Thursday, August 16, 2012
Big and little reasons: Why Hillary would say "yes"
My commenters here, and many pundits elsewhere on the web, argue very persuasively that Hillary Clinton would turn down an offer from Barack Obama to replace Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket for 2012. They advance many small but cumulatively weighty reasons why Hillary would say "no" if Obama asked. Here, for example, is respected political analyst John Fund's take at National Review Online:
I’ve no doubt that some Democratic strategists would love for Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to swap jobs and bolster the Democratic ticket with a little Clinton magic. But there’s no evidence that Hillary would take that deal. If she wants to run, she is already the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination and would gain no advantage by being yoked to Obama, her old adversary, for the next three months if they lost or the next four years if they won.
So Democrats are stuck with Old Joe, who will turn 70 this November. It’s said that few people vote for a presidential ticket based on who is filling the No. 2 slot. But some do, and they may matter in a very close race....
I confess not to being able to follow Mr. Fund's logic in that last paragraph. Don't the last two sentences directly support the notion that Obama should replace Biden? If you're looking to get to the polls those people, few or otherwise, who might be excited about a vice presidential nominee, do you want Hillary or do you want Slow Joe? Just about the only unanimous opinion about Sarah Palin's impact on the 2008 election was that she energized and turned out a lot of the GOP base who were unenthused about John McCain. There's no reason to think that Hillary Clinton would do less well among the Democratic base, and some reason to think that she might do quite a bit better in attracting independent voters.
And does anyone think George H.W. Bush didn't gain a net advantage over Dukakis in 1988 by being the sitting Veep? Dukakis' attempts to tar Bush-41 with Iran-Contra and other Reagan controversies didn't work well enough to make a difference, and Poppy successfully campaigned as Reagan's natural heir and annointed designee. However well it works out in any given election cycle, having to campaign as a sitting Veep is hardly the political kiss of death.
But put that aside, and let's get back to how Hillary Clinton would necessarily have to evaluate an offer from Obama that she replace Biden.
I humbly submit to you that there is one big reason why she would say "yes," and that it alone outweighs all the other little reasons why she might say "yes" or she might say "no":
If she says yes and they win, she will be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
The number of former First Ladies who have become President is zero, of course. The number of former U.S. Senators who've become President is considerably higher, and so is the number of former Secretaries of State. The number of people who've already placed a reasonably close second in a long-running party presidential primary is pretty small. But any of those examples might give Hillary statistical hope for her chances in 2016, whatever happens in 2012, right?
Yet look at the percentages. It's true that sixteen U.S. Senators have gone on to become POTUS, but that's out of well over 2100 total U.S. Senators (less than 0.8%). Six former SecStates have become POTUS, but that's only nine percent of our sixty-seven total Secretaries of State. I don't have stats handy for how many primary runner-ups have later gone on to become POTUS, and of course primaries are relatively new. But if taken separately, the percentages of former SecStates and Senators and presidential primary runner-ups who've gone on to become President are all small; and taken collectively, they surely amount to only some tiny fraction of 1%.
By very sharp contrast, nine Vice Presidents have succeeded to the presidency due to the death or resignation of the POTUS (Tyler, Filmore, A. Johnson, Arthur, T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, L. Johnson, and Ford). And no one but a Vice President (i.e., no then-current House Speaker nor Senate President Pro Tem nor SecState, etc.) has ever succeeded to the presidency due to the POTUS' death or resignation.
Five more Vice Presidents (Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Nixon, and G.W.H. Bush) were elected POTUS in their own rights. Another (Gore) failed by no more than a whisker just 12 years ago, and at least one failed Veep nominee (FDR) also later became POTUS (and there may have been others). But even discounting the near-misses and valuable set-ups, there's one stat which simply cannot be ignored:
Through succession or election, fourteen out of our forty-four Presidents — almost a third — have previously been Vice President. I think Hillary is smart enough to follow that math.
I also think she's smart enough to prioritize. Do she and Obama like or trust one another? Who cares? That's way, way down the list of factors either one would consider in answering the question of whether they can stay/become POTUS. Who gets to sit in the big chair in the Oval Office is controlled solely by Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, which governs both the electoral college and the order of presidential succession. If your goal is the top, everything else is a subsidiary issue.
President Obama is himself young, and but for his cigarette habit (about which we haven't heard much lately), he seems to be healthy and athletic. There's no reason to think he's likely to become disabled or to die in office from any medical cause. He is as well protected as the Secret Service can make him, and we all share in hoping that he remains safe and healthy. But there are no guarantees against disease, nor other causes of death or disability. There's no guarantee against a successful presidential impeachment, for that matter, nor against circumstances that could prompt a President's resignation. As a matter of structural constitutional opportunity and long national history, there's no shorter pathway to the presidency than through the vice presidency — nor any that's more likely, nor any path at all that is so unambiguously prescribed. That the vice presidency under Obama would guarantee her preeminence as the Dem favorite for 2016, and keep her continuously in the public eye until then, would simply be gravy.
If asked to replace Biden, Hillary would have to ask herself the same question that an aging Lyndon Johnson asked himself when JFK offered him the Democratic Veep nomination in 1960: What maximizes my chances of becoming POTUS? And as LBJ recognized in 1960, any way you slice it, becoming your party's nominee for Vice President is the best way to maximize your odds.
And finally, this:
Suppose you're Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama comes to you and says he's decided to replace Joe Biden on the ticket. He offers you the spot, but you believe that if you decline, he will pick someone else — a second choice, but still someone whom he reasonably believes will help him counter the change the Ryan selection has made in the race. He mentions a couple of names; assume, for purposes of this hypothetical, that you agree with his assessment of the likelihood they'll help him more than Biden.
What does that do to your 2016 plans and dreams?
UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 6:45pm): White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today gave an unequivocal "yes" when asked directly if Obama-Biden[?] "is the ticket." Carney added that "that was settled a long, long time ago." And I'm sure that's all technically correct. It will be until the moment that Obama dumps him, which is every bit as possible now as it was before Jay Carney said it wasn't. Democrats live in an alternate universe anyone, one in which Bill Clinton never had sex with that woman and Tony Weiner never sent those penis self-portraits to young women — until they confessed that yes, they actually had. (Also, you will always be able to keep the health care you had in 2008; the stimulus was full of shovel-ready jobs; unemployment is now 5.6%; we weren't in combat in Libya when our ships and aircraft were blowing stuff up; we tried Obama's plan and it worked; and Obama completely turned around the economy in his first three years in office. That alternate universe. Oh, and we've always been at war with Eastasia.)
Obama can always say, "Mr. Carney was speaking before we realized that the country needs Joe more to be heading up the peace-and-relief mission to ________ [fill-in-the-blank] than I need him to be with me on the campaign trail. We're lucky he's so committed to the good of the country."
As a supplement to Geraghty's Rule — "All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them." — I offer the Beldar Corollary: "Only a sucker would base any bet on the proposition that Barack Obama is capable of being shamed by anything."
UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 8:15pm): Since we're not talking about replacing Vice Presidents as such, but about replacing candidates for Vice President, another fairly recent precedent, at least for those of my generation or older, is George McGovern's abandonment of Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), the Veep nominee McGovern had picked, and the Democratic National Convention delegates had accepted, on July 13, 1972. Eagleton had not disclosed several hospitalizations for physical and nervous exhaustion, his electroshock therapy treatments, or his diagnosed depression. (Would anyone today think any of that more disqualifying than Biden's idiocies? I wouldn't.) When the news broke 18 days after the nomination, McGovern at first insisted that he was "one thousand percent for Tom Eagleton" and that he had "no intention of dropping him from the ticket" — which sounds almost exactly like what Jay Carney said about Biden today, doesn't it?
But McGovern soon decided that not replacing Eagleton would hurt worse than replacing him, so McGovern turned instead to Kennedy-family in-law Sargent Shriver, who joined the ticket in plenty of time to prepare for their eventual 49-state blowout loss. Certainly choosing Eagleton, then dumping him, made McGovern look bad. No one has suggested it had more than a tiny and marginal effect on the outcome of the election, however, and we'll never know whether McGovern would have fared better or worse with Eagleton than he did with Shriver.
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.
On 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.
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.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Cruz vs. Dewhurst: Beldar handicaps the runoff
William A. Jacobson at the Legal Insurrection blog reports: Upset brewing in Texas runoff? PPP says Cruz up big. (Hattip: Instapundit.) This post is adapted from a comment I left there earlier tonight.
I put almost no faith in political polls as a general rule. But I am cautiously optimistic about Ted Cruz' chances in his primary-election runoff against David Dewhurst. I'm going out on a limb to predict that Ted Cruz will win by five or more points.
(1) By merely forcing a runoff, Cruz instantly gained the strategic advantage. He’s been exploiting it adeptly. Dewhurst started with a VAST name recognition advantage among Texas Republicans. But he has never had a serious primary or general election challenge in his previous state-wide races, and his actual performance in office as lieutenant governor was obscure except among those who closely follow state-house politics. So Dewhurst’s support was the proverbial mile wide but only an inch deep.
Dewhurst therefore should have pulled out all the stops against Cruz for the primary. Dewhurst was counting on the third and fourth candidates in the race (former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and former SMU running back/sportscaster Craig James) to draw most of their support away from Cruz. Instead they drew most of their support from Dewhurst — depriving Dewhurst of the primary-election simple majority that would have prevented a run-off.
(2) When Dewhurst has asserted that most or all of Cruz’ support comes from out-of-state generally — or from Washington, D.C., in particular — that accusation has rung false in the ears of every Texan who’s been paying attention. Cruz lacked Dewhurst’s broad name recognition, but long before the Tea Party movement, Cruz had deep and passionate support among Texas' politically aware movement conservatives. Based on Cruz’ superb performances before the U.S. Supreme Court as Texas’ solicitor general, we were already talking, writing, and blogging about Ted Cruz as a potential U.S. Senator back during Dubya’s first term.
Cruz has built on that support very steadily, and the Tea Party connections and the endorsements from folks like Gov. Palin and Drs. Ron & Rand Paul have indeed brought him visibility. But conservative Texans aren't xenophobic, and nobody here confuses Sarah Palin with Olympia Snowe, nor Rand Paul with Arlen Specter; we're reasonably picky about which out-of-staters we mock as RINOs.
(3) On a net basis, I think it's quite likely that Dewhurst's negative ads will end up costing him runoff votes, not winning them. Dewhurst and Cruz were both already doing some hard-hitting negative advertising even before the initial primary election. But with the additional time (and advertising) permitted by the runoff, many Texans who’d previously been generally aware and generally approving of David Dewhurst as lieutenant governor have found cause for second thoughts. They've learned, to the disappointment of many, that Dewhurst has actually made quite a few legislative compromises that undercut his claim to be a thorough-going conservative.
Worse, they've seen that Dewhurst has a real and very ugly mean streak. That mean streak is no surprise, however, to anyone who's followed Dewhurst's wielding of power as Texas' lieutenant governor: The man has always had sharp elbows and a sharp tongue when he close to employ them. Imagine a rough cross between J.R. Ewing, Bob Dole, and John McCain — each on a bad day.
Fortunately for both Cruz and Dewhurst, though, whatever damage either has done to the other's reputation during this primary election is unlikely to matter in the general election: Obama was never competitive in Texas in 2008, and he's even less competitive here today; he will have negative coattails in this state come November. Neither candidate in the Dems' primary runoff has a fraction of the appeal that Bill White had as the Dem gubernatorial candidate in 2010, and he lost decisively; the Dems haven't won a major statewide election since 1994, and this year's election will extend that losing streak. This runoff will effectively determine Texas' next junior U.S. Senator.
(4) Runoff-election voters are exactly the kind of people most likely to be turned off by negative campaigning that insults their intelligence — but that's exactly the kind of negative campaigning that Dewhurst has chosen to wage. A lot of negative campaign tactics are geared to the politically illiterate. But the Texas Republicans who are likely to turn up in a low-turnout run-off election are relatively better-educated, at least politically, than either their initial primary-election or general-election counterparts. Only the committed bother to show up for primary election runoffs; movement conservatives punch above their weight in runoffs.
Those who understand the Rule of Law and the ethical responsibilities of lawyers acting within its adversary system, for example, are inherently less likely to fall for character assassination attempts which depend upon misattributing to a lawyer who's running for public office the most unsavory characteristics and views of his (or his firm's) most unpopular clients. There will be a higher proportion of primary voters who know, for example, that the second President of the United States, John Adams, had ethically and honorably represented the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre even while he was among the most ardent of American revolutionaries. Those voters can look at Cruz' legal career in context; they can appreciate the conservative causes he championed so ably as Texas' solicitor general; and they can draw the appropriate inferences from the genuine respect that Cruz has earned from judges and appellate lawyers of all political persuasions.
As a result of Dewhurst overplaying his hand by going so negative, a lot of Texans who would happily have voted for Dewhurst in November if he’d won the primary outright have now decided that they don’t want to vote for Dewhurst at all — ever again — for anything. If Cruz wins this runoff, expect Dewhurst to draw a serious primary challenge if he runs for lieutenant governor again in 2014. It's not hard to imagine Dewhurst running for governor instead, even against the incumbent. Speaking of whom:
(5) The diminution in Rick Perry’s luster means he’s had less that could rub off onto David Dewhurst. A considerable portion of Dewhurst’s starting advantage and name recognition was closely bound up with the governor with whom he’s run so frequently, and so successfully, in state-wide elections.
That’s somewhat ironic, because until Perry endorsed Dewhurst against Cruz, Perry and Dewhurst had not been particularly close; they could have been most charitably described as natural rivals for power in Austin who sometimes cooperated with, and just as often opposed, one another.
Perry’s disastrous presidential campaign didn’t hurt him as badly in Texas as it did outside the state, but it still remains to be seen just how badly Perry’s self-immolation will hurt his own long-term standing with the Texas conservatives who’ve kept returning him to the governor’s mansion. My own sense is that Perry is himself now vulnerable to a primary challenge in any future statewide race he runs. By endorsing Dewhurst and campaigning against Cruz, Perry has further dismayed a lot of movement conservatives and Tea Partiers who might have forgiven or forgotten Perry’s debate performances last fall. He’s certainly in no position, for example, to challenge in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat now held by John Cornyn.
I will support the GOP's nominee whether it's Dewhurst or Cruz. But I fear that Dewhurst would be a "Peter Principle" senator. And even if the Senate doesn't represent Dewhurst's personal level of incompetence, at best he would be a thoroughly conventional senator who's unlikely to ever break out of that crowd of fifty pairs of presidential wanna-bes.
Cruz could stand out among them, and he may well be destined for even bigger responsibilities. Conservative Texans should view their vote for Ted Cruz in this runoff as an inspired long-term strategic investment in Texas' and America's future.
UPDATE (Mon Jul 30 @ 4pm): See also National Review's editors' latest runoff election endorsement, Yes, Ted Cruz for Texas. Key paragraph:
Given the intensity with which conservatives prefer Mr. Cruz to Texas’s popular lieutenant governor, some Republicans have asked, not unfairly, “What’s so bad about David Dewhurst?” Six months ago, our answer might have been: “Nothing, really, if there weren’t a much better choice available. Ted Cruz is far and away a preferable candidate for conservatives seeking an effective and articulate champion of their ideals.” But much has happened since the early days of this race, and Mr. Dewhurst’s vulgar and dishonest campaign of scorched-earth ad hominem against Mr. Cruz raises serious questions about his judgment and his commitment to conservative values.
Yeppers, that's about right.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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!
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.
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:
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.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Yard sign, remodeled
Dave from Sugarland sent (and gave me permission to republish here) a photo of his yard sign — which is not the product of vandalism, but rather, of his intentional remodeling:
Simple. Energy-conscious (re-cycling). Works for me.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Mark Stein also found a photograph of Sarah Palin voting that I like. Thank you, Mr. Stein.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
I want to definitively associate myself, on the record, with the remarks of Goat-Hate-Speech Defendant Mark Steyn, who, on NRO's The Corner, links to the picture below (from a Tim Blair blog post in Australia's Daily Telegraph, hiya Tim!) with this comment:
I like this picture of Sarah Palin voting. Heavy on the Caribou, light on the Barbie. She didn't need to be dunked in RNC bling. And the more the campaign went on and the more she wiggled free of her minders, the better she sounded. If you've got organic style, you shouldn't be shoehorned into generic campaign issue. If the night goes the way it seems to be heading, the differences between the Governor and the campaign will be one of the most interesting parts of the GOP post-mortem.
Amen, Brother Steyn. I'll write later, and much longer, about Gov. Palin, this campaign just passed, and her incredibly bright future on the national political scene. But I emphatically agree that this picture — not that it's cheesecake, which it's not (no more than any picture of her is, which is a little, because yes, she is nice looking), but that it's bluejeans on Election Day! — is the future of the GOP and conservatives in the 21st Century.
(I'll let the elite folks at Slate diagram that sentence if they feel the need.)
New report from Alaska State Personnel Board concludes that there is no cause to believe Gov. Palin violated the state ethics law
The more closely I read it, the more convinced I became that the Petumenos Report adopted by the Alaska State Personnel Board put a fitting end to Tasergate, conclusively in Gov. Palin's favor, as I wrote in a guest-post and series of updates at HughHewitt.com.
[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)
Encouraged by the Obama-Biden campaign, Democratic state senator Hollis French of Alaska masterminded the October 10th release of the so-called Branchflower Report, in which one guy — a lawyer hired by French's committee to conduct a charade of an "investigation" into the Tasergate (a/k/a Troopergate) matter — came to inconsistent conclusions, one of which was unfavorable to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The Alaska Legislature is not in session, and has not approved or adopted that report in whole or part. Rather, the only official action yet taken with respect to it was a noncontroversial vote by French's committee to permit the first volume of the report to be released to the public.
Nevertheless, the Obama-Biden campaign and all of Gov. Palin's elitist enemies went into a feeding frenzy, gleefully lining up to support an admitted child abuser and lawbreaker, Trooper Mike Wooten, in one of the most shamefully thuggish incidents of modern American political history.
Today, however, the entity actually charged by the Alaska state constitution and laws with enforcing that state's ethics laws — the Alaska State Personnel Board — has released its own investigator's report on the matter. As reported by the Anchorage Daily News (boldface mine):
Both investigations found that Palin was within her rights to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
But the new report says the Legislature's investigator was wrong to conclude that Palin abused her power by allowing aides and her husband, Todd, to pressure Monegan and others to dismiss her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten. Palin was accused of firing Monegan after Wooten stayed on the job.
The Palins have argued that Wooten was a loose cannon who had tasered his stepson, drank beer in his patrol car, and threatened Palin's father, and that their complaints that he shouldn't be on the force were justified....
The report, released at a Monday afternoon press conference at the Hotel Captain Cook, presents the findings and recommendations of Anchorage lawyer Timothy Petumenos, hired as independent counsel for the Personnel Board to examine several complaints against Palin.
Petumenos wrote the Legislature's special counsel, former state prosecutor Steve Branchflower, used the wrong state law as the basis for his conclusions and also misconstrued the evidence.
His findings and recommendations include:
There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in deciding to dismiss Monegan as public safety commissioner.
There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in connection with Wooten.
There is no cause to believe any other state official violated the ethics act.
There's no basis to conduct a hearing to "address reputational harm," as requested by Monegan.
The state needs to address the issue of using private e-mails for government work and to examine how records are kept in the governor's office. Palin used her Yahoo e-mail account for state business until it was hacked.
I'll be studying the executive summary and the report itself in more detail in the next few hours.
It's also worth noting right away, as Power Line's John Hinderaker has, that the Personnel Board's independent counsel, Timothy J. Petumenos, is a registered Democrat who donated money to Gov. Palin's opponent, Tony Knowles, in 2006 — certainly no crony of Gov. Palin's.
At his news conference in connection with the release of the report, Mr. Petumenos noted the peculiar circumstance that French's committee had gone to the Alaska Supreme Court to confirm its right to issue and serve subpoenas in connection with its investigation, but that after having won in court, Branchflower proceeded to make up his mind, and issue his report, without having serving a subpoena on, or otherwise considering any testimony from, Gov. Palin herself. Mr. Petumenos, by contrast, spent three hours questioning Gov. Palin under oath, and also redressed other huge gaps in Branchflower's massively flawed and one-sided investigation.
Finally (for now), it's also worth noting right away that in contrast to the French Committee's vote to release the Branchflower Report (which had not been approved or vetted by that committee, much less by the entire Alaska Legislature, and with respect to whose conclusions some committee members indeed expressed their substantive disagreement), the Personnel Board has actually made a substantive decision that's consistent with and reflected by this report, a decision that effectively ends the inquiry before it under the relevant Alaska statutes (boldface mine):
As for the last-minute timing — Petumenos gave out his report hours before the polls opened on Palin's bid to become vice president — the investigator said it wasn't ready until now.
"If you think this is being done to favor the governor politically, it certainly would have been much more favorable for her to receive this days before now," Petumenos said.
He'd hoped to release it Thursday, but it wasn't finished, he said. Personnel Board chair Debra English got her copy at about 4 p.m. Sunday.
The board voted to accept the report Monday, ending the investigation.
Unlike the Branchflower Report, in other words, this isn't just "one guy's opinion." There being "no probable cause" to find any statutory violation, there's no need for further gathering of evidence, taking of testimony, or deliberation by the Board. It's finished. Short of impeachment proceedings (for which there's no possible basis, there now having been a finding by the competent state agency that no law was violated), there's nothing further the Legislature could do either.
UPDATE (Tue Nov 4 @ 6:15 a.m. CST): I really hadn't planned to spend the night before Election Day reading a lengthy report on Tasergate, but it's probably just as well that I did.
Steve Branchflower's report was, frankly, one of those bloated documents that make one sorry for the invention of word processors. It was cobbled together from assorted parts of an investigation that was half-cocked to begin with, and that got worse as it went along. Not only did Branchflower's report suffer from bad writing and muddled thinking, but it was based on a process that contained no passing resemblance to due process. And its two key findings — that it was okay for Gov. Palin to actually fire Monegan, but that it wasn't okay for her to supposedly have merely threatened to fire Monegan — were logically inconsistent with one another. It was, in short, a mess — and an obvious political hatchet job.
The State of Alaska and, indeed, the people of the United States owe thanks, by contrast, to the Personnel Board's independent counsel, Timothy Petumenos, for his thorough investigation, clear thinking, and comparatively crisp 58-page report (125 pages when exhibits are included). It deals comprehensively with both facts and law. The bottom line is this: The report Mr. Petumenos has prepared for the Personnel Board, and that it has accepted on behalf of the State of Alaska, is as thorough and persuasive an exoneration of Gov. Sarah Palin's actions as can possibly be imagined.
The bullet points I've quoted above from Mr. Petumenos' executive summary are accurate. I don't want to re-argue the fine points of statutory construction that I've already gone over in my previous critiques of the Branchflower Report, except to note that in my previous analyses, I missed an important point which, fortunately, Mr. Petumenos caught — which is that the specific provision which Branchflower argued that Gov. Palin had violated is not a substantive description of a possible violation of the law, but rather part of an introductory overview stating the entire statute's general purpose. That further reinforces my own conclusions, to which Mr. Petumenos came independently, that Gov. Palin couldn't have been promoting a "personal interest" within the meaning of the statute so long as her concerns about Wooten even arguably paralleled those which the general public might have about such a rogue trooper. Simply put: Even if she was personally horrified that a child-abusing thug like Wooten was still on the job, that wouldn't have made it legally or ethically improper under Alaska law for her to express concerns about that to Monegan.
I will mention that Trooper Wooten comes off looking even worse in Mr. Petumenos' more detailed and better-organized summary of the total universe of evidence (which includes materials and testimony from witnesses whom Branchflower entirely ignored). How that miscreant still has a badge — indeed, why he's not in prison for defrauding the State of Alaska on a bogus workers compensation claim! — remains the lingering mystery of this entire controversy. (Mr. Petumenos is restrainedly but appropriately skeptical of Wooten's chiropractor's clearance of Wooten to ride his snowmachine for long periods while he's supposedly too disabled — and therefore off work at full pay — to remain seated for more than a few minutes on the job.)
Whatever happens on Election Day, there will be those who will try to resurrect this controversy in the future to besmirch Sarah Palin's reputation. If this report and the Personnel Board's decision based upon it are given their due, however, those folks will have less credibility than the so-called "9/11 Truthers" — crazed conspiracy nuts impervious to being influenced either by evidence, law, or rational analysis.
Tasergate is over, and Sarah Palin has been vindicated.
ChiTrib's Kass seeks fresh answer to question whether Obama would fire U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald
Of everything I've written in the last couple of months, what I cross-posted at HH.com under this title is a post I think I might have occasion to refer back to again.
[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)
Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass asks a question that Hugh Hewitt has frequently asked here and on his radio show during the past few weeks: Would a new President Obama fire Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney who indicted and convicted Tony Rezko, and who's continuing his probe into related criminal activities in Obama's hometown? Kass writes (h/t InstaPundit; links in original):
Readers keep asking me the same question: Will the next president keep Patrick Fitzgerald as the U.S. attorney in Chicago?
I really can't say. What are political promises worth from politicians with debts to pay?
But here's what I do know. There is no story more important to the people of Chicago and of Illinois than the future of Fitzgerald, who has systematically hunted down the corruption.
Corruption the Chicago Way doesn't only waste money and burden taxpayers. This isn't only about isolated instances of graft and amusing, earthy rapscallions. That is a cartoon. The reality is that Illinois political corruption is an infection that spreads. The people either are numbed and deny it, or they feel pressured to suck up to their overlords. That's not American. That's positively Medieval.
"If we lose him, we lose everything," said a Chicago FBI agent wise in the ways of Chicago politics and its symbiosis with the Chicago mob. "I can't imagine it happening. He's the guy who pulls the trigger on all these investigations. If it happens, if they get rid of him, forget it."
Kass goes on to write in more detail about how definitive Sen. McCain has been in his commitment to keep Fitzgerald on the job, with quotes that leave no doubt and no wiggle-room.
Unfortunately, however, both of the links in the block-quote just above are busted as of when I write this, and I can't find on the Tribune or elsewhere (and neither do I recall having seen) any independent confirmation that Sen. Obama has ever made the promise which Kass attributes to him. Of the original making of that promise — which Kass clearly at least suspects that Obama might be pressured to break — Kass writes:
Back in March, Obama visited the Tribune's editorial board. He said that if elected president, he would keep Fitzgerald in place.
"I still think he's doing a good job," said Obama. "I think he has been aggressive in putting the city on notice and the state on notice that he takes issues of public corruption seriously."
I have no reason to doubt Kass' description. But the promise he describes appears to have been only verbal and before a small (albeit important) audience.
More significantly, that promise was made before Rezko was convicted on June 4, 2008. Rezko still hasn't been formally sentenced, and there are rumors that Rezko may be cooperating now with Fitzgerald in hopes of obtaining a more lenient sentence. Just last Thursday Fitzgerald's office announced the indictment of "William F. Cellini, an Illinois Republican Party leader, ... for his alleged role in the fraud scheme that led to the conviction of [Rezko.]" And Kass also makes the excellent point that there are other big political fish in Illinois besides Rezko — some of whom, like mayoral brother Bill Daley and U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, might be potential Obama Administration appointees — who could find themselves in Fitzgerald's net, if he's allowed to continue casting it.
Thus, what Kass credits Obama as having said to the Tribune in March — before Obama even had the Democratic nomination wrapped up — is now so stale as to be long past the normal "expiration date" of anything said by the Obama campaign. This question needs a fresh answer, made on the record and without wiggle room.
Even with only a day left until the election, I have no doubt that word will get to Sen. Obama of Kass' column. But I will be stunned if Obama either answers it, or permits any reporter close enough access to even ask it. And without such a fresh answer, I suspect Sen. Obama's "promise" to the Tribune from last March isn't worth even as much as Mr. Kass' busted hyperlink.
The Palin plus
I liked and linked Byron York's NRO article about how Sarah Palin was playing in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Alas, not quite well enough, as it turned out, but without her, those states would have been Obama blow-outs.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Byron York's latest piece about how Gov. Sarah Palin's being received in Ohio and Pennsylvania rings true to me. Key sentence:
Following Palin around Ohio and Pennsylvania in the last days of the campaign, you meet a lot of Republicans [who] don’t hate McCain — they have too much respect for what he’s done in his life — but they felt a distinct shortage of enthusiasm for his candidacy until he picked Palin.
I haven't been traveling, but I've sure met a lot of Texas Republicans whose exact sentiments are captured by that sentence.
By contrast, every person I've spoken with who's been opposed to Sen. Palin — when I've had at least three minutes to probe their reasoning — has relied on falsehoods about her manufactured by the Hard Left and spread by their mainstream media stooges (e.g., rape kits, book-burning, dinosaurs-and-cavemen, blah-blah). And inevitably, they are completely clueless about the details of the rascals she threw out of power to get into office and her accomplishments once there. I try to fill them in, to which the usual reaction is a raised eyebrow and silence.
Then I ask them which of Barack Obama's two pieces of legislation that he actually wrote as a Senator has made more difference — the one for aid to the Congo or the one to ban exports of elemental mercury? And I ask whether it troubles them that he hasn't managed to get anything else he's actually written and been the principal sponsor for enacted into law.
At that point, I'm inevitably confronted with a counter-argument about George W. Bush. Like clockwork.
Now, I could take the further time to respond to most of their arguments about Bush, but at this point, it's just not worth the effort — not for those folks. They're completely invested in the irrational, and rational arguments cannot dissuade them, but only enrage them. Mind you, I'm not saying they're stupid — many of these folks are extremely bright. They are, however, being willfully naive, and they've been deliberately deceived, and no one can cure them of those problems without their cooperation.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Palin's public call on Stevens to "do the right thing" may mean "publicly commit to resign if the trial judge upholds the jury's verdict"
My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com hazards a guess as to what Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is saying privately to just-convicted U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. It involves a resignation letter.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I was amazed earlier this year, in trying to educate a friend about the record of Gov. Sarah Palin as a reformer who'd taken on her own party's most powerful politicians in Alaska, when he poked a finger in my chest and said, "Yeah, but what about Don Young and Ted Stevens?" He was referring to the remaining two senior and powerful members of the "Alaska GOP Troika" that had dominated Alaskan politics for many years before 2006. "They're still representing Alaska in Congress!"
I calmly pointed out to my friend that Gov. Palin had already defeated the third member of the Troika, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary, and that she then went on to win the general election and take over the Governor's Mansion in Juneau. "She can only defeat them at the polls one at a time," I said, "because even as terrific and courageous a reformer as Sarah Palin is, they just won't let her run for Governor, Congressman, and both Senate seats all at once!"
Over a year ago, in September 2007 — long before he was indicted, or before she was on anyone's mind as a vice presidential nominee — Gov. Palin publicly called upon Sen. Stevens to come clean and explain for Alaskans in much more detail the series of transactions between him and an Alaska energy company, VECO, that had come into serious question. Relations between them have been cool and distant since then. And Gov. Palin has been very circumspect and scrupulously appropriate in declining comment on the charges against Stevens since his indictment.
In response to Sen. Stevens' conviction today on seven counts of making false statements on ethical disclosure forms, however, Gov. Palin has issued the following statement on the Alaska gubernatorial website:
October 27, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today released the following statement on the felony convictions of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens:
“This is a sad day for Alaska and for Senator Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. That control was part of the culture of corruption I was elected to fight. And that fight must always move forward regardless of party or seniority or even past service.
“As Governor of the State of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I'm confident Senator Stevens will do what is right for the people of Alaska.”
Several points ought to be noted on this.
First, even though the jury has found Stevens guilty on all seven counts, that verdict has not yet been reflected in a formal judgment of conviction. (To answer the silly question posed by ABC News' Jake Tapper on his blog, that means that yes, Stevens can still vote for himself next week, but I don't think one vote is going to decide the election.) The trial has been anything but smooth, however, with prosecutors having to admit to repeated blunders throughout. So there are obvious and non-trivial grounds for Stevens' very capable legal team to urge in seeking a new trial rather than the entry of a judgment of conviction. (Please don't mis-read me here: I think it's more likely than not that the jury verdict will indeed be upheld, both by the trial judge and on appeal. And I'm personally unpersuaded by Stevens' defense and impressed by the evidence, at least as summarized by the press, which the prosecution presented. But I do believe in due process, and Stevens hasn't yet had all the legal process that's due to him under the Rule of Law.)
Second, keep in mind that these were convictions in federal court for violations of federal laws, but the Double Jeopardy Clause does not prevent Stevens from also being prosecuted for violations of Alaska state law based on the same or similar conduct. As such, it would still be inappropriate for Gov. Palin to be commenting in depth on the merits of Sen. Stevens' guilt or innocence under either state or federal laws: Doing so could jeopardize any future state prosecution of Sen. Stevens under Alaska state law.
Third, it's reasonable to assume that what Gov. Palin is saying to Sen. Stevens in private is more pointed than anything she's permitted to say for public consumption. And indeed, the last sentence in Gov. Palin's public press release today — "I'm confident that Senator Stevens will do what is right for the people of Alaska" — is what we might call "pregnant with implication." Here's my guess as to what Gov. Palin saying privately, because it's what I would say to him if I were in her position:
"Ted, for now, I'm going to continue to be restrained and appropriate in what I say in public. But you owe it to your party, and to the people who've voted for you in years past, not to take everything down with you in flames.
"Accordingly, now — before Election Day — you need to hand to me, as the Governor of Alaska, a formal, irrevocable letter of resignation which is automatically effective as of the instant that your post-verdict (pre-appellate) motion for new trial in the federal district court is denied (even though you may still have appellate avenues open at that point to challenge that judgment).
"Having made that commitment and signed that binding letter, Ted, then you can again ask the voters of Alaska to give you their votes — and they, in turn, can vote for you secure in the knowledge that one of either two things will happen: (a) The jury's verdict will be overturned, your presumption of innocence will be restored, and you'll have another day in court. Or else: (b) As Governor of Alaska, either I or perhaps Sean Parnell (as my successor) will appoint a qualified, honest Republican who will carry forward the Republican Party's best policies and ideals in the U.S. Senate seat you have occupied for so long."
With due respect to my friends at RedState.com, the response of principled conservatives to corruption in our own party ought to be to work to replace the corrupt actors with honest Republicans — not to endorse Democrats! Character is critical, but party policies are too, and we ought not throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. Or to use a different metaphor: There are more ways to skin this cat, which I agree needs skinning, and there are better ways for Sen. Stevens and the voters of Alaska to "do the right thing" without handing the Democrats a larger legislative majority in 2009.
Former editor-in-chief of "Ms." magazine reports on her first-hand exposure to Sarah Palin
In a guest-post at HughHewitt.com this evening, I linked to a pro-Palin analysis from a surprising source.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I did not much expect to be linking to Tina Brown's new hybrid, The Daily Beast, in this election season. But then again, former Ms. magazine editor in chief Elaine Lafferty — a pro-choice Democrat — probably didn't anticipate that after spending time with Sarah Palin on the campaign trail, she'd be writing the post I'm linking to: Sarah Palin's a Brainiac.
An excerpt (emphasis by Ms. Lafferty):
Now by “smart,” I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a “quick study”; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.
Follow the link; it's short, and I assure you that it's worth your time to read the whole thing.
Bravo to Ms. Lafferty — bravo to her for having the intellectual flexibility and honesty to recognize that one can be simultaneously a feminist and pro-life, and bravo to her for speaking out on what she's perceived based on first-hand exposure (instead of merely repeating the tired, nasty, and fantasy-based ranting of closed-minded anti-Palin bigots on the left).
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Politico-sports metaphor for the day
Sarah Barracuda to Barack Obama, re basketball nets, in one of my guest-posts today at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
"Barack Obama and I both have spent quite some time on the basketball court," Palin told a raucous crowd of more than 5,000 at the convention center. "But where I come from, you have to win the game before you start cutting down the net."
GOP Veep nominee Sarah Palin, campaigning today in Tampa, Florida.
AP, mainstream media, use misleading headlines to falsely impute to Lieberman doubt about Palin's readiness
AP this year isn't "Associated Press," it's "Anti-Palin." One of the latest examples is detailed in a guest-post I made yesterday at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Here's Joe Lieberman — the Democratic Party's own vice presidential candidate in 2000 — as paraphrased and then directly quoted in an Associated Press story early Saturday:
Lieberman said he was confident that Palin, whose foreign policy background has been questioned by Democrats, could step in and handle the chief executive's job.
"If, God forbid, an accident occurs or something of that kind, she'll be ready," Lieberman said. "She's had executive experience. She's smart and she will have had on-the-job training."
Does Joe Lieberman want his good friend, John McCain, to drop dead on or before inauguration day? No, of course not:
Lieberman, I-Conn., who has helped prep the Alaska governor on foreign policy issues, said his pal and GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, is in good health.
"Thank God, she's not gonna have to be president from day one, because McCain's going to be alive and well," Lieberman said in a conference call with reporters.
So what is the logical headline for this story? The accurate one? The non-lying one? I would say something like, "Lieberman confident of both Palin's readiness and McCain's health."
What's the actual headline in the online version, as it appears not only in the AP's own online version via Google but also in the Washington Post, USA Today, ABC News, CNBC, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many other old-media outlets that picked up the AP story?
"Lieberman skirts issue of Palin's readiness."
Bullcrap! Lieberman addressed Palin's readiness directly, without "skirting" anything! He said he was "confident" that she could "step in and handle the chief executive's job," or words to that direct effect, because that's exactly what the text of the story says. And unless the AP simply fabricated the quote, we know for sure that Sen. Lieberman said that if she needs to step into the job, quote, "she'll be ready," unquote.
This sort of headline, ladies and gentlemen, is another bald-faced lie brought to you by the Associated Press and by mainstream media editors across the country. They are so cynical that they're willing to completely prostitute their journalistic credibility — by using headlines to tell obvious lies contradicted by the very stories they accompany — because those headlines fit their pre-existing pro-Obama narrative. They're willing to live with the likelihood that most people will either just read the headlines or won't read the actual text closely enough to spot the lies.
A couple of media outlets appear to have at least skimmed the story, since they deviated from the AP's own headline. The Boston Globe's headline, for example — "Lieberman says Palin ready, but he hedges a bit" — is better, but still inaccurate in suggesting a lack of confidence nowhere implied by Lieberman's words.
And of course, the Huffington Post shamelessly picks out of context the one phrase best calculated to convey the exact opposite of what Lieberman actually said in context: "Lieberman On Palin: 'Thank God She's Not Gonna Have To Be President From Day One'" — thus turning a reassurance of McCain's good health into a condemnation of Palin's readiness. That, of course, is beyond sleazy and well into pond-scum territory.
Try as they might, ABC News reporters can't dilute power of Palin's use of Biden's words to critique Obama's unfitness
Early Friday morning, my guest-post at HughHewitt.com contrasted the power of Sarah Palin's quoted words to the misleading misdirection of the ABC News reporters trying to cover her.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
On the campaign trail, Sarah Palin just nailed it on Thursday (link in original):
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin challenged Sen. Barack Obama's comments yesterday dismissing as "rhetorical flourishes" his running mate Sen. Joe Biden’s warning of an international crisis in their first six months in office, while charging that Obama is untested and not prepared to handle such crises if they do arise.
"And yesterday, we got a sample of how Barack Obama handles trouble when he hastily assembled the press to remind them after Biden’s quote, he said, ‘now Joe sometimes engages in some rhetorical flourishes,’" Palin told a crowd of thousands packed into an indoor area in Troy, Ohio today. "We’ll all concede that Barack Obama knows a thing or two about rhetorical flourishes. But I question dismissing Joe Biden's moment of truth-telling as nothing more than a social embarrassment."
Palin then charged that Biden’s comments at a Seattle fundraiser on Sunday predicting an international crisis during the first six months of an Obama administration were a warning that Obama would "invite dangerous international crisis because he is untested" and that he would not be "ready to deal with" such a crisis if it did occur.
"And here his own running mate has just warned America — and it’s not the first time — he warned us throughout the primaries that Barack was not ready to be president. He reminded them that the election of Barack Obama will invite dangerous international crisis because he is untested," Palin said. "Senator Obama's own running mate, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has informed us that a serious international crisis is certain if Obama is elected, and that he is not ready to deal with it."
"I want a president who is ready on day one," Palin continued. "I want a president with the experience and the judgment and the wisdom and the truthfulness to meet the next international crisis, or better yet, to avoid it."
The press being the press, ABC News reporters Imtiyaz Delawala and Lisa Chinn can't possibly report a powerful quote by Sarah Palin without quibbling over something, so we get this:
Biden had said at the Seattle fundraiser that Obama would be tested by a "generated crisis" but he did not say in his remarks that he thought Obama would not be ready for that test.
And that's technically correct. But Delawala and Chinn pointedly leave out both (a) that Palin was correct that Biden (and Hillary Clinton) had expressed doubts throughout the Democratic Primaries of Obama's "readiness," and (b) that last weekend, as part of this same accidental truth-telling episode, Biden warned Obama supporters that Obama's response to the test will leave an Obama-Biden administration in desperate need of their support because it's going to at least look to the world like Obama has screwed the pooch. From the same ABC News report from three days ago which they linked:
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said, including the Middle East and Russia as possibilities, "and he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
If Delawala and Chin were minimally ethical, they'd at least have noted that even after Biden had signed on to the second spot on the Democratic ticket behind Obama, Biden had continued to warn that it will at least appear that Obama has flunked the first test. That's not quite a repeat of his condemnation of Obama's readiness from the days of the Democratic primaries, but neither is it a ringing current endorsement of Obama's readiness, which is the (false) impression Delawala and Chin are trying to give.
By way of even a further attempt to dilute the power of Gov. Palin's critique, Delawala and Chin then discuss various other early-term challenges faced by Bush-43, Clinton, and Bush-41. Incredibly, however, they make no explanation for or reference to Biden's precise comparison of Obama not to those presidents, but to John F. Kennedy — who, in June 1961, precisely six months into his first term, flunked his major international test at the Vienna Summit with Kruschev (directly leading to the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 and the Soviet adventurism in placing nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962).
Got that? Biden specifically compares Obama to the president who brought us closer than any other to the brink of mass thermonuclear war, but the press ignores that, and instead wants to talk about different presidents who survived their initial tests without much serious risk or consequence. Oh, no, says ABC News: Biden did not accidentally reveal the droids you were looking for. Move on.
Palin is just so sharp, so brutally and effectively on point, that even the pro-Obama misdirection and dishonesty of the mainstream media isn't very effective so long as they'll accurately quote her words. But that still doesn't excuse, or conceal, the fact that they're still unprincipled hacks — completely and obviously and unapologetically in the tank for Obama.
Michaels on Palin's SNL appearance
Since the late 1970s, Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels has seen lots of comedic and political talent. As to the latter, he had admiring words to say of Sarah Palin, as my guest-post last Tuesday at HughHewitt.com noted.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
What do you think Palin gained from her appearance?
I think Palin will continue to be underestimated for a while. I watched the way she connected with people, and she's powerful. Her politics aren't my politics. But you can see that she's a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to her.
She's a ratings magnet, too — do you think she can land a development deal if this VP thing doesn't work out?
She could pretty much do better than development. I think she could have her own show, yeah.
Mary Katherine Ham is right: SNL did Gov. Palin no favors in what it scripted for her. She pulled off that appearance on her own. But she was up to it.
CNN is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above
To his credit, CNN reporter Drew Griffin has since apologized for having brutally wrenched out of context a passage from a Byron York article in National Review in order to ambush Sarah Palin, but my guest-post at HughHewitt.com last Tuesday was a protest against that ambush.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
If a lawyer made this kind of misrepresentation to a court, he'd likely lose his license to practice law, and very deservedly so. Drew Griffin and his producer(s) should be fired and shunned by every other media employer for this outrageous piece of bad faith.
UPDATE (Tue Oct 21 @ 7:20 p.m. CST): Allahpundit points out that Griffin has recently done good reporting on Ayers and ACORN, which makes this all the more perplexing. But quick, full, and sincere apologies are still in order for this misstep.
UPDATE (Fri Oct 24 @ 5:50 p.m. CST): Griffin apologized yesterday. Good for him. Now if he'll only get back to investigative reporting on Ayers and ACORN, he can make amends.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Caribou Barbie rocks on an otherwise dreadful episode of SNL
Alec Baldwin is still a vile idiot, but to his credit, he allowed himself to be parodied in Gov. Palin's very effective appearance on "Saturday Night Live." I still wouldn't let him in the same building with either of my daughters. More comments about Gov. Palin and the notion of "presence" in my guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Okay, I've only seen the intro, and I'm going to reserve judgment until I see the whole show, but:
Way to go, Gov. Palin, on the introduction in "Saturday Night Live"!
I'm proud to have predicted that you would embrace your inner Caribou Barbie!
UPDATE (Sun 12:20 a.m. CST): Mmm-kay, the rest of the show has been horrible, and I ought to have just fast-forwarded to the Weekend Update section. Gov. Palin looks great in it — confident, good rhythm — but she's obviously just going along with a lame "rap" skit to be a good sport, and it's not as funny as the opening was.
The rest of the show made me regret every time I shifted out of fast-forward. Still, Gov. Palin's stage presence and comic timing is lots better than that of the nominal guest host, Josh Brolin, who's basically a nice-looking block of wood. If anything, his appearance is likely to drive down the box-office for Oliver Stone's new movie, the reviews for which have been universally awful.
Gov. Palin has been the classiest part of the show, in my admittedly biased opinion. Good for her.
UPDATE (Sun 2:00 a.m. CST): Ann Althouse writes:
That was mildly amusing. Alec Baldwin got to stand next to Palin and insult her — by accident, thinking she was Tina — and then got to say something that's true: Sarah Palin is more attractive than Tina Fey. Did Fey deserve that? No. Palin seemed like a seasoned actor, which is nice ... but disturbing. If our politicians are great actors, we have a big problem.
But it's not acting. It's presence. And yeah, Reagan had it too, and Bubba could work himself into it on his best occasions (when he wasn't too deep into self-pity and wickedness, which was all too often). It can be a useful part of leadership.
I've been a fan of Tina Fey's impersonations — she's a gifted mimic and exaggerates to great comic effect. But Prof. Althouse is right: Gov. Palin was vastly more attractive than Tina Fey-as-Palin tonight, not only in terms of looks, but in terms of authenticity and presence. It will leave some people whose only previous impression of Gov. Palin was through Fey's caricatures surprised and, if they're Palin opponents, confused and dismayed.
A sad reaction to Peggy Noonan's Palin meltdown
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar).
I have to work hard to avoid taking personal offense from Peggy Noonan's op-ed in Friday's Wall Street Journal, and I can't quite succeed entirely at that effort.
I've long been a fan of Ms. Noonan's work as a speechwriter and a pundit, and she's been uniformly gracious in the two or three times we've exchanged emails. Her op-ed doesn't mention me by name, of course. But I've voted twice for George W. Bush, and although I have not agreed with all of his decisions and he has sometimes disappointed me, I've never regretted those votes, given the alternatives that were available. I look at my four safe, healthy children as I drive them to school within range of oil refineries that would be prime terrorist targets, and I am grateful to him and everyone under his command who have kept us safe on American soil since 9/11/01. Indeed, my own fondness for Ms. Noonan has waned in step with her growing disdain for the president.
And now, from this op ed, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that Ms. Noonan thinks that I am, and that people like me are, "a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics," and that we're "no good, not for conservatism and not for the country." It's impossible to avoid drawing that conclusion because I'm a long-time and enthusiastic supporter of Gov. Sarah Palin, after all — and that's exactly what Ms. Noonan has written about her. It's as vicious an attack as I've ever read or heard her make, both unmoderated and immoderate.
When ridiculed, it's hard to resist replying with ridicule. That wouldn't be constructive here, and I'm trying my best to avoid snark: Even though I and those like me are, along with Gov. Palin, the objects of Ms. Noonan's disdain, I do not want her as an enemy.
But she clearly expects counterattacks: "[C]ome and get me, copper," is how she defiantly ends her essay. Still, I don't think she's talking to me or to very many other of the 62 million Americans who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 (which might include you). Instead, she apparently is referring to the "conservative intelligentsia," by which I can only assume she means the folks who write for National Review and the like, which is to say, her peers in the old media.
And that actually is a comfort. When one inhabits a world in which calling children "kids" is insufferably vulgar, then one presumably can't grasp the existence of, for example, gansta rap. In some ways, then, I envy her the comfort of the cocoon in which she can apply that Nineteenth Century value system. But she seems to have lost the capacity to credit anyone less fussy than she is with basic decency. Maybe I shouldn't assume Ms. Noonan was referring to me or people like me. It's equally possible that she simply forgets that we exist. And if so, that's a reason to be sad, not angry.
Similarly, it's ironic, but sadly so, that Ms. Noonan, in an op-ed almost completely devoid of any discussion of Gov. Palin's actual achievements or statements, can write that Gov. Palin "doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things." This is an essay in which Ms. Noonan seems not to have thought much, but has instead just ... written things.
Here's an example, the closest to a substantive critique of Gov. Palin anywhere in the piece:
For seven weeks I've listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite — a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.
I admit to holding Ms. Noonan to higher standards than I do myself in my own writing, simply because she's been one of my heroes as a wordsmith. But it genuinely pains me to see such an elegant writer produce a run-on sentence as awful as that one.
From the context, I think she means Bush-43 when she refers to "Bushian." If she's curious about Gov. Palin's views on spending (a subject that appears on only one side of the parallel construction), then she could look at Gov. Palin's record from several years as a city official and, now, governor. On that, there is ample and compelling evidence that she's been a far more disciplined fiscal conservative than Bush-43, Bush-41, or Ronald Reagan for that matter.
But most of this blast seems to be about foreign policy. Where in it is the recognition that state governors — including the state governor who used to be Ms. Noonan's boss, Ronald Reagan — don't have much occasion to do foreign diplomacy? Where is the recognition that vice presidential candidates — especially those running behind POTUS nominees whose own long suit is foreign policy and national defense — are ill advised to start promoting any policy positions contrary to or even slightly independent from their running mates'? We know that Gov. Palin seems entirely comfortable adopting Sen. McCain's positions on these matters as her own. Given that she's running for vice president, that's frankly enough for now.
Ms. Noonan writes often and well of grace. I'm sad that she has lost any appreciation for that quality when it comes to her appraisal of Gov. Palin and, inevitably, those who are enthused by her.
I do not urge that Ms. Noonan be condemned or shunned. And I don't care what the "conservative intelligentia" think or say or do in response. But I, for one, as a conservative new-media pundit from flyover country, reject her opinions on Gov. Palin as being unpersuasive because they're based entirely upon unfortunate (and, frankly, highly unflattering) emotional reactions.
Ms. Noonan's Palin meltdown is not apostasy. But it is an indication that Ms. Noonan needs a long vacation outside the corridors of the opinion elites — if she cares a whit about the tens of millions of American voters who consider ourselves non-vulgar conservatives and Republicans, regardless of her poor opinion of us. If not, I'm sad to be at the point at which I'm inclined to stop listening to or reading her opinions.
(A last point: I write here only for myself, and my views on this ought not be imputed to Hugh Hewitt.)
Saturday, October 18, 2008
A respectful nod to Paul Mirengoff
My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com is about Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine, with whom I disagreed (and, I think, still do) regarding Gov. Palin. Paul's at least open to recognizing inconsistencies in the opinions expressed by other Palin critics from the right, in particular from Peggy Noonan. As to Ms. Noonan's recent comments, however, I think I'll maintain a silence now rather than say something ungracious that I might regret later, except for this: She badly needs a long vacation somewhere away from either coast or Chicago.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
This post by PowerLine's Paul Mirengoff contains as thoughtful and gracious a set of observations as I've ever seen from a fellow conservative and lawyer-blogger with whom I've profoundly disagreed. On my own blog back in early September, I was among those who respectfully chided Paul for some of his initial skeptical reactions to Gov. Palin's nomination.
I don't mean to suggest that Paul has been converted to an unabashed Palin fan (which I readily acknowledge myself to be). But he's been open-minded. He's learned more of her record, and he's seen more of her as a campaigner. Now he's able to at least see the inconsistencies and emotional reactions of Palin critics like Peggy Noonan. Of himself, he now writes:
For a time, I was frustrated by my inability to make people see what was fairly apparent to me about Palin. But I have never resented robust expressions of disagreement, including the suggestion that I'm an "elitist." One should always be willing to entertain the possibility that one's perspective may be distorted. And I have certainly not confused robust expressions of disagreement with an attempt to silence me. They are, at worst, the manifestation of reader frustration with me for not seeing what is apparent to them.
That's fair enough, and courageous. There are many millions — and I think perhaps tens of millions — of voters who will cast their ballots for the McCain-Palin ticket because of, and not despite, Gov. Palin's presence on it. That's worth some respect, even from those who don't count themselves among those voters.
(And yes, before the commenters on the left jump me: I don't deny that the tens of millions of voters who I believe to be drunk on Obama's hopey-changitude hoo-hah are entitled to respect too. I am, and have always been, a small-d democrat, and while I don't think the voting public is by any means infallible, I think its collective judgments over time deserve a degree of reverence. That doesn't stop me from trying to sober up the drunkards on their way to the polls, though.)
Friday, October 17, 2008
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.
(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.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sarah Palin's campaigning is infused with contagious joy
While watching Gov. Palin's televised address at a campaign rally today, I was inspired to write my mid-day guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I'm watching Sarah Palin address a campaign rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania, live on Fox News, and I can't recall ever seeing a GOP rally like this. The crowd is genuinely pumped, which is rare enough. But what's particularly amazing is watching and listening to Gov. Palin. I can't recall ever seeing a politician who so clearly relishes campaigning. She's animated and enthused. I know she's speaking from a teleprompter, and she's probably delivered large chunks of this same speech before many times, but she's tuned in on every line.
She is simply infused with joy. And it flows off the stage, and it's picked up quite powerfully by the TV cameras.
On his best occasions, Reagan had this same quality, but it was more muted, more of a twinkle from behind his carefully maintained stage presence. With Gov. Palin, it's nearly continuous and much more obvious. And I think that's a big part of why she inspires the same harsh counter-reactions from political opponents that Reagan did — the same desperate need to ridicule and belittle, to delegitimize. (You'll see it in the comments to this post within minutes after it goes up, of course.) She has to be shouted down and scorned, because if people are allowed to listen to her, that damned joy might turn out to be ... contagious!
It's a quality that was almost entirely missing from the speeches of, for example, Hillary Clinton, who turned every speech into a siege and whose grim purpose was impressive but slightly scary. Bubba, however, could work himself into joy at the drop of a hat.
Sarah Palin is just haviing a grand old time. If she's afraid of looking foolish, or of her elitist critics, or of her ticket's chances on November 4th, then she's entirely suppressed those fears. I freely admit that with me as a listener, and probably most of the folks at this rally, she's preaching to the choir. But so, too, are lots of politicians, in most of their speeches. And they just don't come across with this same zest.
UPDATE (Tue Oct 14 @ 3:40 p.m. CST): One commenter below repeats the utter lie that at a recent rally, someone from the crowd — referring to Barack Obama — shouted "Kill him!" Not even the WaPo will make that stretch, and my blogospheric friends Patterico and Mary Katherine Ham have collected the full transcript and links to original reports of the circumstances which make plain that — yes, no surprise — this is another nasty attempt by the Obama crowd to smear Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain. (The context makes absolutely clear that the shout — which no one in the McCain-Palin campaign encouraged or defends! — was directed to the would-be cop killer and unrepentant terrorist whose name had just been used, Bill Ayers.)
UPDATE (Tue Oct 14 @ 10:00 p.m. CST): I was mistaken: The commenter below was referring to a newer alleged incident, one from today which purportedly occurred before Gov. Palin took the stage. To be clear: I don't condone anyone shouting "Kill him!" about anyone. I don't blame the candidates on either ticket for the outrageous conduct of some of their supporters. I wonder whether this newest shouter was an Obama supporter. But there has been at least 10 times the venom and hate spewed from the left in the direction of Gov. Palin in particular as has ever been spewed toward Sens. Obama or Biden, and the Dems who are trying to tag the GOP candidates for responsibility on this are shamelessly off base.
UPDATE (Thu Oct 16 @ 12:15 p.m. CST): My commenter's report has been disproved by the Secret Service and other law enforcement authorities who were at the Scranton rally, as I discuss in a new post, Reports of bloodthirsty McCain-Palin supporters are mostly exaggerated or simply false.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
A reply to Prof. Post: It's nonsense to argue both that it was okay for Gov. Palin to actually fire Monegan, but that it wasn't okay for her to merely threaten to fire Monegan
Even very smart people sometimes miss the obvious, especially when there are politics involved. I'm sure he's a very smart person, but I think Temple law professor David Post wasn't thinking clearly when it comes to either the Branchflower Report or my first post about it at HughHewitt.com, and that's the point of my latest guest-post there.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar):
At page 69 of his bloated report, investigator Steve Branchflower squarely admitted — as he had to — that there is no doubt whatsoever that Gov. Palin acted within her legal rights to reassign Walt Monegan (rather than accept which, he resigned), even if that's characterized as her having fired him:
The governor may discharge department heads without cause. The constitution provides that department heads "serve at the pleasure of the governor." Alaska Constitution Article III, section 25; see also AS 39.05.030. Those who serve at the pleasure of their employers are subject to discharge at will. See Witt v. State Department of Corrections, 75 P.3d 1030, 1033 (Alaska 2003).
In light of this constitutional and statutory authority, it is clear that Governor Palin could fire Commissioner Walt Monegan at will, for almost any reason, or no reason at all.
Writing at the Volokh Conpsiracy, however, Professor David Post of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law summarily dismisses one of the main points made in my Friday evening post here, while ignoring all of my other points. On the one point of mine that Prof. Post chose to address — to the effect that the two main conclusions in the Branchflower Report are internally inconsistent — Prof. Post writes:
Here's a note to Mr. Branchflower, who clearly is verbose, but obviously none too keen a scholar of logic: Gov. Palin's so-called "firing" of Monegan (it wasn't a firing, it was a re-assignment to other government duties that he resigned rather than accept) can't simultaneously be a violation of the Ethics Act and "a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority." This, gentle readers, is a 263-page piece of political circus that actually explicitly refutes itself on its single most key page!
That doesn’t really make any sense. It is perfectly logical to conclude, as the Report does, that (a) the re-assignment of Monegan was lawful and consistent with the Ethics Act, and (b) other conduct of Gov. Palin was not lawful and consistent with the Ethics Act. This is hardly an “explicit refutation” or some kind of inconsistency.
Reduced to its nub (and setting aside the overstatement of the case against Gov. Palin that's inherent in this formulation), Prof. Post — like Branchflower — is thus in the position of arguing both that (a) it was perfectly okay for Gov. Palin to actually fire Monegan, but (b) it was not okay for Gov. Palin to threaten to fire Monegan.
Prof. Post gives no explanation for why that not a contradiction. And one need not be a law professor, or a lawyer, or even the sharpest tool in the shed, to see the absence of logic in that position. But let me play devil's advocate against myself. Let's focus for a moment solely on the only "other conduct" besides the actual reassignment of Monegan in which Gov. Palin, her husband, and her aides were alleged to have been involved.
All of it was, quite literally, just talk — oral and written talk, by Gov. Palin (in person or through emails), by First Dude Todd Palin, or by Gov. Palin's staff — which Gov. Palin's opponents (including Branchflower and, now apparently, Prof. Post) contend was intended to persuade or compel Monegan into taking some action with respect to Trooper Wooten.
Mere talk cannot be a violation of the Ethics Act, because by its clear and unambiguous terms, it may only be violated by an "effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action."
Ethics provisions like these aren't intended to be legislative enactments of mind or speech control. They're intended to control the actual — or at least the threatened — use of official power. If there's no use (or even threatened use) of official power, no taking (or even threatened taking) of official action, then there can't be an abuse of power.
And that's true even if we engage in the highly questionable supposition that merely gratifying one's purported desire for vengeance is a "personal interest" within the intention of the Alaska Legislature when it passed this statute. (Reading the statute that broadly would literally make it unethical for the governor to ever take any official action that left her pleased on her own behalf as a citizen; she'd be confined to only acting in ways that left her feeling at best neutral or unhappy in her private capacity. And that's just as silly, too.)
No, gentle readers, the only actual or threatened "official action" ever involved in this whole mess was the firing (or actually as it turned out, reassignment) of Monegan, allegedly because he wouldn't fire (or do something further involving) Wooten. And that action cannot simultaneously be both a "violation of the Ethics Act" and "a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority."
This isn't hard. This isn't subtle. This isn't nuanced. This isn't something on which you have to let the "experts" — whether that's Branchflower, or Prof. Post, or me (since we all have exactly the same kind of law degrees) — do your thinking for you.
And I respectfully submit to you, for your own consideration, the proposition that this question is something on which you can reach the opposite conclusion only if, like Prof. Post, you just make an assertion that old Beldar here "doesn't really make any sense" — and then you quickly change the subject without bothering to deal with the specifics of what the "official action" (besides reassigning Monegan) could have been.
UPDATE (Sun Oct 12 @ 9:10 p.m. CST): A commenter at my own blog asks for an example of a "personal interest" of the sort that I think might be implicated by the Ethics Act in Alaska. Section 39.52.960(18) of the Alaska Statutes (most current version, as quoted at page 50 of the Branchflower Report) defines that term as meaning "an interest held or involvement by a public officer, or the officer's immediate family member or parent, including membership, in any organization, whether fraternal, nonprofit, for profit, charitable, or political, from which, or as a result of which, a person or organization receives a benefit." Notwithstanding that lengthy definition, I think that the terms "personal interest" and "benefit" have to be construed very narrowly indeed to be workable, but here's an obvious example of a discrete, objective, non-financial but cognizable interest that was probably the sort of thing the Alaska Legislature had in mind when they defined the statute to encompass official action that benefited either "personal or financial interest[s]": A governor issues an official pardon in her own favor to excuse himself or herself from felony criminal responsibility under a state law. That's going to be an extremely rare situation, and it's obviously not this one.
Also: A commenter here points out that "official action" is defined in section 39.52.960(14) of the Alaska Statutes to include "advice, participation, or assistance, including, for example, a recommendation, decision, approval, disapproval, vote, or other similar action, including inaction, by a public officer." The commenter suggests that this permits "just talk" to be official action. I disagree that this makes all talk into "official action"; rather, what's key is that there be a specific action (or forebearance from acting) even if that action is performed by talking. Again, all that has ever been persuasively argued in the whole of Tasergate is that Gov. Palin impliedly threatened to take action against Monegan (firing or reassigning him) if he didn't act (critics say by firing, but that's their inference rather than anything Gov. Palin actually said) with respect to Wooten. Yes, the ethics statute — as substantially revised, broadened, and signed into law by Gov. Palin herself! — is intended to be broad. What it's intended to reach, however, is the exercise of power, through deeds or threats of deeds — and it's silly to say that it prohibits talking about a particular deed while not prohibiting the doing of that deed.
Finally: Branchflower only relied upon the first sentence of section 39.52.960(a), which contains the prohibition against "any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action." As commenter Dan M notes on Prof. Post's post, that section goes on to recognize that "in a representative democracy, the representatives are drawn from society and, therefore, cannot and should not be without personal and financial interests in the decisions and policies of government." Moreover, under section 39.52.960(b), "there is no substantial impropriety if, as to a specific matter, a public officer's personal or financial interest in the matter is ... of a type that is possessed generally by the public or a large class of persons to which the public officer belongs." All Alaskans presumably share Gov. Palin's "personal interest" in not having child abusing law-breakers serve as state troopers. That should be the cue for good civil libertarians, including Prof. Post, to ask themselves: "Why are we lining up on the side of the trooper who drinks while driving his patrol car, illegally shot a moose while assigned to patrol fish and game violations, and Tasered his own 10-year-old stepson?" (I'll give them a hint: It starts with the letter "O.")
Friday, October 10, 2008
Branchflower report on Tasergate: Just one guy's opinion that contradicts itself and ignores the relevant facts and law
Give a lawyer a $100k budget and tell him to produce a political hatchet job, and what do you get? The 263-page piece of garbage now on the internet and in the hands of Alaska legislators called "The Branchflower Report." My take on it as the latest bit of political thuggery in Tasergate is now up as a guest-post on HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Democratic state senator and staunch Barack Obama supporter Hollis French of Alaska boasted in early September that he would provide an "October Surprise" which would upset the McCain-Palin campaign. Indeed, he originally planned to time it for October 31, four days before the election, for maximum impact, until other legislators forced him to abandon that particular strategy.
Today, however, in an episode of political theater that would make Josef Stalin blush, French gave it his very best shot: The investigator he hired and directed, Steve Branchflower, has labored mightily and given birth to a bloated and redundant 263-page report which boils down, for purposes of the ongoing presidential campaign, to two paragraphs that completely contradict one another. And the one of them that's unfavorable ignores the most important — indeed conclusive — evidence on point, but goes on to provide Branchflower's guess as to whether Gov. Palin has done anything improper.
Please understand this, if you take nothing else away from reading this post: The Branchflower Report is a series of guesses and insupportable conclusions drawn by exactly one guy, and it hasn't been approved or adopted or endorsed by so much as a single sub-committee of the Alaska Legislature, much less any kind of commission, court, jury, or other proper adjudicatory body. It contains no new bombshells in terms of factual revelations. Rather, it's just Steve Branchflower's opinion — after being hired and directed by one of Gov. Palin's most vocal opponents and one of Alaska's staunchest Obama supporters — that he thinks Gov. Palin had, at worst, mixed motives for an action that even Branchflower admits she unquestionably had both (a) the complete right to perform and (b) other very good reasons to perform.
Here are the two key "findings," however (from page 8 of the .pdf file; boldface mine):
Finding Number One
For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides
The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust."
Finding Number Two
I find that, although Walt Monegan's refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin's firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.
Here's a note to Mr. Branchflower, who clearly is verbose, but obviously none too keen a scholar of logic: Gov. Palin's so-called "firing" of Monegan (it wasn't a firing, it was a re-assignment to other government duties that he resigned rather than accept) can't simultaneously be a violation of the Ethics Act and "a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority." This, gentle readers, is a 263-page piece of political circus that actually explicitly refutes itself on its single most key page!
What's more incredible is that Branchflower utterly ignores the public admission made by Walt Monegan himself that ought to have ended this entire inquiry (boldface mine):
"For the record, no one ever said fire Wooten. Not the governor. Not Todd. Not any of the other staff," Monegan said Friday from Portland. "What they said directly was more along the lines of 'This isn't a person that we would want to be representing our state troopers.'"
That explains, of course, why it took a couple of weeks for Monegan to be persuaded that he'd been improperly "fired" (for supposedly refusing to fire Wooten) by an Alaska blogger, Andrew Halcro — a bitter loser whom Gov. Palin crushed in the 2006 Alaska gubernatorial race (he got less than 10% of the vote, proving that most Alaskans have long since figured out he's an untrustworthy windbag).
Instead, Branchflower has piled a guess (that the Palins wanted Wooten fired, rather than, for example, counseled, disciplined, or reassigned) on top of an inference (that when the Palins expressed concern to Monegan about Wooten, they were really threatening to fire Monegan if he didn't fire Wooten) on top of an innuendo (that Gov. Palin "fired" Monegan at least in part because of his failure to fire Wooten) — from which Branchflower then leaps to a legal conclusion: "abuse of authority." Branchflower reads the Ethics Act to prohibit any governmental action or decision made for justifiable reasons benefiting the State if that action or decision might also make a public official happy for any other reason. That would mean, of course, that governors must never act or decide in a way that makes them personally happy as a citizen, or as a wife or mother or daughter, and that they could only take actions or make decisions which left them feeling neutral or upset. This an incredibly shoddy tower of supposition, and a ridiculous misreading of the law.
Branchflower puts under a microscope every direct and indirect contact that can possibly be claimed to to come, directly or indirectly, from Gov. Palin or her husband, Todd. In none of them did either Sarah or Todd Palin demand or request that Wooten be fired. Some of them date back to before Gov. Palin was even a candidate for governor. All of them are equally well explained by legitimate concerns that Wooten was a potential threat to the Palin family (having already made death threats against Gov. Palin's father) and/or an embarrassment to the Alaska Department of Public Safety and the entire state law enforcement community. That the Palins also had strong — and entirely understandable! — negative feelings about Trooper Wooten does not make any of these communications remotely improper, much less illegal.
Nevertheless, Branchflower leaps to the personal conclusion (page 67 of the .pdf file) that "such claims of fear were not bona fide and were offered to provide cover for the Palins' real motivation: to get Trooper Wooten fired for personal family related reasons." Well, here's another memo to Mr. Branchflower: When the family is question is the family of the Governor of Alaska, and when her security detail is charged with protecting her from threats, and in the process of that, the security detail actively seeks out information as to who may have previously made death threats against the family, that's no longer solely a "personal family related reason." And when someone like Trooper Wooten threatens to bring ridicule and shame to the entire state of Alaska, that's no longer solely a "personal family related reason" either.
Branchflower, I'm told, is an attorney and a former prosecutor. If he thinks this kind of nonsense could support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, or even a finding of proof by a preponderance of the evidence, then he may be the worst lawyer I've ever encountered — and I've met a lot of awful ones in almost three decades before the bar.
More likely, however, Branchflower knows that his imaginary case will never be tested before any judge or jury — and instead, Branchflower's audience, and the audience of his political patron Sen. French, is a purely political one. They do not want you to read the 263 pages of his report, but I invite you to do so: By the end of it, you'll be thoroughly convinced that both Wooten and Monegan ought to have been fired! And if you're a person, as I am, who admires husbands and fathers who stand up for their families, you'll definitely want to shake First Dude Todd Palin's hand, and maybe even give him a (manly) bear-hug.
No, indeed, Sen. French and Mr. Branchflower dearly hope most Americans won't look past the headlines generated by this ridiculous farce of a report. French and Branchflower hope that Americans will be misled into thinking this report is from someone whose judgment or opinions actually count for something — instead of being from a hitman hired to complete a political hatchet job, as it actually is.
This report changes absolutely nothing, except that it will be manipulated politically by Obama supporters and Palin haters in an attempt to drive more potential voters into taking sides with Trooper Mike Wooten — a proven child abuser (Tasered his own 10-year-old stepson on a lark) who's been conclusively determined by his own department to have also engaged in drinking and driving in his squad car, and to have used a deadly firearm to violate the very fish-and-game laws he himself was specifically assigned to enforce. "It is nearly certain," wrote Col. Julia Grimes, then then Director of the Alaska State Troopers Division of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, "that a civilian investigated under similar circumstances would have received criminal sanctions." The only real question in Tasergate remains why Trooper Mike Wooten is still not only uncharged for his confessed crimes, but carrying a badge and gun — to the continuing shame of the good and decent people of Alaska.
UPDATE (Fri Oct 10 @ 11:25 p.m. CST): Gov. Palin's office and the McCain-Palin campaign have each put out press releases making some of the same points I've made in this post. And Gov. Palin's lawyer has issued a five-page response to the Branchflower report which notes, among other things, that "[e]very prior reported Ethics Act violation involved financial motives and financial 'potential gain, or the avoidance of a potential loss.' ... Here, there is no accusation, no finding and no facts that money or financial gain to the governor was involved in the decision to replace Monegan."
Even the Anchorage Daily News is misrepresenting the meaning of this report: I just received an email update from it in which it claims that "Today Alaska legislators found Palin did abuse her power in the 'Troopergate' controversy." That's absolutely false — the Alaska Legislature is not in session, and all that happened today was that the 12-member Legislative Council that received the Branchflower Report voted unanimously to release its first volume (the 263-page .pdf file linked above) to the public. Several more volumes and hundreds more pages prepared by Branchflower still remain confidential — suggesting that Branchflower's selective quotations in the report may well have been "cherry-picked" or taken out of context — but the governor's office has itself posted quite a few more documents pertaining to the investigation on the internet, confirming Gov. Palin's repeated statements that she has nothing to hide in this entire matter.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Dealing with Palin haters
So many distractions yesterday that I got behind in cross-posting here. One of my new guest-posts at HughHewitt.com is a riff on Palin Derangement Syndrome, the successor to Bush Derangement Syndrome.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
My favorite forensic psychologist, Dr. Helen Smith (sometimes a/k/a the InstaWife), has an interesting post at PajamasMedia second-guessing the response of Salon.com's advice columnist to a reader who'd asked for help dealing with her extreme hatred of Sarah Palin and everything having to do with her. The reader, whose letter was published under the pseudonym of "Hater," asked for help because she's aware that she's obsessed:
... I have crossed every line I believed should never be crossed in public discourse — I have criticized not only [Sarah Palin's] policies and her record, but her hair, her personal style, her accent, her abilities as a mother, etc. I’ve also begun to suffer personally and professionally. I bore my friends with my constant tirades against her, and am constantly distracted from my work by my need to continually update myself on the latest criticism, and indeed, ridicule, of her.
The reader's first and outcome-determinative mistake, of course, was in asking for help from anyone at Salon.com — her plea being roughly akin to asking R.J. Reynolds or Phillip Morris for help in stopping smoking in the days when those companies were still pretending their products weren't addictive.
I'd guess that some statistically significant portion of Salon.com's spike in internet traffic in the last month is directly attributable to John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate — as, indeed, is the traffic to Townhall.com and this blog. That's part of what being a "game-changer" is all about — inspiring passions which in turn inspire action.
And Salon advice columnist Cary Tennis' fundamentally unserious response is confirmed by his final sentence: "This is my admittedly impressionistic take. Glenn Greenwald can talk about it much better than I can." When your internet advisor is sending you for a consult to someone who is himself the world's most famous example of multiple internet personality syndrome (a/k/a "sock-puppetry"), that's not a good sign. In fact, it's a pretty good clue (as is, in context, Mr. Tennis' entire response) that your advisor is himself suffering for the same malady you're writing him for advice to help you cope with.
Dr. Helen points out that "a decent response" from Mr. Tennis — and I think Dr. Helen means decent both in the sense of adequate, and in the sense of not being worthy of our scorn for its indecency — "might have been to give some advice on how to handle political exchanges with family members, friends, or others — but no such luck." Instead, Mr. Tennis made "excuses for 'Hater,' fans the flames of her hate, and tries to psychoanalyze [Gov.] Palin when he is way out of his league." After some interesting discussion of the origin and meaning of the phrase "authoritarian personality," Dr. Helen writes (link in original):
Perhaps Tennis would have given better advice if he had told “Hater” about the studies of University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who found that while conservatives could put themselves in the mindset of liberals, liberals did not return the favor. In other words, like Hater, some scream, rant, and rave when someone does not agree with them, with no understanding of why people are different. Perhaps a little empathy is in order here for Hater’s friends and family.
At the very least, Tennis could have told her to back off from friends and co-workers with her rants and angry tantrums. For her behavior is nothing but the regression to a two-year-old: throwing a tantrum because she has no idea that other people have different opinions than one’s own and that those opinions may be just as valid or more so. And yes, perhaps a self-help group would help Hater to reflect on her ugly behavior.
That's good advice, I think, but I don't think it's very likely to be well received.
It's no accident that we haven't had a president elected by acclamation since George Washington, and indeed, even by the end of his second term we had already begun to see intense polarization of the public for and against particular public figures. Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson incited passions in their partisans — both positive and negative — at least as intense as those generated by Dubya and Al Gore or John Kerry.
I don't think very many people were consumed by irrational hated for Eisenhower or Ford or Bush-41, but certainly FDR, Nixon, LBJ, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton incited that among at least some segments of the population. And of course, irrational hatred of George W. Bush has its own acronym now — BDS, for Bush Derangement Syndrome, coined by psychiatrist and pundit Dr. Charles Krauthammer. I don't know if BDS willl be listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and of course I lack any credentials on that subject, but as a member of a competing profession that sometimes deals in questions of sanity and disability, I certainly wonder whether it ought not be.
In my own daily life, I tend to divide my liberal friends into two rough categories based on their functionality: Those who merely despise George W. Bush, and those who despise him so intensely that they're incapable of holding a rational conversation about him. There are some people with whom I have learned, from bitter experience, to avoid discussing anything political — we can't even talk about Washington or Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt because there's just too much danger that those subjects will inadvertently trigger a grand mal BDS seizure that can, in turn, become fatal to a friendship if poorly managed.
The other colloquialism that's rampant in the blogosphere, at least, is a metaphor used to describe some people's inability to deal with political realities — one that may date back at least indirectly, at least for its imagery, to the 1981 movie Scanners: Sarah Palin, in this metaphorical usage, "makes liberals' heads explode." This is a gruesome but perversely funny metaphor precisely because it emphasizes how mentally incapacitating the reaction is: We don't say that the idea of Sarah Palin becoming president "makes liberals' hearts explode," even though that's the organ symbolically associated with strong emotions, and even though they're certainly having strong emotional responses too.
One's at risk for Palin Derangement Syndrome, I'd wager, in roughly direct proportion to how heavily one was already intellectually, philosophically, and emotionally invested in certain propositions — for example, that "all feminists must be for abortion on demand." If you think the name of the group "Feminists for Life" is an oxymoron, then your reaction to a popular, successful, effective, conservative female politician — one who's also a mother of five and whose youngest child is cherished (despite the Down syndrome detected while he was still in utero) — will be like what happens when one asks a pocket calculator to divide any number by zero: You get flashing nonsense digits until you reset it. Through what I'd characterize as a design flaw, their logical pathways aren't laid out in a manner which permits them to acknowledge that someone can be simultaneously in favor (and a dramatic example) of equal opportunities and accomplishments for women, right along with other values associated with the conservative philosophy.
My speculation is that Hater was writing Salon.com's advice column looking for help not in changing her wiring, but simply in finding her "reset button." It's tragically unlikely that Salon.com or its columnist Cary Tennis, or Dr. Helen, or I, or (especially) Gov. Palin herself will ever be able to help Hater re-program her wetware to the point that she can actually get her mind around Gov. Palin. Instead, like someone who's colorblind, the best that can be hoped for in her case is that she acquires practical tricks — some way to figure out when the traffic lights have changed, and some way to gracefully change the subject or escape the room when the subject of Sarah Palin comes up. Hater is a bigot, and my guess is that the prognosis is pretty grim for Hater to ever be cured.
But her daughters? I have hope for her daughters, and her sons too.
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.
(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?
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.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
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.
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.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
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!"
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.
(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.
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.
(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."
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.
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.
(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).
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.
(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.
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."
(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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.]
(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.
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.
(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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
(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!
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.”
Monday, September 29, 2008
Smitten Pakistani president smacked by feminists at home for sexism towards Veep nominee Palin
My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com ponders why feminists in Pakistan are able to recognize sexism (albeit of a fairly harmless sort) toward Sarah Palin in the actions of their own president, while American so-called feminists are blind to any and all sexism directed her way by themselves or their fellow Americans of the Hard Left.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
How Sarah Palin Rallied Pakistan's Feminists is one of the more interesting stories I've read recently in TIME, but its author, writing from Islamabad, is either oblivious to irony or else is ruthlessly suppressing his ability to recognize and write about it.
American leftists who style themselves "feminists" — a label they would permit only to people who believe both in equal rights for women and a bundle of liberal social causes, especially (but not limited to) abortion on demand — demonstrated not only immediate derangement, but blindness to both sexism and irony in their reactions to John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running-mate. Is it asking too much now that some of them might possibly recognize the irony that the (fairly harmless) sexism displayed toward Gov. Palin by the president of Pakistan has gotten him into hot water with his own country's feminists — who seem to still understand that term to actually have something to do with equality of rights and treatment for both men and women?
Naw. Never mind.
UPDATE (Mon Sep 29 @ 2:10 a.m. CST): "The Plumber" comments below that it looks from this photo as if Gov. Palin has a strong handshake. I agree, and that reminds me of a story, and one of my very favorite photos of Gov. Palin, which both come from Kaylene Johnson's excellent biography of her, Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down. I got permission to reprint that photo as part of my lengthy review of the book on my own blog back in June, and you can see it there. But here's a bit from the book (from pages 37-38) which I didn't quote there:
During the summers after graduation and throughout college, Sarah helped Todd fish commercially in Bristol Bay. They fished from a twenty-six-foot skiff with no cabin, a boat that could carry 10,000 pounds of salmon in eight holding bins below deck. It was the most physical and dangerous work Sarah ever had undertaken. On calm days, with Bristol Bay glittering in the sunshine, the surge of migrating salmon felt like a miracle. The work was staggering, however, and on stormy days, with cold saltwater spraying the deck, it took every fiber of Sarah's resolve to stay standing....
One day Sarah was holding onto the rail of their fishing boat as it sidled up to a tender to which they were delivering a load of fish. As the boats made contact, Sarah's hand was smashed against a railing. She broke several fingers. Todd skiffed Sarah to shore, went back out fishing, and returned to pick her up the next day. Even with a bandaged hand she climbed back on board to help.
"I couldn't disappoint him," Sarah said. "No matter how cold or nauseous, you just didn't complain."
Sunday, September 28, 2008
From Bill Kristol's lips to John McCain's ear: Free Sarah!
I couldn't quite bring myself to cross-post my Treebeard & Botox post below at HughHewitt.com, so my latest guest-post there is once again on the subject of Gov. Palin. Long before whatever handlers and aides from the McCain team started advising her and planning her schedule, she was kicking butt and taking names in Alaska. It's time for her to cut loose again and dance with who brung her, instead of trying to dance some cautious gavotte to please whatever tight-orificed folks have been orbiting her since the Republican National Convention. A plea to John McCain: Free Sarah!
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Bill Kristol was among the earliest conservative pundits with a national following to predict that John McCain would choose Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running-mate. Today on Fox News Sunday, he made this impassioned plea (my transcription, but italics reflect his verbal emphasis):
Some in the McCain camp are nervous about Gov. Palin, but they shouldn't be. They've totally mishandled her for the last week or two. Free Sarah Palin! Free Sarah Palin, that's what I say! They have surrounded her — look, McCain picked her because she is a good governor, a good politician, a good communicator. Let her be a politician! Let her communicate. Put her on TV, put her on radio. Let her relax. Let her go into the debate and try to win the debate!
They've surrounded her with former Bush White House aids, who (if I might say) in a way typical of the Bush White House, have gone into a total defensive crouch: "Oooh, let's not make mistakes. Be very careful! Katie Couric, nine-thousand part interview. Don't talk to any conservatives on talk radio or on television, that would be just talking to the people who might vote for you. Go get quizzed by Katie Couric, and don't make a mistake!"
They really — I think she's strong enough to overcome the very bad advice and the very bad staff work that's surrounded her recently. I gather that Senator McCain isn't happy with the way his own team has been dealing with Governor Palin. I hope they free her over the next few days, and I hope they tell her, "Go win the debate with Joe Biden! Don't be defensive!"
I concur 100 percent with this advice.
One thing that struck me while I watched the first presidential debate was that both candidates surely did not need any intense preparation to be able to adequately respond to any of the questions that were asked. Partly that's a function of Jim Lehrer's genial and vague questions, but mostly — to Lehrer's credit — it's because he stuck to important topics on which the candidates do indeed have well-formed views and substantial depths of knowledge.
Gwen Ifill, who will moderate the vice presidential debate again, as she did in 2004, is Lehrer's colleague and protege. Her questions then were crisper than Lehrer's on Friday night, but they weren't unfair, and they ought not be studied for this time like a final exam in organic chemistry in which exactly the right formulae must be committed to memory for regurgitation on-stage.
John McCain is a gambler. When he picked Gov. Palin instead of someone dull and safe, he was not relying on his staff's ability to brief her into something they think she ought to become, but on the qualities which have made her a phenomenally successful campaigner and popular governor in Alaska. There is no way that she will ever get a remotely fair reception from those who are already in the tank for Barack Obama, which includes essentially all the old-media dinosaurs, certainly including everyone at the three creaky old TV networks, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
So quit trying to convert them! Go over their heads, directly to America — and have some fun while doing so!
To conservatives, I say this: Remember, folks, that before Gov. Palin's convention speech, Democrats from the Hard Left had convinced themselves that they had already mortally wounded Sarah Palin, that she was a laughing-stock, that McCain was about to say "oops!" and withdraw her from the ticket at any moment. And all she did in response was hit a grand slam with her acceptance speech, the undisputed high point of either convention and the most remarkable moment so far in 21st century American politics. Now the self-absorbed echo chamber on the Hard Left is again convinced that nobody could possibly take Gov. Palin seriously. They're in exactly the same position as was Paulene Kael of the New York Times, wailing incredulously after Nixon slaughtered McGovern in 1972: "But how could Nixon possibly have won? Nobody I know voted for him!"
To undecideds, I say this: Watch as much of Gov. Palin as you can between now and Election Day, especially in unscripted settings, certainly including the vice presidential debate. Make up your own minds.
To liberals, I say this: You're absolutely right. You've got Gov. Palin on the run along with John McCain, and you're obviously much, much smarter than the rest of us. You should continue to invest all your efforts in mocking Sarah Palin between now and November 4. Keep doing exactly what you're doing. Don't change a thing. Please. I'm counting on you, and I know you won't let me down.
UPDATE (Mon Sep 29 @ 2:40 p.m. CST): Kristol's advice on Fox News Sunday was of a piece with broader, similar advice he's given the McCain campaign in an op-ed in today's NYT entitled "How McCain Wins." I agree with it, too: Playing it "safe" is a prescription for defeat. Kristol also expands on one reference he made on TV:
I’m told McCain recently expressed unhappiness with his staff’s handling of Palin. On Sunday he dispatched his top aides Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis to join Palin in Philadelphia. They’re supposed to liberate Palin to go on the offensive as a combative conservative in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
On a clear day, you can indeed see Russia from Alaska
You'll learn about the difference between Ignaluk and Inalik in my latest guest-post on HughHewitt.com, plus find a link to a webcam from which, for one hour each day, you can literally peer into tomorrow.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
In the native language, it's called "Inalik," meaning "the other one" or "the one over there." In English, the town's name is "Diomede," and with a 2000 U.S. Census population of 146, it's part of "the Nome Census Area of the Unorganized Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska, located on the island of Little Diomede" (the smaller island itself being known as "Ignaluk" in the local language). Their state governor, of course, is Sarah Palin. And the "other other" impliedly referenced by the native name is undoubtedly the nearby island of Big Diomede, which is easily visible at less than three miles away — even though Big Diomede is part of Russia.
Here's a screencap (click to enlarge any of the pix in this post) from a pretty cool QuickTime VR diorama made at Diomede by students from the Bering Strait School District in April 2007. Yes, that's Russia (Big Diomede Island) across the water. Since it sticks up pretty high out of the water, it's kind of hard to miss.
In fact, the students have a live webcam set up in Diomede, so anyone with an internet connection can take a live look from the U.S. to Russia at their whim. But beware: "Because the International Date Line runs down the 4-km (2.5-mi) gap between the two islands, you can look from Alaska into 'tomorrow' in Russia."
[# More #] Here's a nice satellite photo of Big and Little Diomede Islands:
And for global perspective, here's a series from Google Maps going from zoomed-in to zoomed-out. The Diomedes Islands are just north of the zigzag in the international border. (Up that far north, it's pretty tricky to say which way is west and which way is east, though.)
During and after World War II, the Soviets maintained a military base on Big Diomede, from which they would take captive anyone who wandered across the frozen strait. "[T]he two island communities, connected by Eskimo family kinships but separated by American/Russian politics, led parallel lives — pictures of Karl Marx hung in the Russian schools, pictures of Abraham Lincoln in the American."
I'm not saying that these photos and maps, by themselves, are any proof that Sarah Palin is ready to be a heartbeat from the presidency. I am saying that these photos and maps, by themselves, are indeed proof that she and others were telling the literal truth when they described Russia as sharing a border with, and being visible from, Alaska.
As for Gov. Palin's foreign affairs and national defense qualifications, however:
No job fully prepares anyone for the foreign policy and national defense responsibilities that attend the office of POTUS because no job shares more than a fraction of those responsibilities — including jobs like "Secretary of State" or "Secretary of Defense" or "U.S. Senator."
No new occupant of the office of POTUS has to undertake those responsibilities alone. Each is surrounded by advisers, including career professionals from the State and Defense Departments. In particular, any vice presidents who is suddenly elevated to the presidency is surrounded by advisers originally selected by their immediate predecessor, which would mean in the case of a hypothetical ascension by Sarah Palin to the presidency, advisers chosen by John McCain. As a former naval aviator and, then, commander of the Navy's largest air wing, and as a long-time senator with oversight responsibilities, active participation on the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, and — extraordinarily even for Senators — direct involvement in international negotiations (as when he led the United States' efforts to negotiate the resumption of diplomatic relations with the same regime that once tortured him as a POW) — John McCain's own foreign affairs and national defense credentials are among the most impressive held by anyone ever to run for president. He will put a sound system into place that would benefit a sudden successor, and he would also be a superb tutor of a co-executive in his administration whose own credentials on foreign affairs and national security are less deep than his own.
Although border state governors have more interaction with foreign affairs and border security matters than other governors, in our federal system that commits overall commander-in-chief responsibility and foreign affairs (head of state) primacy to the federal Executive, no state governor has executive experience on these matters comparable to that which must be exercised by the POTUS. State governors are, however, executives, with experience running large organizations of a sort that mere legislators at any level — including U.S. Congressmen and Senators — don't acquire. That's part of the explanation for why America has so often elected state chief executive officers (governors) to become the federal chief executive officer (POTUS), often with salutary results (see, e.g., Ronald Reagan's victory in the Cold War).
Even with the limited role that our system apportions to state governors as commanders-in-chief of their state national guards and the state executives ultimately responsible for law enforcement within their jurisdictions, those governors still have and wield executive authority that includes putting guard members' and law enforcement officers' lives on the line — in enforcement of criminal law, in handling civil disorders and riots, and in emergencies like forest fires and floods. They send them into harms' way; they direct their activities while there; and sometimes, they have go to the funerals and hand flags to grieving relatives. And among all state governors, the governor of Alaska — as the state leader with closest continual proximity to a hostile foreign state — does indeed have responsibilities and obtain defense briefings beyond those received by, for example, the governor of Arkansas (which need not fear hostile bomber overflights from Missouri). No one can seriously argue that this compares to actually being the POTUS. But it's not nothing, either. And of executive experience in general, or experience personally making decisions that have put anyone's lives on the line in particular, "nothing" is the exactly appropriate description for both Sens. Obama and Biden, because neither member of the Democratic Party's ticket can match Gov. Palin's experience of that sort (or any other state governor's, for that matter).
Obviously, Gov. Palin was selected not to augment McCain's own strengths, but to balance the ticket: A governor to complement a senator, someone with executive experience in government to complement an experienced federal legislator, youth and energy to complement age and experience. (The conspicuous exception is that they both share strong credentials as vigorous reformers.)
Sen. McCain did a great deal at last night's debate to dispel doubts about his age and mental crispness, and those who vote for him may do so with the full and reasonable expectation that he'll ably serve out at least one term. Gov. Palin's own record of accomplishments in office, along with her electoral appeal and the prospect that she will join him as a crusading reformer in Washington, amply justify her selection, and her gubernatorial experience will match that of another young and dynamic GOP vice presidential nominee upon assuming office — one T.R. Roosevelt of New York. And when he suddenly ascended to the top job, he only did well enough to get his face on Mt. Rushmore.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Don't second-guess McCain's choice of Palin yet based on speculation that Jindal might have been a better one
I like Bobby. I like Sarah. This year, Sarah made more sense for John, sez I — respectfully contra Bridget Johnson at PajamasMedia — in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Bridget Johnson at PajamasMedia makes an eloquent if somewhat surprising (to conservative sensibilities) argument that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would have been a better Veep choice for John McCain than Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
I am a huge fan of Gov. Jindal, and have been for some years — longer than I've known about Gov. Palin. I agree with Ms. Johnson's praise for him, including his performance during the just-passed (fingers crossed) Gulf Coast hurricane season. I have no doubts that he's not just a future star, but a current one within the GOP.
But with due respect, I differ with Ms. Johnson's ultimate conclusion.
First and foremost, I think Ms. Johnson, like many other conservative pundits, may have been surprised and dismayed by the sheer intensity of the Left's criticisms of Gov. Palin. It is indeed unprecedented. But so is the nominee. And I have no doubt whatsoever that had Gov. Jindal been the choice instead, the smears would have been just as instantaneous, every bit as fierce, and just as unfair. That is a function not of these two young politicians' weakness, but rather of their strength. When Obama named Joe Biden as his Veep choice, absolutely no GOP heads exploded. Bibby Jindal would have popped just as many Dems' heads as Sarah Palin is still doing.
Second, this particular year, and this particular opponent, and the opponent who this opponent barely beat in a photo-finish for the Democratic nomination, present a unique opportunity for the GOP to not only pick up, but aggressively brandish, the torch of feminism. By that term, I mean a commitment to equal opportunity for women, not any of the other causes that Hard Left feminists have grafted onto that notion (chief among them, of course, the pro-abortion agenda). No one knows yet how much Sarah Palin's selection will close the GOP's gender gap, much less whether that difference will be outcome-determinative. But the circumstances of this particular election year turned out to make this the time for the GOP to make this piece of history — even if McCain and Palin lose.
Finally, the house-cleaning of smug and ethically challenged GOP porkmeisters in Alaska isn't yet done — that cause frankly stumbled when Gov. Palin's lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, lost to incumbent Rep. Don Young by about 300 votes in the GOP primary just last week, and it will not surprise me if Sen. Ted Stevens escapes his current corruption prosecution with a not-guilty verdict — but the cause of reform is farther advanced and less tenuous in Alaska than it is right now in Louisiana. Alaska corruption showed up in things like Veco building a new ground floor for Sen. Stevens' luxury vacation home, and that's bad enough. But corruption in Louisiana has run deeper and broader for longer, with organized crime ties to boot. And storm-ravished, poverty-stricken Louisiana still faces nasty problems in addition to corruption, with a tradition of dysfunctional and inept governance that will require prolonged good management to overcome. Gov. Palin would at least leave Alaska with a huge budget surplus that's likely to continue unless and until oil prices drop back below $50/bbl, and the silver lining to Parnell's loss to Young is that Parnell's still available for promotion as a strong replacement for the Alaska governor's chair. With what Gov. Palin has already accomplished, Alaska can frankly spare her more than Louisiana could spare Gov. Jindal. And it's an understatement to say that Louisiana still offers Gov. Jindal lots of dragons to slay as he builds upon an already impressive record.
The Dems' initial attempts at beanball missed, and Gov. Palin scored a first-inning grand slam with her GOP convention speech. Sure, they're still throwing at her (rather than at the strike zone). But that's not a surprise either, and we're still in the early innings, and she has lots more at-bats. Among her natural strengths is an ability to connect with potential voters on a deep, visceral level, and in the remaining weeks of the campaign she will have ample opportunity to continue doing that. By the end of the game, I think the Dems will wish they had instead decided to pitch around her and concentrate all their focus on McCain.
In sum, I don't fault Ms. Johnson for her musing. Gov. Jindal is a mensch, another real deal too. But I'm happy to have placed my own bets on Gov. Palin, and I think Sen. McCain is too.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Neither Palin nor any human in her shoes could satisfy the mainstream media's lust for "gotcha" questions
When we're talking Sarah Palin and the old media hacks, no good deed goes unpunished — as I argue at length in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
No vice presidential nominee in American history — not even J. Danforth Quayle — has been so viciously and unethically savaged by the mainstream media press corps as Sarah Palin. To her considerable credit, she's nevertheless continued to make herself more and more available to their shenanigans, however. And increasingly, it's the old-media sharks who are being discredited in the public eye.
When Katie Couric demanded that Gov. Palin instantly summon up a verbal summary of John McCain's 26-year history as a legislator, detailing the instances in which he's supported government regulation or oversight of programs, Gov. Palin must have been tempted to pull a Dan Aykroyd-to-Jane Curtin reprise: "Katie, you ignorant slut! You couldn't possibly answer that question yourself off the top of your head, and neither could anyone else, including John McCain. Virtually every bill creating or affecting a government program involves striking a balance between the proper degree of freedom and regulation, and we'd be here for hours if anyone even tried to give you a literal and comprehensive answer to that question. So please, drop the switchblade and act like a real journalist again, will ya?" Instead, Gov. Palin politely said that she's have to get back to Ms. Couric on that.
(In fact, rather than buttressing her original point — a simple one, not in genuine dispute by anybody, to the effect that McCain had gone on record years ago demanding closer oversight of and accountability for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the sort of detailed answer literally called for by the question would have required Gov. Palin to spend many minutes detailing an aspect of Sen. McCain's career that libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives find rather worrying. The genuine question isn't whether John McCain has ever insisted on government oversight on any other occasions, it's whether he's been too willing to impose it. Thus, a comparable question to Joe Biden would have been: "Tell us every example of legislation that Sen. Obama has supported as a state or U.S. senator that has delivered or would have delivered funds, via earmarks or otherwise, into the hands of his political allies and supporters — and for each, tell us why we ought not suspect that there's graft involved." Even Slow Joe Biden would have found a way to sidestep that question.)
So today, Gov. Palin takes press questions in New York. So what spin does Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico.com put on the session — no doubt anticipating that which we'll hear from most other old-media sources? Of course, it's that she "offer[ed] mostly evasive answers to specific questions."
Okay, then, what were the specific questions? The first was "whether she supports the reelection bids of embattled Alaska Republicans Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young." Now ask yourself this: When was the last time reporters made a big deal pressing either Barack Obama or Joe Biden on whether they support the re-election campaign of similarly-indicted Democratic congressman William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson?
In fact, Gov. Palin openly and actively supported her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, in his GOP primary battle against Young. (Parnell lost by a razor-thin margin.) And well before this year's election season, she had deliberately and openly distanced herself from both Young and Stevens, publicly demanding that both be more forthcoming in responding to allegations of ethical failures on their part. It would be a real stretch for anyone to describe her relations with Young or Stevens since she took office as anything else but "carefully polite but frosty," and of course to get into that office in the first place, she first had to defeat the third member of the Alaska Good-Old-Boys Troika, Frank Murkowski.
Today in particular, however, Sen. Stevens is in the middle of a jury trial. If he's convicted, his career will be over regardless of anything Gov. Palin says. It would be hugely inappropriate — a misuse of her official position, in fact — for her as Governor of Alaska to either support or lambast Stevens in the national press while the jury is still hearing evidence. Gov. Palin politely pointed that out — she's quoted today as saying "“Ted Stevens' trial started a couple days ago. We’ll see where that goes” — but eager to further his "She's Hiding from the Press!" meme, Vogel still insists on characterizing Gov. Palin as being "evasive."
As for Vogel's second example of a specific question on which Gov. Palin was "evasive," Vogel tells us that she "deflected a follow-up question about whether she felt the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has inflamed Islamic extremists." Now, to begin with, phrased that way, that's not a question so much as an argument, an Obama-campaign talking point. The real issue is whether the benefits to our side in the Global War on Terror from our presence in those countries is worth whatever inflamation their presence causes — and that's the issue Gov. Palin chose to address in her answer, rather than assuming the questioner's premise that the "inflamation" is the only important part of the equation:
I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. Do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction, terrible destruction on that day. But since Sept. 11, Americans are uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again.
That's not being "evasive," friends and neighbors, that's being assertive. (And it's also, I submit, the correct view of the larger issue.)
For Vogel to characterize these answers as "evasive" is simply disingenuous — the application of an unrealistic standard that no honest journalist would ever apply to any other politician who gave the same answers to the same sets of loaded questions in any other context.
Here's the sub-text, folks: The old-media hacks who are in the tank for Obama are screaming "Say something stupid, Gov. Palin, to give us ammo to feed our bogus narrative that you're in over your head!" And when she refuses, what's their headline? "Palin non-responsive to reporters' requests."
The good news is that fair-minded members of the American public — including fair-minded people on the political Left — can see through this shrill charade. I don't expect the charade to abate between now and November 4th because that would require the hacks to climb out of the tank, and that just ain't gonna happen. But I think Gov. Palin will continue to impress her supporters, and more importantly that she'll continue to win more, as her unfiltered, unapologetic common sense continues to shine through to the American voting public.
Come November 5th, Democrats and their not-so-secret supporters in the old media will regret having insisted that the spotlight stay so focused on Sarah Palin.
UPDATE (Thu Sep 25 @ 9:30 p.m. CST): Patterico proves that CBS News badly butchered their transcription of Couric's interview with Gov. Palin — in ways that tend to make Gov. Palin's answers seem disjointed and clueless — but the mistranscriptions are already propagating all around the blogosphere. I hadn't seen the transcriptions, but watched the first couple of episodes live, and I personally thought Gov. Palin did quite well in them overall.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
In 1995, Obama notified the world that he'd tie himself to extremists like Bill Ayers
In part because I was a college classmate and friend of its originator, I try to resist falling prey to Godwin's Law in my blogging. But I can't help wondering if someday, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance will be considered as prophetic as a certain other book written in the late 1920s by a certain other struggling and ultimately transformative politician.
My newest guest-post at HughHewitt.com quotes a couple of paragraphs from Obama's 1995 book which practically shouted at us a warning that Obama would find a literal bomb-thrower like Bill Ayers with whom to associate himself. And of course, he did.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Stanley Kurtz' most recent reporting on the connections between Sen. Barack Obama and unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers — Founding Brothers: What's Behind Obama's Early Rise? —leaves no doubt that the candidate, his campaign spinners, and their allies have systematically, and largely successfully, concealed the astonishing depth and breadth of those connections.
But long before Obama and his handlers had finalized their "just a guy from my neighborhood" meme with regard to Ayers, Obama himself made the mistake of being candid about the carefully calculated preferences for forming associations which he'd chosen as a young adult.
In the first of his two autobiographies, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (published in 1995), Obama vividly described the crowd he deliberately chose to "hang with" as a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles — and reveals exactly why he chose them (italics mine):
To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our setereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.
But this strategy alone couldn't provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce [a former girlfriend] or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerated. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.
Now, that's at pages 100-101 — and Obama went on for another 340 pages of carefully styled and painfully self-aware prose to describe his further journeys of self-discovery. When did the journey stop? It certainly hadn't by the trip to Kenya with which Obama's first book ends, and there's good reason to believe it's still on-going today — which led to one of Gov. Palin's best one-liners in her Veep-nomination acceptance speech, impliedly comparing Obama to McCain: "My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of 'personal discovery.'"
But with respect to the paragraphs I've quoted just above from Obama's book, I'm unaware of Obama having ever renounced this conscious "strategy" by which, in his own words, he's "chose[n his] friends carefully" even going back to his college days.
Thus, Obama practically shouted a warning to America and the world in 1995 that he'd deliberately find, and choose as his friends, associates, and allies, people who were not just "so-called radicals" from among the "white and tenured and happily tolerated." No, to "avoid being mistaken for a sell-out," to achieve the "distance" he wanted, to show his "solidarity," he'd find someone who'd thrown more than metaphorical, verbal bombs.
Reading these two paragraphs, one cannot be at all surprised to learn that almost immediately after the publication of his first book, Obama eagerly entwined himself with Bill Ayers.
Washington Democratic Party hacks second-guess Gov. Palin about her relative time spent in Juneau and elsewhere
It really shouldn't surprise me or annoy me, or do anything but amuse me, when some Democratic Party hack waiting out his exile in a think-tank purports to do "reporting" for Politico.com in the form of a ridiculous bit of second-guessing of how Gov. Sarah Palin divides her time between Juneau, Anchorage, and Wasilla. But I did get worked up enough to punch out 1200+ words on the subject, in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter badly needed to be in Washington, D.C., rather than elsewhere. Otherwise, how could he personally monitor the use of the White House tennis courts? Some rather more effective chief executives, however, have since discovered management techniques that don't require their noses to be pressed to the windows to literally oversee their staffs' behavior.
Thirty years later and on the other side of the continent in the largest state in the Union, Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin has faced a rather different set of challenges than those of the typical Washington politician or bureaucrat. Indeed, those of us from the Lower 48 can barely imagine just how the vastness of geography and the lack of infrastructure affect the daily lives of Alaska's citizens, including, of course, its political leaders.
But that won't stop know-nothing Beltway partisans and bureaucrats from sniping at her from afar about how she chooses to divide her time between various locations in Alaska, because they have a political axe to grind and a target to smear — actual facts on the ground be damned.
[# More #] Gov. Palin's and her family's homestead is in Wasilla, part of the growing Mat-Su Valley, about an hour or so's drive from Anchorage. Anchorage, in turn, with something in the neighborhood of 280,000 residents, is the state's largest city by a huge margin, and indeed home to over 40% of the total state population (about 680,000). Naturally enough, Anchorage is the headquarters for much of Alaska's commerce and industry, education, healthcare, law firms, and media. To suggest that the Governor of Alaska can ignore or shortchange Anchorage in favor of Juneau is as ridiculous as suggesting that the Governor of New York can ignore or shortchange New York City in favor of Albany.
Of the next two largest cities, Fairbanks boasts a population of only 31,000, and Juneau, the state capital, about the same. Juneau is 571 air miles from Anchorage — about as far as Miami, FL, is from Charleston, SC — and more than an hour's flight time. (I gather that driving between the two isn't practicable, and it may be impossible.) There have been serious, but highly controversial, proposals ever since Alaskan statehood to move the state capital to Anchorage.
Notwithstanding all this, now Gov. Palin's hysterical critics are finding fault with the number of days she's spent in Juneau versus the number of days she's spent in Anchorage or Wasilla. In a silly and juvenile article on Politico.com entitled "Playing hooky pays off for Palin," Scott Lilly — a senior fellow for former Clintonista chief of staff John Podesta's Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington — is absolutely confident of his ability to second-guess the innermost geographical and logistical workings of a state government of which he's never been a part:
Memo to Mr. Lilly: Regardless of where its agencies are headquartered, lots of government functions in Alaska actually take place in Anchorage; I don't know the exact percentage, but I'm confident that you don't either, and if we simply compare the number of state employees you list to the total population of Juneau, we know something way more than half of them cannot possibly be residents of Juneau. Similarly, lots of state legislators either live in or near Anchorage or else have secondary offices there, just like the governor and lieutenant governor do. In any event, I'm even more confident that Gov. Palin has an excellent first-hand factual basis for making such observations.
Why does the governor of Alaska need to be in the state capital? There are two big reasons — and probably many smaller ones. The first big reason is that she appoints most of the people who manage the 15 departments of Alaska’s state government, containing more than 100 divisions and employing more than 50,000 people. Nearly all the department heads and division directors are headquartered in Juneau. E-mails and telephone calls alone are not effective for the governor to get advice, give directions and follow up to ensure that appropriate policy is being implemented. It is obvious that the ability to fully monitor the performance of the bureaucracies any governor has chosen to lead is greatly restricted if the governor does not spend significant time on the ground where the operations of government are housed.
But also of great importance is the governor’s ability to work with the legislature to update state policies and offer new programs for improving governance. Any effective governor must work on an ongoing basis with not only the leadership of both houses in the state legislature to build consensus and draft the governor’s proposals into language that both houses can accept, but also committee chairmen and recalcitrant members whose votes are needed to support key portions of the governor agenda.
More to the point, Mr. Lilly, in the 21st Century — especially in a state half the size of South America and two and a half times the size of western Europe — and whatever kinky fantasies you might secretly harbor about Gov. Palin, it's not practical for a state chief executive to walk from desk to desk with a ruler in her hand to smack state employees, or even state legislators, who are misbehaving. You imagine that proximity is the key to effective governance. Maybe you're just used to being among those naughty Washington staffers who need literally hands-on supervision, or maybe you're just guessing or exaggerating.
Since you've never done her job, Mr. Lilly, perhaps you might pay some attention instead to the results Gov. Palin has achieved — breaking, for example, a multi-year deadlock on the enabling legislation and international negotiation (through competitive bidding) of a $40 billion cross-state natural gas pipeline that will do more to accomplish American energy independence than any other politician at any level, state or federal, has ever accomplished. What's so "obvious" to you, and to whatever Alaskan opponents of Gov. Palin have been feeding you your talking points, may seem obviously ridiculous to the seventy-plus percent of Gov. Palin's own constituents who support the job she's doing, and to the rest of us in the U.S. who figure that the good folks of Alaska are probably better situated — whether in Anchorage or Barrow or Nunapitchuk — to figure out if Gov. Palin has been "playing hookey" to the detriment of the State's business.
Why was I not surprised to read, Mr. Lilly, that you were a Democratic staffer for the House Appropriations Committee, that font of all federal government spending? Yours is the sort of bureaucratic logic and argument, Mr. Lilly, relied upon by Gov. Palin's predecessor, Frank Murkowski, when he defied the state legislature and bought a luxury corporate jet which couldn't even land on most Alaska runways. Gov. Palin sold it. Now, sometimes she takes the family Piper Cub floatplane, which is older than anyone in her family. When she flies commercial, she flies coach. She drives herself to work whether she's in Juneau or Wasilla, and her total travel expenses have been about one-fifth of her predecessor's. And wherever she chooses to do it, she obviously gets things done. That's the net-net, the bottom bottom line, the acid test, and the whole polar bear. (Okay, I just made that last metaphor up, but you get my drift.)
So go back to sharpening pencils at your think-tank, Mr. Lilly. The grown-ups, including Gov. Palin, have a country to run.
Contra Bonnie Goldstein at Slate.com, Gov. Palin has never "admitted publicly" that any communications with Monegan were intended to "urge Wooten's firing"
Yes, I know, the titles are too, too long, but I have another early-morning guest-post about Sarah Palin up at HughHewitt.com.
Although of course most of it's unrelated to my guest posts there, yesterday Hugh's site got close to 120k visits or page views according to Sitemeter. That tells me folks are increasingly engaging in nitty-gritty details before the election. And that's a good thing for America, whatever happens.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I've been a courtroom lawyer, an advocate in mostly civil but occasionally criminal trials, since 1981. Even before I started actually practicing, I learned that one way for the unscrupulous to railroad someone — to unfairly convict their target of something, to deny the target even a fair hearing — is simply to phrase all of the discussion in a way that presumes the target's guilt.
Because of that danger, the rules of evidence give defenders the right and the duty to object to the form of questions and accusations. And one very good ground for objection is that a question lacks an appropriate predicate — prior proof of the assumptions on which it's premised. Typically, the statement or question being objected to presumes something that's not only unproved, but actively being disputed.
In the court of public opinion, in which Hard Left opponents of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin are trying to convict her of an abuse of power in the supposed "Tasergate" (a/k/a "Troopergate") scandal, I therefore object to the form of this accusation by Slate's Bonnie Goldstein in an article entitled Todd to Juneau: Drop Dead" (links in original):
Since July, the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee has been looking into whether Gov. Sarah Palin fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan because he refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper named Mike Wooten. (Wooten's marriage to Palin's sister, Molly McCann, ended in an ugly divorce.) Two weeks before John McCain declared Palin his running mate, Palin admitted publicly that her husband, Todd, and members of Palin's staff had contacted Monegan and other public-safety officials about two dozen times to urge Wooten's firing.
The first sentence describes unproven allegations, and I have no quibble with it: It's not unfair or misleading to simply state what the allegations are in the course of discussing them. Nor do I quibble with the parenthetical sentence that follows.
But the final sentence — about the purported "public admission" as to the intention of anyone "to urge Wooten's firing" — is thoroughly objectionable. It's something that is not supported in any way by the source Ms. Goldstein linked (an article from the Anchorage Daily News). Nor has that intention been proved yet in any formal proceeding. And rather than having been "admitted publicly" by Gov. Palin, that intention is something that she has actually flatly denied repeatedly from the first days this dispute was fomented in the Alaska press by the blog speculations of the distant third-place finisher in the 2006 gubernatorial election, Andrew Halcro.
In fact, Bonnie Goldstein and Slate.com just made this so-called "admission" up out of thin air. And she and Slate.com have refused to correct it, notwithstanding my polite email to them on Monday evening pointing out her error. At that point, what could originally have been defended as an egregious but innocent mistake on their part became, at best, a knowing and continuing misrepresentation of objective fact — that being as to what's "admitted" and what's instead vigorously disputed.
I've written before on my own blog (here, here, and here, for example) at greater length about Tasergate, with gobs of hyperlinks and many direct quotes from original source documents. You may think you know what kind of misbehavior has been alleged, and what's been proved, about Trooper Wooten, but you probably don't yet know more than a fraction of it. But in any event, I assure you that with respect to Ms. Goldstein's and Slate.com's false description of a "public admission" by Gov. Palin, this isn't just quibbling about semantics. It's absolutely central to the charges against Gov. Palin.
Monegan himself has repeatedly admitted, in vivid language, that neither Gov. Palin, nor First Dude Todd Palin, nor anyone else ever told him, in so many words, that he (Monegan) should fire Wooten (boldface mine):
"For the record, no one ever said fire Wooten. Not the governor. Not Todd. Not any of the other staff," Monegan said Friday from Portland. "What they said directly was more along the lines of 'This isn't a person that we would want to be representing our state troopers.'"
Rather, at best, Monegan, child-abusing (but still employed) Trooper Wooten, and their backers are arguing that there was an implied order for Monegan to fire Wooten, ultimately backed up by an implied threat that if he didn't, Palin would fire Monegan.
In courtrooms, we generally call these sorts of implications "guessing," and judges regularly refuse to let witnesses even begin to travel down that path.
Oh, there may be exceptions. If the crime charged involves an alleged organized crime boss conveying a death threat to a juror, and the evidence is that he told the juror, "Vote to acquit or you'll sleep with the fishes," the courts would probably permit that testimony as tending to show that a death threat was actually conveyed and not just imagined by the juror — if, but only if, the prosecution first showed that there was circumstantial evidence through which a reasonable person under similar circumstances might reasonably perceive such a threat to be implied. There has to be at least some historical context. "Did you ever see the movie version of 'The Godfather'?" might thus be part of the predicate required to support the piling of such inferences on top of each other.
To prove abuse of power, Gov. Palin's opponents have to prove either the use or threatened use of power. They have to show the whole chain of causation, without skipping any steps. So can Monegan, or Wooten, or anyone else supporting either of them, or attacking Gov. Palin, produce any basis to show that anything Todd Palin, or Sarah Palin, or anyone on Sarah Palin's staff, ever said or wrote to Monegan about Wooten amounted to —
first, an order that Wooten be fired (rather than, say, reassigned to other duties, given remedial training and counseling, or given some other, lesser punishment); and
second, a threat that Monegan would be fired if he didn't fire Wooten?
So far, there has been no specific allegation to either effect — no showing of anyone else who'd been similarly threatened with firing or fired, nor any showing negating (or even remotely inconsistent with) any other explanations for what was written or said (like the ones Gov. Palin has actually tendered for her own emailed references to Wooten a full year or more before Monegan was offered a different government job).
So to the extent it's about misconduct on the part of Gov. Palin (as opposed to misconduct by Wooten or Monegan themselves), the whole of Tasergate is based on guesses stacked on inference stacked on innuendo. In that context, it's particularly important to be truthful and scrupulously accurate about what anyone has "admitted" — especially on something as important, and as slippery, as what anyone intended. Pundits may then argue what conclusions they want; but pundits who wish to be credible, and certainly anyone who wants to be considered a professional journalist, have a duty not to misrepresent what's actually being disputed.
As for the purported point of Ms. Goldstein's article — to discuss and attach .pdf scans of a letter sent by a lawyer explaining the eleven different reasons why Todd Palin would not be handing a legislative lynch mob more rope to hang him with by responding to an unenforceable and inappropriate subpoena — I encourage you to read both Ms. Goldstein's characterizations and then the letter itself. You can decide for yourself, or at least get an accurate impression as to what basis there is for disagreement about the subpoena, from the actual source document.
As you do, though, note Ms. Goldstein's sloppy-at-best construction when she says "An earlier claim by [attorney] Van Flein that the matter belongs before a personnel review board was rebuffed" — as if Van Flein's position were rebuffed by a court, or even a full legislative committee vote. (It was actually only "rebuffed" by the Democratic state senator who's leading the witchhunt and the investigator he's directing in his admitted attempt to produce an "October surprise"; in other words, the opposing parties disagree, and the matter hasn't yet actually been resolved.)
Notice, too, how Ms. Goldstein skips over the substance of the first ten objections — which might require her to, you know, actually look at a statute which says that only the Alaska Personnel Board has jurisdiction to consider abuse of power claims in state employment matters — so that she can mock Gov. Palin and her husband's legitimate point that between now and November 4th, they do have some other obligations on their calendar.
On the assertion as to what Gov. Palin has "admitted publicly" as to an intent to "urge Wooten's firing," though, the bottom line is this: Until she publishes a conspicuous correction, Ms. Goldstein is perilously close to, and perhaps across the line of, simply lying herself. In the interests of justice, I object. And for now, since we're operating in the court of public opinion, the only ruling on my objection will come from each of you.
Pix for animal lovers
Okay, this one I'm not going to cross-post at Hugh's place, in part because I'm not comfortable enough with the interface there yet to deal with photos confidently, and in part because I'm really just re-posting two photos that were originally juxtaposed in the Humane Society Legislative Fund's endorsement of the Obama-Biden ticket over the McCain-Palin ticket (h/t John McCormack at the Weekly Standard's Blog):
I would almost be content to have the American public decide the election based on these two photographs, but that would be short-changing John McCain and Joe Biden. Let's see: Add in the shot of McCain on his back at the Hanoi Hilton and a before-and-after of Biden's hair plugs. Yeah, that'd be about right.
I'm just hoping that someone photoshopped Obama and the poodle in front of the Lincoln Memorial background. It's frightening, but altogether plausible, for me to imagine that he (and the pooch) blew off holding a meeting of his Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee on our NATO allies' responsibilities in Afghanistan in order to go snap that photo. (Note how this photo demonstrates Obama's easy grace in dealing with the French.)
Of course, the same limousine liberals who are shocked almost to hurling at the idea of Sarah Palin teaching her daughter to hunt were themselves greatly touched when they took their own kids to a Broadway performance of "The Lion King." All that "circle of life" stuff, after all, is best in CGI, or at least contained to theater props. They sleep better at night knowing that Kiefer Sutherland and Martin Sheen are protecting us from the bloodthirsty terrorists.
These pictures are actually a great study in cognitive dissonance and the Left's inability to grasp how someone can simultaneously be, for example, a Christian who believes in evolution, or a pro-life feminist, or an animal-loving hunter, or a tender warrior.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
"Caribou Barbie" kicks serious tail
I've got another guest post up at HughHewitt.com, giving credit for humor where due but urging Gov. Palin to embrace her inner Caribou Barbie.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I'm a self-confessed and joyful partisan — Hugh Hewitt being a fine role model in that respect, as well as my gracious blogging host during this election season! — and I'm constantly reminded that partisanship quickly becomes tedious without frequent interjections of humor. My own blogging runs the gamut from deadly-serious (as in my post about the Obama-Biden campaign's deliberately repeated mockery of John McCain's physical disabilities from his POW days) to thoroughly snarky (as in my fisking of David Talbot's latest "reporting" from Alaska about Gov. Sarah Palin in Salon.com), with the snark intended to bring some humor at my targets' expense. But I also believe that it's important to remain open to one's political opponents' arguments, and essential to remain open to the humor (snarky or otherwise) that may accompany them. Thus, even though it's still early in the week, and even though it's been in usage even earlier (with over 100k Google references already):
My nomination for "Funniest snarky reference from the Left" for this week comes from those who've described Gov. Palin as "Caribou Barbie."
I just think that's a hoot — short, universally understandable, a tight riff on "Malibu" (with all its own associations), and even rhythmic and alliterative! Indeed, "Caribou Barbie" sounds like someone who might be dating Crocodile Dundee, which actually, except for that whole hemispheric-reversal thing, sort of describes "First Dude" Todd, too.
I know it's intended to be mocking, and when it flies from the lips or keyboards of Gov. Palin's opponents, it arrives dripping with ridicule. But neither you nor I nor Gov. Palin is required to accept that intention, and nothing prevents us from flipping it.
I have two teenaged daughters, and they did indeed have (and I'm pretty sure still do have, somewhere in a closet) multiple Barbies. As a Sputnik baby myself, more than a few hours of my own childhood were spent with a playmate named Alice down the street, and yes, I'm proud to have been Ken. I consider Barbie to be a friend, and I admire her.
Barbie is an American icon that's long-since gone world-wide, a multi-billion dollar five-decade success story on all sorts of meta-levels. And we're decades past the days when only little girls could play with dolls, or when those dolls, when female, could only be fantasized about as stay-at-home mommies (who got little enough credit for even that). Of course, "Barbie(reg)" and associated trademarks and tradenames belong to Mattel, Inc. One of its 2002 press releases tells us that although Barbie's "first career was [as] a teenage fashion model" in 1959, since then she's "had more than 80 careers — everything from a rock star to a paleontologist to a presidential candidate." Thus does life imitate toys imitating life.
Gov. Palin has an excellent, and oftentimes michievous, sense of humor. I don't expect that that's how she introduced herself today to Afghan President Hamid Karzai or Colombian President Alvaro Uribe — but if she had, they'd have probably gotten the joke. I'm not a campaign spokesman, nor a campaign adviser, but as with the "Sarah Barracuda" nickname, my recommendation to her would be:
"Embrace your inner Caribou Barbie, Governor!" Because if (as I believe is true) today's Barbie, in all her many incarnations, kicks tail in general, then surely Caribou Barbie from Wasilla will find plenty of all-too-serious tail to kick in Washington, too.
A fisking of David Talbot's assembly of Alaska's defeated candidates and felons to whine about "mean girl" Sarah Palin
It's almost indecently easy to fisk stuff that's published on Salon.com, and I enjoyed doing so in another guest post about Sarah Palin on HughHewitt.com this morning.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
David Talbot, the founder of Salon.com, has accomplished an amazing journalistic coup on his website today: In a breathless article entitled "Mean Girl," Mr. Talbot reports the stunning news that the Alaska politicians whom Sarah Palin has either directly beaten herself, or else has seen driven from public office for corruption, don't tend to like her very much!
Stop the presses! (In other stunning news, the sun rose this morning in the east, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.)
Mr. Talbot's narrative begins with Gov. Palin's first run for mayor of Wasilla against incumbent John Stein. We're assured that ex-Mayor Stein is "an eminently reasonable and reflective man" — or so he appears to a San Francisco online journalist like Mr. Talbot, who doubtless spent many, many hours coming to know Stein intimately enough to vouch for him.
But according to Palin biographer (and Wasilla resident) Kaylene Johnson, while he originally was a popular mayor, Stein had ignored the sentiments of Wasilla residents who'd approved term limits in 1994, and he continued to take advantage of a loophole exempting incumbents (he'd been mayor since 1987). Palin had originally crossed Stein by voting against a pay increase for the mayor's position shortly after she was first elected as a city councilman in 1992; accordingly, in 1996, she campaigned against him with a promise that she would start trimming the city budget by taking a voluntary pay cut as mayor. (Which in fact she did.) She also promised to reduce property taxes. (Which in fact she did.) And she promised to promote new economic development that would increase the local tax base and permit higher levels of city services. (Which, again, she did.)
Mr. Talbot, relying on ex-Mayor Stein and his family and friends, ignores these issues and paints the 1996 mayoral campaign as being about personalities, biases, "whispering campaigns," and issues having nothing to do with city government — leading to the political birth of a terrible monster who devoured her original sponsor:
Dear, me, break out the violins! Cue the orchestra! Poor, mistreated ex-Mayor Stein indeed lost the 1996 election by a vote of 651 to 440, so he decided to run against Sarah Palin again in 1999. Kaylene Johnson reports — and David Talbot and Salon.com omit to note — that given a second chance to choose between Stein and Palin, Wasilla residents re-elected Palin by a margin of 826 to 255.
"I had a hand in creating Sarah, but in the end she blew me out of the water," Stein said, sounding more wearily ironic than bitter. "Sarah's on a mission, she's an opportunist."
But wait, there's more! To further his theme that "once a powerful patron becomes a major liability, Palin is quick to jettison him," Mr. Talbot brings us the sad story of former Alaska state representative Victor Kohring, who Talbot describes as "another key Palin supporter during her political rise in Mat-Su Valley." Talbot tells us that Kohring feels "betrayed" by Sarah Palin.
"He thinks she's an opportunist, pure and simple," reports Talbot of Kohring's views (as relayed through a friend), and "she didn't give him [i.e., Kohring] the time of day." Indeed, Sarah Palin "called on [Kohring] to resign his office," which he "regarded ... as a great insult, a personal betrayal." Oh, my!
This sad story might be a bit more moving, however, and Talbot's tale of Gov. Palin's turn-coat tendencies more persuasive, were former state representative Kohring's own present residence somewhere other than "the Taft minimum security prison outside Bakersfield, Calif."
He's serving his sentence on federal corruption charges — poor fellow.
Quick! More violins! Mr. Talbot needs the whole strings section, in fact! Play louder! Play more sadly! Sarah Palin is a meanie because she won't stick up for convicted felons.
On to Mr. Talbot's next witness, Andrew Halcro, who also furnishes the muckraking Mr. Talbot with juicy quotes (asterisks mine):
"The idea that Sarah shook up the state's old-boy network is one big fantasy, it's complete bulls**t," Halcro said. "She got all this public acclaim for throwing people who backed her under the bus — but she only did it after they became expendable, when she no longer needed them.
So who's Andrew Halcro? Oh, well, he's the extremely annoying know-it-all who finished a humiliating third, with 9 percent of the vote, behind Palin's 48 percent and Democratic former governor Tony Knowles' 41 percent in the 2006 gubernatorial general election. So do the facts support Halcro's assertion, or are these just more sour grapes?
I think you know what's coming, don't you? Orchestra, up and over! Crank the dials up to eleven! Hire John Williams and the entire Boston Pops!
Halcro only had the opportunity to run a distant third against her in the 2006 general election because by then, Sarah Palin had already broken from — and then soundly defeated in the GOP primary — one of Alaska's most powerful politicians, incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski. She mounted that campaign from a position as a private citizen who was widely thought to have destroyed her own political career through her 2005 resignation from her position as chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission in the Murkowski's administration to become a whistle-blower.
Here's a metaphor usage tip for Messrs. Halcro and Talbot: When someone has run as a massively underfunded underdog against a state's entrenched political structure, including its incumbent governor, and she wins despite all the odds against her, the proper metaphor isn't "throwing [anyone] under the bus." It's "assaulting the beaches at Normandy."
Mr. Talbot ends his exciting work of investigative journalism with a rhetorical question, again mouthed by the soundly defeated Andrew Halcro: "So where's the new era of change that Palin supposedly brought to Alaska?"
It's true enough that Gov. Palin hasn't yet been able to oppose and defeat every single ethically challenged GOP politician in Alaska, since she can't simultaneously be Governor of Alaska, U.S. Representative from Alaska, and both U.S. Senators from Alaska. No, in addition to defeating incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, she's merely driven the head of the Alaska Republican Party from his appointed public office and helped force the resignation of the former state attorney-general.
But this rhetorical question shows Halcro to be disingenuous, and Talbot to be either ignorant or disingenuous or both, about what has actually happened in Alaska since the 2006 election. Among other accomplishments —
- Gov. Palin has taken symbolic but nevertheless important steps toward fiscal responsibility such as selling the corporate jet Murkowski had purchased over legislative opposition, re-assigning the Governor's Mansion's executive chef, and driving herself to work.
- She's imposed substantive fiscal discipline — despite overflowing state coffers and the spending temptations that presents — by using her line-item veto to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in pork from the state budget, and she's made those vetoes stick.
- She's led the state legislature to enact a completely revamped state severance tax on oil and gas extracted from Alaska (mis-labeled by some as a "windfall profits tax"), replacing a cozy and widely distrusted version that the Murkowski administration had negotiated with the major energy companies who represent the corporate status quo.
- And she's gotten the legislative groundwork laid, and an international contract signed, for a multi-billion dollar competitively-bid contract for the construction of a cross-state natural gas pipeline that will not only address Alaskans' own needs for affordable energy but also bring Alaska's plentiful reserves to hungry markets in the Lower 48 states.
These accomplishments explain Gov. Sarah Palin's stratospheric popularity ratings among her constituents — save and except for a small minority of Alaskans who take their cues from sore losers like Halcro and Stein or felons like Kohring.
And gosh: It turns out that all this sad, "wearily ironic" music from Mr. Talbot can actually be played on the world's smallest violin.
Spare me your reverse-reverse snobbery about Sarah Palin
I've put up yet another guest-post about Gov. Palin at HughHewitt.com. This one's pretty snarky, but I respectfully submit that it's a response to snark-rageous provocation from Michelle Cottle, a leftie pundit at TNR.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Yesterday I wrote about an anti-Palin elitist who actually reveled in being an elitist. But equally funny are the elitists who insist that they're not elitists, and that because they aren't qualified to be vice president, neither can Sarah Palin be. Their argument is that precisely because so many people immediately connected to Sarah Palin on some subjective, visceral level, that must mean Sarah Palin is not exceptional, but rather exceptionally common — and therefore unqualified.
Exhibit A of this species is Michelle Cottle, a senior editor at The New Republic since 1999. Ms. Cottle wrote the following vivid paragraph yesterday on TNR's The Plank blog as part of her response, titled "Spare Me Your Reverse Snobbery," to an anti-elitist (pro-Palin) op-ed by Ralph Peters in the NY Post (caps and italics hers):
Just like Ralph Peters, I KNOW Sarah Palin. Hell, in my younger days, I WAS Sarah Palin. (Well, minus being a crack shot.) The difference is I don't fetishize my regular-gal roots and assume they make me special — much less qualified to run the country. And while I have indeed witnessed my fair share of cultural snobbery from some of my better-credentialed, coastal colleagues over the years, I'm not so defensive about where I come from that I feel the need to champion a wildly unqualified fellow hick whose politics I disagree with as a way to get back at everyone I know who has ever made a sniffy comment about big hair or small towns.
Nice and snarky, that bit about Ms. Cottle not being a "crack shot." Indeed, that's the kernel of truth buried in the midst of an otherwise undigested analysis.
And although Ms. Cottle's post doesn't mention it, there have been many reports in the last few weeks (e.g., here and here) of young women and girls showing up at McCain-Palin rallies wearing tee-shirts or carrying signs that read: "I am Sarah Palin!" So Ms. Cottle's feigned identification with Gov. Palin — at least as Ms. Cottle remembers herself from her own "younger days" — does have some real-world analogs, which I think we can presume are sincere (even if Ms. Cottle would think them pathetic).
[# More #] Now, I have no idea whether Ms. Cottle has met or mastered any of the challenges of being a wife and a middle-class mom, much less a working-outside-the-home mom; so let's give her the benefit of the doubt on those counts and just presume that she has. And Ms. Cottle's own educational credentials, including her BA in English from Vanderbilt in 1992, aren't as shabby as her post makes out, and certainly they're no less prestigious than Gov. Palin's 1987 degree in journalism from the University of Idaho.
But thereafter, Ms. Cottle appears to have been busy pursuing a career as a leftist journalist and pundit — with stints as an editor at Washington Monthly, an editorial fellow at Mother Jones, and a free-lancer for various newspapers, magazines, and CNN — in which pursuits I'm sure she collected a nice sheaf of clippings, some video clips with Tucker Carlson, many loyal friends and colleagues, and some modest fame (albeit that mostly among fans of leftie pundits). And that's all very nice. Good for Ms. Cottle, I say.
In the meantime, by comparison, Gov. Palin was busy pursuing a career as a multi-term city councilman; then a multi-term city mayor and head of the Alaska Conference of Mayors; then an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor; then the chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission; then a private-citizen reformer who drove from state office first an ethically challenged fellow commissioner and then an ethically challenged attorney-general; then a successful candidate for governor who defeated, in succession, an ethically challenged incumbent and a popular former governor; and then a successful governor who, in less than two years, has helped enact comprehensive ethics reforms, completely revised her state's most important tax structure, and accomplished more than any single other American public servant of any rank or party to help bring us closer to national energy independence, all the while maintaining stratospheric public approval ratings among her home-state constituents.
So yeah, other than all that, and of course the "crack shot" status — Michelle Cottle and Sarah Palin are pretty much twins!
As for all this speculation about Barack Obama dropping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket and replacing him with a powerful, accomplished woman to counter John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, my advice to Sen. Obama is: Forget about Hillary. Go for another regular gal — Michelle Cottle! After all, if Ms. Cottle is right, just about any
wildly unqualified fellow hick modest American woman could do what Sarah Palin's done, including electrifying a national political convention in a coming-out speech watched by 40 million Americans, energizing and unifying a dispirited national political party, and drawing tens of thousands of new enthusiasts to campaign rallies — even if, well, Ms. Cottle herself hasn't quite gotten around to any of that. Indeed, I'll be watching for those "I am Michelle Cottle" tee-shirts in the very near future.