Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 2008

What We Learned

Lindsey Graham does an admirable job of explaining what John McCain did in Washington in this sequence on Fox News Sunday:

GRAHAM: I think it was decisive in regards to the House being involved. John was challenged about four days ago by Harry Reid to say, “If you don’t support this proposal,” the original Paulson proposal that was being tweaked, “there’ll be no Democratic votes for it.” If John McCain doesn’t vote for it, the Democrats won’t.
Two days of hearings go by where it’s just pretty much chaos. John understands this thing is going nowhere. He comes back, and agreement is announced right when he gets back that didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing because 20 percent of the profits were going to be given to an organization like ACORN, and there was no insurance component, which…
WALLACE: We should point out ACORN is a left-wing organization that has been involved in housing…
GRAHAM: Right.
WALLACE: … and also in political organizing.
GRAHAM: It was a — it was a direction of money away from debt retirement into organizations that are not part of the solution. And there was no option, in reality, about insurance being used so that taxpayer dollars would not be used. He went to the House, and here’s what he said, John, “Guys, I’ve listened to you. You’re making some really legitimate points that this deal is not good yet for the taxpayer. Let’s make it better for the taxpayer, but don’t go too far. You cannot sit this one out. Make it better. Don’t go too far. Get in the room and negotiate.” And that’s what he did, and that’s what they did.

And Barack Obama? He talked to Hank Paulson, according to John Kerry, and attended the brief meeting at the White House.

Why should we care and what does this demonstrate? If the model of the presidency that we want is someone who reads the dynamic of Congress, who makes sure the parties that are needed for a deal are there and who doesn’t much mind using political capital, then McCain seems to be the guy. If the model is an inspirational, albeit distant figure who leaves virtually all the nitty gritty to others than Barack Obama is the man.

Lindsey Graham does an admirable job of explaining what John McCain did in Washington in this sequence on Fox News Sunday:

GRAHAM: I think it was decisive in regards to the House being involved. John was challenged about four days ago by Harry Reid to say, “If you don’t support this proposal,” the original Paulson proposal that was being tweaked, “there’ll be no Democratic votes for it.” If John McCain doesn’t vote for it, the Democrats won’t.
Two days of hearings go by where it’s just pretty much chaos. John understands this thing is going nowhere. He comes back, and agreement is announced right when he gets back that didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing because 20 percent of the profits were going to be given to an organization like ACORN, and there was no insurance component, which…
WALLACE: We should point out ACORN is a left-wing organization that has been involved in housing…
GRAHAM: Right.
WALLACE: … and also in political organizing.
GRAHAM: It was a — it was a direction of money away from debt retirement into organizations that are not part of the solution. And there was no option, in reality, about insurance being used so that taxpayer dollars would not be used. He went to the House, and here’s what he said, John, “Guys, I’ve listened to you. You’re making some really legitimate points that this deal is not good yet for the taxpayer. Let’s make it better for the taxpayer, but don’t go too far. You cannot sit this one out. Make it better. Don’t go too far. Get in the room and negotiate.” And that’s what he did, and that’s what they did.

And Barack Obama? He talked to Hank Paulson, according to John Kerry, and attended the brief meeting at the White House.

Why should we care and what does this demonstrate? If the model of the presidency that we want is someone who reads the dynamic of Congress, who makes sure the parties that are needed for a deal are there and who doesn’t much mind using political capital, then McCain seems to be the guy. If the model is an inspirational, albeit distant figure who leaves virtually all the nitty gritty to others than Barack Obama is the man.

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The Final Sprint

Bill Kristol is right, certainly, that John McCain needs to break the trajectory of the race or he will lose.

We are in the Black Hole – the period of thrust and pary between debates, aggravated  by the bailout fight — when the race will congeal and voters’ views will be fixed. It is a measure of how divided the country is and what liabilities Barack Obama are saddled with that this has not already happened.

And this is familar ground for McCain whose campaign nearly died in the summer of 2007. Then he could carve a quiet space in New Hampshire to talk to voters and rely on new media which still was willing to hear his message. Now he must compete in the loudest, fastest, wildest campaign ever, get beyond the hostile media and  somehow get voters’ attention.

So while his campaign turns up the heat and does what the MSM will not — lay bare the record and identity of Obama — he would do well to start a look-‘em-in-the-eye series of ads and some heart-to-heart conversations with voters. Give voters a list of all the hard choices and specific things he’s going to do and why his opponent is evading the tough truths (Where exactly is Obama going to control the budget? Why does Obama pander on trade when he knows better?) or making bad choices (Why would we raise taxes as we slide into a recession?).

McCain won the GOP primary ( albeit in a divided field) largely in a character contest. No less a figure than Bill Clinton remarked that “his greatness is that he keeps trying to come back to service without ever asking people to cut him any slack or feel sorry for him or any of that stuff because he was a POW.” If he can make it that again — a contest of moral fiber and character — he has his shot.

Bill Kristol is right, certainly, that John McCain needs to break the trajectory of the race or he will lose.

We are in the Black Hole – the period of thrust and pary between debates, aggravated  by the bailout fight — when the race will congeal and voters’ views will be fixed. It is a measure of how divided the country is and what liabilities Barack Obama are saddled with that this has not already happened.

And this is familar ground for McCain whose campaign nearly died in the summer of 2007. Then he could carve a quiet space in New Hampshire to talk to voters and rely on new media which still was willing to hear his message. Now he must compete in the loudest, fastest, wildest campaign ever, get beyond the hostile media and  somehow get voters’ attention.

So while his campaign turns up the heat and does what the MSM will not — lay bare the record and identity of Obama — he would do well to start a look-‘em-in-the-eye series of ads and some heart-to-heart conversations with voters. Give voters a list of all the hard choices and specific things he’s going to do and why his opponent is evading the tough truths (Where exactly is Obama going to control the budget? Why does Obama pander on trade when he knows better?) or making bad choices (Why would we raise taxes as we slide into a recession?).

McCain won the GOP primary ( albeit in a divided field) largely in a character contest. No less a figure than Bill Clinton remarked that “his greatness is that he keeps trying to come back to service without ever asking people to cut him any slack or feel sorry for him or any of that stuff because he was a POW.” If he can make it that again — a contest of moral fiber and character — he has his shot.

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The Palin Rollout –Take Two

This is the week for the VP debate and many people are ruminating about Sarah Palin. Some want to dump her and others think she’s gotten a bad wrap. I think Byron York is right: the McCain camp has utterly missued and botched her roll out.

Given many good alternatives — using conservative media and allowing more day-to-day press access, for example — they chose “none of the above.” They simply did not show her off in ways that helped the campaign. Now we may learn on Thursday whether the cloak of semi-invisibility was the best option available, but I suspect she is far more capable than she has been given the chance to demonstrate. One only needs look at her interviews from pre-VP selection days to see how fluid and sharp she can be.

But the good news for the McCain camp is that expectations could not be lower. If she can wield some facts, drill down on the liabilities of her opponents (Is Joe Biden really  equating patriotism with high marginal tax rates?) and demonstrate that she has fiscal common sense, good judgment and executive prowess ( How do you go through a budget and make hard choices?) she may prove to be a real asset.

This is the week for the VP debate and many people are ruminating about Sarah Palin. Some want to dump her and others think she’s gotten a bad wrap. I think Byron York is right: the McCain camp has utterly missued and botched her roll out.

Given many good alternatives — using conservative media and allowing more day-to-day press access, for example — they chose “none of the above.” They simply did not show her off in ways that helped the campaign. Now we may learn on Thursday whether the cloak of semi-invisibility was the best option available, but I suspect she is far more capable than she has been given the chance to demonstrate. One only needs look at her interviews from pre-VP selection days to see how fluid and sharp she can be.

But the good news for the McCain camp is that expectations could not be lower. If she can wield some facts, drill down on the liabilities of her opponents (Is Joe Biden really  equating patriotism with high marginal tax rates?) and demonstrate that she has fiscal common sense, good judgment and executive prowess ( How do you go through a budget and make hard choices?) she may prove to be a real asset.

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For New York Times, a Host of Flackery for Obama

If you have nothing to do this evening and enjoy turgid prose, the Times has published a gargantuan piece on McCain entitled “For McCain and Team, a Host of Ties to Gambling.” Nobody does passive-aggressive headlines better than the Times. The story comes in at close to 4,700 words and hopes to attract readers with sinister-sounding but meaningless hooks, such as:

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table.

McCain takes risks at the craps table? How can we trust him on national security?

It’s going to be a terrible October for Obama when the NYT starts dropping 4,700-word stories on his ties to Tony Rezko, William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, ACORN, his activities in the Illinois state legislature, and his quick rise through Chicago politics. I can already envision the headlines: “For Obama’s Friends, a Host of Anti-American and Criminal Activity.”

If you have nothing to do this evening and enjoy turgid prose, the Times has published a gargantuan piece on McCain entitled “For McCain and Team, a Host of Ties to Gambling.” Nobody does passive-aggressive headlines better than the Times. The story comes in at close to 4,700 words and hopes to attract readers with sinister-sounding but meaningless hooks, such as:

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table.

McCain takes risks at the craps table? How can we trust him on national security?

It’s going to be a terrible October for Obama when the NYT starts dropping 4,700-word stories on his ties to Tony Rezko, William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, ACORN, his activities in the Illinois state legislature, and his quick rise through Chicago politics. I can already envision the headlines: “For Obama’s Friends, a Host of Anti-American and Criminal Activity.”

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“New Historians,” and Other Propagandists

Tom Segev, one of the leaders of the Israeli “New Historians” — their cause is to expose the “founding myths” of Zionism, so as to undermine Israeli self-confidence — has written for the New York Times a review of a book about the grand mufti of Jerusalem that is a perfect illustration of the desire of the New Historians to see politics triumph over scholarship. (The grand mufti was the leader of the Palestinian Arabs during the 1920’s and 30’s and a proud ally of Adolf Hitler.)

It is apparent from the get-go that Segev applies the same intellectual standards to reviewing a work of history as he does to writing a work of history:

“Icon of Evil,” is of little scholarly value, and may be potentially harmful to Middle East peace prospects.

What in fact has been very harmful to the peace process is the New Historians themselves, whose work has helped convince the Palestinians that the “right of return” is not just historically legitimate, but that there is pressure building among Israeli elites to approve just such a concession.

It is also interesting to hear Segev advocate that the touchy subject of the Mufti be suppressed, when he has never discouraged Arabs from broaching a host of subjects that cause acute touchiness in Israelis — such as Holocaust-denial, the glorification of killing Jews, and the standard practice on Palestinian state television of denying Israel’s existence on maps. For Segev, as for most self-styled peaceniks, it is only Arab sensitivities that must be respected in order for the peace process to go forward.

Palestinian leaders have a long history of aligning themselves with tyrants — Hitler, followed by the Soviet Union, then Saddam Hussein, and today, at least for the Hamas half, Iran. Does Segev believe that discussion of these alliances should also be suppressed?

The final sentence of the review is so mind-boggling that it must be reproduced:

The suggestion that Israel’s enemies are ­Nazis, or the Nazis’ heirs, is apt to discourage any fair compromise with the Palestinians, and that is bad for Israel.

Nowhere does Segev leave room for the basic question of whether the troublingly large number of people in the Arab world who indeed wish to fulfill Hitler’s mission is worth discussing at all. No, everyone should just shut up about it because such facts interfere with enlightened political causes. This selectivity is not new for Segev: just read Michael Oren’s review of his book on the Six Day War.

[Segev’s] most telling omission relates not to the Israelis or to any foreign power but rather to the Arabs. Segev’s book is all but devoid of Arab calls for Israel’s destruction and the slaughter of its citizens. There is no mention of pro-war demonstrations, of Egypt’s willingness to use poison gas against its enemies, or of the detailed Arab plans for conquering Israel. Segev even ignores the Khartoum resolution after the war, in which the Arab states refused to negotiate with Israel and to grant it peace and recognition. These omissions inflict an injustice on the Arabs by treating them as two-dimensional props in a solipsistic Israeli drama.

And this man calls himself a historian.

Tom Segev, one of the leaders of the Israeli “New Historians” — their cause is to expose the “founding myths” of Zionism, so as to undermine Israeli self-confidence — has written for the New York Times a review of a book about the grand mufti of Jerusalem that is a perfect illustration of the desire of the New Historians to see politics triumph over scholarship. (The grand mufti was the leader of the Palestinian Arabs during the 1920’s and 30’s and a proud ally of Adolf Hitler.)

It is apparent from the get-go that Segev applies the same intellectual standards to reviewing a work of history as he does to writing a work of history:

“Icon of Evil,” is of little scholarly value, and may be potentially harmful to Middle East peace prospects.

What in fact has been very harmful to the peace process is the New Historians themselves, whose work has helped convince the Palestinians that the “right of return” is not just historically legitimate, but that there is pressure building among Israeli elites to approve just such a concession.

It is also interesting to hear Segev advocate that the touchy subject of the Mufti be suppressed, when he has never discouraged Arabs from broaching a host of subjects that cause acute touchiness in Israelis — such as Holocaust-denial, the glorification of killing Jews, and the standard practice on Palestinian state television of denying Israel’s existence on maps. For Segev, as for most self-styled peaceniks, it is only Arab sensitivities that must be respected in order for the peace process to go forward.

Palestinian leaders have a long history of aligning themselves with tyrants — Hitler, followed by the Soviet Union, then Saddam Hussein, and today, at least for the Hamas half, Iran. Does Segev believe that discussion of these alliances should also be suppressed?

The final sentence of the review is so mind-boggling that it must be reproduced:

The suggestion that Israel’s enemies are ­Nazis, or the Nazis’ heirs, is apt to discourage any fair compromise with the Palestinians, and that is bad for Israel.

Nowhere does Segev leave room for the basic question of whether the troublingly large number of people in the Arab world who indeed wish to fulfill Hitler’s mission is worth discussing at all. No, everyone should just shut up about it because such facts interfere with enlightened political causes. This selectivity is not new for Segev: just read Michael Oren’s review of his book on the Six Day War.

[Segev’s] most telling omission relates not to the Israelis or to any foreign power but rather to the Arabs. Segev’s book is all but devoid of Arab calls for Israel’s destruction and the slaughter of its citizens. There is no mention of pro-war demonstrations, of Egypt’s willingness to use poison gas against its enemies, or of the detailed Arab plans for conquering Israel. Segev even ignores the Khartoum resolution after the war, in which the Arab states refused to negotiate with Israel and to grant it peace and recognition. These omissions inflict an injustice on the Arabs by treating them as two-dimensional props in a solipsistic Israeli drama.

And this man calls himself a historian.

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Re: McCain Falls Behind

John, yes, John McCain has a small but do-able gap to make up. So what does he need to do?

First, as Steve Schmidt suggested, he is going to need to dismantle the Obama persona of a mild-mannered moderate. Does that mean going through the Bill Ayers-Chicago machine-ACORN backstory? Yup. Will voters care? Uncertain.

Second, he really does need to explain the difference in the two candidates’ economic vision. It isn’t that complicated: it is Ronald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale (who, come to think of it, was the last Democrat to run on a tax increase). Third, he needs to tie Obama to the unpopular Congress – Charlie Rangel and the duo who brought us the Fannie and Freddie protection racket (Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank).

Fourth, he and his running mate need to do well, really well, in the remaining debates. As for Sarah Palin, expectations could not be lower, but aside from “doing no harm” it would do her ticket a world of good to make a few helpful points in her debate against Joe Biden (e.g. he voted for the Iraq War and condemned Obama’s troop cut off and he is still larding up the budget with pork).

But we should remember that aside from a brief post-Convention bounce, McCain has been behind throughout the race. The challenge to make Obama the unacceptable “change” has always been there. The only difference: time is running out.

John, yes, John McCain has a small but do-able gap to make up. So what does he need to do?

First, as Steve Schmidt suggested, he is going to need to dismantle the Obama persona of a mild-mannered moderate. Does that mean going through the Bill Ayers-Chicago machine-ACORN backstory? Yup. Will voters care? Uncertain.

Second, he really does need to explain the difference in the two candidates’ economic vision. It isn’t that complicated: it is Ronald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale (who, come to think of it, was the last Democrat to run on a tax increase). Third, he needs to tie Obama to the unpopular Congress – Charlie Rangel and the duo who brought us the Fannie and Freddie protection racket (Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank).

Fourth, he and his running mate need to do well, really well, in the remaining debates. As for Sarah Palin, expectations could not be lower, but aside from “doing no harm” it would do her ticket a world of good to make a few helpful points in her debate against Joe Biden (e.g. he voted for the Iraq War and condemned Obama’s troop cut off and he is still larding up the budget with pork).

But we should remember that aside from a brief post-Convention bounce, McCain has been behind throughout the race. The challenge to make Obama the unacceptable “change” has always been there. The only difference: time is running out.

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McCain Falls Behind

The Gallup tracking poll has Obama up by 8; the Rasmussen track has Obama up 6; the Hotline tracking poll has Obama up 5. These tracking polls average the results from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Assuming they are measuring the same thing, they suggest Obama has unquestionably benefited from the political-financial crisis in Washington last week, that McCain’s campaign-suspension was a bust, and that Friday night’s debate was pretty close to a draw. (Registered voters, according to Gallup, seem to have preferred Obama a little bit.)

The only possible silver lining for McCain in a trend line like this is that given the nature of the financial horrorshow now being visited upon us, Obama probably ought to be doing a great deal better. But if Rasmussen is right, and the number of Americans who think the country is on the right track has fallen to 11 percent, the headwinds into which McCain are sailing will pose the greatest challenge for a presidential candidate in a generation to overcome.

The Gallup tracking poll has Obama up by 8; the Rasmussen track has Obama up 6; the Hotline tracking poll has Obama up 5. These tracking polls average the results from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Assuming they are measuring the same thing, they suggest Obama has unquestionably benefited from the political-financial crisis in Washington last week, that McCain’s campaign-suspension was a bust, and that Friday night’s debate was pretty close to a draw. (Registered voters, according to Gallup, seem to have preferred Obama a little bit.)

The only possible silver lining for McCain in a trend line like this is that given the nature of the financial horrorshow now being visited upon us, Obama probably ought to be doing a great deal better. But if Rasmussen is right, and the number of Americans who think the country is on the right track has fallen to 11 percent, the headwinds into which McCain are sailing will pose the greatest challenge for a presidential candidate in a generation to overcome.

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Defending the “Process”

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on Iran “to comply fully and without delay” with prior U.N. resolutions regarding its nuclear program.  The measure-18 lines in total-called for additional negotiations and lacked new sanctions.

The resolution was nonetheless hailed as a “show of unity” by Alejandro Wolff, America’s deputy U.N. ambassador.  Said Condoleezza Rice, “It’s also especially important that the Iranians recognize that the P5 plus 1 process is intact.”

First of all, it really is not.  How can we believe the “process” still exists when it cannot result in any meaningful measure, even after the International Atomic Energy Agency said this month that Iran was blocking international inspections?  Second, what is so important about the “process” anyway?  Ms. Rice is now elevating procedure over results, and she is apparently forgetting that her overriding obligation is to defend the United States, not seek the approval of Moscow and Beijing.

Forget the “process,” Madame Secretary.  No people need the permission of others to protect their own country.  In the face of a possible existential threat-Iranian nuclear devices in the hands of terrorists-you have refused to apply pressure on the Russians or Chinese or speak out on their obstructionism.  If you don’t want to use military force, then make diplomacy work.  Yesterday’s resolution did nothing but buy time for the Iranians by endorsing additional talks that have no hope of stopping their nuclear weapons program.  And, of course, it encourages Tehran by not ramping up existing sanctions.

So we should not be surprised that the Iranians were not impressed by the international community’s “unity,” immediately saying U.N. actions “lack not only fairness and objectivity, but also relevance and lawfulness.”  And, more importantly, they said they will not halt their nuclear program.

I believe the United States has the economic, political, and diplomatic leverage to persuade the Chinese-and maybe even the Russians-to take meaningful steps to stop Iran.  Perhaps I am wrong, but this I am sure of: our secretary of state is just going through the motions and is not even trying.

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on Iran “to comply fully and without delay” with prior U.N. resolutions regarding its nuclear program.  The measure-18 lines in total-called for additional negotiations and lacked new sanctions.

The resolution was nonetheless hailed as a “show of unity” by Alejandro Wolff, America’s deputy U.N. ambassador.  Said Condoleezza Rice, “It’s also especially important that the Iranians recognize that the P5 plus 1 process is intact.”

First of all, it really is not.  How can we believe the “process” still exists when it cannot result in any meaningful measure, even after the International Atomic Energy Agency said this month that Iran was blocking international inspections?  Second, what is so important about the “process” anyway?  Ms. Rice is now elevating procedure over results, and she is apparently forgetting that her overriding obligation is to defend the United States, not seek the approval of Moscow and Beijing.

Forget the “process,” Madame Secretary.  No people need the permission of others to protect their own country.  In the face of a possible existential threat-Iranian nuclear devices in the hands of terrorists-you have refused to apply pressure on the Russians or Chinese or speak out on their obstructionism.  If you don’t want to use military force, then make diplomacy work.  Yesterday’s resolution did nothing but buy time for the Iranians by endorsing additional talks that have no hope of stopping their nuclear weapons program.  And, of course, it encourages Tehran by not ramping up existing sanctions.

So we should not be surprised that the Iranians were not impressed by the international community’s “unity,” immediately saying U.N. actions “lack not only fairness and objectivity, but also relevance and lawfulness.”  And, more importantly, they said they will not halt their nuclear program.

I believe the United States has the economic, political, and diplomatic leverage to persuade the Chinese-and maybe even the Russians-to take meaningful steps to stop Iran.  Perhaps I am wrong, but this I am sure of: our secretary of state is just going through the motions and is not even trying.

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Who Got What

From the reports about the contours of the deal, it appears that the final product is indeed less horrible than it could have been. The ACORN slush money is gone, there is no tax (only the promise that a recoupment plan will be submitted to firms in the future if the taxpayers are out of pocket), there is an insurance aspect and there is greater oversight. The House GOP “got something.” Nancy Pelosi  “got something” — a bunch of GOP votes for the bill. John McCain may have gotten something — proof that he prevented the House GOP from being steamrolled, which in turn resulted in a better, bipartisan bill. And Barack Obama got two weeks of attention on the financial crisis.

Monday will be a telling day — the market will open, more polling will be taken, and the bill will be drafted and ready for a vote. If this amounts to the greatest financial triage in history all involved will be remembered fondly. If it is too little, too late, all of them — not to mention every American — will pay the price.

From the reports about the contours of the deal, it appears that the final product is indeed less horrible than it could have been. The ACORN slush money is gone, there is no tax (only the promise that a recoupment plan will be submitted to firms in the future if the taxpayers are out of pocket), there is an insurance aspect and there is greater oversight. The House GOP “got something.” Nancy Pelosi  “got something” — a bunch of GOP votes for the bill. John McCain may have gotten something — proof that he prevented the House GOP from being steamrolled, which in turn resulted in a better, bipartisan bill. And Barack Obama got two weeks of attention on the financial crisis.

Monday will be a telling day — the market will open, more polling will be taken, and the bill will be drafted and ready for a vote. If this amounts to the greatest financial triage in history all involved will be remembered fondly. If it is too little, too late, all of them — not to mention every American — will pay the price.

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Is the U.S. Helping Israel Prepare for War with Iran?

Maybe:

U.S. European Command (EUCOM) has deployed to Israel a high-powered X-band radar and the supporting people and equipment needed for coordinated defense against Iranian missile attack, marking the first permanent U.S. military presence on Israeli soil.

Since this deployment was publicly disclosed it’s fair to assume that the move is as much about sending Tehran a message as it is about tactical defense. A U.S. government source said:

First, we want to put Iran on notice that we’re bolstering our capabilities throughout the region, and especially in Israel. But just as important, we’re telling the Israelis, ‘Calm down; behave. We’re doing all we can to stand by your side and strengthen defenses, because at this time, we don’t want you rushing into the military option.’

The dog-trainer condescension toward Israel may seem unwarranted, but it’s not the worst idea to create the (possibly accurate) impression that the Jewish state is itching to attack. In the eventuality of a confrontation with Iran, no one will be able to say the mullahs were not given every reason to cooperate. (h/t Cuffy Meigs.)

Maybe:

U.S. European Command (EUCOM) has deployed to Israel a high-powered X-band radar and the supporting people and equipment needed for coordinated defense against Iranian missile attack, marking the first permanent U.S. military presence on Israeli soil.

Since this deployment was publicly disclosed it’s fair to assume that the move is as much about sending Tehran a message as it is about tactical defense. A U.S. government source said:

First, we want to put Iran on notice that we’re bolstering our capabilities throughout the region, and especially in Israel. But just as important, we’re telling the Israelis, ‘Calm down; behave. We’re doing all we can to stand by your side and strengthen defenses, because at this time, we don’t want you rushing into the military option.’

The dog-trainer condescension toward Israel may seem unwarranted, but it’s not the worst idea to create the (possibly accurate) impression that the Jewish state is itching to attack. In the eventuality of a confrontation with Iran, no one will be able to say the mullahs were not given every reason to cooperate. (h/t Cuffy Meigs.)

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Obama’s Version–and the Truth

At Friday’s debate Barack Obama asserted that, “Al-Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than any time since 2001.” While his team digs up a single shred of evidence for that claim, the candidate himself would do well to read this article by Simon Scott Plummer in today’s Telegraph:

Bin Laden has been weakened by allied military action in Afghanistan and tighter surveillance of international money transfers. More significant in the longer term is the criticism voiced within radical Islamic circles about the morality of what he is doing.

[…]

This would explain its [al Qaeda’s] eclipse in Iraq in favour of Sunni-dominated militias and its limited success in the northern Caucasus.

Weakened? Eclipse? Limited success? Didn’t Plummer watch the debate?

At Friday’s debate Barack Obama asserted that, “Al-Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than any time since 2001.” While his team digs up a single shred of evidence for that claim, the candidate himself would do well to read this article by Simon Scott Plummer in today’s Telegraph:

Bin Laden has been weakened by allied military action in Afghanistan and tighter surveillance of international money transfers. More significant in the longer term is the criticism voiced within radical Islamic circles about the morality of what he is doing.

[…]

This would explain its [al Qaeda’s] eclipse in Iraq in favour of Sunni-dominated militias and its limited success in the northern Caucasus.

Weakened? Eclipse? Limited success? Didn’t Plummer watch the debate?

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Why So Chicken?

I really don’t understand the cowardice of politicians. The Democrats who don’t harbor real substantive concerns about the Paulson bill, indeed who are in agreement with the urgent need to pass it, wouldn’t vote for it without “cover.” That is, they demanded that members of the other party vote with them. And likewise I suspect there are Republicans who think the country needs a bailout bill but were and maybe still are frozen in place by the tally of “against bailout” constituents on their office phone tallies. But why?

Ninety-plus percent of the House members are in safe seats thanks to gerrymandering. And even on the slight, slight chance they might be defeated because they voted on a measure for the good of the country would their lives be ruined? Is there no employment they might enjoy, no life after Congress?

In short, the fear of doing the unpopular seems grossly disproportionate to what ill might befall them. And yet they cower from hard choices even when the stakes for the country are very great. Not a very promising display or an encouraging sign that we will be prepared to deal with huge challenges (e.g. entitlements, war, budgets) ahead, regardless of which party is in power.

I really don’t understand the cowardice of politicians. The Democrats who don’t harbor real substantive concerns about the Paulson bill, indeed who are in agreement with the urgent need to pass it, wouldn’t vote for it without “cover.” That is, they demanded that members of the other party vote with them. And likewise I suspect there are Republicans who think the country needs a bailout bill but were and maybe still are frozen in place by the tally of “against bailout” constituents on their office phone tallies. But why?

Ninety-plus percent of the House members are in safe seats thanks to gerrymandering. And even on the slight, slight chance they might be defeated because they voted on a measure for the good of the country would their lives be ruined? Is there no employment they might enjoy, no life after Congress?

In short, the fear of doing the unpopular seems grossly disproportionate to what ill might befall them. And yet they cower from hard choices even when the stakes for the country are very great. Not a very promising display or an encouraging sign that we will be prepared to deal with huge challenges (e.g. entitlements, war, budgets) ahead, regardless of which party is in power.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Barack Obama enlists law enforcement to crack down on opposition ads. Really. Governor Blunt of Missouri objects. Is there a civil rights lobby? Where is the ACLU?

And that’s not all the pro-Obama anti-speech goons are up to.

You knew the House GOP was not getting all they wanted if they needed a press release warning about the danger of putting in a slush-fund for ACORN into the Paulson bill. And yes, Obama did work for ACORN at one time.

David Broder thinks Barack Obama accepted John McCain as the “alpha male.”

Regional media in battleground states continues to discover the Stanley Kurtz-Annenberg Challenge story.

When Mickey Kaus begins a sentence with “I’ve just heard Chris Matthews make three seemingly insane points in rapid succession. . .” don’t you immediately think “Just three?” ?

And they are insane: “1) McCain somehow defamed soldiers or America or something by worrying about whether they “died in vain”; 2) It was surprising that Obama didn’t make a point of the specific economic problems of African Americans; 3) It was an incredibly winning, decisive moment when Obama laughed after McCain (somewhat effectively, I thought) compared his inflexibility to Bush’s. … That’s not even getting to the official MSNBC obsession with whether McCain looked at Obama when he criticized him.” You sort of wish if MSNBC were going to go to the trouble of becoming the Politbouro of the Left that they’d do a smarter job of it. Can’t they subcontract their coverage out to Josh Marshall or someone?

Plenty of conservatives are concerned about Sarah Palin. Unless this is a clever plot to lower expectations for the debate, the McCain team should revisit their approach to how she interacts (or doesn’t) with the media. At some point she has to put voters’ minds at ease. A non-horrible performance against Joe Biden (who himself can be quite horrible) would be a good start.

If the Obama camp is going to whine that McCain’s comments that their candidate “doesn’t understand” is some sign of disrespect ( hint: McCain doesn’t respect your guy on national security so get over it) pehaps they should tell The One not to interrupt, laugh when McCain is speaking and call his opponent by his first name. Respect is what other people pay The One, you see.

Obama for Prime Minister and McCain for President? Since they are running for the latter job then McCain seems the better cast.

Maureen Dowd is not amused by the debate: “Obama did a poor job of getting under McCain’s skin. Or maybe McCain did an exceptional job of not letting Obama get under his skin. McCain nattered about earmarks and Obama ran out of gas.”

Megan McArdle: “Barack Obama just stated that meeting with crazy authoritarian leaders without preconditions “doesn’t mean you invite them over for tea.” Coffee, perhaps. An afternoon lemonade. But no tea for Ahmadinejad until he stops with the nuclear weapons nonsense!” Hope she doesn’t get accused (by her blog-mate/beagle-phile, among others) of falling into the neo-con Zionist conspiracy of fear-mongering– particularly if she keeps writing things like this: “McCain stands up for nuclear energy. This puts a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I have to give him credit; when he has a bee in his bonnet, he is often willing to stand up for things, like free trade and immigration, that freak voters out. ”

If you thought the Right was tough get a load of this from The Nation: “If, God forbid, foreign policy had to be the deciding factor in choosing between Barack Obama and John McCain, then last night’s terrible showing by Obama would make me a Ralph Nader voter in a heartbeat. Obama’s performance was nothing short of pathetic, and only a Democratic-leaning analysts and voters with blinders on could suggest that Obama won the debate. More important, he utterly blew a chance to draw a stark contrast with John McCain on America’s approach to the world.” We’ve come a long way since “Yes We Can” rock videos I suppose.

The real Left certainly is more critical –more honest? — than the Democratic-establishment types.

Should he get windshield wipers for those teleprompters?

Barack Obama enlists law enforcement to crack down on opposition ads. Really. Governor Blunt of Missouri objects. Is there a civil rights lobby? Where is the ACLU?

And that’s not all the pro-Obama anti-speech goons are up to.

You knew the House GOP was not getting all they wanted if they needed a press release warning about the danger of putting in a slush-fund for ACORN into the Paulson bill. And yes, Obama did work for ACORN at one time.

David Broder thinks Barack Obama accepted John McCain as the “alpha male.”

Regional media in battleground states continues to discover the Stanley Kurtz-Annenberg Challenge story.

When Mickey Kaus begins a sentence with “I’ve just heard Chris Matthews make three seemingly insane points in rapid succession. . .” don’t you immediately think “Just three?” ?

And they are insane: “1) McCain somehow defamed soldiers or America or something by worrying about whether they “died in vain”; 2) It was surprising that Obama didn’t make a point of the specific economic problems of African Americans; 3) It was an incredibly winning, decisive moment when Obama laughed after McCain (somewhat effectively, I thought) compared his inflexibility to Bush’s. … That’s not even getting to the official MSNBC obsession with whether McCain looked at Obama when he criticized him.” You sort of wish if MSNBC were going to go to the trouble of becoming the Politbouro of the Left that they’d do a smarter job of it. Can’t they subcontract their coverage out to Josh Marshall or someone?

Plenty of conservatives are concerned about Sarah Palin. Unless this is a clever plot to lower expectations for the debate, the McCain team should revisit their approach to how she interacts (or doesn’t) with the media. At some point she has to put voters’ minds at ease. A non-horrible performance against Joe Biden (who himself can be quite horrible) would be a good start.

If the Obama camp is going to whine that McCain’s comments that their candidate “doesn’t understand” is some sign of disrespect ( hint: McCain doesn’t respect your guy on national security so get over it) pehaps they should tell The One not to interrupt, laugh when McCain is speaking and call his opponent by his first name. Respect is what other people pay The One, you see.

Obama for Prime Minister and McCain for President? Since they are running for the latter job then McCain seems the better cast.

Maureen Dowd is not amused by the debate: “Obama did a poor job of getting under McCain’s skin. Or maybe McCain did an exceptional job of not letting Obama get under his skin. McCain nattered about earmarks and Obama ran out of gas.”

Megan McArdle: “Barack Obama just stated that meeting with crazy authoritarian leaders without preconditions “doesn’t mean you invite them over for tea.” Coffee, perhaps. An afternoon lemonade. But no tea for Ahmadinejad until he stops with the nuclear weapons nonsense!” Hope she doesn’t get accused (by her blog-mate/beagle-phile, among others) of falling into the neo-con Zionist conspiracy of fear-mongering– particularly if she keeps writing things like this: “McCain stands up for nuclear energy. This puts a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I have to give him credit; when he has a bee in his bonnet, he is often willing to stand up for things, like free trade and immigration, that freak voters out. ”

If you thought the Right was tough get a load of this from The Nation: “If, God forbid, foreign policy had to be the deciding factor in choosing between Barack Obama and John McCain, then last night’s terrible showing by Obama would make me a Ralph Nader voter in a heartbeat. Obama’s performance was nothing short of pathetic, and only a Democratic-leaning analysts and voters with blinders on could suggest that Obama won the debate. More important, he utterly blew a chance to draw a stark contrast with John McCain on America’s approach to the world.” We’ve come a long way since “Yes We Can” rock videos I suppose.

The real Left certainly is more critical –more honest? — than the Democratic-establishment types.

Should he get windshield wipers for those teleprompters?

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The “V” Word

Remember how Rudy Giuliani in the primary used to dare the Democrats in their debates to use the words “Islamic Terrorism” or “Islamic Fundamentalism”? When they didn’t, he would taunt them afterwards, arguing that they didn’t understand the grave threat we faced. The McCain camp seems to have taken a page from that playbook.

Saturday, before the Sportsmen Alliance, John McCain had this to say:

I noticed during our debate that even as American troops are fighting on two fronts, Barack Obama couldn’t bring himself to use the word “victory” even once. The Obama campaign saved that word for the spin room, where they tried to convince themselves and others that their man had left the stage victorious. Well, maybe this attitude helps explain why it wasn’t such a good night for my opponent. When Americans look at a candidate, they can tell the difference between mere self-confidence and an abiding confidence in our country. They know that the troops who are bravely fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan want to come home in victory and in honor. And we need a president who shares their confidence — a commander in chief who believes that victory for America will be achieved.

McCain has a point. With the help of the nifty “Speech Wars” tool, I checked on Barck Obama. It appears that Obama didn’t use the word “victory” in his Denver speech either. It is simply not something he says much. (You have to go back to the Berlin speech to find “victory” in an Obama speech — generally referring to what we did in the past.)

Should that concern voters? Only if you think our national security requires victory over determined enemies. If you think it’s all about getting along and making ourselves understood or convincing others to like us, this should be of no concern.

Remember how Rudy Giuliani in the primary used to dare the Democrats in their debates to use the words “Islamic Terrorism” or “Islamic Fundamentalism”? When they didn’t, he would taunt them afterwards, arguing that they didn’t understand the grave threat we faced. The McCain camp seems to have taken a page from that playbook.

Saturday, before the Sportsmen Alliance, John McCain had this to say:

I noticed during our debate that even as American troops are fighting on two fronts, Barack Obama couldn’t bring himself to use the word “victory” even once. The Obama campaign saved that word for the spin room, where they tried to convince themselves and others that their man had left the stage victorious. Well, maybe this attitude helps explain why it wasn’t such a good night for my opponent. When Americans look at a candidate, they can tell the difference between mere self-confidence and an abiding confidence in our country. They know that the troops who are bravely fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan want to come home in victory and in honor. And we need a president who shares their confidence — a commander in chief who believes that victory for America will be achieved.

McCain has a point. With the help of the nifty “Speech Wars” tool, I checked on Barck Obama. It appears that Obama didn’t use the word “victory” in his Denver speech either. It is simply not something he says much. (You have to go back to the Berlin speech to find “victory” in an Obama speech — generally referring to what we did in the past.)

Should that concern voters? Only if you think our national security requires victory over determined enemies. If you think it’s all about getting along and making ourselves understood or convincing others to like us, this should be of no concern.

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Re: Democratic Gamesmanship

The latest from a Capitol Hill source who has proven to be entirely reliable:

“Negotiators took a break for dinner and are back at it now.  Some people think there could be an agreement tonight, others say sometime tomorrow. . . I’m told people were “befuddled” by the number of Democrats that showed up at the afternoon session. Paulson actually called Reid to ask why there were so many Senate Democrats in there instead of just Dodd and the other 3 principals. Amazingly, Reid told Paulson he couldn’t control them. Apparently this evening, the adults in the room got a little tired of the nonsense, and Dems and Republicans separated into two different rooms and are now conducting some shuttle diplomacy. Despite all this, people seem to believe progress is being made.”

This source made special mention of a particular Democrat who is being “unhelpful“: Senator Chuck Schumer.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: At about 10:00 p.m. I asked about the status of the so-called slush fund for ACORN. I was told by a GOP staffer: “On ACORN, we’re pushing hard to get rid of it, but Dems are fighting back.” And are the discussions on executive compensation limits just for firms getting government relief ? That seems to be the idea. Back on Wednesday Senator Mitch McConnell said as much when he opined “If weak companies are seeking government assistance, the taxpayers should expect no less than a firm limit on what kind of executive compensation might be possible for those involved in these distressed companies.” I am advised that “nothing is set in stone” on these and other points and that negotiations go on. A good summary of the ACORN controversy is here.

UPDATE 2: A deal appears to be reached, subject to drafting. If it is as described here then the negotiatiors — including House Republicans — seem to have done a commendable job of adding some oversight procedures, beating back the Democrats’ fee/taxs proposals, and putting limits on executive comp (for participating firms only). If the ACORN slush fund got killed the Republicans did a commendable job. Now the battle for credit and blame will begin. McCain will certainly claim that the above-mentioned items coincide with the items he previously listed as needed for a deal.

The latest from a Capitol Hill source who has proven to be entirely reliable:

“Negotiators took a break for dinner and are back at it now.  Some people think there could be an agreement tonight, others say sometime tomorrow. . . I’m told people were “befuddled” by the number of Democrats that showed up at the afternoon session. Paulson actually called Reid to ask why there were so many Senate Democrats in there instead of just Dodd and the other 3 principals. Amazingly, Reid told Paulson he couldn’t control them. Apparently this evening, the adults in the room got a little tired of the nonsense, and Dems and Republicans separated into two different rooms and are now conducting some shuttle diplomacy. Despite all this, people seem to believe progress is being made.”

This source made special mention of a particular Democrat who is being “unhelpful“: Senator Chuck Schumer.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: At about 10:00 p.m. I asked about the status of the so-called slush fund for ACORN. I was told by a GOP staffer: “On ACORN, we’re pushing hard to get rid of it, but Dems are fighting back.” And are the discussions on executive compensation limits just for firms getting government relief ? That seems to be the idea. Back on Wednesday Senator Mitch McConnell said as much when he opined “If weak companies are seeking government assistance, the taxpayers should expect no less than a firm limit on what kind of executive compensation might be possible for those involved in these distressed companies.” I am advised that “nothing is set in stone” on these and other points and that negotiations go on. A good summary of the ACORN controversy is here.

UPDATE 2: A deal appears to be reached, subject to drafting. If it is as described here then the negotiatiors — including House Republicans — seem to have done a commendable job of adding some oversight procedures, beating back the Democrats’ fee/taxs proposals, and putting limits on executive comp (for participating firms only). If the ACORN slush fund got killed the Republicans did a commendable job. Now the battle for credit and blame will begin. McCain will certainly claim that the above-mentioned items coincide with the items he previously listed as needed for a deal.

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How Could They Resist?

We get this nugget from Politico’s Crypt about Nancy Pelosi:

The speaker did sound a partisan note, complaining that Republicans were “unpatriotic” for missing a negotiating session on Thursday after the contentious White House meeting – both sides blamed the other afterward for that no-show.

Let me get this straight. Nancy Pelosi commands a majority of the House. She, the Senate and White House largely agree on a bailout bill. She, however, won’t vote on it because she wants the cover of House Republicans. Lots of them. These would be the people she calls unpatriotic. Who could resist such charm and flattery?

Really, the Democrats have Option “A” and Option “B”. “A” is make the darn deal themselves. “B” is get the Republicans on board. “B” requires that the Democrats extend a modicum of respect and flexibility to the opposition, solicit the views of the Republicans and maybe jettison the more egregious parts of their own package. They don’t want to do any of that. Well, Madam Speaker, there is always “A.” But she doesn’t want “A.” And so it goes.

At some point Pelosi will have to choose between “A” and “B.” If it’s “B” she should stop insulting the people whose help she needs.

Meanwhile we get a look at the clear-eyed advice which McCain imparted on his House colleagues:

On Friday morning, McCain paid Boehner a follow-up visit in the leader’s large Capitol suite. They were joined by Putnam, Blunt – the GOP whip — and his chief deputy, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, who played a central role crafting the Republicans’ alternative.The presidential candidate told the assembled congressional leaders that he was initially skeptical about Paulson’s grave economic warnings, but that he became convinced after a series of briefings that the need was very real. Congress had to pass something over the weekend, McCain said. But he told the group that Peloi had a choice: She could either allow her negotiators to craft a package that Republicans would accept, or she could make it a partisan vote by attaching the plan to a must-pass stop-gap funding bill that lawmakers from both parties would be compelled to support.If she chose the latter category, McCain told the Republican leaders that they could vote against the hugely unpopular measure and he would help them make that vote a campaign issue on the trail.Before he left, he told the group that he needed to fly to Mississippi for the first presidential debate, so he wouldn’t be sticking around either way. But, he told them, “You guys need a negotiator.”

That strikes me as a bit of tough-love, cold-hard realism and personal support. Republicans can’t complain they didn’t get solid advice and a measure of personal sacrifice. McCain after all could have easily abandoned them and capitulated to the Democratic-Paulson plan with no additions or modifications. Whether he acted out of personal loyalty or because he understood that when all was said and done Option “B” would be the only way to go is unknowable.

What we do know is that only one of the presidential candidates understood the political and personal dynamic at work and the way forward. That explains why Reid and Paulson called McCain: they wanted a deal and couldn’t get there on their own.

We get this nugget from Politico’s Crypt about Nancy Pelosi:

The speaker did sound a partisan note, complaining that Republicans were “unpatriotic” for missing a negotiating session on Thursday after the contentious White House meeting – both sides blamed the other afterward for that no-show.

Let me get this straight. Nancy Pelosi commands a majority of the House. She, the Senate and White House largely agree on a bailout bill. She, however, won’t vote on it because she wants the cover of House Republicans. Lots of them. These would be the people she calls unpatriotic. Who could resist such charm and flattery?

Really, the Democrats have Option “A” and Option “B”. “A” is make the darn deal themselves. “B” is get the Republicans on board. “B” requires that the Democrats extend a modicum of respect and flexibility to the opposition, solicit the views of the Republicans and maybe jettison the more egregious parts of their own package. They don’t want to do any of that. Well, Madam Speaker, there is always “A.” But she doesn’t want “A.” And so it goes.

At some point Pelosi will have to choose between “A” and “B.” If it’s “B” she should stop insulting the people whose help she needs.

Meanwhile we get a look at the clear-eyed advice which McCain imparted on his House colleagues:

On Friday morning, McCain paid Boehner a follow-up visit in the leader’s large Capitol suite. They were joined by Putnam, Blunt – the GOP whip — and his chief deputy, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, who played a central role crafting the Republicans’ alternative.The presidential candidate told the assembled congressional leaders that he was initially skeptical about Paulson’s grave economic warnings, but that he became convinced after a series of briefings that the need was very real. Congress had to pass something over the weekend, McCain said. But he told the group that Peloi had a choice: She could either allow her negotiators to craft a package that Republicans would accept, or she could make it a partisan vote by attaching the plan to a must-pass stop-gap funding bill that lawmakers from both parties would be compelled to support.If she chose the latter category, McCain told the Republican leaders that they could vote against the hugely unpopular measure and he would help them make that vote a campaign issue on the trail.Before he left, he told the group that he needed to fly to Mississippi for the first presidential debate, so he wouldn’t be sticking around either way. But, he told them, “You guys need a negotiator.”

That strikes me as a bit of tough-love, cold-hard realism and personal support. Republicans can’t complain they didn’t get solid advice and a measure of personal sacrifice. McCain after all could have easily abandoned them and capitulated to the Democratic-Paulson plan with no additions or modifications. Whether he acted out of personal loyalty or because he understood that when all was said and done Option “B” would be the only way to go is unknowable.

What we do know is that only one of the presidential candidates understood the political and personal dynamic at work and the way forward. That explains why Reid and Paulson called McCain: they wanted a deal and couldn’t get there on their own.

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Democratic Gamesmanship

The latest doesn’t sound too promising. A GOP Capitol Hill source is “hearing some frustrating things out of the negotiations over the Paulson bill. For the last day or so, there have been just 4 principal negotiators: Dodd, Frank, Blunt, and Gregg. But now apparently, 9 Democrats invited themselves to a meeting intended for the 4 main negotiators, including Schumer and Rangel and Rahm Emanuel.” The Democrats are now, it seems, “making all sorts of demands, including a new across-the-board tax on securities firms.” It is getting heated with yelling from two of the Democratic Senate interlopers and the ever-helpful Senator Schumer apparently telling his colleagues that this vote “will be like voting for the Iraq War.” 

What’s up? Well perhaps this is a tactic to back the House GOP-ers off their demands. Maybe it is becoming evident that a nice bipartisan compromise with John McCain’s imprint would be a trophy for him. But if we are headed for a Monday market meltdown all incumbents will need to think seriously about the consequences — for the country and themselves — if the talks break down.

The latest doesn’t sound too promising. A GOP Capitol Hill source is “hearing some frustrating things out of the negotiations over the Paulson bill. For the last day or so, there have been just 4 principal negotiators: Dodd, Frank, Blunt, and Gregg. But now apparently, 9 Democrats invited themselves to a meeting intended for the 4 main negotiators, including Schumer and Rangel and Rahm Emanuel.” The Democrats are now, it seems, “making all sorts of demands, including a new across-the-board tax on securities firms.” It is getting heated with yelling from two of the Democratic Senate interlopers and the ever-helpful Senator Schumer apparently telling his colleagues that this vote “will be like voting for the Iraq War.” 

What’s up? Well perhaps this is a tactic to back the House GOP-ers off their demands. Maybe it is becoming evident that a nice bipartisan compromise with John McCain’s imprint would be a trophy for him. But if we are headed for a Monday market meltdown all incumbents will need to think seriously about the consequences — for the country and themselves — if the talks break down.

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Re: CNN’s Spin

Noah, these polls on “who won the debate” are notoriously unscientific. But if the Democrats want to play the game here are two with HUGE samples. Drudge has more than 350,000 responses and shows John McCain way ahead. Or there is the AOL poll with over 15,000 responses that also shows McCain besting Barack Obama by an enormous margin.

Unlike CNN, however, you don’t see conservatives touting these as “proof” McCain won. Perhaps one side is more desperate than the other to justify its spin.

Noah, these polls on “who won the debate” are notoriously unscientific. But if the Democrats want to play the game here are two with HUGE samples. Drudge has more than 350,000 responses and shows John McCain way ahead. Or there is the AOL poll with over 15,000 responses that also shows McCain besting Barack Obama by an enormous margin.

Unlike CNN, however, you don’t see conservatives touting these as “proof” McCain won. Perhaps one side is more desperate than the other to justify its spin.

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Maybe They Should Ask About It At The Debate

Most political ads, I think, soar over the heads of viewers, or get tuned out. This one may not. In part, voters may be taken aback because the footage shows Joe Biden to be such a forceful opponent and bear such obvious disdain for his own running mate, or at least Barack Obama’s actions — and that of other Democrats — in voting to cut off troop funding. The script doesn’t do the ad justice, but here it is:

ANNCR: In the midst of war, Senator Obama voted to cut off funding for our troops. What did Biden say?

JOE BIDEN: “They said they voted against the money to make a political point.”

ANNCR: He added…

JOE BIDEN: “This is cutting off support that will save the lives of thousands of American troops.”

ANNCR: Barack Obama.

Playing politics. Risking lives.

Not ready to lead.

The contempt just pours from Biden’s lips. Coincidence that we are seeing it now just before the VP debate? I think not.

Most political ads, I think, soar over the heads of viewers, or get tuned out. This one may not. In part, voters may be taken aback because the footage shows Joe Biden to be such a forceful opponent and bear such obvious disdain for his own running mate, or at least Barack Obama’s actions — and that of other Democrats — in voting to cut off troop funding. The script doesn’t do the ad justice, but here it is:

ANNCR: In the midst of war, Senator Obama voted to cut off funding for our troops. What did Biden say?

JOE BIDEN: “They said they voted against the money to make a political point.”

ANNCR: He added…

JOE BIDEN: “This is cutting off support that will save the lives of thousands of American troops.”

ANNCR: Barack Obama.

Playing politics. Risking lives.

Not ready to lead.

The contempt just pours from Biden’s lips. Coincidence that we are seeing it now just before the VP debate? I think not.

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Ratings Shock — Last Night’s Audience Smaller than Bush-Kerry’s

After predictions that these Obama-McCain debates would earn record audiences in the 80-100 million range, the “overnights” from the five broadcast networks are in — and at least where they are concerned, the viewership for last night’s debate was surprisingly low.

As I read the raw numbers, there were somewhere between 20-22 million households tuned in to the debate across the four networks that showed it (CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox). That means perhaps 30 million people tuned in, which would be a colossal audience for a single show on a single network, but across all four, only adds up to something like 28 percent of the overall television audience. ABC did the best, but last week, one of the lowest-rated weeks in the history of prime time, the number-one show was a football game, and it alone scored 22 million viewers.

Now, these numbers don’t include the cable news networks or PBS, which have scored record ratings this year during these events; it is to be expected that as many as 20 million people will have tuned in to CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, which would bring the total viewership north of 50 million. That’s big, to be sure, but nowhere near the size of the audience in 2004, when the first Bush-Kerry debate scored 62 million.

The overnight ratings aren’t the final tabulation; they are a sample, and the numbers can grow when the whole nation is factored in. Even so, at best, it appears this debate will still trail Bush-Kerry’s. That is surprising, considering the historic nature of this election and the supposed universe of engaged new voters we’ve been hearing about all year.

After predictions that these Obama-McCain debates would earn record audiences in the 80-100 million range, the “overnights” from the five broadcast networks are in — and at least where they are concerned, the viewership for last night’s debate was surprisingly low.

As I read the raw numbers, there were somewhere between 20-22 million households tuned in to the debate across the four networks that showed it (CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox). That means perhaps 30 million people tuned in, which would be a colossal audience for a single show on a single network, but across all four, only adds up to something like 28 percent of the overall television audience. ABC did the best, but last week, one of the lowest-rated weeks in the history of prime time, the number-one show was a football game, and it alone scored 22 million viewers.

Now, these numbers don’t include the cable news networks or PBS, which have scored record ratings this year during these events; it is to be expected that as many as 20 million people will have tuned in to CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, which would bring the total viewership north of 50 million. That’s big, to be sure, but nowhere near the size of the audience in 2004, when the first Bush-Kerry debate scored 62 million.

The overnight ratings aren’t the final tabulation; they are a sample, and the numbers can grow when the whole nation is factored in. Even so, at best, it appears this debate will still trail Bush-Kerry’s. That is surprising, considering the historic nature of this election and the supposed universe of engaged new voters we’ve been hearing about all year.

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