Monday, September 29, 2008

Defining the Culprits as Saviors

Talking the talk often  Depends  on defining situations in a way that is advantageous to you. Obama specializes in this.

Take the first part of the debate in which the economic situation was the topic. The financial crisis in which we find ourselves has been successfully defined by Obama  as a problem of  unregulated capitalism. This framing of the issue has allowed him to make the argument that deregulation is the true culprit, that Republicans like McCain, by reducing government involvement in the economy,  allowed corporate greed to run amok.

What does framing of the issue fails to explain is why, if corporate greed is at the root of the problem, is the problem centered on mortgage backed securities? Are the Wall Street bankers that issue corporate bonds or car loans any less rapacious than those involved in the housing market? What makes the housing market different is the presence, not the absence of government.  it was government backing for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that allow these entities to grow so large and to make risky loans that greedy capitalists playing with their own money would never have made. Rashness on such a scale is never long tolerated by the market unless the government stands behind it.

I was the Democrats who are the prime, and proud, movers. Fannie and Freddie were their babies. The Democrats gave them the implicit governmental guarantee and the mandate to  extend credit to otherwise  on credit worthy borrowers that lie at the heart of this crisis.  The boards of Fannie and Freddie were populated by Democratic pols.  Their campaign contributions directed primarily at Democratic coffers (Obama was that a second greatest beneficiary -- not bad for a freshman senator). Yet the culprits have managed to define themselves as saviors.  John McCain was actually one of the few in Congress who made a serious effort to rein in Fannie and Freddie in. But now, the issue having successfully been defined by Obama as deregulation, McCain is the one  hurt politically the crisis.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sensible Advice

I wish the views of the well-run banks were given more play.

Turns out You Are Entitled to Your Own Facts

Here's an article from Los Angeles Times "exposing" another McCain lie. You will recall that Obama defended his proposal to engage in negotiations without preconditions by bringing in the opinions of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  Obama, in a neat debating trick, turns the question of negotiations without preconditions into the question of having direct contacts. bus twisting the question, Obama is able to call on the support of a recent statement from and Kissinger supporting the idea of having some forms of direct medication with Iran. On this point Obama is of course correct: Kissinger does support having contacts with Iran. Indeed, who doesn't? We have had many contacts with the right-hand, both at the United Nations and, most recently, at conferences in the Middle East. But that is very different from a president sitting down to talk to another head of state. And Obama knows it.

Became confidently said that  Mr. Kissinger was on his side. Mr. Kissinger, for his part, issued a statement saying exactly the same thing. That would seem to settle the matter? Oh, you obviously don't have a degree in journalism. The Los Angeles Times faults Mr. Kissinger for not knowing his own mind. Or, what is perhaps they were servants, not knowing the mind of the anointed one. Mr. Kissinger's statement apparently commits the offense of not recognizing how Senator Obama had redefined the question. Mr. Kissinger had not taken due note of the fact that Senator Obama had redefined the issue to mean contacts in general rather than summit meetings. Thus the fault is Mr. Kissinger's, who, along with everyone else, just can't understand the subtlety of Senator Obama's thoughts.

talkers versus walkers

  Jay Nordlinger makes a point with which I agree: Obama is clearly the better debater.

This point came home to me when Obama used the phrase, "you can't just talk the talk you have to walk the walk." it struck me at the time there was an unfortunate phrase for Obama to use in the context of foreign-policy,  particularly when the discussion is about defending your friends from aggressive enemies. Surely, in that context,  "walking the walk" can only mean willingness to use military force -- a matter which can hardly make Obama comfortable.

But it seems to me that the point is larger than that. In thinking about Obama, his whole life seems to be a case of not living up to  That motto. indeed his whole life can be seen as a mockery of it, a mockery of his own motto. He talks about the sacredness of public financing and then becomes the first candidate to abandon the system, he talks about integrity and openness and rack up $1 million in earmarks for every one of the relatively few days he spent in the Senate. But even more than that, his whole life is based on talk; the question of accomplishment brings embarrassed mumbles even from his most passionate supporters.  he has ridden on words  to the heights of power  with barely in accomplishment to his name.

And most of what little he has done in his life is declared out of bounds for discussion by our political class.  We are not allowed to talk about his time with the Annenberg foundation as its chair since that would associate him with Roger Ayres, the unrepentant terrorist. We cannot talk about how the foundations spent its money under his direction for the same reason. Nor are we allowed to discuss the public-private partnership  (Fannie and Freddie Chicago style) he initiated with his property developing friends Tony Rezko & Co. (with whose help  he also bought his Hyde Park mansion) because that would associate him with a  known felon.  "Obama is not a felon. He disapproves of felonies. You are practicing McCarthyism." Substitute for   "felon," "terrorist," "slumlord," and you have the verbal magic wand which  wipes away the anointed one's past.  he has done little worth talking about and less you are allowed to. When it comes to "walking the walk," Obama  Let's his mouth to the running.

McCain, on the other hand, is uncomfortable in the world words.  He is a stranger there. His life has been almost totally lived in the world of action. As he asks nothing of words but that they reflect his deeds, he has little skill in manipulating them. They do not do his bidding. Confronted with the words of a man who uses them to avoid actions, to hide from making decisions, he is at a loss. He smiles nervously and looks around, as if to say "it just me, or am I really hearing this?"   when McCain makes mistakes it is painful to him. He admits them and apologize for them. He even tries to atone for them period witnessed his -- in my opinion misguided -- crusade for public financing of elections. Some Democrats have tried to make a point of the fact that 25 years earlier at the beginning of his Senate career McCain was caught up in the Keating five scandal.  They say, "McCain paints himself as a crusader for campaign finance reform, but he was in that scandal. This misses the point.  it is precisely because of that mistake 25 years ago that McCain has devoted his career to the cause of public finance. With Obama the order of action is reversed. He spends years talking about how important campaign finance reform is, and in his first major act, strikes a major blow against the system.

Obama has always "traveled on his tongue."  words have got him everywhere, accounted for his every  advance. Words got him his first job in politics. Pledging loyalty to his mentor as she prepared to make a bid for Congress, he was given his first  office. When she, relying on his words asked for the office back, his actions betrayed her. When she ran against him he used words again. Not the soaring rhetoric we are used to hearing, but the cold language  of law. He put his legal training to good use and got her and three other opponents disqualified. That was his first act of service to his constituents, saving them and the possibility of confusion on election Day -- his was the only name on the ballot. Public interest lawyering meets Chicago politics.

 "... Slippery vocables,  they beckon like a path of stepping stones. But lift them up and watch what writhes or scurries."

When Obama makes mistake he takes it not as a chance to apologize, much less atone, but as a challenge to his  verbal virtuosity.  The one occasion where McCain was able to deconstruct one of Obama's verbal smokescreens in real time, was when the Obama tried to pass off his  pledge  to meet  a roster of the world's worst dictators "without preconditions" as merely referring to "preparations." But by and large, most of the contradictions between Obama's words and deeds or, what is even more important, his words and his interests, are passed off as a confusion in the  part of the listener. he didn't just do the exact opposite of what he has been saying for years, you just misunderstood him.  "Just words?" Precisely.

McCain's life is a list of actions. He has said little that is memorable, done much that is. Obama... Does one even need to finish this sentence?

how in the tank are they?

 Commentary blogger Noah Pollak looks at the discrepancy between CNN's headlines and their polling numbers. while the headline says "Obama wins," the numbers, after controlling for the proportion of Democrats to Republicans who tuned into the debate, say it was a tie. Though the topline number -- 51- 38 Obama -- looks bad for McCain, reading down in the story we find that most of that is due to the greater numbers of Democrats who watched the debate in the first place -- 41-27.

Now to be fair, causality might go in a different direction. People might be more inclined to identify themselves as Democrats after having watched a debate where the Democrat, in their opinion, won. Moreover, there has been a secular increase in the proportion of Democrats compared Republicans in the electorate as a whole underway for some time. Still, CNN seems to, at the very least, have chosen to interpret their data  in the way most favorable Obama. This is important: these so-called "spiral of silence" or, as social scientists are not inclined to permit, "social desirability bias," has a tremendous effect on how the electorate as a whole perceives these debates.

Friday, September 26, 2008

the dabate continued

McCain has a good line: my opponent has the most liberal voting record in the Senate. It is hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left. His opponent, graciously, laughs at the quip.

So far the only laughter from McCain has been nervous laughter.

The great flaw in McCain’s whole gambit on the bailout package was that McCain never had a policy disagreement with Mr. Bush.

McCain spending freeze is answered with what about early childhood education? Of course we have been shoveling money at these useless programs for years but who wants to be against children? Certainly not John McCain.

Strange thing about this debate is that McCain keeps changing the subject. The reason you keep changing the subject is that McCain can’t challenge Obama in his own terms.

 Obama mentions  that Roosevelt purchased a lot of mortgages and in the end the government made money on it. Why doesn’t McCain seize on this? Why are we giving money to banks? Roosevelt gave money to people.

Obama challenged McCain spending argument by saying that under the McCain Bush administration spending has gone up and McCain voted with Bush 90% of the time. What is McCain’s answer? His answer is general, not specific his answers that he opposed Bush on a lot of things. That is true. But it is not directly answer the question why did spending go up so quickly under Bush? How would’ve been different if McCain had been president?

 The war. McCain outlines his support of the surge. His argument is clear enough.

Obama changes the question. Should we have fought the war in the first place? His argument is that we took our eye off the ball. Obama positions himself as not against military force but against using it unwisely. To a person without strong convictions on this question his argument seems quite reasonable.

McCain largely ignores a llama’s argument and goes back to talking about the   surge.

 All bomb a now directly answers McCain’s argument. It’s a decent argument he says yes the surge worked. It was a solution to a problem that we had caused. McCain refuses to look at Obama when he is being addressed and looks pathetic and weak.

McCain talks about reaching out to the opposition. But he doesn’t look at the other guy when he’s talking to him. If you want to say you’re the guy who can reach out to the other side you might show the courage to make eye contact.

Obama even has a beautiful answer for voting against the troops, McCain lacks the mental agility to answer it.

 Obama says that we should have stayed in Afghanistan and had more troops there.

Finally McCain directly answers an argument. McCain says that General Petraeus and Osama bin Laden agree on one thing, that Iraqi is the central front in the war. Not Afghanistan. That is a good answer. Unfortunately, McCain does not expand on why it is the central front in the war.

 I liked McCain’s counterpunch, saying that if you are so concerned about Afghanistan why didn’t you ever go there? Why didn’t your subcommittee ever have a hearing on the subject?

McCain gave his moving speech about Lebanon. But he didn’t mention that the group that killed the Marines in Lebanon was back and indeed created by Iran.

He makes this pitch about a league of democracies. Doesn’t that put the ball, or the game, on the opponents preferred field? Depending on our so-called friends in the world. Isn’t McCain’s argument that the Iranians won’t do anything until they believe the threat of military force is real? “Act with our friends and allies” is not a winner for McCain against a man that draws legions of foreign admirers.

Though one counters that we need Russia and China, even though they are not democracies. Then he comes back to his “not talking to someone we are punishing them” thinking is a mistake argument,  and says he will engage in tough negotiation. What makes the negotiation tough? Only what you threaten to do if the negotiation doesn’t work. What does Obama threatened to do with the negotiation doesn’t work? Well….

McCain comes out with Obama’s remark somewhere in ancient history about being willing to negotiate without precondition. Obama slides away from this blow with ease. Negotiate without precondition becomes “I reserve the right to me with anyone if I think preserve American security.” Presidential negotiation becomes having direct contacts. Obama even says the negotiations may not work.

He says that by negotiating with them we will strengthen our ability to form new alliances. Of course the exact opposite is also true. If we if we had negotiated with them alone and the negotiations broke down, our so-called allies would merely say well if only we cleaver Europeans had been involved. The fruit of McCain’s inability to make this argument is that he will not take it to its logical conclusion. Obama is correct, these differences in how to negotiate are essentially tactical. The real difference is what are we willing to do if negotiations don’t work; it is because no one is not willing to use military force that negotiations are doomed to not work.

McCain answers Obama’s argument by trying to hold him to his statement in the debate of almost a year ago. McCain does make a good point about how the President negotiating with someone legitimizes them. McCain gets the South Koreans are 3 inches taller number wrong. As I recall it’s much more than 3 inches.  The number I recall was 12 inches.

McCain looks weak because he is not willing to look at Obama. Why is he not willing to? Because he can’t be drawn into a direct argument.

A now McCain is trying to argue. He has figured out that Obama is parsing words. He realizes that Obama is changing “without preconditions” to “preparations.” That is a decent moment for him and it is the one time he actually looks Obama.

McCain shows off his ability to pronounce weird foreign names in discussing Russia and Georgia.

Obama defends his initial reaction to the Russian invasion. Said I called it wrong and illegal. This is a strong reaction for Obama. Obama says that I warned the president that we have Russian peacekeepers in south Georgia. That makes no sense. We should get an international envoy and international peacekeepers. Why didn’t anybody think of that before? I suppose the reason that there are Russian peacekeepers there is because, well, it didn’t occur to anyone to ask someone else to do it. What a pity that the woman was not on hand with this statement was made but was it a mistake? Of course not. There are Russian peacekeepers there because the Russians are willing to fight and kill and die for something. the Russians are there because the Russians are willing to use force. They demanded to be there.  The Russians are there because the Russians consider using force a part of diplomacy. They do not, like Obama, consider sending an envoy a strong reaction.

Obama used the phrase walk the walk and talk the talk in relation to the Georgia Russia situation. Should he really use that phrase? Doesn’t walking the walk in defending allies from aggression entailed using force?

“What I’ve said is that we have to store nuclear wastes safely?” Oh, another great idea. Why didn’t we think of that? My plan was to put in mason jars and back of my grandmothers house. How fortunate that Obama came along and told us of the folly of our ways.

McCain says I know our allies and I can work more closely with them. Is that a good argument for him to make? One of the creepiest things about Obama is how much foreigners like him. One of McCain’s strongest ads was criticizing the one for his popularity among four. By talking about how popular he is with foreigners he undermines his own argument, saying that it is not a bad thing and that it is not in fact true that Obama is popular with foreigners.

 Obama calls for more spending on nuclear proliferation. There is no problem to which Obama does not propose spending more money as the solution.

Obama takes the opening given to him by McCain, graciously complements McCain on his opposition to torture, and then goes on to rhapsodize about the importance of being liked by foreigners.

McCain talks about Obama’s dangerous plan for having a specific date for withdrawal. You know what I think is the weakness of this argument? Obama doesn’t really even believe his own plan for one will not be held to that date, if he decides it would be a bad idea to leave that quote the date, then he will talk his way out of it.

Obama makes the “Al Qaeda is resurgent,” and became has not so far answered it. Al Qaeda is resurgent in Pakistan. But it is and how he did in Iraq. And it is doubly hated in Afghanistan.

No one talks about a broader strategic vision. McCain does not have a broader strategic vision. He has a broader feeling, he has deeper commitments, and convictions. But he does not have a clear argument. He has a deep belief that this is a dangerous world with bad people and it, and that you deal with them through strength and credible threats of force. That you deal with your enemies by standing by your friends.  He is right. But he does not have the mental flexibility to make that argument. Sadly, he only has the character.  His problem is that he does walk the walk, it is the talk that trips him up.

Obama says that our standing in the world has gone down, but the way children world looked the United States is changed. Why doesn’t McCain say, yeah, asked the kids in Iraq how they feel about American soldiers. McCain doesn’t have the flexibility to make an argument in real time. He answers with one of his canned but good stories.

live blogging debate

 I'm watching the debate from a live streaming broadcast from the debate organization itself. This will be my first attempt at live blogging and my first attempt at blogging using the Mac Dictate program.

  the first debate is supposed to be about  the form policy, but the global financial crisis as overtaken that. Somehow through the magic of optics they appear to have found a way to make John McCain look almost as tall as obama.
   the root problem problem is foreclosures are taking place all across the country. in the root problem is deregulation and trickle-down economics from the Bush McCain administration.

 Albano looks the Camera McCain looks at Jim.  That, and his beginning with a note of concern for Senator Kennedy, reinforces the old fashioned this McCain.

Unfortunately instead of placing the blame where it really is, he goes into his old blather about bipartisanship and getting beyond party. The problem is that there has been a  bipartisan consensus of elites  to subsidize mortgages and bailout Wall Street.

It's strange that McCain ends his curiously rambling description of the problem by talking about ending our dependence on foreign oil. Clearly he is not going to try to blame the Democrats for these subprime lending us which is at the root of the problem. That is too bad. All bomb has to do is say this occurred while Bush McCain was president.  even he blames all my regulation is always bad philosophy.

McCain calls at corporate greed. But it is not corporate greed it is corporate greed backed by an implicit government guarantee. That implicit guarantee was designed and supported by the Democrats.

McCain's accountability   argument turns back on himself.

McCain has to point out that Wall Street didn't get in trouble in other areas the only trouble is in the housing market wiser trouble in the housing market and not in other areas of Wall Street finances because the government got involved in the housing market.  a

McCain will lose this debate unless he comes with a counterargument. I'll vomit has a story deregulation and the Bush McCain organization. McCain counted up let's be bipartisan. That is a loser.

In 13 minutes in and he has not mentioned that Obama is the second largest recipient of funds from the mortgage banking industry.

 win McCain is asked what to do about this is problem, he talks about overall overspending. This gets him to his favorite team of fighting here marks.

  the dominant narrative and immediately resume bomber good McCain has to win this debate,   golden boy merely has to not lose. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You know you're in over your head when...

 Here is a really smart guy admitting that he has no idea what Paulson is doing. When a professor of finance from Yale who specializes in writing about the housing market and who says he admires you admits he has no idea what your plan involves, you know your plan is too complicated.

asking the wrong questionTab

 In all of the breathless talk about how Sarah Palin really didn't kill the bridge to nowhere, we have lost track of the question of who kept the thing alive. It turns out it was, in part, Senators Joe Biden and Barak Obama.   CNN reports that not only did the two Washington Senators voted repeatedly to keep  bridge alive, Democrats in the governor's own state of Alaska made an issue of her killing it. Perhaps the next time the Democrats start mocking the governor for her supposedly false claim they include the Democratic Party of Alaska among the objects of their derision.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mr. Smooth

It is really striking how the Obama campaign has misfired. They just seem to keep misfiring.  But the attack on McCain's computer use seems the most egregious thing so far.  How could you bring up something so low?  To make an ad about how he can't use a computer when the explanation is that he can't use a computer keyboard for the same reason he can't comb his hair or tie his shoes--years of torture by the North Vietnamese.  Why would you ever give your opponent an opening like that?  Don't those guys over at the Obama campaign know about the internet? links to all the ways this is a daft ad.

Still, I could be wrong.  Unlike the lipstick-pig thing this one has not gotten out on the MSM.  I don't know why.  It seems a natural story. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Revisionist Admiration

I think this post by Tom Bevan is closest to my take on the "lipstick-pig" controversy. Bevan adds the important point that however the remark might have reasonably been taken it is clear how his audience took it. When we talk about the way we want our politics to sound that is about the ugliest thing I could imagine. I seem to be an outlier in taking meanings from how people put things. A politician should be judged on the meaning a reasonable person in his society would take something. On that test Obama is clearly in the wrong. There is another point, this one made by Bevan and one that had not occurred to me, that McCain would be the first to apologize for a word or phrase that could be taken as a racial slur, quite apart from how he himself meant it. Who has, after all, been marching around demanding that we all watch what we say and taking the worst possible meaning out of every utterance? Good on them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I hate agreeing with Obama

Much as I hate to admit it, I cannot seriously believe that anyone actually thinks the "lipstick on a pig" remark was actually directed at Governor Palin. Even the arguments that he should have known better, should have known how it would be interpreted posit a culture where every remark is given its worst possible construal. Is that a good thing? Is it what conservatives stand for? Didn't we say during the Lott affair that it was wrong to read so much into a remark. What kind of political culture do we end up with if we give everyone an incentive to search out insults in every analogy or casual remark? Hardly one that promotes free and open debate.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

McCain and the Surge

Here is a vigorous defense of McCain's claim that it was his support for the surge that almost killed his candidacy, a claim labeled as "bogus" by Mickey Kaus.

Not very reassuring

Obama's argument: Vote for me, I couldn't take away your guns even if I wanted to. There aren't enough votes for it in Congress. Not because it is against the Constitution, which after all, only means what the other smart people like me that went to Harvard think it means, and certainly not because it would be wrong. Just because there are too many people in Congress that wouldn't vote for it. Isn't that an argument for not voting for people that, well, think like Obama? Yes, he is a seasoned professional alright.

What is worse are the arguments for keeping guns. "Traditions of sportsmanship," etc., are so condescending. You could have a bit more confidence that gun rights were secure with him if he could give a serious reason for those rights.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Did They Expcet?

One of the things that is so strange to me about the Sarah Palin coverage is the idea that social conservatives would be upset about her teenage daughter's pregnancy. It is rather depressing that there is such a gulf of feeling and sentiment that one side can so mistake the reactions of the other to an issue. Did people actually believe that conservatives would be demanding she be removed from the ticket or something? And what did they expect the McCain team to do, put out a press release about the woman's daughter? How weird would that have been?

One thing is rather self-serving about the surprise the MSM is expressing about the conservative lack of reaction--it feeds into their meme about the improper vetting of Palin by the McCain team. They can't just take the natural and obvious explanation that McCain didn't care (and what a monster he would have been portrayed as if it had gotten out that he was upset about it or even nixed her candidacy over it) but instead has to be evidence of his failure to do due diligence. What was he supposed to have done or said about it? Was he supposed to have announced the kid's problems? Denounced them? Is it fair or even reasonable to call his indifference to the situation a mistake if his having done anything else would have been denounced as an even worse failing? Either way the MSM are going to find a fault with the conservative. And imagine if this had been a liberal's daughter in this situation. When liberal John Edwards has a child out of wedlock and is caught meeting the mother in a motel room forcing him to hide in a bathroom it is a non-story but when the opportunity to smear a conservative comes up the creeps have a field day. It is just creepy.

Another interesting point that Cook brings out is that reporters are treating her as an unworthy choice in part because they had been treating her as an unworthy choice. This would not have happened with Pawlenty even though objectively he is about the same on experience and Palin simply because they had been talking about him as a contender.