Archive for August, 2008

Washington Post Calls McCain “Dishonest”

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

It’s about time someone called McCain’s campaign out on this:

These are disagreements rooted in divergent views about the role of tax policy: the importance of reducing inequality versus the importance of encouraging investment. Mr. Obama has the wiser and more fiscally responsible of the plans, on balance, but this is by no means a one-sided debate between evil, tycoon-hugging Republicans and good-hearted Democrats. Higher taxes do have consequences for the behavior of both individuals and corporations. Listening to the candidates debate and defend their actual plans would be a useful exercise.

Instead, the McCain campaign insists on completely misrepresenting Mr. Obama’s plan. The ad opens with the Obama-as-celebrity theme — “Celebrities don’t have to worry about family budgets, but we sure do,” says the female announcer. “We’re paying more for food and gas, making it harder to save for college, retirement.” Then she sticks it to him: “Obama’s solution? Higher taxes, called ‘a recipe for economic disaster.’ He’s ready to raise your taxes but not ready to lead.”

 

The facts? The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that the Obama plan would give households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution an average tax cut of 5.5 percent of income ($567) in 2009, while those in the middle fifth would get an average cut of 2.6 percent of income ($1,118). “Your taxes” would go up, yes — but not if you’re someone who is sweating higher gas prices. By contrast, Mr. McCain’s tax plan would give those in the bottom fifth of income an average tax cut of $21 in 2009. The middle fifth would get $325 — less than a third of the Obama cut. The wealthiest taxpayers make out terrifically.

It’s a cliche, obviously, to claim that politicians aren’t exactly truthful. But even in politics, you don’t usually tell outright lies about your opponents proposals. You might cherry pick expert opinions or engage in some creative math, or pick and choose what you tell different audiences, but if your opponent wants to do X, it’s usually out of bounds to go around saying they want to do Y. And there’s a very simple reason for that; for the most part, seriousness has reigned and the important political functionaries, campaigns, think tanks, and the media, have recognized that some semblance of honest debate is essential to a democratic form of government. Some level of good faith disagreement is a necessity, if we expect to maintain a system wherein citizens are asked to vote for their leaders. If one candidate resorts to simply lying about their opponents policy proposal and attributing ideas to them that they’ve never espoused, then the entire democratic system is undermined. But as the old saying goes, It’s OK If You’re John McCain. Or at least it was.

So far as I can tell, this is one of the most abrupt criticisms of McCain to ever appear in the MSM. In fact, it’s one of the strongest rebukes I’ve seen of any politician I’ve seen in quite a while. Media outlets are generally reluctant to engage in such frank observation, preferring to couch everything in a “he said-she said, there are always two sides of the debate” framework, lest someone accuse them of the dreaded B word. But here, the Washington Post has gone so far as to call John McCain, or at least his campaign, “outright dishonest.” I imagine that raised some Beltway eyebrows this morning.

Cable news usually takes their cues from the big newspapers. Indeed, all of the talk about McCain playing the POW card at the beginning of the past week was brought up by way of Maureen Dowd’s Op-Ed on the matter. So while it’s not guaranteed, it’s very possible that an emerging cable news storyline this week will be the fact that John McCain is simply lying about Barack Obama’s proposals.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Bush Unlikely To Attend RNC, McCain/Palin Head To MS

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

From ThinkProgress:

This morning, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that it is “unlikely the president will travel to Minnesota on Monday” because of concerns about Hurricane Gustav. “We are currently preparing alternate plans.” Gustav is expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast as early as Monday, the same day that President Bush, Laura Bush, and Dick Cheney are scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Cindy McCain, and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) are planning to travel to Jackson, MS, today, to receive a Gustav briefing at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Now the McCain camp is getting a lot of pushback from the liberal blogosphere over such a crass political stunt, and the notation that this will just divert localattention and resources away from hurricane preperations, but I just wanted to add something else. John McCain is a Senator from Arizona who sits on the Armed Services committee, and Sarah Palin is the Governor of Alaska. They don’t have any role in planning or executing the local or federal contingency.

Isn’t it a bit, I dunno, presumptuous for them to be running around playing make believe President and Vice-President?

Women More Reluctant About Palin

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Rasmussen seems to have the first numbers out on Palin’s nomination, and Nate Silver has the rundown:

These numbers pretty much speak for themselves, but men have a favorable imperssion of Palin by a 35-point margin, whereas women have a favorable impression of her by an 18-point margin. Conversely, by a 23-point margin, women do not think Palin is ready to be President, whereas Palin lost this question among men by a considerably smaller 6-point magrin.

Why does this gap exist? Don’t know, but it may simply be a matter of ideology. Men are generally a bit more conservative than women, and opinions of Palin are very strongly determined by ideology. Conservatives have a favorable impression of her by a 79-8 margin, but this falls to 43-35 among moderates and 26-46 among liberals. Likewise, by a 48-22 margin, conservatives think she’s ready to be President, but she loses this question 23-54 among moderates and 9-67 among liberals.

Obviously the number that jumps right out and gets yo here is the gender gap, but that seems rather secondary to me. If you don’t digest everything you learn about politics from cable, youcould have probably guessed that Palin’s pick wasn’t going to play all that well to female voters. Women, on average, tend to be more liberal/Democratic then men, as Nate and other have noted, and so a very conservative Republican who cultivates the most support and enthusiasm from the evangelical right of the party probably isn’t really going to appeal to them, irrepsective of their Y chromocome status. Also, the supposed gripe Hillary supporters had with Obama’s nomination was that she was a supremely qualified woman who was being “passed over” for a younger man. It wasn’t about gender specifically, if it was we’d have a hell of a lot more women in office than we do now, or at least more women as Democratic candidates. Women tend to make up roughly 51-53% of the voting public afterall, and nearly 60% in the average Democratic primary. Indeed, it seems that if we’re going to try to apply the “PUMA standard” to this pick, the best “analysis” would be that this pick will anger “older white women” in that it passes over much more qualified Republican women like Meg Whitman, Jodi Rell, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and maybe a dozen others for a much les qualified, younger, former beauty queen. Not that I believe that, of course, but you see what I’m getting at in constructing a silly meme based on gender stereotypes.

But what I find more interesting in the data is what it says about voters’ impressions of Palin in general; namely that they like her, but by a pretty broad margin they don’t think she’s ready to be President. For being such an unknown, to have 54% of self-identified moderates, where the election will pretty obviously be won at the margins, agreeing that you’re not qualified is pretty staggering, especially with only 23% saying you are qualified. Those are some pretty big numbers to overcome, and she’s going to have to come out and have an all-time great performance for a VP candidate, demonstrating a rudimentary knowledge about a lot of topics without making any gaffes. That’d be a tall order even for someone like Biden, it’s probably going to be next to impossible for someone who doesn’t seem to have barely thought about national issues, outside of oil drilling, to pull off.

If the first rule of VP picking is to do no harm, I think early indicators are that McCain flunked.

Kristol vs. Kristol

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

I’m actually still amazed every now and then at the abilityof this creature we sometimes call Bill Kristol to propagandize. I mean, he really is a Hall of Fame talent in that regard. Sometime I wonder if he couldn’t make people who wrote for Pravda proud. Anyway, here he is today, contradicting himself from less than a week ago.

Unbelievable.

How to Attack Palin

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Steve Benen gets it, if unintentionally:

I don’t doubt for a moment that Sarah Palin is a nice person and probably a competent Alaskan governor. But she also has the thinnest background of any candidate for national office since 1908. Is McCain willing, with a straight face, to argue that Palin is the single “most prepared” person in the entire United States to assume the presidency should tragedy strike? Is anyone, anywhere, prepared to argue that McCain has put “country first”? Of course not; these ideas are literally laughable.

Palin’s qualifications are, to a very real degree, secondary to the issue at hand. What matters most right now is John McCain’s comically dangerous sense of judgment. He picked a running mate he met once for 15 minutes, who’s been the governor of a small state for a year and a half, and who is in the midst of an abuse-of-power investigation in which she appears to have lied rather blatantly. She has no obvious expertise in any area, and no record of any kind of federal issues. McCain doesn’t care.

Sensible people of sound mind and character simply don’t things like this. Leaders don’t do things like this. It’s the height of arrogance. It’s manifestly unserious. It’s reckless and irresponsible. It mocks the political process. Faced with a major presidential test, McCain thought it wise to tell an imprudent joke of lasting consequence.

And that’s really probably the way Obama’s team should handle it. It’s not necessarily a good thing to start savaging Palin, if for no other reason than you might lower expectations for her and shoot yourself for it. It’s best value is in reminding people how much emphasis McCain has, ostensibly, put on national security experience, reminding people that he’s the oldest non-incumbent to ever run for President, and drive home how unserious McCain is. It’d even make a great counter to the celebrity ad, or any other silly attack ads McCain’s camp may be planning to roll out.

On the other hand, I’m sort of leery of Democrats inviting a pissing match about experience, as the Republican retort, “well at least she’s not the top of our ticket,” is kind of pre-made. In that mold, I think Democrats need a line that dismisses Palin while also defending Obama, something to the effect of “if John McCain thinks Sarah Palin is qualified to be commander in chief, how does he possibly think Barack Obama isn’t?”

But that’s just me.

Changes Coming

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

So here’s the skinny on some housekeeping measures going on here. The front page and other blogs will be going buh-byes, and will be replaced with a group blog. So when you come to www.below-the-fold.com, you’ll be treated to our group blog of crack observers and commentators. This blog will be staying as is, and the URL will still read www.below-the-fold.com/brienjackson.

We’re also adding a discussion forum for readers and users to access, and discuss material with bloggers in a more interactive, user community oriented fashion. It’s not totally finished yet, but you can register (and begin discussing) at www.below-the-fold.com/forum.

The Stupid Debate Meme

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Everyone seems to be wondering how exactly you debate a girl, and fretting that Biden isn’t going to be able to attack Palin lest he look like a big mean bully attacking the cute young woman. Isn’t this a little bit disconnected, if we’re going to operate under labored gender stereotypes? I mean, doesn’t the sterotypical professional woman want to be treated just like the boys? Anyway, I think it deserves to be said that Noam Scheiber’s wife appears to be the smartest person in the world today.

My wife had a good solution to the debate problem this morning: Biden should spend most of his time focusing on McCain and engage Palin as little as possible. Though you don’t want to completely ignore her–that could also be perceived as a slight.

Respond to Palin, attack McCain. Get that woman a spot writing for The New Republic or something.

Also, I want to address, quickly, the Lazio-Clinton example, because I think it’s deeply flawed. If you’re not familiar, Rick Lazio sort of famously went after Hillary Clinton in one of their 2000 Senate debates, and it’s CW that his aggressiveness created a feminine backlash for Hillary, and that’s where this “you have to go easy on the girl” meme largely comes from (I’ll dig up a link when I find it). The problem is to say that Lazio “attacked” Hillary isn’t quite accurate. He didn’t press her hard on issues, or attack her qualifications, or bring up Whitewater or some other scandal, or accuse her of carpetbagging, or anything remotely substantive like that. Instead, he literally walked over to her podium, waved one of those policy pledges in her face, and demanded she sign it right then and there. It was extremely uncomfortable, undiginified, and just didn’t look like something a Senator does. In hindsight, I think it would have had more or less the same effect had Hillary been a man, and gender was largely something the media affixed to it afterwards. The fact that Lazio looked juvenile and unhinged was damaging enough.

Uh-Oh

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Alright, I’ve come around; John McCain lost the election in a big way when he picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate. How do I know that all of a sudden? Even K-Lo can’t defend it!

As much as I loathe Obama-Biden, I can’t in good conscience vote for a McCain-Palin ticket.  Palin has absolutely no experience in foreign affairs.  Considering both McCain’s advanced age and the state of the world today, it is essential that the veep be exceedingly qualified to assume the office of president.  I simply don’t have any confidence in Palin’s ability to deal effectively with Iran, Russia, China, etc.  I certainly will not cast a vote for Obama-Biden, but nor will I vote for McCain-Palin.  Looks like I’ll either sit this one out or vote for Bob Barr.

That’s right. The VP nominee of the Republican Party is radically pro-life, anti gay rights, reaks of tokenism, cheerleads for creationism in science classes, mutters “drill here, drill now” in her sleep, and right on down the list of right-wing orthodoxy…and even Kathryn Jean Lopez can’t figure out how to defend her. This is the woman who was asserting that Rick Santorum was going to be re-elected within days of the 2006 election!

Now I do suppose their could be a bit of a personal angle involved here. K-Lo is a Catholic League Catholic in good standing, and Palin is an evangelical. There’s not a lot of love for the latter from the former. But, I mean, I don’t know what else to say. It’s K-Lo! 

Are You Kidding Me?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

I expected that today’s reaction from Republican’s defending Palin was going to be absurd, but it’s shocked even me in the level of desperation it reveals. This is how Charlie Black, McCain’s former chief strategist, defended her to the New York Times:

“She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long,” said Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s top advisers, making light of concerns about Mr. McCain’s health, which Mr. McCain’s doctors reported as excellent in May.

So let me get this straight, she’s definitely not ready yet, but that doesn’t matter because we can be sure that nothing is going to happen to the 72 year old man in the next 4 years, so she won’t have to step into the Presidency?

Even the right-wing blogosphere didn’t go that far, as illustrated most hilariously by Noah Millman:

I realize, of course, that she’s totally unqualified to be President at this point in time. If McCain were to die in February 2009, I hope Palin would have the good sense to appoint someone who is more ready to be President to be her Vice President, on the understanding that she would then resign and be appointed Vice President by her successor.

Putting aside the fact that I’m supposed to believe that a professional politician is unscrupulous enough to hand over the Presidency rather than, you know, be President of the United States, on a more fundamental level succession is the only job of the Vice-President. Yes we have fleshed it out a bit and they’re now often close advisers, surrogates, and managers for the President, but Constitutionally, which is to say officially, speaking they’re only formal power/responsibility is to assume the Presidency in the event the President is somehow incapacitated. So Millman’s argument is that the Republican nominee for Vice-President of the United States should in no circumstances be allowed to carry out the only official function of the office.

That about sums up modern conservatism in a nutshell doesn’t it?

And just as an aside, Millman’s understanding of government leaves something to be desired as well. Yes, in the event McCain were to die in office (or resign I suppose), Palin would get to appoint a Vice-President, who she could then abdicate the Presidency to. But that person would have to be confirmed by the (presumably Democratic) Senate. Also, in the event President McCain found himself incapacitated, but alive, this scenario wouldn’t be able to play itself out. Palin would obviously step in as acting President, but no Vice-President would be named, and McCain would reclaim the office upon regaining his health. In this scenario, if Palin abdicated, the next in line, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, would assume the role of acting President, and then the office itself in the event the President were to die. Somehow I find myself douting that Palin would oblige this scenario, and even more unlikely that Noah Millman would be encouraging her to do so.

Palin and Buchanan

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

A lot of people are playing up the fact that Sarah Palin was a big Buchanan backer in 2000, and possibly 1996 as well, from the standpoint that it’s evidence of how far right her sentiments are. Here’s my question; if the Obama campaign, or Democratic interest groups, make it a point to drive that home, how is that going to play in, oh I don’t know, southern Florida?

McCain obviously has to win Florida, and Buchanan is radioactive there, obviously. It really is stunning how dumb this pick looks, and moreso the more you think about it. I have to believe the McCain campaign didn’t even vet her.

Saturday Thoughts

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Should I really pay $5 to listen to an internet radio broadcast of a game that’s gonna be over at halftime?

And go Utah. With Michigan playing a walk on quarterback in an offense they’ve never run in 100 some years, this ought to be a fun season.

(more…)

Palin’ “Scandal”

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I’ve been lambasting Palin for the most part today, but I do want to make a slight defense of her here. If you’re heard references to a scandal that’s being investigated, here’s the long and short of it. Palin’s ex-brother-in-law was a state trooper in Alaska who was going through a divorce and custody battle with her sister. He allegedly (and as far as I can tell, no one is disputing the details of this) drove his state patrol car drunk, threatened Palin’s sister, threatened to kill Palin’s father, and tasered his 11 year old former step-son (Palin’s nephew) in front of Palin’s daughter. Palin and her family demanded he be fired, but he was only given a 10 day suspension and “investigated.” Palin apparently retaliated by firing the public safety commissioner who wouldn’t terminate the officer, and that is where the abuse of power investigation comes from. You can get a fuller account here.

As far as I see it, Palin’s motives may not be pure, but she’s clearly in the right here. For tasering a fucking 11 year old, the piece of trash should be in jail, to say nothing of being removed from the police force. So maybe it’s just my particular disdain for cops, at least when it comes to investigating other cops, or their flippant attitude towards it, but I’m always glad whenever someone in power stands up to police corruption and protectionism. Based on what we’ve got in terms of details thus far, I think the liberal blogosphere should do the right thing and at least not pretend like this is akin to Ted Stevens style corruption, if not praise her outright, if just this one time.

Not For Nothing

Friday, August 29th, 2008

We’ve made a big deal about McCain announcing his VP the day after Obama’s speech, but it also happens to be his birthday. And the 3rd anniversary of Katrina hitting New Orleans. Is anyone else wondering if maybe the pick wasn’t rolled out today to keep this off the news?

Republicans on VP Experience

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Alright, this is funny. Anyone remember what Karl Rove was saying a few weeks ago about Tim Kaine?

“With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he’s been a governor for three years.  He’s been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that he’s done … [Kaine] was mayor of the 105th largest city in America. And again, with all due respect to Richmond, Virginia, it’s smaller than Chula Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Mesa, or Gilbert, Arizona; North Las Vegas, or Henderson, Nevada. It’s not a big town.”

Needless to say, Palin has been Governor less than 2 years, she was the mayor of Wasilla, and I don’t think I could really begin to name the towns bigger than it (Richmond has a population of about 200,000 to Wasilla’s 7,500, give or take).

Are they even trying anymore? I mean really, is this the “machine” that demolished Kerry?

3 Houses?

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I’m not one to really care about these sorts of things substantively, but this is rather interesting. Can anyone figure out how the governor of a state as small as Alaska whose husband is a blur collar member of the steelworker’s union can afford 3 houses? Admittedly I don’t know what the governor of Alaska makes off hand, nor what real estate goes for in Alaska these days, but that seems rather suspect to me.