Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 24, 2008

UNacceptable Behavior

In addition to the disturbing fact that a man of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ilk was allowed even to speak at the United Nations yesterday (a fact that surprised not a single observer of the UN), one should take pause at the reception afforded the man who has persistently threatened war and who currently stands as the world’s most evil tyrant. In short, Iran’s president received a mostly warm reception. George Bush, to draw a contradistinction, was granted only a polite acknowledgment by the member states of the General Assembly.

Reporting in the New York Sun, Benny Avni writes:

Delivering a speech redolent of classical European anti-Semitism, the Iranian leader accused Zionists of controlling the banks and was embraced yesterday by listeners at the General Assembly. He exchanged a long hug with the Assembly president and was feted afterward with mostly friendly questions from handpicked reporters.

Steven Edwards, of Canwest News Services, notes:

As demonstrations against him continued outside, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received applause inside the United Nations on Tuesday after he railed against Israel and said his country would resist the “bullying powers” seeking to curtail the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

On the flip-side, leaders of other nations did not seem too excited to see President George W. Bush, Oliver Burkeman of the Guardian observes:

He didn’t get much of a reception: fewer than 10 seconds of polite applause – and a “thumbs-down” gesture from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, whose own speech was a typically anti-Bush and anti-Israel affair.

There seems to be an ever-growing notion that America must “repair its standing the world.” Sure, it’s old news that many nations regard America as arrogant, one-sided, and out of touch. But so what? I mean, so what if leaders of nations who sit through, and take seriously, Ahmadinejad’s vitriol regard America as out of touch? If other nations want the respect of America, it seems to me, they must be able to stand-up and walk out when somebody like Iran’s current President takes the floor.

In addition to the disturbing fact that a man of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ilk was allowed even to speak at the United Nations yesterday (a fact that surprised not a single observer of the UN), one should take pause at the reception afforded the man who has persistently threatened war and who currently stands as the world’s most evil tyrant. In short, Iran’s president received a mostly warm reception. George Bush, to draw a contradistinction, was granted only a polite acknowledgment by the member states of the General Assembly.

Reporting in the New York Sun, Benny Avni writes:

Delivering a speech redolent of classical European anti-Semitism, the Iranian leader accused Zionists of controlling the banks and was embraced yesterday by listeners at the General Assembly. He exchanged a long hug with the Assembly president and was feted afterward with mostly friendly questions from handpicked reporters.

Steven Edwards, of Canwest News Services, notes:

As demonstrations against him continued outside, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received applause inside the United Nations on Tuesday after he railed against Israel and said his country would resist the “bullying powers” seeking to curtail the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

On the flip-side, leaders of other nations did not seem too excited to see President George W. Bush, Oliver Burkeman of the Guardian observes:

He didn’t get much of a reception: fewer than 10 seconds of polite applause – and a “thumbs-down” gesture from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, whose own speech was a typically anti-Bush and anti-Israel affair.

There seems to be an ever-growing notion that America must “repair its standing the world.” Sure, it’s old news that many nations regard America as arrogant, one-sided, and out of touch. But so what? I mean, so what if leaders of nations who sit through, and take seriously, Ahmadinejad’s vitriol regard America as out of touch? If other nations want the respect of America, it seems to me, they must be able to stand-up and walk out when somebody like Iran’s current President takes the floor.

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Re: What McCain Did

One more thing. If McCain is behind, thinks he’s behind, and needs to do something to come from behind, why on earth would he suggest postponing  an event this week that, were it to go well for him, could reverse the trend? The last time he had an audience of 40 million, he gave a convention speech that helped move him into the lead. If, as so many are doing, you assume he’s behind and sinking, the debate could not have been scheduled at a better time for him.

One more thing. If McCain is behind, thinks he’s behind, and needs to do something to come from behind, why on earth would he suggest postponing  an event this week that, were it to go well for him, could reverse the trend? The last time he had an audience of 40 million, he gave a convention speech that helped move him into the lead. If, as so many are doing, you assume he’s behind and sinking, the debate could not have been scheduled at a better time for him.

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Slimy Salon

Joan Walsh, one of the top dogs at Salon.com best known for her horrified discovery that George W. Bush did better on his SATs than she did and a person of whom it is likely nothing much has ever been asked, has the following headline on her latest article:

McCain’s crazy debate gambit: Trying to duck Friday’s debate so he can ‘work on the economy’ doesn’t look presidential, it looks cowardly

There are hundreds of words that can be used to describe John McCain’s behavior. “Cowardly” may be the only morally impermissible one.

Joan Walsh, one of the top dogs at Salon.com best known for her horrified discovery that George W. Bush did better on his SATs than she did and a person of whom it is likely nothing much has ever been asked, has the following headline on her latest article:

McCain’s crazy debate gambit: Trying to duck Friday’s debate so he can ‘work on the economy’ doesn’t look presidential, it looks cowardly

There are hundreds of words that can be used to describe John McCain’s behavior. “Cowardly” may be the only morally impermissible one.

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What McCain Did

The presumption in many quarters is that John McCain knew he had to do something to change the direction of the race because things are going badly for him. I certainly agree that he has not covered himself in glory in the past 10 days. But the data just don’t support this opinion. With the sole exception of the ABC News poll that has Obama up by 9 points — and which features a preposterous 16-point margin of Democrats over Republicans among respondents — Obama has not gained at all in national polling over the past week. Two new surveys out tonight have Obama up by 2 points and 1 point. (One oddity in the 2-point survey — its sub-survey of so-called likely voters has Obama up by 4 points; usually in these polls the likely-voter number is tighter than the registered-voter number.)

State-by-state polling is all over the place, with Obama leading in Virginia in one poll and behind substantially in another; McCain and Obama neck-and-neck in Pennsylvania in one poll and 9 behind in another, with similar numbers in polls in Michigan; and so on.

The point here is that only one poll shows Obama having gained substantially from the financial crisis over the past week. Certainly, it hasn’t helped McCain in any way, and killed his momentum. But nothing here required a Hail Mary play.

Maybe it’s as simple as this: McCain believes it’s best for him to be in Washington this week, working (or looking like he’s working) on the bailout. To do that he can’t spend 48 hours in debate prep. He already authorized the cancellation of a night of the Republican Convention owing to a crisis (Hurricane Ike); why not postpone a debate? Because Ole Miss will be disappointed?

The presumption in many quarters is that John McCain knew he had to do something to change the direction of the race because things are going badly for him. I certainly agree that he has not covered himself in glory in the past 10 days. But the data just don’t support this opinion. With the sole exception of the ABC News poll that has Obama up by 9 points — and which features a preposterous 16-point margin of Democrats over Republicans among respondents — Obama has not gained at all in national polling over the past week. Two new surveys out tonight have Obama up by 2 points and 1 point. (One oddity in the 2-point survey — its sub-survey of so-called likely voters has Obama up by 4 points; usually in these polls the likely-voter number is tighter than the registered-voter number.)

State-by-state polling is all over the place, with Obama leading in Virginia in one poll and behind substantially in another; McCain and Obama neck-and-neck in Pennsylvania in one poll and 9 behind in another, with similar numbers in polls in Michigan; and so on.

The point here is that only one poll shows Obama having gained substantially from the financial crisis over the past week. Certainly, it hasn’t helped McCain in any way, and killed his momentum. But nothing here required a Hail Mary play.

Maybe it’s as simple as this: McCain believes it’s best for him to be in Washington this week, working (or looking like he’s working) on the bailout. To do that he can’t spend 48 hours in debate prep. He already authorized the cancellation of a night of the Republican Convention owing to a crisis (Hurricane Ike); why not postpone a debate? Because Ole Miss will be disappointed?

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What’s Next?

Barack Obama isn’t suspending anything. At least not now. The ball is now in the McCain court. He can go to Washington, appear in the meetings, go to the floor and let Obama go about his business on the trail. After a couple days of that it may become more clear how the debate posturing will turn out.

For now the question remains: if the Democrats make no deal and Obama remains in campaign mode, whom does that hurt?

And in case we didn’t have enough news the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation of Charlie Rangel. Apparently the burden of defending his malfeasance is one even the Congressional Democrats are unwilling to bear.

Barack Obama isn’t suspending anything. At least not now. The ball is now in the McCain court. He can go to Washington, appear in the meetings, go to the floor and let Obama go about his business on the trail. After a couple days of that it may become more clear how the debate posturing will turn out.

For now the question remains: if the Democrats make no deal and Obama remains in campaign mode, whom does that hurt?

And in case we didn’t have enough news the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation of Charlie Rangel. Apparently the burden of defending his malfeasance is one even the Congressional Democrats are unwilling to bear.

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Commentary of the Day

Vail Beach, on John Steele Gordon:

While I don’t agree with McCain’s tactic here as a matter of general principle, in this instance, the story was so egregiously wrong, and was so obviously calculated to neutralize McCain’s advantage on the Fannie/Freddie issue, I don’t know what choice he had. You’d never know from the Times the Obama was a huge recipient of Fannie/Freddie campaign money, nor that McCain fought to put them under control years ago. The Times knows that in this economic crisis, that hurts Obama. Those truths needed to be buried in an off-setting story that makes McCain look like he was also protecting the two GSEs, and so that’s why the Davis story was ordered up. The falsehood is so blatant, McCain had no choice but to blow the whistle.

Vail Beach, on John Steele Gordon:

While I don’t agree with McCain’s tactic here as a matter of general principle, in this instance, the story was so egregiously wrong, and was so obviously calculated to neutralize McCain’s advantage on the Fannie/Freddie issue, I don’t know what choice he had. You’d never know from the Times the Obama was a huge recipient of Fannie/Freddie campaign money, nor that McCain fought to put them under control years ago. The Times knows that in this economic crisis, that hurts Obama. Those truths needed to be buried in an off-setting story that makes McCain look like he was also protecting the two GSEs, and so that’s why the Davis story was ordered up. The falsehood is so blatant, McCain had no choice but to blow the whistle.

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Reid’s Reversal

Oh, and what happened to the Harry Reid, who was seeking John McCain’s advice? A day ago Reid was celebrating when McCain indicated some support for a bailout: “I got some good news in the last hour or so . . . it appears that Sen. McCain is going to come out for this.” It looks like Reid is running interference for Obama who doesn’t want to come to Washington to do something he never has done–strike a deal. This is no surprise–just disappointing.

Oh, and what happened to the Harry Reid, who was seeking John McCain’s advice? A day ago Reid was celebrating when McCain indicated some support for a bailout: “I got some good news in the last hour or so . . . it appears that Sen. McCain is going to come out for this.” It looks like Reid is running interference for Obama who doesn’t want to come to Washington to do something he never has done–strike a deal. This is no surprise–just disappointing.

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Re: Good Thing McCain Suspended His Campaign

This move strikes me as very smart politics, completely aside from the question of it being smart policy. The central message of McCain’s campaign is “Country First” — that McCain will willingly transcend partisanship in order to work on behalf of the good of the United States of America. Suspending his campaign and departing for Washington is a striking illustration to the voters that McCain is serious about putting country first. So one benefit is the vindication of his campaign’s major theme.

The other major benefit is that it might allow McCain to reverse the perception that the financial crisis has knocked him off-balance. By making such a dramatic move, McCain is creating facts to which Obama must now respond. He is shaping the battlespace. Obama is thus left with a dilemma: defy McCain’s call to unity and risk looking petty and partisan, or follow suit, allowing McCain to appear the leader and Obama the follower. If Congress succeeds in crafting new legislation, McCain will be able to say that it was because of his bold leadership; and if Congress fails, McCain will be able to say that it was because of the Democratic party’s partisanship. A win-win.

This move strikes me as very smart politics, completely aside from the question of it being smart policy. The central message of McCain’s campaign is “Country First” — that McCain will willingly transcend partisanship in order to work on behalf of the good of the United States of America. Suspending his campaign and departing for Washington is a striking illustration to the voters that McCain is serious about putting country first. So one benefit is the vindication of his campaign’s major theme.

The other major benefit is that it might allow McCain to reverse the perception that the financial crisis has knocked him off-balance. By making such a dramatic move, McCain is creating facts to which Obama must now respond. He is shaping the battlespace. Obama is thus left with a dilemma: defy McCain’s call to unity and risk looking petty and partisan, or follow suit, allowing McCain to appear the leader and Obama the follower. If Congress succeeds in crafting new legislation, McCain will be able to say that it was because of his bold leadership; and if Congress fails, McCain will be able to say that it was because of the Democratic party’s partisanship. A win-win.

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Good Thing McCain Suspended His Campaign

If the McCain were still in campaign mode (are they?), they’d be having pressers over this:

“If Sarah Palin isn’t enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention,” Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida said at a panel about the shared agenda of Jewish and African-American Democrats Wednesday. Hastings, who is African-American, was explaining what he intended to tell his Jewish constituents about the presidential race. “Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through,” Hastings added as the room erupted in laughter and applause.

After telling attendees that the most important thing Jewish and African-American Democrats could do to support one another was to get Sen. Barack Obama elected president, Hastings had one more message: “For those of you like me that supported Sen. Hillary Clinton, she lost! Get over it!”

If there were ever time for Barack Obama to show some leadership on race and religion this is it. Will he condemn the comment and banish Hastings from any campaign role? It is time to step up to the plate.

If the McCain were still in campaign mode (are they?), they’d be having pressers over this:

“If Sarah Palin isn’t enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention,” Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida said at a panel about the shared agenda of Jewish and African-American Democrats Wednesday. Hastings, who is African-American, was explaining what he intended to tell his Jewish constituents about the presidential race. “Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through,” Hastings added as the room erupted in laughter and applause.

After telling attendees that the most important thing Jewish and African-American Democrats could do to support one another was to get Sen. Barack Obama elected president, Hastings had one more message: “For those of you like me that supported Sen. Hillary Clinton, she lost! Get over it!”

If there were ever time for Barack Obama to show some leadership on race and religion this is it. Will he condemn the comment and banish Hastings from any campaign role? It is time to step up to the plate.

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Re: The Debate Must Go On

The Obama camp is resisting the “return to Washington” suggestion and doesn’t want to get out of campaign mode. Harry Reid is providing cover with a statement saying, in part: “While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the Administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis.”

I am sure Barack Obama appreciates the Reid skirt to hide behind, but does he really want to say “No”? And if Reid is insistent that a deal can be reached and it is not, aren’t all the Democrats at risk?

There are many moving parts. What is certain is that McCain has disrupted the narrative. Whether it will ultimately be to his advantage and whether he has thought through all the contingencies remain to be seen.

The Obama camp is resisting the “return to Washington” suggestion and doesn’t want to get out of campaign mode. Harry Reid is providing cover with a statement saying, in part: “While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the Administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis.”

I am sure Barack Obama appreciates the Reid skirt to hide behind, but does he really want to say “No”? And if Reid is insistent that a deal can be reached and it is not, aren’t all the Democrats at risk?

There are many moving parts. What is certain is that McCain has disrupted the narrative. Whether it will ultimately be to his advantage and whether he has thought through all the contingencies remain to be seen.

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Re: The Clinton Punditry Continues

In addition to the seemingly out-of-place praise lavished on Senator McCain and Governor Palin, former President Bill Clinton also revealed to Larry King that he will briefly suspend his campaigning on behalf of Senator Obama to respect the upcoming Jewish holidays.

CLINTON: But when [Global Initiative] is over, and after the Jewish holidays, which follow close on it, I intend to go to Florida, to Ohio, to northeast Pennsylvania, and to Nevada at a minimum. I may do events in Arkansas depending on what the Democratic Party does down there. And I’ve agreed to do some fundraising for them in California and New York.

KING: Do they ask you, go here, go there?

CLINTON: Yes.

KING: All right. (INAUDIBLE). Are you kind of feeling Jewish that you’re waiting until after the Jewish holidays?

CLINTON: No. But I think it would be — if we’re trying to win in Florida, it may be that — you know, they think that because of who I am and where my politic base has traditionally been, they may want me to go sort of hustle up what Lawton Chiles used to call the cracker vote there.

But Senator Obama also has a big stake in doing well in the Jewish community in Florida, where Hillary did very well and where I did very well. And I just think respecting the holidays is a good thing to do.

Hmm. The “cracker vote”? And observance of Jewish holidays? Odd.

In addition to the seemingly out-of-place praise lavished on Senator McCain and Governor Palin, former President Bill Clinton also revealed to Larry King that he will briefly suspend his campaigning on behalf of Senator Obama to respect the upcoming Jewish holidays.

CLINTON: But when [Global Initiative] is over, and after the Jewish holidays, which follow close on it, I intend to go to Florida, to Ohio, to northeast Pennsylvania, and to Nevada at a minimum. I may do events in Arkansas depending on what the Democratic Party does down there. And I’ve agreed to do some fundraising for them in California and New York.

KING: Do they ask you, go here, go there?

CLINTON: Yes.

KING: All right. (INAUDIBLE). Are you kind of feeling Jewish that you’re waiting until after the Jewish holidays?

CLINTON: No. But I think it would be — if we’re trying to win in Florida, it may be that — you know, they think that because of who I am and where my politic base has traditionally been, they may want me to go sort of hustle up what Lawton Chiles used to call the cracker vote there.

But Senator Obama also has a big stake in doing well in the Jewish community in Florida, where Hillary did very well and where I did very well. And I just think respecting the holidays is a good thing to do.

Hmm. The “cracker vote”? And observance of Jewish holidays? Odd.

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The Clinton Punditry Continues

Bill Clinton on Larry King Live had this to say about Sarah Palin’s selection for VP:

I was surprised. I just — you know, apparently some people who were following it more closely than I were not surprised. But look, I get the down side that the people who criticize her give her, but I can only judge how I think this is going down in a state like Arkansas where I am from, where we have half the people live in communities of less than 2,500 and there are people who are pro-choice and pro-life and more than half the people have a hunting or fishing license. But they like families that hang together, that deal with adversity, that are proud of all their members, that don’t let off from life’s vicissitudes.

So I think that she and her husband and their kids come across gutsy, spirited and real. I have significant disagreements with her about any number of social and economic issues but I find her an appealing person and I think that it’s best to say that Senator McCain looks like he knew what he was doing. He picked somebody who gave him a lot of energy, a lot of support. . .

I think that Senator McCain nominated her partially because she hoped she would excite women who thought a woman who ought to be on a national ticket and on a national stage. But they disagree on an awful lot of things.I think she also is there because she excited the conservative base of the Republican Party. He’s always been a little more iconoclastic, even though he’s been pro-life as a matter of conviction his whole career, he’s never really thrilled the right wing of the Republican Party. So she lit a fire under them and now they have more volunteers and they’re closing the enthusiasm gap.

So I think there were mixed reasons. And I think he tells the truth. I think he liked her because he thought she represented the kind of reform that he represents which is different from the kind of reform that Senator Obama and Senator Biden and Hillary and I and most of our crowd think we need.

Well, if you thought that was a tad glowing, here’s what he had to say about John McCain:

I admire him. I like him and I admire him. And you know, he helped me normalize relations with Vietnam. He has been out front sticking up for the little folks in Georgia, for the whipping they’ve taken over there and trying to stand up for them.He has got a lot of — he helped me stand up against ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo. But I think that I disagree with him about Iraq. And I really disagree with him about the economic policies of the last few years.

I think — and strong disagreements on health care, Senator Obama’s plan is much closer to what I believe should be done and what Hillary has advocated. And I think his energy plan is better.

And I think energy is the key to national security through energy independence to fighting global warming, and most important of all to the people that are listening to this, to more jobs and higher incomes.

So I’m for Obama and would I say that if I — just because I’m a Democrat? Yes. But I also really believe this. I give the reasons that I think are relevant to the American people. That is far more important than having one more guy sitting at the television with a lot of badmouthing the other person.

We should be able to like, admire, respect the contributions of people and still vote in another way.

Now, Clinton does say many nice things about Barack Obama and the Democrats’ agenda, but if he was supposed to be convincing conservative Democrats and Independents of the dangers of the GOP ticket he had a funny way of doing it. If he was, on the other hand, expressing empathy with former Hillary supporters who are considering McCain-Palin, he did a fine job.

Bill Clinton on Larry King Live had this to say about Sarah Palin’s selection for VP:

I was surprised. I just — you know, apparently some people who were following it more closely than I were not surprised. But look, I get the down side that the people who criticize her give her, but I can only judge how I think this is going down in a state like Arkansas where I am from, where we have half the people live in communities of less than 2,500 and there are people who are pro-choice and pro-life and more than half the people have a hunting or fishing license. But they like families that hang together, that deal with adversity, that are proud of all their members, that don’t let off from life’s vicissitudes.

So I think that she and her husband and their kids come across gutsy, spirited and real. I have significant disagreements with her about any number of social and economic issues but I find her an appealing person and I think that it’s best to say that Senator McCain looks like he knew what he was doing. He picked somebody who gave him a lot of energy, a lot of support. . .

I think that Senator McCain nominated her partially because she hoped she would excite women who thought a woman who ought to be on a national ticket and on a national stage. But they disagree on an awful lot of things.I think she also is there because she excited the conservative base of the Republican Party. He’s always been a little more iconoclastic, even though he’s been pro-life as a matter of conviction his whole career, he’s never really thrilled the right wing of the Republican Party. So she lit a fire under them and now they have more volunteers and they’re closing the enthusiasm gap.

So I think there were mixed reasons. And I think he tells the truth. I think he liked her because he thought she represented the kind of reform that he represents which is different from the kind of reform that Senator Obama and Senator Biden and Hillary and I and most of our crowd think we need.

Well, if you thought that was a tad glowing, here’s what he had to say about John McCain:

I admire him. I like him and I admire him. And you know, he helped me normalize relations with Vietnam. He has been out front sticking up for the little folks in Georgia, for the whipping they’ve taken over there and trying to stand up for them.He has got a lot of — he helped me stand up against ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo. But I think that I disagree with him about Iraq. And I really disagree with him about the economic policies of the last few years.

I think — and strong disagreements on health care, Senator Obama’s plan is much closer to what I believe should be done and what Hillary has advocated. And I think his energy plan is better.

And I think energy is the key to national security through energy independence to fighting global warming, and most important of all to the people that are listening to this, to more jobs and higher incomes.

So I’m for Obama and would I say that if I — just because I’m a Democrat? Yes. But I also really believe this. I give the reasons that I think are relevant to the American people. That is far more important than having one more guy sitting at the television with a lot of badmouthing the other person.

We should be able to like, admire, respect the contributions of people and still vote in another way.

Now, Clinton does say many nice things about Barack Obama and the Democrats’ agenda, but if he was supposed to be convincing conservative Democrats and Independents of the dangers of the GOP ticket he had a funny way of doing it. If he was, on the other hand, expressing empathy with former Hillary supporters who are considering McCain-Palin, he did a fine job.

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The Debate Must Go On?

The AP reports that Barack Obama is “inclined to move ahead” with Friday’s debate as scheduled, and not grant John McCain’s wish to delay it while he goes to work on the bailout crisis in the Senate.

This is an interesting choice for Obama. On the one hand, having taken a respectable lead over McCain, he sees no reason to let McCain dictate the narrative between now and November. On the other hand, he’ll be criticized for putting his campaign over country, which (in addition to actually wanting to work on the bailout issue) is the desired effect of McCain’s move.

It’s back over to the McCain camp now. They have to be careful in their criticism of Obama’s probable refusal of a delay, so as not to sound like they are overtly politicizing America’s financial crisis.

The AP reports that Barack Obama is “inclined to move ahead” with Friday’s debate as scheduled, and not grant John McCain’s wish to delay it while he goes to work on the bailout crisis in the Senate.

This is an interesting choice for Obama. On the one hand, having taken a respectable lead over McCain, he sees no reason to let McCain dictate the narrative between now and November. On the other hand, he’ll be criticized for putting his campaign over country, which (in addition to actually wanting to work on the bailout issue) is the desired effect of McCain’s move.

It’s back over to the McCain camp now. They have to be careful in their criticism of Obama’s probable refusal of a delay, so as not to sound like they are overtly politicizing America’s financial crisis.

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Hit ‘em High, Hit ‘em Low

John McCain is taking the high road. Well, that and dishing out the toughest charge of the campaign.

First, the high road: McCain announces he is “suspending” his campaign and returning to Washington and calls on Barack Obama to do the same. He says;

I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem. We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night’s debate until we have taken action to address this crisis. I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside, and I am committed to doing so.

Will Obama follow suit and disrupt his debate prep? It will be hard to say no, yet odd to follow meekly behind McCain’s invitation.

Meanwhile, if that doesn’t work, the McCain camp has put out a blistering e-mail suggesting that while James Johnson was still receiving tens of thousands of dollars from Fannie Mae per month, he was selected as Obama’s VP Search Committee chair. They then challenge the media to investigate.

All of this tells me the McCain camp intends to shake up the race even before the debate. Will it work? Stay tuned.

John McCain is taking the high road. Well, that and dishing out the toughest charge of the campaign.

First, the high road: McCain announces he is “suspending” his campaign and returning to Washington and calls on Barack Obama to do the same. He says;

I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem. We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night’s debate until we have taken action to address this crisis. I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside, and I am committed to doing so.

Will Obama follow suit and disrupt his debate prep? It will be hard to say no, yet odd to follow meekly behind McCain’s invitation.

Meanwhile, if that doesn’t work, the McCain camp has put out a blistering e-mail suggesting that while James Johnson was still receiving tens of thousands of dollars from Fannie Mae per month, he was selected as Obama’s VP Search Committee chair. They then challenge the media to investigate.

All of this tells me the McCain camp intends to shake up the race even before the debate. Will it work? Stay tuned.

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Polls: The Black Hole Awaits

The McCain camp held a conference call to discuss the state of polling. For political junkies it’s just fascinating stuff. They made several points.

First, the recent ABC poll, they believe, is an outlier based on a 16-point gap in voter identification (the difference in percentage of registered Democrats and Republican voters) which is more than three times the largest difference we have had in decades.

Second, they consider this a “margin of error”(MOE) race both nationally and in twelve states in play (taking those states off the RealClearPoliticscom’s list of states within the MOE). They also pointed to new battleground polling. which bears out their MOE theory of the race.

Third, because McCain “over-performs” above GOP voter ID, they believe they can still win if the voter i.d. gap on election day is 6-8% in the Democrats’ favor.

Fourth, they think McCain’s populist economic message is “working” and that we’ll see more of it as a result.

Fifth, 125 million people similar to what we saw in 1960 will turn out and no one is certain who they will be.

Finally, the period of the debates is a “black hole” which will shake up the race — maybe tipping it one direction and maybe not.

To boil it down: if the voter ID is not too much worse than 2000 or 2004 and the debates don’t fundamentally tip the race to Barack Obama, then the McCain camp is in good shape. If the debates do for Obama what they did for Ronald Reagan (provide a tipping point) or the Obama team has substantially altered historic voter ID numbers then Obama is in fine shape.

My own take: it is remarkable this is not going a lot worse for McCain. The one truism from a campaign filled with junk conventional wisdom: McCain is likely the only Republican who could win. Doesn’t mean he’s going to, though.

The McCain camp held a conference call to discuss the state of polling. For political junkies it’s just fascinating stuff. They made several points.

First, the recent ABC poll, they believe, is an outlier based on a 16-point gap in voter identification (the difference in percentage of registered Democrats and Republican voters) which is more than three times the largest difference we have had in decades.

Second, they consider this a “margin of error”(MOE) race both nationally and in twelve states in play (taking those states off the RealClearPoliticscom’s list of states within the MOE). They also pointed to new battleground polling. which bears out their MOE theory of the race.

Third, because McCain “over-performs” above GOP voter ID, they believe they can still win if the voter i.d. gap on election day is 6-8% in the Democrats’ favor.

Fourth, they think McCain’s populist economic message is “working” and that we’ll see more of it as a result.

Fifth, 125 million people similar to what we saw in 1960 will turn out and no one is certain who they will be.

Finally, the period of the debates is a “black hole” which will shake up the race — maybe tipping it one direction and maybe not.

To boil it down: if the voter ID is not too much worse than 2000 or 2004 and the debates don’t fundamentally tip the race to Barack Obama, then the McCain camp is in good shape. If the debates do for Obama what they did for Ronald Reagan (provide a tipping point) or the Obama team has substantially altered historic voter ID numbers then Obama is in fine shape.

My own take: it is remarkable this is not going a lot worse for McCain. The one truism from a campaign filled with junk conventional wisdom: McCain is likely the only Republican who could win. Doesn’t mean he’s going to, though.

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Is Biden Mentoring Obama?

Could Barack Obama have possibly found a more direct route to self-contradiction in the span of one sentence than this?

The security of our ally Israel is too important to play partisan politics, and it is deeply disappointing that Senator McCain and a few of his allies in Congress feel otherwise.

Could Barack Obama have possibly found a more direct route to self-contradiction in the span of one sentence than this?

The security of our ally Israel is too important to play partisan politics, and it is deeply disappointing that Senator McCain and a few of his allies in Congress feel otherwise.

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Forget UN Sanctions

As Yossi Melman suggests in Haaretz, Russia’s decision not to support another round of sanctions against Iran means that the sanctions regime will now collapse:

The UN’s sanctions on Iran have collapsed. That is the only conclusion one can draw from Russia’s announcement earlier this week that it is no longer willing to support the Security Council’s permanent members’ proposal for a new set of sanctions, the fourth of its kind, against Iran.

Melman is right, of course, when it comes to the UN. And one should bow to Iran’s incredible diplomatic skills. They have, after all, signaled to their Western interlocutors that they are ready to consider the “freeze-for-freeze” proposal–a deal where Iran would freeze enrichment in exchange for a freeze on sanctions. Their willingness to discuss this idea has gained them additional time for negotiations. And Russia’s veto has made that offer futile: Iran has obtained a freeze on sanctions without conceding anything. Now, emboldened by this turn of events, Iran will come up with a long list of pretexts and excuses to lengthen negotiations further.

In one fell swoop, two out of three potential instruments of pressure on Iran are gone. The Bush administration is not going to take action in its remaining four months–certainly not in the direction of a military action both Pentagon and State are likely to oppose. And the Security Council is blocked by Russia’s obstructionism. The EU is the only force that can now exact a high price from Iran–through tougher EU sanctions.

This would be the hour of Europe, then–the only power left to impose sanctions that can truly hurt. The EU has, to their credit, been making the right noises lately on Iran’s nuclear program. But don’t hold your breath: in a year of high energy prices and financial meltdown, no Western government is going to ask their companies to make further sacrifices. The road to nuclear weapons lieswide open.

As Yossi Melman suggests in Haaretz, Russia’s decision not to support another round of sanctions against Iran means that the sanctions regime will now collapse:

The UN’s sanctions on Iran have collapsed. That is the only conclusion one can draw from Russia’s announcement earlier this week that it is no longer willing to support the Security Council’s permanent members’ proposal for a new set of sanctions, the fourth of its kind, against Iran.

Melman is right, of course, when it comes to the UN. And one should bow to Iran’s incredible diplomatic skills. They have, after all, signaled to their Western interlocutors that they are ready to consider the “freeze-for-freeze” proposal–a deal where Iran would freeze enrichment in exchange for a freeze on sanctions. Their willingness to discuss this idea has gained them additional time for negotiations. And Russia’s veto has made that offer futile: Iran has obtained a freeze on sanctions without conceding anything. Now, emboldened by this turn of events, Iran will come up with a long list of pretexts and excuses to lengthen negotiations further.

In one fell swoop, two out of three potential instruments of pressure on Iran are gone. The Bush administration is not going to take action in its remaining four months–certainly not in the direction of a military action both Pentagon and State are likely to oppose. And the Security Council is blocked by Russia’s obstructionism. The EU is the only force that can now exact a high price from Iran–through tougher EU sanctions.

This would be the hour of Europe, then–the only power left to impose sanctions that can truly hurt. The EU has, to their credit, been making the right noises lately on Iran’s nuclear program. But don’t hold your breath: in a year of high energy prices and financial meltdown, no Western government is going to ask their companies to make further sacrifices. The road to nuclear weapons lieswide open.

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Re: Joe, Joe, Joe

Jake Tapper is counting and is now up to seventeen column-worthy Joe Biden gaffes. Joe Biden appeared before a group of lawyers (sounds like a joke is coming already, huh?) and he did not disappoint. Actually Number Seventeen includes a few gaffes–an admission that John McCain really hasn’t changed (so much for “He’s lost his maverick image and gone to the dark side!”) and a triple declaration that no one has done more for trial lawyers than he, that lawyers and Big Labor are all that stands between America and barbarism, and that he needs all of them on election night. A sample:

Biden said that he’s “done more than any other senator combined” for trial lawyers.

“There are two people — you’ve heard me say it before — two groups that stand between us and the barbarians at the gate,” Biden said. “It’s you and organized labor. That’s it. That is it. So, mark my words, mark my words, if we lose this election, you are going to continue to see a continuation of the onslaught on everything we care about. For real. For real. So, I’m not only thanking you for your help. I would think you’re all absolutely brain-dead if you didn’t help. And I mean it.”

No, I don’t know how a Senator can “combine” with himself, but none of the rest of it makes any more sense. More importantly, he’s fast becoming a reason to question what in the world Barack Obama was thinking.

And yes, there is a Biden gaffe ad already out on clean coal. One down, sixteen more to go?

Jake Tapper is counting and is now up to seventeen column-worthy Joe Biden gaffes. Joe Biden appeared before a group of lawyers (sounds like a joke is coming already, huh?) and he did not disappoint. Actually Number Seventeen includes a few gaffes–an admission that John McCain really hasn’t changed (so much for “He’s lost his maverick image and gone to the dark side!”) and a triple declaration that no one has done more for trial lawyers than he, that lawyers and Big Labor are all that stands between America and barbarism, and that he needs all of them on election night. A sample:

Biden said that he’s “done more than any other senator combined” for trial lawyers.

“There are two people — you’ve heard me say it before — two groups that stand between us and the barbarians at the gate,” Biden said. “It’s you and organized labor. That’s it. That is it. So, mark my words, mark my words, if we lose this election, you are going to continue to see a continuation of the onslaught on everything we care about. For real. For real. So, I’m not only thanking you for your help. I would think you’re all absolutely brain-dead if you didn’t help. And I mean it.”

No, I don’t know how a Senator can “combine” with himself, but none of the rest of it makes any more sense. More importantly, he’s fast becoming a reason to question what in the world Barack Obama was thinking.

And yes, there is a Biden gaffe ad already out on clean coal. One down, sixteen more to go?

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Boss Hugo in Beijing

Hugo Chavez is now in Beijing, the second stop on a six-nation tour that started in Cuba. “We are in the land of Mao Zedong and I pay tribute to him,” the Venezuelan president said. “I am a Maoist.”

That makes him just about the only one in the Chinese capital. Yet he and his hosts share much in common as they all want to undermine the United States. Chavez is doing his part to further that goal by pointedly skipping the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, where world leaders traditionally gather. “It’s much more important to be in Beijing than in New York,” he replied when asked why he was not attending the conclave.

So it’s no coincidence that Beijing’s Hu Jintao, also skipping the U.N. meeting, is giving Boss Hugo a global platform by welcoming him at this particular moment. Ostensibly, they are talking about oil purchases, refinery ventures, satellite launches, tanker construction, and fighter sales–but the real topic is the United States.

Of course, the Chinese deny the visit has anything to do with anti-Americanism. “China-Venezuela relationship is not based on ideology, nor is it against any third party,” said Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. But that is what Beijing always says when it does not want to admit it is engaging in anti-Washington activities. Chavez, unlike the Chinese, can be counted on to be forthright about his intentions. “We’re moving forward with a very clear international strategy,” he said. “China and Venezuela agree on this: the multipolar world.”

So we should be thankful that the Venezuelan speaks plainly. Yet is anybody in Washington listening? The Bush administration is so invested in China that the Chinese would have to nuke Los Angeles–which they publicly talk about doing every so often–before Dubya would admit that anything was amiss in our relations with Beijing. In the meantime, Chavez does his best to stitch up his anti-America coalition. Tomorrow, he leaves for Russia.

Hugo Chavez is now in Beijing, the second stop on a six-nation tour that started in Cuba. “We are in the land of Mao Zedong and I pay tribute to him,” the Venezuelan president said. “I am a Maoist.”

That makes him just about the only one in the Chinese capital. Yet he and his hosts share much in common as they all want to undermine the United States. Chavez is doing his part to further that goal by pointedly skipping the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, where world leaders traditionally gather. “It’s much more important to be in Beijing than in New York,” he replied when asked why he was not attending the conclave.

So it’s no coincidence that Beijing’s Hu Jintao, also skipping the U.N. meeting, is giving Boss Hugo a global platform by welcoming him at this particular moment. Ostensibly, they are talking about oil purchases, refinery ventures, satellite launches, tanker construction, and fighter sales–but the real topic is the United States.

Of course, the Chinese deny the visit has anything to do with anti-Americanism. “China-Venezuela relationship is not based on ideology, nor is it against any third party,” said Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. But that is what Beijing always says when it does not want to admit it is engaging in anti-Washington activities. Chavez, unlike the Chinese, can be counted on to be forthright about his intentions. “We’re moving forward with a very clear international strategy,” he said. “China and Venezuela agree on this: the multipolar world.”

So we should be thankful that the Venezuelan speaks plainly. Yet is anybody in Washington listening? The Bush administration is so invested in China that the Chinese would have to nuke Los Angeles–which they publicly talk about doing every so often–before Dubya would admit that anything was amiss in our relations with Beijing. In the meantime, Chavez does his best to stitch up his anti-America coalition. Tomorrow, he leaves for Russia.

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Down on Iraqi Democracy

The New York Times reports the Iraqi Parliament has passed a law making way for provincial elections to be held by the end of January. Pretty much the definition of political progress. But of course, by virtue of logic only understood by the New York Times, this is far from a good thing:

But in passing the bill, the lawmakers simply delayed dealing with the two most divisive issues they faced: how to resolve a quarrel among ethnic groups over the control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the north and how best to achieve political representation for Iraq’s Christians and other minorities.

So: if they didn’t pass the law, that would have constituted some kind of head-on approach to the Kirkuk and minority issues. Got it. Never mind that the law passed “provides for a committee made up of representatives of the major groups who have made claims [in Kirkuk] – Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians – to present recommendations for resolving the dispute to Parliament by March 31,” and another committee to work with the UN on minority issues.

Nor does the Times mention that this law will allow for elections in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, the better to create the impression of widespread political dissolution. In fact, the Times casts the elections in such depressing terms the editorial staff is undoubtedly now looking for a way to link the disaster to John McCain.

The New York Times reports the Iraqi Parliament has passed a law making way for provincial elections to be held by the end of January. Pretty much the definition of political progress. But of course, by virtue of logic only understood by the New York Times, this is far from a good thing:

But in passing the bill, the lawmakers simply delayed dealing with the two most divisive issues they faced: how to resolve a quarrel among ethnic groups over the control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the north and how best to achieve political representation for Iraq’s Christians and other minorities.

So: if they didn’t pass the law, that would have constituted some kind of head-on approach to the Kirkuk and minority issues. Got it. Never mind that the law passed “provides for a committee made up of representatives of the major groups who have made claims [in Kirkuk] – Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians – to present recommendations for resolving the dispute to Parliament by March 31,” and another committee to work with the UN on minority issues.

Nor does the Times mention that this law will allow for elections in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, the better to create the impression of widespread political dissolution. In fact, the Times casts the elections in such depressing terms the editorial staff is undoubtedly now looking for a way to link the disaster to John McCain.

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