Sunday, August 12, 2012

Romney picks Ryan

On my recent post entitled Paul Ryan on entrepreneurial capitalism vs. crony capitalism, reader Greg Q commented today: "So, why aren't you gloating yet about Romney picking Ryan?" And my dear friend DRJ, recalling my support for Sarah Palin in June 2008 and my support for a possible Paul Ryan presidential campaign earlier in this election cycle, inquired today in the comments on that same post: "Has any other blogger picked two VPs in a row? Well done, Beldar."

DRJ gives me too much credit: Although I'm happy to see this selection, and I certainly favored and tried to promote both Palin and Ryan as potential Veep nominees months before either was selected, I didn't go on record with a prediction as to whom Gov. Romney would pick this time. And in fact, I'm mildly surprised that he did choose Paul Ryan, although I'm obviously delighted by the choice.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaigning by the battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, VA, on August 11, 2012On a superficial level, Ryan is more widely known throughout America now than Sarah Palin was in 2008. As Stephen Hayes wrote in the Weekly Standard on July 23, since John McCain's defeat in November 2008, Paul Ryan has become the intellectual leader of the Republican Party. Speaker John Boehner wields more raw power in the House, but he has relied heavily on Ryan. Boehner deliberately (and commendably) has placed Ryan at the forefront of the House Republicans' opposition to Obama, especially since the GOP recaptured the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. The Dems had already started their slurs campaign against Ryan just based on the threat he posed to Obama from his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee, and when I read Ryan Lizza's grudgingly admiring but fundamentally dishonest profile of Ryan in a recent issue of the New Yorker (which I'm not going to link), I knew the Dems were taking him seriously as a potential GOP Veep nominee.

Nevertheless, to all but perhaps the 10% of American voters who closely follow politics even outside election season, the depth and substance of Paul Ryan and his political philosophy are still largely unknown. Between now and the conventions, the Romney-Ryan campaign will seek to remedy that, and the Obama-Whoever campaign will do what it always does, which is to tell lies designed to frighten and confuse people.

I will go on record with a Veep prediction now, though — not about Ryan, but about his counterpart in the race: If Romney had chosen Rob Portman or Tim Palenty or Marco Rubio instead of Ryan, then Slow Joe Biden and his boss could both have breathed easier. In my view, however, Paul Ryan's selection just moved Hillary Clinton from "possible" to "probable" as Biden's replacement on the 2012 Dem ticket. Look for Slow Joe to find a sudden yearing to become an elder statesman who has more time to spend with his family. I'll bet Hill & Bill are having champagne tonight. Even most of my Democratic friends will admit, if pressed, that it would be a good thing for the country to get Joe Biden out of the line of presidential succession. 

To answer Greg Q's question, though: The enthusiasm with which I might otherwise be greeting this pick is not diminished, but is nevertheless deeply tempered, by my conviction that things in America are today much worse than they were at this same time in 2008 — or even, for that matter, than they were in September 2008 during the financial system's near meltdown. We no longer have to speculate how badly a generic Democrat would do as Dubya's successor. We know exactly how abysmally the actual Democrat who succeeded him has performed, and there is absolutely not a reason in the universe to think he will be a whit better or less disastrous if he's permitted four more years to continue dismantling the American Dream.

Romney's choice of Ryan gives me grim satisfaction, then, rather than elation or surprise. It does give me new hope insofar as it demonstrates Gov. Romney's willingness to take on the biggest issues and to move this campaign cycle beyond the ridiculous trivialities that Obama counts upon to distract Americans from his own conspicuous incompetency, his own insufficiency for the office.

But the Dems can't compete with Ryan's principles, which are, very fundamentally, America's principles too. So to keep the conversation on other topics, as they are desperate to do, the Dems will have to pull out all the stops.

Barack Obama's reelection campaign is already the most shamefully dishonest in my memory, which dates back to LBJ vs. Goldwater in 1964. It is about to get much, much worse.

Fortunately, and may God continue to bless him in this regard, one of Paul Ryan's most defining characteristics is his unflappability. Many call Ryan's style "Reaganesque," and it is indeed cheerful and passionate and hope-filled — but Reagan never had Paul Ryan's handle on details.

Those who think the Ryan selection is risky essentially base their projections upon a very poor opinion of the American public's intelligence. But I believe, as did Ronald Reagan, that almost all Americans understand that we can't live forever in a world of magic unicorns and "free" stuff from the government. The magic dust that Obama sprinkled over Americans in 2008 — the magic that he told them could make them fly if only they thought happy thoughts and held Obama's hand — has now all worn off. The entire audience can see the wires, and that most of them are broken. The gap between the Lightworker character as written in Democratic fiction and the tired political hack now playing that part has become more obvious than Mary Martin's bosom. I believe that enough Americans know that it's time to exit the theater as grownups, and to get back to work in the real world.

Batten down the hatches, then, folks. The deluge is here, and the Obama campaign is going to make sure we're all at least waist deep in fecal matter before the voters send that campaign back to the sewers where such nastiness belongs.

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UPDATE (Sun Aug 12 @ wee-smalls): I asserted that Ryan's selection improves the odds that Obama will dump Biden for Hillary, but I didn't explain why. The short version is: Pawlenty, Portman, or even Rubio would have whipped Biden in the Veep debate and as a campaign surrogate, but not so badly as to make Biden look much worse than Biden does even with no active opponent. If Romney had chosen one of them, then keeping Biden would have been a closer call. But recall that Paul Ryan is the only Republican politician in the last two years to have obviously bested Obama himself in face-to-face argument in a public forum. And whether you credit Obama with modest or supernatural eloquence, he's certainly aware that Biden isn't in his own league, and he surely knows that Ryan will disarticulate Biden, both stylistically and substantively, in the Veep debate.

Biden turns 70 in late November, and his medical history includes two brain aneurysms. The rationale for him being on the ticket in 2008 (that he would offset Obama's foreign policy inexperience) no longer exists. He brings no constituency that Obama doesn't already have on his own now; among young voters, whose participation Obama wants desperately to encourage, Biden is very nearly as much a standing joke as he is among Republicans. There has always been a decent chance that Obama would dump him in 2012, but of course that would never conceivably have happened until Obama first saw who Romney picked, in order that Obama could know who Biden's successor would be up against. Now he knows.

The best chance the Dems have to respond to the Ryan selection would be asymmetric political warfare — which translates quite neatly into replacing Biden with the most ambitious and most popular Democrat in the country, Hillary Clinton. Indeed, that will mesh like clockwork with the coming Obama pivot to foreign policy as the best possible distractraction, and the only substantive distraction, from the economic ruin he's wrought. The rest of the Obama-Clinton campaign would largely consist of heaping calumny on Romney-Ryan and Mediscare — Dems cannot talk about the economy in anything but the most simplistic, jingoistic talking points, because anything else is poison to Obama's campaign — but SecState/Veep nominee Clinton, along with a newly energized Bubba, would surely be employed to highlight the relative lack of traditional foreign policy credentials on the part of both Romney and Ryan.

Posted by Beldar at 12:02 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, February 06, 2012

George Romney never had a little tip jar

Of the controversy surrounding Mitt Romney's profession that he isn't "concerned about the very poor," Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard artfully explains a rather subtle but important reason why "movement conservatives" were dismayed.

They understand, of course, Romney's full intentions and the entire context of the remarks. And like Romney himself, movement conservatives contemplating Romney as the potential GOP nominee wish he could better repress these self-inflicted rhetorical wounds; his considerable communication skills are offset heavily by something of a tin ear.

Yet even leaving these issues to one side altogether, movement conservatives reacted to Romney's in-context argument with disappointment, according to Hayes, because Romney

seemed utterly unaware of a long strain of conservative thought on the morality of capitalism. He seemed oblivious to the argument ​— ​central to the conservative movement ​— ​that free markets allow the poor to transcend their position, that poverty is not destiny....

This was, in other words, an opportunity that Romney missed, one in which he could have made a compelling pitch for why even the poor ought prefer Obama's defeat. Hayes continues:

But [Romney] received some help from Marco Rubio, who had shared his own story in the Republican response to the president’s radio address a week earlier.

“My father was a bartender,” Rubio said. “And I thank God every night that there was someone willing to risk their money to build a hotel on Miami Beach and later in Las Vegas where he could work. I thank God that there was enough prosperity in America so people could go on vacation to Miami or Las Vegas. Where people felt prosperous enough to have weddings or Bar Mitzvahs and, by the way, could leave tips in my Dad’s little tip jar. Because with that money he raised us. And he gave me the opportunity to do things he never had a chance to do.”

I think Hayes gets it about right when he concludes:

If Romney wants to return to Tampa to accept the GOP nomination, he would do well to spend more time before then with Rubio. And maybe, in a more formal way, afterwards.

That much seems a realistic hope, I think. It's sad, but probably true, that a key reason why Romney is so obviously uncomfortable about his own wealth and success in particular — and perhaps so uncomfortable in his own skin more generally — is that he hasn't internalized and committed to this morality of capitalism. I'm sure Romney understands the theory; on other occasions I've heard him articulate it well (if perhaps too dispassionately for my tastes). But to curtail these sorts of awkward gaffes and turn them into something which could help him win November if he's the GOP nominee, Romney would need to claim, own, and release his own embarrassment over, his own successful striving to achieve the American Dream.

That is probably not a realistic hope, however; and thus the potential importance to Romney, as it was to McCain, of a Veep nominee who can help him mend fences, rally the faithful — and yes, preach the morality of capitalism.

Posted by Beldar at 01:56 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, McCain, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Beldar on Palin's announcement

On June 8, 2008 — months before John McCain surprised the world with his vice presidential nominee — I was writing about then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a potentially transformative choice for that position. No one, however, predicted how much of a national lightning rod she would become. I was disappointed in her decision to resign from her governorship after the 2008 election, but I was neither surprised nor disappointed at Gov. Palin's announcement today that she definitely will not be a candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

I am also sure that Gov. Palin is aware that Mark Begich — the former Anchorage mayor who snuck into the U.S. Senate on Obama's coattails in 2008 — is up for reelection in 2014. If Gov. Palin wishes to become a political candidate again (as opposed to a pundit and speaker), Begich's seat would be her next logical target.

Posted by Beldar at 06:35 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Despite history, a Ryan presidential candidacy from the House makes sense for 2012

I commend to you this thoughtful and articulate post (including its comments) by my blogospheric friend Dafydd ab Hugh of Big Lizards. Dafydd considers my arguments in favor of drafting House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, but finds himself unpersuaded.

One of Dafydd's minor points is a better-argued variation on a theme that's been sounded fairly frequently about presidential candidates who are sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including such recent historical footnotes as John Anderson and Dennis Kucinich (Dafydd's boldface & italics omitted here):

Look, I like Paul Ryan, and I love his plan to rescue the budget and economy. But I'm nervous about him being the GOP standard bearer next year — given that the last time anyone went directly from the House to the White House was James Garfield in 1880.

A representative running for president was of course far more common in the nineteenth century, and the House was held in much higher regard than now. Too, Garfield was a nine-term congressman first elected during the Civil War; and he served for five years as Appropriations Committee chairman. But in 2012, Ryan will be a seven-term congressman who will have served as Budget Committee chairman less than two years....

(Dafydd's post continues with a series of other well-made arguments that I think are more specific to Chairman Ryan. I've addressed some of them briefly in comments on his blog, and I may eventually expand on those arguments, or address other points, in future posts here. I intend to confine this post, however, specifically to the argument that Ryan's poorly situated to run from the House.)

For several reasons, I'm less impressed by this "nobody's won from the House in decades" argument in this particular year. For one thing, we don't have a GOP candidate with high federal executive experience this cycle — none of the three theoretically eligible GOP ex-Veeps (Quayle, Cheney, and yes, think about it, Bush-41) are plausible candidates. The two most recent GOP presidential nominees drawn from the Senate, Dole and McCain, ran awful campaigns that made everyone wonder why we couldn't find a better nominee. Rick Santorum is running on the strength of his two terms in the Senate, but he was defeated in 2006. And since John Thune's decision not to run, no sitting GOP senators have been overtly preparing for the race or even generating any buzz — and no one seems to regret that at all this year.

State governors at least have executive experience, but not at the federal level. There are vast differences between governing even a very large state and serving as POTUS, and state governors almost inevitably lack even the foreign policy experience of the lowliest Congressman, who's at least had occasion to consider and vote on foreign policy legislation. But I agree with Dafydd that there are several plausible candidates, existing or rumored, who have as strong credentials as any state governor is likely to ever have, and they're serious candidates. (They'd also nicely balance Ryan's federal legislative experience if one of them were his Veep nominee; or, I concede, vice versa.)

Nevertheless, and more importantly, I believe we are on the cusp of an electoral revolution comparable to that which the Reagan-Bush ticket accomplished in their 1980 defeat of the Carter-Mondale ticket. Certainly several sitting state governors are playing high-profile roles in dealing with their respective states' analogs, at the state level, to the federal problems being hashed out in Washington. But as a direct consequence of the 2010 off-year elections — in which the White House was not in dispute, and the GOP failed to recapture the Senate, but quite dramatically regained control of the House — the House has been where the action's been since January 2011. The Senate, by contrast, continues in near paralysis.

Up through and including the November 2012 election, the House GOP members will continue to apply essentially all of the pressure which will drive (or undo) potential compromises elsewhere. Indeed, conservatives have to depend on the House GOP members to keep the pressure up on not only Senate Dems and Obama, but on Senate Republicans.

For the 2012 election, then, more than most others, I think it makes particularly good sense to consider, and properly appreciate, the leadership Ryan has shown, and continues to show daily, from the House. You find your most effective leaders by going where the conflict is most stark and checking to see who's following whom. For this cycle, the most critical action is in the U.S. House, and in overwhelming numbers the House GOP members are following Paul Ryan's lead.

Posted by Beldar at 12:23 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Foreign Policy, History, McCain, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BeldarBlog's new sidebar endorsement

Some readers may recall my sidebar endorsement of Sen. John McCain after he sewed up the GOP presidential nomination in 2008:

Mccain_grump

After Sen. McCain chose Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, my improved view of the combined ticket was reflected in a different sidebar endorsement that I ran through the November election:

Mccain-palin_sidebar

My new sidebar endorsement is, like the others, an unpaid, spontaneous, and independent expression of my First Amendment rights. It has not been coordinated with or sponsored by Chairman Paul Ryan or anyone else: 

Draft_ryan

I assert no copyright to the words or the public-domain photo, and anyone else who wishes to urge Chairman Ryan to run is welcome to copy and republish this .jpg with my enthusiastic blessing. This endorsement implies no disrespect to any of the other existing or rumored candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. 

I'm in, Mr. Ryan. Consider me a pre-charter member of the "Ryan for President 2012 Campaign."

Your party and your country need you — not just as House Budget Chair, but in the White House — and we're calling!

Posted by Beldar at 06:00 AM in 2008 Election, 2012 Election, McCain, Palin, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama still lacks accomplishment, but he's no longer untested; or, Why Beldar doesn't care anymore about Obama's college or law school transcripts

Ace has been musing in print on whether to continue his self-described "Release the Transcripts campaign" (regarding Obama's college and law school courses and grades). He hasn't asked me, but if he did I'd recommend that Ace invest his considerable talent on other topics.

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During 2007-2008, I wrote many, many posts about Obama's objective lack of qualifications for the presidency.

Some of the topics were of pretty limited significance in the big picture. I thought, for example, and I still think that Obama and his supporters have systematically exaggerated the significance of his part-time teaching of con-law seminars at Chicago Law School. But that really went to his character more than to his objective qualifications, and it was at best a very small window through which to observe and draw inferences.

By contrast, some of the topics I blogged about were quite significant. I was (and remain) incredibly frustrated that no one anywhere, in the mainstream media or even in the blogosphere, was taking anything remotely resembling a close look at Obama's legislative accomplishments as a U.S. Senator. Other than running in and winning a presidential election, his (very short, very distracted) tenure in the Senate seemed to me to be by far the strongest and most significant item on a very short list of lifetime accomplishments. So it also seemed to me that everyone ought to be interested in the extent to which he either had, or had not, actually crafted any bills that he'd then been able get passed into law by his fellow legislators.

The Obama campaign claimed undue credit for symbolic accomplishments on which Obama deserved no substantive credit. Asked for examples of his legislative prowess, the campaign pointed to a nuclear non-proliferation bill Obama "co-sponsored." Well, what actually had happened was that Dick Lugar and his staff wrote the legislation (it was a follow-up to a related bill that Lugar and Dick Nunn had co-written years earlier), but then when it was ready for passage, Lugar invited rookie Obama to sign onto as a co-sponsor as a welcoming gesture (back when the GOP controlled the Senate). Obama's total contribution to the process was to tag along with Lugar on a flight to Central Asia as part of a fact-finding inspection of former Soviet republics, and then to nod "yes" when asked if he'd like to be a co-sponsor. Similarly, Tom Coburn had let Obama co-sponsor a bill Coburn and his staff had written providing for government budget information to be made available online — same deal, just letting Obama share completely undeserved credit, just as a senatorial courtesy. Both Lugar's bill and Coburn's bill were going to be passed by voice vote without dissent or objection, so by adding Obama as a formal co-sponsor they could say it was "bi-partisan" while also giving the rookie something to put in his newsletters back to Illinois.

Being asked by senior GOP senators to be the token rookie Democrat senator on non-controversial legislation is hardly enough to make Obama into a modern-day Daniel Webster, I suggested. The world yawned.

I wrote a series of posts about the thinness of Obama's own legislative efforts — which boiled down to a Belgian Congo foreign aid bill and a bill banning the export of elemental mercury, both (again) passed without opposition or objection on a voice vote in both chambers of Congress — and I thought they were good posts. But they fell into the aether like the proverbial trees falling in an un-peopled forest.

Americans were just not interested in whether Obama had demonstrated an ability to actually get complicated and controversial legislation written and passed. No one seemed to think that might be pertinent to Obama's ability to — oh, I dunno, but say, just hypothetically — craft and pass any kind of workable health care reform?

McCain, of course, had actually gotten legislation passed — some of which bears his name, and one piece of which, in particular, I very much wish he hadn't gotten passed. But for whatever bizarre reason, McCain never focused his campaign's fire on the huge disparity in his performance and Barack Obama's on the only job credential they both had in common. And the voters became enraptured with Obama the Omnipotent Fantasy Hero, and they voted for him in November 2008. And they have been realizing in growing numbers ever since that the guy they elected ain't no Fantasy Hero, and that his only potencies are in the areas of (1) spending money we don't have and (2) federalizing/regulating/taxing the holy hell out of not just health-care but anything that moves and can be federalized, regulated, or taxed.

*******

In 2007-2008, the whole point of examining Obama's performance as a U.S. Senator, however, was to test whether it demonstrated his preparedness to become president. My overall point back then was that based on his actual track record, in comparison with any president going back at least to Andrew Johnson, Obama was objectively unprepared for the job.  And because he was unprepared for the job, I further argued, we could reasonably infer that he would most probably botch it.

Fast forward to November 2012. By then, we certainly will no longer be relying on inferences from Obama's performance as a U.S. Senator in 2004-2008 to predict how he might perform as POTUS in 2013-2017. By then we'll have almost four years of his daily performance (or non-) as POTUS to consider when we're making our predictions about how he'd be likely to do in the next four. And by November 2012, no undecided voter is going to be much interested in drawing inferences about Obama's likely performance as POTUS in 2013-2017 based on Obama's college or law school transcripts. It's not that the old evidence will become irrelevant, it's just that it's going to be massively outweighed by the much more obvious (indeed, inescapable) and much more current evidence of Obama's massive incompetence combined with fiscal and regulatory recklessness as POTUS.

He's no longer wholly untested. He's now been thoroughly tested — and on the same job for which he's seeking a four-year extension.

But the world can see that he's botched it already. We don't have to guess whether he'd botch it further in the next four years, no more than we had to guess about Jimmy Carter. 

It's Obama's performance as POTUS that counts now, Ace. That's what's important and — mirabile dictu! — by a fortunate coincidence, that's also the source of our most persuasive set of arguments anyway. So let's not get distracted from that subject by chasing down rabbit trails that have already proved (in 2008) to go nowhere, because if the 2012 election is a referendum on how well Obama has done his job as POTUS, any GOP candidate will beat him like a drum.

Posted by Beldar at 08:09 PM in 2008 Election, 2012 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pap and twaddle from Broder: McCain should save GOP from "extremism"

I can't remember the last time I read anything in a David Broder column that I agreed with, and his op-ed in today's WaPo — which calls upon John McCain to provide "adult leadership ... for both his party and his country" — is no exception.

Broder argues that "[o]ne of the conspicuous failings in the past few years has been the absence of a second party making principled decisions on when to support and when to oppose the president." That's patently untrue: It's only GOP support for Obama's continuance of most of George W. Bush's GWOT policies that have kept the Dems from reprising what they did to this country, our allies, and the rest of the world starting in 1974-1975, when they condemned South Vietnam to a brutal and deadly Communist takeover. And the support Obama has gotten from the GOP is not due to leadership from John McCain or anyone else in particular, but because the GOP rank and file in both chambers of Congress understand that a combination of self-abasement and cutting-and-running is the worst possible response to any enemy, certainly including our Islamofascist ones.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and wife greet supporters after 2010 GOP primary win. (Fair use photo credit: The Arizona Republic)There are many positive things that can be said of John McCain, and I'm pretty sure I said them all, many times each, after he'd locked up the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. But 2008 was a year of extraordinarily weak GOP candidates. And the fact that McCain survived a strong primary challenge in 2010 after getting blown out in a presidential election in 2008 doesn't suddenly convert him from an old senator into an elder statesman. Like John Kerry, he's an embarrassingly bad former-nominee who just keeps hanging around the Senate; he gets exactly the respect there which he's due, which is not "none," but which means that nobody else there is much inclined to follow his lead just because of who he is (or was).

I believe in the two-party system even when it's sputtering, and while I never had any illusions about McCain's ample flaws, neither did I ever entertain any illusions that any of the non-GOP alternatives might have been remotely acceptable. (Hillary & Hubby might have turned out slightly better than Obama has, but only slightly, and at what cost in sleaze?) Of the bunch who'd sought the GOP nomination along with McCain, Fred Thompson was by far my favorite, but Fred had nowhere near enough of the proverbial fire in the belly. As a result, he got in too late, and he didn't run nearly hard enough to make up for McCain's advantage (as the runner-up from 2000) in the front-loaded winner-take-all set of early GOP primaries. But Fred was my favorite in substantial part because he was the only major GOP candidate who actually had a long-demonstrated commitment to core conservative principles. As a naval aviator John McCain had the tenacity and courage to resist his North Vietnamese torturers, but as a politician he's too often succumbed to the superficial allure of liberal pap and twaddle.

I'm a big-tent Republican, meaning I welcome the vote and the support of even those voters whose only agreement with me is that an opposing Democratic candidate is, for whatever reason, worse. But welcoming people into the tent isn't the same as pitching the tent's center-pole on unstable ground, which is what we did in 2008: Against the tsunami of willful self-delusion that propelled Obama into office — and welcome back, by the way, all of you whose eyes have been re-opened, you who persuaded yourself (although you should have known better) that all that "tax and spend/redistribute the wealth/blame America first" stuff was just empty GOP rhetoric instead of fundamental Obama dogma — we put up a Republican Lite. We needed instead, as we always need, to offer the voters a full-bodied Reagan-style Republican. And there just wasn't one of those available in 2007-2008.

It's the nature of cycles — political, economic, or otherwise — that there are bad times punctuating the good. We can only fully appreciate Reagan's greatness, for example, by contrasting him with his disastrous predecessor, Jimmy Carter. And so too it may take the horrors of Obama to prepare the nation to appreciate and embrace another genuinely conservative leader from the Grand Old Party in 2012.

I don't know who that will be yet. But I'm very, very sure that David Broder's instinct — which is to implore the Grumpy Old Warrior from Arizona (via the Canal Zone and the U.S. Navy) to lead his fellow Republicans to politely acquiesce in the ongoing Democratic rape of our national economy and our international self-abasement before our enemies — is bonkers. Broder's suggestion that we somehow need McCain to save the GOP from "an experiment in extremism" — meaning a return to Reagan Republicanism — gave me the best belly-laugh I've had all week. You want to talk "extremism," I'll show you some genuinely extreme extremism:

Updated (as of Feb 2010) chart from the Heritage Foundation, based on source data from OMB and CBO

Posted by Beldar at 07:33 PM in 2008 Election, 2012 Election, Congress, McCain, Obama, Politics (2010) | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's "Morning-After in America"

I've taken a multi-week hiatus from blogging during the Obama Administration's honeymoon, but David Broder has declared the honeymoon to be officially over now.

(Many thanks to those who've sent me encouragement or expressed concern via comments or emails during my silence. I'm fine; so's my family; I've just been focused on things other than blogging.)

I wish I had something terribly original, or even derivative-but-clever, to say about the events of the last several weeks, but I don't. I will offer one small observation, though, about one of the prominent sideshows of that period:

I don't care whether, or in exactly what sense, Rush Limbaugh — or anyone else — "wants Obama to fail." The reason: I'm already certain that the policies and actions which Obama has undertaken, and therefore he, will fail — regardless of whether you or I or Rush Limbaugh are "rooting" for them. I can't yet predict exactly when and how, no more than I could predict exactly when and how the Soviet Union would eventually fall apart; but the ultimate result is even more certain, and for reasons that are indeed related.

No, I'm not calling Barack Obama a communist. But he shares with them the ridiculous self-confidence that they, or anyone, are smart enough to manage an economy through government action, and an inadequate appreciation for the likelihood that government action will make things worse rather than better. Almost every single thing that Obama has done in his short time in office will end up making us less prosperous, less secure, and less free.

For every moderate, conservative, or libertarian who voted for Obama because you couldn't develop any enthusiasm for McCain and you bought into the notions that Obama was a "moderate" and "extremely competent," I have one word, and one value judgment: Suckers! Shame on you, because you willfully blinded yourself to the mountains of contrary evidence by donning the political equivalent of beer-goggles. Your reckless gamble on untested hopey-changitude is going to cost us all for the next four years. Repent at your leisure.

Despite my outrage, however, and my contempt for the Administration and the Democrats in Congress, I remain fundamentally optimistic. America is strong enough to survive even the blundering, irresponsible novice now living at 1600 Pennsylvania. There will be a huge cost and much unpleasantness. But we got through Jimmy Carter. We'll get through Barack Obama.

Posted by Beldar at 12:37 PM in 2008 Election, Congress, McCain, Obama | Permalink | Comments (13)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Twisted dollop of evil scum Bill Ayers claims his and Weather Underground's bombs were mere "protests" and never terrorism, but that U.S. gov't "murdered" thousands every month

I know that when John McCain called Bill Ayers just "some washed up old terrorist," he was trying to minimize Ayers' significance and deprive him of any current relevancy.

But that was just another of McCain's well-intentioned misjudgments.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, there is evil in the world, and Bill Ayers was, and remains to this very day, a twisted dollop of evil scum. Perhaps he hasn't set off a bomb in the previous few years — although I wouldn't bet the ranch on that, and he still refuses to rule out future violence — but he's as totally inappropriate a candidate for the phrase "washed up" as Adolf Eichmann was just because he hadn't gassed any Jews in the previous few years before his trial and execution in 1962.

Proof: In a post-election interview yesterday with ABC News, this piece of excrement had the nerve — one might say, "the audacity" — to simultaneously contend that the bombings he and his comrades in the Weather Underground did were "not terrorism because [they didn't] target people, to kill or injure," but that "thousands of people were being murdered every month" by the lawful, elected, democratic government of the United States of America. That's a despicable, intentional, unforgivable, scurrilous lie, immediately followed by another.

It is a terrible mistake to try to minimize great evil. Ayers already lacks legitimacy; he cannot be further delegitimized or marginalized by wishful, inaccurate thinking like that represented by McCain's dismissive language.

I can excuse, barely, Chris Cuomo of ABC's "Good Morning America" for speaking to this vile bastard without overtly judgmental statements: Sometimes journalists arguably have to sheer away their own humanity to expose evil to public view.

But anyone else who could sit in the same room with Bill Ayers without complaint, without speaking out about his continued depravity, has deliberately chosen to ignore evil — and by ignoring it, to perpetuate and implicitly defend it. That this worm has taken Barack Obama's election as his cue to crawl from his hole and spew his nasty lies is one of the sickest and saddest things I've ever seen happen in America.

And to the extent John McCain's characterization of Ayers was a suggestion that nobody ought to care anymore, then even McCain had lost his own moral compass.

Posted by Beldar at 01:32 PM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (14)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A plea to John McCain: Find and expose the anonymous sources telling lies about Sarah Palin and use the McCain temper to "make them famous"

In the many hours I spent online doing background research on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin before I wrote my first post about her on June 8, 2008, I read many dozens of newspaper stories about her, dating back to her time as mayor of Wasilla in the late 1990s, in the state's largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, as well as in some of the smaller Alaska newspapers. I was specifically looking for negatives: I knew that the Democrats would be too, in the (then unlikely) event that Gov. Palin became a serious possibility as the GOP Veep nominee.

The single most frequently recurring theme was that Sarah Palin's political opponents underestimated her. In every campaign, her opponent attacked her as inexperienced. None of them argued, however, that she was stupid. The closest any opponent ever came to that was one of her two opponents in the 2006 gubernatorial race, Andrew Halcro, who claimed that she didn't immerse herself in the minutia of policy detail in which he himself reveled. Halcro is a wonk, and an annoying, patronizing twerp, and a sore loser, and the people of Alaska recognized that by leaving him an embarrassing distant third in that race, with less than 10% of their votes. But even Halcro didn't claim that Sarah Palin was stupid.

Nor did anyone else of consequence make that claim during Gov. Palin's first year-and-a-half as governor. She was criticized for having "sharp elbows," for holding political grudges, and for disfavoring those who'd crossed her — complaints leveled by losers left behind in the wake of every successful politician, because that's the loser-side view of being held accountable for ones actions and positions. But dim? Provincial? Uneducated? Nobody in Alaska had ever seriously charged Sarah Palin with being an airhead — not even the political enemies she'd left bleeding in the dust.

Because she was relatively unknown outside Alaska, however — and, very frankly, because she is an attractive woman who could therefore be easily tagged with the most cruel and sexist of stereotypes, the airhead — from the day John McCain announced her as his vice presidential nominee, her political opponents simply began manufacturing lies about her, many of which were designed to reinforce that airhead stereotype.

It did not surprise me that partisans opposed to the GOP ticket would believe these lies. But it very much surprised me that some smart centrists and even nominal conservatives did too.

I'll give you an example — one that makes me sick at heart. I've read Dr. James Joyner's blog, Outside the Beltway, regularly since before I started blogging myself in 2003. I regarded him as one of the most articulate, knowledgeable, and reasonable right-of-center bloggers around. I was tickled to be invited to participate by telephone in his podcast immediately after the Palin announcement in late August, and I agreed with him and the other participants that Gov. Palin was an exciting choice. Some time shortly after that, however, something changed Dr. Joyner's mind about Gov. Palin. And he now seriously purports to believe, for example, that Gov. Palin "couldn't even name a newspaper she read." That's not an isolated or snarky comment; that's consistent with everything he's written about Gov. Palin for weeks in perfect seriousness. And it's no different than if he were to insist that really, seriously, Joe Biden can't count to four because he claims "J-O-B-S" is a three-letter word. People joked about "Bush Derangement Syndrome," and about "Palin Derangement Syndrome" as its successor. But at some point this kind of thing stops being a joke and becomes a genuine cognative disability — an inability to process and deal in a rational fashion with objective data because of a bias that is so intense that it blocks out reality.

I can't explain it. I just hope it's a temporary, acute problem rather than something long-term or possibly organic, like the sort of brain tumors or lesions of which Dr. Oliver Sachs writes in his book, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." I'm not being at all snarky here. Rather, I'm entirely serious, because I have considered Dr. Joyner a friend, and I am genuinely concerned for his mental health. He, Andrew Sullivan, and others in their camp are completely persuaded that they can see a degree of ignorance in Gov. Palin which is utterly inconsistent with anyone's ability to function as the governor of any state, but to which hundreds of thousands of Alaskans were absolutely blind for many years despite a much better opportunity to assess Gov. Palin first-hand. That kind of thinking represents a break with reality, one that's not funny at all, but genuinely sad.

The latest of the deliberate liars — the people who are inventing stuff out of whole cloth, maliciously and without any pretense of a factual basis, without any regard for their utter implausibility — are the cowardly, sniveling pieces of garbage who've been masquerading as "campaign aides" for the McCain-Palin campaign. They are the worst kind of traitors in politics. Like the scumballs who invented the list of books that Sarah Palin had supposedly wanted burned when she was mayor of Wasilla — and who included in the list Harry Potter books that hadn't even been written when Gov. Palin was mayor — these anonymous assassins don't even bother to come up with plausible lies: Why bother, when mainstream publications like Newsweek will uncritically regurgitate them to millions without doing the most basic fact-checking?

It's time for this to end. It's time for the liars to be identified to the public and held accountable.

To Carl Cameron and others at Fox News: Shame on you for granting these people anonymity. There is no basis in journalistic ethics for you to do that. Shame on you for reporting this garbage at all.* With the exception of a few there like Greta Van Susterin who've refused to buy into this nonsense, you are rapidly eroding such credibility and respectability as your network had earned among Americans disgusted with the mainstream media in general. Stop what you're doing immediately.

To Sen. John McCain: Although you were far from my first choice as the GOP nominee, I've spent hundreds of hours working on your campaign's behalf, as have many others who were thrilled by your selection of Gov. Palin as your running mate.

I never thought I would have cause to label you, of all people, as a coward or dishonorable. You're acting in a cowardly and dishonorable fashion, however, by permitting people identified with your campaign to make these anonymous attacks on Gov. Palin. Identify them. Make them famous. If what they say is true, then make them back it up. If it is not — and I believe it is not — then expose them as liars so that no GOP politician will ever again dare hire these sniveling worms. They have no honor, but they are besmirching yours. And your silence is compounding this problem with every hour that passes. It's time, and past time, finally, for your long-suppressed temper to be unleashed, because you finally have targets who deserve the worst public tongue-lashing you can deliver.

To any and every potential GOP leader, including Mitt Romney: If I ever learn that you are knowingly employing any of these traitors, I will oppose your candidacy for any office, and do everything within my power to persuade others to oppose you too. Gov. Romney, you need to be heard on this matter too, immediately and forcefully, regardless of whether those responsible are in fact, as is being widely reported, former or prospective aides of yours.

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UPDATE (Sat Nov 8 @ 2:05pm CST): It's helpful for other campaign aides to go on record, by name, denying these things (see, e.g., here, here, and here). But that's not remotely adequate. McCain needs to be personally involved — on the record, on video that will be carried by the national media. The exposure and discrediting of these traitors needs to replicate as closely as possible the opening scenes with Chuck Conners in "Branded" — except these people are not innocent, and none of them is a real man:

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UPDATE (Sat Nov 12 @ 4:30pm CST): I embrace and adopt the sentiments of Allahpundit and Michelle Malkin: John McCain has failed this test of his own character.

The would-be commander-in-chief surely still had the clout to summon the top twenty-five or so campaign aides into a room for a "Come to Jesus" meeting, a "we aren't any of us leaving this room until I know who leaked those comments" meeting, a "you aren't any of you ever going to work in politics again until we find out who's to blame for this" meeting.

Instead, he goes on Lenno and shrugs his shoulders, minimizing the whole episode. That didn't make anyone famous. That affirmatively encouraged this crap to continue, not just in this campaign but in future ones.

I practice a profession in which secrets are important. I understand the concept of fiduciary duty. I've employed people, professionals and staff alike, who — simply by virtue of working for me — have been made subject to the same bright-line, absolute standards that I'm subject to. Very, very rarely, someone in my employment has breached that trust — and my reaction has been ruthless and thorough and instantaneous. Yes, there have been a few times when I've enjoyed firing someone, and have gone out of my way to make sure that anyone who cared to make future inquiries about hiring that person would find out exactly why they were fired.

McCain's background as a military officer ought to have acquainted him with high ethical standards and the need for their consistent and vigorous enforcement. He almost flunked out of the Naval Academy at the end of every year he spent there, based on conduct demerits, but he never once had an Honor Code violation.

Senator, this was an Honor Code violation by someone on your staff. And you just blew it off. There was no shame in losing the election. But there is definitely shame in this.

Posted by Beldar at 12:33 PM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (38) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congratulations to President-elect Obama

Okay, with this post, I'm caught up again on cross-posting here for the guest posts I've made so far at HughHewitt.com. If you're reading down the page from this post, keep in mind that the teasers here for posts since late October were all done in the wee small hours after I already knew the disappointing election results. And I've also copied and posted at the foot of each teaser post here the full text and photos from those guest posts, just for archival purposes.

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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)

[As always, I'm speaking here only for myself, not necessarily for Hugh — but with thanks for his generous invitation to me to guest-post here during this election season, and thanks to all of the many additional folks who've read my blogging as a result (of all of which, more later in a more sentimental but less consequential post tomorrow).]

Congratulations to you, Sen. Barack Obama, junior senator from Illinois, on becoming the President-elect of the United States of America.

Congratulations to your supporters, and to the entire United States on this historic occasion.

Mr. President-elect, you have been, and will remain even more frequently, in my prayers.

I pray that you will succeed in bringing America into a post-racial future. In that regard, I pray that you will take to heart the prescription of Chief Justice John Roberts: The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. You are uniquely positioned to help us achieve that, and I pray that you will find the path to do so.

I pray that you may acquire wisdom — wisdom beyond your tender years, your thin experience, and your inconsequential legislative achievements — wisdom as a public servant in office, rather, that is at least commensurate with the skill you've shown as a campaigner, which has been a genuine marvel.

I pray for your health, because, with due respect, I regard the prospect of your Vice President-elect having to step into your shoes with genuine panic. Let's hope that he can continue to be Crazy Uncle Joe, less of a danger to the nation as Vice President than as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

You have said, at times, that you recognize that your greatest flaw is pride. I pray that your prayers for help in overcoming that flaw will be answered. You are surrounded, unfortunately, with an entourage who share that very flaw. Between now and January, I hope you will find time to read modern American history, and in particular, histories about John F. Kennedy, who you resemble in so many ways. Kennedy's youthful arrogance and ignorance nearly incinerated our planet — a fact of which you seem to be unaware, and that frightens me more than anything else about the prospect of your presidency. Mr. President-elect, you must learn history, so that you can avoid at least its most conspicuous mistakes — like those John Kennedy made in Vienna 1961 when he, as a young and presumably naive president, was tested and found completely wanting.

I pray for your family, that they may continue to give you strength and comfort and perspective. If you will do your best for your own beautiful young daughters, then I have grounds to hope that will also be good for mine.

God bless you and keep you, sir. I have been among your harshest critics, in good faith I hope, and I will continue to speak out when I think you're wrong. I pray for the grace, though, to acknowledge those times when you are right, and for the decency to accord you with the full respect that is due to anyone who holds the office upon which you are about to embark.

You will be my president too, and while I am filled with trepidation, I congratulate you as sincerely as I am able, and I wish the very best for you and our great country.

— Bill Dyer

Posted by Beldar at 06:06 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Too soon IMHO to call Pennsylvania

When I wrote this guest-post, it was. But it's not anymore.

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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)

You will perhaps forgive me if I remain, for a while longer, skeptical of Obama Broadcasting Company's MSNBC's call of Pennsylvania for Obama already. They may turn out to be right. But right now, they're mostly guessing. I hope no one who's yet to vote will put their faith in the thrills racing up and down any portion of Chris Matthews' anatomy. Note that other networks, including even CNN, are still treating that race as too close to call.

In a close Senate race, if Fox News is correct in calling Kentucky for Mitch McConnell, I suspect that the Senate Minority Leader's seat has just been saved by the Governor of Alaska. Who'da thunk that a year ago?

The fat lady is only mid-song, folks. Hang in there.

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UPDATE (Tue Nov. 4 @ 7:20 p.m. CST): Michael Barone is explaining on Fox News that they don't have any precinct data yet for Pennsylvania, and that there are large variations in something called the "WPE" and the exit polling. ABC, however, has joined NBC on this one, or may even have preceded it, based (apparently) on exit polling. I do not trust exit polling, period.

UPDATE (Tue Nov. 4 @ 7:30 p.m. CST): Now Fox joins NBC and ABC on Pennsylvania. I'm discouraged, but not yet persuaded, re this state.

UPDATE (Tue Nov. 4 @ 7:59 p.m. CST): Barone just clarified Fox News' call for Pennsylvania a half hour ago by explaining that was when they'd finally received the "WPE," which he says is the "Within Precinct Error." With that, he says they're confident that the results in Pennsylvania are outside the margin of error of the exit polling. I respect Barone a lot, and when he says they think the odds that they're wrong are "250 to 1," as he just did, I'm sure he doesn't make that statement lightly. But with due and genuine respect to him and all the other "experts," I think I'll wait to see some more actual voting totals before I give up on PA.

And the overall map so far still looks like 2004. But new results are about to be announced.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:55 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Working the phones from home for McCain-Palin

Phoning from home is fun, I argued in this Nov. 2nd 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've cast my own vote. I've blogged on just about every topic relating to the election that I can think of. I've chatted up those of my own friends whose votes might have been up for grabs.

So tonight I made a couple of dozen phone calls as a McCain-Palin volunteer. And I feel better as a consequence.

Maybe you didn't realize how easy it is to do that kind of volunteer work from home. Just go to the McCain-Palin website, register there, and click on the big green "Make Calls" button on the right to get started.

I had plenty of left-over minutes in my cell-phone plan so that the calls didn't cost me anything. And I was particularly pleased that I was able to choose to call voters in Pennsylvania, a swing state, just by selecting that state from the drop-down menu on the McCain-Palin campaign website.

The website is pretty simple to use, and it provides separate short scripts to use depending on whether you reach someone in person or you can only leave a recorded message. When I get an answering machine or voicemail, I use exactly the script the campaign prescribes, which includes a call-back number.

But as in past years when I've done volunteer calling, when I reach a live person, I end up deviating from the script more than following it. The less robotic and more "amateur volunteer" these calls are, the more effective.

And people don't want to be preached at if they've already made up their minds, so after identifying myself as a volunteer and confirming that I've got the right household, I ask straight-away if they've already voted absentee or in early voting, and if not, whether they've already decided whether to vote — and if so, whether they mind telling me for whom.

If they seem reluctant, I never press for more details — but I take that as my cue to try to deliver some advocacy. In those cases, here's what I used, instead of the prepared script from the campaign: [# More #]

You know, the McCain-Palin campaign trusts in Pennsylvanians' common sense to see that only John McCain has ever actually fought for us to keep our country safe. And he and Gov. Palin are the only candidates whose stated goal is an actual victory over the terrorists.

Sen. Obama, on the other hand, already has promised to raise taxes during a recession. Pennsylvanians already know that tax increases will devastate the economy and destroy new jobs.

 

So the only question is how far down the income ladder Obama, Pelosi, and Reid will push their tax increases. Can I share with you just one quote which might help you apply your common sense?

On Friday, one of the leading Democrats campaigning for Sen. Obama, New Mexico Gov. Frank Richardson, said, quote, "What Obama wants to do is, he is basically looking at $120,000 and under among those that are in the middle class," unquote. That suggests to me that regardless of whatever else he may say now to get elected, Sen. Obama is going to treat small business owners and other folks netting $120,000 or more as being rich, and when he soaks them with new taxes, they're going to have to start laying people off.

I sort of envy you, (Mr./Ms.) ____, because your vote will probably count for much more than mine will here in Texas, if Pennsylvania turns out in 2008 to be like Florida was in 2000. And that's why Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have asked me to call you this evening — to find out if they can count on your vote next Tuesday. Can they?

These are all targeted calls — meaning that the McCain-Palin campaign already has some reason to believe that these individuals might be open to persuasion. And in fact, in a large majority of the calls I made, I never got into the "script" because I got a quick assurance that they were already planning to vote McCain-Palin — in which case I just ended the call by thanking them profusely, and by reminding them to go to the polls early because large crowds are expected and their state may be the key to the entire election.

I don't want to overstate the impact of these calls. Out of the two dozen calls I placed, I figure there's at least a small chance I might have reminded/persuaded someone to go vote who might otherwise have let it slide. And that, by itself, made doing this worth my time, in my estimation.

But I spoke to one woman tonight who said that while her husband is a strong McCain supporter, she had just re-registered this year for the first time since she'd voted for JFK in 1960. But she still hadn't decided whether to vote, or if so, for whom. I ended up chatting with her for a good five minutes, and by the end of that time she said she thought she'd go vote again this year. If indeed she turns out to be a one-vote net gain for McCain-Palin in Pennsylvania, then my time this evening will have been spectacularly well spent.

I'll probably spend another couple of hours making these calls tomorrow evening. Care to join me?

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:00 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top One Reason Why McCain Might Win

Ay-yay-yay. This one doesn't hold up as well with hindsight, but it was a sincere guest-post at HH.com at the time, on October 31st.

I would argue, however, that as a matter of hypertext markup language elegance, finding an occasion to use a single-element ordered list, and then converting that opportunity into reality, was no small aesthetic victory. (But not a large one either.)

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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)

J-Pod has 10 Reasons Why McCain Might Win, and it's a nice list, worth a glance at least.

With due respect to him, however, I have a better list. It has precisely one item on it:

  1. We haven't had the election yet. So anyone who tells you — based on public opinion polls or science or guesswork or magic or anything else — that he or she knows what the outcome is going to be is lying to you.

Throughout this weekend and all day on Monday, there will be zillions of words communicated — spoken, read, printed, downloaded, whatever — about the result of the upcoming election. Every one of them is nothing better than a guess. We've seen in past elections that notwithstanding the best modern polling techniques, all sorts of polls — including "exit polls" on the very day of the election — have been badly off.

I am not one of those who argues every four years that "This year's election is the most important ever!" I don't know whether that will turn out to be true or not. I am confident, however, that there has never been an election remotely like this one. And you know that too, if you'll just take a snapshot poll of your own common sense.

Treat your own vote as if it might decide the election. Encourage your friends to do that too. Take responsibility. And don't let someone else — anyone else, and especially not some smug know-it-all newspaper or TV reporter, or three-quarter-in-the-bag pollster — persuade you to waste or squander the most precious aspect of your heritage as an American.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 04:41 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brave Rachael Larimore, the only one of 62 Slate.com personnel who even weakly supports McCain

Well. Here I am in the wee small hours of the morning after election day. I'd gotten behind in my cross-posting here for my new posts at HughHewitt.com. And now, Barack Obama is the President-Elect, and I'm doing ... file maintenance.

The good news is that up to the point of this post, I've now copied to this blog all of my posts from there, tacking them on to the foot of what were originally my teaser posts here. That's a lot of work done, although it's pretty mindless cut and paste stuff.

The bad news is that I still have a bunch of posts to cross-post here, and I have to find some teaser line at a time when I'm feeling blue and definitely not too witty.

Blearg.

Anyway, on October 28 I had a guest-post at HH.com in which I argued that Slate.com ought to just quit pretending it's anything but an instrument of the Democratic Party.

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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)

Of itself, in the online page linked as "About Us" from the footer on the bottom of every page, Slate.com tells us the following:

Slate is a daily magazine on the Web. Founded in 1996, we are a general-interest publication offering analysis and commentary about politics, news, and culture. Slate's strong editorial voice and witty take on current events have been recognized with numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award for General Excellence Online. The site, which is owned by The Washington Post Company, does not charge for access and is supported by advertising revenues.

That, friends and neighbors, is an example of lying by omission.

Oh, I'll agree that Slate.com has a "strong editorial voice" and a "witty take on current events." In Mickey Kaus in particular, Slate has one of the smartest and most honest bloggers of the center-left, and I could easily list another half-dozen names who regularly contribute at Slate.com whose work I've enjoyed reading from time to time, and quite a few of them besides Mickey have also been very gracious in exchanges I've had with them via email or public postings. Slate.com has long been a fertile source of blogging topics for me because I can almost always find something there (a) with which I profoundly disagree and (b) which makes an easy target for mocking conservative snark. It's a online barrel of reliably liberal fish to shoot at.

And I do give Slate.com credit for handing all of us the unarguable empirical proof of the publication's true orientation: It's just published a comprehensive survey of its own staff and regular contributors in which it asked each of them to reveal who "they're voting for on Election Day and why." Here's the result:

Barack Obama: 55
John McCain: 1
Bob Barr: 1
Not McCain: 1
Noncitizen, can't vote: 4 [but 3 of those prefer Obama and the 4th voiced no preference]

The one McCain voter is Deputy Managing Editor and Copy Chief Rachael Larimore. I'm unsurprised that someone with her job title would be the sole McCain voter, since hers is a practical job. She writes:

This is a difficult election for me. But voting for John McCain is an easy choice. He's a man I admire, I agree with many of his policy positions, and, since I am a moderate but loyal Republican, I feel a kind of kinship with him. Barack Obama is an exciting candidate, and I wish I could share the enthusiasm so many Americans feel for him, but I feel like his worldview is Carter-esque, and I fear his economic policies will be, too.

However, I also think an Obama presidency can be a boon for Republicans, and not just because of the havoc a Democratic White House and a Democratic Congress could wreak. I don't hate President Bush like so many do, but even I can say his presidency has been a disappointment. And the Republican-led Congress was a disaster, as McCain pointed out, not in so many words, in his convention speech. I'm hopeful that an Obama victory would be a wakeup call as well as an opportunity — an opportunity for those who believe in limited government, individual freedoms, and free markets (yes, even in this crisis) to regain their influence, to take back the party from the religious right and social conservatives that have gained so much influence. So regardless of what happens on Nov. 4, I won't be too upset. But neither will I be too excited.

Bravo for Ms. Larimore, for the courage of her convictions, such as they are! But note that she writes with disdain of "the religious right and social conservatives," which some would say makes her a "RINO" (Republican in name only). Me, I'm a big-tent Republican glad to have Ms. Larimore in the party. But regardless of her particular degree of fervor, from this survey we can we confirm that Slate.com doesn't believe in tokenism: They don't bother to employ even a single self-identified social conservative, nor a single person who will be thoroughly pleased and excited if McCain wins.

Now, don't misunderstand me. There's nothing inherently wicked in Slate.com being a thoroughly liberal publication, top to bottom, which reports and comments on matters of public interest from an unmistakeably liberal point of view and with an undeniably liberal slant. There's plenty of room on the internet for self-avowed partisans — I'm one, and so is my host here, Hugh Hewitt. We hang a lantern on our pre-existing biases because we believe that it's important for readers assessing our credibility to know of those biases up front. Once those biases have been disclosed, then our readers (or in Hugh's case, listeners too) can evaluate the persuasiveness of our reasoning and, indeed, our advocacy, and make up their own minds accordingly.

But it is misleading for Slate.com to describe itself as a "general interest" magazine. And more importantly, by omitting to continuously self-disclose its consistent tilt, Slate.com pretends that it is something other than a publication of the political left, heavily skewed toward candidates of the Democratic Party. Just like its parent organization, The Washington Post, Slate.com pretends to an editorial balance, neutrality, and open-mindedness that it simply lacks.

No one — least of all Slate.com's own management — should be remotely surprised by the results of its internal election survey. It's fine for Slate.com to promise a "witty take on current events," but for it to continue to pretend to be anything but partisan is an unfunny joke.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 04:08 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 27, 2008

On this 41st anniversary of John McCain being shot down over Hanoi

My last guest-post of Sunday evening at HughHewitt.com marks the 41st anniversary of John McCain's last mission over Hanoi.

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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)

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the day John McCain was shot down over Hanoi. He'll be the first to tell you that he got shot down because he screwed up on that day — he committed the human mistake of losing situational awareness because he was so concentrating on his target — and then he had a long, uncomfortable time to reflect on and learn from that mistake.

During the Democratic primary season, Joe Biden's funniest line, a barb directed at former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was to the effect that in every sentence then-candidate Guiliani delivered, you could be sure to find three things: a noun, a verb, and 9/11. Sen. John McCain's opponents have tried to use a variation of that line about him, but with "POW" in place of "9/11." And there was a time earlier this year when I thought that the McCain campaign was in danger of living up to that stereotype.

But both Sen. McCain and his campaign aids reined in that particular rhetoric. Did you notice that no direct reference whatsoever was made to Sen. McCain's time as a prisoner of war in either the first, second, or third presidential debates? Would you ever have predicted that in, say, June of this year or last year?

While being very much a 21st century politician, however, Gov. Sarah Palin is old-school when it comes to respecting our military and its heroes. It's with obvious reverence and appreciation that she has made one of her own campaign stump-speech lines, from the Republican National Convention onward, that "Of the four candidates on top of the two tickets, John McCain is the only one who has ever actually fought for you." This line has the elegance and power that comes from brutal, literal truth combined with simplicity. I'm glad she repeats it.

I too am old-school, and my inclination is to honor and glorify Sen. McCain on this anniversary for his bravery, his toughness, his steadfastness, and his selfless refusal to accept the early release offered because he was the son and grandson of admirals. Old-school or not, corn-ball or not, these demonstrated qualities are not unimportant factors, I would submit, in evaluating his character to become commander in chief.

John McCain and comrades in around a U.S. Navy A-4 attack aircraft

But John McCain himself actually has a very different take on the significance of his time as a POW. And I'm reasonably sure that he'd rather that you or I note this anniversary, if we choose to note it at all, in a markedly different way than what first occurred to me. Consider what John McCain wrote in his memoir of his early life (including his time as a POW), "Faith of My Fathers":

In prison, I fell in love with my country. I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn't until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I had loved her.

I loved what I missed most from my life at home: my family and friends; the signs and sounds of my country; the hustle and purposefulness of Americans; their fervid independence; sports; music; information — all the attractive qualities of American life. But though I longed for things at home I cherished most, I still shared the ideals of America. And since those ideals were all that I possessed of my country, they became all the more important to me.

It was what freedom conferred on America that I loved the most — the distinction of being the last, best hope of humanity; the advocate for all who believed in the Rights of Man. Freedom is America's honor, and all honor comes with obligations. We have the obligation to use our freedom wisely, to select well from all the choices freedom offers. We can accept or reject the obligation, but if we are to preserve our freedom, our honor, we must choose well.

I was no longer the boy to whom liberty meant simply that I could do as I pleased, and who, in my vanity, used my freedom to polish my image as an I-don't-give-a-damn nonconformist. That's not to say that I had shed myself entirely of that attribute. I had not, and have not yet. But I no longer located my self-respect in that distinction. In prison, where my cherished independence was mocked and assaulted, I found my self-respect in a shared fidelity to my country. All honor comes with obligations. I and the men with whom I served had accepted ours, and we were grateful for the privilege.

McCain explains how what came to matter most to him was how his fellow prisoners measured his character. "My self-regard became indivisible," he writes, "from their regard for me. And it will remain so for the rest of my life." And the realization changed him:

This is the truth of war, of honor and courage, that my father and grandfather had passed on to me. But before my war, its meaning was obscure to me, hidden in the peculiar language of men who had gone to war and been changed forever by the experience. So, too, had the [Naval] Academy, with its inanimate and living memorials to fidelity and valor, tried to reveal this truth to me. But I had interpreted the lesson, as I had interpreted my father's lesson, within the limits of my vanity. I thought glory was the object of war, and that all glory was self-glory.

No more. For I have learned the truth: there are greater pursuits than self-seaking. Glory is not a conceit. It is not a decoration for valor. It is not a prize for being the most clever, the strongest, or the boldest. Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely, and who rely on you in return. No misfortune, no injury, no humiliation can destroy it.

This is the faith that my commanders affirmed, that my brothers-in-arms encouraged my allegiance to. It was the faith I had unknowingly embraced at the Naval Academy. It was my father's and grandfather's faith. A filthy, crippled, broken man, all I had left of my dignity was the faith of my fathers. It was enough.

Now, I don't doubt that Barack Obama loves America, nor that his own very different experiences and such challenges as he's faced have shaped his character. But gentle friends, I have also read Barack Obama's book, "Dreams from My Father." And in it, you will search in vain for any chapters containing feelings or epiphanies about America that are remotely comparable to what I've just quoted here.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 01:24 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Even the higher marginal tax rate that you don't pay directly can still push you, and everyone, into poverty

My lastest guest-post tonight at HughHewitt.com is about taxes and spreading the wealth. I argue that "those higher taxes cannot possibly be crafted so that they just affect rich old Peter over there — not by a smart Harvard economics professor, and not even by Barack Obama."

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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)

Wealth grows out of work done at the margin. New jobs are created out of work done at the margin and the investment dollars that work generates.

Someone living paycheck to paycheck is contributing to the economy, but he or she isn't going to be the guy or gal who's actually helping to grow the economy in a significant way. But when you have someone who's making it okay — who's getting by — and he's considering whether to do the additional work needed to generate that marginal dollar, his decision whether to do the work or not is going to relate in a very big way to what happens to that dollar.

Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw looks carefully at how the candidates' respective tax plans will affect that marginal dollar, and his analysis is clear enough that I'll forgive him for speaking of himself in the third person (h/t InstaPundit):

Let's suppose Greg Mankiw takes on an incremental job today and earns a dollar. How much, as a result, will he leave his kids in T years?

The answer depends on four tax rates. First, I pay the combined income and payroll tax on the dollar earned. Second, I pay the corporate tax rate while the money is invested in a firm. Third, I pay the dividend and capital gains rate as I receive that return. And fourth, I pay the estate tax when I leave what has accumulated to my kids.

Mankiw makes a couple of reasonable assumptions about pre-tax return rates and the length of time for his investment before his kids get it, and then he runs the math, which returns these conclusions (emphasis mine):

If there were no taxes, so t1=t2=t3=t4=0, then $1 earned today would yield my kids $28. That is simply the miracle of compounding.

Under the McCain plan, t1=.35, t2=.25, t3=.15, and t4=.15. In this case, a dollar earned today yields my kids $4.81. That is, even under the low-tax McCain plan, my incentive to work is cut by 83 percent compared to the situation without taxes.

Under the Obama plan, t1=.43, t2=.35, t3=.2, and t4=.45. In this case, a dollar earned today yields my kids $1.85. That is, Obama's proposed tax hikes reduce my incentive to work by 62 percent compared to the McCain plan and by 93 percent compared to the no-tax scenario....

From this, Prof. Mankiw concludes that if Obama's tax plan becomes law, he's unlikely to do the extra work to earn that extra dollar. He'll spend the time trying to make good memories with his kids instead of trying to make money for them to inherit.

When you rob Peter to pay Paul, it's not some zero-sum game. Peter's been the guy working harder. When you systematically rob him to pay Paul — when you "redistribute the wealth" — then Peter figures it out, and he stops working harder. He stops creating more wealth at the margins. And eventually, you've guaranteed that Peter and Paul will both slip into destitution.

Democrats stare at me perplexedly. "Dyer!" they say, "You don't make a quarter million a year! The Obama tax increases won't hit you! And what kind of idiot are you, that you don't want the hand-out from Barack Obama's tax cuts and the give-aways from Obama's new social programs?"

I'm the kind of idiot who (a) would still like to make a quarter-million some day, who (b) doesn't think Peter should be penalized with a higher tax rate for his success, and who (c) wants his kids to have a chance to land the jobs where they can make that much or more in the businesses created by Peter after he decided to keep working a little harder to make the extra dollars to invest (i.e., risk) in starting those businesses. I won't take his damn bribes — even if I trusted Obama to deliver them, which I don't — because it hurts all our futures to have high taxes. Even when you're not taxing me directly with those higher rates, those higher taxes will still affect me. "Spreading the wealth" ultimately makes us all poorer. Those higher taxes cannot possibly be crafted so that they just affect rich old Peter over there — not by a smart Harvard economics professor, and not even by Barack Obama.

Most of us want to become Peter; most of us realize it's unfair to penalize Peter for being successful; but regardless, we all need Peter.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 10:13 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Challenge for next administration will be to be worthy of our military's professionalism and dedication

On a guest-post yesterday at HughHewitt.com, I expressed my gratitude and admiration for our professional military forces, who are already on special alert as we approach the election and the transition to a new administration.

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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)

During the last several years, probably the single most offensive and ridiculous and insulting meme of the Most Radical Left — the Bill Ayers types who still can't decide whether they're merely small-c communists or anarchists, joined by colossal morons like Michael Moore — has been the argument that the Bush-43 Administration has already effectively mounted a military coup to destroy civil liberties within the United States. Perhaps the most magnificent irony in the world is that those folks' right and practical opportunity to display such caustic stupidity is protected by the finest, most professional all-volunteer military force in the history of the world. Those soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen feature prominently in my prayers every night.

(Always near the very top of my personal prayers list is a young nephew of mine who, like his grandfather did long ago, proudly wears the uniform of a junior officer in the U.S. Navy. As a military dentist, he's currently at Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Base in California, and the odds of him deploying abroad with a Marines medical unit are high. Like everyone else in my family, I'm so proud of him, I could burst.)

The men and women in our military represent the full spectrum of America and all its politics, of course. I wouldn't care to guess at the relative percentages, but pollsters could probably find some number of current and recent American service personnel who might agree with leading Democratic Congressman Barney Frank that we need to cut our national military spending by 25% to finance the Democratic Party's spending and give-away programs. But even if that is (as I suspect) a fairly small minority among those serving in our armed forces, all Americans (except for the most crazed and rabid moonbats referenced above) can be confident that whoever succeeds George W. Bush as commander-in-chief will immediately benefit from the full measure of their professional dedication.

And indeed, as this article tucked away in the back pages of Sunday's WaPo recounts, senior military officials are already on special alert — recognizing that the risks of adventurism and reckless testing of America by its enemies increases as the election approaches, and that on either side of the next presidential inauguration we will be in extra peril:

The U.S. military, bracing for the first wartime presidential transition in 40 years, is preparing for potential crises during the vulnerable handover period, including possible attacks by al-Qaeda and destabilizing developments in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to senior military officials.

 

"I think the enemy could well take advantage" of the transfer of power in Washington, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, who launched preparations for the transition months ago, and who will brief the president-elect, the defense secretary nominee and other incoming officials on crisis management and how to run the military.

Officials are working "to make sure we are postured the right way around the world militarily, that our intelligence is focused on this issue, and in day-to-day operations the military is making sure it does not happen," Mullen said in an interview. "If it does happen, we need to be in a position to respond before and after the inauguration."

I have no doubt — none whatsoever — that our armed forces will comport themselves with dignity and honor in the performance of their duty regardless of whether John McCain or Barack Obama is the next president. For that we should all be grateful. My concern is that the new civilian leadership beginning in January 2009 be steadfast and wise in the performance of its duty. Other than wishful thinking on the part of people like Colin Powell (who ought to know to value record over rhetoric, but have chosen instead to load up their hopes on the latter), I see no basis to believe that an Obama-Biden Administration is likely to be remotely as competent as the magnificent military forces who will nevertheless execute their orders to the best of those forces' ability.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:34 PM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Don't be misled into thinking "early voting" reports necessarily, or even very closely, correspond to actual votes cast!

The mainstream media is trying to make you think it knows exactly how the early voting is going, but it's assuming that registrations equal actual voting decisions, which is very misleading (as I argued in a Thursday 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 was stunned to find a post on ABC News' Political Radar blog entitled Democrats Lead in Early Battleground Voting. I checked my calendar: Nope, it's still October. How, then, can ABC News report that "the early numbers in key battleground states show Democrats are outperforming Republicans"?

The answer is: This kind of report is grossly and dangerously misleading. And whether intended or not, it may have the practical effect of misleading people into thinking that their votes don't matter when in fact those votes may become crucial. This is dangerous misinformation that you should help combat, friends and neighbors.

What you're reading in these reports isn't based on political opinion polling — not even "exit polling." Instead, it's based on guesswork — specifically, a guess that in those states which record voter affiliation (typically either from votes cast in primaries or affirmative acts of registration by voters before the primaries), the top-of-the-ticket general election votes, as actually cast, will match up precisely with those registrations when the actual votes are counted (starting on November 4th after the polls close).

But in Texas, for instance, where early voting started this week, I am absolutely certain that many tens of thousands of dedicated Republicans crossed over in primary season — whether as part of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" or just out of sheer cussedness — to vote for Hillary Clinton and against Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary. They have absolutely no intention of voting for either in the general election. But if they vote early, then based on their having voted in the Democratic Primary, they'll be counted in "early voting" news reports like this one as "Democrats" and they'll be assumed — wrongly — to have voted for Barack Obama.

Besides such "strategic cross-over voters," this reporting also will misreport "PUMA" votes from real Democrats who nevertheless choose not to vote for Obama. And it will misreport genuinely undecided voters who nevertheless voted in the Democratic primary, perhaps because they wanted to have a voice in down-ballot races, and ended up breaking their indecision by the time of the general election in McCain-Palin's favor.

Some states have continuing registrations that persist until the voter takes some affirmative action to change it. But in no state does your voter registration prevent you from voting for the opposite party in the general election! Some folks may still be registered as Democrats even though they haven't voted for one since Jimmy Carter in 1980, and they may have actually cast their early vote this time for the GOP ticket again, but they'll show up in these reports as yet another Obama vote.

And some people do actually change their minds to vary their actual votes from their registration status at the last minute. With no incumbent running and one candidate in this race being such a comparatively unknown quantity, there are substantial reasons to suspect that may be even more true in this election season than in most.

Moreover, there are all sorts of well-demonstrated reasons why early and absentee voters' actual votes, when they're actually counted starting on November 4th, may vary substantially from the trends set by those who vote on Election Day itself. But these numbers are even more unreliable as a basis for projecting final-vote results than even an accurate count of the early votes would be, if somehow the actual votes could be counted before Election Day (which they can't be). So these reports of early voting have at least a two-fold inaccuracy built in.

And this isn't just a failure to get the totals right, it's an affirmative mis-mark, where one voter being wrongly presumed to have voted in conformity with his/her registration  will show up in the totals both as one too many votes for one slate and one too few for the other. In what was assumed to have been a 100-to-100 tie, in other words, the actual count will turn out to be 101-to-99 (and a two-vote margin of victory) when the mistaken assumption is backed out and the actual vote is properly counted.

USA Today's comparable article at least contains this explanation, buried several paragraphs down:

Election records in many states show whether voters are affiliated with a political party or are independent. States that must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, such as Georgia and North Carolina, also show racial breakdowns. No votes will be counted until Nov. 4.

But many reports don't have even that explanation. And a casual reader might well be misled into thinking that these are hard numbers being reported, instead of guesswork.

Please, please — whatever your preferences in this election! — don't be misled into thinking that you're seeing anything but guesses yet when the press start quoting these numbers. Only one party (and its adoring press) is pushing the "it's over, don't bother" meme this year, but don't fall for that tripe regardless of your own voting intentions. If you make the mistaken assumption from these sorts of reports that your vote doesn't count, then you may regret that for the next four years — as voters of both parties in the Florida panhandle did when they dropped out of election lines in 2000 after the networks had prematurely, and wrongly, "called" Florida for Gore after the polls closed in the part of Florida in the Eastern time zone. Treat your vote as if it could decide the election.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:18 PM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Purchase of the White House

My Thursday guest-post at HughHewitt.com decries the sheer volume of money being used to buy a term in the White House for Barack Obama.

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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)

The Democratic National Committee dropped roughly $150,000 on Obama's fake-Greek temple. The Republican National Committee dropped roughly the same amount of money for Gov. Palin's campaign wardrobe. I could not possibly care less about either of these factoids.

I do care very much, however, that in September alone, Barack Obama raised one thousand times either of those expenditures. By election day, he will have spent more money in an attempt to buy the White House than both Bush-43 and Kerry spent altogether in 2004.

And millions and millions of dollars of those funds are illegal donations made with phony names.

Contra John McCain, I don't believe it is practical or constitutional to limit campaign contributions. I do believe it is legal and an ethical imperative to acquire, and immediately and continuously disclose, accurate and complete information about the source of all political contributions.

Americans deserve to know precisely who's trying to buy the presidency, and then they can draw their own conclusions. But right now, my conclusion — and the only possible conclusion, given the massive sums of improperly reported cash that Obama is spending — is that criminals are trying to purchase Barack Obama's election.

This is a direct, inescapable consequence of Obama's breaking of his solemn vow regarding public campaign financing. It's of a piece with his letting convicted politician-briber Tony Rezko help him finance the purchase of his own house. When it comes to campaign financing, Obama cannot be trusted. He cannot be believed. And he has no shame — only money, and money, and more money.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:14 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Latest AP poll says race is dead even

On Wednesday I wrote a guest-post at HughHewitt.com about polls intended not to argue that the one I was citing was especially persuasive, but to argue that it showed that all polls, including polls showing an Obama run-away, are suspect.

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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 so skeptical of political polls in general that I almost never post about them, but I'm going to make an exception here because I think that all by itself, this one adequately establishes that Republicans, conservatives, McCain supporters, Obama opponents, and all those who are still undecided ought not buy into the mainstream media meme that this election is a done deal for The One:

... Two weeks before the election, McCain and Barack Obama are essentially running even among likely voters.

The poll put Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent among those voters who are considered likely to vote on Nov. 4. The survey supports what some Republicans and Democrats privately have said in recent days: that the race has narrowed as Republicans drift home to their party. McCain's "Joe the plumber" analogy also seemed to strike a chord.

Folks, it's an election, not a coronation. We may be in the final act, but the fat lady hasn't even started warming up offstage yet. All those who think they know for sure how this is going to shake out are fooling themselves. Don't let them fool you.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:02 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Senator Quicksilver and the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008

Also last Tuesday was my guest-post at HughHewitt.com regarding Sen. Barack Obama's latest big legislative triumph (except it's actually pretty puny).

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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)

On the morning before the third presidential debate, October 14th, I wrote here that I wished moderator Bob Schieffer would ask Sen. Barack Obama a serious question about his utter inability, during almost four years as a U.S. Senator, to see enacted into law any major piece of legislation that he had actually drafted and for which he had been the principal sponsor (as opposed to co-sponsoring bills that other senators had written and introduced). Of course, Schieffer didn't ask anything remotely close to this question, and nor will any of the other old-media reporters now covering Sen. Obama on a daily basis.

The absence of such an accomplishment on Sen. Obama's part, I wrote, is particularly stunning given that during the last two years, his own party has controlled both the House and Senate, and he's either been among his party's two most likely nominees for the presidency or its certain nominee. Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi haven't even bothered to much engage in the pretense that he's an effective legislator — precisely because they know better, and they instead expect him to compliantly sign whatever they send up Pennsylvania Avenue starting in January 2009.

I noted in my post, however, that in addition to managing the passage of a relatively minor 2006 bill to provide financial relief and promote stability in the Congo, Sen. Obama — after being tweaked on the subject before 30 million people by Gov. Palin in her nomination acceptance speech at the GOP convention — had finally managed to write and pass in late September another minor bill, originally known as the "Mercury Market Minimization Act of 2007," but now known as the "Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008."

Like almost everything else for which Sen. Obama has claimed credit since coming to the U.S. Senate, this bill too was passed without so much as a single dissenting vote in either chamber of Congress. And sure enough, on the very night of the debate, President Bush signed it into law, making it Public Law No. 110-414.

I'm not saying this was a bad bill, or a frivolous bill; to the contrary, it appears to be a modest but useful effort to address a particular environmental problem (although one wonders whether careless mercury buyers and users abroad won't just find alternate sources on the world market). Sen. Obama's Senate website has a nice press release, which notes that the bill was supported by "the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Council of the States, American Chemistry Council, the National Mining Association, and the Chlorine Institute," so it doesn't appear that Sen. Obama had to stand up to entrenched corporate interests to get this bill passed.

But you can draw your own conclusions as to just how cosmically insignificant Obama's legislative accomplishment is from the fact that — despite the mainstream media's infatuation with Obama and its desire to portray him as competent for the presidency — this new law has been virtually ignored. From the day it passed the Senate (September 26th), through the day it passed the House (September 29th), through the day President Bush signed it into law (October 14th), though today, according to my advanced search request on Google News using the term "mercury export ban," neither the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, MSNBC/NBC News, nor even Reuters has bothered to mention it. A story from the Environmental News Service did manage to get picked up for republication by the local NBC affiliate in Chicago, and the Associated Press issued a report that was picked up by a small handful of newspapers, the most prominent among them the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Perhaps it's occurred to them that by reporting on this new law, they actually only highlight just how pathetic Sen. Obama's total legislative record is. (That certainly has occurred to me.)

Turning to plain old Google as an alternative means for judging the significance of this legislation at least indirectly, the phrase "Mercury Export Ban Act" (in quotation marks) returns, as of this moment, 2290 results. By comparison, however, "McCain-Feingold," to pick just one of Sen. McCain's major pieces of legislation, returns about 364,000 results.

While it's true that much of the legislation with Sen. McCain's name and fingerprints on it has been controversial — indeed, to the point of causing much gnashing of teeth amongst the members of his own party — no one can deny that John McCain has been a workhorse in the U.S. Senate, including during years when the GOP didn't control the Senate, House, and/or presidency. Sen. Obama, by contrast, is the very definition of a show-horse, when he's bothered to show up at all. (Both candidates have understandably missed many recent votes while campaigning for president, but in Sen. McCain's case, that doesn't amount to half of his total Senate career, as it does with Sen. Obama.)

I still think Sen. McCain scored an even more accurate hit with his Freudian slip in the third debate, when he called Sen. Obama "Senator Government."

But elemental mercury, of course, was known in classical times as "quicksilver." "Senator Quicksilver" has a nice ring to it too, and seems awfully apt for describing a candidate who's noted for his silver tongue but who's hard to pin down, and who, if elected, will very likely become toxic to the national economy.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 06:48 PM in 2008 Election, Congress, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Obama leaks cabinet choices in time for Halloween scare

Sen. McCain meant, I think, to reassure Americans that they need not be "afraid" that Barack Obama is an "Arab" or a "terrorist" himself.

But Americans have ample cause to be afraid of other aspects of an Obama presidency, as my guest-post at HughHewitt.com emphasizes while discussing Obama's leaked names of likely Secretaries of Defense and State. No, it's not The Onion with a mock slate, it's the Times of London, and Obama is absolutely serious about Hagel at DoD and Kerry at State. It's actually hard to think of any choices that could be more stupid and dangerous for America.

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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)

Sen. Barack Obama has done America a great service by leaking some names of likely cabinet nominees to the Times of London.

For Secretary of Defense, The One is is looking to the Republican whose own bad judgment most closely duplicated Sen. Obama's own in fervently opposing the Surge and demanding that we surrender in Iraq on a strict timetable: Sen. Chuck Hagel. In January 2007, Sen. Hagel was quoted as saying that the surge would be "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out."

This is the Obama definition of "working with those across the aisle": Selecting the single most dim-witted GOP senator. Bozo Sen. Hagel is almost certainly too stupid to realize that he would enter any Obama Administration with the words "Fall Guy" prominently tattooed across his forehead.

And for the National Leader of the International Mother-May-I Team — excuse me, Secretary of State — Sen. Obama's leaking the name of Sen. John F. "Global Test" Kerry. Sen. Kerry, you'll recall, has splendid foreign policy credentials, having left behind in a Massachusetts closet his uniform as an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1970 (and perhaps again in 1971) so that he could travel to Paris and meet secretly and in mufti with our Viet Cong and North Vietnamese enemies. John McCain and his fellows were still POWs when young Kerry returned to urge — yes, you've got it — an immediate American surrender and withdrawal without preconditions from South Vietnam, which by the oddest of coincidences was exactly the same "peace plan" being preached at that very moment by our enemies themselves.

The only potential glitch in this plan is that Kerry may be re-classified as a WMD — specifically, a wide-area narcoleptic weapon.

Shocking. Brazen. Insanely dangerous. The geopolitical decisions of a naive child, choosing deputies who are demonstrably more naive than I feared even Obama himself was. That's what we would see in an Obama administration. And we won't be able to say that we weren't duly warned. John McCain was correct that Americans need not be "scared" that Obama himself is a terrorist or the like. But Americans ought be afraid of spectacularly bad judgments like these and the catastrophic consequences they could cause for the entire world.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 06:00 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Docs opining on McCains' prognosis divide into two groups: Those who know what they're talking about, and those who're guessing

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com distinguishes between those doctors who've actually examined and treated John McCain, who say his prognosis from his 2000 cancer surgery is quite good, and those who are just guessing, who want to scare people into thinking that it's not. This brings out my cross-examination lust, which unfortunately is likely to go unsated.

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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).

Like many courtroom lawyers, a large part of my professional life has involved questioning and cross-examining expert witnesses, and I've dealt more with physicians, by far, than with any other profession. During the first decade or so of my practice, anywhere from a third to a half of my cases involved either personal injuries or health insurance coverage matters (which typically involved cutting-edge medical procedures and/or drugs), and each such case typically had multiple physician witnesses. I'd guestimate that I've put questions to somewhere north of seventy-five different MDs at one time or another — ranging from country general practitioners to some of the world's finest research scientist/physicians. It's a challenge, one that takes both preparation and experience, and it can be a whole lot of fun.

Lawyers who regularly examine physicians have a couple of different terms of art to describe a certain kind of doctor. I'm referring specifically to the kind of doctor who hasn't actually ever examined the patient, and who sometimes hasn't even had personal access to all of the patient's medical records, test reports, and other data. Nevertheless, this kind of doctor will confidently stride into court, take a solemn oath, and then proceed to second-guess the patient's own highly qualified and well-credentialed doctors.

Typically these "experts" are testifying for money, so the rather obvious term of art courtroom lawyers use among themselves to describe such witnesses is a vulgar word meaning someone who sells him- or herself for money. (The word rhymes with "floor.")

But the doctors who are eager to spread alarm about John McCain's cancer prognosis, as quoted in Saturday's Washington Post, aren't giving their opinions for money, but instead out of other motivation. So for them, I'll use the second term of art that courtroom lawyers use to describe doctors who opine without having access to either patient or full records — a term which captures the joy we take in getting to cross-examine them:

Pinatas.

[# More #] Jurors almost always immediately grasp that, when all other things are roughly equal, the doctor who hasn't actually examined the patient cannot be trusted, at least not in comparison to the doctor who has. When the non-treating but testifying physician hasn't even seen all the relevant records and data, then it becomes obvious even to the average ditch-digger that he's just making guesses, and not particularly well-educated guesses at that.

If you read the WaPo article carefully — and not just the headline ("Questions Linger About McCain's Prognosis After Skin Cancer," which of course is biased against McCain) — then even without the assistance of a cross-examining lawyer, you'll quickly come to a confident pair of conclusions yourself:

  • There are doctors who, in giving opinions about John McCain, actually have a basis to know what they're talking about, based on first-hand examinations of the patient and complete access to his medical records and tests and pathology slides and all the other relevant data. They all present a very favorable prognosis for McCain, especially given his long period without a recurrence of the skin cancer removed in 2000.

  • And then there are doctors who are guessing, based on assumptions stacked on second-hand reports, who haven't seen the patient or had access to all his records or the other data. Their conclusions are completely untrustworthy because they can be no better or more reliable than the quality of the input, which is what they've gotten second- or third-hand and at least partly through a media filter. And of course, they have no ethical duty to the actual patient, no responsibility to counterbalance their political or other biases. So they're free to imagine the worst, and then spread it across the internet and to any newspaper reporter who'll listen.

Pinatas. To steal a phrase from the SCTV "Farm Film Report" skits, they blow up REAL good!

In fact, I'd actually pay good money simply for the opportunity to cross-examine these particular bozos esteemed physicians in front of a jury. There's nothing like the professional satisfaction of watching a supposed "expert" witness leave the courtroom with the jury actually laughing out loud at them.

Look, none of us know how many days we have left. We live in a state of uncertain and indefinite grace. McCain, at least, comes from hearty stock (look at his mother, Roberta McCain, making campaign appearances in her 90s), and he's proven himself to be, quite literally, a survivor already on many occasions. I'm amused by the line I've heard him quoted as giving to reporters who've been interviewing him in flight when they were suddenly disturbed by turbulence: "I'm just not destined to die in an air crash," he says with a laugh (having survived not only the crash of his A-4 attack plane after being shot down over Hanoi, but a couple more equipment-failure crashes and a horrible fire when his plane was hit by an accidentally fired missile on the deck of an aircraft carrier).

And as for McCain's cancer, I figure McCain's sort of like the house that Garp and his pregnant wife are inspecting in both the book and movie, The World According to Garp. As they're talking to the real estate agent, a small plane crashes into it. Immediately the very risk-averse Garp says "We'll take it!" His wife looks at him in disbelief, but he gushes, "The chances of another plane hitting this house are incredibly small!" I know that's not the way medical pronoses work, and it's just my guess. But then again, it's not much more unreasonable a guess than those being made by the doctors who are giving contrary opinions to those of McCain's own treating physicians, because those long-distance docs haven't even seen the first plane hit the house, so to speak.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 06:36 AM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), McCain, Politics (2008), Trial Lawyer War Stories | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rest stop

You might think Barack Obama would be the better stand-up comic as between him and John McCain, but you'd be wrong. The proof is in the embedded video in the report I've linked (in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com) from last night's Al Smith dinner, at which Sen. Obama seemed to be getting his own jokes a half-beat after he'd told them.

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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)

Politics ain't beanbag. It's harsh, and when it's unrelenting, it can make you feel mean and nasty about the other side or maybe the whole world.

So relent for a moment. Read this account of Sen. McCain's and Sen. Obama's appearances last night at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York, "the white-tie charity roast that has long served as a light-hearted rest stop on the road to the White House." Watch the embedded video there.

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008, with Cardinal Edward M. Egan, head of the Archdiocese of New York (photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

When you've had a good chuckle or two, take a few cleansing breaths. Resolve that in your next political argument — at the water-cooler, or in the comments here — you'll be a bit less trenchant, a bit more respectful, if no less devoted.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 09:42 AM in 2008 Election, Humor, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

WaPo's endorsement of Obama reveals editorialists as wishful thinkers, him as blank canvas

The WaPo's endorsement of Barack Obama this morning is almost self-fisking, but I couldn't resist having a go 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)

The Washington Post's editorial board chose today to publish their endorsement of Barack Obama. On its own, that's very much a dog bites man story, such that I wouldn't normally bother to much note or blog about it.

Just as if their decision mattered a great deal to a great many people, however, the editorialists do perform a very traditional gavotte, first bowing toward Obama, then toward McCain, fluttering coy eyelashes at both, pretending to favor one and then the other, before reaching a predictable and highly choreographed conclusion.

The reason I bother to link it here is this: Almost every favorable word the WaPo writes about Obama is based on their hopes and projections about what they think and hope he might do as president, not what he actually has done. (The rare exceptions — for example, "Mr. Obama, as anyone who reads his books can tell, also has a sophisticated understanding of the world and America's place in it" — vastly overstate his actual accomplishments. His second book was a collection of platitudes, and his first was about one person growing up with a confused and unusual racial heritage). "Mr. Obama's resume is undoubtedly thin," they concede near the end of their endorsement, and a vote for him is a "gamble." By contrast, however, in writing of McCain, the editorialists are able to point to a long history of actual accomplishments.

The editorialists are obviously aware of this themselves, as evidenced by the admission at the conclusion of their second paragraph (after they've first noted their respect for McCain "over the years"):

Yes, we have reservations and concerns, almost inevitably, given Mr. Obama's relatively brief experience in national politics. But we also have enormous hopes.

Yes, but do they have anything else besides hopes?

Well, if there are no good examples from his actual conduct and accomplishments, how about a healthy dose of self-deception? There's no other appropriate description for this sentence: "Abroad, the best evidence suggests that he would seek to maintain U.S. leadership and engagement, continue the fight against terrorists, and wage vigorous diplomacy on behalf of U.S. values and interests." In fact, the best and essentially only "evidence" is that Barack Obama wanted to immediately and precipitously begin withdrawals of our troops from Iraq, and that he mocked and fought against the Surge. The best and essentially only "evidence" is that if he'd had his way, America would have already been defeated there. The best and essentially only "evidence" is that Obama's uninterested in victory, which pretty much guarantees that he'll be incapable of ever achieving it.

The WaPo admits all this, near the end the editorial, but then wishes away its significance: "[W]e can only hope and assume that Mr. Obama would recognize the strategic importance of success in Iraq and adjust his plans." That's it — "hope and assume" is supposed to outweigh "got it completely and spectacularly wrong on the most important foreign policy matter of his still-juvenile career as a politician."

Later, the editorialists repeat a variation on the same assertion: "[Obama], too, is committed to maintaining U.S. leadership and sticking up for democratic values, as his recent defense of tiny Georgia makes clear." Except that's also contrary to the facts: Obama's first reaction to the Russian aggression against an American ally was to blame both sides, and even that was in tepid and indecisive language. He only began to "stick up for democratic values" when McCain embarrassed him into doing so.

So how about international trade? Where's the historic evidence on that? "We also can only hope that the alarming anti-trade rhetoric we have heard from Mr. Obama during the campaign would give way to the understanding of the benefits of trade reflected in his writings." Let's see: Campaign promises made to anti-trade unions who've given him millions of dollars and votes, on the one hand, versus vague sentiments in his second book and the WaPo's "hopes," on the other hand. Which weighs more? Hopes!

The rest of the editorial is thin gruel of the same sort: Sen. Obama "understands" things. He has "plans." He "hopes to steer the country toward" things that the WaPo thinks would be neat.

There's never a "we know he would do this" because he "successfully championed legislation." There's never a "we know he's really committed to that" because "he risked his career by bucking his own party." Instead — as the WaPo again admits — "We had hoped, throughout this long campaign, to see more evidence that Mr. Obama might stand up to Democratic orthodoxy and end, as he said in his announcement speech, 'our chronic avoidance of tough decisions.'" Earth to WaPo: When you hope something, and it never comes true, that's called a "hoping in vain."

They're simply drunk with hopey-changitude. The final paragraph is a "catch me before I fall!" swoon directly into Obama's arms:

But Mr. Obama's temperament is unlike anything we've seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment.

To such rapture, I have a two-word response:

Jimmy Carter.

Actually, if you strip the WaPo's endorsement of everything they write about both candidates that's based on bare hope, and just leave behind just what they write about either that's based on actual accomplishment, then in fact it becomes a rather compelling endorsement — of John McCain. And that's actually what makes it worth reading.

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UPDATE (Fri Oct 17 @ 5:38 pm. CST): This post prompted Patrick O'Hannigan to email me a link to a post he wrote on his own blog which I commend to you. It's also on the general subject of how Obama supporters rely on hopes rather than evidence of past accomplishment, and it's filled with eloquent examples of people who ought to know better who've nevertheless willingly suspended their disbelief. And it taught me a lovely, useful new word: irenic, meaning "promoting peace; conciliatory." My mnemonic: How ironic that in the heat of a political battle, I first learned the meaning of "irenic." Thank you, Patrick.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 09:39 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reports of bloodthirsty McCain-Palin supporters are mostly exaggerated or simply false

"Tell him" was misheard by a Scranton newspaper reporter as "Kill him!" And then it was once again off to the races with nonsense about how murderous and bloodthirsty the crowds are after Gov. Palin incites them to violence. My guest-post at HughHewitt.com doesn't defend the guilty, but indicts the over-imaginative.

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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)

On my post from this past Tuesday that was entitled Sarah Palin's campaigning is infused with contagious joy, a commenter cited a report that someone, referring to Sen. Barack Obama, had shouted "Kill him!" at the Palin rally in Scranton, PA, which was the subject of my post. That prompted me to write an update in which, besides rejecting the ridiculous notion that either Gov. Palin or I condoned such actions, I pointed out that the report itself was suspicious.

Now the Secret Service agents and other law enforcement personnel who attended the Scranton rally have all denied having heard anyone shout "Kill him!" there, according to a news report yesterday from the same local paper which had been cited by the commenter here (h/t to commenter Loren at my own blog):

The Scranton Times-Tribune first reported the alleged incident on its Web site Tuesday and then again in its print edition Wednesday. The first story, written by reporter David Singleton, appeared with allegations that while congressional candidate Chris Hackett was addressing the crowd and mentioned Obama’s name a man in the audience shouted “kill him."

News organizations including ABC, The Associated Press, The Washington Monthly and MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann reported the claim, with most attributing the allegations to the Times-Tribune story.

Agent Bill Slavoski said he was in the audience, along with an undisclosed number of additional secret service agents and other law enforcement officers and not one heard the comment.

“I was baffled,” he said after reading the report in Wednesday’s Times-Tribune.

He said the agency conducted an investigation Wednesday, after seeing the story, and could not find one person to corroborate the allegation other than Singleton.

Slavoski said more than 20 non-security agents were interviewed Wednesday, from news media to ordinary citizens in attendance at the rally for the Republican vice presidential candidate held at the Riverfront Sports Complex. He said Singleton was the only one to say he heard someone yell “kill him.”

So this was either a case of an over-eager pro-Obama imagination on the part of a single reporter, or a hearing disorder on his part, perhaps one related to Obama's own condition of being "green behind the ears."

Nevertheless, Sen. Obama played the "victim card" at last night's debate, attempting to hold John McCain responsible for mostly imaginary events that are outside Sen. McCain's or Gov. Palin's control even on the comparatively rare occasions when they have occurred. Does this guy expect to be able to pull that stuff on Putin too?

Another leftie who regularly comments here has been emailing me with accusations that my harsh words about unrepentant terrorist and currently still-dangerous education radical Bill Ayers are my attempts to "de-humanize" Ayers to set him up for violence. That, too, is troll nonsense. I would be delighted to see Ayers in prison, since by his own boastful admission, he is "free as a bird" despite being "guilty as hell" of crimes for which he's never been punished and never shown an ounce of remorse. I believe he should be shunned and held up as an example of the very worst of humanity. I have pointed him out to my own teen children as the sort of social cancer who continues to threaten their and their schoolmates' future, and the sort of unrehabilitated criminal they're unfortunately likely to find sheltered among the faculty when they attend college. But neither I nor, to my knowledge, any other critic of Sen. Obama for his long and close relationship with Ayers believes that either of them ought to be physically attacked. Making such frivolous verbal attacks on Obama or Ayers critics is nowhere close, on any proper scale of moral conduct, to Ayers' own crimes, but it does indicate a breathtaking degree of disingenuousness and/or cluelessness.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 09:38 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Just another one

My take on the third and final presidential debate appears as a guest-post at HughHewitt.com. Another what? Another conventional tax-and-spend Democratic politician from Chicago.

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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)

Barack Obama makes a fabulous first impression. The high water mark of his political career so far, in fact, was his national coming-out moment, the keynote speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He could not match that speech at his own nominating convention in 2008. He's unlikely to ever match it again.

Barack Obama's great first impression degrades over time, with continued exposure. It happened even in his own party, as he jumped to a huge lead in the Democratic primaries, then barely coasted across the finish line as Democrats in later-voting states got better acquainted with him.

Throughout this election campaign, the conventional political wisdom has been that in the three general election presidential debates, Obama needed to establish credibility and reassure voters who were unfamiliar with him that he was a credible figure to become the President of the United States. For those voters who'd never closely watched him speak at any length — and that's a group numbering in the tens of millions — he met that goal, I think, at the first debate. For them, he made another good first impression.

Some millions of those voters, however, continued to watch him in the second and third presidential debates. And Barack Obama never got any better. He didn't stumble badly either. But even though he's concealed with fair success his genuine Hard Left alliances and proclivities, every time he's been under closer and more prolonged exposure, Barack Obama's status as a conventional tax-and-spend Democratic politician from Chicago has become more clear. He can fool all of the people only some of the time, and over time, with time, more and more of them figure him out.

Each additional debate has proved that he's not The One. He's just another one.

I wish there could be ten more debates between now and election day. But even without them, lots of voters who were enthralled by their first impression of Barack Obama will, as they focus in on election day, find other means to get second and third and fourth impressions.

And more and more of them will come to see him as Professor Marvel, not the Great and Powerful Oz. More and more of them will realize that he doesn't do magic, he does magic tricks, and they mostly involve making other people's stuff disappear:  Like every other Democrat, he'lll take more of their money through higher taxes and redistribute it, through graft and giveaways and government bureaucracies, to the Democratic Party's traditional favorites.

John McCain did fine at the third debate, but he benefited mostly because Barack Obama's ordinariness became more obvious to more people. More people escaped the mass hypnosis tonight. They sat up suddenly, took a deep breath, and as they watched Barack Obama, do you know what they did next?

They patted their pants pockets, or looked around the room to see where they'd set down their purses. They checked their wallets. That's smart, and it's good for the McCain-Palin ticket. There's easily enough time left, friends and neighbors, for enough more people to awake and to do a wallet-check before they cast their votes on November 4th.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 09:34 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

McLaughlin series on "The Integrity Gap" between McCain and Obama will arm you for water-cooler debates

I've fallen behind in cross-posting, but yesterday my wee-small-hours guest-post at HughHewitt.com was a link to and recommendation of Dan McLaughlin's latest in his series on "The Integrity Gap."

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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)

The beauty of the internet is that someone like Dan McLaughlin can collect, organize, distill, and hyperlink back to hundreds of primary and secondary sources, and then self-publish the equivalent of a small, incredibly timely political book — which you can then access instantly and for free!

Dan's multi-part series entitled The Integrity Gap is well-organized and clearly sign-posted, so that you can either read it start to finish or you can cherry-pick among the topics you're most in need of information about. If you want to know about Obama and ACORN, for example — and you want a nitty-gritty link-filled compendium of facts and dates that will arm you to win water-cooler debates on this topic — you can jump right in there. Dan's series is worth not only a close look, but a bookmark for ready access during the next three weeks.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 09:32 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My question that I wish Bob Schieffer would ask Barack Obama tomorrow night

What do elemental mercury and the Congo have in common? They're the subject of the only two pieces of legislation Barack Obama has passed through Congress as author and principal sponsor. In my evening guest-post at HughHewitt.com, that's what I suggest moderator Bob Schieffer ought to ask Obama about in tomorrow night's 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)

Earlier today, Hugh asked readers here to email him at Hugh@HughHewitt.com with questions they'd like to see moderator Bob Schieffer pose to Barack Obama tomorrow night. I have only one, but I think it's substantive as any debate question could possibly be:

Senator Obama, during your first two years in the Senate, senior GOP senators Richard Lugar and Tom Coburn invited you to join them as a bipartisan co-sponsor on bills involving securing nuclear weapons stockpiles and making information on government funding available on the internet. Both of those bills passed the Senate by unanimous consent and the House on voice vote — meaning they were so non-controversial that not a single member of Congress went on record against either of them. You were the principal sponsor, and saw passed into law in December 2006, a low-profile bill to provide financial relief and promote stability in the Congo, but it too passed without a single dissenting vote in either chamber.

Your party gained control of the Senate and the House almost two years ago, and since then you've also been one of many co-sponsors on such legislation as the ethics reform bill in 2007, which had 16 other co-sponsors besides you and which passed the Senate by a vote of 96 to 2.

But it wasn't until just last month — after a rather pointed jab from Gov. Palin in her convention speech before 40 million Americans — that you finally managed, as author and principal sponsor, to pass through both chambers of Congress a law of any arguable national significance, Senate Bill 906, the "Mercury Market Minimization Act of 2007." But it has still yet to be either signed into law or vetoed by President Bush. And it, too, passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, and by a roll-call vote of 393 to 5 in the House — which suggests that there's not really much controversy over restricting the foreign export, or the domestic sale by U.S. agencies, of elemental mercury.

Since you still haven't actually been the principal sponsor of a single piece of significant and controversial federal legislation from the drafting stage through passage into law during your almost four full years as a U.S. Senator, why should voters think you'd be any more effective in the vastly harder job of President of the United States?

Sen. Barack Obama pats down his pockets, looking for his legislative record

Sen. Barack Obama pats down his pockets, looking for his legislative record

Additional notes and links:

The nonproliferation bill, which built upon legislation previously authored by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Sen. Lugar, started as Senate Bill 1949 in the 109th Congress, entitled the "Cooperative Proliferation Detection, Interdiction Assistance, and Conventional Threat Reduction Act of 2005," and it was sponsored by Sen. Lugar with Sen. Obama as the single co-sponsor. It went nowhere after introduction, but was reintroduced by Sen. Lugar the following year as Senate Bill 2566, re-titled as the "Cooperative Proliferation Detection, Interdiction Assistance, and Conventional Threat Reduction Act of 2006," with Sen. Obama now listed among 26 co-sponsors. That version was reported out of commmittee and placed on the Senate legislative calendar on May 25, 2006, but never received a vote in the full Senate in that form. Instead, its guts were inserted into House Bill 6060, the "Department of State Authorities Act of 2006," which passed the House by voice vote on December 8, 2006, and then passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 9, 2006. It was thus signed into law as part of Public Law No. 109-472 by President Bush on January 11, 2007, without so much as a single member of either chamber of Congress having voted against it.

The funding disclosure bill started as Senate Bill 2590, entitled the "Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006." It was introduced on April 6, 2006, by Sen. Coburn, with Sen. Obama, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as original co-sponsors. Eventually it picked up a total of 47 Senate co-sponsors, and on September 7, 2006, it passed the Senate by unanimous consent. It passed the House by voice vote on September 13, 2006. It, too, was thus signed into law as Public Law No. 109-282 on September 26, 2006.

Public Law No. 109-456, the 2006 bill to "to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost "about $50 million over the 2007-2011 period," which of course is only a fraction of the amount in pork earmarks Sen. Obama has sought and obtained for a region in substantially greater need of "relief, security, and [especially] democracy" — Illinois.

Posted by Beldar at 11:19 PM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (2)

Advice for those conservatives with palm-shaped forehead bruises

My morning guest-post today at HughHewitt.com is a combination pep-talk and attempt to offer constructive suggestions to those who are too fixated on polls and the MSM's "it's all over" meme.

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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)

Many who are rooting for the McCain-Palin ticket or against the Obama-Biden ticket are frustrated with what they view as an uninspired campaign by Sen. McCain and his advisers. That frustration leaves us susceptible to discouragement — the precise emotion that the Dems' and their mainstream media allies are working very hard at promoting, relying in large measure on political polling whose accuracy is highly suspect.

In particular, right now there's a great temptation for those of us for whom John McCain was not our first choice for the GOP nomination to already start focusing about "How He Lost It." Folks, that's way premature. I've always believed that the Dems would lead in the polls up through election day, and that any GOP nominee would be running as an underdog. Every realistic victory scenario I've ever heard for this year required our team to pass through a trough something like this one — and given the size and urgency of the economic problems, it's actually quite amazing that we're not already totally swamped.

So I'm not particularly pessimistic. Come from behind victories are sweeter, and this one would be very sweet indeed. But even if your worst fears do come true, you'll have four years to polish your coulda-shoulda arguments. And there are better things for you to do right now than just to fume, even if they may be less obvious to you at the moment.

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So how can you retain your sanity and regain some peace of mind, if you're finding yourself with a palm-shaped bruise on your forehead about now? To begin with, you have to gather such serenity as you can, and simply accept that most of what you're feeling now has always been inevitable for this peculiar election season.

First, recognize that no campaign is optimal. Some of the things that most frustrate you, as a committed conservative, as you watch the path of the McCain campaign may not be miscues at all in the eyes of independent or cross-over voters. And the Biden-Obama campaign has also continued to make its own share of blunders — of which, again, only some of may be obvious to you, since you're not in that swing voter group. To a larger extent than you probably would think likely, each campaign's mistakes will tend cancel each other out.

Next, keep in mind that John McCain's character traits that are dictating the kind of campaign he's runniing — which includes his stubbornness, his instincts toward compromise, and a sense of propriety and decency (which his opponent and his campaign feign but do not truly share) — are, and have always been, parts of a double-edged sword. John McCain is what he is.  And he is uninterested in, and incapable of, remaking himself in any fundamental way to meet an acute campaign need. Indeed, friends and neighbors, he's already demonstrated more innovative thinking — by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate — than I would permit myself to expect back when he clinched the nomination.

And finally, keep in mind that there are limits to what either campaign could accomplish even if either were to suddenly begin to run an optimal, perfect campaign. Even among those voters who are still undecided, most of them will end up making their final decisions based on the underlying fundamentals of the election — not based on the latest proposals from either campaign over the coming three weeks before election day. Between now and November 4th, Barack Obama is not going to miraculously grow a genuine record of legislative accomplilshment, for example, and neither is he going to transmute himself into anything but a first-term Chicago politician who's still "green behind the ears." Yes, he'll come up with new panders and give-aways — tens of billions of dollars worth of those. But fundamentally, he's not gotten any better, and he's just hoping he can keep his current momentum to manage to coast across the finish line.

I'm not saying that what the campaigns do or don't do over the next three weeks won't matter. But I don't think what they do or don't do will matter nearly as much as those who are part of either campaigns, or who are caught up in daily tracking polls and political minutia, tend to assume they do. We're approaching the end, but the end isn't the only thing that matters — and our side has already avoided the possibility that Obama would have opened a twenty-point national lead by now, which is no small accomplishment.

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But adjusting your thinking isn't all you can do. There are active measures you can take to save your forehead from more palm-shaped bruises:

None of us ultimately can be certain of anything more than our own individual votes. I expect to vote early, to eliminate even the slight worry that something might happen before election day — another hurricane, or a car wreck on the way to the polls — that would interfere with my intent. On every occasion in the past when I've taken advantage of early voting opportunities, I've felt more peaceful and satisfied during the remaining days before the election and on election day itself. So: If you're frustrated that your side isn't running the kind of campaign you wish it would run, the best treatment for your frustration may be to go ahead and vote.

But remember, too, that politics is neither a solitary affair, nor a top-down affair. While you can only be certain of your own vote, that does not mean that you lack any ability to influence any others. With the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your own vote is cast, perhaps you will find renewed energy and creativity. Find some way, big or small, to actually campaign for your side! You might decide to participate in some formal way, by volunteering, for example, to make phone calls. Or you might make a mental list of people you know whose votes you suspect may still be undetermined or subject to reconsideration. And then you can set about deciding how best to persuade them to your point of view.

You and I can't likely change what the McCain campaign is doing at this point. But you and I do have our own limited spheres of influence. Win or lose, I'll be happier both now and for the four years after election day if I've done all I can that's within my own power.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 11:12 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"The Audacity of Hope" versus "The Erosion of Doubt"

Canaries and unicorns abound in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com, with more thoughts on the big-picture significance of Tuesday night's 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)

Step back. Take a breath. Try to imagine how, come December, Tuesday night's debate will look in hindsight.

If Sen. Barack Obama is then the president-elect, tonight's debate will be seen as a nothing-burger. It's a year in which the Democratic Party is expected to win, a year in which Democratic partisans think they have their most attractive candidate in many years, and he's been leading in the public opinion polling almost continuously since long before either he or John McCain officially wrapped up their respective nominations.

If Sen. McCain is the president-elect, this debate will be seen as Barack Obama's next-to-last — and tragically failed — opportunity to seal the deal by delivering either a knockout blow to McCain or by finally, permanently vanquishing the doubts about himself.

If he had not already mortgaged it to the hilt through his past dealings with the likes of Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama would gladly sell his RAW political soul just for the election to be held tomorrow. The opinion polling suggests that he now has a lead in both the popular and electoral college votes. But he had huge momentum and a big lead during the Democratic primaries, too — and still managed to barely win his party's nomination, despite the fact that his early delegate lead was banked and not subject to the erosion of new doubts.

The canaries in the coal mine here are the secondary post-debate headlines, the ones on the "analysis" pieces, from his very bestest of friends, the websites of the mainstream media:

Doncha know, friends and neighbors, that they want to write "Obama Obliterates McCain: Old Guy Led Drooling from the Stage"?

"He should be leading by twenty points by now — in this economy, after eight years of George W. Bush, this should be our year for a blow-out!" This is the secret whisper of every politically knowledgeable Democratic partisan. They worry that too many late deciders will decide against him.

They're right to worry.

Expect the canaries to take a deep collective breath and begin singing songs of hopey-changitude again, all about how there's a golden unicorn coming down the rainbow. But some of them, in their hearts of hearts, don't quite believe in unicorns, and the thing about rainbows is that you can see them both from the Left and the Right.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 01:27 AM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

McCain the Warrior awoke, pivoted on Obama the Professor, and pounded him

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com analyzes the second presidential debate between Captain John McCain and Professor Barack Obama.

For those not wholly besotted with him, Obama's mystique wears off with repeated exposure. McCain or someone on his team knew that when they proposed lots and lots of town-hall debates, and Obama was smart to refuse that offer.

He so reminds me of Jimmy Carter. If (like Carter) he's elected, and then defeated in his run for a second term, will people still say that he only lost because of racism?

Oh, yeah. It'll just be more transparently false than it is already.

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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)

Sometimes it takes the smell of blood in the ring to awaken the dormant fighting spirit of an old warrior.

The closest either man came to a major blunder was when Professor Barack Obama accidentally told the truth about how his running mate's home state of Delaware panders to credit card companies and banks. But Captain John McCain, despite a slow start, opened up a cut or two on Professor Obama in their early exchanges over the origins of and responsibility for the current financial crisis.

Now, as a fight fan, I can't dispute that those punches should have been thrown before tonight. And when Professor Obama pointed out that Captain McCain was not an original cosponsor of the bill to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and that the bill didn't pass, Captain McCain missed a superb counter-punching opportunity when he failed to say, "It didn't pass because the same executives from those entities who'd given you all that money I just talked about came to Congress to testify that there was no crisis, and there would be no crisis, and everything was just fine!"  That might have been a knockdown.

In any event, however, that overall exchange was the moment that Captain McCain regained the offensive — not just in the debate, but in the overall campaign — and he got stronger and sharper as Professor Obama continued to flail about ineffectively.

The pivot I referenced in the title to this post was quite literal, and it was vintage Captain McCain: Tom Brokaw (who did a good job suppressing his liberalism and a fine job overall) had fussed at both candidates for running long. That prompted Professor Obama to whine for a relaxation in the rules so that he could have another follow-up, but this came immediately after Captain McCain had pounded him for the first time about his naivete in threatening military action on Pakistani soil without the permission of its government. Brokaw was in mid-sentence refusing to change the rules, when Captain McCain literally whirled and — with the sagacity of the experienced warrior — agreed to Professor Obama's proposal.

Professor Obama then proceeded to violate the First Rule of Holes (when you realize you're in one, stop digging) — or, to return to boxing metaphors, he once again decided to lead with his chin. And thus, Captain McCain got yet another chance to pound him with Teddy Roosevelt's "Speak softly and carry a big stick" line.

Professor Obama speaks loudly, long, and with the glib but callow voice of inexperience. Those who already loved him don't care. They are drunk, besotted with Obama hopey-changiness, and they will love him even more after tonight. Those who aren't in love with either candidate, however — those who are still actually getting to know Professor Obama — are the voters who will decide this election. Those critical voters whose minds were not already made up are coming to realize that despite the great first impression he makes, Professor Obama never actually gets any better. He doesn't suddenly become wiser; he doesn't suddenly grow a legislative record of accomplishment; on substance, he never transforms himself into anything other than the tax-and-spend Chicago pol which in fact he is. As with Professor Marvel in "The Wizard of Oz," the sound and visual effects become considerably less impressive on subsequent viewings and the little man behind the curtain harder to ignore.

The third and final debate will confirm that Professor Obama is a candidate who lacks the instinctive ability to close the deal, just as he proved during his ever-slowing coast to the finish-line barely ahead of the ever-scrabbling Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

Professor Obama tonight again proved himself to be the more cautious candidate, but the greater risk for America. Captain McCain again showed that he is the political risk-taker, and he will govern as a reformer — but without bringing the risks inherent in the candidacy of anyone so inexperienced and yet smug as Professor Barack Obama. "Change you don't have to risk the future of the world on" is indeed a winning program for this election.

I do not expect the overnight polls, or even polls later this week or next, to reflect the ground which I believe that Captain McCain made up tonight. And frankly, short of a huge blunder by Professor Obama, there was nothing Captain McCain could have said tonight which would reverse those polls. Rather, he had to bang home again and again the key strong points for his own candidacy — he won't raise taxes in a recession and he won't settle for less than victory in Iraq or Afghanistan — and continue to plant seeds of doubt about the judgment, policies, and record of his opponent. He did both of those things.

For reasons having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Professor Obama's race, but everything to do with his demonstrated lack of character and paper-thin record of accomplishment, this race will ultimately come down to just how many people who might want to vote for him nevertheless can't bring themselves to. And there's no way to know how many people that describes before the crucial moment at which their votes are cast.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 11:43 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (10)

SCOTUS decision applauded by Obama prompts federal judge to order release into our national capital of 17 Chinese Muslims captured in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan

We catch them in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, where they'd gone to be taught with the cooperation and under the protection of the Taliban. Now, as laid out in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com, a federal court has said that because their home country, China, will imprison them if we return them there, we have to let them run loose in Washington, D.C., starting this Friday.

Barack Obama approves of the SCOTUS case which is compelling this result, Boumediene v. Bush.

This makes me heartsick. This makes me fear for America. The inexorable consequences of your vote on November 4 will either save or cost American lives, and not just of soldiers, but of innocent civilians.

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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)

Immediately after it was released this summer, Barack Obama applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's 5/4 decision in Boumediene v. Bush, which for the first time extended rights under the U.S. Constitution to foreigners captured and held abroad based on their activities abroad. To reach that result, the Supreme Court had to declare unconstitutional a statute passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed into law by the president which gave these individuals substantive and procedural rights comparable or superior to those we give to our own sons and daughters in uniform. It also had to ignore and/or mischaracterize decades of prior federal precedents holding that such foreigners had no right to claim the U.S. Constitution's protections through a writ of habeas corpus — essentially extending the protections of the U.S. Constitution to the entire world.

Now as the inevitable consequence of that ruling, seventeen hard-core Islamic jihadists who'd come from their homes in China to train at terrorist camps in Afghanistan — captured there by our armed forces, and held since at Guantanamo Bay — are on the brink of being released this week, not for return to China, but into the general population of our nation's capital, Washington, D.C.:

A federal judge ordered the Bush administration Tuesday to immediately free 17 Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo Bay into the United States, rebuking the government in a landmark decision that could set the stage for the release of dozens other prisoners in Cuba.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said it would be wrong for the government to continue holding the detainees, known as Uighurs (WEE'-gurz), who have been jailed for nearly seven years, since they are no longer considered enemy combatants. Over the objections of government lawyers who called them a security risk, Urbina ordered their release in Washington D.C. by Friday.

"Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detentions without cause, the continued detention is unlawful," Urbina said in a ruling that brought cheers and applause from a standing-room only courtroom filled with dozens of Uighurs and human rights activists.

One need not be a constitutional scholar to see the nonsensical premise to Judge Urbina's quoted sentence. He's talking about the United States Constitution. And he's extending its protections to foreigners. That is indeed the appalling logic of Boumediene, and that's why (as I've written often on my own blog) I'm convinced that decision easily ranks among the top five worst decisions in the history of the United States Supreme Court.

These are not "innocent civilians" swept up at random. Rather, they are hard men, Islamic fanatics who left China so they could train in the ways of terror under the approving eyes and example of the Taliban in training camps in Afghanistan. It may well be that these men's main intention once was to become terrorists against the Chinese government, and the Chinese government is indeed eager to "re-patriate" them, meaning to put them into Chinese prisons. But that they may be a danger to China does not mean that they're not also a danger to the United States!

Former federal anti-terrorist prosecutor Andrew McCarthy put this latest national peril into exactly the right context yesterday, apportioning blame appropriately between the courts and the lawyer-driven position of the Administration:

This is the very nightmare scenario I warned about. The courts' steps are outrageous, but predictable and inevitable. A lot of the blame here, however, goes to the administration and the military. They have long taken the position that radical Islamic ideology is not the problem, and that we need only worry about actively those taking up arms against the United States. They don't want us to talk about jihad — the better to keep us in the dark about jihadist ideology. Thus, the government rationalizes, the Uighurs are not a threat to us, only to the Chinese. That was all the daylight the judges need to say: OK, then release them in the U.S., since no other country — except China, where they'd be persecuted — will take them. The government's self-defeating argument is preposterous. Jihadists — and there is not question that the Uighurs are jihadists — do not recognize distinctions based on the Westphalia world of nation-states. In their view, it is Dar al Islam or Dar al Harb: i.e., you are either part of the realm of the Muslims or the realm of war, and the goal is to turn Dar al Harb into Dar al Islam by any means necessary. Releasing trained jihadists into the United States on the theory that their beef is with the Chinese and they have no problem with us would be a delusional act of suicide.

I agree with Mr. McCarthy that to some extent the Bush-43 Administration is to blame for caving in to the Hard Left's viewpoints. But you can guarantee that an Obama Administration will be (a) even more naive in the positions it takes in the courts and (b) absolutely certain to appoint even more expansionist judicial activists eager to extend new rights to our enemies at home and abroad.

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UPDATE (Tue Oct 7 @ 7:35 p.m. CST): The White House has issued a statement deploring the decision, announcing that it will be appealed, and advising that "[c]onsistent with the safety of our citizens and the safety of the Uighurs themselves, the United States will continue working to find a country to which these men could be transferred."

Andrew McCarthy has more about the ruling here. Among other things, he notes that John McCain should point out that he — and the judges and prosecutors he would appoint — will refuse to go along with treating the global struggle against Islamic fanaticism as a mere law enforcement matter, whereas Barack Obama would be perfectly happy to just let the federal courts handle all this and return to that Clintonista-type 9/10/01-mentality.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 04:48 PM in 2008 Election, Congress, Global War on Terror, Law (2008), McCain, Obama, SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Brokaw claims Ayers is now a mere "school reformer"

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com ponders how Tom Brokaw can revere the Greatest Generation's heroism in the 1940s, yet dismiss Bill Ayers' terrorism in the 1960s and 1970s, and call him a mere "school reformer" despite his present radical plans to turn our educational system on its head and turn every teacher into a "community activist" to teach against "oppression."

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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 like Tom Brokaw. I really liked his 1998 book, The Greatest Generation. Because I like him, I sometimes almost persuade myself to forget that he, like the entire old-media structure of which he's a conspicuous part, is a liberal who oftentimes willfully blinds himself to reality. That's the only way that this morning on "Meet the Press," he could make a statement like this, on the topic of whether the McCain-Palin campaign is "going more negative":

Well, they've already signaled that they're going to come out pretty hard on — uh, attacks on what they called [Obama's] absence of character and his absence of leadership qualities. In fact, there was a story in the New York Times just in the last couple of days about [Obama's] association with William Ayers, who'd been a member of the Weathermen, who were a radical group from the 1970s, and who's now a school reformer in Illinois.

Later, during the round-table discussion with other pundits, Mr. Brokaw again pointedly referred to Ayers as "now a school reformer from Illinois."

"Now a school reformer"? I suppose that's literally true, if shamefully misleading. Bill Ayers wants to "reform" American education in the same way that he wants to "reform" America — as in, literally "re-forming" it after he's blown it all to pieces. From Stanley Kurtz' reporting in the Wall Stree Journal:

The [Chicago Annenberg Challenge's] agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC....

Mr. Ayers's defenders claim that he has redeemed himself with public-spirited education work. That claim is hard to swallow if you understand that he views his education work as an effort to stoke resistance to an oppressive American system... For Mr. Ayers, teaching and his 1960s radicalism are two sides of the same coin.

Mr. Ayers is the founder of the "small schools" movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to "confront issues of inequity, war, and violence." He believes teacher education programs should serve as "sites of resistance" to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his "Teaching Toward Freedom," is to "teach against oppression," against America's history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.

That's the modern Bill Ayers. And it's the modern Bill Ayers who posed for a magazine article entitled No Regrets while proudly stomping on an American flag.

Bill Ayers posing for photo for August 2001 article in Chicago Magazine entitled 'No Regrets'

Bill Ayers, not in the 1960s, but in 2001

Sure, Justice Scalia and I would both defend this twisted dollop of evil scum's First Amendment right to profane America's most sacred symbols. But no one has to ignore the fact that he's scum. No one has to give a free pass (or a vote) to politicians like Barack Obama who — despite knowing both Ayers' radical history and radical present — have consistently chosen to associate with Ayers, to cooperate with him, and to hand out small fortunes to support Ayers' radical goals to "re-form" the educational system.

Do you want another example of cognitive dissonance? It's how someone like Tom Brokaw can simultaneously (a) revere as "our greatest generation" the ordinary Americans who put their lives on the line for that same flag in the 1940s, but yet (b) defend and embrace as a "school reformer" an unrepentant terrorist, bomb planter and would-be cop-killer from the 1960s and 1970s who even now boasts that he "walked out of a jail cell and directly into [his] first teaching job." What, we're supposed to pay attention to the 1940s, yet ignore the 1960s, 1970s, and the present?

I hope that Mr. Brokaw will rise above his innate liberal bias and do a fair job in moderating this week's presidential debate. But don't persuade yourself that he's not a liberal, or that he sees the world through anything but a liberal's blinkered world-view.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 11:08 AM in 2008 Election, Books, Current Affairs, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Did someone feed Palin answers to give Cameron for the questions from Couric which she'd ducked?

In an afternoon guest-post at HughHewitt.com, I express an opinion contrary to my good friend Patterico's about whether Gov. Palin had answers for Katie Couric about what periodicals she reads and SCOTUS decisions she disagrees with, but chose not to share that info.

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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 very good blogospheric friend and fellow Texas Law School alumnus Patrick Frey (a/k/a Patterico) — who is as perceptive a watchdog of the mainstream media, and especially of his current hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, as has ever lived and breathed and blogged — is also never shy to express his sincere and natural skepticism about even conservative figures.

He proved this in a short post yesterday that he sardonically entitled Palin Knew the Answers, She Just Didn't Want to Say Them. In it, he expressed incredulity about Sarah Palin's post-debate explanations for some of the subjects on which she'd been non-responsive in her interviews with CBS News' Katie Couric. And the post is so short that I can't discuss it without quoting the whole thing, for which I think he'll forgive me this once (italics and link in original):

The New York Times’s Caucus Blog:

Ms. Palin explained that she stumbled in the Couric interviews not because she didnt know the answers, but that she was annoyed with the interview because she thought the questions did not focus enough on the qualities needed in a vice president. She promised to try to be patient in the future.

I’m looking for more genuineness and honesty. Instead I’m getting answers that I don’t believe.

One last thing you should know before I share my own take on this: Patterico has a diverse readership who conduct high-quality debates in his comments, and a short post like this may fairly be read as his gutsy invitation to readers to take issue with his opinion — and in this instance, many of them already have.

As for my take, it begins this way:

Patterico, my excellent friend, take a step back. Look at your own post. At the end of it, you express a terse opinion, which of course is your right and, indeed, the essence of punditry. Above that there are two sentences that you've quoted from elsewhere, and above that a short introduction to the block-quoted material, from which you quite properly hung your hyperlink.

So what jumps out at you about your own original post, my friend?

Would it be any more obvious to you if, instead of your opinion being founded on a single-sourced report from an NYT in-house blog — something subject to even less editorial control and discipline and ethics than the NYT's normal news reporting — this had come instead from the LAT? Are you entirely comfortable having formed your opinion based on "facts" or summaries of facts vouched for only by, and filtered through, the New York Times? Or are the alarm bells ringing yet?

*******

If Patterico had gone to the NYT blog's own source before writing his post — not just the Fox News' report linked here and in the NYT blog piece, but also Fox News' very rough transcript, or to the video (which Fox has re-run incessantly since the interview) — he would have discovered that actually, Gov. Palin first gave a self-critical evaluation (using hindsight) of her overall performance in the Couric interviews. Then she gave more specific and very discrete explanations for her answers to Couric about (a) what publications she reads and (b) what SCOTUS decisions she disagrees with.

The NYT collapses all of that discussion into a single unflattering and implausible summary — one which, I respectfully submit, does not fairly match what Gov. Palin actually said.

Patterico, in an update to his original post, allows how more or better context might have been useful, but for that he went not back to the Fox News story or the transcript or the video, but a post from Jake Tapper from ABC News. That would be the same Jake Tapper who earlier this year uncritically reported that Gov. Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party without even bothering to check the conclusive and public voter registration records, a colossal mistake that ought to have gotten him and Elisabeth Bumiller of the NYT both fired. Tapper may be a nice guy, interesting to read, and this time he did indeed provide a lot more of Gov. Palin's explanation for her original non-answers and her present ones — but reliable on Sarah Palin matters? Not even close. Like me, Patterico cross-examines people for a living and knows the danger of double hearsay. Go to the source, my friend!

Specifically, in her own words (as established by the Fox News video), here is the general explanation as to why Gov. Palin thinks she came off poorly overall in the Couric interviews:

Well, OK. I'll tell you. Honestly. The Sarah Palin in those interviews is a little bit annoyed. Because it's like, no matter what you say, you're going to get clobbered. If you cease to answer a question, you're going to get clobbered on the answer. If you choose to try to pivot and go on to another subject that you believe that Americans want to hear about, you get clobbered for that, too.

But, in the Katie Couric interviews, I did feel that there were a lot of things that she was missing, in terms of an opportunity to ask what a V.P. candidate stands for. What the values are represented in our ticket.

I wanted to talk about Barack Obama increasing taxes, which would lead to filling jobs. I wanted to talk about his proposal to increase government spending by another trillion dollars. (AUDIO GAP) that he's made about the war that I think in my world — disqualify someone from consideration as the next commander in chief. Some of the comments that he's made about Afghanistan, what we're doing there, supposedly, just air raiding villages and killing civilians. That's reckless and I want to talk about things like that.

So, I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed. But, that's also an indication of being outside of that Washington elite, outside of the media elite, also. And just getting to talk to Americans without the filters and let them know what we stand for.

Katie Couric is heir to Dan Rather's anchor chair at the same New York-based TV network which was willing to re-publish (and then defend) obviously forged documents in an attempt to destroy a national GOP candidate just four years ago. If for no other reason than that, It would have been appropriate for Gov. Palin to be guarded in her dealings with Ms. Couric.

It's also fair to say that by the latter stages of their interviews, Ms. Couric had indeed shown a distinct lack of interest in campaign policy issues. Can one seriously blame Gov. Palin for wondering whether Ms. Couric's near-exclusive focus was, instead, on making Gov. Palin look like an ignorant hayseed?

*******

Reasonable minds might still differ about that, I suppose. So let's go on to Gov. Palin's more specific explanation for her evasive response on the questions about the specific publications she regularly reads:

So, my response to her. I guess it was kind of filtered. But, I was sort of taken aback, like, the suggestion was, you're way up there in a far away place in Alaska. You know, that there are publications in the rest of the world that are read by many. And I was taken aback by that because I don't know, the suggestion that this was a little bit of perhaps we're not in tune with the rest of the world.

I, for one, do not think it's entirely implausible that Gov. Palin might have thought she detected at least a hint of regional snobbery in Couric's question. Watching the interviews, I thought I detected quite a bit more than a hint, and of course, that didn't include anything Ms. Couric may have said off-camera or that ended up on the cutting room floor.

More to the point, it's entirely implausible that Gov. Palin genuinely doesn't know what newspapers and magazines she reads — or worse for her, but clearly insinuated both by Couric and by the NYT blog — that she really reads none. To believe that, we would have to reject outright the part of Kaylene Johnson's biography of Gov. Palin in which she describes an athletic yet bookish girl who grew up in a state where it's dark and freezing outside all day and all night for half the year (at page 21-22):

... From the time [Sarah Palin] was in elementary school, she consumed newspapers with a passion. "She read the paper from the very top left hand corner to the bottom right corner to the very last page," said [her sister] Molly. "She didn't want to miss a word. She didn't just read it — she knew every word she read and analyzed it."

Sarah preferred nonfiction to the Nancy Drew books that her classmates were reading. In junior high school, [her sister] Heather — a year older in school — often enlisted Sarah's help with book reports. "She was such a bookworm. Whenever I was assigned to read a book, she'd already read it," Heather said.

Sarah's thirst for knowledge was nurtured in a household that emphasized the importance of education. There was never any question that all the Heath kids would go to college. With her love for newspapers and current events, Sarah majored in journalism and minored in political science. Her brother, like their father, became a teacher. Heather works for an advertising firm. Molly is a dental hygienist.

Can one seriously credit Gov. Palin's entire family, in their interviews with Kaylene Johnson back in 2007, with fabricating all of this about Sarah being a bookworm who read newspapers cover to cover, even before there was an internet? Can we further assume that Sarah Palin doesn't read newspapers, but she did bother to earn a degree in journalism — just so that she could give a more plausible fabricated answer a week after a 2008 interview with Katie Couric in which she'd be asked about what newspapers she reads?

*******

On the SCOTUS decisions, Gov. Palin flatly confessed that she had erred in permitting her caution and annoyance to cause her to clam up. Again from the transcript of the Cameron interview (two "(INAUDIBLE)" notations in the transcript replaced by me with her actual words, still in brackets, but based on my repeated listening to the video):

CAMERON: But, as a conservative, there are some in the Republican Party who would expect a vice presidential nominee to understand judicial conservatives and to have something that they might object to.

PALIN: And that's fair. Right. And on that one, truly I shouldn't have been so [flippant] and [just sort of brushed aside] that. Because that was an important question and I should have answered it.

And yes, I can cite a lot of cases that I absolutely disagree with the Supreme Court on.

At Mr. Cameron's invitation, she then proceeded to discuss three particular cases. One, the most recent Exxon Valdez decision, Gov. Palin had also discussed earlier this year, long before her selection by McCain, in a video that one of Patterico's guest bloggers posted earlier this week. But in the Cameron interview, Gof. Palin went on to discuss all three cases in terms that were absolutely accurate and rational. Besides the obvious Alaska connection on the Valdez case, she also described Kennedy v. Louisiana, as to which she expressed outrage that the SCOTUS had restricted states' rights to impose capital punishment for child rapes if they think that fitting, and Kelo v. City of New London, which she said she'd been aware of (and had disapproved of) ever since she handled eminent domain matters as a mayor.

Now, perhaps a non-lawyer being quizzed by Katie Couric about SCOTUS cases should throw caution to the wind and start rattling off names and holdings, dimly remembered or otherwise, of cases. And maybe she should have expected everyone to be as forgiving of her if she mixed two cases up, or muffed a name, in the same way that everyone ended up just laughing and saying, "Good old Joe!" when lawyer and con-law teacher Joe Biden preposterously told 70 million people on Thursday night that Article I of the Constitution is all about the Executive Branch.

But on the other hand, the great big TV networks and newspapers like the NYT made a big deal when Gov. Palin merely flubbed a general's rather unusual name during the Veep debate. It seems reasonably certain that they would have similarly exploited any mistake by Gov. Palin in a pre-debate discussion of SCOTUS precedents. Perhaps she should have overcome her concerns anyway, but based on what's actually happened since then, it's impossible to say that Gov. Palin's concerns didn't even exist at the time of the Couric interviews, and that she's just fabricated them later to cover for ignorance.

Moreover, it's entirely likely that as a former mayor and then governor of Alaska, she would know and have strong views about these three cases in particular. Now, I suppose it's possible that the handlers not only had to inject knowledge of these cases into her mushy brain, but also had to pick cases that she might plausibly have had occasion to learn of. And if we're going to suppose that without any proof, then it's certainly easy to further suppose that someone whispered all of these answers into Gov. Palin's ear just before her interview with Carl Cameron.

Indeed, if we're going that far, why not go ahead and presume that Gov. Palin had a hidden ear-piece during the Cameron interview, and that Karl Rove was next door with a walkie-talkie, like in "Mission: Impossible"? Once we're comfortably settled into a sort of Matthew "I'll believe absolutely anything (so long as it's bad) about Sarah Palin" Yglesias mode, there's just no limit to the unflattering things we can suppose about Gov. Palin.

But why get into that mode?

After a solid two weeks in which we read in the NYT and heard on the CBS Evening News that Gov. Palin is a complete ditz who can't string together two complete sentences, especially under pressure and on-camera, we saw those propositions dramatically disproved on national TV.

If I'm going to start drawing unsupported inferences, friends and neighbors, I prefer to do so based on what I've seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears during the unfiltered debate — not some narrative that NYT or CBS News has been peddling in close synchronization with the Hard Left and Gov. Palin's political opponents. I prefer reasonable inferences, consistent with a popular and effective state governor's objective record of accomplishments, over wild and insulting speculation which, even if true, would still leave unexplained how Gov. Palin could perform at anything remotely like the level we watched on Thursday.

How about you?

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 08:09 PM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Nielsen ratings on Veep debate show 70 million Americans' fascination with Sarah Palin

Only the 1980 Reagan-Carter presidential debate outdrew last night's vice-presidential debate. My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com explains why these monster ratings are great news for McCain-Palin.

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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)

From an email I just received from the Nielsen organization regarding their TV ratings for last night's vice presidential debate:

  • 69.9 million people watched the debate, tying it for second place among all Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. (The second Bush/Clinton/Perot debate of 1992 also have 69.9 million. The all-time debate leader is the Carter/Reagan debate of 1980.)

  • This is 17.5 million viewers more than the McCain/Obama debate last Friday.

  • More women (35.7 million) watched the debate than men (30.4 million).

  • Compared to the McCain/Obama debate, viewing was up among all ethnic groups, including African American, Hispanic and White.

Although scheduling the debate on a Thursday was obviously a factor in attracting more viewers than the presidential debate last Friday, public curiosity about Sarah Palin clearly drove these higher ratings.

As with her blockbuster speech at the Republican National Convention, Americans again proved their preference for taking the measure of this newcomer to the national political scene directly, without filtration through the old-media spinners. The results will continue to percolate between now and election day, probably not showing their full effect in the political opinion polls taken between now and then.

Obviously, some millions of those who tuned in did so with the expectation and even the fervent hope that Gov. Palin would implode on-screen; their votes aren't likely to be changed even though their hopes and expectations were bitterly disappointed.

But it's equally obvious that millions of others who tuned in did so because they are still open to persuasion. Thus, these objective and unprecedented numbers are terrific news for the McCain-Palin campaign.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 07:52 PM in 2008 Election, Film/TV/Stage, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Carl Cameron's interview with Gov. Palin

My late afternoon guest-post at HughHewitt.com summarizes some of the gaps that Gov. Palin filled in for Fox News' Carl Cameron that she had declined to address with Katie Couric.

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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)

Here are a few bits and pieces from Carl Cameron's interview today (news report here; very rough transcript here, but beware) with Gov. Sarah Palin on Fox News.

Filling in gaps that she'd declined to address for Katie Couric, Gov. Palin said that among other publications, she reads the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Economist. (I think it's fair to presume that she mixes those with some less liberal sources, too, since she was giving this interview to Fox News.) She said she's been reading a lot of financial publications lately because so many have been writing about the $40B trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline deal and other aspects of the Alaskan economy. She explained that the reason she'd avoided naming names of publications for Couric, however, was that she thought Couric was implying by this question that she and/or Alaskans were provincial and out of touch.

Among Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with, she named Kennedy v. Louisiana (the child rape death penalty case about which I wrote earlier this week), Kelo (eminent domain), and the latest Exxon Valdez decision. She had publicly criticized the Exxon Valdez decision earlier this year, making the very valid point that whatever one thinks about the amount of punitive damages that are to be awarded, it's ridiculous for the judicial system to have bounced this tort case around for so long that many of the parties injured by the original spill in 1989 have already died of old age. She said she'd been opposed to Kelo since she was a mayor and was dealing with eminent domain issues herself. And she said that she thought the Supreme Court was straying outside its proper boundaries in preventing states from deciding for themselves which crimes should warrant the death penalty.

Finally, regarding the McCain-Palin campaign withdrawing its TV ads in Michigan, she expressed dismay at the idea of giving up there, saying she and Todd would definitely like to go back there to campaign: "[W]hatever their challenges in that state are, we can relate to them and connect to them and promise them that we won't let them down in this Administration. I want to get back to Michigan and I want to try!"

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 06:40 PM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

The integrity gap between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin

My latest guest-post on HughHewitt.com is a plug for Dan McLaughlin's first in a three-part series on the Integrity Gap between the two parties' tickets, and it focuses on Gov. Palin. Dan marshals the evidence in meticulous detail, always with supporting links. It's a genuinely impressive piece of work.

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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)

"Baseball Crank" Dan McLaughlin has posted the first of an anticipated three-part series on "The Integrity Gap" between the Democratic and GOP tickets. Dan's ultimate conclusion — that the Democratic ticket suffers from an "Integrity Gap that Obama simply can't surmount and can only hope to obscure" — is a sweeping one, but it's backed up by an impressive assembly of meticulously organized supporting details, all hyperlinked back to a huge array of sources. The first part focuses on nitty-gritty details of Gov. Palin's political history in Alaska, and it demonstrates how her reputation as a reformer isn't based just on occasional or random events, but rather on a consistent history. I commend it to you as a genuinely impressive piece of scholarly blogging.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:28 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (5)

Through Sarah Palin, ordinary, non-mystical Americans may reclaim their national government

To say that I was pleased with Gov. Sarah Palin's performance in the vice presidential debate would be a considerable understatement. In my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com, I make my case for why Caribou Barbie definitely rocked.

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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)

Almost without exception, every bit of the analysis and punditry you read or hear from mainstream media sources — including even new media outlets like the major cable news channels — will have missed the most important point about Thursday night's vice presidential debate. They all think it was close, and they all think that some of the things Slow Joe Biden said actually mattered.

To non-sophisticates (which isn't an insult, by the way, and most definitely isn't a synonym for "unsophisticated") — to ordinary people of every economic class, occupation, gender, religion, and even political persuasion — from outside the Beltway and the bi-coastal Blue-State media enclaves, the defining moment of the debate was when a young governor from a remote, sparsely populated state strode confidently across the national stage, stuck out her hand for a firm handshake, looked a silver-haired senator of 36 years' tenure squarely in the eye, and said: "Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?"

At that moment, the champagne bubble of the elites popped. For millions of viewers (but almost no national pundits), the juxtaposition telegraphed a clear message: "She's not one of them, she's one of us. But she isn't awed by him. She's not afraid."

Gov. Sarah Palin greets Sen. Joe Biden before their vice presidential debate (Reuters photo)

By five minutes into the debate, the notion that this young hockey-mom turned governor is an airhead, unable to string two coherent sentences together without a teleprompter, had been completely exploded. The deception and outright malice of those who've been peddling that lie became obvious. Of course the issues were being addressed, substantively and in detail, by both the Democratic and GOP Veep nominees, but in her case, in a voice — literally in an accent — of unpretentious, ordinary Americans, and with a disdain for the kind of double-talk which lets a politician pretend that he was really against a war he voted to authorize.

Gov. Sarah Palin is electrically fresh. And she is the real deal, an authentic three-dimensional person rather than a blank screen upon which to project our hopes. And the important point confirmed by Thursday night's debate is very simply this: Sarah Palin is nothing less than the instrument through which ordinary, non-mystical Americans may reclaim their national government.

That's why McCain's announcement of her candidacy suddenly changed the entire course of this election. That's why her acceptance speech at the Republican National Commission dropped millions of jaws. That's why millions of voters — including undecideds and independents and swing voters, disappointed Hillary voters, disappointed movement conservatives, even non-voters — who watched this debate are saying to themselves: "Well! Now that was different!"

Over the course of the next month, as the impressions she made tonight are reconfirmed, the seed of affinity that Sarah Palin has planted will continue to germinate. We millions of voters who'd previously imagined ourselves with, at best, a sour taste in our mouths after voting this year suddenly realize that, actually, we can cast a vote for Sarah Palin that makes us feel good about the whole process. Through her, we can be connected again with our national government. Her voice is our voice, and in her we have a new champion who actually isn't just slumming or pretending to be one of us. She doesn't need a focus group to interpret, because she actually is one of us. She doesn't need to write a memoir of her journey of self-discovery because she's always known she's Chuck and Sally Heath's daughter, she's Todd Palin's wife, she's "Mom" to Track and Bristol and Willow and Piper and Trig — and she's the one of us who stepped forward to prove that she has the heart of a genuine servant of the public.

Anyone who's focused on scoring this debate on points is counting raindrops in a hurricane. Here's a grumpy paragraph from the New York Times that is cluelessness personified:

Short of a complete bravura performance that would have been tough for even the most experienced national politician to turn in — or a devastating error by the mistake-prone Mr. Biden, who instead turned in an impressively sharp performance — there might have been little Ms. Palin could have done to help Mr. McCain.

That's spoken by a mainstream media giant who's just had its pants yanked down to its ankles from behind, and who's then been sprayed with molasses and coated in feathers. It's standing there continuing to preach at you and me without any comprehension of what a laughing-stock it's become. Actually, it doesn't know you or me, except as vague shadows "somewhere out there in flyover country." It can't hear our laughter. It can't even remotely comprehend why you or I want to pump our fists in the air and shout "Sarah! Sarah!"

"Can I call you Joe?" Yes, she can, because he's just another old dude with a line of blah-blah-blah. He doesn't deserve her, or our, reverence because he's a fading irrelevancy from the past. And this is a brand new day, a day of new leadership in the shining city on a hill.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 04:36 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin on Hannity

Whoops. I missed one. A guest-post on HughHewitt.com, that is, in which I quoted a chunk of Gov. Palin's very good interview on Sean Hannity's radio show this afternoon.

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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).

Gov. Sarah Palin built on a strong performance yesterday in her interview on Hugh's radio show (transcript and audio link here) with another terrific interview this afternoon with Sean Hannity. The McCain-Palin website has a partial transcript, and you can hear the whole interview by finding and following the featured link on Sean's website.

Among other things, in discussing the current financial crisis, she pointed out that the current financial crisis should be a reminder to Americans that we need to restrain ourselves from drawing on every bit of credit that's made available to us:

I think that it's a shame, of course, that we're even in the position that we are today. We do have to take action, though. Congress has got to accept that inaction is not acceptable because Main Street is hurting pretty bad here, of course, Sean. And it's not just the fat cats on Wall Street who should be the concern here.

I'm concerned about the moms and pops, the small businesses and the families who have trusted that their investments would be secured, and we've got to take some action now and shore this up. And then Americans, too, have got to start taking some more personal responsibility so we never find ourselves back in this situation again. And I say this not to condemn the decisions that a lot of Americans have made, because I think a lot of Americans have been taken advantage of by those on Wall Street who have tried to entice credits to be extended and tried to entice us into a system that ultimately punishes us and makes us become more and more at risk with our investments.

And Americans, as individuals, we have to start changing our habits also and not incur debt. It'll be simple lessons that, shoot, our parents probably taught us years ago. Don't take out that extra credit card. Don't buy a $300,000 house if you can only afford a $100,000 house. Simple things like that, that Americans as individuals have got to play a part in also, to start helping to recover our economy.

Now, as for what's in front of Congress today, I'm very, very thankful that John McCain has been instrumental in bringing people to the table. He did suspend his campaign. He put politics aside and said "We've got to work on this together. We've got to have greater oversight of the conditions. We've got to have greater oversight of all the actions that will be taken to make sure, again, that nothing like this ever happens again, decimating the U.S. economy."

Personal responsibility! What a concept, brought straight to you from the governor of the last great American frontier, Alaska (where men are men, women are women, and either can be a governor, change a diaper, or shoot and field-dress a moose).

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 02:11 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (1)

The stage is set for the Veep debate

I'm predicting a debate that's "entertaining and informative" in my latest, and perhaps shortest, 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)

Knock me over with a feather: Tomorrow's Washington Post has a flattering page one story about Sarah Palin's youthful years. Of course, it's running opposite another page one story entitled "Skepticism of Palin Growing, Poll Finds."

Gov. Palin has already exploded the conventional wisdom, which was that Veep candidates weren't much noticed except on the day of their announcement, the day of their acceptance speech, and the day of the vice presidential debate. And I'm intensely skeptical of polls, including this one. The only poll that matters is the one on November 4th that's taken at polling places. Even a grand slam like the one Gov. Palin hit at the Republican National Convention is likely to be given a negative spin by hard-core Obama supporters, which includes many members of the old media.

But certainly the stage is now fully set for Thursday night's vice presidential debate. I'm not expecting an error-free performance by either candidate, but I do expect this to be entertaining and informative, and I have a great deal of confidence in Gov. Palin's ability to connect with the American people even in this high-pressure setting.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 01:22 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ifill quells no qualms by being defensive

I'm particularly proud of this sentence in my latest guest-post on HughHewitt.com: "They won't be black dollars, or white dollars, but green dollars."

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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)

When accused of an ethical failure, almost anyone's first reaction is to take umbrage.

A true professional's first reaction, however, should be to shut his or her mouth for a while and ponder whether one's judgment has already been compromised — before going into self-defense mode or, worse, counterattack mode.

I'll stand by what I wrote this morning, in which (like John McCain) I expressed some confidence in her professionalism and noted her fairness during the 2004 vice presidential debate. But I'm not at all encouraged by Gwen Ifill's initial reaction, as quoted by the Associated Press, to questions about whether she can be impartial in tomorrow night's vice presidential debate:

"I've got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I'm not particularly worried that one-day blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation," Ifill said. "The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I've done my job." ...

In its online description of the book, Doubleday says that Ifill "surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama's stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power." ...

Ifill said Obama's story, which she has yet to write, is only a small part of the book, which discusses how politics in the black community have changed since the civil rights era. Among those subjects is Colin Powell, secretary of state in the Bush administration.

The host of PBS'"Washington Week" and senior correspondent on "The NewsHour" said she did not tell the Commission on Presidential Debates about the book. The commission had no immediate comment when contacted by The Associated Press. A spokeswoman for John McCain's campaign did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages. [But see the update at the foot of my original post below, quoting McCain as as saying he trusts in Ifill's professionalism. — Beldar]

She said it was the publisher, not herself, who set the Inauguration Day release date. It will be released then whether Obama wins or loses.

Although Malkin raised the topic of Ifill's impartiality the day before the debate, the PBS journalist said that Time magazine noted she was writing a book in August, and that it has been available for pre-sale on Amazon.com. The book also is mentioned in a Sept. 4 interview she gave the Washington Post.

Ifill questions why people assume that her book will be favorable toward Obama.

"Do you think they made the same assumptions about Lou Cannon (who is white) when he wrote his book about Reagan?" said Ifill, who is black. Asked if there were racial motives at play, she said, "I don't know what it is. I find it curious."

There are several problems with this.

First, the fact that Ms. Ifill hasn't written the portion of the book on Obama yet doesn't excuse anything. In fact, it leaves her free now to tailor the book knowing of the furor over her earlier non-disclosure to the campaigns and Commisson.

Second, the "nobody caught me until now" excuse is ridiculous and offensive. As a professional journalist, she is responsible for patrolling her own ethics. Ms. Ifill ought to have disclosed the plans for the book to the Commission and to both campaigns. Now, even with both campaigns consenting to her going forward, she still owes a duty to the public to re-disclose her personal financial stake in the election at the beginning of the debate.

Finally, it doesn't matter whether she ends up being critical or favorable in what she eventually writes about Obama. The title of the book has the phrase "Age of Obama" in it! For pete's sake, how many bestsellers have we seen with the phrase "the Age of Kerry" or "the Age of Dole" or "the Age of Dukakis" in them? I guarantee you that I am not an Obama supporter, but I bought a copy of each of his two books — despite the fact that that would put a few more coins in his pockets — because I sometimes read stuff about, and sometimes even written by, people I distrust, dislike, or even despise. Moreover, there's also no doubt that moderating this debate will raise Ifill's own general public profile — with tens of millions watching this debate, a large multiple of the audiences she gets on the PBS NewsHour or PBS' Washington Week.

No one can seriously doubt that if Obama wins, she'll sell more copies of this book — based on its title alone — which, in turn, will put anything from a few more dollars to a several tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars directly into her own pocket. They won't be black dollars, or white dollars, but green dollars. Yet she finds it "curious" and jumps to racism as a possible explanation for people's concerns? For her to pretend she doesn't understand the nature of the conflict and the potential for bias here smacks, at best, of self-deception. Self-deception can lead to plain old deception.

I won't say that journalistic ethics require it, but a well developed sense of decency requires that Ms. Ifill now add to her disclosure at the debate a public apology to those who've raised concerns about it. She has no one but herself to blame for this.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 10:12 PM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

SCOTUS admits blunder on UCMJ, but says "Nevermind," and shows again how Obama's model judges pull constitutional law from thin air

When the Supreme Court is so wrong, I take small pleasure in being right in predicting that they'll perversely continue being wrong. But I nevertheless claim that credit 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)

On my own blog, I write a lot about politics, but also a fair amount about law — always with the intention of expressing my opinions in language that any well-educated layman can understand. On July 6, 2008, I wrote at my usual tedious length about the Supreme Court's embarrassing mistake in the case overturning Louisiana's capital sentence for a child rapist, Kennedy v. Louisiana, in which Justice Kennedy, writing for a five-Justice majority (which also included Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, and Breyer), insisted that neither any other state nor the federal government permitted the death penalty for child rapists. That was a major premise for their holding that "evolving standards of decency" under their "living, breathing" version of the Eighth Amendment no longer permitted Louisiana's death sentence for convicted child rapist Patrick Kennedy. And that statement was absolutely wrong: Congress and the president had recently acted to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice to permit the death penalty for exactly that crime.

Even the editorial board of the Washington Post had urged the Supreme Court to grant rehearing in the case to address this enormous blunder. Here's what I predicted, however:

There assuredly will be a motion for rehearing filed, and even if there's not, the Court could consider reconsidering the case on its own, sua sponte. But only a naive wanker would expect the Emperor of America, Mr. Justice Anthony Kennedy, or any of the other four Justices who joined his opinion for the majority, to actually change their votes. At most, those five will permit limited supplemental briefing by both sides. There won't be additional oral argument. And in short order, Justice Kennedy will write a short supplemental opinion. It will announce the denial of rehearing. It will try to explain why the laws that America, through its Congress and president, has chosen to apply to its own uniformed sons and daughters are nevertheless absolutely meaningless data points in the SCOTUS' determination of America's "evolving standards of decency."

Today the Supreme Court did exactly what I predicted.

What shocked me about the Supreme Court's blunder was that it demonstrated how little the Supreme Court knew about the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And yet in Boumediene v. Bush, those same five Justices had, just a month earlier, overturned as unconstitutional a provision of a law passed by Congress and signed by the president that restricted the availability of habeas corpus as a remedy to individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station as enemy combatants. It did so, in large part, based on the notion that the alternative procedures crafted by Congress and approved by the president in the Military Commissions Act were constitutionally inadequate — even though those provisions were modeled upon, and provided procedural and substantive protections generally comparable to those which govern our military personnel under, the UCMJ.

In a sentence: In June the SCOTUS said UCMJ-based provisions are inadequate; in July the SCOTUS proved that it has no clue what the UCMJ actually says.

Now, I emphatically do not believe that one need be a lawyer to be qualified to be president or vice-president. That's why we've had an Attorney General and a Department of Justice [see update below] since the founding of the Republic. Indeed, the fact that neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin are lawyers themselves is a definite feature — not a bug — of the McCain-Palin ticket!

But both Barack Obama and Joe Biden are indeed lawyers, and Barack Obama frequently reminds us that he's even been a "professor of constitutional law" (which is a slight overstatement, but whatever). He immediately applauded the Boumediene decision:

Taking audience questions in Pennsylvania, Obama praised Thursday's Supreme Court decision to allow detainees at Guantanamo Bay to challenge their imprisonment in federal courts. Enforcing habeas corpus rights, he said, is "the essence of who we are."

"Even when Nazis' atrocities became known in the 1940s, he said, "we still gave them a day in court" at the Nuremberg trials. "That taught the entire world about who we are," he said.

That was spectacularly clueless, and one of the many occasions on which Obama has demonstrated that for all his fine degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law, he's ignorant of world history. First, no one at Nuremberg was permitted to file a habeas corpus petition in the American courts. Second, the Military Commissions Act provides substantially greater procedural and substantive protection than what any of the Nuremberg defendants had.

Moral: A non-lawyer who will seek competent legal advice is far less dangerous than a lawyer who thinks he knows history and the law, but is demonstrably wrong about both. And every one of the SCOTUS justices whom Barack Obama has held up as "models" in the mold he's promised to appoint as president were among the majority who blundered in Kennedy v. Louisiana, and who pull their interpretations of the Constitution out of thin air to match their own sentiments.

Rights for foreigners accused of being terrorists that even our own service personnel don't get. A "living, breathing" Constitution whose answers, my friends, are blowin' in the wind. You do get an indirect vote on whether that's what you want — but you have to cast it through your choices for POTUS/VPOTUS and (even less directly) U.S. Senators. Judicial appointments are just one more issue on which this year's presidential election presents you with a stark, vivid choice.

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UPDATE (Thu Oct 2 @ 2:22 a.m. CST): Proving my point about the dangers of lawyers who are convinced they know history that turns out to be just not quite so, an astute commenter on my own blog — a non-lawyer, in fact! — pointed out that although the Attorney General was indeed part of Washington's first cabinet, the Department of Justice as an institution only dates back to 1870. Mea culpa.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 06:25 PM in 2008 Election, Congress, Global War on Terror, Law (2008), McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (6)

New energy to rescue taxpayer from Wall Street's problems?

[I neglected, for some reason, to cross-post here for a guest-post at HughHewitt.com, but I'm remedying it at the same time I'm copying that post here.]

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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 haven't double-checked the numbers and can't vouch for them, but commenter cwr at my own blog left this very provocative question and observation early this afternoon:

Will the debate format allow Palin to work in her knowledge of the energy business? So far the GOP ticket hasn't mentioned that the 20 billion bbls of oil offshore and the 20 billion bbls in ANWR would be worth $4 trillion at today's prices. The severance taxes, gov't royalties and corp income taxes from that would easily pay for the "Wall Street bailout."

It's hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison here. For one thing, no one knows what the actual cost will be to the taxpayer from even the plan that Speaker Pelosi allowed to go down to defeat in the House on Monday. Indeed, one of the main points of that plan was to float that huge number — $700 billion — for its positive psychological impact in restoring market confidence, to avoid the need for a fire-sale disposition of assets and permit, for example, more mortgages that are currently in default to be restructured through workouts that end up leaving homeowners in possession and everyone better off than in a foreclosure situation. There's good reason to hope that the ultimate cost to the taxpayer won't be remotely close to $700B, and that the plan might actually turn a profit for the taxpayer.

Similarly, one salutary effect of opening up offshore and ANWR drilling would be to depress current and long-term energy prices by the gradual and eventual increase in supply that would cause. But it's still true that on balance, increasing supplies of energy and lowering energy prices will not only lead to increased revenues to the U.S. Treasury from the taxes and royalties on that energy's production, but also result in a healthier economy that will generate more tax revenues naturally and without tax increases.

Quantifying these relationships isn't a matter of simple arithmetic, but of multi-variable calculus, I suspect.

Still, there should be little doubt that prohibiting production in ANWR right now isn't benefiting anything or anybody except some fairly nasty mudflies who live on the relatively tiny portion of those ugly arctic coastal mudflats which would actually be subject to exploration and drilling. Maybe Gov. Palin will be in a position to announce during the Veep debates that she's managed to change Sen. McCain's mind on ANWR!

In any event, McCain-Palin already has the vastly better position on energy: "All of the above" when it comes to traditional and new energy sources, including "Drill, baby, drill!" At the rate the Dems are back-pedaling on this, perhaps we should expect to see Barack Obama wearing a hardhat and visiting an offshore platform some time in the next two weeks.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 03:40 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Old media dinosaurs have NOT asked Sarah Palin about her actual accomplishments

If you're a regular reader here, you already knew all about Sarah Palin's accomplishments before John McCain named her as his Veep nominee. But my new guest-post at HughHewitt.com mentions three in particular that the mainstream media seems to be particularly clueless about.

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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 considering Sarah Palin's fitness as a vice presidential nominee, it's absolutely crucial to distinguish between mere tenure in office and actual accomplishments while there. In their televised interviews with her, however, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric have almost completely ignored Gov. Palin's actual record in office. So, too, have most of the old-media sources who've been writing about her. They'd far rather dig through a dumpster or watch videos of a guest pastor from Kenya speaking at a church Gov. Palin has sometimes attended than talk about Gov. Palin's day job as chief executive of the largest state in America.

 

(There's yet another important aspect to her candidacy that the mainstream media has ignored almost as resolutely, which is her courage and determination in campaigning as an underdog reformer, taking on deeply entrenched and ethically challenged members of her own party in Alaska. Arguably that's her most important accomplishment of all, given how much of a cesspool Washington has become. But let's set that aside for the moment.)

Gov. Palin is now finishing up her second year as Governor of Alaska. Even added to her years as a city councilman and mayor, or her service as chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, that is not a very long record. But length is only one dimension. How deep is her record?

The answer to that question is critically important. Joe Biden has been a senator, as Gov. Palin points out, since Gov. Palin was in grade school, so of course he has a long record. With that seniority has come committee chair positions, first on the Senate Judiciary Committee, then on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But on closer examination, neither as a committee chairman nor a legislator has Slow Joe Biden particularly distinguished himself. His greatest legislative triumph has been in championing revisions to the bankruptcy code that dramatically changed the slope of the playing field to favor his home-state credit card companies in consumer bankruptcy proceedings — an accomplishment much disdained, in fact, by the Hard Left. So what, by contrast, has Gov. Sarah Palin done in her dramatically shorter tenure as a state chief executive?

If you only know three things that Sarah Palin has accomplished as Governor of Alaska, it should be these three:

  1. Gov. Palin is a proven fiscal conservative who used her line-item veto to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in spending from the state budget. In considering this accomplishment, keep in mind that the Alaska Legislature is controlled by the GOP, meaning that the funding she cut had already been approved by legislators of her own party. Nevertheless, she made her vetoes stick. Consider, too, that because of the current high price of crude oil, Alaska is enjoying record budget surpluses. It's harder to practice restraint in times of plenty. And look at her entire record over time (more than as revealed by her position on a single bridge): Although Alaska has traditionally been more dependent than other states on federal funding (since the federal government owns such a large portion of the state's property and resources), even the often-critical Anchorage Daily News admits that Gov. Palin has "increasingly distanced herself from earmarking" since 2000, and that her having done so over the past year has been "the leading source of tension between Palin and the state's three-member congressional delegation." Actually exercising fiscal discipline in a time of plenty, at both state and federal levels and against the will of the members of her own party, is a better predictor for how she would actually govern on a national level than ten thousand campaign promises.

  2. Gov. Palin kept her campaign promise to revamp the state's pre-existing severance tax on oil & gas production, replacing a structure negotiated behind closed doors by ethically challenged predecessors and the big energy companies with one negotiated in full public view — and then rebated part of the resulting surplus directly to tax-payers. Severance taxes are a kind of property tax charged on a one-time basis, at the time of production, on subsurface assets (like oil, gas & minerals) which can't be quantified and taxed through regular property taxes. There was widespread resentment and distrust over the version negotiated by Gov. Palin's predecessor with the three big energy companies who've traditionally ruled the roost in Alaska (ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP). The new version negotiated and passed with Gov. Palin's support was thoroughly disinfected by the sunshine of public scrutiny. Although it's not a "windfall profits tax" — indeed, the base rate only went from 22.5% to 25% — it did permit the Alaskan people to share in a larger portion of the current high prices for oil by raising the additional, progressive portion of the tax from 0.25% to 0.40% on revenues between $32.50 and $90/bbl. Above that, however, the new law actually cut taxes by dropping the rate on revenues above $90/bbl to 0.1%. With the resulting budget surplus, after contributing to the state's fund for that future day when its oil & gas wealth is exhausted, she pressed for and got legislation to rebate a healthy chunk directly to tax-payers on a per capita basis, trusting them to spend the proceeds from this sale of the state's commonly-owned resources rather than trusting government to spend it for them.

  3. Gov. Palin broke a multi-year stalemate over the financing and construction of a $40  billion cross-state gas pipeline that will deliver cleaner, cheaper natural gas to Alaska's own population centers (Alaskans themselves pay some of the nation's highest energy prices), while also delivering gas to the energy-hungry Lower 48. To do this, she had to break the monopoly power of the big energy companies by opening the project to competitive international bidding. Not only has a development contract with a Canadian company now been signed on better terms than had previously been discussed, but the former monopolists — finally spurred by competition — are cranking up their own plan that would not require any taxpayer investment. How precisely this will shake out remains to be seen, but Gov. Palin's vigorous action — calling special sessions of the state legislature and injecting herself directly and vigorously into the process — has ended the deadlock in ways that seem certain to benefit consumers. By this accomplishment, Gov. Palin has done more to advance the cause of American energy independence than any other politician — of any party, and at any level of state or federal government — in this century. But the national media have generally ignored this accomplishment.

It's no accident that Gov. Palin remains immensely popular in her home state, notwithstanding the widespread derision of the national elites. Her actual accomplishments in office are vastly disproportionate to her time spent in office, but her constituents value the results she's gotten.

And isn't that what we want? Should we want politicians who have been in office a long time without getting anything done? Should we want the kind of "wisdom" shown by Slow Joe Biden, who opposed the nominations of both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, and who proposed that we subdivide Iraq into three parts (each to be dominated by a different foreign interest)? Should we prefer someone like Barack Obama in the top job as POTUS, even though he has no longer tenure than Gov. Palin and conspicuously fewer actual accomplishments?

Will Gwen Ifill ask any meaningful question of either Gov. Palin or Sen. Biden about their actual accomplishments in office tomorrow? Will she ask Biden about the bankruptcy law changes? Will she acknowledge Gov. Palin as a demonstrated fiscal conservative and crusader for energy independence?

I'm not holding my breath. But if the media won't help educate Americans about Gov. Palin's accomplishments in office, then each of us should!

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 01:15 PM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (13)

Is Veep debate moderator Gwen Ifill biased?

Disclose the book, but let viewers decide if there's any real bias. So I advise Gwen Ifill 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)

Michelle Malkin performs a valuable service by alerting us (here, here, and here) that vice presidential debate moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS' NewsHour program has an upcoming book, due to be released at about the time the next president is inaugurated, entitled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. As Michelle points out, Ms. Ifill's financial interest in the success of the book might reasonably be thought to be linked to its subject's success in the general election.

Therefore, if for no other reason than the potential appearance of a conflict of interest, Gwen Ifill should publicly disclose her book's impending release and title to the entire nation at the very beginning of tomorrow night's debate. To do anything less would be unethical. (And the disclosure itself is unlikely to do Ms. Ifill any harm; rather, it may actually pump her pre-release sales.)

As for Michelle's underlying charge that Ms. Ifill is in the proverbial (and very crowded) tank for Obama, that is something about which you should make up your own mind. But I do have a few thoughts to share on that subject.

I think it's very, very likely that Ms. Ifill is extremely sympathetic to the Obama candidacy, and that he's likely to get her vote if she votes (and she has every right to; I don't hold that journalists ought to recuse themselves from casting personal votes). That an anchor for PBS and a member in excellent standing of the mainstream media should be to the left of center in her personal politics is, at this stage, very much a "dog bites man" story.

The issue, however, is whether Ms. Ifill can successfully put aside her bias in her performance of her role as debate moderator. What's been so dreadful this election season in watching figures like Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann beclown themselves repeatedly as shills for Obama is that they're not even making any effort to hide their biases, much less to rein them in and be fair.

[# More #] Part of my (and most courtroom lawyers') standard spiel as we're selecting juries has to do with bias and prejudice. "We each come to the courthouse today," I say, "with a unique set of life experiences, from which we've drawn our own sets of beliefs and expectations, and through which we filter our new experiences, too."

And thus, the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is: "Yes, of course Gwen Ifill is biased. We all are biased toward or against something."

I tell prospective jurors that at several points during the trial, however, the judge will caution them that the law requires them to set aside their personal biases and prejudices, and to instead decide the case based only upon the testimony and exhibits received into evidence. So the question during jury selection, I explain, becomes whether anyone has a bias or prejudice relating to the issues in the case which is so strong that despite the prospective juror's best efforts, he or she won't be able to put that bias or prejudice aside in receiving and weighing the evidence.

Some people won't answer that question honestly — and one of my jobs as a lawyer is to try to make accurate predictions as to who those people are, for use in deciding how to spend my peremptory strikes — but a remarkable number of prospective jurors do answer it honestly when they have a strong bias or prejudice. Often, they end up getting themselves excused "for cause" upon confessing the depth of their biases in further (hopefully gentle and respectful) questioning. Vastly larger numbers of jurors, though, sincerely believe that they can set aside their biases and prejudices and decide the case based solely on the evidence. Their ability to actually do so is one reason for my abiding faith, after nearly three decades of practicing in it, for the American jury system as an imperfect but essential instrument of dispassionate justice.

I recently re-read the debate transcript from 2004, in which Gwen Ifill moderated the debate between vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and John Edwards. Were I to guess, my guess would be that Ms. Ifill personally preferred the Kerry-Edwards ticket to the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, although I can't make any particularly meaningful guess about the intensity of that preference. Regardless, however, I didn't see any clear evidence, or even a strong suggestion, of bias in the selection and phrasing of either Ms. Ifill's initial questions or her follow-up questions in 2004. To me, that indicates that she was making a conscious — and successful — effort to separate her own personal biases and prejudices from her job performance. (The example Michelle quotes an emailer as citing from 2004, in which Ms. Ifill limited Vice President Cheney to a 30-second response after Mr. Edwards had gone on a rant about Mr. Cheney and Halliburton, came after a question from Ms. Ifill to Mr. Cheney about Halliburton in which he'd had two minutes to respond, giving him more time overall on the topic than Mr. Edwards had had. The original question was tough but fair, and the refusal to deviate from the format's time limits was by no means a sign of bias.)

If, this time, Ms. Ifill's performance is biased toward Joe Biden and against Sarah Palin, the likelihood of that being obvious to the general public is roughly proportional to the degree of bias shown. If the question asked is, "Gov. Palin, as a Bible-thumping, breeder-hick from the sticks, do you think you can find a pumpkin truck that will actually bring you to Washington?" then there's not likely to be much harm done. The risk, rather, comes from subtle forms of bias that may be less obvious but more harmful — false or questionable presumptions built into the premises of questions, for example, or selection of questions in a way skewed to focus more on one candidate's presumed weaknesses than the other's. Still, the members of the voting public — assisted or not, as they choose, with the opinions of pundits — can draw their own conclusions about those matters, too. And certainly the candidates have some tools at their disposal to expose subtle bias and fight against it — as by challenging the premises of questions.

So I'm going to be alert to signs in this debate that the moderator may be exhibiting signs of bias — as I hope I'm alert in all such important debates. You should be too. I, for one, will try to set aside my pre-existing impression that Ms. Ifill is probably an Obama-Biden supporter and considerably to the left of center in her own politics, and I'll try my best to judge her performance on the basis of what actually happens tomorrow night. As a self-acknowledged and obvious fan of Gov. Palin's, I have my own biases to contend with too, which in addition to acknowledging, I must try to account for in my punditry if I want my opinions to have any usefulness and credibility.

To us all, then, I say: Good luck, and let's do our respective bests!

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UPDATE (Thu Oct 1 @ 7:25 p.m. CST): Here's John McCain's reaction (ellipsis in original):

Sen. John McCain says he is confident PBS reporter Gwen Ifill will “do a totally objective job” moderating Thursday’s vice presidential debate despite authoring a new book that is reportedly favorable toward Sen. Barack Obama.

Asked during an interview Wednesday with Fox’s Carl Cameron whether Ifill should excuse herself as the debate moderator, McCain acknowledged the potential conflict of interest but expressed confidence in the longtime journalist.

“I think that Gwen Ifill is a professional and I think that she will do a totally objective job because she is a highly respected professional,” McCain said during an interview at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. “Does this help…if she has written a book that’s favorable to Senator Obama? Probably not. But I have confidence that Gwen Ifill will do a professional job and I have that confidence.”

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 10:50 AM in 2008 Election, Books, Mainstream Media, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (11)

Monday, September 29, 2008

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)