Saturday, July 26, 2008

McCain ad mentions Landstuhl blunder

Guaranteeing it becomes an issue:

Via Hot Air, where Allahpundit doesn't really like the ad's suggestion that the reason Obama cancelled the visit was because he couldn't bring media. A valid quibble -- the cancellation apparently was due to Obama's military adviser having a snit over being excluded -- but ultimately irrelevant. The point is that this incident has now been woven into the McCain campaign's attack narrative about Obama, meaning that the Obama campaign will have to respond, in turn guaranteeing that Obama is forced into an ongoing discussion of an incident that puts him in an unflattering light.

UPDATE: Fresh coverage by Fox News, ABC, Associated Press, the Politico, the New York Times, CNN and the San Francisco Chronicle. Here is Obama addressing the controversy with Fox's Bill Hemmer:

(Via Hot Air.) "Our intention was not to publicize this at all," he says. So why was the Landstuhl visit listed on the press schedule? If the visit hadn't been on the press schedule, the cancellation wouldn't have been news. Duh. Meanwhile, Obama tries to spin it at a London press conference:

John Hinderaker:
In the end, this character-revealing blunder may be the only thing voters remember about Obama's international excursion.
Hope you enjoyed your tank ride, Governor Dukakis.

UPDATE II: Steven Thomas of McClatchy News catches Team Obama on the horns of the photo-op dilemma:
Within hours of Obama's speech in Berlin, for example, campaign manager David Plouffe used a video of the event in a fund-raising letter. "Watch Barack's historic speech and share it with your friends," Plouffe wrote. The e-mail then included a red button urging them to "donate" and linking to a form making it easy to send online contributions ranging from $25 to $2,300.
"I'm not going to deny there's value," said Obama's chief political strategist David Axelrod during one leg of the trip.
(Via Don Surber.) The fact that the trip was a substance-free media-oriented political spectacle only heightens the damage of the Landstuhl blunder.

Blogging sucks: Women, minorities hardest hit

If there's anything in the world I hate, it's women reporters writing "Oh, we're so oppressed" stories in the New York Times:
[M]any women at the conference were becoming very Katie Couric about their belief that they are not taken as seriously as their male counterparts at, say, Daily Kos, a political blog site. Nor, they said, were they making much money, even though corporations seem to be making money from them. . . .
Yet, when Techcult, a technology Web site, recently listed its top 100 Web celebrities, only 11 of them were women. Last year, ran a similar list, naming 3 women on its list of 25.
"It's disheartening and frustrating," said Allison Blass, a BlogHer attendee. . . .
Ladies, please: If your blog sucks, it's not because of some patriarchal conspiracy, OK? And as for making money, you could almost certainly fit into my living room every independent blogger who earns a full-time living off blogging. Generally speaking, bloggers either have some other job to support their blogging habit, or else they're "blogging for the man" (e.g., the Atlantic Monthly bloggers, the Gawker cartel, etc.).

Like almost every fad from hula hoops to CB radio, there seem to be a lot of people who think that this latest gadget is going to be their Ralph Kramden get-rich-quick ticket. Well, OK, fine -- the American Dream and all that. But it's wrong to turn that dream around and claim that because you're not getting rich online, therefore you are a victim who's somehow been cheated out of her just reward.

Hang on, let me check my latest AdSense revenue report. ... Yeah, I'm just rollin' in it, baby. And since I'm so flush with the blogobucks, which one of you feminist chick-bloggers wants to hook up with a big-money sexist right-wing online sugar daddy, huh?

Make. Me. Laugh.

And get me a cup of coffee, hon.

UPDATE: And as for you, you idiot HuffPo woman whining because the New York Times ran this story in the "Style & Fashion" section: Look a gift horse in the mouth, why don't you? You're lucky they even bothered to cover your stupid "BlogHer" conference. As for your big claim, "Women are outnumbering men on the web" -- you know what that is, don't you? It's (a) my sister-in-law forwarding me spam e-mails about Obama-the-secret-Muslim, (b) my daughter MySpacing "OMG ROTFLMAO" to her friends, and (c) desperate, slightly overweight 37-year-olds with "nice personalities" trying to find a date on Craigslist.

UPDATE II: So cute when they're angry.

UPDATE III: Sexist patriarchal oppressor Vox Day offers a list of suggestions for women bloggers who want to be taken seriously:
  • 1. Have at least half a brain and demonstrate that it actually functions by not writing egregiously stupid stuff.
  • 2. At least 75 percent of your posts should have nothing to do with you or your life.
  • 3. Don't post a picture or talk about your romantic life, your children or your pets.
  • 4. Don't threaten to quit blogging every time anyone criticizes you.
  • 5. Learn how to defend your positions with facts and logic instead of passive-aggressive parthian shots fired off as you run away.
No. 2 and No. 3 are the real deal-killers for a lot of women. There is a remarkable tendency of (some) women to imagine that other people are interested in their narrow personal concerns. This tendency expresses itself in the phenomenon of gossip, as well as in that unreadable literary genre, the feminist memoir.

UPDATE IV: Linked by both Dr. Helen and her husband. Thanks! Meanwhile, in response to Gabriel Malor, I've added a follow-up post: "No fear of being cut off for life."

UPDATE V: Didn't realize it at first, but Gabriel also cross-posted at Ace of Spades HQ, where the comment field has predictably degenerated into a discussion of whether Ace is a lady Ewok. (Hey, if you want to investigate that, go right ahead.) Also linked by James Joyner at Outside the Beltway, linked (but not endorsed) by Tim Worstall, and linked by Don Surber, who worries that I'll "never each lunch in this blogosphere again." Oh, I'll eat lunch all right, Don -- I'll just have to fix my own #$%&ing sandwich. Also, for my fellow swine: Gratuitous pinup eye candy.

UPDATE VI: Linked by a . . . dog-blogger. Another triumph of shameless traffic-baiting.

UPDATE VII: Greetings to the late-arriving progressive readers (and I think you know who you are) who might enjoy reading my more recent posts, "Latino racism? ¡Sí!" and "The Audacity of Taupe." And please give my warmest regards to my old pal Duncan -- did I mention the comments are moderated?

UPDATE VIII: "Equality Is For Ugly Losers." The commodification of patriarchal misogynist oppression.

Bounce Watch (cont'd)

Obama widens his lead again, moving ahead by 7 points (48%-41%) in the Gallup daily tracking poll -- his largest lead in July -- and 6 points in Rasmussen's daily (49%-43%, matching his July 8 lead).

Obama's Landstuhl firestorm

The media furor over Barack Obama's cancelled visit with wounded U.S. troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center continues burning, and now the candidate himself has been forced to respond personally -- during a press conference after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
"The staff was working this so I don’t know each and every detail but here is what I understand happened," Obama said. "We had scheduled to go, we had no problem at all in leaving, we always leave press and staff off -- that is why we left it off the schedule. We were treating it in the same way we treat a visit to Walter Reed which I was able to do a few weeks ago without any fanfare whatsoever. I was going to be accompanied by one of my advisors, a former military officer."
Continued Obama, "And we got notice that he would be treated as a campaign person, and it would therefore be perceived as political because he had endorsed my candidacy but he wasn’t on the Senate staff. That triggered then a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political. And the last thing that I want to do is have injured soldiers and the staff at these wonderful institutions having to sort through whether this is political or not or get caught in the crossfire between campaigns."
"So rather than go forward and potentially get caught up in what might have been considered a political controversy of some sort," Obama said, "what we decided was that we not make a visit and instead I would call some of the troops that were there. So that essentially would be the extent of the story."
Obama's version doesn't quite square with what others have said. For instance, "we left it off the schedule"? No, it was on the schedule, which was why the media started asking questions when it was cancelled.

At any rate, Obama's comments merely added more oxygen to the fire: MSNBC, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Times, the New York Daily News, and Reuters all jump on the story this morning. And what's news on Saturday morning is sure to be discussed on the Sunday morning talk shows which, in turn, generate stories in Monday's paper. So there's your big "welcome home" message, Democrats: Obama disses the troops!


McCain radio ad hits hard

Obama votes "no" on funding troops:

This is in keeping with the stepped-up aggressive tactics that Steve Schmidt has brought to the campaign. Meanwhile, in Colorado, as John Hinderaker notes, McCain hit hard in a speech:
[A]s our troops took the fight to the enemy, Senator Obama tried to cut off funding for them. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against the emergency funding in May 2007 that supported our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . .
If Senator Obama had prevailed, American forces would have had to retreat under fire. . . .
Fortunately, Senator Obama failed, not our military. We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right.
So while Obama was basking in the glow of European admiration, McCain was ripping him a new one at home. And, thanks to his big blunder at Landstuhl, Obama will return stateside to find himself on the defensive. Watch out for that shark, Fonzie!

K-Fed gets sole custody

How scummy do you have to be to lose your kids to a backup dancer?
Britney Spears and Kevin Federline's custody settlement was signed Friday by a judge, officially ending their nearly two-year custody battle. In the deal reached last week, Federline retained sole custody of Preston, 2 1/2, and Jayden, 1 1/2. Spears – who is currently allowed two visits and one overnight per week – will get an additional sleepover by year's end, barring any setbacks. . . .
Spears also agreed to increase Federline's child support to $20,000 a month (a $5,000 increase) and pay off his $250,000 legal tab.
Dude. Now she's paying him to raise her kids! K-Fed just scored a guaranteed income of $240,000 a year for the next 17 years -- a settlement with a total value of more than $4 million -- and all he's got to do to keep it is to be a better parent than Britney (obviously not too hard).

K-Fed just became the all-time hero of every dad who ever got screwed over in a divorce settlement. And Britney just became a big yellow warning sign to every girl who thinks she's all that. Are you paying attention, Miley Cyrus?

Video of the Year?

On "Hannity & Colmes," Gerard Baker does a dramatic reading of his Times of London column about Obama's foreign trip, "He Ventured Forth to Bring Light to the World":

Cheap smear on Allen West

Last month, I interviewed retired Lt. Col. West, the Republican candidate for Congress in Florida's 22nd District. Today, one of Col. West's supporters e-mailed me a New Republic article about the candidate that is truly a disgrace to that magazine's reputation.

However, the article is not all bad. For instance, I didn't realize that Col. West reads Bastiat in his spare time. Excellent! And there is one passage in the article that I found particularly informative:
[T]he national party showed little interest in rallying behind someone so controversial. Looking at the giant ziggurats of cash the Democrats were building to protect their newly won seats, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) frantically searched for candidates who were safe and, most crucially, had access to a lot of money. In the 22nd -- a district the Democrats took in 2006 but which still boasts more registered Republicans than Democrats -- a scion of a famous Florida political family, a well-connected state representative, and the popular mayor of cash-soaked Boca Raton were all begged to run. All declined.
Now, wait a doggone minute. If Col. West is "controversial," isn't it because it was his job to actually fight the war that the national party supported? To hell with "safe" candidates and famous "scions." Here the GOP has the flesh-and-blood refutation of all those "chickenhawk" slurs, a heroic character straight out of a Tom Clancy novel whose candidacy instantly makes FL-22 a contest worthy of national interest, and yet the NRCC "frantically searched" for somebody else -- anyone else -- to run for this seat? Outrageous!

That is the perfect capsule summary of what's wrong with the GOP HQ people in Washington. Every conservative who's tired of the politically tone-deaf idiots who are running the Republican Party into the ground ought to go make a contribution to Col. West's campaign today.

UPDATE: Now that I think about it, has anybody told the NBRA about this? Does Angela McGlowan know about it? After all the work they've done to recruit black Republicans, to see the NRCC actually working against a black Republican is insane. Somebody needs to be raising holy unshirted hell with the national party about this situation.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hannity on Obama's cancelled Landstuhl visit

From Sean Hannity's radio show today:
[Barack Obama] wanted to go visit this military hospital. It was on the campaign sheet to go visit the military hospital in Germany. And we find out that the only restrictions the Pentagon wanted to impose was their rule against turning visits by politicians into campaign events. . . .
The Pentagon says, look, you can come but they're going to impose their rule against turning a visit by a politician into a campaign event. . . . All the Pentagon said is they advised Obama's staff -- yeah of course he can visit the hospital and injured personnel in Germany but only in his capacity as a Member of Congress. . . .
Obama apparently cancelled the visit and went to work out instead. He went to work out and then said it would be inappropriate as part of a trip financed by his campaign. . . .
So if you want my take on this, if you want to remember one thing about this trip is that Barack Obama chose to work out rather than see the wounded troops because he couldn't bring Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson, and Brian Williams with him.
Allahpundit discusses, giving Obama some benefit of the doubt. The problem here is that Obama listed the Landstuhl event on his press schedule and then canceled. His staff flunked Media Relations 101: When you put something on your press schedule and then cancel it, you'd better have a plausible explanation. Obama's attempt to spin this story is doomed to failure. They'd do better just to drop the subject and stop giving it oxygen.

UPDATE: As I explain at AmSpecBlog, looks like this story is going viral: Washington Post and CNN do follow-ups, and Associated Press has a story that will be in hundreds of local papers on Saturday morning. The transcript of Friday's press briefing, in which Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs tries a push-back gives a flavor of the media interest:
Q: When did you originally decide to go?
I have to get you an exact date but it has been on the schedule for a long time.
Q: Did it not occur to anybody that this might be viewed as a political stop?
We had taken some of that into consideration, but we believed that it could be done in a way that would not create, it would not be created or seen as a campaign stop.
Q: The schedule was for this plane, with us in it, to fly to Ramstein. By the way we were expected to pay for the flight, what were you suppose to do with the entourage then?
You would have stayed on the plane.
Q: We would have stayed on the plane, would there have been any pool report?
There may have been, I don’t know if we ever came to a decision on that.
These reporters' news organizations have to pay for them to travel with the campaign, and they were going to be charged for a trip to the air base (where the hospital is located), but they would have been stuck on the plane, waiting on the tarmac, with no chance to actually cover the hospital visit. Even a "pool report" (where one reporter accompanies the candidate, then files a description of the event that the rest of the press corps uses for their stories) might have been seen as a violation of the Pentagon rules.

What all this points to (and the reporters seem to be working toward this angle) is a huge planning error by the Obama campaign. The Pentagon has never allowed wounded GIs in hospitals to be used as political props, and any Senate staffer should know this. Unfortunately, the Landstuhl trip wasn't planned by Obama's Senate staff, it was planned by his campaign staff, who didn't know the rules.

All of which, of course, feeds into the anti-Obama narrative of the trip, namely that it was really just one big media photo-op from the get-go, rather than the kind "fact-finding" expedition his campaign had tried to frame it as.

This is a P.R. debacle of the first magnitude. Can't you just hear George Will talking about this on ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning? Oh, and just wait until Ann Coulter comes out with her column on Wednesday . . .

'The McCain contraption'

Allah coined this term and Karl at Protein Wisdom picks it up -- in contrast to the supposedly infallible "Obama machine" -- as a metaphor for the heretofore weak and inconsistent operation at Team McCain, especially in terms of "message." This bears some discussion.

First, I think the more aggressive approach since Steve Schmidt came aboard is both (a) long overdue, and (b) arguably working. To try to judge the success of the McCain campaign in the midst of this week's worldwide media Obamagasm is rather unfair. But with Schmidt in charge, McCain has gone on the attack and stayed on the attack (even though attack politics is not the candidate's preference or forte), and you saw an impact this week: Obama was badgered by Katie Couric (!) about whether or not he believes the surge has been succcessful. When Obama is forced to confront his opponent's message this way, that's success.

Second, it's a tall order to turn chicken manure into chicken salad. John McCain is not any campaign consultant's ideal candidate. He's old, short, bald and grumpy -- Bob Dole with less hair. He has never been a magnetic orator, and advanced age has not improved his stump performance.

Furthermore (and this is generally overlooked), McCain's never been in a competitive general election against a strong liberal Democratic opponent. Arizona has been a Republican state for decades, and once McCain won the 1986 GOP primary for Barry Goldwater's seat, he's never faced a serious challenge. He simply is not experienced at the kind of political warfare George W. Bush had to wage in order to defeat "Ma" Richards and the Texas Democrats.

Given the inherent shortcomings of the candidate, it is unfair to blame the problems of the McCain campaign on his staff. This isn't like the problems Ronald Reagan had with his team in 1980, where the basic solution was to "let Reagan be Reagan." Reagan had immense natural gifts as a politician that he had honed during his decades on the "mashed potato circuit." So when things started going sideways in 1980, the fix was both obvious and easy -- get out of the way and let the Gipper work his magic.

Team McCain has no such quick fix available, although arguably they might benefit by trying to inject into the current campaign some of the "fun factor" that McCain enjoyed during his 2000 run. Occasionally give the candidate a chance to do what he enjoys best -- informal bull sessions with reporters -- even if it means less time for staged campaign events.

Third, the "enthusiasm gap" is real and it's hurting. To some extent, this can't be helped. Maverick's 10-year jihad against his own party's conservative base makes it impossible for some Republicans to care whether he gets elected or not. Beyond that, the McCain campaign is on the losing end of what I call a "reverse bandwagon effect" -- the belief in Obama's invincibility (which is widespread even among Republicans) makes people unwilling to support what they perceive to be a losing effort.

There are ways for an underdog to turn the bandwagon effect around (ask Casey Cagle's campaign how they beat Ralph Reed in 2006), but unless the McCain campaign can find a way to shake conservatives out of their doom-and-gloom mood, the negativity coming from inside the Republican Party will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It may be that the problems of "the McCain contraption" are irreparable, and that all this blogospheric second-guessing is just a waste of bandwidth. Frankly, I have a professional disdain for journalists who play the amateur strategist game of offering unsolicited advice to politicians. (Yes, I mean you, Ramesh and Rich.) It's like a sports columnist telling a baseball coach which reliever he should bring in from the bullpen. If you're such a freaking strategic genius that you feel justified giving advice to professional political operatives, quit your magazine job and start your own consulting firm.

Insofar as I'm qualified to kibbitz, I will say that the mysteriously canceled "media availability" Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre was a blunder. When you promise reporters a press conference, you'd better damn well give 'em a press conference. I drove three hours to be there, only to be told on arrival that the press conference had been cancelled. This is not good media relations.

Nobody's paying me to figure out a way for the Republicans to beat Obama, but it's always a bit annoying to see the people who are getting paid do a lousy job of it. Since Schmidt came aboard the McCain contraption, they seem to be doing a less lousy job -- but I'm still sore about that canceled press conference.

'Le John Kennedy noir'

Oh, this is rich:
[T]he French do seem for the most part keen to welcome "le John Kennedy noir" (the black JFK) as AFP describes him. The media also is mostly welcoming. Le
, in an article headlined "Obama discovers a Europe already conquered," calls him the antithesis of Bush and also reports that 84% of the French have a favorable opinion of him compared with just 33% having a favorable opinion of McCain. The article also touches on the "JFK factor" and comments that even though Europe would welcome pretty much any non-Republican after Bush, Obama is even more welcome because of his opposition to the war in Iraq and his progressive ideas on social issues.
Les Amis des Noirs! And of course, any American politician beloved by the French is destined for victory, as Jean Francois Kerry could testify.

Ruh-roh: Is this a bounce?

Barack Obama moves to a 5-point lead (49%-44% including leaners) over John McCain in the latest Rasmussen daily tracking poll. Just a week ago, Rasmussen had it tied at 46%. This is the biggest lead for Obama in the Rasmussen poll since July 8.

UPDATE: Confirmed. Houston, we have a bounce! After three days in the 2%-4% range, it's now Obama 47%, McCain 41% in the latest Gallup daily tracking poll. But a six-point lead isn't new for Obama: He also led by six points on July 5, July 10, and July 20.

The day Obama arrived in Afghanistan, I said that we would have to wait until July 31 to know the full impact of this trip on public opinion. But if Obama's media admirers want to go ahead and exchange high fives now, go right ahead. Nothing like counting those chickens before they're hatched . . . or "come home to roost," as Rev. Jeremiah Wright might say.

UPDATE II: I'm surprised at some progressive bloggers setting their readers up for potential heartbreak by reading too much into today's polls. These tracking polls are based on three-day averages of rolling samples and -- over time -- give a good idea of the trend in the race. But this one-day bump to a 6-point lead in the Gallup only returns Obama to where he was on July 20. While Obama might maintain or expand that lead in the next round of daily tracking, it's also entirely possible that he might drop back to the statistically insignificant 2%-3% range in the near future.

God help us if any national poll ever shows McCain leading -- the Democrats will have to turn their vote-canvassing phone banks into suicide-prevention hotlines, and convert their meetups into depression therapy groups. Get a grip, people -- it's only July.

UPDATE III: Linked by Allahpundit, who asks:
Saturation coverage, adoring crowds, no major mistakes: If this isn’t enough to reassure voters jittery about him, what hope left does he have for a big lead?
I wouldn't say he's made no major mistakes. He didn't visit Landstuhl, essentially because he was told he couldn't turn it into a campaign photo op -- a decision that reinforces the fact this entire trip was nothing but a campaign photo op. Obama's "citizen of the world" rhetoric was also a mistake, exposing him to widespread ridicule.

It's too early to try to assess the impact. We still have three days before Obama returns stateside -- a scene that should be like JFK Airport on Feb. 7, 1964:

(You know, that music is still jammin'. More? Did I hear somebody say "more"?)

'Had we listened to Obama ...'

Jamie Kirchick in the Politico:
Had we listened to Obama back in January 2007, the effects of the surge would never have materialized, and we would not be in the place we are today, where talking about victory in Iraq no longer seems preposterous. So manifestly wrong was Obama about the surge that his spokesmen are saying he always believed it would reduce violence, and earlier this month his campaign removed negative references to it on his website.
We are incessantly told, without any real evidence other than a compromise bill here and there in the Illinois state Senate, that Obama is an incomparably thoughtful politician, the likes of which we have never seen before. . . .
To admit that his judgment was wanting on the subject of the surge would irreparably damage -- if not kill -- the Democratic narrative of the war.
What's really weird about this past week is that Obama has thrust the focus onto foreign affairs at a time that (a) polls indicate voters are most concerned about domestic economic policy, and (b) the success of the surge is taking the wind out of the sails of the anti-war issue.

We're kind of where we were in 1972 when George McGovern ran an anti-war campaign, only to discover that -- once Nixon started "Vietnamization" and ended the draft -- the peace movement has lost its oomph.

Berlin Backlash Builds

Barack Obama's grandiose gesture -- "a manifesto for the planet," as Mike Allen calls it -- at the Siegessaule in Berlin prompts an inevitable reaction, and it's not good news for the apostles of Hope. As yesterday's Quote of the Day hinted, it is a political liability to be seen as a "citizen of the world" who seems "more popular in Germany than in rural Pennsylvania." And as Instapundit says, "This headline won't help":
Especially when, as Ed Morrissey points out, the visit was apparently cancelled because the military wouldn't allow Obama to bring along his media entourage for a photo-op.

Further reaction is likely -- El Rushbo is already ripping Obama over his "arrogant" speech-- and I'll try to update as the backlash builds today.

UPDATE: Susan Estrich explains why Obama could be hurt by his status as a media darling:
[B]eing the favorite of the press doesn't necessarily win you votes. Most people don't actually like the press. The friend of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Being liked by the boys and girls on the bus doesn't necessarily earn you the respect of the people back home.
Ding, ding, ding! Another hubris alert from Nicole Allan at The New Republic:
During his Berlin speech today, at which he was welcomed with seeming rapture, he spoke to the "people of the world" as if he were already president of the United States of America and all she represents. The McCain camp was quick to read some irony into this.
Republicans doing irony? How dare they!

UPDATE II: Meanwhile, continuing the trend noted in my Pajamas Media article Wednesday, John McCain keeps up the attack in the "heartland":
"My opponent, of course, is traveling in Europe, and tomorrow his tour takes him to France," Mr. McCain said with [Tour de France champion Lance] Armstrong at the Columbus event, according to his prepared remarks. "In a scene Lance would recognize, a throng of adoring fans awaits Senator Obama in Paris -- and that’s just the American press."
Remember that the latest Rasmussen poll shows McCain 10 points ahead in Ohio.

UPDATE III: Mocked by the Times of London.

UPDATE IV: Howard Kurtz reports:
Not everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass wrote of the coverage: "McCain is now cast as the crabby uncle who visits and shrieks there's no gin in your house," while Obama is "busy fighting off throngs of reporters, a cast of thousands as urgent and impassioned as in those old Hollywood biblical epics."
Ralph Begleiter, a former CNN correspondent who is now journalist in residence at the University of Delaware, says the notion that Obama was making real news -- as opposed to exploiting pretty backdrops -- is "a sham argument. Of course it's a photo op. If he wanted to go to Afghanistan as a senator, he could have done it."
There can be no doubt that, if Obama loses Nov. 4, the media will go into mourning.

UPDATE V: Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) on MSNBC:
Barack Obama has always had a great charismatic style, but the substance has never been there and his inexperience is one of the things that troubles a lot of people. . . . He went [to Europe] . . . to try to give himself some kind of kind of patina of credibility.
Watch out for the shark, Fonzie!

UPDATE VI: Congratulations to Michelle Malkin, who celebrated her 15th wedding anniversary yesterday, and returns today to observe of the media's honeymoon with Obama: "Ever so slowly, the glow is dimming."

None of the above

Which candidate opposes the housing bailout?
A. Republican Sen. John McCain
B. Democratic Sen. Barack Obama
C. None of the above:
"Both the House and President George W. Bush have surrendered in the battle to protect America’s taxpayers from yet another expensive and unnecessary bailout. The $300 billion measure yesterday approved by the House and endorsed by the White House won't just pay off improvident borrowers and lenders. It will create yet another piggy-bank for activist groups at public expense. . . .
"The sub-prime lending crisis is largely a crisis of government. Congress and both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush pressed banks to lend more money in poor neighborhoods to less credit-worthy borrowers. The Federal Reserve pushed down interest rates to encourage more lending. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidized home ownership. Now we are all paying the price for a boom gone bust."
So says Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, who just released a video about The Time for Liberty, an idea endorsed by Ron Paul -- and Ayn Rand, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan . . .

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Murderers for Obama

This key constituency shrank by one:
Before he died Wednesday evening, death row inmate Dale Leo Bishop apologized to his victim's family, thanked America and urged people to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
"For those who oppose the death penalty and want to see it end, our best bet is to vote for Barack Obama because his supporters have been working behind the scenes to end this practice," Bishop said.
Bishop, 34, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 6:14 p.m. . . .
Bishop was convicted for his role in the beating death of Marcus Gentry.

Quote of the Day

"It's unquestionably true that most Americans want the rest of the world to think better of them. On the other hand, it's also true that, if asked whether they'd vote for a man whose father was Kenyan, who lived in Indonesia as a child, and who seems more popular in Germany than in rural Pennsylvania, a majority would probably say no."
-- Noam Scheiber

Obama in Berlin

As Ed Morrisey notes, this video of the speech was sent out by the Obama campaign as part of a fundraising email:

Other reaction from around the 'Net:

  • James Poulos calls the "citizen of the world" line a mistake.
  • Daniel Larison calls the line a "blunder" and says: "Obama misjudges the public mood here in the U.S. quite badly if he thinks that 'this is the moment' when Americans are interested in tearing down walls and embracing globalisation."
  • The German press is predictably enthusiastic.
  • Dean Barnett: "Perhaps Obama's ego has grown so large that he figures one country, even the world's lone superpower, is no longer worthy of his leadership. A quick prediction -- 'the citizen of the world' mess-up will be one of the issues that frames the rest of the election."
  • Kevin Holtsberry: "What it really came down to . . . was Obama the messiah giving the world a giant pep talk."
  • Obama didn't have time to visit U.S. troops in Germany, but Karen Tumulty of Time notes that he and his staff had time for "celebratory martinis" after the speech.

My reaction to the speech? Just click the video:

Ich bin ein "Kumbayah"!

Hype: The Obama Effect

The new Citizens United documentary about Barack Obama will debut next month in Denver on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

Lisa De Pasquale writes that the DVD will be available Sept. 1 and a limited theatrical release is planned beginning Sept. 8.

Citizens United does excellent work with documentaries. After they premiered Hillary: The Movie in January, one woman who saw the film told me, "I can't imagine how anyone could ever vote for her after seeing that." That quote came from Kathleen Willey.

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with a spokesman for Citizens United, who informs me that production is still underway -- meaning the final product will include Obama's European tour and the reaction to it. The spokesman also confirmed that the Obama documentary is being produced by the same team that did Hillary: The Movie, with Alan Peterson as director and Matthew Taylor as director of photography. So this should be a very powerful film.

Completely irresponsible speculation

Allah takes notice of a New Republic article about the Obama campaign's media relations that quotes one reporter on the Obama beat:
"They're terrified of people poking around Obama's life. . . . The whole Obama narrative is built around this narrative that Obama and David Axelrod built, and, like all stories, it's not entirely true."
Hmmm. Operating on the where-there's-smoke principle, what common foible of Democratic politicians do you suspect Obama's campaign is trying to conceal? I don't know. Maybe we should ask John Edwards. Or Gary Hart. Or Bill Clinton.

Of course, there could be no actual proof of such a thing, because if there was, Team Clinton would have dug it up and dished it out during the primaries. But this defensiveness certainly arouses suspicion, doesn't it?

My genius nephew

A two-year old with his own blog? All right, I'll link him. But until he starts typing it himself, I'm not adding him to the blogroll. Nepotism will only get you so far, kid.

'Hear No Evil' progressivism

Much continues to be made of the power of the vaunted Netroots, but it must be acknowledged that a lot of their power consists of intimidation -- the fervor with which they shout down any meme they don't want to acknowledge.

Case in point: Jamie Kirchick of the New Republic posted a little note acknowledging an incident on Obama's overseas tour during which Obama's spokesperson had to be reminded that the Democrat is not yet the president.

The comment field lit up like one of those Vietnam war-movie scenes where Charlie's storming the perimeter of a U.S. firebase. Kirchick was denounced as an Enemy Of The People.

I can't say I've ever seen anything quite like that in the comment field of any conservative blog. Yes, furious arguments sometimes erupt in comment fields, but Michelle Malkin and other bloggers on the Right routinely slam John McCain and mock his campaign's ineptitude without any of their conservative commenters accusing them of bad faith. Merely passing along a negative news item about the Republican is not seen as treason to The Cause, as seems to be the case with the reaction to Kirchick's post.

Which is to say that the strength of the Left online is also a weakness, insofar as it constitutes an intolerance of negative feedback. Ironically enough, an intolerance of negative feedback was a major factor in the blunders of the Bush administration, about which the Left has so often reminded us. Sitting around in an echo chamber, surrounded by yes-men, believing your own press releases -- doesn't this sound vaguely familiar?

Progressive, heal thyself!

She should have stuck with her homework

The Amazing Miss Rittlemeyer allows herself a digression into gender theory. I would advise you, Miss Rittelmeyer, that it is a waste of time to read anything that contains a sentence like this:
Embracing individuality and agency can include both pursuing personal interests and social, cultural, and environmental projects that incorporate political and social justice orientations.
The reification of abstraction is bad enough -- I challenge anyone to explain how this pretentious word-salad applies in any way to that quaint thing called "the real world" -- but the phrase "social justice" is the real deal-breaker for me. Social justice is a mirage, as Hayek observed.

Hubris Watch update

UPDATED & BUMPED: Obama doesn't have time to visit troops at U.S. bases in Germany. No wonder Joe Klein's getting nervous.

And, oh yeah, Obama's lead in today's Gallup daily tracking poll is 4 points less than what it was 3 days ago. And as Allah notes, Team McCain has slammed Team Obama for dancing in the end zone before they've gotten past midfield.

FLASHBACK: Has Team Obama lost it? -- the June 28 post in which I first expressed my shock that Hopey was planning this European excursion:
Pennsylvania? Ohio? Florida? No, forget about the stupid morons in those silly swing states -- let's campaign in foreign countries where there aren't even any eligible voters!
If this trip proves to be a mistake -- the fatal turning point at which everything starts going south for Obama -- I stand ready to stake my claim as first in line to say, "I told you so."

PREVIOUSLY: Team Obama is already measuring the drapes in the Oval Office, and picking out their dresses for the inaugural ball. Meanwhile a trio of liberal pundits explains why history proves that it's safe to ignore the fact that His Hopefulnness still hasn't gotten a poll bounce:

It is no exaggeration to say that the political environment this year is one of the worst for a party in the White House in the past sixty years. You have to go all the way back to 1952 to find an election involving the combination of an unpopular president, an unpopular war, and an economy teetering on the brink of recession.
Barack Obama is not a national hero like Dwight Eisenhower, and George Bush is no Harry Truman. But if history is any guide, and absent a dramatic change in election fundamentals or an utter collapse of the Obama candidacy, John McCain is likely to suffer the same fate as Adlai Stevenson.
Hmmm. I wonder if these liberal pundits have talked to any Obama organizers in Pennsylvania lately. (I have. To say that they've encountered some "unease with Obama" might be an understatement.) This liberal trio is guilty of trend-mongering: The assumption that general political trends render actual campaigns and actual candidates irrelevant to election outcomes.

In 1995, it was widely assumed that Bill Clinton had no hope of re-election. Conservatives told themselve, "Any Republican could beat Clinton!" But "any Republican" wasn't on the ballot in November 1996; Bob Dole was.

But please, Obamaphiles, don't let me rain on your (inaugural) parade.

McCain campaign conference call

I'm currently on hold waiting for the start of the McCain campaign's conference call "with Doug Holtz-Eakin, senior policy adviser, and Nancy Pfotenhauer, senior policy adviser and spokeswoman, to discuss energy relief and Barack Obama's no, we can't' policy."

11:55 a.m.: Pfotenhauer: "The failure of Senator Obama to understand the need to increase domestic [oil] production is just stunning."

On oil exploration, "It’s hard to name another developed country that has tied its hand the way the United States has," Pfotenhauer said.

Noon -- The call just ended. I was kind of stunned that there was no follow-up on a point that Holtz-Eakin mentioned: Obama opposes the creation of any new coal-fired electric power plants. That's got to be political poison in Pennsylvania, and yet I never heard anything about this previously. I remember in 2000, Al Gore's anti-coal stance hurt him badly in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Expect further updates ....

Everybody's a pundit

Jonathan Martin of the Politico makes a point that I've long complained of:
Republicans have no lack of would-be George F. Wills. But what they really need are some more Robert D. Novaks. . . .
While conservatives are devoting much of their Internet energy to analysis, their counterparts on the left are taking advantage of the rise of new media to create new institutions devoted to unearthing stories, putting new information into circulation and generally crowding the space traditionally taken by traditional media. And it almost always comes at the expense of GOP politicians.
While online Republicans chase the allure of punditry and commentary, Democrats and progressives are pursuing old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting.
When I worked at The Washington Times, I was often contacted by people asking "how do I get a column on the op-ed page?" To which I would habitually reply, "Hey, if I knew the answer to that question, I'd be on the op-ed page."

My job at the newspaper was on the news side of the operation, and as much as I might have wished to "chase the allure of punditry and commentary," The Washington Times always had more op-ed contributions than it could handle. Every conservative think-tank wonk and advocacy-group activist in town wants his column on that page and -- since they have full-time jobs at their 501(c) operations that pay them to push their viewpoints -- they're willing to offer their opinions for nothing, or next-to-nothing.

Meanwhile, there is also what I call the Former Deputy Undersecretary Syndrome -- it sometimes seems that anyone who ever worked in the Reagan administration now spends his spare time shopping op-eds. So good luck with those over-the-transom column submissions, people.

What my bosses at The Washington Times always had the hardest time finding was experienced reporters who "got it" in terms of the kind of news that a conservative readership is hungry for. Even without any reference to political leanings, really good reporters are hard to find, but trying to find a good reporter who also had some understanding of, or sympathy for, the conservative viewpoint -- well, you can ask my former bosses about how tough that was.

Why is it so hard to find conservatives who have any interest in doing basic "5Ws and an H" type of reporting? Two words: Low wages.

The newspaper business is one of the lowest-paying professions in America. Most years, my brother who's a semi-truck driver in Georgia made more money than I did as an assistant national editor at The Washington Times.

Liberals dominate the newspaper business for the same reason they dominate the fields of education and social work. Liberals are much more willing to do low-wage work that they think "makes a difference." Conservatives want to make a buck. (I was a Democrat when I started out, which explains how I ended up in the newsprint ghetto.)

If you're a liberal with good writing skills, you become a journalist. If you're a conservative with good writing skills, you go to law school.

There is a surfeit of would-be conservative pundits because people see the example of a few big-name successes -- Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, etc. -- and want to emulate that. And conservatives seem to misconceive the market for punditry. Call this the Fox News Syndrome.

Most of the people you see doing talking-head guest appearances on Fox News are not paid to be on those shows. They're consultants or think-tankers or authors pushing their latest books. They derive their income (which is not usually lucrative) from other full-time employment. But people tend to have the idea, ipso facto, that everyone who appears on TV is rich. And so you will find no shortage of College Republican types whose chief ambition in life is to someday do a 10-minute segment on O'Reilly or Cavuto.

The situation that Jonathan Martin has observed is deeply rooted in the infrastructure of the conservative movement, going back to the 1970s, when getting the think-tanker who could get a 700-word policy piece published on a newspaper op-ed page had scored a big coup.

McCain attacks keep surging

Having launched an offensive, the McCain campaign continues its steady drumbeat of attacks against Obama for his opposition to the surge in Iraq. A press release from the campaign this morning notes that Obama will be interviewed tonight on NBC News and points out:
[W]hile Barack Obama was trying to score political points in the Democratic primaries by calling the surge a failure, NBC News was reporting the progress being made in Iraq because of the surge.
The McCain press office provides three video clips of Obama criticizing the surge on NBC. Jan. 10, 2007, Obama says the surge will make things worse in Iraq:

July 18, 2007, Obama says the surge hasn't worked:

Nov. 11, 2007, Obama says the surge is "potentially worsening" the situation in Iraq:

Obama may be able to defend, but he clearly cannot deny, his opposition to the surge.

Meghan McCain hates Howlin' Wolf?

You know what Crazy Cousin John doesn't get enough credit for? Having a hot blonde blogger daughter. Meghan McCain recently shared her list of favorite blues tunes, topped by B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone." A lot of classics there: Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Son House, T-Bone Walker. But as I'm looking at this list, a question looms large in my mind.

Why no Howlin' Wolf? Is the would-be First Daughter prejudiced against the blues legend who gave us "Ain't Superstitious," "Little Red Rooster" and the immortal "Wang Dang Doodle"?

The conspicuous absence of Chester Arthur "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett from her playlist raises the possibility that Meghan is the kind of low-down, no-good, two-timing evil-hearted woman that makes a bluesman want to pick up his dobro and walk out that door. Just say good-bye, and she won't see him no more.

Why have the major media ignored the incipient Bluesgate scandal?

Big news: Markets work

I was kind of surprised yesterday when John McCain's statement about oil prices -- that President Bush's lifting of the offshore drilling ban had resulted in a $10-a-barrel wholesale decrease -- became the lede of the Associated Press story from Wilkes-Barre. Rush Limbaugh has been saying this for several days, so it didn't strike me as big news.

When I stopped for gas en route to Wilkes-Barre yesterday, the price was $3.89 a gallon -- below the $4-a-gallon price we saw for several weeks -- and so, contrary to Nancy Pelosi, we didn't have to wait years and years for the impact. The mere expectation that the U.S. might allow more drilling was enough to cause speculators to go short.

Actually, Crazy Cousin John understated the impact. As Ed Morrisey notes, oil has now dropped $20 a barrel since Bush lifted the offshore ban. The White House modestly declined to take full credit:
Presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said the price drop also could reflect diminished demand.
"I don't know if we fully deserve the credit," Perino said.
"We don't predict what happens in the market," she said. "We can't really tell. Certainly, taking that action would send a signal that at least the executive branch is serious about moving forward and increasing the supply we have in America."
What amazes me is how many people -- from Nancy Pelosi to Associated Press reporters -- seem so shocked about the fact that markets work. Don't these people know anything about economics?

McCain, Obama and Iraq

Rather than talk to reporters during a press conference yesterday -- he cancelled the "availability" that I drove three hours to attend -- John McCain made some comments during an "unscheduled" stop in Bethlehem, Pa., after leaving Wilkes-Barre. Associated Press:
Republican John McCain pushed back on Wednesday against Democratic criticism that he misstated when the troop buildup ordered by President Bush began, saying elements were put in place before Bush announced the strategy in early 2007.
He told reporters during an unscheduled stop in a super market that, what the Bush administration calls "the surge" was actually "made up of a number of components," some of which began before the president's order for more troops.
It's all a matter of semantics, he suggested.
McCain said Army Col. Sean MacFarland started carrying out elements of a new counterinsurgency strategy as early as December 2006.
All this is by way of McCain trying to explain his previous statement to CBS about the "surge" being the cause of Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar turning against al-Qaeda. (Ambinder has more.)

This one little "senior moment" on the Republican's part has gotten vast amounts of media scrutiny, while Obama's House of Flip-Flops goes unexamined by lovestruck reporters (who give money so generously and objectively to Democrats). They've spent so much time "splashing about in the tank for Obama" (as Tom Maguire says of Joe Klein) they've got swimmer's ear.

UPDATE: Quote of the day:
You know what's really scurrilous? Joe Klein gets paid for blogging. What a great scam.
Bigger scam: He's probably paid too much.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

John McCain in PUMA territory

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- I'm at the F.M. Kirby Center for today's "Straight Talk Town Hall" event with John McCain. Will try to live blog as much as possible. Expect updates.

11:30 p.m.: Back home now, after a three-hour drive home, including a half-hour stop in a McDonald's parking lot to call in and talk to The Radio Patriot, Andrea Shea King. Audio of the program is now online.

6 p.m. -- My report for Pajamas Media now online:
Sen. John McCain today continued his stepped-up criticism of his Democratic rival's position on the war in Iraq, saying Sen. Barack Obama would "rather lose a war in order to win a campaign." . . .
Similar remarks by McCain during a Tuesday appearance in Rochester, N.H., were denounced by many critics, including Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, who called it a "scurrilous statement" that "smacks of desperation."
The repeated attack on Obama — who is currently in the midst of a weeklong foreign trip — appears part of a newly aggressive approach for the McCain campaign, which recently reshuffled staff and brought in former Bush political operative Steve Schmidt as a senior advisor.
The visit to Wilkes-Barre represents a key opportunity for McCain to flip a Democratic blue state to Republican red. In the April 22 Democratic primary, surrounding Luzerne County voted 3-to-1 for Clinton over Obama, and clearly the McCain campaign hopes to win over Clinton Democrats in a potential swing state that Bush narrowly lost to John Kerry in 2004. . . .
Please read the whole thing. Despite the mysteriously canceled "media availability," it's been a nice visit to Wilkes-Barre where (as a historical marker outside informs me) I'm blogging from the site of the original Woolworth's store, founded by F.M. Kirby in 1884. The local Obama organizers (seated at the next table) are still using the coffee shop here for their operation, but it's time for me to make the 3-hour ride back home. Goodnight!

1:30 p.m. -- Ambinder talks about the cancelled press "availability," which remains (officially) unexplained.

1:20 p.m. -- Researching what I was told earlier by a Scranton reporter, indeed this is Clinton territory -- she beat Obama 3-to-1 in Luzerne County. While I'm working on my story for tomorrow, here's the latest national poll data: Gallup daily tracking has Obama by 4, Rasmussen has Obama by 2. So the worldwide bounce quest continues ....

12:55 p.m. -- Sorry that live-blogging was interrupted, but there was a WiFi failure. I'm now set up in the coffee shop at the Barnes & Noble store across the street. I'm sitting right next to a team of Obama organizers (no kidding) who are using the coffee shop as headquarters for a voter-registration operation.

I think the Obama people may have been trying to sign up volunteers among any random anti-McCain protesters who showed up. There were a few protesters here, but nothing very organized. I spotted one across the street from the event with a hand-lettered poster: "Bush-McCain Kill Our Soldiers for Lies! Shame."

The Associated Press is headlining its report of the town hall with McCain crediting Bush's lifting of the offshore ban for the recent $10 drop in the wholesale price of a barrel of oil. Marc Ambinder (I didn't even know he was here) leads with McCain calling Obama's Iraq policy reckless:

If McCain is president and his strategy prevails, "We will come home. We will come home with victory and honor, but we will never have to go back," he said.
"So, when Senator Obama says well if we don't succeed, we may have to go back in, we might."
Personally, the big story for me is that the McCain campaign cancelled its previously announced press conference here. There was no explanation from the local press coordinator. A reporter for a major national news organization told me that the rumor is that the campaign was upset that none of the networks sent correspondents to Wilkes-Barr. I'll have more of an update later.

10:40 a.m. -- McCain repeats the accusation that Obama "would rather lose a war and win a campaign." Joe Klein has called this statement "scurrilous," but McCain has apparently nailed his colors to the mast on this one.
10:32 a.m. -- Discussing Obama's opposition to drilling for oil, McCain references the Latin "Yes We Can" ("Vero Possumus") slogan on Obama's fake presidential seal, and says, "I think he should change that to 'No, We Won't.'"
10:25 a.m. -- McCain talks gas tax holiday.
10:20 a.m. -- Boris Krawczeniuk of the Scranton (Pa.) Times-Tribune told me earlier that this area was "3-to-1 for Hillary." Listening to local radio on my way into town, they were interviewing a local PUMA leader. This county was 51-48 for Kerry in 2004, so if this state is going to swing GOP, it will be because of Clinton Democrats in areas like this.
10:17 a.m. -- McCain just took the stage to a standing ovation.
10:13 a.m. -- The sound system is now playing Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." About 900 people in attendance. The stage has a giant American flag backdrop and an "Energy Solutions" banner.

McCain's new press pass

Some Maverick humor:
John McCain’s campaign had a little fun at Barack Obama’s expense tonight, issuing a fake press pass to the McCain traveling press on the bus as we landed at the airport here. The front of the pass identifies the McCain press corps as the “JV Squad” and has the caption “Left Behind to Report in America.” The reverse side features a Frenchman pouring a glass of wine with the same caption en francaise (“Laisse en arriere pour faire un rapport en Amerique”). The fake press pass satirizes the preferential treatment that the McCain campaign suggests the media has given Barack Obama.
That story, BTW, is datelined from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where John McCain will speak today at a town hall event. I'll be there. It's a three-hour drive. Blogging will be light today.
UPDATE: I'm now live-blogging the event in Wilkes-Barre.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama's 'much-ballyhooed' trip

Generally speaking, when a reporter says something is "much-ballyhooed," he means it as a putdown -- the "much-ballyhooed" prize fight that ends with a first-round KO, the "much-ballyooed" film sequel that fails to meet expectations, and so forth.

So when the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza began by writing of Barack Obama's "much-ballyhooed trip abroad this week," I was expecting a hit job. Instead, it was a gooey discussion of Obama's "gravitas" at a press conference in Amman, Jordan. After eight paragraphs of suitably reverent worship of St. Obama, however, Cillizza felt compelled to admit:
The press conference wasn't all roses for Obama, however, as he provided Republicans more rhetorical ammunition by again refusing to say he should have supported the troop surge last year.
Obama said that "we don't know what would have happened" if the plan he put forward in early 2007 -- a plan that would have had all combat brigades out of the country by March 31 of this year -- had been implemented.
That is sure to be fodder for Republicans who were up in arms last night over the fact that Obama told ABC's Terry Moran that even in hindsight he did not support the troop surge.
Already McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds is out with a statement condemning Obama's attitude toward the surge.
In the third paragraph, Cillizza described the need for Obama to "convey . . . bipartisanship" and in the sixth paragraph credited the Democrat with taking "the high road," but Cillizza sees no possibility that anyone but a partisan Republican might criticize His Hopefulness.

After pointedly referencing the McCain campaign's complaints about "the allegedly fawning coverage of Obama's trip" (allegedly), Cilliza then went into full-court fawning mode, concluding that, in terms of demonstrating suitably presidential gravitas, Obama "cleared that hurdle with ease." An objective fact!

Good news for troops in Iraq

The celebrity hooters are coming!
Heidi Montag says her late stepbrother -- who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan -- has inspired her to visit the Middle East to perform for U.S. troops.
"My brother was an airborne ranger in Afghanistan and Iraq," the Hills star tells Extra in a new interview. "It's very important to me and important to Spencer to support the troops and go over there."
Montag's stepbrother, Eric O'Hara, 24, who was a veteran of combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, died in an accident in March at the Steamboat Springs, Colo., hotel where he worked.
While Montag and Pratt are eagerly planning their trip — they may be getting a little help with travel arrangements from friend Meghan McCain, the daughter of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
I'm sure the troops will stand up and salute -- she'll get a reception that makes Obamamania seem lame.

'At Long Last, Love Has Arrived'

"It's infectious!"

Famous teenage mothers

Checking SiteMeter just now, I noticed that someone had reached my post, "In praise of teenage motherhood" via a Google search for the term "famous teenage mothers." Given this evidence of curiosity on the topic, let me cite my two all-time favorite teen mothers:
  • Loretta Lynn -- Loretta Webb of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, was only 13 when she married Doolittle "Mooney" Lynn. She was a mother of four before she turned 18. She cut her first record when she was 25, and subsequently recorded 16 No. 1 country hits, including classics like "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)," her duets with Conway Twitty (among them "After the Fire Is Gone" and "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man"), and her autobiographical signature tune, "Coal Miner's Daughter."
  • Margaret Beaufort -- Her grandfather, the Earl of Somerset, was a bastard son of John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, and Margaret's own father died when she was a year old. She was originally betrothed as a child to the 9-year-old Duke of Suffolk, but that union was annulled and, at age 12, Margaret became the bride of 24-year-old Edmund Tudor. Within a year, while putting down an insurrection in his native Wales, Edmund died, leaving behind a 13-year-old widow who was seven months pregnant with a son she would name Henry. Because the boy was of royal blood, he was forced to flee England during the subsequent War of the Roses over the succession to the crown of Henry VI. During the bloody reign of Richard III, Margaret conspired, with the aid of her third husband, Sir Thomas Stanley, to place her son on the throne and, after emerging the victor at the Battle of Bosworth Field, Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII.
By all accounts, Margaret was a pious Christian woman of tremendous learning -- praised for her fine penmanship in an era when literacy among women was rare -- and, during her son's reign, became a patron of education, including a generous gift to Oxford University. The student of Margaret's life will discover that, though records clearly establish her birth at Bledsoe Castle in 1443, some sources list her as being born in 1441, evidently the result of efforts by Victorian-era authors to obscure the fact that she was married at 12.

At any rate, these two ladies -- Loretta Lynn and Margaret Beaufort -- are a neat historical rebuke to those who insist that teen motherhood must inevitably lead to trailer-park trashdom. Margaret was the teenage mother who gave her country a king. Loretta, of course, became famous as the Queen of Country.

UPDATE 7/23: A reader writes to call my attention to an article by Frederica Mathews-Green:
A woman's fertility has already begun to decline at 25--one reason the population-control crowd promotes delayed childbearing. . . .
Humans are designed to reproduce in their teens, and they're potentially very good at it. That's why they want to so much.
Teen pregnancy is not the problem. Unwed teen pregnancy is the problem.
It's childbearing outside marriage that causes all the trouble. Restore an environment that supports younger marriage, and you won't have to fight biology for a decade or more.
The same reader all calls to my attention a liberal writer in Australia who shares a more positive attitude toward teen motherhood:
Our norms are also dominated by the ideology of materialism that is moving women further and further towards unnatural behaviour, pressuring them to have babies later rather than sooner.
This is society's real problem. Teenage pregnancy is trivial by comparison to suppressed pregnancy.
A healthier society would allow women to have children earlier than they do now. At 32, no matter what people want to believe, the reproductive system is far less robust than it was 10 years earlier.
The Australian liberal prescribes government subsidies for daycare as the solution, a statist approach that I reject. The problem is essentially one of culture, not government policy or economics -- but let's not spoil a bipartisan moment with an argument. And since we seem to be in the "recommended reading" part of the discussion, let me recommend Bethany Torode's "Confessions of a Teenage Mom."

Media, access and spin

Coverage of Barack Obama's Iraq trip has renewed discussion of media bias. Meanwhile, noting Team Obama's apparently punitive policy toward a hostile reporter, Megan McArdle writes:
One of the biggest challenges reporters--especially political reporters--face is the problem of access. Journalists are dependent on sources for information. Sources use that to get spin--they punish reporters who print things they don't like.
A hostile, defensive policy toward the press has been more typical of Republicans in recent years. The usual approach of GOP media handlers is to seclude candidates from the press except for carefully-controlled set-piece situations. Almost inevitably, this antagonistic approach to media -- the notion that, when it comes to press access, "less is best" -- results in the kind of disasters that afflicted George Allen in 2006.

This was one thing Tony Snow tried to fix at the White House. Unlike 99% of GOP media-relations operatives, Snow had actually worked at newspapers, and therefore realized that transparency is the best policy: "Here's what we're doing, and here's why we're doing it."

There was a time when Republicans weren't afraid to hire P.R. people with newsroom experience. Both Pat Buchanan and Lyn Nofziger were journalists before being hired by Nixon and Reagan, respectively. Nowadays, however, Republican P.R. people are exclusively political operatives trained at some GOP P.R. academy where Lesson One is, "Reporters are the enemy. Avoid them if at all possible possible. Otherwise, treat them like mushrooms: Keep them in the dark and feed them bulls---."

Why shouldn't the media be biased against Republicans, when Republican routinely treat media people like nuisances.

Obama: 'Don't ask me tough questions!'

AllahPundit catches Obama at his favorite game, trying to avoid giving a straight answer:

Q: If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?
A: No, because, keep in mind that…
Q: You wouldn't?
A: Keep in mind… These kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult. Hindsight is 20/20. But I think that, what I'm absolutely convinced of, is that at that time we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.

Obama refuses to defend his earlier outspoken opposition to the surge. Rather, he wants to debate "the view of the Bush administration at that time." In other words, "Never mind that I was wrong, in a way that brings into question my judgment of military affairs. This election is about giving the people a chance to vote against a third Bush term."

The Harvard-educated Obama has the quality of intellectuals that most annoys ordinary Americans: A preference for abstraction over reality, for words over action. His desire to "change the political debate" is more important to him than the obvious truth that, despite his opposition, the surge stabilized the situation in Iraq.

And yet liberals bash Bush because he has been reluctant to admit his mistakes . . .