Saturday, November 8, 2008

Not a sore loser, just a loser

McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt explains that it's not his fault:

The moment that I will look back at as the moment deep in my gut that I knew, was September 29, when I was flying on a plane with Governor Palin to Sedona for debate prep, watching the split screen on the TVs . . . and it showed the stock market down seven, eight hundred points; it showed the Congress voting down the bailout package on the other side, and then, House Republicans went out and told the world that the reason that they voted against this legislation, allowed the stock market to crash, allowed the economy to be so injured, was because Nancy Pelosi had given a mean and partisan speech on the floor. And this was their response. And I just viewed it as beyond devastating, and thought that at that moment running with an "R" next to your name, in this year, was probably lethal.

Got that? House Republicans "allowed the stock market to crash," and that's why John McCain lost, rather than because of Schmidt's insistence on Sept. 24 that the candidate suspend the campaign, call for a postponement of the debate, and fly to Washington to push for the unpopular $700 billion bailout. Classic.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

Why Palin won't wait

At the Corner and at Politico, campaign staffers fight the smears against Sarah Palin. Allahpundit rounds it up with a long exit question suggesting (a) "social issues" won't matter in 2012, and (b) there's no reason why Palin can't wait until 2016, or later, to take her shot at the Big One.

OK, I'll bite. Regarding (a), we have no idea what the political landscape will look like in 2012. Nobody in 2004 -- except, perhaps, Barack Obama -- imagined how off-message and unpopular the GOP would be in 2008. I have never thought of Palin as a one-dimensional social conservative. She describes herself as a fiscal conservative and, considering what the Democrats are likely to do with Obama in the White House, a reformist governor with a strong fiscal-conservative message running as an "outsider" looks like a smart bet for 2012. (Yes, that could also describe Bobby Jindal.)

Regarding (b), recall that in Bill Clinton wasn't on anybody's radar screen in 1990. But a lot of Democratic contenders were scared out of the race when Bush's popularity zoomed during Desert Storm, so that Clinton won the nomination against a relatively weak field. Likewise, in 2006, the possibility that Obama could challenge and beat Hillary Clinton for the 2008 nomination seemed remote, And, more recently, in July 2007, John McCain's campaign was bankrupt and people were writing his political obituary.

When you get your shot, you take your shot. It's obvious Palin has got a shot in 2012, and she'd be a fool to pass it up. Trying to conjure reasons why she shouldn't take the shot isn't going to keep her from taking it.

Of course, we're getting way ahead of the game here. Starting Jan. 20, conservatives are going to have their hands full trying to stop the Obamafication of America. We'll have a couple of years to watch the kind of moves Palin makes, she'll have a couple of years to take a look at the situation, and around December 2010 -- assuming that opposition to Obama is still legal -- she'll decide whether to greenlight a campaign for 2012. But I bet money she goes for it.

Roll Tide!

Dadgum, it wasn't pretty, but a win's a win, when you're playing at Baton Rouge. No. 1 Alabama gutted it out for a 27-21 overtime win over a tough LSU team. My brother said, "Don't they know I'm on blood pressure medication?"

With the score tied 21-21 and about 2 minutes left in regulation, a 22-yard punt return by Javier Arenas set the Crimson Tide up at the LSU 41. Four plays later, on second-and-2 from the Tigers' 22, a face-masking penalty gave 'Bama a first down at the LSU 12. Three plays later, as time expired, Van Tiffin tried a 29-yard field goal, but it was blocked.

In overtime, LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee tried for a touchdown pass but was intercepted in the end zone by Alabama safety Rashad Johnson. Tide QB John Parker Wilson hit Julio Jones for 24 yards and then put it in the end zone on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard-line.

Not a pretty game, by any means, but another "W," and I'll take it. Now Alabama is 10-0 and controls their own destiny -- four more wins, and they're national champions. Just take 'em one at a time.

'Rebuild the Party'

Several of my friends -- including Erick Erickson, Matt Lewis, Jon Henke, and J.P. Freire -- have formed Rebuild the Party, an effort to construct an online-based project to modernize and strengthen the Republican Party.

Commenter Rae says, "I don't see R.S. McCain on their coalition list." Correct. I wasn't asked to participate. It's a Young Turks organization, and I'm 20 years older than most of those guys. (Yesterday, I was talking to a conservative activist, a guy about my age, regarding the Old Guard and the Young Turks, and he referred to himself as a "Medium Turk," which is an apt description.)

I'm not the "joiner" type, anyway. I work for money, and don't much go for that volunteer True Believer stuff: Save the Whales, Save Darfur, Save the GOP. As a professional journalist, of course, I'll be interested in covering their project, and certainly wish them success. The Republican Party is such a wretched mess nowadays it's hard even to imagine how it could be fixed.

So NOW the NYT is fair to Palin

Once the election is over, the New York Times provides something in the neighborhood of factual reporting about Sarah Palin. They couldn't have allowed facts to get in the way of anonymous smears and tendentious misrepresentation so long as it was possible that The One might be hurt by the truth. Fausta Wertz has a nice roundup on today's Palin news, and says:
Part of Palin’s appeal to people like me is that she tells it like it is, unlike the current convoluted language in the media and the upcoming administration.
She links Doug Ross who says about media bias:
Put simply, there appears to be only a turnstile between a Democratic administration and a cushy media job.
For a couple of weeks, I've been trying to think of how to boil down into a single column exactly how the Republican Party has blown its media-relations operation over the past decade. What does the GOP do wrong? Well, "everything" might be a short summary.

If the media is 90% liberal (and it's close to that), this means that there are relatively few opportunities for Republicans to hire campaign operatives who have actual newsroom experience. So you've got people running press relations who don't have the faintest clue about what motivates reporters.

Out on the trail covering McCain and Palin, you could not miss the campaign staff's vibe of hostility (or perhaps a defensive fear) toward the press corps -- a hostility returned with interest by reporters who were tired of being fed press releases, shuttled around to scripted events, and denied direct access to the candidates. The campaign would set up a "pen" for the press, and any reporter who wandered outside the pen to try to get some "local color" quotes from the crowd was apt to be confronted with an officious staffer telling him to get back where he belonged. (This happened to me in Lebanon, Ohio, though I eventually managed to elude the staff and do some reporting despite them.)

Obama's campaign was run by David Axelrod, who spent 8 years as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, and has a thick Rolodex of press contacts. The success of the Obama campaign had a lot to do with the amazing ability of Team Hope to get the press to frame its coverage to reflect exactly the spin the Obama campaign wanted. And a big part of that was Axelrod working the phones with reporters and editors in a collegial manner.

The poisoned relationship between the media and the Republican Party is not entirely the fault of the media. There must be some secret school somewhere that trains Republican operatives to treat reporters like crap. But it's infinitely easier for GOP officials to whine about "media bias" than to admit the fact that they don't know what the hell they're doing when it comes to press relations.

Just in case any campaign operative happens to be reading this, let me explain something to you: When a news organization spends money to send a reporter to cover your event, they're doing you a favor. It's free publicity, and you need to show some evidence that you appreciate it. Self-important staffers are apt to get confused about the nature of this nexus between themselves and reporters, and to imagine that they're the ones doing reporters a favor simply by allowing reporters to cover the campaign.

Now if I, a conservative journalist, perceived that kind of condescending attitude coming from the McCain campaign staff, don't you think the liberal reporters caught it? And don't you think it rankled?

Flacks and hacks
Since I'm on this rant, how about I give you miserable little staff punks some insight into the journalistic mind, OK? You have no idea how infinitely inferior you are to an experienced reporter, in that reporter's mind. You're just another P.R. flack, another publicist trying to promote a product, no different than the insignificant people who flood the mailboxes of every newrsoom in America with press releases. If there is one attitude more prevalent in the newsroom than liberal bias, it is a profound contempt for publicity-seekers, a category that most emphatically includes politicians.

Some of my best friends are P.R. people and over the years, I've come to appreciate what it is they do, and how they do it. I've been schmoozed by the best in the business, and recognize the symbiotic relationship between reporters and publicists. But I'm a rarity in that regard, and the reporter's natural resentment of P.R. flacks is aggravated by our knowledge that the flacks are getting paid more by their clients than we hacks in the press corps are getting paid to cover whatever it is you're trying to promote.

This flacks-and-hacks dynamic exists at every level of journalism down to the tiniest weekly paper. Reporters everywhere learn from Day One on the job to be unimpressed by politicians and other publicity-seekers, to think themselves superior to, say, a county commissioner or a city manager. This innate arrogance of the press may seem objectionable, but the only possibility for objective news is a reporter who is not overawed or intimidated by the people he's reporting about. (Something the Obamaphiliacs in the press corps ought to consider.)

Political reporters are self-consciously the elite of the journalistic profession. They have a deep disdain for the "lifestyle" feature writers, the slobs on the sports desk, etc. The guy who covers political news for a daily in Pittsburgh or St. Louis is going to see his byline on the front page almost daily. He's the Big Dog in the newsroom, the ace, and everybody knows it. And if he somehow manages to work his way up to the major leagues of journalism -- the Associated Press, the Washington Post, Reuters, U.S. News & World Report -- well, it doesn't exactly encourage humility.

The arrogance of TV reporters is far, far worse, in part because TV reporters make so much more money than print reporters, and in part because the TV guys are genuinely famous. Some guy who began his career covering brush fires in Kansas was a local TV star -- a bona fide celebrity -- from the time his first story aired in whatever piss-ant town he started in. By the time he makes it to the status of network political correspondent covering a presidential campaign, by God, he thinks he's the next Cronkite. (Except more hip and sexy.)

The campaign to nowhere
Now, try to put yourself in the shoes of these reporters, out on the road covering a presidential campaign, their news organizations being billed thousands of dollars for travel expenses, their editors expecting big scoops and hard news and -- nothing.

A hotel, a bus, an airplane, a bus, and their reward is to be herded into a pen with all the other reporters so that they can do stenography about a speech at a rally that's no different than the speech at yesterday's rally. Never a press conference, never a chance to get five minutes of one-on-one time with the candidate. And the whole time, they're being fed a bland diet of press releases, conference calls and -- if they're lucky -- some not-for-attribution bullshit from a "senior campaign official."

This was what the McCain campaign gave the press corps day after day. And except for a few weeks of doubt in September, these reporters were quite aware they were covering a losing campaign that -- by all normal logic of public relations -- should have been only too eager to curry favor with the press. But as Newsweek reported:
McCain would want to head back to the reporters' section of the plane, and Davis would pull him back. "No, no, no, I want them around me," McCain would say, referring to the reporters. "No, no, no, they're screwing you," Davis would retort. At McCain's insistence, his new campaign plane this past summer had been fitted with a large bench-style couch, to re-create the space on the Straight Talk Express bus, where the candidate had spent hours jawing on the record with reporters, half a dozen or so at a time. But reporters were never asked to sit there. McCain did not look happy about being kept on a tight leash, as least as far as reporters could tell from a distance.
Common sense, and even the slightest consideration of the reporter's point of view, tells you why any strategy of secluding candidates from the press contributes to bad coverage for Republicans. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" -- this is good advice for dealing with hostile reporters. The guy who files an unfair, inaccurate story needs to be confronted directly by the candidate. Not with an angry rant, but with a calm, cheerful appeal to the reporter's conscience. (Yes, even reporters have consciences.) "C'mon, Jim -- gimme a break here. That was wrong, and you ought to be honest and fair."

The crutch of 'bias'
As ridiculously liberal as most reporters are, they usually pride themselves on being factual and fair. And as arrogant as they (we) are, journalists are human beings who respond better if treated like human beings than treated like cattle.

I love Rush Limbaugh, but when I hear him talking about the "drive-by media," and then see otherwise intelligent conservatives proclaim that the Old Media are irrelevant, I fear that we are surrendering to an attitude of defeatism. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe that Republicans can do nothing to improve their media relations operation, and you act on that belief by treating reporters like crap, I can guarantee that GOP media relations will not improve.

At some point, whining about media bias becomes an all-purpose excuse for Republican Party failures. It's a crutch that weakens the party by allowing incompetent campaign operatives to externalize blame for their own screwups. And it violates one of Ronald Reagan's most basic principles:
I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.
Suppose that, by intelligent and patient hard work, the GOP could reduce media bias by 5 percent or 10 percent. The playing field would still be tilted against Republicans, but it would be more like walking up a steep hill, rather than trying to scale a sheer cliff.

Grassroots conservatives need to stop blaming everything on the media, and start taking a more critical look at the hired help on these campaigns, the clueless political cronies -- e.g., Tucker Bounds -- who have done so much to poison the GOP's relationship with the press corps. Being Jill Hazelbaker's ex-boyfriend is no substitute for competence.

They really are desperate

John McCormack calls it the most implausible Palin smear yet, and it is rather odd:
The day of the third debate, Palin refused to go onstage with New Hampshire GOP Sen. John Sununu and Jeb Bradley, a New Hampshire congressman running for the Senate, because they were pro-choice and because Bradley opposed drilling in Alaska. The McCain campaign ordered her onstage at the next campaign stop, but she refused to acknowledge the two Republican candidates standing behind her.
As McCormack points out, Bradley's opposition to ANWR drilling is the same is Joh McCain's opposition to ANWR drilling, and Sununu has a 100% right-to-life voting record, so that doesn't make sense at all.

On the other hand, now that I think about it, I don't remember Palin putting in plugs for local Republican officials when I saw her in Ohio and Pennsylvania. This routine of name-checking local officials at the beginning of a speech is essential to the presidential campaign business. (You remember Joe Biden's infamous "stand up, Chuck" moment with Missouri state Sen. Chuck Graham.) And if Palin were indeed averse to that sort of political routine, it might lend credibility to this tidbit in the Newsweek story:
"McCain's advisers had been frustrated when Palin refused to talk to donors because she found it corrupting . . ."
Here, now, is a charge that would be gravely serious, if true. Political campaigns and political parties live or die by fundraising, and schmoozing donors is a basic function of what candidates do.

The candidate is handed a list of names and numbers with a bit of biographical information about each, and the amount of their previous donations, and he picks up the phone and starts "dialing for dollars" as it is called. And then, out on the trail, at each rally, there is a private VIP reception where the top local donors are rewarded with face-time and a chance for a grip-and-grin photo with the candidate.

This is the inescapable reality of politics, and the best politicians tend to excel at this kind of stuff. Over the course of time, these kind of personal contacts add up to a solid base of support. Bill Clinton famously built his political career in Arkansas by compiling a file of 5"x7" cards with donor/supporter information.

Surely, Palin has not succeeded in politics without knowing how important it is to do all this, but if -- as the implausible Newsweek story asserts -- she didn't know it, somebody had better wise her up in a hurry. She will be (or at least, ought to be) the No. 1 attraction at Republican fundraising events in 2009, an eviable opportunity to build her base of support among GOP bigwigs, and she needs to make the most of it.

Comparison test

All along, I've said that the best strategy for the McCain campaign in the Sarah Palin rollout would have been to put Palin into a press conference, rather than to hide her from reporters for weeks while sending "campaign spokesmen" out to defend her. Let's put that idea to the test, shall we?

Here is Sarah Palin in a Friday press conference:

And here is McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds at the GOP convention in September:

You can make up your own mind, but as for me, I don't ever want to see the name "Tucker Bounds" associated with the Republican Party again. That boy just needs to find himself a new line of work.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Palin & Romney, Tessio & Barzini

There was a time when the worst thing one Republican could say about another was that he was aligned with "the Eastern Establishment," a "Rockefeller Republican." A few years later, accusing your GOP rival of favoring detente with the Soviets was the favorite submarine tactic.

Now? If you really want to undercut a Republican antagonist's conservative credibility, accuse him of spreading dirt about Sarah Palin, as Marc Ambinder notes:

Rumor: Aides and advisers to Mitt Romney are responsible for spreading most of the anti-Palin stories that have been going around; during the campaign, they pressured reporters to look into reports of tension between McCain and Palin factions. . . .
Palin is the most popular figure in the Republican Party right now, and if you want a future in that party, you can't be seen as spreading gossip about her.

The rumors are mostly false, Ambinder says, but this raises the question, Who's spreading this smear? My guess: The McCain aides who bashed Palin are now the ones trying to hang the blame on the Romneyites.

So it's like Tessio proposing a meeting with Barzini: Any McCain aide blaming Romney thereby becomes identified as an anti-Palin traitor.

Applying to this situation the logic of Sherlock Holmes and the dog who did not bark, therefore, I observe that Nicolle Wallace has reportedly denied being the anti-Palin leaker and ask: Did Nicolle Wallace ever say anything nice about Mitt? (Let the folks at Operation Leper take note.)

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

UPDATE: Via Hot Air, this video:

The Anarchy of Hope

Laws? We don't need no stinkin' laws!
At least five people were arrested across the city after Barack Obama's rally in Grant Park, including a woman who slapped a Chicago police officer, saying police couldn't arrest her anymore, prosecutors said today.
Most of the others celebrated the historic occasion with gunfire.
Celita Hart, 19, stood silently in court today when she appeared for a bond hearing.
Prosecutors said Hart, who is black, yelled " 'White [expletive], [expletive] McCain--you white police can't do nothing anymore.'" With that, she reached through the window of a squad car and slapped a white male officer in the face, according to Assistant State's Atty. Lorraine Scaduto.
In the mind of his most ardent supporters, that is indeed what the election of Obama means: "You white police can't do nothing anymore."

Who says Libertarians don't count?

Libertarian Party candidate Allen Buckley got 127,723 votes (3%) in the Georgia Senate race, enough to throw Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss into a runoff with Democrat Jim Martin.

Chambliss voted for the $700 billion bailout. Should have listened to me, senator!

UPDATE: Ace wants his readers to donate to save Chambliss's seat. I'm having a hard time working up any real enthusiasm for that. His constituents were bombarding his offices with phone calls and e-mails begging him to oppose the bailout. He didn't listen. He pays the price. And if part of the price is a veto-proof Senate majority for Obama, well . . . whose fault is that?

These out-of-touch big-government Republicans commit political suicide and then come running to the conservative base expecting help. Screw 'em. Sen. Richard Shelby provided a solid argument for his vote against the bailout. Why didn't Saxby Chambliss listen?

UPDATE II: I've been watching this YouTube video of the last debate with Chambliss, Martin and Buckley, and you can see how Buckley (an attorney and CPA) slams Chambliss from the right. Martin -- he's just feeble. Should have been a Buckley-Chambliss runoff. And if I still lived in Georgia I'd have voted for Buckley, who at least tells the truth about entitlements bankrupting the country.

'Compassionate' idiocy

Dick Armey suggests that conservatives get out of the "compassion" racket:
Parties are all about getting people elected to political office; and the practice of politics too often takes the form of professional juvenile delinquency: short-sighted and self-centered.
This was certainly true of the Bush presidency. Too often the policy agenda was determined by short-sighted political considerations and an abiding fear that the public simply would not understand limited government and expanded individual freedoms. How else do we explain "compassionate conservatism," No Child Left Behind, the Medicare drug benefit and the most dramatic growth in federal spending since LBJ's Great Society?
John McCain has long suffered from philosophical confusions about free markets, and his presidential campaign reflected as much. Most striking was his inability to explain his own health-care proposal, or to defend his tax cuts and tax reform. Ultimately, it took a plumber from Ohio to identify the real nature of Barack Obama's plan to "spread the wealth."
Amen, Brother Dick. This is a point I made about "the triangulation of Hope" -- if people don't know what "conservative" means, how are they going to know a liberal when they see one?

Sarah Palin to speak at CPAC

Just got off the phone with Lisa DePasquale, director of the Conservative Political Action Conference, who tells me that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is confirmed as a speaker at CPAC 2009, Feb. 26-28 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.

REGISTER NOW FOR CPAC 2009! To register by phone call 703-836-8602.

More from the conservative summit

CNN follows up on yesterday's meeting of conservative leaders at Brent Bozell's: 
David Keene of the American Conservative Union also said the idea of the Republican Party as the party of smaller government was undermined by the rapid increase in government spending over the last eight years.
"Republicans in Congress began to act like the Democrats they'd gotten rid of in the '90s. The president began to spend money like he was Lyndon Johnson, and the result was that voters began to get very upset," Keene said. "So, yes, you have to go back to your basics."
And Tony Perkins of the Christian conservative Family Research Council says:
"What has made the conservative movement strong is when you have social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and foreign policy conservatives working together," he said. "This was the first step in what will be a long journey in rebuilding that communication and that common vision."
I would suggest that Perkins and his social conservative colleagues need to work to get conservative pro-lifers to better understand the morality of markets and the benefits of limited government. "Compassionate conservatism" and "Huckabeeism" are not the answer.

UPDATE: Another good point:
"The Republican brand of politics worked in the 1980s world, but it needs to be re-configured for 2010 and 2012," said Rich Galen, a party consultant and a former adviser to Newt Gingrich. "We had a 20th-century message that we were trying to bang into a 21st-century world, and it clearly did not work."
The Old Guard needs to reach out to the Young Turks and talk about the generational/cultural factors involved in the Democrats' dominance of the under-30 demographic.

Palin defended by aide

About time somebody put their name on record and ended this anonymous "sources say" crap:
[L]ongtime Palin staffer Meg Stapleton is lashing back at anonymous critics within the McCain-Palin presidential campaign, telling ABC News they are attacking the former vice presidential candidate with distortions and blaming her for the Republican National Committee's own missteps. . . .
Stapleton told ABC News the Fox News report on Africa and NAFTA was taken out of context. She explained that during a briefing session, someone asked Palin to explain the McCain-Palin stance on an issue, and as she was responding, "in the middle, she said 'country of Africa' and somebody instantly wrote it down and said, 'Oh, my God, she thinks it's a country.'"
But "she knows it's a continent," Stapleton said. "It was just a human mistake, just like Obama saying 57 states. I don't think anyone ever doubted that Obama knows there are 50 states."
Regarding the $150,000 worth of clothing, Stapleton claimed it was the campaign that said, "This is what you need as a VP candidate, and it was the campaign and/or the RNC [Republican National Committee] -- but it wasn't the governor -- saying this is what she needs."
Randy Scheunemann also puts his name on record:
One top McCain aide came to Palin's defense today. Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top foreign policy adviser, who helped prepare Palin for her vice presidential debate, praised Palin's campaign effort and intelligence.
"I've been working over 20 years in Washington and I've been around literally dozens and dozens of politicians. She is among the smartest, toughest, most capable politicians I've ever dealt with," Scheunemann said. "She has a photographic memory."
And she'll be the No. 1 fundraising speaker at Republican Party events in 2009. I assume that she's already formed a PAC. Her smart move would be to raise $40 million to help GOP candidates in the 2010 cycle, and campaign relentlessly for candidates endorsed by the Club for Growth.

Quitters never win

The revelation that McCain campaign staffers knew by Oct. 12 that the election was over prompts George Neumayr to observe:
That the staffers had given up by October also explains why the most potent attack on Obama came not from the campaign but from pure happenstance outside it: Joe the plumber's accidental meeting with Obama.
McCain acted like that was the first time he had ever heard Obama's thoughts on economic redistribution. Had the campaign exhausted its opposition research budget at Neiman Marcus?
What did Joe the Plumber bring to the campaign? Common sense and authenticity. He wasn't just another Republican Party hack, not just another "strategist" on Fox repeating the familiar talking points. He expressed a basic conservative message in layman's language.

More plumbers and hockey moms, fewer Nicolle Wallaces, please.

Some 'veteran'

As Allah says, "useful background":
Palin was being handled by Nicolle Wallace, a veteran of the hardball politics of the Bush-Cheney campaign (she had been a press-bashing director of communications). Recruited by Schmidt, Wallace had come from a stint as a commentator at CBS. She had the disastrous idea of making Palin available only for a series of high-profile media interviews, and then overprepared her with a cram course of talking points.
In other words, Wallace decided that the campaign should screw over the poor shlubs in the press corps -- why should those no-name losers get to talk to the candidate? -- so that the multimillionaire anchors could get first shot at the target.

Yeah, that really worked out nice for you, didn't it Nicolle? Notice you've got no friends in the press corps now. And everybody in the Republican Party hates you, too.

Will Wilkinson vs. Matt Yglesias

My advice to Matt: Never argue with Will. He can win any argument with a simple retort: "Yeah? Well, if you're so smart, how come you're not dating Kerry Howley?"

This is known as the argumentum ad hottie.

Sully vs. McCain vs. Palin

Not to endorse "Trig trutherism," but Andrew Sullivan deserves to be linked for this:
[McCain campaign staff] couldn't admit a mistake because it would have killed their campaign, destroying our impression of McCain's judgment and management skills. So they kept this farce alive for two months, putting the country at potentially great risk to massage their own careers. Now they are doing all they can to dump on her. But the dumpage goes both ways. The McCain camp picked Palin and stuck with her far longer than any people who put country first would have. Every reason why she should not have been picked is a reason why McCain should never have been president.
Now, I am stoutly pro-Palin and believe that she is being unfairly scapegoated. But when Sully says that the first priority of these professional GOP operatives is "to massage their own careers," he hits the nail on the head in terms of what's wrong with the Republican Party.

As a class, Republican political operatives are adept at portraying their cynical careerism as ideological conviction. Thus, ideology becomes a tool of ambition. Rival operatives are attacked as lacking the True Faith, of being the Wrong Kind of Republican. There is a push for conformity, and honest criticism becomes a potentially career-destroying risk. Toadies and sycophants are rewarded; independent thought is excluded.

This is a problem of organizational dynamics. Any organization that rewards and promotes arrogant assholes will attract more arrogant assholes, until eventually being an arrogant asshole becomes a prerequisite for membership. Spend a little time around GOP operatives, and you see how this tendency works. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if Tucker Bounds and Nicolle Wallace are the Republican Party, why would any sane person wish to become involved in the Republican Party?

Furthermore, understand this: A campaign consultant, an adviser, a speechwriter, a manager -- these people get paid the same whether the client candidate wins or loses. Although operatives obviously try to win, because winning enhances their income potential, it is often the case that candidates win despite the advice and actions of their operatives. And a shrewd operative knows how to take credit for victories while finding scapegoats for defeats.

Go back to last year. John McCain raised $20 million in the first six months of 2007, but by July he was broke. Terry Nelson and John Weaver got paid for accomplishing that remarkable feat -- and they didn't resign as long as there was any prospect they could continue to get paid.

By some miracle, Rick Davis managed to revive the campaign enough to win the GOP nomination, but after effectively clinching Feb. 7 (the day Mitt Romney quit) the campaign languished until June, which Steve Schmidt took charge. Schmidt was effective at injecting a combative spirit into the McCain campaign but . . . look, anybody who ever thought it was a good idea to nominate a 72-year-old bald guy just doesn't know anything about politics. To nominate a 72-year-old bald guy who's spent the past 10 years in a bitter feud with his own party's grassroots base? That's just crazy.

The Palin pick has been called a "Hail Mary pass," and the metaphor is apt. You can't look at the exit polls and deny the severity of the GOP brand-damage/Bush-fatigue factor in this election. By the time the McCain campaign made the call to Anchorage, they were already in need of a miracle touchdown, and Palin was it. (See my articles of Sept. 8, Sept. 10, Sept. 15 and Oct. 31.)

Had it not been for the financial crisis and McCain's botched reaction to that crisis . . . well, if a frog had wings, eh? But God only knows how much worse this defeat would have been without Palin.

As far as I'm concerned, the Palin pick was the only good decision John McCain made during this campaign. Any attempt by his campaign staff to make Sarah Palin the scapegoat for their failures is a disservice to truth. Even if you believe the worst about Palin (as Sully does), she wasn't in charge of that campaign. And hockey moms from Alaska aren't what's wrong with the GOP.

The hired help have taken over the party. The Republican Party doesn't need anything as much as it needs to teach its employees something about the basic principles of customer service and value added. If they end up working at Burger King, maybe they'll learn.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The triangulation of Hope

Barack Obama's vague campaign of Hope and Change has created contradictory expectations for his administration. Rasmussen Reports found that 61 percent of Republican voters expect their taxes will go up, compared to just 17 percent of Democrats. While 39 percent of white voters expect to pay higher taxes under Obama, while 39 percent of blacks say they'll pay lower taxes.

Obama's repeated promise that 95 percent of Americans will receive tax cuts -- at the expense of the richest 5 percent -- created an unusual perception: A tax-cutter who's also a redistributionist. If he fails to keep that promise, Republicans will batter him as a liar. If he keeps the promise, however, Obama will add to a budget deficit already swollen by $1.1 trillion in bailouts (with perhaps more bailouts to come). And Obama's budget math won't benefit from any Laffer-curve effect, since his neo-Keynesian formula is the exact opposite of the reductions of top marginal rates favored by supply-siders.

Karl Rove noted today that the self-reported ideological affliation of the electorate remains unchanged from 2004 -- 34% say they're conservative, 21% liberal and 45% moderate. Nonetheless, they elected as president the most liberal member of the Senate, with Obama getting the votes of 20% of self-described "conservatives" and 60% of "moderates.

What does this mean? It means that two decades of rhetorical fudging and policy incoherence have obscured the meaning of our political lexicon. George Bush the elder promised a "kinder, gentler" conservatism, raised taxes and signed onto a minimum-wage increase. Bill Clinton cleverly (and duplicitously) "triangulated," promising a middle-class tax cut he never delivered, vetoing welfare-reform twice before signing it, taking credit for a balanced budget that was mostly the result of a reduced military and Republican opposition to his spending proposals. The "compassionate conservatism" of George W. Bush has introduced still more confusion. In what sense are the No Child Left Behind Act and Medicare Part D "conservative" policies?

Considering that the Republican 2008 candidate, John McCain, had opposed tax cuts, collaborated with Russ Feingold on campaign finance regulation that helped Democrats achieve a decisive fundraising advantage, and collaborated with Ted Kennedy on an amnesty bill that infuriated conservative voters, it isn't hard to see why Obama so easily veiled his liberalism behind vague platitudes.

Philip Klein's report from today's gathering of the conservative movement's senior leadership indicates that these leaders understand how Republicans have squandered the ideological clarity of the Reagan era. Clearly, Obama has succeeded by inspiring unrealistic notions of what he (or any president) can accomplish. Mixed messages from Republicans made it easier for Obama to convince Americans that he is a moderate -- what does "moderate" mean, if "conservative" has lost its meaning?

Beginning Jan. 20, Obama must stop promising and start delivering, and with his army of online "progressive" activists demanding that he and the Democratic Congress enact liberal policies, what he aims to deliver won't be easily mistaken as "conservative." Republicans have triangulated themselves into the wilderness, and they'll stay there a long time, if they support Obama's radical agenda.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

UPDATE: Linked by Instapundit. Thanks, Professor!

Child abuse in public school

A Finnish documentary crew catches a teacher in Asheville, N.C., propagandizing children -- including the daughter of a U.S. soldier who says she supports John McCain -- for Barack Obama:

(Via Michelle Malkin.) Another good argument for homeschooling.

Palin on the leakers

"A small, bitter type of person":

(Via Hot Air.) Byron York has some thoughts on these pathetic losers.

Congratulations, Melissa Clouthier!

She's been branded a racist by Huffington Post! Attagirl, Melissa -- I knew you had it in you!

How'd that work out, guys?

McCain aide Rick Davis gets fingered as the author of the don't-let-candidates-talk-to-reporters "strategery":
McCain would want to head back to the reporters' section of the plane, and Davis would pull him back. "No, no, no, I want them around me," McCain would say, referring to the reporters. "No, no, no, they're screwing you," Davis would retort. At McCain's insistence, his new campaign plane this past summer had been fitted with a large bench-style couch, to re-create the space on the Straight Talk Express bus, where the candidate had spent hours jawing on the record with reporters, half a dozen or so at a time. But reporters were never asked to sit there. McCain did not look happy about being kept on a tight leash, as least as far as reporters could tell from a distance.
The idiocy of these campaign aides! We're supposed to trust this guy to be President of the United States, and you don't trust him to spend a few minutes on the record with the press? Nice "message discipline," douchebags!

My crazy cousin

A reader at the American Spectator wondered if I was actually kin to the loser:
For many years, I had assumed I was no relation to the Arizona senator until, while doing research in 2000, I read his brief genealogical summary in Faith of My Fathers and realized that he and I have a mutual ancestor who lived in South Carolina circa 1790. One branch of the family went to Mississippi and became wealthy plantation owners, while another settled in East Alabama as red-dirt farmers. I'm a proud scion of the Red Dirt McCains, and have frequently referred to the Arizon senator as "Crazy Cousin John." There is a wide streak of crazy in the family, as anyone who knows me would attest, but Cousin John takes the cake.
Just for the record.

Ann, bluntly

Did you hear the McCain campaign assigned Sarah Palin to a former CBS employee who called Ann Coulter "crazy"? Payback is hell, they say:
After showing nearly superhuman restraint throughout this campaign, which was lost the night McCain won the California primary, I am now liberated to announce that all I care about is hunting down and punishing every Republican who voted for McCain in the primaries. I have a list and am prepared to produce the names of every person who told me he was voting for McCain to the proper authorities.
Don't blame me, I voted for Bob Barr!

The Washington Times, neutered

Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic is a nice guy, but of course he has to recycle the obligatory "Moonie Paper" smear on The Washington Times, by way of praising new editor John Solomon's "modernization agenda," which gives the paper "newfound, mainstream credibility."

Look, I spent most of my last three years at the paper trying to get our coverage integrated into the blogosphere, so don't tell me about "modernization." The ownership dropped a reported $2 million to bring in consultants and we were four months from the planned launch of a new Web re-design when it was announced that they'd hired Solomon from the Post, and that Wes Pruden and Fran Coombs were leaving. I had a book research assignment that required travel, and so it struck me as a good time to leave, too. (National editor Ken Hanner hung around a few months longer and took a buyout.)

The Washington Times was originally conceived during Ronald Reagan's first term as an alternative to the "mainstream" Washington Post, and as an institution, the Times was quite consciously part of the conservative movement -- anti-communist, pro-family, pro-freedom, pro-faith. The credibility of the news operation was built during a quarter-century of breaking exclusive stories, most often with a "hit 'em where they ain't" approach: Looking for stories and angles that the "mainstream" media ignored.

One of the things I did as editor of the paper's "Culture, Etc." page -- which ran on A2 Monday through Friday -- was to produce feature profiles about conservative authors and activists, giving them the kind of coverage no conservative ever got from the "Style" page of the Post. I did features about Michelle Malkin, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Brent Bozell, Ann Coulter, Angela McGlowan, Wendy Shalit, David Horowitz, Ward Connerly, Bill Bennett, etc., etc. Well, since I left the paper, "Culture, Etc." has been banished to the back pages and now it's just wire copy.

Some of the other changes in the paper are arguably improvements, but the fact is, there is no longer a conservative newspaper in the nation's capital. That is a real loss and, as I told Kirchick, the change brings into question the raison d'etre of the paper:
"It's a question of what the Washington Times is about," Robert Stacy McCain says. "The whole concept of 1982 was that Washington was too important a town to have one newspaper delivering the news from one perspective only. So the Washington Times was conceived as an alternative to the Washington Post. If there's no difference in the news coverage, how then is it an alternative?"
I'm very proud of my 10 years at the Times, and wish the paper well. But surrendering the paper's alternative identity strikes me as an enormous blunder -- and I know that I'm not the only person who thinks so.

Worthless GOP campaign hacks

Michelle Malkin and Ace of Spades are both enraged by what Ace calls the "kneecapping" of Sarah Palin by Team Maverick staffers. I've said from the get-go that her PR was mishandled, and just offered this example at AmSpecBlog:
Michelle Malkin has been a huge advocate and defender of Sarah Palin. Between Michelle's own site and her Hot Air video blog, Malkin Inc. gets 1.5 million online visitors daily, to say nothing of Malkin's Fox News connection. Michelle and her Hot Air crew were in St. Paul for the Republican convention. Did anybody at Team Maverick think, "Hey, why don't we hook up Malkin with an exclusive one-on-one with Palin? That would be buzzworthy -- an innovative use of New Media!" No, apparently that blindingly obvious idea never crossed their feeble little minds.
Another thing they should have done -- and I repeat it again, just in case anybody missed it the first 50 times I said it -- was to put Palin into an impromptu press conference Aug. 29, the day she was announced in Columbus, Ohio. With the surprise factor, the reporters would not have had time to prepare their "gotcha" questions.

If they'd just done that one press conference at the outset, the campaign wouldn't have been hammered for three weeks with accusations that they were "hiding" Palin. And if there had been a few little opportunities for GOP-friendly media -- like the Hot Air interview suggestion -- it would have helped tamp down the "what's she hiding?" factor that drove so much of the negativity. Once Palin actually started talking to reporters, a lot of that negativity faded. It was that three-week "cone of silence" phase that was the root of the problem.

Why Republican campaign operatives think they're helping candidates by secluding them from contact with the media is a mystery I'll never fathom.

UPDATE: Greg Ransom:
Will the McCain people please just go away, and stop doing their damndest to damage the Republican party and the conservative movement?
They're dishing dirt to the NY Times, naturally. And Allah says:
I assume this is a sign that Maverick’s headed back to the center, because if he thinks the base is sore at him now, wait until his cronies’ attempts to scapegoat their idol start percolating.
If you want to know why Republicans are getting their asses kicked, consider that they're hiring spokesmen like the snotty douchebag Tucker Bounds:

Granted, Campbell Brown is an Obamaphiliac bitch, but do you think the douchebag spokesman did anything to help the candidate with his snotty non-responsiveness? Do you think that Sarah Palin could have possibly done worse in a live interview than this douchebag? Imagine you're Sarah Palin -- somebody who started her career in TV news -- and you turn on the TV to see that the McCain campaign has sent out this douchebag to represent you. Wouldn't you start to suspect that somebody inside the campaign was trying to sabotage you?

The only way I figure Tucker Bounds got that job was that his daddy must be a major GOP donor or something. At least a dozen of my Facebook friends are more qualified to be campaign spokespeople.

UPDATE II: Operation Leper -- The campaign aides slagging Palin (hello, douchebags!) are going to be radioactive.

UPDATE III: Back in February, when she worked for CBS News, McCain operative Nicole Wallace:
"The more that we see kind of the crazies like Ann Coulter out attacking John McCain, the better Republicans feel about their chances in the general election."
Leprosy. Radioactive leprosy.

UPDATE IV: Hmmm. Nicolle always seems to criticize attractive, popular Republican women. Jealous much?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Infighting over Palin

Interesting revelation:
Randy Scheunemann, a senior foreign policy adviser to John McCain, was fired from the Arizona senator's campaign last week for what one aide called "trashing" the campaign staff, three senior McCain advisers tell CNN.
One of the aides tells CNN that campaign manager Rick Davis fired Scheunemann after determining that he had been in direct contact with journalists spreading "disinformation" about campaign aides, including Nicolle Wallace and other officials.
"He was positioning himself with Palin at the expense of John McCain's campaign message," said one of the aides.
Senior campaign officials blame Schuenemann specifically for stories about the way Wallace and chief campaign strategist Steve Schmidt mishandled Palin's rollout -- stories that the campaign says threw them off message in the critical final weeks of the campaign.
I don't know Scheunemann, but if he said the Palin rollout was botched, he was absolutely right. And one of my sources last week said that the campaign was spending more time defending Wallace than defending Palin. My complaints about the mishandling of Palin's P.R. have been numerous and extensive, but boil down to the fact that the campaign shouldn't have hidden her away from the media.

It's a basic common-sense argument: If she can't handle a press conference, how is she qualified to be vice president? And I always thought Palin was her own best advocate -- certainly she defended herself better than that idiot Tucker Bounds, who has no aptitude for media relations, period.

UPDATE: Video via Allah, who sees the campaign operatives feeding "diehard Cuda-haters":

I am pretty sure that Palin understands that Team Maverick's midhandling of the media helped cause the hostility against her, but I'm not sure that she understands the full extent of it. I swear, Hillary Clinton's press people were more cooperative and friendy.

The battle for the GOP future

A Wall Street Journal report:
Key pieces of the longstanding Republican coalition of economic and social conservatives, culture-war soldiers and national-security hawks showed severe stress fractures during the long election, and leaders from different wings are now vying for party leadership.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin carries the mantle of economic populism and blue-collar voters, many of whom are committed social conservatives. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has emerged as a spokesman for economic conservatives focused on small government and low taxes. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal remain popular as rising stars.
Complicating the coming fight is a widening gap between the party's grass-roots activists and its intellectual elite. Gov. Palin sits squarely in the center of the debate. Embraced by many social conservatives in the party's base, she was dismissed by some party leaders, including some former government officials who endorsed Democrat Barack Obama. Activists see her as the party's future, others as a novice whose at-times shaky performance has doomed her prospects -- a split reflected in polls that showed her popularity dropping during the general election, but her supporters' enthusiasm high.
I'm with the hockey mom. We need more grass-roots activists and fewer intellectual elites. Were I consulted, I'd advise Palin to stick to a basic free-enterprise/limited-government message. Her Christian conservative credentials are impeccable, and she's got a son serving in Iraq, so nobody can say she's not invested in national security.

By sticking to the basic Republican economic freedom message, and not allowing herself to get drawn into discussions of peripheral issues, Palin will avoid making enemies. She's got plenty of friends, but if she goes wandering off into the tall grass of debating, e.g., stem cell research, she risks cutting herself off from potential supporters over policy matters that aren't central to the political difficulties now facing the conservative movement.

Pam Geller, Great American!

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs has apparently decided that the problem with the conservative movement is that it needs more purges, and Pam Geller at Atlas Shrugs seems to be his designated scapegoat.

Long story, but it has to do with the Euro-Right's stance on Islam and immigration. Continental politics involves coalitions and loyalties that do not translate easily to a U.S. right/left understanding. European nationalists, who are the only organized opposition to the Islamic influx over there, do include some unsavory types, but if the alternative is Euro-jihadis and honor killings . . .?

Pam is a good person and I would suggest that this guilt-by-association "urge to purge" is antithetical to the best interests of conservatism. You can't build a movement by the process of subtraction.

Dirty laundry

Skipping past the "Wasilla hillbillies" attack on the Palins, here's what I find most interesting in the Newsweek dirt dump:
On the Sunday night before the last debate, McCain's core group of advisers -- Steve Schmidt, Rick Davis, adman Fred Davis, strategist Greg Strimple, pollster Bill McInturff and strategy director Sarah Simmons -- met to decide whether to tell McCain that the race was effectively over, that he no longer had a chance to win. The consensus in the room was no, not yet, not while he still had "a pulse."
Dude, I called it.

The meeting I'm not invited to

Greg Mueller of CRC Public Relations says of the meeting: "There will be roughly twenty leaders at the meeting all of whom have been successful fundraisers and grassroots organizers, combined with a few conservative political and media strategists."
Oh, God, "media strategists"! We're doomed!

'What do we do now?'

Michelle Malkin:
"I'm getting a lot of moan-y, sad-face "What do we do now, Michelle?" e-mails.
The first thing to do is to recognize what went wrong, as I explain in my American Spectator column:
Try not to take it personally. You did not lose this election.
Perhaps the most important statistic for conservatives to keep in mind today -- as pundits pore over and pour out exit-poll data to tell us What It Means -- is this: 53 percent of Republican primary voters did not vote for John McCain. . . .
Conservatives who sought to prevent McCain's nomination cannot be blamed for his defeat. And it is his defeat, not yours.
Please read the whole thing. This morning I watched Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes on "Fox & Friends" trying to explain the result. Allow me to suggest that the Kondrackes and Barneses of the world, who have done so much to help drive the Republican Party into the ditch, are probably not the guys who'll figure out how to get out of the ditch. They won't even admit they're part of the problem, so why look to them for solutions?

(Cross-posted at Right Wing News.)

UPDATE: Greg Ransom:
John McCain did a selfish disservice to America and to the principles we hold by putting his ambition to "be somebody" ahead of the leadership requirements of the Presidency. I know that's harsh, but it's what I believe.
Harsh, indeed. With politicians, it's hard to differentiate between an admirable commitment to public service and an vainglorious exaltation of the self. (Also basically true of journalist, LOL.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Not like you weren't warned

"McCain is not a conservative, he will lose in November . . ."
-- Robert Stacy McCain, 12:30 am., Feb. 6, 2008

Election Night results thread

8:43 p.m. -- Fox News has called Pennsylvania for Obama, prompting Philip Klein to observe, "I don't see how McCain can win." Told you so.

8:35 p.m. -- I'm blogging from the offices of the National Taxpayers Union in Alexandria, Va., where there is a party going on. Will update in a moment. Last time I checked, the Republican Party was still in existence, but that's all that's certain.

PREVIOUSLY: At this point, Drudge has up a line saying that exit polls in Pennsylvania show Obama +15. Doubt it will be that large, but remember that Rick Santorum lost by 18 points in 2006. And maybe the Panther security guards in Philly are having an effect.

I'm on my way to an Election Night event in Virginia and will be blogging from there beginning at 8 p.m.

Don't Blame Me!

I voted for Bob Barr. Avoid the rush: Get your T-shirt now!

Also: Hoodies, tank tops, coffee mugs and more.

'Regrets, I have a few ...'

'... but then again, too few to mention':
Asked if she had any regrets about the campaign, Palin bemoaned "the state of journalism today."
"The blogosphere, the two, three hour news cycles, where just too much is reported based on gossip and innuendo and things taken out of context," she explained, adding that she'd like to help improve the profession because she has "great respect for the world of journalism."
Translation: "Roger Ailes, call me."

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

Vote Twice!

The irrepressible Jason Mattera:

Via Hot Air.

Cousin Mandy gets Hope?

My Cousin Mandy lives in Montgomery, Alabama. She's a graduate of Jefferson Davis High School. She's a GOTV volunteer for . . . Obama.

I keep telling people up here that at least half my family's still Democrats, and it's true. BTW, Cousin Mandy's in show biz. You can see her at the end of this 30-second trailer. She's the one who's . . . uh, smokin' . . .

Ready to riot

If McCain wins, good-bye, Toledo:
Toledo police are gearing up for possible "Civil unrest" during and after tomorrow's elections.
In an internal memo obtained exclusively by NBC 24 News, officers are ordered to "Have their riot equipment with them Tuesday and Wednesday". Police chief Mike Navarre confirms, officers will have gear similar to the equipment they used during the 2005 race riots. "They have been asked to have their helmets and their gas masks available tomorrow and Wednesday.", Navarre says, "That's the equipment they would not normally carry with them on a normal day".
Beautiful. I'm reminded of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72:
The entire Fort Walton Beach police force is gripped in a state of fear this week; all leaves have been cancelled and Chief Bloor is said to be drilling his men for an Emergency Alert situation on Friday and Saturday night -- because those are the nights when 'Kazika, The Mad Jap,' a 440-pound sadist from the vile slums of Hiroshima, is scheduled to make his first -- and no doubt his last -- appearance in Fish-head Auditorium. Local wrestling impressario Lionel Olay is known to have spoken privately with Chief Bloor, urging him to have 'every available officer' on duty at ringside this weekend, because of the Mad Jap's legendary temper and his invariably savage reaction to racial insults. Last week, in Detroit, Kazika ran amok and tore the spleens out of three spectators, one of whom allegedly called him a 'yellow devil' . . .
I doubt there will be much rioting out here in rural Maryland or in Alexandria, Va., where I'll be watching the deal go down tonight with friends at the National Taxpayers Union. But you never know . . .

Monday, November 3, 2008

Authors Against Obama update

In May, I formed Authors Against Obama, a group of professional writers outraged by the sweetheart deal Obama got on Dreams From My Father. A 28-year-old law student gets a book deal from Simon & Schuster, blows his deadline, then gets another deal (from Times Books) with a $40K advance to write a book about racial policy and instead delivers . . . a memoir. A freaking memoir!

Now we learn from Jack Cashill that there is evidence that Obama didn't even write his own memoir. There are striking similarities of style and structure between Dreams of My Father and Bill Ayers' 2001 book Fugitive Days.

Look, I'm way past the point of imagining that undecided swing voters give a damn about Bill Ayers. What I can't understand is why working journalists and authors everywhere aren't frothing mad at the very idea of a 28-year-old getting a Simon & Schuster contract, before he'd accomplished anything except getting admitted to Harvard Law, blowing that deal, getting another deal, and eventually taking five years to publish a book that appears to have been substantially ghost-written!

A memoir, for crying out loud! Who publishes a memoir at 33? No justice, no peace.

Dept. of Wishful Thinking

Ed Morrissey offers this Electoral College map as his GOP razor-thin miracle victory scenario:

God bless ya, Ed, but that's just plain crazy. You've got Maverick winning Pennsylvania (RCP average Obama +7.6) while losing Virginia (RCP average Obama +4.3). You've got McCain a winner in Nevada (RCP average Obama +6.2) but losing Colorado (RCP average Obama +5.5). OK, maybe the polls are wrong, but why would they be so much more wrong in Nevada and Pennsylvania than in Colorado and Virginia?

Personally, I'd say it's a lead-pipe cinch that Obama wins three out of four of those states. There is a slight chance for McCain in Virginia, but I emphasize "slight." Pennsylvania? Gimme a break. Bush couldn't beat the charisma-challenged John Kerry in Pennsylvania four years ago, and Rick Santorum got an 18-point drubbing in '06. McCain hasn't led Obama in a Pennsylvania poll since April, and Obama's been outspending McCain 2-to-1 in advertising there.

If there is some undetected, inexplicable, last-minute shift that gives Pennsylvania to McCain, then he'll win Virginia, too. And monkeys will fly out of my butt.

A McCain victory this year wouldn't be just one miracle, it would require six miracles in different states. You're not merely hoping that one or two polls are slightly off, but hoping that all the polls are off by 5, 6, 7 points.

Well, don't worry. You can hope all you want, but you're not going to be hoping for long. By 10 p.m., the blue tsunami will have crashed ashore, and you can stop living in political fairy-tale land with the magical leprechaun Sean Hannity.

UPDATE: Oh, this is classic. For weeks, Karl Rove has been on Fox News spinning miracle-comeback scenarios but, when push comes to shove and his credibility as a prognosticator is at stake, his final Electoral College map says Obama 338, McCain 200. Rove's got Maverick losing Virginia and Pennsylvania, Colorado and Nevada, Florida and Ohio.

Given that Rove has an inside line with all the GOP operatives, he'd know about any secret internal polls showing a surprise upset, so the fact that his final bets are toward the high side for Obama means that the Republican insiders aren't expecting a miracle.

Are you uplifted yet?

Blogger sneers at reporting

Matthew Yglesias:
Not only is this business of traveling with the candidate not very useful, with its huge ratio of time spent traveling to time spent doing stuff, but it's also quite expensive for the news organization paying for your travel. And yet, it's considered essential to do it. After all, that's "reporting." And reporting, as we all know, is the essence of "journalism." Spend hours on planes and buses and so forth and vast sums of money and then you can report on what John McCain said at a rally. Sit at home and watch the rally on television or look up transcripts, and that's not reporting at all.
Idiot. You wouldn't be able to watch the rally on TV if it weren't for the TV crews following the campaign. And while it could be argued that there is wasted manpower in the pack-journalism of a big presidential campaign trip, nevertheless, the blogger -- or other news consumer -- benefits from the opportunity to see events through multiple pairs of eyes. If the candidate gives a 2,000-word speech, which 25-word quote is the most important? Aren't reporters who've been following the campaign for several days best qualified to notice what's new in today's speech?

As someone who does both blogging and reporting, I appreciate the value of reporting. One of my big beefs about journalism today is the perverse esteem given to pundits who've never done first-source reporting. There is a lamentable tendency to take for granted the people who do the basic 5Ws-and-an-H stuff, while idolizing the "big picture" guy telling us What It Means. (Hey, just give me the facts and let me worry about the meaning.)

There are competing tendencies in presidential campaign reporting. Local press tends to be straightforward about what the candidate said -- to quote the speech as a meaningful expression of the candidate's positions -- and to supply lots of quotes from local supporters about how great it is to have the candidate in town. The traveling national press corps is more concerned with the topline narrative of what the candidate's strategy is and how well (or how poorly) the strategy seems to be working. My own forays onto the campaign trail have been episodic, and I've tried to use each event -- the quotes from candidates and supporters, the "color" details -- to supply some particular insight into the campaign.

However reporting is done, or by whom, there is simply no substitute for direct observation. If you didn't see and hear Republican crowds go wild when the "Straight Talk Express" bus rolled into an arena with "Eye of the Tiger" blasting from the speakers, if you didn't talk with the folks who turned out for those rallies, you can't claim to know who these people are, or what their moods and motivations are. Some things simply can't be done by watching TV and reading transcripts.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBog.)

Vote '08

Mrs. Other McCain and I urge all progressive Democrats to exercise their right to vote on Wednesday, Nov. 5!

Traffic fascism

Seems the Gigantic Blog Woman has fallen afoul of the revenue-hungry gendarmes:
Apparently, if you pass a stopped emergency vehicle (including a trooper on a traffic stop) without pulling into the left lane, you can be liable for a huge ticket in Virginia. DC area drivers, take note; they can pull you over even if you're going to the limit and not endangering the trooper. I don't know about other parts of the country, but around here governments are partially dealing with their revenue shortfall by upping their traffic enforcement to outrageously persnickety levels; my sister got a ticket the other day for stopping at a stop sign for three seconds instead of the apparently requisite five. There were no other cars around--except for the cop who handed her a gigantic ticket.
When Bill Clinton promised to put "100,000 new cops on the street," most of us pictured Officer O'Malley walking the beat in New York City, rousting hooligans and ne'er-do-wells. What we got instead seems to be a three-fold increase in the number of state troopers doing radar speed enforcement. Dozens of those "100,000 new cops" are staked out daily on I-70 and I-270 just waiting to catch me on a run to DC.

Some communities are now absurdly overpoliced. When I lived in Montgomery County, my mind boggled at the fact that no motorist was ever pulled over by a single patrol car. Every routine traffic stop seemed to require at least three additional units responding as backup. I recall one memorable occasion when someone's party (not mine) got a little rowdy on a Saturday night and no fewer than 11 cars responded to the apartment complex where I lived.

Traffic enforcement ought to be oriented toward safety. I am 49 years old and haven't been at fault in an accident since my sophomore year in college. (About 15 years ago, I got rear-ended by an unlicensed driver, and this spring I got my front bumper whacked by a young idiot woman who ran a red light in DC.)

My long record of highway safety, however, does not protect me from state troopers doing what they do best: Hiding on the interstate during off-peak hours and busting me for doing 80-something on the open road. This is nonsensical, and does nothing to improve safety. Cato or some other libertarian think tank should do a study, because I think it could be demonstrated that very few accidents can be attributed to middle-aged men merely driving fast in light traffic on the interstate.

Between Clarksburg and Germantown on I-270, there is a glorious downhill stretch of wide-shouldered freeway with three southbound lanes. At 1 p.m. in the afternoon, the traffic is so light along there that no one would be endangered by my driving that highway at 120 mph, a fact of which I am certain (and never mind how I obtained that certainty). However, there is a spot, just above a tree-hidden curve at the end of that stretch, where every other afternoon the troopers await with radar to surprise any driver who doesn't slow down to 70 mph in time (71 mph being the point at which the 55 mph speed limit is actually enforced).

The motorist who happens to get stuck in afternoon rush-hour traffic going north on I-270 about 6 p.m. on a weekday can't help but notice that on the southbound side of the highway -- where traffic is light to non-existent at that hour -- he will periodically see troopers doing traffic stops on speeders. What earthly sense is there in that? The big problem on weekday afternoons in Montgomery County is not the speed of motorists going south, but the lack of speed of those going north.

What causes most accidents on freeways? From what I've seen -- due to near-misses with various morons -- it's people who fail to check their blind spot before lane-changing to their left. This astonishingly common error most often occurs in medium-to-heavy traffic, and speed has nothing to do with it. The culprit is either stupidity, inattention or bad eyesight. (People wearing glasses have very limited peripheral vision, and the next time you find yourself swerving or braking to avoid some idiot lane-changer, take note of whether the idiot is wearing glasses.)

Traffic enforcement fails to take account of the reality of the road. The DMV keeps issuing licenses to half-blind subnormals -- so the roads are jammed full of those who by rights ought to take the bus -- and the troopers keep slapping tickets on us aristocrats of speed who were Born to Drive. Procrustean injustice!

McCain without Palin

Not exactly firing 'em up in Florida:
About 30 minutes before John McCain is scheduled to lead a rally outside Raymond James Stadium, looks like there's maybe 1,000 people here.
Meanwhile, Palin is in Ohio:
Speaking before an enthusiastic crowd of 4,000 at Lakewood Park . . . .
If anybody is hurting the GOP ticket, it ain't Sarah.

Jeffrey Hart, right and wrong

Jeffrey Hart correctly criticizes the nonsense of Bush's nation-building schemes:
Like the French radicals of 1790, Bush wanted to democratize Iraq, turn it, as he said in a speech at Whitehall, into a "beacon of liberty in the Middle East." Now, Robespierre and the other radicals were criticized by Burke for wanting to turn France into a republic. Not a bad idea, but they tried to do it all at once, and according to republican theory.
Maxmillien Robespierre himself would have been horrified by the notion of democratizing Mesopotamia. That may -- possibly -- happen. But it will take a long time, an Enlightenment, and the muting of sectarian hatreds.
While I share this disdain of Bush's egalitarian universalism, Hart then goes on to defend Social Security (!) and makes a bizarrely unconservative defense of abortion:
Ever since Roe vs. Wade, abortion has been a salient controversy in our politics. But the availability of abortion is linked to the long advancement of women's equality. Again, we are dealing with social change, and this requires understanding social change, a Burkean imperative that Obama understands.
On my Dartmouth campus, half the undergraduates are women. They do not want to have their plans derailed by an unwanted pregnancy. In Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Court ruled that the availability of abortion "enables women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the country."
So the career ambitions of Dartmouth coeds and the "advancement of women's equality" are now conservative projects -- indeed, "a Burkean imperative" that trumps all else? (If Dartmouth girls so fear the consequences of "unwanted pregnancy," would it be too much to ask them to keep their britches on?) Behold the prophesied fruit of "infidel democracy":
In our day, innovations march with so rapid a stride that they quite take away one's breath. The fantastical project of yesterday, which was mentioned only to be ridiculed, is to-day the audacious reform, and will be tomorrow the accomplished fact. Such has been the history of the agitation for "women's rights," as they are sophistically called in this country.
So we now have abortion defended in the name of Burke, and its defenders anointed as "conservative." So much for "standing athwart history" et cetera.

Beinart: 'Palin is the end of the line'

The culture war is over and it's all economics now. Would you care to wager money on that proposition, Mr. Smarty-Pants?

What actually happened during the Bush administration -- as opposed to all that tendentious historical trend-mongering that Beinart indulges -- was a self-conscious choice by Rove, et al., to make three consecutive elections (2002, 2004, 2006) into foreign-policy plebiscites, casting all opposition as unpatriotic. It worked twice, but failed the third time. Now, having trotted out a hawk's hawk as their super-patriot candidate, the Republicans are paying the inevitable price for having failed to build support for a coherent limited-government domestic agenda.

Campaigning on foreign policy is ultimately a losing strategy, because most Americans don't give a damn about foreign policy. What Beinart derides as the "culture war" -- debating issues like immigration, gay marriage, education, etc. -- has proven far more effective for the GOP, since these are domestic quality-of-life issues that actually engage organized constituencies of religious conservatives. Yet if Republicans aren't willing to push hard on the fundamental issue of economic freedom and limited government, they surrender the game. Big-government conservatism (i.e., "National Greatness") is not conservative at all, and no amount of Republican posturing on abortion or patriotism can disguise this fact.

UPDATE: The Hill's Walter Alarkon seems to have misread this as a criticism of Palin. In saying the GOP "trotted out a hawk's hawk" -- i.e., McCain -- as their '08 standard-bearer, I meant to show how the party was continuing to repeat the mistake of overemphasizing the flag-waving foreign policy stance. Seven years after 9/11, the public has gotten burnt out on the jingo trip.

McCain was never a domestic-issues wedge-and-hammer conservative like Newt Gingrich, and McCain himself has said he doesn't know much about economics. McCain was running on his war hero biography and "the surge worked," and when the financial crisis reared its ugly head in September, he misplayed it badly. Whereas Obama (despite his personal ties to Fannie Mae, ACORN, etc.) was able to fit the financial crisis within his previously established narrative of "eight years of failed Bush policies."

Thus, my argument that the GOP had weakened itself by repeatedly campaigning on the war/patriotism message. I contrasted this to Beinart's (mis)interpretation that saw the impending McCain defeat as a negative referendum on the "culture wars" -- with Palin as "the end of the line." Beinart's spin is nonsensical because (a) McCain was never a culture warrior and (b) the McCain campaign didn't push cultural issues. And I am absolutely certain that cultural issues will continue to be relevant during the Obama administration.

Video: Obama on bankrupting coal


(Via Hot Air.) Note how blandly he asserts that the "cap-and-trade system" he supports would bankrupt any American firm that might try to build a coal-power plan. He can say the most radical things in the most moderate tone.

Olbermann's paranoid style

Of the many things that "Saturday Night Live" writers got right in their parody of Keith Olbermann -- the angry certainty, the hyperbole, the self-righteous indignation -- none was more right than Olbermann's penchant for the elaborately long sentence. Ben Affleck opens his Olbermann diatribe with this 92-word rambler:
That he is the worst president in our nation's 220-year existence, indeed, that he is the worst president ever to head a government of any kind in the whole of human history is beyond dispute, but even Mr. Bush's harshest critics had until this week credited him with a modicum of human decency, a decency utterly belied by the tape you are presently to see, a tape in which, at a White House press conference, Mr. Bush abruptly launches into a stream of ugly racist invective that would embarrass even David Duke.

Note the backward construction of the sentence. You go 33 words before you get to "is beyond dispute," without encountering an antecedent for the pronoun "he" en route. Affleck/Olbermann then pivots on "but" and goes off in another direction for 48 words.

This show-off, self-conciously "smart" type of discourse is the intellectual equivalent of the nouveau riche ostentation of wealth. I know rich people whom you'd never suspect were rich if you were to meet them in the stands at a ballgame. They're not some Thurston Howell III stereotype. In the same way, geniuses don't generally declaim in entire paragraphs full of GMAT vocabulary words.

What Olbermann does with his "aren't I smart" style is to play on his audience's conviction that liberalism is smarter than conservatism. They're like chess-club nerds, sneering at the jocks and preppies. Olbermann is reinforcing their smug condescension, and they love him for it.