Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 13, 2008

Is This It? Really?

The New York Times does the all-so predictable Sarah Palin bill of indictment for its Sunday front page. It certainly sounds compelling in the paragraph called the “nut graf”:

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.

But what is so remarkable is how little there is in the page after page of minutiae thrown against the wall by the Times. And indeed there’s plenty of favorable material there. Up front we learn:

Ms. Palin has many supporters. As a two-term mayor she paved roads and built an ice rink, and as governor she has pushed through higher taxes on the oil companies that dominate one-third of the state’s economy. She stirs deep emotions. In Wasilla, many residents display unflagging affection, cheering “our Sarah” and hissing at her critics.

In just the first few paragraphs you have testimony that she was “effective and accessible.” So where are we going here? Well, despite the testimony that she was “accessible,” others find her “secretive” and inclined to put a premium on “loyalty.” The evidence? The Governor’s office declined a request for emails that would have cost over $400,000. Proof positive. Oh, and the records sought (about Polar Bears and such) were in fact obtained.

Then there is the ” she blurs personal and public behavior” charge. The evidence? A phone call from Todd Palin to a state legislator about the latter’s chief of staff, which Palin denies was mentioned. Pretty thin gruel.

Next we have her tenure as mayor, where again all heck breaks loose because — are ya sitting down? — she brought in her own team. No! Unheard of. Jeeez. Next she’ll be firing the town museum director. Oh no– it’s true! Palin says (“Oh yeah, she says,” you can hear the Times reporters hrrumphing) she was cutting the budget.

This is pathetic, really. Is there something illegal here? Is there something nefarious? What is the point?

The next offense: while she was mayor city employees were told not to talk to the press. The horror! Might there have been a procedure, a public affairs or press person for that? We don’t know and the Times doesn’t tell us.

Then we get to the book banning. But if you read carefully there is no banning, no censorship, no list and no nothing other than someone became “scared” of Palin:

“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”

“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”

So Palin talked “about” removing books — but the piece doesn’t tell us what was said. And we hear about Palin’s distaste for a book about homosexual parenting. Again, is there some story in here? We’re up to page three and it hasn’t popped out yet.

We then learn that she did take on her own Republican Party and won the election for Governor by, goodness gracious, preparing for debates with notecards. Color-coded no less.

Then on page four of this eye-popping account, we learn as Governor she had the temerity to have “surrounded herself with people she has known since grade school and members of her church.” No! She hired people she knew? And people she trusted because she had just run against a hostile machine of her own party? The Lieutenant Governor offers up that they were “competent, qualified, top-notch people,” but are you going to believe him? And then the kicker: it seemed to, well, work out pretty well. We learn:

To her supporters — and with an 80 percent approval rating, she has plenty — Ms. Palin has lifted Alaska out of a mire of corruption. She gained the passage of a bill that tightens the rules covering lobbyists. And she rewrote the tax code to capture a greater share of oil and gas sale proceeds.

“Does anybody doubt that she’s a tough negotiator?” said State Representative Carl Gatto, Republican of Palmer.

The nerve — hiring trusted people and running a competent, popular administration. So we veer back to “secrecy” –dastardly tales of using a private email account and reliance on a circle of close advisors. Once again, the sheer banality of it all is both numbing and humorous. Surely the Old Grey Lady hasn’t devoted all this space for nothing? But that’s the conclusion one reaches as we stumble into page five. And that seems to have more of the same — people who didn’t get emails returned or thought she was too adversarial, harboring a “siege-like” mentality against her foes.

Wow, are you shocked and appalled yet? Me neither, and I can’t for the life of me figure out the point of the story. Ah, yes: the reporters were told to “get the goods” and this is all they found. But being the New York Times they made it really long, put it on the front page, and hoped people wouldn’t read it all that closely and say, “I guess she has a pretty good record if that’s all they had.”

And if you are looking for any detailed description of any of  her accomplishments — presumably the reason for her 80 percent popularity — forget it. No room for that.

The New York Times does the all-so predictable Sarah Palin bill of indictment for its Sunday front page. It certainly sounds compelling in the paragraph called the “nut graf”:

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.

But what is so remarkable is how little there is in the page after page of minutiae thrown against the wall by the Times. And indeed there’s plenty of favorable material there. Up front we learn:

Ms. Palin has many supporters. As a two-term mayor she paved roads and built an ice rink, and as governor she has pushed through higher taxes on the oil companies that dominate one-third of the state’s economy. She stirs deep emotions. In Wasilla, many residents display unflagging affection, cheering “our Sarah” and hissing at her critics.

In just the first few paragraphs you have testimony that she was “effective and accessible.” So where are we going here? Well, despite the testimony that she was “accessible,” others find her “secretive” and inclined to put a premium on “loyalty.” The evidence? The Governor’s office declined a request for emails that would have cost over $400,000. Proof positive. Oh, and the records sought (about Polar Bears and such) were in fact obtained.

Then there is the ” she blurs personal and public behavior” charge. The evidence? A phone call from Todd Palin to a state legislator about the latter’s chief of staff, which Palin denies was mentioned. Pretty thin gruel.

Next we have her tenure as mayor, where again all heck breaks loose because — are ya sitting down? — she brought in her own team. No! Unheard of. Jeeez. Next she’ll be firing the town museum director. Oh no– it’s true! Palin says (“Oh yeah, she says,” you can hear the Times reporters hrrumphing) she was cutting the budget.

This is pathetic, really. Is there something illegal here? Is there something nefarious? What is the point?

The next offense: while she was mayor city employees were told not to talk to the press. The horror! Might there have been a procedure, a public affairs or press person for that? We don’t know and the Times doesn’t tell us.

Then we get to the book banning. But if you read carefully there is no banning, no censorship, no list and no nothing other than someone became “scared” of Palin:

“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”

“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”

So Palin talked “about” removing books — but the piece doesn’t tell us what was said. And we hear about Palin’s distaste for a book about homosexual parenting. Again, is there some story in here? We’re up to page three and it hasn’t popped out yet.

We then learn that she did take on her own Republican Party and won the election for Governor by, goodness gracious, preparing for debates with notecards. Color-coded no less.

Then on page four of this eye-popping account, we learn as Governor she had the temerity to have “surrounded herself with people she has known since grade school and members of her church.” No! She hired people she knew? And people she trusted because she had just run against a hostile machine of her own party? The Lieutenant Governor offers up that they were “competent, qualified, top-notch people,” but are you going to believe him? And then the kicker: it seemed to, well, work out pretty well. We learn:

To her supporters — and with an 80 percent approval rating, she has plenty — Ms. Palin has lifted Alaska out of a mire of corruption. She gained the passage of a bill that tightens the rules covering lobbyists. And she rewrote the tax code to capture a greater share of oil and gas sale proceeds.

“Does anybody doubt that she’s a tough negotiator?” said State Representative Carl Gatto, Republican of Palmer.

The nerve — hiring trusted people and running a competent, popular administration. So we veer back to “secrecy” –dastardly tales of using a private email account and reliance on a circle of close advisors. Once again, the sheer banality of it all is both numbing and humorous. Surely the Old Grey Lady hasn’t devoted all this space for nothing? But that’s the conclusion one reaches as we stumble into page five. And that seems to have more of the same — people who didn’t get emails returned or thought she was too adversarial, harboring a “siege-like” mentality against her foes.

Wow, are you shocked and appalled yet? Me neither, and I can’t for the life of me figure out the point of the story. Ah, yes: the reporters were told to “get the goods” and this is all they found. But being the New York Times they made it really long, put it on the front page, and hoped people wouldn’t read it all that closely and say, “I guess she has a pretty good record if that’s all they had.”

And if you are looking for any detailed description of any of  her accomplishments — presumably the reason for her 80 percent popularity — forget it. No room for that.

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The Michigan Example

Phil Gramm and Mike Salon provide some interesting data:

Ranking states by domestic migration, per-capita income growth and employment growth, [American Legislative Exchange Council] ALEC found that from 1996 through 2006, Texas, Florida and Arizona were the three most successful states. Illinois, Ohio and Michigan were the three least successful. The rewards for success were huge. Texas gained 1.7 million net new jobs, Florida gained 1.4 million and Arizona gained 600,000. While the U.S. average job growth percentage was 9.9%, Texas, Florida and Arizona had job growth of 18.5%, 21.4% and 28.9%, respectively.

Remarkably, a third of all the jobs in the U.S. in the last 10 years were created in these three states. While the population of the three highest-performing states grew twice as fast as the national average, per-capita real income still grew by $6,563 or 21.4% in Texas, Florida and Arizona. That’s a $26,252 increase for a typical family of four.
By comparison, Illinois gained only 122,000 jobs, Ohio lost 62,900 and Michigan lost 318,000. Population growth in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois was only 4.2%, a third the national average, and real income per capita rose by only $3,466, just 58% of the national average. Workers in the three least successful states had to contend with a quarter-million fewer jobs rather than taking their pick of the 3.7 million new jobs that were available in the three fastest-growing states.

In Michigan, the average family of four had to make ends meet without an extra $8,672 had their state matched the real income growth of the three most successful states. Families in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois struggled not because they didn’t work hard enough, long enough or smart enough. They struggled because too many of their elected leaders represented special interests rather than their interests.

Gramm and Salon frame this as an issue of policy and governance: the above stats show the superiority of a low tax, free trade, modest regulatory regime which John McCain favors. As I have argued, this forms the basis of a rather potent political argument for McCain, especially in Michigan, where voters have experienced Democratic ascendancy first hand. (Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm has popularity ratings worse than Bush’s.)

Barack Obama delights in calling McCain George W. Bush’s “twin” or “clone.” It may be that McCain’s best counter is to suggest that Obama will do for the country what Granholm did for Michigan. That’s enough to scare some voters — and not just in Michigan.

Phil Gramm and Mike Salon provide some interesting data:

Ranking states by domestic migration, per-capita income growth and employment growth, [American Legislative Exchange Council] ALEC found that from 1996 through 2006, Texas, Florida and Arizona were the three most successful states. Illinois, Ohio and Michigan were the three least successful. The rewards for success were huge. Texas gained 1.7 million net new jobs, Florida gained 1.4 million and Arizona gained 600,000. While the U.S. average job growth percentage was 9.9%, Texas, Florida and Arizona had job growth of 18.5%, 21.4% and 28.9%, respectively.

Remarkably, a third of all the jobs in the U.S. in the last 10 years were created in these three states. While the population of the three highest-performing states grew twice as fast as the national average, per-capita real income still grew by $6,563 or 21.4% in Texas, Florida and Arizona. That’s a $26,252 increase for a typical family of four.
By comparison, Illinois gained only 122,000 jobs, Ohio lost 62,900 and Michigan lost 318,000. Population growth in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois was only 4.2%, a third the national average, and real income per capita rose by only $3,466, just 58% of the national average. Workers in the three least successful states had to contend with a quarter-million fewer jobs rather than taking their pick of the 3.7 million new jobs that were available in the three fastest-growing states.

In Michigan, the average family of four had to make ends meet without an extra $8,672 had their state matched the real income growth of the three most successful states. Families in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois struggled not because they didn’t work hard enough, long enough or smart enough. They struggled because too many of their elected leaders represented special interests rather than their interests.

Gramm and Salon frame this as an issue of policy and governance: the above stats show the superiority of a low tax, free trade, modest regulatory regime which John McCain favors. As I have argued, this forms the basis of a rather potent political argument for McCain, especially in Michigan, where voters have experienced Democratic ascendancy first hand. (Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm has popularity ratings worse than Bush’s.)

Barack Obama delights in calling McCain George W. Bush’s “twin” or “clone.” It may be that McCain’s best counter is to suggest that Obama will do for the country what Granholm did for Michigan. That’s enough to scare some voters — and not just in Michigan.

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Where Are The 270?

The movement in national polls is one thing — McCain holds a small lead – but the electoral map (McCain now leads 227-217 according to RealClearPolitics) which is based on state polling tells a more dramatic story about the shift in the presidential race.

In Florida for example, McCain now has a RCP average lead of five points. A Florida newpaper reports:

Despite spending an estimated $8-million on campaign ads in America’s biggest battleground state and putting in place the largest Democratic campaign organization ever in Florida, Obama has lost ground over the summer. Florida has moved from a toss-up state to one that clearly leans toward John McCain, fueling speculation about how much longer the Democratic nominee will continue investing so heavily in the state. Obama can still win Florida despite the polling gains McCain has made since naming Sarah Palin his running mate, and there is no sign Obama is pulling back in Florida yet. Far from it. Obama allies say he has about 350 paid staffers in the state and about 50 field offices, including in places not known as fertile ground for Democrats, such as Sun City Center, Lake City and Sebring.

Nevertheless Obama maintains a large staff and is burning millions of dollars there.

Likewise, a new poll today gives McCain a small lead in Nevada. (Even New Jersey is brightening for McCain with a poll showing the gap down to three points.) Virginia also now shows a small McCain lead.

None of this is irreversible and in none of the key swing states where McCain has moved ahead is his lead very big. But likewise it may be that some of these trends intensify — in McCain’s favor. Still, for now, some fifty-one days before the election (and less before early voting starts in many states), the race is starting to look vaguely like 2004. (And, speaking of 2004, in Ohio where the race was decided last time McCain also has a small lead.)

All of that said, Republicans should be under no illusion that this is in the bag. Democrats made that mistake and look where it got them.

The movement in national polls is one thing — McCain holds a small lead – but the electoral map (McCain now leads 227-217 according to RealClearPolitics) which is based on state polling tells a more dramatic story about the shift in the presidential race.

In Florida for example, McCain now has a RCP average lead of five points. A Florida newpaper reports:

Despite spending an estimated $8-million on campaign ads in America’s biggest battleground state and putting in place the largest Democratic campaign organization ever in Florida, Obama has lost ground over the summer. Florida has moved from a toss-up state to one that clearly leans toward John McCain, fueling speculation about how much longer the Democratic nominee will continue investing so heavily in the state. Obama can still win Florida despite the polling gains McCain has made since naming Sarah Palin his running mate, and there is no sign Obama is pulling back in Florida yet. Far from it. Obama allies say he has about 350 paid staffers in the state and about 50 field offices, including in places not known as fertile ground for Democrats, such as Sun City Center, Lake City and Sebring.

Nevertheless Obama maintains a large staff and is burning millions of dollars there.

Likewise, a new poll today gives McCain a small lead in Nevada. (Even New Jersey is brightening for McCain with a poll showing the gap down to three points.) Virginia also now shows a small McCain lead.

None of this is irreversible and in none of the key swing states where McCain has moved ahead is his lead very big. But likewise it may be that some of these trends intensify — in McCain’s favor. Still, for now, some fifty-one days before the election (and less before early voting starts in many states), the race is starting to look vaguely like 2004. (And, speaking of 2004, in Ohio where the race was decided last time McCain also has a small lead.)

All of that said, Republicans should be under no illusion that this is in the bag. Democrats made that mistake and look where it got them.

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Dee Dee Myers Gets It Right

Counseling Barack Obama to lay off Sarah Palin, Dee Dee Myers gets this exactly right:

What Sarah Palin has done, and this is something I like about her, is that she’s a women who has succeeded very much on her own terms. She talks about motherhood as a training ground for leadership; she manages and balances her family and her work in her own way. It’s very hard to see where her family ends and her work begins. I think a lot of women see their lives that way. Not everyone’s going to go out and shoot a moose and put their hair up in a bun and put on their sexy open-toe shoes and go to dinner. … But does everybody have to be lock-step on every issue? Or can somebody who’s outside–in Sarah Palin’s case, very much outside–the traditional feminist agenda still move the ball forward for women? I think the answer is yes. When I hear Pat Buchanan on TV, decrying sexism in the media, you know? This is not all bad. … I don’t know where abortion rights are going to end up in all this, and honestly that concerns me, but I think we need to find a different language to talk about it. I think that there are more women who identify with Sarah Palin than Gloria Steinem right now. Even if they don’t agree with 100 percent of her agenda, her life looks more like their lives.

It’s not rocket science so it’s remarkable no one in the Obama camp seems to understand any of this. Perhaps in the heat of a campaign it’s hard to exercise common sense.

Counseling Barack Obama to lay off Sarah Palin, Dee Dee Myers gets this exactly right:

What Sarah Palin has done, and this is something I like about her, is that she’s a women who has succeeded very much on her own terms. She talks about motherhood as a training ground for leadership; she manages and balances her family and her work in her own way. It’s very hard to see where her family ends and her work begins. I think a lot of women see their lives that way. Not everyone’s going to go out and shoot a moose and put their hair up in a bun and put on their sexy open-toe shoes and go to dinner. … But does everybody have to be lock-step on every issue? Or can somebody who’s outside–in Sarah Palin’s case, very much outside–the traditional feminist agenda still move the ball forward for women? I think the answer is yes. When I hear Pat Buchanan on TV, decrying sexism in the media, you know? This is not all bad. … I don’t know where abortion rights are going to end up in all this, and honestly that concerns me, but I think we need to find a different language to talk about it. I think that there are more women who identify with Sarah Palin than Gloria Steinem right now. Even if they don’t agree with 100 percent of her agenda, her life looks more like their lives.

It’s not rocket science so it’s remarkable no one in the Obama camp seems to understand any of this. Perhaps in the heat of a campaign it’s hard to exercise common sense.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In his list of good and bad advice for Barack Obama, I’m pretty sure Mark Halperin thinks this is bad advice: “Keep presuming that Steve Schmidt gives a rip about what the New York Times, the Associated Press, or factcheck.org say about the McCain campaign’s tactics.” Or snarky punditry from TIME, I suppose.

Politicians should tape their own interviews? Brilliant suggestion.

Bob Herbert is in hysterical mode about Sarah Palin (“I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail”) but his column is an amalgam of misinformation and half-truths (e.g. “everyone” must know precisely what the Bush Doctrine is and Palin thinks Iraq was responsible for 9-11). Well, perhaps he’s right about the dimwittedness problem.

Did ABC editing job cut out portions of the interview beneficial to Palin? Sort of looks that way.

From the latest AP poll: “Fully 47 percent say Obama lacks the proper experience — an even worse reading than the 36 percent who had the same criticism about McCain running mate Sarah Palin, serving her second year as Alaska governor after being a small-town mayor.” Ouch.

Lou Dobbs on Keith Olbermann: “the man is hanging by a highly medicated string.” And pundits wonder why no one respects the media. Perhaps mud-wrestling with all the cable news network talkers is next.

Like Woody Allen dragging out Marshall McLuhan to tell an obnoxious communications professor he “knows nothing” of McLuhan’s work, Charles Krauthammer bashes Charlie Gibson for his gotcha on the “Bush Doctrine” — which Krauthammer coined.

Fox notes that ABC won’t respond to questions about Gibson misrepresenting Palin’s quote. Snubbing the press? Hiding from legitimate questions? An “honest news conference” would be the way to go.

An honest Marc Ambinder: “Obama goes after McCain’s age, press praises new tone…. Mark Salter has a point.”

In his list of good and bad advice for Barack Obama, I’m pretty sure Mark Halperin thinks this is bad advice: “Keep presuming that Steve Schmidt gives a rip about what the New York Times, the Associated Press, or factcheck.org say about the McCain campaign’s tactics.” Or snarky punditry from TIME, I suppose.

Politicians should tape their own interviews? Brilliant suggestion.

Bob Herbert is in hysterical mode about Sarah Palin (“I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail”) but his column is an amalgam of misinformation and half-truths (e.g. “everyone” must know precisely what the Bush Doctrine is and Palin thinks Iraq was responsible for 9-11). Well, perhaps he’s right about the dimwittedness problem.

Did ABC editing job cut out portions of the interview beneficial to Palin? Sort of looks that way.

From the latest AP poll: “Fully 47 percent say Obama lacks the proper experience — an even worse reading than the 36 percent who had the same criticism about McCain running mate Sarah Palin, serving her second year as Alaska governor after being a small-town mayor.” Ouch.

Lou Dobbs on Keith Olbermann: “the man is hanging by a highly medicated string.” And pundits wonder why no one respects the media. Perhaps mud-wrestling with all the cable news network talkers is next.

Like Woody Allen dragging out Marshall McLuhan to tell an obnoxious communications professor he “knows nothing” of McLuhan’s work, Charles Krauthammer bashes Charlie Gibson for his gotcha on the “Bush Doctrine” — which Krauthammer coined.

Fox notes that ABC won’t respond to questions about Gibson misrepresenting Palin’s quote. Snubbing the press? Hiding from legitimate questions? An “honest news conference” would be the way to go.

An honest Marc Ambinder: “Obama goes after McCain’s age, press praises new tone…. Mark Salter has a point.”

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Re: Weirdness on ABC

John, I too just got finished with my viewing and what struck me most was the oozing condescension and the annoying habit of Gibson in asserting things were “facts” or “beyond dispute”– virtually daring Palin to dispute him, the authority on these topics. ( He virtually accused the Republicans of lying about Barack Obama’s tax plans since of course Obama wasn’t going to raise them on anyone making less than $250,000. She replied that he voted to raise taxes 94 times and that this gave you insight into what he’d do in the future.)

The beginning of the interview was priceless, as Gibson expresssed incredulity about her candidacy. Could believe she was going from a “sparsely populated state” to the big leagues? She calmly replied that there were “the same people, same issues” everywhere in America but he was not to be dissuaded. Wasn’t she asking herself “I can’t believe this?” And so it went: what the heck gave her the idea she could be up for this task? Gibson’s skepticism, bordering on contempt was palpable.

Much of the interview has already been shown in the prior airings but woven in and out was new material. She firmly corrected GIbson here and there — for example, on tax reduction and allowing the people in her area to vote on a sales tax measure to pay for a sports arena. (Not exactly “hiking” taxes on them, as Gibson characterized.) I thought her best moment came when he rolled the George W. Bush tape and asked why she would be any more successful in changing Washington than Bush. Gesturing to the great outdoors behind her she reminded him that she’s not “a Washington outsider. . . I don’t have allegiances to lobbyists, to the power brokers.”

On the scandal front, she debunked the book banning myth, which seemed to convince even Gibson. Her answer on Troopergate was the most illuminating: the guy threatened the Governor and her family. How many Americans knew that?

ABC certainly made the most of the time, stretching the interview over multiple shows and teasing/hyping it all the way. We who follow politics moment by moment and hang on the content of each answer sometimes forget the bigger picture, literally. She is an exceptionally likable and attractive person. For many, many voters, that counts for a lot.

UPDATE: I am not alone in my assessment. Washington Post media critic Tom Shales finds that Gibson was “uncharacteristically pompous” and “pretentious and imperial.” Strangely, however, Shales doesn’t seem to be aware of his own paper’s assessment that the Bush Doctrine has no single meaning.

John, I too just got finished with my viewing and what struck me most was the oozing condescension and the annoying habit of Gibson in asserting things were “facts” or “beyond dispute”– virtually daring Palin to dispute him, the authority on these topics. ( He virtually accused the Republicans of lying about Barack Obama’s tax plans since of course Obama wasn’t going to raise them on anyone making less than $250,000. She replied that he voted to raise taxes 94 times and that this gave you insight into what he’d do in the future.)

The beginning of the interview was priceless, as Gibson expresssed incredulity about her candidacy. Could believe she was going from a “sparsely populated state” to the big leagues? She calmly replied that there were “the same people, same issues” everywhere in America but he was not to be dissuaded. Wasn’t she asking herself “I can’t believe this?” And so it went: what the heck gave her the idea she could be up for this task? Gibson’s skepticism, bordering on contempt was palpable.

Much of the interview has already been shown in the prior airings but woven in and out was new material. She firmly corrected GIbson here and there — for example, on tax reduction and allowing the people in her area to vote on a sales tax measure to pay for a sports arena. (Not exactly “hiking” taxes on them, as Gibson characterized.) I thought her best moment came when he rolled the George W. Bush tape and asked why she would be any more successful in changing Washington than Bush. Gesturing to the great outdoors behind her she reminded him that she’s not “a Washington outsider. . . I don’t have allegiances to lobbyists, to the power brokers.”

On the scandal front, she debunked the book banning myth, which seemed to convince even Gibson. Her answer on Troopergate was the most illuminating: the guy threatened the Governor and her family. How many Americans knew that?

ABC certainly made the most of the time, stretching the interview over multiple shows and teasing/hyping it all the way. We who follow politics moment by moment and hang on the content of each answer sometimes forget the bigger picture, literally. She is an exceptionally likable and attractive person. For many, many voters, that counts for a lot.

UPDATE: I am not alone in my assessment. Washington Post media critic Tom Shales finds that Gibson was “uncharacteristically pompous” and “pretentious and imperial.” Strangely, however, Shales doesn’t seem to be aware of his own paper’s assessment that the Bush Doctrine has no single meaning.

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Weirdness on ABC

I’m just now watching the ABC special on Sarah Palin that aired last night. Two things jump out at me, neither one from the Palin interview.

1) The introductory piece by Kate Snow features a snippet of Palin at the convention saying she’s not part of the old boy network. Then Snow shows her using the same line at six different events since the convention, as if to say, she’s just repeating herself. Snow is perfectly well aware that every candidate for high office uses the same applause lines at every event, and usually just delivers the same speech over and over with a few tiny emendations. That’s what a “stump speech” is. It is — I hate to use the whiny word, but it is a mot juste — unfair, and spectacularly so, of ABC to act as though what Palin has done here is worthy of note when it is what all politicians do all the time. Most ordinary people don’t know this because they have better things to do with their time than know it. But Kate Snow and ABC know it.

2) As a demonstration that Palin scrambles all kinds of political expectations, the panel discussion that followed the interview with Republican Torie Clarke and Democrat DeeDee Myers features Clarke saying she was too scripted and inauthentic and Myers saying no, not at all, she was very attractive. Clarke was far more skeptical, Myers far more accepting.

I’m just now watching the ABC special on Sarah Palin that aired last night. Two things jump out at me, neither one from the Palin interview.

1) The introductory piece by Kate Snow features a snippet of Palin at the convention saying she’s not part of the old boy network. Then Snow shows her using the same line at six different events since the convention, as if to say, she’s just repeating herself. Snow is perfectly well aware that every candidate for high office uses the same applause lines at every event, and usually just delivers the same speech over and over with a few tiny emendations. That’s what a “stump speech” is. It is — I hate to use the whiny word, but it is a mot juste — unfair, and spectacularly so, of ABC to act as though what Palin has done here is worthy of note when it is what all politicians do all the time. Most ordinary people don’t know this because they have better things to do with their time than know it. But Kate Snow and ABC know it.

2) As a demonstration that Palin scrambles all kinds of political expectations, the panel discussion that followed the interview with Republican Torie Clarke and Democrat DeeDee Myers features Clarke saying she was too scripted and inauthentic and Myers saying no, not at all, she was very attractive. Clarke was far more skeptical, Myers far more accepting.

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What Do the VP Choices Suggest?

Tod Lindberg makes an entirely original point here:

Hypocrisy was the strange charge Democrats decided to make against McCain and Palin: Having run against Obama all summer for his lack of experience and accomplishment, how dare John McCain pick as his running mate someone with (ahem) experience comparable to that of the Democratic candidate for president McCain had been criticizing?

Well, maybe because it is not a sign of the strength of a candidate at the top of a ticket to need the experience of Joe Biden (or Dick Cheney) in order to allay concerns that he’s not quite up to some aspects of the job. And, contrariwise, it is a sign of strength at the top when the nominee can look to the future and make a priority of party-building. Does anybody think that if Obama loses, he will have left his party in a stronger position by advancing the prospects of Joe Biden?

Well, as Lindberg points out, the difference here is that there’s no question what happens if Obama tanks in November: “Fortunately for Democrats, at least they’ve got Hillary in the wings.”

Tod Lindberg makes an entirely original point here:

Hypocrisy was the strange charge Democrats decided to make against McCain and Palin: Having run against Obama all summer for his lack of experience and accomplishment, how dare John McCain pick as his running mate someone with (ahem) experience comparable to that of the Democratic candidate for president McCain had been criticizing?

Well, maybe because it is not a sign of the strength of a candidate at the top of a ticket to need the experience of Joe Biden (or Dick Cheney) in order to allay concerns that he’s not quite up to some aspects of the job. And, contrariwise, it is a sign of strength at the top when the nominee can look to the future and make a priority of party-building. Does anybody think that if Obama loses, he will have left his party in a stronger position by advancing the prospects of Joe Biden?

Well, as Lindberg points out, the difference here is that there’s no question what happens if Obama tanks in November: “Fortunately for Democrats, at least they’ve got Hillary in the wings.”

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Real Outrage, Fake Outrage

Remember how, earlier this week, Barack Obama condemned the “fake outrage” expressed by the McCain campaign against the “lipstick on a pig” ad? Today, the New York Times publishes an Obama press release in the form of a news story called “McCain Barbs Stir Outcry as Distortions.”  The piece is a fascinating exercise, like so much in the past few weeks, in the application of a double standard.

The notion that the McCain campaign has characterized Obama’s positions and claims in a fashion beyond the bounds of acceptable politics is patently absurd. This is what political campaigns of all stripes do; they probe for weaknesses and contradictions in policy proposals, speeches, and off-the-cuff remarks. They set their in-house policy analysts on the proposals of rival campaigns and pick them apart. If they can find a scintilla of an iota of fact in a regression analysis of the unanticipated costs of a tax plan, or a health-care plan, or any other plan, they will take that and use it as a weapon.

This is industry standard, and it comes with the built-in counterattacks on distortions and injustices and unfairnesses. Obama does it, McCain does it, Kerry did it, Bush did it, Gore did it, Clinton certainly did it, the Elder Bush did it. If McCain claims that Obama’s tax plan will raise taxes on the middle class, and a liberal think tank called the Tax Policy Forum objects that he will actually lower taxes more than McCain, that does not constitute proof either that the charge is true or that McCain is engaged in knowing distortion. And yet that is precisely what the Times, without qualification, insists:  “Mr. McCain repeatedly, and incorrectly, asserted that Mr. Obama would raise taxes on the middle class, even though analysts say he would cut taxes on the middle class more than Mr. McCain would.”

Here, for example, is a well-reasoned argument that McCain’s charge is correct. Asserting flatly that McCain “incorrectly” characterized the Obama tax plan is itself a distortion and a falsehood.

You want fake outrage? Here’s a perfect example of fake outrage:

“In running the sleaziest campaign since South Carolina in 2000 and standing by completely debunked lies on national television, it’s clear that John McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose an election,” Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said in a statement.

In South Carolina in 2000, a flyer was produced alleging that John McCain had fathered an illegitimate child of color — referring to the Bangladeshi baby he and his wife had adopted ten years earlier. Calling Barack Obama a “celebrity,” making fun of his community organizing, and objecting to “lipstick on a pig”and comparing that to South Carolina in 2000 is like comparing a game of Candyland to a rugby match.

That, too, is campaign standard. And so, of course, is the New York Times acting like the press agent for the Democratic candidate.

Remember how, earlier this week, Barack Obama condemned the “fake outrage” expressed by the McCain campaign against the “lipstick on a pig” ad? Today, the New York Times publishes an Obama press release in the form of a news story called “McCain Barbs Stir Outcry as Distortions.”  The piece is a fascinating exercise, like so much in the past few weeks, in the application of a double standard.

The notion that the McCain campaign has characterized Obama’s positions and claims in a fashion beyond the bounds of acceptable politics is patently absurd. This is what political campaigns of all stripes do; they probe for weaknesses and contradictions in policy proposals, speeches, and off-the-cuff remarks. They set their in-house policy analysts on the proposals of rival campaigns and pick them apart. If they can find a scintilla of an iota of fact in a regression analysis of the unanticipated costs of a tax plan, or a health-care plan, or any other plan, they will take that and use it as a weapon.

This is industry standard, and it comes with the built-in counterattacks on distortions and injustices and unfairnesses. Obama does it, McCain does it, Kerry did it, Bush did it, Gore did it, Clinton certainly did it, the Elder Bush did it. If McCain claims that Obama’s tax plan will raise taxes on the middle class, and a liberal think tank called the Tax Policy Forum objects that he will actually lower taxes more than McCain, that does not constitute proof either that the charge is true or that McCain is engaged in knowing distortion. And yet that is precisely what the Times, without qualification, insists:  “Mr. McCain repeatedly, and incorrectly, asserted that Mr. Obama would raise taxes on the middle class, even though analysts say he would cut taxes on the middle class more than Mr. McCain would.”

Here, for example, is a well-reasoned argument that McCain’s charge is correct. Asserting flatly that McCain “incorrectly” characterized the Obama tax plan is itself a distortion and a falsehood.

You want fake outrage? Here’s a perfect example of fake outrage:

“In running the sleaziest campaign since South Carolina in 2000 and standing by completely debunked lies on national television, it’s clear that John McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose an election,” Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said in a statement.

In South Carolina in 2000, a flyer was produced alleging that John McCain had fathered an illegitimate child of color — referring to the Bangladeshi baby he and his wife had adopted ten years earlier. Calling Barack Obama a “celebrity,” making fun of his community organizing, and objecting to “lipstick on a pig”and comparing that to South Carolina in 2000 is like comparing a game of Candyland to a rugby match.

That, too, is campaign standard. And so, of course, is the New York Times acting like the press agent for the Democratic candidate.

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Smarter Than Your Average Interviewer

Sarah Palin is getting support, not just from conservative pundits, but from the Washington Post on whether there is a single “Bush Doctrine”:

Intentionally or not, the Republican vice presidential nominee was on to something. After a brief exchange, Gibson explained that he was referring to the idea — enshrined in a September 2002 White House strategy document — that the United States may act militarily to counter a perceived threat emerging in another country. But that is just one version of a purported Bush doctrine advanced over the past eight years.Peter D. Feaver, who worked on the Bush national security strategy as a staff member on the National Security Council, said he has counted as many as seven distinct Bush doctrines. They include the president’s second-term “freedom agenda”; the notion that states that harbor terrorists should be treated no differently than terrorists themselves; the willingness to use a “coalition of the willing” if the United Nations does not address threats; and the one Gibson was talking about — the doctrine of preemptive war.”If you were given a quiz, you might guess that one, because it’s one that many people associate with the Bush doctrine,” said Feaver, now a Duke University professor. “But in fact it’s not the only one.”

The Post continues:

“I actually never thought there was a Bush doctrine,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who later served as State Department counselor under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “Indeed, I believe the assertion that there is such a doctrine lends greater coherence to the administration’s policies than they deserve.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, said he thought there was no “single piece of paper” that represents the Bush doctrine, but said several ideas collectively make up the doctrine, including the endorsement of preventive war and the idea that there is such a thing as a “war on terror.” “There are many elements to the Bush doctrine,” he said. In an interview, Bush press secretary Dana Perino said that “the Bush doctrine is commonly used to describe key elements of the president’s overall strategy for dealing with threats from terrorists.” She laid out three elements: “The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor terrorists. . . . We will confront grave threats before they fully materialize and will fight the terrorists abroad so we don’t have to face them at home. . . . We will counter the hateful ideology of the terrorist by promoting the hopeful alternative of human freedom.”

Well, well. And of course, ABC News itself has recognized the multiple incarnations of the phrase. So we are left to wonder whether this was just sloppy research/ignorance on Gibson’s part or a deliberate gotcha gone awry. I’ll take Napoleon’s advice (“Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.”)

Sarah Palin is getting support, not just from conservative pundits, but from the Washington Post on whether there is a single “Bush Doctrine”:

Intentionally or not, the Republican vice presidential nominee was on to something. After a brief exchange, Gibson explained that he was referring to the idea — enshrined in a September 2002 White House strategy document — that the United States may act militarily to counter a perceived threat emerging in another country. But that is just one version of a purported Bush doctrine advanced over the past eight years.Peter D. Feaver, who worked on the Bush national security strategy as a staff member on the National Security Council, said he has counted as many as seven distinct Bush doctrines. They include the president’s second-term “freedom agenda”; the notion that states that harbor terrorists should be treated no differently than terrorists themselves; the willingness to use a “coalition of the willing” if the United Nations does not address threats; and the one Gibson was talking about — the doctrine of preemptive war.”If you were given a quiz, you might guess that one, because it’s one that many people associate with the Bush doctrine,” said Feaver, now a Duke University professor. “But in fact it’s not the only one.”

The Post continues:

“I actually never thought there was a Bush doctrine,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who later served as State Department counselor under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “Indeed, I believe the assertion that there is such a doctrine lends greater coherence to the administration’s policies than they deserve.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, said he thought there was no “single piece of paper” that represents the Bush doctrine, but said several ideas collectively make up the doctrine, including the endorsement of preventive war and the idea that there is such a thing as a “war on terror.” “There are many elements to the Bush doctrine,” he said. In an interview, Bush press secretary Dana Perino said that “the Bush doctrine is commonly used to describe key elements of the president’s overall strategy for dealing with threats from terrorists.” She laid out three elements: “The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor terrorists. . . . We will confront grave threats before they fully materialize and will fight the terrorists abroad so we don’t have to face them at home. . . . We will counter the hateful ideology of the terrorist by promoting the hopeful alternative of human freedom.”

Well, well. And of course, ABC News itself has recognized the multiple incarnations of the phrase. So we are left to wonder whether this was just sloppy research/ignorance on Gibson’s part or a deliberate gotcha gone awry. I’ll take Napoleon’s advice (“Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.”)

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O Times, O Mores

The New York Times has published a disturbing front-page story about a sexual revolution taking place among Chilean youth:

It is just after 5 p.m. in what was once one of Latin America’s most sexually conservative countries, and the youth of Chile are bumping and grinding to a reggaetón beat. At the Bar Urbano disco, boys and girls ages 14 to 18 are stripping off their shirts, revealing bras, tattoos and nipple rings.

The place is a tangle of lips and tongues and hands, all groping and exploring. About 800 teenagers sway and bounce to lyrics imploring them to “Poncea! Poncea!”: make out with as many people as they can.

And make out they do — with stranger after stranger, vying for the honor of being known as the “ponceo,” the one who pairs up the most.

As sad as this sounds, in March, Newsweek described these parties much more darkly, portraying them as drug- and alcohol-infused orgies.  It’s unclear just how widespread the behavior is, but it’s eerily reminiscent of “hunt-the-zipper,” the mind-numbing children’s sex game described in Brave New World.

Of course, the Times attempts to blame the ponceo subculture on a lack of sex education, but the root cause is surely a moral failing, not one of hygiene or health.  (The article even quotes a 34-year-old “sex therapist” who approves of her 14-year-old daughter’s attending such parties.  Unsurprisingly, the mother and daughter have different surnames.)

This phenomenon, of a radical decline in mores in a Catholic country after the end of an authoritarian regime, was one of the main themes of Whit Stillman’s excellent film Barcelona.  Set in the Catalan capital not long after the death of Franco, its hero is an American conservative and self-confessed prig who is trying to maintain his virtue in a land of license.  He ruefully observes:

The sexual revolution reached Spain later than the U.S., but went beyond it. I don’t know what it was like in other cities, but in Barcelona everything was swept aside. The world was turned upside down—and stayed there.

Only time will tell what will happen when these Chilean children grow up, if they ever do.

And speaking of the world turned upside down, does one have to be a prig to be bothered by the fact that the Times both gave its article an erotic headline—”In Tangle of Young Lips, a Sex Rebellion in Chile”—and accompanied it with a titillating photo of indecent adolescents?  Newsweek was able to tell the same story without either.

The New York Times has published a disturbing front-page story about a sexual revolution taking place among Chilean youth:

It is just after 5 p.m. in what was once one of Latin America’s most sexually conservative countries, and the youth of Chile are bumping and grinding to a reggaetón beat. At the Bar Urbano disco, boys and girls ages 14 to 18 are stripping off their shirts, revealing bras, tattoos and nipple rings.

The place is a tangle of lips and tongues and hands, all groping and exploring. About 800 teenagers sway and bounce to lyrics imploring them to “Poncea! Poncea!”: make out with as many people as they can.

And make out they do — with stranger after stranger, vying for the honor of being known as the “ponceo,” the one who pairs up the most.

As sad as this sounds, in March, Newsweek described these parties much more darkly, portraying them as drug- and alcohol-infused orgies.  It’s unclear just how widespread the behavior is, but it’s eerily reminiscent of “hunt-the-zipper,” the mind-numbing children’s sex game described in Brave New World.

Of course, the Times attempts to blame the ponceo subculture on a lack of sex education, but the root cause is surely a moral failing, not one of hygiene or health.  (The article even quotes a 34-year-old “sex therapist” who approves of her 14-year-old daughter’s attending such parties.  Unsurprisingly, the mother and daughter have different surnames.)

This phenomenon, of a radical decline in mores in a Catholic country after the end of an authoritarian regime, was one of the main themes of Whit Stillman’s excellent film Barcelona.  Set in the Catalan capital not long after the death of Franco, its hero is an American conservative and self-confessed prig who is trying to maintain his virtue in a land of license.  He ruefully observes:

The sexual revolution reached Spain later than the U.S., but went beyond it. I don’t know what it was like in other cities, but in Barcelona everything was swept aside. The world was turned upside down—and stayed there.

Only time will tell what will happen when these Chilean children grow up, if they ever do.

And speaking of the world turned upside down, does one have to be a prig to be bothered by the fact that the Times both gave its article an erotic headline—”In Tangle of Young Lips, a Sex Rebellion in Chile”—and accompanied it with a titillating photo of indecent adolescents?  Newsweek was able to tell the same story without either.

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