Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 1, 2008

The Senate Acts

Voting from their desks in historic fashion the Senate passed the bailout bill 74-25. The margin is as important as the outcome. Perhaps a day of reflection, perhaps the stock market crash and the ongoing credit crunch or perhaps the backlash against the House’s failure to pass the measure shocked everyone into acting as they did, and in such a decisive fashion.

The minor adjustments ( e.g.adding business tax breaks, FDIC limit increase) made the bill arguably more conservative, and hence palatable to the House GOP. But it strikes me as vote by the Senate, a large bipartisan declaration that amounted to, “Enough!”

The House is slated to vote Friday. The fight for credit will now begin.

Voting from their desks in historic fashion the Senate passed the bailout bill 74-25. The margin is as important as the outcome. Perhaps a day of reflection, perhaps the stock market crash and the ongoing credit crunch or perhaps the backlash against the House’s failure to pass the measure shocked everyone into acting as they did, and in such a decisive fashion.

The minor adjustments ( e.g.adding business tax breaks, FDIC limit increase) made the bill arguably more conservative, and hence palatable to the House GOP. But it strikes me as vote by the Senate, a large bipartisan declaration that amounted to, “Enough!”

The House is slated to vote Friday. The fight for credit will now begin.

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Re: Gwen Ifill

Jen, the ethical thing for Gwen Ifill to do tomorrow night is to open the debate by acknowledging that she is writing a book about race and politics and the book’s success will be determined largely by whether Sen. Obama becomes president.  She could then go on to say that her personal feelings on the subject aside, she is a professional and is committed to moderating fairly and objectively.  If she doesn’t acknowledge her own stakes in the outcome of the debate from the beginning, she will be implicitly deceiving the audience.  Whenever a reporter or commentator has some direct tie to a campaign, or even an indirect one through a close family member’s involvement, he or she is obliged to notify the audience when reporting or commenting on the candidate. You can bet that if the shoe were on the other foot this story would be major news.  As it is, Ifill’s pocket-book stake in this election was worthy of mention only in the Washington Post blogs today. 

Jen, the ethical thing for Gwen Ifill to do tomorrow night is to open the debate by acknowledging that she is writing a book about race and politics and the book’s success will be determined largely by whether Sen. Obama becomes president.  She could then go on to say that her personal feelings on the subject aside, she is a professional and is committed to moderating fairly and objectively.  If she doesn’t acknowledge her own stakes in the outcome of the debate from the beginning, she will be implicitly deceiving the audience.  Whenever a reporter or commentator has some direct tie to a campaign, or even an indirect one through a close family member’s involvement, he or she is obliged to notify the audience when reporting or commenting on the candidate. You can bet that if the shoe were on the other foot this story would be major news.  As it is, Ifill’s pocket-book stake in this election was worthy of mention only in the Washington Post blogs today. 

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Voting Present, Again

Right now Barack Obama is droning on in the Senate, imploring his colleagues on the importance of acting with unity and purpose in approving the bailout. It is time to set aside our differences and act decisively on behalf of the American people, says The One. This is funny, because as Mary Katharine Ham at the Weekly Standard first noted, Obama didn’t lift a finger to help get the first bailout bill passed in the House. Not one phone call to a House Democrat. Not one act of arm-twisting. Not one private threat of retribution should his colleagues in the House not approve the bailout. This is the New York Times’ account:

Aides to Mr. Obama said he had not directly reached out to try to sway any House Democrats who opposed the measure.

This is remarkable. Once again, it seems that the only time Obama acts like a leader is when he’s in front of a television camera.

Right now Barack Obama is droning on in the Senate, imploring his colleagues on the importance of acting with unity and purpose in approving the bailout. It is time to set aside our differences and act decisively on behalf of the American people, says The One. This is funny, because as Mary Katharine Ham at the Weekly Standard first noted, Obama didn’t lift a finger to help get the first bailout bill passed in the House. Not one phone call to a House Democrat. Not one act of arm-twisting. Not one private threat of retribution should his colleagues in the House not approve the bailout. This is the New York Times’ account:

Aides to Mr. Obama said he had not directly reached out to try to sway any House Democrats who opposed the measure.

This is remarkable. Once again, it seems that the only time Obama acts like a leader is when he’s in front of a television camera.

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Everyone Complains

When the ticket of your party is behind everyone feels empowered to heckle. Mike Murphy who never got the nod to come on the McCain team is no exception. He doesn’t care for McCain tangling with the liberal editorial board in a state (Iowa) likely not even in play. He’s got a point.

But there are some bigger issues. First, what exactly is the main message of the McCain campaign right now? Is it, as he spoke about in Missouri today, “bipartisanship“? Or is it an effort to tie Barack Obama to the malfeasance in Washington as many of his ads suggest? It is unclear and the two are somewhat difficult to balance (i.e. it is hard to bash the Dodd-Frank-Obama connection while decrying the harsh rhetoric of hyper-partisanship). Is he stressing his leadership skills ( we saw a move the other to day to tag Obama for “sitting on the sidelines”) or is it to stress a more conservative economic message? Again, not clear.

There is a very narrow window of time left for McCain. He might do well to settle on a single message and then direct all his energies and his communication team in that direction. There really isn’t time or interest among voters to pursue a multi-pronged attack. What’s his best theme and can he communicate it effectively? That seems to be the first order of business.

After that he can figure out what needs to be accomplished in the remaining debates and how to present the bailout bill to voters, if and when it is enacted. Murphy may not have homed in on the most important failing in the McCain camp but he sure identified a core concern among Republicans: what exactly is the McCain team doing with their remaining time and resources? It simply isn’t clear.

When the ticket of your party is behind everyone feels empowered to heckle. Mike Murphy who never got the nod to come on the McCain team is no exception. He doesn’t care for McCain tangling with the liberal editorial board in a state (Iowa) likely not even in play. He’s got a point.

But there are some bigger issues. First, what exactly is the main message of the McCain campaign right now? Is it, as he spoke about in Missouri today, “bipartisanship“? Or is it an effort to tie Barack Obama to the malfeasance in Washington as many of his ads suggest? It is unclear and the two are somewhat difficult to balance (i.e. it is hard to bash the Dodd-Frank-Obama connection while decrying the harsh rhetoric of hyper-partisanship). Is he stressing his leadership skills ( we saw a move the other to day to tag Obama for “sitting on the sidelines”) or is it to stress a more conservative economic message? Again, not clear.

There is a very narrow window of time left for McCain. He might do well to settle on a single message and then direct all his energies and his communication team in that direction. There really isn’t time or interest among voters to pursue a multi-pronged attack. What’s his best theme and can he communicate it effectively? That seems to be the first order of business.

After that he can figure out what needs to be accomplished in the remaining debates and how to present the bailout bill to voters, if and when it is enacted. Murphy may not have homed in on the most important failing in the McCain camp but he sure identified a core concern among Republicans: what exactly is the McCain team doing with their remaining time and resources? It simply isn’t clear.

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Gwen Ifill 101

That will be the name of a course one day in “J” school as professors discuss the implications of acting as moderator in a key vice presidential debate while publishing a book, the success of which largely depends on one particular candidate prevailing. A book entitled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama is destined for the bargain bin at bookstores unless, you know, Barack Obama wins. And if there is any doubt of how she feels about her subject this should erase it.

While I agree that this is an ethics debacle for her I think it is a godsend for Sarah Palin. What better way to ensure hyper-attention to fairness and to keep the moderator on the straight and narrow? And should Ifill stray and convey her obvious affection for Obama’s candidacy, the McCain camp will of course scream bloody murder. Now the latter is becoming an everyday occurrence, but the prospect of undergoing a debate moderated by someone with an obvious ideological and financial interest in the success of one ticket really is grounds for complaint.

But it will make for good class discussion one day, I am sure

That will be the name of a course one day in “J” school as professors discuss the implications of acting as moderator in a key vice presidential debate while publishing a book, the success of which largely depends on one particular candidate prevailing. A book entitled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama is destined for the bargain bin at bookstores unless, you know, Barack Obama wins. And if there is any doubt of how she feels about her subject this should erase it.

While I agree that this is an ethics debacle for her I think it is a godsend for Sarah Palin. What better way to ensure hyper-attention to fairness and to keep the moderator on the straight and narrow? And should Ifill stray and convey her obvious affection for Obama’s candidacy, the McCain camp will of course scream bloody murder. Now the latter is becoming an everyday occurrence, but the prospect of undergoing a debate moderated by someone with an obvious ideological and financial interest in the success of one ticket really is grounds for complaint.

But it will make for good class discussion one day, I am sure

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Ah, Europe

George Lesser spoke to “a veteran NATO official with the closest possible ties to the United States,” about European attitudes toward America and this is what he found:

Europeans, he said, are appalled by the chauvinistic jingoism and religious sectarianism so apparent in the recent American nominating conventions. European politicians don’t wear flag pins in their lapels, and they don’t have their followers screeching “France, France,” or “Nederland, Nederland” the way the Republicans did “USA, USA” when John McCain and Sarah Palin were speaking. After hundreds of years of religious wars followed by 150 years of nationalistic wars, followed by 45 years of the largely ideological Cold War, Europeans tend to see themselves as beyond all that.

After all, there’s nothing chauvinistic about seeing oneself as “beyond” the vulgar trappings of history, is there? Especially considering it was the chanting, flag-waving Americans who saved the Europeans from immolating in those nationalistic wars and then from stagnating in the Cold War so that they could enjoy this post-historical siesta. For Europeans, questions of survival have been supplanted by ones of taste.

In Europe, there simply is no bumper-sticker patriotism. Cars are not emblazoned with flags. There are no stickers telling one another how proud people are to be whatever they happen to be.

Shame about that, actually. Because what Europe happens to be, along with America, is a miracle of human rights, cultural achievement, and technological realization. A little pride in this fact might do Europe some good right about now. While Europeans’ cars are not “emblazoned with flags,” they are routinely set ablaze by Muslim immigrants in places like Villiers-le-Bel, France or Almeria, Spain or Vaerloese, Denmark. Perhaps if Europe woke up from its cultural apathy, it might find a reason to oppose the forces that seek to destroy it.

If Europeans really preferred riots to bumper stickers, it would be one thing. But whenever the heat gets turned up they look towards vulgar America to set things right again. When Europe found out that Vladimir Putin never got that memo about the end of nationalism, Poland signed on to host American missiles quicker than it took Russian troops to pull back on their positions. It’s American protection that affords Europe the luxury of worrying about American patriotism:

To Europeans, the nationalistic, ideological and religious fervor they see in Americans is puerile and dangerous. They don’t like fundamentalist religious fervor and political extremism in the Middle East, and they don’t like it any more in the United States.

Well, then I assume they like it best in Europe, because that’s where both Islamism and right wing nationalism have set up shop like nowhere else on the globe. While Qur’anic courts sprout up in England, fascists desecrate Muslim graves in Austria. As sharia creeps across the continent, secular fascism creeps alongside it. But at least there are no gauche flags.

By the way, this piece contains the strongest John McCain endorsement imaginable:

“America has got to change,” the NATO official said – even shouted – repeatedly, “and John McCain isn’t going to do it.”

George Lesser spoke to “a veteran NATO official with the closest possible ties to the United States,” about European attitudes toward America and this is what he found:

Europeans, he said, are appalled by the chauvinistic jingoism and religious sectarianism so apparent in the recent American nominating conventions. European politicians don’t wear flag pins in their lapels, and they don’t have their followers screeching “France, France,” or “Nederland, Nederland” the way the Republicans did “USA, USA” when John McCain and Sarah Palin were speaking. After hundreds of years of religious wars followed by 150 years of nationalistic wars, followed by 45 years of the largely ideological Cold War, Europeans tend to see themselves as beyond all that.

After all, there’s nothing chauvinistic about seeing oneself as “beyond” the vulgar trappings of history, is there? Especially considering it was the chanting, flag-waving Americans who saved the Europeans from immolating in those nationalistic wars and then from stagnating in the Cold War so that they could enjoy this post-historical siesta. For Europeans, questions of survival have been supplanted by ones of taste.

In Europe, there simply is no bumper-sticker patriotism. Cars are not emblazoned with flags. There are no stickers telling one another how proud people are to be whatever they happen to be.

Shame about that, actually. Because what Europe happens to be, along with America, is a miracle of human rights, cultural achievement, and technological realization. A little pride in this fact might do Europe some good right about now. While Europeans’ cars are not “emblazoned with flags,” they are routinely set ablaze by Muslim immigrants in places like Villiers-le-Bel, France or Almeria, Spain or Vaerloese, Denmark. Perhaps if Europe woke up from its cultural apathy, it might find a reason to oppose the forces that seek to destroy it.

If Europeans really preferred riots to bumper stickers, it would be one thing. But whenever the heat gets turned up they look towards vulgar America to set things right again. When Europe found out that Vladimir Putin never got that memo about the end of nationalism, Poland signed on to host American missiles quicker than it took Russian troops to pull back on their positions. It’s American protection that affords Europe the luxury of worrying about American patriotism:

To Europeans, the nationalistic, ideological and religious fervor they see in Americans is puerile and dangerous. They don’t like fundamentalist religious fervor and political extremism in the Middle East, and they don’t like it any more in the United States.

Well, then I assume they like it best in Europe, because that’s where both Islamism and right wing nationalism have set up shop like nowhere else on the globe. While Qur’anic courts sprout up in England, fascists desecrate Muslim graves in Austria. As sharia creeps across the continent, secular fascism creeps alongside it. But at least there are no gauche flags.

By the way, this piece contains the strongest John McCain endorsement imaginable:

“America has got to change,” the NATO official said – even shouted – repeatedly, “and John McCain isn’t going to do it.”

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The Real Reason the World Financial System Is Collapsing

“This financial crisis is a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street for years,” said Barack Obama yesterday.  The American worker, John McCain explained last month, has been “betrayed by a casino on Wall Street of greedy, corrupt excess.”  These explanations are extraordinarily superficial, even by the standards of American presidential campaigns.  “Wall Street” has been “greedy” for hundreds of years.  So why is the global financial system in crisis now?

It’s time for the candidates to learn some elemental economic principles and even a little history.  The fundamental cause of today’s financial crisis is excess liquidity in the United States.  When lenders have too much to lend, they have strong incentives to throw money at questionable borrowers.  The resulting economic imbalances are unwound either through financial crises or war.

American lenders have had too much money at their disposal in recent years because China has lent staggering sums to America, especially the U.S. Treasury, Fannie, and Freddie.  Beijing has done that because the United States is the place where most excess cash in the world goes.  The Chinese have excess cash because they have excess savings.  They have excess savings because the government depresses internal consumption and creates massive trade surpluses-like last year’s US$262.2 billion (all of which but $5.9 billion related to sales to the United States).  Beijing runs up massive trade surpluses because it manipulates the value of its currency to provide a cost advantage, provides below-market credit to producers, depresses the cost of labor, and subsidizes crucial manufacturing inputs like energy and water.  When a country engineers excess savings, it has no choice but to lend funds abroad.

The path to a sounder financial system in the world, therefore, is to get the Chinese to adopt market-economy principles.  If Beijing cannot do that-which it undoubtedly cannot due to its authoritarian political system-then we need to examine our trade and other relations with China.  It is simply not possible to maintain a sustainable international financial system when one large country continues to game all the others with a non-market economy.

What should the United States do?  The answer is not so clear, but we obviously need to start holding China to the promises it made to join the World Trade Organization.  Of course, that’s only a start.

Yet one thing is obvious: we’re not going to get where we need to be if we let the presidential candidates avoid the real issues by blaming the greed of Wall Street’s financial intermediaries.

“This financial crisis is a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street for years,” said Barack Obama yesterday.  The American worker, John McCain explained last month, has been “betrayed by a casino on Wall Street of greedy, corrupt excess.”  These explanations are extraordinarily superficial, even by the standards of American presidential campaigns.  “Wall Street” has been “greedy” for hundreds of years.  So why is the global financial system in crisis now?

It’s time for the candidates to learn some elemental economic principles and even a little history.  The fundamental cause of today’s financial crisis is excess liquidity in the United States.  When lenders have too much to lend, they have strong incentives to throw money at questionable borrowers.  The resulting economic imbalances are unwound either through financial crises or war.

American lenders have had too much money at their disposal in recent years because China has lent staggering sums to America, especially the U.S. Treasury, Fannie, and Freddie.  Beijing has done that because the United States is the place where most excess cash in the world goes.  The Chinese have excess cash because they have excess savings.  They have excess savings because the government depresses internal consumption and creates massive trade surpluses-like last year’s US$262.2 billion (all of which but $5.9 billion related to sales to the United States).  Beijing runs up massive trade surpluses because it manipulates the value of its currency to provide a cost advantage, provides below-market credit to producers, depresses the cost of labor, and subsidizes crucial manufacturing inputs like energy and water.  When a country engineers excess savings, it has no choice but to lend funds abroad.

The path to a sounder financial system in the world, therefore, is to get the Chinese to adopt market-economy principles.  If Beijing cannot do that-which it undoubtedly cannot due to its authoritarian political system-then we need to examine our trade and other relations with China.  It is simply not possible to maintain a sustainable international financial system when one large country continues to game all the others with a non-market economy.

What should the United States do?  The answer is not so clear, but we obviously need to start holding China to the promises it made to join the World Trade Organization.  Of course, that’s only a start.

Yet one thing is obvious: we’re not going to get where we need to be if we let the presidential candidates avoid the real issues by blaming the greed of Wall Street’s financial intermediaries.

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Pollyanish

Here’s a scenario for the down-in-the-dumps Republicans. The Senate passes a version of the bailout with the FDIC limits raised and tax cuts to boot. It is indisputably a more conservative bill. At the urging of John McCain, House Republicans vote for it: It passes. McCain is touted as the person who forced the Pelosi machine to slow down, listen to the opposition and make the bill a better, more bipartisan one. Barack Obama is faulted as irrelevant and MSM reporters note that he essentially sat on the sidelines.

Yeah right.

Here’s a scenario for the down-in-the-dumps Republicans. The Senate passes a version of the bailout with the FDIC limits raised and tax cuts to boot. It is indisputably a more conservative bill. At the urging of John McCain, House Republicans vote for it: It passes. McCain is touted as the person who forced the Pelosi machine to slow down, listen to the opposition and make the bill a better, more bipartisan one. Barack Obama is faulted as irrelevant and MSM reporters note that he essentially sat on the sidelines.

Yeah right.

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Plenty of Blame

Michael Gerson covers the waterfront in assigning blame for the defeat of the original bailout package. Of the Democrats:

There can now be little doubt that Nancy Pelosi has an unrivaled record for lacking achievement. In retrospect, it seems incomprehensible that Democrats chose a grating, partisan San Francisco liberal to lead both parties in the House. During the bailout debate, Pelosi used her last breath to channel the shade of Henry Wallace, attacking conservative economics as a “right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation.” When one thinks of the skills of the speaker of the House, rubbing your face in it before a vital vote is not usually high on the list. House conservatives were insulted — then watched as some of Pelosi’s committee chairmen and closest political associates voted against the bill. Seeing Democrats saving their political hides provided little encouragement for Republicans to risk their own.

He does not spare the House GOP:

But whatever their provocations, pressures and justifications, House Republicans once again revealed the souls of backbenchers — spouting their ideological purity from atop the ruins of the financial system. The temporary government purchase of bad mortgage debt is not equivalent to the liquidation of the kulaks. Serious conservative thinkers such as Ryan and Cantor, who chose to work within the legislative process, got many of the improvements they sought. But most House Republicans with ideological objections had nothing better to propose and no intention to try. They chose allegiance to abstract principles over practical reality. It is the political philosophy of Samson: Bring down the entire temple to make a political point. In this case, the president, their own congressional leadership, their own presidential candidate and the world economy are now wounded and struggling amid the rubble. I suppose the point is made. But it is a reminder of why Republicans are no longer trusted as the congressional majority.

He concludes that we are headed for “a weak government populated by small men.” But that’s not right. We have something far worse: a very powerful government populated by small men. They may have tied themselves up in knots in this instance, but the power of the government (particularly one that might have a single party in charge of two elected branches) is huge. The sight of lawmakers who lurch this way and that depending on their office phone tally sheets ( “The calls now say people are in favor of the bailout!” “The tide turns!”) is not heartening. Rather it suggests an era of unprincipled and erratic rule is before us.

Legislative timidity was hardly the problem. It was, after all, an exercise in government bullying — lenders must extend credit to uncreditworthy borrowers, regulators who dared raise problems were harassed by Democratic protectors of Freddie and Fannie — which got us into this mess.

Certainly the gerrymandered House districts have made this problem worse. There is little consequence for hyper-aggressive partisanship. Nancy Pelosi’s constituents love it when she does her “Bush lied, our savings dived” routine. Likewise, when certain House GOP opponents don’t merely try to improve the bill but deny there is a crisis and oppose virtually any measure with a reasonable chance to pass their constituents and many in the conservative media cheer them on. Each live in their own political universe virtually immune from the consequences of their own behavior.

We are down to relying on the Senate — a body governed by arcane anti-democratic rules, less immune to day-to-day passions and lacking the problem of gerrymandered districts — to restore some sense of dispassionate evaluation. The Framers were onto something about tempering popular rule, we learn once again.

That is small consolation as we see dysfunctionality played out on a national scale and the relative inability of either presidential candidate to do much about it. In office perhaps one of them will have a better shot at governing from a workable center coalition. But first he’ll have to find it.

Michael Gerson covers the waterfront in assigning blame for the defeat of the original bailout package. Of the Democrats:

There can now be little doubt that Nancy Pelosi has an unrivaled record for lacking achievement. In retrospect, it seems incomprehensible that Democrats chose a grating, partisan San Francisco liberal to lead both parties in the House. During the bailout debate, Pelosi used her last breath to channel the shade of Henry Wallace, attacking conservative economics as a “right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation.” When one thinks of the skills of the speaker of the House, rubbing your face in it before a vital vote is not usually high on the list. House conservatives were insulted — then watched as some of Pelosi’s committee chairmen and closest political associates voted against the bill. Seeing Democrats saving their political hides provided little encouragement for Republicans to risk their own.

He does not spare the House GOP:

But whatever their provocations, pressures and justifications, House Republicans once again revealed the souls of backbenchers — spouting their ideological purity from atop the ruins of the financial system. The temporary government purchase of bad mortgage debt is not equivalent to the liquidation of the kulaks. Serious conservative thinkers such as Ryan and Cantor, who chose to work within the legislative process, got many of the improvements they sought. But most House Republicans with ideological objections had nothing better to propose and no intention to try. They chose allegiance to abstract principles over practical reality. It is the political philosophy of Samson: Bring down the entire temple to make a political point. In this case, the president, their own congressional leadership, their own presidential candidate and the world economy are now wounded and struggling amid the rubble. I suppose the point is made. But it is a reminder of why Republicans are no longer trusted as the congressional majority.

He concludes that we are headed for “a weak government populated by small men.” But that’s not right. We have something far worse: a very powerful government populated by small men. They may have tied themselves up in knots in this instance, but the power of the government (particularly one that might have a single party in charge of two elected branches) is huge. The sight of lawmakers who lurch this way and that depending on their office phone tally sheets ( “The calls now say people are in favor of the bailout!” “The tide turns!”) is not heartening. Rather it suggests an era of unprincipled and erratic rule is before us.

Legislative timidity was hardly the problem. It was, after all, an exercise in government bullying — lenders must extend credit to uncreditworthy borrowers, regulators who dared raise problems were harassed by Democratic protectors of Freddie and Fannie — which got us into this mess.

Certainly the gerrymandered House districts have made this problem worse. There is little consequence for hyper-aggressive partisanship. Nancy Pelosi’s constituents love it when she does her “Bush lied, our savings dived” routine. Likewise, when certain House GOP opponents don’t merely try to improve the bill but deny there is a crisis and oppose virtually any measure with a reasonable chance to pass their constituents and many in the conservative media cheer them on. Each live in their own political universe virtually immune from the consequences of their own behavior.

We are down to relying on the Senate — a body governed by arcane anti-democratic rules, less immune to day-to-day passions and lacking the problem of gerrymandered districts — to restore some sense of dispassionate evaluation. The Framers were onto something about tempering popular rule, we learn once again.

That is small consolation as we see dysfunctionality played out on a national scale and the relative inability of either presidential candidate to do much about it. In office perhaps one of them will have a better shot at governing from a workable center coalition. But first he’ll have to find it.

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Re: Palin Re-Rollout

Jen, Sarah Palin’s latest Katie Couric interview shows more than promise, I think. It’s an impressive display of an informed and nuanced mind: She wouldn’t personally counsel a rape or incest victim to get an abortion, but by no means should any woman be put in jail for doing so. She believes evolution should be taught in school as a proven scientific principle, but she personally sees the hand of God in the creation of the universe. This interview proves that she should have been out there acting as her own myth-buster this whole time. And she should have struck while the iron was hot.

If you compare this Couric interview with her earlier disastrous one, the question arises: Is Sarah Palin simply a foreign policy know-nothing? How else can you explain the night-and-day difference? In terms of your suggestion about getting specific: she does — when it’s an area in which she has a command of the facts: energy, reproductive rights, etc. But if she doesn’t have the specifics on Hamas, the Pakistani ISI, al Qaeda, or the Taliban, she’s sunk. And if she is truly unable to enumerate the difficulties that face American troops in Afghanistan or expand on the challenges of Arab democracy then it will come out in the wash tomorrow night.

Jen, Sarah Palin’s latest Katie Couric interview shows more than promise, I think. It’s an impressive display of an informed and nuanced mind: She wouldn’t personally counsel a rape or incest victim to get an abortion, but by no means should any woman be put in jail for doing so. She believes evolution should be taught in school as a proven scientific principle, but she personally sees the hand of God in the creation of the universe. This interview proves that she should have been out there acting as her own myth-buster this whole time. And she should have struck while the iron was hot.

If you compare this Couric interview with her earlier disastrous one, the question arises: Is Sarah Palin simply a foreign policy know-nothing? How else can you explain the night-and-day difference? In terms of your suggestion about getting specific: she does — when it’s an area in which she has a command of the facts: energy, reproductive rights, etc. But if she doesn’t have the specifics on Hamas, the Pakistani ISI, al Qaeda, or the Taliban, she’s sunk. And if she is truly unable to enumerate the difficulties that face American troops in Afghanistan or expand on the challenges of Arab democracy then it will come out in the wash tomorrow night.

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Palin Re-Rollout

Sarah Palin’s latest Katie Couric interview and certainly the Hugh Hewitt interview from Tuesday show some improvement over her prior outings. She is more confident and less halting than she was in her first Couric outing. There is promise there — that she can relate the current crisis to ordinary voters (e.g. she and Todd and their 401K plight) and that she can explain her social policy positions in disarming and positive ways. And she very sincerely explained to Hewitt her emotional devotion to Israel. (One wishes Barack Obama would express the same sense of moral clarity on the topic).

But to be successful, not just survive, on Thursday night she will need to do a few things. For starters, she needs specific answers when asked very basic questions ( e.g. what newspapers does she read, name three things McCain will do to fix the financial mess). She needs to be sharper about Joe Biden. Why is his insiderness is a problem? Because he never rocked the boat when his fellow Democrats were protecting the gross malfeasance of Fannie and Freddie and he has $51.5M in earmarks in latest spending bill, for example. She has to clean up her syntax — e.g. “feel the impacts.” She also should be talking more about what executive experience she had ( e.g. this is how I cut the budget, this is how you get rid of people in your own party who are corrupt).

We don’t know whether she is capable of doing this or whether she has been under some weird mandate (“Keep expectations low!” “Don’t reveal any factual support for our arguments!”). We’ll see Thursday night if the improved Palin is a sign of how quickly she can ascend the learning curve.

Sarah Palin’s latest Katie Couric interview and certainly the Hugh Hewitt interview from Tuesday show some improvement over her prior outings. She is more confident and less halting than she was in her first Couric outing. There is promise there — that she can relate the current crisis to ordinary voters (e.g. she and Todd and their 401K plight) and that she can explain her social policy positions in disarming and positive ways. And she very sincerely explained to Hewitt her emotional devotion to Israel. (One wishes Barack Obama would express the same sense of moral clarity on the topic).

But to be successful, not just survive, on Thursday night she will need to do a few things. For starters, she needs specific answers when asked very basic questions ( e.g. what newspapers does she read, name three things McCain will do to fix the financial mess). She needs to be sharper about Joe Biden. Why is his insiderness is a problem? Because he never rocked the boat when his fellow Democrats were protecting the gross malfeasance of Fannie and Freddie and he has $51.5M in earmarks in latest spending bill, for example. She has to clean up her syntax — e.g. “feel the impacts.” She also should be talking more about what executive experience she had ( e.g. this is how I cut the budget, this is how you get rid of people in your own party who are corrupt).

We don’t know whether she is capable of doing this or whether she has been under some weird mandate (“Keep expectations low!” “Don’t reveal any factual support for our arguments!”). We’ll see Thursday night if the improved Palin is a sign of how quickly she can ascend the learning curve.

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The Great Blurring 2008

This Harris poll, reported on by Market Watch, captures the muddle of the American electorate at this point in time:

It finds that John McCain has a sizable lead on defense, homeland security and keeping the U.S. safe from terrorism, and modest leads on Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, Iran, Russia and gun control. Barack Obama has a substantial lead on the environment, education, health care and jobs. He also has a clear but not large advantage on the economy, gasoline prices, energy policy and inflation.

However, this Harris Poll also shows that most people recognize that they do not have a very good understanding of the differences between the candidates’ policies on the sixteen issues covered in this poll.

After the longest combined primary and general election in history, why is the public confused? Was this not supposed to be a clear-cut case of business-as-usual vs. the politics of change? Four more years of the failed Bush policies vs. hope?

Well, part of the problem lies in those formulations, furnished by Barack Obama. We were never told what the politics of change were. We’ve seen raised taxes before, ditto universal healthcare promises. Furthermore, whenever Obama did radically diverge from historical precedent (in proposing to talk to Ahmadinejad without preconditions, for example), he backed away from it.

On other key issues, Obama simply tacked McCain-ward. He went from pledging to “end” the Iraq War immediately to deciding to listen to the advice of commanders on the ground. When Russia invaded Georgia in August, Obama issued a statement calling for both parties to cease hostilities. After McCain came out and condemned Russian aggression while declaring solidarity with Georgia, Obama decided to do the same.

Now, with the financial meltdown seriously limiting Obama’s proposed initiatives in education, healthcare, and social services, the great blurring is complete. And just in time. If this poll is correct, one month from now Americans will be electing their next president based on an impressionistic hunch. And they won’t be able to ask their fellow citizens for clarification, nor will they really have grounds on which to object when they don’t like what they see in the White House.

This Harris poll, reported on by Market Watch, captures the muddle of the American electorate at this point in time:

It finds that John McCain has a sizable lead on defense, homeland security and keeping the U.S. safe from terrorism, and modest leads on Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, Iran, Russia and gun control. Barack Obama has a substantial lead on the environment, education, health care and jobs. He also has a clear but not large advantage on the economy, gasoline prices, energy policy and inflation.

However, this Harris Poll also shows that most people recognize that they do not have a very good understanding of the differences between the candidates’ policies on the sixteen issues covered in this poll.

After the longest combined primary and general election in history, why is the public confused? Was this not supposed to be a clear-cut case of business-as-usual vs. the politics of change? Four more years of the failed Bush policies vs. hope?

Well, part of the problem lies in those formulations, furnished by Barack Obama. We were never told what the politics of change were. We’ve seen raised taxes before, ditto universal healthcare promises. Furthermore, whenever Obama did radically diverge from historical precedent (in proposing to talk to Ahmadinejad without preconditions, for example), he backed away from it.

On other key issues, Obama simply tacked McCain-ward. He went from pledging to “end” the Iraq War immediately to deciding to listen to the advice of commanders on the ground. When Russia invaded Georgia in August, Obama issued a statement calling for both parties to cease hostilities. After McCain came out and condemned Russian aggression while declaring solidarity with Georgia, Obama decided to do the same.

Now, with the financial meltdown seriously limiting Obama’s proposed initiatives in education, healthcare, and social services, the great blurring is complete. And just in time. If this poll is correct, one month from now Americans will be electing their next president based on an impressionistic hunch. And they won’t be able to ask their fellow citizens for clarification, nor will they really have grounds on which to object when they don’t like what they see in the White House.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A helpful explanation of the possibilities in a 269-269 electoral tie.

Bill Clinton once again is the only Democrat talking sense on bank “deregulation.”

Irony of ironies, a plurality of voters in one poll now considers the Iraq war a success. Could it be the highlight of the Bush administration?

David Brooks gives it to everyone: “House leaders of both parties got wrapped up in their own negotiations, but did it occur to any of them that it might be hard to pass a bill fairly described as a bailout to Wall Street? Was the media darling Barney Frank too busy to notice the 95 Democrats who opposed his bill? Pelosi’s fiery speech at the crucial moment didn’t actually kill this bill, but did she have to act like a Democratic fund-raiser at the most important moment of her career?” But he is right that the House Republicans will get blamed — and now be made to look foolish when the Senate votes on essentially the same bailout bill.

R.I.P, New York Sun. I never failed to learn something reading the Sun. (Disclosure: I wrote several pieces for them, enjoyed every minute of it and am incredibly biased with regard to the paper and all associated with it.)

Tom Brokaw in the nicest way possible says Keith Olberman isn’t a serious newsman and shouldn’t try to play one on TV.

This is precisely right — John McCain needs to start explaining to voters what role the Democrats played in the Freddie/Fannie debacle. It may be his only hope to actually convince voters that the Democratic ticket is part of the problem, not the solution in Washington. But why so late? One of many questions Republicans are asking.

There is some assistance provided by news outlets interested in just why it was that there were so many bad loans extended. Part of the reason was groups like ACORN lobbying for “more affordable housing” and engaging in “direct action” against lenders that didn’t offer enough loans to high-risk borrowers: “ACORN was also a driving force behind a 1995 regulatory revision pushed through by the Clinton administration that greatly expanded the CRA and helped spawn the current financial crisis. Obama was the attorney representing ACORN in this effort. Last November, he told the group, ‘I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career.’ Indeed he has. Obama was and is fully aware of what ACORN was doing with the money and expertise he provided.”

Even liberals realize Nancy Pelosi is toxic. (H/T Glenn Reynolds)

As the House GOP works on an entirely new plan do they look productive or irrelevant? If only they were applying for jobs at conservative think tanks they’d be in fine shape. Come to think of it that’s what some of them may be doing come November 5.

Regardless of how you feel about Sarah Palin it is hard to argue that the looming financial debacle (and the candidates’ reactions to it) aren’t a heck of a lot more important than the VPs — unless, you’ve lost all sense of proportion and gone into the netroot tank.

But of course the McCain camp just dumps fuel on the fire of Palin Derangement Syndrome with a defensive, ill-timed ad about Troopergate. Apparently they want the country to be discussing this instead of the Democrats’ responsibility for creating the housing crisis. On the eve of the VP debate no less.

GOP officials have this wacky notion that McCain should instead attack Obama on his weaknesses.

The Washington Post reports its new poll showing only a four-point lead and then makes a point of disparging its prior poll showing a nine-point lead for Barack Obama. ( Because then the storyline would be “McCain Improves –What’s Wrong With Obama?”). If they thought their previous nine-point Obama leading poll was flaky they should have told us — then.

We’ve come a long way since the days when Obama was going to reach across the aisle and get things done. He confesses: “I don’t think me calling House Republican members would have been that helpful, I tend not to be that persuasive on that side of the aisle.” Because he’s a divider and not a uniter?

A helpful explanation of the possibilities in a 269-269 electoral tie.

Bill Clinton once again is the only Democrat talking sense on bank “deregulation.”

Irony of ironies, a plurality of voters in one poll now considers the Iraq war a success. Could it be the highlight of the Bush administration?

David Brooks gives it to everyone: “House leaders of both parties got wrapped up in their own negotiations, but did it occur to any of them that it might be hard to pass a bill fairly described as a bailout to Wall Street? Was the media darling Barney Frank too busy to notice the 95 Democrats who opposed his bill? Pelosi’s fiery speech at the crucial moment didn’t actually kill this bill, but did she have to act like a Democratic fund-raiser at the most important moment of her career?” But he is right that the House Republicans will get blamed — and now be made to look foolish when the Senate votes on essentially the same bailout bill.

R.I.P, New York Sun. I never failed to learn something reading the Sun. (Disclosure: I wrote several pieces for them, enjoyed every minute of it and am incredibly biased with regard to the paper and all associated with it.)

Tom Brokaw in the nicest way possible says Keith Olberman isn’t a serious newsman and shouldn’t try to play one on TV.

This is precisely right — John McCain needs to start explaining to voters what role the Democrats played in the Freddie/Fannie debacle. It may be his only hope to actually convince voters that the Democratic ticket is part of the problem, not the solution in Washington. But why so late? One of many questions Republicans are asking.

There is some assistance provided by news outlets interested in just why it was that there were so many bad loans extended. Part of the reason was groups like ACORN lobbying for “more affordable housing” and engaging in “direct action” against lenders that didn’t offer enough loans to high-risk borrowers: “ACORN was also a driving force behind a 1995 regulatory revision pushed through by the Clinton administration that greatly expanded the CRA and helped spawn the current financial crisis. Obama was the attorney representing ACORN in this effort. Last November, he told the group, ‘I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career.’ Indeed he has. Obama was and is fully aware of what ACORN was doing with the money and expertise he provided.”

Even liberals realize Nancy Pelosi is toxic. (H/T Glenn Reynolds)

As the House GOP works on an entirely new plan do they look productive or irrelevant? If only they were applying for jobs at conservative think tanks they’d be in fine shape. Come to think of it that’s what some of them may be doing come November 5.

Regardless of how you feel about Sarah Palin it is hard to argue that the looming financial debacle (and the candidates’ reactions to it) aren’t a heck of a lot more important than the VPs — unless, you’ve lost all sense of proportion and gone into the netroot tank.

But of course the McCain camp just dumps fuel on the fire of Palin Derangement Syndrome with a defensive, ill-timed ad about Troopergate. Apparently they want the country to be discussing this instead of the Democrats’ responsibility for creating the housing crisis. On the eve of the VP debate no less.

GOP officials have this wacky notion that McCain should instead attack Obama on his weaknesses.

The Washington Post reports its new poll showing only a four-point lead and then makes a point of disparging its prior poll showing a nine-point lead for Barack Obama. ( Because then the storyline would be “McCain Improves –What’s Wrong With Obama?”). If they thought their previous nine-point Obama leading poll was flaky they should have told us — then.

We’ve come a long way since the days when Obama was going to reach across the aisle and get things done. He confesses: “I don’t think me calling House Republican members would have been that helpful, I tend not to be that persuasive on that side of the aisle.” Because he’s a divider and not a uniter?

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This Is What Comes From All That Anger

I share Thomas Friedman’s angst about the financial crisis and the unbridled, but unrealistic aversion to “bailing out Wall Street”:

We’re all connected. As others have pointed out, you can’t save Main Street and punish Wall Street anymore than you can be in row boat with someone you hate and think that the leak in the bottom of the boat at his end is not going to sink you, too. The world really is flat. We’re all connected. “Decoupling” is pure fantasy.

And he is right that this is the result of uncontrolled, furious partisanship:

I always said to myself: Our government is so broken that it can only work in response to a huge crisis. But now we’ve had a huge crisis, and the system still doesn’t seem to work. Our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have gotten so out of practice of working together that even in the face of this system-threatening meltdown they could not agree on a rescue package, as if they lived on Mars and were just visiting us for the week, with no stake in the outcome.

But isn’t the first the natural result of decades of the Democrats’ unremitting class warfare? And the second what comes from “all evils lead to George W. Bush”? As to the first, the Left aided by the MSM has perpetrated the notion that wealth at the top comes at the expense of those below, that capitalism is a scam and that financial stability and success comes from doling out goodies to those in need (e.g. “affordable housing” to those not credit-worthy). So when the political establishment must turn on a dime (or $700B worth of dimes) and tells voters that you can’t let big financial institutions perish without wiping out the savings and livelihood of all Americans there isn’t a reservoir of goodwill, is there? And it doesn’t help to have a Democratic presidential nominee fomenting the antagonism between “Wall Street” and “Main Street.”

And as for the bitter partisanship: when exactly did that become a danger to good government? Perhaps it was when the Left advocated an “impeach or indict Bush” program. Was it when every miscalculation and error by the Bush administration became a “lie”? One need not vouch for the competency of every aspect of the Bush Administration to realize that the opposition to it has become unhinged and exaggerated. Once you go down that road and condition voters to hearing “Bush lied, people died” it’s hard to convince them “The President’s got a point here.”

In short, the dismal disintegration of common sense and civility which has now come back to paralyze us didn’t start this week. After staring into the abyss perhaps it’s time to rethink the notion that you can wage a populist class warfare and vilify the opposition without consequence.

I share Thomas Friedman’s angst about the financial crisis and the unbridled, but unrealistic aversion to “bailing out Wall Street”:

We’re all connected. As others have pointed out, you can’t save Main Street and punish Wall Street anymore than you can be in row boat with someone you hate and think that the leak in the bottom of the boat at his end is not going to sink you, too. The world really is flat. We’re all connected. “Decoupling” is pure fantasy.

And he is right that this is the result of uncontrolled, furious partisanship:

I always said to myself: Our government is so broken that it can only work in response to a huge crisis. But now we’ve had a huge crisis, and the system still doesn’t seem to work. Our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have gotten so out of practice of working together that even in the face of this system-threatening meltdown they could not agree on a rescue package, as if they lived on Mars and were just visiting us for the week, with no stake in the outcome.

But isn’t the first the natural result of decades of the Democrats’ unremitting class warfare? And the second what comes from “all evils lead to George W. Bush”? As to the first, the Left aided by the MSM has perpetrated the notion that wealth at the top comes at the expense of those below, that capitalism is a scam and that financial stability and success comes from doling out goodies to those in need (e.g. “affordable housing” to those not credit-worthy). So when the political establishment must turn on a dime (or $700B worth of dimes) and tells voters that you can’t let big financial institutions perish without wiping out the savings and livelihood of all Americans there isn’t a reservoir of goodwill, is there? And it doesn’t help to have a Democratic presidential nominee fomenting the antagonism between “Wall Street” and “Main Street.”

And as for the bitter partisanship: when exactly did that become a danger to good government? Perhaps it was when the Left advocated an “impeach or indict Bush” program. Was it when every miscalculation and error by the Bush administration became a “lie”? One need not vouch for the competency of every aspect of the Bush Administration to realize that the opposition to it has become unhinged and exaggerated. Once you go down that road and condition voters to hearing “Bush lied, people died” it’s hard to convince them “The President’s got a point here.”

In short, the dismal disintegration of common sense and civility which has now come back to paralyze us didn’t start this week. After staring into the abyss perhaps it’s time to rethink the notion that you can wage a populist class warfare and vilify the opposition without consequence.

Read Less




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