Friday, October 31, 2008


Raphael made a good point in the comments to an earlier post: it's quite imaginable that one of the GOP candidates for president in 2012 will be Saint Petraeus.

It occurs to me that he may be the one person who could actually take hardcore-base GOP votes away from Palin -- not Christianist-but-insufficiently-angry Mike Huckabee, not Mormon Mitt, not pro-choice cross-dresser Rudy, not the guy who's now the other non-white-male base-friendly governor, Bobby Jindal.

If Petraeus is in the race -- assuming he doesn't do something unacceptable to the base in the next four years (stay on under a President Obama and actually work well with him, express a socially moderate position on any issue) -- the Palin crowd might actually feel it's treasonous not to vote for him, even if it means that they must, regretfully, give Palin a miss. That's why it seems likely that some members of the stop-Palin crowd are going to try to get him into the race, assuming he's not already making plans himself.

Oh, and elsewhere in comments, Greg is right -- don't overlook the ambitions of Jeb. He may seem old and past his sell-by date in 2012, but he does know how to maintain fairly broad appeal while frequently dabbling in envelope-pushing zealotry, particularly on church-state separation. Maybe he'll try to sell himself as a Palin who can win.

It's not in my copy of the Constitution, but apparently it's in Sarah Palin's:

... Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media." ...

Palin is a Real American. It's un-American for a non-Real American to criticize a Real American. Such criticism of the spokespeople of the Real America damages America (the Real part). It makes Real Americans less willing and able to take on non-Real Americans -- the enemies of America. Therefore, it threatens Real Americans' liberties. It says so right there in the Constitution.

Uh, somewhere.


I just want to point out that even when we non-Real Americans denounce, say, racist attacks on Barack Obama, we (or at least those of us who've actually read the Constitution) don't argue that they violate the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights protects even speech we hate.


But here's my favorite part of the story about the interview:

...[Host Chris] Plante then suggested that in her next sit-down interview, Palin should tap the reporter on the knee and ask, "So who you votin' for?"

Palin laughed and said, "Yeah, maybe that just would say it all."

"I'm gonna try that," she said.

Oh, yes, please do. And you should wink, too -- that would make it especially effective.

Mara Liasson on NPR this morning, talking about Barack Obama's advertising:

He's reached saturation levels.... To me, it is the one and only reason why he is winning on the question of taxes: because he has repeated in advertising this -- this claim that he's going to reduce taxes for 95 percent of America.

I love the insinuation there: he's not winning because he actually isn't going to raise taxes on the bottom 95 percent, he's winning because he keeps saying he isn't, , sleazy bastard that he is, and he's using the sleazy tactic of assuring people of this over and over again on TV. If it weren't for that, we'd have a proper election, in which everyone just knew that the Democrat planned to tax everyone into the poorhouse, regardless of what he or she said.

I guess we're not going to hear much from Matt Drudge anymore about how well John McCain is doing according to Gallup's "traditional" likely-voter model. From today's Gallup report:

In addition to this 8-point lead, Obama's up 9 according to the "expanded" likely-voter model and up 11 among registered voters overall.

Almost home....

Peggy Noonan today, looking forward with trepidation to non-divided government at a moment of crisis:

What will this mix produce? A runaway train with no one to put on the brakes, to claim a mandate for slowing, no one to cry "Crossing ahead"? Democrats in Congress will move for innovation when much of the country hopes only for stability. Who will tell Congress of that rest of the nation? Mr. Obama will be overwhelmed trying to placate the innovators.

"Stability"? Um, I think some people wanted a little stability back in 1981, when Noonan's ex-boss entered the Oval Office. Instead, we got a radical restructuring of the tax code, the gutting of regulation and the social safety net, and several years of Cold War brinkmanship. Didn't seem to ruffle Noonan's feathers.

But does Noonan actually think Barack Obama will create anxiety by exuding a sense of instability? Does she actually think he'll be overwhelmed? Barack Obama -- clearly the least overwhelmable person on the planet? If he's president, whatever he does is absolutely going to carry an air of steadiness and stability, just because of the way he carries himself and the way he wants change to occur, i.e., with as many people on board as possible.

By contrast, if McCain gets into the White House, he'll be overwhelmed if the batteries die on his TV remote, and he'll probably demand a complete nationwide changeover to steam-powered television transmission.

And he'll probably want the changeover to be overseen by Joe the Plumber.


We haven't even gotten through this year's election, much less the next four years, but I think some Democrats are already feeling unusually confident about 2012. They're thinking we'll have a President Obama, and four years from now he'll be facing the person who's greatly impressed many of the prominent conservatives planning to gather soon to strategize about the GOP's future, the person seen by many as the future of the party -- Sarah Palin.

But will this really happen if Obama wins next week? Alas, I doubt it.

It certainly looks as if running her would be a suicidal move on the GOP's part:

A growing number of voters have concluded that Senator John McCain's running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, is not qualified to be vice president, weighing down the Republican ticket in the last days of the campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

All told, 59 percent of voters surveyed said Ms. Palin was not prepared for the job, up nine percentage points since the beginning of the month. Nearly a third of voters polled said the vice-presidential selection would be a major factor influencing their vote for president, and those voters broadly favor Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee....

But there are still too many Republicans out there who know too much about winning elections for me to believe that they're just going to hand us their most beatable candidate on a silver platter. I have to assume that these people know how to read polls and know they have to stop her.

Granted, 2012 won't be 2000. Back then the ideal candidates of the wingnut and Christianist purists were the likes of Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer. They weren't well known (as Palin is) or well organized (as Palin will surely be in four years if she chooses to run), so it wasn't hard to beat them with a candidate who could coopt their message, appeal to moderates and moderate conservatives, and raise real money, i.e., George W. Bush.

That's the principal task for the more level-headed Republicans in 2012 if they're facing President Obama: to find a Sarah Palin who isn't, er, Sarah Palin, a Sarah Palin Lite, with credibility. They know they have to appeal to the crazy base -- they saw how uninspiring a Palin-less McCain was to the hard core -- but they know they can't just appeal to the crazy base. I can't believe smart Republicans won't recognize all that and make it their life's work.

So I suspect we're going to see ever nastier stories (and unsubstantiated rumors) about Palin, either in the immediate future or a couple of years from now, unearthed by anti-Palin Republicans trying to stop her rise. Republicans are, after all, pretty good at that kind of thing.

I'd love to believe it'll be Palin in 2012. But I think they'll take her down before then.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


In his Wall Street Journal article "Don't Let the Polls Affect Your Vote" (subject of my last post), Karl Rove writes, concerning John McCain's chances for a comeback:

But the question that matters is the margin. If Mr. McCain is down by 3%, his task is doable, if difficult. If he's down by 9%, his task is essentially impossible.

Now look what's happened: the Journal's corporate partner, Fox News, just released a poll showing McCain ... down by 3%! And he was down 9% last week!

But check out the party split in the two polls (PDF):

Democrats had a six-point party-affiliation advantage in the last poll. Now it's two? Anybody think that in any way jibes with reality right now?

According to Gallup, that's less than the Dems' party advantage in 2006 or 2004. Anyone think they've slipped over the past two years?

Preposterous. But it got Murdoch just the number he wanted.

I understand why Karl Rove would want the readers of his latest Wall Street Journal column to think John McCain still has a chance -- but (surprise!) he really has to stretch the truth to make his case.

Start with the headline:

Don't Let the Polls Affect Your Vote
They were wrong in 2000 and 2004.

Problem is, he doesn't cite any actual polls of the kind we're looking at now that were wrong in 2000 and 2004. Yes, he cites the '04 exit polls that showed John Kerry winning, but (I'll disregard for the moment the possibility of vote-counting skulduggery) those polls were necessarily incomplete (they were taken in the middle of the day, when many voters were at work).

For 2000, in addition to the (I'd say understandable) calls of Florida by some TV news organizations, Rove cites something that wasn't even a poll at all, a forecast that was announced months before the election:

...academics gathered by the American Political Science Association at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington on Aug. 31, 2000, to make forecasts declared that Al Gore would be the winner. Their models told them so. Mr. Gore would receive between 53% and 60% of the two-party vote; Gov. George W. Bush would get between just 40% and 47%. Impersonal demographic and economic forces had settled the contest, they said. They were wrong.

That's a "poll" that didn't ask a single voter about his or her presidential preference. It's not a poll at all. How on earth is that comparable to the polls we're reading now?

(A Washington Post article on that 2000 forecast is here. The political scientists were relying on economic data, the outgoing president's popularity, statistics such as "the number of terms the incumbent party has been in power," and, yes, in at least one case, actual horse-race polling data thrown into the mix. That's not a poll.)

And of course, Rove has to get 1980 in:

Only one time in the past 14 presidential elections has a candidate won the popular vote and the Electoral College after trailing in the Gallup Poll the week before the election: Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Yup -- except that that Gallup poll was conducted before the only presidential debate that year:

In 1980, Carter consented to only one debate with Reagan, held on Oct. 29, less than a week before Election Day. In an Oct. 24-26 Gallup Poll, Carter led Reagan by 3 percentage points, 45% to 42%, among national registered voters. A post-debate registered voter trial-heat figure is not available in Gallup's published records, but in Gallup's final pre-election poll of "likely voters," conducted Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, Reagan led Carter by 3 points, 46% to 43%.


... a review of the late 1980 polls shows that while Reagan soared over the final week (following the campaign's one and only debate on Oct. 29), the contest up until that point was tightly competitive, not trending toward the incumbent Democratic president. At the time, the Associated Press reported "new polls say the race between the two men remains too close to call."

A post-election summary of polls by then-CBS News pollster Warren Mitofsky shows that at no point over the final two weeks did Carter have a lead bigger than three percentage points. There is a published Gallup poll not included in that report showing Carter up six among likely voters in a poll conducted Oct. 24 to 27. Whether six or the eight points cited today, Carter's advantage in Gallup polling was offset by similarly large Reagan leads in NBC-Associated Press or DMI (Reagan's pollsters) polls.

So Reagan's "comeback" win wasn't even a comeback according to some polls.

This year, maybe all the polls -- and I mean all of them -- are wrong. But if that's the case, then there's no precedent for what's happening in the elections Rove cites.

Question: who wrote this in today's Orlando Sentinel?

My father made an inflation-adjusted income of about $50,000 per year. He never took a handout, but he worked two jobs. He taught us that if we worked hard and played by the rules, there was no limit to what we could become in America. Now, Obama is changing that compact with America. In Obama's America, there is a ceiling to the American Dream. He decides the level at which our money becomes the government's money.

Answer? Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Hillary Clinton backer and permanently embittered Hillary Clinton supporter.

Some background: Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild was introduced to her husband British banking financier Sir Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild by Henry Kissinger at the Bilderberg conference in '98. Portfolio labeled her "the flashiest hostess in London." She's "mistress" of the Ascott House, the 3,200-acre Rothschild family estate in Buckinghamshire. She's on the board of Estee Lauder. She's friends with Tony and Cherie Blair and other big-moneyed Brits, including the utterly corrupt Conrad Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel. She also owns what has been described as "the most beautiful apartment in New York" ...

To be sure, Rothschild was born into a middle-class family in 1954 -- but please note that at that time the top marginal tax rate in the U.S. was 91%, and it remained at 70% or higher until 1980. This socialist, Marxist, radically redistributive tax policy (overseen for the first six years of Rothschild's life by that known commie, Dwight Eisenhower) did not, somehow, prevent her from matriculating at Pomona College and then Columbia University Law School, nor did it stand in the way of her business success and marriages to three ever-more-wealthy men, the last of whom, her current husband, she wed in 1980, when the top marginal tax rate was 39.6% -- precisely what it would be under Obama's tax proposal.

In other words, the tax rates Obama is proposing would have put no ceiling on her American Dream.

But maybe she'll show up (Lynn the Socialite!) on the McCain-Palin Resentment Tour, wearing a Carhartt tiara.

John McCain on Larry King Live last night:

L. KING: Concerning spreading the wealth, isn't the graduated income tax spreading the wealth?

MCCAIN: The graduated income tax...

L. KING: If you and I paid more so that Jimmy can get some for him or pay for a welfare recipient, that's spreading the wealth.

MCCAIN: Well, that's spreading the wealth in the respect that we do have a graduated income tax. That's a far cry from taking from one group of Americans and giving to another. I mean, that's dramatically different.

Um ... yeah, right. Got it. Dramatically different. Not the same at all.

There you are, folks -- Larry King is making more sense on economics than the Republican candidate for president of the United States.

I put up a post last night about Sarah Palin's interview with ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, but I was apparently completely oblivious to the big story:

...In an interview with ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas, the Republican vice-presidential nominee was asked about 2012, whether she was discouraged by the daily attacks on the campaign trail, and would instead pack it in and return to her home state of Alaska.

"I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that would bring this whole ... I'm not doing this for naught," Palin said....

I have to cut her a break here, much as it kills me to do so.

Let's go back to the transcript for the relevant portion of the interview:

ELIZABETH VARGAS: If it doesn't go your way on Tuesday ... 2012?

GOV SARAH PALIN: I'm just ... thinkin' that it's gonna go our way on Tuesday, November 4. I truly believe that the wisdom of ... of the people will be revealed on that day. As they enter that voting booth, they will understand the stark contrast between the two tickets. ...

VARGAS: But the point being that you haven't been so bruised by some of the double standard, the sexism on the campaign trail, to say, "I've had it. I'm going back to Alaska."

PALIN: Absolutely not. I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that ... that would ... bring this whole ... I'm not doin' this for naught.

Atrios quotes CNN's Wolf Blitzer saying,

...It is one of those "wow, she is talking about 2012 if we lose," that is not supposed to be something that you say. You are supposed to say, "well, I'm not looking ahead, I'm not looking ahead only to Tuesday," and those are the talking points she's supposed to be saying, but she is obviously blunt and she is looking ahead if something were to happen on Tuesday that she wouldn't be happy with.

But she does give a version of the I'm-thinking-about-Tuesday line.

And I'm not really clear what she's saying (I'm not sure she's really clear what she's saying) in that second answer. She doesn't seem as goal-directed, as 2012-directed, as she could be -- and I don't doubt for a second that, if she thought it was the thing to do for herself right now, she'd unabashedly express that kind of ambition. It just seems as if, in the second question, she's thinking about a generalized sense of being victimized and wanting to say she's tough, you betcha, and won't back down. And she does throw a "we" in there.

I believe she doesn't have a strong bond with John McCain, to say the least (see the previous post). But I also think she has a strong emotional investment in their shared narrative of grievance.

And my guess is that she doesn't have a real plan for the future. She may really think a win is possible (I think so, too). In the event of a loss, I think she's just going to weigh a lot of offers, some of which move her toward a 2012 run, some of which could move her into competition with Oprah or The Hills.

So I'm not going to read too much into this -- though I'm not shedding any tears at the fact that the rest of the political commentariat wants to make it an issue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


So I was reading this excerpt from Elizabeth Vargas's ABC interview, with Sarah Palin, and something jumped out at me:

VARGAS: But, set the record straight. Do you think Senator Obama is as patriotic, as American, as honorable as John McCain?

PALIN: I am sure that Senator Obama, ... cares as much for this country as McCain does. Now, McCain has a strong, solid track record of his ... I think, some manifestations of the opportunities that he's had to prove that patriotism, and that love for country, but no....

Have I missed this all this time? She calls him McCain? Not "John" or "Senator McCain"?

I've heard her refer Barack Obama to "Barack," and she tried to play some kind of head game with Joe Biden at the debate by asking if she could call him Joe, but there's something weirdly rude and disrespectful about this -- it doesn't seem the result of friction so much as the result of a narcissistic failure to process her running mate's very existence. He chose her, but now she's strutting on the stage and it's as if she doesn't see him -- as a partner or as someone to whom she's a subordinate. Instead, he's just some guy, McCain, who enabled her star turn. He's barely relevant to her -- because it's all about her.

If the fair-'n'-balanced folks devoted a massive amount of airtime to an inept, endless, probably tedious, easily debunked audio forgery intended to destroy the Obama campaign? I think that would be awesome:

A final agreement has been reached between African Press International (API) and Fox News Network (USA) on the dates to air the Michelle Obama tape arising from a discussion Mrs Obama had with the API two weeks ago. The show will take place any day/time from now, with a 15 minutes alert on when it is to take place. Other programmes will be interrupted. This is a precaution taken to avoid interference from any quarter.

In the agreement, Fox News Network will broadcast 39 minutes of the 54 minutes long tape. The whole tape cannot be aired unedited due to security reasons and especially due to the explosive political temperature in the country because of the Presidential elections that is just around the corner, November 4th....

You remember this story: Michelle Obama -- married to the man running the most disciplined presidential campaign in living memory -- is alleged to have picked up a phone and called this obscure African news site (a glorified blog) and ranted (now, we're told, for nearly an hour!) about her husband's birth status, in what doesn't exactly sound like English as spoken by a Princeton-educated Chicagoan ("There is no shame in being adopted by a step father. All dirt has been thrown onto my husband's face and yet he loves this country"). Oh, and fifteen minutes of what she said can't be aired for security reasons!

But there's more:

Six hours after the release of information by API on the planned broadcast by Fox News Network of the Michelle Obama tape, in accordance with an agreement that has been reached between API and Fox News Network, API was contacted by Obama’s Campaign Manager.

...Obama’s campaign manager contacted API by telephone and email offering 3 million US dollars followed with a request to API to cancel the deal with Fox News Network.

No, really, it's true! And that's the second bribe offered!

Ten days ago API received the first request to accept 2 million US dollars by Mr Ed Hale, President of Plains Radio, Texas - USA, in an effort to suppress the information from reaching the public before the coming US Presidential elections....

That part could almost be kinda-sorta true -- you see, Ed Hale actually might have wanted the tape (and been stupid enough to believe it actually exists) because he ran full-page newspaper ads on behalf of the PUMA cause before the Democratic convention, and he runs a well-publicized PUMA Web site. He's also insisted that he heard Michelle's "whitey tape" (see a screen shot of his site here) and that he's seen Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate (odd, since Michelle on the API tape says he was born in Hawaii).

Oh, and API also says Hale has misrepresented e-mails he sent to API, in ways I'm not borderline delusional enough to grasp.

This would be excellent TV -- a crudely forged tape, a PUMA guy with too much time and money on his hands, Philip Berg (the ethically challenged lawyer who keeps filing lawsuits claiming Barack Obama is ineligible to be president, who was retained as an API attorney and who's Hale's pal) ... mix in Sean Hannity and I'm canceling all plans to watch.


UPDATE: API now claims that the tape will be played on the Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren shows on Fox "in less than 24 hours" -- or "any time from this day" (the post header and text don't seem to be in agreement on this point). Yee-haw! Bring on the inept forgery!

We're told elsewhere that "The impact the tape is expected to have on National Security when finally released will be huge." If this exists, what the hell did the forgers put in it? Michelle Obama reveals America's nuclear launch codes?

So, that new poll that shows Obama leading by 7 in Ohio, 12 in Nevada and Pennsylvania, 18 in New Hampshire, 9 in Colorado, and 7 in Virginia (and also tied in Florida and North Carolina)?

It's from AP/GfK -- the same folks whose last nationwide poll gave Obama a lead of only 1 point, as Matt Drudge gleefully noted at the time.

Guess AP/Gfk has fixed the bug in the process that led the earlier poll to estimate that evangelicals constitute twice as big a percentage of the electorate as they actually do.

I was a bit worried about this, even though it's part of a poll that shows only a little tightening (Obama +8 last week, +6 now):

"Joe the Plumber" may be paying off for John McCain.

The Arizona senator scored sharp gains on the pivotal issue of jobs and the economy in the past week, helping him gain a bit on front-runner Barack Obama and narrow the presidential race as it heads into the final week, according to an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll released Tuesday.

The poll found Obama's margin over McCain on who's stronger on jobs and the economy -- by far the top issue in the country -- down from 16 points to 7 points in one week....

And similar things are happening in the ABC/Washington Post tracking poll:

For the first time since late September McCain has cracked Obama's double-digit margin in trust to handle the economy, now a 9-point Obama lead in this ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, down from 18 points last week....

The single biggest change in trust to handle the economy, as noted in yesterday's tracking report, is among movable voters, the 11 percent who haven't definitely made up their minds -- from a 29-point advantage on the economy for Obama last week to a 7-point McCain edge this week....

But Obama still has a 7-point lead in the ABC/WaPo poll.

So what's going on?

Well, McCain's economic message is connecting with his own base, as ABC's poll analyst explains:

Last week conservatives preferred McCain on the economy by a 40-point margin; now it's 61 points; evangelical white Protestants preferred him on the economy by 46 points, compared with 65 points now.

So people who were never going to vote for Obama are now really, really never going to vote for Obama. Meanwhile, people in the middle are going in the other direction:

McCain's at or near his best support to date among conservatives and evangelical white Protestants, core Republican groups. But the 52-41 percent division among independents is Obama's best since Sept. 22, and his lead among middle-class voters is his best to date.

I'm exaggerating somewhat -- these polls are tightening a bit. (And there's noticeable tightinmg in the latest Rasmussen poll.) It's possible that Obama could have picked off some of the conservative and evagelical voters, but now they're going home to the GOP, perhaps because of this new economic message (which, for all we know, ADHD McCain might abandon tomorrow). Then again, these voters might have drifted home no matter what.

Whatever's going on, yes, it's true that if the "real America" were the real America, the McCain/Palin/Plumber ticket would be winning in a landslide on raw votes and, now, possibly even voter enthusiasm. But that's not the case, and Obama still has a lead.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Wow, this is quintessential McCain: media-bashing, hypocrisy, fear-mongering, McCarthyism ... along with incompetent briefing of a messenger and, probably, internal friction. You could take a DNA sample from this moment and clone the entire McCain campaign.

First there was this:

John McCain's campaign is demanding that the Los Angeles Times release a video of a party for a prominent Palestinian activist that Barack Obama attended in 2003.

The Times described the going-away party for former University of Chicago professor, and Obama friend, Rashid Khalidi, in a story in April. The story reported that Palestinians thought they might have a friend in Obama because of his friendships in that community, despite the fact that his positions have never been particularly pro-Palestinian.

"A major news organization is intentionally suppressing information that could provide a clearer link between Barack Obama and Rashid Khalidi," said McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb....

The campaign hadn't previously demanded the video....

(Never mind the fact that a group McCain chaired in the 1990s gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to Khalidi.)

Then -- by astonishing coincidence -- "Joe" "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, while campaigning for McCain, was asked about Israel, of all things:

Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. "Joe the Plumber," on Tuesday ... agreed with a claim from an audience member at a John McCain rally that "a vote for Barack Obama is a vote for the death to Israel."

... At a stop in Columbus, he fielded the question on Israel from a self-identified Jewish senior citizen.

The questioner said he was "concerned" with Barack Obama's associations and "It's my belief that a vote for Obama is a vote for the death to Israel."

Wurzelbacher responded: "I do know that." ...

Obama-equals-Holocaust is obviously a key message for the last week of the campaign. Obviously the questioner was a plant. But why plant the question for Wurzelbacher?

The obvious answer is that the McCainiacs think Wurzelbacher is a more reliable hatchetperson for them than Sarah Palin (even though you'd think she could deliver this message, given her boast on more than one occasion that she loves Israel and keeps an Israeli flag in her Alaska office). Oh, and maybe Joe Lieberman is trying to slink back into the Democratic Party's good graces, so he didn't want to go there.

Problem is, they sent Wurzelbacher out to do this, and then he wound up on Fox News -- but it didn't go well:

...The push-back against Wurzelbacher's comments began, somewhat unexpectedly, at Fox News.

... Shepard Smith pressed Wurzelbacher on his comments, reminding the woefully misinformed McCain backer that Obama has consistently voiced support for Israel. Pressed several times to explain how he could agree with the conclusion that Obama would lead to the death of the Jewish state, Wurzelbacher was unable to come up with any good reasons aside from Obama's position in favor of negotiating with rogue regimes such as Iran.

"You don't want my opinion on foreign policy," Wurzelbacher said. "I know just enough to kind of be dangerous." ...

Yeah, watch the clip -- Wurzelbacher has been given no talking points, and can't come up with anything on his own. And Smith was very tough on Wuirzelbacher, something no one in the McCain camp foresaw, apparently:

Exceedingly nasty and exceedingly clumsy. Just another day at the office for the McCain campaign.


UPDATE, WEDNESDAY: I see that the 2012 GOP ticket, Palin/Wurzelbacher, is campaigning together, and now Palin is, in fact, playing the Hitler card. Click on the link for details. Joe McCarthy is popping a Viagra somewhere in Hell.

A lot of lefties right now are letting themselves believe the new Pew poll that shows Obama up by 16. Many righties are believing the most McCain-friendly of Gallup's three interpretations of its own polling numbers, which shows Obama up by only 2.

Me, I think Obama's winning -- but I'm still worried about the few remaining tight polls. I can't shake the fear that a tightening race + GOP voter suppression + Obama voter complacency could equal McCain by an eyelash, maybe just in the Electoral College.

So I still think persuadable voters need to be talked out of voting for McCain. If you know such voters and need more ammo to help change their minds, point them to all the bickering that's going on -- and ask them if they can imagine people who are at one another's throats this way managing to stop fighting and run a freaking country.

How bad is it? Here's the latest, from Robert Draper at GQ:

Almost from the very beginning, the Palin pick created tension.

... I remember seeing Tucker Eskew—an old Bush hand out of South Carolina who had never spent a day in McCain World until Nicolle Wallace recruited him to be Palin’s counselor—wandering around the premises, looking somewhat lost. He and Wallace took charge of schooling the Alaska governor on message discipline. Two days later at the GOP convention, an adviser watched them coach Palin on how to answer routine press questions and warned Steve Schmidt that she was being overly managed.

... a couple of McCain higher-ups have told me ... that Palin simply knew nothing about national and international issues. Which meant, as one such adviser said to me: "Letting Sarah be Sarah may not be such a good thing." It’s a grim binary choice, but apparently it came down to whether to make Palin look like a scripted robot or an unscripted ignoramus. I was told that Palin chafed at being defined by her discomfiting performances in the Couric, Charlie Gibson, and Sean Hannity interviews. She wanted to get back out there and do more....

... I’ve heard from one well-placed source that McCain has snubbed her on one long bus ride aboard the Straight Talk Express, to the embarrassment of those sitting nearby....

You think it would get any better if McCain somehow manged to eke out a win?

McCain would think he'd won despite the frivolous, ignorant Alaskan millstone around his neck. Palin would think she was the one who'd pulled the ticket across the finish line even though the wussy, uninspiring old centrist in the top slot didn't want her to "take the gloves off" and go all Wright/Ayers/socialist/un-American, all the time. The advisers would be divided into similar camps. And Palin would probably be just as determined to run for president in 2012 as she'll be after a loss, so she'd be undermining McCain's authority every chance she got, while he'd be trying to show her who's boss.

Can you imagine the country run by this bickering, dysfunctional clan? Can you picture them with a 9/11 or a financial meltdown in the offing? Doesn't it terrify you that this is still a possibility?

Politico's Roger Simon tells us today that Sarah Palin is preparing for a 2012 presidential race. That's assuming she and McCain don't win this year -- which would be her doing. In any case, she may still run in 2012 -- and she'll be a formidable challenger, given her widespread issues-based appeal. Experts say so.

Or at least one expert:

...Mueller says Palin has given conservatives "hope" and "something to believe in."

And even if the McCain-Palin ticket does win on Nov. 4 -- and Mueller says it could -- "if McCain decides to serve for just one term, Sarah Palin as the economic populist and traditional American values candidates will be very appealing by the time we get to 2012."

... Mueller thinks Palin would make a strong candidate.

... Mueller thinks that, while some conservative intellectuals have deserted and derided Sarah Palin, the Republican base likes her and could stick with her.

"She would run in 2012 as the populist, conservative reformer that she was originally introduced to the country as," Mueller said. "If Obama wins, you will see him moving the country to a sort of Euro-socialism. That will fail, and she can target an economic-populist message to the country."

Mueller also argues that Palin could run a more convincing campaign on traditional conservative issues in 2012 than McCain has in 2008

"One weakness in McCain’s campaign is not campaigning on strong, pro-life, traditional values issues," Mueller said. "There has been a certain level of discomfort over the years by McCain over guns, God and life issues.”

Mueller says McCain and Palin could still win next week. But if that happens, Mueller thinks Palin should get a lot of the credit. "A lot of conservatives are not excited by John McCain, even though I think he has been saying some good things," Mueller said. "If they vote, they will vote for Sarah." ...

Wow, if an expert says this, maybe it's true!

So who is this expert -- this Mueller person?

Greg Mueller ... was a senior aide in the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes.

Ah, there's a guy who knows a winner when he sees one! Color me convinced!

Ellen Lafferty -- a former editor in chief of Ms. who became a PUMA and has recently been working with Sarah Palin -- tells us at the Daily Beast today that Palin's a genius (adding that anyone who doesn't think so is a sexist poopyhead):

It's difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again this week, doubts about Sarah Palin's “intelligence” ... Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart....

Now by "smart," I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had.... She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts....

Really? OK, I'm puzzled -- where is this brilliant creature, and why haven't I seen her on the campaign trail?

I don't want to hear about "the media filter." Yes, Palin gave interviews to those evil distorters of the truth Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric and Brian Williams -- but she's also given interviews to Hugh Hewitt and Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol. At times she's tailored her utterances to conform the McCain campaign's preferences, but at other times, especially recently, she's clearly been going rogue. In short, she's communicated with us a lot of different ways.

So where's the brainiac?

We've certainly seen Palin, on many occasions, steer the discussion from a question she was asked to an answer she was prepared to give -- that's practically all she did in the Biden debate. But that's not the same thing as using "associative thinking" in a way that "probes linkages and logic." If you're making "linkages," you actually have to link the linkage back to a subject. Can anyone provide an example of that?

I'm reminded of an early McCain-Palin joint appearance. The candidates were asked by an Democratic McCain supporter in the audience, "Give us some details and examples of your strategies and plan for economic empowerment for women." Here was Palin's response:

"Well first let me take a shot at that, and I'll tell ya, I’m a product of Title IX in our schools, where equal education and equal opportunities in sports really helped propel me into the -- I guess into the position that I’m in today where," Palin said.

McCain then interjected, "Could I mention she was a point guard on a state championship basketball team."

After the crowd's applause died down, Palin continued: "Sports were very, very important to me growing up, you know just learning about self discipline and healthy competition and about what it takes to win and even how to graciously lose sometimes. But how to win, that's what it teaches ya. Now, I was a product of Title IX where legislation allowed that equal opportunity. Now if we have to still keep going down that road to create more legislation, to get with it in the 21st century, to make sure that women do have equality especially in the work place, then we're there because we understand that in this age we have all got to be working together. I respect you so much that you are a Democrat recognizing that John McCain and me as a team of mavericks understand where you’re coming from, and we can work together on these issues. But yup, equality for women, for all, that’s going to be part of the agenda and I thank you for that question."

That's her brilliant use of "linkage": asked for specific policies to advance women's equality, she cites her experience as a Title IX beneficiary and says, well, that reminds me that we're going to do more stuff. Of some kind. If necessary.


I'm not surprised to see this piece, nor am I surprised to see (also at Tina Brown's Daily Beast) a pro-McCain article by a former Democratic speechwriter, Wendy Button, that's full of GOP and PUMA talking points. The McCain camp is always jealous of Obama; as soon as he started trotting out Republican backers, it was inevitable that McCain would unleash his own.

(Button, by the way, was spotted a year or so ago at the Huffington Post concern-trolling the antiwar movement because she felt that one seemingly anti-troop sentence in a Nation editorial might "spread like a virus" and turn the whole movement anti-troop.)

And in other disaffected Democrat news, I see that Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was denouncing MSNBC yesterday at a Hollywood gathering that was full of right-wingers (Michael Reagan, Patricia Heaton, Frank Luntz, Lionel Chetwynd):

In a room full of television industry executives, no one seemed inclined to defend MSNBC on Monday for what some were calling its lopsidedly liberal coverage of the presidential election.

The cable news channel is "completely out of control," said writer-producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat.

She added that she would prefer a lunch date with right-leaning Fox News star Sean Hannity over left-leaning MSNBC star Keith Olbermann....

LB-T is a Clintonite from way, way back, responsible (with her husband, Harry Thomason) for both the short film that introduced Bill at the '92 convention and the Hillary film at the '08 convention. I don't know if McCain has anything to do with the surfacing of her PUMA complaints -- but I do know that there's going to be a whole new crop of Fox News Democrats ready for an Obama presidency, if that's what we really get.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Newsweek's Jonathan Alter said this on Keith Olbermann's show tonight (video here):

...there are a lot of Republicans who wish [McCain] would focus on the future ... other issues than just the old liberal-bashing that is played out. The old attacks on tax-and-spend liberals just don't work. So, in that sense, John McCain is not just an older candidate, his ideas and his whole approach are smelling very old tonight.

Liberal-bashing? Of course, it's actually been socialist-bashing. What could be more dated?

But McCain's chief campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, isn't even forty yet. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, is only two years older than Barack Obama. McCain's chief speechwriter, Mark Salter, is only a few years older than Davis. And McCain's running mate, of course, is still of childbearing age.

McCain's running on creaky old messages fed to him by men young enough to be his sons, and echoed with maximum enthusiasm by a woman young enough to be his daughter. Why?

Apart from Palin (who, I think, really doesn't have a clue whether what she's reading off the prompter is true), I think these people can't bear the thought that they missed the chance to confront dirty hippie commies. They were born too late; unlike, say, Karl Rove, they didn't really get a chance, even as college kids, to confront '60s and '70s liberals and lefties. McCain is the vehicle through which they get to travel in a time machine to a world where they think they could have been heroes. The old man is running an old campaign because middle-aged (and not quite middle-aged) guys think they missed the Good War.

Freeper VaBthang4's gloss on Ted Stevens:

One of the poster children who the lost the Nation to Socialists and has probably enabled the deaths of thousands of civilians in future terrorist attacks that will be successful as a result of the coming lack of real national defense.

See, he didn't do anything wrong except alienate voters, who will now vote for Democrats, which means WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!1!!11!!!

By the way, the notion that Stevens-style corruption + deficit spending + Mark Foley = 100% of the reason the Republican Party is in trouble is utterly conventional wisdom among wingnuts. The war? Katrina? Terri Schiavo? An economic boom that never happened for most ordinary Americans followed by an economic collapse that hit them first? None of that had anything to do with the tarnishing of the GOP brand. It was all illicit gay sex, government spending, and getting caught with hands in the cookie jar.

William Kristol -- who of course never served in the military -- regularly gets a warm feeling up his leg when he thinks about Republicans in military terms. So today, in The New York Times, he offers this bit of advice for the McCain campaign:

The heart of that case has to be this: reminding voters that when they elect a president, they're not just electing a super-Treasury secretary or a higher-level head of Health and Human Services. They’re electing a commander in chief in time of war....

As for McCain, he needs to speak about America's greatness and its future; about how the ingenuity and toughness of the American people will turn around this financial crisis just as the ingenuity of General Petraeus and the toughness of his fighting men and women turned around Iraq....

So the financial crisis is just like Iraq? OK, let's extend that. Let's recall the foreign policy thinking of both McCain and Kristol over the past seven years and apply it to the financial world. What would Financial Commander-in-Chief McCain do?

Respond to the current economic crisis by focusing on the rescue of a financial institution that doesn't need one?

And then, when that turns out to be a debacle, distance himself the outcome, but ineffectually -- i.e., not enough to prevent the institution in question from becoming part of the financial meltdown when it wasn't in the first place?

And then, after a few years of deterioration and drift, with the meltdown worsening as a result of the main step taken to end it, would McCain find a rescuer who'd pay one set of financial thugs to neutralize another set, which might work, but never well enough to end the self-inflicted problem, so the rescue of the initially non-threatening institution would have to be permanent, while the real financial crisis continued elsewhere?

Yup, sounds like a plan.

Sarah Palin gave a version of Richard Nixon's Checkers speech yesterday.

Nixon -- the much-maligned young running mate of a gray-eminence war hero in 1952 -- was responding to allegations that he'd profited personally from a secret, albeit legal, slush fund set up by donors. Palin yesterday was responding to several days' worth of stories about lavish spending on her clothes. In each case, the ambitious running mate denied personal gain and played both the military card and (especially) the poverty card.

Nixon, September 23, 1952:

...I say that it was morally wrong if any of that $18,000 went to Senator Nixon for my personal use.

... I'd like to read to you the opinion that was prepared by Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher and based on all the pertinent laws and statutes, together with the audit report prepared by the certified public accountants.

It is our conclusion that Senator Nixon did not obtain any financial gain from the collection and disbursement of the fund by Dana Smith... Signed Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher by Alma H. Conway....

I worked my way through college and to a great extent through law school.

And then, in 1940, probably the best thing that ever happened to me happened, I married Pat -- sitting over here.

We had a rather difficult time after we were married, like so many of the young couples who may be listening to us. I practised law; she continued to teach school.

Then, in 1942, I went into the service....

I went to the South Pacific. I guess I'm entitled to a couple of battle stars. I got a couple of letters of commendation but I was just there when the bombs were falling and then I returned.

...I own a 1950 Oldmobile car. We have out furniture. We have no stocks and bonds of any type. We have no interest of any kind, direct or indirect, in any business....

I should say this -- that Pat doesn't have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her that she'd look good in anything....

Palin yesterday:

... in Tampa, Palin happily broached the clothing issue after being introduced by "The View" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck....

"This whole thing with the wardrobe, you know I have tried to just ignore it because it is so ridiculous, but I am glad now that Elisabeth brought it up, cause it gives me an opportunity without the filter of the media to get to tell you the whole clothes thing," she said.

"Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased, I'm not taking them with me. I am back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska....

"And my wedding ring, it's in Todd's pocket, 'cause it hurts sometimes when I shake hands and it gets squished," she continued. "A $35 wedding ring from Hawaii that I bought myself and 'cause I always thought with my ring it's not what it's made of, it's what it represents, and 20 years later, happy to wear it. And then finally the other accessory, you bet I'm a gold -- I'm a blue star mom. I'm wearing this in honor of my son who is fighting over in Iraq right now defending all of you." ...

Despite the friction between the two, Eisenhower and Nixon went on to win two elections, and Nixon went on to win two more.

Let's hope the parallels end there.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


There's a lot I don't agree with in David Brooks's column about John McCain today, but he's approaching the truth here when he talks about the McCain campaign:

McCain ... never articulated a governing philosophy, Hamiltonian or any other. In Sunday's issue of The Times Magazine, Robert Draper describes the shifts in tactics that consumed the McCain campaign. The tactics varied promiscuously, but they were all about how to present McCain, not about how to describe the state of country or the needs of the voter. It was all biography, which was necessary, but it did not clearly point to a new direction for the party or the country.

But that's the peril of McCainism/Salterism -- the belief in McCain of myth, a creature of Mark Salter, McCain's principal speechwriter and the co-author of his books. Look at the profile of McCain in today's New York Times -- it describes a McCain who went from this:

...for years he had played down his prison ordeal ("I don't want to be the P.O.W. senator," Mr. McCain once told a reporter. "I don't think it made any change in my basic character")....

to this:

... he began talking about it as a more formative experience. Echoing his 1999 autobiography, "Faith of My Fathers," Mr. McCain described Vietnam as the crucible that taught him the importance of dedication to a cause greater than himself -- a formulation that became his campaign theme....

The son and grandson of four-star admirals, Mr. McCain wrestles publicly with the burdens of trying to live up to their standards of both accomplishment and honor. Contemplating his first run at the White House, he worried about balancing his ambition for the prize with his own sense of virtue, he wrote in "Worth the Fighting For."

After his loss, he professed himself grateful, at the age of 65, for what might be left of his time. "I did not get to be president of the United States. And I doubt I shall have reason or opportunity to try again," he wrote, but added, "I might yet become the man I always wanted to be."

And that's Salter's doing, as Michael Crowley noted a few months ago in The New Republic:

...with Salter's help, McCain began to focus on the theme that redefined his career and helped transform him from a little-known senator to a national celebrity: an intense, moralistic patriotism and fetishization of character.

If Salter hadn't urged McCain to embrace a myth of himself, and hadn't given McCain the words with which to do it, it's unlikely that McCain would be the national figure he is. But that's all McCain's got, except resentment.

Some of that comes from Salter too. Crowley quotes a response Salter sent to a piece at the Huffington Post by a student who'd criticized McCain at a campaign appearance:

... It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more.... [McCain] has, over and over again, risked personal ambitions for what he believes, rightly or wrongly, are in the best interests of the country. What, pray tell, have you risked? The only person you have succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself. ... Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it is very unlikely any of you will ever posses one small fraction of the character of John McCain.

When you think like this, you simply can't turn your biographical mythmaking outward -- everyone is inferior to your exalted candidate. That's the difference between McCain's use of biography and Obama's -- Obama wrote two books about himself and, yes, made himself into a bit of a mythic figure, but he turned it outward, urging others to do something significant.

Salter doesn't get it:

All the more galling for Salter is his belief that Obama the candidate is lifting from McCain's oeuvre. Obama has recently described his transformation from a selfish young man who thought "life was all about me" to an adult who realizes "that life doesn't count for much unless you're willing to do your small part to leave our children--all of our children--a better world. Even if it's difficult. Even if the work seems great. Even if we don't get very far in our lifetime." Salter hears in this an echo of McCain's longtime account of outgrowing his troublemaking and self-centered youth to find a higher purpose in serving others. ("I often regret that we didn't copyright 'serving a cause greater than your self-interest,'" he cracks.)

But in McCain's version, it's all about McCain's ability to struggle selflessly, or, at best, the ability of a few special people. In Obama's version, it's ultimately about "you" and "we" -- it's about everybody's ability to help change the country.

That plus a real focus on policy -- you sense that Obama really cares about changing America's foreign policy and tax policy and energy policy -- distinguishes Obama from McCain. Obama wants to change America. The McCain camp wants to put a demigod on the throne.

People from deep-blue (and deep-red) states, please don't think like Gail Collins:

...Here we are just a little more than a week away from one of the most important elections in modern history, and most of us are beside the point, our states long since written off as hopelessly red or blue.

This is the time of year when parents from New York to Alabama ask the experts: How old should my child be before I tell him that his vote doesn't count? Do I wait until she's in high school to break it to her that if she decides to plant her roots in California or Utah, her role in presidential elections will be less significant than her voice in deciding who should be eliminated in the next episode of "Dancing With the Stars"? ...

Listen to me: every vote counts. Read Peggy Noonan's column from Friday and you see why:

...The RealClearPolitics average of national polls as I write, rounded off, is Obama 50%, McCain 43%. Actually Mr. Obama has 50.1%, and if that is true and holds, it would make him the first Democratic presidential nominee since Jimmy Carter to break 50%. But I find myself thinking of what that 43% means. It's a big number, considering that this is the worst Republican year in generations. Amid two wars, a deep economic crisis, a fractured base, too much cynicism, and a campaign with the wind not at its back but head on in its face -- with all of that working against Mr. McCain, 43% of the American people say, right now, in these polls, they are for him.... Forty-three percent of 122 million is 52 million people, more or less....

There are too damn many polls showing Obama with a double-digit lead, as far as I'm concerned -- if he wins the popular votes by six points or fewer, especially a lot fewer, too many of the chatterers are going to talk as if he actually lost, as if he underperformed when he had everything going his way, that he didn't really "close the sale," that he squeaked by. They'll suggest that McCain-Palin and McCain-Palinism were what voters really wanted, and would have voted for if that pesky Bush guy weren't making McCain and Palin look like something they really, really aren't, i.e., Bush Republicans. Or they'll say that McCain minus Bush and Palin would have won, so McCain was kinda-sorta the people's choice.

Obama needs every vote he can get, in every state. Every vote helps reduce the possibility that he'll be seen this way, and seen as lacking a "mandate" (and yes, I know perfectly well that this wasn't a problem for W after 2000 election, but, of course, there's your double standard).

So -- not that I need to tell you this -- but vote for Obama, dammit. Vote for him in whatever state you're living in. It's important.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Eric Boehlert of Media Matters was already noting the waning influence of the Drudge Report in this election cycle a couple of days before Drudge made Ashley Todd's phony story of being mutilated by an Obama supporter a huge headline. Boehlert thinks Drudge has lost his influence because our problems are too serious right now:

... it's obvious that since Wall Street's meltdown commenced five weeks ago, and since America's economic crisis became a tsunami of a news story that's not only dominated the media landscape, but also irrevocably altered the course of the campaign, the Drudge Report has become largely irrelevant in terms of the setting the news agenda for the White House run.

That's because a story like the unfolding credit crisis -- sober and complicated -- knocks Drudge completely out of his element of frivolous, partisan gotcha links....

I think there's truth in that. But that's not the whole story.

I think what's happening is that, even in this serious moment, we're still enjoying stories that have a Drudge-like juiciness -- about Sarah Palin's clothing budget, say, or Joe the Plumber's tax lien -- but we're getting them from Politico and the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo and cable news and even the mainstream press, which means that these stories are all true. They're sourced. They're trustworthy. And that means Drudge has no choice but to pick over and highlight the leavings -- a dubious story about an attack on a campaign worker here, an outlier McCain-friendly poll with questionable methodology there.

The public, in other words, doesn't need Drudge for politicized zinginess -- it's available elsewhere, and the quality is much higher.

Moreover, when Drudge does grab hold of the news cycle with one of his more dubious "exclusives," the speed of the blogosphere/cable news insta-response blunts the impact within hours, if not minutes. It took a day for the Ashley Todd story to fall apart, but Wonkette and, surprisingly, Michelle Malkin were expressing skepticism almost instantly.

Drudge could still compete, but he'd have to try a new approach -- reliability.

I'm not sure he has it in him.

I may not be the first person who's said this, but it occurs to me that what Ashley Todd did was just a lite version of a jihadist's suicide attack -- she didn't kill herself for a higher cause, but she did wound herself. She's the right age for that kind of zeal, and female suicide attackers certainly aren't unknown. If you can wrap your mind around suicide terrorism, then Ashley Todd isn't hard to understand.


Another thought from Aimai, iin the comments to the previous post:

... I think the rash of "its really liberals who are violent" stories follows on the rash of "its really liberals who are racist/not environmentalists/not feminists" stuff has gone to their heads. On some level people like this GOP girl really believe that its just kind of accidental that they haven't been attacked already by big black men--like everyone else says happens all the time. I think they don't even really grasp that it *didn't happen* to them. It makes such basic sense to them....

Certainly, once you've persuaded yourself that an opponent (Democrats, liberals, black Obama supporters) embodies unimaginable evil, you might have a psychological need for that evil to manifest itself. Whether, on some level, you could actually project the infliction of a wound on yourself onto a knife-wielding other, I'm not sure. If so, that would be truly disturbing.

Friday, October 24, 2008


You know Ashley:

Police say a campaign volunteer confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter B in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker.

At a news conference this afternoon, offiicals said they believe that Ashley Todd's injuries were self-inflicted....

Why do I think the Republican Party will welcome her back? Because it welcomed back Justin Zatkoff, a fellow College Republican who, two years, also lied about being physically attacked for his politics. Go here, to the College Republicans' Truth Caucus site, and you'll see that Zatkoff was doing McCain campaign volunteer work as recently as two weeks ago, in Michigan. You'd think that after you'd lied like that, and become a laughingstock in political circles, the GOP might want to give you a wide berth. Apparently not.

So don't worry -- Ashley's probably going to remain in the party's good graces.


Dumbest right-wing blog comment on this whole incident? I nominate this, from Allahpundit:

Here's one possible explanation for how she got the black eye: She may not really have a black eye. Quote: "The photo also shows Todd with a black eye. Salon showed it to Jennifer Province, an emergency room nurse, who says she believes the black eye was faked. The color of it is wrong, Province said, and there's less swelling than typically seen."

How does one "fake" a black eye, exactly? Did she actually put
make up around her eye and expect the cops to be fooled?

Duh -- yes, she did. Look at the picture:

"Less swelling than typically seen"? Yes, I'd say no swelling at all is less than usually seen.

I was initially skeptical of Kathleen Parker's theory that John McCain picked Sarah Palin primarily because he has the hots for her, but I can't help thinking that somebody on Team McCain is in love, after reading about the campaign's apparently unlimited budget for Palin primping -- first the $150K budget overall for clother, hair, and makeup, and now this:

Who was the highest paid individual in Senator John McCain's presidential campaign during the first half of October as it headed down the homestretch?

Not Randy Scheunemann, Mr. McCain's chief foreign policy adviser; not Nicolle Wallace, his senior communications staffer. It was Amy Strozzi, who was identified by the Washington Post this week as Gov. Sarah Palin's traveling makeup artist....

Ms. Strozzi ... was paid $22,800 for the first two weeks of October alone, according to the records....

Is this McCain's craziness? Is he the aging alpha male trying to make sure his young beloved looks fine?

I think there are other possibilities. Consider what Robert Draper wrote about campaign manager Rick Davis for The New York Times Magazine:

After [a] first brief meeting, Davis remained in discreet but frequent contact with Palin and her staff -- gathering tapes of speeches and interviews, as he was doing with all potential vice-presidential candidates. One tape in particular struck Davis as arresting: an interview ... on "The Charlie Rose Show" ... What [Davis] liked was how she stuck to her pet issues -- energy independence and ethics reform -- and thereby refused to let Rose manage the interview. This was the case throughout all of the Palin footage. Consistency. Confidence. And . . . well, look at her.

It's that breathless "well, look at her" -- not a direct quote, but nearly so -- that makes me wonder if the lovesick one is Davis or possibly Steve Schmidt -- according to Draper, those two top campaign honchos were pondering Palin long before McCain was.

Yeah, I've seen the video of McCain seemingly ogling Palin's butt. But when I see that every heterosexual men on the planet except me apparently finds Palin extremely attractive, I have to assume McCain may not have his team's worst love jones for his running mate. And he's not signing the checks, is he?

From Adam Nagourney's article "In McCain's Uphill Battle, Winning Is an Option," in today's New York Times;

"It's an uphill battle," said Karl Rove, who was the chief strategist for President Bush going back to Mr. Bush's first run for governor in 1994. "But I remember seven days out from the Texas gubernatorial race, and everybody was like, 'It's all over, we're cooked!' And we won by seven points."

Uh, really?

New York Times, November 7, 1994:

The final poll by The Dallas Morning News and The Houston Chronicle, based on 1,297 interviews conducted through last Thursday, showed Mr. Bush with 46.6 percent and Ms. Richards with 44.3 percent.

New York Times, November 2, 1994:

A recent Texas Poll showed Ms. Richards leading by 12 points among women, but trailing by 17 points among men.

Dallas Morning News, November 8, 1994:

if the pollsters are right, this year's contest promises to be another squeaker, a real down-to-the-quick nail-biter.

See any resemblance between Bush's poll numbers in '94 and McCain's now? Me either.

Charles Krauthammer in today's Washington Post, endorsing John McCain:

Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? ... A foreign policy novice ... who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as "the tragedy of 9/11," a term more appropriate for a bus accident?

John McCain, January 30, 2008:

"I, like all Americans, will never forget the defining moment of recent American history, the tragedy of 9/11," McCain said.

John McCain, November 26, 2007:

"I don't know what experience [Rudy Giuliani] has besides a great job after the terrible tragedy of 9/11."

John McCain, September 3, 2003:

Months after the tragedy of September 11 depressed the commercial aircraft market and Boeing lost out on a bid for the Joint Strike Fighter, congressional appropriators -- congressional appropriators, not authorizers -- added a rider to the 2002 defense appropriations bill authorizing the Air Force to lease up to 100 Boeing 767s for use as aerial refueling tankers -- without a hearing.

Randy Schueneman, top adviser to John McCain, in a campaign conference call with reporters, June 4, 2008:

" ...Obama holds up the prosecution of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 as a model for his administration, when in fact this failed approach of treating terrorism simply as a matter of law enforcement rather than a clear and present danger to the United States contributed to the tragedy of September 11th...."


Oh, and who said this?

We live in new circumstances in our country. And I hope people remember the -- I know they remember the tragedy of September the 11th, but I hope they understand the lesson of September the 11th.



(Yeah, I know: OMG HE CALLED 9/11 A "TRAGEDY"!!!!1!!! has been a right-wing talking point for a couple of weeks already.)

Just ran across this Boston Phoenix story by David Bernstein, who wrote it after attending a Sarah Palin campaign rally in New Hampshire. It points out something some of you may know about, but was news to me.

At one point, Bernstein went to an entrance at the venue where campaign staffers had gather some audience members' signs that might have seemed a bit excessive if they showed up on TV. Of those signs, Bernstein said,

the two most striking were adorned with Jewish stars. One read "PALIN -- TRUE NORTH." The other, "SARAH -- FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS."

Why are these striking? Well, it's all about the Messiah in the race -- who isn't Barack Obama:

That last phrase comes from chapter four of the Old Testament Book of Esther....

Soon after the Republican National Convention, an e-mail went viral in conservative Christian circles, in which Pastor Mark Arnold claimed to have found himself next to Palin at a rally in his hometown of Lebanon, Ohio. According to the account, Arnold came face-to-face with Palin, and God spoke through him, telling the governor that "God wants you to know that you are a present-day Esther.... Keep your eyes on God and know that He has chosen you to reign!" ...

Esther, for those not up on their Old Testament, was a Jewish woman plucked from obscurity to become Queen of Persia after winning a beauty contest. This placed her in the right place, at the right time, to intervene in a plan to annihilate the Jews....

The big question, of course, is for what vital role -- what "time such as this" -- is Palin being groomed?

One common theory among the Christian cognoscenti is that, just as Esther stopped a threat in Persia to wipe out the Jews, Palin must stop a threat from modern-day Persia -- Iran -- to wipe out Israel....

Jon Wiener, blogging last month on, took note of this suggestion and pointed out that, in the Biblical account, Esther also got the king to grant the Jews the right "to destroy, to slay ... every people and province that oppress them," including women and small children. Wiener suggests that, to the Christian fundamentalists, the Book of Esther appears to authorize the bombing of Iran -- regardless of civilian casualties....

An alternate theory is that the enemy Palin is meant to destroy is, well, us dirty secularists:

"Our freedom to worship God, and our biblical values are under attack like never before in our country," wrote William H. Carney, author of the small religious-press book How Would Jesus Vote? ... "God has positioned Sarah to serve as a standard against the enemies' onslaught."

Or, perhaps, abortion providers are the enemy.

Sorry if this seems irrelevant, given the likely outcome of this election. Me, I'm still fascinated by the Palinites -- they're the people who for most of my adult life provided the votes that kept the plutocrat thieves undertaxed and deregulated. That system may not be working anymore -- but I think these voters are just going to get crazier and more apocalyptic in the next few years. They'll certainly be entertaining (I hope that's all they'll be).

Thursday, October 23, 2008


My feeling about Marc Ambinder's "Palin in 2012" post is that it's probably what a lot of Republicans think will happen -- and should happen -- four years from now, but 2012 is a long way away and we should all recall Gore and Lieberman's status as front-runners for 2004 before placing any bets.


There's a suspicion in some McCain loyalist precincts that Gov. Sarah Palin is beginning to play the Republican base against John McCain -- McCain won't let her campaign in Michigan...McCain won't let her bring up Jeremiah Wright... McCain doesn't like her terrorist pal talks....

Think ahead to 2010...2011...2012.

Palin is ambitious. Very ambitious.

I agree with the last two sentences; I'm not sure about that first paragraph. If it's happening, I think Palin and some McCain-Palin campaign staffers are working against McCain on those issues. I think it's a far-from-unified group, and when certain decisions are made, not all the McCainiacs are with the program. And when they question a decision (on Wright or Michigan, say), they play that familiar childhood game: "If Dad says no, ask Mom."

And if she wants the job, she's easily the frontrunner to become THE voice of the angry Right in the Wilderness. She is a favorite of talk radio and Fox News conservatives, and speaks their language as only a true member of the club can. (Her recent Limbaugh interview was full of dog whistles that any Dittohead would recognize. Including her actual use of the word ditto.)

All true. But who knows what the GOP will want or need in 2012, assuming Obama is elected this year? Right now it looks as if the GOP after this election will be reduced to its wingnutty base. But maybe, finally, the GOP will listen to its pull-back-from-the-fringe wannabe reformers.

A lot depends on what the narrative of the next four years is. How long does the economic downturn last? What's going on in international relations? What are people upset about, and who's being blamed? That future is unwritten.

Palin will have plenty of time to become fluent on national issues. She will easily benefit from the low expectations threshhold, and will probably even garner positive reviews from the MSM types who disparage her today.

I think Kristol and Barnes and the other insiders who are besotted with Palin will try to get her up to speed -- she'll be offered think-tank positions and smart young righties to help her pen op-eds. (No, I don't think she's going to try to stay in her little job in her Podunk state now that she's seen the bright lights.) But I'm with TBogg on this: does one become not a national joke? Sarah Palin is more Dan Quayle than she is Richard Nixon even if she shares and possibly rivals Nixon's vindictive streak. It's entirely possible that two years from now, when people think of Sarah Palin, the little projector in their heads will run Tina Fey videos.

Ambinder believes that she will have become more fluent on national issues, but she has shown very little ability to demonstrate or articulate a deep understanding on any topic possibly because she is enamored with her own cuteness and still believes that she can soundbite her way through policy discussions. She may be able to charm her way through a debate in Alaska but she never had to face a Romney, that creepy Bobby Jindal, or even Rick Santorum if Jeebus tells him his time is now.

As an ex-aide put it, "She's not going to pore over briefing books and charts and white papers and reports for hours and hours. She knows how to connect with people, and it's like, 'Give me bullet points and I'll run with it.'" Maybe, in a year when people think eveything's going pretty well, voters say, what the hell, let's take a chance on a candidate like that -- see, e.g., 2000. But even then, Bush needed to fake more gravitas, and more command of the issues, than I suspect Palin ever will.

I think a lot of Republicans will want Palin -- but I think their polls four years from now will show that, for most Americans, she's still Ms. "I Can See Russia from My House!" So they'll use her as an ATM -- they'll send her around the country to raise money,. They'll also deploy her to stir up crowds in the 2010 midterms. But they may read the polls and look for someone else who has Palin's positions but none of her baggage That's basically what the religious right did in 2000 -- they chose Bush, not Alan Keyes.

I don't know if she's even going to stay in politics. I think she'll get a seven-figure book deal as soon as this election is over, from a right-wing imprint like Mary Matalin's Threshold or a religious publisher with success in secular bookstores (say, Tyndale or the Murdoch-owned Zondervan). If 1% of McCain-Palin voters buy her book, she can have a #1 bestseller (half a million copies would be do the trick), and I think she'd have huge crowds at her appearances.

Who knows what she'd do after that? Cable TV? Right-wing talk radio? Don't laugh -- when she does the cramming her own way, she doesn't garble her sentences all that much. She might never go back to electoral politics -- the money and fame this way might be greater.

And she's certainly had more relevant experience for a career like that than she has for the presidency...


Kevin Drum, in response to the widespread notion on the right that all of Barack Obama's friends are radical pinko commies (despite his large circle of extremely mainstream confidants and advisors), asks, "I wonder which crazy billionaire is going to bankroll the Obama Chronicles when January 20th rolls around?"

I'm not sure -- but I know one theory that's going to be a prominent part of any conspiracy rant against Obama, because Jew-hating Sean Hannity source Andy Martin just put it out there yesterday (see my earlier post) -- and damn, we should have seen this one coming:



... "Obama has probably suspended his campaign and is flying to Honolulu because he is deathly afraid his grandmother may make a 'dying declaration' and blow the whistle on his family fraud. Dying people often blurt out the truth....

...the document that Obama has plastered over the Internet is NOT his original birth certificate or even a copy of his original certificate. It is a computer generated facsimile of an official record and nothing more.

..."There is a simple way for Obama to resolve this controversy: he can either admit the truth of these facts and order the immediate release of his vault certificate; or he can submit to a DNA test....

It's just perfect, really. Davis was, in fact, a presence in Obama's early life. He was a poet, journalist, activist, and once the victim of an attempted lynching; he was also reportedly a communist, and he was the author of a pseudonymous dirty book called Sex Rebel: Black, which included an allusion to a sex episode involving a white teenage girl.

One "respectable" right-wing blog has already speculated more than once that Davis is Obama's father, citing an alleged resemblance between Davis and Obama -- though, in fact, Obama looks a lot like his white forbears; as Ta-Nehisi Coates has pointed out, there's quite a resemblance between him and his grandfather Stanley Dunham:

But this story will never die. This kind of thing is a sort of pornography for the right -- see also the right-wing notion that Webster Hubbell is Chelsea Clinton's father. See, if you say there's a concealed truth about the paternity of a Democrat/liberal/lefty, you get the thrill of believing two titillatingly evil things at once: that the liberals/lefties/Democrats involved are depraved libertines, and that they're capable of vast conspiracies of truth suppression sustained over a period of decades. What could be more horrifyingly exciting?