Archive for 2008 October

Will the Right Ever Get Tired of Blaming the Media?

From Eleanor Clift's article on "Wal-Mart Women" in Newsweek, in which she explains why under-$60,000 a year women will not (contrary to McCain's pollster) save his flailing campaign (see here).

What's shaping up is not comparable to '92, the last time a Democrat
won the White House. "It's much more serious and devastating to
Republicans," says Stan Greenberg, who was Bill Clinton's pollster.
Democrats lost seats in '92; Clinton had no coattails. Obama may enter
the White House with close to a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate
and a doubling of the Democratic margin in the House. This is a
watershed election. Typically, every four years, somebody wins,
somebody loses, and life goes on. But Obama represents generational
change that has huge political repercussions. He wins 63 percent of
voters between the ages of 18 and 29. For the Republicans, "It's not
just a lost election, it's a lost generation," says Greenberg.

will they blame for this turn of events? "Overwhelmingly, it's you
guys," Greenburg told reporters at a Washington breakfast last week.
Republicans are convinced that media bias in favor of Obama tipped the
election in his favor, and that coverage of Sarah Palin has been
unfairly harsh, conveying sexism as well as anti-conservative bias
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, always a GOP crowd pleaser, calls
the mainstream media "Pravda." Blaming the press may feel good. But it
won't solve the problem of a party that has lost its way.

Blame the media or blame themselves. Is it really any wonder they blame the media?

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Barack Obama: A President Who Can Understand

In his recent appearance in Florida with Obama, Bill Clinton explains why he thinks Obama will be a good President, as only he can:

You know our current President said something that's really true.
The President is the decider-in-chief. And in this election you've got
a very unusual thing I've never seen happen before. You got to watch
the candidates make, not one, but two presidential decisions. You
always get one; who they pick as Vice President. He hit that one out of
the park, folks, that was a good decision.

OK, then you got to see the reaction to the financial crisis in
America nearly coming off the wheels. Having the wheels nearly run off.
I saw this up close. You know what he did? First he took a little heat
for not saying much.

I knew what he was doing. He talked to his advisers, he talked to my
economic advisers. He called Hillary. He called me. He called Warren
Buffett and he called Paul Volcker. He called all those people and you
know why, because he knew it was complicated and before he said
anything he wanted to understand.

Folks, if we have not learned anything, we have learned that we need
a president who wants to understand and who can understand. Who can
understand; yes, he can.

Now, wait a minute.

The second thing and this meant more to me than anything else and I
haven't cleared this with him. And he may even be mad at me for saying
this so closest to the election but I know what else he said to his
economic advisers. He said tell me what the right thing to do is.
What's the right thing for America, and don't tell me what's popular.
You tell me what's right and I'll figure out how to sell it. That's
what a president does in a crisis, what is right for America. And you
know after this election there are going to be a lot of rough times
ahead and you know it as well as I do. You have got to have a president
who can understand and then has the fortitude to stand up and tell you,
you hired me to win for America. I've got to make this decision now.
This is the very best I can do. And I'm prepared to be held accountable.

I'm going to tell you something the way he handled this crisis and
the way you saw him talk about it in the second and third debate showed
that he will be a very, very fine decision maker working for the
American people.

[pic from WonderfulTime on Flickr]


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The One-Stop Guide to Republican Politics

An anecdote from the campaign trail:

A Republican financial expert recalls attending a dinner with McCain
for the purpose of discussing with him domestic and international
financial complexities that clearly did not fascinate the senator. As
the dinner ended, McCain's question for his briefer was: "So, who is
the villain?"

from George Will's column today (here).

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Alaska Politicians: Still Not Ready for Prime Time

From Don Young, Alaska's notorious anti-environmentalist, also facing corruption charges, a strangely guilt-ridden defense (via Roll Call) of his pal Ted Stevens after his conviction on seven counts:

“I can remember Richard Nixon, you know, his years of service, what
he’s done, and everybody [was] ridiculing him, and he ended up being
the greatest president in the history of our century. … The Senator
will be re-elected. He will appeal it. When he does go, he will win it
because there’s no way this is a jury of his peers.”

So Young told the Anchorage Daily News.

Amazing. If Richard Nixon was the greatest president in American history because he had to resign in disgrace, does that make Ted Stevens the greatest American senator, because he was convicted of taking kickbacks?

Just wondering.

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Mr. October

Many have noted Barack Obama's cool, no-drama campaign style, but few have noticed how he resembles a professional athlete in his demeanor.

"I can get to the rim on anyone," he has reportedly said, a basketball phrase with a precise meaning. He doesn't claim to be the best; simply that he can score on anyone — repeatedly.

He doesn't get too "up" when his stats look good; he doesn't get too "down" on himself or his people and and panic when things aren't going well. He's level-headed, cool under pressure, like a great slugger.

Mr. October, courtesy of Steve Brodner and The New Yorker (here).

Mr. October Fin

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Why the GOP has Lost the Elites: Michael Barone

Well-known political analyst Michael Barone looks closely at Pennsylvania, concludes Obama will win, and explains why McCain thinks he has a chance.

More importantly, he explains (here) why centrist voters  around the country have turned against the Republicans.

McCain is running even with or better than Bush in most of
Pennsylvania but is running far behind in metro Philly. My sense is
that the McCain campaign just can't believe this is true. Metro Philly,
after all, in 1988 split evenly between George H. W. Bush and Michael
Dukakis; the four suburban counties' Republican margins matched the
Democratic margins in the city of Philadelphia (conveniently
coterminous with Philadelphia County). As I've noted over the years,
affluent suburban territory like the Philly suburbs trended Democratic
in the 1990s on cultural issues and stayed there up through 2004.
(Ethnic change played a minor role. There are more blacks in the
suburban counties than in 1988, but metro Philadelphia has not had huge
population change in the last 20 years.) Now, if SurveyUSA is to be
trusted, the Philly suburbs are about to give Obama a significantly
larger percentage than the 53 percent John Kerry won there in 2004.

Why? My hypothesis is that that is because places like the Philly
suburbs are places where the recent decline in household wealth has
been most conspicuous. Housing prices mean a lot more to you when your
house started off at $400,000 and declined to $290,000 than they did
when you started off (as may be typical of Scranton or a blue-collar
town in metro Pittsburgh) at $140,000 and declined to $110,000.
Newspaper coverage of our current economic distress focuses on the very
poor (like a recent Washington Post story on North Carolina,
which focused on an ex-convict in a cheap motel in Charlotte), but the
people who are getting hurt most visibly in their lifelong project of
accumulating wealth are the more affluent. They're the ones whose house
values have most visibly and spectacularly declined, and whose 401(k)
accounts and stock portfolios have tanked in the last few months as
well. Folks in Scranton or in the cheap motel in Charlotte didn't
expect to live comfortably ever after off their increased house values,
401(k)'s, and Merrill Lynch accounts; a $700 monthly check from Social
Security is about what they have long expected and that's not in danger
(yet). Folks in the Philly suburbs did expect to live comfortably off
such assets.

I noted long ago in the introduction to my 1994 Almanac of American Politics that
George H. W. Bush's percentages declined between 1988 and 1992 by the
greatest amount in southern California and New Hampshire—places that
had "a spectacular collapse of residential real estate values" between
those two years.
You couldn't go to New Hampshire in the run-up to the
1992 presidential primary without hearing people tell you how the house
that used to be worth $350,000 was worth only $210,000 now. I concluded
that the economic factor most important in voting behavior was
switching from short-term income to long-term wealth. These
Pennsylvania numbers tell me that I was on the right track but that the
explanation is a little more complex. High-income, high-education
voters in the suburbs of big metro areas, my hypothesis goes, are
preoccupied with long-term wealth accumulation—and react sharply
against the Republican Party when their wealth is suddenly sharply
diminished when there is a Republican president. Modest-income,
modest-education voters in less affluent surroundings, it seems judging
from McCain's relatively good showing in Pennsylvania outside the
heavily populated southeast, react much less sharply, because they have
never expected to accumulate all that much in the way of wealth anyhow
consider themselves reasonably well protected by the existing safety
net and feel free to vote (as more affluent Philly suburbanites have
done in better times) on the basis of their opinions (conservative in
their case) on cultural issues. The affluent are less afraid of the tax
increases that Obama promises them than they are shocked by the
negative effect on their wealth from the collapse of the housing bubble
and the sharp decline in stock prices.

This argument makes a lot of sense. Barone goes on to argue that Obama will, like John Lindsay in New York, fail as a politician because he won't recreate the wealth under his administration that these voters lost under Bush.

This isn't convincing. Voters today I'm sure just want to see things getting better; they're not expecting miracles, like an overnight recovery. Obama warned Ohio today that it wouldn't be quick and it wouldn't be easy and the irony is, probably that's exactly what they wanted to hear. 

[photo by David Planchet]


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Eliza Gilkyson on the Incompetence of the Neo-Cons

From my piece in the Ventura County Reporter, available here, on Eliza Gilkyson. This fascinating folk-singer had some tough words for the neo-cons:

“When we elected the neo-cons, I think we all expected that they would
be able to keep the balls in the air a little longer than they have,”
she said. “I thought the timing of this record would be all wrong, and
they would be able to maintain a semblance of normalcy at least until
the election.”

Off to see some more music (Neil Young, Death Cab, etc). Back Tuesday…

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Quote of the Week

From the ever-marvelous Joel Achenbach:

isn't one pundit in America — not one human being, for that matter —
who could have predicted that a black man would run for president in
2008 and would wind up being called an arugula-eating, passionless
elitist who doesn't know what it's like to be a plumber. We live in
mysterious times.

Achenbach ignores all the other mud thrown at Obama — terrorist, socialist, defeatist, etc. — but his point stands. It's worse to be an elitist today in public life than it is to be a black man. Guess you call that progress.

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The Closed-Door President

Has this ever happened before in American electoral history? President Bush is so unpopular that he has not appeared in public in a single event in support of a Republican candidate this election year.

According to CBS News:

Not once this year has President Bush appeared in public at a campaign rally for the Republican Party or any of its candidates…It makes it laughable what McCain said seven months ago in the
Rose Garden with Mr. Bush: “I intend to have as much possible
campaigning events together, as it is in keeping with the President's
heavy schedule. And I look forward to that opportunity.”

It might prove to be the biggest whopper McCain has uttered during his presidential campaign.

[pic from Yan Zhang, via Flickr]


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Why Sarah Palin Needed a $150,000 Makeover

According to Federal election campaign records found by Politico, Sarah Palin has spent over $150,000 in the last two months on clothes and hair styling, including $49,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue and $75,000 at Neiman-Marcus. (By contrast, the most Hillary spent on clothes in her long campaign was $3,000.)

Why so much? Maybe this picture from Getty Images, via the Los Angeles Times, offers a clue…


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