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20 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:55 pm

Racism and the Race


The progosphere is freaking out again, this time over an AP story suggesting that Obama’s edge in the race is hurt by as much as six points because of racism among the electorate.  Nate Silver over at 538 does a good job of unpacking the problems with the report — if you’re at all concerned about this issue, make sure you read it.

I’ll add six observations to his.  Unlike Nate, who bases his observations on strong empirical evidence, I’m going with my gut here.

1.  The article was co-authored by Ron Fournier, AP’s Washington bureau chief.  For those who are not aware of it, Fournier was offered a job with the McCain campaign in 2006.  A number of bloggers and media watchdog groups have recently suggested that he is in the tank for McCain, pointing to a number of articles, including one that suggested that Obama’s choice of Biden “show[ed] a lack of confidence” and another that accused Obama of being arrogant.

2.  Regardless of whether Silver is right and the “racism factor” is “only” 4 to 5 points or the AP-Yahoo poll is right in saying it is more like 6 points, I don’t think it’s going to be as significant factor as Fournier would have you believe.  Keep in mind that very few of those expressing their dislike of African-Americans would have voted for any Democrat.  So in reality, I think we’re probably talking 1 to 2 points, and probably only in a small number of states that matter — Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia.  That’s not great news for Obama, but it’s it’s a lot less significant than Fournier suggests.

3.  The “racism factor” is largely offset by both the mobile phone factor (+2-3 points in Obama’s favor because most polls don’t take into account those who only use cell phones, who are mostly under-30s, who in turn are mostly Obama supporters) and the field organizing factor (+2-5 points, depending on the state, the capacity of the Obama team in that state, and the degree to which the McCain campaign has counter-organized).

4.  As this story races around the blogosphere, it might actually generate new support for Obama, from undecideds who don’t want people to think that they opposed Obama because they’re racist.  I don’t think this is a significant number, but every vote counts.

5.  On a related note, I think there are a large number of people out there who want to vote for Obama because they want to be part of history (Silver touches on this as well).  Although this tends mainly to be under-40s (for example, the people who loved Will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video) that’s not entirely the case.  Both of my 88-year-old parents, for example, are voting for Obama.  Although race isn’t the only reason, it’s part of the reason (and for the record, they’re both Republicans — my mom so much so that she still thinks Nixon was framed).  Look for this to be a particular factor in Florida, where Republicans tend to be fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and distrustful of the Palin faction of the Republican Party.

6. Much has been made of Obama’s “Lehman bounce.”  But what if the past week’s polling numbers are not a bounce, but rather a post-convention self-correction?  The polls are currently right about where they were before the conventions started, and I’m not sure that the impact of this week’s financial events has truly sunk in with most Americans.  If I’m right, then Obama is going to grow even more over the next week.

My gut is that not only that Obama will win, but that he will win the popular vote by a significantly larger margin than the current polls reflect.  I was on the phone with my dad yesterday, and he had a similar opinion — he thinks that this is going to be a modern version of the 1936 Presidential election, when the Literary Digest poll, which had predicted the five previous winners, incorrectly forecast an Alf Landon landslide.

My dad thinks as we get closer to the election, more people are going to support Obama privately but not admit it publicly — in other words, a reverse Bradley effect.   I hope he’s right, but I’m not holding my breath.

In the end, I think Obama’s ground game is going to make the biggest difference — enough so that I think it will give him victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, and perhaps Ohio.

So I’ll say again what I’ve said before:  calm the hell down and work even harder.

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19 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:38 pm

Don’t Forget. . .


If you live in Virginia, absentee voting starts today.  To find out more about whether you’re eligible, go here.

The Obama campaign has a website where you can find out whether you’re registered (and if not where to go to register), and whether you can vote early (and where to go on election day).

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19 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

The Hecklers


I’m sure you must have heard already that Obama was heckled during an appearance today in Coral Gables, Florida by a group known as “Blacks against Obama.”  At first I thought that this was another McCain dirty trick.  But it turns out that the group is completely independent of the McCain campaign.

The McCain campaign should be really, really, really happy that that is the case.  Because it turns out that these guys are seriously bats**t crazy.

“Southtotheleft” at the PrObama site, Over the Rockies for Obama, took the time to find out who was behind the protest.

Calling themselves “Blacks Against Obama,” they alleged that Obama has been endorsed by the KKK, and that “Jessie Jackson Hates Obama.” Their home-made signs had the words “Michael Warns” on the bottom, which links to the website www.michaelwarns.com.

The site is almost entirely devoid of content, except for listing an address somewhere in Miami and a link to the site, www.michaeldefeatssatan.com. The second link is a lot more fruitful in terms of content, despite sharing the similarly unfinished qualities of the first site. Almost all of the links are dead, and the content forms are still left from the template the site was designed on: “Page Title Here” and “A quote or missions statement about the firm here” litter the site.

Website design aside, It seems that Michael — or Michael The Black Man as he prefers to be called — is a charismatic preacher who leads a cult-like church that preaches to black men against the evils of women. . . .Michael seems to run a daily video sermon programme where he sings and talks about the ways to redeem “BLACK MEN,” which mostly seems to be by avoiding any contact of feelings for women.  In fact, the ailing of black men in the United States is placed entirely upon the shoulders of black women, child support, and the Democratic Party.

Here’s a screenshot of the front page for “Michael Defeats Satan”

Turns out the Oprah and Obama are conspiring to destroy “the black race.”  Who knew?  Man, you just can’t make this stuff up.

You also can watch this guy preach.  Here’s the opening of his most recent sermon:

If you are an Obama supporter, you’re going to be crushed. Because you think that n***** is the shepherd, but the Lord said he will smite the shepherd. So I’ve got to smite him.

No evidence that Michael has endorsed McCain.  He does associate “Republicans” with “good,” “positive,” “right,” “male,” and “God.”  But given that he hates women so pathologically, he’s probably not on the Palin bandwagon.

How much you want to bet that this is about Michael’s failure to pay child support?

I like what Southtotheleft has to say about all of this:

Frankly, this is nothing but good news for Obama. Why? One of the catchiest group names was just taken up by crazy people. . . . What could be better for McCain than Blacks Against Obama? If they were 50 percent less crazy, I’d be willing to bet their group leader would have been booked on Fox News tomorrow. . . . But no one is going to put Michael The Black Man on TV.

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19 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:45 pm

The Intellectual Bankruptcy of the Republicans, Part 1,834,416


I don’t care if this is tongue-in-cheek, it still demonstrates that conservatives are so intellectually bankrupt, that they have to borrow their memes from the Democrats..  Via Jonathan Martin:

Funny, but it does kinda sorta almost most definitely blow up that set of John McCain ads mocking Obama.

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19 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

I So Feel His Pain


Another gem from The Onion:

After receiving yet another unwanted e-mail from liberal political action group MoveOn.org Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama deleted the message from his inbox without even glancing at its contents.  “Ugh, not these people again,” Obama was overheard to say as he placed the unread e-mail into the Gmail folder marked “Trash.” . . .

“It seems like every time I turn on my computer, another goddamn MoveOn.org e-mail pops up,” said Obama, noting that this is the third message from the progressive online organization he has deleted in the past week. “How many of these things am I going to get?”  “They already know I’m going to vote for Obama,” Obama added. “The only people who sign up for this thing are Democrats anyway. They’re just preaching to the choir.”

Obama reportedly joined the MoveOn.org mailing list while attending the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Although he was initially intrigued by the idea of receiving newsletters and updates from a group of like-minded, politically active Americans, Obama said the nonstop deluge of e-mails has made him regret his decision.

“I usually get excited when I see that I have one unread message,” Obama said. “I think that maybe it’s something interesting or important, but then I see it’s another MoveOn e-mail and my heart just sinks. It’s like getting nothing.” . . .

Obama’s mail records confirm that, in April 2008, he replied to a MoveOn.org e-mail entitled “10 Things You Need to Know About John McCain” with the message “Shut up.” . . . “I know this election is important and everything,” Obama added. “But these people seriously need to relax.” . . .

“It’s irritating that these people think they’re doing everybody this great service just by clicking ’send’ a million times,” Obama said. “I’m trying to make the world a better place, but with all the time I’ve been spending deleting e-mails, it’s going to take me forever.”

Heh.

Time to move on, MoveOn.  Your act has become tiresome.

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:55 pm

Joltin’ Joe


Another great point from the only VP candidate actually qualified to hold the job:

COURIC: Your vice presidential rival, Governor Palin, said “To the rest of America, that’s not patriotism.  Raising taxes is about killing jobs and hurting small businesses and making things worse.”

BIDEN:  How many small businessmen are making one million, four hundred thousand–average in the top 1 percent. Give me a break.

I remind my friend, John McCain, what he said–when Bush called for war and tax cuts–he said, it was immoral, immoral, to take a nation to war and not have anybody pay for it. I am so sick and tired of this phoniness.

The truth of the matter is that we are in trouble.  And the people who do not need a new tax cut should be willing, as patriotic Americans, to understand the way to get this economy back up on their feet is to give middle class taxpayers a break. We take the tax cut they’re getting and we give it to the middle class.

Pow! Bam! Zing!

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18 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:26 pm

Galluping


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
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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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
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.

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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.

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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:15 pm

Morlocks for Obama


A sunbed, with lights off.When news of Sarah Palin installing a tanning bed in the governor’s mansion broke, my first reaction actually was “well, she just nailed down the sorority girl vote.”  You know the ones I’m talking about:  go to any tanning salon, and it’s filled with pretty (vacant) white girls getting their skin ready for Cabo San Lucas.  These are the same women that Everclear infamously parodied in Volvo Driving Hockey Soccer Moms.  Well, at least some of them.

Turns out I was more right than I thought.  The Indoor Tanning Association has now issued a press release defending Sarah Palin:

In locations such as Alaska, tanning beds provide important health benefits as a source of UV light.  In the bleak winter months, many Americans experience vitamin D deficiency and the best way to manufacture vitamin D is through exposure to UV light.  But it is impossible to get the requisite amount of vitamin D from the sun in cities north of 37 degrees latitude for as many as 6 months out of the year; people living as far north as Juneau, Alaska, are deprived of vitamin D from sunlight for even longer. . . .

While partisan bloggers and the sun scare industry will use this as an opportunity to undermine Gov. Palin and demonize the indoor tanning industry, the fact is that Governor Palin’s decision to get UV light from a tanning bed positively impacts her health.

“Moderate amounts of indoor tanning allow Governor Palin to experience the many health benefits that come with exposure to UV light,” said Dan Humiston, President of the Indoor Tanning Association.  “Especially in dreary northern locations like Alaska, indoor tanning can help guard against wintertime depression and ward off diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency. Kudos to Governor Palin for standing up to dermatologists and other members of the sun scare industry who are trying to frighten Americans away from UV light.”

You heard it here first, folks:  Democrats hate the sun.  They’re actually Morlocks.

Three points.

1.  I wonder how Alaskans are going to feel about having their state called a “dreary northern location”?

2.  Have these idiots ever heard of Calcium Citrate?  You can get your Vitamin D in a pill and not have to worry about that little side effect called skin cancer.

3.  It’s awfully hard to “frighten Americans away from UV light,” given that the freaking sun is the source of most of it.

But what do I know?  I’m just an Eloi-eating surrender Morlock.

These guys should form an interest group in support of Sarah Palin.  You know, like Veterans for McCain.  I even can suggest a name:  Tanning Tards for Sunshine Sarah.

Hat tip:  Marc Ambinder

Photos:  Tanning bed via Wikipedia using a GNU Free Documentation License; Morlocks via Pere Ubu, using a Creative Commons license.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:45 pm

Best Comeback of the Day


Joe Biden campaigning in Michigan:

I hope this becomes a staple of his campaign.  Obama should use it too.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

Compare and Contrast: Obama and Paulson on Economic Crisis


Here’s part of what Barack Obama said today about the problems plaguing Wall Street:

The situation with Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that are generating enormous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets. This turmoil is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.

The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren’t minding the store. Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Now here’s part of what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said today:

We’re working through a difficult period in our financial markets right now as we work of some of the past excesses, but the American people can remain confident in the soundness and resilience of our financial system. . . . We’ve got excesses we need to work through and we need to work through them as quickly as possible, and I think we’re making progress.

I appreciate the fact that Paulson is, along with Bernanke, doing his best to prevent a total meltdown of the economy, and I recognize that both men are largely trying to fix problems created by their predecessors.  But come on — who exactly does Paulson think was responsible for the “excesses” that brought about this mess?  Or is the Bush Administration going to try to do what they did with 9/11: blame it on the Clinton-Gore team?

The reality is that for the past seven (nearly eight) years, the Bush Administration has allowed the rich to play with everyone else’s money in ways that has left many Americans exposed to real risk.  In the process, it also has failed to fix many any of the other problems the country is facing — a weakened industrial base, an eroding infrastructure, a blooming debt, a growing climate crisis, a continued dependence on foreign oil, and a declining dollar, just to name the first six that come to mind.

I do not discount the role played by people who bought houses they could not afford.  But who allowed the market to exist in the first place?  Who ignored the problems we faced until it was too late?  Republicans’ arguments that this is all somehow the fault of people who took out sub-prime loans is little more than blaming the victim.  That is so typical of Republicans:  blame the middle class and the poor for the fat cats’ mistakes.

Should things really go south, there really isn’t a safety net capable of preventing the slide.  Face it:  we’re broke.  As a government, we’re no different that Lehman Brothers:  our debits exceed our assets.  Do people really think that the Chinese are going to continue to bail us out, especially now that they’re beginning to find other markets for their goods?  (For the Chinese perspective, read between the lines of this piece.)

Large segments of the world would like nothing better than to see the United States economy crash and burn.  Yes, there will be some short-term impact on global markets, but the reality is that the rest of the world will quickly find that it can live quite well with a weakened United States.

This is, in many ways, even worse than the Depression, even if the final economic consequences prove not to be as dire (something we are not yet assured will be the case):  this time, the government doesn’t have the ability to turn this around.  Unless, of course, à la Zimbabwe, we start printing worthless money (but of course that just creates a new set of problems).

I don’t know whether Obama or McCain or anyone can reverse this slide.  I do know that an Obama administration would be far more likely to convey the reality of the situation than a McCain administration.  An Obama administration would be able to work with a Congress more likely to act on his prescriptions.  But that doesn’t mean that what he wants will work.

In my gut — and that’s all it is at this point — I can’t help believing that this isn’t merely the start of another recession/depression.  It feels much more like the beginning of America’s slide off the top of the pyramid.  I hope I’m mistaken.

In the meantime, you might want to go back and take a look at this James Fallows piece from 2005.  He gets some of the details wrong, but I think he’s scarily on target in terms of the big picture.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:15 pm

This is More Like It


On-message, in-frame, and no mention of Sarah Palin.  More like this please.

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:45 am

While We Were Putting Lipstick on That Pig. . .


One of the tragedies of the current campaign is that the two candidates have not yet had a serious debate about America’s role in the world.  Both McCain and Obama have laid out very different visions — to oversimplify, McCain’s robust nationalism versus Obama’s effective internationalism.  But instead of debating the future of American foreign policy, the campaign has degenerated into discussions about such salient topics as lipstick, pigs, celebrities, and bridges.

Jeffrey Goldberg over at The Atlantic suggests that this isn’t a coincidence — McCain is pursuing a vicious campaign because he knows his worldview won’t get him elected.

Like many people who have covered John McCain, I think of him as a deeply serious man, preoccupied with America’s defense and its position in the world. So I’ve been confused for the past few days, trying to figure out why he’s allowing his campaign to make a circus of this election, leveling unserious and dishonest accusations about Barack Obama’s positions on sex education and Sarah Palin.

Then it came to me: The answer can be found in. . .John McCain’s philosophy of war, and in particular with the doctrine of preemption, which McCain still endorses. . . . McCain knows that preemption isn’t the easiest sell these days: “It’s very hard to run for president on this idea right now,” he told me.

So, what do you do when one of your core ideas is out of sync with the predispositions of the American public? You spend your days talking about lipstick on pigs. This might win him the election, but I’d rather see him debate preemption.

I think this is largely true.  Thanks to the Bush Administration, preemption isn’t exactly a popular concept right now.  It’s not merely intellectually bankrupt, it’s also despised by the rest of the world.  What McCain, Bush, Cheney, and I presume, Palin (once they explain everything to her) view as America asserting its interests is viewed in the rest of the world as exceptionalism and even imperialism.

Four more years of such a policy may destroy what’s left of American power and credibility in the world.  Right now, Russia is asserting itself, and they’re doing it by using the Bush playbook.  While no one is paying attention, Venezuela is quite effectively building a new anti-American bloc in Latin America (more on this in a future post).  Erstwhile American allies are beginning to reevaluate whether it makes sense to continue to make friendship with a weakened, angry, and often bellicose United States a priority in their foreign policy.  And perhaps most troubling of all, a strong and assertive China is confidently asserting itself — not merely by hosting the Olympics, but in a number of other ways, most notably through massive foreign assistance projects that just happen to give China access to the natural resources it needs to continue to grow.

Let’s be blunt:  nobody is really that impressed with us anymore.  We’ve become the annoying guest who insists on dominating the conversation but who has little of value to contribute to the conversation.  We’re on the verge of becoming the kid who was a star athlete in high school but who never reaches similar heights in adulthood.

It’s not only that we’re despised.  It’s that we’re increasingly a laughingstock.  If McCain is elected, it could be a tipping point.  Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, and a number of lesser states will see no reason not to organize in opposition to our interests.  We will find it harder to assert ourselves, or even to be heard.

To be clear, I’m not interested in appeasing or even appealing to such states.  But I’m also not interested in poking all of them in the eye with a sharp stick, especially when we do it constantly and frequently simultaneously.  McCain doesn’t seem to understand that there are a finite number of states you can anger before people start seeing you as the problem — even when you’re in the right.

It’s almost as if McCain wants to go it alone.  After all, that’s what has worked for him in campaigns.  Why not turn it into a foreign policy?

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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 am

McCain: Whatever. It. Takes.


In a number of previous posts, particularly back in July, I suggested that McCain’s campaign had been taken over by Steve Schmidt and a bunch of other Rovians, that he was now letting the very people who smeared him back in 2000 run his campaign.  I wondered how he could be in bed with such people.

Then something I read during the latest kerfuffle around his campaign’s lies got me thinking about a passage in Christopher Buckley’s most recent novel, Boomsday.  One of the main characters is Randolph K. Jepperson, who is loosely modeled on John Kerry.  There is one scene early in the book, which takes place after Jepperson has lost his first run for the Senate, that reminds me of the McCain we’re seeing now:

[After the defeat, p]eople around Randoph K. Jepperson remarked on the change that came over him.  He went into what is usually called “seclusion,” with no movie-star girlfriend or ex-rocker’s wife.  When he emerged, he had a look in his eyes that one staffer called “kinda spooky.”

On his first day back in Congress, he fired everyone in his office. . . . He replaced his loyal staff with the equivalent of Capitol Hill mercenaries.  He lured away seasoned pros from other congressional offices, paying above-standard salaries.  He hired expensive lobbyists and operatives from K Street; trade association sharks and hired guns; legislative dogs of war.  By the time his restaffing was complete, his office colleagues were referring to his office as “the Death Star.”

When Randy called Terry several weeks after his defeat, Terry assumed it was to fire him, too.  But instead, in a voice that Terry also thought kinda spooky, “Next time we win.  Whatever. It. Takes.”

Sound familiar?  John McCain concluded after the 2000 race that all politicians are mean and nasty, and that if he wanted to win, he had to be meaner, nastier, and faster.  Think of it as a perversion of the OODA loop:

The OODA loop (for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act) is a concept applied. . . .at [the] strategic level in both the military and commercial operations. . . . [D]ecision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (either an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain a military or business advantage.

That pretty much describes McCain’s strategy right now.

So the problem isn’t that John McCain is surrounded by Rovians.  The problem is that he has become the Rovian-in-Chief.

| posted in politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Another Day, Another Bad Frame


Here’s a memo the Obama campaign sent out yesterday:

To: Press Corps
From: Obama Campaign
Re: Unraveling the myth of the Straight Talk Express

Since naming Governor Palin as their Vice Presidential nominee, the McCain campaign has distorted, distracted, and outright lied to the American people about her record in a desperate attempt to hide the fact that a McCain/Palin Administration would be nothing more than a continuation of the failed Bush policies of the last eight years.

Indeed, today alone we learned that the McCain campaign’s claim that Governor Palin traveled to Iraq is a lie. In fact, she didn’t cross the Kuwait border. We learned that the McCain campaign is desperate enough to tell the press phony crowd numbers, which they falsely attributed to local elected officials and the United States Secret Service.  And we learned that despite Senator McCain’s claim that Governor Palin is a fiscal conservative, spending actually increased during her brief tenure as Governor.

Here are the facts. Governor Palin supported the Bridge to Nowhere, requested hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks, never visited Iraq, increased spending as governor, increased taxes as governor, and was about as successful selling that luxury jet on eBay as the McCain campaign has been selling her reputation as a reformer. Oh yeah, and the gas pipeline she touts won’t be usable for at least a decade, if it’s completed at all.

While the media is slowly starting to call the McCain campaign on their dishonest tactics, McCain’s staff boasts that they don’t care. As a McCain spokesman told the Politico, “We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

In other words, McCain is lying PALIN PALIN PALIN PALIN.

That is not the message people.  This is exactly what McCain wants you to do.

Repeat after me:  McCain is a liar.  McCain is dishonorable.  McCain will do anything to get elected.

Stick to the main topic here.  Palin’s lies are merely a secondary distraction.  Ignore her, or at the very least separate her from your main argument.

| posted in politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Morning Buzz: Creepiest. Action. Figure. Ever


Offered without comment:

The “Sarah Palin School Girl Action Figure,” from “Herobuilders.”

So why, exactly, did they think it necessary to dress her up as a porno-style schoolgirl?  Blech.

Okay, so maybe I did comment, but you have to admit this is both creepy and appalling.

By the way, she’s also available in “Action Figure” and “Super Action Hero” versions.

Among their other models are “Beach Blanket Obama” (seriously), John McCain, Elliot Spitzer, and John Edwards.  They also have Pez dispensers and plush dolls.  But no Joe Biden figure.

All they’re missing are the bobbleheads.  Something tells me that those are coming soon.

| posted in media, politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

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