samedi, août 23, 2008

Equal time

Given that the last two opinion pieces I posted have slammed the liberati, I decided it was time to present a voice from the left.

Weisberg slices the poll numbers here, and comes up with this interesting assertion: that the Presidential horserace is so close because of the racism of some older white voters.

Does he exaggerate? Perhaps. But can you dismiss racism as a factor? I don't think so.

In this precedent breaking election, it is one factor among many. Is it, or will it be, the deciding one? For the sake of our country, I sure hope not.

the big idea

If Obama Loses
Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him.

By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008, at 12:02 AM ET
What with the Bush legacy of reckless war and economic mismanagement, 2008 is a year that favors the generic Democratic candidate over the generic Republican one. Yet Barack Obama, with every natural and structural advantage in the presidential race, is running only neck-and-neck against John McCain, a sub-par Republican nominee with a list of liabilities longer than a Joe Biden monologue. Obama has built a crack political operation, raised record sums, and inspired millions with his eloquence and vision. McCain has struggled with a fractious campaign team, lacks clarity and discipline, and remains a stranger to charisma. Yet at the moment, the two of them appear to be tied. What gives?
If it makes you feel better, you can rationalize Obama's missing 10-point lead on the basis of Clintonite sulkiness, his slowness in responding to attacks, or the concern that Obama may be too handsome, brilliant, and cool to be elected. But let's be honest: If you break the numbers down, the reason Obama isn't ahead right now is that he trails badly among one group, older white voters. He does so for a simple reason: the color of his skin.
Much evidence points to racial prejudice as a factor that could be large enough to cost Obama the election. That warning is written all over last month's CBS/New York Times poll, which is worth examining in detail if you want a quick grasp of white America's curious sense of racial grievance. In the poll, 26 percent of whites say they have been victims of discrimination. Twenty-seven percent say too much has been made of the problems facing black people. Twenty-four percent say the country isn't ready to elect a black president. Five percent of white voters acknowledge that they, personally, would not vote for a black candidate.
Five percent surely understates the reality. In the Pennsylvania primary, one in six white voters told exit pollsters race was a factor in his or her decision. Seventy-five percent of those people voted for Clinton. You can do the math: 12 percent of the Pennsylvania primary electorate acknowledged that it didn't vote for Barack Obama in part because he is African-American. And that's what Democrats in a Northeastern(ish) state admit openly. The responses in Ohio and even New Jersey were dispiritingly similar.
Such prejudice usually comes coded in distortions about Obama and his background. To the willfully ignorant, he is a secret Muslim married to a black-power radical. Or—thank you, Geraldine Ferraro—he only got where he is because of the special treatment accorded those lucky enough to be born with African blood. Some Jews assume Obama is insufficiently supportive of Israel in the way they assume other black politicians to be. To some white voters (14 percent in the CBS/New York Times poll), Obama is someone who, as president, would favor blacks over whites. Or he is an "elitist" who cannot understand ordinary (read: white) people because he isn't one of them. Or he is charged with playing the race card, or of accusing his opponents of racism, when he has strenuously avoided doing anything of the sort. We're just not comfortable with, you know, a Hawaiian.
Then there's the overt stuff. In May, Pat Buchanan, who writes books about the European-Americans losing control of their country, ranted on MSNBC in defense of white West Virginians voting on the basis of racial solidarity. The No. 1 best-seller in America, Obama Nation by Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D., leeringly notes that Obama's white mother always preferred that her "mate" be "a man of color." John McCain has yet to get around to denouncing this vile book.
Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives. The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America. But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.
Choosing John McCain, in particular, would herald the construction of a bridge to the 20th century—and not necessarily the last part of it, either. McCain represents a Cold War style of nationalism that doesn't get the shift from geopolitics to geoeconomics, the centrality of soft power in a multipolar world, or the transformative nature of digital technology. This is a matter of attitude as much as age. A lot of 71-year-olds are still learning and evolving. But in 2008, being flummoxed by that newfangled doodad, the personal computer, seems like a deal-breaker. At this hinge moment in human history, McCain's approach to our gravest problems is hawkish denial. I like and respect the man, but the maverick has become an ostrich: He wants to deal with the global energy crisis by drilling and our debt crisis by cutting taxes, and he responds to security challenges from Georgia to Iran with Bush-like belligerence and pique.
You may or may not agree with Obama's policy prescriptions, but they are, by and large, serious attempts to deal with the biggest issues we face: a failing health care system, oil dependency, income stagnation, and climate change. To the rest of the world, a rejection of the promise he represents wouldn't just be an odd choice by the United States. It would be taken for what it would be: sign and symptom of a nation's historical decline.

Jacob Weisberg is editor-in-chief of the Slate Group and author of The Bush Tragedy.

Will you still call me Superman?

In the linked opinion piece, Kathleen Parker argues that abortion, more specifically his confusing votes and overthought answers, has become Barack Obama's "kryptonite."

I hope not.

I continue to be bugged by the sense that he's getting into hot water because he has what might in other circumstances be considered an asset-seeing gray where others see only black and white.

As Parker points out, however, his answers on the abortion question defy logic, not to mention integrity.

That is, and has always been, a central flaw in the Democrat's pro-choice position. The fact is that saying life begins at any point beyond conception and before birth is arbitrary and unscientific-purely a matter of personal opinion.

It's not "above your pay grade" to share your opinion on that matter, Mr. Obama. Perhaps its time for some gutsy Democrats to say that aborting a fetus is taking a life-but that the life of the expectant mother counts more. At least that position would have the advantage of acknowledging that these choices generally seem to tip the scales against the fetus, and for the mental or physical well-being of the mother.

That's not to say that McCain should get a pass on the way he responds to questions on hot button topics.

McCain seems rather shameless about taking stances that are the polar opposite of his previous one-recall the guy who was against the Bush tax cuts before he was for them?

If memory serves, he wasn't up front and center in the abortion debate, either-until he decided it was a matter of political expediency.

Few in the MSM seem to be dissecting McCain's answers to controversial questions (like his anti-tax stance and its implications) with the same alacrity that they are taking apart Obamas.

We seem to prefer someone who makes categorical statements to someone who isn't always quite sure what he thinks. Witness the last eight years.

Whether we want more of the same-or not-it would be nice to know that our candidates have not only the smarts to have thought through their positions, but the character to back them up-and to mean them.

vendredi, août 22, 2008

Obamaskeptic from the London Times

There's a lot to agree with in this editorial by Times of London American correspondent Gerald Baker.

There seems to be a growing consensus among even Obama's advisors that he needs to get specific (as specific as "life begins at conception") about what he's going to do to help working class voters and middle class voters one paycheck away from losing a house, or medical insurance, or college tuition for their kids.

Does McCain have better answers? Well, if you like trickle down economics, you'll love his financial solutions. But he does have a reputation for candor, and that can take you a long way. Voters don't seem to feel that he condescends to them.

In addition, as Baker points out, a resurgent Russia is reminding Americans that it is possible, all too possible, to revert to the scary days of military exercises and threats-possibly towards Poland, next time. The fact that George Bush and the Republicans have been as complacent as the Democrats about Putin and his gang doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot.

I think Baker gets it wrong when he says that McCain's attacks have been "fair." He should have slammed Corsi and his henchmen, and he didn't-because they do his dirty work without him having to get his mitts in the muck. The whole breastbeating "I am Superpatriot and you aren't" routine gets a little tiresome.

That being said, politics ain't tea time at Buckingham Palace.

Can Obama emerge with some equally scurrilous way of twisting the stiletto? We're beginning to see him hit back with an equally scriptable "He's got seven houses and he doesn't understand you" rant so beloved of Democrats.

It's not clear yet whether its going to work.

Will Obama sharpen his campaign and his image? Will McCain venture beyond bromides? Here's where the rubber meets the road, folks. It's going to be a fascinating two months-if we didn't have so much at stake, it would make great melodrama.

From The Times
August 22, 2008
‘Yes we can'? Make that: ‘Oops, we may not'
Barack Obama suddenly looks vulnerable. And the more the focus is on him, the less likely he is to become president
Gerard Baker

There's trouble in paradise. Cancel the coronation. Send back the commemorative medals. Put those “Yes We Can” T-shirts up on eBay. Keep the Change.
Barack Obama's historic procession to the American presidency has been rudely interrupted. The global healing he promised is in jeopardy. If you're prone to emotional breakdown, you might want to take a seat before I say this. He might not win.
How can it be, you ask? Didn't we see him just last month speaking to 200,000 adoring Germans in Berlin? Didn't he get the red carpet treatment in France - France of all places? Doesn't every British politician want to be seen clutching the hem of his garment?
All true. But as cruel geography and the selfish designs of the American Founding Fathers would have it, Europeans don't get to choose the US president. Somewhere along the way to the Obama presidency, somebody forgot to ask the American people.
And wouldn't you know it, they insist on looking this gift thoroughbred in the mouth. Who'd have thought it? You present them with the man who deigns to deliver them from their plight and they want to sit around and ask hard questions about who he is and what he believes and where he might actually take the country. The ingrates!
So we arrive this weekend at the true starting line of the US presidential race and the rituals that begin the real election campaign: the selection of the vice-presidential running-mates, and the back-to-back party nominating conventions. A year and a half after the warm-ups began, the two remaining candidates are more or less tied. Senator Obama's summer lead in the opinion polls has evaporated. John McCain, that grumpy, grisly, gnarled old Republican, that Gollum to Senator Obama's Bilbo Baggins, might, just might, actually win this thing.
What happened?
Of course, the conventional view is that it's all the work of that most terrifyingly effective piece of artillery since the invention of the howitzer, the Republican Attack Machine.
The credulous American voter, we're told, has been subjected in the last month to a televised blitzkrieg of right-wing lies about the hapless Democrat. He's not patriotic. He might be a Muslim. He might not even be American. He probably is a Muslim. There's no evidence he's ever said anything nice about Michael Phelps. He goes to the mosque on Fridays. If Obama's the leader of the free world, it won't be the Caucasian Georgia the Russians invade but the one sandwiched between Florida and South Carolina. Gullible Americans are going to fall for it, just as they fell for Stupid George W over Brilliant Al Gore and Brave John Kerry.
Forgive me for interrupting this reverie but in the real world something else is going on.
In the reality-based community the rest of us inhabit, the first thing to be said about the current state of the race is that the actual shift in the campaign's dynamics is not quite as dramatic as the pundit class would have you believe. A month ago, according to an average of polls for Real, Senator Obama had about a four-point lead over Senator McCain. This week the tally suggests the lead is about one percentage point.
The bigger change has occurred in perceptions about the race. A month ago the prevailing view among the wise was that Senator Obama would steadily increase his lead and by the time his convention concluded next week, it would be insurmountable.
But instead, it looks as though, even if he has a really good convention in Denver next week, and Hillary and Bill Clinton play the unlikely role of loyal followers, the race will still be close when the Republicans start their gathering in a week's time. Whatever happens, in other words. it looks like yet another close election.
Why is this? Why has the Democrat failed to capitalise on the mood of deep discontent within the country?
First, it's true that the negative campaigning by John McCain has hurt him somewhat. But there's nothing wrong with that. The 2008 presidential election has so far been a referendum on Senator Obama. it's perfectly reasonable for the Republicans to make the case against him, and the attacks have been fair. My account of the McCain campaign above was a caricature, of course. There's been no mention of Senator Obama's race or the silly fiction that he might be a Muslim.
The fact is that the 47-year-old Democrat, less than four years in the Senate, is still largely a blank page for American voters: a great orator and an attractive figure, but unknown and untested. The Republicans have been filling in some of the gaps and pointing out how thin his real biography is.
The second problem is that Senator Obama is having difficulty - curiously enough - with Democratic voters. Polls indicate that while Senator McCain has just about locked up the votes of those who supported other Republicans in the primary election, Senator Obama is still regarded with mistrust and dislike by large numbers of Hillary Clinton's former supporters.
For many of these working-class types, he's just a bit too cerebral, a little vague. His campaign lacks both substance and passion. While unemployment is rising, incomes are slipping fqarther behind rising inflation and house prices are falling, Senator Obama keeps talking about hope and change, keeps promising a new type of politics. These benighted Democratic voters don't really want a new type of politics. They want to know what exactly he's going to do to raise their living standards.
The irony for Senator Obama is that he has built a campaign on a pledge to put an end to cynicism in the political system, but the more he offers only vague promises of hope, the greater the danger that he increases voter cynicism about politicians in general and him in particular.
The third problem is that events have not helped the Democrats. The war in Georgia has emphasised that the world is a dangerous place, and that simply being willing to talk to your enemies, as Senator Obama sometimes seems to suggest, isn't going to keep your people safe.
The key to understanding the presidential campaign as it enters its phase of maximum intensity is this. The more the campaign is about the concerns of the American voter, especially the state of the economy but also the general anxiety about the direction of the country, the more likely they are to throw the Republicans out.
But the uncomfortable truth for the many devoted fans of Senator Obama is that the more the race is about him, the less likely he is to win it.

jeudi, août 21, 2008

Ham on Wry

Anyone else have an opinion on Evan Bayh?

August 21, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Every Veep Has His Day
We cannot possibly talk enough about them. It’s hard to believe that only a few weeks ago, we thought that Joe Biden was just a garrulous senator-for-life and Evan Bayh was ... an extremely boring person from Indiana.
Tim Kaine — you will be shocked to hear this, but until recently we had never thought about Tim Kaine at all. Now he is at the center of our universe.
If we’d been planning ahead, we’d have demanded a real vice-presidential competition, something the other TV networks could have put up against the Olympics. Can anybody beat Bill Richardson’s Guinness World Record of 13,392 shaken hands over eight hours? Down more boilermakers than Hillary Clinton in a single campaign? Biden and Bayh could have read aloud from their autobiographies while judges counted the number of audience members who stayed alert during “Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics” vs. “From Father to Son: A Private Life in the Public Eye.”
Everybody has so many strengths; it’s hard to choose. How about that Governor Kaine? A Democrat who speaks freely about his faith, that’s what the ticket needs. Of course, Barack Obama is a Democrat who speaks freely about his faith, but Kaine is a Catholic and two faiths are better than speaking freely about one. If John McCain really goes ahead and picks Joe Lieberman, we could have candidates speaking freely about their various faiths around the clock.
As intense as the anticipation over Obama’s choice is, it pales next to the hubbub over whether McCain is going to tap Lieberman, who was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000. This would give Lieberman a unique niche in American history — one politician who was the vice-presidential nominee for both parties. We would speak of it with awe, like that story about the two-headed turtle in Brooklyn.
Talk about bipartisanship! The Republicans could have an anti-choice, anti-union presidential nominee whose biggest domestic priority is cutting waste and reducing the role of government, along with a pro-choice, pro-union running mate who believes in large government programs to solve large American problems. When you have a 71-year-old presidential candidate, it’s particularly important that voters be confident that he’s backed up by an experienced and qualified vice president prepared to step in and do the exact opposite about everything except Iraq.
Lieberman is certainly capable of dumping everything he has ever believed in and assuring the anti-choice, anti-union, anti-government folk that he is on their team. But then the magic fades and all you’ve got is a conservative Republican who likes the environment teamed with a guy who will do anything to move up. If that’s all you’re looking for, you might as well take Mitt Romney.
The Republican rules, which were obviously written by people who had failed to take their bipartisan pills, do not necessarily allow for the nomination of a vice-presidential candidate who is not a registered Republican. Perhaps McCain will plow ahead anyway, and there will be a revolt! Talk about convention excitement — all those Republican senators who don’t want to have to spend Labor Day weekend in St. Paul would sure learn their lesson.
I don’t think we’ve had that kind of crisis since 1836, when Virginia (future home of Gov. Tim Kaine, the son of a welder) refused to cast its electoral votes for Richard Mentor Johnson, Martin Van Buren’s running mate. He got the vice presidency anyway, but it did not seem to agree with him. After observing the degenerating Johnson at dinner, a visitor from England said, optimistically, “there is no telling how he might look if he dressed like other people.”
But we digress. Lieberman used to be a perfectly good senator, but somewhere along the line he began thinking of himself as being above the partisan fray, and it had a terrible effect. When he ran for vice president, he was so busy being pompous that he didn’t notice that Dick Cheney had won the debate. (Of all the negative achievements in Lieberman’s career, it’s hard to top making Cheney the most likable man in the room.) During the Florida vote-counting crisis, he was so deeply unhelpful you could argue that it cost Gore his chance at the White House. I plan to go into this point in more depth in my upcoming book, “How Joe Lieberman Ruined Everything.”
Ever since then, Lieberman’s ideas for legislation have gotten more bipartisan and more dreadful. This, after all, is the man who created the Department of Homeland Security, which refocused the nation’s intelligence-gathering and crisis-response agencies into the important mission of around-the-clock bureaucratic infighting.
But let’s get back to the Democrats. Who will Barack pick? I don’t care. Just as long as it’s somebody in the same party.

mercredi, août 20, 2008

Striving for insight when you are in the midst of a barroom brawl is difficult, if not impossible. So it's not until we pull out of the Eastern Shore camp where we spent three volatile days that I have a chance to ponder what on earth prompted my angelic children (oxymoron?) to act like little devils. When they spent time with other kids at the pool, or on the playground, or around a fire roasting marshmallows, they were a short course in the peaceable kingdom. But in the cabin, or in a restaurant, or in the car-they were constantly nipping at each other's tender skin. He told me I almost flunked seventh grade, the DQ said to me, tears spilling down her 13 year old cheeks. How Mr C was privy to information neither her father or I had, I don't know. I can't help taking her words to heart, he said, when I asked why he let his sister anger him. Odd, though, how when I finally lost it with the two of them and stalked into my room, my 11 year old psychologist told me that, given the time, they knew how to work things out on their own. Take a walk, Mom, suggested Mr C, and calm down. Parenting teenagers is an an amazing combination of melodrama and farce, with occasional periods of delusory quiet. Driving through my foot long grass up to the pumpkin vine snaking across our driveway, I realized that there really is no place like home.

dimanche, août 17, 2008

To camp

Folks, I'm away until Wednesday at a Maryland evangelical church camp with Mr C and the DQ. We searched unsuccessfully for a one piece suit for my daughter so that she wouldn't cause offense to any of her peers-or their parents.

On the one hand, I want her to have a suit that doesn't single her out. On the other hand, I resented the fact that a modest tankini wouldn't be good enough.

So continues my ambivalent, guarded, volatile relationship with evangelical subculture.

Have fun, and enjoy the lovely tail end of August. See you when we return.

Laughing through our tears

"For all its eviscerations of the administration, “The Daily Show” is animated not by partisanship but by a deep mistrust of all ideology. A sane voice in a noisy red-blue echo chamber, Mr. Stewart displays an impatience with the platitudes of both the right and the left and a disdain for commentators who, as he made clear in a famous 2004 appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire,” parrot party-line talking points and engage in knee-jerk shouting matches. He has characterized Democrats as “at best Ewoks,” mocked Mr. Obama for acting as though he were posing for “a coin” and hailed sardonically for “10 years of making even people who agree with you cringe."

Mockery is good medicine for many of our narcisstic, hypocritical, delusional politicians-and media pundits.

As the author of this article points out several times in the linked article, part of what Stewart is doing is taking the sadness and sickness of what goes on in our world and finding a way to get a little distance on it-turning it into medicine, if not into art.

I'm with you, Jon. The cliche is that most of us journalists are romantics who have been mugged. But few of us can delve into the darkness and coming out grinnng through our tears.

Conspiratorial America

If you want to bring your blood pressure to a boil today, take a look at Frank Rich's column linked above. Otherwise, skip it.

Of all the columnists writing for the Times, Rich is probably the most canny polemicist on the left-a good foil for William Kristol. He's also a media critic, constantly evaluating and reevaluating the current election narratives. I have to admit that he, and Mickey Kaus, are good at poking the MSM.

As I've said before, I don't have a lot of time for those who take what I consider extreme positions on either side-they start to sound tedious after a while. But even when I factored in his liberal bias, I was taken aback to find these paragraphs tacked on to the end of Rich's current commentary on McCain.

"McCain has even prompted alarms from the right’s own favorite hit man du jour: Jerome Corsi, who Swift-boated John Kerry as co-author of “Unfit to Command” in 2004 and who is trying to do the same to Obama in his newly minted best seller, “The Obama Nation.”

Corsi’s writings have been repeatedly promoted by Sean Hannity on Fox News; Corsi’s publisher, Mary Matalin, has praised her author’s “scholarship.” If Republican warriors like Hannity and Matalin think so highly of Corsi’s research into Obama, then perhaps we should take seriously Corsi’s scholarship about McCain. In recent articles at, Corsi has claimed (among other charges) that the McCain campaign received “strong” financial support from a “group tied to Al Qaeda” and that “McCain’s personal fortune traces back to organized crime in Arizona.”

As everyone says, polls are meaningless in the summers of election years. Especially this year, when there’s one candidate whose real story has yet to be fully told. "

C'mon Frank. Stick your head out of the sewer.

I don't actually think Rich gives the Corsi charges much credence. He's using them to make the point that we really don't know as much about John McCain as we'd like to think we do-a fair point.

But why bother to give another one of our conspiracy theorists more publicity than he deserves?

Whether it's stirred up by the crazy right or the self-righteous left, this stuff is absolute garbage. Rich does no one any favors by using it against McCain. Even if this stuff about the Republican is true, which I highly doubt, does it really matter?

Vince Foster- was he murdered? Two or more gunmen in the Kennedy assassination-the CIA? Obama-the Antichrist? Martians-tapping into your cell phone? Some of this stuff fulfills the definition of indecency-offensive and sick-making. It's pornography for those who wouldn't dream of watching online sex.

Some of it is just dumb. But it shouldn't have any room in a paper that claims to be serious about covering the news, not making it up.