30 September 2008

Best Wishes to P. J. O’Rourke

Oh, hell no!

Whilst browsing at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, I came across a note alerting all to an article P. J. O’Rourke published today at the L. A. Times, “Give me liberty and give me death: As one's mortality swings into view, be thankful for life -- and whiskey.”

The wonderful Mr. O’Rourke has been diagnosed with cancer (he calls it “cancer of the ass”). Thankfully, it’s “treatable, ” and he’s got a “95% chance of survival.” Prayers and best wishes for Mr. O’Rourke’s speedy, speedy recovery. A snifter or two of Scotch whiskey will be hoisted for you tonight.

Obama: Leading Nationally at 5.1 Point Average

According to Real Clear Politics, in all of the polling data released today, Obama leads John McCain. The smallest gap, two points, appears in the GW/Battleground poll. Three polls--Gallup tracking, Hotline /FD tracking, and Rasmussen tracking--accord Obama a six point lead.

Meanwhile, McCain's lead in Florida has dwindled to an RCP average of 0.3.

Two things:

The race remains, and will remain, close. These poll numbers will continue to fluctuate over the next month.

Obviously, the McCain camp won't take this sitting down. Although political attacks on Obama should be expected (duh), things will grow increasingly nasty. It shouldn't be a surprise if we begin to hear ever outrageous claims about Obama and Islam, Ayers, Wright, Rezko, and even more sordid allegations. We might also expect another McCain stunt or two if his campaign feels that he hasn't been burned enough by the "suspension" and the bailout's blowback.

29 September 2008

Has McCain's "Rogue State Rollback" Morphed into a "League of Democracies"?

(an update of a post from 8/28/08)


In the first presidential debate, Senator McCain "said he envisions a "league of democracies" [. . . ] that would help the U.S. impose "significant, meaningful, painful sanctions" on nations such as Iran (Sun-Times). This “league of democracies” appears to be a modification of McCain’s proposal for a “rogue state rollback,” for which we should be grateful.

During the his campaign in 2000, John McCain endorsed a foreign policy strategy he called "rogue state rollback." What defines "rogue state rollback"? According to ABC News, during a debate in February 2000, the moderator posed the question, "[w]hat area of American international policy would you change immediately as president?" To which McCain responded:

"I'd institute a policy that I call 'rogue state rollback,'" said McCain. "I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically- elected governments."

McCain retained this faith in remaking foreign nations, evidenced by his 2003 article on North Korea published in The Weekly Standard. Although he wavers a bit from asserting that America should deal with North Korea with armed force, he dismisses diplomacy and calls for isolating North Korea (no more carrots, he states), and then, should North Korea fail to cease nuclear development, we move in. He criticizes the Bush administration's assurances that America wouldn't be the first nation to attack North Korea, should an attack be needed, and writes, "[t]his rapid deterioration of our resolve is as reckless as it is disingenuous," adding later, "[i]f we fail to achieve the international cooperation necessary to end this threat, then the countries in the region should know with certainty that while they may risk their own populations, the United States will do whatever it must to guarantee the security of the American people." Now, in his attempt to appeal to war-weary American folk, McCain has redefined "rogue state rollback." On a Hardball College Tour appearance earlier this year,

McCain said [of "rogue state rollback"]: "I wasn't saying that we should go around and declare war," said McCain. "I was saying that we nations of like values and principles and belief in democracy and freedom should make efforts to modify the behavior of other nations."

Infinitely better than arming, training, and equipping forces to overthrown other governments, but how, precisely, would "we nations of like values [. . .] modify the behavior of other nations" sans war? What do these "efforts" consist of"? Doesn't he say that sanctions don't work? Certainly McCain's proposal of a "league of democracies" and his ideas about "rogue state rollback" must be addressed in a larger forum; a debate, a detailed interview, but the mainstream media must focus on this point. People deserve to know whether there are any guarantees that McCain won't adopt a foreign policy approach that aims to remake belligerent, or unfriendly, nations in the American model?


28 September 2008

Rumor Central: On Obama's Bracelet

You might have heard that about the bracelet Senator Obama wore at the first presidential debate. Senator McCain displayed a bracelet he wore, one given to him by a soldier's mother. Obama responded:
"I've got a bracelet, too, from Sergeant — from the mother of Sergeant Ryan David Jopek, given to me in Green Bay," Obama said during the debate. "She asked me, 'Can you please make sure another mother is not going through what I'm going through?' No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they're carrying out the missions of their commander in chief. And we honor all the service that they've provided." (AP)
According to the internets, the soldier's family instructed Obama to not to wear the bracelet, and they are incredibly unhappy about Obama's mention of the bracelet at the debate.

Not so fast. According to the AP:
The mother of a Wisconsin soldier who died in Iraq says she was "ecstatic" when Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama mentioned during Friday's debate the bracelet she gave him in honor of her son.

Tracy Jopek of Merrill told The Associated Press on Sunday she was honored that Obama remembered Sgt. Ryan David Jopek, who was killed in 2006 by a roadside bomb.

Jopek criticized Internet reports suggesting Obama, D-Ill., exploited her son for political purposes.

"I don't understand how people can take that and turn it into some garbage on the Internet," she said."

Jopek acknowledged e-mailing the Obama campaign in February asking that the presidential candidate not mention her son in speeches or debates. But she said Obama's mention on Friday was appropriate because he was responding after Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, said a soldier's mother gave him a bracelet.
Ms. Jopek clearly didn't want her son's death politicized, but she considered Obama's display of the bracelet acceptable in retort to McCain's own politicization of a soldier's passing, but she wants them both to stop using the soldiers and to start focusing on the issues themselves. And if you're interested, here's a more detailed version of the AP story.

Waning Palin Off to "Debate Camp"

It looks like Senator McCain has shipped Governor Palin off to "debate camp." This week, she'll spend "two 1/2 days" at McCain's place in Sedona, Arizona (with Todd and the kids) where she'll spend the time prepping intesively for Thursday's debate with Joe Biden. It's a good idea: she needs the help. Apparently, footage of her previous debates show that "she has a habit of falling back on generalities and 'happy talk'"; Biden and Gwen Ifill probably won't let her get away with those generalities, and as for the happy talk, well, that can't carry a vice presidential debate.

Meanwhile, the Republican revolt against Palin continues apace. Over at The American Conservative, Daniel Larison writes up his findings after viewing old Palin interviews. His conclusions? They're not encouraging. There's Kathleen Parker's call for Palin to step aside, and Kathryn Jean Lopez, who writes that, while she's not as far gone as Parker, Parker's is "not a crazy suggestion. She's right to say that something’s gotta change" (Lopez).

Peggy Noonan wrote in her 26 September column:
As for Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign continues to make mistakes. They don't seem to understand her strengths and weaknesses. The U.N. photo-ops were a staged embarrassment. Keeping the press away made her look infantilized. When she finally began to sit for television interviews, the atmosphere was heightened, every misstep magnified. With Katie Couric she seemed rattled. In the Charlie Gibson interview it was not good when she sounded chirpy discussing possible war with Russia. One should not chirp about such things. Or one wouldn't if one knew the implications. And knowing the implications is part of what we hire leaders for.
Of course, Noonan has been suspicious of Palin all along (if you don't recall her 03 September talk of the Palin pick as "bullshit," review this), as have George Will, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, and David Frum.

As those who immediately approved of McCain's VP choice begin to reconsider, and her polls numbers recede, Senator McCain faces a quandry, and he can only be praying that she can pull through the VP debate, not just by showing up and speaking clearly, but by responding to questions in a substantive, serious manner that appeals to the mainstream voter.

Aside: While the folks named above are intellectually honest enough to reveal their concerns, some institutions reject any doubt: About 9:45 am EDT, Fox News published an online story, "Conservatives Begin Questioning Palin's Heft." The story was removed almost immediately. If you click on it now, you get this:
You've requested an America's Election HQ page that cannot be found. The page you are looking for may have moved or it may no longer be available. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Go to "America's Election HQ" and you see nothing about "Conservatives Begin Questioning Palin's Heft." I wonder if Obama's campaign should arrange a conference call to accuse Fox News of being "150% in the tank for the McCain campaign."On second thought, such an action would be, well, juvenile--wouldn't it?

Hitchens on Kissinger's Role in the Debate

Today's Slate features a valuable column by Christopher Hitchens: "Disregarding Henry Both Candidates Kowtowed to the Disgraceful Kissinger. Only Obama Cited Him Correctly."

Hitchens reviews Kissinger's recent statements about conducting high level meetings with Iran (without preconditions) during last week's "Secretaries of State" forum at George Washington University, Katie Couric's and Sarah Palin's references to those statements, and the introduction of Kissinger's remarks during the first presidential debate. Hitchens concludes--as you might assume from the article's title--McCain was wrong: Obama quoted Kissinger's most recent statements. Kissinger revised those statements the following day to bring them into conformity with John McCain's claims.

Aside: Hitchens, the author of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, makes it very clear that he is no fan of Kissinger--he considers the man a war criminal--and he appears bemused (disgusted?) that McCain and Obama drew material from Nixon's Secretary of State to support their views. Quite an understandable position.

On McCain, Tactics, and Strategy

Tactic: a device for accomplishing an end.
Strategy: a careful plan or method : a clever stratagem b: the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal.

It's striking that, during the first presidential debate, Senator McCain chose to assert that Barack Obama doesn’t know “the difference between a tactic and a strategy” (Klein). Curiously, on the morning of 26 September, before the showdown at Ole Miss, several pundits wondered about a campaign's misunderstanding of "tactics and strategy" as well--but they wondered if it might be Mr. McCain who confuses the two. Hours before McCain's accusation, David Brooks, Howard Wolfson, and Jake Tapper all wrote that the McCain campaign, having no “argument” for why McCain should be president, have settled for a series of short-term tactical blasts rather than a “careful plan or method.”

See David Brooks, a long term McCain supporter,
what disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument. I had hoped that he would create a grand narrative explaining how the United States is fundamentally unprepared for the 21st century and how McCain’s worldview is different.

McCain has not made that sort of all-encompassing argument, so his proposals don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. Without a groundbreaking argument about why he is different, he’s had to rely on tactical gimmicks to stay afloat. He has no frame to organize his response when financial and other crises pop up.
The result, according to Brooks, is a fractured McCain: “[o]ne day he’s a small-government Western conservative; the next he’s a Bull Moose progressive. The two don’t add up — as we’ve seen in his uneven reaction to the financial crisis.” Brooks attempts to explain this fragmentation as the result of McCain’s 26 years in the Senate: he’s been forced to “take issues on at a time.” Yet this argument suggests that, even as senator, McCain had no overall national narrative that those issues contributed to. Has McCain really just been a “what’s good for the moment” man? I hope not, but this appears to be a McCain mainstay.

After McCain decided that he would attend the debate, Howard Wolfson wrote,
This is a campaign flying by the seat of its pants, chasing news cycles without a real plan once it has caught them.

The Obama campaign gets up every day and asks themselves how they can make the case for change vs more of the same [their argument], just as they did yesterday, and they will do tomorrow.

The McCain campaign wakes up and figures out how to try to win the day.
Rather than build an overall plan for winning the election, much less present an overall plan for the country, the McCain camp fights to dominate the evening news and watercooler discussions. Naturally, this results in the widespread exposure of any conflicts in McCain's actions or statements--for example, his claim that "the country is fundamentally strong" (as the Dow plummeted), his back-and-forth on regulations, and the link between top McCain aids and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which existed until the government took over those institutions.

Apparently, the GOP is taking note of the McCain camp's contradictions. Following Wolfson's piece, Jake Tapper at ABC reported that,
a very high-ranking former Republican official said something very similar [to Wolfson’s argument] to me the other day: that the McCain campaign is obsessed with tactics -- not strategy. The campaign is focused on winning the news cycle -- not having a larger consistent message.
As a result, people increasingly view McCain as impulsive and short sighted--shaky. That he leaps from one point of view to its opposite in short time distracts from any vision of the country he might have. As Wolfson writes, it’s all about the news cycle; just the other week, McCain’s aids crowed about their anything-goes effort to control that cycle. And when this backfires on them, when analysts talk about McCain’s inconsistencies, the campaign projects its failures onto others: either the media is “in the tank” for the Democrat or McCain and his people accuse Obama and his people of suffering from their own confusions.

In contrast to McCain's tactical focus, Obama remains consistent, and each move by his campaign seems to contribute to his overall argument and overall plan. It's common sense that the public desires this following the recent economic earthquakes, not to mention the previous eight years. If the manner in which a candidate runs his campaign signals how that candidate might run the country, we’d best ask Senator McCain about the difference between, and significance of, tactics and strategy.

Added: James Fallows writes on the two campaigns' use of tactics v. strategy. And Conservative David Frum has a nifty little piece titled "McCain Hobbled by A Campaign That's All Tactics, No Message," which concludes "[t]
he American presidential election of 2008 is an election about big issues. It’s not going to be won by small manoeuvre." Ouch.

Post Debate: Obama Up in Polls

Saturday's Gallup tracking poll puts Obama at a national lead of 5 points.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has more results and some fine analysis. McCain’s main problem? It really is the economy, stupid. And, it turns out, McCain’s refusal to either look at Obama or into the cameras hurt him: people viewing the debate saw Obama as addressing them, while McCain seemed to address a narrower audience: those in the audience at Ole Miss and the punditry. This resulted in the discrepancy between television viewers, the majority of whom saw Obama as the debate’s winner, and the analysts, who claim that it was either a McCain win or an overall draw.

Note this intriguing result:

The CBS poll of undecideds has more confirmatory detail. Obama went from a +18 on "understanding your needs and problems" before the debate to a +56 (!) afterward. And he went from a -9 on "prepared to be president" to a +21. (FiveThirtyEight)

This has got to worry the McCain campaign: they can't simply brush this off. Expect more drama from the Arizona Senator’s side forthwith: time is getting short, and things are going to get brutal. McCain’s strategists (tacticians?) already seem slightly irrational, and this just might send them off the deep end.

Real Clear Politics also puts Obama ahead. He’s at an average of 4.3 points in front of McCain nationally. Not a dramatic number--especially as battleground states remain tight--but significant as things continue to trend his way.

27 September 2008

Paul Newman, 1925-2008



You Don’t “Muddle Through” the Central Front of the War on Terror

Obama refers to McCain’s past statement that “the United States could ‘muddle through’ in Afghanistan.”

Points:

1. Obama took the first round--on the economy--after which McCain grew increasingly strong (and obviously more comfortable). McCain did quite well, so he should be pleased that he "blinked" and showed up for the debates.

2. Both candidates let loose with distortions of reality: here's AP's fact checker.

3. McCain's treatment of Obama was striking: at times condescending, at times sarcastic, he never looked directly at the senator from Illinois. What's up with that? And Obama was, at times, too courteous to McCain (on CNN, Bill Bennett called it "intellectually generous") in prefacing statements with lines such as "John is right [. . . .]"; such moments might be seen as weakness or an admission of faulty reasoning--especially when contrasted with McCain's refrain of "Senator Obama is wrong [. . .]" and "Senator Obama doesn't understand [. . . .]." Obama might want to find a new way to indicate his agreement with McCain's proposals. He could be more aggressive, but that could backfire. As Tom Shales says, "[i]f McCain had been more civil, and Obama were more combative and fervent, it would have been better still" (Washington Post).

4. Obama stood his ground, and he came across as confident, knowledgeable, and authoritative, which goes a long way towards disproving the "he's naive" label that the McCain camp has affixed to him.

5. CNN's graph, which measures the response of certain Republican, Democratic, and Independent viewers, is a pain in the neck.

Overall? Tie.

We'll have to wait a few days to see how the debate helped or hindered the candidates, but for now, regarding the debate itself, polls suggest that viewers found Obama the winner:

CBS Insta Poll shows Barack Obama won 39% to John McCain's 25% with 36% saying the debate was a draw.

Insider Advantage reports those polled Obama won 42% to McCain's 41% with Undecided 17%

CNN reports voter opinions that Obama "did better" 51%, McCain "did better" 38%

Ultimately, despite who is seen as "the winner," neither party should get too excited or downcast. You might recall that 2004's first presidential debate featured John Kerry and a flustered George W. Bush (the "it's hard work" debate). Kerry won that debate hands down, but he certainly didn't win the election.

26 September 2008

The McCain Camp's "Dewey Defeats Truman" Moment!

The McCain campaign is so absolutely, positively, 150% assured of Senator McCain's winning tonight's debate that this morning's Wall Street Journal featured this:

Mind you, this appeared before McCain even agreed to attend tonight's debate.

According to Reuters, "McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the ad posting was a mistake by the Wall Street Journal." Hmmmm. It's a little surprising that they haven't accused the WSJ of being "in the tank for Obama" for this little embarrassment--yet.

John McCain Will Debate Tonight

He has to.

First: the Presidential Debate Commission has declined to postpone Senator McCain’s request for postponement.

Second: all polling indicates that the American public (by huge margins) wants the debate to continue as scheduled.

Third: the alternate plan can only harm the Senator: if he fails to how at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, the event could become a Barack Obama Town Hall meeting: Jim Lehrer will field audience questions for Senator Obama. An Obama Town Hall meeting with a television audience of 13,000,000 plus and top of the weekend news cycle?

Finally, he needs to look presidential, and this includes addressing the American people's concerns. As Mike Huckabee says,

the Arizona senator should not have put his campaign on hold to deal with the financial crisis on Wall Street. He said a president must be prepared to “deal with the unexpected.”

“You can’t just say, ‘World stop for a moment. I’m going to cancel everything,”‘ Huckabee said.

Indeed. Additionally, Governor Huckabee, a John McCain supporter, argues that the Senator "made a 'huge mistake' by even discussing canceling the presidential debate with Sen. Barack Obama."

Depending on how things go today on Capitol Hill, this could be an epic backfire for Senator McCain. So far this morning, he’s been active on the Hill: the Senator “met briefly Friday morning with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before heading to the office of House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio” (AP).

Will folks reach an agreement by 9:00 tonight? It’s looking grim. And it's looking like McCain might have lost this hand.

Update: It's just broken that John McCain will appear at tonight’s debate: “late Friday morning, [Senator McCain’s] campaign said the GOP nominee was heading to the debate venue, the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford” (CNN).

As the bailout remains unsettled, McCain faces a fresh quandry: does he return to Capitol Hill to continue helping to hammer out the deal (the ostensible reason for his campaign suspension and the call to postpone the debate), or does he go back on the campaign trail?

Regardless, now that both McCain and Obama are away from DC, Congress might actually be able to get something done.

Why Isn't Senator McCain Involved in the Talks?

Didn't John McCain go to Capitol Hill to help out with this bailout plan? The one that was nearly finalized before he touched down in DC Thursday? The one that fell apart after he touched down in DC?

Apparently, one of the reasons why the bailout plan imploded today--why House Republicans walked away from it--is "because [House Republicans] were chafing at what they saw as an attempt by Democrats to jam through an agreement on the bailout early Thursday and deny Mr. McCain an opportunity to participate in the agreement." This according to a top aid to Rep. Boehner. But how much did Senator McCain participate in today's talks? Not much. Not much at all, despite his promise to "return to Washington to help forge an agreement on a proposed $700 billion bailout of financial institutions before Congress" (Times).

Of the White House meeting, "[p]articipants said Mr. Obama peppered Mr. Paulson with questions, while Mr. McCain said little" (Times). It seems he was an observer rather than an active player. Apparently, Senator McCain helped to suggest an "alternate plan" that included tax breaks and deregulation for businesses, but that seems to be it.

Additionally, it turns out that, although Senator McCain did meet with some "House and Senate Republicans in the Capitol Thursday, before the White House session [. . .] He did not attend meetings where the bailout legislation was being hashed out" (AP). It's puzzling because he insisted Wednesday that he had to get to Washington to oversee this crisis, but he either barely engages in discussions or he avoids the discussions altogether.

Moreover, later in the day, "when negotiations hastily resumed in the Capitol, House Republicans refused to send a representative authorized to bargain" (AP). If Senator McCain went to DC in order to "take charge" of resolving the crisis, perhaps it would have been helpful for him to get someone involved to represent the GOP's perspective.

He's not issued a word to the public on his own actual position, just general statements about "flaws," the need for bipartisan agreement, and his confidence that a deal will be reached. It's beginning to look like he didn't have any plans whatsoever for "helping to forge an agreement." The campaign suspension seems to have been a split-second decision, a shake of the dice: he jumped upon his brave steed to rescue the country and. . .nothing.

The problem is that, although it looks good to stand and announce that you're taking things in hand, and you're putting country first, it looks pretty bad when you participate in nothing more than photo ops and prompt a risky partisan fight on Capitol Hill (and this threatens to keep him from Friday's debate?).

The American people aren't stupid. If Senator McCain doesn't show us that he's actually a part of this process after the drama of yesterday's press conference, he can kiss this election goodbye.

25 September 2008

John McCain Suggests "Fewer Regulations" on Business as Part of Bailout Plan

You cannot make this up. Senator McCain has changed his mind again.

Despite his 26 year history of supporting deregulation, John McCain was all about regulations last week. Remember? Well, this week he's back to being a deregulator. From a CBS news report on today's White House meeting:

KATIE COURIC: And, Bob, I understand that John McCain actually floated an alternative plan. What can you tell us about that?

BOB ORR: We’re told at the White House Senator McCain offered an alternative plan that would include fewer regulations and more corporate tax breaks for businesses, kind of a private solution. But we’re also told those ideas angered and surprised Democrats like banking chairman Chris Dodd who now says he thinks the White House summit was more of a political stunt for McCain.

There you go.

And from Politico:
[House Republicans have] released their own set of "principles" in the 11th hour, relying on mortgage insurance, injections of private capital into the financial system and free market principles. Many of the ideas are tried and true conservative ideas, like loosening regulations in hopes of freeing up private capital. The thrust of the GOP alternative is essentially a private insurance plan for mortgage backed securities, but it's not clear if such a plan could go into effect quickly enough to salvage the teetering credit markets.

[. . . .]
It's not clear if the top negotiators at the White House, the Senate or in the House will even give this a second look, but the House GOP alternative represent a loud yet important voice for fiscal conservatives in Washington and nationwide.
So it's all about the "voice" and representing fiscal conservatives. Will McCain vote against the bailout in an effort to recapture the "Maverick" image? If so, will it work after two weeks of waffling his position on the economy and the bailout?

On McCain's DC Appearance and the Bailout's Progress

So this morning, Republicans and Democrats agreed to the bailout plan's framework before Senator McCain even landed in Washington DC:
McCain's "Straight Talk Air" landed at National Airport just after noon, and McCain's motorcade sped toward the Senate. But by then, senior Democrats and Republicans were already announcing that a deal in principle had been reached.
Things looked so promising that the Dow shot up today. Now? Despite an initial bipartisan, albeit tentative, agreement, things aren't so clear:

By midday today, congressional leaders said they had reached the outlines of a deal. But that optimism vanished after the White House meeting.

Democrats and Republicans said that prospects for a deal vanished after McCain tried to prod his fellow Republicans in another direction. (The Guardian)

It seems that Senator McCain's appearance in DC has effectively derailed the deal: ABC is claiming that it may well be dead after several Republicans objected, vociferously, to the plan earlier today. You got it--politics has well and truly interfered with the negotiating process, and the matter looks ever more like a game of chicken.

In response to the renewed instability, you can expect the Dow to plummet tomorrow.

Update: According to Ben Smith at Politico, the deal has become "a partisan standoff, with House Republicans walking away from the Deal." That's right. All that bipartisan progress? Gone. Now what could have happened between this morning's optimism and agreement and this evening's bipartisan breakdown? It's just inexplicable. . . .it all just fell apart at the White House meeting. David Rogers writes:
The whole sequence of events [at the meeting] confirmed Treasury’s fears about the decision by Bush, at the urging of McCain, to allow presidential politics into what were already difficult negotiations. And while the markets were closed by the time the meeting ended, Friday could bring turmoil, and there will be immense pressure now by Treasury to get back on track before Monday.
I'm just as against a corporate bailout as the next guy or gal, but we have to do something, and quickly. It's gobsmacking that any politician stall this effort and turn it into a political showcase, sadly, it looks like several have done exactly this.

Fannie & Freddie "Advocate" Rick Davis Courts GOP Fundraisers

You might recall that John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis, and his company, received a significant amount of money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because of his relationship with Senator McCain. The revelation of these payments in The New York Times and Newsweek prompted Mr. Davis to cancel a planned lunch with reporters yesterday. Last night, however, he was all about dining with the GOP's moneyed elite in New York City. According to Hotline, the dinner featured,

calls for more fundraising for the party by leading New York money harvesters.

The event was hosted by one of the GOP’s top fundraisers Woody Johnson IV, who heads the Johnson Cos. and has raised more than $500,000 for the McCain campaign.

[. . . .]

Even though campaign officials were temporarily told to suspend their fundraising and other activities per McCain’s instructions, Johnson told the assembled guests that they “ought to redouble their efforts” to make sure that an upcoming fundraiser in New York on Oct 14 is a success, according to the attendee.

(The funds that will be raised in New York, like other events post GOP convention when McCain opted to take $84 million in public funding for the general election, go largely to the RNC, but a campaign run legal and accounting fund is still allowed to accept some monies.)

Apparently, Mr. Davis talked about Senator McCain's abrupt decision to suspend his campaign and head to Washington DC, as well as critiques of Henry Paulson's initial indecisiveness over the recent economic chaos (we'll assume that no mention was made of Senator McCain's own uncertainty).

If anyone thought Mr. Davis's campaign role would be reduced following the NYT and Newsweek disclosures, well, not quite. Instead, it just looks as though he'll simply shun the media--as do the campaign's other major players.

Aside: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff has provided an update on the Rick Davis story, and it looks like the McCain camp is bending truth about Mr. Davis just a bit.

On the McCain Campaign's Suspension

Various notes here.

No complaints here about Senator McCain politicizing the economic crisis--that's what politicians do: they use current events to propel their candidacy. However, there's a real concern that any grandstanding in DC can disrupt the current negotiations on the bailout, which, apparently, are nearly complete. Is it possible that the appearance of McCain and Obama on Capitol Hill can do anything other than inject presidential politics into the bailout negotiations? Of course not.

There's a possibility that many will view McCain's campaign suspension and call to postpone the first debate as a cynical ploy, especially considering the McCain capmaign has suggested that the Vice Presidential debate be postponed as well. From Politico:
A McCain aide told Politico Wednesday night that the campaign is proposing to the Presidential Debate Commission and the Obama camp that if there's no bailout deal by Friday, the first presidential debate should take the place of the vice presidential debate, currently scheduled for October 2 in St. Louis.

Under this scenario, the vice presidential debate would be rescheduled for a date yet to be determined, and take place in Oxford, Miss., where the first presidential debate is currently slated to be held.
Some wag on the telly last night wondered out loud if this was a way to push the VP debate off the schedule altogether. Sorry I don't have a name for you, but chances are that I'll revise this later with the anonymous pundit's name (after I take some time to search).

A bigger problem might be the perception that John McCain reacts badly in a crisis; that is, he's apt to make kneejerk decisions, and he's prone to acting "reckless[ly]" and "impetuous[ly]." These were George Will's points of contention the other day. To that end, here are Will's conclusions again, in which he contrasts Obama's calm stability with McCain's impulsiveness:

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

I wonder what Will thinks of the latest McCain action.

Aside: Part of McCain's suspension plan included pulling all of his campaign ads, but, at this point, the ads remain up and running.

24 September 2008

WSJ/NBC Poll: Voters Unsure About Palin

The Wall Street Journal's latest poll (in conjunction with NBC) suggest that McCain's pick may not have satisfied many people beyond the Conservative base:

Asked, “Do you feel that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president if the need arises, or is she not qualified to be president?” 49% of all respondents said the Alaska governor is not qualified while 40% said she is.

If elected, John McCain, at 72 years old, will be the oldest president ever sworn in to a first-term. Questions about McCain’s age have persisted in the campaign, and the Arizona senator himself has said that voters need to have confidence that his running mate will be ready for the Oval Office.

This doesn't look good. There is room for growth, however. Her numbers might improve following the interview with Katie Couric, and we can assume she'll be coached to the Nth degree for the upcoming Vice Presidential debates, so she'll probably be able to hold her own. However, as this poll appears in a week chock full of McCain crises--the Davis /Timmons stories, the assertions that our economy is strong, and the waffling between being a deregulator/regulator, this can't be anything other than depressing for the GOP.

Dirty Tricks in Swing States: Push Polls, Terror DVDs

According to The Guardian, if you live in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Colorado, you're living in dirty tricks country:
DVDs of an anti-Muslim documentary film are being distributed to 28 million voters in swing states [and] Republican telemarketers have begun push polling aimed at scaring Jewish voters in swing states from voting for Barack Obama.
Apparently, the DVD is designed to induce terror amongst the USA citizenry as it "warns that Islamic jihadists aim to take over the US government and destroy our way of life and urges voters to consider which candidate will best protect the nation." Essentially, this is the same message we've received from the GOP since the 9/11 tragedy.

So who is behind the film? An "obscure" little group called "The Clarion Fund," and it looks as though there might be some trouble ahead for them. The Clarion Fund
has not filed the required IRS form that would allow the public to see who its officers and major funders are. The group was founded, however, by Raphael Shore, an Israeli-Canadian citizen and supporter of John McCain. Shore's website, Radical Islam, featured an editorial endorsing McCain for president. That's a big no-no: 501c3s aren't legally allowed to endorse candidates.
Oh, my.
However, as the GOP has been beating the "the hate us for our freedom" drum for seven years now, the threats of a jihad on our shores might not be as effective as it was in 2004. So they added a push poll to instill suspicion about Senator Obama:
Jewish voters in swing states have also been the targets of push polling from Republican-affiliated marketing outfits. Joelna Marcus of Key West, Florida received a telemarketing call asking if she is Jewish. After replying "yes", she was asked whether she was religious. Then the push poller then asked her if her opinion of Barack Obama would change if she knew that Obama had given lots and lots of money to the PLO. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Debbie Minden received a call asking whether her support for Obama would be swayed if she knew "his church was anti-Israel" or that Hamas endorsed him and that its leaders had met with him. The caller also asked if she would change her mind if she learned he was Muslim.

The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn also received a call in Michigan and took notes of the smears: According to the caller, some of Obama's best friends in Chicago were "pro-Palestinian leaders"; Jimmy Carter's anti-Israel national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski is an Obama foreign policy adviser; Obama sat on a board which funded a "pro-Palestinian charity"; Obama said that if elected he would call for a summit of Muslim nations and exclude Israel.

Minden reported that her call came from a firm called Research Strategies, which is none other than Wilson Research Strategies, whose founder is Chris Wilson. Wilson is a top Republican consultant and friend of, you guessed it, Karl Rove. Cohn said his call came from a company called Central Marketing, which has done push polls on behalf of the campaigns of Republicans John Thune and Michael Bloomberg.

And Ben Smith reported last week that the Republican Jewish Coalition has admitted hiring the Republican telemarketing outfits to do the push polling. Amazing how a little bit of sleuthing leads this filth right to the door of the Republican party.

Is John McCain behind the push polling? Probably not. This is about as low as you can go, and I like to think that a candidate whose Presidential hopes were, essentially, destroyed by push polling in 2000 would avoid taking this road altogether. Sadly, chances are that such foul tactics will only increase in the following six weeks. The question is whether or not they'll work this time.

Update: Following the MSM exposure of The Clarion Fund, the endorsement of John McCain vanished from one of the group's websites, radicalislam.org. This shouldn't come as a surprise, after all, the FEC has now been asked to look into The Clarion Fund.

23 September 2008

George Will Critiques John McCain

Who would have thought it? Conservative columnist George F. Will has Senator McCain in his sights. Today's Will special critiques McCain's kneejerk reactions to the Wall Street crisis, especially in declaring that, as president, he would have dismissed SEC Chairman Chris Cox, a man who, according to Senator McCain, "betrayed the public's trust." This reaction illustrates both Senator McCain's misunderstanding how Wall Street functions as well as his world view. According to Will, the incident, "is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people." In other words, once again the GOP has offered up a candidate who sees the world in simple dialectical terms: there is no middle ground, no shades of grey.

In a compelling conclusion, Will considers the effect of McCain's temperament on his possible administration of the executive office:

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

A valid, and invaluable, question. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed? Are we willing to elect another president who sees the world in dualistic terms and who acts on impulse rather then after the full consideration of all aspects of an issue--whether that issue is of economic or military concern?

Another McCain Aid Lobbied for Freddie Mac--Until This Month

Yesterday, the New York Times published a story exposing top McCain aid Rick Davis as a former “advocate” for Fannie and Freddie, for which he received nearly $2,000,000 dollars. Today Bloomberg reveals that the head of Senator McCain’s transition team, William Timmons, Sr, is the “founder and chairman of Timmons & Co,” a lobbying firm that has “earned more than a quarter of a million dollars this year representing Freddie Mac, one of the companies McCain blames for the nation's financial crisis [. . . .] Timmins & Co was registered to lobby for Freddie Mac from 2000 through this month, when the federal government took over both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae."

The revelations about Davis and Timmons must be embarrassing for the McCain campaign considering the campaign has spent the past two weeks trying to link Senator Obama with two former Fannie and Freddie officials. Unfortunately for Senator McCain, said links have been proven to be tenuous at best. While it’s true that James Johnson raised a significant amount of money for Senator Obama and he worked on the Senator’s VP selection committee, it’s also true that Mr. Johnson, left the Obama VP search committee in early June. In contrast, Mr. Timmons’s relationship with Freddie Mac continued up until the moment the government took the institution over, and he’s a current member of Senator McCain’s team.

Isn’t it rather thought provoking that Senator McCain, who is running as a Washington reformer, has chosen Mr. Timmons to lead the White House transition team? Especially when it’s known that “Timmons is a longtime power in the Washington lobbying industry whose clients include the American Petroleum Institute and Chrysler LLC. Visitors to the company's Web site are told that ``Timmons and Company pioneered the concept and the industry standard for Washington representation' (Bloomberg).

No wonder Steve Schmidt threw a tantrum: this new information absolutely undermines, or even negates, the McCain campaign's message.

22 September 2008

McCain Camp Goes After the NYT & Politico.

Today John McCain’s campaign blew off the New York Times and Politico. Why? Because the Times exposed McCain advisor Rick Davis’s role as an "advocate" for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and because Politico questioned the veracity of some accusations hurled by another McCain advisor.

Maybe there’s something in the water at McCain Campaign Headquarters, but seriously—is attacking the media the best possible way to get your message to the independent voter? Not the base, but the undecided? The ones you need in order to win?

Granted, I can understand any antipathy the McCain camp might feel towards the NYT following that lamentable article on the Senator and lobbyist Vicki Iseman, but the items that provoked today’s blowup are, in fact, verifiable. It seems what made the McCain camp explode was the fact that they’ve been attacking Obama for the past week based on his camp’s associations between former Fannie and Freddie officials: from “Loan Titans Paid McCain Advisor Nearly $2 Million” by David D. Kirkpatrick and Charles Duhigg:

Senator John McCain’s campaign manager was paid more than $30,000 a month for five years as president of an advocacy group set up by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to defend them against stricter regulations, current and former officials say.

Mr. McCain, the Republican candidate for president, has recently begun campaigning as a critic of the two companies and the lobbying army that helped them evade greater regulation as they began buying riskier mortgages with implicit federal backing. He and his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama, have donors and advisers who are tied to the companies.

But last week the McCain campaign stepped up a running battle of guilt by association when it began broadcasting commercials trying to link Mr. Obama directly to the government bailout of the mortgage giants this month by charging that he takes advice from Fannie Mae’s former chief executive, Franklin Raines, an assertion both Mr. Raines and the Obama campaign dispute.

Incensed by the advertisements, several current and former executives of the companies came forward to discuss the role that Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager and longtime adviser, played in helping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac beat back regulatory challenges when he served as president of their advocacy group, the Homeownership Alliance, formed in the summer of 2000. Some who came forward were Democrats, but Republicans, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed their descriptions.

So why did they hire Davis? He helped run McCain’s primary campaign in 2000; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were counting on Davis’s continued relationship with the Senator “and the possibility that Senator McCain was going to run for president again.”

To me, this seems slightly more egregious than "a couple of calls" between Franklin Raines and the Obama camp. Note that Raines denies ever advising the Obama campaign (see Factcheck).

Granted, Mr. Davis has left his lobbyist role behind, so at this point it shouldn’t matter. It’s a former job. What does matter is the fact that the McCain campaign, in its eagerness to back away from the Senator's history as a deregulator and to provide distance from his assertion that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” prefers to go on the attack and present itself as the victim of a biased media when the story about Mr. Davis's background could have been addressed in a rational manner (one that might appeal to voters).

One of Senator McCain’s top aids held a conference call today not to clarify the Times story, but to complain about the media coverage of the McCain campaign. According to the Washington Post,

In a conference call with reporters, chief strategist Steve Schmidt said: "Whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization. This is an organization that is completely, totally, 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate."

Unfortunately, during the conference call, Schmidt made numerous factual errors in listing Obama offenses. Politico’s Ben Smith participated in the conference call and then reported on Schmidt’s misstatements:

“Any time the Obama campaign is criticized at any level, the critics are immediately derided as liars,” Schmidt told reporters.

Well, no. Unless Schmidt is talking about when the McCain has been shown as lying or distorting facts about Obama’s record (just click on the FactCheck link to your left for examples). And Schmidt forgets that the media is just as likely to call the Obama camp out on its distortions of McCain’s record (cf. the Spanish language ads, Social Security claims). But complaining about “being derided as liars” doesn’t stop the McCain camp, no sir:

[Schmidt] went on to list a series of stories he thought reporters should be writing about Obama and Biden, in almost every instance he got the details wrong.

[. . . .]
“[Joe Biden’s] son is a lobbyist for the credit card and banking industry,” Schmidt said.

But Hunter Biden’s lobbying clients don’t include any banks or credit card companies. He did work, as a vice president and then as a consultant, for MBNA, a Delaware-based bank and credit card giant to which Biden had close ties. But he does not appear to have lobbied for the firm.

[. . . .]

"What we know for sure, and is beyond debate and argumentation is this: Senator Obama said that William Ayers is a guy that lives in his neighborhood. We know that that is a disingenuous and untruthful answer,” Schmidt said.

“Senator Obama began his political career in its early stages raising money at Ayers’ house,” he said.

Obama did hold a 1995 campaign event at Ayers’ house. It was not, however, a fundraiser, and Ayers did not contribute money to Obama’s first campaign, according to Illinois records.

Schmidt also complained of Obama backers’ attacks on McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“As soon as Gov. Palin was nominated, one of … Obama’s chief campaign surrogates, [Florida Rep.] Robert Wexler, went out and accused her of being a Nazi sympathizer,” Schmidt said. “Where is the outrage to that aspersion on the part of some of the biggest newspapers in the country?”

But Wexler didn’t call Palin a Nazi sympathizer. He called former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan a Nazi sympathizer, and attacked Palin for allegedly having endorsed him.


Smith notes that Palin never endorsed Buchanan, despite the latter’s claims to the contrary.

In a move that certainly helps clear the McCain campaign from allegations that they’re over-fond of stretching the truth, it turns out that “McCain aides could not provide evidence to back up Schmidt’s assertions.” Smith continues:

One McCain aide, Michael Goldfarb, said Politico was “quibbling with ridiculously small details when the basic things are completely right.”

Another, Brian Rogers, responded more directly:

“You are in the tank,” he e-mailed.

Wow. Just wow. You lie, you get caught in a lie, and then you go after the messenger as if you’ve been unjustly targeted. What a novel way to sway your audience and convince them that your administration would approach issues with calm and reason. This seems pretty telling: rather than approach an issue with diplomacy, simply strike back. Don’t think about it, just act.

Update: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports that Davis's company remained on the mortgage giants' payroll until last month:

neither the Times story—nor the McCain campaign—revealed that Davis's lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, based in Washington, D.C., continued to receive $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac until last month—long after the Homeownership Alliance had been terminated. The two sources, who requested anonymity discussing sensitive information, told NEWSWEEK that Davis himself approached Freddie Mac in 2006 and asked for a new consulting arrangement that would allow his firm to continue to be paid. The arrangement was approved by Hollis McLoughlin, Freddie Mac's senior vice president for external relations, because "he [Davis] was John McCain's campaign manager and it was felt you couldn't say no," said one of the sources. [McLoughlin did not return phone calls].
Apparently, all involved parties say that Mr. Davis's activities on behalf of Fannie and Freddie were "minimal," which prompts the question: why did his company remain on the lenders' payroll?

John McCain's 2005 "Warning" About Fannie, Freddie & Dems "Blocking" Regulation

A bit late passing this along, but John McCain's claim that he issued a warning against the excesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the 2005-06 legislative year was given a "barely true" by Politifact. On 25 May, 2006, Senator McCain signed on as a co-sponsor to Chuck Hagel's effort to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which Senator Hagel intoduced in January, 2005) following the publication of "a 340-page report from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight."* However, as Politifact points out,
his attempts to depict those efforts as some sort of early warning that could have lessened the current credit crisis just don't wash. All McCain was talking about then was the potential fallout of accounting troubles in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He didn't say anything about a freewheeling climate among creditors that had major financial institutions becoming badly leveraged on bad loans.
Additionally, those rumors that Democrats alone blocked GOP proposal, S.190, to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Questionable claims, for the bill never got out of committee:
Last Action [July 28, 2005]: Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Ordered to be reported with an amendment in the nature of a substitute favorably.
Status: Dead
So the bill was never brought to a full Senate vote. Recall that the Republicans were the majority in 2005-06, and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs consisted of 11 Republicans and 9 Democrats (for a full listing of the members of the 2005-06 Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, see this entry at Sourcewatch). In other words, the proposal could have been voted out of committee and brought to the Senate floor had the GOP members had supported it.

* Notably, Senator Hagel reintroduced S.190 in 2007 as S.1110: Senator McCain has not publicly supported the "Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2007," which remains pending.

Added: Rand Koler at the Seattle PI offer this breakdown, which suggests that Senator McCain announced his support for the bill only after it had, for all intents and purposes, already died in committee.


21 September 2008

Kristof: “The Push to ‘Otherize” Obama”

A sticky note of sorts: this article offers plenty of food for thought on the “Obama is a Muslim” and "Obama is the anti-Christ" memes, and why people continue exploit them. Read Nicholas Kristof’s column from today’s New York Times.

It's worth questioning how many people are pursuing the Bibilical/religious line of argument are doing so out of sheer, or willful, ignorance, and how many are exploiting these ideas as cynical attempts to shape the election. Whichever it may be, the argument relies on simple religious bigotry.

Lady Lynn's Not Elitist, I Tell You.

First we have the delicious irony of someone named Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild classifying Obama as elitist. Then we have the same Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild (who happens to be fabulously wealthy, so you know she’s just normal folk) elaborating on said critique by saying he is an "'elitist' who talks down to 'rednecks.'"

You can’t make it up.

20 September 2008

Hagel et. al.: Obama Did Not Interfere with Negotiations

So you might have heard this story, first presented by Amir Taheri in the New York Post, that Barack Obama “tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.” This violation of the Logan Act, which "forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments," allegedly occurred during a July meeting with Nouri Al-Maliki:

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

Sounds pretty horrific, no? A candidate who places his personal ambition at a higher priority than the safety of American troops in Iraq is cynical and traitorous in such plotting. So what does the Obama campaign have to say about it? Apparently, Taheri’s account is a complete distortion of the Iraq discussion:

"Barack Obama has never urged a delay in negotiations," said Obama campaign national security spokesperson Wendy Morigi, "nor has he urged a delay in immediately beginning a responsible drawdown of our combat brigades."

Well, we’d expect the campaign to say that, wouldn’t we? A case of CYA, right?
Not so fast, guys and gals.

ABC News's Jake Tapper has been looking into this, and he points outs a few problems with Taheri's tale in a column of his own: "Undermining McCain Attack, Republicans Back Obama's Version of Meeting with Iraqi Leaders."

Firstly, Taheri neglected to mention that several people attended this private meeting, including Ryan Crocker (the US Ambassador to Iraq), Senator Jack Reed, Senator Chuck Hagel, Bush administration officials, and “Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers from both parties.” And guess what? All of those people, Republicans and Democrats alike, support the Obama campaign’s version of the event “and dispute the Post story and McCain attack." These corrections to Taheri's story include the following statements:

[Hagel spokesman Mike] Buttry said that Hagel agrees with Obama's account of the meeting: Obama began the meeting with al-Maliki by asserting that the United States speaks with one foreign policy voice, and that voice belongs to the Bush administration.

A Bush administration official with knowledge of the meeting says that, during the meeting, Obama stressed to al-Maliki that he would not interfere with President Bush's negotiations concerning the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, and that he supports the Bush administration's position on the need to negotiate, as soon as possible, the Status of Forces Agreement, which deals with, among other matters, U.S. troops having immunity from local prosecution.

There you have it: Taheri's version didn't happen: Obama supports the current administration's policy decisions. Yet, despite the Obama campaign’s refutation of Taheri’s article, the columnist’s allegations have become the new meme for those to the political right: Obama has attempted to interfere with national policy in order to further his personal goals. John McCain’s campaign has referenced the article, as have bloggers and broadcast pundits such as Rush Limbaugh.

Certainly, the Obama campaign will continue to battle this story, and chances are that the media will soon pick up on Tapper’s findings. It would be interesting to see if Jim Lehrer or John McCain broach this matter during the coming foreign policy debate. If so, it could be dire for John McCain if he beats this horse only to have it revealed that he’s relying on faulty intelligence that can be refuted by several witnesses to the “private meeting.”

McCain and Obama: It's All in the Hug

Embracing the future


Hanging onto the past


Which do you choose?



AP photo of Obama & child from September 15 event in Michigan.

19 September 2008

Autumn Arrives

A little something to grow melancholy by: John Keats's "Ode to Autumn."

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Link: Klein on Biden's Tax Equation

Just dropping a link to Joe Klein's column on Joe Biden's comment that equates paying taxes with patriotism. Klein is spot on, by the way.

15 September 2008

Obama Ignoring Palin

The McCain campaign's strategy is to keep the Arizona Senator "in front of the media," as spokesman Brian Rogers claims, and Obama is complying happily by zeroing in on McCain in his campaign appearances--and he's ignoring Sarah Palin. According to the L A Times, Obama won't be drawn into addressing Palin even when prompted to by audience questions. And why is this? Back to the Times:
Obama doesn't want to give her more publicity. Were he to target Palin, he might detract from the critique of McCain he is trying to drive home every day.

Chris Kofinis, communications director for John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign, said: "Palin right now is the flavor of the week. And the reality is she's going to rise or fall based on how she performs in the public eye. The last thing you want to do as a campaign is to fuel more media attention toward her when you don't need to."
This seems like a sound tactic. It goes beyond saying that, as presidential nominee, Obama should be focusing on McCain and McCain alone. When the time comes, Joe Biden can engage with Palin.

As a plus: it avoids any of those "gotcha" moments like the "lipstick on a pig" nonsense.

14 September 2008

Link: the Fey / Poehler SNL Skit

Does Tina Fey (and her glasses) nail Sarah Palin or what? Here's that Saturday Night Live opening sketch featuring Fey alongside Amy Poehler as Hillary.
Enjoy.

13 September 2008

Obama Responds to McCain Ads “With the Truth”

That’s his claim: Senator Obama will counter Senator McCain’s current round of television and Internet ads with “the truth.”

Whether or not the Obama campaign will begin running ads that mirror those of the McCain campaign, they’ve certainly chosen to remind voters of Senator McCain’s decades-long Congressional presence, and his participation in policies that have contributed to the nation’s current situation. In Dover, New Hampshire, Obama addressed voters at a town hall meeting,


“We can’t afford four more years of out-of-touch, you’re-on-your-own leadership in Washington,” Mr. Obama said in Dover, N.H. “John McCain likes to rail against the Washington herd, but the truth is when it comes to issues that really matter in your lives, he’s been running in that herd for 26 years.”

These comments raise the question whether Senator McCain would break ranks with that herd once he became president, or would he propose or enact policies that reflect his similarities with President George W. Bush?

Obama's comments manifest in the newest Obama ad, which zeroes in on Senator McCain’s attempts to identify himself as an agent of change after “running with that herd for 26 years”:

The Obama ad counters McCain's promise to change Washington with reminders of the length of time that has passed since the Arizona senator was first elected to Congress. After flashing on screen the year he was first elected, 1982, the ad uses such dated imagery of the era as a mirrored disco ball, a chunky early cell phone, a record turntable and a Rubik's cube.

Though the ad does not specifically mention McCain's age, which Obama has avoided making an explicit issue, it clearly serves as a reminder.


Senator McCain’s age, or Senator McCain’s time in Washington ? Of course, the two are inseparable, someone who spends twenty or thirty years in Washington is bound to be an older person. However, the ad also alludes to McCain’s unfamiliarity with innovations such as email. This particular swipe is a step into the season’s sandbox silliness; while the ad’s analogy—that McCain remains tied to the past—might be correct, Obama’s campaign would be more on target to train its attentions specifically on the McCain campaign’s economic policies and McCain’s recent Congressional record. Some metaphors don’t work, and they might even alienate some (in this case older) voters.

On Hiring Friends, Keeping Mum, and Going After Haters

Just sharing a thought-provoking piece published today. See this New York Times article about one politician’s fondness for cronyism and secrecy; it might remind you of another politician's fondness for cronyism and secrecy.


How Long Before It's True?

Boy, oh boy. Seriously, Senator McCain, I mean, seriously.

During his appearance on The View, John McCain claimed that, while Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has not accepted state earmarks. This might have been a gaffe, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here, because the evidence is so clearly and obviously to the contrary of McCain’s assertions. Michael Dobbs’s Gact Checker at The Washington Post clarifies:

While it is true that she has sought fewer earmarks than her predecessor, Governor Frank Murkowski, Alaska still leads the nation in terms of per capita spending on earmarks, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.

The WaPo FactChecker granted four Pinnochios on this attempt to "rewrite history."

Apparently, the McCain campaign has decided veracity is for the birds. Which, in a wildly awkward jump, brings us to those ads, “approved by” John McCain, that distort reality. Here’s John McCain’s explanation for them:

The defense from the candidate himself — heard only on “The View” because he hasn’t held a news conference in more than a month — is to essentially assert that he’s savaging Obama because the Illinois senator wouldn’t agree to the series of town hall meetings McCain proposed at the end of the Democratic primary season.

“If we had done what I asked Sen. Obama to do, because I’ve been in a lot of other campaigns where I have appeared with the opposition with the people and listened to their hopes and dreams and aspirations, I don't think you’d see the tenor of this campaign,” he said.

Huh? So if Obama had agreed to the town hall meetings, there would be no maliciousness? Hardly. Chances are that even with the Town Halls, the close nature of the race would have prompted the negative ads. Face it, the only goal here is to win, even, as Politico puts it, if it “soils his reputation”:

“We recognize it’s not going to be 2000 again,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, alluding to the media’s swooning coverage of McCain’s ill-fated crusade against then-Gov. George W. Bush and the GOP establishment. “But he lost then. We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

Rogers, who hung tough with McCain through the dark days of the primary and has lived through every high and low of this turbulent and unpredictable race, argues that they tried to run a high-ground campaign and sought to keep the candidate in front of the media in the fashion he enjoys. His point: No one paid any attention.

There you have it. The McCain campaign just doesn't care if they're caught out. What matters is being newsworthy. They've decided to be selective with John McCain's greatest strengths, his principles, for a "win at all costs" strategy, which is disheartening. Despite his critiques of other politicians who put personal ambition before honor and integrity, John McCain is risking his own—to win an election.

11 September 2008

The Names

by Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A fine rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.

Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name —
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.

Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner —
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.

When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.

Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.

In the evening — weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds —
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.

Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in green rows in a field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

10 September 2008

FactCheck to McCain Camp: Stop Distorting Our Findings

Earlier this week, FactCheck published an article debunking a series of smear emails targeting Sarah Palin. Today, John McCain's campaign released an ad that claims FactCheck found Barack Obama's campaign responsible for the viral emails. Not so, and is FactCheck peeved:

With its latest ad, released Sept. 10, the McCain-Palin campaign has altered our message in a fashion we consider less than honest. The ad strives to convey the message that FactCheck.org said "completely false" attacks on Gov. Sarah Palin had come from Sen. Barack Obama. We said no such thing. We have yet to dispute any claim from the Obama campaign about Palin.

Oh boy. This particular entry continues analyzing the new McCain ad in much the same vein:

The ad also quotes the Wall Street Journal as saying that the Obama campaign "air-dropped a mini-army of 30 lawyers, investigators and opposition researchers to dig dirt on Governor Palin." That's also a distortion. The Wall Street Journal opinion article did not say that the Obama team was there to "dig dirt." It said they were there do "dig into her record and background." Maybe the McCain-Palin campaign knows something we don't about what's in Palin's record and background.

Oh my. That was a bit snarky, wasn't it? And by the way, the Obama campaign categorically denies sending anyone to Alaska to “investigate” Governor Palin. The campaign has asked the Wall Street Journal for a correction.

Seriously folks—what’s up with all of the whacked out distortions all of a sudden? First the sex ed thing, then the “lipstick on a pig,” now this?