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"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy

Politics 2008 Archives

February 9, 2012
BLOG: Links 2/9/12

I should do roundups like this more often of the stuff I do on Twitter.

-Jose Reyes' hair sells for $10,200 in charity auction. The hair will play SS for the Mets.

-I largely agree with Victoria and with John McCain about Syria; the US has much stronger case for taking sides in Syria than it did in Libya.

-Looking back at the sad death of Ron Luciano.

-The one thing that's really booming in this economy - despite the best efforts of liberal activists and the Obama Administration to the contrary - is domestic oil and gas production. Frack, baby, frack!

-Science fail: an Oklahoma state Senator is apparently unaware that baby-making requires both a sperm & an egg.

-Yeah, sure, and being against Nazis is just what Elie Wiesel does to feel young & virile again. It is true that older people overestimate recurrence of the troubles of their youth. Ascribing this to "testosterone" is juvenile.

-Yet another "better Romney argument than Romney is making" column, this one with good ideas from Jim Pethokoukis. Call it a Prospectus for America.

-Dan Abrams debunks some of the myths around Citizens United.

-Then: "core symbol of right-wing radicalism" Now: Democratic mainstream. We always knew a lot of the anti-war stuff was just partisanship. Of course, unlike Greenwald, I regard this as a good thing for the country.

-Elvis Andrus focused on getting better. This seems like a unique goal to have.

-It's not even remotely inconsistent for Mitt Romney to profit from something while saying it should not be compulsory.

-John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign is still spending money, even though it's in debt to taxpayers.

-The media's blind spot on religious liberty.

-Vin Scully on not retiring.

-I'd forgotten that, for idiosyncratic reasons, Reagan actually won the popular vote in the GOP primaries in 1968.

-The Wilpons try to get the Supreme Court interested in reversing a decision in the Madoff litigation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 AM | Baseball 2012-13 • | Blog 2006-13 • | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2012 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
December 30, 2008
POLITICS: Detroit Is Still Burning

The marvelous Matt Labash has a lengthy profile of Detroit that's both hilarious and heartbreaking. (H/T) On a macro level, conservatives tend to laugh at Detroit as being the Zimbabwe of American cities, a place where all of the worst pathologies of political, economic and cultural liberalism have been allowed to run wild for decades with predictably ghastly results, yet the city's incompetent and kleptocratic political class is perpetually insulated from accountability by an impenetrable wall of race-mongering. The Reagan Revolution, the reformist governorship of John Engler, the Gingrich/Clinton welfare reforms, the economic booms of 1983-89, 1995-99, and 2003-06...all of these helped put temporary brakes on the downward spiral at times but none did anything to alter the fundamental dynamics that have kept the city stuck in a permanent reverse gear. Detroit's residents, like Chicago's, truly have the government they want and deserve.

And yet, as is often true of the truly wrecked places of the world, on an individual level the human tragedies of the place are still worthy of our pity even as they overwhelm even the most optimistic among us (Detroit is almost certainly too far gone to be revived by a Rudy Giuliani or Bobby Jindal type, not that any is on the horizon). Labash combines horrifying statistics with heart-rending anecdotes to bring home precisely how bad things have gotten, and to pay tribute to the Detroiters who still battle the blaze. It's a must-read.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:12 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
December 29, 2008
BLOG: Dave Barry Does 2008

The annual year in review column, always a must-read. January alone contains the most concise summary ever of the Obama campaign, while May contains a concise summary of how John McCain spent the months between wrapping up the nomination and the end of the Democratic race.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:06 PM | Blog 2006-13 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
December 21, 2008
POLITICS: King Arthur's Daughter

I am torn on the issue of Caroline Kennedy being appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill out Hillary Clinton's term. On the one hand, as a New Yorker, I'm appalled. On the other hand, as a Republican, this is the best thing that could possibly happen short of Gov. Paterson deciding he likes the ring of "Senator Spitzer."

Kennedy is one of scores of wealthy Democrats in this state who have never held public office or accomplished really all that much in the public or private sector; all she has is her family name. That the Democrats are even considering her tells me that they've basically fallen into one of two dangerous delusions:

(1) That it's the 1930s again and all you need is a D next to your name to win;
(2) That Obama's victory proves that glamor and celebrity are more important than experience, accomplishments or a substantive platform.

I don't think much of David Paterson, but I'd have thought he has more backbone and independence than to let Kennedy's base (the media and the Obama camp) bully him into choosing such a poor candidate rather than the other available options, all of whom have more political experience and, frankly, all of whom would pay more (public) political dividends to Paterson, himself an accidental Governor who has yet to receive a mandate from the public.

Now, it is far too late in the game for either party to object on principle to political dynasties, given the scores of political families in this country (few states are without at least one major one). Nor is it wholly a bad thing - we accept politics as a family business for the same reason why we accept Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey jr., Jakob Dylan, Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson...every business is a family business, and the children of the pros do often learn things early. But of course, legacy politics has also given us more than its share of brain-dead empty suits like Bob Casey and Linc Chaffee who could never, ever have gotten elected to public office on their own. And this is still a democracy; even if we're willing to vote for second or third generation politicos, they still need to prove that they can run the gauntlet of seeking public approval first (George W. Bush, for example, cut his teeth working for his dad's campaigns but had no public office until he was elected to one by the people of Texas). The idea of just handing office to a 51-year-old who has never, so far as I can tell, accomplished anything in the practice of law or in politics simply because of her famous name is repugnant.

On the other hand, the GOP actually has a pretty strong candidate in Pete King, and Kennedy is about the worst possible matchup to a pugnacious Long Island Irishman with a blue-collar edge. She has no separate and distinct geographic or ethnic base, other than perhaps her gender, and it's sad that modern feminism's political icons seem to be women who only got jobs because of who their husbands or fathers are. She can't match King's long record in office and his many years sparring on the political talkers, nor his common touch. Kennedy would start out with pole position against King purely on party identification, but from there that's all she has - her nomination would be the ultimate example of what we have seen a lot of the last month, the hubris of Democrats who think they can never lose what they only just won.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:04 AM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2010 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
December 15, 2008
POLITICS: Planned Unparenthood

Ross Douthat looks at myth and reality regarding Planned Parenthood's abortion business.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:17 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: So Much For New York's Famously Low Taxes

Via Shannon Bell: David Paterson is planning to join the roll of tax hiking Democratic governors with $4 billion in new tax hikes, including consumption taxes and, less objectionably, raising fees for government services, but, to Paterson's credit, not hiking income tax rates. On the spending side, Paterson is proposing some tough cuts - to Medicaid and education - but also expanding other areas of state spending like welfare and health insurance:

The most significant move was a proposed increase to welfare grants for the first time in 18 years, though more money would not be made available until the beginning of 2010. The administration plans to seek a 30 percent increase over three years, with the eventual cost of the increase exceeding $100 million a year.

The basic welfare grant would eventually rise to $387 a month from $291 for a family of three, or $3,492 per year, where it has remained since 1990.

That the administration was pushing the measure foretold how little money was available this year; the increased welfare grants will have little impact on the budget for the coming fiscal year, which ends in March 2010.

The administration also said it would expand a state-financed health insurance program, Family Health Plus, to cover 19- and 20-year-olds who no longer live with their parents. Enrolling in such programs would also be made easier by, among other things, ending requirements for face-to-face interviews.

As the NY Times notes, Paterson will likely come under pressure from Democrats, especially in the Assembly, to add income tax hikes on the same New York taxpayers also being targeted by Democrats at the national and city levels, and to drop the spending cuts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
December 8, 2008
POLITICS: Obamises Watch - The Economy

Flip - October 7, 2008:

Brokaw: Sen. Obama, time for a discussion. I'm going to begin with you. Are you saying to Mr. Clark (ph) and to the other members of the American television audience that the American economy is going to get much worse before it gets better and they ought to be prepared for that?

Obama: No, I am confident about the American economy.

Score - November 4, 2008:

In Next Year, Economy Will...
TotalObamaMcCainOther/No Answer
Get Better (47%)61%38%1%
Get Worse (23%)43%54%3%

Flop - December 6, 2008:

MR. BROKAW: On this program about a year ago, you said that being a president is 90 percent circumstances and about 10 percent agenda. The circumstances now are, as you say, very unpopular in terms of the decisions that have to be made. Which are the most unpopular ones that the country's going to have to deal with?

PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, fortunately, as tough as times are right now--and things are going to get worse before they get better--there is a convergence between circumstances and agenda.

If you had "32 days" in how long that one would last past Election Day: time to cash in. Funny thing about this "new politics": it seems so...familiar.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:05 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)
December 5, 2008
POLITICS: Malkin Talks Sense

Quote of the day, from Michelle Malkin:

I believe Trig was born to Sarah Palin. I believe Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. I believe fire can melt steel and that bin Laden's jihadi crew - not Bush and Cheney - perpetrated mass murder on 9/11. What kind of kooky conspiracist does that make me?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:33 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
December 4, 2008
POLITICS: Life Matters

Ross Douthat looks at why the pro-life cause is doing well among younger voters, and specifically why it's doing much better than opposition to same-sex marriage, which started in a much stronger position and still commands a majority even in liberal states like California.

Of course, if you ask social conservatives which battle they'd rather win, it's no contest; both issues are important to the future functioning of society, but only one of the two is an issue of life and death. If the same-sex marriage fight has sometimes burned brighter in recent years it's only because the battle lines have been more fluid and the assault from the left more intense.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:41 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: An Offer You Can't Refuse

My RedState colleague Jeff Emanuel looks at the health insurance industry's effort to get Congress to make it mandatory to buy their product. Matthew Continetti notes that the corporatist involvement of the industry is a key difference from the landscape that confronted HillaryCare in 1994 (it's much more like the conditions that gave us Bush's Medicare Part D plan in 2003).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:57 PM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 25, 2008
POLITICS: New York Senate Shuffle

So, assuming Hillary Clinton is, in fact, leaving the Senate to become Secretary of State (and assuming, see here, here and here, that she can Constitutionally take the job), that sets off the next round of political merry-go-round for New York: who will be appointed by Governor David Paterson to replace her?

Recall the setting. Hillary was re-elected in 2006, defeating Yonkers Mayor John Spencer; her term would be up in 2012, but Gov. Paterson gets to nominate a replacement, who would then face the voters in a special election in 2010. Gov. Paterson was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 and took over as Governor earlier this year after Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer is up for re-election in 2010, meaning that all three major statewide offices will be on the ballot in 2010, two of the three filled with incumbents who would be facing the voters for the first time, an unusually fluid situation.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:49 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
November 24, 2008
POLITICS: Bizarro World

Who ever thought we'd live to see newspapers describe anyone as reaching out to Republicans by appointing...Hillary Clinton?

Meanwhile, expect some interesting questions for Eric Holder.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Old Deal

Patrick Ruffini notes the disjoint between Democrats' claims to represent youth and new thinking and the hoary old 1970s/1930s ideas they are trotting out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:18 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: This Week In Weed

Apparently, marijuana-selling cafes near schools are too much even for the Dutch, and indeed there is broader concern that the cafes are, predictably, bad news:

The Dutch coffee shop policy has come under fresh criticism after the Dutch cities of Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal, located near the Belgian border, said they will close all their shops within two years to combat drug tourism and crime.

Is this the last hurrah for the land of the Hemp Festival? Perhaps not, as apparently the inevitable result of the continuation of the legal-pot policy is on the way: the government becoming the nation's monopoly dope dealer:

HOLLAND is pioneering cannabis plantations to supply the drug to coffee shops in a bid to cut out criminal gangs.

Dozens of Dutch mayors voted for the scheme at a "weed summit" to discuss how to enforce their relaxed drug laws.

Cannabis can be legally sold at licensed shops and people can carry up to five grams without prosecution. But cultivation and dealing is outlawed, which has created an illicit two billion Euro ...annual trade. The plantations would supply cannabis legally.

Marijuana policy is a slippery thing to get hold of; there's a libertarian case to be made for letting people waste their lives getting high on a drug whose ill effects are more similar to those of booze and cigarettes than to those of crack or meth or heroin, and of course there's the fact that enforcement against such a widely-used and easily-grown substance tends by nature to be arbitrary, invasive, cost-ineffective and shot through with hypocrisy. But legalization, as the Dutch have had time to experience, nonetheless presents its own perils. Personally, I tend to think the issue ought to be left to the most local governments possible, and the Dutch experiment reminds us that a local-control regime can lead even the most libertine communities gradually to wake up and smell the potheads.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:39 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
November 22, 2008
POLITICS: Church and School

Sally Quinn of the Washington Post has a recommendation for the Obamas to choose the National Cathedral as their place of worship that is practically a parody of liberal attitudes towards religion:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:29 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
November 21, 2008
WAR: Anti-U.S. Protest In Iraq

Peaceful protest. Which says it all, really, about how Iraq has changed since the days of Saddam; the fact that this is Sadr's people doing what people in democracies do also tells us how far we've come in the last 2-3 years.

Next you know, they'll be taking the subway. Or sending aid to California. Or this:

More here and here (at pp. 4-6). Unfortunately, instead of giving America credit for what our troops (and our allies) have sacrificed to make this all possible, we will now hear four years of this:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:59 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Media Shocked To Discover How Farming Works

In a perfect emblem of (1) how insular the media really is and (2) the national spotlight that will continue to focus on the Governor of Alaska wherever she goes, Sarah Palin did one of those typical silly ceremonies politicians across the country get asked to take part in, and went and pardoned a turkey in advance of Thanksgiving. But while the President has a turkey brought to him, Gov. Palin went to the turkey, handing down the pardon from a barnyard in Wasilla, then giving a news conference to reporters.

Why did this end up in the national news, including a sneering report on MSNBC? Well, the turkey farm went on with its usual business this time of year of slaughtering turkeys for Thanksgiving tables, and cameras caught a farm employee doing just that in the background while Gov. Palin talked to reporters:

The NY Daily News pronounced this a "shocking video" (you can catch the longer video of the whole pardon ceremony from the NY Post, although the Post's video - via the Anchorage Daily News - has to keep panning away from Gov. Palin to follow the guy slaughtering turkeys).

Folks, this is how farming works: you raise animals, then you kill them and eat them. Here in New York City, we don't get much exposure to the business end of that process, but people across the country who have farmed or hunted know that it's part of life, and has been as long as human beings have been eating animals. It's not a bad thing to have some people in public life who aren't shocked by where our food comes from.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
November 20, 2008
POLITICS: Freezer Burn

Quin Hillyer tells the inspirational story of Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese immigrant who rose up from his youth in re-education camps after the fall of Saigon and lived to survive the decimation of his community in Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of his house in Hurricane Gustav, and is now the Republican challenger to William Jefferson. Cao has an uphill battle; we'll see if the voters in that District are willing to give honest government a chance or if they'll stick with the old loyalty to Jefferson.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:34 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Keep Counting Until You Win

If you want an illustration of why Republicans are so mistrustful of Democratic efforts to recount and recount and keep counting until they can overturn the Election Day results (and then immediately stop counting) - as Al Gore tried unsuccessfully to do, and as Christine Gregoire succeeded in doing in the Washington Governor's race four years ago, look no further than Minnesota and Al Franken's effort to pick off the 59th Democratic Senate seat by invalidating Norm Coleman's Election Day victory.

I haven't covered all the twists and turns of this lawyer-intensive effort, but a few to give you the flavor. Franken has been pressing to have all "undervotes" by Obama voters counted as votes for Franken on the theory that they are Democrats who undoubtedly meant to vote for Franken. The Orwellian name "undervote" aside, these are ballots where there's no vote marked for the race Franken was running in. It was silly to suggest, in 2000, that it was impossible for voters who voted Democrat in other races to have decided they really didn't want to vote either for Bush or for Gore - certainly plenty of voters found both candidates unsatisfactory, and if some of them accidentally forgot to vote, it was possible they meant to vote for Nader (or Buchanan - hey, if people could vote for both Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008, they can surely vote for any number of odd combinations). But it's positively ludicrous to make this argument in this race. First of all, we heard all year about Obama's "historic" appeal and whatnot...now we are supposed to believe that it's impossible that anybody would vote for Obama and not be equally enamored of Al Franken? Second, even losing the state by 11 points, John McCain won 44% of the vote in Minnesota (1.275 million votes) - more than Franken or Norm Coleman, who each got 42% (1.211 million votes). Obviously, a fair number of people on both sides of other races were not as enthused about the two Senate candidates. One reason was that there was a serious third party challenger in the race - Dean Barkley, who got 15% of the vote. A truly accidental undervote could just as easily have been a Barkley voter. This is why it makes sense to count only actual votes as votes.

Then take a look at an example of a Coleman vote that Franken's people say is unclear.

Now, after all that recounting, resulting in improbably large but not sufficient gains for Franken, what's his response? "the Franken campaign said the race starts over today tied 'zero-zero, with 2.9 million to go.'" In other words, no count matters except a count that gives the race to Franken. Repeat as often as necessary to create an excuse to have the count resolved not by Minnesota voters but by the Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate.

On a humorous note, Erick notes that "Franken said that he was 'cautiously optimistic' that he would prevail in the recount," and contrasts that with this quote from one of Franken's books:

Cautiously optimistic? That's not good. That's an optimist's way of saying, "We're screwed." I've instructed my wife that if a doctor ever tells her that he's "cautiously optimistic" about my test results, she is to pull the plug immediately.

Pull away, Al.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 17, 2008
POLITICS: Rove's Road Out

I'm pretty much in agreement with all of Karl Rove's thoughts on rebuilding the GOP, and in fact a fair amount of it overlaps with my Obama Administration Survival Guide. Obviously, Rove's list isn't comprehensive, but it's a start.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Saluting History

Yes, this is the actual picture gracing the back cover of the NY Daily News' "Man of History" special edition:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:20 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 14, 2008
POLITICS: The Kiddie Porn Party?

Honestly, I read things like this post at Ace, and it makes me wonder how Republicans ever manage to win elections. Ace notes two stories about aides to Democratic Senators getting arrested for possession of child porn. My reaction to reading the story about the aide to Barbara Boxer this morning was to think that this was something we Republicans could run with. But really, I couldn't get my head around making this a partisan issue with a straight face. And Ace, who is certainly not above bare-knuckles partisanship, can't really either:

Personally I don't think it's a trend, or indicative of Democratic sexual habits, either. Some people are wired wrong, and it really doesn't matter what philosophy such people embrace -- if they get off on child porn, they're going to get off on child porn.

But I do happen to know for a fact that had these been Republicans, the media would be greatly interested in the "trend."

And therein lies our problem. Most of your major conservative bloggers and pundits are going to point to this sort of thing as a media bias story rather than going for the jugular by accusing the Democrats of all being a bunch of perverts. Because that's exactly how the Left side of the blogosphere plays this sort of game - think of the Mark Foley or Ted Haggard stories in 2006, in Haggard's case a guy most conservative bloggers had to go Google because we'd never heard of him. All you heard was how these particular screwups were emblematic of something larger. People lingered over this stuff, writing about the stories again and again and again. Foley got replaced in Congress with Tim Mahoney, who turned out to have a horribly messy sex scandal of his own involving payoffs to his mistress. We didn't get 24/7 media saturation with Mahoney the way we did with Foley, not even the media looking into what the Democratic House leadership knew and when they knew it. Partly that's because the national media doesn't want to go there, but maybe, in some sense, because our hearts weren't really in making it so. And until that changes, we're still going to have a serious online activism deficit on the Right.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:09 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (53) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Budget By The Numbers

Time for some hard numbers to follow on this post discussing "fiscal conservatism" and provide some historical perspective on the GOP's successes and failures in controlling taxes and spending. Here's the budget presented as a percentage of GDP since 1947, along with the partisan control of the three elected branches. The fiscal year numbers generaly refer to the year after the budget was passed, as discussed below the fold - thus, for example, Reagan was elected in 1980, took office in 1981, and his first budget was Fiscal Year 1982. Given the ongoing nature of appropriations, 2008 and 2009 are still estimated numbers. I left off the estimates for beyond that, since those will be Obama's budgets and nobody knows yet for certain what his budgets or the economy will look like, and anyone who makes any sort of fiscal projections that far ahead has no clue what they are doing. In addition to revenues, spending and the deficit I added in the national debt and expenditures on interest to give some perspective on the impact over time on the budget of deficit spending.

I continue to believe that the number that matters most is spending as a percentage of GDP, which peaked over 20% twice under all-Democrat governance (the first time, on the eve of the GOP wave of the 1952 elections), started booming regularly above 20% after the Democrats got their post-Watergate majorities in Congress (Fiscal Year 1975, actually the budget the year of Watergate before those elections when the White House was prostrate, saw spending spike from 18.7% to 21.3% in a single year) and peaked at 23.5% in the second year of the Reagan defense buildup (and while the economy was still in recession), when the GOP held the White House and the Senate, and bottomed out in 2000, Clinton's second term, when the GOP held both houses of Congress and the economy was riding the dot-com boom. Spending under Bush - driven partly but not wholly by wars and entitlements - crept back up to pre-Gingrich levels, and looks to set new post-1994 highs since Pelosi and Reid took over. One of the lessons of which is the influence of Congress, and specifically the House, on the budget. We're creeping back towards 21% for the first time since the last time we had unified Democratic governance.

As to taxes, fiscal years 1998-2000 under Clinton were the all-time high watermark for the nation's tax burden, peaking at 20.9% of GDP and setting the stage for Bush to run on a tax cut platform. Taxes under Bush bottomed out in the first year of the full Bush tax cuts at 16.4%, the lowest share of GDP since 1951, but have been rising since then with economic growth through FY 2007 (unlike spending, taxes are directly linked to the economy, but the distribution of economic activity still impacts tax receipts). Obviously that will abate with the economy's decline this year.

The deficit, of course, is the number you're familiar with; it peaked the same year as federal spending (FY 1983), dropped by two thirds from FY 2004 to FY 2007, but is rising rapidly again since the GOP Congress left town. The national debt has never really recovered from its sustained growth from FY 1982-FY1996, but lower interest rates have made the costs of that debt much more tractable (which also means that if rates ever return to late-1970s levels, the federal taxpayer is doomed).

Where do we go from here? On spending, the item most directly under political control, I'll be very surprised if we're not above 22% by Obama's second budget (and that's assuming that the checks he plans to cut to non-taxpayers are not counted as "spending"). Tax revenues will probably drop in the next year or two, as the chaos in the financial and housing markets have slashed the tax base, and that's before we get to the impact of rising marginal and investment tax rates.

Anyway, the bottom line here is pretty much what you'd expect: Republicans have had better luck cutting taxes than spending; a GOP Congress and specifically a GOP House is more important to fiscal discipline even than a GOP President (this would be even more dramatic if we looked at the size of the GOP caucus in the House); and unified Democratic governance is a recipe for growth of the federal government across the board.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: No Way To Lose An Election

Sending "suspicious white powder" in the mail.

UPDATE: Mary Katherine Ham has more.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 13, 2008
LAW: The Election and the New York Courts

A look at how the election could affect the state court system.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:37 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: "Fiscal Conservatives" Unclear On The Concept

The Washington Post, looking at the GOP rout in the Northeast, sells the hoary old myth that there is a large and coherent "fiscally conservative and socially liberal" faction that got ignored by the national party:

What happened, say some current and former Republican leaders, is that the national party moved away from the issues of fiscal conservatism, small government and lower taxes. As the base of the party shifted to the South and West, social conservatives and evangelicals moved to the forefront, and issues such as abortion, school prayer and gay marriage took primacy on the national party's agenda -- in the process turning off more moderate voters in this part of the country.

"I'm a Northeasterner. I grew up in New York City," said Christopher Healy, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. "The evangelical members of the party have their issues, and their issues are important to them." But here, he said, "the Northeastern brand of Republican philosophy . . . is based on smaller government and less taxes. We're not interested in what's going on in the bedroom."

Former senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island was the epitome of the moderate-to-liberal northeastern Republican -- strongly pro-choice on abortion, a supporter of gay marriage and stem cell research, an opponent of the war in Iraq. As a fiscal conservative, Chafee opposed President Bush's tax cuts.

I'll leave aside for now the social-issue side of this argument (hey, when did Congress vote on school prayer?), the short answer to which is that smaller government and more federalism is the best way to reassure Northeastern voters that they can support social conservatives nationally without disturbing their own states' social policies at home, and focus on the problem with the use of the term "fiscal conservative": it has no fixed meaning.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
November 11, 2008
BUSINESS: Liar's Poker Folds

I've been waiting for Michael Lewis to write the definitive account of the credit crisis. This is an excellent start.

Here's a few of his vignettes on the housing market madness at the foundation of the crisis, although he has much more on how it worked its way through the financial system:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Holliday On The Road To Fremont

Now, we're starting to get some real activity in the baseball offseason. The big news is a projected, non-finalized blockbuster deal sending Matt Holliday to the A's for a package that reportedly includes Greg Smith, Huston Street and Carlos Gonzalez. I'll try to look at the on-the-field angle once we have a final report of the players involved, but this is an interesting deal from the perspective of analyzing the A's franchise, since it represents the A's doing the big-market thing and packaging young players for an established star, represented by Scott Boras, who is going to command a huge salary on the free agent market after the 2009 season (much like when they acquired Johnny Damon, who promptly had a lousy year and then left). It remains to be seen whether Lew Wolff is planning to pull the trigger on a big contract for Holliday now that the A's are heading for a new stadium and a new city.

On that subject, Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman ran for re-election as a supporter of finally bringing the A's to Fremont by 2012 (his opponent was against the plan), and Wasserman's victory is widely seen as a victory for the new stadium. Wolff sees it that way, and is still hopeful that the park can be ready by 2011:

Despite challenges to building a new baseball stadium, Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff said "we can get it done" in Fremont.

Wolff said Monday at a luncheon of the Associated Press Sports Editors that, "We're getting close to receiving the first drafts of the environmental impact reports," according to ESPN.com. "We've run into lots of things, which every developer does in California."

Some Fremont resident concern about traffic and public transportation access to the project, for example, has dogged the project.

Still, Wolff cited last week's election results in Fremont as a development that broke in his favor. Voters in the city re-elected incumbent Mayor Bob Wasserman, a strong supporter of a plan by the Oakland Athletics to build a $500 million stadium surrounded by 3,150 residential units and enough retail and restaurant space to fill almost nine football fields.

The bad news:

Wolff would change the team's name to the Athletics at Fremont, and the classic brick ballpark, scheduled for completion in 2012, would be named Cisco Field after the computer networking company.

Ugh. I suppose "at" conveys their transience better than "of" ... given the franchise's history, they may as well just call them the Traveling Athletics and be done with it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:14 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: How To Tell The "Culture Wars" Are Not Over

Peter Beinart had an article in the Washington Post the Sunday before Election Day arguing that the culture wars are over; according to Beinart, Sarah Palin was failing to connect with voters because

Palin's brand is culture war, and in America today culture war no longer sells....Although she seems like a fresh face, Sarah Palin actually represents the end of an era. She may be the last culture warrior on a national ticket for a very long time.

Beinart is wrong - completely wrong. We can tell that the "culture wars" are not over because Democrats and liberals are still fighting them. We know culture warriors won't disappear from national politics because one of them just won the presidential election. And if Beinart means that conservatives are losing the culture wars, that's far from a certain bet, and one the Democrats would be ill-advised to take.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:44 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
November 10, 2008
POLITICS: Score Another One For The Palin Critics

Palin with Lieberman

Apparently, according to Newsweek, Gov. Palin refused to appear onstage with a New Hampshire Senator and a New Hampshire Senate candidate because they are pro-choice.

Except that the Senator in question, John Sununu, is pro-life.

And except that the other candidate wasn't running for the Senate (Newsweek may have missed this, but Sununu was up for re-election, so there were not two Republicans running for the job this year).

And except that she did do public appearances with both men.

And except that she did make public appearances with other pro-choicers.

But you know, other than getting basically every possible fact wrong, Newsweek's doing OK there.

(H/T).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (35) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Not Letting Up

For conservatives and Republicans tempted to follow Fred Barnes and lay low a while, just notice what sites like the Huffington Post are up to these days: the #1 topic over at HuffPo right now, by the frequency of tags used, is "Sarah Palin":

HuffPoTags.JPG

The Left will not let up its assault on Gov. Palin for any "honeymoon" period. We on the Right will indeed need both patience and perspective, as Barnes suggests, and elected Republicans will surely need to find some common ground with the new Administration. But we're all adults here; let us not pretend that calls for "unity" are intended to be mutual.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:13 PM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2012 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Palin Push-Back

As has often happened with Gov. Sarah Palin during the campaign, we've had a battery of headlines from a single report, putatively based on an unnamed source, and only later do we get the facts. Let's look at some of the McCain and Palin aides now going on the record to respond:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Daley Thoughts

If you've read my Integrity Gap series on Barack Obama, or lengthier treatments like David Freddoso's book, you will be familiar with what was probably the most scandalously under-reported story of 2008, which is President-Elect Obama's deep and longstanding ties to machine politics in Illinois, most notably to the Daley machine in Chicago. You'll also recognize two other key themes: Obama's ties to politically well-connected housing interests ranging from slumlords like Tony Rezko to Beltway powerhouses like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ACORN, and Obama's practice of providing official favors to his benefactors.

Last week we saw the first sign of these dynamics playing out in Obama's first staff hire, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago pol and former "senior adviser and chief fundraiser" for Mayor Daley who made hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting on Freddie Mac's board during a time when the board was criticized by the SEC for failing to stop the company's accounting irregularities and shady campaign donations. * *

Now, the second act: Obama reportedly wants Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a/k/a "Public Official A" in the Rezko indictment, to appoint as his replacement in the U.S. Senate Valerie Jarrett, the co-head of Obama's transition team. Jarrett, of course, is a former Daley aide and Chicago housing developer who gave Michelle Obama her first big job working for Mayor Daley.

Let's recall Jarrett's involvement in Grove Parc Plaza, one of the conspicuous failures (at least from the perspective of the tenants, rather than the developers) among the housing projects built by Obama's friends:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:21 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
November 9, 2008
POLITICS/WAR: Joe Biden Was Right

...for the first time in decades, in fact, on foreign policy: within the first day after the election, Russia and Iran both rattled their sabers to start testing President-Elect Obama. And an Obama foreign policy adviser reacted immediately by backing down in the face of the Russian statement. (It will be good to have Obama start getting his advisers confirmed so we don't have to keep sifting through his hundreds of foreign policy and economic "advisers" trying to figure out which ones speak for him).

Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Obama. The rest of us have been given no choice but to depend on you.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:03 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
November 7, 2008
POLITICS: No Class

The President-Elect wasted no time kicking Republicans when they're down with his petty, graceless crack today (for which he had to apologize) at the expense of 87-year-old Nancy Reagan, last seen leaving the hospital a few weeks back with a broken pelvis:

Obama was asked at his press conference today if he'd spoken to all the "living" presidents.

"I have spoken to all of them who are living," he responded. "I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any seances."

As Ben Smith notes, Obama's left-wing talking points on this one weren't even accurate. But hey, I guess sneering at the Reagans is "in" again.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (46) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/POP CULTURE: Crichton On The Rags

Patterico goes to the archives with a quote from the late and very much lamented Michael Crichton on why we believe the newspapers even though we know better:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

One of my recurring themes on the media is that the preference for liberal politics - big government, social liberalism, political correctness, disdain of conservatives and the religious - is really only the tip of the iceberg of what is wrong with the mainstream media. The state of sportswriting, business and legal journalism, pretty much anything that gets covered in the papers and on TV is subject not only to political bias but also to a whole host of other individual and institutional biases and prejudices and axes to grind, laziness, sloppiness, failures of substantive knowledge and logical reasoning...the blogosphere has no shortage of flaws of its own, but the fact that so many bloggers have had careers doing things (the law, the military, business, medicine, etc.) means in general that you get a class of people who have substantive knowledge and exposure to more rigorous disciplines than the typical journalist. Crichton, with his medical background, brought that same advantage to his craft as a novelist, and we were richer for his work (I read a whole bunch of his books; my favorites were The Great Train Robbery and Disclosure).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 PM | Politics 2008 • | Pop Culture | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Never Right

Will Collier cautions that conservatives tempted to listen to David Frum should remember his history of making the same arguments - conservatism is doomed, we need to hand over more power from the grassroots to the elites, etc. - in the 1990s, including on the very eve of the great 1994 wave:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:44 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Honeymooner

It's rather poignant to watch the media love-fest over Obama's 'honymoon' period - the fawning over Michelle's pricey fashions, the breathless announcements of how wonderful everything will be as hope soars on clouds of euphoria - and wonder how the Bush presidency would have started if we'd been given a beginning like this, rather than the corrosive and unrelenting assault that consumed his presidency from Election Day 2000 onward. I don't think there's a better metaphor than the NY Daily News running front-page headlines about the Obamas bringing a dog to the White House while Bush's dog Barney bites a Reuters reporter. Victor Davis Hanson: "When I hear a partisan insider like Paul Begala urging at the 11th hour that we now rally around lame-duck Bush in his last few days, I detect a sense of apprehension that no Democrats would wish conservatives to treat Obama as they did Bush for eight years." H/T. Indeed, they expect that we won't; they count on it. Ace, unsurprisingly, is having none of the pleas for unilateral unity:

Sorry, folks. No frakkin' sale. We remember "Jesusland." And stuff like this. And if you have a few hours, scroll through Malkin's "Bush Derangement Syndrome" archive. We remember everything - being called racist warmongers, Christianist nutbags, racists, and all the rest of the vitriol you folks threw at us in your "AAAHHH CHIMPY MCBUSHITLER HALLIBURTON IS THE EVILEST" stage of political development.

You spent the last eight years engaged in a disgusting orgy of divisive political hatred and now you want to play nice and pretend we're all united now? I for one am not going to treat President Obama the way you treated President Bush. That doesn't mean, though, I'm going to just forgive and forget the fact that you've polluted the political landscape with your bile and patchouli-stanking spittle.

I've already said my own bit on how the Right should respond. We certainly should not have any illusions that a good deed today will ever be repaid. And we can all enjoy a laugh at the whiplash on the other side. Goldberg: "Alas, that [dissent is patriotic] standard only works for liberals. When conservatives dissent it's called being 'divisive.'" Lileks: "I'm off to the Mall to sell razor blades so people can scrape off their 'Question Authority' bumper stickers."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Where His Bread Is Buttered

Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's first and most important staff hire as Chief of Staff: on the wrong side of the credit crisis, but the right side for his own pocketbook. Shocking, I know. The good news about making his first pick a hyper-partisan Chicago pol with a scandalous financial past is that it does away with the whole "new politics" pretense right from the outset. Even the NYT notes that "Democrats are second-guessing one of his first and most important post-election decisions: Why is he asking Representative Rahm Emanuel - "Rahmbo," one of the capital's most in-your-face partisan actors - to be his chief of staff?" Obama will be coming for the GOP with the long knives, and Republicans will need to go into that with our eyes open. Washington never changes, after all; only the names change, and so far those aren't changing much either.

Then there's Rahm's plan for compulsory national service. And they said Republicans were the ones plotting to bring back the draft.

On the upside, Emanuel supported the Iraq War:

On Iraq, Emanuel has steered clear of the withdraw-now crowd, preferring to criticize Bush for military failures since the 2003 invasion. "The war never had to turn out this way," he told me at one of his campaign stops. In January 2005, when asked by Meet the Press's Tim Russert whether he would have voted to authorize the war-"knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction"-Emanuel answered yes. (He didn't take office until after the vote.) "I still believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, okay?" he added.

If that signals Obama sobering up on Iraq now that he actually has to govern, all to the good. The nation needs the Democrats to govern responsibly. It's not like the anti-war faction has anywhere else to go, after all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:06 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
November 5, 2008
POLITICS: Emanuel In Or Not In As Chief of Staff

The first major personnel announcement of the new Obama Administration is out, and the word is that Congressman Rahm Emanuel has been offered the post of Obama's chief of staff. The announcement didn't exactly go off smoothly, as this NBC report shows:

From NBC's Andrea Mitchell A senior Obama advisor confirms to NBC News that Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel has accepted the job of Chief of Staff for the Obama White House.

*** UPDATE *** In an email to NBC News, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg denies the reporting that Emanuel has accepted the chief of staff job.

If you're reading tea leaves for what kind of Administration Obama will run, Emanuel does not exactly embody "new politics" and a "post-partisan" future. He's a Chicago Democrat who worked as a "senior adviser and chief fundraiser" (his words) for Mayor Daley and later worked in the Clinton White House, and he's known as a hardball-playing scorched-earth arch-partisan in the Tom DeLay mold. He's been widely seen as a possible future successor to Nancy Pelosi.

Will Emanuel take the job? If his spokesperson is publicly denying that he's taken it, that's basically a public slapdown to Obama's people for jumping the gun in leaking his name, and it's certainly a sign of initial dysfunction in the naming of what is probably the single most important staff position for a new president who will be facing a sharp learning curve as a new executive.

UPDATE: Allahpundit has more background (with links) on Emanuel.

SECOND UPDATE: After the initial fumbling, Politico reports that Emanuel accepts the job.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (58) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: President Obama and the National Pastime

Lester Munson at ESPN has a long and interesting look at what Obama's election means for baseball and the world of sports in general, including his likely strong support for the 2016 Olympics in Chicago:

Japanese Olympic officials already have expressed their concern that Obama could turn the tide in favor of Chicago when the IOC votes in October.

"Mr. Obama is popular and good at speeches, so things could get tough for Japan," said Tomiaki Fukuda, a senior Japanese Olympic Committee board member.

If Sen. John McCain had won the election, the U.S. bid to play host to the 2016 Olympics might have been negatively affected. Many IOC members remember McCain's scathing investigation of the bribery scandal involving IOC members who helped award the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. Two members of the Salt Lake City bid committee were indicted, and McCain's investigation led to major changes in the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Many IOC members remain bitter over McCain's aggressive efforts for reform.

An Olympics in his home city of Chicago in the late summer of 2016 would be a grand finale for an Obama presidency that would be about to wind down if he were re-elected to a second term.

(OK, I didn't have to include that paragraph about McCain, give me more than a day on that reflex...the irony is that the bribery investigation led to Mitt Romney taking over the Salt Lake City Games, which led to Romney's political rise - talk about your chains of unforeseen consequences).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:32 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Other Sports • | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Council of Elrond Reconsidered

Over at RedState yesterday a bunch of us had some Election Day fun with a little tongue-in-cheek geostrategy about the Council of Elrond. A good diversion from a discouraging day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:03 PM | Politics 2008 • | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The 2012 GOP Field (First Call)

As promised, here's my initial thoughts on what the Republican field will look like in four years. Obviously, there are many variables along the way, ranging from how beatable Obama looks to the 2010 midterms; I'm just forecasting with the known knowns we have today. As usual there will probably be 10 or so candidates, but from where we sit today there look to be four slots from which to put together a credible primary campaign:

(1) The Populist Candidate: With its Washington leadership beheaded, the GOP is likely to become more of a populist and culturally conservative party in the next four years. Mike Huckabee showed this year the power and the limitations of a pure populist campaign, far exceeding expectations with nearly no resources or name recognition (although Huck was out of step with the populists on one of the major causes of grassroots frustration with DC, immigration). Against the backdrop of a tax-spend-regulate Obama Administration, a crucial challenge will be squaring populism with the GOP's need to appeal to economic and fiscal conservatives to expand out of the Huck-size niche. Realistically, the populist candidate is likely to end up as the most moderate serious candidate in the field.

As things stand today, Sarah Palin is the obvious populist candidate and, for now, the very-very-early frontrunner for the 2012 nomination, given her now-massive name recognition (the woman's every TV appearance is a ratings bonanza), amazing talents as a retail politician, appeal to the base, and the GOP tendency towards nominating the next in line. Granted, only two candidates in the part century (Bob Dole and Franklin D. Roosevelt) have won a major party nomination after being the VP nominee for a losing ticket (not counting Mondale, who'd already been VP), those two waited 12 and 20 years before doing so, respectively, and recent history has been unkind to those who tried (Edwards 2008, Lieberman 2004 - see also Quayle 2000).

I'll expand another day on the challenges facing Gov. Palin - the short answer is that inexperience is the easiest thing in the world to fix, but she'll have to face tougher budgetary times in Alaska in light of falling oil revenues, she'll have to withstand what is likely to be an ongoing national campaign by the Democrats to take her down or hobble her re-election efforts to cut off the likeliest threat to Obama, and she'll have to develop and sell her own, independent agenda and demonstrate a greater breadth and depth of knowledge on national politics than are required from the running mate slot. Upside in the primaries: the socially conservative, moose-hunting hockey mom could potentially be well-suited to the early GOP primary/caucus electorates in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan.

(2) The Establishment Candidate: The GOP by tradition tends to fall in behind whoever is the candidate of the establishment - of country clubs and boardrooms and Beltway insiders. Part of being a Republican, of course, is having the maturity to understand that being the establishment candidate is not a bad thing. But an angry grassroots is going to take some serious persuading to pick another establishment figure.

The best establishment candidate should be Jeb Bush, for a variety of reasons, but four years won't be enough - if any length of time is - to rebuild the Bush brand within the GOP, let alone the general electorate. That leaves Mitt Romney as the logical next step; Mitt is currently out of office and thus less equipped to get more experience, but he'll have the money and energy to spend four years staking himself out as a consistent conservative voice and putting the distance of time between 2012 and the flip-flop charges of 2008. South Dakota Senator John Thune is also sometimes mentioned, but after 1964, 1996 and now 2008, the GOP has hopefully learned its lesson about nominating legislators for President, especially sitting Senators. Newly re-elected Indiana Governor and former Bush budget director Mitch Daniels (see here and here) will have his name come up but more likely as a VP nominee.

(3) The Full-Spectrum Conservative: The Fred Thompson role from 2008 but one that will pack a lot more potential appeal in 2012. Bobby Jindal is the best of the lot, but while he's already got an impressive resume, Jindal's so young (he's 37, which makes him the age Romney was in 1985), so he can afford to wait out several more election cycles; he's up for re-election in 2011, which makes running in 2012 very problematic; and he really and genuinely wants to stay in Louisiana long enough to make real changes in his beloved home state's legendarily corrupt and dysfunctional political culture. The other main contender for this slot is South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford, now in his second term as Governor after 3 in Congress. SC is the most favorable turf for a candidate of this type among the early primary states, so with Sanford running as a favorite son he could basically block out any other challengers, and if he doesn't run for re-election in 2010 (offhand I don't know whether he's term-limited), he'd have a logistical advantage over Palin, who will presumably still be in office as governor of a geographically remote state.

(4) The National Security Candidate: After four years of Obama, there's also likely to be strong sentiment for adult leadership on national security. Traditionally, the GOP has tended to prioritize this issue (in 2008, both McCain and Giuliani ran primarily as national security candidates). But especially with Senators in disfavor, the supply of candidates with more national security credentials than a typical Governor is short - most of the Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld types in the party will be past their prime by 2012, and I continue to doubt that Condi Rice could be a viable candidate for a multitude of reasons. The name you're likely to hear is CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus, but Gen. Petraeus - who I assume will remain on active duty for another year or two, at least, and who President Obama dare not fire - has no political experience and no known domestic-policy profile (we don't even know if he's a Republican). My guess is that if we nominate a governor in 2012, Gen. Petraeus will be much in demand as a running mate. After that, I'm not sure who will even try to fill this slot in the primaries.

Sorry, but that's the list; the no-more-McCains sentiment among the base will make it impossible for someone like Tim Pawlenty to mount a credible campaign as a moderate, nobody will bother trying to re-create the crippling damage inflicted on Rudy Giuliani from running with a record as a social liberal, and no Ron Paul type candidate (especially Ron Paul) is ever going to make a serious dent. It's those four slots or bust.

And I, for one, am definitely not committing yet to who I'll support as between Palin or a Sanford or Jindal run or maybe somebody else (obviously I'm not a Mitt fan). There's two long years ahead of us before that choice begins to arise.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2012 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Obama Administration Survival Guide

The WildernessThe nation awakens today to a grim day (although less grim than it might have been, as the late Senate races come in and the prognosis for a decent-sized GOP resistance looks much better). But America has endured worse. Here's 12 ways I recommend that conservatives and Republicans prepare to face the next four years under President Obama (yeah, get used to that one):

(1) Oppose Obama, Not America: The absolute wrong way to react to life in the minority is ... well, what we saw from too many people on the Left the past 8 years: calling everyone from the President on down to individual soldiers and Marines war criminals, parroting the propaganda of our enemies, exposing classified national security secrets on the front pages of the newspapers, and generally doing whatever possible to stymie the national defense and convince the nation and the world that America is the bad guy. We're better than that. When Obama fails to act to defend America and its interests and allies, or violates the basic common-sense principles of national security and foreign policy, we will of course be unsparing in our criticism. But we should not emulate the Left; indeed, the day may even come when Obama needs defending from the Left for doing what needs to be done, and we certainly want to encourage him to take actions that provoke that reaction.

(2) No Chicken-Hawking: This is a corollary of #1: given his shaky draft history, Bill Clinton at times appeared afraid of criticism over deploying the military on grounds that he didn't serve. We should never make Obama feel that he should blanch at defending the nation simply because he never wore the uniform (fortunately, on that score, Obama's defining personality trait is hubris). We've had civilian leadership before, we'll have it again.

(3) Don't Question The Verdict: Was there voter fraud in yesterday's election? Were there other shenanigans both legal and illegal? I'm sure there were, and others who follow those stories will no doubt be expanding on them in the weeks to come. Chronicling specific instances of misconduct is an important service - to expose the miscreants and their connections to the Obama campaign, to punish and deter and provide a basis for someday preventing a recurrence (although don't expect the Obama era to see anything but massive resistance to taking even the most tepid steps against voter fraud). And likewise, of course, there is still plenty more to be examined in Obama's fundraising, to say nothing of the untruths he told to get elected and the really shameful behavior of the media.

But fundamentally, he got more votes where it mattered and he won the race. Supporters of Gore and Kerry who refused to accept those realities in 2000 and 2004 ended up doing a lot of lasting damage to public confidence in our electoral system. The step of challenging the results of an election is a grave one not to be taken without serious evidence. Let's not repeat their mistakes with conspiracy theories.

(4) Don't Blame The Voters: Yes, it's tempting to go off into the place where Democrats were fuming about "Jesusland" four years ago. And yes, Obama got a lot of votes for bad reasons or from vacuous people. Hey, there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and in America, and a fair number of them vote - they vote when we win, they vote when we lose. Winston Churchill was a great believer in democracy as the least-worst system of government, but he's also the guy who once said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

For all that, it's counterproductive to lose faith in the collective wisdom of the American voting public over the long term. Even when the public makes a mistake, it usually has a reason - and while electing Obama will be clearly shown over time to have been a mistake, the GOP also has some serious introspection to do about how we let things come to the point of giving the public a reason to do what it did. And we need to retain faith that rebuilding our party around the principles that have succeeded in the past, and adapting those principles for the world of the next decade, will win them back.

(5) Don't Get Mad, Get Even: Yes, it's a cliche, but unfocused rage goes bad places. There's a lot of work to do to prepare the ground for the GOP to come back as it did in 1994, 1980, and 1966-68. The Left drew first blood on the Bush second term only a few weeks after the election, with the Bernard Kerik nomination. We'll have a target-rich environment to work with as the kind of urban machine politics the Democrats have made famous comes to the White House, and we'll have fun doing it.

(6) We Play For 2010, Not 2012: I'll be writing up shortly my early thoughts about the GOP presidential field in 2012, and plenty of others will too. Do it, get it out of your system, come to the aid of the people who will make up future presidential fields, but whatever you do, don't get into primary-season, my-gal/guy-or-the-highway mode again until we are through the 2010 elections. There will be a need in the party's future for Palin and Jindal and Sanford and Huck and Mitt and all the rest; we're all in this together.

(7) Prioritize: More on this later, but Obama and the Congressional Democrats are going to have a long list of issues they want to press, and we can't stop all of them. The GOP needs to divide issues into four buckets:

a. Things we are prepared to go to the mat to stop
b. Things we want to force the Democrats to commit themselves to so we can take the dispute to the voters
c. Things, however modest, we actually think we can accomplish even with the Democrats in power
d. Things we want to propose as positive agenda items even knowing they'll go nowhere, to lay out our own roadmap for the future.

(8) Watch Your Budget: We're all going to have to prepare for tougher economic times, plus the burden of Obama's tax hikes. Don't overextend your own finances.

(9) Grow A Thick Hide and Get Your Taxes in Order: Joe Wurtzelbacher won't be the last Obama critic to feel the weight of government intrusion for standing up to Obama. David Freddoso and Stanley Kurtz won't be the last conservative journalists to have their investigations stonewalled and campaigns organized to drive them off the radio. And get used to being called a racist, as everyone who gets in Obama's way is, sooner or later. Understand now that you will need to stomach all that and more, and you won't get rattled.

(10) Buy More Life Insurance: Well, at least if, like me, you live or work in a city that's a top terrorist target, and have roots too deep to leave. Our risk tolerance will have to go up.

(11) Pray: Well, this one speaks for itself. Pray especially for the unborn.

(12) Get On Living: Life is short and there's more to it than politics. We'll need committed activists, and as a whole our movement will need to be relentless - but thinking about politics too much is unhealthy, especially when you have a long wait ahead for any progress. For my part, starting tomorrow I'll be back to doing more baseball blogging. Take a break whenever you need one, spend more time with your family. And teach your kids that every minute of life is worth it even when the world seems to have gone mad. Many generations before us have done so in tougher times than these.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (69) | TrackBack (0)
November 4, 2008
POLITICS: Karl Rove Has Been Vindicated

One of the most unambiguous conclusions from Obama's victory? Karl Rove was right.

For the past 8 years, we've had a debate over the best political strategy for approaching a national election. There were, in essence, two contending theories.

Karl Rove's theory - one he perhaps never explicitly articulated, but which was evident in the approach to multiple elections, votes in Congress, and even international coalitions run by his boss, George W. Bush - was, essentially, that you win with your base. You start with the base, you expand it as much as possible by increasing turnout, and then you work outward until you get past 50% - but you don't compromise more than necessary to get to that goal.

Standing in opposition to the Rove theory was what one might call the Beltway Pundit theory, since that's who were the chief proponents of the theory. The Beltway Pundit theory was, in essence, that America has a great untapped middle, a center that resists ideology and partisanship and would respond to a candidate who could present himself as having a base in the middle of the electorate.

Tonight, we had a classic test of those theories. Barack Obama is nothing if not the pure incarnation on the left of the Rovian theory. He ran in the Democratic primaries as the candidate of the 'Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.' His record was pure left-wing all the way. He seems to have brought out a large number of new base voters, in particular African-Americans responding to his racial appeals and voting straight-ticket D. As I'll discuss in a subsequent post, the process of getting to 50.1% for a figure of the left is more complex and involves more concerted efforts at concealment and dissimulation, but the basic elements of the Rovian strategy are all there.

John McCain, by contrast, was the Platonic ideal Beltway Pundit-style candidate, and his defeat by Obama ensures that his like will not win a national nomination any time soon, in either party. McCain spent many years establishing himself as a pragmatic moderate, dissenting ad nauseum and without a consistent unifying principle from GOP orthodoxy; McCain had veered to the center simply whenever he felt that the Republican position was too far. McCain held enough positions that were in synch with the conservative base to make him minimally acceptable, but nobody ever regarded him as a candidate to excite the conservative base.

Now, it's true enough that the partisan environment was terribly challenging for Republicans in 2008. That's why so many of us on the Republican side were willing to go with McCain in the first place. But here's the thing: if you believed the Beltway Pundit theory, that shouldn't matter. If a significant and reliable bloc of voters consistently preferred the moderate, centrist candidate over the more ideological and partisan candidate, in the same way that conservatives prefer the more conservative candidate and liberals prefer the more liberal candidate, you would have a base from which a candidate like McCain could consistently prevail against a candidate like Obama, and partisan identification would be trumped by moderation and proven bipartisanship.

But there is no such base. Centrist, moderate, independent, voters are generally "swing" voters, always have been and always will be. Among those who are at least modestly well-informed, they are a heterogenous lot - some libertarian, some socially conservative but economically populist, some fiscally conservative and socially liberal, some isolationist and anti-immigrant, etc. It's not possible to make of them a "base" - the only way to approach the center is to lock down the real base at one end or the other of the political spectrum, and then reach out to voters in the middle, understanding the real tradeoff that what appeals to one "swing" voter may be anathema to others.

Of course, the dismal approval ratings of the Bush Administration at the end of its days testify to the serious arguments over whether Rove and his boss chose the wrong mix of reaches out to the center as they built their "compassionate conservative" coalition; that's a separate debate. It is likewise a fair debate over the ways in which future conservative candidates can and should make compromises to get the GOP back to that 50.1%. But what's not open for debate, after tonight, is the sheer futility of trying to build a coalition from the center out. Because the center won't stand still for any candidate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Welcome Back, Carter

Well, we have our answer now: at this writing, it's pretty clear that Barack Obama has won the Presidency, bringing back the Carter Administration with a vengeance. Needless to say, I'll have a number of postmortem posts on this, but don't expect them all in one gulp, as there's a number of angles to approach here over the next several days and weeks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (33) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Optimistic To The End

I'm not making an electoral college prediction, other than to reiterate yet again that whoever wins Pennsylvania, wins the election. If pressed, my popular vote prediction would be Obama 52, McCain 48, but of course I remain hopeful things will go differently.

This, which I've seen linked in a few places, makes the argument for why Obama is toast, based in part on looking at where the candidates have been traveling. It may be right; I can't know (they gotta go somewhere). All I can say is, the people on the Right writing these things are going to look like either fools or geniuses in a few hours. (Although I think the comparison of the Kerry and Obama media strategies is spot-on either way, and I'm not endorsing his assault on Nate Silver - Nate has his obvious biases, but he's a data guy, and like Gerry Daly in 2004, he's working with the data, right or wrong. I've already had to eat crow once this year when I challenged the PECOTA system's projection that the Rays would win 88 games).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:12 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Palin Power

Unsurprising poll result of the year: Sarah Palin is more popular with Republican voters than John McCain. 71% of GOP voters say Palin was the right choice for VP, compared to 65% supporting McCain as the best choice for the Presidential nominee, 74% of Democrats who say Obama was the right choice, and 76% of Democrats who say Biden was the right choice. (It's perhaps unsurprising given the nature of primary battles that both parties' presidential candidates face more lingering doubters in the ranks).

H/T

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:59 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: "People who love their country can change it!"

Just in case you were wondering whether the Obama campaign's "change" slogan means changing the government or changing America...here's an actual SMS message received by one of my RedState colleagues today from the Obama campaign:

People who love their country can change it! Make sure everyone you know votes for Barack today.

Contrast John McCain:

My country has never had to prove anything to me, my friends...I've always had faith in it and I've been humbled and honored to serve it.

America remains, in Reagan's words, a country with a government, not the other way around. Let's hope it stays that way.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:37 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Personally, I'd Vote For Lando's Running Mate

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Via Gabriel Malor at Ace's place. Amazingly, Billy Dee Williams was available.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:33 PM | Politics 2008 • | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: BAMN

The Weather Underground, the SDS, the anti-war movement...hey, what's a 60s radical reunion without the Black Panthers?

Just when you thought we were done with the 60s for good, too.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:16 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 3, 2008
POLITICS: Gov. Sarah Palin Cleared In "Tasergate"

Ah, the death of a talking point...we have news from Alaska that the investigator for the State Personnel Board has issued a report - contrary to the findings of the Legislature's independent investigator - and concluded that Gov. Palin did not abuse her authority in the case of State Trooper Michael Wooten, the controversy over "Tasergate" or, if you prefer, "Troopergate."

Let's do a Q&A on the 263-page Branchflower report, which I read from cover to cover, and on the 125-page Petumenos report, which I have only yet had the chance to skim. I may return to this after the election when we have more time to walk through the evidence (win or lose tomorrow, Gov. Palin will continue to be an important figure in national politics).

First, the Branchflower report:

(1) A report was issued by one man, Stephen Branchflower.

(2) Branchflower was handpicked, and his investigation directed, by Hollis French - an Obama supporter who has a personal axe to grind in the facts under investigation. Branchflower, French and Walt Monegan, the chief witness in the case, all appear to go way back together in Alaska law enforcement circles.

(3) The only wrongdoing Branchflower could find was under a general statute that says public officials may not engage in an "effort to benefit a personal ... interest through official action" - he did not find a violation of any specific statute, rule or regulation. To conclude that Gov. Palin's actions were in her personal interest rather than the best interests of the Alaskan people and their government, you must believe that her actions were actually wrong.

(4) In order to find that Gov. Palin's actions were actually wrong, Democrats must be willing to argue that an irresponsible and abusive state trooper who made death threats against Gov. Palin's father and menaced her sister in her hearing and used a Taser on a 10-year-old is a good person to have wielding armed authority on behalf of the State of Alaska. Because otherwise they are making a technical legal argument that she did the right thing in the wrong way - yet they don't have any technical violation to hang their hats on.

By contrast, the Personnel Board investigator, Timothy Petumenos, found no impropriety and concluded, regarding Branchflower's report:

Independent Counsel has concluded the wrong statute was used as a basis for the conclusions contained in the Branchflower Report, the Branchflower report misconstrued the available evidence and did not consider or obtain all of the material evidence that is required to properly reach findings.

Read on.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Say What He Will

H/T. As I have said over and over: vote for the left-wing Democrat machine politician, if what you want is a left-wing Democrat machine politician, no more and no less. But really, if he wins, don't expect anybody, a year from now, to take seriously the idea that he was ever anything else. The two-steps like this are just about concealing who he is and what he stands for.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:24 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Stay Classy, Wonkette.com

Ugh.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:53 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Just A Reminder

No outrage, but no surprise either - the Democrats don't care so much about campaign finance reform when they are raising and spending more money.

"New politics."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:50 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: The Missing Victory

Iraq Walls

There's been a strange silence lately in the Presidential election: silence about victory in Iraq.

Number of U.S. combat fatalities in Baghdad this October? Zero, for the first time in the war. It's part of a larger trend:

Thirteen deaths were reported during October, eight of them in combat. The figures exactly match those of last July and reflect a continuing downward trend that began around Sept. 2007. October 2007 saw 38 deaths reported (29 combat); in October 2006 there were 106 U.S. deaths (99 combat) and in October 2005 there were 96 (77 combat).

October 2008 was the best (or, more accurately, least-worst) month of the war so far:

U.S. deaths in Iraq fell in October to their lowest monthly level of the war, matching the record low of 13 fatalities suffered in July. Iraqi deaths fell to their lowest monthly levels of the year....The sharp drop in American fatalities in Iraq reflects the overall security improvements across the country following the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and the rout suffered by Shiite extremists in fighting last spring in Basra and Baghdad.

But the decline also points to a shift in tactics by extremist groups, which U.S. commanders say are now focusing their attacks on Iraqi soldiers and police that are doing much of the fighting.

Iraqi government figures showed at least 364 Iraqis killed in October - including police, soldiers, civilians and militants.

Despite the sharp decline, the Iraqi death toll serves as a reminder that this remains a dangerous, unstable country despite the security gains, which U.S. military commanders repeatedly warn are fragile and reversible.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Making It A Long Night

I mostly agree with Allahpundit's view that McCain could be dead and buried early, given some of the poll-closing times:

7 p.m. Indiana, Virginia 7:30 p.m. Ohio, North Carolina 8 p.m. Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri

Granted, there's been talk that Ohio may not be call-able until very late (traditionally, Indiana and Virginia get called pretty quickly, but that may not be true in IN this year), but if McCain's winning the states he needs to stay in the game, I doubt very much that he loses either Ohio or Florida, at least unless something really...wrong is happening in Ohio, a possibility I'm trying to keep out of my mind right now. In fact, I tend to agree with Erick that "if McCain wins Pennsylvania, he's the President. If McCain loses Pennsylvania, he is not the President. It's that simple."

If McCain pulls out PA, even if he loses NH and longer shot 2004 blue states like MN and WI, he can afford to lose IA, VA, CO, and NM out of the 2004 Bush states and still win the election (go here; that gives him a 273-265 lead). If he doesn't take PA, he really does need to hold the line in most of the Bush states besides IA (in which he's been doomed all along due to the politics of ethanol).

Anyway, if McCain is still in the game at 9:30 or 10pm, it will be time to get optimistic, and not before.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:47 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Speaking of Obama's Unexamined Past

Business International, Obama's first employers out of college had substantial ties to SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the radical (but nonviolent) Sixties group that gave birth to the Weather Underground (Bernadine Dohrn was one of the heads of SDS before joining the WU). H/T. This longer article pretty well covers the waterfront (including established fact, informed speculation and links) of why this should not surprise us and why there's a shroud of secrecy around Obama's life in the early 80s.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:20 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Change, The Mainstream, and Content-Free Politics

Stepping away for a moment from the right/left axis, there are fundamentally two worldviews of American politics that will, in theory, face off tomorrow.

One is the notion of the Mainstream. Basically, the Mainstream view of American politics is that there's a center to our politics, that things best get done when the two parties work together and marginalize the ideological extremes. This view holds that the real impediment to progress is the resistance of the Right and the Left to compromise. Pretty much by definition, the candidate of the Mainstream is John McCain, the man who practically embodies this view of Washington.

The opposite pole is the idea of Change. This view holds that Washington is at its worst, not its best, when the two parties conspire together against the general population. The Change view notices that Washington has long tended to chew up and spit out grand ideological schemes and idealists and impose a moderating pull towards the inherently corrupt center. The ideal Change candidate must be made of sterner stuff - must be willing to stand sometimes alone against misguided bipartisan consensuses, calling out the whole rotten edifice of favor-sharing and back-scratching. And of course, as I've been through repeatedly in this space, the Change candidate as well, by any sane reckoning, must be John McCain, given the contrast between his dogged pursuit of reform and Obama's business-as-usual attitude towards the corrupt machinery of government.

So given that we have two basically competing visions and one candidate represents both, how is that candidate not obviously winning?

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Confident Prediction About Barack Obama

I will make now a prediction about one thing we will see in the event of an Obama Presidency, and stick by it: Obama will never be free of his past.

During the 8 years of the Bush presidency, we have heard relatively little new information about his pre-presidential career, with the exception of the 2004 effort to dig further into his Texas Air National Guard service to contrast him with John Kerry. There's a reason for this: when Bush ran for President in 2000, the media crawled all over whatever they could find, most famously culminating in the story of his 1976 DUI arrest that broke the week of the election.

Much the same was true of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The press dealt mostly with their tenure in office, having already fully vetted them prior to their elections. We have seen in recent months the same process for Sarah Palin, with every aspect of her life being turned over by investigative reporters. And of course, John McCain as well.

Contrast the Clinton Administration - during the Clinton years, we had a steady stream of stories, often starting either with legal processes or with reportage by conservative media outlets, bringing us new information about the Clintons' past, ranging from Hillary's 1978 commodities investment (which was fully concealed during the 1992 campaign by concealment of the Clintons' tax returns) to the ins and outs of the Whitewater investigation to Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick to things like the Mena airport saga that came out gradually.

Not all of the stories about the Clintons' past were blockbusters (the Mena story never amounted to anything that really connected all that directly to the Clintons), and obviously the credibility of the he-said-she-said stories of women like Jones and Broaddrick remains in the eye of the beholder (as for Whitewater, the New York Times did a single story on it during the primaries in March 1992 and then promptly dropped the issue). But voters should have had the opportunity to evaluate them before giving Bill Clinton the job, and certainly would have, if he'd been a Republican; and if the media had done its homework, these would all have been old news by 1993. The most egregious case was the commodities deal, which came out in 1994 (see here and here), and which probably would have been the one scandal too many to sink Clinton if it had been properly ventilated at the time. Obviously some of this was due to concealment by the Clintons rather than just media lassitude, but politicians don't get a pass for concealing things if the media wants them dragged out.

Anyway, that said, I will predict with great confidence that if Obama is elected, we will not by a long shot have heard the last of new information about his past in Chicago politics. So much of Obama's early years remains a cipher, due to the destruction of his State Senate papers, his refusal to release scores of other types of documents (as Jim Geraghty relates here, here, and here), to say nothing of the many "missing witnesses" (noted here) who can't be located or won't speak to the media. All those dams can't hold forever. While Republicans and conservatives will, if Obama wins, have plenty to do exposing his activities in the White House, at the end of the day, Obama's past remains a fertile field with many areas of investigation that have yet to be exhausted. We will not have heard the last of it. He will carry his past in the White House like Jacob Marley's chains, precisely because the media has not made him face it all on the trail.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:54 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (37) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: This Week's Schedule

1. Baseball content, and in general a more normal balance of content, should resume around Thursday.

2. Sadly, I never did get to the end of my list of posts to write up before the election. I'll be rolling a few more things out if I have the time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:45 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Blog 2006-13 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 31, 2008
POLITICS: Big Money

Just to tie up a loose end from yesterday's post on Obama's money machine: only a quarter of his donations are from under-$200 donors, compared to 31% for Bush in 2004 and 37% for Kerry in 2004. So the myth that Obama's enormous financial advantage comes from small-dollar donors is just that, a myth.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:36 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
October 30, 2008
POLITICS: The Credit Card Fraud Campaign

I have not spent nearly enough time on this issue, but given the centrality of Barack Obama's amazing internet fundraising machine to everything he's been able to accomplish in the primary and general elections, it's been staggering to discover the extent to which his website has been deliberately designed to permit donations without the safeguards other campaigns and online businesses use. A lot of credit goes to Kenneth Timmerman of Newsmax (more here) for beginning the serious investigation of Obama's sources of funds - Newsmax has run a lot stories over the years that have contributed to its devalued credibility as a source, but on this one it was dead-on, as subsequent investigations have confirmed. The Washington Post had a piece yesterday giving an overview of the various types of illegal fundraising that the structure of the website enables:

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.

Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.

+++

In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted conservative bloggers to further test Obama's finance vetting by giving money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore and cannot be traced to a donor.

The problem with such cards, campaign finance lawyers said, is that they make it impossible to tell whether foreign nationals, donors who have exceeded the limits, government contractors or others who are barred from giving to a federal campaign are making contributions.

+++

The Obama team's disclosures came in response to questions from The Washington Post about the case of Mary T. Biskup, a retired insurance manager from Manchester, Mo., who turned up on Obama's FEC reports as having donated $174,800 to the campaign. Contributors are limited to giving $2,300 for the general election.

Biskup, who had scores of Obama contributions attributed to her, said in an interview that she never donated to the candidate. "That's an error," she said. Moreover, she added, her credit card was never billed for the donations, meaning someone appropriated her name and made the contributions with another card.

If you are keeping score at home, that's five different kinds of illegality that can come from reduced security on the web:

(1) Donations by foreign nationals
(2) Donations in excess of legal limits
(3) Identity theft/credit card fraud, resulting in donations of stolen funds
(4) Donations by domestic individuals not entitled to give money
(5) Donations by individuals whose identity may be embarrassing to the campaign

Moreover, it appears that - as has traditionally been true of voter fraud - it will be exceptionally difficult to follow the trail to apprehend the real donors, precisely because of the use of false or stolen identities. In fact, it may take some time to even get a handle on the scope of the problem.

How'd the campaign do this? RedState's tech guru, Neil Stevens, walks through some of the technical changes that had to be made to the standard website credit-processing system, a subject that has produced something of a cottage industry in the right side of the blogosphere in the last week or two, and which I haven't adequately covered in the links above - more here (with a roundup and explanation of methods, most notably disabling the Address Verification System), here, here, here, here. It's quite clear not only that the campaign has not had adeqaute safeguards in place but that routine ones were deliberately disabled, and their vague response has basically been "trust us." New politics, indeed.

Remember: Obama's campaign is itself his only executive experience (he has claimed it as significant experience himself), and fundraising is the single most impressive thing his campaign has done, the core operation from which everything else flows. And at the core of his web-money machine (as Mark Steyn notes, the web has done two-thirds of Obama's fundraising in September) is a deliberate effort to permit evasion of the law. Whether Obama personally authorized that or not, it is very much relevant in evaluating how he has conducted his campaign. After all, if he's elected, a lot will happen on his watch without his express permission. And the people inside his campaign are likely to be the same ones holding jobs in his Administration.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
October 29, 2008
POLITICS: O-Fomercial

Jonathan Last on Obama's informercial: "Never before have I noticed how wonderful commercials are. It's not until you're forced to go without the Geico cavemen for 30 straight minutes do you realize how much you appreciate them."

For those of you, like me, with no desire to watch the thing, sit back and watch the master at work in the same 30-minute ad format - here he is on the October 27 before Election Day 1964, then a 53-year-old private citizen standing in to make the case his party's presidential nominee had been trying and failing for months to get across to the American public, the "A Time For Choosing" speech:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:33 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Robbing Peter To Pay Peter

So Charlie Rangel and other New York Democrats want a federal bailout for state and local governments:

"Our hope is that the leadership of both parties will be able to confer and come back after the election, and see what we can do to provide assistance to our local and state governments, as we have been able to do for our banking and finance industry," Rep. Rangel said at the outset of a committee hearing Wednesday on stimulus discussions.

State governors and local officials testifying at the hearing put forward to lawmakers a wish list worth tens of billions to help shore up their finances. Their argument: we didn't create the financial mess, and we need Washington's help to get out of it.

"The failure of our federal regulatory system has caused too many innocent bystanders to suffer," said New York Gov. David Paterson at the hearing. "Just like the financial services industry, we need a partner in the federal government in order to help stave off an impending calamity and stabilize our fiscal condition."

New York faces a $47 billion budget shortfall over the next four years, and it is far from alone as states face unprecedented expenditures even as the economic recession shrinks their revenues.

This is nonsensical.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part III of III: John McCain and Joe Biden

III. John McCain: The Zeal of the Convert

Given the length and public nature of John McCain's career on the national stage, I won't go here through his record in the depth that I explored those of Gov. Palin and Sen. Obama. But I will lay out a number of examples that show the sharp contrast between McCain's approach to situations calling for integrity and Barack Obama's.

Senator McCain's former, false friends in the media used to paint him as some sort of secular saint, a man who infused politics with a unique brand of noblity that elevated the grubby business of Washington to a higher plane of bipartisanship, reform and self-sacrifice. St. John the McCain was always a myth; we should put not our faith in politicians, and nobody gets as far as McCain has in national politics wholly unsullied by politics and all that comes with it. But if McCain the saint is a myth, McCain the public servant is nonetheless an admirable figure who has passed many tests of fire (in some cases, literally). McCain looks more rather than less impressive when we view him through the justifiably jaded eye that should be cast on any politician.

McCain has been, in his words "an imperfect servant" of this country; I will not try to convince you otherwise, and will deal up front with the two major and deserved blots on his reputation. I will not try to convince you that over 26 years in politics he's been above consorting with lobbyists, accepting endorsements from unsavory people, pandering to constituencies, or changing positions when it suits his needs. But however you define the negative features of "politics as usual," we expect our Presidents to have that quality that allows them to rise above it - perhaps not every day on every issue, but often enough, and forcefully enough, and in spite of enough slings and arrows that we can have confidence that they can be trusted to stand up for us even when it's hard to do so, even at great cost.

There is no question that McCain has shown, over and over and over again, his ability to do just that. He's publicly called out waste and corruption, even in his own party. He's taken on powerful vested interests on the Left and the Right - not just wealthy and well-connected ones but grassroots interests as well. McCain may not fight every battle that needs to be fought, but he will always be fighting, and he will not be afraid to take on targets that can hit him back.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
October 28, 2008
POLITICS: Party Loyalty and Its Limits

We have something of a matched set of editorials from the Directors up at RedState, on the one hand condemning the disastrously bad judgment of Republicans and conservatives who have failed to oppose Obama, and on the other hand urging Alaska voters to vote out Ted Stevens and Don Young.

Leon Wolf also looks at the common thread between the two stories: Colin Powell's appearance as a character witness for Ted Stevens and endorser of Obama. Powell has fought for a lot of good things in the past two decades, but he's pretty well turned his back on all of them at this point.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)
October 27, 2008
POLITICS: By Any Means Necessary

Looks like government computer "accounts assigned to the office of Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department" were all used to dig up dirt on Joe the Plumber. The investigation at the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency is continuing.

So much for the little guy. He doesn't stand a chance against Obama.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (39) | TrackBack (0)
October 23, 2008
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Opening Your Mouth And Removing All Doubt

Megan McArdle advises Matt Taibbi to stop. And has some good advice for people who only tuned in to the financial world during the credit crisis:

No one who did not know what a CDO was before the crisis should be opining as to the causes or the possible solutions. And anyone who tells you that they understand exactly why this happened, why we got this crisis instead of the dollar crisis we were expecting, and what kind of regulations will unquestionably fix it, is definitionally too ignorant to be opening their mouth.

The funny thing is Taibbi ranting about the institutional market for securities backed by bad loans...while at the same time refusing to address the bad loans themselves except to deny they had any role. That failure of basic logic alone is hilarious.

The overextension of housing credit, which formed the collateral for the various instruments whose loss of value set off so many other dominos falling, was, by definition, at the root of the crisis. Now, was the root of the crisis the only cause, or the only thing we ought to avoid repeating? Are there other, second-order aspects of the system that made it more vulnerable to the contagion from loans to un-credit-worthy borrowers based on overvalued real estate? Of course not, and as McArdle says, the fact that we can piece together some significant contributors to the crisis does not equate to understanding fully why it happened.

Then again, while I understand McArdle's call for a cool, academic assessment of the multiple factors involved after we get more data, that approach is entirely impractical in the middle of a contested election, in which both sides are naturally going to have to answer voter questions about what happened and why. It would be political malpractice for Republicans not to make the (accurate) point that the roots in the lending/housing market are the part of all this in which bad public policy played the most direct role in distorting the market away from its natural equilibrium. And it's likewise a slam dunk to point out that had Republican-led legislative efforts to rein in the GSEs not been stymied in the 2001-2005 period, the situation would have been, at a minimum, much more tractable to deal with, and that Democratic opponents of such efforts had longstanding financial and ideological reasons to oppose them.

I kept meaning to do a longer post on the inevitable (even if McCain wins) mania for more regulation, although I could just as easily refer you to McArdle's entire blog for that. Here, for example, she points out the obvious fact that regulators are human and not generally wiser than the businesses they regulate:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:18 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Oh, Joy

More goodies to expect from a Democratic president and Congress:

*Elimination of tax breaks for 401(k)s in favor of a government system.

*Bailout for Obama's buddies in the ethanol industry. (Yes, this one comes from Bush's Agriculture Department...but just remember that McCain is Big Ethanol's least favorite Senator, while Obama is its favorite).

*Obama says that taxes are bad, so he has a plan to reduce state and local property taxes by sending $25 billion to state and local governments. He will get the $25 billion from...voluntary charitable donations?

*Eliminating year-end bonuses that provide the bulk of compensation to employees on Wall Street and the backbone of the tax base for New York State and City.

*A replay of the foreign policy blunders of the early Kennedy years all the way down to the management style.

Meanwhile, here, here, here and here (and look at this and this), we are starting to see some very significant commonalities between Obama's phony or foreign donors, the donations made through credit card fraud, the phony voters ... and given the deliberate decision not to take the most basic steps to prevent these things from happening, it's not looking like isolated incidents at this point.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:02 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (54) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Mixed Blessing

Stories like this one, from Ben Smith, are encouraging to people hoping for an Obama victory (all stories from Ben Smith are), but really you have to wonder what kind of stable platform for governing a man gets when he's banking on supporters voting for just the color of his skin. Every time Obama supporters make the "historic" argument, they are basically pushing their man further onto a foundation of sand that won't hold up in office. Which is, of course, why - if he wins - the crucial political issue of the next four years will be whether Obama succeeds in changing the electorate and the political process to avoid having to face the disillusionment of voters who voted for him without agreeing with his record or platform.

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October 22, 2008
BASEBALL: There Is Still Only One National Pastime

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POLITICS: "Is that socialist? Are you a Muslim?"

Via Ed Morrissey, watch as Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee* tries to defend "refundable" tax credits to people who pay no taxes as not being welfare because it's limited to non-taxpayers who meet a "work requirement"** - and then inexplicably snap at McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin that the McCain health care plan also includes refundable health care credits***, concluding "Is that socialist? Are you a Muslim?"

So update your "red is the new black" racism-decoder rings, because the Obama campaign now intends to argue that refundability=socialist=Muslim. Or you can just cut to the core of their argument: everything is off limits.

What is funny is the sheer desperation of this attack - it's the sort of thing frustrated campaigns say when they are on the ropes. Which leads to one of two possible conclusions:

(1) The Obama camp, despite good polls and outward confidence, thinks it's losing and is scared.

(2) The Obama camp is confident of victory but will nonetheless resort to cheap accusations of racism even when challenged on the most technical points, just out of habit and because it's easier than arguing in good faith. A conclusion that does not bode well for the next four years.

Pick one, you can't pick neither.

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POLITICS: Nobody Knows Nothing

If you go here, here, here, here, here, and here, you can pretty much cover the landscape of arguments for why the polls simply can't be trusted this year.

I'm not in the group that says McCain is secretly winning and the polls are a gigantic false-flag psy-ops program designed to discourage GOP turnout. We know, after all, that whatever the biases of various people and institutions involved, the final polls in 2004, properly understood, were highly accurate, and the 2006 polls were mostly so as well (2002, less so). Neither am I in the group that attributes potential poll inaccuracy entirely to Obama's race - while that may well be a factor, I think there are fair arguments that run deeper to polling methodology, and I also think Obama's inexperience, the absence of a candidate from the incumbent administration, the massive new-voter operation by the Obama camp, the Palin wildcard (this has to be the first time ever that a VP pick drew nearly the same convention speech audience as the POTUS nominees and the VP debate outdrew the POTUS debates, and now she's delivered the biggest ratings for SNL in 14 years) and the sudden, late external shock of the credit crisis are all reasons why public sentiment may be more volatile and harder to get a fix on than usual.

Polls are not votes. They are evidence. The likely answer from the evidence we have remains that McCain is losing and likely to lose; I'm not going to cocoon myself or anyone else from that (there's a reason why candidates who say "the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day" usually end Election Day with a concession speech). But there is more than enough uncertainty out there that I endorse wholeheartedly the view that the last thing Republicans and other McCain supporters should do is get discouraged and throw in the towel before every stop is pulled out to win this thing. You gotta be in it to win it.

UPDATE: Geraghty notes here and here the panicked frenzy of attacks he gets from the Left whenever he suggests that some polls are showing a closer race than the conventional wisdom (or the bulk of polls, for that matter). I chalk this up partly to the Online Left's longstanding view that the winner of any argument is the person who can demonstrate the greatest degree of anger, but it's certainly a curious phenomenon coming from people who would seem to have every reason to be confident and no particular reason to take time from their day getting angry at a conservative pundit for showing a glimmer of optimism. Unless you do buy into the view that such people really are banking very heavily on a demoralized opposition.

SECOND UPDATE: It appears that the AP poll showing Obama up only by one has a 4-point advantage for the Democrats in the party-ID breakdown. For anybody who has followed the polls this year, that's the single biggest question: when you factor in GOTV and whether the likely-voter screens and all have or have not accurately predicted who will vote, will the party ID numbers look like 2006, when a terrible climate for Republicans still produced just a 3-point advantage in party ID for Democrats in the exit polls? Or will it be more like a double-digit advantage in party ID, figures we have not seen since the 1970s? Note that the Geraghty posts I linked to up top show very few examples of dramatic changes in party ID year to year. Even in Jay Cost's chart of registered voter ID, the biggest swings are about 7 or 8 points in some years, 1984 and 1994 for the GOP and 1996 for the Democrats. It may well be that 2008 really will show a historic realignment away from the position the GOP held in 2006 (which was already awful, the worst Republican year in a decade), but just bear in mind that it has to be for the bulk of this year's polls to be accurate.

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October 21, 2008
POLITICS: Department of Entirely Predictable Consequences

Don't say we didn't warn you if Obama gets elected and tries the same sort of thing:

Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched.

Gov. Linda Lingle's administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan.

"People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free," said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. "I don't believe that was the intent of the program."

Wow, if you give something away for free, people won't want to pay for it anymore! Nobody could possibly have seen that one coming.

Read the whole thing. H/T Ironman

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POLITICS: "The most accessible of the four candidates"

That would be...Gov. Palin.

Granted, none of the four has the kind of open relationship with the media that McCain had for many years before he reorganized his campaign under Steve Schmidt, accepting as the price of a more disciplined message operation the end of his bantering ways with the traveling press.

UPDATE: Of course, one could write volumes on the questions Obama hasn't been asked.

Here's one set of questions we didn't hear at the McCain-Obama debates: Is there a war on terror? Do we plan on staying on the offensive against radical Islam? Or are we pursuing a strictly localized war in Afghanistan and Western Pakistan against the Taliban and the remnants of the old Al Qaeda leadership, and otherwise dealing with the rest of the region and the world as a series of discrete and localized issues unconnected by ideological struggle?

That set of questions was the predominant issue in the 2004 election. We got questions on individual foreign policy areas, but the central question of our overarching strategy in this war, and whether we will even continue prosecuting it as such after January 20, never cameup in the debates. I think we can all offer an educated guess as to what Obama's answer is, but it would have been nice to put the question to him before a national audience.

SECOND UPDATE: Just to pick one example: Patterico notes a contrast between an LA Times profile of Palin's college career and the absence of interest in Obama's time at Columbia. Tom Maguire and Andy McCarthy have more thoughts on that particular omission. (Amusingly, the LA Times says nobody remembers Palin from college, but then goes on to quote at length from three college classmates and a competitor from the beauty pageants she competed in to pay tuition. And a side note about the photo: the 80s called, they wish to apologize to Gov. Palin). Meanwhile, a number of Obama's friends from that period refuse to talk. I referred to this "missing witness" problem the other day in the Joe the Plumber post - with Obama there's a long track record from his past of people who won't talk or can't be located (Byron York had that problem even with his State Senate colleagues), as well as ongoing stonewalls and/or destruction of records (as Jim Geraghty relates here, here, and here), even articles suddenly disappearing from the web (see here and here). It certainly seems as if there is a concerted and continuing effort to protect Obama from reporting on his past.

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POLITICS: Entrenchment

We have a Directors' editorial over at RedState on the many ways in which Obama and the Democrats are likely to seek partisan entrenchment as a primary goal if Obama wins the election, especially if he gets a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Everything on the list has made prior appearances in Obama's agenda and/or the agenda of his Congressional and activist allies. I'm sure most Obama voters don't think they are doing so, but there is a very real possibility that a vote for Obama will be a vote to hand permanent power to the left wing of the Democratic party.

The core question I always ask in politics to determine how agitated to get is how long it will take to undo something. Obviously, my personal short-term concern with an Obama presidency is the vast damage he can do to national security in short order and the personal consequences for my physical security, and I'm not real thrilled about getting my taxes jacked up, either. And no matter how you slice it, the consequences to the judiciary are deeply and lastingly alarming for democracy (we are still dealing with Carter appointees to the federal bench, and even some LBJ appointees). But I think the list fairly well captures my larger concern, which is that the system will be changed such that persuading the current electorate that Obama has been a failure will be insufficient to get rid of him.

If you disbelieve us, I'd advise you to clip and save the list and judge three years from now how many of the things on the list have been at least seriously attempted. I guarantee you that we'll see a move on the first item, the card check bill, within the first 60 days.

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POLITICS: Calm in the Storm

One of the more surreal arguments made on behalf of Obama is that he showed us something meaningful about his temperament by his handling of the credit crisis. It's certainly the case that we judge potential presidents by how they have been tested in crisis, and that we have no previous experience by which to judge how Obama handles crises other than hard times on the campaign trail. On the trail, the answer has generally been to see Obama get snippy, lash out in passive-aggressive fashion (at "bitter" Pennsylvanians, or with remarks like the "lipstick on a pig" line or similar efforts to personally provoke Hillary), duck debates and the press, and play the race card again and again and again to deflect criticism.

But the essential requirement for proving your mettle in a crisis is that you have to believe you are facing a crisis - and for Obama, the credit crisis wasn't a crisis at all. It was the best thing that happened to him all year. It was manna from heaven at a time when he was trailing in the polls, and at present it looks likely to deliver him to the White House in spite of his manifold errors and weaknesses as a candidate. As Jay Cost noted, for historical reasons there was pretty much no way the GOP could avoid taking damage from a banking crisis under any circumstances, much less while controlling the White House. Obama's main challenge was avoiding being seen visibly doing cartwheels.

Second, let's consider how Obama actually managed the crisis:

(1) Stay calm.

(2) Remain at a distance from where the crisis was being handled unless directly summoned there.

(3) Continue going about his usual daily routine.

(4) Avoid hands-on involvement in making sure things got done.

(5) Leave things uncritically in the hands of incompetent leaders in his party on the assumption that they'll call him if they need him.

In a word, exactly to the letter how Bush handled Hurricane Katrina.

This is not reassuring.

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October 20, 2008
POLITICS: No Third Terms

Just for the record, while I end up voting to re-elect Mayor Bloomberg if he ends up on the ballot next fall - depending on the alternatives, and in all likelihood there won't be many good ones - I think it's a bad idea to repeal the city's two-term limit for mayors. Those limits are in place for a reason: anyone who remembers Ed Koch's third term can tell you that the diminishing returns in terms of both quality and integrity on a Mayor's subordinates accelerates pretty rapidly by the time you get into a 9th year in office. By and large, Bloomberg's done a solid job trying to consolidate the gains made by Mayor Giuliani (h/t) and make incremental reforms, albeit with his own share of drawbacks, but really 8 years of almost anybody is enough.

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POLITICS/RELIGION: Disbelieving Obama

One of the recurring themes of the Obama campaign is that his supporters dismiss anything they find inconvenient in his record, platform or statements on the trail on the theory that he was just doing or saying stuff he doesn't believe to pander to somebody else, whereas when he says something I like, that of course must be what he really means. Only the shallowness of his record - the fact that he's almost never had to stick to any one position under enough fire to prove that he means it, never had to build a record of deeds and not just words - enables people to sustain this sort of wishcasting, which Iowahawk brilliantly skewered in his "who are the rubes?" post (for the Harry Potter fans, Tom Maguire has compared him to the Mirror of Erised in which one views one's deepest desires). It's almost a willful choice to get suckered. Obama gave millions of dollars to Ayers and ACORN and joined the New Party? Just needed to pander to the far left. Obama spent 20 years with a racist, America-hating preacher? Just needed to pander to African-Americans who thought he wasn't black enough. Obama spent years cozied up to and trading favors with the Chicago machine? Just needed to buy their support...of course, he's really a reformer. Etc.

It doesn't stop with his shady associates - Beldar finds example after example of this in the Washington Post's endorsement of Obama:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:16 PM | Politics 2008 • | Religion | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
October 17, 2008
POLITICS: Never Question Obama

Obama Knocks

Don't answer that door!

You will find no better illustration of the hazards of simply asking a question Barack Obama doesn't want to answer than the frenzy on the part of Obama's campaign and his allies in the media and the Left blogs to attack Joe the Plumber. The amazing thing is, this isn't a guy who was set up by one of the campaigns to tell a sob story that had to be checked. Obama was going door to door, he met this guy who was playing football in his yard *. Joe said he'd like to be more successful and buy his own business, and asked Obama why that meant he should have to pay higher taxes, and Obama gave his now-infamous answer that "I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody." John McCain responded by retelling that story in the debate to illustrate Obama's instincts for redistribution, and both candidates ended up using Joe as an example of how their various plans would affect small businesspeople.

But fearful of the damage caused by Obama's answer, the Obama camp and its surrogates have gone on the attack against this ordinary citizen from Toldeo:

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POLITICS: Obamises, Obamises: Are His Tax And Spending Plans Real, or Not?

The media and the Obama campaign have repeatedly told us that the economy is the only issue in this campaign, and that Barack Obama's proposals, rather than his record, are the only way to judge him on the economy. If they mean it, they will demand that he clarify where he stands on the promises at the core of his tax and spending platforms.

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October 16, 2008
POLITICS: Obama on Ayers: Hey, Everybody Was Doing It

Here is what Barack Obama said last night about Bill Ayers and Obama's role in handing over millions of dollars to "education" programs designed by Ayers, long an advocate of using education for purposes of left-wing indoctrination:

Bill Ayers is a professor of education in Chicago.

Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, he engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts. Ten years ago he served and I served on a school reform board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan's former ambassadors and close friends, Mr. Annenberg.

Other members on that board were the presidents of the University of Illinois, the president of Northwestern University, who happens to be a Republican, the president of The Chicago Tribune, a Republican-leaning newspaper.

And here is an earlier statement by Obama:

The suggestion that Ayers somehow dominated the policy or direction of the bipartisan Challenge Board, imprinting it with radical views, is absurd. The Annenberg Challenge was funded by Nixon Ambassador and Reagan friend Walter Annenberg. Republican Governor Jim Edgar, who wrote to Walter Annenberg to encourage the creation of the Challenge, joined Mayor Daley to announce the formation of the Challenge and his administration continued to work closely on education reform with the Board.

There are two main problems with Obama's response. One is that Obama is basically passing the buck for his own decisions to other people - undoubtedly a preview of his presidential leadership style, like during the bailout vote when he essentially did nothing to help his party pass the bill when it came up for the original vote. The other is his effort to conflate the national Annenberg Foundation with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge; Obama served as chairman of the board for the latter.

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October 15, 2008
POLITICS: Left Unsaid

Quick impressions of tonight's debate:

1. Well, basically we got through 3 debates without a really dramatic, game-changing gaffe or jaw-dropping moment. Ironically, it's precisely because these were unusually good debates that they will probably not be remembered as well as some past ones (although the 2004 presidential debates didn't produce many memorable moments). Obviously, on the whole that's good news for Obama regardless of who performed better in any individual debate.

2. McCain's a good debater. We saw that again tonight - never at a loss for words, witty, likes to press the attack on the issues. If he has a flaw as a debater in general, it's a tendency to talk too fast and try to squeeze too much into a single answer. Those are the skills he developed from many years on Meet the Press and the Senate floor.

The problem is that McCain's used to debating Senators about the issues. He's not used to street fights where you have to call BS on the other guy to his face. While I accept that for various reasons McCain was the stronger general election candidate, we needed somebody like Rudy Giuliani in these debates, someone who was willing to call out not just Obama's policy platform but the entire concept of Obama as president - the relentlessly outside-the-mainstream left-wing record, the lack of experience, the machine politics, the intimate ties to extremists. We seem to have found ourselves in a situation where the truth about Obama is itself so outrageous that it's beyond the pale of political discourse to mention it. He did effectively support infanticide by voting against a bill to reverse existing practice in Illinois that left it to abortionists to decide what to do with babies born after a botched abortion, leading to their deaths. He did give tens of millions of dollars to a terrorist to educate kids. Etc. And Obama gets to shake his head in dismay that anyone would be so rude as to point these things out.

3. As to Obama, I do give him credit that he's become much smoother than he was even as recently as the Saddleback Forum in August. Probably his best line tonight was about how health care "will break your heart again and again." And I think he did outfox McCain on some of the health care debate sections. That said, he also told some seriously outrageous whoppers (like repeating false media claims about crowds at McCain events), he changed back and forth between $200,000 and $250,000 as the floor for his tax hike plan (I guarantee you it will go far, far lower if he's elected)...it was noticeable that Obama would not say Palin was qualified to be president, but of course he couldn't say flatly she's not, since she's more qualified than he is by any reasonable measure.

4. I agree with Ace that there's just a world of difference between what was said at the debate and what was unsaid. McCain did, by and large, do an excellent job (other than the health care discussion and his typically McCain-ish obsession with negative ads and campaign finance, although I was glad that he called out Obama on his baldly dishonest radio ads on immigration and stem cells, neither of which Obama could hope to defend) on the things actually said. I think he has to come out the winner on the spending debate, where I believe most voters would like his embrace of the label as the guy who'll finally go after the federal budget with a hatchet. And on taxes (hooray for Joe the Plumber!). And on trade and energy, too. And he did finally tell Obama flat out that he's not running against Bush.

But he let Obama off the hook on way too much. The killer line on the abortion debate was that Obama may say he's not pro-abortion, but he supports ending the 28-year-old ban on subsidizing it with taxpayer money - if you actually oppose something, you don't subsidize it. The killer line on Ayers is that what matters is the money Obama gave him to educate kids. The killer line on Obama's tax cut plan (other than the general unlikelihood of the whole thing) is that it's basically a welfare plan - when you are cutting checks to people who don't pay taxes, that's called spending. The killer line on Obama generally is that he's too liberal, too extreme where McCain is mainstream - on issue after issue, there's a conservative position, a moderate position, a liberal position...and an Obama position. And that you need to judge him on his record. The killer line of the entire campaign, really, is that on the two largest issues of Obama's short career in the Senate (winning the Iraq War and preventing the financial crisis), McCain was proven right, and indisputably so, and Obama was proven wrong, and indisputably so. And McCain didn't drop those hammers on Obama - he hit those points, but he didn't tie them up in a bow.

I suppose it's true that voters want to hear issues at debates, not about records. But Obama really is all talk - it's wholly speculative to say what he will actually do.

McCain's now going to go back to the slog in the trenches. I still don't wholly trust the polls (I don't write them off, but there's a definite grain-of-salt factor), and history tells us that the debates are sometimes not what moves the needle in the closing weeks. Republicans should not lose hope, because this race can still get tighter and that creates opportunities on Election Day. But the chapter in which the debates might have changed the game is over.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:18 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (53) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Spinning Anger

While we are on the subject of things that get written for reasons other than the relationship they bear to the truth, those of us who remember the successful effort to demonize Republican success in 1994-95 as "a temper tantrum," "angry white men," etc. (all the way to Bill Clinton essentially blaming the Oklahoma City bombing on Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh) see the same campaign ramping up again with media claims that Republican voters are dangerously unhinged and the only cure is to stop saying bad things about Barack Obama's record.

If you have been following this "story," it's helpful to have a few reminders that a lot of these stories are based on misreporting, and that there are plenty of examples of this and worse on the Left side (really, after the last 8 years of Bush hatred and the outpouring of venom and slime directed at Sarah Palin, is "which side has more unhinged angry people doing and saying vile things" really the hill the Left wants to die on?).

There are, in fact, angry, crazy people on both sides, and this is in fact the point in the electoral calendar when a lot of people's emotions are running high. The decision to make a media narrative out of one side at precisely the moment when Obama badly wants to delegitimize any criticism of his record and his past...well, it's just a story someone wants you to hear.

UPDATE: Some may quibble with my view that Obama is afraid of being called on his record and his past - how can he be afraid, he's winning? - but of course it's precisely because he's ahead at this point that he's afraid of McCain doing anything that will alter the trajectory of the race. When you're losing, you don't try to lock down the dynamics of the race in a way that makes it hard to go negative.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:33 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Today's Word Is "Erratic"

This Message Brought To You By The Letter "O"

It's not a secret or a surprise that people on both sides of the political aisle try to drive stories and common themes, but one of the things that's especially amusing about the Left is the willingness of Democratic talking heads and lefty bloggers to mindlessly parrot verbatim the talking points handed down by their campaign, in the hopes of driving particular words into the news coverage. And it appears that the word of the moment being slapped on McCain is "erratic" - in contrast to the serene (sorry, "steady") inactivity of Barack Obama.

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October 14, 2008
POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part II of III: Sen. Barack Obama

In Part I of this series on the "Integrity Gap" between the two national tickets, I looked at Governor Sarah Palin's record of integrity in public office - her battles against corruption and wasteful spending, even by the powers controlling her own party in her home state of Alaska - even when she was putting her career at risk. As I explained, integrity is not just about honesty - it's also about one of the crucial presidential character traits, toughness. Palin has proven that she doesn't back down no matter who she has to take on.

In Part II, I will look at Senator Barack Obama, who is easily contrasted to Palin because they have careers of similar length in both local and statewide office, in states controlled largely by their own party. I have previously explained here why Obama lacks every kind of experience that we usually rely upon to test the character of potential presidents and teach them the lessons they will need to govern, and I've explained here why the flurry of flip-flops at the outset of his general election campaign raises questions specifically about his toughness, his principles and his convictions. During the recent financial crisis we got a taste of Obama's leadership style in crisis: do nothing and hope he can shift the blame to somebody else.

Nearly all of Obama's appeal requires his supporters to take on faith that he will do things he has never done. But on the question of whether Obama will ever take a meaningful stand against corruption or waste in his own party or stand up to vested interests and ideological extremists on his own side, we have a certain answer: he has bypassed too many opportunities to do so already. To the contrary, Obama is so thoroughly marinated in extremism and corruption that it would be nearly impossible to extricate himself and still have a meaningful identity left.

Given the length of this post - at over 21,000 words, it runs more than twice the length of Part I and 33% longer than my entire five-part series on Mitt Romney from the primaries - it was necessary to break the body of the post into six separate volumes that follow this introduction:

Obama's Rootless Ambition looks at the influences that shaped Obama before he ran for office.

Obama and the Extremists looks at his relationships with left-wing radicals and how they were an integral part of his rise in politics.

Obama and ACORN looks at his intimate relationship with a network of community organizers with a pervasive record of voter fraud and deep involvement in the subprime housing crisis.

Obama and the Machine looks at Obama's long, deep and multifacted partnership with machine politicians in Chicago and Springfield.

Obama and the Favor Factory looks at Obama's routine practice of trading favors with his political benefactors.

Obama, "New Politics" and Principles looks at the illusory nature of Obama's "new politics," his absence of a record of fighting tough battles on principle, and wraps up and concludes the series.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: Rootless Ambition

Chapter two of seven.

II. Barack Obama: The Greasy Pole

Note on sources: You can follow the links here, as I've linked to sources for nearly all the factual assertions, and mark additional sources with an asterisk *. Where appropriate I've indicated sources whose credibility I was uncertain of, but have generally tried to avoid citing much in the way of rumor. Fairly late in the game in assembling this post, I picked up David Freddoso's book The Case Against Barack Obama, which examines a lot of these same issues in more depth and with copious footnotes. I'm indebted to Freddoso's book for pointing me to additional sources in a handful of places, and for stories I'd missed like the Stroger saga, although in most cases I've cited additional web-based sources besides the book. I'd recommend the book and I refer the reader where possible to stories Freddoso has written up at more length.

Barack Obama talks a good game about being a reformer, a good government, "new politics" guy. But somehow his priorities never extended to actually doing anything that would rock the boat in Chicago politics or get in the way of his climb up the greasy pole of the Chicago machine. Instead, his rise has depended on the exchange of favors with crooked patrons and extremist friends and on the forebearance of the machine.

You will often hear Obama's defenders argue that his ties to this or that extremist or corrupt figure is an isolated aberration, an example of "guilt by association"; that the various favors he dispensed with public money and private charitable foundation funds are nothing unusual in politics. But when you look at Obama's record and biography taken together, what you see is that the favors, the extremists and the machine ties are all inextricably intertwined, and that far from being isolated incidents, Obama's modus operandi of mutual back-scratching with radicals and crooks extends to nearly every aspect of his life and career - his family, his faith, his home, his jobs and education, his significant election victories and legislative "accomplishments," his closest advisors and most important mentors, the money and organization that made up his campaigns.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: The Extremists

Chapter three of seven.

B. The Extremists

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our setereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.

But this strategy alone couldn't provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce [a former girlfriend] or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerated. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.

-Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, describing his choice of friends as a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, which he attended for two years. He also wrote about "socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union" after transferring to Columbia, and "went to hear Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael of SNCC and Black Power fame, speak at Columbia." Carmichael, of course, was a famous Sixties radical, a subject that apparently interested Obama as early as his college years.

If Obama was going to pursue his dreams of political activism, he wasn't going to follow the route of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden in relying on his roots to his home town, nor did he have John McCain's advantage of a famous war record. He was going to need a political base that would accept an outsider, and needed to bring something to the table. And this is how he built one. The groundwork for Obama's entree into Chicago politics was laid through networking in the very same radical chic circles he described in the passage above. There's not adequate space here to revisit in full the left-wing radicalism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Fr. Michael Pfleger, the New Party, Alice Palmer, Rashid Khalidi, Khalid al-Mansour, and others in Obama's circle, but the thumbnail sketches and links below should clue you in to the common theme - Obama carefully cultivated an image as a friend of Sixties radicals, race-baiters, Marxists and worse. Maybe this was due to the same romantic impulse of his college years and maybe it was craven political opportunism, but the record shows how firmly he ingratiated himself with these people, with the result that he gets endorsements to this day from avowed Communists. * Even as a presidential candidate, Obama is willing to lend his appearance and good name to the operations of wholly disreputable far-left figures like Al Sharpton. *

Yet while Obama was adept at showing one face to the hard left, he and the organizations he worked with were also acutely aware of the need to present a more respectable face to the broader community, as the Woods Fund noted in a report on its grant to ACORN (more on which below):

Indeed, the report brags about pulling the wool over the public's eye. The Woods Fund's claim to be "nonideological," it says, has "enabled the Trustees to make grants to organizations that use confrontational tactics against the business and government 'establishments' without undue risk of being criticized for partisanship."

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: ACORN

Chapter four of seven.

C. ACORN

Obama & ACORN

The left-wing group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a national umbrella group of, well, community organizers, sits at the intersection of Obama's ties to extremists and his ties to machine politics. ACORN is indisputably Sixties-style "New Left" in its orientation, pursuing what Sol Stern describes as an agenda of "undisguised authoritarian socialism." The group has both money and foot soldiers, as it "uses banking regulations to pressure financial institutions into massive 'donations' that it uses to finance supposedly non-partisan voter turn-out drives." See here for a more thorough description of the mischief ACORN plays in forcing banks to make subprime loans. And:

In one of the first book-length scholarly studies of ACORN, Organizing Urban America, Rutgers University political scientist Heidi Swarts describes this group... as "oppositional outlaws." Swarts, a strong supporter of ACORN, has no qualms about stating that its members think of themselves as "militants unafraid to confront the powers that be." "This identity as a uniquely militant organization," says Swarts, "is reinforced by contentious action." ACORN protesters will break into private offices, show up at a banker's home to intimidate his family, or pour protesters into bank lobbies to scare away customers, all in an effort to force a lowering of credit standards for poor and minority customers. According to Swarts, long-term ACORN organizers "tend to see the organization as a solitary vanguard of principled leftists...the only truly radical community organization."

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: The Machine

Chapter five of seven.

D. The Machine

Chicago politics, of course, have been famously corrupt and totally dominated by the Democratic machine since beyond living memory. (In Illinois at the state level, corruption is endemic and bipartisan: "four of the last nine governors have been indicted on charges of corruption, and three were convicted"). This is the city where top aides to Mayor Daley were convicted in May 2006 of federal felonies for rigging hiring in city jobs. It's a city where an alderman who pleaded guilty in August to a "general practice" of shaking down real estate developers was caught on tape saying "Most aldermen, most politicians are hos.". (A Rezko-linked alderman, in fact, who is the daughter of a Rezko-linked housing developer once represented by Obama's law firm * * - small world, indeed). It's not an uncommon sentiment (several aldermen found it necessary to hold a press conference stating that they were not, in fact, hos).

The Chicago machine is nothing if not an equal opportunity honeypot; machine corruption and its close cousin, racial/ethnic politics, has endured over decades as different ethnic and racial groups have taken their turns running the city, all the while doling out favors within their wards. The current machine is topped by Mayor Daley, two decades in office and the son of the city's most notorious mayor; at the state level, it envelops Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich.

To all appearances, Barack Obama's home neighborhood of Hyde Park - affluent, academic, ethnically diverse - should be a natural base for that rare breed in Chicago, the real reformer, with the independence to not only stand aloof from the politics of the greased palm and the dead voter, but actually make that politics more difficult:

The neighborhood invariably elects a goo-goo alderman who pulls killjoy stunts like, you know, asking to see what's in the mayor's budget before voting on it. The most famous, Leon Despres, who just turned 100, once spent five days at Trotsky's place in Mexico City.

Of course, as noted above, Obama's original district also extended to what Salon calls "the weary black neighborhoods to the west, with threadbare street corners that might hold a liquor store, or a chicken shack. (It did not include Trinity United.)." (Todd Spivak, who covered Obama in 2000, says Obama's district "spanned a large swath of the city's poor, black, crime-ridden South Side")

Certainly Obama frequently postured as a political reformer in Illinois ("My reputation in Springfield was as an independent"), as well as in the U.S. Senate. Was that posture any more, or any less, genuine than his posture as a friend of left-wing radicals? I don't know the answer to that either; I only know that Obama, with his sights set beyond Hyde Park, made sure never to get in the machine's way. "Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, notes that, while Mr. Obama supported ethics reforms as a state senator, he has "'been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic.'" The Chicago Sun-Times isn't fooled either:

Obama friend Tony Rezko was convicted of corrupting state government, but Obama was never implicated and has returned contributions Rezko made to his Senate campaign. Obama did run as an independent Democrat but worked closely with state Senate President Emil Jones, an old-school organization Democrat. Obama runs for president with the full blessing of Mayor Daley.

As we shall see, this is not the half of it.

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: The Favor Factory

Chapter six of seven.

E. The Favor Factory

With the expansion of federal intervention in the economy that will inevitably follow the current financial crisis - ranging from the $700 billion financial industry bailout to the $25 billion auto industry bailout to the federal government investing billions directly in major banks - there will be even more opportunities than usual for the next Administration to use federal dollars to reward friends and cronies instead of serving the taxpayers. Indeed, House Democrats tried in the bailout package to earmark proceeds to go to Obama's old friends at ACORN, and succeeded in subsidizing ACORN in the housing bill that passed in July. It's important that the next White House be resistant to opening the favor factory for business.

Senator Obama now claims that he will be a good steward of federal taxpayer money - such a good steward, in fact, that he'll be able to cut spending enough to offset every dollar of his many hundreds of billions of dollars of planned new spending programs. But his record throughout his career shows him to be a man who has always been quite liberal in every sense of the word in using public money and private charitable money to reward his friends, and who is wholly disinclined to saying "no." Obama knows how the favor factory works, and he isn't shy about using it.

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: "New Politics," Principled Positions, and Conclusion

Chapter seven of seven.

F. "New Politics" In Old Wineskin

Obama's supporters like to shift the conversation away from his record at all costs and focus on his campaign. One of the principal themes of that campaign has been his commitment to "a 'new politics for a new time' shorn of partisanship and division," exemplified by a higher standard of integrity in campaigning, what John Dickerson of Slate called "a national seminar for 16 months on changing politics and shedding the old insider way of doing things." Frankly, I pity anyone who was ever foolish enough to believe in that, but at any rate, even if you leave aside the traditional "who lied more and said meaner things about who," you can see that Obama's campaign has repeatedly broken the very promises that underpinned the "new politics" theme:

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October 12, 2008
POLITICS: Beldar on the Branchflower Report

I'll have more detail on this later in the week after I've finished with the big Obama post. In the meantime, here's Beldar, who has actually followed this story from the outset and has read the whole thing.

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POLITICS: Obama Rumor Mill

If you go out on the web you will find with Barack Obama, as with any national political figure, a broad spectrum of charges ranging from the indisputably true to the undeniably crackpot, and plenty in between. Here's two of the hot recent ones that fall in the gray area, as well as one example of how the mainstream media can follow up on stuff like this.

This essay by Jack Cashill argues somewhat convincingly that Dreams of My Father had the assistance of a ghostwriter, and more speculatively that the ghostwriter was Bill Ayers. I don't know a lot about Cashill but the essay is basically in the category of "plausible but unproven speculation." On the upside, Cashill doesn't make any really uncheckable assertions of fact other than his linguistic analyses (which could presumably be rechecked by MSM sources), so you can apply your own judgment.

Then we have this report sourced out of the Daily Mail in London suggesting an extramarital affair by Obama. (H/T Ace, who applies the Andrew Sullivan standard). Aside from Clinton and Gary Hart, we've had rumors of this kind in the past with Kerry, McCain (aside from the known affairs on his first wife, that is), George H.W. Bush, Palin and John Edwards, and only the Edwards one panned out. I don't put much stock in this or think the media should report it without investigating and getting the facts right. But I would hope they do seriously investigate stuff like this even when it's about Obama.

Then we have this September 29 report from Ken Timmerman of Newsmax about Obama's lack of financial controls and resulting receipt of large numbers of shady and quite likely illegal campaign contributions, including from foreign sources. Newsmax is not the most credible of sources - I generally don't cite their work unless it can be corroborated - but Timmerman, too, made clear what his sources were (FEC records) and you had to wonder why no major media outlets had tried the same thing. Shamed by Newsmax, which the IHT version of this credits, the New York Times ran basically the same investigation and seems to have come to basically the same conclusion, albeit without bringing themselves to address the more problematic foreign-donor angle. But it's a key example of the major media lacking the initiative to do basic due diligence on Obama until a fringe-y right-wing source delivers them a completed story on a platter.

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October 10, 2008
POLITICS: Not The ACORN He Knew

Obama & ACORNI'll cover this in more detail in a few days in Part II of my series on the Integrity Gap between the two tickets, but as the evidence mounts* of the involvement of the left-wing community organizer group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in extensive voter fraud across multiple states, Barack Obama has tried to minimize his involvement with ACORN and the critical role it played in his rise in the world of the Chicago political machine.

Obama's "Fight the Smears" campaign website denies any ties to ACORN other than his representation of the group in a 1995 lawsuit:

Fact: Barack was never an ACORN community organizer.

Fact: Barack was never an ACORN trainer and never worked for ACORN in any other capacity.

Fact: ACORN was not part of Project Vote, the successful voter registration drive Barack ran in 1992.

As the Cleveland Leader points out, this is flatly contradicted by an article written by ACORN head Toni Foulkes, which was conveniently removed from the internet (a common practice in the drive to scrub all evidence of Obama's career prior to 2004) after it was quoted by Stanley Kurtz of the National Review and other sources, while the rest of the articles on the same site remain up:

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October 8, 2008
POLITICS: Stay Class-Conscious, Barack Obama

From the annals of silly, and perhaps revealingly silly, arguments - an email from the Obama campaign following last night's debate repeats a line he's used before:

I will fight for the middle class every day, and -- once again -- Senator McCain didn't mention the middle class a single time during the debate.

It's true that Senator McCain didn't use the words "middle class." But let's go to the transcript and look at what he did say:

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October 7, 2008
POLITICS: The Second McCain-Obama Debate

Who won this one? Well, it depends where you stand, where you think the candidates stand, what they were trying to accomplish and whether you saw the first debate.

The elephant in the room for those of us who follow these things carefully - and for the candidates - was Obama's recent surge in the polls. Obviously that colors everything, in the sense that it creates the sense that McCain needs to slaughter Obama rather than just beat him on points. I think McCain did a better job in this debate than Obama did in several respects (slightly moreso than in the first debate, although much of the debate was almost literally a replay of the first debate) but if you think he needed to flatten Obama and utterly destroy him in a single night, he didn't do that. As in the first debate, both candidates basically did what they wanted to do, but I give the advantage to McCain mainly because he was much more able to throw Obama on the defensive and dominate the body language of the debate.

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POLITICS: Hey, Big Spender

Stanley Kurtz has been doing tremendous work on Obama's ties to Bill Ayers lately, but his examination of Obama's Chicago years doesn't end there. Given the sharp contrast presented by the first debate - when John McCain called for across the board spending cuts to tighten our collective belts for the coming recession, while Obama's effort to answer the same question found him launching into a barrage of new spending he intends to promote - it's useful to look back at Kurtz's reportage on Obama's spending record as a State Senator:

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POLITICS: Obama: Yeah, OK, Maybe I Kinda Sorta Did Know Ayers Was A Terrorist

In light of the mounting common-sense evidence of the total implausibility of Barack Obama's claim to have not known that Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn were not just terrorists but nationally famous terrorists when he worked with Ayers in the mid-1990s (including funnelling millions of dollars to left-wing "education" projects under Ayers' control, giving a favorable blurb to Ayers' book, and holding a crucial reception to launch Obama's political career at Ayers' home), Obama campaign manager David Axelrod is now partially backing down on what Obama knew but continuing to deny when he knew it:

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POLITICS: 10/7/08 Quick Links

*As Glenn Reynolds would say, they told me that if George W. Bush was re-elected, billionaires would have a veto over political speech...you really should watch that SNL skit if you can before it is deep-sixed permanently. It's so rare for late-night comedy to take on the Democrats' policies, rather than just gingerly needling their personalities.

*Via Ace, we have Patterico on the track of an LA Times report that simultaneously refused to report McCain's criticisms of Obama on the economic crisis while accusing McCain of being afraid to talk about the economic crisis. I heard a radio report last night on WINS that did exactly the same thing - it quoted McCain and Palin's lines about Obama's integrity but not McCain's specific factual charges about Obama and the economy, accused them of "dredging up dirt" and then pivoted to Obama talking about the economy...you could not make this stuff up. It's why McCain needs to do his own dirty work tonight.

*On the other hand, thumbs up to CNN for this, which calls out Obama's untruths about Bill Ayers, and includes new reporting quoting Alice Palmer, the leftist state senator who Obama succeeded in office:

The Obama camp and its media allies have used a couple of rhetorical strategies to deal with this. One is to talk solely about occasional meetings; believe nothing you hear from anyone who refuses to address Stanley Kurtz's reporting (which CNN actually reveals here) on Obama steering millions of dollars to Ayers' left-wing "educational" programs. Another is to claim that Ayers and Dohrn were somehow obscure figures (who just happened to be profiled periodically by national newspapers) and that Obama had no reason to know they were terrorists...of course, even aside from the fact that their background was well known in Hyde Park, Erick at RedState notes the extensive publicity about the Weather Underground at the time of the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and there's also the fact that Obama was living in New York attending Columbia University in October 1981 during the Brink's heist, which was huge front-page news in New York for months. The Brink's case is why I immediately knew who these people were when Obama's ties to them surfaced, and I'm ten years younger than Obama. One of the defendants in that case was Kathy Boudin; when Obama dealt with Ayers & Dohrn, Boudin and her husband were in prison and Ayers and Dohrn were raising her son as their own. I may not think much of Obama but even I don't think he was obtuse enough not to have known who these people were.

(Note to Obama supporters insistent on denying that this story means anything: please first have the decency to admit Obama's lying about it).

UPDATE: Want another piece of the puzzle? Kathy Boudin's brother Michael was a lecturer at Harvard Law School when Obama was there (in fact, he was my antitrust professor). Did Obama take his class? Michael Boudin is, of course, an infinitely more respectable figure than his sister - he'd served in the Reagan Justice Department and in 1992, shortly after Obama graduated, Judge Boudin was appointed to the federal appellate bench by George H.W. Bush - but his family ties were the sort of thing one would routinely discuss about a member of the Law School faculty.

*Ross Douthat argues that Republican appeals to social issues, or even ads that were accused of being racially divisive, have tended to be effective only when they were grounded in concrete economic or safety concerns. Meanwhile, when it's racist to criticize Barney Frank, well, the word has lost its meaning. One liberating feature of this campaign is that Republicans have been accused of being racist for pretty much every single thing that has been said or done, or at least every thing that was even remotely effective...after a while even the most timid of Republicans have to accept that the charge will get made no matter what means that it should not act as any sort of a restraint or deterrent on political dialogue. I mean, if it's racist to criticize Barney Frank and Bill Ayers, if it's racist to connect Obama to a multimillionaire CEO and former Cabinet official, if it's racist just to show video of Obama in front of backdrops he himself chose, well, the word is apt to lose all its meaning.

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POLITICS: Yes, We...Can?

So far as I can tell, nobody in the history of modern polling has won a presidential election from as big a hole as John McCain now stands in, at last check a national polling advantage in the neighborhood of 5 points for Obama. Now, if you are a betting man, surely you like your odds on Obama. But does that mean that the race is over? Perhaps, but not necessarily. While the circumstances are of course different, we have seen two past Republican campaigns, neither of them headed by the most dynamic of campaigners, provide examples of strong closing-month performances.

The most obvious recent example was 1996. The Gallup poll, which admittedly is one of the more volatile polls (Obama presently leads it by 8) on October 6/7, 1996 showed Bill Clinton with a commanding 22 point lead, 56-34 over Bob Dole with 5 points for Ross Perot (the first of two debates was on October 6). Four days later, after the first debate and the Vice Presidential debate, that lead was 57-34 (Clinton +23). In an October 14-15 poll, conducted on the eve of the second, October 16 debate, Dole pulled much closer (48-39, Clinton +9), but as late as October 20-21 the poll showed Clinton up 19, 52-33 with 8 for Perot. Dole then began his serious charge, pulling above 40% for the first time on November 4-5, to finish at Clinton +11 (52-41-7), and ended up at Clinton +8 on Election Day, 49-41. Dole thus ended up shaving as much as 15 points off Clinton's lead in less than a month.

Then there's 1976. Jimmy Carter had, of course, famously led by 34 in one midsummer poll...in a poll conducted September 24-27 (the first debate was September 23), Carter led 51-40 (+11), but in one conducted September 27-October 4, that lead dropped to +2, 47-45. Carter widened his lead to +6 on October 8-11 after the famous "Democrat wars" gaffe by Bob Dole in the October 6 VP debate, led +6 (47-41) on October 15-18 (the second debate, with Ford's Poland gaffe, was October 15), was still at +5 on October 22-25 (the third debate was October 22), but an October 28-30 poll for the first time showed a Ford lead, 47-46. On Election Day, Carter won 50-48.

Polling today is more sophisticated, of course, and there are other distinguishing factors as well. On the one hand, the 1996 election had a third party candidate who surged up to double digits in late October, and Dole was running so far behind a still-strong GOP Congressional brand (Republicans held both Houses of Congress through that race) that a good deal of his late surge was just natural Republicans coming home. Some of the same was true of Ford's surge. On the other hand, the 1996 race should have been much less volatile than this one - it matched a 3-decade Senate veteran with a sitting president in a time of peace and prosperity - yet the polls showed significant movement late in the game. 1976 was more similar to the present race, as it pitted a moderate Republican running in a time when the GOP brand was as destitute as it has been since the New Deal, matched against a relatively green and unknown opponent. And of course, this year's race involves not only an unprecedentedly inexperienced and far-left presidential candidate and times of economic uncertainty and foreign war but also the triple complicating factors of no incumbent, Obama's race, and McCain's age coupled with Palin being not a whole lot more experienced than Obama. Those are all reasons why we might expect more, rather than less, real underlying volatility in voter preferences in addition to the possibility that the polls themselves are having trouble measuring the race. And at the end of the day, while it may at first glance seem harder to push upward in the polls against the headwind of a bandwagon once the media has (correctly) called the race for the frontrunner, as in 1996, there is a difference in the degree of difficulty between pulling up close to 50 and breaking through it.

Again: none of this should be reason for Republicans to celebrate - as I said, nobody in a hole like this has actually won a race. But history tells us that voter preferences can still shift in the last month, and if Obama's lead now is accurately reflected by the RCP average of +5.3, it is still very much worthwhile for McCain-Palin and their supporters to fight on to the end.

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POLITICS: In a Just World, This Would Be The End of EJ Dionne

From today's Best of the Web, one of the classic examples of replacement-level, conventional wisdom-spouting liberal punditry makes a complete fool of himself in his rush to pronounce himself superior to Sarah Palin:

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October 6, 2008
POLITICS: It Is Brung

McCain, after two weeks of unwisely pulling his punches while Congress worked on the bailout package and his opponent made partisan hay instead of phone calls, is now going for the jugular. Quite possibly too late, but really, when there is one overwhelming issue in an election, and you were right about it and your opponent was wrong, and he was in bed with the people who had an interest in him being wrong, it is advisable to point that out. Let's hope he pounds this theme home tomorrow night.

I'm sure the response will be the usual chorus of claims that Obama's time in the U.S. Senate was a long time ago, doesn't matter, etc., etc., etc.

Oh, and by the way: this is just hilariously off-message.

PS: What are the two biggest decisions of Obama's short Senate career? This and the surge in Iraq. He was wrong on both, and McCain was right on both.

UPDATE: Video below the fold. After all his delay, McCain is relishing this line of attack:

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October 4, 2008
POLITICS: Whitewashing Ayers

We should not be surprised, exactly, that when the NY Times finally deals with the Bill Ayers story, it tells it entirely from the Obama campaign's preferred point of view...Stanley Kurtz looks at what is left out. Sample:

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October 3, 2008
POLITICS: Palin's Night

Q&A on last night's highly-anticipated Vice Presidential debate:

(1) Is Sarah Palin a Blithering Moron?

Why no, in fact; amazingly, it turns out that a politician who has won six elections, served in public office for 13 years, participated in more than a dozen debates for statewide office two years ago and is the most popular Governor in the nation is actually perfectly capable of handling herself on her feet. But thanks anyway to those of you who worked so hard to make that the question everyone was asking and to reset expectations to exactly where they were entering her convention speech. The Left didn't see that they were marching into a trap in 2004, but then they keep making the same mistake year after year after year even when we are telling them to their faces what they are doing.

Palin had one hit-and-miss interview with Charlie Gibson and a bad one with Katie Couric, but very few presidential candidates, even successful ones, have avoided having those kinds of days (Obama, for example, has often been tongue-tied and stammering in interviews; his debate performance Friday was well above his usual standards). That said, the gaps in her knowledge of national politics is an object lesson in why Governors, often elected to the Presidency, are rarely elected Vice President (Spiro Agnew is the only one since Coolidge).

Palin wasn't quite the masterful populist she is on the stump or was at the Convention, but she was close. There were a few moments of fractured grammar ("What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?"), a few episodes of falling back on generalities, and of course more than a few missed opportunities, but overall her performance was quite good indeed, and got back to the roots of why she's such an effective politician. Some of that is mannerism - Biden talked to the moderator, Palin to the camera, and Palin was confident and bouyant, even on one occasion winking at the audience - some is her down-to-earth persona and ability to handle hot-button issues with a low-key, conciliatory tone, and some is simply the willingness to keep returning to hammer home a core theme, which in this case first and foremost was Obama's plans to jack up taxes in the teeth of an oncoming recession (ironically, Biden pretty much fatally undermined the fiscal plausibility of his ticket's tax hike strategy by repeatedly reasserting how few people it would be aimed at. That's exactly why nobody who is remotely familiar with Democratic politicians or with Obama's spending plans expects the lower limits on the tax plan to hold). There were no awkward pauses, no gaffes, nowhere she looked unprepared - she changed the subject on a number of occasions, but like McCain in the first debate, it had the effect of forcing Biden (who like Obama has a lawyer's inability to resist responding to everything) to play on her turf.

Of course, Palin's tendency to use generalities will come in for fire from the people who spent months swooning whenever Barack Obama read the words "hope" and "change" off his TelePrompter, but that can't be helped.

Some of Palin's best moments, despite the less than perfect syntax, came on things like global warming and same-sex marriage, where she was able to articulate positions that have one foot firmly planted in the conservative camp but with a nod to moderate positions as well. And of course, she again resisted efforts to take Henry Kissinger's name in vain - it's hilarious to me that Kissinger, of all people, is still an issue in multiple presidential debates 32 years after leaving office (then again, Biden brought up Mike Mansfield). And she handled pretty much all of the foreign policy questions flawlessly, threw some good shots at Biden over his past criticisms of Obama (unfortunately we didn't get to hear him put on the spot about his nutty plan to cut Iraq into three separate countries). She was very effective in arguing that Biden is running against Bush instead of the actual ticket ("there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future.") The one trap she generally avoided being baited into was testing the depth of her knowledge of McCain's 26-year legislative voting record.

The lowlight of Palin's performance for me, at least, was when she kept saying that "there was greed and there is corruption on Wall Street. And we need to stop that." Threatening to punish Wall Street after the events of the past month is like threatening to punish the Branch Davidians after Waco. Another discordant note, but an example of how Palin was more liberated last night, was on education, where her answer was all about teacher salaries, more funding and loosening the standards of No Child Left Behind - in contrast to McCain's platform, laid out in detail in his Convention speech but basically ignored since then, of school choice, standards and accountability.

Palin benefits, of course, from being the running mate, so she doesn't have to carry as much of the argumentative, persuasive load. But she did a good job last night.

(2) Was Joe Biden...Joe Biden?

Surprisingly no, and in ways that were both good and bad for him. Stylistically, Biden seemed old, tired and grumpy; Biden can be quite charming and very much the happy warrior himself, and there was little of that in evidence. The mike picked him up emitting Al Gore-style exasperated sighs while Palin was talking on one or two occasions. Like McCain on Friday, he warmed up (or more properly, thawed out) as the evening went along. On the upside, while Biden had some moments that were amusing to knowledgeable viewers, he didn't really produce any of the gasp-inducing gaffes that have been his signature for so many years, and of course, like McCain, he wore the mantle of his long experience effortlessly.

Although this debate was, like the first one, quite lively, it was also considerably more detatched from the truth, and Biden was mainly at fault for that - hammering John McCain inaccurately for being anti-regulation; falsely claiming that Obama's Iraq plan was the "same plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now negotiating," when Obama's plan called for complete withdrawal by March 2008; confusing a windfall profits tax with a severance tax; claiming, absurdly, that McCain was voting to cut off funding for the Iraq War when he voted against an amendment to a funding bill. And when Biden said, "[t]hat's the fundamental change Barack Obama and I will be bring to this party, not questioning other people's motives," well, he must not have read Obama's 2002 war speech, in which Obama did just that as the centerpiece of his argument:

What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

Biden also probably went a bit too far in suggesting that Obama needed him as training wheels:

Barack Obama indicated to me he wanted me with him to help him govern. So every major decision he'll be making, I'll be sitting in the room to give my best advice.

One of the more jarring moments, and maybe people at home didn't pick this up, was when Biden suggested that we should have repeated Reagan's greatest mistake (one McCain made a point of noting his 1983 opposition to) and sent troops into Lebanon:

When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, "Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it."

And I think Biden overreached in his assumption that Americans are opposed to all of Bush's foreign policy; I suspect even among people who don't like the Iraq War you'd find a fair amount of support for his approach to Iran, Israel, Pakistan, etc. That said, if I was the McCain campaign, the commercial I'd want to cut of Biden was this line about foreign policy: "Talk. Talk. Talk." Well, there's your Obama foreign policy in a nutshell.

(3) Was Gwen Ifill Biased?

Ifill wasn't a terrible moderator the way Chris Matthews was during the primaries, nor had I expected her to be based on the Cheney-Edwards debate four years ago. Still, you would not have had a ton of difficulty figuring out whose side her sympathies lay with. Biden got the last word in and overran his time finishing a sentence an astounding number of times, whereas she cut Palin off at the knees in mid-sentence when Palin was on a roll reciting examples of McCain's push for more regulations: "Look at the tobacco industry. Look at campaign finance reform...." Or when she sneered at Palin, "Governor, are you interested in defending Sen. McCain's health care plan?" And she did ask one truly awful question:

Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?

This was a terrible question because it's so inside-baseball, relating to an arcane legal dispute nobody much follows who isn't an obsessive political junkie. If she wanted to ask a more open-ended question about Cheney's view of executive power and secrecy, that might have been enlightening. As it was, it was Biden who got his answer all wrong - besides asserting incorrectly that the executive power is set forth in Article I of the Constitution (maybe Biden needs 36 more years in the Senate to get up to speed on that one) and that the VP may "preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote." That's not quite as bad as former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson not knowing the permanent members of the UN Security Council, but it's staggering that a guy who has been in the Senate that long and spent years heading the Judiciary Committee and grilling Supreme Court nominees would blow such basic concepts of constitutional law.

(4) Will It Matter?

Let's be frank here: McCain is now behind in all the important polls, and has lost significant ground since his high point around September 12-14. The overwhelming reason for this has been the credit crisis that has been the financial equivalent of the Madrid train bombing, working naturally against the party in power in the White House pretty much regardless of all other facts and circumstances, and pretty much sweeping consideration of every other issue out of the spotlight. The drawing out of the bailout debate has only worked to the Democrats' advantage. With a month to go in the race and a fair amount of additional things that could happen, it's premature to declare that this is the end of the line, but it does mean that McCain needs game-changing events; the ticket just scoring two more narrow debate victories like the first two won't be enough unless we get another external shock to the system and/or Obama does something really stupid. Of course, that was really never possible with this debate, since there was no realistic way to mortally wound Obama's ticket by something Biden did; the best Republicans could hope for was to reestablish Gov. Palin, and that worked out pretty much as well as one could have hoped. Which leaves to McCain the job of taking out Obama.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
October 2, 2008
POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part I of III: Gov. Sarah Palin

I have previously discussed at length the extent to which the public mood has focused on the issue of integrity in this presidential election. If anything, the recent credit crisis has heightened that concern - frankly, the public doesn't understand the crisis and isn't convinced the candidates do, either, but wants reassurance that the next President will be above outside influence in dealing with its aftermath and preventing similar economic crises in the future.

Now, you may not be interested in the integrity issue, or at any rate may be voting primarily on other issues; certainly I have other things much higher on my priority list. But if this is truly an election about who has the independence to bring about change in Washington, this is an issue the campaigns cannot ignore.

One of the most basic ways in which a candidate can demonstrate the integrity voters are looking for is to build a record of standing up to corruption and waste - and doing so even when it appears in his or her own party, or on the part of his or her own allies or backers. This is not just a matter of honesty and prudence, but of toughness and courage. Let me offer a contrast between the two tickets on this issue - an Integrity Gap that Obama simply can't surmount and can only hope to obscure. If you look at the record of the McCain-Palin ticket and compare it to the Obama-Biden record in this regard, it really is no contest. I will start with the junior members of the two tickets. Governor Sarah Palin, in her short career, has fought many battles against her own party's entrenched interests; Senator Barack Obama, in a career of similar length and scope, has consistently looked the other way, and worse. Sen. Obama simply lacks the courage and the record of accomplishment of Gov. Palin. Today I will look at Gov. Palin's record; in Part II I will deal with Sen. Obama. Part III will deal with the senior members of the two tickets, Senator John McCain and Senator Joe Biden.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (66) | TrackBack (0)
October 1, 2008
POLITICS: Full Disclosure

A number of conservatives, led by Michelle Malkin, are up in arms now about the fact that the moderator of the vice presidential debate, Gwen Ifill, has a book coming out January 20, 2009 - Inauguration Day - entitled "Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." You can read Malkin's post for the full details of why this clearly gives Ifill a financial interest in there being an "Age of Obama" commencing January 20, to say nothing of her sympathies for her subject.

Moe Lane and Beldar are completely right here: this doesn't mean Ifill should be replaced at the last minute, likely with some other liberal journalist, and it doesn't mean Gov. Palin should be forced to eat into her precious debate time pointing the conflict out - but ethically, Ifill really must disclose to the national audience her book, its title and subject and release date at the outset of the debate, and let the viewing public decide if that tells them anything about the moderator.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:33 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)
September 30, 2008
POLITICS: The Russian Border

Beldar, who really has been just far and away the best source on all things Palin, has a long, maps-and-pictures-filled post up looking at, yes, Alaska's proximity to Russia and what Gov. Palin's experience says about her as a potential Commander-in-Chief. I agree with this:

[N]o state governor has executive experience on these matters comparable to that which must be exercised by the POTUS. State governors are, however, executives, with experience running large organizations of a sort that mere legislators at any level - including U.S. Congressmen and Senators - don't acquire. That's part of the explanation for why America has so often elected state chief executive officers (governors) to become the federal chief executive officer (POTUS), often with salutary results

That goes to my longstanding point: no President is prepared for the entire job, but you have to have a base in one of the major parts of the job to avoid being overwhelmed by the learning curve, and in Gov. Palin's case, it's one of the two big ones (executive experience, the other being national security experience; Obama lacks both). Now, obviously Palin doesn't bring to the table the years of national leadership on national security and foreign policy issues that Reagan did, and one can fairly argue that governors with experience more comparable to Palin's - Woodrow Wilson had an almost identical resume when elected - were not smashing successes in the foreign policy/national security arena (these would include George W. Bush, Clinton, Carter, FDR, Coolidge, Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and McKinley, of whom only the Roosevelts and McKinley had some relevant foreign policy/national security experience). On the other hand, unlike Obama, Palin is highly likely to have many months and probably years before she'd be called on to take the reins, and would I be concerned if Palin became the president in, say, the fall of 2010? Of course not, since the best possible training for the presidency is the vice presidency.

The Palin-Obama comparison also reminds me of a silly Dahlia Lithwick column comparing Palin to Clarence Thomas in light of Justice Thomas' views on affirmative action:

Like Thomas, Palin has been blasted for inexperience, and she has fought back with claims that she is not being judged on her merits, but on her gender, just as he felt he was inevitably judged on his race. While it's possible to assert that Sarah Palin is the most qualified person in America for the vice presidency, only approximately nine people have done so with a straight face. That's because Palin was not chosen because she was the second-best person to run America but to promote diversity on the ticket, even the political playing field, and to shatter (in her words) some glass ceilings.

What is amusingly naive, or would be if it wasn't so disingenuous, is the suggestion that running mates are chosen because they are actually the second-most-qualified potential president in their party, regardless of political considerations. This was arguably true of Dick Cheney, whose only political benefit was precisely the fact that he could very seriously have been argued to be the second-most-qualified potential president in the GOP. (And if McCain were choosing today on solely that basis, Cheney would still be the top choice). Other than maybe LBJ, who was in any event chosen for nakedly political causes, though, one is hard-pressed to find running mates who fit that description. Palin does, in fact, bring a good deal more to the ticket than just gender, ranging from things McCain doesn't have (executive experience, rock-solid social conservative credentials, being from far outside the Beltway and from a small town, and having lived most of her adult life in what is basically a blue-collar household, albeit one that by now is quite financially successful) as well as personal charisma (she's a natural at retail politics) and harmony with McCain's basic reformist drive and willingness to take on their own side. Add in the list of reasons why various other people were out of the running, and it's obvious that Palin was a more than plausible choice, which is one reason why the right side of the blogosphere was buzzing about her as a running mate for months before McCain made his choice.

(Another argument I sometimes hear is the issue of whether she was the most qualified woman in the GOP...there's a longer answer when you walk through particular candidates, but the easy answer to that one is this question: how many pro-life female governors are there in the GOP right now? I'm pretty certain the answer to that question is "one," and really the only pro-life female Senator is Elizabeth Dole, and the last thing we need is another Dole on a national ticket.)

Anyway, where Lithwick's column becomes openly contemptible is that she never even breathes the name Barack Obama. I can't imagine there's anybody over the age of 25 who seriously thinks Obama's the person in the Democratic Party most qualified to do the job, and certainly his campaign has never been shy about leaning on his identity as a substitute for things like experience, accomplishment, and leadership ability. Lithwick may have some hidden rationalization why the dynamic she describes doesn't apply to Obama, but she dares not advance it.

Obama has one and only one advantage over Palin: he's been on the campaign trail longer, and thus had more training by now in how to finesse questions he doesn't have a good answer to. That's it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:39 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: Unmarked To Market

An SEC Press Release issued today offers a clarification that may relieve institutions that feel compelled to use "mark to market" or "fair value" accounting for debt securities as to which there is no liquid market (I'll try to just offer a neutral description here; other people at my law firm will no doubt be offering our clients more detailed advice on this topic). This is just one aspect of the credit crisis, but MTM has acted as something of an accelerant for the financial troubles of institutions holding mortgage-backed securities for which there is no active market. Some people, mainly on the Right, have argued that suspending MTM would give needed breathing space and eliminate the need for Treasury to step in as market maker and buy up MBS, while others have argued that loosening the accounting rules just conceals the problem and delays the day of reckoning.

Anyway, today's statement offers at least some clarification that companies need not be rigidly tied in to market prices where there's no market:

When an active market for a security does not exist, the use of management estimates that incorporate current market participant expectations of future cash flows, and include appropriate risk premiums, is acceptable...The determination of fair value often requires significant judgment. In some cases, multiple inputs from different sources may collectively provide the best evidence of fair value.

The statement goes on to note that distressed sales may also not be the best evidence of fair value and deals with other indicia of value such as broker quotes and methods of determining impairment of an asset (recall that unlike, say, the New York Stock Exchange, markets for debt securities do not necessarily have instantaneous public price reporting of all transactions). This is one example of how the regulators are now acting to use the tools already at their disposal rather than wait for Congress to give definitive guidance.

More analysis here.

UPDATE: McCain camp notes they've been pressing this issue since March. Fuller statement excerpt here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:41 PM | Business • | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/BUSINESS: The Day After

Well, the last couple of days could have gone better, couldn't they?

The Wall Street Journal has probably the best overview of Congress' failure. Lest anyone get the wrong idea from yesterday's post, which I will freely admit I wrote in a heat when emotions were very raw as the vote slipped away and the stock market collapsed (the credit markets are worse - LIBOR more than doubled overnight, which should frighten the bejabbers out of anyone who pays attention to this stuff), I do think there's plenty of blame to go around in both parties here (naturally, CNN and other media sources are blaming only the Republicans, ignoring who has a majority of votes in the House):

Congress

Let's start with the obvious: the credit crisis demands action (I'd love to take the purist free market position of letting lots of businesses fail, but while that makes sense in the case of any one enterprise, the credit/debt markets are like the atmosphere of the economy; if there's no atmosphere, things get uglier by multiples for lots of bystanders who didn't make any mistakes related in any way to the crisis. Here's one canary in the coal mine: the New York Sun, quite possibly New York's best newspaper. If you don't believe me, listen to Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma populist who is such a good friend to taxpayers that all four candidates in the presidential race have fallen over themselves seeking a share of credit for battles Coburn led). And more to the point, if any action is going to take place it has to be large, rapid, decisive, complex, unpopular, and unpleasant for principled people on both sides of the aisle.

Congress, of course, was basically designed specifically to not work this way, and by nature it attracts people who don't work that way. On some level you can't fault the House of Representatives for falling back, when pushed hastily to act on something that was clearly beyond most Members' understanding, on just representing popular anger against the bailout plan that was pouring in to their offices. (This is also why we generally don't put Congressmen or Senators on national tickets - we may have low expectations for legislators, but couldn't abide this sort of behavior in a President).

An aside: an awful lot of basic economics is just common sense expressed in equations, charts and terms of art, and is therefore easy enough for adults to understand if they think about it a little. As a result, there are a lot of people in Congress, at least on the GOP side and among moderate Democrats, who I would trust to understand the essentials of how the economy works.

Modern global finance, when you cut all the way to the gray matter of how the system operates, is another story. It's clearly not something a lot of conservative Republicans in Congress undertood, or that most Congressional liberals would even bother to try to understand. And we're stuck with one Presidential candidate who spent his whole life in public service and seems to think that profit motives are somehow a lesser calling, and another who has proudly boasted of turning away from the private sector and is obsessed with income inequality rather than how income and wealth gets created in the first place. Even the Harvard MBA in the White House is an oilman, not a finance guy. Quite simply, our political class is not equipped to handle this crisis. Now, the traditional conservative answer to that is to say, well, that's why we let the market sort this stuff out rather than entrusting politicians with things that, if they understood them, they wouldn't be politicians. But at this juncture, I'd rather trust the Goldman Sachs guy, Paulson, to come up with the answer (and as another aside, thank heavens Bush got a qualified Treasury Secretary on the third try after the two prior efforts to give the job to industrial CEOs).

House Republicans and John McCain

Whether House Republicans voted "no" out of ideological principle, responsiveness to angry constituents, fear of losing re-election, ambition to rise within the caucus, pique at Nancy Pelosi, or some combination thereof, they win no awards for courage or wisdom in a crisis. The GOP House leadership bit the bullet and came back on their shields; they can't be faulted for lack of courage but they were ultimately ineffective in whipping their own caucus.

I have noted a few times that I agreed on policy grounds with John McCain's decision to involve himself in the negotiations, and the record bears out that his involvement helped House Republicans improve the deal enough to get 60+ votes. Patrick Ruffini continues to argue that it was bad political strategy, and he's probably right that McCain neglected my rule that you never fight legislative battles you can't afford to lose. Either way, McCain did not, in the end, come up with enough House GOP votes to ensure passage. He bought into the process, and didn't deliver the final product.

As a matter of pure political theater, if I was running the campaign, the ideal resolution this week would be to have McCain, or better yet Gov. Palin, get the whip count from Roy Blunt of the most-wavering Republicans, and burn the phone lines to round up 12 House conservatives who voted against the bailout but could be persuaded to switch. Given suddenly softening public opposition to the deal after yesterday's market crash, this may yet be possible, and given that the holdouts include a lot of rural/small town Republicans, Gov. Palin may be just the person to speak their language (and promise to campaign in their districts and defend their decision). Then, hold a joint press conference hailing them as heroes for biting the bullet to switch their votes and save the economy and, while she's at it, explain to the media that she has learned as a Governor that being a doer matters more than being a talker. "Nancy Pelosi, here are the votes you couldn't deliver in your own caucus. Now, let's get beyond finger-pointing and do the people's business."

That would be a political masterstroke, which could be accomplished entirely by conservative Republicans without the assistance of a single Democrat or wobbly moderate; it would stand the entire blame debate on its head and totally and instantly remake her reputation going into Thursday's debate. Of course, dramatic gestures of that nature rarely seem to work in politics, but I can't see why it would not be worth a try.

UPDATE: I see Tom Maguire has suggested nearly exactly the same thing.

House Democrats and Barack Obama

Leaving aside policy, Karl Rove pretty perfectly captures here the political and emotional dynamic on the House floor as the vote came down:

H/T. The question of the day is whether the failure of the bailout package was proof of Pelosi's and Barack Obama's incompetence or their deliberate choice.

On the incompetence front, well, most of you will remember how the whip operation worked when Tom DeLay was House GOP Whip and later Majority Leader: Republicans running the chamber basically never lost a floor vote because DeLay would twist arms until they snapped like twigs to get those last few votes, and would not bring a bill to the floor until he damn well knew he had those votes. The House is not the Senate; the minority has no formidable powers of obstruction. The majority gets what it wants, period. If you assume Pelosi wanted this to pass, you would think she could have used every procedural device and lever of influence in the book to make it happen.

But increasingly, it looks like this was deliberate and done to place the interests of blaming Republicans over the nation. Soren Dayton rounds up the damning evidence, including the fact that Pelosi never even had her Whip, John Clyburn, do his job and round up support. Then we get this, which even the New York Times couldn't find an excuse not to print:

Mr. Holtz-Eakin said Mr. McCain had made "dozens of calls" on the bill, some to House Republicans who opposed it.

Aides to Mr. Obama said he had not directly reached out to try to sway any House Democrats who opposed the measure.

H/T. Go back and listen to that list reeled off by Rove, and notice the presence of a lot of Obama allies, including Congressman Jesse Jackson jr, national co-chair of the Obama campaign and a frequent spokesman on Obama's behalf (Jackson's statement is here). (Obama's own Congressman, Bobby Rush, also voted No). Do we really think Obama could not have swayed Jackson's vote on this? Are there really not twelve House Democrats, not even in the Congressional Black Caucus - which voted heavily against the deal - who care what Barack Obama thinks? (If not, that bodes ill indeed for an Obama presidency).

In other words, neither Pelosi nor Obama raised a finger to make this happen, and their defenders must at best argue that they are so ineffective they could not have made a difference if they tried (I mean, if you can't buy William Jefferson's vote...). Barney Frank was bragging that he could persuade a dozen more Republicans if they'd give him the names, but three Massachusetts Democrats, Stephen Lynch, John Tierney and William Delahunt, all voted No as well, and Frank doesn't seem to have made any headway with them. Pelosi's speech laying into Republicans on the eve of the vote just seems the icing on the cake here.

Needless to say, deliberately contributing to the defeat of legislation they professed to support, solely for political gain, would not reflect well on Pelosi or Obama. But as little respect as I have for their competence, I can't look at their inaction and think they are really fools enough that they could have been trying to pass it and acted as they did.

That said, I do not think four years of this would be at all healthy for the conservative movement. (H/T Ace). I mean, it was fun to read and several of the individual factual pieces are worth repeating, but the overall theme and especially the flow chart just reeks of "truther"-style conspiracy theory.

President Bush

I don't especially blame Bush for the vote failure - it's not like he has any political chits left to call in (how totally obvious is it that Bush would have been happy to head back to his ranch about three months ago?). Then again, if one of the lessons of Bush I was that you need to spend your political capital while it lasts, one of the enduring lessons of Bush II is that maybe you shouldn't spend it all and have nothing left for a rainy day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
September 29, 2008
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Delay For Its Own Sake

Crash & Burn

SECOND UPDATE: Well, the House has voted the bailout down 228-205, despite 66 Republicans (including basically the entire leadership) throwing in behind the bill despite their distaste for it; the Democrats lost something like 40% of their caucus. Seems to me that McCain, having gone all-in for this bill, now has to do Pelosi's job for her and locate the last 13 votes to get this done. We know Obama can't and won't, despite bragging that he deserved credit for the deal.

UPDATE: Looks like they are voting anyway and at last check, the House is about set to vote the deal down. Hold on to your seatbelts, folks.

So, the word just came down that the Senate will not vote on the bailout package until Wednesday night. House Republicans should refuse to vote on the deal until the ballots are cast in the Senate. And Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should be ashamed of themselves.

Really, I had intended to write up a review of the progress made in the negotiations over the weekend, but it is just astonishing to me that we have not had votes in both Houses first thing this morning, and as the Democrats run the place, this is entirely their fault.

You may or may not agree that the bailout bill is necessary, but the Democratic leadership in Congress is supporting this bill on the publicly avowed theory that it is. And the reason why it is perceived as necessary is to shore up confidence in fast-paced credit markets. Yet not only did we have dithering last week driven by Democratic efforts to turn the bill into a Christmas tree of special interest favors like earmarked handouts to left-wing groups like Barack Obama's friends at ACORN and unrelated corporate governance provisions for the whole economy, but now the Democrats seem in no hurry to bring the bill to a vote.

I know it's hard to get this all written down and digested. (Which, by the way, is one reason all the extras should never have been piled on). But Members of Congress get paid to make decisions. They had all weekend and then some to evaluate the basic merits of the Paulson bailout plan. And every day, every hour that there's no deal, there are additional financial institution failures, further tightening in the credit markets, and uncertainty-driven losses in the stock market.

The reason why the Democrats want delay is extraordinarily simple: electoral politics. Economic uncertainty always plays against the party in the White House. The polls over the last week bear this out. Every day the agony is prolonged and more people lose money, it benefits Obama.

And of course we saw the contrasting reactions last week in the presidential race: John McCain dropped everything to go to Washington and help Republicans battle back, successfully, against all the Democratic add-ons (John Boehner: "if it were not for John McCain supporting me at the White House when I said whoa, whoa, time-out, they would have run over me like a freight train."), while nobody asked for Obama's help and he had no discernible impact on the negotiations. As a result of his decision to take action, McCain ends up more dependent on getting things actually done and delivering, a dynamic that's wholly alien to Obama, who has no experience with needing to get results.

Personally, unhappy as I am with the turn of events that brought the market to this point, I support the bailout. But House Republicans shouldn't let themselves get used to provide political cover for an emergency rescue operation if the Senate's just going to sit on it for another two and a half business days. They should refuse to play along with this effort and should not participate in any vote that doesn't include a simultaneous Senate vote.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:22 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (40) | TrackBack (0)
September 26, 2008
POLITICS: The First McCain-Obama Debate

I kinda hate writing up debates, given the extent to which posts get pored over for any sign of conceding that my side did anything but slaughter the opposition. That said, let's take on a few points about tonight's debate.

(1) This was a great debate. Fiesty, back and forth - there was too much crosstalk, but this was not just a stilted debate of the type that, frankly, you get when George W. Bush is involved. Jim Lehrer sounded old and wheezy but did manage to get the candidates to go after each other.

(2) If I had to use a word to describe Obama tonight, it would be "lawyerly" - he interrupted McCain repeatedly, he let nothing pass without a response. He was well prepared, didn't stammer as much as in past debates and had clearly worked on smiling rather than staring at his shoes when criticized. It was, in fact, a stronger presentation than his past debate performances, although as usual he had no memorable lines. Obviously there were a number of things he said that didn't hold water, but I'm not feeling energetic enough to wade into all that just yet.

(3) The upside for McCain is that he was highly energetic, and probably went a long way to dispelling concerns about his age. His effortless mastery of foreign policy and repeated and pointed dismissals of Obama's naivete were brilliant (Obama really doesn't know the difference between a tactic and a strategy), although on a number of occasions you could see that - betraying the fact that he was winging it - he was rushing to cover vast swathes of ground in a single answer without a prepared spiel. I suppose it was inevitable that he'd refuse to get sucked into the endless debate about the decision to go to war in Iraq. He eventually got good shots in on the surge but never quite cleanly explained how Obama was willing to lose the war. Probably the highlight for McCain was mocking Obama's idea that you could just disavow things said by Ahmedinejad once you've agreed to meet with him. McCain did start building the case that Obama's too far to the left to work across the aisle, but needs to ratchet that case up with specifics in the future.

(4) In general, I suspect this debate comes as a positive for both candidates, but isn't the game-changer the past 10 days of polling sugests McCain needs. Probably my biggest disappointment, among a couple of places where McCain let Obama off the hook, was failing to lay into him as he did in the speech here for Obama's obstruction of reforms McCain had pushed to head off a key element of the credit crisis two years ago. When Obama started to say anything at all about how we got into the credit crisis, the response should have been a "how dare you" moment, and McCain just let him slide. He may live to regret that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 PM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The First McCain-Obama Debate

I kinda hate writing up debates, given the extent to which posts get pored over for any sign of conceding that my side did anything but slaughter the opposition. That said, let's take on a few points about tonight's debate.

(1) This was a great debate. Fiesty, back and forth - there was too much crosstalk, but this was not just a stilted debate of the type that, frankly, you get when George W. Bush is involved. Jim Lehrer sounded old and wheezy but did manage to get the candidates to go after each other.

(2) If I had to use a word to describe Obama tonight, it would be "lawyerly" - he interrupted McCain repeatedly, he let nothing pass without a response. He was well prepared, didn't stammer as much as in past debates and had clearly worked on smiling rather than staring at his shoes when criticized. It was, in fact, a stronger presentation than his past debate performances, although as usual he had no memorable lines. Obviously there were a number of things he said that didn't hold water, but I'm not feeling energetic enough to wade into all that just yet.

(3) The upside for McCain is that he was highly energetic, and probably went a long way to dispelling concerns about his age. His effortless mastery of foreign policy and repeated and pointed dismissals of Obama's naivete were brilliant (Obama really doesn't know the difference between a tactic and a strategy), although on a number of occasions you could see that - betraying the fact that he was winging it - he was rushing to cover vast swathes of ground in a single answer without a prepared spiel. I suppose it was inevitable that he'd refuse to get sucked into the endless debate about the decision to go to war in Iraq. He eventually got good shots in on the surge but never quite cleanly explained how Obama was willing to lose the war. Probably the highlight for McCain was mocking Obama's idea that you could just disavow things said by Ahmedinejad once you've agreed to meet with him. McCain did start building the case that Obama's too far to the left to work across the aisle, but needs to ratchet that case up with specifics in the future.

(4) In general, I suspect this debate comes as a positive for both candidates, but isn't the game-changer the past 10 days of polling sugests McCain needs. Probably my biggest disappointment, among a couple of places where McCain let Obama off the hook, was failing to lay into him as he did in the speech here for Obama's obstruction of reforms McCain had pushed to head off a key element of the credit crisis two years ago. When Obama started to say anything at all about how we got into the credit crisis, the response should have been a "how dare you" moment, and McCain just let him slide. He may live to regret that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 PM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: What McCain Needs To Do Tonight

I had thought out in advance a week ago or more what John McCain needed to do tonight. But for better or for worse (in a macro sense, for McCain, probably worse) the financial crisis and McCain's decision to double down on getting a deal done in DC, followed by his unsuccessful game of chicken aimed at getting Obama to postpone the debate, has totally scrambled the situation and thrown everything into chaos. These kinds of structured Q&A debates aren't really either candidate's strong suit - Obama's better at staged speeches, McCain at wide-open forums - but in McCain's case, the advantage he has is that this is head to head, so he can have some effect on his opponent's performance.

Since he's had a bad two weeks in the polls, he has a greater need to move the needle than Obama does; the stakes are high. Beyond the general need to avoid major gaffes and serious no-nos (for McCain, having a 'senior moment' or doing something people see as racially insensitive, for Obama, hitting McCain for his war-related disabilities again or otherwise giving McCain a good reason to play the war hero card), here is what McCain needs to do.

(1) McCain needs to sell what he has been doing this week.

Foreign policy debate or no, the elephant in the room is the credit crisis, the negotiations in Washington, and McCain's brief suspension of his campaign. He needs to address, not necessarily at length but squarely, that he's been hard at work in DC and that a bipartisan deal will get done and will justify his decisions. (Implicitly it reminds people that McCain's been too busy to prepare for this debate, he's going in cold because he knows his stuff). If no deal gets done, this race is over, and McCain and everyone else know it.

Relatedly, McCain needs to be on the offensive in getting economic issues, including energy security and free trade, into this debate. One of the risks he's faced all campaign is that he'd be seen as a foreign policy guy with no real interest in domestic bread-and-butter issues; with those issues dominating the week's news, he needs to communicate that they are very much on his mind.

(2) McCain needs to punch Obama in the face.

Rhetorically, of course. Given the seriousness of this week's events it may be a bit riskier to do it tonight, but he needs to start and to do it in each of the debates. From McCain's perspective, you usually worry about coming off as mean, but people generally don't think John McCain is a nice man; they like and/or respect him because he's a scrapper who is willing to throw a punch and gets up off the mat when you hit him. And especially in the national security area, one of the largest concerns about Obama is his toughness; McCain wants the viewer at home wondering how Obama will stand toe to toe with Ahmadenijad or Putin.

Going after Obama very directly is good as well for the body language; Obama tends to stare at his shoes and look sheepish when he's criticized, and he's extremely thin-skinned and reacts badly to being directly criticized or called out on untruths. For example, Obama will claim that Bush and Maliki are following his plan for withdrawals from Iraq by mid-2010; McCain needs to hammer home that Obama's plan in fact called for complete withdrawal by March 2008.

(3) McCain needs to keep Obama off balance.

This much, he's already done; Obama has had his schedule and focus seriously disrupted this week. McCain thrives on chaos and crisis; Obama does not. McCain needs to keep rattling Obama, keep him out of his comfort zone of gauzy generalities, and force him to answer questions he hasn't thought through.

(4) McCain needs to raise doubts about Obama's staying power in Afghanistan.

The Democrats for some time now have followed a strategy of balancing dovish policies on wherever the U.S. is engaged in a hot or cold war with tough talk about other enemies we aren't confronting at the moment - hence, Democrats talked tough on Iraq in 1998 but not in 2002, or on Iran in 2004, but less so in later years as an actual confrontation became a possibility. But Obama's extended the tough talk to Afghanistan, where we are actually at war.

But once withdrawals from Iraq accelerate and Bush is gone, the anti-war movement's focus will inevitably shift to Afghanistan. If the fight there gets tougher, will Obama have the guts to take the position McCain did with Iraq in 2007-08 and double down for victory, or will he do what Obama did in that period? McCain has to draw that connection to show how Obama's faux-hawkishness will melt under pressure.

(5) McCain needs to start identifying Obama as an arch-liberal.

This is more an issue for the domestic policy debates but it needs to start tonight. At the end of the day, America is a slightly center-right country. McCain is a center-right candidate, the candidate for people who are a step to the left of George W. Bush; Obama is a far-left candidate, the candidate for people who are a step to the left of Hillary Clinton. Yet much of Obama's appeal is the fiction he started building in 2004 that he was some sort of centrist unity candidate. McCain has to shatter the remains of that illusion.

The face to face debates are the best time to drive that point home, both explicitly and through the issues. He can, for example, remind people that this time last year, Obama was promising liberal groups he would "slow our development of future combat systems." In 2004, simply by repeatedly calling John Kerry a liberal in the second debate, President Bush drove up by 6 points in one night the number of people who identified Kerry as a liberal.

Also, one bit of advice for Obama:

Obama needs to ignore Palin

Obama has a lot of trouble letting things go, and has shown a particular problem handling the prominence of McCain's running mate, which leads to lowering Obama's stature by reminding people that McCain's far more experienced and prepared than the two of them put together. Obama should deal solely with McCain.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Some Straight Talk For House Republicans: Time To Lead From The Rear

The question of the day is whether House Republicans are going to support some form of bipartisan bailout deal. The Paulson plan is pretty much the only plan that is on the table with any conceivable chance of passing a Democrat-controlled House and Senate, period. There will undoubtedly be battles over what to add on to the basic bones of the Paulson plan, or whether to tinker around the edges of its structure, but while people debate the academic merits of plans laid out by Newt Gingrich, the Republican Study Committee, and others, we need to bear in mind that none of those plans has any chance of passing this Congress.

Nobody is threatening a filibuster of the Paulson plan in the Senate, and indeed I have not seen any sign of major organized opposition among Senate Republicans. As we all know from elementary school Civics, if Nancy Pelosi can get her caucus to line up behind the bill, not a single House Republican's vote is needed to pass it. The bailout remains massively unpopular and sets many bad policy precedents, and under ordinary conditions Republican intransigence would be the right and honorable thing to do: make the majority take responsibility for doing something unpopular, present a coherent alternative, capitalize at the polls, and replace as much of the unpopular plan as possible with the alternative after the elections.

These are not normal times. House Republicans need badly to come to grips with four very unpleasant realities, and to do so ASAP - and if ever there is a time for John McCain to lead them, this is it:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:02 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)
September 25, 2008
POLITICS: The Curious Incident of Reid and Pelosi In A Crisis

Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."

Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

In politics, actions speak louder than words, and inaction sometimes speaks even louder. With John McCain leaving the campaign trail to go to Washington to join the negotiations over the Paulson bailout bill, there's a fair debate about exactly how important his presence there is, as I will discuss below. But judging by the actions of everyone involved, there's no doubt that even his own Democratic colleagues recognize that Barack Obama is completely irrelevant to the process.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Stump The Veep

Like a lot of conservatives I was gnashing my teeth on two levels at the initial interview clip yesterday of Governor Palin, in response to a question from Katie Couric, not being able to name any examples of John McCain pushing for more regulation in his 26-year career - that's like if somebody running with Joe Lieberman couldn't name examples of him bucking his party. McCain may not be the knee-jerk hyper-regulator that many Democrats are, but he's built an extensive track record of pushing for more regulation in numerous different areas (e.g., campaign finance, health care), much too often in fact for my taste, and while you'd expect Palin to have focused more on boning up on policy than on her running mate's lengthy legislative record, it's not that hard a question.

If you watch the full(er) clip, though (and from the choppy editing it's still hard to tell how much ended up on the cutting room floor), you can see that what happened was that Palin was talking about a specific example of McCain pushing for more regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Couric pressed her for other examples from McCain's legislative record specifically dealing with securities regulation:

H/T. Now as it happens, if you do your homework on this, it's not hard to find such examples; McCain voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, and voted against the 1995 Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (one of only four Republicans to do so) and the 1998 Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act (which passed 79-21), for example, and joined with Carl Levin to propose that if companies "don't account for their stock options as a cost in earnings reports, then they cannot claim them later as tax deductions." Of course, I can tell you those things because I'm a securities lawyer and I have access to Google; I'm not sure McCain would have all those examples at his fingertips offhand, much less Palin (indeed, I often find that people even in my business are surprised to hear that he voted against the PSLRA, and obviously Couric couldn't find them or she wouldn't have falsely stated as fact that McCain "almost always sided with the, less regulation, not more"). In that context, it's not much of a "gotcha" moment to demonstrate that Palin doesn't know chapter and verse on one of the more arcane corners of McCain's lengthy career. (Unlike, say, the time Barack Obama had to admit to a voter that he didn't know anything about the Hanford Nuclear site, the largest nuclear waste dump in the Western Hemisphere and a decades-long ongoing controversy). That said, she does need to get better at the essential skill of how to not answer a question she doesn't know the answer to.

Of course, most conservatives would challenge Couric's assumption that piling regulation on regulation is always a good thing, but Palin's not the top of the ticket here; McCain is, and you don't want to get off his message (the opposite problem bedeviled Mark Sanford earlier this summer when he got stumped trying to name ways in which McCain's economic plan differs from Bush - I'm sure Sanford could think of examples but he was unable to name any without highlighting the fact that they'd be things Sanford opposes).

Finally, note that as edited, Couric opens with a question about money paid by Freddie Mac to the former employer of McCain campaign strategist Rick Davis, in which he may arguably still have some financial interest. This might be a reasonable line of inquiry if she explained why this matters, i.e., McCain's much more extensive bill of particulars against Obama himself on this issue, but instead Couric presents the story as if the only issue is Rick Davis. (Video of McCain taking on Obama on this is below the fold; the McCain camp's full and formal response on the Davis story is here). Which is pretty much the argument in a nutshell for why people like Couric are not worth talking to at all.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:16 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
September 24, 2008
BUSINESS/POLITICS: How We Got Here

Daffyd ab Hugh at Big Lizards has an insanely long but comprehensive and comprehensible post on the nature of the current financial crisis and the Paulson bailout plan. (H/T Ace) As somebody who was familiar with a good deal of this stuff before it hit the front pages, I can vouch for the fact that this is a smart, clear, insightful summary. My main question about it is that Daffyd seems to assume that Treasury will be buying MBS at the low, distressed market prices now available, and I'm not sure we have assurances that is the case.

By the way, I was listening to the horrible Mets game rather than watching President Bush's speech tonight, but on paper at least the speech was a fairly clear layman's explanation of how the crisis developed. I know some conservatives wanted a more partisan finger-pointing speech, but Bush isn't running for office, he's trying to hold together fragile bipartisan support for a bill nobody likes. And he does seem to give credence to Daffyd's reading of how the bailout will operate:

[A]s markets have lost confidence in mortgage-backed securities, their prices have dropped sharply. Yet the value of many of these assets will likely be higher than their current price, because the vast majority of Americans will ultimately pay off their mortgages. The government is the one institution with the patience and resources to buy these assets at their current low prices and hold them until markets return to normal. And when that happens, money will flow back to the Treasury as these assets are sold. And we expect that much, if not all, of the tax dollars we invest will be paid back.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:45 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Should McCain Send Palin To Oxford?

Here's the state of play as I write. Bush and Capitol Hill Democrats are hammering out an agreement to, in essence, bail out financial institutions and possibly other companies that hold bad debt, mainly mortgage-backed securities. Pretty much everybody on all sides agrees that the bailout proposal stinks to high heaven and is a fundamental violation of everything conservatives believe in and everything liberals believe in, is likely to be hugely unpopular with the public, and in the short term at least will put a big crimp on federal finances. But lots of people on all sides believe that the markets will be stabilized by the deal and will really implode without it, wrecking the rest of the economy. Since markets are all about perception, that could end up being the case, which makes the deal or something very like it necessary. McCain proposed a plan of his own which is not too dissimilar; Obama hasn't proposed anything. So there aren't really a lot of alternatives on the table, and no good ones.

Given the general rule that nothing this bad happens in Washington if it's not bipartisan, the Democrats in the majority are deathly - and justifiably - afraid that if they agree to the deal, McCain and Congressional Republicans will run against it and crucify them. Republicans seem mostly resigned to support the deal in large numbers as long as the Democrats don't try to hang too many wish-list items on it and turn it into the Mother of All Pork Barrels. And of course, McCain has long experience being the last holdout in the middle whose views dictate the direction of a bipartisan deal. So Bush, Paulson, Reid, Pelosi & Co. actually seem to need McCain in Washington to do what he's done so often before, get in the middle of things and influence how a deal gets worked out that is just minimally acceptable enough for everyone to sign it. Obama's presence, by contrast, is mostly superfluous, since nobody really thinks he's a factor in what goes on in DC, and hot air is never in short supply anyway.

On the campaign trail, by contrast, Obama is benefitting in recent polls from the general sense that bad things are happening and somebody new might have better ideas; he clearly knows better than to spoil that by actually doing anything or having any ideas. Whereas McCain hasn't been able to get traction from the outside looking in, and doesn't really seem comfortable blowing the deal up, knowing the consequences. Accordingly, what McCain did today was announce that he's suspending his campaign over the next several days to come to DC to get a deal done before markets open on Monday, and call on Obama to do the same and to reschedule Friday night's debate in Oxford, Mississippi, the first one scheduled, focusing on foreign policy/national security. Obama has refused on both counts.

Which has led to the question of the day. McCain is needed in Washington; Obama's not - and neither is McCain's running mate, Gov. Palin, who obviously is not a Senator. Should McCain send her to appear on his behalf and debate Obama on Friday night?

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:22 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)
September 23, 2008
POLITICS: A Tale of Two Vettings

In response to Stanley Kurtz's detailed story on Barack Obama's role in working with unrepentant terrorist and left-wing radical Bill Ayers to arrange the financing for a project that "poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists" under Ayers' dubious theory of treating left-wing political activism as "education" (a story I discussed at length here), Marc Aimbinder wants more details:

What "radical" ideas did Obama and Bill Ayres come up with to foist on the Chicago school system?

What specific projects -- "radical" projects -- did Obama work on with Ayres? Is there evidence that they collaborated and schemed to ... do anything "radical" together? Ever?

These are fair enough factual questions, although I think in this case Kurtz has already laid out a powerful case as it is that (1) Ayers is not a person who should be trusted to design this sort of project, (2) Ayers' theoretical approach to education pretty much guaranteed that he'd be pusing left-wing politics, and (3) the people who got the money were left-wing groups whose agendas most Americans would find to be outside the political mainstream.

But the mindset in Aimbinder asking them is deeply revealing of the contrast between how the media has approached the vetting of Sen. Obama and the vetting of Gov. Palin.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:10 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: I Will Now Lower Your Opinion Of Ralph Nader

I know what you are thinking: that can't be possible! My opinion of Ralph Nader cannot go any lower! But behold:

H/T. I thought the highlight of this ad was the fact that Nader stares at the floor the whole time instead of the camera, or the fact that he thinks voters want a President who sits alone in a room talking to his parrot.

But that was before the part about the sex with the panda.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Obama-Ayers Education Story

Today's must-read: after months of investigation, in which he had to weather all manner of stonewalling and intimidation by the Obama camp, Stanley Kurtz finally has the story, in today's Wall Street Journal, of Barack Obama's involvement in unrepentant former terrorist Bill Ayers' project to spread left-wing politics under the guise of 'education' in Chicago schools. Here's a flavor of Ayers' project:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)
September 22, 2008
BUSINESS/POLITICS: Monday Bailout Roundup

I tried over the weekend to do a more serious post with my analysis of the credit crisis and the bailouts, but basically there's just no way for me to get into this further without running afoul of my day job. At this juncture, given the limits on what I can write, the best I can offer my readers on the whole Wall Street/bailout issue is a roundup of links and what I can see and hear going around the political side of things:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:30 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Why, No, You Should Not Be Surprised...

...so I'm not linking to this to surprise you, if you were already quite sensibly expecting the Obama campaign and its chief strategist, David Axelrod, to peddle patently false, debunked smears directed at (who else?) Sarah Palin via purportedly independent outlets on the web that appear to have been designed to create deniability. I'm not pretending to be shocked because I'm not even slightly surprised.

Rusty has all the details, and is promising a followup with more.

Ace looks at the ensuing, immediate and wholly predictable coverup, and why it confirms Axelrod's involvement, here and here. (H/T).

Why bother linking, then? Well, it never hurts to document these things. And to remind everyone who always claimed to be against such things but now support the Obama campaign...well, this is what they do; it's who they are. This is Obama's "new politics," and really always was.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:43 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
September 20, 2008
POLITICS: Factual Accuracy and McSame Syndrome

We stand today deep into the silly season of the 2008 presidential election; most of us have our dander up, and naturally some Obama partisans like Josh Marshall and Joe Klein have floated off on clouds of rhetorical overkill in an effort to push the idea that their opponent is somehow running an unusually dishonest campaign. Even aside from the partisanship, you have to be pretty willfully ignorant of history to think the 2008 race is at all exceptional in this regard, other than perhaps the degree of personal villification of one of the vice presidential candidates in a very short period of time. Now, personally I'm not as cynical as Jay Cost or Ross Douthat as far as saying "everybody does it, so what?," but...well, I look at the accuracy of claims made in advertisements, speeches, etc. under three general categories:

(1) Is it literally true? Does it say anything factually false?
(2) Is it essentially true? Does it say something about the candidate or his/her opponent that is consistent with the point being made?
(3) Is it the whole truth, without any arguably important context or nuance omitted?

One of the reasons I enjoy writing longer-form blog essays is the freedom to drill down to all the relevant context and explain a point even in light of all the facts, all the context, all the nuance. But in the real world of short-attention-span politics, with its 30-second ads and soundbites, we have to accept that #3 is a hurdle that even the best-faith politicians frequently fail, and where politicians who do try to give the full context can end up losing their audience or tying themselves in "I voted for it before I voted against it" verbal knots.

That said, you do need to be able to defend a claim on both ground #1 and #2. If a claim is literally true but conveys a totally false image, you are basically in the Bill Clinton "it depends what the meaning of 'is' is" position; if it is intended to convey something people believe but rests on fabricated facts, that's the Dan Rather "fake but accurate" defense. Either position is ultimately indefensible.

Let's look at two main examples of recent controversies and how they measure up, as well as examining what I refer to as "McSame Syndrome."

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: The Man To Read

I know I tend to link a lot to my colleagues at RedState, where I am currently one of the site's Directors; we have a tremendous and varied group of writers and thinkers on the site, and while I don't necessarily agree with any of them all the time, we have quite a number of people who are always worth reading.

But if there's one of my co-Contributors to the site who you really need to be reading regularly, it's Francis Cianfrocca, who writes under the pseudonym of "blackhedd." He's scary-smart about Wall Street issues he knows from personal experience, he's utterly unsentimental and willing to think outside the box, and unlike most people in the blogosphere, nearly everything he writes is 100% original content you can't get anywhere else. And he's been warning the rest of us about the falling sky in the credit markets pretty consistently since about June 2007. And unlike me, he's not hemmed in at all turns from writing about these issues (I have to avoid writing in any but the most general terms about my firm's clients, which includes almost everybody).

Here's his stuff just from the last week:

*Explaining the root causes of the crisis.

*Henry Paulson and the First National Bad Bank of the United States.

*The AIG bailout here and here.

*The Fannie/Freddie bailout here.

*The non-bailout of Lehman Brothers here.

*Other roundups of the week's events here, here, here and here,

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:47 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 19, 2008
POLITICS: A Word About Accountability and Leadership

A lot of conservatives are up in arms about John McCain's call for the firing of Chris Cox as SEC Chairman due to the collapse of numerous Wall Street firms on his watch. There is a more than fair argument against McCain's position: that Cox is a smart, capable conservative and expert in the area who hasn't really done anything wrong, or at least hadn't until the recent move against short sellers (I don't buy that Cox is above criticism, but I don't think this mess is in any way his fault). But there is also a case to be made for the emerging McCain leadership style. As McCain explained today:

Dwight David Eisenhower, when he was commander and he was in charge of the largest military operation in history, the invasion of Normandy. He went to his quarters the night before the invasion and wrote out two letters. One of them sent a letter of congratulation, a messgae of congratulations to the brave Americans who landed in Normandy and made the most successful invasion and partly brought about the beginning of the end of World War II. The other letter he wrote out was his resignation from the United States army, taking full responsibility for the failure of that invasion.

My friends that kind of accountability and responsibility is missing in Washington today and that's why I believe the chairman of the SEC should resign.

That's McCain's view in a nutshell: you produce results, or you step aside, regardless of how well you performed your duties. You own your watch. It's a decidedly military outlook, as befits a man who spent so many years in the Navy. It's perhaps an odd way for McCain to approach leadership - in his book Faith of My Fathers, McCain movingly recounts the bitterness he inherited over how his grandfather was scapegoated unfairly by Admiral Halsey for a mistake Halsey himself made in steering the fleet too close to a storm, mistreatment that McCain ascribes as a possible cause for the elder Admiral McCain's fatal heart attack on his return from the war.

I don't, personally, think that this unforgiving, only-results-matter management style is the best possible way to run an organization in terms of motivating people, and neither is it really a good or fair way to treat subordinates, but it's one well-established leadership style, and it's been successful for plenty of people in business, the military, politics and sports. Certainly it's a sharp contrast to President Bush; while Bush has sacked a lot of people (including Harvey Pitt, his first SEC Chairman who was also just in the wrong place at the wrong time), he's nonetheless frequently found himself in trouble for leaving loyal but incompetent subordinates in place too long after they became obvious political liabilities. McCain is sending a message: the likes of Mike Brown, Alberto Gonzales and Scott McClellan will not be left in their jobs in his White House. Loyalty will give way to accountability.

On a purely political level, in the real world of politics, there's a case to be made about being unsentimental about letting people go when they represent a serious political liability. I wouldn't blame Bush in the least, for example, if he sacked Cox regardless of the merits of his job performance. Political leaders fight for a cause, and that cause is bigger than any one man. A politician who errs on the side of scapegoating people who through no fault of their own preside over disasters is going to do better in the long run than one who fights till the last dog dies for friends he can no longer afford. It's an ugly business but it must be played to win in the real world.

This is a management style that suits McCain, an old man who is likely to serve only one term and already has an impressive collection of enemies. It's a style that's also well-suited to McCain's running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin. One of the recurring themes in Palin's various jobs is that she fires a lot of people - people who don't agree with her policy goals, people who don't follow her orders, people who oppose her in public, people who are too close to corrupt interests or political foes. This is, again, a good way to make enemies who compile vendettas against you - it was her firing of an agency head who was publicly insubordinate that led to the 'Tasergate' investigation headed by a representative of the Obama campaign - but removing the people who are not 100% with you is the one best way to impose your will on an organization, a task that's famously difficult in large public bureaucracies. That was how Rudy Giuliani ran New York, and why he delivered results as an agent of change. A McCain-Palin Administration may not be the friendliest workplace, but the one thing it won't do is let the grass grown under its feet as far as holding subordinates accountable.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
September 18, 2008
POLITICS: Don't Panic

Don't PanicIf there's one lesson we should all bear in mind as fear stalks Wall Street and the presidential race keeps getting tighter as it races towards its conclusion, it is this: Don't Panic.

Now, the current crisis is not an illusion; at its core, it's about markets that valued assets one way and now value them as being worth considerably less, and that has all sorts of ripple effects when it threatens to close down major financial institutions or force the fire-sale liquidation of portfolios of billions or trillions of dollars worth of assets for which there may not currently be a liquid market. People have lost real money and real jobs, and serious people in business and government alike do need to think long and hard about how to contain the damage and reassess and rationalize government's regulatory roles going forward.

But financial markets, credit markets and even consumer spending markets all depend on trust and confidence, and can all be brought to a grinding and ultimately self-defeating halt by panic.

Now, John McCain has never been accused of being a financial whiz, but the one thing we can trust McCain not to do is panic in a crisis, or encourage anyone else to panic. McCain's survived three plane crashes, multiple bouts with cancer, the loss of a presidential primary campaign, five years in captivity, months on end in solitary confinement, countless hours of torture, being at the epicenter of a shipboard fire that killed 134 people, being named in a front-page scandal that killed multiple major political careers, being beaten by an angry mob, having one of his top legislative priorities torpedoed by his own party's base, standing stubbornly for a war nearly everybody had declared lost, and just a year ago found his presidential campaign broke, rudderless and declared dead by nearly everybody. Yet time after time after time, McCain picked himself up, dusted himself off, gritted his teeth, set his jaw, and refused to give up, whether that meant lying broken in a filthy cell as a young man or trudging on week after week to sparsely-attended rallies in the New Hampshire snow as an old one.

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