Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 17, 2008

The Washington Post ‘Clarifies’

You recall the Washington Post’s low moment of the campaign: simultaneous stories on page one, one of which dredged up Cindy McCain’s past drug use and one which claimed that Sarah Palin’s comments to U.S. troops (including her son) departing for Iraq evidenced a deep-seated belief on her part that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11.

I and others spotted the Post in a late-night effort to clean up the latter story by dropping in a sentence that Al Qaeda  is, of course, now in Iraq, but leaving the thesis the same: that silly Palin woman thinks Saddam was behind 9-11.

I subsequently emailed the Post’s Ombudswoman asking if the paper stood by the original story and asking why they made a late-night edit. I received no reply. However, today there is  a “clarification” in the Post:

A Sept. 12 Page One article quoted Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin as telling a brigade of Iraq-bound soldiers that they would “defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.” The report linked Palin’s comments with the idea thatSaddam Hussein was connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said Palin was referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq, a terror group that formed after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and claims to be allied with the global al-Qaeda organization.

This seems to be the height of intellectual dishonesty. Without addressing its own unsupported allegation or even mentioning its own late-night edit escapade, Post editors try to “clarify” with a “Well the McCain  camp says . .” Please.

This certainly lacks the minimal requirements of candor the Post would demand of a poltician, certainly Palin herself.  This is the issue: was the original story correct, namely does the Post have any factual support for the original contention that Palin was referring to Saddam and not Al Qaeda? If not, the Post should say so and issue a retraction, not a weasely “clarification.” And while its editors are at it, they might explain what they were doing at 1:00 a.m. trying to patch up a badly flawed story.

You recall the Washington Post’s low moment of the campaign: simultaneous stories on page one, one of which dredged up Cindy McCain’s past drug use and one which claimed that Sarah Palin’s comments to U.S. troops (including her son) departing for Iraq evidenced a deep-seated belief on her part that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11.

I and others spotted the Post in a late-night effort to clean up the latter story by dropping in a sentence that Al Qaeda  is, of course, now in Iraq, but leaving the thesis the same: that silly Palin woman thinks Saddam was behind 9-11.

I subsequently emailed the Post’s Ombudswoman asking if the paper stood by the original story and asking why they made a late-night edit. I received no reply. However, today there is  a “clarification” in the Post:

A Sept. 12 Page One article quoted Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin as telling a brigade of Iraq-bound soldiers that they would “defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.” The report linked Palin’s comments with the idea thatSaddam Hussein was connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said Palin was referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq, a terror group that formed after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and claims to be allied with the global al-Qaeda organization.

This seems to be the height of intellectual dishonesty. Without addressing its own unsupported allegation or even mentioning its own late-night edit escapade, Post editors try to “clarify” with a “Well the McCain  camp says . .” Please.

This certainly lacks the minimal requirements of candor the Post would demand of a poltician, certainly Palin herself.  This is the issue: was the original story correct, namely does the Post have any factual support for the original contention that Palin was referring to Saddam and not Al Qaeda? If not, the Post should say so and issue a retraction, not a weasely “clarification.” And while its editors are at it, they might explain what they were doing at 1:00 a.m. trying to patch up a badly flawed story.

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Update on the Shock Poll on Jewish Support for McCain

A friend who knows says of the poll that finds McCain in the lead among Jews in New York by 54-32:

If a poll is plus or minus 11, that’s for each number, not for the gap. So McCain’s number could be anywhere from 65 to 43 (54 + or – 11), Obama from 43 to 21 (32 + or – 11). So the race among Jews could be (with 95%
confidence) anywhere from even to McCain up by 44! This is why polls of 77 people aren’t worth much–still, you’re right that it’s pretty striking…

A friend who knows says of the poll that finds McCain in the lead among Jews in New York by 54-32:

If a poll is plus or minus 11, that’s for each number, not for the gap. So McCain’s number could be anywhere from 65 to 43 (54 + or – 11), Obama from 43 to 21 (32 + or – 11). So the race among Jews could be (with 95%
confidence) anywhere from even to McCain up by 44! This is why polls of 77 people aren’t worth much–still, you’re right that it’s pretty striking…

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Palin on Fey

“I thought it was hilarious! It was spot-on.” Sarah Palin about Tina Fey’s imitation of her (though she said she had the volume down and didn’t hear a word Fey said).

“I thought it was hilarious! It was spot-on.” Sarah Palin about Tina Fey’s imitation of her (though she said she had the volume down and didn’t hear a word Fey said).

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The Second Palin Interview

My thought experiment for the night–what if Sarah Palin were Obama’s running mate? With the exception of her stand on drilling in ANWR, very little Palin said during this interview was even particularly conservative; it was Washington-bashing of a very high order, which is just what the doctor ordered for Obama at the end of last year. Twist it a little to the Left and you could have an attack on Washington for alleged cronyism in leading to the war in Iraq. So imagine it: Obama chooses a Western female governor, young and attractive, with five children and a surreally poised way with a television camera. Democrats would feel about her exactly the way Republicans do right now. And Republicans would complain about her inexperience and make fun of her and be just as terrified of her as Democrats are of Palin.

My thought experiment for the night–what if Sarah Palin were Obama’s running mate? With the exception of her stand on drilling in ANWR, very little Palin said during this interview was even particularly conservative; it was Washington-bashing of a very high order, which is just what the doctor ordered for Obama at the end of last year. Twist it a little to the Left and you could have an attack on Washington for alleged cronyism in leading to the war in Iraq. So imagine it: Obama chooses a Western female governor, young and attractive, with five children and a surreally poised way with a television camera. Democrats would feel about her exactly the way Republicans do right now. And Republicans would complain about her inexperience and make fun of her and be just as terrified of her as Democrats are of Palin.

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Let’s Get Real

The questions were very easy but she was very smooth and does know “stuff” — which critics keep saying is the end-all and be-all of vice president-dom. What this shows is that interviewing, like most of campaigning, is an acquired skill which a bright person with decent communication skills can master with some effort. Those campaigning skills have a lot to do with being elected and much less to do with governing. That’s part of why the discussion about these outings is so divorced from reality. In “real life” you sit, gather data, make decisions, meet with other leaders and hire/fire advisors. None of that has much to do with learning a briefing book and spitting it out in an interview, no matter how tough or easy the questioning.

So when people argue about “experience” and “prudence” it is good to remember that those very qualities are revealed by what the candidates have done rather than what they say in an interview. That said, it’s better to do better than worse in these things because the chattering class takes them very seriously. Whether voters do is unclear.

The questions were very easy but she was very smooth and does know “stuff” — which critics keep saying is the end-all and be-all of vice president-dom. What this shows is that interviewing, like most of campaigning, is an acquired skill which a bright person with decent communication skills can master with some effort. Those campaigning skills have a lot to do with being elected and much less to do with governing. That’s part of why the discussion about these outings is so divorced from reality. In “real life” you sit, gather data, make decisions, meet with other leaders and hire/fire advisors. None of that has much to do with learning a briefing book and spitting it out in an interview, no matter how tough or easy the questioning.

So when people argue about “experience” and “prudence” it is good to remember that those very qualities are revealed by what the candidates have done rather than what they say in an interview. That said, it’s better to do better than worse in these things because the chattering class takes them very seriously. Whether voters do is unclear.

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Palin Won’t Hurt The Animals

She is obviously more comfortable talking energy and explaining ANWR. She is “working” on McCain on ANWR. (Free advice: work harder if you want to win.)

She is obviously more comfortable talking energy and explaining ANWR. She is “working” on McCain on ANWR. (Free advice: work harder if you want to win.)

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“It Doesn’t Happen”

A good question from Hannity: why should be believe you guys can reform Washington.?(Unlike Gibson he doesn’t sneer when he asks it.) She gives the maverick spiel and lists some examples from Alaska. Could she have been practicing since last time?

A good question from Hannity: why should be believe you guys can reform Washington.?(Unlike Gibson he doesn’t sneer when he asks it.) She gives the maverick spiel and lists some examples from Alaska. Could she have been practicing since last time?

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Fundamentals

She was waiting to respond to McCain’s comments about the “fundamentals” being strong. She is certainly calmer than last time. She isn’t saying anything more specific than the presidental nominees but she has learned the pattern and can weave the talking points — partisanship, shareholder trust, etc. — with more ease than we saw previously. She is comfortable enough to draw a distinction between Freddie/Fannie and AIG while expressing reservations about the bailout of the latter.

She was waiting to respond to McCain’s comments about the “fundamentals” being strong. She is certainly calmer than last time. She isn’t saying anything more specific than the presidental nominees but she has learned the pattern and can weave the talking points — partisanship, shareholder trust, etc. — with more ease than we saw previously. She is comfortable enough to draw a distinction between Freddie/Fannie and AIG while expressing reservations about the bailout of the latter.

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Palin Interview With Sean Hannity

The first improvement over the Charlie Gibson outing: Sean Hannity isn’t wearing glasses and isn’t peering down at Sarah Palin.

The first improvement over the Charlie Gibson outing: Sean Hannity isn’t wearing glasses and isn’t peering down at Sarah Palin.

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Obama Ducks

Neither of the presidential candidates is filled with specifics on the financial crisis, but Barack Obama took it a step further. He declined Wednesday to even offer a position on the AIG take-over. Is this above his pay grade too? He’s apparently banking on unease over the crisis and the voters’ willingness to blame the Bush Administration for our woes. Is this smart politics or an error on Obama’s part?

On one hand voters may be satisfied with the torrent of meaningless rhetoric pouring forth from Obama. But the opening which John McCain has here is on leadership. As I noted earlier, McCain has been trying to suggest that this is another instance of  “taking on tough guys” which is part of his repertoire. Although he indicated he wasn’t pleased with the Fed’s rescue of AIG, he at least had an opinion and stated it.

The dig on Obama is that he talks but doesn’t do much or lead on tough issues ( all those “present” votes in the Illinois state senate) and that his positions fluxuate for political expediency. If he tries that here — being too evasive on his own position, while going ballistically negative — McCain may find the opportunity he is looking for.

Presidential candidates, as we saw with the invasion of Georgia, need to be right, and right on the first day. Certainly, Obama better have an answer on AIG by next week’s debate. But it is worth asking why it takes Obama longer than others to get up to speed.

Neither of the presidential candidates is filled with specifics on the financial crisis, but Barack Obama took it a step further. He declined Wednesday to even offer a position on the AIG take-over. Is this above his pay grade too? He’s apparently banking on unease over the crisis and the voters’ willingness to blame the Bush Administration for our woes. Is this smart politics or an error on Obama’s part?

On one hand voters may be satisfied with the torrent of meaningless rhetoric pouring forth from Obama. But the opening which John McCain has here is on leadership. As I noted earlier, McCain has been trying to suggest that this is another instance of  “taking on tough guys” which is part of his repertoire. Although he indicated he wasn’t pleased with the Fed’s rescue of AIG, he at least had an opinion and stated it.

The dig on Obama is that he talks but doesn’t do much or lead on tough issues ( all those “present” votes in the Illinois state senate) and that his positions fluxuate for political expediency. If he tries that here — being too evasive on his own position, while going ballistically negative — McCain may find the opportunity he is looking for.

Presidential candidates, as we saw with the invasion of Georgia, need to be right, and right on the first day. Certainly, Obama better have an answer on AIG by next week’s debate. But it is worth asking why it takes Obama longer than others to get up to speed.

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J Street vs. Sarah Palin

For a while, J Street was obsessed with Joe Lieberman, and undertook a pointless email campaign against him. Then the obsession shifted to a non-binding House resolution on Iran, which J Street bizarrely insisted was tantamount to a declaration of war. Now J Street is on the hunt for Sarah Palin, and in doing so is revealing something rather disturbing about itself. Here is part of the group’s latest email:

Sarah Palin at a rally to unify American Jews on Iran? Really?

Palin stands diametrically opposed to American Jews on nearly all issues – including on Iran. With just a few days left before the rally, we have no time to lose.

Did you catch that? Because Palin doesn’t subscribe to J Street’s leftist politics, she “stands diametrically opposed to American Jews.” This is a slander of both Palin — if she “stands opposed” to American Jews, then every Republican does — and Jews themselves, as it enlists all American Jew as adherents to J Street’s agenda.

Isaac Luria, J Street’s dim-bulb “online director,” continues his lecture:

Dealing with Iran is an issue of major concern in the American Jewish community, and we believe that the best to [sic] way to deal with the Iranian nuclear program and support for terror is smart, tough U.S. led diplomacy. But even if we disagree on the best way to deal with Iran, Sarah Palin is the wrong choice to speak at a unity rally.

She doesn’t represent the American Jewish community’s views on Israel or any other issues. …
* Sarah Palin’s views on abortion, the environment, and just about every other issue are out of step with the American Jewish community. [2]

This is appalling. When did abortion and the environment become issues of unique concern to Jews? They of course are not, any more than taxes and social security have any special relevance to Christians. J Street is attempting to bludgeon Palin with disapproval from the Jewish community when in fact it is the liberal community that detests her.

What does J Street want its few acolytes to do? Harass the organizers of the Iran rally until they disinvite Palin — you know, in the spirit of inclusiveness and democracy. Does the “American Jewish community” which J Street claims to have commandeered endorse the prohibition of Republicans at anti-Ahmadinejad rallies? Of course not. A while back I wrote that one of J Street’s problems is that it doesn’t appear to have a clear sense of its mission. Lately the group’s mission has become vivid: to advance far-left politics as if they had the universal support of American Jews, while defaming anyone who disagrees as standing in opposition to “the Jewish community.” What a fraud these people are.

Oh, and about that rally: It’ll be this Monday, the 22nd, in New York. Click here for details.

For a while, J Street was obsessed with Joe Lieberman, and undertook a pointless email campaign against him. Then the obsession shifted to a non-binding House resolution on Iran, which J Street bizarrely insisted was tantamount to a declaration of war. Now J Street is on the hunt for Sarah Palin, and in doing so is revealing something rather disturbing about itself. Here is part of the group’s latest email:

Sarah Palin at a rally to unify American Jews on Iran? Really?

Palin stands diametrically opposed to American Jews on nearly all issues – including on Iran. With just a few days left before the rally, we have no time to lose.

Did you catch that? Because Palin doesn’t subscribe to J Street’s leftist politics, she “stands diametrically opposed to American Jews.” This is a slander of both Palin — if she “stands opposed” to American Jews, then every Republican does — and Jews themselves, as it enlists all American Jew as adherents to J Street’s agenda.

Isaac Luria, J Street’s dim-bulb “online director,” continues his lecture:

Dealing with Iran is an issue of major concern in the American Jewish community, and we believe that the best to [sic] way to deal with the Iranian nuclear program and support for terror is smart, tough U.S. led diplomacy. But even if we disagree on the best way to deal with Iran, Sarah Palin is the wrong choice to speak at a unity rally.

She doesn’t represent the American Jewish community’s views on Israel or any other issues. …
* Sarah Palin’s views on abortion, the environment, and just about every other issue are out of step with the American Jewish community. [2]

This is appalling. When did abortion and the environment become issues of unique concern to Jews? They of course are not, any more than taxes and social security have any special relevance to Christians. J Street is attempting to bludgeon Palin with disapproval from the Jewish community when in fact it is the liberal community that detests her.

What does J Street want its few acolytes to do? Harass the organizers of the Iran rally until they disinvite Palin — you know, in the spirit of inclusiveness and democracy. Does the “American Jewish community” which J Street claims to have commandeered endorse the prohibition of Republicans at anti-Ahmadinejad rallies? Of course not. A while back I wrote that one of J Street’s problems is that it doesn’t appear to have a clear sense of its mission. Lately the group’s mission has become vivid: to advance far-left politics as if they had the universal support of American Jews, while defaming anyone who disagrees as standing in opposition to “the Jewish community.” What a fraud these people are.

Oh, and about that rally: It’ll be this Monday, the 22nd, in New York. Click here for details.

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Re:Who’s The Most Negative?

Barack Obama is at it again: the most neagtive campaigner  in the race has another doozy out today. The Spanish language ad — tying John McCain to Rush Limbaugh, if you can believe it — is debunked by Jake Tapper who concludes:

The greater implication the ad makes, however, is that McCain is no friend to Latinos at all, beyond issues of funding the DREAM act or how NCLB money is distributed. By linking McCain to Limbaugh’s quotes, twisting Limbaugh’s quotes, and tying McCain to more extremist anti-immigration voices, the Obama campaign has crossed a line into misleading the viewers of its new TV ad. In Spanish, the word is erróneo.

It is hard to conclude this is anything but a nasty smear. Obama obviously is banking that none of the ad-debunking criticism filters into the Spanish language voting community. Can you imagine McCain running an ad trying a stunt like this? Every civil rights group and news outlet in the country would be hollering.

Plainly, Obama is testing what the market for his negativity and non-New Politics will bear, daring McCain to go negative. The market will bear a lot. And McCain will respond — the only question is when.

UPDATE: Jonathan Martin has the response from Rush Limbaugh who explains that his comments (which McCain never identified with) were taken out of context:

“Obama is now stoking racism in the country,” Limbaugh wrote in an email.  “Obama is a disgrace – he wants the public to think he is Mr. Nice Guy while his thugs are in Alaska looking for dirt on Palin and he runs race-baiting ads and lies about what he has done and what McCain has done.”

Barack Obama is at it again: the most neagtive campaigner  in the race has another doozy out today. The Spanish language ad — tying John McCain to Rush Limbaugh, if you can believe it — is debunked by Jake Tapper who concludes:

The greater implication the ad makes, however, is that McCain is no friend to Latinos at all, beyond issues of funding the DREAM act or how NCLB money is distributed. By linking McCain to Limbaugh’s quotes, twisting Limbaugh’s quotes, and tying McCain to more extremist anti-immigration voices, the Obama campaign has crossed a line into misleading the viewers of its new TV ad. In Spanish, the word is erróneo.

It is hard to conclude this is anything but a nasty smear. Obama obviously is banking that none of the ad-debunking criticism filters into the Spanish language voting community. Can you imagine McCain running an ad trying a stunt like this? Every civil rights group and news outlet in the country would be hollering.

Plainly, Obama is testing what the market for his negativity and non-New Politics will bear, daring McCain to go negative. The market will bear a lot. And McCain will respond — the only question is when.

UPDATE: Jonathan Martin has the response from Rush Limbaugh who explains that his comments (which McCain never identified with) were taken out of context:

“Obama is now stoking racism in the country,” Limbaugh wrote in an email.  “Obama is a disgrace – he wants the public to think he is Mr. Nice Guy while his thugs are in Alaska looking for dirt on Palin and he runs race-baiting ads and lies about what he has done and what McCain has done.”

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The Candidate Without Flaws. . .

Is Barack Obama, at least according to Barack Obama.

Is Barack Obama, at least according to Barack Obama.

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Shock Poll: Jews Now Favor McCain in New York, 54-32

The Siena poll, one of the two key polls of New York state voters, has come out with its monthly snapshot of the presidential race in the Empire State. And it’s stunning. It is remarkable, though not eye-opening, that John McCain is now only 5 points behind Barack Obama, 46-41 — not shocking because polls have narrowed to similar margins in New Jersey. (It should be noted, however, that according to a Rasmussen poll released yesterday, Obama is leading in New York by 55-42.)

No, the shocking detail has to do with a wild, 35-point swing toward McCain among Jewish voters. Obama led among them by a margin of 50-37 in August. This month, McCain is actually leading Obama by a margin of 54 percent to 32 percent.

Siena polled 626 likely voters this month. Of those, according to Steve Greenberg, the spokesman for the Siena poll, 77 were Jews, or 12 percent of the sample. That is Siena’s best guess of the size of the Jewish vote in New York state in November. With a sample size that small, the margin of error for the Jewish voter sample is plus-or-minus 11 points.

That means the poll could be off by as many as 11 points in either direction — i.e., McCain could be leading by as little as 11 points or by as many as 33. (UPDATE: I got this wrong; this stat could also mean they’re tied or that McCain is more than 40 points ahead or anywhere in the middle. For a clarification on this point, click here.)

The only difference between the September poll and the August poll as a matter of methodology is that in September, Siena polled likely voters, whereas in August it only polled registered voters.

The poll could, of course, be an outlier. But if it even begins to approximate the truth, it is huge news. No Republican has scored more than 39 percent of the Jewish vote in modern times, and that was Ronald Reagan in 1980, following a series of missteps by the Carter administration. These sorts of numbers for McCain have implications in two other states particularly — Florida and Pennsylvania.

In Florida, the implications are obvious. Obama’s own Jewish organizers in Florida are telling the campaign they are finding profound resistance to him, particularly in South Florida. The polling overall there seems to be moving inexorably in McCain’s direction, which is necessary for him; it is nearly impossible to see how he can win the election if he loses Florida.

But what about Pennsylvania? That is a state it appears Obama must win.  There are, it is estimated, more than 200,000 Jewish voters in Pennsylvania, a state John Kerry won by 140,000 votes. If we assume Pennsylvania’s 200,000 voting Jews voted in the same way as Jews nationwide in 2004 and went 76-24 for Kerry, we can attribute 150,000 Jewish votes to Kerry, his entire margin of victory plus seven percent. Now imagine if that number had been closer to 50-50. Kerry would have received 100,000 Jewish votes rather than 150,000. Bush would have received 100,000 Jewish votes rather than 50,000. Kerry’s margin of victory would then have shrunk to 40,000 votes.

It appears Obama may have a tougher time in Pennsylvania than Kerry did because of his difficulty attracting the ethnic white vote in the western part of the state. If there is a Jewish swing away from him as well, he really could lose there. And if he loses there and loses Ohio, he is sunk. Ohio has approximately 80,000 Jewish voters, so a swing away from Obama to a 50-50 race would cost him 25,000 votes Kerry presumably received in 2004 — and in a state that Bush won by 121,000 votes.

We’ll need more data from two other states with a significant Jewish population to allow for a measurable sample size in a poll — Florida and California — and a polling firm willing to break out the Jewish vote as Siena has, to see whether this is just statistical smoke or whether Obama has a brushfire he needs to put out somehow before it consumes him.

The Siena poll, one of the two key polls of New York state voters, has come out with its monthly snapshot of the presidential race in the Empire State. And it’s stunning. It is remarkable, though not eye-opening, that John McCain is now only 5 points behind Barack Obama, 46-41 — not shocking because polls have narrowed to similar margins in New Jersey. (It should be noted, however, that according to a Rasmussen poll released yesterday, Obama is leading in New York by 55-42.)

No, the shocking detail has to do with a wild, 35-point swing toward McCain among Jewish voters. Obama led among them by a margin of 50-37 in August. This month, McCain is actually leading Obama by a margin of 54 percent to 32 percent.

Siena polled 626 likely voters this month. Of those, according to Steve Greenberg, the spokesman for the Siena poll, 77 were Jews, or 12 percent of the sample. That is Siena’s best guess of the size of the Jewish vote in New York state in November. With a sample size that small, the margin of error for the Jewish voter sample is plus-or-minus 11 points.

That means the poll could be off by as many as 11 points in either direction — i.e., McCain could be leading by as little as 11 points or by as many as 33. (UPDATE: I got this wrong; this stat could also mean they’re tied or that McCain is more than 40 points ahead or anywhere in the middle. For a clarification on this point, click here.)

The only difference between the September poll and the August poll as a matter of methodology is that in September, Siena polled likely voters, whereas in August it only polled registered voters.

The poll could, of course, be an outlier. But if it even begins to approximate the truth, it is huge news. No Republican has scored more than 39 percent of the Jewish vote in modern times, and that was Ronald Reagan in 1980, following a series of missteps by the Carter administration. These sorts of numbers for McCain have implications in two other states particularly — Florida and Pennsylvania.

In Florida, the implications are obvious. Obama’s own Jewish organizers in Florida are telling the campaign they are finding profound resistance to him, particularly in South Florida. The polling overall there seems to be moving inexorably in McCain’s direction, which is necessary for him; it is nearly impossible to see how he can win the election if he loses Florida.

But what about Pennsylvania? That is a state it appears Obama must win.  There are, it is estimated, more than 200,000 Jewish voters in Pennsylvania, a state John Kerry won by 140,000 votes. If we assume Pennsylvania’s 200,000 voting Jews voted in the same way as Jews nationwide in 2004 and went 76-24 for Kerry, we can attribute 150,000 Jewish votes to Kerry, his entire margin of victory plus seven percent. Now imagine if that number had been closer to 50-50. Kerry would have received 100,000 Jewish votes rather than 150,000. Bush would have received 100,000 Jewish votes rather than 50,000. Kerry’s margin of victory would then have shrunk to 40,000 votes.

It appears Obama may have a tougher time in Pennsylvania than Kerry did because of his difficulty attracting the ethnic white vote in the western part of the state. If there is a Jewish swing away from him as well, he really could lose there. And if he loses there and loses Ohio, he is sunk. Ohio has approximately 80,000 Jewish voters, so a swing away from Obama to a 50-50 race would cost him 25,000 votes Kerry presumably received in 2004 — and in a state that Bush won by 121,000 votes.

We’ll need more data from two other states with a significant Jewish population to allow for a measurable sample size in a poll — Florida and California — and a polling firm willing to break out the Jewish vote as Siena has, to see whether this is just statistical smoke or whether Obama has a brushfire he needs to put out somehow before it consumes him.

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Which Witch is Which?

Is there not an irony too multi-layered to articulate in the fact that those on the Sarah Palin witch-hunt are now trying to tag Palin as a witch for having an experience with a witch-hunter?

Is there not an irony too multi-layered to articulate in the fact that those on the Sarah Palin witch-hunt are now trying to tag Palin as a witch for having an experience with a witch-hunter?

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The First Dude

Susan Estrich has watched the Todd Palin interview on Fox shown over the last two nights. I entirely share her take on Todd Palin, nicknamed the “First Dude:”

He is not fancy. He is not elite. He is not a single one of the things that Barack Obama has been criticized for. He is from a town even smaller than the one he grew up in. He was secure enough to marry a smart and ambitious girl, a girl he has always thought had great things in her.

A Beverly Hills dinner with 300 best friends at $2,850 apiece is not where you would ever place him, much less ever imagine him to be. The Democrat is the guy in Beverly Hills, as comfortable as he could be, even if he didn’t grow up there. He has the pedigrees. So does his wife. So does his opponent, and his opponent’s wife. So ultimately does a 36-year member of the Senate wherever he is from. It is the Republican guy who is real not rich, hard-working not fancy, so All Alaskan that he is in fact much more in touch with what he is, which is a whole lot easier for a very lot of he voters who are likely to decide this election.

A funny thing is happening on the way to this election. Actually, I am not laughing. The Palins are out there rolling their eyes at people who actually get protected in all these various banking bailouts, because it certainly seems that ultimately the only people who made out and then got bailed out were the big-money guys. Lehman and Bear Stearns don’t just pop out when you’re thinking about what the modern American dream means today.

Obama is in Beverly Hills, cavorting with Barbra Streisand not because he’d rather do that than snowmobiling, but because in fact he must. But the mere fact that he can is damning, not to mention time-consuming.

People who lauded “identity politics” for decades don’t want to have anything to do with it now. That is understandable: the gap between the Democratic presidential candidate’s rhetoric and his behavior is glaring, and the Republican VP nominee and her spouse closely approximate average Americans in values, culture, and socio-economic position. If Democrats really want to win this, they should stop asking voters to choose the candidate who “understands them.” They might choose the one who is them.

Susan Estrich has watched the Todd Palin interview on Fox shown over the last two nights. I entirely share her take on Todd Palin, nicknamed the “First Dude:”

He is not fancy. He is not elite. He is not a single one of the things that Barack Obama has been criticized for. He is from a town even smaller than the one he grew up in. He was secure enough to marry a smart and ambitious girl, a girl he has always thought had great things in her.

A Beverly Hills dinner with 300 best friends at $2,850 apiece is not where you would ever place him, much less ever imagine him to be. The Democrat is the guy in Beverly Hills, as comfortable as he could be, even if he didn’t grow up there. He has the pedigrees. So does his wife. So does his opponent, and his opponent’s wife. So ultimately does a 36-year member of the Senate wherever he is from. It is the Republican guy who is real not rich, hard-working not fancy, so All Alaskan that he is in fact much more in touch with what he is, which is a whole lot easier for a very lot of he voters who are likely to decide this election.

A funny thing is happening on the way to this election. Actually, I am not laughing. The Palins are out there rolling their eyes at people who actually get protected in all these various banking bailouts, because it certainly seems that ultimately the only people who made out and then got bailed out were the big-money guys. Lehman and Bear Stearns don’t just pop out when you’re thinking about what the modern American dream means today.

Obama is in Beverly Hills, cavorting with Barbra Streisand not because he’d rather do that than snowmobiling, but because in fact he must. But the mere fact that he can is damning, not to mention time-consuming.

People who lauded “identity politics” for decades don’t want to have anything to do with it now. That is understandable: the gap between the Democratic presidential candidate’s rhetoric and his behavior is glaring, and the Republican VP nominee and her spouse closely approximate average Americans in values, culture, and socio-economic position. If Democrats really want to win this, they should stop asking voters to choose the candidate who “understands them.” They might choose the one who is them.

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Obama Takes The Lead

Today, Barack Obama took back the lead in the Gallup tracking poll; he’s up by two points, 47-45. This is not a statistically significant lead; indeed, it means the reace is effectively tied. But what it does indicate is that, in the early going, the worrisome news about the markets is benefiting Obama. Gallup:

Today’s report includes two days of interviewing conducted after reports of the collapse of Wall Street financial institutions and changes in the stock market began to dominate the news on Monday. Gallup Poll Daily tracking data show that in each of these individual days (Monday and Tuesday) consumer ratings of the U.S. economy have become more negative. Similarly, in each of these individual days’ interviewing, Obama has led McCain in election tracking. There is thus a correlation between the bad financial news and Obama’s gains, although the data do not allow us to conclude definitively that there is a causal connection between the two.

What this suggests is that, when tomorrow’s tracking-poll number is out, we should expect Obama to be up more, maybe even by four points (since Gallup here is effectively saying that McCain had the lead in the first day of this three-day track; when that number drops out and a new number from today takes its place, McCain should drop further).

This should not be taken lightly. With the Dow Jones average plunging 450 points today and signs pointing to a short-selling attack on the two standing investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the economic news is only going to get worse as the week and the month progress. To recover his footing, John McCain will have to speak more forcefully about solutions to the problem rather than merely relying on a “they’re all greedy up there on Wall Street” line. Attacking corruption, demanding accountability, and talking about holding hearings and convening commissions are a Senator’s methods of dealing with a crisis, but they are not actually examples of leadership. They seem a little like preening, even though McCain has more right than almost any other politician in Washington to claim that he foresaw the trouble we’re in (David Frum has the details).

Still, that was then and this is now. If Obama benefits from bad economic news, the only way for McCain to deal with that is to change the story from the bad news to the need to cut a path out of the jungle.

Today, Barack Obama took back the lead in the Gallup tracking poll; he’s up by two points, 47-45. This is not a statistically significant lead; indeed, it means the reace is effectively tied. But what it does indicate is that, in the early going, the worrisome news about the markets is benefiting Obama. Gallup:

Today’s report includes two days of interviewing conducted after reports of the collapse of Wall Street financial institutions and changes in the stock market began to dominate the news on Monday. Gallup Poll Daily tracking data show that in each of these individual days (Monday and Tuesday) consumer ratings of the U.S. economy have become more negative. Similarly, in each of these individual days’ interviewing, Obama has led McCain in election tracking. There is thus a correlation between the bad financial news and Obama’s gains, although the data do not allow us to conclude definitively that there is a causal connection between the two.

What this suggests is that, when tomorrow’s tracking-poll number is out, we should expect Obama to be up more, maybe even by four points (since Gallup here is effectively saying that McCain had the lead in the first day of this three-day track; when that number drops out and a new number from today takes its place, McCain should drop further).

This should not be taken lightly. With the Dow Jones average plunging 450 points today and signs pointing to a short-selling attack on the two standing investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the economic news is only going to get worse as the week and the month progress. To recover his footing, John McCain will have to speak more forcefully about solutions to the problem rather than merely relying on a “they’re all greedy up there on Wall Street” line. Attacking corruption, demanding accountability, and talking about holding hearings and convening commissions are a Senator’s methods of dealing with a crisis, but they are not actually examples of leadership. They seem a little like preening, even though McCain has more right than almost any other politician in Washington to claim that he foresaw the trouble we’re in (David Frum has the details).

Still, that was then and this is now. If Obama benefits from bad economic news, the only way for McCain to deal with that is to change the story from the bad news to the need to cut a path out of the jungle.

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Austerity Britain

You sometimes hear that the U.S. armed forces are “broken” and “overstretched” because of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Overstretched, yes. Broken, no. Clearly we need to devote more resources toward enlarging our land forces, in particular, in order to cope with all the demands being placed on them. But the problem is even more acute among some of our allies–specifically, the United Kingdom, which has done more than any other nation to help us in Iraq and Afghanistan. (More than 12,000 British troops are deployed in those countries.)

For a brief on how bad things are getting on the other side of the Pond, see this Daily Telegraph article, which reports on a study released by the UK National Defense Association. The group’s chairman, Winston Churchill (grandson of the wartime prime
minister), “warned that the Forces were ‘in crisis’ with funding the lowest since the Thirties when ‘inadequate defence provision paved the way directly to world war.'”

No world war is looming today. But the funding, recruitment, and retention crisis faced by the British armed forces can hardly be exaggerated. As the Daily Telegraph accounts puts it:

There was a “huge mismatch” between what the “seriously under-resourced”Army was being asked to do and what it could do properly. In order to meet requirements the Army needed to expand by 10,000 troops.

The RAF was “so run down” in numbers and capability that it was unable to meet commitments “by a wide margin”. Apart from Eurofighter Typhoons it was fielding an ageing and expensive fleet. The RAF needed to increase number from 41,000 to 55,000 to “meet the growing known threats and the unpredictable” otherwise Britain would not retain air superiority on operations for the first time since the 1941 invasion of Crete.

On present trends the Navy’s once formidable Fleet will be “grievously weakened” heading towards half its current size by 2020 with no air cover for the next nine years after the withdrawal of the Sea Harrier.

With fewer warships there was insufficient training and as a result “standards are dropping.”

You would think that this neglect of the armed forces would present a prime issue for the Conservative opposition to bash the Labour government on. You would be wrong. David Cameron, the Tory leader, seems oblivious to the defense needs of his country. He is more worried about not making any funding commitments that might allow Labour to charge that he will need to raise taxes to pay for the extra spending. As the Telegraph article notes:

David Cameron’s position of refusing any spending commitments was “completely inappropriate” as inadequate defence funding put “everything else at risk.”

This isn’t just an issue of concern for Brits. It should be a real issue of concern for Americans, too. If the UK doesn’t have the resources to help us, then, Heaven help us, “unilateralism” may become a reality–not just a partisan slur.

You sometimes hear that the U.S. armed forces are “broken” and “overstretched” because of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Overstretched, yes. Broken, no. Clearly we need to devote more resources toward enlarging our land forces, in particular, in order to cope with all the demands being placed on them. But the problem is even more acute among some of our allies–specifically, the United Kingdom, which has done more than any other nation to help us in Iraq and Afghanistan. (More than 12,000 British troops are deployed in those countries.)

For a brief on how bad things are getting on the other side of the Pond, see this Daily Telegraph article, which reports on a study released by the UK National Defense Association. The group’s chairman, Winston Churchill (grandson of the wartime prime
minister), “warned that the Forces were ‘in crisis’ with funding the lowest since the Thirties when ‘inadequate defence provision paved the way directly to world war.'”

No world war is looming today. But the funding, recruitment, and retention crisis faced by the British armed forces can hardly be exaggerated. As the Daily Telegraph accounts puts it:

There was a “huge mismatch” between what the “seriously under-resourced”Army was being asked to do and what it could do properly. In order to meet requirements the Army needed to expand by 10,000 troops.

The RAF was “so run down” in numbers and capability that it was unable to meet commitments “by a wide margin”. Apart from Eurofighter Typhoons it was fielding an ageing and expensive fleet. The RAF needed to increase number from 41,000 to 55,000 to “meet the growing known threats and the unpredictable” otherwise Britain would not retain air superiority on operations for the first time since the 1941 invasion of Crete.

On present trends the Navy’s once formidable Fleet will be “grievously weakened” heading towards half its current size by 2020 with no air cover for the next nine years after the withdrawal of the Sea Harrier.

With fewer warships there was insufficient training and as a result “standards are dropping.”

You would think that this neglect of the armed forces would present a prime issue for the Conservative opposition to bash the Labour government on. You would be wrong. David Cameron, the Tory leader, seems oblivious to the defense needs of his country. He is more worried about not making any funding commitments that might allow Labour to charge that he will need to raise taxes to pay for the extra spending. As the Telegraph article notes:

David Cameron’s position of refusing any spending commitments was “completely inappropriate” as inadequate defence funding put “everything else at risk.”

This isn’t just an issue of concern for Brits. It should be a real issue of concern for Americans, too. If the UK doesn’t have the resources to help us, then, Heaven help us, “unilateralism” may become a reality–not just a partisan slur.

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Obama’s “Common” Misunderstanding

In USA Today, Ralph Peters has a fascinating portrait of Vladimir Putin. To Peters, Putin is a hyper-efficient alien–a reptilian predator bearing little resemblance to actors who subscribe to common strategic or even ethical standards. In profiling Putin, Peters actually gets to the heart of the mad challenge that is twenty-first century national security:

Among the many reasons we misjudge Putin is our insistence on seeing him as “like us.” He’s not. His stage-management of the Georgia invasion was a perfect example: Western intelligence agencies had been monitoring Russian activities in the Caucasus for years and fully expected a confrontation. Even so, our analysts assumed that Russia wouldn’t act during this summer’s Olympics, traditionally an interval of peace.

“Not ‘like us'” is the defining characteristic common to all America’s current enemies. Putin’s willingness to invade a neighbor during the Olympics is but the mildest example. In Iran, we face a regime whose founder stated “We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.” Not like us.

Al Qaeda is as interested in the glory of self-immolation as in power politics. In a 2007 call to jihad, Osama bin Laden quoted the prophet Muhammad: “I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.” Not like us.

Kim Jong Il’s North Korea is a state so hermetically sealed, it’s impossible to say for sure whether or not its leader still exists. He gives no thought to his country beyond its literal function as his personal human terrarium. Waves of mass starvation roll through the land and it means less to the North Korean leadership than would a box of toys left out in the rain. Not like us.

And here is where actual fear enters the discussion: Barack Obama. A man whose guiding foreign policy principle is the search for common ground. Obama is post-everything, and that includes differences. So who could possibly be “not like” him? On Obama’s website, the very first screen of his foreign policy page offers this quote from the candidate:

This must be the moment when we answer the call of history. For eight years, we have paid the price for a foreign policy that lectures without listening; that divides us from one another–and from the world–instead of calling us to a common purpose.

But what common purpose can we find with the above-mentioned leaders. While there are natural resource dimensions to some of our problems, the heads of Russia, Iran, North Korea, and al Qaeda are driven, above all else, by messianic totalitarianism. (As Peters points out, even Putin’s sense of Russian destiny is informed by a delusional mysticism). Obama went to Berlin and told hundreds of thousands of Germans that “Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.” It’s a nice thought, but humanity, as such, is far less common than Obama realizes.

In USA Today, Ralph Peters has a fascinating portrait of Vladimir Putin. To Peters, Putin is a hyper-efficient alien–a reptilian predator bearing little resemblance to actors who subscribe to common strategic or even ethical standards. In profiling Putin, Peters actually gets to the heart of the mad challenge that is twenty-first century national security:

Among the many reasons we misjudge Putin is our insistence on seeing him as “like us.” He’s not. His stage-management of the Georgia invasion was a perfect example: Western intelligence agencies had been monitoring Russian activities in the Caucasus for years and fully expected a confrontation. Even so, our analysts assumed that Russia wouldn’t act during this summer’s Olympics, traditionally an interval of peace.

“Not ‘like us'” is the defining characteristic common to all America’s current enemies. Putin’s willingness to invade a neighbor during the Olympics is but the mildest example. In Iran, we face a regime whose founder stated “We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.” Not like us.

Al Qaeda is as interested in the glory of self-immolation as in power politics. In a 2007 call to jihad, Osama bin Laden quoted the prophet Muhammad: “I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.” Not like us.

Kim Jong Il’s North Korea is a state so hermetically sealed, it’s impossible to say for sure whether or not its leader still exists. He gives no thought to his country beyond its literal function as his personal human terrarium. Waves of mass starvation roll through the land and it means less to the North Korean leadership than would a box of toys left out in the rain. Not like us.

And here is where actual fear enters the discussion: Barack Obama. A man whose guiding foreign policy principle is the search for common ground. Obama is post-everything, and that includes differences. So who could possibly be “not like” him? On Obama’s website, the very first screen of his foreign policy page offers this quote from the candidate:

This must be the moment when we answer the call of history. For eight years, we have paid the price for a foreign policy that lectures without listening; that divides us from one another–and from the world–instead of calling us to a common purpose.

But what common purpose can we find with the above-mentioned leaders. While there are natural resource dimensions to some of our problems, the heads of Russia, Iran, North Korea, and al Qaeda are driven, above all else, by messianic totalitarianism. (As Peters points out, even Putin’s sense of Russian destiny is informed by a delusional mysticism). Obama went to Berlin and told hundreds of thousands of Germans that “Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.” It’s a nice thought, but humanity, as such, is far less common than Obama realizes.

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It’s Livni!

Exit polls of all three TV channels agree: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be the next leader of the Kadima Party. Following some last minute maneuvers and a fairly low voting percentage (by Israeli standards), Livni seems to be the winner, after all. Whether one supported Livni or not, there’s cause for some celebration: a second woman Prime Minister is likely to take office soon.

This was not an easy battle, but it will be nothing compared to the battles ahead. If she really wants to be the Prime Minister for more than just a short time, she’ll have to stabilize a shaky coalition. This will not be easy with a party like Shas–but might be possible because Livni does have some leverage.

Theoretically speaking, she can form a coalition of the left, without Shas, and with Kadima, Labor, the dovish Meretz and the support of Arab parliament members. The leaders of Shas spent time in the opposition in the past, and don’t like the taste of it. If they believe that Livni’s narrow coalition can survive for a while, their appetite for new elections might cool down very quickly.

Of course, such a coalition will have its own downside. First of all, it’s not at all clear that all Kadima members will follow Livni into it. Second, it will establish her squarely as a left-wing leader–giving Binyamin Netanyahu the benefit of having all right wing voters to himself, while she has to split left-wing voters with Labor.

And this will also be a very limited coalition. With barely 60 members of Knesset in her camp–half the parliament–every politician will be king. Livni, the Ms. Clean of Israeli politics, will have to cave time and again to all kinds of demands and pressures as not to lose the coalition. It can’t last for very long–and it’s not clear if Livni wants to take this path. Bottom line: as Shas goes, so goes the coalition.

Exit polls of all three TV channels agree: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be the next leader of the Kadima Party. Following some last minute maneuvers and a fairly low voting percentage (by Israeli standards), Livni seems to be the winner, after all. Whether one supported Livni or not, there’s cause for some celebration: a second woman Prime Minister is likely to take office soon.

This was not an easy battle, but it will be nothing compared to the battles ahead. If she really wants to be the Prime Minister for more than just a short time, she’ll have to stabilize a shaky coalition. This will not be easy with a party like Shas–but might be possible because Livni does have some leverage.

Theoretically speaking, she can form a coalition of the left, without Shas, and with Kadima, Labor, the dovish Meretz and the support of Arab parliament members. The leaders of Shas spent time in the opposition in the past, and don’t like the taste of it. If they believe that Livni’s narrow coalition can survive for a while, their appetite for new elections might cool down very quickly.

Of course, such a coalition will have its own downside. First of all, it’s not at all clear that all Kadima members will follow Livni into it. Second, it will establish her squarely as a left-wing leader–giving Binyamin Netanyahu the benefit of having all right wing voters to himself, while she has to split left-wing voters with Labor.

And this will also be a very limited coalition. With barely 60 members of Knesset in her camp–half the parliament–every politician will be king. Livni, the Ms. Clean of Israeli politics, will have to cave time and again to all kinds of demands and pressures as not to lose the coalition. It can’t last for very long–and it’s not clear if Livni wants to take this path. Bottom line: as Shas goes, so goes the coalition.

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