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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:26 pm


Obama is back on top (ahem).  Just, I would like to add, like I predicted.

Every time I put this poll up, people tell me that national tracking polls don’t matter, that only state polls matter.

On one level, you’re correct.  Since we still have that archaic puddle of poo known as the electoral college, state polls continue to matter more.  And given the skillful analysis provided by 538.com, I don’t bother posting state results (though I may, in the future, make an exception for Michigan and Florida, the two states I spent my childhood in).

So why do I bother?  Because the Gallup poll has a history of predicting the state polls.  It is about three days ahead.  That’s why the state polls remain in the McCain column — but also why they already are showing movement towards Obama.

In three days, we’ll know whether I’m right.

And on November 1, you might just be able to predict who wins.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 pm

Evening Election Thread

I’d stick around, but now that Sunshine Sarah has finished speaking, I’m done.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 pm

T-Shirt of the Day

From a new group made up of people with a certain name who don’t like one of their namesakes.  Really.

Visit the site to see pictures of people named McCain who are supporting Obama.  Here’s my favorite — Lauren McCain from Denver, Colorado:

Man, everybody wants to be Sarah Palin these days.  Even people who hate her policies.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 pm

Palin Riffs on Foreign Policy

Yesterday, someone actually got to ask Sarah Palin about foreign policy at a town meeting — specifically about her experience.  Here’s what Palin had to say.

I think because I am a Washington outsider that opponents are going to be looking for a whole lot of things that they can criticize and they can kind of beat the candidate here who chose me as his partner to kinda tear down the ticket. . . . But as for foreign policy you know I think I am prepared and I know that on Jan. 20 if we are so blessed as to be sworn into office as your president and vice-president, certainly we’ll be ready. I’ll be ready. I have that confidence. I have that readiness and if you want specifics with specific policy or countries go ahead. You can ask you can play stump the candidate if you want to. But we are ready to serve.

I didn’t think it could get worse than her responses on foreign policy during the Charlie Gibson interview.

I was wrong.

Oh, one other thing:  there are numerous reports that at a McCain rally in Iowa today, people started leaving after Palin spoke and while McCain was speaking.  Maybe they were from Spain.

I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.  It’s Sunshine Sarah’s party now.

Buddha help us.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:14 pm

The Candidates and the Crisis

Noah Millman over at The American Scene, my favorite conservative site, summarizes what the four candidates have to say about the current financial meltdown:

Obama: We’re in this mess because the fundamentals are bad, and the fundamentals are bad because the Republicans have been ignoring ordinary working people and their needs. Most of what I think we should do is not particularly germane, and what is germane I don’t want to explain in too much detail because I’m worried I might get it wrong. I’m sticking to my platform.

McCain: We’re in this mess because a bunch of Wall Street hot shots got us into it, but they won’t dare to pull that stuff when I’m in the White House, because I survived five years in a POW camp. Do I look like the kind of guy who hangs around with a bunch of Wall Street sissies who buy their shirts at Thomas Pink? Not on your tintype girlie-girl.

Biden: I’ve been in the Senate forever, and I proposed a whole bunch of bills to deal with this problem – in fact, I’ve proposed bills to deal with just about any problem – but nobody will listen to me, particularly not John McCain. I hate it when people don’t listen to me.

Palin: I’m pretty sure John said he was against the bailout yesterday, but today he said he supported it. So I guess this is one of those times when you have to support something that you don’t basically feel good about because there’s no real alternative. That sounds about right.

Yes it does, Sunshine Sarah, yes it does.

If you’re not reading TAS, check it out.  If other conservatives were as consistently thoughtful (and often hilarious) as they are, progressives actually would have someone to debate.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:45 am

My Fair Zapatero

Idea for a new Broadway musical:  My Fair Zapatero.  The Sarahnator could sing,

McCain in Spain falls mainly on his face


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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

John McCain’s Handy Guide to the World

After John McCain had absolutely no clue who the prime minister of Spain was, even though he was talking to a freaking Spanish radio station, I thought it would be useful to share with our readers a guide to John McCain’s world.

Here is a list of countries that John McCain cares about.  Future interviewers are advised to limit their questions to this list.

1.  Countries the United States has invaded:

  • Vietnam
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • The Confederacy

2.  Countries that he thinks the United States should invade:

  • Iran
  • Russia
  • Pakistan
  • Hell (but only if Osama lives there).

3.  Countries that hate our values and our way of life:

  • China
  • North Korea
  • Bolivia
  • Venezuela
  • The Hamas-controlled part of Palestine
  • Cuba
  • France
  • Hawaii (too exotic)

4.  Countries near countries that we’ve invaded, want to invade, or hate us:

  • Syria
  • Jordan
  • Thailand
  • The PLO-controlled part of Palestine
  • Cambodia
  • Ukraine

5.  Countries his dad fought against in World War II:

  • Japan
  • Italy
  • Germany

6.  Countries that speak English:

  • Great Britain
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Alaska

7.  Countries that have been invaded by other countries we’ve invaded, should attack, or hate our values:

  • Georgia
  • Kuwait
  • Poland
  • Czechoslovakia
  • The Union

8.  Countries on our side in the war on drugs:

  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Latin America

9.  Israel

10.  Israel

11.  Have I mentioned Israel?

That’s about it.  The rest of the world, well, as far as he’s concerned, they’re all Georgians too.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:48 am

No One Expects. . .The Spanish Inquisition!

Eight years ago, a journalist asked Dubya if he knew who was the leader of Pakistan.  Bush flubbed it, and the journalist was widely criticized for playing “gotcha.”

Flash forward eight years and it’s John McCain’s turn — except this time it isn’t gotcha, it’s just a candidate who clearly doesn’t know what the hell the reporter is talking about.

Today, McCain did an interview with Union Radio (Cadena Seiz) a Spanish network.  I presume his handlers told him that by “Spanish radio,” he should understand that the interviewer was from Spain, and that he might, just might want to bone up a little on a few things — like the name of Spain’s prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Apparently they didn’t and he didn’t.

Senator John McCain of ArizonaAccording to stories on the websites of El País and Union Radio, the reporter first asked McCain his thoughts on Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and Raul Castro.  In each case, McCain made it clear that he would not sit down to meet with any of them, and went out of his way to note that Obama had promised to meet with Chavez.

Then the interviewer asks McCain whether he would meet with Zapatero.  From what I’ve been able to glean (given that I don’t speak Spanish), it was not an attempt to trip McCain up — the reporter merely wants to cover as much territory as possible in the brief time he has.

McCain replies, (and this is a very rough translation based on me running the stories through BabelFish), “I will meet with those leaders who are friendly and who want to work with us cooperatively.”

Uh oh.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister o...The reporter asks again.  McCain says, “I will meet with those leaders who have the same principles and philosophy that we do:  human rights, democracy and liberty.  I will challenge those who do not [have them].”

The reporter asks a third time.  According to a commenter at Obsidian Wings, McCain starts talking about President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and praises him for cooperating with the United States in the war on drugs.

Finally, the interviewer interrupts McCain and says, “Okay, I’m talking about Europe, the prime minister of Spain.  Will you meet with him?”  McCain repeats his earlier statement about working with friends.

Holy Sarah Palin, Batman!  Can McCain see Spain from one of his homes?

One of the more interesting part of this fiasco is that the Spanish press is treating this as a straight story — that McCain dissed Zapatero repeatedly, refusing to commit to a meeting.  Here’s a rough translation of the lede of the El País story:

John McCain, the Republican candidate for the White House, refused on four separate occasions to commit to meet with the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, if [McCain] becomes the next president of the United States.

I think I understand the mistake that the Spanish press is making here:  they’re assuming that McCain has any freaking clue about their country.  They assume that he couldn’t possibly be that stupid.

Here’s my suggestion to the next Spanish language interviewer who wants to ask about U.S.-Spanish relations:  don’t pronounce the prime minister’s name “Za-peh-tey-ro.”  That was your big mistake.

You’ll find that you get a much better answer if you just learn to pronounce it “Sah-kash-vee-lee.”  Next thing you know, McCain will suggest that we’re all Spaniards now and start threatening war with Portugal.

So what should we make of this?  Imagine if this had happened to Obama.  The media would talk about nothing else for a week:  the inexperienced candidate flubs a simple question. In McCain’s case, it’s not yet clear what will happen — except that his campaign will lie about what really happened.

Ultimately there are three possible answers:  he was tired; he was clueless; or he is stupid.  Let’s hope it was the first.

Hat tips:  TPM and Hilzoy at ObWi

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:23 pm

Evening Election Thread

State polls are all over the place, but the trend definitely appears to be heading in Obama’s direction.

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:30 pm

Thought of the Evening

A question.

If there was a significant sector of the U.S. economy that was bleeding red ink, doing serious damage to the savings of individual citizens preventing American businesses from being competitive, and genrally dragging things down, you’d want the government to take action, right?

Sure you would.

Okay, a second question, then.

If it’s okay for Republicans to prevent the banking and insurance industries from melting down, why is it socialism when Democrats urge similar action on health care?

Just asking.

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 pm

What He Said

Eric Martin over at Obsidian Wings does a great job of capturing just how dangerous McCain’s foreign policy is and how pragmatic Obama’s is.  Check it out.

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:45 pm

More Fun in the New Europe

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to travel to a number of countries around the world.  Almost without exception, I have found the experience to be incredibly rewarding, helping give me an entirely different perspective on America and the world.  I want to go back to every place I’ve visited.  Well almost all of them.  To be precise, all but one, where the politics were so corrupt and nasty, the weather so freaking cold, the city so unpleasant, that I never want to return.

After months of infighting, the Western-leaning governing coalition in Ukraine formally collapsed Tuesday. The two leaders of the coalition, President Viktor A. Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who were the heroes of the Orange Revolution of 2004, could not come to an agreement on maintaining the coalition. Mr. Yushchenko had accused Ms. Tymoshenko of betraying him. Parliament now has 30 days to form a new coalition. If it does not, an election will be called.

I’ll let you guess which country I’m talking about.

Boy, offering NATO membership to former Soviet republics has really been a force for stabilization, hasn’t it?

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

Paralympics: Helping NBC Do the Right Thing

The Paralympics ended yesterday and will return in 2012 in London.

International Paralympic Committee chief Philip Craven hailed Beijing 2008 as “the greatest Games ever” during a moving, colourful closing ceremony. . . .Craven paid tribute to “the best ever Paralympic villages, a never-ending and self-generating supply of passion and emotion, superb organisation and wonderful volunteers” in his speech.  He hailed “millions of new Paralympic sports aficionados both here in China and around the world.”

Of course, thanks to NBC, none of those “new aficionados” live in the United States.

I have a suggestion.  Let’s spend the next four years urging NBC to get their act together and broadcast this event live on one of what, by that time will be the 117 channels they own.

Mr. David Zucker
President and Chief Executive Officer
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608

Dear Mr. Zucker,

We the undersigned were dismayed to discover that the NBC-Universal family chose not to televise the Paralympics in real time (live and tape-delayed rather than as a special taking place long after the event was over) in the same way that it chose to feature the Olympics.

We write you today, however, not to object to your current actions, but rather to urge you to make a different decision in 2012, when the Paralympics come to London.  he athletes competing in the Paralympics are as extraordinary as any in the world, and deserve our attention and respect.

We also think you would find them to be a tremendous ratings success.  Covering them therefore would be not only the right thing to do, it also would be the best business decision for your company.

We hope you will reconsider your decision and give Paralympics fans in this country the opportunity to support our athletes and share in their achievements.


If you’re willing to sign such a petition, please add your name and city/state to the coments section below.  And feel free to share it with others.  If we have enough interest, I’ll pass it on to NBC.  I will not share any contact information — only your name and city.

Photo:  Jonas in China via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:15 pm

Obama’s New Commercial

Two minutes long.  Thoughtful, realistic, comprehensive, and hard-hitting.  The framing works.

Two observations.

1.  The only thing missing are bullet points highlighting the key points in the plan.  I think that would have been more effective than keeping the web address up the whole time.

2.  The big question is whether people are willing to spend two minutes watching this.

Ironically, given my critique of Gerson’s column earlier today, this is exactly what Gerson suggested he do.  But I still don’t think that this precludes him from also hitting back.  And I remain convinced that Gerson is shifting the blame by arguing that it is somehow Obama’s fault that McCain has become a lying liar who lies about lies.

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:15 pm

Memo to Michael Gerson: WTF?

In today’s Washington Postdated, former Bush flack-hack and occasional thoughtful conservative Michael Gerson goes off the rails again, suggesting that Obama has made three mistakes during his campaign that just might prove to be fatal.

1.  Obama made the mistake of choosing in Joe Biden a thoughtful, experienced, and capable running mate instead of a crazy, inexperienced, and frequently vicious unknown.

He could have reinforced a message of change and moderation with a Democratic governor who wins in a Republican state, or reached for history by selecting Hillary Clinton. But his choice came soon after Russia invaded Georgia, and the conventional wisdom demanded an old hand who knew his way around Tbilisi. When the Georgia crisis faded, Obama was left with a partisan, undisciplined, congressional liberal at his side.

Apparently it is better to score easy points by creating a celebrity while sating your red (moose) meat base than it is to think about what is necessary to govern a large and complex nation.

2.  Obama made the mistake of turning his convention speech into a thoughtful discussion of the issues that matter to the American people instead of a rehash of his inspirational stumps:

In his Denver speech, it seemed that every American home was on the auction block, every car stalled for lack of gasoline, every credit card bill past due, every worker treated like a Russian serf. And John McCain? He was out of touch, with flawed “judgment.” His life devoted to serving oil companies and big corporations. And, by the way, he didn’t have the courage to follow Osama bin Laden “to the cave where he lives.”

Apparently it is better to speak blandishments than talk about the real problems facing this country.  The irony, of course, is that much of the commentariat before the speech — including Republicans — could not stop talking about how Obama needed to talk policy.  After the speech every commentator — even Pat Buchanan, for crying out loud — called the speech one of the finest of his career and an extraordinary challenge to McCain.  All that was forgotten by Gerson and other folks, largely because the next day, John McCain opened up that big ol’ can of crazy known as the Sarahnator.

3.  Obama is now making the mistake of getting tough on McCain for being such a lying liar who lies about his giant sack of lies.

Who is hurt most by this race to the bottom? McCain, by the evidence of his own convention, wants to be a viewed as a fighter — which a fight does little to undermine. Obama was introduced to America as a different and better kind of politician — an image now in tatters.

That’s right — it’s Obama’s fault for challenging the lies, because it makes him look like a typical politician.  Forget the fact that McCain has sullied his honor.  It’s far more relevant that Obama chose to fight back, thus hurting his reputation as a change agent.

If Michael Gerson wants to put on a pair of beer goggles when he looks at John McCain, that’s his prerogative.  But he shouldn’t expect the rest of us to believe him.

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics, war & rumors of war | 1 Comment

17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:45 pm

Beyond November: David Sandalow

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

The series took a brief hiatus during the conventions, but it’s back and will continue from now until the election.  Today, we’ll hear from David Sandalow.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

The dependence of our cars and trucks on oil weakens the United States and constrains our foreign policy.  The buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere threatens our national security and imperils the planet.  The next President has an unprecedented opportunity to tackle both problems.

Today, 96 percent of the energy in our cars and trucks comes from oil.  That dependence lies at the heart of many problems.  Oil dependence empowers our enemies, endangers our men and women in uniform and undermines democracy around the world.  It plays a central role in global warming. It strains family budgets when world oil prices rise.

(”Drill here, drill now” is not the answer.  The nonpartisan Energy Information Agency says drilling in new areas offshore would add roughly 0.3% to global oil supplies in 10 years, with little if any impact on price. Does anyone think Ahmadinejad and Chavez are quaking in their boots at the thought of the US drilling in additional areas offshore?  Offshore drilling is weak.  It’s like walking an extra 20 feet per day to lose weight.  Let’s hope our leaders have the courage to take more powerful steps to help keep the United States strong.)

And we face an even more epic problem.  Today, concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere are at their highest level in human history — and rising sharply.  Unless we change course, rising sea levels, more frequent storms, more severe droughts and floods, the spread of tropical disease and forest loss will threaten lives and livelihoods around the world.  In the words of a dozen retired US military commanders including General Anthony Zinni (USMC-Ret.), “Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world and presents significant national security challenges for the United States.”


There’s good news.  Solving these problems is the economic opportunity of the century.

From China to northern Europe to Silicon Valley, fortunes are already being made in renewable energy.  Thousands of companies are cutting emissions while increasing profits by improving energy efficiency and ending energy waste.  “Green collar jobs” are beginning to revitalize US cities.  Plug-in electric vehicles could revitalize the US car industry.

What should the next President do?  First, launch a crash program to end the utter dependence of our cars and trucks on oil.  Tax incentives, federal procurement and federal research and development funding should be marshaled to put millions of plug-in electric vehicles on the road soon.  The same tools should be used for advanced biofuels, dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency, natural gas vehicles and mass transit.

For decades, the U.S. government has heavily subsidized oil consumption.  (How does one value the subsidy to a commodity from having the US President fly to Saudi Arabia to try to talk the down its price?  Although the most recent effort by a US President to do this was unsuccessful, it has been a priority of Presidents and Cabinet secretaries of both parties for generations to promote the free flow of cheap oil around the world.)  The cost of programs to help break our oil addiction will be small in comparison.

In launching these programs, we should work closely with other oil-consuming nations.  Traditional oil diplomacy means securing adequate and reliable supplies.  21st century oil diplomacy should have an additional objective: reducing dependence in all nations.

At the same, the US must immediately take comprehensive steps to fight global warming.  In the past several years, dozens of States and hundreds of US cities have passed laws to control emissions of heat-trapping gases.  It is long past time for the federal government to do the same.  The next President should work with Congress to pass such legislation as a top priority, giving the US the strength to participate credibly in international global warming negotiations.

Neither oil dependence nor global warming can be solved overnight.  But dramatic progress is possible.  The unusually broad consensus concerning the national security threats from oil dependence, growing awareness of global warming, sharp rise in public attention as a result of high oil prices, and breakthroughs in clean energy technologies such as solar power and lithium ion batteries - in combination - create an unprecedented opportunity for change.

The transition to a clean energy economy will shape the first part of this century.  The next President can make history by setting the United States on the right course.

David Sandalow is Energy & Environment Scholar and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.  He is a former assistant secretary of state and senior director on the National Security Council staff.  He is the author of Freedom from Oil (McGraw-Hill 2007).

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:29 am

Thought for the Day

Too bad Henry Paulson and Ben Barnanke weren’t around when Carly Fiorina ran Hewlett-Packard, because the American people could have taken control of HP for a song.

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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Sarah Palin’s Excellent Adventure

In case you missed it yesterday, the Sarahnator and her tannin’ bed are heading to New York City to visit Dr. Joel Fleischman to meet with strange people who talk funny (no, not other Alaskans):

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will meet with foreign leaders next week at the United Nations, a move to boost her foreign-policy credentials, a Republican strategist said.  Republican candidate John McCain plans to introduce the Alaska governor to heads of state at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, although specific names weren’t yet firmed up. “The meetings will give her some exposure and experience with foreign leaders,” the strategist said. “It’s a great idea.”

Oh yeah, a great idea.  Just stu-freaking-pendous.  Maybe McCain advisor John Bolton can take her up in a helicopter and they can try to shoot the top ten stories off the UN building.

Nothing like using foreign governments to score a few political points.  And hey, if Obama can go to Berlin, why can’t Palin go to Turtle Bay?

Uh, because she doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about?

I can see it now.

Hi Vladimir and Dmitri, my name is  Sarah.  Vlad, you gotta come to Alaska where we can go huntin’ together.  Shootin’ moose is a lot more fun than that little kitty you killed a few weeks ago.  And have I mentioned that I can see you guys from my house?

Oh, and if you ever mess with Georgia again, this lipstick-wearin’ pitbull is gonna bomb the living crap out of ya.  If you thought messin’ with Texas was a pain, just wait ’til you have a snowshoe shoved where the sun don’t shine.

I’m sure that will go over like a ton of nukes.

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, politics, war & rumors of war | 1 Comment

17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: Silliness amidst the Ruins

Two hurricanes hit in the past week — Ike in Texas and Lehman Brothers in New York.  Both are deeply serious situations affecting the lives of thousands of Americans.

And yet there are those who cannot help but see an opportunity for mischief.  First New York:

Now Galveston:

Just wait until AIG fails — I’m betting we’ll see gay bears.

Hat tips:  Andrew Sullivan (bear) and Slog (dudes)

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 pm

Nightly Election Thread

Turns out the Hoover once said the fundamentals of our economy remain strong.

If you squint, McCain kind of looks like Hoover.

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