Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some Fair Questions

Steve Clemons wants to know:

What does she think about Cuba? Does she know the difference between America's relations with Brazil and Venezuela? Does she know what a balancing act we are walking in Asia between Japan, Taiwan, China, South Korea, North Korea, Russia and more? Does she know anything about nuclear weapons and our defense posture?

What books has she read? Who are her inspirations as thought leaders? Has she written any serious articles or published anything we might see to get a sense of who she is?

What would she do with Iran? Can she name even five nations on the continent of Africa?

Andrew Sullivan is wondering something similar:

Do you really believe that Sarah Palin understands the distinctions between Shia and Sunni, has an opinion about the future of Pakistan, has a view of how to exploit rifts within Tehran's leadership, knows about the tricky task of securing loose nuclear weapons? Does anyone even know if she has ever expressed a view on these matters? Here's a bleg: can anyone direct me to any statement she has ever made about foreign policy?

Friday, August 29, 2008

The End Days Are Upon Us

What other explanation could there be when Ramesh Ponnuru is making this much sense:
Tokenism. Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?
Cf. My argument below about McCain's "cynical, superficial" choice.

Sarah Palin? Really?

After a whole day of reading/watching/listening to news reports about Sarah Palin, my jaw remains squarely on the floor. I can't believe McCain picked her.

The only possible reason I can think of for choosing Sarah Palin is a cynical, superficial attempt to peel away some die-hard Clinton supporters - basically, the hope that women will cast their votes for other women, regardless of significant political differences. Governor Palin offers no geographical advantage, she doesn't address McCain's significant weakness (economics), and her strong pro-life record is unlikely to sway many Democrats who were strong Clinton backers.

Worst of all, though, she undercuts McCain's strongest argument: his experience. Sarah Palin's education consists of a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho. She was a city councilwoman and mayor of a town of about 6,000 people before becoming governor of a state with only about 100,000 more people than live in my county. And this is the person John McCain has chosen to be one step away from the presidency - even though he is 72 years old and likely to serve only one term. President Palin? Really? Is Sarah Palin to be the Republican Party's heir apparent in 2012?

I simply cannot see the logic behind this choice. It escapes me. Even as a Hail Mary option - an attempt to fundamentally change the race and breathe new life into the McCain campaign - it is transparently desperate and alarmingly short-sighted. Now, none of McCain's options were great. Romney, Pawlenty, Ridge, Lieberman, and all the others presented significant challenges, but I cannot imagine anyone who was on the "short list" with fewer advantages and more drawbacks.

Obama's Speech

Now that I've had some time to digest Obama's acceptance speech from last night, a few thoughts:

- This is as specific as you're going to get in a campaign speech, especially one of this importance. The line about "exactly what change is going to look like" was effective - and the 38 million people who watched the speech (a number higher than the viewing audience for the opening ceremony of the Olympics) aren't going to be as susceptible to attacks on Obama's alleged lack of substance.

- Obama's attacks are particularly effective - he gets close to his target ("I don't believe Senator McCain doesn't care...") which means he never misses the mark ("I think he just doesn't know"). This is a pretty clever tactic, and it deflects some of the criticism that could result from a negative attack - essentially, that Obama is undercutting his own message of a new kind of politics. A new kind of politics doesn't mean we can't attack positions, judgment, or empathy - but it does mean Obama won't claim that McCain is essentially committing treason. And yes, McCain has basically made that claim. His repeated insistence that Obama "would rather lose a war than lose an election" implies that Obama would allow the U.S. to undergo incredible trauma and loss for his own personal gain. Isn't that disloyalty? Isn't it treachery? says treason is "any attempt to overthrow the government or impair the well-being of a state to which one owes allegiance" (emphasis added). I suppose you could hedge by saying that withdrawal from Iraq would only be a loss in McCain's view, not Obama's, so there's a lack of motive to impair the well-being of the U.S., but still...

- The speech was very presidential. Obama jutted out his chin a little bit. He was forceful and specific. But most important, his pace was perfect. He started off a little slowly and built to an exciting but dignified finish. It wouldn't have looked quite right to rally the conventiongoers with beautiful, inspiring rhetoric (as wonderful as that rhetoric can be). Instead, Obama correctly sensed that a president's speech must be different from the kind of speeches he's been delivering as a candidate. In fact, despite all the comparisons, this speech was intentionally different from Obama's 2004 keynote speech. That speech was designed to introduce Barack Obama the Exciting New Politician. This speech was designed to introduce Barack Obama the President, and in that sense I think it succeeded brilliantly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Liveblogging the Democratic Convention: Limited Stamina Meets Unending Coverage

So I'm probably going to lose interest in doing this after about 25 minutes, but a few thoughts on MSNBC's coverage of the convention (along with a Mickey Kaus-style internal editor):

7:13 - Good gravy, the on-air awkwardness between Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews is just so hilarious. Chris is really focusing on the PUMA protestors and the Obama-is-a-Muslim lies, which seem to really bother him. Keith just looks pissed that he has to be sitting next to this yahoo (Does a Cornell guy really have the elitist chops to look that miffed at having to deal with Matthews? - ed).

7:15 (commercial) - Oh no! Matt Damon is possessed by a remarkably diverse group of civic-minded Americans!

7:21 - Norah O'Donnell is a Hoya!

7:23 - Mike Barnicle thinks people don't like Michelle Obama because of affirmative action resentment. Basically, he's suggesting that people who are struggling to get their kids into college are not OK with a woman whose race might have given her an advantage in getting into Princeton/Harvard Law. I'm not so sure. It seems to me that dislike/resentment of candidates' wives tends to be an a priori animosity toward the other party rather than a sentiment based on anything remotely related to an individual person. The "case" against Michelle Obama is awfully weak, and it's not as if any unexpected voices are singing in the anti-Michelle chorus. Or did someone out there expect Sean Hannity to really give Mrs. Obama fair consideration before he began the almost-daily personal attacks against her?

7:25 - Oh! Keith wants to fight Joe Scarborough! They should duke it out on the convention floor - I think Joe has the physical advantage, but Keith would have plenty of allies in this crowd.

7:37 - Chuck Todd's tie is pretty ugly. Also: earlier this week, someone on MSNBC (I forget who) was calling him "Chucky T." I, for one, hope this nickname sticks.

7:41 - Chuck Todd: "Senator Clinton needs to prove that she believes that Senator Obama is the captain who should be at the wheel of this ship called America" (not exact quote). We now have a nominee for Dumbest Metaphor Of The Night.

7:46 - Keith basically just told Chris Matthews to shut up, except with his fingers. The "Shut-Up Hand Sign" is what I think I'll call it. More important, though: Luke Russert is reporting from the floor for MSNBC, and Keith says it's a "honor" to hear from him (but then, Keith has always had a flair for the melodramatic). And what do you know - Luke's pretty good in front of the camera!

7:52 - There's been a lot of talk about the difficulties facing Michelle Obama tonight. MSM CW (acronyms galore!) posits that she has to be warm and fuzzy for "mainstream America." To some degree, this is coded language for saying, "She needs to be careful and avoid scaring old racists!"

7:59 - Oh, great, Bill Maher is on. Nothing like his special blend of superficial (even for cable TV!) and remarkably unfunny commentary.

8:01 - Keith Olbermann is talking about Spiro Agnew, and he's neglecting Dave Barry's important contribution to political science, which was the observation that "Spiro Agnew" is an anagram for "grow a penis." Also, things between Keith and Chris haven't cooled down. Chris was trying to make a point about Americans' apparent preference for WASP-sounding names, and he essentially told Olbermann, "You sound too ethnic to be elected to anything important!" Keith just had that same pissed look on his face that he was wearing at the beginning of this broadcast. Speaking of which, when is this coverage going to end?

8:05 - Wow. The convention schedule says Michelle Obama's speech doesn't start until 10:35! There is no way I'm going to sit around and watch this for another two and a half hours - especially when "Notorious" is playing on TCM.

Well, I lasted nearly an hour! On the other hand, I didn't cover any of the actual convention, just MSNBC's ham-fisted coverage of it. I thought about CNN and FOX News, but quick visits to those stations revealed nothing but CNN's obsession with high-tech maps and Shepard Smith (who has definitely been tanning too much) talking about Harry Truman. I didn't stay tuned long enough to find out why.

Well, that's it for now. Enjoy the convention!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Obama's VP

Steve Clemons reports that we could know as soon as tomorrow, and it's looking more and more likely that Biden will be the pick. But even that rumor isn't nearly as exciting as this possibility:
One well placed political expert just told me on the phone that we may all be wrong and that Obama could come out with something completely unexpected -- a Hillary Clinton or even (and this shocked me) Al Gore or John Kerry. (emphasis added)
Can you imagine that ticket? It would be an amazing boost for the campaign. Now, it is a pretty unlikely scenario, but it would be a brilliant pairing.

Friday, August 8, 2008

John Edwards is Terrible

The amazing thing about this story is not that John Edwards had an affair - I've never liked him very much, and he's always seemed a little sleazy to me - but that Mickey Kaus was right about something. He's been pushing this story for months, and he actually got it right!

Ann Coulter, meanwhile, is corresponding with the human race from her swamp-lair in bizarro world:
The mainstream media's reaction to the National Enquirer's reports on John Edwards' "love child" scandal has been reminiscent of the Soviet press. Edwards' name has simply been completely whitewashed out of the news.
Ah - a very calculated and careful statement. Of course, nobody is ignoring the story of the affair - just look at the big headlines on the front pages of (among many others) the NYT and WaPo, as well as huge red type on the lefty site HuffingtonPost, advertising "JOHN EDWARDS INSTANT BIG NEWS PAGE...READ ALL ABOUT IT." And that's on a night when the story is competing with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and a possible war between Russia and Georgia for news coverage. But Ann is upset about the lack of coverage of the love child story, which remains (as of now) a tabloid story that Edwards, even as he admits his infidelity, is denying. He's even offered to be tested for proof.

But why does that even matter? The MSM has the verifiable details of his affair, and that's enough for now. If there's any truth to the rumors about a love child, it will become news as well. Ann knows that - after all, she's not dense, but she's made a pretty good living exploiting people who are.

More on this topic from Steve Clemons and Lee Stranahan. Andrew Sullivan provides his readers with one public figure's thoughts on a similar situation:
"I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen," - John Edwards, on Bill Clinton, 1999.
Hypocrisy never looks good on anyone.