Thursday, July 31, 2008

McCain Talking Out of Both Sides of His Mouth

To make up for my two day hiatus, here is another interesting article on McCain from of all sources the Wall Street Journal; an editorial by Daniel Henninger entitled "Is John McCain Stupid?":

On Sunday, he said on national television that to solve Social Security "everything's on the table," which of course means raising payroll taxes. On July 7 in Denver he said: "Senator Obama will raise your taxes. I won't."
This isn't a flip-flop. It's a sex-change operation.
He got back to the subject Tuesday in Reno, Nev. Reporters asked about the Sunday tax comments. Mr. McCain replied, "The worst thing you could do is raise people's payroll taxes, my God!" Then he was asked about working with Democrats to fix Social Security, and he repeated, "everything has to be on the table." But how can . . .? Oh never mind.
Yesterday he was in Aurora, Colo., to wit: "On Social Security, he [Sen. Obama] wants to raise Social Security taxes. I am opposed to raising taxes on Social Security. I want to fix the system without raising taxes."

I doubt that McCain is stupid, though he does seem to have some of the aloofness to issues and general political knowledge another candidate once showed (you might remember him, he got a job as the leader of the free world). The problem is that the very subset of the American public that will probably decide this election is more likely to have a view of Brittany Spears in their head than a list of the inconsistencies in McCain's positions from one day to the next. Obama should make those inconsistencies clear to the public through a series of TV ads that highlight the real flip-flopper in this election, and the fact that while flip-flopping is not that bad if based on changing circumstances; is a character flaw when based solely on political expediency.

McCain Moves into the Surreal; TV and Kids

First the election: McCain's latest ad moves beyond the realm of understand, into the surreal -- arguing that Obama is just too popular to be president. (,0,3819744,print.story) Huh? While the ad seems absurd to the point of nonsensical, I wonder if it is part of the building strategy to show that "Obama isn't one of us." ( The question is does this mean he is an elitist, an out-of-touch liberal American or, huh, maybe just a Black man that many Republicans believe is a Muslim? And the comparisons to Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton while funny is really a new low. The point though is it could very well work. Americans love an underdog and they also love a president they believe at some level is like them. Obama is hard-pressed to fit in that role, while McCain can continue to play on the largely positive perspective of the media and general public to congeal right into that mold. But how low will he go, appears to be the question of the hour? Of course, according to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in his fawing op-ed today, none of this is his fault (he's just being manipulated by those around him): In response, one might ask if his entire theme of being more ready to serve as commander in chief isn't undermined by the fact he can't seem to come up with a reason to be president except "better of two evils" and can't seem to stand up for himself against the wishes of his advisors.

On a cultural note, two recent reports have fueled the arguments about TV and children:

1) A study by Cornell that appears to provide evidence that the skyrocketing rates of autism are related to television viewing in the early years (before age 4): So those immunization shots might not be so bad after all; it's Disney, the Cartoon Network, Miley Cyrus and the rest of the made-for-young children TV that really deserve a second look (but by researchers and parents, not kids!)
2) A report by the APA that "Baby Borrowers" may cause harm to young children and adolescent's mental health. Don't worry though, NBC thinks it a good way to sell the show, and that's all that really matters, right?

Monday, July 28, 2008


Thomas Shaller of Salon's War Room makes a point today worth considering -- can the relentless attack of McCain put a permanent dent in Obama's image, leading many to question his character and thus vote against him? American politics over the past few decades has been dominated by the distance between image and reality, with the image appearing to win out much of the time. Can McCain beat the truth, the pundits and the issues right out of this campaign, as appeared to be the case in 2000 and 2004? It is certainly possible.

Lest us forget that most Americans believed Hussein was directly involved in 9/11 and that they further believed at least one Iraqi was on one of the planes (even as pictures of them plastered papers for weeks) long after both those lies had been exposed. I've gotten emails from conservative friends with the "Obama is a Muslim" line and warnings of a terrorist takeover of the country. The truth is we are a country that hates intellectual elites and loves monied elites (particularly of the celebrity type). And if McCain can make it stick that Obama is cocky, elitist (remember Hillary started that theme), a flip flopper (from the ultimate flip flopper of recent memory) and not really ready to lead; we could certainly see a shift in the favorite after the conventions. At the same time, the press (with the notable exception of Fox) has certainly started to at least question McCain for his increasingly dirty campaign. And even some in his own party are impugning his tactics:

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) criticizing John McCain's latest ad on CBS' Face the Nation, "I think John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, 'You're less patriotic than me. I'm more patriotic.'"

By the way, it turns out McCain has been to fewer Afghanistan meetings than Obama over the past two years (0), even as he is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services committee. And he has now entered a new level of double-speak by denying his own words in an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday (see clip here:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

McCain Hits a New Low (Hard to Believe, Isn't It?)

Frank Rich has a great editorial in the New York Times today (, considering the ways in which Obama has already had a profound influence on the political landscape in the U.S. and on the foreign policy of the Bush Administration. At the same time, the latest ad from McCain has come out . . .

"Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan.He hadn't been to Iraq in years.He voted against funding our troops.And now, he made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops.Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras.John McCain is always there for our troops.McCain. Country first.John McCain: I'm John McCain and I approve this message."

This ad shows not only the ongoing desperation and in-civility of McCain, but really the bankruptcy of his run for president. More than any Republican candidate in history, McCain has nothing to offer the country and is thus running a campaign based completely on critique, with no real alternatives offered. Can we really afford more tax cuts and less government regulation right now? Can we really afford a president who admits relative ignorance on foreign affairs and economics? Can we really afford a president who got the war wrong, but got the surge right? If this is the best the Republicans have to offer, we might see a huge Democratic victory in November across the board.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Straight Talk Express Vears South . . .

toward Texas from what I can tell. In less than a month the calls for civility, real talk on the issues and a different kind of presidential campaign have taken a clear turn toward the Rove strategy that gave Bush two terms in the presidency, and a nation a lesson in how bad a one-minute mistake in the voting booths can affect their lives. The Washington Post sums up McCain's hypocrisy in this telling editorial today . . .

Failing in CivilityJohn McCain falls short of the standard he set by impugning Barack Obama's motives.
Saturday, July 26, 2008; A14
POLITICIANS SAY a lot of things in the heat of campaigns that they end up regretting -- or ought to regret. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, had one of those unfortunate moments the other day, when he charged that his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, "would rather lose the war to win a political campaign."
Having said this once, been criticized and had a chance to think it over, Mr. McCain chose to repeat it. "He would rather lose a war than lose a campaign," Mr. McCain told the Columbus Dispatch. "Because anyone who fails to acknowledge that the surge has worked, who has consistently opposed it, consistently never sat down and had a briefing with General Petraeus, our commander there, would rather lose a war than a political campaign."
Mr. McCain's disagreement with Mr. Obama is as heartfelt as it is important. We, too, have concerns about the dangerous implications of Mr. Obama's insistence on withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within 16 months regardless of conditions there. We, too, fault Mr. Obama's unwillingness to acknowledge his mistake in predicting that the surge would fail. But Mr. McCain needn't impute motives to make his points. It's one thing to say Mr. Obama is wrong. It's another to accuse him of putting political self-interest over country. This is not the "politics of civility" that Mr. McCain was promising as recently as last month.
"What a welcome change it would be were presidential candidates in our time to treat each other and the people they seek to lead with respect and courtesy as they discussed the great issues of the day," Mr. McCain wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama proposing weekly town hall meetings. With these latest comments, Mr. McCain falls short of the standards he set out.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Lies Just Keep On Coming . . .

A War Room report in Salon today provides the latest inaccuracies propogated by the McCain: What recent weeks have shown is that the only way Republicans can argue for their failed policies is through false innuendo and outright lies. McCain has shown a willingness to participate in this political Realpolitik with great aplomb, though with little accuity to date. One wonders if the integrity of the candidate will ever be fully explored in a popular press that appears enamored by another politician whose words have very little to do with his actions; or even his words from a few years, or even days, ago.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

McCain the Cynic

Obama emerged as a different kind of candidate, one that could transcend the politics of the past by both overcoming the battles of the 60s and by bringing a more positive face to politics. McCain and the media seem to want to make sure that doesn't happen. As an article in Slate argues today (, McCain is attacking indiscrimately and, quite often, based on misleading or downright false information.

Cynicism has dominated American politics since Reagan (and really Nixon, with a potential Carter lacuna, depending on your perspective). Rather than attempting to address the real problems of this country, attack ads, false promises and playing on a lack of hope in the possibility of change have dominated. People are inspired by those that promise change, but they are more worried about the possibility change could actually occur.

The media seems to be more receptive to this paradox than the average citizen. When Nader started to gain a following, they ignored him or offered short stories that discounted his candidacy. When Dean garnered a massive popular following, they took him down with a decontextualized video clip that ensured a milquetoast candidate they decided to destroy anyway. Four years earlier, when Gore started talking like a populist against the big corporations and for the people; the press played up the "lying" motif and allowed the race to be close enough to be stolen. And now they appear to be doing it again. Articles about Obama always include McCain's critique, no matter how absurd -- generally without any clarification or reference back to the facts. I remember a similar theme a few years ago, in the build up to a war.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

McCain's Campaign of Lies Keeps on Trucking

From the New York Times this morning:

“Every intelligence agency in the world believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. McCain replied, adding that the Hussein government had also violated human rights. He then quickly shifted to the need to persevere, saying he expected attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq “so they can erode support for the al-Maliki government” during the American election campaign.
“We will come home with honor and victory, and it will be dictated by facts on the ground,” he continued. “We have succeeded, and I am confident we will win victory, and that is all contingent on our commitment to making sure we withdraw according to conditions on the ground.”
In a speech at a fund-raising luncheon in Detroit, Mr. McCain also implicitly criticized Mr. Obama in suggesting that his trip to Iraq — the schedule for which remains undisclosed, partly for security reasons — might be at hand.
“I am sure,” Mr. McCain added, “that Senator Obama is going to arrive in Baghdad in a much, much safer and secure environment than the one that he would have encountered before we started the surge.”
The McCain campaign also infuriated the Obama camp with the new advertisement, which accused Mr. Obama of “voting against funding our troops” and said he was abandoning his original positions on the war “to help himself become president.”
Bill Burton, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, described the ad as “patently misleading,” and campaign officials issued a phrase-by-phrase rebuttal.
Those salvos were preceded by an interview, published Friday in The Kansas City Star, in which Mr. McCain suggested that Mr. Obama might be a socialist. At a campaign event in Kansas City on Thursday, Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of having the “most extreme” voting record in the Senate. When The Star asked about the comment, he said Mr. Obama had taken positions “more to the left than the announced socialist in the U.S. Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont.”
The reporter then asked Mr. McCain if he thought Mr. Obama himself was a socialist. “I don’t know,” Mr. McCain answered. “All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.”

McCain's growing desperation seems to go against everything he once stood for. While the press continues to focus on whatever he or other Republicans say about Obama, they appear to be missing the big story of this election -- which is the complete disavowal of everything McCain claims to stand for on a daily basis.

As I have discussed in detail below, he has completely retrenched on campaign finance reform. He has all but eliminated any of the heterodoxy that once made him a "renegade," at least in conservative and McAuliff-style liberal camps. He claimed he wanted a civil election about the issues, and has since done nothing but offer one lie or attack after another against Obama. But this is just getting absurd. The same day Graham quits the campaign, he tells us that all respected intelligence in the world said Hussein had WMDs, when that is far from the truth, even in this country. He claims Obama is a socialist, when it is clear his positions are so far removed from that ideology it is beyond preposterous, and he demands that Obama go to Iraq and then criticizes him incessantly when he does. Let's hope the press begins to at least cover this "flip flopping" dirty politcal gambit that appears to be McCain's only hope of victory.

On a lighter note, the EPA just lowered the value of a human from slightly over $8 million to around $7.2 million. This is good news for big business and those who think corporate profitability will be hurt if we actually make decisions that benefit humanity. Thank God for that move as inflation rises and the cost of actually keeping Americans above the poverty line increases dramatically.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Liberal Media?

It seems like the "liberal" media is at it again. Jonathan Chait from The New Republic has an article today that seems to discount all of McCain's shortcomings, telling us he still likes him and at least he'd be better than Bush: The New Yorker cover that is causing a major imbroglio has left the actual story uncovered. It covers his early years in Chicago politics from what can best be described as an "uppity negro" narrative, as if only a Black politican would stoop to culling his contacts carefully, making strategic decisions about his friends and enemies, taking advantage of opportunities to advance, and worst of all, being ambitious!

As with 2000 and 2004, it appears the "liberal" media is just a cover for an increasingly conservative shift that has been going on for some time now. In 1999, Pew showed this shift empirically with an extensive survey that found newsmen and women were more liberal than the public socially but more conservative economically and on foreign policy. We have seen the effects of this in the last two election cycles and it appears to be happening again. After the original love affair with Obama, it now appears the media has turned against him and is ready to assassinate his unseemly amibition by ensuring they help elect the more "likable" guy again. The problem this time is the facade that is McCain. Much like Bush, he admits he has little real knowledge of foreign affairs or the economy. He has internal fighting in his campaign between the tax cutters and the budget balancers. He is the true flip-flopper in the race, in an almost unprecedented ideological transformation that appears to have little to do with his true beliefs and more to do with electability. And on the issues most important to the country -- taxes, economic stimulus, regulation, Iraq and Iran and many social issues -- he appears to be walking hand in hand with a President who has the lowest approval rating in history.

Since McCain cannot really win on the issues, the only way to win is to return to the Rovian strategies of the past -- and he already seems to be moving with great celerity in that direction. Will the media challenge him, or allow the big lie to move this country further down the road of its internal and external decline? Obama better come up with some way to divert their attention or we might see another late season surprise.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Has the Left Lost It's Sense of Humor

The New Yorker cover has certainly caused an uproar in liberal camps in the past few days, based largely on two related trends in liberal/left camps. The first is an intractable elitism based on the premise that the right is full of dolts and bufoons who are senseless cogs in the Republican machine. While there is obviously some truth in that, I think it is exactly this elitism that has spurned a change in who the "elites" are in this country -- namely liberals. Thomas Franks has outlined this trend quite nicely in What's the Matter With Kansas? but one of the reasons the strategy is so effective is because many liberals and leftists are, in fact, elitists. If the left wants to turn this around they need to start respecting "Average" Americans, and stop assuming their ethical choices are based on some innate moral superiority, rather than what they really are -- a choice (which I support). Ethics must be fought over and require more than guilt and calls for responsibility; they require a sound and compelling argument for why those ethics are preferable and how they will benefit America and the world (including the individuals you are trying to persuade).

The second issue is covered in a Salon article today: It talks about the collapsing humor on the left, brought on by a misappropriated self-righteousness and a penchant for humorlessness in all things. Where is the left that once gave us Abby Hoffman, the Chicago 7, Woody Allen, Millionaires for Bush and the like? Liberals take themselves too seriously and fall into the trap of political correctness run amok. Someone is offended by just about any political statement, but it's time for some unity on the left to ensure that we take advantage of a great opportunity to end the near junta on conservative presidents (I largely include Clinton in this camp). I'm not sure why Hillary Clinton supporters are continuing their absurd call for the unfairness of the process. They lost the delegate race and the popular vote race (unless we count a state where Obama wasn't even on the ballot and a state where Obama never campaigned). Liberals have to find a way to inject some joy and excitement back into their politics and find an affirmative message to offer the public -- sort of along the lines of what Obama is doing now. The Bernie Mac incident, while his comments were certainly offensive, just shows how self-censorship dominates the left and makes it impossible to talk about anything.

Anyway, that's my thought for the day.