Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What It's Like to Debate Sarah Palin

A former debate opponent speaks.

Sounds great: she knows how to "win" a debate without actually saying anything of substance. Our nation really needs another leader like that, doesn't it?

Republicans: It Wasn't Pelosi's Fault After All

A bigger bunch of lying incompetents I can't imagine.

Sarah Palin "Pity Party"? Good Grief!

Just when you thought the whole Sarah Palin thing couldn't get any more ridiculous, now we have commentators saying they feel sorry for poor, poor Sarah.

Give me a break! This isn't someone who has been beset with some tragedy. She made the decision to step into this position knowing full well that she wasn't qualified. She hasn't even had the basic decency to act with any humility, openly and brazenly proclaiming her "readiness", exploiting her own children, and dishonestly attacking even when her opponents stood up for her.

She wants pity? Let her withdraw, then I'll consider it. Right now, it's the American people who deserve pity for having to endure another five weeks of her candidacy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout Vote Fails -- An Example of the Tragedy of the Commons?

The Tragedy of the Commons describes a situation where individuals each have an incentive to try to maximize their use and benefit from a shared resource, but where that leads to overuse that harms everyone in the group. I think a version of this is what we are seeing with the financial bailout plan, which just failed to pass in the House, leading to a sell-off on Wall Street.

Democrats and Republicans have a strong collective incentive to pass this bailout, because as distasteful as it may be, the alternative is worse. But the deal is unpopular with voters, and this gives individual representatives who are facing re-election an incentive to vote against it.

I'm sure further attempts will be made to get something done, but the timing of this, only a few weeks before Election Day, couldn't be worse.

Pastors Who Want to Eat Their Cake and Have it Too

In case you missed it, yesterday was "Pulpit Freedom Sunday", a protest by church leaders looking to defy the IRS's edict against political endorsements:

Pastor Jody Hice of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Bethlehem, Ga., said in an interview Sunday that his sermon compared Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain on abortion and gay marriage and concluded that McCain "holds more to a biblical world view."

He said he urged the Southern Baptist congregation to vote for McCain.

"The basic thrust was this was not a matter of endorsing, it's a First Amendment issue," Hice said. "To say the church can't deal with moral and societal issues if it enters into the political arena is just wrong, it's unconstitutional."

At the independent Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., pastor Paul Blair said he told his congregation, "As a Christian and as an American citizen, I will be voting for John McCain."

"It's absolutely vital to proclaim the truth and not be afraid to proclaim the truth from our pulpits," Blair said in an interview.

Because the pastors were speaking in their official capacity as clergy, the sermons are clear violations of IRS rules, said Robert Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at George Washington University. But even if the IRS rises to the bait and a legal fight ensues, Tuttle said there's "virtually no chance" courts will strike down the prohibition.

"The government is allowed, as long as it has a reasonable basis for doing it, to treat political and nonpolitical speech differently, and that's essentially what it's done here," Tuttle said.

Whining aside, religious groups already have far too much power and infuence on the political process -- this is the last thing the country needs. The solution to this problem is simple: get rid of the tax exemption for churches.

Mayor "Just Curious" if Obama is the Antichrist

Sometimes I really wish the north had lost the Civil War:
Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk says he was “just curious” when he forwarded a chain e-mail suggesting Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama is the biblical antichrist. “I was just curious if there was any validity to it,” Funderburk said in a telephone interview. “I was trying to get documentation if there was any scripture to back it up.”
Is it too late to change our minds and let the South secede?

McCain Camp Working the Refs on the VP Debate

Blah blah blah.

Americans are counting on Gwen Ifill to be objective in helping us learn as much as possible abotu Sarah Palin, since the Keystone Kops Kampaign sure as hell isn't.

"Free Palin"? Give Me a Break.

First they said Palin was being hidden because she needed time to prepare. Then they blamed the "big bad media". Then some said it was part of a grand plan to "trick" people into having low expectations for her.

Well the new Republican "strategy" with Palin, apparently, is to claim that she's really a great smart and informed gal who came across poorly because she was being too "restricted" by the campaign, and that she's going to "revive" the ticket. Whatever.

Frankly, I think the entire thing is exceedingly lame. Palin is an empress with no clothes, but that's besides the point. McCain is on the top of the ticket, and he is the one who needs to "revive" it, not Palin.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bullshit About Horseshit

Now there's a rumor going around that when Obama confronted McCain on his comments about Spain, the latter muttered "horseshit" under his breath. Andrew Sullivan, the famous blogger, is spreading around this, uh, manure, and it's going all over the place. {Edit: Sullivan just retracted his comments. I love the guy but he's, uh, stepped in it this time, and is going to get slammed on this (and rightly so).}

I listened to it several times, and while I am not absolutely clear what he said, the hard "C" sound is, to me, unmistakable -- I think that he said "course not" or similar. It is definitely not clear that he said "horseshit", and I think it's damned irresponsible for people to start with this sort of nonsense.

Even if it sounds like "horseshit" to some people, you do NOT make an accusation like this unless you are 100% positive, and that is not the case here. Whatever else I think about McCain, he is an experienced politician and would never do something like that.

It doesn't help Obama at all for his supporters to hand the McCain camp another piece of ammunition a la "Trig is not Sarah Palin's baby".

Barack Obama and the Return of Grace

Michael Seitzman spells out fully a point I've been trying to make to people who felt Obama should have attacked McCain more. This is not what Obama is about. And it is part of why Obama won the primary and why he is winning the general as well.

There's nothing wrong with recognizing that your opponent makes a good point. Voters want someone who is tough, but also someone who is classy and fair and decent. Obama came across as decent last night; McCain didn't. And that's what people come away with after they've forgotten all the words that were tossed around.

Why Voters Thought Obama Won

An excellent analysis from Nate Silver, contrasting the gap between whom the pundits thought won the debate and the very different answers from voters. Highlights:
TPM has the internals of the CNN poll of debate-watchers, which had Obama winning overall by a margin of 51-38. The poll suggests that Obama is opening up a gap on connectedness, while closing a gap on readiness.

Specifically, by a 62-32 margin, voters thought that Obama was “more in touch with the needs and problems of people like you”. This is a gap that has no doubt grown because of the financial crisis of recent days. But it also grew because Obama was actually speaking to middle class voters. Per the transcript, McCain never once mentioned the phrase “middle class” (Obama did so three times). And Obama’s eye contact was directly with the camera, i.e. the voters at home. McCain seemed to be speaking literally to the people in the room in Mississippi, but figuratively to the punditry. It is no surprise that a small majority of pundits seemed to have thought that McCain won, even when the polls indicated otherwise; the pundits were his target audience.

...

Meanwhile, voters thought that Obama “seemed to be the stronger leader” by a 49-43 margin, reversing a traditional area of McCain strength. And voters thought that the candidates were equally likely to be able to handle the job of president if elected.

...

McCain’s essential problem is that his fundamental strength – his experience -- is specifically not viewed by voters as carrying over to the economy. And the economy is pretty much all that voters care about these days.

EDIT: 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.
Worth a full read.

Friday, September 26, 2008

MediaCurves Snap Polling Says Obama Won With Independents

Figures on their web site broken out by issue.

Quick Reaction Poll Suggests Obama Did Well

Independents think Obama won:

CBS News and Knowledge Networks conducted a nationally representative poll of approximately 500 uncommitted voters reacting to the debate in the minutes after it happened.

These figures are still preliminary and could change as more respondents complete the survey. But here's what we have so far:

Forty percent of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. Twenty-two percent thought John McCain won. Thirty-eight percent saw it as a draw.

Forty-six percent of uncommitted voters said their opinion of Obama got better tonight.

Sixty-eight percent of uncommitted voters think Obama would make the right decisions about the economy. Forty-one percent think McCain would.

Forty-nine percent of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. Fifty-five percent think McCain would.

These numbers are a win for Obama, regardless of what they thought of McCain.

Overall First Impressions on the First Debate

Executive Summary: *Yawn*. Overall a rather boring debate, no real zingers or winners or gaffes. On the whole I think Obama won slightly on presentation and demeanor, McCain won on subject matters. Obama will benefit more because he had more to gain.

Random observations:

1. Where was Mccain's lapel pin?

2. Obama looked into the camera many times, McCain not even once.

3. McCain seemed agitated and passionate, Obama cool as a cucumber. I think both could have done better in going the opposite direction.

4. Obama did very well on Iran I thought. McCain did better on Russia.

5. Obama really blew it at the end when he didn't respond to McCain's accusations and all the "I heart veterans" stuff. No mention of the GI bill? Why not?

6. Obama clearly was trying to shift the discussion to domestic issues.

7. McCain seemed skittish but overall in control. I'm not sure if voters wondering about his recent behavior will be comforted more by the latter or worried more about the former.

8. Obama was confident and that should reassure some who were concerned about his ability to hold his own on these issues. He was nothing like what he was at Saddleback.

9. McCain spoke in old talking points far too much. In fact, when he said "Let us win" in his bracelet story, I said it along with him because I have heard it so many times.


Bottom Line: Both did fine but the net edge IMO is slightly to Obama simply because Obama had a lot more to gain here than Mccain did. There are millions of voters who want to vote for Obama but were concerned about his abilities and this should make many of them feel a bit better. This won't change any decided voters' minds either way.

Presidential Debate #1 - Live Blog #8 - Likelihood of Another 9/11 Attack

McCain: Much less than it was the day after 9/11. Safer nation but far from safe. He and Lieberman wanted to form commission to look into 9/11. Got most of reforms written into legislation. Bipartisan effort. Need better job of human intelligence. Trained interrogators so we don't torture. Knows allies and can work more closely. Probably had largest reorganization
of government because of recommendations. Long way to go before America is safe.

Obama: Safer in some ways. Done work in border security. Need to harden chemical sites. Risk to ports. Worry is not nuclear missile but nuclear suitcase. Spending billions of dollars on missile defence, says we need it but we need more money on preventing nuclear proliferation. Need to focus on root cause of Al Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. How we are perceived matters, will restore our standing in the world. Less respected now. Because of things we have done, lot of work to restore sense of America as a shining beacon.

McCain: Obama said missile defence had to be proven. Still doesn't get it that if we fail in Iraq it encourages Al Qaida. His plan would lead to defence and loss of our sacrifices we've made.

Obama: Administration and McCain have been solely focused on Iraq. Bin Laden still out there. China has $1 trillion because we spent money in Iraq. Viewed everything through this single lens. Brings up veterans affairs (not really covered in this debate?) President has to have broader strategic vision.

McCain: Involved in every security challenge in last 25 years. Doesn't believe Obama has knowledge or experience and has made wrong decisions in a number of areas. Seen stubbornness before, cling to belief that surge has not succeeded. He loves the veterans and will take care of them. He has judgment to keep nation safe and secure.

Obama: Closing statement, talking to camera. Father came from Kenya because America was place to be. Must send message to the world that we are going to do what we need to do.

McCain: Knows how to heal wounds of war, and how to deal with enemies and friends.

Presidential Debate #1 - Live Blog #7 - Relationship with Russia

Obama: Have to evaluate based on recent happenings, resurgent Russia is a problem. Georgia situation unacceptable. Must have unified alliance that they cannot be a 21st century power and act like 20th century dictatorship. Affirm fledgling democracies. Countries like Georgia and Ukraine can join NATO, action plan to bring them in. Cannot return to Cold War posture with Russia. Loose nukes could fall into hands of Al Qaida. He's worked on this. Don't deal with Russia by staring into eyes and seeing soul, work from our interests. Recent behavior needs sharp response.

McCain: Obama's first response was that both sides should show restraint. Naivete on Obama's part. Oil causing KGB led country. Need to bolster friends and allies. Georgia had to do with energy. Former Soviet countries concerned about Russian actions. Russia must understand that we support inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Russians are in violation of their ceasefire agreement. Poster of Putin in Georgia, they were waiting for opportunity. Watch Ukraine.

Obama: Agrees with McCain mostly, says he did reply forcefully about Russia. Was first to call for rebuilding Georgia's economy, called for $1 billion for Georgia. We must have foresight and anticipate some of these problems. In April he warned administration about Russian peacekeepers in Georgia. Need energy strategy to deal not just with Russia but also other rogue nations. We need to drill but we also need clean coal, nuclear. McCain voted 23 times against alternative energy.

Lehrer tries to move on.

McCain and Obama arguing about nuclear energy. McCain says he opposes nuclear storage, Obama says he doesn't.

Presidential Debate #1 - Live Blog #6 - What is Threat of Iran

McCain: Iran getting nuclear weapon is existential threat to Israel. Cannot allow a second Holocaust. Proposed league of democracies. Concern about Russia. Could impose meaningful sanctions on Iran that would help. They have a lousy government so have lousy economy. We can affect Iranian behavior. Have no doubt that Iran continues to try to get nuclear weapon. Putting the most lethal IEDs into Iraq and sending groups in there. Tried to declare them sponsor of terror, Obama said this would be provocative.

Obama: He believes Republican Guard of Iran is terrorist organization. The Iraq war is what has strengthened Iran. They've funded Hezbollah and Hamas, gotten centrifuges. Our policy has not worked. We cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran, would threaten Israel, our stalwart ally. We need tougher sanctions but need help from countries like Russia and China. We need to talk to people, notion that we are punishing people by not talking to them is a mistake.

McCain: Obama said he would sit down with Ahmadinejad, Chavez and (forgot??) without preconditions. Afraid Obama will give Ahmadinejad a propaganda platform. Mentions historical negotiations with China and Russia. Will sit down with anyone but has to be preconditions.

Obama: Ahmadinejad not most important person in Iran so may not be the best person. As president will meet with anyone if it will keep US safe. Kissinger, his advisor said we should meet Iran without preconditions. Doesn't mean we invite them to tea, means we don't tell them we only meet if they do what we say. Says he was called naive when he said we have to explore contacts with Iran and then Bush sent envoy to Iran discussions. In North Korea we cut off talks, and they quadrupled nuclear capacity. McCain said he wouldn't meet with the president of Spain, a NATO ally.

McCain: Says Kissinger didn't say he would approve meeting between Ahmadinejad and the president. If you meet without preconditions you legitimize comments like Israel being a stinking corpse, dangerous. North Koreans have broken agreements, have to go back to Reagan's trust but verify.

Obama: Nobody is talking about meeting without preparation. Preconditions just means we don't expect to solve every problem before we have talks. Nobody is suggesting we sit down and listen to Ahmadinejad spew insults at Israel.

McCain: (Interjects, laughing) Are we going to just let Iran say they are going to wipe out Israel and say "no we aren't"....

(Crosstalk, arguing about Kissinger.)

Presidential Debate #1 - Live Blog #5 - Afghanistan, More Troops and if So How Many and When?

Obama: Need more troops, cannot separate Afghanistan from Iraq. Would send two or three additional brigades. We have four times as many troops in Iraq where nobody had anything to do with Iraq, strategic mistake. Must deal with Al Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Press Afghan government, deal with poppy trade.

McCain: Won't repeat mistake that he regrets which was to wash hands of region after Soviets. Not prepared to cut off aid to Pakistan so not ready to threaten them. You don't announce strikes out loud, you work with the government. Area on border has not been governed since days of Alexander the Great. Need new troops but also new strategy. Not just addition of troops, he knows how to work with Pakistan.

Obama: Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan. If the U.S. has Al Qaida lieutenants in Pakistan and they are unable or unwilling to attack we should take them out. We need to be prudent in what we say but mentions him "singing songs about bombing Iran". We alienated the Pakistani population, had 20th century mindset about dictator, wasted money, they weren't going after Al Qaida.

McCain: Responds about bombing Iran, talking about his record. When he was a new congressman in 1983 voted against sending Marines to Lebanon. Supported Gulf War I and Bosnia and Kosovo. Opposed turning force in Somalia into peacemaking force. He has a record of making tough decisions. Someone at a townhall asked him to wear her son's bracelet, she asked him to make sure his death wasn't in vain. "We don't want defeat." Hard for military to recover from failure.

Obama: Also has a bracelet. She asked him to make sure another mother isn't going through what she's going through. No US soldier ever dies in vain. Our troops have performed brilliantly. Are we making good judgments. We took our eye off Afghanistan and folks who perpetrated 9/11. Nobody is talking about defeat in Iraq. McCain has not consistently been concerned about Afghanistan, he said we could try to "muddle through" Afghanistan.

McCain: Would think he would have visited Afghanistan. Has been there and knows what needs to be done. Opposes set date for withdrawal, will cause defeat in Iraq.

Presidential Debate #1 - Live Blog #4 - What Can We Learn from Iraq

McCain: We can't go in with failed strategy, he went to Iraq in 2003, we needed to change course, now we are winning thanks to a good general. Consequences of defeat would have been a wider war, might have had to go back. We will come back with victory.

Obama: First question is whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place. Stood up and opposed because of dangers, and because we hadn't finished job in Afghanistan, thought it would be a distraction. Wishes he had been wrong for the sake of the country. Lost money and lives, Al Qaida is resurgent, we took eye off ball. Should never hesitate to use military force but use it wisely.

(Subjective: Obama seems to be saying more new material than McCain.)

McCain: Next president doesn't have to address whether we should have gone in or not. Next one has to decide when and if we go and what we leave behind. Says Obama opposed surge and mentions Obama went overseas only after 900 days. Talking about Obama's committee and that he never met with Patraeus.

Obama: Proud of his VP pick, issues don't go through his subcommittee, go through committee as a whole. McCain is right that troops and Patraeus. McCain likes to pretend war started in 2007 instead of 2003. Hitting McCain on location of WMD and being greeted as liberators. Judge us on our judgment.

McCain: (looks agitated) Obama doesn't know difference between tactic and strategy. Mentions story about meeting with 680 troops, "let us win". Obama doesn't agree that we are winning in Iraq. (Obama: that's not true). Says Obama voted to cut off funding for troops.

Obama: Says McCain opposed funding for troops because there was a timetable, he opposed funding because no timetable, says they only agreed on the timetable. Does know difference between strategy and tactic. Was this wise? Raises Afghanistan, says McCain said we were successful there. Give Iraq back its country. Commanders in Afghanistan say we don't have enough troops.

McCain: Says Mullen opposed Obama's plan (Obama says not true). Iraq is central battleground. Obama's plan will snatch defeat from jaws of victory.

Presidential Debate #1 - Live Blog #3 - What Will Candidates Have to Give Up to Pay for Financial Rescue Plan

Obama: Some things will have to be delayed. Energy independence is a priority, freed from Middle Eastern oil within 10 years. Mentioned more production at home, plus alternative energy. Health care. Need to eliminate programs that don't work.

Obama seems MUCH more confident than he was at Saddleback, and far fewer "ums" and "uhs".

McCain's response back to cutting spending. Obama is most liberal senator. Get rid of ethanol subsidies. Wants to cut back on military spending. Talking about reforming contracts. Examine every agency of government, eliminate those not doing their jobs.

Lehrer: Neither of you seems to be saying what you'd give up.

Obama: Would delay energy plan but not give it up. Seems to be following McCain's lead on cutting spending. Bringing up lobbyists.

Obama accidentally said "Tom" instead of "John". Obama says he seems liberal because of opposing Bush's policies. "Google for government".

Lehrer is trying to get them to say what they will push off, they are resisting.

McCain suggests a spending freeze except for defence, veterans affairs and entitlement programs.

Obama says this is a hatchet when we need a scalpel. Says there are some programs we need. Mentions spending $10 bill in Iraq when they have $79 surplus.

McCain mentions the same points he's said before about sending $700 billion overseas, brings up energy issue again. No "drill here drill now" though. :)

Lehrer tries again.

Obama says there is no doubt it will affect how we run the country. Mentions we might make a profit as Roosevelt did in the 30s. In the short term there's an outlay, economy is slowing down and tax revenues may go down. To make tough decisions must know what our priorities are and mentions $300 billion tax cuts and leaving out healthcare is a bad choice.

McCain says doesn't want to hand over healthcare to federal government. Families should make decisions. He cuts spending, mentions $800 billion in spending from Obama. We can adjust spending around to take care of programs. Healthy economy with not raising anyone's taxes is best recipe for success. More about how he can reduce spending.

(Lehrer keeps asking about spending and so forth, what about the deficit and dollar?)

Obama: McCain, your president you agreed with 90% of the time, who presided over all this spending.

McCain: Smiling, says he hasn't been elected Miss Congeniality and has opposed president on various issues. "Maverick of the senate".

Presidential Debate #1 - Live Blog #2 - How Candidates Will Solve Financial Crisis

Question about fundamental differences about how the two would solve financial crisis.

McCain talking about excessive spending, will veto spending bills, make them famous, etc. Brings up Obama's requests for earmarks.

Obama says he suspended earmarks pending review. Says earmarks only account for $18 billion, McCain is proposing tax cuts of $300 billion for the wealthy. Talks about how he wants to cut taxes for 95% of Americans.

McCain says Obama only wanted to cut the earmarks when he wanted to run for president. Says the money is all important. Says McCain is proposing $800 billion in new spending.

Obama says he will close corporate loopholes, go after companies shipping jobs overseas, talks about healthcare. Says we need earmark reform, says he will go line by line as McCain did. Said earmarks aren't enough. McCain's tax policies focus on those who are doing well.

Lehrer encourages McCain to respond directly to Obama. McCain doesn't though.

McCain says business pays second highest corporate taxes. Makes point about corruption and again talks about pork barrel spending and Obama's $932 million. Families should have $5,000 tax credit. Wants to lower taxes on everyone.

Obama focusing on camera again, saying 95% of Americans will get cut, for those under $250,000. Response on corporate taxes is that the rate is high but there are many loopholes. Says McCain will tax health benefits.

Lehrer tries to go forward. McCain raises energy bill with pork that he voted against, Obama voted for. He appears agitated. Obama tried to interject, couldn't hear what he said.

McCain keeps talking about "dividends" when he means credits I think.

McCain says Obama voted to increase taxes on people making as little as $42k, Obama immediately denies it. McCain laughing to himself.

Obama says McCain wants tax breaks for oil companies, McCain scoffing.

Presidential Debate #1 - Live Blog #1

My first live blog, hope I don't mess it up. :)

Men greet each other, smiles and handshakes. No hugs this time. :)

First question is where do the men stand on the bailout plan.

Obama goes first. Generalities.. talking about main street versus wall street. He's now listing off his points for the plan, such as oversight, gains for taxpayers, no CEO "golden parachutes" etc. Now pivoting to attack on deregulation and the McCain/Bush policies, etc.

I notice not as much "ahs and ums" from Obama in that intro.

McCain starting out talking about Kennedy in the hospital. McCain talking about Rs and Ds sitting down together. Need to fix crisis, etc. Lists off many similar requirements for the package as Obama. Now talking about the House Republicans and says they decided they want to be part of this process. Says it is the "end of the beginning".

I notice: Obama faced the camera, McCain faced the moderator. (Obama is facing Lehrer on his second reply though.)

Lehrer again asking if they favor the plan.

Obama says we haven't seen it yet, focusing on how we got into the mess. Focusing on need for regulation and the fact that we haven't had very much over the years.

McCain saying he also warned about the trainwreck coming. Story about Eisenhower. Now justifying his call for firing the head of the SEC because we need to hold people accountable. Says people will be held accountable in his administration.

Redirect to Obama, he says we need responsibility but not just in a crisis. Again focusing on Wall St. vs Main St.

Obama brings up the "fundamentals of the economy are strong"... Lehrer tells him to say it to McCain. :) More about Main St.

Lehrer trying to get them to speak directly to each other, but they are talking to him so far. may not be familiar with this new format.

McCain says we have problems and says he has faith in the American worker. We have to get through these times, has faith that our best days are ahead of us.

How to Figure Out Who Won the Debate

Judd Legum makes some good points about how debates are won or lost based on key moments and perceptions.

McCain Gives Up Home Field Advantage

As I surmised last night, McCain risks a very hostile reaction from what was previously likely to be a favorable audience.

Dishonest Lunatic McCain Already Has Ads Claiming He "Won" the Debate that He Wasn't Going to Attend

McCain told the American people he was suspending his campaign to help negotiate the bailout and didn't want to go to the debate tonight. Yet it turns out he already has ads prepared declaring himself the "winner" of the debate he didn't want to go to!

I've run out of adjectives to describe just how bizarre this all is. Or just how stupid one would have to be at this point to actually believe that McCain didn't plan this entire stunt purely for political purposes.

John McCain could well be the most dangerous man to ever run for president.

McCain's Mental Unfitness for the Presidency is Clear: We Need to See his Full Medical Records

I was one of the first, a few weeks ago, to see the growing pattern of erratic behavior on the part of John McCain, and to wonder if there was some sort of mental issue involved. After his truly bizarre behavior over the last two weeks, though, there can be no doubt in my mind that McCain has lost his.

We need to see his medical records NOW. And if he won't provide them, that should be made a major campaign issue. This nation cannot afford an unstable president with a brainless vice-president for four years.

McCain Flip-Flops, Will Attend Debate

McCain lied. What a surprise, that hardly EVER happens. B.S. spin from the Keystone Kops Kampaign:
Senator McCain has spent the morning talking to members of the Administration, members of the Senate, and members of the House. He is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations, including Representative Blunt as a designated negotiator for House Republicans. The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon. Following the debate, he will return to Washington to ensure that all voices and interests are represented in the final agreement, especially those of taxpayers and homeowners.

I WIll Be Live Blogging the First Presidential Debate

For those who might care, I will be live blogging the debate tonight (Edit: which is now on, since McDramaQueen flip-flopped.)

Foreign Policy? Palin > Kissinger. No Rly! LOLz.

You can't make this shit up!

Conservative Columnist Goes Further: Palin Should "Bow Out for Her Country"

The natives are getting scared (took long enough!):
As we’ve seen and heard more from John McCain’s running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn’t know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions warrant her promotion.

...

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there.

...

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

...

McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability. Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden.

Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country.
Small problem: If Palin had the honesty, integrity and self-awareness necessary to figure out she needs to go, she would never have taken on this role in the first place.

Huckabee: McCain Debate Ploy "Huge Mistake"

No wonder Huckabee lost the primary -- he's too honest for what the GOP has become these days:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Thursday that Sen. John McCain made a “huge mistake” by even discussing canceling the presidential debate with Sen. Barack Obama.

...

Huckabee said Thursday in Mobile that the people need to hear both candidates. He said that’s “far better than heading to Washington” to huddle with senators.

He said the candidates should level with the people about the financial crisis and say the “heart of this is greed.”

Huckabee said he still backs McCain’s candidacy, but said 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.

I don't agree with Huckabee's views and positions but at least he seems like a decent and honorable human being. (Of course, so did McCain until this election.)

The Unofficial Republican Lie About McCain's Stunt

I won't call it spin, because it is flatly a lie, not spin. They are claiming that it's somehow Reid's fault that McCain went to Washington because they say Reid told him to. Wrong. Reid asked McCain to make clear where he stands. He did not ask McCain to lie about suspending his campaign (which McCain never did, he is still campaigning and his ads are running), hold the debate hostage to try to pressure the negotiators, and then race to Washington to embolden the House GOP leaders to kill the deal.

Summarized nicely by a 538.com commenter:

What turns this from McCain merely answering Reid and Paulson's call to come help bring House GOP members on board to a naked political ploy:

1) Making a big announcement about "suspending his campaign" on national television and making an irrelevant call to postpone the debates.

2) Not actually leaving NY or canceling any appearances until it was already time to bring a proposal to Paulson and the President.

3) Not contacting the banking committees in both the Senate and the House to learn of the negotiations on the proposal.

4) Not following-up any potential meeting with the Congressmen actually working on the proposal with a meeting with the House delegation opposing it *before* any compromise could be presented to the White House.

5) Sitting silently through the White House meeting instead of, oh, I don't know, *actually trying to negotiate a compromise*.

You are right that Reid et al. asked McCain to step up and show some leadership on this. He didn't. He stepped and grandstanded on it, and did absolutely nothing to help negotiate a working compromise. Instead his actions seemed to have given the dissident GOP House delegation cover not to reach any compromise at all. And his only motivation for doing this would be to take over another news cycle.

What McCain *could* have done would have been to quietly cancel his interview appearances and his talk to Clinton's Global Initiative to return to Washington to help broker the compromise. He could have quietly worked to bridge the gaps between at least most of the House GOP and the compromise worked out *within* the banking committee. If he had done this, no doubt he would have gotten a lot of well-deserved praise that would have played *very* well in the media, and would have fostered his image as a bipartisan bridge-builder.

But, the fact is, he's gone and done the opposite, and his actions appear to have set the bailout bill back tremendously. This is about the worst example of leadership in a crisis I can imagine.

Question of the Day -- What Will McCain Do?

He's kind of painted himself into a corner, though he has the luxury of lying about the reasons and implications of any choice he makes, knowing a bunch of people will swallow it.

Personally, I think he loses more by not showing up than he does if he shows.

I Wonder...

If McCain actually shows up tomorrow night, will he get booed? It's a "home field" crowd for him in Mississippi, but the Ole Miss folks must be royally pissed at him trying to blow them off.

Maybe not, but if they do, it will look really bad. Then again, McCain looks really bad constantly these days.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Conservative Calls Out Palin on Couric "Debacle"

More and more are noticing:
Couric's questions are straightforward and responsible. Palin is mediocre, again, regurgitating talking points mechanically, not thinking. Palin's just babbling. She makes George W. Bush sound like Cicero.

...

I remember the morning I woke up in my college dorm room and went in to take my final exam in my Formal Logic class. I knew I was unready. Massively unready. And now I was going to be put to the ultimate test. I sat down in Dr. Sarkar's class and resolved to wing it. Of course I failed the exam and failed the class, because I had no idea what I was talking about. I wasn't a bad kid, or even a stupid kid. I was just badly unprepared, and in way over my head. Seeing the Palin interview on CBS, I thought of myself in Dr. Sarkar's exam. But see, I was a college undergraduate who had the chance to take the class again, which I did, and passed (barely). I wasn't running for vice president of the United States.

...

New Palin excerpt up, in which she discusses why having Russia next to Alaska gives her relevant foreign policy experience. I am well and truly embarrassed for her. I think she's a good woman who might well be a great governor of Alaska. But good grief, just watch this train wreck: (video)

Too bad 40% of Americans are still asleep at the wheel.

Gold Coin Sales Halted After Retail Rush

Another vote of non-confidence in the US dollar, economy and government.

Did McCain Go Back to Work on the Bailout Deal or Kill It?

He's already with the Palin pick that he puts his campaign ahead of the country, so this is always a possibility.

Does nobody in the GOP have the balls to stand up and stop this madness?

What the Hell is John McCain Doing?!

I went outside for a couple of hours to do some yard work. I come back in and it's chaos.

Overall it seems McCain went to Washington, sat there, and did nothing except try to gum up the works by offering new proposals. Now the deal may be off, and everyone is confused. (Especially me.)

I am running out of adjectives to describe just how flabbergasted I am at John McCain's behavior. He has completely devolved to narcissistic, self-absorbed behavior. And yet Republicans are still defending him playing political games with the future of the economy.

Sad.

Obama Team's Whining and Intimidation Tactics Over Political Ads Must Stop

I think it's great that the Obama team is taking an active role in countering what they believe to be mistatements and dishonest portrayals of their candidate, but this is not the way to do it:

The Obama campaign has written radio stations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, pressing them to refuse to air an ad from the National Rifle Association.

"This advertisement knowingly misleads your viewing audience about Senator Obama's position on the Second Amendment," says the letter from Obama general counsel Bob Bauer. "For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station should refuse to continue to air this advertisement."

"FCC licensing requirements"? Are they suggesting that they're going to try to get stations' licenses pulled for running political ads? The rest of the letter (linked above) contains similar veiled threats about stations "bearing responsibility" and having a "duty" about this or that. What is this B.S.?

It is de rigeur for political ads to contain half-truths, exaggerations and comments taken out of context. Obama's ad team should sure as hell know that, given some of their own ridiculous ads, such as the "1982" piece or the one trying to tie McCain to Rush Limbaugh.

The letter goes into specific detail about how and why Obama's camp feels the ads are inaccurate. So? It's not the job of the TV stations to pore over every ad fact-checking it and trying to sift out intent and context. The appropriate way to deal with an ad that you feel does not represent your candidate fairly is to reply with an ad of your own, not try to silence your opponents.

I've said for quite some time that Obama was very weak in the gun area, and that it was obvious that the NRA and other gun owners' groups would come after him on it. His positions on gun control are a shifting quicksand of ambiguous statements and unpopular votes, and that's nobody's fault but his own.

Barack Obama needs to come out and clearly show that he supports the Second Amendment, not try to interfere with the First.

Another Serving of Palin Word Salad

Listen, watch and learn all about how the bailout is going to help with healthcare reform.

I wish I were making this up.

Right on Schedule: McCain Hack Credits Him with the Bailout Deal

Gee, who didn't see this coming?

Um, what exactly did McCain do on this deal? Nothing that I can see.

The McCain camp just continues to go after the few remaining morons they haven't already wrapped up. Good thing for them that there are so many.

And as someone said to me earlier, is this something McCain really wants credit for anyway? It's not like the bailout is particularly popular.

I guess they are so desperate they'll take anything they can get. Pathetic.

Fair and Balanced

Fer sure.

Republicans watch this B.S. all day and then declare that the "media is biased towards liberals".

This country is becoming Bizarroworld.

Sarah Palin -- A National Disgrace

Last night I gave Palin credit for seeming "not so bad" in her first interview bit with Katie Couric (which for me is high praise, I suppose, though she didn't really deserve any more than that). Well, now I have seen part of the second installment, and she is still going on about her foreign policy expertise being because of proximity to Russia!

What an utter embarassment. How can the Republicans persist with this charade? Do they really not care at all about this vacuous woman possibly getting hold of the reins of power?

I'm ashamed to see my country even considering the McCain/Palin ticket as a viable option.

More Lies from McCain -- Yeah, I Know, Not Really Newsworthy, But Anyway...

How is he "suspending his campaign" when his surrogates are still campaigning?

Are Americans Actually Falling for McCain's Stunt?

Never thought it could happen, but then again, I never figured they'd fall for the Palin stunt either.

It's only one poll but Gallup suddenly shows a swing back to a tied race today, 46%-46%. And that includes one day of polling since McCain's announcement.

It appears that The Referendum is going to go down to the wire. It's an embarrassing day to be American if these sorts of manipulative gimmicks actually work.

For this race even to be close given McCain's and Palin's recent behavior is to our international shame.

Worst Self-Inflicted Campaign Move Ever?

Perhaps:
Candidates have made a lot of unforced errors over the years. Richard Nixon promising to campaign in all 50 states when running against John Kennedy in 1960 -- and getting sick, tired, and cadaver-looking as a result. Nixon again thinking he had to get those crucial Democratic National Committee records from the Watergate building in 1972. (He obviously made it through the election, but then....) Dukakis getting into the tank in 1988.

But compared with John McCain "suspending" his campaign and trying to postpone the debates? Puh-leeze. None of the reasons below is original, but it's worth adding them up to see how risky McCain's proposal is, in giving people impressions he doesn't want to convey.
Click through to read the rest.

Anyway, he had to top the choice of Princess Sarah as running mate somehow, didn't he? McCain already jumped the shark on August 29th. Maybe yesterday he jumped an orca?
I don't want to pick any sea animals larger than that -- after all, there's still five weeks to go.

McCain's Advisors "Saw No Need" to Clear McCain's Schedule to Prepare for the Debate. Gee, I Wonder Why?

Here's what the AP said about the candidates' preparations for the debate before McCain's little stunt yesterday.

On Obama:

Democrat Barack Obama studied and practiced privately with aides in a Florida hotel Tuesday in the first of three days of intense preparations for his upcoming foreign policy debate with GOP rival John McCain.

And on McCain:

McCain is showing more confidence with a full schedule this week that leaves less time for preparations. His advisers said they saw no reason to clear his calendar to prepare, given the Arizona Republican's decades-long experience on foreign affairs issues and his years of debating colleagues in the Senate.

Gee, I wonder if there might have been another reason why McCain's schedule wasn't cleared. You know, aside from his "confidence". Like, say, maybe knowing all along that you're going to try to get the debate postponed?

Crises Dispel Reputation Myths

John McCain has a reputation as a gung-ho, serious he-man "warrior dude". Barney Frank has a reputation (in many circles) as being an effete lightweight.

And yet in this economic crisis we see what these men really are like underneath. I'm no fan of Frank, but as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he plays an essential role in brokering the bailout deal currently being negotiated in Washington, and he seems to be doing a reasonable job. That's in contrast to McCain, who only thinks he plays an important role, and is actively gumming up the works.

And so, in this crisis, we end up with an interesting situation where the "he-man" acts weak, confused and scared, and the soft-speaking gay man* from uber-liberal Massachusetts behaves strongly and decisively:
Frank says that House and Senate Democrats have agreed upon what should be in the Wall Street bailout legislation. This morning Frank, his Senate counterpart -- Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn. -- and top Republicans will meet to try to hammer out a final agreement. He was optimistic.

“All of a sudden, now that we’re on the verge of making a deal, John McCain drops himself in to make a deal," Frank said. "I really worry about this politicization of it."

"Frankly, we’re going to have to interrupt a negotiating session tomorrow between the Democrats and Republicans on a bill, where I think we’re getting pretty close, and troop down to the White House for their photo-op, and then come back and get on to it," Frank said.

“We’re trying to rescue the economy, not the McCain campaign,” he added.

* Lest anyone accuse me of saying gays are weak in this article, let me be clear that I am saying the exact opposite. Frank has the reputation I mentioned in some quarters in part
because of his orientation, and my point is that such views are frequently based on bigotry and not reality.

Congress Must Not Reward McCain's Debate "Hostage Taking"

I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at first, but by now all of the evidence clearly shows that McCain's "suspension" of his campaign yesterday was a purely political stunt. Whether it was to try to appear "presidential", to shake up the media, to distract attention from the Rick Davis scandal, or to delay the debate, McCain did this for his own selfish reasons, just like everything else he's done in this campaign. (For one thing, if you are really suspending your campaign because of a crisis, do you honestly prepare talking points about it in advance?)

Now were are put in a position where McCain is holding tomorrow's debate "hostage", insisting that he won't be there unless a bailout package is passed by tomorrow. Is this really the right basis for a critically important $1 trillion package negotiation? Is it truly "putting country first" to pressure the Bush administration and Congress with a totally unnecessary, artificial deadline?

The facts are that McCain and Obama are not involved in the congressional leadership working on this deal. They never were and they are not needed in Washington while the discussions are going on. Not only would their presence not help, it would likely harm matters by creating more confusion and stress in an already delicate situation.

Despite McCain's claims of doing this because he wants to set politics aside, by foolishly making himself and the debate the center of attention, he has politicized the entire process.

John McCain has made himself the proverbial little boy who will hold his breath until he turns blue if he doesn't get his way. Let him, if for no other reason than to avoid rewarding his childish behavior. Because if he does get away with this stunt, we'll never see the end of them.

Dave's Revenge

Part of McCain pulling his little campaign suspension stunt yesterday was him cancelling an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. Dave was not impressed, to say the least.

I was surprised at the viciousness with which Letterman tore into McCain, but when I did some reading up on the subject I learned a few things. Apparently, cancelling at the last minute on one of these shows cause real turmoil for the hosts and producers, and so it is "traditional" to spend much of the time that had been devoted to the guest skewering them in their absence. Even so, Dave seemed to go after McCain over and over.

And then it became obvious why: they caught McCain getting prepped for an interview with Katie Couric while they were taping! Letterman showed the video live and then over top asked "I have a question! Senator, can I give you a ride to the airport?"

Man, this looked really, painfully bad.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Couric's Interview of Sarah Palin -- She Seemed Okay to Me

I just watched the CBS interview by Katie Couric of Sarah Palin. Lots of folks are saying this was a "disaster" for Palin -- some going so far as to claim it was the reason behind McCain's stunt today -- but unless there's more to the interview that I didn't see, I think she handled herself just fine. The Gibson interview I thought was a crash-and-burn, but I didn't see anything too bad here.

Even at the end when Couric cornered her on McCain's history of regulation, well... Obviously she is clueless on that, as she is on most subjects. But all politicians sometimes get caught not knowing the answer to something and her answer was cute, even disarming. She definitely has a charismatic manner about her and I certainly understand the comments some Alaskans have made that she has a tendency to put men "under a spell". (Rather ironic, considering her former church pastor!)

Bottom line: she's set her own bar so low that I thought she cleared this one.

Color Me More Confused

How do you "suspend" a presidential campaign in which absentee ballotting has either begun already or is about to begin? Is that fair to voters?

An Oberver's Timeline of Today's Events

A commenter at fivethirtyeight.com, shadowguidex, summarizes events nicely, clearly ascribing to the political cynicism explanation of this nonsense (which I do as well):
1) Economic crisis
2) McCain intends to vote against the bailout to say he has distanced himself from Bush, but discretely he is hoping against hope that the bill will pass without his vote.
3) The democrats in congress stated behind closed doors that without McCain's AYE vote, this bill will not pass. they aren't going to let him play plotics on the issue, the entire congress needs to have some unanimity in this.
4) McCain holds out, knowing he can't vote against it or it dies, and he can't vote yes because it will sink his campaign.
5) Obama presses the congressional position directly to McCain in an attempt to shore up support for the bailout. He offered a chance for both candidates to express their support without taking partisan advantage of either position, and to show solidarity.
6) McCain's campaign knew that they have to support the bailout, as opposing it will be catastrophic. However, allowing Obama to take the lead won't play well for McCain, so he agrees to accept the joint statement that congressional democrats are demanding.
7) McCain tries to preempt Obama on the issue to seize on the spotlight and take the mantle of leadership on the issue, even though he was really grudgingly going along. He makes the bold moves of offering to suspend the campaign and postponing the debates to further his attempts to seize on the leadership.
8) Obama destroys McCain's leadership grab in the press conference by showing it was HIM that offered McCain the joint statement offer, and that McCain jumped the gun by making unilateral moves well beyond what they had discussed. Obama intends to carry on the campaign and the debates.

Both men have gambled greatly in the last 24 hours, but McCain got a worse flop that Obama. In the end, I prognosticate that the debates will go forward, and McCain's unilateral ad suspension will end on Saturday, sharp! Ending it before then makes him seem a waffler, and not showing up at the debates makes him seem a coward, particularly since all public opinion seems to indicate that we the people want the debates to go forward. Corner, meet McCain holding a brush.

Books will be written about the events of the last 24 hours.

Color Me Confused

If the bailout package is such a "crushing emergency", why is McCain going forward with his appearance at Bill Clinton's conference tomorrow?

Oh, he also had time to meet with Lady Lynn de Forester de Rothschild de Whatever and get interviewed by Katie Couric. Some crisis!

"That's Why It's Called the Hardest Job in the World"

Seth Grahame-Smith:
Real leaders don't have the luxury of taking time outs, Senator McCain. They're supposed to be able to deal with a wide array of problems, all at once. Especially when they're President. That's why it's called "the hardest job in the world."

Lincoln ran for office during the Civil War. Reagan ran at the height of the Cold War. Bush ran with two wars raging in Afghanistan and Iraq. But McCain can't run during a crisis on Wall Street?

Kind've makes you wonder what his multitasking threshold is, and what else he'd "suspend" or "postpone" when the going got tough.

Maybe he'd just hand it all over to Sarah Palin.

Obama: "Part of the President's Job to Deal with More than One Thing at Once"

Yep.

He's speaking live now, so no link. He's emphasizing bipartisan cooperation without falling for the bait from the press to attack McCain. But he's also made very clear that he thinks it is more important than ever to have the debates, and did make much the same point I did earlier: the president has to be able to multitask.

Oh, and if Obama is to be believed, McCain blindsided him with the announcement, but Obama classily gave him the benefit of the doubt on it.

Never Mind Palin -- McCain's Latest Stunt Proves *He* is Not Ready for the Presidency

This afternoon John McCain announced that he was suspending his campaign to return to Washington to "deal with the economic crisis", and asked Obama to do the same. He also asked Obama to delay their first debate, scheduled for this Friday.

In my opinion, this is purely a political stunt. For starters, if he really wanted this to be bipartisan, he would have negotiated with Obama in private rather than spring this in the press. Especially since Obama called him this morning trying to arrange a joint statement. If McCain wanted to really show he put the country ahead of politics, he had a golden opportunity.

What he really wanted, in my view, was three things. First, he wanted to upset Obama's apple cart, knowing full well that Obama had little planned for the next three days other than preparing for the debate. Second, he wanted to appear "presidential" and force Obama to look like he was following the leader. And third, he wanted to divert attention away from his imploding campaign, including his caught-red-handed campaign manager.

But let's say I'm wrong and this isn't a cynical move at all; let's suppose that McCain really wants to do this because he thinks it is necessary. What does that really mean? In effect, it tells us that McCain can't deal with his campaign and with his responsibility as a senator at the same time. Even though others run his campaign, and he's not required to do much as a senator in this issue anyway.

The presidency is a difficult, demanding job that often requires the juggling of many different issues. Even, sometimes, juggling multiple crises. If McCain can't deal with his campaign and voting in the senate in the same week, how's he going to handle the presidency?

What if we had a market crisis like this and, at the same time, China decided to start lobbing missiles at Taiwan? Would President McCain drop an email to Chinese leaders asking them to postpone their war, because the president was "busy" and couldn't handle both issues at once?

Bottom line: John McCain has essentially told the world that being president is above his pay grade.

Sorry senator, but this is the 21st century and we need a president who can walk and chew gum at the same time. Frankly, I almost think it would be less embarrassing for McCain if this is a political move.

New York Times Flashback

Since John McCain's inept and floundering campaign is now trying to shoot the messenger by going after the NY Times at every turn, I thought it might be worth a look back to this past January:
Editorial
Primary Choices: John McCain

Published: January 25, 2008

We have strong disagreements with all the Republicans running for president. The leading candidates have no plan for getting American troops out of Iraq. They are too wedded to discredited economic theories and unwilling even now to break with the legacy of President Bush. We disagree with them strongly on what makes a good Supreme Court justice.

Still, there is a choice to be made, and it is an easy one. Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe. With a record of working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation, he would offer a choice to a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field.

We have shuddered at Mr. McCain’s occasional, tactical pander to the right because he has demonstrated that he has the character to stand on principle. He was an early advocate for battling global warming and risked his presidential bid to uphold fundamental American values in the immigration debate. A genuine war hero among Republicans who proclaim their zeal to be commander in chief, Mr. McCain argues passionately that a country’s treatment of prisoners in the worst of times says a great deal about its character.
It's not the NY Times that has changed -- it's McCain.

Will McCain's Feet be Held to the Fire on the Bailout?

Many folks, including me, have expressed concern that the Republicans might try to ram this bailout package through, then have McCain blame the Democrats for "selling out the taxpayers" or whatever. (Cynical and stupid, but then what hasn't been in McCain's campaign?)

Anyway, seems there is at least a good chance that Congress isn't going to let this happen:

"If McCain doesn't come out for this, it's over," a Top House Republican tells ABC News.

A Democratic leadership source says that White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has been told that Democratic votes will not be there if McCain votes no -- that there is no deal if McCain doesn't go along.

McCain, taking questions from the traveling media today for the first time in 40 days, said he doesn't yet know how he will vote on the bailout.

But when he was asked by ABC News' Ron Claiborne what he would do if the fate of the bill was in his hands, he said Senate Democrats should not use his vote as the determining factor on the success of the bill.

"This issue should be - and their vote should be determined in how we can resolve this crisis and get America going again," McCain said.

...

Some senior Democrats on Capitol Hill have voiced concern that McCain will continue to oppose the Bush administration's plan as a way to position himself as a critic of Wall Street and the Bush Administration.

If McCain doesn't vote for the legislation, other Republicans might follow suit, leaving the Democratic-led majority to fight in Congress to pass the risky bailout plan.

However a Democratic congressional leadership source tells ABC News' Jake Tapper that Paulson went so far as to assure Democratic leaders that McCain "won't be a problem" -- in other words that McCain will vote for the proposal.

Wow, maybe the Dems really are wising up.

Bill Clinton Explains his Views on Obama

Last night Bill Clinton was on The Daily Show and Jon Stewart directly asked him about the concerns many have that he's not "showing enough love" towards Obama. To his credit, the former president did a good job of explaining that he focuses on the issues and not the personalities, because he believes that this is what the election is about.

Clinton's never been very honest, but at least when he lies he does it well enough to be believed, so hopefully voters will.

CNN Anchor Accuses McCain of Sexism and Chauvinism for Shielding Sarah Palin from the Media

As we progress through the fourth week that Sarah Palin has been John McCain's running mate still without any meaningful media interaction with her, the attacks on McCain's protectionism of his VP choice have been increasing in number and intensity. So far McCain has done a pretty good job of deflecting or ignoring these criticisms, most of which tried to argue either that McCain had an ethical obligation to provide access to Palin (he does) or that he was hiding her because she's not ready or able to answer tough questions (he is, because she isn't).

This line of attack, however, will be much more difficult for McCain to ignore: CNN anchor Campbell Brown directly accusing the senator of sexism in demanding special treatment for Sarah Palin:
"Tonight I call on the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment," said Brown. "This woman is from Alaska for crying out loud. She is strong. She is tough. She is confident. And you claim she is ready to be one heart beat away form the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff. Allow her to face down those pesky reporters... Let her have a real news conference with real questions. By treating Sarah Palin different from the other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves. Free Sarah Palin. Free her from the chauvinistic chain you are binding her with. Sexism in this campaign must come to an end. Sarah Palin has just as much a right to be a real candidate in this race as the men do. So let her act like one."
Right on all counts, of course, and McCain has opened himself up to this by whining falsely about "sexism" towards Palin whenever it was convenient for him.

The US Dollar's Collapse -- "In Context"

In my post Another Vote of No Confidence from the World, I showed how the US dollar had tanked over the prior week, showing what international investors thought of how we were handling our affairs. A reader took me to task for this, claiming that I should have shown the move in greater context.

Well, the point was the reaction to the financial crisis, but fine. Here's what the US dollar index has done during the Bush presidency:



I think that should be sufficient "context" for anyone with even an ounce of objectivity.

Dairy Farmers in Trouble

Dairy farms do not make up a large percentage of the GDP of my small state of Vermont, but they are an essential part of its culture. And dairy farmers are hurting:

Milk prices are projected to fall in the next couple of months just as grain and fuel costs rise. Experts say it might be difficult to make much money on the farm this winter.

...

Diane Bothfeld of the Vermont Agriculture Agency says farmers' balance sheets don't look very promising.

(Bothfeld) "We really are getting to the point where the price to be paid out in October and November will probably dip below a farmer's just plain operating cost, no return on investment, no profitability. ... We're going to see a tough times in the last few months of 2008 for dairy farmers.''

(Sneyd) Right now, just to paid for feed and fuel, it costs a dairy farmer almost $17 for every 100 pounds of milk he or she produces. That's what economists project the farmers will be paid for that same 100 pounds of milk this winter.

Farmers will still have to pay their utility and labor costs, so they may have to take a loss, at least for part of the year.

The situation is worse for organic farmers. Their feed prices are two to three times higher than what it costs a conventional farmer.

UVM Extension already knows of a couple of organic farmers who've quit the business. And a handful have moved back to conventional farming because they can't keep up with the costs.

I'm sure farmers everywhere are under the same pressures. Just an unfortunate sign of the times.

Troy Davis Execution Stayed by SCOTUS

The execution of Troy Davis was stayed by the US Supreme Court two hours before he was scheduled to be put to death last night. Here's hoping that at least he will get a fair hearing -- as will the many witnesses who have recanted.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Enjoyed the US Being a Global Laughingstock for the Last Eight Years? Ready for Four More?

Sigh:

Karzai got a laugh when he mentioned later that Palin had been on his appointment book, along with Rice and the Norwegian prime minister.

"I found her quite a capable woman. She asked the right questions on Afghanistan," Karzai told the Asia Society.

The event's moderator, Thomas Freston, then drew loud applause and laughter when he responded: "You're probably the only person in the room who's met Gov. Palin."

The Palin pick alone is enough to make McCain deserve to lose this election badly. He also deserves the destruction of reputation he has earned by choosing her. A sad legacy for a formerly decent guy.

Newsweek Confirms the NY Times Rick Davis Story

So much for the howls of outrage from John McCain and his sniveling weasel of a campaign chair. This is particularly lovely:
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].
(Emphasis mine.) McCain claims he's going to "clean up Washington" while he proves how corrupt and lacking in judgment he is on a daily basis now. He's running around trying to link Obama to this mess with the silliest of "six degrees of separation" rationales, while his own campaign manager was selling his access to these very firms? How the hell can anyone who claims to be conservative vote for this guy?

Oh, and here's what he said about Davis before this story broke:
When asked about his own campaign manager's associations with the mortgage giants, McCain, in an interview with CNBC Sunday night, said that Davis "has had nothing to do" with the Homeownship Alliance since it disbanded and "I'll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it."
You'll be "glad"? Really? Does that mean that, for once, we'll be spared your petulant whining about how the "media is out to get you" -- which constantly reminds me of one of my sons trying to blame his brother instead of taking responsibility for his own actions? Yeah, I know, probably not.

NY Times: McCain's Campaign Manager Received $15,000 Per Month from Freddie Mac - Even During Election Campaign

So Rick Davis wants to whine like a baby about how "biased" the NY Times is? They're not going to be bullied by him, and hey, they don't need to be biased when the facts are on their side:
WASHINGTON — One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.

The disclosure undercuts a statement by Mr. McCain on Sunday night that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had had no involvement with the company for the last several years.

Mr. Davis’s firm received the payments from the company, Freddie Mac, until it was taken over by the government this month along with Fannie Mae, the other big mortgage lender whose deteriorating finances helped precipitate the cascading problems on Wall Street, the people said.

They said they did not recall Mr. Davis’s doing much substantive work for the company in return for the money, other than speak to a political action committee of high-ranking employees in October 2006 on the approaching midterm Congressional elections. They said Mr. Davis’s firm, Davis & Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of Mr. Davis’s close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.
McCain's propaganda campaign (I'm no longer calling it a presidential campaign) seems to shoot itself in the foot on a daily basis now. I'm sure the spin on this one will be MOST amusing.

Thank John McCain

Thank John McCain

Gee, is the AP Losing Patience with Palin?

I wonder:
Palin lawyer meets with investigator in probe

By MATT VOLZ – 23 hours ago

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Less than a week after balking at the Alaska Legislature's investigation into her alleged abuse of power, Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday indicated she will cooperate with a separate probe run by people she can fire.
Not exactly subtle. :)

Andrew Sullivan's Wordless Yet Accurate Commentary on Sarah Palin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

:)

Is Tucker Bounds THE Most Annoying Talking Head in History?

Probably not, but he's up there. The guy has a constant smarmy look on his face and can never, ever, ever answer a question honestly.

Amusing comment I read:
Is this learned behavior or is it hereditary?

Tucker: "Tucker, Jr., have you finished your homework?"

Tucker, Jr: "Well, Dad, I think a more important question is, have Barack Obama's kids finished their homework? Because John Mc Cain is such a family man, all of his kids have graduated and are no longer burdened by the rigors of homework. That's the kind of reform this country needs. That's why he's ahead in the polls, Dad."

Something is Up With Biden and the Clintons

I dunno what it is, but something is going on. I can feel it in my bones. Just look at the behavior of Biden and the Clintons of late. Something is just not right.

Biden has always had a tendency to gaffe, but he knows what's at stake here and he's just making too many gaffes too frequently. Today he made a truly boneheaded comment about coal that serves no purpose. And the comment about Hillary Clinton being a better VP than he? It just doesn't make sense.

As for Senator Clinton herself, she pledged to do everything she could to help Obama win, but so far has done almost nothing. Everyone (including me) expected her to be a big asset in fighting back against Palin, but she's said nothing about her, and in fact canceled a planned appearance a few days ago when it turned out both she and Palin would be attending, which she hadn't been told in advance. She says Obama doesn't want her to talk about Palin. Why? Are they avoiding this for some reason I can't see? Saving it for later? What?

Finally, the biggest mystery of all: Bill Clinton. He gave a good speech, almost seeming genuine -- but he's been rather lackluster in his comments about Obama since then. He met with Obama two weeks ago and said he thinks Obama will "win handily", but then has gone out of his way to make nice comments about both McCain and Palin, leading again to accusations that he wants Obama to lose because of what happened with Hillary. This is dumb behavior, and Bill Clinton is no dummy.

Obviously I don't really know what the deal is here. But the behavior of these three is getting so odd that I am at the point of hoping there is some sort of big surprise move, because the alternative is that Obama has lost message discipline with three of his most important surrogates.

McCain's Selfish War on the Media to Protect Palin Reaches Ridiculous New Heights

Now he's covering for her at the UN:

There's a battle going on right now over how the networks will be allowed to cover Sarah Palin's big day of visits in NY with world leaders. Palin is scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai shortly, followed by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and then with McCain advisor, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The networks had arranged for a "pool" camera- one camera to cover the meetings, whose video would be pooled or shared with all networks. Such arrangements are standard when dealing with intimate high-level meetings between leaders and candidates. But typically, along with cameras, there is an editorial presence-- at least one print reporter, one TV reporter and one radio reporter is standard. Today, the McCain campaign had said it would allow only one editorial person inside. Now, the campaign is saying it wants only the camera inside with no editorial presence. All of the networks are objecting. Stay tuned.

Later there was an update:
Word has come in that a CNN producer WILL be allowed to accompany the camera at these meetings. This issue appears to be resolved.
"Resolved"? My ass! This entire situation is assinine. Oh hell, Andrew Sullivan already said it well enough:

The press is beginning to resist the incredibly sexist handling of Palin by the McCain campaign. There is a simple point here: any candidate for president should be as available to press inquiries as humanly possible. Barring a press conference for three weeks, preventing any questions apart from two television interviews, one by manic partisan Sean Hannity, devising less onerous debate rules for a female candidate, and then trying to turn the press into an infomercial for the GOP is beyond disgraceful.

Fight back, you hacks! Demand access. Demand accountability! It's our duty. If we cannot ask questions of a total newbie six weeks before an election in which she could become president of the country, then the First Amendment is pointless. Grow some!

The people who support McCain doing this are traitors to this nation.

What is the Deal with Biden?

I've defended the guy here more than once, and I know he means well and is trying hard, but some of the stuff he says.. hoo boy. This time, he criticized his own ticket's ads in an interview with Katie Couric.

Is he really this bad at controlling his mouth? I dunno, but if he is, he needs to be slapped upside the head a bit. His behavior of late has been so odd that it keeps reminding me of my still-not-forgotten Hillary Screen Pass Theory. :)

Can This Country Afford Four Years of a Senile President?

McCain is getting scarier by the week -- this time, mixing up the SEC and the FEC -- and it's taking far too long for people to notice.

Good thing that if he becomes incapacitated that he has a moderate, honest, experienced VP as backup, right? Right?! *sigh*

George Will: McCain as "Queen of Hearts"

Thank the heavens for honest conservatives like George F. Will, who still understand what conservatism really means and have the integrity and bravery to stand up to the madness currently taking over the GOP:
Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does."

...

In any case, McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- 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. McCain's Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law's restrictions on campaigning. Today, his campaign is creatively finding interstices in laws intended to restrict campaign giving and spending. (For details, see The Post of Sept. 17, Page A4; and the New York Times of Sept. 20, Page One.)

...

The political left always aims to expand the permeation of economic life by politics. Today, the efficient means to that end is government control of capital. So, is not McCain's party now conducting the most leftist administration in American history? The New Deal never acted so precipitously on such a scale.

...

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?

Pretty much says it all. Too bad most Republicans are either too stupid to listen, have sold out to the fringe religious nutbars, or only care about retaining power -- whatever that takes.

My fervent hope is that McCain loses -- badly -- and this causes the GOP to take a good hard look at itself, get rid of the warmongering neocons like Bush and McCain, tell the Christaliban wackos to take a hike, and come back as a party that is actually conservative.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Are the Republicans Setting Up the Democrats on the Bailout?

The theory being put forth is that the GOP is going to get the Democrat-controlled house to cooperate with Bush on the "emergency, must-do-now" bailout, then have McCain use this as a cyncial wedge issue to demonstrate his "maverickitude":

Think of this as like one of those periodic votes on raising the public debt limit. It has to pass, of course, but there's zero percentage in supporting it for any one individual. The speculative costs of the legislation actually failing are completely intangible and ultimately irrelevant, while the costs it will impose are tangible and controversial from almost every point of view. For McCain and other Republicans, voting "no" on Paulson without accepting the consequences of that vote is the political equivalent of a bottomless crack pipe: it will please the conservative "base," distance them from both Bush and "Washington," and let them indulge in both anti-government and anti-corporate demagoguery, even as Democrats bail out their Wall Street friends and big investors generally. You simply can't imagine a better way for McCain to decisively reinforce his simultaneous efforts to pander to the "base" while posing as a "maverick."

Democrats are right to demand significant substantive concessions before offering their support for the Paulson Plan. But just as importantly, they need to demand Republican votes in Congress, including the vote of John McCain. If this is going to be a "bipartisan" relief plan, it has to be fully bipartisan, not an opportunity for McCain to count on Obama and other Democrats to save the economy while exploiting their sense of responsibility to win the election for the party that let this crisis occur in the first place.

The Democrats do have a history of being sufficiently politically inept as to fall for this sort of thing.

Sarah Palin is a Lying, Dishonorable Bitch

Sorry it's come to this, but she's pushed the envelope enough to where it must finally be said. Sarah Palin isn't just inexperienced or clueless or a bit nasty: she's a bitch. To wit:
Governor Sarah Palin accused “Obama-Biden Democrats,” of launching a series of unfair attacks against she and her family in a fundraising email sent to supporters Monday.

“Friends, in the course of a few weeks, the Obama-Biden Democrats have launched attack after attack on me, my family and John McCain,” Palin writes in the email. “They’re desperate to win and they’ll no doubt launch these attacks against other reformers on our ticket.”

Watch: Obama says discussion of Sarah Palin's family is 'off-limits'

...

“We must stop them,” Palin writes, “…before they turn these shameful tactics on others we support.”

Earlier this month when Obama was asked about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, the Illinois senator repeated previous calls that “people’s families are off-limits.”

“This shouldn’t be part of our politics,” Obama said “It has no relevance to show Governor Palin’s performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president.”

Well, it was nice of CNN to save me the trouble of pointing out that not only has Obama never said a bad word about her family, he went out of his way to defend her family. And even a nice link, too.

Sarah Palin is a dishonorable, shameless liar -- no wonder McCain called her his "soulmate". (Isn't there some commandment that covers this sort of thing?)

McCain Camp Flailing Wildly at Media, Attacking NY Times, etc.

This is getting embarrassing.

Bush's Legacy

Read it and weep, George.

Uh, Obama Needs to Work on This

This is a "word cloud" someone did on a speech Obama recently gave. Uh, there's a bit of a problem in it.


Now don't get me wrong. I do realize that this was done deliberately to make Obama look bad, since normally those sort of "pause sounds" aren't included in a speech transcript. And I also know that when he does that it means he's thinking, and I'd much rather have a president who says "uh" and thinks than one who does neither.

But it sounds bad. It makes Obama seem not so much thoughtful as unsure. I really hope this is something he and his team are working on in prep for the debate this Friday.

Another Vote of No Confidence from the World

This is what the world thinks of how we are handling our economic affairs right now.

This is the price we will pay. Our children and grandchildren will pay much more.

By the way, gold is up another $30 an ounce today, and oil spiked a record $25 a barrel before falling back before the close.

Could it Be? Democrats Have Actually Learned from Their Mistakes? I Sure Hope So.

Democrats are starting to fight back against the Bush administration's attempts to ram a huge bailout package through Congress with virtually no strings attached for the recipients, and the mistakes made after 9/11 have been specifically cited as a reason why:
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says he’s seen this movie before: The Bush administration, citing an unprecedented national threat, puts the hammer on Congress to ram through gargantuan legislation with a minimum of review — and the murkiest of repercussions.

“We will do something this week — but if we learned anything from right after 9/11, it’s that the biggest mistake is to pass anything they ask for just because it’s an emergency,” Leahy says.

...

“They can’t get away with what they did in 2001,” Leahy said. “This will be ‘trust but verify.’ The biggest mistake they can make is holding a press conference while we’re negotiating to say there’s going to be a worldwide depression if Congress doesn’t do exactly what we want them to.”

...

"We will not simply hand over a $700 billion blank check to Wall Street and hope for a better outcome. Democrats will act responsibly to insulate Main Street from Wall Street,” Pelosi said. "As we proceed to deal with this crisis, this is clear recognition that the party is over for the Bush administration's anything goes, failed economic policies that have damaged our economy, undermined the middle class and further pointed out the need for a new direction."
Wow. Do they Democrats actually have spines after all? Stay tuned.

Palin's Rape Kit Story Now Linked from Front Page of CNN

The blogosphere covered this over a week ago, but the more people that read about it among the general public, the better.

McCain's Mental State Boggles Once Again

From 60 Minutes last night:
Pelley: You're not an expert on the economy. Senator Obama is not an expert on the economy. So let me ask you what traits would you bring to the Oval Office that would help navigate this country out of the current emergency?

McCain: Never complain, but maybe I can explain. That statement about me and the economy was made in the context of a long conversation. Moral of the story is, don't have long conversations, especially with 60 Minutes. Point is, no seriously, is that I understand the economy as chairman of the Commerce Committee, which oversights all of the commercial aspects of America's economy. I've been involved in these issues for many, many years. I know the economy. I know how to fix it.

McCain has been reduced to blithering bullshit like "Trust me, I know X, I know how to fix X" on every subject. What the hell is he even talking about any more? Does anybody know? Does he?

The GOP Leads a "Socialist" Bailout

Funny how the Republicans love to label Democrats as "socialists" but have no problem being even worse in that regard when necessary to save their corporate masters:

"I'm always for less regulation," John McCain, March 3, 2008

"Casual oversight by regulatory agencies in Washington" is responsible for the crisis, John McCain, Sept. 17, 2008

Which is it, Sen. McCain: regulation or deregulation?

If a liberal Democratic administration had put hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money at risk by bailing out Bear Stearns and nationalizing American International Group (AIG), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, wouldn't conservatives accuse Democrats of "socialism"? Can Mr. McCain now square a circle by calling himself a conservative while favoring increased regulation?

...

Now I know what former Sen. Gary Hart meant when he told an audience of wealthy Republican businessmen during his 1984 presidential campaign, "I know why you are conservatives -- you favor private enterprise for the poor and socialism for the rich."

...

Mr. Obama will trigger the great liberal versus conservative debate so long needed in this campaign. Is government our friend or enemy? Can the private market always be trusted? What is the best mix of regulation and private enterprise? Who pays? Who wins? Who loses?

That debate is long overdue. If it occurs, the American people will be the winners, whoever wins the election.

McCain-Palin Media Avoidance Watch, Continued

This should be front page news at every media outlet, every day until this crap stops. But I guess a blog at ABC is better than nothing:

It's been 24 days since Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was introduced to the nation as Sen. John McCain's choice to be a heartbeat away from leadership of the Free World. And though McCain reassures all skeptics that Palin -- who got her first passport two years ago -- is "absolutely" prepared to be president, the way campaign officials have protected her from her press corps does not necessarily suggest that they hold her ability to handle such a routine event -- a press conference -- in high regard.

The Washington Post editorialized yesterday about this, writing that "McCain's selection of an inexperienced and relatively unknown figure was unsettling, and the campaign's decision to keep her sequestered from serious interchanges with reporters and voters serves only to deepen the unease. Mr. McCain is entitled to choose the person he thinks would be best for the job. He is not entitled to keep the public from being able to make an informed assessment of that judgment. Ms. Palin's speech-making skills are impressive, but the more she repeats the same stump speech lines, the queasier we get. Nor have her answers to the gentle questioning she has encountered provided any confidence that Ms. Palin has a grasp of the issues."

McCain himself was once the most accessible presidential candidate in modern history; he once pledged to hold weekly news conferences if elected president. But he himself has gone 40 days without taking questions from his press corps, his last media availability having been on August 13 in Birmingham, Michigan.

If all we get are speeches, hand-selected crowds and staged interviews, we are being subjected not to a presidential campaign, but to a propaganda campaign. Our nation is being sold a bill of goods, and millions of Americans are showing themselves stupid enough to buy it.