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Monday, September 29, 2008

In game of "Pelosi may I [vote no]?" the Speaker's answer to Dems was "Yes, you may!"

It's a long title, but it sums up my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com pretty well, I think.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

I thought it was bad enough that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had made a deliberate decision not to make today's vote on the Democrat's economic stabilization bill a "party loyalty" vote in which the House Democratic leadership made absolutely clear that it expected loyal Democrats to vote in favor of the bill. Ignoring all of the immense power to persuade that inheres in the position of Speaker of the House, Speaker Pelosi wouldn't even offer (or threaten to withhold) so much as a choice Capitol parking spot to make up the 12-vote margin between victory and defeat of H.R. 3997, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

Speaking on John Gibson's radio show later in the day, however, Karl Rove ran through, by name and often by committee or subcommittee chairmanship, the many, many Democratic members of the House whom Speaker Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership expressly authorized to vote against the economic stabilization bill. Glenn Reynolds boils this down to a succinct sentence which is almost exactly right: Pelosi gave key Democrats a pass on the bailout vote. The only quibble I have is that she didn't just give key Democrats a pass. She gave them all a blanket pass, and then some members particular and specific encouragement to take it. It is inconceivable that she didn't know exactly what the result would be.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 11:40 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (10)

Key to economic stability bill's defeat was Pelosi's refusal to make this a "party loyalty" vote on the Democratic Party's bill

It's not just, or even mostly, Republican nay-sayers who were against the bill either on principle or because they were offended by Pelosi's partisan speech. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was Democratic bill — not Bush's bill, not the GOP's bill, and it went down to defeat because Speaker Pelosi refused to use the tools at her disposal to persuade another dozen Democrats (out of 95 who voted against it) to vote for it. So shows my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the number two House Democrat in authority (behind only Speaker Nancy Pelosi), in defending his party from responsibility for the defeat of the financial stability bill today, delivered the all-time lamest excuse I've ever heard (my transcription from video on the PBS NewsHour; boldface mine):

"No Democrat that we could get to vote for the bill didn't vote for the bill."

Behind that tortured double-negative is a tautology. This is empty double-talk — delivered by the dishonest, intended for the gullible.

Here's a short civics lesson, one that any defender of the Democratic Party badly needs for you to forget today:

An indispensable part of the genius of the American two-party political system is that it provides each party's leadership with a whole range of tools to enforce party discipline. There are committee assignments. There are office locations. There are discretionary decisions on staffing and funding of staffs. There is a panoply of carrots and sticks that party leaders from both parties can and do use to influence their members' votes. There are even party officials — "whips" — whose entire position is to facilitate the application of those carrots and sticks. And this isn't even vote-trading on issues, much less any sort of overt corruption. It's just the day-in, day-out working of Congress, and such has been the grease that has permitted the great wheels of legislation to turn since the birth of the Republic. Indeed, you can find parallels to it in the Roman Republic two millennia ago.

Past masters of the practice include such legislative legends as Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX) in the House and Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) in the Senate, but these tools are quite effective even in the hands of such modern-day legislators as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — if, but of course only if, they choose to take those tools in hand and apply them.

Ninety-five Democrats bucked their party leadership today precisely because Nancy Pelosi made it cost-free for them to do so. By refusing to make this a "party loyalty vote" — and thereby giving a clear signal to every Democratic member of the House that there would be neither carrots nor sticks applied by the House leadership — Speaker Pelosi ensured that even the mere dozen additional Democratic votes needed for passage wouldn't be there.

The indisputable fact is that the Democratic leadership of the House consciously declined to use the tools available to them that would have ensured the passage of this bill. Period, end of paragraph, and end of the story for today. This is a matter of simple arithmetic and standard party practices. It is not a matter that can even be seriously debated. It is only a matter that Democrats like Majority Leader Hoyer can attempt to conceal, as he does in the statement quoted above, by misleading the public about how hard the Democratic leadership actually tried.

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UPDATE (Mon Sep 29 @ 7:50 p.m. CST): Another thing about which there can be no disagreement is that what was defeated today was a Democratic bill. H.R. 3997 has had a complicated procedural history that was controlled at every step of the way by Congressional Democrats.

Specifically, H.R. 3997 was originally introduced by Rep. Charles D. Rangel (D-NY) as an amendment to the tax code "to provide earnings assistance and tax relief to members of the uniformed services, volunteer firefighters, and Peace Corps volunteers." By a pair of affirmative votes earlier today, however, a resolution offered by Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) effectively converted H.R. 3997 into the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008." It too was drafted by Congressional Dems and their staff, varying substantially from what had originally been proposed by Secretary Paulson and the Bush-43 Administration, and incorporating only such requests and suggestions from the House GOP as the Democratic leadership decided to agree to.

This is the Democratic Congress' bill, but when it came to a roll-call vote in the House, the Democratic leadership wouldn't do what it took to get it passed even though (a) they have a huge majority and (b) a full one-third of Republicans in the House went along. Anyone who calls this "Bush's bill" or "a GOP bill" is either deliberately lying or abysmally informed about the basic workings of Congress.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 08:05 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Elections have consequences, and one of those is that Pelosi bears responsibility for the financial bill's defeat

To apportion credit or blame where due, you might want to read my late afternoon guest-post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

My gracious host here, Hugh Hewitt, often reminds us all that elections have consequences. The consequence of the 2006 elections was to put voting control of both chambers of Congress directly in the hands of the Democratic Party, led by Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate. In the House in particular, with its lack of debate rules like those the Senate uses to permit filibustering, when a piece of legislation passes or fails to pass, that result can be — must be, under hallowed principles of democracy — laid at the feet of the majority party.

Well, here's the result on the bill intended to restore order to our financial markets: It was defeated this afternoon in the House by a vote of 228-205. Only 140 Democrats voted for the bill. By contrast, "[a] switch of just 12 members would have reversed the outcome, and 95 Democrats, many the left wing of the party, contributed to the defeat."

Speaker Pelosi took the opportunity today to deliver a highly partisan, provocative, and frankly offensive speech immediately before voting on the bill intended to restore order to our financial markets. She found time to go out of her way to blame Republicans, including GOP members of the House, for the current financial crisis. Was her target audience the public? Perhaps. Could she be certain, though, that she would not decisively offend waivering Republicans who were considering voting for the bill? Of course not. Could she be certain that she would not also encourage members of her own party to vote against it, in a show of their own frenzy to point the finger of blame for the current crisis at the full-time object of their dementia, George W. Bush? Of course not. The occasion called for a speech displaying moderation and statesmanship, but Pelosi served up partisan venom.

What Speaker Pelosi did not, do, however, is even more significant: She did not bother to invoke the mechanisms of legitimate party discipline that have evolved over time by which party leaders can pressure their reluctant members. Per Ben Pershing of the WaPo (boldface mine):

House leaders, meanwhile, did support the bill and did whip it. But this wasn't a party-loyalty vote; lawmakers were asked to vote yes, but they weren't threatened. They (probably) weren't bribed. Add all that up, and you had a power vacuum.

Pelosi gave the members of her own party, in other words, a "pass" to make a political anti-Bush, anti-GOP statement. And make no mistake about this: When permitted by Pelosi to do so without party consequences, the Hard Left Democrats in the House put the opportunity to deliver their own raised middle finger to Dubya and the GOP ahead of the stability of the nation's financial markets.

In fairness, neither, apparently, did House GOP leaders make this a "party-loyalty vote." But once again, precisely because elections have consequences, the bill being considered wasn't the House Republicans' bill. It wasn't any longer what their party's president had submitted, either, and there's no guarantee that it will be their party's Treasury Secretary who will be administering the resulting program after January 2009. What was put to a vote did have some significant revisions that were, indeed, the result of vigorous GOP negotiations to make it more attractive to Republicans and to fiscal conservatives generally. Those revisions, plus lobbying from the GOP presidential nominee John McCain and the Bush-43 Administration, brought fully one-third of the House Republicans to vote for a bill whose particulars and ultimate fate were controlled by the Democratic majority. In a House numerically dominated by Democrats, on a bill nominally supported by Democratic Party leaders (including its presidential candidate), that ought to have been more than enough GOP support.

If you view the bill's defeat as a good thing, which substantial numbers of Republican congressmen and their constituents did believe, in absolute good faith, then there are many to whom you can extend thanks.

If, however, you viewed passage of the bill as a good thing — which I, reluctantly, did — then there's exactly one person who bears responsibility for its defeat. Responsibility falls on Speaker Pelosi not just because of her specific actions in this matter (which were deplorable), but because elections have consequences, and the consequence in 2006 was to give her more than ample institutional power to swing at least another 12 members of her party to produce the opposite outcome on this vote. "With great power comes great responsibility" is such a truism that it can become the motto of a comic book and movie superhero. It's a shame that the Democrat who's Speaker of the House can't grasp the concept.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 08:00 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Newsweek hot for "Mr. Cool"

My mid-morning guest-post at HughHewitt.com critiqued Newsweek's critique of the two presidential candidates' temperaments.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Last week's narrative from the Obama campaign was "John McCain can't be trusted because he's impetuous and lacks a presidential temperament." Thus, when McCain recognized the urgency of the credit crisis in the nation's financial markets and returned to Washington to participate in discussions and negotiations for desperately needed legislation to address it, Team Obama had to insist that the Republican Party's presidential nominee, one of its most senior senators, had no business being in Washington to, you know, do his day job. No doubt they also hoped that McCain would, without much provocation, go unstable during the first presidential debate and do something, anything, that they could paint as rash. McCain thoroughly disappointed them.

What to do, then, if your GOP opponent won't be rash on cue? Why, of course, turn to your friends at Newsweek. The Obama campaign's friends there promptly produced a piece called The Vices of Their Virtues, whose theme is summed up by its subhead: "John McCain's impetuosity is either thrilling or disturbing. Barack Obama's cool is either sober or detached. It's clear now how each would govern."

McCain, we're told, has "emerged as Mr. Hot, a candidate who makes no apologies for his often merry mischief-making." Obama, however, is "Mr. Cool, at once impressively intellectual and yet aloof," with a "measured responses to the news of the season and his steady insistence on projecting a cerebral image." And in case that's too subtle for you, in terms of helping you make up your mind how the really smart people at Newsweek think you should vote, they spell it out:

Our view is that if you are among the 18 percent or so of undecided voters (the current figure in most national polls), we think you now have more than enough on which to decide. McCain and Obama see the world differently, and you can see how; they behave in their own skins differently, and you can see how. The drama of the autumn has served perhaps the noblest end we could hope for, shedding light on how each man would govern. McCain is passionate, sometimes impulsive and unpredictable; Obama is precise, occasionally withdrawn and methodical.

To refine that down a bit: McCain=Hand Grenade, Obama=The Sum of All That's Good and Rational.

Oh, but lest you think that even being "occasionally withdrawn" or "aloof" is a bug, the good folks at Newsweek rush to assure you that that's really a feature:

At moments during the past two weeks of dizzying market gyrations and grim economic tidings, he seemed more like a bystander than a player. This may, in fact, have been the wise choice, both for the country and for his political fortunes. He understood that, by butting into the delicate negotiations between the White House, Treasury and Congress to shape a rescue package, a presidential candidate risked injecting politics and partisanship into a situation that demanded statesmanship and discretion.

What nonsense! If the prospective president of the United States cannot be trusted to play a constructive role in a national crisis, what business does he have being his party's presidential nominee? May he not be expected — as John McCain has done — to intervene in the most partisan of disputes, working across the aisle to present the concerns of his own partisans, while twisting his own partisans' arms not to block reasonable compromises?

By all accounts, that's what John McCain did. And as he told George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning, if the Democrats want to deny that McCain played any role in the late-night agreement in principle reached after his post-debate efforts on Saturday, that was fine with him. "They don't like him very much," Newsweek quotes an unnamed "McCain adviser" as saying of unnamed "Republican Hill leaders," and John McCain would be the first to tell you that in many cases, that's absolutely true. But likability and effectiveness are very different things, and at a minimum, John McCain did not go Missing in Action (which was the "withdrawn" and "aloof" reaction of Barack Obama).

Newsweek strains most in searching among the great leaders of history who've been their own day's version of "Mr. Cool":

History can belong to the bold — to the Churchills and the Reagans, to men who stand when others sit or surrender, to men who seem to move through the world to a soundtrack of trumpets. But history also belongs to the careful, and to the prudent. Churchill needed FDR's caution and his competing intellectual understanding of the war and of the world that was coming into being; Reagan required George H.W. Bush's grasp of diplomacy and sense of balance to complete the end of the cold war and create a new (and, for Bush 41 and for Clinton, successful) model for American military action in a post-Soviet world.

Whoever wrote that claptrap hasn't got the foggiest clue about history. Winston Churchill's time of heroic triumph was from the fall of 1939 to December 7, 1941 — the time he was standing alone against Hitler, waiting and praying for an event that would bring America into the war. FDR's "caution and his competing intellectual understanding" is what gave us Yalta and subjected an enormous chunk of the world to Communist tyranny for another half-century.

As for Reagan and Bush-43, Newsweek has it exactly backward: It took Reagan's uncomplicated and principled worldview to prepare Poppy Bush to be a fine president in his own right. It was Reagan's example (plus a timely reminder from Lady Thatcher that Saddam's invasion of Kuwait was no time to go all wobbly) that inspired G.H.W. Bush to lead the Coalition to victory in the first Gulf War. But frankly, even on the most wobbly day of his life, fellow naval aviator Bush has had more in common with John McCain than with Barack Obama — which is to say, a spine, a willingness to take risks, and the courage to get back up even after being literally shot down.

No, the "Mr. Cool" of modern American history whom Newsweek conspicuously forgets to talk about is the "nuclear engineer," James Earl Carter. Temperamentally, it's Jimmy Carter whom Barack Obama most resembles of any recent American president. Gas lines, a combination of record inflation and unemployment, a dispirited military, America as an impotent giant being humiliated by jubilant crowds of chanting Iranian hostage-takers — that's what "Mr. Cool" brought to America the last time we tried one. As far as I'm concerned, that's enough of any example of "Mr. Cool" in the White House for my entire lifetime.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:12 PM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (1)

E.J. Dionne, Jr. offers definitive example of cognitive dissonance in debate analysis

E.J. Dionne, Jr. is an amusing fellow, often most so when he doesn't intend to be. My amusement at two of his most recent paragraphs generated my most recent guest-post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

I promise that the following two paragraphs actually do appear back to back in an op-ed entitled McCain's Lost Chance by columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. in today's WaPo:

An Obama adviser who was watching a "dial group" -- in which viewers turn a device to express their feelings about a debate's every moment -- said that whenever McCain lectured or attacked Obama, the Republican's ratings would drop, and the fall was especially steep among women.

But if the debate was indeed a tie — and McCain certainly looked informed and engaged once the discussion moved from economics to foreign affairs — this would count as a net gain for Obama. A foreign policy discussion afforded McCain his best opportunity to aggravate doubts about his foe. That opportunity is now gone.

Got that? McCain lost the debate because he tried to aggravate doubts about Obama on foreign policy/national security issues. And McCain lost the debate because he failed to aggravate doubts about Obama on foreign policy/national security issues. This gives new meaning to the old phrase, "can't win for losing."

Now, no one should be surprised that Mr. Dionne's objectivity is a bit compromised. That's a danger that every advocate faces whenever he puts on a pundit's hat, or vice versa. But rarely does one see a pundit whose judgment is so addled that it contradicts itself this directly in two successive paragraphs.

Step back. Yes, this debate was supposedly about foreign policy and national security, although that emphasis was terribly diluted by the moderator's decision to spend one-third of it on an urgent and timely domestic issue. I don't think that's going to matter in the long run, though. McCain's credibility on national security and foreign affairs completely dwarfs Obama's. Obama implicitly recognized that himself in his Veep selection; it's unfortunate for him that Slow Joe "All Iraq is Divided Into Three Parts" Biden is the closest thing the Dems have had to a foreign policy/national security mensch since Sam Nunn left the Senate.

No, to the extent that the election will turn on these issues — or, for that matter, on continuing opposition to the Iraq War — those voters are probably already mostly hardened in their views. And to the extent they're not, each candidate managed to get across his basic positions more than adequately: McCain was for the Iraq War, was for the Surge, and is for victory. Obama was against the Iraq War, was against the Surge, and can't permit the word "victory" to cross his lips except with reference to his hopes for his own political campaign.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:00 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Ex-generals and admirals back McCain over Obama by 4-to-1 margin

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com compares the respective tallies of ex-generals and -admirals who've endorsed John McCain and Barack Obama to become the next commander in chief.

Obama had an impressive line-up, literally, on stage at the DNC before his acceptance speech. But the total numbers aren't remotely close.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

 

America's men and women in the military are, of course, comprise a diverse group that includes conservatives, moderates, and liberals, Democrats and Republicans and others. In August, an article in Roll Call announced that a group of about 60 former generals and admirals were "helping [Barack Obama] shape his national security policies and defending the first-term Senator against charges that he lacks the experience to be commander in chief." Quite a few of those appeared on stage during the run-up to Sen. Obama's acceptance speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, and watching them, I thought that was one of Sen. Obama's best moments during the convention.

Retired generals and admirals for Obama at 2008 Democratic National Convention

Sixty is a lot. But two hundred and forty is more. According to a report in Monday's WaPo, fully four times as many former generals and admirals support McCain: [# More #]

McCain has never attracted huge crowds and mass followings the way his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, and his own running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have. But throughout his campaign, the former prisoner of war has enjoyed the fervent backing of a fraternity of veterans and their families, who rallied to his cause even when he looked like a sure loser in the Republican primaries and now provide a key core of support in the final days of his quest for the presidency.

More than 240 retired generals and admirals have endorsed McCain, and veterans — mostly older ones who fought in Korea and Vietnam — form the backbone of his campaign's "victory centers." They travel the country to tell the story of McCain's imprisonment in Vietnam, they man phone lines, and they push fellow veterans to give McCain money and support....

Veterans along the way said they support McCain partly because of their shared experience and partly out of concern for the nation's security. Although polls show that terrorism and the war in Iraq have faded as issues for most voters, they remain prominent in the minds of veterans, many of whom said they do not trust Obama to run the military.

Popularity among the troops isn't a perfect guide to who would make the best commander-in-chief. During the Civil War, Gen. George B. McClellan was enormously popular among the troops of the Army of the Potomac, whose pride and polish he had restored after the disastrous First Battle of Bull Run. When Lincoln booted McClellan in November 1862 because he seemed unwilling or unable to close with Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in order to bring the war to a violent conclusion, that was a very unpopular decision among those troops.

But by November of 1864, those troops had been convinced that despite the vastly higher casualty rates they were suffering under the leadership of Gen. U.S. Grant — the first general Lincoln had found who was willing to "pay the butcher's bill" needed for victory — they nevertheless preferred victory to stalemate or defeat. Accordingly, by an overwhelming majority, they voted for Lincoln's reelection, abandoning their once-beloved general, McClellan, who was by then Lincoln's Democratic opponent.

I don't know if McCain's electoral margin among all present and former military members will match his 4-to-1 ratio of endorsements by former admirals and generals. But suffice it to say that notwithstanding Obama's own impressive list of former generals and admirals, and his not insubstantial support from present and former military personnel of lower ranks, the Obama-Biden campaign is very, very glad that their electoral prospects on November 4, 2008, don't depend on winning the current or ex-military vote.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 01:57 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Smitten Pakistani president smacked by feminists at home for sexism towards Veep nominee Palin

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com ponders why feminists in Pakistan are able to recognize sexism (albeit of a fairly harmless sort) toward Sarah Palin in the actions of their own president, while American so-called feminists are blind to any and all sexism directed her way by themselves or their fellow Americans of the Hard Left.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

How Sarah Palin Rallied Pakistan's Feminists is one of the more interesting stories I've read recently in TIME, but its author, writing from Islamabad, is either oblivious to irony or else is ruthlessly suppressing his ability to recognize and write about it.

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska met with Pres. Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York on Weds., Sep. 24, 2008 (photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

American leftists who style themselves "feminists" — a label they would permit only to people who believe both in equal rights for women and a bundle of liberal social causes, especially (but not limited to) abortion on demand — demonstrated not only immediate derangement, but blindness to both sexism and irony in their reactions to John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running-mate. Is it asking too much now that some of them might possibly recognize the irony that the (fairly harmless) sexism displayed toward Gov. Palin by the president of Pakistan has gotten him into hot water with his own country's feminists — who seem to still understand that term to actually have something to do with equality of rights and treatment for both men and women?

Naw. Never mind.

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UPDATE (Mon Sep 29 @ 2:10 a.m. CST): "The Plumber" comments below that it looks from this photo as if Gov. Palin has a strong handshake. I agree, and that reminds me of a story, and one of my very favorite photos of Gov. Palin, which both come from Kaylene Johnson's excellent biography of her, Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down. I got permission to reprint that photo as part of my lengthy review of the book on my own blog back in June, and you can see it there. But here's a bit from the book (from pages 37-38) which I didn't quote there:

During the summers after graduation and throughout college, Sarah helped Todd fish commercially in Bristol Bay. They fished from a twenty-six-foot skiff with no cabin, a boat that could carry 10,000 pounds of salmon in eight holding bins below deck. It was the most physical and dangerous work Sarah ever had undertaken. On calm days, with Bristol Bay glittering in the sunshine, the surge of migrating salmon felt like a miracle. The work was staggering, however, and on stormy days, with cold saltwater spraying the deck, it took every fiber of Sarah's resolve to stay standing....

One day Sarah was holding onto the rail of their fishing boat as it sidled up to a tender to which they were delivering a load of fish. As the boats made contact, Sarah's hand was smashed against a railing. She broke several fingers. Todd skiffed Sarah to shore, went back out fishing, and returned to pick her up the next day. Even with a bandaged hand she climbed back on board to help.

"I couldn't disappoint him," Sarah said. "No matter how cold or nauseous, you just didn't complain."

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 12:33 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

From Bill Kristol's lips to John McCain's ear: Free Sarah!

I couldn't quite bring myself to cross-post my Treebeard & Botox post below at HughHewitt.com, so my latest guest-post there is once again on the subject of Gov. Palin. Long before whatever handlers and aides from the McCain team started advising her and planning her schedule, she was kicking butt and taking names in Alaska. It's time for her to cut loose again and dance with who brung her, instead of trying to dance some cautious gavotte to please whatever tight-orificed folks have been orbiting her since the Republican National Convention. A plea to John McCain: Free Sarah!

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Bill Kristol was among the earliest conservative pundits with a national following to predict that John McCain would choose Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running-mate. Today on Fox News Sunday, he made this impassioned plea (my transcription, but italics reflect his verbal emphasis):

Some in the McCain camp are nervous about Gov. Palin, but they shouldn't be. They've totally mishandled her for the last week or two. Free Sarah Palin! Free Sarah Palin, that's what I say! They have surrounded her — look, McCain picked her because she is a good governor, a good politician, a good communicator. Let her be a politician! Let her communicate. Put her on TV, put her on radio. Let her relax. Let her go into the debate and try to win the debate!

They've surrounded her with former Bush White House aids, who (if I might say) in a way typical of the Bush White House, have gone into a total defensive crouch: "Oooh, let's not make mistakes. Be very careful! Katie Couric, nine-thousand part interview. Don't talk to any conservatives on talk radio or on television, that would be just talking to the people who might vote for you. Go get quizzed by Katie Couric, and don't make a mistake!"

They really — I think she's strong enough to overcome the very bad advice and the very bad staff work that's surrounded her recently. I gather that Senator McCain isn't happy with the way his own team has been dealing with Governor Palin. I hope they free her over the next few days, and I hope they tell her, "Go win the debate with Joe Biden! Don't be defensive!"

I concur 100 percent with this advice.

One thing that struck me while I watched the first presidential debate was that both candidates surely did not need any intense preparation to be able to adequately respond to any of the questions that were asked. Partly that's a function of Jim Lehrer's genial and vague questions, but mostly — to Lehrer's credit — it's because he stuck to important topics on which the candidates do indeed have well-formed views and substantial depths of knowledge.

Gwen Ifill, who will moderate the vice presidential debate again, as she did in 2004, is Lehrer's colleague and protege. Her questions then were crisper than Lehrer's on Friday night, but they weren't unfair, and they ought not be studied for this time like a final exam in organic chemistry in which exactly the right formulae must be committed to memory for regurgitation on-stage.

John McCain is a gambler. When he picked Gov. Palin instead of someone dull and safe, he was not relying on his staff's ability to brief her into something they think she ought to become, but on the qualities which have made her a phenomenally successful campaigner and popular governor in Alaska. There is no way that she will ever get a remotely fair reception from those who are already in the tank for Barack Obama, which includes essentially all the old-media dinosaurs, certainly including everyone at the three creaky old TV networks, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

So quit trying to convert them! Go over their heads, directly to America — and have some fun while doing so!

To conservatives, I say this: Remember, folks, that before Gov. Palin's convention speech, Democrats from the Hard Left had convinced themselves that they had already mortally wounded Sarah Palin, that she was a laughing-stock, that McCain was about to say "oops!" and withdraw her from the ticket at any moment. And all she did in response was hit a grand slam with her acceptance speech, the undisputed high point of either convention and the most remarkable moment so far in 21st century American politics. Now the self-absorbed echo chamber on the Hard Left is again convinced that nobody could possibly take Gov. Palin seriously. They're in exactly the same position as was Paulene Kael of the New York Times, wailing incredulously after Nixon slaughtered McGovern in 1972: "But how could Nixon possibly have won? Nobody I know voted for him!"

To undecideds, I say this: Watch as much of Gov. Palin as you can between now and Election Day, especially in unscripted settings, certainly including the vice presidential debate. Make up your own minds.

To liberals, I say this: You're absolutely right. You've got Gov. Palin on the run along with John McCain, and you're obviously much, much smarter than the rest of us. You should continue to invest all your efforts in mocking Sarah Palin between now and November 4. Keep doing exactly what you're doing. Don't change a thing. Please. I'm counting on you, and I know you won't let me down.

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UPDATE (Mon Sep 29 @ 2:40 p.m. CST): Kristol's advice on Fox News Sunday was of a piece with broader, similar advice he's given the McCain campaign in an op-ed in today's NYT entitled "How McCain Wins." I agree with it, too: Playing it "safe" is a prescription for defeat. Kristol also expands on one reference he made on TV:

I’m told McCain recently expressed unhappiness with his staff’s handling of Palin. On Sunday he dispatched his top aides Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis to join Palin in Philadelphia. They’re supposed to liberate Palin to go on the offensive as a combative conservative in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 11:09 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Treebeard & Botox

As is my wont, I'm using Sunday evening to watch recordings of the morning's talking head shows. Right now I'm watching Sens. Lindsey Graham and John Kerry, neither of whom I'm particularly fond of, being quizzed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday (having already watched a remarkably good performance by John McCain on the ABC News program, in which he delivered a heartfelt and rousing defense and continued endorsement of Gov. Palin, among other strong moments).

But I can't concentrate on what Sen. Kerry is saying because I can't stop watching for any signs of normal human movement in his face at eyebrow level and above. He looks considerably less craggy and wrinkled now than he did in 2004. But his eyebrows and forehead look paralyzed. (His hair, of course, has always been blow-dried and plasticized into inertness, and that remains the same.)

I've got the sound turned off, fully aware of the narcoleptic dangers of prolonged exposure to his voice. And I'm just running the segments showing him, in HDTV on a 50" screen, at various speeds to see if I can track any movement. There's absolutely none: smoother skin, yes, but deathly still. It's far more creepy than looking at Joe Biden's hairline.

What a sad, vain punchline John Kerry is. Is there anyone in America to whom this cannot be completely obvious by now, even if they voted for him in 2004?

Posted by Beldar at 09:04 PM in Humor | Permalink | Comments (5)

How the candidates spent the day after the first debate

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com could have been devoted to Joe Biden's facial expression in the photograph above. Instead, it's devoted to the fact that while John McCain worked the phones on the day after the first presidential debate to try to save the financial security of the country, Biden and Barack Obama spent the day promoting The One's presidential ambitions.

When I suggested three weeks ago that the McCain-Palin campaign ditch the "Country First" motto, I didn't realize Barack Obama would provide quite so many vivid counter-examples during the actual campaign.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

John McCain spent the morning after the first general-election presidential debate working the phones:

Senior adviser Mark Salter said the Arizona senator spent the morning at his campaign headquarters placing calls to congressional leaders and White House officials involved in finalizing a multibillion-dollar deal to bail out failing financial firms. Earlier in the week McCain suspended most campaign activities to help develop a bipartisan agreement....

"He can effectively do what he needs to do by phone," Salter said Saturday. "He's calling members on both sides, talking to people in the administration, helping out as he can."

Once again, faced with the choice between country and career, John McCain chose country. He'd rather lose a campaign than risk our country's fundamental economic security.

No legislator wants to admit that he had to be cajoled into doing the right thing for his country, and so probably both McCain and everyone he influenced will keep mum on how much effect McCain's vigorous phone campaign actually had. But USA Today reports that a bipartisan coalition of "House and Senate negotiators [announced that they had] worked out a tentative deal with the White House late Saturday."

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks as vice-presidental nominee Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) tries to stay awake during a campaign rally on Saturday, Sep. 27, at the J. Douglas Galyon Depot in Greensboro, NC (photo: USA Today/Steve Dykes/Getty)

By very sharp contrast:

Obama, meanwhile, stuck to his campaign schedule which will take him and Biden from here to two other swing states this weekend: Virginia and Michigan....

Though he has dismissed the presidential candidates' intervention in the bailout talks as counterproductive grandstanding, Obama expressed forceful opinions about what the deal should — and should not — include.

"I will not allow this plan to become a welfare program for Wall Street executives," he told the crowd here. And he suggested an additional $50 billion in aid for the unemployed and investments in infrastructure should be part of the deal.

"Washington has to feel the same sense of urgency about passing an economic stimulus plan" as it does about rescuing mega-investors, said Obama, who spoke by phone Saturday about the state of the negotiations with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Got that? Obama spoke only to the real leaders of his own party on this matter, who obviously have not needed or particularly wanted his involvement, along with the Bush-43 Administration's representative (who is already scrambling to get a deal in place). The nation's financial future is at risk, but The One can only manage to make time for a total of three phone calls, and none of those were even to people who needed to be persuaded to support a bill.

We don't yet have details on what is and isn't included in the compromise agreement in principle reached late Saturday night. Based on what he told the public, however, even in those three calls, Obama wasn't urging his colleagues to make compromises that would trim the pork-and-graft potential which has so disturbed fiscal conservatives from both parties. Instead he wanted to hold the deal hostage to a $50 billion giveaway, plus drum up a little more class warfare (as if Main Street and Wall Street are competitors in a zero-sum game, instead of mutually dependent components whose health is essential to sustain economic growth).

That would frighten me a lot more if I actually thought Obama had any substantial influence on this deal or any of the actual decision-makers. My expectation is that it will include some sorts of salary-related restrictions on some private-sector executives who are involved in the implementation of the plan — that much was already under discussion before Obama even returned to Washington on McCain's heels last week — but I remain hopeful that it isn't heavily larded with pork.

You may or may not support the deal. I'm not certain myself, and won't be until I see the details, of course. But of one thing I'm very certain: In this crisis, as so often before, regardless of whether you or I think he was in the right or in the wrong, John McCain has consistently put duty ahead of ambition.

Barack Obama can't point to a single instance in his entire life in which he's put his ambitions at risk for any higher cause. Not one. And that does frighten me.

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UPDATE (Sun Sep 28 @ 1:00 p.m. CST): This useful summary of the terms of the tentative deal (h/t InstaPundit), compared side-by-side to the original Paulson proposal and the Pelosi-Frank proposed add-ons, does not include Obama's $50 billion in pork, anything for ACORN, or the bankruptcy law changes. The restrictions on executive compensation apparently don't affect companies and industries other than those directly involved in the plan's execution, so the restructions can be justified as fiscal restraint rather than class warfare.

This confirms that Obama wasn't ever a meaningful player in the negotiations, and although it's impossible to be "happy" about it, this describes a bill that I can support. Hugh makes the very good point above that if it indeed passes as described, this bill will be an example of responsible governance for which both the Bush Administration and congressional leaders deserve due credit. To that, I would only add this: Among the leaders who also deserve credit are those fiscal conservatives and grown-ups from both parties from outside the Pelosi and Reid camps — certainly including at least some House Republicans among them — who, in response to constituent objections, appear to have shorn away at least the most egregious give-aways.

To say "It could have been so much worse!" may be damning by faint praise, but Hugh's absolutely right that elections have consequences, and a consequence of 2006 is that occasions for even faint praise are rare enough now. If Obama should win, we'll still have some occasions to celebrate restraint dictated by a loose and shifting coalition of Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats — but not very many, and the trends are likely to be disappointing. 

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 02:21 AM in 2008 Election, Congress, Current Affairs, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

On a clear day, you can indeed see Russia from Alaska

You'll learn about the difference between Ignaluk and Inalik in my latest guest-post on HughHewitt.com, plus find a link to a webcam from which, for one hour each day, you can literally peer into tomorrow.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

In the native language, it's called "Inalik," meaning "the other one" or "the one over there." In English, the town's name is "Diomede," and with a 2000 U.S. Census population of 146, it's part of "the Nome Census Area of the Unorganized Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska, located on the island of Little Diomede" (the smaller island itself being known as "Ignaluk" in the local language). Their state governor, of course, is Sarah Palin. And the "other other" impliedly referenced by the native name is undoubtedly the nearby island of Big Diomede, which is easily visible at less than three miles away — even though Big Diomede is part of Russia.

Here's a screencap (click to enlarge any of the pix in this post) from a pretty cool QuickTime VR diorama made at Diomede by students from the Bering Strait School District in April 2007. Yes, that's Russia (Big Diomede Island) across the water. Since it sticks up pretty high out of the water, it's kind of hard to miss.

Screencap from diorama taken from Little Diomede showing Big Diomede across less than three miles of water in the Bering Strait

In fact, the students have a live webcam set up in Diomede, so anyone with an internet connection can take a live look from the U.S. to Russia at their whim. But beware: "Because the International Date Line runs down the 4-km (2.5-mi) gap between the two islands, you can look from Alaska into 'tomorrow' in Russia."

[# More #] Here's a nice satellite photo of Big and Little Diomede Islands:

Satellite photo of Big and Little Diomede Islands

And for global perspective, here's a series from Google Maps going from zoomed-in to zoomed-out. The Diomedes Islands are just north of the zigzag in the international border. (Up that far north, it's pretty tricky to say which way is west and which way is east, though.)

Big and Little Diomede Islands

Big and Little Diomede Islands

Big and Little Diomede Islands

During and after World War II, the Soviets maintained a military base on Big Diomede, from which they would take captive anyone who wandered across the frozen strait. "[T]he two island communities, connected by Eskimo family kinships but separated by American/Russian politics, led parallel lives — pictures of Karl Marx hung in the Russian schools, pictures of Abraham Lincoln in the American."

I'm not saying that these photos and maps, by themselves, are any proof that Sarah Palin is ready to be a heartbeat from the presidency. I am saying that these photos and maps, by themselves, are indeed proof that she and others were telling the literal truth when they described Russia as sharing a border with, and being visible from, Alaska.

As for Gov. Palin's foreign affairs and national defense qualifications, however:

  1. No job fully prepares anyone for the foreign policy and national defense responsibilities that attend the office of POTUS because no job shares more than a fraction of those responsibilities — including jobs like "Secretary of State" or "Secretary of Defense" or "U.S. Senator."

  2. No new occupant of the office of POTUS has to undertake those responsibilities alone. Each is surrounded by advisers, including career professionals from the State and Defense Departments. In particular, any vice presidents who is suddenly elevated to the presidency is surrounded by advisers originally selected by their immediate predecessor, which would mean in the case of a hypothetical ascension by Sarah Palin to the presidency, advisers chosen by John McCain. As a former naval aviator and, then, commander of the Navy's largest air wing, and as a long-time senator with oversight responsibilities, active participation on the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, and — extraordinarily even for Senators — direct involvement in international negotiations (as when he led the United States' efforts to negotiate the resumption of diplomatic relations with the same regime that once tortured him as a POW) — John McCain's own foreign affairs and national defense credentials are among the most impressive held by anyone ever to run for president. He will put a sound system into place that would benefit a sudden successor, and he would also be a superb tutor of a co-executive in his administration whose own credentials on foreign affairs and national security are less deep than his own.

  3. Although border state governors have more interaction with foreign affairs and border security matters than other governors, in our federal system that commits overall commander-in-chief responsibility and foreign affairs (head of state) primacy to the federal Executive, no state governor has executive experience on these matters comparable to that which must be exercised by the POTUS. State governors are, however, executives, with experience running large organizations of a sort that mere legislators at any level — including U.S. Congressmen and Senators — don't acquire. That's part of the explanation for why America has so often elected state chief executive officers (governors) to become the federal chief executive officer (POTUS), often with salutary results (see, e.g., Ronald Reagan's victory in the Cold War).

  4. Even with the limited role that our system apportions to state governors as commanders-in-chief of their state national guards and the state executives ultimately responsible for law enforcement within their jurisdictions, those governors still have and wield executive authority that includes putting guard members' and law enforcement officers' lives on the line — in enforcement of criminal law, in handling civil disorders and riots, and in emergencies like forest fires and floods. They send them into harms' way; they direct their activities while there; and sometimes, they have go to the funerals and hand flags to grieving relatives. And among all state governors, the governor of Alaska — as the state leader with closest continual proximity to a hostile foreign state — does indeed have responsibilities and obtain defense briefings beyond those received by, for example, the governor of Arkansas (which need not fear hostile bomber overflights from Missouri). No one can seriously argue that this compares to actually being the POTUS. But it's not nothing, either. And of executive experience in general, or experience personally making decisions that have put anyone's lives on the line in particular, "nothing" is the exactly appropriate description for both Sens. Obama and Biden, because neither member of the Democratic Party's ticket can match Gov. Palin's experience of that sort (or any other state governor's, for that matter).

Obviously, Gov. Palin was selected not to augment McCain's own strengths, but to balance the ticket: A governor to complement a senator, someone with executive experience in government to complement an experienced federal legislator, youth and energy to complement age and experience. (The conspicuous exception is that they both share strong credentials as vigorous reformers.)

Sen. McCain did a great deal at last night's debate to dispel doubts about his age and mental crispness, and those who vote for him may do so with the full and reasonable expectation that he'll ably serve out at least one term. Gov. Palin's own record of accomplishments in office, along with her electoral appeal and the prospect that she will join him as a crusading reformer in Washington, amply justify her selection, and her gubernatorial experience will match that of another young and dynamic GOP vice presidential nominee upon assuming office — one T.R. Roosevelt of New York. And when he suddenly ascended to the top job, he only did well enough to get his face on Mt. Rushmore.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 06:54 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

"I wanted him to know my son's name"

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com is about the bracelet Obama had to read from last night during the presidential debate.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

More regarding the bracelet that Sen. Obama obviously had to read from in order to recall the name written on it last night, from a WaPo article dated February 16, 2008 (boldface mine):

Barack Obama is wearing a wristband in memory of a soldier killed in Iraq, given to him by a mother who said she wants the Democratic presidential candidate to keep others from dying.

Tracy Jopek of Merrill, Wis., gave Obama the bracelet at a rally Friday night in Green Bay, and Obama was still wearing it Saturday as he campaigned across the state before Tuesday's primary.

The bracelet has her son's name, Sgt. Ryan David Jopek, and the date the 20-year-old was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, Aug. 2, 2006. "All gave some — He gave all," it says....

Mrs. Jopek said she and her daughter briefly met the Illinois senator at the rally and showed him a picture of a smiling Ryan dressed for battle. She said the senator hugged her and her daughter, asked a couple questions about Ryan and told her how much he appreciated the bracelet.

"I wanted him to know my son's name for one thing, for when he's commander in chief," Mrs. Jopek said during a telephone interview in which she frequently grew emotional. She said she was somewhat uncomfortable getting so publicly involved in the war debate, but felt the issue was too important for her to remain silent during this campaign.

She said she's a Democrat who will vote for Obama in Wisconsin's primary Tuesday. Like Obama, she said she was against the war from the start and had a hard time watching her son go to war.

"My son loved this country very much, I love this country, but I don't feel that staying in Iraq will vindicate my son's death," she said. "And it's not over for us until this war is over. I just don't want any more soldiers to die in vain for something that we can't solve."

It's genuinely sad that Mrs. Jopek felt, and perhaps still feels, that her son died in vain, but of course she is entitled to our respect even for opinions with which we may disagree. Although perversely continuing to insist now that he'd still vote against the Surge, even knowing what we now know of its success, Sen. Obama has at least conceded that the Surge has succeeded "beyond our wildest dreams." Most Americans of either political party would agree that no American soldier's sacrifices in Iraq have been wholly in vain.

But with due, deep, and genuine respect for Mrs. Jopek and her late son, in my own view, it's even more sad that more than seven full months after she gave Sen. Obama the bracelet bearing her son's name, Sen. Obama hadn't bothered to actually learn it. Instead, Sen. Obama treated that bracelet as a mere prop for a piece of political theater — and when he finally received what he recognized as a cue to perform, Sen. Obama still couldn't even deliver his intended line without a prompt.

 

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 02:40 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Post-mortem on the first presidential debate

John McCain had a good night, while Obama's was at best average. I explain why that translates to an Obama loss in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Based on their past performances in primary debates, John McCain substantially exceeded my expectations. Barack Obama performed no better or worse than I expected. Neither candidate made a serious miscue or breakthrough that will swing millions of votes. Although neither candidate ever achieved anything remotely approaching a knock-out punch or even a knock-down blow, McCain took more swings at Obama than vice versa, more of his shots actually landed, and overall they did more damage.

This debate will leave the campaigns essentially tied, which in the dynamics of this unusual election season is a strategic victory for McCain-Palin.

McCain avoided seeming mean, grumpy, or old-and-confused, but yet he was consistently the more aggressive of the two. I think that's a hard combination for John McCain to pull off, especially when he's probably quite weary, but he did. He didn't snap or snarl a single time, but neither was he ever meek.

The Obama-Biden meme of the past week has been "McCain is impetuous and lacks a presidential temperament," and that is, in all candor, one of McCain's greatest potential vulnerabilities. But it was a meme that Obama could only make stick if McCain blundered by seeming impetuous and intemperate tonight. And Obama was far too cautious to risk trying to provoke a show of the McCain temper by deliberately needling him. No doubt to David Axelrod's great disappointment, McCain didn't fall into the trap, but rather busted it.

Moreover, if — as I expect — an economic bailout bill of some sort passes next week, McCain will be able to claim at least partial credit both for getting the necessary number of skeptical House Republicans on board and for getting their concerns at least partially addressed by the compromises made as compared to the original Paulson-Pelosi-Frank plan. McCain will emerge looking like a courageous legislator, statesman, and grown-up. Obama will end up being confirmed as an immature poseur.

McCain isn't naturally as charming as Ronald Reagan was, but neither is he without charm, and such charm as he does have showed through. He didn't have as strong a moment tonight as he did during the GOP debate in which he explained that he couldn't vouch for whether the Woodstock concerts were really a great cultural and pharmacological experience because he was "tied up at the time," but such moments are rare, and to be effective they can't seem contrived. The victors in the betting on how often tonight McCain would mention his POW experience were definitely those who "bet the under."

Obama was, I think, on auto-pilot tonight — McCain's disruption of Obama's pre-debate preparations this week was a tactical coup, because it kept Obama from polishing up and getting his best game face on — and Obama's natural dynamic advantages of youth and energy were self-governed down to levels which effectively neutralized them. My guess is that he desperately wanted to deny any doubters in the audience with latent racist tendencies any occasion to see him as an "angry young black man," and that for the vastly larger, entirely non-racist American audience, he wanted to avoid seeming disrespectful.

That leaves Obama only with the upside that has always been predicted for him in these debates — viz, the credibility that enshrouds a very junior and unaccomplished senator from being recognized and treated as an equal in this hallowed setting. But he was going to get that by default, and I don't think tonight's exposure added very much for very many voters beyond that which he'd already managed with his "Obama-as-Apollo" routine at the Democratic National Convention. Obama was, thus, precisely the same candidate who never definitively closed the deal on the Democratic nomination during his final primary debates against Hillary Clinton, and who won instead by running out the clock on a narrow lead built early and in improbable places.

Unlike the primaries, though — in which votes, once cast, mostly stick rather than evaporate (although Obama proved they're subject to erotion through manipulation of the Dems' ridiculous mixed primary-and-caucus system) — Obama's current lead is only in opinion polls, and opinions are volatile and unreliable. The ticking clock therefore can't give Team Obama the same degree of comfort in the general election.

I don't agree with the conventional wisdom that a tie goes to Obama, and I don't think this was even a tie. Obama is still the greater unknown of the two candidates, and the most vulnerable to last-minute jitters in the voting booth on election day. Obama needs these debates to open a big lead that will be immune to last-minute erosion, and he did not advance that goal tonight. That's the main reason why, in the big picture, he lost this debate.

The commentary I've read has been effusive in praising Jim Lehrer, but I reluctantly and respectfully dissent. Lehrer has earned the respect of the candidates and the public, he has appropriate gravitas, and he is entirely genial and respectful himself. He made no effort to engage in gotcha journalism or to steal the show, and he was a model of fairness. These are all essential qualities, and I don't think anyone else currently on the scene could do these particular things as well as Lehrer did them tonight.

Nevertheless, a moderator's job most important job is to sharpen the contrast between the candidates and help them more clearly define the differences between them. At that, Lehrer utterly failed tonight. His questions were so vague that he might as well have just said, "Sen. Obama will now ramble for twelve minutes on anything even tangentially related to the pending economic bailout bill," followed by "Now it's Sen. McCain's turn to ramble." And that's exactly what both candidates did: It was as if you'd filled a shoe-box with their 10- to 90-second sound bites from earlier in the campaign, tumbled it end-over-end a few times, and then pulled the results out at random. There was simply no coherence to the discussion, especially in the first third, no way that voters could mentally put each man's statements across from each other in parallel columns and compare them. Indeed, neither man was even at his best in regurgitating those sound bites.

Perhaps because they were both tired from the events of the past week, or perhaps because neither is, by nature, a commanding and intuitive debater, neither participant was able to lift his efforts beyond the very low bar that Lehrer's questions set. From the standpoint of actually explicating or generating enthusiasm for either side's policies, neither side had a particularly good night.

That frustrates my sense of political aesthetics, but from a strategic and relative comparison, but it's another overall plus for McCain: Obama's appeal depends on clever programs and multi-point proposals far more than McCain's. Thus, the secondary reason why, in the big picture, Obama lost tonight is because Obama failed to convert on one of his most precious opportunities to effectively sell those clever plans and multi-point proposals.

I do not expect the vice presidential debate to remotely resemble tonight's. To begin with, moderator Gwen Ifill will not be nearly as vague and deferential. In tonight's bout, the two fighters spent far too much time flailing weakly at each other from the clench, without referee Lehrer doing much to break them apart.

But most importantly, the Veep debate will be the first opportunity for Gov. Sarah Palin to be heard at length since her acceptance speech. Most folks don't realize that in addition to debates during the 2006 Alaska GOP gubernatorial primary, Gov. Palin participated in something like 24 debates in 45 days against her two general election opponents.

Gov. Palin knows how to jab and move, and when she gets an opening, she can punch way harder than some folks expected. I also think she'll benefit from being misunderestimated — both by the public and, probably, by her opponent — coming in. As with her convention speech, I await the Veep debate with some trepidation, but mostly with gleeful anticipation.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 04:07 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Don't second-guess McCain's choice of Palin yet based on speculation that Jindal might have been a better one

I like Bobby. I like Sarah. This year, Sarah made more sense for John, sez I — respectfully contra Bridget Johnson at PajamasMedia — in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Bridget Johnson at PajamasMedia makes an eloquent if somewhat surprising (to conservative sensibilities) argument that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would have been a better Veep choice for John McCain than Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

I am a huge fan of Gov. Jindal, and have been for some years — longer than I've known about Gov. Palin. I agree with Ms. Johnson's praise for him, including his performance during the just-passed (fingers crossed) Gulf Coast hurricane season. I have no doubts that he's not just a future star, but a current one within the GOP.

But with due respect, I differ with Ms. Johnson's ultimate conclusion.

First and foremost, I think Ms. Johnson, like many other conservative pundits, may have been surprised and dismayed by the sheer intensity of the Left's criticisms of Gov. Palin. It is indeed unprecedented. But so is the nominee. And I have no doubt whatsoever that had Gov. Jindal been the choice instead, the smears would have been just as instantaneous, every bit as fierce, and just as unfair. That is a function not of these two young politicians' weakness, but rather of their strength. When Obama named Joe Biden as his Veep choice, absolutely no GOP heads exploded. Bibby Jindal would have popped just as many Dems' heads as Sarah Palin is still doing.

Second, this particular year, and this particular opponent, and the opponent who this opponent barely beat in a photo-finish for the Democratic nomination, present a unique opportunity for the GOP to not only pick up, but aggressively brandish, the torch of feminism. By that term, I mean a commitment to equal opportunity for women, not any of the other causes that Hard Left feminists have grafted onto that notion (chief among them, of course, the pro-abortion agenda). No one knows yet how much Sarah Palin's selection will close the GOP's gender gap, much less whether that difference will be outcome-determinative. But the circumstances of this particular election year turned out to make this the time for the GOP to make this piece of history — even if McCain and Palin lose.

Finally, the house-cleaning of smug and ethically challenged GOP porkmeisters in Alaska isn't yet done — that cause frankly stumbled when Gov. Palin's lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, lost to incumbent Rep. Don Young by about 300 votes in the GOP primary just last week, and it will not surprise me if Sen. Ted Stevens escapes his current corruption prosecution with a not-guilty verdict — but the cause of reform is farther advanced and less tenuous in Alaska than it is right now in Louisiana. Alaska corruption showed up in things like Veco building a new ground floor for Sen. Stevens' luxury vacation home, and that's bad enough. But corruption in Louisiana has run deeper and broader for longer, with organized crime ties to boot. And storm-ravished, poverty-stricken Louisiana still faces nasty problems in addition to corruption, with a tradition of dysfunctional and inept governance that will require prolonged good management to overcome. Gov. Palin would at least leave Alaska with a huge budget surplus that's likely to continue unless and until oil prices drop back below $50/bbl, and the silver lining to Parnell's loss to Young is that Parnell's still available for promotion as a strong replacement for the Alaska governor's chair. With what Gov. Palin has already accomplished, Alaska can frankly spare her more than Louisiana could spare Gov. Jindal. And it's an understatement to say that Louisiana still offers Gov. Jindal lots of dragons to slay as he builds upon an already impressive record.

The Dems' initial attempts at beanball missed, and Gov. Palin scored a first-inning grand slam with her GOP convention speech. Sure, they're still throwing at her (rather than at the strike zone). But that's not a surprise either, and we're still in the early innings, and she has lots more at-bats. Among her natural strengths is an ability to connect with potential voters on a deep, visceral level, and in the remaining weeks of the campaign she will have ample opportunity to continue doing that. By the end of the game, I think the Dems will wish they had instead decided to pitch around her and concentrate all their focus on McCain.

In sum, I don't fault Ms. Johnson for her musing. Gov. Jindal is a mensch, another real deal too. But I'm happy to have placed my own bets on Gov. Palin, and I think Sen. McCain is too.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:54 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (11)

Will Obama loom over McCain in the debates?

Four words: "What about Dingle-Norwood?" If that doesn't ring a bell, you probably should read my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

In an interesting article about presidential debates, WaPo staff writer Robert G. Kaiser predicts that viewers "will see, for example, that Obama towers over McCain by nearly half a foot, perhaps an unexpected visual for many voters."

Of course, Al Gore had a height advantage over George W. Bush. But as things turned out, that only made Gore look creepy and weird when he stalked over toward Dubya's side of the stage during one of Bush's turns to speak in their debate on October 17, 2000. Demanded Gore, "But what about Dingle-Norwood?" Bush did a double-take at Gore's looming figure, and then gave him a small nod — which set an otherwise well-behaved audience into laughter — and an oblivious Gore beamed self-righteously and glided back to his seat as if he'd just scored some huge coup.

My strong hunch is that Obama's handlers will have instructed him to stay behind the rostrum at all times. And certainly when they appeared together at Ground Zero during the most recent 9/11 anniversary observances, their height difference, while observable, wasn't of Mutt and Jeff proportions.

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain at Ground Zero on 9/11/08 (Reuters)

Visuals do matter, but I don't think this election will end up being much affected by Obama's height advantage — no more than by his superior accuracy from outside the three-point line.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:50 AM in 2008 Election, Humor, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

A recommendation to help you grok the current economic crisis

Cliff Notes for the current economic crisis, linked and briefly discussed in my latest HH.com guest-post.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Steven Pearlstein's op-ed on the financial crisis in Friday's WaPo is entitled Gut Check. I commend it to you highly.

It's short and it's clear — already too well distilled for me to usefully excerpt it here. When you get two-thirds of the way through it, you'll understand why some things that are getting lots of discussion are not, in fact, big problems, and you'll also understand in at least general terms what actually is the big problem, how very big indeed it is, and why addressing it somehow is so very urgent.

I'm neither vouching for nor critical of Pearlstein's specific proposal in the final third, and neither am I convinced that the original Paulson plan was the best possible way to go. To the contrary, I'm intrigued by several of the proposed tweaks, and even some of the broad alternatives, that are floating around, some of which Pearlstein also discusses briefly. And I'm definitely opposed to extortionists' attempts to lard on huge changes in social and financial policy that aren't tightly targeted to the actual current crisis (one of which, Dick Durbin's proposed revision to the bankruptcy laws, I wrote about on Thursday afternoon).

But I'm also convinced that this is one of those situations where as a nation, we simply cannot allow the quest for the perfect to remain an implacable obstacle to the acceptance of the good, or even the probably mostly okay. On these issues, ninety-nine point something percent of us, including our national leaders, are dilettantes at best. And this is one of those situations in which, in the words of that brilliant economist George S. Patton, "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week."

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 12:55 AM in Congress, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2)

Obama's tin ear

I think Obama has blown any chance he might have had to win the election with a single ill-chosen word, which is revealed in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

This is just so wrong!

Met at [his Senate office] door by a few reporters, [Barack Obama] answered a key question — at least for his generation.

"Beatles or Stones?" asked a Congressional Quarterly reporter.

"Stones," Obama replied.

(Hyperlinks mine.) I would have thought this was something on which, during this time of crisis, we could get cross-generational, bipartisan agreement. But Sen. Obama disappoints, yet again.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 12:08 AM in Humor, Music/Arts, Obama | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Durbin's using financial crisis to extort redistribution of wealth from responsible homeowners to the profligate

Some people, including me, are worried that the proposed financial bailout will eventually cost taxpayers a big net chunk of money, either through higher taxes or increases in the national debt, if the bailout structure doesn't repay the Treasury. But did you realize that Dick Durbin, Barack Obama's senior partner in the Senate from the Great State of Illinois, is trying to use the current crisis to extort a ginormous transfer of wealth, via across-the-board home mortgage rates, directly from the responsible homebuyers to benefit the irresponsible ones? So shows, I'm confident, my latest guest post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Taking ruthless advantage of a national crisis, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's fellow and senior senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, is still insisting that — as a condition for his agreement to legislation which would stabilize illiquid and panicked financial markets — federal bankruptcy judges be given the unprecedented power to re-write bankrupt consumers' home mortgage contracts (h/t Althouse):

Current bankruptcy law allows judges to approve the modifications of the terms of certain debts, namely auto and student loans and second-home mortgages. Under the Democrats’ proposal, judges could approve individuals’ reorganization plans that would allow debtors to pay a lower interest rate for their primary-residence mortgages. Furthermore, if the value of the property falls below the loan amount, debtors potentially could reduce the balance of the loan to equal the current value of the property — a process commonly known as a “cram down” or “strip down.”

Durbin would like to paint this as a modest change that would broadly benefit all classes of consumers. In fact, it would be a revolutionary one, effectively obliterating at a single stroke both (a) your freedom to make binding contracts on the soundest and most traditional of economic terms and (b) the very fundamental difference between "secured debt" and "unsecured debt."

And if Durbin gets his way, in the end it will be the responsible consumers — the ones who actually make their mortgage payments regularly, and who didn't use subprime mortgages to move into McMansions which they objectively can't afford — who will suffer. To bail out the profligate (both past and future), the responsible homebuyers will be forced to pay. And that payment will not just be speculative and indirect, through possibly higher taxes or increased national debt if the bailout mechanism doesn't ultimately pay the Treasury back as planned. Instead, the cost of Durbin's provision will be direct and certain, paid through higher mortage interest rates extracted from all new homebuyers over the entire length of their mortgages.

*******

The distinction between "secured debt" and "unsecured debt" sounds at first like a difficult and arcane subject, but it's really not. It's all about common sense and collateral.

Let's say my neighbor Al, who's lived next door for 10 years and I trust like a brother, knocks on my door and wants to borrow $50 because he's a bit short before payday and he really wants to take his son out for dinner this weekend to celebrate his high school graduation. I pull out my wallet, hand Al a $50 bill, and we shake hands. I've just made an "unsecured loan," and Al has just incurred an "unsecured debt" — one with no collateral to back up Al's word that he'll ever pay me back.

But let's say the request instead comes from my new neighbor, Bob. Maybe I'm not so confident that Bob will pay me back in full and on time. I could simply tell him no, I'm not willing to trust just his word, but that would be kind of rude, and there's another option: If, instead, I say, "Sure, Bob, I can loan you $50 for a week, but just to make sure you don't forget to pay me back, how about you park your lawnmower in my garage. Then next week after you cash your paycheck, you can come back and pick it up when you pay back my loan."

Bingo. Now Bob's got a loan which he otherwise couldn't get, but by insisting that he put up some collateral to secure his debt, I've hedged my risk that he won't pay me back.

Suppose it turns out that Bob doesn't pay me back. It turns out he was kind of a shady character anyway, and he just up and moved to Belize without either paying me my $50 or trying to retrieve his lawnmower. A new neighbor, Chip, moves into Bob's old house. And fortunately for me, he needs a lawnmower! "Hey Beldar," sez Chip, "I'll pay you $48 for that extra lawnmower you have parked in your garage. But hey, can you spot me $40 of that? I don't get paid until next week."

"Okay, Chip," sez I, "I'll gladly sell you my extra lawnmower for $48, and I'll take your $8 downpayment. But here's the deal: Until you pay me the remaining $40, we're going to keep this lawnmower parked in my garage except when you're using it. And if things don't work out and you can't pay me the full $40 on time, I'll just keep the lawnmower."

"Great!" sez Chip. Now we've got a debt transaction that is collateralized by the very same property that's being bought. It makes a lot of sense for both sides, and hey, I don't have to live next to a house with a nasty yard.

*******

In their daily lives, tens of millions of American consumers enter into unsecured debt transactions on a daily basis. The most typical among them are credit-card transactions. Generally speaking, credit card companies have extended a line of credit to these consumers just on the basis of a signature, without any collateral being held as security by the credit card companies that they can look to if the consumer ends up breaking his agreement to pay off his credit card charges.

And because the credit card company is taking the risk of being an unsecured creditor, guess what? It insists on a much higher interest rate.

Consumers also enter into secured debt transactions frequently, although not on a daily basis, and the two conspicuous examples of that are buying cars and buying houses. "Sure, I'll loan you money at a lower rate than those credit card companies charge," says the auto finance company, "But our name goes on the car title along with yours until you finish paying us off. (And we're going to require you to maintain collision insurance. Oh, and if you default in making your payments, we'll send Guido and his boys to pick the car up out of your driveway.)" But even with those conditions, the lower interest rate can make the difference between your having a car and your taking the bus.

House purchases are on the same principle: The mortgage company says, "Oh yes, we'll offer you a lower rate than even your auto finance company charged! We'll agree to a longer payment term, too! But while you'll become the 'beneficial owner' of the house right away, and you'll move in and enjoy it, we're actually going to put the formal, legal title in the name of a 'trustee' under a 'deed of trust.' When you pay off your mortgage in 30 years, he'll transfer full title to you then. But if you default, well, he'll be obliged to transfer title to your house to whoever makes the high bid at a public foreclosure auction, and the proceeds from that will go to us."

Again, most consumers are thrilled to agree to these terms. They're typical, they're standard, they're traditional, and they make common sense. Most importantly, they make home ownership possible for literally millions of people who couldn't remotely qualify for a similar-sized unsecured loan. And the whole key to that affordability is the lender's knowledge that based on the tight language of the mortgage contract, it can rely on having first dibs on the collateral (the home itself) if the mortgage borrower defaults.

*******

Besides just being able to exercise control over the collateral — either through language on your car title or through a deed of trust on your house — these lenders are also counting on the existing law regarding what will happen if their creditors not only default, but declare bankruptcy. And currently, and traditionally, there is and has always been a huge difference between the way secured debts and unsecured debts are treated in bankruptcy proceedings:

There are some exceptions, but in general, within the first few weeks or months of all consumer bankruptcies, most secured creditors — that is, the ones like your mortgage company or auto finance company who've insisted on getting collateral posted by their borrowers — are going to get permission from the bankruptcy courts to go ahead and foreclose on their collateral. Most likely, even the proceeds from foreclosure (the auction proceeds) won't cover the whole debt, but they'll go directly to the secured creditors. And meanwhile, the unsecured creditors — typically the credit card companies — are the ones who are going to take the big financial hit, whether the consumer bankruptcy ends up in a payment plan for the future or a total liquidation.

Now, I shed no tears for the credit card companies in bankruptcy proceedings. Especially after the "reform" of the bankruptcy laws championed by Slow Joe Biden a few years ago, they're doing okay, with many fewer consumers being eligible for bankruptcy discharges based on total liquidation than was once typical. And more importantly, the risk of being stuck in that position was something the credit card companies anticipated, and they made up for that in the higher interest rates (and penalties and fees) they charged.

But Sen. Durbin wants bankruptcy judges to have the power — meaning, of course, that they'll use the power — to treat the most sacred of secured debt transactions most people ever enter into, their home mortgages, just like they're easy-breazy credit card transactions. "You only thought you had collateral you could foreclose on even in the event of bankruptcy," those judges will tell the mortgage companies. "But guess what — you don't! Either agree to re-write your whole mortgage in the way that I, the bankruptcy judge, think is fair and equitable, or you have to get in line with all the unsecured creditors, bub!"

Friends and neighbors, if Sen. Durbin gets his way, every mortgage company will have to completely recalculate their risks for every future consumer mortgage they underwrite. Reponsible people will lose their chance to qualify for a lower interest rate that can only be offered if the mortgage company is fully protected by its collateral, because homes will no longer be a safe form of collateral. Your good credit rating, your demonstrable income history that amply covers your future payments, and even your big down-payment, won't be able to get you as good terms. Durbin's change in the bankruptcy laws will force you to pay the price for mortgage companies' increased risks, even though you've never done anything to generate those increased risks.

This is naked, blatant income redistribution from the responsible to the irresponsible. Dick Durbin and his Democratic allies are extortionists who want to take from the worthy and responsible, and give to the profligate and irresponsible (who, by the way, also tend to vote Democratic). Even if no one who knows Sen. Durbin can be particularly surprised by it, this is worthy of your outrage, and it should be a deal-breaker on the bailout bill if Durbin & Co. don't drop it. If so, and if the entire economy tanks as a result, the blame will be squarely on the head of Barack Obama's slippery fellow senator from Illinois, and on Obama's head, too, for not using the full leverage he has as the Democratic nominee to back Durbin off this extortion.

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UPDATE (Fri Sep 26 @ 5:25 p.m. CST): Larry Kudlow reports that even Sen. Obama has come out against Durbin's plan. That's an indication not of moderation on Sen. Obama's part, but of just how insane Durbin's plan is, and how quickly it would have become obvious that it had destroyed the home mortgage market if it had been enacted.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:18 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Neither Palin nor any human in her shoes could satisfy the mainstream media's lust for "gotcha" questions

When we're talking Sarah Palin and the old media hacks, no good deed goes unpunished — as I argue at length in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

No vice presidential nominee in American history — not even J. Danforth Quayle — has been so viciously and unethically savaged by the mainstream media press corps as Sarah Palin. To her considerable credit, she's nevertheless continued to make herself more and more available to their shenanigans, however.  And increasingly, it's the old-media sharks who are being discredited in the public eye.

When Katie Couric demanded that Gov. Palin instantly summon up a verbal summary of John McCain's 26-year history as a legislator, detailing the instances in which he's supported government regulation or oversight of programs, Gov. Palin must have been tempted to pull a Dan Aykroyd-to-Jane Curtin reprise: "Katie, you ignorant slut! You couldn't possibly answer that question yourself off the top of your head, and neither could anyone else, including John McCain. Virtually every bill creating or affecting a government program involves striking a balance between the proper degree of freedom and regulation, and we'd be here for hours if anyone even tried to give you a literal and comprehensive answer to that question. So please, drop the switchblade and act like a real journalist again, will ya?" Instead, Gov. Palin politely said that she's have to get back to Ms. Couric on that.

(In fact, rather than buttressing her original point — a simple one, not in genuine dispute by anybody, to the effect that McCain had gone on record years ago demanding closer oversight of and accountability for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the sort of detailed answer literally called for by the question would have required Gov. Palin to spend many minutes detailing an aspect of Sen. McCain's career that libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives find rather worrying. The genuine question isn't whether John McCain has ever insisted on government oversight on any other occasions, it's whether he's been too willing to impose it. Thus, a comparable question to Joe Biden would have been: "Tell us every example of legislation that Sen. Obama has supported as a state or U.S. senator that has delivered or would have delivered funds, via earmarks or otherwise, into the hands of his political allies and supporters — and for each, tell us why we ought not suspect that there's graft involved." Even Slow Joe Biden would have found a way to sidestep that question.)

So today, Gov. Palin takes press questions in New York. So what spin does Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico.com put on the session — no doubt anticipating that which we'll hear from most other old-media sources? Of course, it's that she "offer[ed] mostly evasive answers to specific questions."

Okay, then, what were the specific questions? The first was "whether she supports the reelection bids of embattled Alaska Republicans Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young." Now ask yourself this: When was the last time reporters made a big deal pressing either Barack Obama or Joe Biden on whether they support the re-election campaign of similarly-indicted Democratic congressman William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson?

In fact, Gov. Palin openly and actively supported her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, in his GOP primary battle against Young. (Parnell lost by a razor-thin margin.) And well before this year's election season, she had deliberately and openly distanced herself from both Young and Stevens, publicly demanding that both be more forthcoming in responding to allegations of ethical failures on their part. It would be a real stretch for anyone to describe her relations with Young or Stevens since she took office as anything else but "carefully polite but frosty," and of course to get into that office in the first place, she first had to defeat the third member of the Alaska Good-Old-Boys Troika, Frank Murkowski.

Today in particular, however, Sen. Stevens is in the middle of a jury trial. If he's convicted, his career will be over regardless of anything Gov. Palin says. It would be hugely inappropriate — a misuse of her official position, in fact — for her as Governor of Alaska to either support or lambast Stevens in the national press while the jury is still hearing evidence. Gov. Palin politely pointed that out — she's quoted today as saying "“Ted Stevens' trial started a couple days ago. We’ll see where that goes” — but eager to further his "She's Hiding from the Press!" meme, Vogel still insists on characterizing Gov. Palin as being "evasive."

As for Vogel's second example of a specific question on which Gov. Palin was "evasive," Vogel tells us that she "deflected a follow-up question about whether she felt the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has inflamed Islamic extremists." Now, to begin with, phrased that way, that's not a question so much as an argument, an Obama-campaign talking point. The real issue is whether the benefits to our side in the Global War on Terror from our presence in those countries is worth whatever inflamation their presence causes — and that's the issue Gov. Palin chose to address in her answer, rather than assuming the questioner's premise that the "inflamation" is the only important part of the equation:

I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. Do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction, terrible destruction on that day. But since Sept. 11, Americans are uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again.

That's not being "evasive," friends and neighbors, that's being assertive. (And it's also, I submit, the correct view of the larger issue.)

For Vogel to characterize these answers as "evasive" is simply disingenuous — the application of an unrealistic standard that no honest journalist would ever apply to any other politician who gave the same answers to the same sets of loaded questions in any other context.

Here's the sub-text, folks: The old-media hacks who are in the tank for Obama are screaming "Say something stupid, Gov. Palin, to give us ammo to feed our bogus narrative that you're in over your head!" And when she refuses, what's their headline? "Palin non-responsive to reporters' requests."

The good news is that fair-minded members of the American public — including fair-minded people on the political Left — can see through this shrill charade. I don't expect the charade to abate between now and November 4th because that would require the hacks to climb out of the tank, and that just ain't gonna happen. But I think Gov. Palin will continue to impress her supporters, and more importantly that she'll continue to win more, as her unfiltered, unapologetic common sense continues to shine through to the American voting public.

Come November 5th, Democrats and their not-so-secret supporters in the old media will regret having insisted that the spotlight stay so focused on Sarah Palin.

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UPDATE (Thu Sep 25 @ 9:30 p.m. CST): Patterico proves that CBS News badly butchered their transcription of Couric's interview with Gov. Palin — in ways that tend to make Gov. Palin's answers seem disjointed and clueless — but the mistranscriptions are already propagating all around the blogosphere. I hadn't seen the transcriptions, but watched the first couple of episodes live, and I personally thought Gov. Palin did quite well in them overall.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:13 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (6)

In the current financial crisis, only McCain is indispensible

The non-Palin guest-post that I've just put up at HughHewitt.com is probably my all-time strongest praise for John McCain. The current financial crisis is the prompt, but the specific subject which drew that out of me is "leadership."

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Hugh's summary of today's events, posted earlier tonight, is exactly accurate, and I agree with it all. With his, and your, indulgence, here's my own very similar (albeit far more wordy) take:

*******

A politician can declare that he is a leader. His political party can declare that he's a leader. And hundreds of thousands of acolytes around the world can swoon devotedly at his feet, and he can rack up all the trappings of leadership. But none of that in fact makes him into a leader if he actually isn't one.

Crises reveal, make, and define leaders. When the crisis is over, it's easy to recognize in hindsight who the leader was, even if there was some doubt as to that during the crisis itself. Looking back, we can recognize a leader because he's the one who the other potential actors and decision-makers actually followed.

I do not care what anyone says today, or what buffoons like Michael Moore said at the time: George W. Bush led through the ruins of 9/11/01 and kept us safe from further attacks on our soil for the seven years thereafter. However much nuance future historians may put on his two terms in office, that will be the one-sentence verdict of history as understood and remembered by the public. Well-educated eighth graders in 2088 will know that even if they know nothing else of his presidency.

More one-sentence verdicts which we also all know: Washington gave this nation its birth of freedom in the Revolutionary War. Lincoln saved it from self-destruction in the Civil War. Teddy Roosevelt brought us recognition as a world power. FDR led us from Pearl Harbor through the defeat of fascist empires in Germany and Japan. Truman stood fast at the beginning of the Cold War. And Reagan won it.

Sometimes the one-sentence verdicts of history are not flattering. Grant, a great general, was an inept president unable to control corrupt cronies. Hoover lost the country's confidence that he could deal with the Depression. Carter collapsed when America was first confronted with radical Islamic terrorism. And Clinton, in a time of no particular external crisis, nevertheless let his ego and appetites rule him, in the process bringing shame to the Office of the Presidency.

*******

Now is a time of crisis too. I don't think it's remotely as great a crisis — not yet, anyway — as those mentioned above. But it's the biggest one we've faced since we were confronted with the immediate prospect of a humiliating defeat and surrender in the post-war occupation of Iraq.

John McCain shares credit, with Bush-43 and a far-sighted general named Petraeus, for surmounting that crisis too. And therefore it should be no surprise that when this one abates — when a deal is struck, a bill is passed and signed, the markets calm, and the nation gratefully exhales — we'll see that McCain once again put his campaign, his potential presidency, and his entire legacy at risk in order to exercise responsibility. And we'll see that when he did that, others from both parties followed.

I'm acutely aware of John McCain's many flaws and faults, and I have a list as long as my arm of mistakes I think he's made in the past and instincts that I think he needs to guard against in the future. He'll make more mistakes; he'll infuriate me and many others from time to time; he'll get some things wrong in the future, too. But I have no doubt whatsoever that John McCain is a genuine leader, one who other decision-makers will actually follow in a crisis — even if they're from the opposing party, even if they don't particularly like him, even if they're not at all sure that he's right and they're mostly just grateful he stepped up because it helps them cover their own precious butts.

When immediate action is essential, John McCain will act, and they will follow. And thus, in the present financial crisis in September of 2008, now that everyone agrees that immediate action is essential, John McCain is simply the one indispensable man in Washington.

It is vastly premature to try to predict the one-sentence verdict of history on a McCain presidency. But we can be entirely confident that it will not be: "He froze, he panicked, he ducked the responsibility, and he talked a good game but let precious and fleeting opportunities pass him and his country by."

Such is my prediction. I am on record. Amen.

*******

What's already abundantly clear in this crisis, however, without the need for any hindsight, is that Barack Obama has failed to lead.

Indeed, when the crisis engulfed them, those who've had the best first-hand opportunity since January 2005 to watch him try to do his job — his fellow senators, even the leaders of his own party who mouth the words about him being "the next President of the United States" and the hope of a new generation — didn't call a halt to everything and send out a plea for his personal presence in Washington. Their actions and in particular, this inaction, shows that they know in their hearts that Obama is no real leader. They know he's simply a well-cut, slick, but empty suit onto which the trappings of leadership have been projected. And when it comes to putting their own careers, their own modest places in history, on the line, they certainly didn't look to him for guidance.

The only reason for Obama's abrupt 180-degree pivot today was to provide his campaign and his party with a fig leaf: Now they can pretend that both his and McCain's presence and participation in Washington were essential to the striking of any deal. To do otherwise would be to cede the election to McCain outright.

Nevertheless: Except for the sole purpose of maintaining his campaign's dignity, Barack Obama is today the single most dispensable member of Congress.

That doesn't mean McCain will win in November. But it means that he should.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 02:42 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In 1995, Obama notified the world that he'd tie himself to extremists like Bill Ayers

In part because I was a college classmate and friend of its originator, I try to resist falling prey to Godwin's Law in my blogging. But I can't help wondering if someday, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance will be considered as prophetic as a certain other book written in the late 1920s by a certain other struggling and ultimately transformative politician.

My newest guest-post at HughHewitt.com quotes a couple of paragraphs from Obama's 1995 book which practically shouted at us a warning that Obama would find a literal bomb-thrower like Bill Ayers with whom to associate himself. And of course, he did.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Stanley Kurtz' most recent reporting on the connections between Sen. Barack Obama and unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers — Founding Brothers: What's Behind Obama's Early Rise? —leaves no doubt that the candidate, his campaign spinners, and their allies have systematically, and largely successfully, concealed the astonishing depth and breadth of those connections.

But long before Obama and his handlers had finalized their "just a guy from my neighborhood" meme with regard to Ayers, Obama himself made the mistake of being candid about the carefully calculated preferences for forming associations which he'd chosen as a young adult.

In the first of his two autobiographies, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (published in 1995), Obama vividly described the crowd he deliberately chose to "hang with" as a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles — and reveals exactly why he chose them (italics mine):

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our setereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.

But this strategy alone couldn't provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce [a former girlfriend] or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerated. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.

Now, that's at pages 100-101 — and Obama went on for another 340 pages of carefully styled and painfully self-aware prose to describe his further journeys of self-discovery. When did the journey stop? It certainly hadn't by the trip to Kenya with which Obama's first book ends, and there's good reason to believe it's still on-going today — which led to one of Gov. Palin's best one-liners in her Veep-nomination acceptance speech, impliedly comparing Obama to McCain: "My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of 'personal discovery.'"

But with respect to the paragraphs I've quoted just above from Obama's book, I'm unaware of Obama having ever renounced this conscious "strategy" by which, in his own words, he's "chose[n his] friends carefully" even going back to his college days.

Thus, Obama practically shouted a warning to America and the world in 1995 that he'd deliberately find, and choose as his friends, associates, and allies, people who were not just "so-called radicals" from among the "white and tenured and happily tolerated." No, to "avoid being mistaken for a sell-out," to achieve the "distance" he wanted, to show his "solidarity," he'd find someone who'd thrown more than metaphorical, verbal bombs.

Reading these two paragraphs, one cannot be at all surprised to learn that almost immediately after the publication of his first book, Obama eagerly entwined himself with Bill Ayers.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 09:38 PM in 2008 Election, Books, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Washington Democratic Party hacks second-guess Gov. Palin about her relative time spent in Juneau and elsewhere

It really shouldn't surprise me or annoy me, or do anything but amuse me, when some Democratic Party hack waiting out his exile in a think-tank purports to do "reporting" for Politico.com in the form of a ridiculous bit of second-guessing of how Gov. Sarah Palin divides her time between Juneau, Anchorage, and Wasilla. But I did get worked up enough to punch out 1200+ words on the subject, in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter badly needed to be in Washington, D.C., rather than elsewhere. Otherwise, how could he personally monitor the use of the White House tennis courts? Some rather more effective chief executives, however, have since discovered management techniques that don't require their noses to be pressed to the windows to literally oversee their staffs' behavior.

Thirty years later and on the other side of the continent in the largest state in the Union, Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin has faced a rather different set of challenges than those of the typical Washington politician or bureaucrat. Indeed, those of us from the Lower 48 can barely imagine just how the vastness of geography and the lack of infrastructure affect the daily lives of Alaska's citizens, including, of course, its political leaders.

But that won't stop know-nothing Beltway partisans and bureaucrats from sniping at her from afar about how she chooses to divide her time between various locations in Alaska, because they have a political axe to grind and a target to smear — actual facts on the ground be damned.

[# More #] Gov. Palin's and her family's homestead is in Wasilla, part of the growing Mat-Su Valley, about an hour or so's drive from Anchorage. Anchorage, in turn, with something in the neighborhood of 280,000 residents, is the state's largest city by a huge margin, and indeed home to over 40% of the total state population (about 680,000). Naturally enough, Anchorage is the headquarters for much of Alaska's commerce and industry, education, healthcare, law firms, and media. To suggest that the Governor of Alaska can ignore or shortchange Anchorage in favor of Juneau is as ridiculous as suggesting that the Governor of New York can ignore or shortchange New York City in favor of Albany.

Of the next two largest cities, Fairbanks boasts a population of only 31,000, and Juneau, the state capital, about the same. Juneau is 571 air miles from Anchorage — about as far as Miami, FL, is from Charleston, SC — and more than an hour's flight time.  (I gather that driving between the two isn't practicable, and it may be impossible.) There have been serious, but highly controversial, proposals ever since Alaskan statehood to move the state capital to Anchorage.

Notwithstanding all this, now Gov. Palin's hysterical critics are finding fault with the number of days she's spent in Juneau versus the number of days she's spent in Anchorage or Wasilla. In a silly and juvenile article on Politico.com entitled "Playing hooky pays off for Palin," Scott Lilly — a senior fellow for former Clintonista chief of staff John Podesta's Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington — is absolutely confident of his ability to second-guess the innermost geographical and logistical workings of a state government of which he's never been a part:

Why does the governor of Alaska need to be in the state capital? There are two big reasons — and probably many smaller ones. The first big reason is that she appoints most of the people who manage the 15 departments of Alaska’s state government, containing more than 100 divisions and employing more than 50,000 people. Nearly all the department heads and division directors are headquartered in Juneau. E-mails and telephone calls alone are not effective for the governor to get advice, give directions and follow up to ensure that appropriate policy is being implemented. It is obvious that the ability to fully monitor the performance of the bureaucracies any governor has chosen to lead is greatly restricted if the governor does not spend significant time on the ground where the operations of government are housed.

But also of great importance is the governor’s ability to work with the legislature to update state policies and offer new programs for improving governance. Any effective governor must work on an ongoing basis with not only the leadership of both houses in the state legislature to build consensus and draft the governor’s proposals into language that both houses can accept, but also committee chairmen and recalcitrant members whose votes are needed to support key portions of the governor agenda. 

Memo to Mr. Lilly: Regardless of where its agencies are headquartered, lots of government functions in Alaska actually take place in Anchorage; I don't know the exact percentage, but I'm confident that you don't either, and if we simply compare the number of state employees you list to the total population of Juneau, we know something way more than half of them cannot possibly be residents of Juneau. Similarly, lots of state legislators either live in or near Anchorage or else have secondary offices there, just like the governor and lieutenant governor do. In any event, I'm even more confident that Gov. Palin has an excellent first-hand factual basis for making such observations.

More to the point, Mr. Lilly, in the 21st Century — especially in a state half the size of South America and two and a half times the size of western Europe — and whatever kinky fantasies you might secretly harbor about Gov. Palin, it's not practical for a state chief executive to walk from desk to desk with a ruler in her hand to smack state employees, or even state legislators, who are misbehaving. You imagine that proximity is the key to effective governance. Maybe you're just used to being among those naughty Washington staffers who need literally hands-on supervision, or maybe you're just guessing or exaggerating.

Since you've never done her job, Mr. Lilly, perhaps you might pay some attention instead to the results Gov. Palin has achieved — breaking, for example, a multi-year deadlock on the enabling legislation and international negotiation (through competitive bidding) of a $40 billion cross-state natural gas pipeline that will do more to accomplish American energy independence than any other politician at any level, state or federal, has ever accomplished. What's so "obvious" to you, and to whatever Alaskan opponents of Gov. Palin have been feeding you your talking points, may seem obviously ridiculous to the seventy-plus percent of Gov. Palin's own constituents who support the job she's doing, and to the rest of us in the U.S. who figure that the good folks of Alaska are probably better situated — whether in Anchorage or Barrow or Nunapitchuk — to figure out if Gov. Palin has been "playing hookey" to the detriment of the State's business.

Why was I not surprised to read, Mr. Lilly, that you were a Democratic staffer for the House Appropriations Committee, that font of all federal government spending? Yours is the sort of bureaucratic logic and argument, Mr. Lilly, relied upon by Gov. Palin's predecessor, Frank Murkowski, when he defied the state legislature and bought a luxury corporate jet which couldn't even land on most Alaska runways. Gov. Palin sold it. Now, sometimes she takes the family Piper Cub floatplane, which is older than anyone in her family. When she flies commercial, she flies coach. She drives herself to work whether she's in Juneau or Wasilla, and her total travel expenses have been about one-fifth of her predecessor's. And wherever she chooses to do it, she obviously gets things done. That's the net-net, the bottom bottom line, the acid test, and the whole polar bear. (Okay, I just made that last metaphor up, but you get my drift.)

So go back to sharpening pencils at your think-tank, Mr. Lilly. The grown-ups, including Gov. Palin, have a country to run.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 11:43 AM in 2008 Election, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Contra Bonnie Goldstein at Slate.com, Gov. Palin has never "admitted publicly" that any communications with Monegan were intended to "urge Wooten's firing"

Yes, I know, the titles are too, too long, but I have another early-morning guest-post about Sarah Palin up at HughHewitt.com.

Although of course most of it's unrelated to my guest posts there, yesterday Hugh's site got close to 120k visits or page views according to Sitemeter. That tells me folks are increasingly engaging in nitty-gritty details before the election. And that's a good thing for America, whatever happens.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

I've been a courtroom lawyer, an advocate in mostly civil but occasionally criminal trials, since 1981. Even before I started actually practicing, I learned that one way for the unscrupulous to railroad someone — to unfairly convict their target of something, to deny the target even a fair hearing — is simply to phrase all of the discussion in a way that presumes the target's guilt.

Because of that danger, the rules of evidence give defenders the right and the duty to object to the form of questions and accusations. And one very good ground for objection is that a question lacks an appropriate predicate — prior proof of the assumptions on which it's premised. Typically, the statement or question being objected to presumes something that's not only unproved, but actively being disputed.

In the court of public opinion, in which Hard Left opponents of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin are trying to convict her of an abuse of power in the supposed "Tasergate" (a/k/a "Troopergate") scandal, I therefore object to the form of this accusation by Slate's Bonnie Goldstein in an article entitled Todd to Juneau: Drop Dead" (links in original):

Since July, the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee has been looking into whether Gov. Sarah Palin fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan because he refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper named Mike Wooten. (Wooten's marriage to Palin's sister, Molly McCann, ended in an ugly divorce.) Two weeks before John McCain declared Palin his running mate, Palin admitted publicly that her husband, Todd, and members of Palin's staff had contacted Monegan and other public-safety officials about two dozen times to urge Wooten's firing.

The first sentence describes unproven allegations, and I have no quibble with it: It's not unfair or misleading to simply state what the allegations are in the course of discussing them. Nor do I quibble with the parenthetical sentence that follows.

But the final sentence — about the purported "public admission" as to the intention of anyone "to urge Wooten's firing" — is thoroughly objectionable. It's something that is not supported in any way by the source Ms. Goldstein linked (an article from the Anchorage Daily News). Nor has that intention been proved yet in any formal proceeding. And rather than having been "admitted publicly" by Gov. Palin, that intention is something that she has actually flatly denied repeatedly from the first days this dispute was fomented in the Alaska press by the blog speculations of the distant third-place finisher in the 2006 gubernatorial election, Andrew Halcro.

In fact, Bonnie Goldstein and Slate.com just made this so-called "admission" up out of thin air. And she and Slate.com have refused to correct it, notwithstanding my polite email to them on Monday evening pointing out her error. At that point, what could originally have been defended as an egregious but innocent mistake on their part became, at best, a knowing and continuing misrepresentation of objective fact — that being as to what's "admitted" and what's instead vigorously disputed.

I've written before on my own blog (here, here, and here, for example) at greater length about Tasergate, with gobs of hyperlinks and many direct quotes from original source documents. You may think you know what kind of misbehavior has been alleged, and what's been proved, about Trooper Wooten, but you probably don't yet know more than a fraction of it. But in any event, I assure you that with respect to Ms. Goldstein's and Slate.com's false description of a "public admission" by Gov. Palin, this isn't just quibbling about semantics. It's absolutely central to the charges against Gov. Palin.

Monegan himself has repeatedly admitted, in vivid language, that neither Gov. Palin, nor First Dude Todd Palin, nor anyone else ever told him, in so many words, that he (Monegan) should fire Wooten (boldface mine):

"For the record, no one ever said fire Wooten. Not the governor. Not Todd. Not any of the other staff," Monegan said Friday from Portland. "What they said directly was more along the lines of 'This isn't a person that we would want to be representing our state troopers.'"

Rather, at best, Monegan, child-abusing (but still employed) Trooper Wooten, and their backers are arguing that there was an implied order for Monegan to fire Wooten, ultimately backed up by an implied threat that if he didn't, Palin would fire Monegan.

In courtrooms, we generally call these sorts of implications "guessing," and judges regularly refuse to let witnesses even begin to travel down that path.

Oh, there may be exceptions. If the crime charged involves an alleged organized crime boss conveying a death threat to a juror, and the evidence is that he told the juror, "Vote to acquit or you'll sleep with the fishes," the courts would probably permit that testimony as tending to show that a death threat was actually conveyed and not just imagined by the juror — if, but only if, the prosecution first showed that there was circumstantial evidence through which a reasonable person under similar circumstances might reasonably perceive such a threat to be implied. There has to be at least some historical context. "Did you ever see the movie version of 'The Godfather'?" might thus be part of the predicate required to support the piling of such inferences on top of each other.

To prove abuse of power, Gov. Palin's opponents have to prove either the use or threatened use of power. They have to show the whole chain of causation, without skipping any steps. So can Monegan, or Wooten, or anyone else supporting either of them, or attacking Gov. Palin, produce any basis to show that anything Todd Palin, or Sarah Palin, or anyone on Sarah Palin's staff, ever said or wrote to Monegan about Wooten amounted to —

  • first, an order that Wooten be fired (rather than, say, reassigned to other duties, given remedial training and counseling, or given some other, lesser punishment); and

  • second, a threat that Monegan would be fired if he didn't fire Wooten?

So far, there has been no specific allegation to either effect — no showing of anyone else who'd been similarly threatened with firing or fired, nor any showing negating (or even remotely inconsistent with) any other explanations for what was written or said (like the ones Gov. Palin has actually tendered for her own emailed references to Wooten a full year or more before Monegan was offered a different government job).

So to the extent it's about misconduct on the part of Gov. Palin (as opposed to misconduct by Wooten or Monegan themselves), the whole of Tasergate is based on guesses stacked on inference stacked on innuendo. In that context, it's particularly important to be truthful and scrupulously accurate about what anyone has "admitted" — especially on something as important, and as slippery, as what anyone intended. Pundits may then argue what conclusions they want; but pundits who wish to be credible, and certainly anyone who wants to be considered a professional journalist, have a duty not to misrepresent what's actually being disputed.

As for the purported point of Ms. Goldstein's article — to discuss and attach .pdf scans of a letter sent by a lawyer explaining the eleven different reasons why Todd Palin would not be handing a legislative lynch mob more rope to hang him with by responding to an unenforceable and inappropriate subpoena — I encourage you to read both Ms. Goldstein's characterizations and then the letter itself. You can decide for yourself, or at least get an accurate impression as to what basis there is for disagreement about the subpoena, from the actual source document.

As you do, though, note Ms. Goldstein's sloppy-at-best construction when she says "An earlier claim by [attorney] Van Flein that the matter belongs before a personnel review board was rebuffed" — as if Van Flein's position were rebuffed by a court, or even a full legislative committee vote. (It was actually only "rebuffed" by the Democratic state senator who's leading the witchhunt and the investigator he's directing in his admitted attempt to produce an "October surprise"; in other words, the opposing parties disagree, and the matter hasn't yet actually been resolved.)

Notice, too, how Ms. Goldstein skips over the substance of the first ten objections — which might require her to, you know, actually look at a statute which says that only the Alaska Personnel Board has jurisdiction to consider abuse of power claims in state employment matters — so that she can mock Gov. Palin and her husband's legitimate point that between now and November 4th, they do have some other obligations on their calendar.

On the assertion as to what Gov. Palin has "admitted publicly" as to an intent to "urge Wooten's firing," though, the bottom line is this: Until she publishes a conspicuous correction, Ms. Goldstein is perilously close to, and perhaps across the line of, simply lying herself. In the interests of justice, I object. And for now, since we're operating in the court of public opinion, the only ruling on my objection will come from each of you.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:18 AM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pix for animal lovers

Okay, this one I'm not going to cross-post at Hugh's place, in part because I'm not comfortable enough with the interface there yet to deal with photos confidently, and in part because I'm really just re-posting two photos that were originally juxtaposed in the Humane Society Legislative Fund's endorsement of the Obama-Biden ticket over the McCain-Palin ticket (h/t John McCormack at the Weekly Standard's Blog):

Obamapuppy

Palinmoose

I would almost be content to have the American public decide the election based on these two photographs, but that would be short-changing John McCain and Joe Biden. Let's see: Add in the shot of McCain on his back at the Hanoi Hilton and a before-and-after of Biden's hair plugs. Yeah, that'd be about right.

I'm just hoping that someone photoshopped Obama and the poodle in front of the Lincoln Memorial background. It's frightening, but altogether plausible, for me to imagine that he (and the pooch) blew off holding a meeting of his Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee on our NATO allies' responsibilities in Afghanistan in order to go snap that photo. (Note how this photo demonstrates Obama's easy grace in dealing with the French.)

Of course, the same limousine liberals who are shocked almost to hurling at the idea of Sarah Palin teaching her daughter to hunt were themselves greatly touched when they took their own kids to a Broadway performance of "The Lion King." All that "circle of life" stuff, after all, is best in CGI, or at least contained to theater props. They sleep better at night knowing that Kiefer Sutherland and Martin Sheen are protecting us from the bloodthirsty terrorists.

These pictures are actually a great study in cognitive dissonance and the Left's inability to grasp how someone can simultaneously be, for example, a Christian who believes in evolution, or a pro-life feminist, or an animal-loving hunter, or a tender warrior.

Posted by Beldar at 12:14 AM in 2008 Election, Humor, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (13)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Caribou Barbie" kicks serious tail

I've got another guest post up at HughHewitt.com, giving credit for humor where due but urging Gov. Palin to embrace her inner Caribou Barbie.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

I'm a self-confessed and joyful partisan — Hugh Hewitt being a fine role model in that respect, as well as my gracious blogging host during this election season! — and I'm constantly reminded that partisanship quickly becomes tedious without frequent interjections of humor. My own blogging runs the gamut from deadly-serious (as in my post about the Obama-Biden campaign's deliberately repeated mockery of John McCain's physical disabilities from his POW days) to thoroughly snarky (as in my fisking of David Talbot's latest "reporting" from Alaska about Gov. Sarah Palin in Salon.com), with the snark intended to bring some humor at my targets' expense. But I also believe that it's important to remain open to one's political opponents' arguments, and essential to remain open to the humor (snarky or otherwise) that may accompany them. Thus, even though it's still early in the week, and even though it's been in usage even earlier (with over 100k Google references already):

Caribou Barbie

My nomination for "Funniest snarky reference from the Left" for this week comes from those who've described Gov. Palin as "Caribou Barbie."

I just think that's a hoot — short, universally understandable, a tight riff on "Malibu" (with all its own associations), and even rhythmic and alliterative! Indeed, "Caribou Barbie" sounds like someone who might be dating Crocodile Dundee, which actually, except for that whole hemispheric-reversal thing, sort of describes "First Dude" Todd, too.

I know it's intended to be mocking, and when it flies from the lips or keyboards of Gov. Palin's opponents, it arrives dripping with ridicule. But neither you nor I nor Gov. Palin is required to accept that intention, and nothing prevents us from flipping it.

I have two teenaged daughters, and they did indeed have (and I'm pretty sure still do have, somewhere in a closet) multiple Barbies. As a Sputnik baby myself, more than a few hours of my own childhood were spent with a playmate named Alice down the street, and yes, I'm proud to have been Ken. I consider Barbie to be a friend, and I admire her.

Barbie is an American icon that's long-since gone world-wide, a multi-billion dollar five-decade success story on all sorts of meta-levels. And we're decades past the days when only little girls could play with dolls, or when those dolls, when female, could only be fantasized about as stay-at-home mommies (who got little enough credit for even that). Of course, "Barbie(reg)" and associated trademarks and tradenames belong to Mattel, Inc. One of its 2002 press releases tells us that although Barbie's "first career was [as] a teenage fashion model" in 1959, since then she's "had more than 80 careers — everything from a rock star to a paleontologist to a presidential candidate." Thus does life imitate toys imitating life.

Gov. Palin has an excellent, and oftentimes michievous, sense of humor. I don't expect that that's how she introduced herself today to Afghan President Hamid Karzai or Colombian President Alvaro Uribe — but if she had, they'd have probably gotten the joke. I'm not a campaign spokesman, nor a campaign adviser, but as with the "Sarah Barracuda" nickname, my recommendation to her would be:

"Embrace your inner Caribou Barbie, Governor!" Because if (as I believe is true) today's Barbie, in all her many incarnations, kicks tail in general, then surely Caribou Barbie from Wasilla will find plenty of all-too-serious tail to kick in Washington, too.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 08:26 PM in 2008 Election, Humor, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (6)

A fisking of David Talbot's assembly of Alaska's defeated candidates and felons to whine about "mean girl" Sarah Palin

It's almost indecently easy to fisk stuff that's published on Salon.com, and I enjoyed doing so in another guest post about Sarah Palin on HughHewitt.com this morning.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

David Talbot, the founder of Salon.com, has accomplished an amazing journalistic coup on his website today: In a breathless article entitled "Mean Girl," Mr. Talbot reports the stunning news that the Alaska politicians whom Sarah Palin has either directly beaten herself, or else has seen driven from public office for corruption, don't tend to like her very much!

Stop the presses! (In other stunning news, the sun rose this morning in the east, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.)

Mr. Talbot's narrative begins with Gov. Palin's first run for mayor of Wasilla against incumbent John Stein. We're assured that ex-Mayor Stein is "an eminently reasonable and reflective man" — or so he appears to a San Francisco online journalist like Mr. Talbot, who doubtless spent many, many hours coming to know Stein intimately enough to vouch for him.

But according to Palin biographer (and Wasilla resident) Kaylene Johnson, while he originally was a popular mayor, Stein had ignored the sentiments of Wasilla residents who'd approved term limits in 1994, and he continued to take advantage of a loophole exempting incumbents (he'd been mayor since 1987). Palin had originally crossed Stein by voting against a pay increase for the mayor's position shortly after she was first elected as a city councilman in 1992; accordingly, in 1996, she campaigned against him with a promise that she would start trimming the city budget by taking a voluntary pay cut as mayor. (Which in fact she did.) She also promised to reduce property taxes. (Which in fact she did.) And she promised to promote new economic development that would increase the local tax base and permit higher levels of city services. (Which, again, she did.)

Mr. Talbot, relying on ex-Mayor Stein and his family and friends, ignores these issues and paints the 1996 mayoral campaign as being about personalities, biases, "whispering campaigns," and issues having nothing to do with city government — leading to the political birth of a terrible monster who devoured her original sponsor:

"I had a hand in creating Sarah, but in the end she blew me out of the water," Stein said, sounding more wearily ironic than bitter. "Sarah's on a mission, she's an opportunist."

Dear, me, break out the violins! Cue the orchestra! Poor, mistreated ex-Mayor Stein indeed lost the 1996 election by a vote of 651 to 440, so he decided to run against Sarah Palin again in 1999. Kaylene Johnson reports — and David Talbot and Salon.com omit to note — that given a second chance to choose between Stein and Palin, Wasilla residents re-elected Palin by a margin of 826 to 255.

*******

But wait, there's more! To further his theme that "once a powerful patron becomes a major liability, Palin is quick to jettison him," Mr. Talbot brings us the sad story of former Alaska state representative Victor Kohring, who Talbot describes as "another key Palin supporter during her political rise in Mat-Su Valley." Talbot tells us that Kohring feels "betrayed" by Sarah Palin.

"He thinks she's an opportunist, pure and simple," reports Talbot of Kohring's views (as relayed through a friend), and "she didn't give him [i.e., Kohring] the time of day." Indeed, Sarah Palin "called on [Kohring] to resign his office," which he "regarded ... as a great insult, a personal betrayal." Oh, my!

This sad story might be a bit more moving, however, and Talbot's tale of Gov. Palin's turn-coat tendencies more persuasive, were former state representative Kohring's own present residence somewhere other than "the Taft minimum security prison outside Bakersfield, Calif."

He's serving his sentence on federal corruption charges — poor fellow.

Quick! More violins! Mr. Talbot needs the whole strings section, in fact! Play louder! Play more sadly! Sarah Palin is a meanie because she won't stick up for convicted felons.

*******

On to Mr. Talbot's next witness, Andrew Halcro, who also furnishes the muckraking Mr. Talbot with juicy quotes (asterisks mine):

"The idea that Sarah shook up the state's old-boy network is one big fantasy, it's complete bulls**t," Halcro said. "She got all this public acclaim for throwing people who backed her under the bus — but she only did it after they became expendable, when she no longer needed them.

So who's Andrew Halcro? Oh, well, he's the extremely annoying know-it-all who finished a humiliating third, with 9 percent of the vote, behind Palin's 48 percent and Democratic former governor Tony Knowles'  41 percent in the 2006 gubernatorial general election. So do the facts support Halcro's assertion, or are these just more sour grapes?

I think you know what's coming, don't you? Orchestra, up and over! Crank the dials up to eleven! Hire John Williams and the entire Boston Pops!

Halcro only had the opportunity to run a distant third against her in the 2006 general election because by then, Sarah Palin had already broken from — and then soundly defeated in the GOP primary — one of Alaska's most powerful politicians, incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski. She mounted that campaign from a position as a private citizen who was widely thought to have destroyed her own political career through her 2005 resignation from her position as chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission in the Murkowski's administration to become a whistle-blower.

Here's a metaphor usage tip for Messrs. Halcro and Talbot: When someone has run as a massively underfunded underdog against a state's entrenched political structure, including its incumbent governor, and she wins despite all the odds against her, the proper metaphor isn't "throwing [anyone] under the bus." It's "assaulting the beaches at Normandy."

*******

Mr. Talbot ends his exciting work of investigative journalism with a rhetorical question, again mouthed by the soundly defeated Andrew Halcro: "So where's the new era of change that Palin supposedly brought to Alaska?"

It's true enough that Gov. Palin hasn't yet been able to oppose and defeat every single ethically challenged GOP politician in Alaska, since she can't simultaneously be Governor of Alaska, U.S. Representative from Alaska, and both U.S. Senators from Alaska. No, in addition to defeating incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, she's merely driven the head of the Alaska Republican Party from his appointed public office and helped force the resignation of the former state attorney-general.

But this rhetorical question shows Halcro to be disingenuous, and Talbot to be either ignorant or disingenuous or both, about what has actually happened in Alaska since the 2006 election. Among other accomplishments —

  • Gov. Palin has taken symbolic but nevertheless important steps toward fiscal responsibility such as selling the corporate jet Murkowski had purchased over legislative opposition, re-assigning the Governor's Mansion's executive chef, and driving herself to work.
  • She's imposed substantive fiscal discipline — despite overflowing state coffers and the spending temptations that presents — by using her line-item veto to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in pork from the state budget, and she's made those vetoes stick.
  • She's led the state legislature to enact a completely revamped state severance tax on oil and gas extracted from Alaska (mis-labeled by some as a "windfall profits tax"), replacing a cozy and widely distrusted version that the Murkowski administration had negotiated with the major energy companies who represent the corporate status quo.
  • And she's gotten the legislative groundwork laid, and an international contract signed, for a multi-billion dollar competitively-bid contract for the construction of a cross-state natural gas pipeline that will not only address Alaskans' own needs for affordable energy but also bring Alaska's plentiful reserves to hungry markets in the Lower 48 states.

These accomplishments explain Gov. Sarah Palin's stratospheric popularity ratings among her constituents — save and except for a small minority of Alaskans who take their cues from sore losers like Halcro and Stein or felons like Kohring.

And gosh: It turns out that all this sad, "wearily ironic" music from Mr. Talbot can actually be played on the world's smallest violin.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 11:03 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (5)

Spare me your reverse-reverse snobbery about Sarah Palin

I've put up yet another guest-post about Gov. Palin at HughHewitt.com. This one's pretty snarky, but I respectfully submit that it's a response to snark-rageous provocation from Michelle Cottle, a leftie pundit at TNR.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Yesterday I wrote about an anti-Palin elitist who actually reveled in being an elitist. But equally funny are the elitists who insist that they're not elitists, and that because they aren't qualified to be vice president, neither can Sarah Palin be. Their argument is that precisely because so many people immediately connected to Sarah Palin on some subjective, visceral level, that must mean Sarah Palin is not exceptional, but rather exceptionally common — and therefore unqualified.

Exhibit A of this species is Michelle Cottle, a senior editor at The New Republic since 1999. Ms. Cottle wrote the following vivid paragraph yesterday on TNR's The Plank blog as part of her response, titled "Spare Me Your Reverse Snobbery," to an anti-elitist (pro-Palin) op-ed by Ralph Peters in the NY Post (caps and italics hers):

Just like Ralph Peters, I KNOW Sarah Palin. Hell, in my younger days, I WAS Sarah Palin. (Well, minus being a crack shot.) The difference is I don't fetishize my regular-gal roots and assume they make me special — much less qualified to run the country. And while I have indeed witnessed my fair share of cultural snobbery from some of my better-credentialed, coastal colleagues over the years, I'm not so defensive about where I come from that I feel the need to champion a wildly unqualified fellow hick whose politics I disagree with as a way to get back at everyone I know who has ever made a sniffy comment about big hair or small towns.

Nice and snarky, that bit about Ms. Cottle not being a "crack shot." Indeed, that's the kernel of truth buried in the midst of an otherwise undigested analysis.

And although Ms. Cottle's post doesn't mention it, there have been many reports in the last few weeks (e.g., here and here) of young women and girls showing up at McCain-Palin rallies wearing tee-shirts or carrying signs that read: "I am Sarah Palin!" So Ms. Cottle's feigned identification with Gov. Palin — at least as Ms. Cottle remembers herself from her own "younger days" — does have some real-world analogs, which I think we can presume are sincere (even if Ms. Cottle would think them pathetic).

[# More #] Now, I have no idea whether Ms. Cottle has met or mastered any of the challenges of being a wife and a middle-class mom, much less a working-outside-the-home mom; so let's give her the benefit of the doubt on those counts and just presume that she has. And Ms. Cottle's own educational credentials, including her BA in English from Vanderbilt in 1992, aren't as shabby as her post makes out, and certainly they're no less prestigious than Gov. Palin's 1987 degree in journalism from the University of Idaho.

But thereafter, Ms. Cottle appears to have been busy pursuing a career as a leftist journalist and pundit — with stints as an editor at Washington Monthly, an editorial fellow at Mother Jones, and a free-lancer for various newspapers, magazines, and CNN — in which pursuits I'm sure she collected a nice sheaf of clippings, some video clips with Tucker Carlson, many loyal friends and colleagues, and some modest fame (albeit that mostly among fans of leftie pundits). And that's all very nice. Good for Ms. Cottle, I say.

In the meantime, by comparison, Gov. Palin was busy pursuing a career as a multi-term city councilman; then a multi-term city mayor and head of the Alaska Conference of Mayors; then an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor; then the chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission; then a private-citizen reformer who drove from state office first an ethically challenged fellow commissioner and then an ethically challenged attorney-general; then a successful candidate for governor who defeated, in succession, an ethically challenged incumbent and a popular former governor; and then a successful governor who, in less than two years, has helped enact comprehensive ethics reforms, completely revised her state's most important tax structure, and accomplished more than any single other American public servant of any rank or party to help bring us closer to national energy independence, all the while maintaining stratospheric public approval ratings among her home-state constituents.

So yeah, other than all that, and of course the "crack shot" status — Michelle Cottle and Sarah Palin are pretty much twins!

As for all this speculation about Barack Obama dropping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket and replacing him with a powerful, accomplished woman to counter John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, my advice to Sen. Obama is: Forget about Hillary. Go for another regular gal — Michelle Cottle! After all, if Ms. Cottle is right, just about any wildly unqualified fellow hick modest American woman could do what Sarah Palin's done, including electrifying a national political convention in a coming-out speech watched by 40 million Americans, energizing and unifying a dispirited national political party, and drawing tens of thousands of new enthusiasts to campaign rallies — even if, well, Ms. Cottle herself hasn't quite gotten around to any of that. Indeed, I'll be watching for those "I am Michelle Cottle" tee-shirts in the very near future.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:07 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Biden reconsiders, decides it really is okay to mock McCain for POW disability which prevents him from using keyboards

I've put up my first non-Palin guest post at HughHewitt.com. (Be sure to read at least the first comment.)

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

It seemed, for a few moments, that at least one of the principals of the Obama-Biden campaign was capable of being ashamed of their campaign's television ad mocking John McCain's inability to use a computer. From the CBS Evening News' interview today with Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden (bracketed portion mine):

Couric asked: "Are you disappointed with the tone of the campaign? The 'lipstick on the pig' stuff, and some of the ads — you guys haven't been completely guilt-free making fun of John McCain's inability to use a computer."

"I thought that was terrible by the way," Biden said.

"Why did you do it then?" Couric asked.

"I didn't know we did it and if I had anything to do with it, we would have never done it," Biden said. "And I don't think Barack, you know. I just think that was … [trailing off]"

McCain's persistent physical disabilities from untreated injuries he sustained as an American POW in North Vietnam "prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes." As far as I'm concerned, anyone who mocks John McCain — or any other American veteran — for that sort of disability isn't worthy to shine those veterans' shoes.

But with a spectacular non sequitur, the Obama-Biden campaign has already "walked back" from — or, in plain English, disavowed — Sen. Biden's moment of decent shame:

[I]n the statement issued by the Obama campaign, Biden said he had never seen the ad and only read press reports of it.

"Having now reviewed the ad, it is even more clear to me that given the disgraceful tenor of Senator McCain's ads and their persistent falsehoods, his campaign is in no position to criticize," Biden said in the statement.

I would like to think that this statement was drafted by some junior campaign staffer, some soulless political hack — some craven worm whose entire universe is partisan politics and who has no concept of what it meant to spend five years as an American POW in North Vietnamese dungeons. I would like to think that in letting their campaign issue this statement, both Sens. Obama and Biden only momentarily and temporarily lost focus, lost perspective, and lost their humanity, and that by tomorrow they'll recover some measure of those traits. I would like to think that whichever of their subordinates actually wrote and issued that statement tonight will be out of a job, and out of any career in politics, by breakfast tomorrow morning.

But ultimately, one just can't excuse a campaign's principals from this kind of literal shamelessness displayed by their campaign spokesmen. It just doesn't matter whether Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden feel more sinned against than sinners themselves when it comes to the fairness or truthfulness of each side's political advertisements: Decent Americans of any political stripe don't mock American POWs for their disabilities sustained in the defense of this country, and they certainly don't retract their absolutely appropriate, candid apologies immediately after having made them.

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UPDATE (Tue Sep 23 @ 12:55 a.m. CST): Here's a more complete — but no more rational — version of Biden's retraction:

I was asked about an ad I’d never seen, reacting merely to press reports. As I said right then, I knew there was nothing intentionally personal in the criticism of Senator McCain’s views which look backwards not forwards and are out of touch with the new economic challenges we face today. Having now reviewed the ad, it is even more clear to me that given the disgraceful tenor of Senator McCain’s ads and their persistent falsehoods, his campaign is in no position to criticize, especially when they continue to distort Barack’s votes on an issue as personal as keeping kids safe from sexual predators.

That boils down to "Having now bothered for the first time to actually look at our campaign's ad, I suddenly discovered that McCain's ads are mean, so forget what I said earlier today about our ad mocking his disability being 'terrible.'" That's both shameless and shamefully lame, and unfortunately the syntax and leaps of illogic seem pretty close to the kind of thing Biden himself would actually say.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 11:37 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

New clueless anti-Palin meme: She's a black widow who'll turn on John McCain

I have another guest post up at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Back on June 29th, I wrote a lengthy book review on my own blog of the only hardcover biography of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Kaylene Johnson's Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down. To read Ms. Johnson's book, I'd temporarily set aside Sen. Barack Obama's first autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, and I was much struck by the contrast between not only the two books but their respective subjects:

[A]lthough both books purport to cover the early lives of these two young politicians, Johnson's book contains more in the way of objective facts, pertinent anecdotes, and relevant information in 137 pages (plus a fine set of source notes and a serviceable index) than Obama managed to do for himself in 442 pages of vague, breezy, touchy-feely, and wholly unsourced (indeed, admittedly sometimes fictionalized) narrative.

Given the choice between brisk and factual, on the one hand, and deep and muddled on the other, I'll take brisk and factual any time.

Johnson's writing is blessedly free of angst and existential philosophizing. She doesn't need that — for she has, in Sarah Palin, a compelling tale to tell that's based on the remarkable accomplishments of a remarkably normal person. Indeed, although they're products of, respectively, the forty-ninth and fiftieth American states and both grew up outside the continental 48, Sarah Palin's personal history is as familiarly American as Barack Obama's is exotic and strange... It's basically the Ward and June Cleaver family, albeit transplanted to the last American frontier. Sarah Palin didn't need to indulge in intercontinental travel and cosmic soul-searching to find out who her father was, or where her roots were, or where she fit into her own family and community. She knew where she and her family fit in.

As an early supporter of Gov. Palin as a possible Veep nominee for John McCain, one of my several motivations for ordering, reading, and then reviewing Ms. Johnson's then-obscure book was, frankly, to see how the Obama campaign might try to turn it against Gov. Palin. After all, details, even neutrally or favorably reported, can be twisted or taken out of context to provide ammunition for smears.

But somewhat to my surprise, the Obama campaign and its allies have not made much use of Ms. Johnson's book. And in fact, an essay by Jeremy Lott on Politico.com is the first extended discussion of the book I've seen from any left-leaning source. Mr. Lott's theme is suggested by his essay's title: "In 2012, will it be McCain vs. Palin?" [# More #]

Savvy readers [of the Johnson biography of Sarah Palin] might find cause for concern in Palin’s burning ambition, her ruthlessness or her complete lack of loyalty to political patrons. One sensible reason for Sen. Barack Obama's not choosing rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate was the real worry that she would undermine and run against him. Palin has already done that to her patrons — twice.

Mr. Lott goes on to discuss the Johnson's book's treatment of Sarah Palin's successful run against the incumbent mayor of Wasilla and then her successful run against incumbent GOP Gov. Frank Murkowski, both of whom had previously encouraged her ambitions for lower political offices than their own. His concluding paragraphs:

Palin had her reasons but the pattern is clear. She is invited in by well-established pols, doesn’t get her way and ends up running against the “good old boys” and defeating them handily. Would she do the same against McCain four years from now if he decides to run for reelection?

These days, the notion that a sitting vice president might challenge the president is a distant memory. It hasn’t been attempted since John Nance Garner’s halfhearted efforts against FDR for the 1940 Democratic nomination. My guess is that wouldn’t deter an ambitious Vice President Palin. She posed the rhetorical question during her inaugural gubernatorial address, “Why not Alaska leading the world?”

This is, to put it mildly, monumentally clueless. Sarah Palin — as revealed by her own family background, her rhetoric, and, most importantly, by her entire history as a campaigner and elected official — is not an enemy of "good old boys." There are tens and probably hundreds of thousands of "good old boys" and "good old gals" in Alaska who are among her admirers, in large part because they relate to her and they're sure that she relates to them. What Sarah Palin is all about is tackling corrupt good old boys.

As she and John McCain have both candidly acknowledged, they've had to agree to disagree (for now) on some issues, most prominent among them whether to open up a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve for energy exploration and drilling. Her conservative supporters do indeed rely upon her demonstrated history of respectfully standing up to authority figures, and indeed, even to John McCain, when she believes they're wrong. Indeed, we're counting on that, because on a whole host of domestic issues, her instincts and record are more reliably conservative than his own.

But as long as John McCain stays clear of corruption, he has nothing to fear from Sarah Palin. She's a young woman whose political career is almost entirely in the future, and although she's not without ambition, she'd be glad to have two full terms as vice president before exploring the possibilities for any other or higher elected office. That someone like Mr. Lott would feel obliged to paint her as a black widow, about to devour John McCain at her first opportunity, is just another example of the entertainment value that's inherent in the Left's reaction to this remarkable woman.

UPDATE (Mon Sep 22 @ 10:25pm CST): The Anchorage Daily News reports that Ms. Johnson's book, which had an original printing of 8000 copies, is now at No. 3 on the New York Times' paperback nonfiction best-sellers list.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 10:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wisdom & elitism: The moose-hunting hockey mom versus the community organizer from Harvard Law

It may be only temporary — I still have a mostly-downed tree suspended across my electric line drop in my backyard — but for the moment I have power and internet back, thanks in part to a visiting crew of power linemen from New York State. And I'm hoping that a nearby tree-cutting crew from North Carolina which is sweeping my neighborhood will deal with that tree soon.

Houston-based crews have responded to similar emergencies all over the country in past years, and I know that Houstonians and others along the Texas Gulf Coast are grateful for the way electric utilities from elsewhere in Texas and all over the U.S. are helping us out with the recovery from Hurricane Ike.

So back to work, and back to blogging! I've got a new guest post up at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

I can't recall ever reading two op-eds, back to back, that were as dramatically different from one another as this one from Sam Harris in Newsweek, and this one from Victor Davis Hanson at PajamasMedia.

Both authors have liberal arts degrees from Stanford University. Ironically, though, it's the Stanford PhD (Hanson) who recognizes the fallacy of the elitist attacks on Sarah Palin, and the mere Stanford BA (Harris) who expressly champions elitism while leveling such attacks.

Reading both, I couldn't help but recall Mark Twain's famous quote: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." Sam Harris apparently is one of those folks who, despite his education and research, never reached his intellectual age of majority.[# More #]

Comparing a few key paragraphs will give you the gist of each man's arguments. From Mr. Harris:

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary....

... Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth — in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

From Prof. Hanson:

[First, w]hile civilization advances on the shoulders of the educated, it is carried along by the legs of the muscular classes. And the latter are not there by some magical IQ test or a natural filtering process that separates the wheat from the chaff, but rather by either birth, or, as often, by their preference for action and the physical world.

Second, I have seen no difference in intelligence levels between those who inhabit the world of the physical and those who cultivate the life of the mind. That is, the most brilliant Greek philologists seemed no more impressive in their aptitude than the fellow who could take apart the transmission of an old Italian Oliver tractor, fix it, and put it back together — without a manual. And I knew three or four who could. The inept mechanic seemed no more dull than the showy graduate student who could not distinguish an articular infinitive from an accusative of respect....

A Ronald Reagan knew more about human nature, and thus what drives the Soviet Union than did all the Ivy-League Soviet specialists that surrounded Jimmy Carter — much less the Sally Quinns and Maureen Dowds of that age. We in America, unlike the Europeans, know this intuitively, grasp that a Harry Truman figured out the Russian communists far better than did the Harvard-educated aristocrat FDR.

I am not calling for yokelism, or a proponent of false-populism. Rather, I wish to remind everyone that there are two fonts of wisdom: formal education, and the tragic world of physical challenge and ordeal. Both are necessary to be broadly educated....

In this regard, I think Palin can speak, and reason, and navigate with bureaucrats and lawyers as well as can Obama; but he surely cannot understand hunters, mechanics, and carpenters like she can. And a Putin or a Chavez or a Wall-Street speculator that runs a leverage brokerage house is more a hunter than a professor or community organizer. Harvard Law School is not as valuable a touchstone to human nature as raising five children in Alaska while going toe-to-toe with pretty tough, hard-nose Alaskan males.

What Mr. Harris just doesn't get is that "half the electorate" isn't engaged in a "mad love of mediocrity." What he's sensing isn't affinity for incompetency, but rather revulsion at smugness. At least half, and probably more than half, of the electorate is intensely skeptical — based on past experience — whenever anyone like Harris claims that only "certain people" have a monopoly on wisdom or even common sense. Harris would define that monopolistic class to include himself, Barack Obama, Joe Biden (seriously? Joe Biden?), and some unspecified but mostly bi-coastal portion of Blue-State America. And he would define that class to exclude me, Victor Davis Hanson, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and — oh yeah — anyone who believes in God. (His essay's title, in fact, is "When Atheists Attack: A noted provocateur rips Sarah Palin — and defends elitism.")

The good news is that Mr. Harris' arguments are unlikely to persuade anyone who isn't already a Hard Left elitist. It's far, far more likely that this sort of argument will — correctly — offend a large number of folks on the margin who aren't neurosurgeons by training themselves, but who recognize that being President of the United States isn't very much at all like being a neurosurgeon. (If only it were that easy! If only we could train great presidents like we train great neurosurgeons!)

Prof. Hanson's arguments, by contrast, are based on concepts that are as deeply ingrained in America's self-identity and psyche as Twain's parables. A whole lot of Americans — whether they're neurosurgeons or tractor mechanics — can draw meaningful comparisons between an effective state governor (reforming corruption, imposing fiscal discipline, and actually advancing the goal of American energy independence) and a show-horse U.S. Senator (whose only accomplishments of note have been his own election campaigns). For those of us who find Gov. Palin a better candidate than Sen. Obama, whenever someone like Sam Harris ridicules us, it tends not to disturb us so much as to reassure us.

And folks like Mr. Harris provide us with an endless source of amusement, not unlike watching Wyle E. Coyote's frustration as each of his brilliant and elite plans for catching that straightforward, unsophisticated Roadrunner explode in his face.

So please, Mr. Harris: Keep writing this sort of stuff! We know we can count on Newsweek to keep publishing it when you do, but we really need you and your fellow Elitists for Obama-Biden to keep a high profile between now and November 4th!

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:41 PM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ike: Recovering from the storm

Yes, we'll remember Ike for a while in Houston. But it could have been much worse, at least for me and mine.

I'm safe. My kids and ex are safe, and they even have power back on, not too many blocks away from me. The water pressure is coming back up gradually, and there's been no significant flooding in my immediate area.

There was some very impressive wind, though; I've seen worse, but not often, and not by very much.

The power went out fairly early on Friday night in my neighborhood, and a large tree in my own back yard has toppled over onto the distribution line leading from the back of my lot to the house. The line hasn't broken, but it's stretched almost to the ground. And from days gone by when I used to defend the local electric utility company* on its electrical contact cases, I have an enormous respect, bordering on paranoia, for downed or damaged power lines — I've seen too many amputees and mourners from incidents when people were just as sure as they could be that those lines weren't energized — so my dog and I will be staying well clear of the entire area, and I'll be waiting for the professionals to put the situation right.

Right now I'm working on my laptop, recharged from my car battery, connected to the internet through a dial-up modem at 26.4Kbps. It's like I've suddenly been transported back to 1987. But that's okay — there was a time when I was very grateful to be connected at that speed, and I lived through those days fine.

As a consequence, though, I'm unlikely to be posting much in the next couple of days either here or at HughHewitt.com. Many thanks to those who've emailed or left comments with good wishes. From me, for the next few days, anyway, you should just assume that no news just means no news, not that it means bad news.

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*One of the first posts I wrote when I began blogging in 2003, titled Electric heroes: a memoir, was about lessons I learned and respect I gained through that representation. It's a bit melodramatic, but sincere.

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UPDATE (Sat Sep 20 @ 12:35pm): Still no power, still no internet. Via dial-up and laptop (charged by car battery), I can do email and minimal browsing, but not enough to stay current and do the research needed for my normal blogging. This marks a little over a week without power, which is getting tiresome, but things could be much worse.

Posted by Beldar at 05:51 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (15)

Friday, September 12, 2008

The red flag from Alaska that Team Obama chose to ignore

I've put up another Palin post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

[Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar]

Marc Ambinder's "Issues and Answers" post in the online version of The Atlantic on Saturday, August 31st — two days after McCain's announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running-mate — was one of the few which mentioned the Dems' lack of preparation for her as a potential opponent:

Did the Palin pick surprise Barack Obama's campaign?

Yes. They believed the media for one in their lives and it turned out to be a mistake. Though the Democratic National Committee had a research folder prepared for Palin, the VP rapid response team read up on Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Joe Biden all week. The Obama campaign was caught by surprise and scrambled to figure out the best way to respond. By the end of Friday, they seemed to have settled on a two-pronged response: Obama, Biden and the campaign would be respectful and Democratic allies would aggressively peddle research to the media, simultaneously trying to convey the impression that they respect the historic nature of the pick while doing their best to discredit Palin.

Mr. Ambinder's report is unsourced, but I don't think it's unreasonable for us to assume that he was relying on observers and perhaps even participants from within the Obama campaign, the DNC, or both. And the strategy he's described is certainly the one the Obama-Biden campaign and its allies have lurched along upon ever since.

My own online research into Gov. Palin, as an exercise in blogger curiosity, began back in early June of this year: Prompted by memories of Fred Barnes' excellent July 2007 article on Gov. Palin in the Weekly Standard, I ended up then with a 1900-word post, the central theme of which was that she would be a "grand slam" as John McCain's Veep. That became the first in what's now a series of fifty-six posts (chronologically indexed here) that I've written on Gov. Palin.

One prominent fact that anyone would probably come across fairly early in his or her own research is that ever since her inauguration in January 2007, Gov. Palin has continuously enjoyed extraordinarily high public approval ratings among her constituents. The Barnes article said in its opening paragraph that Gov. Palin "is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state." In a survey conducted a year later (on July 24-25, 2008), an Alaskan polling company reported online that 80% of Alaska's recent voters had either a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" opinion of Gov. Palin even after the Tasergate (a/k/a Troopergate) non-scandal had been thoroughly vented in the Alaskan press.

Even if they began without much research in hand on Gov. Palin, then, it's a virtual certainty that the Obama campaign's information-gatherers, and then its strategy-makers, became aware of the full extent of Gov. Palin's continuing popularity among Alaskans within the first couple of hours after McCain's announcement.

So why did Obama and his campaign ignore this huge red flag from the Great White North? How could they commit to a strategy premised on the notion that Sarah Palin is a political feather-weight, when the polling numbers from Alaska showed that her own constituents were still strongly backing her deep into the second year of her very active and ambitious first term as their governor?

[# More #] *******

I only see one answer to this question, and it's obvious: The members of the Obama campaign, from its leader down, along with their supporters, all share an extremely low regard for Alaskans' ability to evaluate competent political leaders.

Alaska is our largest state by far in geographic terms, of course, but in population it ranks 47th of the 50 American states, perched a smidgen behind Joe Biden's Delaware and just in between South and North Dakota. Still, that's something above 683k people, which is certainly a large enough population to contain a broad and representative cross-section of the American public. In underestimating and even belittling Gov. Palin's accomplishments, her experience, her sincerity, her sophistication, her fundamental seriousness as a candidate, Sen. Obama and his campaign and their supporters cannot help but insult all those hundreds of thousands of Alaskans who (a) know her and (b) have a favorable view of her.

And note, too, that this disdain, this condescension, is not limited to Alaska's Republicans or its citizenry in general. The attacks on Gov. Palin also demonstrate the low opinion Obama and his followers have for the opponents whom Gov. Palin has convincingly beaten, including former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles. Knowles, too, sought to run against Sarah Palin by insisting that she was unserious, a mere small-town mayor, and (shudder) a pro-life Christian. By embracing the same campaign strategy that failed utterly for Knowles, the implicit message sent by Sen. Obama and his campaign is: "Knowles, you're just another bumpkin too, that's why those strategies didn't work for you. Stand aside and let a Harvard Law man show you how it's done."

Of course, great political heroes beset by tragic, fatal flaws have been an entertainment staple since the ancient Greeks and perhaps longer. Barack Obama has shown us his tragic flaw. When his campaign pulled the Great Seal of Obama after only one appearance, it admitted its awareness of the dangers of hubris. He even prayed for help in controlling his pride when he was at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, an act that itself may or may not have been one of hubris (depending on whether, as many think, he expected the "secret" written prayer to be retrieved, read, and re-published by the press). Pride is one of my own great failings, so I sympathize with him. But if he hasn't already, Sen. Obama may want to consider renewing that particular prayer with regularity.

*******

Sen. Obama and his supporters have indeed already permanently offended some voters by their arrogant and tone-deaf reaction to Gov. Palin, and they're likely to offend more. (I think the McCain-Palin campaign itself can safely back off from pointing out Sen. Obama's and his supporters' condescension now. Let the Dems themselves finish alienating whoever else is capable of being alienated on their own.) But triggering this panicky reaction from the Obamabots is far from the last, or worst, damage that she'll do to Obama-Biden. All we've seen so far has been the roll-out of Sarah Palin, after all. While it's clear that she's already changed the game, the game is far from over. And she's not in the game just to draw fouls and sink free throws.

Wednesday night, speaking to the Fairbanks crowd welcoming her home, Gov. Palin continued to mix in sentences and paragraphs from her acceptance speech that she's been using on the stump with McCain. But she was obviously ad libbing more, and doing so with complete confidence. During her now-standard riff on how Alaska, with its new contract for a cross-state natural gas pipeline in place, is leading the way to U.S. energy independence, she suddenly abandoned the stump speech and interrupted herself: "And that, of course, is going to create the good jobs, it's gonna allow the stability, the reliable energy sources, that — I feel like I'm preaching to the choir, 'cause you guys already know this! It's a message for America!"

And the local crowd went absolutely nuts, precisely because they do know it. Government reform and a new energy policy were the twin planks upon which Alaskans elected her to be their governor two years ago, and they've been watching her perform on her campaign promises ever since. Her message on energy policy is a message for America, and it's another part of the danger to the Obama campaign to which Sarah Palin's red-flag popularity ratings in Alaska ought to have alerted them.

Energy policy — on which Gov. Palin is among the most self-confident and knowledgeable politicians on the national scene today, with demonstrated accomplishments unmatched by any mere U.S. senator — is Sarah Palin's policy stiletto. It's how she's slain her foes in Alaska, and it's how she's earned and kept those phenomenal home-state approval ratings. It is as straight-forward and sharp as any candidate's health-care policy is blunt and complex and headache-inducing.

Gov. Palin has already, if merely metaphorically, laid this stiletto against the Democratic ticket's femoral artery, which is still pulsing right along with the price of gasoline at the pump. If Gov. Palin continues to wield this stiletto consistently and capably — a nick here, a slash there, and then a hearty "drill-baby-drill" at the VP debate — then the Obama-Biden campaign will bleed out into the national sawdust by November 4th.

And they won't have seen it coming because even from the first minutes after McCain announced her selection, they didn't take seriously all those Alaskans who already knew, loved, and respected their governor.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 03:28 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Ike: Calm before the storm

From my simple vantage in southwest Houston (Sharpstown/HBU area), folks seem pretty calm and purposeful as Hurricane Ike continues to head straight for us. As much out of curiosity as anything, I stopped at my regular corner convenience store, which was still pumping gas (about a four-car line at each pump) and selling most of its regular foods and merchandise (except ice, of which they're sold out). Traffic is moderate, not unusual for this time on a Friday. My neighbors are mostly bringing in loose items from outdoors, but I think most of them are still around somewhere, hunkering down. As am I.

The skies are partly cloudy, the winds are light. There's not been a drop of rain yet where I am. But things are much different already on the coastline, or so I gather from news reports. I shan't be going sight-seeing to confirm them.

Houston's long overdue for a hurricane, and this one may be memorable. But for me, at least: So far, so good.

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UPDATE (Fri Sep 12 @ 5:50pm): Right on time, as expected, it's now cloudy and starting to get very gusty outside. But so far, no rain, and no interruptions of power, phone or internet yet. I'm probably going to shut down the computer pretty soon, so don't assume that a lack of further posting means anything awful. "Hunkering down" is a good, evocative phrase to describe this. Consider me hunkered.

Posted by Beldar at 10:57 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (11)

In Gibson interview, Gov. Palin was right: There is no single clear meaning for "the Bush Doctrine"

So I argue in my first substantive post while guest-blogging at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

[Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar]

If Charlie Gibson had asked me, "What do you think about the Bush Doctrine, Beldar?" I'd have said, "What exactly are you referring to, Charlie?" And that's pretty much what Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Thursday in response to that same question:

GIBSON:  Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN:  In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON:  The Bush — well, what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN:  His world view?

GIBSON:  No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq War.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made, and with new leadership, and that’s the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine as I understand it is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with us?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligent and legitimate evidence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country.

Critics from the Left such as Josh Marshall have described as "painful" the "awkward moment when Charlie Gibson tries his best not to press the point that Sarah Palin doesn't know what he's referring to when he asks her about the 'Bush Doctrine'" — as if it should have been perfectly obvious, and as if Gov. Palin is a dimwit for not immediately knowing what Gibson meant. TPM ElectionCentral co-blogger Greg Sargent is more explicitly insulting: "The real news from Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin is this stretch, where she is clearly clueless about what the Bush Doctrine is." And predictably, Andrew Sullivan is neck-deep in disdain:

[A]ny serious person who has followed the debates about US foreign policy knows what the Bush doctrine is. But we do not have a serious pick for the vice-presidency in the GOP, do we? We have an absurdity. And a joke.

Beware top-of-the-head reactions from leftist pundits that depend on their knowledge of even recent history!  Even those with PhDs in American history like Josh Marshall frequently demonstrate themselves to be the clueless ones — and that's exactly what has happened here: In fact, there are at least two major but distinct concepts that have been labeled as "the Bush Doctrine," along with a bundle of other related themes too.

Based on the date reference, Gibson was probably referring — as ABC News confirms on its "Political Radar" blog — to a formal White House position paper from September 2002 entitled "The National Security Strategy." But as guest-blogger WLS at Patterico's points out, that document is

actually a 31-page policy paper that spells out how the United States intends to pursue and protect its national security interests in a post-9/11 world. It is both the justification for preemptive war, as well as a justification for including rogue nations in the same class as terrorist organizations. And it’s a lot more.

The National Security Strategy was updated in 2006, and that document is also extremely broad. So let's look together at the two major but distinct themes that, separately or together, have been described as "the Bush Doctrine," and also at some of the other less distinct themes that have been included as well.

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Holding Rogue States Accountable for Non-State Actors' Actions: After 9/11/01, I clearly recall that people began talking about the new and still-evolving "Bush Doctrine" almost immediately. Contrary to Charlie Gibson's suggestion to Gov. Palin, however, that was when the nation was discussing whether to go after al Qaeda and its enabling hosts, the Taliban, in Afghanistan. The discussion then was not about preemptive operations, but rather about retaliatory operations against both non-state actors and the state actors who harbored or helped them.

In his address to a joint session of Congress and the American people on September 20, 2001, President Bush made demand upon the Taliban, as the effective government of Afghanistan, to cease its support of al Qaeda and to cooperate with us in apprehending its leaders. And he clearly and deliberately put all state actors on notice that the United States would thereafter hold them responsible for their harboring and support of non-state actor terrorist organizations:

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success.  We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

That was something new, and it certainly was being translated into dramatic, violent action on the ground a full year earlier than Gibson's question to Gov. Palin suggested. Indeed, without the clarification Gibson gave that he was referring to preemptive action, I'd have almost certainly have assumed that he was talking about the last sentence of the paragraph I've just quoted when he asked his question about the "Bush Doctrine."

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Acting Preemptively to Stop Grave and Gathering Threats: By June 2002, however, after the Taliban was toppled (albeit not finally defeated) and the December 2001 Bonn Agreement had put underway the creation of a  democratic government in Afghanistan, the Bush Administration turned its attention again to continuing violations of U.N. resolutions by Iraq. Preemptive use of force began to be discussed more directly as an aspect of the "Bush Doctrine." In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush spoke memorably and powerfully of the need to confront "grave and gathering dangers" preemptively:

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather.  I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.

Certainly President Bush's commencement address at West Point on June 1, 2002, marked an important further enunciation of that part of the overall policy:

For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence — the promise of massive retaliation against nations — means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.

And of course, in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, President Bush clearly signaled the imminence of preemptive action against Saddam Hussein's regime:

The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends and our allies. The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's legal — Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.

We will consult. But let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

So surely there are strong associations between President Bush on the one hand, and the concept of preemptive military action on the other. But at best for Gibson, or for anyone else who's been criticizing Gov. Palin for asking for clarification, a willingness to act preemptively is only one aspect of "the Bush Doctrine," and it wasn't even the earliest aspect.

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Other Meanings of the "Bush Doctrine": Even the rogue nation and preemption policies aren't the totality of, or the only definitions for, the "Bush Doctrine." Norman Podhoretz, in trying to define the Bush Doctrine in 2006 for purposes of examining whether it was dead, famously wrote that it has "three pillars": a rejection of cultural relativism and a willingness to use terms like "good" and "evil" more assertively; a willingness to attribute non-state actors' terrorism to their rogue state sponsors; and the "determination to take preemptive action against an anticipated attack."  Does Podhoritz' "first pillar" — moral clarity — not count as an additional possible definition of the "Bush Doctrine"?

Moreover, from at least the beginning of the Iraq War and continuously thereafter, the promotion and maintenance of liberty and democracy — something closely related to the Truman Doctrine of the Cold War era — has also been described as part of the "Bush Doctrine." A large number of Bush speeches, including his second inaugural address, stressed the American intention to support "democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Some observers have characterized this as "the Bush Doctrine."

On January 31, 2003, Thomas Donnelly published an essay called "The Underpinnings of the Bush Doctrine" for the American Enterprise Institute which treated the term as a description broad enough to include almost all of American foreign policy:

If nothing else, the Bush Doctrine, articulated by the president over the past eighteen months in a series of speeches and encapsulated in the new National Security Strategy paper released in September, represents a reversal of course from Clinton-era policies in regard to the uses of U.S. power and, especially, military force. So perhaps it is no surprise that many Americans — and others in the rest of the world as well — are struggling to keep up with the changes. Indeed, it often appears that many in the administration cannot keep up with the president. But in fact the Bush Doctrine represents a return to the first principles of American security strategy. The Bush Doctrine also represents the realities of international politics in the post-cold-war, sole-superpower world. Further, the combination of these two factors — America's universal political principles and unprecedented global power and influence — make the Bush Doctrine a whole greater than the sum of its parts; it is likely to remain the basis for U.S. security strategy for decades to come....

... [L]et it be stipulated that Americans always have taken an expansive view of their security interests and been more than willing to exercise military power where the correlation of forces is favorable. Blessed now with a global balance heavily weighted in favor of the United States, the Bush administration has declared itself ready to remove the rogue regimes and terrorists it regards as uniquely dangerous. For Americans, normal power calculations of "threats" and "opportunities" have been colored by an abiding faith in a set of political principles believed to have universal application. Americans have come to regard the exercise of their power as not simply a force for national greatness but for human liberty.

And there are still more variations and permutations and formulations. Sometimes the "Bush Doctrine" has been characterized as being a willingness to act unilaterally, without permission or cooperation from the United Nations or other organizations. At other times, especially in the mouths of critics, the "Bush Doctrine" has been characterized as a willingness to turn to military force too soon, a willingness not just to act preemptively but to rush to war without necessarily exhausting all conceivable diplomatic efforts.

But by contrast, if we look at the 2006 National Security Strategy, we don't find much about unilateral or precipitous action, but instead we find an emphasis on even such things as promoting free trade and meeting the challenges of globalization.

By asking about the "Bush Doctrine," then, Gibson could legitimately have been understood to have been asking about any of these themes and topics — or all of them collectively, in which case Gov. Palin's first guess (that Gibson meant Bush's "world view") would have been exactly right. Given the lack of a single clear meaning for the term "Bush Doctrine," Gibson might as well just have asked, "What do you think about President George W. Bush's foreign policy?"

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Anyone who criticizes Sarah Palin, then, for asking Charlie Gibson to be more specific about the "Bush Doctrine" is trying to mislead you in at least two ways:

  • They're pretending that the term "Bush Doctrine" has a single clear, unambiguous meaning that anyone who follows national affairs ought to have immediately recognized. It doesn't, as I think this post and the materials I've linked here more than adequately establish.

  • They're pretending that because Gov. Palin didn't immediately try to guess which of several plausible meanings Gibson meant to give that term, but instead asked for clarification, she therefore must have been unprepared to discuss any of them. Gov. Palin herself disproved that premise, because upon receiving the requested clarification, she immediately responded with clarity and self-assurance.

If they had bothered to look, even the Wikipedia could have cured Josh Marshall, Greg Sargent, or Andrew Sullivan of their illusion that there's a single, simple meaning to the term "Bush Doctrine." When it comes to any discussion of Gov. Sarah Palin, these folks have shown us yet again that they just can't be trusted to get their basic facts right.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 08:41 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (7)

Beldar to guest-blog at HughHewitt.com until the election

I'm tickled to announce that between now and the election, I'll be doing some guest-blogging at HughHewitt.com.  Hugh and the good folks at Townhall have offered me that opportunity as a way to make my posts accessible to a broader audience. There as here, however, the views I express will be my own, as will my blunders.

I'll probably move most of my blogging about Gov. Palin there, and most of my other political blogging as well, but I'll try to cross-post short pieces here linking each of my posts there just to keep a consistent record. And after the election, I expect to be back here full-time.

I've posted a self-introductory post there for now, and I've got a couple of others almost ready to go that I'll try to post before Ike makes landfall.

Thanks for your readership at either location!

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

[Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar]

Hugh Hewitt has been one of my inspirations since I first started my own blogging in September 2003 at the oddly named BeldarBlog. ("Beldar" is the nickname I received in the late 1970s as a student at UT-Austin, a beer-slurred version of "Bill Dyer" from the days when Dan Aykroyd and the Saturday Night Live cast were still running their "Coneheads" skits.) During and after the 2004 elections, Hugh was generous to credit my small roles in the Rathergate and Swiftboat controversies with links and praise here, a few guest appearances on his radio show, and a mention or two in his fine 2005 book, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World.

Now, with just a few weeks left before the 2008 election, there's an increased appetite for pundits' political opinions, but there's also an increasingly urgent need for fact-gathering and -distribution to back up that punditry. Hugh and the fine folks from Townhall.com have generously invited me to guest-blog here between now and the election for the express purpose of exposing my blogging to "more eyeballs" — which means to all of you.

On my own blog, I've recently been among the most enthusiastic supporters of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin of Alaska. Hurricane Ike (and my power and internet access) permitting, I plan to continue writing about her here — partly to provide hard information to rebut the Left's attempts to smear her, and partly to continue contributing to America's self-education about this remarkable new force of nature on the political scene.

Like Hugh, I write in the hope of persuading, but not with any pretense that I'm neutral or unbiased. Rather, I write as an undisguised and unabashed partisan: I'm as proud to be a committed conservative and a third-generation Republican as I am to be a fourth-generation Texan. In my day job, I'm a courtroom lawyer who's practiced civil litigation in Houston since 1981. My law practice has mostly involved disputes between businesses, and although I practiced at very large law firms representing Fortune-500 companies until 1992, since then I've practiced either on my own or at very small firms, where my clients are more typically small businesses and entrepreneurs.

My training and practice as a lawyer has given me a set of habits that affect my blogging both for better and worse: I strive for concision, but unlike Hugh, I almost always fail at achieving it. I also strive, with somewhat better success, to gather and assemble and organize credible evidence to back up my assertions. Once in a while I can even contribute an original thought and turn a decent phrase or two. And I hope to match Hugh's consistent standards for decency and ethics — sharing my opinions vividly but, I hope, never hatefully.

My views and Hugh's align far more often than not, but while I'm guest-blogging, I'll try to be careful to mark my posts conspicuously. And you certainly shouldn't assume that my opinions reflect Hugh's own. My inevitable blunders will be my own, too. I thank Hugh for his trust, and I hope not to disappoint either him or you.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:20 AM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On 9/11/01 plus seven

I'm resigned now to the reality that even on 9/11/01, some Americans never understood 9/11/01. For them, it's never been a question of whether, or when, they'd forget their fierce resolve that America would stand up to attacks on it. They never had that resolve. They've always blamed America; they blamed America for this. Nothing I have ever said or written, on my most eloquent day, has had a chance of penetrating their smug ignorance.

For several years after 9/11/01, however, I tried to write things on my blog designed to reach and touch those others who understood 9/11/01 when it happened and for a time thereafter, but whose memories — and, therefore, whose resolve and world-view — had softened since. "Maybe," I thought to myself, "my words or a particularly remarkable photo can recall them to what they once felt and thought they knew."

I'm not sure if there is anyone still in that category. Seven years after 9/11/01, we seem indeed to have become two Americas — one for whom 9/11/01 changed everything forever, and the other for whom it didn't. Today, the two major political parties' nominees have set aside their politicking, and I do not argue that their respective supporters can be neatly divided in this same way.

To the contrary, I know and proudly claim as "friend" many Democrats, self-avowed liberals, patriots who "got" 9/11/01 and still get it, and who believe in sincere good faith that Barack Obama is the candidate best calculated to protect America and Americans in the future.

I respectfully disagree with them. There are too few demonstrated instances in which Sen. Obama has resisted the demands of the Hard Left blame-America-firsters, the MoveOn.org Democrats, the advanced-stage Bush Derangement Syndrome patients — the people who haven't just forgotten 9/11/01, but who never, ever understood it to begin with. Only one comes to mind, in fact — his vote on FISA reauthorization. But that itself required a flip-flop before he could strain himself to reach a manifestly correct result, and it's entirely dwarfed by the fact that he began his rise to national promise based on a platform of unilateral surrender in Iraq.

I have no confidence — no, that's still too wishy-washy a formulation, so let me start again. I affirmatively believe and assert that Barack Obama himself is not one of those self-avowed unashamedly liberal patriots who originally "got" 9/11/01 and still get it. Rather, I believe that my friends who meet that description, and who have invested their confidence in him as someone likely to protect America and Americans in the future, have been cruelly misled by a combination of their own partisan loyalties and the glib words of a talented Chicago politician who turns his tough talk on and off like a light switch. Most of his core audience wants to remain in the dark anyway.

Posted by Beldar at 06:03 PM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Beldar unpanicked by Ike

An enormous amount of news broadcasting about hurricanes is unserious and irresponsible. Even print media's coverage can be pretty hysterical. I've seen quite a few big storms, starting with Tropical Storm Claudette when I was a summer law clerk here in 1979 and Hurricane Allen on the same weekend that I first moved to Houston full-time in August 1980, so I take the current hype with a grain of salt.

This article, and especially the embedded map of surge zones, is genuinely useful for those in the Houston area who are concerned about the approach of Hurricane Ike. To begin with, every Houstonian ought to know what a surge zone is, and whether he or she lives in a surge zone, and if so, which one. It makes a big difference, and one ought not wait to figure it out until the day of a surge zone evacuation order.

I don't. That doesn't make me, or those like me, immune from nasty consequences like wind damage, localized flooding, and power outages. But I'm unlikely to be evacuating inland on this one. And as long as I have power and internet access, I'll probably still be playing whack-a-mole with smears against Sarah Palin.

Posted by Beldar at 07:18 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (13)

Newsweek bonds with child-abuser in Tasergate non-scandal

I've blogged quite a bit before about Tasergate (here and here), but the newest hatchet job on Sarah Palin comes from Newsweek (h/t Jim Geraghty at NRO's Campaign Spot). Newsweek reports that then private-citizen Sarah Palin, her sister Molly, and their family were cautioned by the judge in Molly's divorce case not to "disparage" Molly's ex-husband, Alaska Trooper Mike "Tasered-My-Kid" Wooten.

I have absolutely zero confidence that Newsweek's report is complete or accurate, but here's its gist (bracketed portion by Newsweek):

Court documents show that Judge Suddock was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten's behavior and character. "Disparaging will not be tolerated — it is a form of child abuse," the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings. The judge added: "Relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives."

Of course, I don't know Judge Suddock. I do know that family law judges frequently try to put the brakes on both sides when disputes are generating lots of passionate words. And I agree that, in general, divorcing spouses and their families need to be aware of the effect of their statements on minor children, whose best interests are family judges' top priority.

Were I to guess, however, I suspect that Judge Suddock would agree with me and most Americans that shocking a 10-year-old child with a Taser — as Trooper Wooten admittedly did — is considerably more abusive than subjecting the child to one parent's mere words, even "disparaging words," about the other.

Did Newsweek ask the judge for his views on that? Does the record of this divorce case include anything from which we might infer his views? Like the details of the domestic violence order, which was based on a court finding of an immediate threat of irreparable harm if Trooper Wooten didn't stay a specified distance from his ex-wife and her family?

It seems that Newsweek is happy to report on Wooten's and his union's allegations about Sarah Palin's sister and family, none of which amount to more than their expressing fright and dismay about Wooten's threats and misconduct. Where's Newsweek's reporting of the rest of their highly detailed, thoroughly blood-chilling allegations about Wooten, even beyond the ones he admitted to or was found by Col. Julia Grimes to have lied about in his disciplinary proceedings? After all, they formed part of the basis for the opinions that the family was being told to suppress; are they not also newsworthy, then? A sample:

Molly described several incidences where Mike has been drinking and driving or driving while intoxicated. Mike called her at 3:00 AM on 3/26/05 or 3/27/05 and asked her to pick him up at Paul Cossette's house. When she got there he relayed that he had been at the Mug Shot Saloon and had a confrontation with another customer. Cossette had to separate the two. Mike then asked the bartender to have the other customer removed and the bartender declined. Mike than showed them his AST badge and implied they were illegally serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. Mike then stayed at the bar and continued to drink. When Mike left, someone from the bar reported him as a drunk driver. Mike was stopped by Trp. Dave Herrell and given a ride home. Molly later told the story to Trp. Rob "Bubba" Cox who confronted Trp. Herrell. Trp. Herrell told Trp. Cox that Mike had been drinking but seemed alright so he gave him a ride home to Cossette's.

Molly also said that on Super Bowl Sunday Mike took her son, Peyton, to a wrestling event at the Sullivan Arena. Peyton told her that he was drinking Crown Royal while driving and also poured it into a water bottle so he could drink at the event. Later that evening, Mike and Peyton picked her up at a friends' house. At that time Mike was very intoxicated and she finished the drive home. Peyton later told her that he was scared because Mike had been drinking and driving.

Recently Molly went to Crosswind Lake with Mike to ride snowmachines. Mike drank at least three beers during the drive home. They passed a trooper near Glennallen who was making a traffic stop. When they passed the trooper, Mike lifted the beer he was drinking and said, "Have a nice day." Molly also said that in the past Mike has gone to neighborhood barbecues at Adrian and Marilyn Lane's house driving his patrol car. Mike would then drink at the barbecue and drive the patrol car home. She does not believe he was intoxicated when he's done this but the Lanes have told her they do not think it is appropriate.

And does Newsweek have an opinion on whether threatening to "put a f**king lead bullet" through a child's grandfather's brain — a threat made by Wooten against Sarah's and Molly's father, Chuck Heath, and reported by the Alaska press to also have been verified by the investigation — might be, among other things, abusive to the child?

Does Newsweek actually think anyone in America is going to fault Sarah Palin, or her sister or anyone else in their family, for expressing a less-than-flattering opinion of Trooper Wooten based on this and his other incredibly reckless, dangerous, and/or illegal conduct?

Please, please, please: Obama supporters, devote as much energy as you possibly can to defending this monster, this miscreant, who's still wearing a badge!

Newsweek: Best friend of actual child abusers. Foe of those who love children. And all, of course, in the devoted service of The One.

Posted by Beldar at 12:25 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (15)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sarah "Barracuda" Palin sends Secret Service agent on personal errand to put one innocent American family under scrutiny

Sarah Palin's enemies say that once she's in a position of power, she uses that power ruthlessly to further her personal agenda.

Now, there's new proof of just how personally Gov. Palin takes things, as evidenced by the errand — involving one particular American family that had come under her scrutiny — on which she recently dispatched an armed member of her protective Secret Service detail (boldface mine):

So then we moved around as the bus was getting ready to pull out, we kind of positioned ourselves so we could just wave them on and a Secret Service agent came up to us and said, "Hey, can you come with us?"  I was like, "Do we have a choice?"

Find out just how this came to occur, and why, and what happened next, with unequivocal photographic documentation, by following this link. (I've reproduced one of the pix below, click to enlarge.)

(H/t K-Lo at The Corner.)

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UPDATE (Tue Sep 9 @ 10:15pm): I think this is one of the most revealing and powerful stories I've read or heard about Sarah Palin and her priorities — and it reflects very well on John and Cindy McCain, too. (Mrs. McCain looks in that photo like she's about to burst into sympathetic tears; despite people's mockery of her millions and her fashion and her looks, she is a compassionate woman whose own history demonstrates that.)

But notice, friends and neighbors: Chloe's father waited a week before telling this story to Rush Limbaugh. Had he chosen never to go public with the story, there's not a hint that anyone in the McCain-Palin campaign would have ever mentioned it publicly either. The invisible hand of Karl Rove is not lurking behind this story. This was not a photo op. This was not a publicity stunt. This was not designed to win your vote.

There's a reason I included a click-to-popup larger version of this photo in the HTML coding for this post: Click it, so you can get a really good look at Chlöe's face as she's hugging, and being hugged by, the Governor of the Great State of Alaska.

Now, I don't doubt that Barack Obama loves his daughters, and they beam with joy when he hugs them too. It was obvious from watching Joe Biden's son Beau at the DNC that his affection and respect for his father are genuine. Neither party has a monopoly on decency, and there is much to admire about both tickets. And Gov. Palin is tough as nails, and knew that she'd be savaged, and I think she can deal with the vitriol that's being hurled at her as well as anyone could, and she isn't asking for special consideration or deference on account of being a woman or a mother.

But just look at Chlöe's smile.

When you're trying to sort through the hype and the drama, the heat and the smoke, of this political season, and you're trying to figure out whether any of these candidates share your priorities and your values and your outlook on life: Remember this incident on a roadside between rallies. Remember Chlöe's smile.

Posted by Beldar at 07:52 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (9)

Biden says election of Palin as VP would be "obviously a backward step for women"

I firmly believe that between now and November 4th, Joe Biden will be Barack Obama's gift to the GOP that just keeps on giving. Today's offering:

Asked by a local television reporter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin if electing Palin would be a step forward for women, Biden said, "well look, I think the issue is what does Sarah Palin think? What does she believe?"

"I assume she thinks and agrees with the same policies that George Bush and John McCain think," Biden added. "And that's obviously a backward step for women."

This is of a piece with the deranged leftists who insist that Gov. Palin is "not a real woman" because she dares to choose life over abortion, or the GOP over the Democrats.

It's possible to become so thoroughly saturated with partisan politics that it turns one into a complete moron. Every question, every issue, must be answered in a fashion deemed "correct" and "acceptable" according to the entire spectrum of one's party's positions. When carried to extremes, this becomes so ridiculous that it's actually quite funny, sort of like watching a drunk search for his missing keys only below the lamppost because that's where the light's better.

I believe in equal opportunity regardless of race. Anyone who shares that belief can take satisfaction from the fact that a major party's presidential nominee is black. Although I will campaign and vote against him, if he should be elected, I will nevertheless readily acknowledge that to be a historic symbolic event, and one that should provide further satisfaction to all who believe in equal opportunity regardless of race.

Someone who denies the corollary of that historic symbolism for Gov. Palin's potential achievement is not really a believer in equal opportunity regardless of sex. If accomplishment only "counts" when the accomplisher is a "right-thinking" (meaning here, "left-thinking") woman, that's just another variety of sexism — a particularly ugly one, because its premise is that a woman's own decision about her beliefs on the entire remaining range of issues counts for less than a man's.

I say, then, with confidence, and as a committed believer in equal opportunity regardless of sex, and one who absolutely believes his two daughters ought to have the same opportunities as his two sons: If Joe Biden is elected to the vice presidency, that would obviously be a backward step for women.

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UPDATE (Wed Sep 10 @ 8:25am): I should add one thing which occurred to me last night, in the course of commenting on a post at Patterico's. I don't think that Sarah Palin is the target of Biden's sexism in this remark. Rather, I think the remark is sexist toward American women generally, in that it assumes that all women hold the exact same views and values, or that any who don't are somehow not legitimate or "real women."

Posted by Beldar at 06:35 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (8)

Monday, September 08, 2008

A critique of Dahlia Lithwick's debate advice to Joe Biden

Dahlia Lithwick tells us in her latest online column in Slate that she is a "longtime parliamentary debater" (by which I think she means, she's from Canada) and a "longer-time female," and that as such, she is going to "humbly offer [Joe Biden] a few tips on how to debate a girl."

I have no fonder hope tonight than that Sen. Biden will read Ms. Lithwick's column carefully, and that he will do his very best to follow her advice.

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Some of the advice is poor because it's based on silly premises. For example:

[A]s any college debater will tell you, it's far harder to beat a clumsy opponent than a good one. (That's why you do better in your judiciary committee hearings with John Roberts than with Alberto Gonzales.)

To which the only possible reply is: In what alternative universe was Ms. Lithwick residing during the Roberts confirmation hearings? And does she really mean to argue that clumsy debaters regularly beat good ones? If so, ought not she re-define her notions of what "good" is?

This sounds suspiciously like a meme that would be very popular on the bus-ride home of just about every second-place parlimentary debating team.

*******

The bigger problem is that Ms. Lithwick seems, as a "longtime parlimentary debater," to be convinced that American presidential and vice-presidential debates are scored like college debates. Thus she writes, in the key prescriptive paragraph telling Sen. Biden what he should do (as opposed to most of the rest of her essay, which tells him what he should not do):

Take a page from Campbell Brown's book and ask politely (and like you really want to know the answer and not just hear yourself say the question) what she learned while leading the Alaska National Guard into that war against Saskatchewan. But play to your strengths. Know stuff. Say it briefly. Don't accuse her of not knowing things. Just know more. An insanely successful college debate friend told me recently that the way he won against women was by always behaving like they were men.

The problems with this paragraph are manyfold. To begin with, it contradicts the sound prohibitory advice that Ms. Lithwick offers elsewhere, which boils down to "don't be a bloviating, condescending, smug jerk." Making a snarky remark like Ms. Lithwick's Saskatchewan taunt would be doing exactly that — and the fact that Ms. Lithwick herself can't resist letting a crack like that slip into an otherwise coherent paragraph shows us just how hard it is to pretend to be something you're not. Ms. Lithwick is snarky, intellectually dishonest, and a compulsive exaggerator, albeit one who's occasionally quite funny; and she can't keep those traits from infecting her writing. And Joe Biden is snarky, smug, and a compulsive exaggerator, albeit one who's occasionally funny too. (I don't think he's deep enough to be intellectually dishonest, frankly.) Can he be expected to keep those traits from infecting his debate responses?

What hope does Sen. Biden actually have for following the advice in this paragraph (profanity editing mine):

There is no easy way to tell you this, Joe Biden, but the surest way for Joe Biden to lose a debate against Sarah Palin is by being Joe Biden. If you are windy, pompous, unctuous, or pushy, you will come across as patronizing and condescending — the guy who puts the "boy" into "old boys' network." If you flirt and smirk and flatter (Did you truly tell an Ohio crowd you thought Palin was "good-looking"? Did you really introduce us to your wife, Jill, by leering that she is "drop-dead gorgeous"?), you're going to sound like the creepy guy in the trench coat at the back of the porn theater. If you can manage to be your warm, amiable self, even if you're going bats**t on the inside, you will do fine.

That boils down to, "Be something you're not — please!" That worked so well, after all, for Al Gore in 2000, in which in each of the presidential debates he seemed to be on a different mind-altering drug, and at least a couple of them were psychosis-inducing. (This is me being snarky, by the way.)

If they're already committed — if they are perceiving the debate through lenses ground and tinted to guarantee that their candidate looks splendid — then voters might not notice this phoniness. If they're genuinely open-minded, though, voters can and will spot phonies, which is why despite very average or below-average substantive debating skills, George W. Bush did just fine overall, and picked up some net number of voters, in his debates against both Gore and Kerry.

*******

But back to her prescriptive paragraph, which boils down to "Know stuff." In the first place, that's asking a lot from Slow Joe Biden, 76th out of 85 in his law school class, and a slow enough learner that after being busted for plagiarism back then, he managed to get busted for plagiarism again in his 1988 presidential campaign. Ms. Lithwick, who I think is quite bright (and was probably indeed a better "parlimentary debater" for that) has clearly fallen victim to the mistaken notion that because Biden has been in the Senate since the days when Spiro Agnew was still the vice president and gasoline sold for $0.36/gallon, he therefore must have learned a lot of "stuff" that will be useful during the debate. If that's true, then Joe Biden has done a masterful job of concealing that, not only during televised senate hearings and press conferences, but during the fourteen Democratic presidential debates he participated in during 2007.

But even if Sen. Biden has an encyclopedic knowledge that he's somehow managed to conceal so far, just "knowing stuff" is not very close to the top of the list on what Americans look to political debates to tell them about the candidates. When she ran for governor of Alaska in 2006, Sarah Palin faced an independent candidate, Andrew Halcro, who'd been a state legislator and runs a large rental car operation. Here's a relevant passage from Kaylene Johnson's biography of Gov. Palin (at page 106):

[Halcro] continued to insist that Sarah was a political lightweight. In one debate, Halcro asked Sarah if she knew what percentage of the state budge went to constitutionally mandated services.

Because Sarah did not give a percentage, Halcro sarcastically replied, "Sarah, I didn't hear an answer to my question, so let me repeat it to you, and I'll say it slower." Sarah responded that as a candidate she expected trash talk from her opponents but she hoped he didn't treat his customers so disrespectfully.

At a Rotary Club forum, Halcro goaded Sarah about the price of oil after she talked about how Alaska was in a good position with oil prices at nearly $58 a barrel. Halcro corrected her. "From what I understand," he said, "oil closed yesterday at $53 and change, but you know, what's $5?"

"He's the smartest boy in the room," Sarah said later. "He always knows everything."

But the "smartest boy in the room" finished a distant third, with nine percent of the vote in the general election. Even if he had not been rude and condescending — and it's awfully hard not to be, or seem to be, that way when you're showing off that you "know stuff" — a photographic memory or instant recall of statistics aren't qualities that leaders actually need.

Ms. Lithwick probably would have been among those who, listening to the Kennedy-Nixon debates on the radio, were certain that Nixon had won; whereas most Americans who saw them on television reached exactly the opposite conclusion. "Wow," she would have said, "Kennedy had absolutely no rebuttal on point to Nixon's point about Quemoy and Matsu! Score!" And meanwhile the people on TV were thinking, "My, that Kennedy fellow looks confident! And why is the Vice President sweating so much?"

"Knowing stuff," and demonstrating that in the debates, is not what brought Ronald Reagan two sweeping victories, nor what made him a successful president. Americans use these debates to judge candidates on a wide range of qualities, many of them entirely subjective. "Connecting" and "establishing a comfort level" are more important, even though it's impossible to tell or teach someone how exactly to do that.

*******

As awful as much of Ms. Lithwick's other advice and analysis is, however, here is the very worst of it:

Your real problem is that Palin is not a serious candidate. I don't mean to suggest that she is not a serious person or even a seriously impressive first-term governor with real potential to shake up national politics. Nor do I want to imply for an instant that Palin is not a serious competitor. I just want to state here what you will be unable to say out loud at the debate: That by every obvious metric — experience, knowledge base, decades of public service, policy experience, understanding of the world — Palin is an unserious candidate for the vice presidency of the United States.

Oh, I dearly hope that Sen. Biden shares each and every one of these views! I hope that as he formulates every single answer, he's thinking to himself: "Sarah Palin is not a serious candidate like me (but I can't say that in so many words)." I have great cause for optimism on this score: I think that's what Biden probably already thinks, and I'm pretty sure that's what most of his bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young advisers think too — Ms. Lithwich is perfectly emblematic of the members of the Modern Left who write position papers and plot strategies and brief candidates.

In my judgment, the only way that Joe Biden can hope to claim even a draw against Sarah Palin would be to acknowledge her — not just superficially, but genuinely — as a complete equal with different substantive views. He should treat her, in other words, the way he'd probably treat John McCain. From that posture, he could focus on making the best possible case for his and his running-mate's views, leaving it to the audience to draw the comparison with his opponents' views and similarly leaving it them to conclude, if they're so inclined, that his and Obama's are better. He should probably finish four-fifths of his answers with time left on the clock — something he did exactly once during the Democratic primary debates, in the only moment of success he managed to eke out from the whole series of them.

I'm pretty sure, though, that that's expecting the impossible of Joe Biden. A senator of smaller ego (say, Chris Dodd) might have managed that; Hillary might have, if that were the message discipline of the day programmed into her by her team. But asking Joe Biden to (a) accept Sarah Palin as a genuine equal and also (b) mostly shut the hell up is like asking a dog to stop licking its genitals: Even if he could understand why you wanted him to do that, and even if he wanted to please you, he just couldn't sustain the effort to resist. Eventually he'd give in — doing it is in his nature, and besides, it just feels so good.

Posted by Beldar at 11:33 PM in 2008 Election, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (23)

Trials and turmoils of The One on the rough, tough campaign trail

Quoth The One, on the subject of his many sacrifices, 'midst high-dollar donors ($2,300 or $30,800, the higher price presumably including unlimited shrimp and a photo op with The One) at one of two back-to-back New York events hosted by the (notably lesser) rock star Jon Bon Jovi and a neighbor:

"I hope you guys are up for a fight. I hope you guys are game because I haven’t been putting up with 19 months of airplanes and hotel food and missing my babies and my wife — I didn’t put up for that stuff just to come in second," he said. "I don’t believe in coming in second. The American people can’t afford for us to come in second."

Opponent John McCain, meanwhile, has not been heard to complain about spending nineteen months riding on airplanes and eating hotel food on the campaign trail. Of course, his baseline for comparison is a five-year stay at the Hanoi Hilton and various of its affiliates.

Mr. Bon Jovi, an eminent political philosopher and theologian of international reputation ("We've got to hold on to what we've got / 'Cause it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not"), succinctly explained the difference between The One and Sen. McCain in introducing the former:

“You don’t have to be 72 to have experience,” he said, referring to the age of Mr. McCain. “It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. This 21st century man has an aura of hope wrapped around him.”

Ah, the hopey-changitudinous force field!

But little did The One and his Bon Jovian supporters realize, however, that Gov. Sarah Palin, a/k/a the 21st Century Woman, has figured out how to generate her own hopey-changitudinous force-field — one which incorporates a caribou-hide, a briefing book, and a burp-cloth — except that it's a superior version whose user is not rendered politically impotent, such that she can actually get things done from within it!

Tune in tomorrow for further adventures!

-------------------------

UPDATE (Wed Sep 10 @ 6:30pm): Obama is apparently repeating this complaint widely on the campaign trail, now to high school students in Norfolk, Virginia.

Obama visited a freshman leadership seminar at Granby High School, and a student asked what kind of advice he'd give to them about how they could get to where he is now.

"I'm not sure I'd advise everybody to run for president," Obama said with a smile. "I've been sleeping out of hotel rooms for two years now and I miss my kids."

Color me unsympathetic. This whining is pretty pathetic for someone who wants to be commander-in-chief.

Posted by Beldar at 06:03 PM in 2008 Election, Humor, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (12)

NYT confirms startling detail about Palin child's name!

Yes, indeed, as I had speculated, the NYT has now definitively confirmed that infant Trig's second middle name — he's officially "Trig Paxson Van Palin" — was indeed intended as a pun on the name of the rock group Van Halen and its stars of that same surname, Eddie and Alex. That's some hard-hitting MSM reporting for you!

The world anxiously awaits Van Halen's infringement and take-down notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Piper and Trig Palin

(Above: Piper Palin smooths her little brother Trig's hair while her mom gives her historic VP acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention.)

Posted by Beldar at 12:50 PM in Humor, Law (2008), Mainstream Media, Palin | Permalink | Comments (7)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A respectful suggestion to the McCain-Palin campaign: Change your slogans

In 2006, when Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell ran for governor and lieutenant governor in Alaska, their campaign slogan was "New Energy for Alaska."

I think there is a lot of truth to Sarah Palin's one-liner, during her acceptance speech at the GOP convention, to the effect that the presidency is not supposed to be a voyage of self-discovery. Before delivering that line, she ought to have warned everyone who's read Barack Obama's first book not to be mid-gulp of any beverage.

But Obama's self-absorption and messianic status aside, I am not a fan of the McCain campaign's slogan, "Country First," which pre-dated the Palin announcement.

In his own mind, Barack Obama thinks he would be the best choice for the country, and tens of millions of people agree with him. They find this slogan to be presumptuous and offensive. The slogan lets Obama righteously thunder, "I've got news for you, John McCain, we all put country first." And even though that's not true, there's no reason for McCain to let his own campaign slogan furnish his opponent with such a plausible come-back.

The McCain campaign's secondary slogan, "Reform * Prosperity * Peace," could be used by any politician who's ever run for office. They excite no one. The campaign might just as well go with "Mom * Apple Pie * Kittens."

Look at this amazing photograph (h/t PrestoPundit), taken at the McCain-Palin rally in Colorado Springs yesterday, which shows more powerfully and certainly more concisely than all the thousands and thousands of words all the pundits have written in the past ten days just how the race has changed:

McCain-Palin campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on September 6, 2008 (AP photo)

I respectfully suggest that the McCain-Palin campaign announce — simultaneously with Sen. McCain's carefuly considered change of position on drilling in ANWR, preferably from some of the mud flats there so that camera crews can capture their bleak ordinariness — the change in their campaign slogan to: "McCain-Palin: New Energy for America."

Energy is their best, simplest, strongest domestic issue. The "new energy" slogan is broad enough, however, to cover their entire reform agenda. And if there's one thing that everyone already knows about John McCain, it's that he's a warrior: His name is worth more in foreign policy/national security credibility than any slogan ever crafted.

Posted by Beldar at 01:27 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (44)

Dear Mr. Obama

I believe that this entire video, which runs less than two minutes, is worth your time.

(H/t The Return of Scipio.)

Posted by Beldar at 12:57 PM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (15)

Kaus is just wrong in diagnosing McCain's "rather lose an election than a war" claim as bogus

Mickey Kaus is probably my favorite left-of-center-leaning blogger, but right now he's badly off his stride. After a ghastly reference last week to Trig Palin as a "prop" at the GOP convention, he now swings and misses with this observation (emphasis omitted, links in original) (h/t Instapundit):

McCain would like everyone to think his campaign imploded last summer because of his courageous support for the surge in Iraq:

I fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq, when it wasn't a popular thing to do. And when the pundits said my campaign was finished, I said I'd rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.

— McCain's acceptance speech, 9/4/08

This bit of history was repeated by the McCain campaign in at least one WaPo group interview I attended — suggesting it's an accepted talking point. It's also bogus. McCain's campaign imploded last summer because of his support for comprehensive" immigration reform, including legalization of existing illegals (semi-amnesty).

Mickey needs to read more carefully. He's right, of course, that McCain's position on immigration threatened his prospects in the GOP primaries. Kennedy-McCain sparked a major backlash among conservative pundits and a very vocal part of the GOP base. Many of them have not forgiven McCain for it still, and others are taking him at his word (that he's learned his lesson and will secure the borders first) with lingering skepticism.

But the passage Mr. Kaus quoted wasn't limited to, nor did it even mention, the GOP primaries. And McCain doesn't say "conservative pundits."

[Update: Be sure to see Mr. Kaus' gracious comments in response, re-printed below. — Beldar, Sun Sep 7 @ 4:55pm.]

That's the difference between a claim being bogus and a claim being exactly accurate. If the Surge had failed, John McCain's chances in the general election certainly would have been dead. Mainstream media pundits, most of whom were (and are) not conservatives, were indeed ridiculing McCain for supporting President Bush's plan to implement Gen. Petraeus' plans for the Surge. And it was in response to their ridicule that McCain said he'd rather lose an election (not "a primary election") than lose a war.

And yes, conservative pundits were ridiculing him on immigration at about the same time. Everyone, of all political stripes, except McCain and his most stalwart supporters, thought his campaign was dead, but not all of us had the same objections to what he was saying. Indeed, at that time, the liberal and even centrist pundits thought any Republican who didn't run hard away from Bush on Iraq had no chance in the general election; the conventional wisdom was that, as with the 2006 mid-terms, our impending defeat in Iraq meant the entire GOP was toast; the speculation was over which of the Republican candidates (besides Ron Paul) would break first and renounce Bush and the Iraq War in its entirety. And because McCain was arguing for the Surge even before Bush, they certainly thought McCain was not just toast, but cinders.

This much I agree with from Mickey's post:

McCain bucked the political/media CW on the "surge." He was right, it appears, and he should get lots of credit — though no more than President Bush, who doesn't seem to be getting any at all.

That's true, and all of us who are among the Dubya Loyalists have agreed to avoid pointing out that he was, ya know, actually the commander in chief who ordered the Surged troops into Iraq. And Mickey is also correct that increasingly, as the surge started working, that likewise served to help McCain's campaign, and just in time for the GOP primaries too (footnote omitted):

But McCain's surge position wasn't what (temporarily) sank his campaign — it was how he revived his presidential campaign after it had been derailed by immigration, the issue he'd now like to hide (and an issue where he embraced the political/media CW). McCain was running in the Republican primary, remember, which makes his behavior last summer not quite as courageous as he boasts it was. Same goes for his behavior now.

But McCain's comment about "losing an election" wasn't just, or even mainly, talking about losing in the GOP primaries. It's not like Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were taking an opposite position on the Surge, either. Obviously, any comment by McCain about what kind of risks he was taking by supporting the surge were directed to his standing among the general public, not the GOP faithful, and for the general election, not the primaries.

I'm not parsing or straining words here. I'm giving them their most straight-forward interpretation. Mickey's right about a lot of things. This time, he's just wrong. The fact that John McCain was defying his own party's pundits and base on one issue (on immigration) doesn't mean he wasn't also defying his opposing party's pundits and base (on the Surge)!

-------------------

UPDATE (Sun Sep 7 @ 4:55pm): I emailed Mr. Kaus with a link to this post, and he was kind enough to stop by and leave the following comment below, which I'll re-print here to ensure it's not missed:

I disagree. It wasn't just McCain's speech leaving the implication that when his campaign was considered "finished" in the summer of 2007. It was also a MCain campaign people who spoke to Newsweek. At least one was much more explicit on this--I think it was Lindsey Graham. Others were not on the record and i can't quote them, which is why my phrasing was a little vague. But they aren't talking about the general election. They're talking about the GOP primaries, and trying to rhetorically bury the reason, which was immigration. Cheers

And in a follow-up comment:

The interviews were at the Washington Post's work space, not Newsweek's. Same company, different division. They very kindly let Slate people (also owned by Wash Post) sit in. Sorry I got confused.

In reply to his response: Obviously I can't dispute what Mr. Kaus has been told off the record by his sources, and I have no quibble with his keeping their identities confidential. I'm not sure if something that was said to Newsweek ended up appearing in Newsweek.

But I respectfully continue to reject his criticism of McCain's statement in his acceptance speech, which — unlike these other conversations, at least so far as we know — was made to more than 40 million people on live TV and some millions more who saw replays or read transcriptions. In that, McCain didn't say anything about primaries. Indeed, it makes no sense for him to have been talking about primaries, for exactly the reasons Mickey pointed out (i.e., support of the surge didn't hurt him in any GOP primaries). Why impute to McCain a meaning (primaries) that is (a) not supported by the text, (b) makes no sense, and (c) would be a lie, when the other equally plausible interpretation (general election) suffers none of those problems?

Mickey may think he can read John McCain's mind, or that John McCain's secret intent must have been congruent with something someone else told him off the record at some other time. I find that unpersuasive. But in any event, whatever McCain might secretly have been thinking: As delivered, the quoted lines from McCain's acceptance speech were entirely truthful and accurate. On this, it appears that we will have to agree to disagree.

-------------------

UPDATE (Sun Sep 7 @ 6:45pm): Greyhawk takes a different and more methodically historical approach than I undertook, going back to contemporary sources. He concludes that, contrary to both Mr. Kaus' assumption and mine, McCain's "unswerving support for HIS TROOP SURGE (because he was far ahead of Bush on that one) cost him support from HIS base — the moderates in the Republican Party and independent voters, too." It's definitely worth a read as a defense of McCain's convention acceptance speech comment from a different angle than the primary/general election distinction I focused on.

Posted by Beldar at 11:32 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, Mainstream Media, McCain, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (7)

Axelrod spinning out of control on Palin and related topics

Obama campaign czar David Axelrod was hilarious on Fox News Sunday this morning. Pressed by host Chris Wallace as to whether Sen. Obama thinks he has more executive experience than Gov. Palin, Mr. Axelrod first exploded into a litany of non-responsive Obama campaign talking points, a filibuster that probably lasted for two minutes. When Mr. Wallace, clearly amused, simply repeated the question, Mr. Axelrod hemmed and hawed and finally pointed out that they weren't running against Gov. Palin but against Sen. McCain, and further said that they'd let the American people decide whether Sen. Obama has enough experience. Well, yes, I suppose they will — and let's hope they remember that you had absolutely no answer to this question, Mr. Axelrod.

David Axelrod? Or J. Wellington Wimpy?   David Axelrod? Or J. Wellington Wimpy?

Better still was when Mr. Wallace asked Mr. Axelrod to name an example of Sen. Obama standing up against his own party. The best Mr. Axelrod could come up with was "ethics reform." He's referring, of course, to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, whose principal sponsor was Sen. Russ Feingold. Sen. Obama was one of seventeen co-sponsors. And it passed the Senate by a vote of 96 to 2. Since both of the "nay" votes were Republicans (Sens. Orin Hatch and Tom Coburn), it's pretty hard to paint this as Sen. Obama "standing up against his own party." (The best Mr. Axelrod could come up with was to claim that many Democrats were secretly against the bill, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of his party, now, is it?)

Quizzed about Sen. Obama's long-belated admission this week to Bill O'Reilly that "the Surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated, including Pres. Bush and the other supporters," Mr. Axelrod insisted that the Surge still hasn't created a political reconciliation in Iraq. If political reconciliation and legislative success is the sole standard, however, then the do-nothing Democratic Congress of which Sen. Obama is a part is surely a bigger failure.

On the best of days, Mr. Axelrod still looks like he's recovering from a bad hang-over, but this morning he looked particularly haggard to me. I keep expecting him to say, "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." (Or perhaps to complain that Gov. Palin has been stealin' his bucket.) I think Gov. Palin's addition to the GOP ticket is giving David Axelrod serious indigestion.

To Chris Wallace's credit, when Mr. Axelrod was followed by Rick Davis, the manager of the McCain-Palin campaign, he asked a series of equally tough questions about Gov. Palin. One, however, particularly amused me: When would Gov. Palin submit to tough questioning by the press? Mr. Davis pointed out that Gov. Palin has just made a speech to 40 million people, and that the press during the past week haven't exactly indicated that they would give Gov. Palin a fair and impartial opportunity. What I would have added would have been: "Chris! Have you forgotten that your Obama Watch clock, measuring how long Sen. Obama was stonewalling your request for an interview, ran for over 730 days?"

There's zero doubt that reporters all over America are sharpening their potential "Gotcha!" questions: "Tell us, Gov. Palin, how you would deal with the kumquat shortage in Kumquatistan, and by the way, can you tell us the name of the deputy assistant secretary of fruit there?" Gov. Palin deserves some preparation time before she dives into what Mr. Davis aptly described as a pool of piranhas. And I remain confident that in due course, throughout the campaign, Gov. Palin will prove to be her own best advocate.

Posted by Beldar at 09:11 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (15)

The McCain-Palin campaign on offense

I love metaphors. I especially like elegant metaphors, which can include sports metaphors.

I'd previously made the point that the Palin choice was definitely not a Hail Mary (which is a desperation play), but I'd characterized it as a long bomb (on first down, from mid-field). So I was interested in this post by Jonah Goldberg on The Corner, in which he reprints a reader email arguing that Gov. Palin's addition to the GOP ticket isn't a single play, but a different sort of "game changer." I think that's right.

Jonah's correspondent suggests that the proper metaphoric term is the "West Coast Offense," which isn't bad. And Alaska does have a fabulous, fabulously long west coast.

But given that Gov. Palin was a high school track competitor (she continues to run regularly) and a life-long hunter, the better and more elegant metaphor is obviously:

The Run-and-Shoot.

Posted by Beldar at 07:59 AM in 2008 Election, Humor, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008), Sports | Permalink | Comments (6)

Palin and the Alaska National Guard

Via Rob at The Spyglass, I came across this four-minute video clip about Gov. Sarah Palin's duties — and her above-and-beyond performance of same — as commander of the Alaska National Guard. It makes several good points, not only in illuminating the responsibilities that all governors have in directing their states' guard units, but also about how Sarah Palin in particular undertook those responsibilities.

As with Gov. Palin's occasional forays into foreign affairs — which, as Rob points out, have included "pipeline negotiations involving Canada and fisheries matters in which Canada, Russia, Japan, and South Korea are concerned" — I don't think her supporters should over-argue her national guard command experiences as national security credentials. But they're not just nothing, either, and they deserve credit, and respect, for what they are worth.

U.S. senators, including Joe Biden, act as if their membership on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee were equivalent to being Secretary of State or even the President of the United States. That experience is not just nothing, either, but it's mostly back-seat, second- and third-hand, advisory-at-best experience. Being briefed on what the real decision-makers are doing isn't the same as making decisions. Slow Joe Biden may indeed meet with foreign leaders, but they're under no illusions that he can make a phone call and suddenly send a U.S. Navy carrier group, with its several hundred aircraft and soup-to-nuts tactical-to-nuclear capabilities, steaming along their coastlines. And Biden can make reckless suggestions, like splitting Iraq into three parts for its neighbors to devour, without any more consequence than Biden being justly ridiculed as a foreign policy idiot.

In addition to all that senator-type foreign-policy experience — and more than most, as when he was out in front of the Clinton Administration in leading the normalization of relations with Vietnam — John McCain has also flown attack aircraft off those carrier decks and commanded the Navy's largest air wing. The GOP ticket is not vulnerable on foreign policy/national security experience overall, and the more the Democrats want to talk about that, the more it will simply highlight how thin Obama's own credentials are.

Obama, after all, is the candidate who chose not to go visit injured troops at Landstuhl. And unlike Gov. Palin, Obama certainly has never arranged for returning national guardsmen, with families that still rely on game to keep food on the table, to get late-season hunting privileges. Indeed, in the unlikely event that it had ever occurred to him that they needed help, Obama would probably have suggested a new federal program to supply them with processed foods — when all they really needed was for government to get out from between them and their game animals. And there endeth the lesson for today.

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UPDATE (Sun Sep 7 @ wee-small-hours): On Saturday, the so-called "Public Editor" of the NYT, one Clark Hoyt, largely blows off all complaints about the Times' coverage of Sarah Palin, although he's at least been forced to admit that Elisabeth Bumiller's claim that Gov. Palin was a member of the AIP was utterly false.

The assertion was based on an announcement by the party’s chairwoman, Lynette Clark, which The Times failed to tell readers. That was a mistake. “We should have attributed it,” Bumiller said. The next day, Clark said she had been wrong.

No, you idiots. You should have checked the voter registration records, which were (a) public information and (b) conclusively disproved your unreliable, unnamed source's story. That's what any competent high school newspaper reporter would have done. But at the NYT, journalistic malpractice is probably grounds for a promotion, so long as it favors a Hard-Left candidate's cause.

In the process of blaming McCain for the NYT's own shoddy reporting — since, after all, McCain picked someone who wasn't already known by the NYT's elite staff of worldly, cosmopolitan, and wise reporters and editors — this "Public Editor" claims, as a matter of fact, that Gov. Palin "never made a decision as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard, one of her qualifications cited by McCain."

That's another "fact" pulled straight from Mr. Hoyt's butt. What he presumably is referring to is a McCain's unpreparedness to talk to a CNN reporter about the specifics of what Gov. Palin had done. But instead, here goes the NYT with more made-up crap that is obviously, easily demonstrable as untruthful. (See, e.g., the video above, or this link.)

Those wishing to send non-profane reactions to this newest lie told by the NYT's "Public Editor" can email him at public@nytimes.com. Not that it's likely to do any good. The Times is a dinosaur, a pathetic wreck of what used to be the world's best newspaper, and its rotting carcass will be bankrupt before long anyway. The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned; perhaps whoever buys it out of Chapter 11 will clean house and restore some semblance of journalistic honesty to it.

It does even less good to complain to the NYT about lies told by their op-ed columnists; they're given permission to lie as promiscuously and outrageously as they please. And indeed, Mr. Hoyt's ridiculous claim is repeated by op-ed columnist Frank Rich today (links in original):

Though McCain claimed “she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities,” she has never issued a single command as head of the Alaska National Guard.

This proves that Frank Rich (or someone working for him) can hyperlink, but also proves that Frank Rich can't (or more accurately, won't bother) to read what he hyperlinks.

The very same Anchorage Daily News article he linked says, unsurprisingly, that "the governor has no command authority overseas — or anywhere in the United States other than Alaska." But if Mr. Rich had bothered to continue reading, he would have found, unsurprisingly, that Gov. Palin has both delegated, and has sometimes herself directly exercised, her authority to command the Guard in all of the things it has done domestically when not under federal control. Of course, like any commander-in-chief in the civilian government (including the POTUS), she has relied upon the advice of uniformed officers and given them and members of her own staff discretion as appropriate, but the responsibility remains hers (ellipsis in original; boldface mine):

Occasions in which Palin does retain command authority over the 4,200-member Alaska National Guard are whenever the guard responds to in-state natural disasters and civic emergencies, said [Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the service commander of the Alaska National Guard,] who also serves as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Some examples?

"We've deployed individuals in state service all over the state under Sarah Palin," he said. "We had defense men down in Seward for the (Mount) Marathon run doing security.

"Out west and northwest we had erosion problems and the National Guard was involved in some of the protection out there. About three days ago, the Army National Guard picked up a lady from Little Diomede ... at the request of state troopers."

Did Palin directly approve each of those activities?

No, Campbell said. The governor has granted him authority to act on his own in most cases, including life-or-death emergencies when a quick response is required, or minor day-to-day operations.

"Some authorities have been given to me that she has acknowledged that I can execute," he said. "For others I have to ask her each time."

The recent decision to deploy a C-17 cargo plane from the Alaska Air National Guard to Louisiana to assist during the Hurricane Gustav response was an occasion in which he briefed the governor's office and sought its approval, Campbell said. But in that case, chief of staff Mike Nizich signed off on the deployment.

Sneering, elitist jerks like Rich can mock and distort the truth, but most Americans will see through their lies. In the meantime, I will continue to remind myself that the appropriate reaction to the NYT is usually not rage, but contempt and pity.

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UPDATE (Sun Sep 7 @ 8:05am): More, this time from the LA Times:

Overseeing a state Guard is a "chief executive role" with real management responsibilities, said Mark Allen, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, the federal office that coordinates state National Guards.

"I don't think people should think it is a casual relationship, or is like the king putting on the medals," Allen said. "It is not that at all. But the role of the governor is to use the Guard to help the citizens of a state, as opposed to declaring war on a neighboring state."

The article stresses that heading up a state national guard doesn't give foreign policy experience, and that's a fair point. But it's some preparation — better, arguably, than a senator gets — to be commander-in-chief of the federal government's military forces. Again, I don't want to over-argue its significance. But it's not nothing, and it's not insignificant.

Posted by Beldar at 02:29 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (6)

Glib dismissals of Gov. Palin's executive record are unfair and unpersuasive: A further response to Paul Mirengoff

A couple of days after John McCain's surprise nomination of Sarah Palin, I wrote a post entitled A plea for patience with sour, conventional conservative pundits who are still getting their minds around the Palin pick. In it, I argued that since Gov. Palin was an unconventional choice, and someone largely unknown to many conservatives, we ought to not rush to condemn those from our own side who expressed reservations. I did plead, however, for them to keep an open mind, and for them to learn about Gov. Palin.

Gov. Sarah Palin shows Sen., John McCain a Detroit Red Wings jersey presented to her by a supporter at the Freedom Hill County Park in Sterling Heights, MI, on Friday, Sept. 5, 2008 (AP Photo)

But I'm terribly disappointed in my blogospheric friend Paul Mirengoff at Power Line, who it seems to me has done neither of those things during the intervening week.

Yesterday I took Paul gently to task for insulting both Gov. Palin, whom he compared to an "empty vessel," and the conservatives who are enthused by her, who he accused of anointing Gov. Palin as a "messiah" in the same way that the Democrats have anointed Obama.

Since then, Mr. Mirengoff has delivered another slam. As is generally true of his posts, it's well written. But it is not well-argued. His concluding paragraphs:

It's very difficult to find someone with both extensive executive experience and a background in foreign policy/national security. People like the current vice president don't grow on trees. But we expect one or the other from a nominee for president. Palin lacks either.

That's why those who defend Palin's qualifications typically end up moving to more defensible terrain — the argument that her credentials compare favorably to Obama's. This may constitute an additional reason to vote for McCain, but it's not a defense of McCain's selection of Palin.

For the ten thousandth time, governors almost uniformly have light foreign policy/national security experience. That's equally true of, for example, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. It was true of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. But this argument ignores John McCain's foreign policy/national security experience, and the fact that he's at the top of the ticket, and the fact that he is likely to assemble a group of advisors who share his own values and experience, who would continue to be available to Gov. Palin if she were suddenly thrust into the presidency.

As for executive experience, Mr. Mirengoff gives us a bare conclusion. No argument. No evidence. Just insult. And that's unworthy and unbecoming of a thinker and writer of his demonstrated skill.

I am certainly among those who've pointed out how well Gov. Palin's executive experience and credentials compare favorably to Sen. Obama's. But I've also discussed — at length, starting in June, in most of my 44 prior posts about her  — Gov. Palin's record of accomplishments, beginning as a city councilman and mayor, and then as chair of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, and most recently as Governor of Alaska. At least judging by what he's written in Power Line, by contrast, Mr. Mirengoff hasn't given her performance in any of those jobs any close attention. To the contrary, from everything we can see, he appears to have swallowed — hook, line, and sinker — the memes peddled by Gov. Palin's opponents, partisan and panicked elitists who've trivialized both those jobs and Gov. Palin's performance in them.

Mr. Mirengoff discounts to almost zero Gov. Palin's proven success as a reformer:

We are told that she was a courageous whistle-blower. But whistling-blowing isn’t evidence of leadership skill, administrative ability, or familiarity with vital policy issues. We are told that Palin challenged an incumbent governor and called him out for his corruption. But mounting an insurgent’s campaign for governor isn’t evidence of fitness for the presidency either.

That's unfair, and it badly misses an important point. When politicians are running — as the McCain-Palin ticket clearly is — as reformers, the past success or failure of the ticket's members in actually accomplishing reform is damned sure relevant. In an election in which both sides are stressing change, but only one has even arguably delivered it in the past, that past record may become decisive. When the record includes, as Gov. Palin's does, not only electoral success (throwing the bastards out), but also success once in office (fixing what the bastards screwed up), then one's experience as a reformer becomes genuinely noteworthy.

If Mr. Mirengoff is even aware of Gov. Palin's record as a fiscal conservative — aggressively using a line-item veto to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in pork, and making those vetoes stick even in a time of budget surpluses — he gives no evidence of that in his blogging. If he is aware of even the symbolic moves she's made — selling the previous governor's executive jet, reassigning the executive mansion chef, driving herself to work, all of which are gestures intended to impress on public and public servants alike that a new day has arrived — he gives no evidence of that in his blogging, either. Gov. Palin has deeds, not just words, to prove her fiscal conservatism, but she's also aware of the power of example as a foundation for genuine leadership.

If Mr. Mirengoff has any appreciation of the difficulty in leading a reluctant legislature — which comprises both a large number of Democrats (partisan opponents) and upset old-guard Republicans (allies of the good old boys whom she displaced) — again, his writing shows no evidence of that. Gov. Palin kept her campaign promise to restructure the state severance tax on oil and gas production (which, contrary to some reports, is not a "windfall profits tax") through an open-door process of negotiations and resulting legislation, instead of a close-door sweetheart deal — thereby restoring public confidence that those taxes have been fairly arrived at. Albeit on a state-wide stage instead of a national one, Gov. Palin's restructuring of this tax that is so critical to the entire state budget was no less impressive an accomplishment than the Reagan or Bush-43 tax cuts early in each of their first terms.

And Gov. Palin has also undertaken, and succeeded in mastering, the most important and most difficult governmental challenge in Alaska, one that has deadlocked Alaska's government for years: She led an open bidding process to get underway a desperately needed cross-state natural gas pipeline. Tens of billions of dollars are at stake, as are cheap and reliable energy for Alaska's own citizens and a major accomplishment in supplying Alaskan natural gas to the lower 48 states to reduce dependence on foreign supplies of fossil fuels. But Gov. Palin not only broke the preexisting deadlock, she broke the monopoly hold of ExxonMobil, ConocoPhilips, and BP on the state's energy industry. She once again forged a bipartisan consensus with the legislature — using every tool in a governor's arsenal, including special sessions — with the result that a contract has been negotiated and signed.

Finally spurred by effective competition, the disgruntled oil giants who previously ruled the roost are now exploring their own alternative pipeline that would not rely on even partial public funding.  There is no chance that would have happened in the business-as-usual atmosphere that Gov. Palin successfully reformed. But Mr. Mirengoff is either unaware or unappreciative of how Gov. Palin — without engaging in class warfare, without demonizing anyone, and indeed while freely admitting that oil executives are just "doing their jobs" as they seek to maximize their profits — has nevertheless broken her state free of the grasp of these corporate giants, and bestirred them into action that may ultimate work to both their and the public's benefit.

If Gov. Pawlenty, or any other state governor of either party and any length of tenure, has yet done as much as Gov. Palin has to address the national energy crisis, I'm certainly unaware of that.

Paul, my friend, until you have paid attention to her actual record — which requires something other than looking at the names of the jobs she's held and counting the months she's held those jobs — you're embarrassing yourself by displaying your ignorance. You're doing reckless damage to the McCain-Palin ticket. And you're short-changing a governor of short tenure but disproportionate accomplishments.

If Gov. Palin were at the very beginning of her term, then one might disregard her approval ratings as being not very meaningful, as reflective of her campaign skills instead of her governing skills. But she's not at the beginning of her term, she's midway through it — and she still has those sky-high ratings. Is everyone in Alaska who's thrilled with Gov. Palin's performance just stupid? Or do they perhaps know things that Paul Mirengoff hasn't yet bothered to look into, or short-sightedly discounts?

Paul, I implore you to re-think. Not just to argue back at me in another post, because I'm sure you're a plenty-capable advocate, and my rebuke in this post might sting a lesser man into a reflexive counterattack. But look, or look again, at her actual accomplishments, starting with her terms as mayor and then moving forward to the present. And then give us your better-informed opinion of Gov. Palin's record as an executive. If you conclude that all the voters who've elected and re-elected her have somehow been duped, you can explain how and why. Perhaps then you'll end up persuading me.

Or perhaps we'll find ourselves in agreement after all.

Posted by Beldar at 12:59 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (17)