her name to a reporter.

And now she's McCain's Democrat -- except she's not a Democrat, and she feels mistreated by the "Democrat Party." Draw your own conclusions.

In today's New York Times, Bill Kristol is desperately trying to persuade the GOP base to give gutless John McCain permission to pick the running mate he really wants, Joe Lieberman. A key bargaining chip, we're told, would be this (emphasis added):

McCain has made clear his will be a pro-life administration. And as a one-off, quasi-national-unity ticket, with Lieberman renouncing any further ambition to run for the presidency, a McCain-Lieberman administration wouldn't threaten the continuance of the G.O.P. as a pro-life party. In other areas, no one seriously thinks the policies of a McCain-Lieberman administration would be appreciably different from those, say, of a McCain-Pawlenty administration.

Er, why should anti-abortion Republicans believe a Lieberman vow not to run for president when Lieberman lied to Democrats about this in 2006?

"I want Democrats to be back in the majority in Washington and elect a Democratic president in 2008. This man [Ned Lamont] and his supporters will frustrate and defeat our hopes of doing that."

Oh, and besides that: in addition to Lieberman promising not to run, wouldn't McCain, er, have to promise not to die?


BONUS KRISTOL KNEESLAPPER: On the advantages to Republicans of a McCain-Lieberman ticket:

The charge that McCain would merely mean a third Bush term would also tend to fall flat.

Stop, Bill, you're killing me.

At the very least, what they're giving you is an incomplete list.

Adam Nagourney in today's New York Times has a fairly standard version of the list: Obama must "draw contrasts with Senator John McCain, particularly on the economy and his opposition to abortion rights," he and surrogates must "offer a fuller biography and a more detailed plan of what he would do as president" (this is usually called "reintroducing" and "sharpening the message"), and he must mollify angry Clintonites.

But here's the problem: Obama just drew an economic contrast between himself and John McCain -- he owns one house, while John McCain apparently has to take his shoes off to count the number he owns -- and the "liberal media" rejected that as a point of comparison, because even though John McCain owns a lot of houses and has a lot of money, he doesn't really mean to, or something like that, so it doesn't count. The press is going to try to blunt every Obama attack on John McCain, especially the ones on money and abortion rights, because he serves great barbecue.

And if Obama's "reintroducing" and "sharpening" include a populist appeal to ordinary citizens worried about the economic future, the press will probably dismiss this as pandering and or a dangerous backsliding to pre-DLC "class warfare." That's how the press reacted to Al Gore's 2000 convention speech, even though it was a big hit and gave Gore a big post-convention bounce. (The press's airy dismissal of the speech helped guarantee that the bounce was short-lived.)

And the press really, really wants the Obama-Clinton feud story to go on forever (as does John McCain, and as do, probably, the Clintons), so he can never sufficiently put that behind him.

What he really needs to do is land an attack on John McCain that goes viral.

For years, the press has lived in fear of being called "liberal" by Republicans. Now there's one other force the press fears as much as a finger-pointing GOP: the force of 21st-century communications (the same force that journalists fear might take all their jobs away from them).

Journalists temporarily abandoned their servile posture toward the GOP after Bush slipped irreviersibly below 35% in the polls and throughout the period when Republicans seemed contemptuous of many of their own presidential candidates. When John McCain and his attack dogs were cooking up the "celebrity" campaign, the press didn't feel obligated to praise it (the Republicans who tell journalists what to think still weren't fully with the McCain program).

But then it connected. And now the press likes McCain a lot (again), as do the GOP machers .

The press is relieved to be back on familiar ground -- rallying around a Republican Daddy presidential candidate (and, even better, it's McCain) while sneering at the little wuss running on the Democrat side. Barack Obama isn't going to get on the press's good side -- ever. Not anymore.

But he'll at least get wary respect if he stays on offense and really connects with a jab at McCain that gets lots of views and leads to lots of late-night jokes and moves the poll needle.

That's because when we hear that there are doubts about whether Obama is "ready to lead," what it really refers to is our idea of what shows you're "ready to lead": you're capable of landing a punch on an opponent. Nobody cares what Obama's economic policy is, or what he knows or doesn't know about Georgia. Nobody cares what McCain knows about those subjects either. All anyone cares about is which one of these guys can kick the other guy's ass harder. And Obama will struggle until he seems to be the guy who passes that test.

Thank you, Aimai, Tom, Bulworth, and Skimble, for holding the fort while I was gone.....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Shout out to Roger Ailes for this devastating observation:

The McCain campaign keeps emphasizing that McCain was a prisoner in Vietnam, as proof of his qualification for the Presidency.

Well, so was Gary Glitter, and I'm not voting for him either.

Some Questions Answer Themselves

Headline at Top of the Ticket, the L.A. Times election blog (featuring the hopelessly dense Andrew Malcolm): Today's new McCain ad quotes Clinton on Obama, asks why she's not on the ticket.

Um...I think the first part of that headline makes it painfully clear why Clinton isn't on the ticket.

"An Inexplicable Bitterness Towards for Being Rich"

Ahab went there so I guess its fair game--if I could only figure out what she was trying to say:

The Middle Class [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

Without much substance, David Axelrod was effective on ABC this morning talking about the middle class. Rich is right, if McCain doesn't start resonating there, he's going to have a very hard time winning. As lame as it is, if that kitchen-table joke Biden made yesterday is any indication, that's going to remain a theme, and people may eat it up.

A scary thought this Sunday morning: We're being distracted by Romney (who would be the choice if he wasn't the richest guy in the race many of his opponents — including McCain — had an inexplicable bitterness toward for being rich ... Romney is outside McCain's comfort zone), Pawlenty (who would be the choice if we knew he could hold his own against Biden; we don't), and Lieberman (who would be the case if McCain has an I-can-do-anything messiah complex we say Obama has). The real veep pick is Huckabee, who frequently sounds good and looks like a middle-class guy. Save for the fact Huckabee is pro-life, that would be some signal McCain would be sending to conservatives though ...

cross posted at IIRTZ

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Least Convincing Concern Troll Ever

William Kristol is outraged on behalf of Democratic women in general, and Clinton supporters in particular.


Update: okay, I was wrong; the least convincing concern troll ever is John McCain himself.

Finally had a chance to watch today's announcement speeches, and here are a few random thoughts:

The placards declaring the ticket kind of weirdly have Obama's name not just bigger, which is to be expected, but darker and bolder. The Biden name is rather light and hazy. Maybe they'll correct this, but it seems uncomfortably odd to me.

Obama did a very good job telling Joe Biden's story, portraying the long time Delaware Senator in successful, curageous and almost endearing terms. But I'm a bit puzzled by Obama's--and the media's-- sudden conversion on Biden's being some kind of middle-class everyman hero. I heard and read several commentators make this connection. As I've said already, I like the ticket, and I like Biden overall, but he didn't get the title The Senator from MBNA by accident. Finally, on Obama's speech, he's the candidate from the Land of Lincoln for cryin' out loud. Barack, or whoever is on your speech writing team, can you mention Ole Abe in your speeches again? You were great at this early in the campaign, reaching back into American history to attach yourself to the line of great American movers and shakers, including the Great Emancipator. This is pretty basic stuff and you're in an ideal position, and from an ideal state, from which to do it. And this will help insulate you a bit from all the muslim-terrorist loving, exotic origins hailing, un-American charges Republicans have lobbed against every Democratic candidate since McGovern, without having to whine about McCain attacking your patriotism. Try some subtle. The media will dig it, too. Also, I liked the one, brief line you had about Biden being on the frontlines in the fight for "judges who respect and value the rights of the American people". We can use more of this. This is a critical, vital issue in general, and of particular importance given the last eight years of encroachments by the administration and Republicans in Congress on the Civil Liberties our forefathers fought so hard to maintain.

Biden's speech was pretty good, about the right mix of toughness and optimism. The line about McCain having to decide about which of his seven tables from his seven (or eight) houses to use was a nice shot in the elite-counter elite cultural wars. And, Joe, you started and ended with the Lincoln reference--get Obama to do the same from now on. And you made the relevant response to having said nice things about McCain in the past--McCain, the McCain you liked, the supposed "straight talker"--is gone, replaced by a Rovian puppet playing in the swift-boat politics he once derided. That should be in about every speech you make.

And, have you ever noticed how much Biden resembles the late Charleton Heston? Really. I'd never noticed it before today, where it stood out distinctly. The facial profile, the silver hair. Almost eery.

OK, as you were.

Fox News Really Is Fair and Balanced

But only compared to Associated Press.

Today, AP's resident douchebag Ron Fournier has a recycled McCain press release piece titled Analysis: Biden pick shows lack of confidence. The title is obviously one of those wingnut Mad Libs type deals, with the template "Analysis: _____ pick shows lack of _______" ready to fill in as soon as Obama gave them a name (Bayh/principle, Hillary/cojones, Gore/sanity, etc.).

And if you think I'm being overly harsh on poor Mr. Fournier, I suggest you read the backstory at AmericaBlog and Media Matters. Fournier may not have taken that job with the McCain campaign, but he's working for them anyway.

Update: Fournier's known biases aside, the problem with the story is that it assumes the worst possible interpretation and presents it as fact. There are a lot of different things the Biden pick 'shows' about Obama (and his campaign): that he's secure enough not not to worry about being upstaged, for example; that he figures a known, familiar quantity like Biden will offset the 'exotic' factor; that he's looking for a strong, credible attack dog. Any of these could have been the headline for an 'analysis' like Fournier's. A real analysis, in the on-the-one-hand tradition (which is of course deeply problematic, but is better than what we get here), would discuss all of them. Fournier either took his own visceral negative reaction and ran with it, or printed the story 'suggested' to him by his friends at McCain HQ.
My Text Message Says Biden

Yeah, I know, the networks and Internets are all reporting it already. But I woke up around 4 a.m. this morning and there my cell was with a message from Barack. After hanging on to my cell since about Wednesday waiting for The Message, I can get back to my life, such as it is.

As I penned over two months ago, I think Biden was about the best Obama could have done. In addition to being ready to be president "on day one" and ready to take the "3.m. phone call", Biden brings a certain combatancy to the campaign, and that should be fun to watch. What has gone rather unremarked, however, is that Biden has been pretty strong over the years on civil liberties issues, the separation of church and state, and the like (He gave a great Jackson-Jefferson Day speech, in SC no less, ripping the GOP's religious-politicking mixing, that someone should dig up for reference). And unlike, say, Evan Bayh, I'm pretty sure we won't have to worry about Biden being on the GOP convention speaking schedule in 2016, lamenting how he "didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left" him.

In the interest of full disclosure, though, I have to point out that David Brooks also "endorsed" Biden for the ticket this week. You know what that means. Any day now we should be reading a column from Brooksie charging Biden with everything from the Lindberg baby kidnapping to being responsible for the glut of "reality" TV programming desecrating the entertainment landscape.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Who cares who the VP candidates are when we have battleground states with election infrastructure like this:
The maker of touch-screen voting machines used in half of Ohio's counties has admitted that its own programming error is to blame for votes being dropped in some counties.

The problem can't be fixed before the Nov. 4 election
, so Premier Election Solutions and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner are issuing guidelines to counties for how to avoid the problem.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and provide boards of elections with the instruction and support they need to ensure an orderly and efficient election and an accurate count of Ohioans' votes," Brunner said in a memo released today.

Premier, formerly Diebold Election Systems, initially speculated that the problem was a conflict between its system and anti-virus software.

But in a letter Tuesday to Brunner, Premier President David Byrd admitted that further testing showed a source-code error that can cause votes not to be recorded when memory cards are uploaded to computer servers under certain circumstances.

"We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error," Byrd wrote.

Brunner is suing to recover the millions of taxpayer dollars spent to buy Premier touch-screens after she said an investigation this year showed that votes in at least 11 counties had been dropped in recent elections.

Elections workers discovered the missing votes, but not until many hours later in most cases, Brunner said. The malfunction first was discovered in Butler County in April, she said.

Forty-four counties, including Licking and Fairfield in central Ohio, use Premier touch-screens. Franklin County uses touch-screens from a different manufacturer.
Emphasis added.

Note that hated Diebold has changed its name to the benignly positive Premier. We can expect the announcement shortly that similar GOP functionaries like Halliburton will change its name to Good Samaritan, and Blackwater will become Flying Horseman.
Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on the catastrophic clusterfuck that is the 'terrorist watch' database (hat tip: Atrios). A choice excerpt:
The government's main terrorist-watch-list system is hobbled by technology challenges, and the $500 million program designed to upgrade it is on the verge of collapse, according to a preliminary congressional investigation....

Among the flaws in the database, which was quickly built by Lockheed Martin Corp. in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is its inability to do key-word searches.
So one of the key tools meant to keep us all safe from Terra is grossly inadequate, and unlikely to be fixed anytime soon. And I think it's pretty clear that the technical incompetence of the execution flows directly from the technical ignorance of the people in charge.

Which is why this is as scary as it is funny:

Something tells me we'll be getting a lot more stories like the WSJ piece if McCain is in charge.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I'll be away from the blog Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There should be some pinch-hitters, however, so keep dropping by. I'll be back again on Monday.

Me at 1:35 this afternoon:

COUNTING DOWN: 5, 4, 3, 2, ...

... to the first right-wing flack or mainstream-media pundit who tells us that John McCain's inability to remember how many homes he owns ... is a sign that, in fact, he's really an ordinary guy after all, because he clearly doesn't take his wealth and privilege seriously and hasn't let it all go to his head....

Power Line's Hindrocket at 4:25 this afternoon:

...The truth is that McCain isn't out of touch with "ordinary people" because he's rich, he's out of touch with his own domestic arrangements because he cares little about material things, and for many years has devoted his extraordinary energies not to enjoying his wife's money, but to serving the American people....

Close enough?

(And he stole 80% of my blog name for his post title, the fiend!)

(Via Sadly, No!)

I'm sick of this theory, which is now unquestioningly accepted by all political pundits:

... in politics memes tend to stick when they reinforce things that people already intuitively believe. Hence George HW Bush in the supermarket was a disaster because everyone already had the sense that Bush was a disconnected upper-class twit. I don't think many people feel that way about McCain, and even if they're exposed to lots of information about his wealth, he just doesn't come across as a pampered rich guy....

That's from Michael Crowley, and to give him his due, he pairs the McCain example with one for Obama that he thinks won't work (that Obama's corrupt because he was associated with Tony Rezko).

But is the theory even true? Do we never come to believe anything about a politician we don't already half-believe?

I think that's a crock. Americans saw Poppy Bush as preppy and a bit odd -- Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live saying "Nah gah do it" -- but he'd persuaded the public for years that he was an unpretentious guy, the suburban dad of his speech at the '88 convention, a pork-rind-eating country music fan with a down-to-earth wife, as opposed to his '88 opponent, whose policies he'd told the country were "born in Harvard Yard's boutique."

That was a reversal of image, too -- before Bush's negative campaign got under way, Dukakis was thought of primarily as a son of immigrants. So both Bush and Dukakis were brought down by memes that stuck even though they contradicted what people already thought about them.

Did anybody outside the looney right think John Kerry's tour of duty in Vietnam was dishonorable? Not until the Swift Boat liars went to work.

Did anyone see John Edwards or Eliot Spitzer as hound dogs on the prowl? Not until we learned that they were.

Perceptions of politicians aren't etched in marble, for heaven's sake. Why do we now believe it's impossible to change them?

So how is unelectable arugula-eating elitist Muslim Negro beanpole Barack Obama doing against John McCain in the latest Fox poll?

He's beating McCain by 3 points.

But what would be happening in a head-to-head matchup between McCain and the infinitely more electable Hillary Clinton?

According to the same Fox poll, she'd be beating McCain by 3 points.

Days before the Democratic Convention begins, Barack Obama has a slim 42 percent to 39 percent edge over John McCain in the race for the White House, according to a FOX News poll released Thursday....

In a hypothetical matchup, Hillary Clinton tops McCain by 46 percent to 43 percent....

And this is after several months in which the GOP has had an effective moratorium on attacking her (and McCain and other right-wingers have lavished praise on her). Do you think maybe, if she were the nominee, she might have been getting pounded all spring and summer as hard as Obama's been pounded? And do you think that might have caused some deterioration in her standing?


Meanwhile, a dip into the PDF of the poll reveals this bizarre question:

If John McCain were running for president with Hillary Clinton as his vice-presidential running mate, would you vote for the McCain-Clinton ticket or the Democratic ticket?

Come on, admit it: you can almost imagine Bill speaking at the Democratic convention, then Chelsea speaking, then Hillary speaking -- and then Hillary taking the #2 spot on the Republican ticket. Can't you? After this? And this?

OK, sorry -- I got out of control there. In any case, the Democratic ticket wins by four in that case. So it would actually hurt McCain.