Friday, September 5, 2008

Quote of the day

Barack Obama can't help it if he's a magna cum laude Harvard grad and you're a Wal-Mart shopper who resurfaces driveways with your brother-in-law. Americans are so narcissistic that our candidates have to be just like us. That's why George Bush is president. And that's where the McCain camp gets its campaign strategy: Paint Obama as cocky and arrogant and wait for America to vote him off, like the black guy in every reality show. A black president? Half of Pennsylvania isn't ready for black quarterbacks. Forget Obama, they think Will Smith needs to be taken down a peg.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

video moment of the day

Did anyone else catch the CNN camera pointing at someone in the back holding up a banner saying "MCCAIN VOTES AGAINST VETS"?

Alternate Reality Land

Cindy McCain bio film: "It was love at first sight." No mention that John was married to someone else at the time.

Cindy McCain: A woman picks a husband by what kind of father he'll be, and she hit a home run in John. No mention that John's kids were raised by his FIRST wife... the one he committed adultery on, then dumped. Spare me about what a good family man he is.

Paeans to individual responsibility, after a night mocking those who organize citizens to take care of themselves.

Did you know McCain was a hero in Vietnam?

Did she just claim with a straight face that he wasn't a Washington insider?

And that he always speaks the truth no matter what the cost?

Who, exactly, is she talking about again?

Oh, Snap! Part 2

Since last night, the Republicans have reported a burst of new donations, with $1 million in contributions since yesterday.

The Obama campaign reports raising $8 million since last night, and on track to have raised $10 million by the time John McCain takes the stage tonight.

It does indeed appear that the base has been energized--for both parties.

[h/t: Marc Ambinder, by way of Andrew Sullivan]

Quote of the day 2

If we never question our religions or their motives, they will ultimately destroy our freedom to do so.

William H. Reynolds, Creationism: The Fossil Record and the Flood

[h/t: PZ Myers]

Oh, snap!

Last night Palin said this:

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.
This morning the Obama campaign said this:
Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let's clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

[h/t: Pam Spaulding. That post also has a picture of Palin in what was almost certainly an unintentional pose, that's still disturbing]

Quote of the day

Actually from yesterday, but I just stumbled on it this morning:

Obama hasn't confused his base for the country. These guys don't seem to know the difference.

Palin's speech: the morning after

A lot (most) of it was the same culture-war GOP boilerplate we've been hearing for years. And it didn't address any of the substantive issues. It wasn't anything we haven't heard before. And as the Republicans have reminded us, there's a lot more to the job than giving good speeches. She's got a background in broadcasting, we know she's good at reading copy written by someone else. Giving a good speech doesn't qualify her for the job.

The Republicans were never going to just lay down and die. They're going to fight back, and not give up power easily. No one does, why should they be different? Yes, Palin's speech was infuriating. But it wasn't, to use this year's over-used phrase, "game-changing."

It rallied the base; it was clearly aimed at the people in the convention hall, and it clearly succeeded with them. But if I were a middle-of-the-road voter, doing relatively OK but a little worried about my mortgage payment, OK with being in Iraq but not happy with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo...would I have heard anything there appealing to me? Or just standard GOP culture-war boilerplate?

Addendum: A bit of linkage:

PZ Myers: This is how we will lose

WaPo: In a more diverse America, a mostly white convention

Gail Collins, NYT: Palin seems an awful running mate, until you look at the alternatives

NYT blog: Still one step behind (apparently written before Palin speech)

AmericaBlog: Sarah stretches the truth

RBC: Palin was at 2006 Alaska Independence Party Convention

CNN's online quick poll:

How do you rate Republican VP choice Sarah Palin's convention speech?
Thumbs up 43% 81618
Thumbs down 34% 64820
Didn't watch 22% 41694
Total Votes: 188132
Oh, and as for Romney's ripping into "liberal" Washington: who exactly does he think has been in charge for the last 8 years?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Quote of the day

"If the Obamas had a 17 year-old daughter who was unmarried and pregnant by a tough-talking black kid, my guess is if that they all appeared onstage at a Democratic convention and the delegates were cheering wildly, a number of conservatives might be discussing the issue of dysfunctional black families."

[h/t: Andrew Sullivan]

And the nation yawned...

Overnight reaction to the conventions, based on CNN online survey, the holy grail of political polling:

What did you think of the GOP convention's Tuesday night program?

Thumbs up

Thumbs down

Didn't watch

47% 42875
Total Votes: 91357

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Liveblogging the GOP convention 2

8:45 PM: Laura Bush walking on. Crowd going wild at the sight of the only member of the Administration not personally touched by corruption or illegality. McCain is a hero, Palin is an executive and reformer! Lots of women in the GOP! Laura loves George! He's a "man of character whose principles will not change." [Nor his ideas, in spite of facts.] George loves America! Lots of opinions lately, not many facts, so here we go with some straight talk. No Child Left Behind. Supreme Court Justices! (crowd going APE. Well, as much as Republicans do.) Faith-based initiatives. AIDS relief in Africa. (All snark aside, that's been a success.) "Change you can really believe in." Bush takes credit for Bill Gates' malaria initiative. We liberated Iraq & Afghanistan! There hasn't been another 9/11! [Question: Why is Osama Bin Laden still at large?] Yay for the troops! [question: Why don't we honor them with more than our thanks, by expanding some benefits and medical care?]

Bush coming on monitor. Crowd going nuts.

Can't be at convention because he's busy working & carrying out his duty. Gustav work underway. Bush on McCain: I know what it takes to be President. I get briefings, threat assessment. McCain's life has prepared him to make tough choices. He commanded his unit. Senate career. Service! He was a POW. [crowd almost missed their cue for an applause line] If the Hanoi Hilton couldn't break him, "the angry left never will." He'll protect human life. He's committed to principle! (how can he say that with a straight face?) He'll make tax cuts permanent, lift ban on driling, support new technologies. (the ones he voted against?) He's independent! He's a maverick! He's honest! The Democrats were threatening to cut off the troops & retreat, but McCain had faith in them! [the troops, not the democrats.] Quote from mccain about rather lose an election than lose a war, leaving the comparison (canard) unspoken. 9/11! 9/11! Palin will be great! I'm optimistic! America is great! Americans are great! Freedom is great! Americans will look at judgment/policies/experience & vote McCain/Palin! Laura's great! God bless everyone!

Laura's back. McCain has what it takes. Cindy supports John! Cindy's made PR trips to different countries! She can make even more! Yay for America!

9:05 PM: Reagan bio film. The media hated Reagan! Some called him a maverick! (McCain, you're no Reagan.) Reagan ran on conviction politics. Yay for America! Yay for Reagan! McCain knew Reagan! [no word on Reagan's surprise when McCain dumped his injured wife to marry the millionaire heiress he'd committed adultery with.] Everything was better under Reagan! Reagan put country first and "saved *our* America."

9:09 PM: Fred Thompson speaks. [My ghod, it just hit me just how much he sounds like Foghorn Leghorn.] Will always have challenge, but yay for America! Palin is a "breath of fresh air." (Unlike the phrasing of his speech.) Having small-town values isn't enough. "Media bigshots" are criticizing someone who was actually governor & not just a talking head on tv. "I say, I say, give me a governor..." he's in full foghorn mode. The crowd's eating it up. She's not part of the beltway crowd. The selection has "the other side & their friends in the media" in a panic. She's not afraid to take on the establishment. (good thing they got a professional actor to give this speech, no one else could give it w/ a straight face.) She knows how to field-dress a moose! They're going to drain the swamp in washington. (that'd be the one Bush has been in for 8 years.)

Pivot to McCain's character. He's a veteran! His sons are in the military! [Again the moving-hurricane-clouds backdrop. wth?] Introduction of McCains in the audience.

Phone ringing. Going offline.

10:07 Back online... and it seems to be winding down for the night. Talking heads are on.

Signing off for the evening.

Liveblogging the GOP convention

Why not...

8:09 PM: Just tuned in via CNN's streaming video. Shanna Hanson is speaking. What's up with the vertigo-inducing cloud-motion backdrop? Are they trying to make it look like the speaker is on the mountaintop or something? Is it intended to remind people of Gustav?

8:11 PM. Empty seats everywhere. The crowd looks bored. TR bio starting.

8:11 PM: History flick. Yay for Lincoln! (Lincoln was the best creator of 1-liners in US history? Until Reagan?) Remember how much the Democrats hated Lincoln! They called him a bad speaker!

8:13 PM: OOooh, risky. Pointing out that Lincoln protected the Constitution. Note the contrast with President Doofus. And here we go, Lincoln put country before self.

8:14 PM: CEO of Raza Development Fund speaking. Democrat who likes McCain. Establishing his credentials as a Christianist. News flash: McCain was a POW! Yay for God! John McCain is a nice guy! Bible quote! Hm, mention of immigrants. How will that play with the base? Biggest cheer yet: "sanctity of life," "sanctity of marriage." Yay for America!

8:20 PM: G. H. W. Bush Bio film starting. He was a war hero! He served his country! Desert Storm! Country First! Bush waves, crowd cheers.

8:24 PM: Putting others first! Service! Hooray for farmers and the private nonprofit no-govt-money agencies that help them! They can't make a living, they can't survive during a crisis--we plant/harvest crops but don't give them money, if they're morally deserving (a "crisis," i.e. not their fault, because low crop prices aren't affected by govt policies, and intrusive government safety regulations are part of the problem). Service! Service!

8:29 PM: Retired army captain. (Retired? at captain?) McCain is a hero. My story isn't as good, but whose is? (That's right, McCain is the GREATEST AMERICAN HERO EVER.) Injured, complications, almost died. Got better. [crowd shot: They look bored.] America is great! Life is tough. America is land of opportunity.

First reactions: I'm struck by the difference in tone. The Democratic convention speeches were scrappy, and policy based. They talked about issues. Sometimes they demagogued, but they talked about issues. It was more than feel-good yay-for-America stuff. Granted, this is warming-up-the-crowd... But so far I haven't heard a single reason why I should vote for McCain other than he's an ex-POW who loves America and God. I haven't even heard any reason why Republicans are better suited to lead than Democrats.

To be fair, I also haven't heard the sort of "We love America and that other party doesn't" rhetoric the GOP sometimes falls into, either.

AFK a bit being domestic. Back later.

McCain Just Didn't Do His Job

So it also turns out Sarah Palin may have been briefly involved with the Alaska Independence Party, which views the USA as a colonizing power and wants AK to be an independent state. She's just now hiring a lawyer for troopergate. She was all about getting earmarked money for her hometown when she was mayor. Her daughter's pregnancy was apparently an "open secret" around the town, but no one in the campaign knew about it. And lots of people who should have been asked as part of a vetting process, weren't.

He's had six months since he wrapped up the nomination. More than just about any candidate in history. And basic work wasn't done.

Some are speculating he wanted Lieberman or Ridge, but they're both unacceptable to the theocrats, so he caved. And, it does seem as if the theocratic wing of the GOP is the only one happy with this selection. And of course, if he can't stand up to activists in his own party, how's he going to deal with Ahmedinejad?

Oh, but wait. He's doing this to win. After all, if he doesn't win, there won't BE a McCain administration to take on Iran. But, of course, this pretty much undercuts his 'maverick' image who's willing to stand up to conventional wisdom and do what he thinks is right.

Either he's incompetent, or he's a moral coward. Or he's just another politician willing to say or do whatever it takes to get to 51%.

What happened to the tough, courageous POW?

Addendum: David Brooks has a guffaw-worthy column today in which he tries to argue that it doesn't really matter, that he knows John McCain and everything McCain does is virtuous and right, simply because McCain does it. But even he is forced to concede:

If McCain is elected, he will face conditions tailor-made to foster disorder. He will be leading a divided and philosophically exhausted party. There simply aren’t enough Republican experts left to staff an administration, so he will have to throw together a hodgepodge with independents and Democrats. He will confront Democratic majorities that will be enraged and recriminatory.

On top of these conditions, he will have his own freewheeling qualities: a restless, thrill-seeking personality, a tendency to personalize issues, a tendency to lead life as a string of virtuous crusades.

He really needs someone to impose a policy structure on his moral intuitions. He needs a very senior person who can organize a vast administration and insist that he tame his lone-pilot tendencies and work through the established corridors — the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council. He needs a near-equal who can turn his instincts, which are great, into a doctrine that everybody else can predict and understand.

Rob Portman or Bob Gates wouldn’t have been politically exciting, but they are capable of performing those tasks. Palin, for all her gifts, is not. She underlines McCain’s strength without compensating for his weaknesses. The real second fiddle job is still unfilled.

So, again, McCain hasn't found someone suitable for the job.

Memo to the candidate: When even David Brooks is concerned, you really blew it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A question of judgment

Again and again and again: The issue is not Sarah Palin. (Well, not entirely; there's evidence leaking out to be concerned about, more signs that she wasn't properly vetted.)

The issue is what this selection says about McCain's decision-making. In picking a relative unknown, we have 70 days to get familiar with her and learn if she's any more than someone convenient who passes all the right-wing ideology criteria. In selecting her, McCain invites the (false) conclusion that there are no Republican women better qualified. (Kay Bailey Hutchinson has more experience in national and international affairs. Carly Fiorina has more executive experience. Elizabeth Dole has more of both, having served in the Executive Branch as well as the Senate. I'd disagree with all of them and wouldn't want to see any of them in office--but that's because of policy questions, not concerns about basic experience and temperament.)

E. J. Dionne has a good column up today over at WaPo about how this may play out in Convention Week and beyond, and how his own decision complicates McCain's job badly. He also calls out movement conservatives who were horribly concerned about Harriet Meier's lack of experience, but have no problem with Sarah Palin's lack of experience. (Hint: It's not nearly as much about experience as it is about maintaining power and making sure someone is really one of them.) Money quote:

In picking Biden as his running mate, Obama made a prudent choice. It is McCain who is asking us to roll the dice. You'd think that people who call themselves conservative would have a problem with that.
Ordinarily I'm wary of reading too much into the small human-interest details that get tossed into bio puff pieces. But: Obama plays low-stakes poker, a game about deducing how things look from the other person's perspective, making the most of limited information, and adjusting your strategy to the nuances at the table. He plays conservatively, and rarely bluffs. McCain plays higher-stakes (what would be very high stakes for me, but for a man of his wealth not excessive) craps, a game in which the odds are fixed, nuances are few, and letting winnings ride so everything is determined by the next throw of the dice is encouraged.

In this case, gaming preferences may be diagnostic.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain's Fundamental Lack of Seriousness

Michael Kinsley has a must-read over at Slate about the GOP's tossing away the experience argument, and the suddenness with which the punditocracy has done so. Suddenly it's not about experience, it's about something else. We're not quite sure what, yet, but it's definitely something. Best zinger statistic:

Why, before her stint as governor of Alaska, population 670,000, she was mayor of a town of 9,000. Remember when the Republicans mocked Bill Clinton for being governor of a "small state"? That would be Arkansas, population 2.8 million. As it happens, 670,000 is the population of metropolitan Little Rock.
Money quote:
How could anyone truly believe that Barack Obama's background and job history are inadequate experience for a president, and simultaneously believe that Sarah Palin's background and job history are perfectly adequate? It's possible to believe one or the other. But both? Simply not possible. John McCain has been—what's the word?—lying. And so have all the pundits who rushed to defend McCain's choice.
Yeah. What he said.

The Palin selection raises serious questions about McCain's judgment, and about how seriously he takes the position. It's looking more and more as if she wasn't adequately vetted beforehand. If you seriously believe that terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism are the overarching issues of our day, how can you select someone with apparently no prior interest in foreign affairs at all as your running mate? If you truly believe your opponent is dangerously inexperienced, how can you select someone with even less national experience?

This says something about McCain's seriousness, his judgment, or his competence. Pick one.

Snarky Atheist Video of the Day

Why God Seems Nonexistent.

Nothing brilliantly original here, but well-executed.

And check the comments out. Poe's law still holds: No matter how over the top it is, someone will take it seriously.

[Hat tip: PZ Myers]