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Posts For: October 3, 2008

Joe Biden’s Alternate Universe

In Thursday night’s vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin, Biden said the strangest and most ill-informed thing I have ever heard about Lebanon in my life. “When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.” Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.” [Emphasis added.]

What on Earth is he talking about? The United States and France may have kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon in an alternate universe, but nothing even remotely like that ever happened in this one.

Nobody – nobody – has ever kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon. Not the United States. Not France. Not Israel. And not the Lebanese. Nobody.

Joe Biden has literally no idea what he’s talking about.

It’s too bad debate moderator Gwen Ifill didn’t catch him and ask a follow up question: When did the United States and France kick Hezbollah out of Lebanon?

The answer? Never. And did Biden and Senator Barack Obama really say NATO troops should be sent into Lebanon? When did they say that? Why would they say that? They certainly didn’t say it because NATO needed to prevent Hezbollah from returning–since Hezbollah never went anywhere.

I tried to chalk this one up as just the latest of Biden’s colorful gaffes. Did he mean to say “we kicked Syria out of Lebanon?” But that wouldn’t make any more sense. First of all, the Lebanese kicked Syria out of Lebanon. Not the United States, and not France. But he clearly meant to say Hezbollah, not Syria, because he correctly notes just a few sentences later that Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s government. He wasn’t talking about Syria. He was talking about Hezbollah all the way through, at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of his outlandish assertion.

Like many who watched the debate, I was bracing myself for Palin to say something off-putting about foreign policy. She’s the one who needed the crash course, allegedly; Biden is supposedly Mr. Foreign Policy. He’s supposed to be the experienced elder statesman Senator Barack Obama chose to help him govern and fill in some of his knowledge and experience gaps. He’s supposed to know far more about foreign policy than she does.

I wasn’t exactly encouraged by Palin’s answer to one of Katie Couric’s foreign policy questions: “What happens if the goal of democracy doesn’t produce the desired outcome?” Couric used Hamas’ victory in the West Bank and Gaza as an example. Palin either dodged the question or did not understand it.

Biden, though, against all expectations and odds, managed to say something far more bizarre and off-planet than anything Palin has said on the topic to date.

In Thursday night’s vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin, Biden said the strangest and most ill-informed thing I have ever heard about Lebanon in my life. “When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.” Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.” [Emphasis added.]

What on Earth is he talking about? The United States and France may have kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon in an alternate universe, but nothing even remotely like that ever happened in this one.

Nobody – nobody – has ever kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon. Not the United States. Not France. Not Israel. And not the Lebanese. Nobody.

Joe Biden has literally no idea what he’s talking about.

It’s too bad debate moderator Gwen Ifill didn’t catch him and ask a follow up question: When did the United States and France kick Hezbollah out of Lebanon?

The answer? Never. And did Biden and Senator Barack Obama really say NATO troops should be sent into Lebanon? When did they say that? Why would they say that? They certainly didn’t say it because NATO needed to prevent Hezbollah from returning–since Hezbollah never went anywhere.

I tried to chalk this one up as just the latest of Biden’s colorful gaffes. Did he mean to say “we kicked Syria out of Lebanon?” But that wouldn’t make any more sense. First of all, the Lebanese kicked Syria out of Lebanon. Not the United States, and not France. But he clearly meant to say Hezbollah, not Syria, because he correctly notes just a few sentences later that Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s government. He wasn’t talking about Syria. He was talking about Hezbollah all the way through, at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of his outlandish assertion.

Like many who watched the debate, I was bracing myself for Palin to say something off-putting about foreign policy. She’s the one who needed the crash course, allegedly; Biden is supposedly Mr. Foreign Policy. He’s supposed to be the experienced elder statesman Senator Barack Obama chose to help him govern and fill in some of his knowledge and experience gaps. He’s supposed to know far more about foreign policy than she does.

I wasn’t exactly encouraged by Palin’s answer to one of Katie Couric’s foreign policy questions: “What happens if the goal of democracy doesn’t produce the desired outcome?” Couric used Hamas’ victory in the West Bank and Gaza as an example. Palin either dodged the question or did not understand it.

Biden, though, against all expectations and odds, managed to say something far more bizarre and off-planet than anything Palin has said on the topic to date.

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Time For Real Straight Talk

It frustrates conservatives no end to hear John McCain (and his loyal running mate) ape the Democrats’ line that it is Wall Street greed that caused our current woes. It wouldn’t be so bad if they at least realized that this is one limited part of a tremendous social engineering experiment gone bad with a dose of Congressional malfeasance thrown in.

Russell Roberts explains in convincing fashion how we got from noble goals of “expanding affordable housing” to a market meltdown. He concludes:

Fannie and Freddie played a significant role in the explosion of subprime mortgages and subprime mortgage-backed securities. Without Fannie and Freddie’s implicit guarantee of government support (which turned out to be all too real), would the mortgage-backed securities market and the subprime part of it have expanded the way they did? Perhaps. But before we conclude that markets failed, we need a careful analysis of public policy’s role in creating this mess. Greedy investors obviously played a part, but investors have always been greedy, and some inevitably overreach and destroy themselves. Why did they take so many down with them this time? Part of the answer is a political class greedy to push home-ownership rates to historic highs — from 64% in 1994 to 69% in 2004. This was mostly the result of loans to low-income, higher-risk borrowers. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, abetted by Congress, trumpeted that rise as it occurred. The consequence? On top of putting the entire financial system at risk, the hidden cost has been hundreds of billions of dollars funneled into the housing market instead of more productive assets.

Throw in some egregious interference by Congressional benefactors of Freddie and Fannie who blocked real reform and you have the current mess. So why is that so hard for McCain to explain?

It happens to be right and it might just help him win, against a guy who is, after all, a Senator from the party who protected and abetted Freddie and Fannie. Many find it mindboggling that he won’t do it. Does he really not believe that much of the fault lies with Congress or can’t he bring himself to accuse his dear colleagues?

Whatever the reason unless he comes to terms with the real and compelling reasons for our current crisis he won’t be in any position to win and try to set things straight. And if he thinks Barack Obama has the will or ability to defy his own party and clean out the Congressional and regulatory stables, there’s a Bridge to Nowhere he can buy.

It frustrates conservatives no end to hear John McCain (and his loyal running mate) ape the Democrats’ line that it is Wall Street greed that caused our current woes. It wouldn’t be so bad if they at least realized that this is one limited part of a tremendous social engineering experiment gone bad with a dose of Congressional malfeasance thrown in.

Russell Roberts explains in convincing fashion how we got from noble goals of “expanding affordable housing” to a market meltdown. He concludes:

Fannie and Freddie played a significant role in the explosion of subprime mortgages and subprime mortgage-backed securities. Without Fannie and Freddie’s implicit guarantee of government support (which turned out to be all too real), would the mortgage-backed securities market and the subprime part of it have expanded the way they did? Perhaps. But before we conclude that markets failed, we need a careful analysis of public policy’s role in creating this mess. Greedy investors obviously played a part, but investors have always been greedy, and some inevitably overreach and destroy themselves. Why did they take so many down with them this time? Part of the answer is a political class greedy to push home-ownership rates to historic highs — from 64% in 1994 to 69% in 2004. This was mostly the result of loans to low-income, higher-risk borrowers. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, abetted by Congress, trumpeted that rise as it occurred. The consequence? On top of putting the entire financial system at risk, the hidden cost has been hundreds of billions of dollars funneled into the housing market instead of more productive assets.

Throw in some egregious interference by Congressional benefactors of Freddie and Fannie who blocked real reform and you have the current mess. So why is that so hard for McCain to explain?

It happens to be right and it might just help him win, against a guy who is, after all, a Senator from the party who protected and abetted Freddie and Fannie. Many find it mindboggling that he won’t do it. Does he really not believe that much of the fault lies with Congress or can’t he bring himself to accuse his dear colleagues?

Whatever the reason unless he comes to terms with the real and compelling reasons for our current crisis he won’t be in any position to win and try to set things straight. And if he thinks Barack Obama has the will or ability to defy his own party and clean out the Congressional and regulatory stables, there’s a Bridge to Nowhere he can buy.

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On The Couch

David Brooks correctly notes that many a Republican was watching the debate from a crouch behind the couch last night, prepared for the worst, but instead saw something far different than what they feared:

When nervous, Palin has a tendency to over-enunciate her words like a graduate of the George W. Bush School of Oratory, but Thursday night she spoke like a normal person. It took her about 15 seconds to define her persona — the straight-talking mom from regular America — and it was immediately clear that the night would be filled with tales of soccer moms, hockey moms, Joe Sixpacks, main-streeters, “you betchas” and “darn rights.” Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling.

But he is correct that it was not merely stylistically that she succeeded:

On matters of substance, her main accomplishment was to completely sever ties to the Bush administration. She treated Bush as some historical curiosity from the distant past. Beyond that, Palin broke no new ground, though she toured the landscape of McCain policy positions with surprising fluency. Like the last debate, this one was surprisingly wonky — a lifetime subscription to Congressional Quarterly. Palin could not match Biden when it came to policy detail, but she never obviously floundered . . . By the end of the debate, most Republicans were not crouching behind the couch, but standing on it. The race has not been transformed, but few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night.

And therein lies the hope, maybe the only remaining hope of the McCain campaign: that in a country which now loathes Washington insiders he and Palin can convince voters that their opponents are more insider-ish than they. That will mean some heavy lifting and hard hitting. The most useful message for McCain? Barack Obama is an insider because he and his Democratic allies created and fed the beast of the subprime mess, larded up Washington budgets, are in the pocket of the trial lawyers and Big Labor (ask Joe Biden!), and just talk and talk and talk.

McCain is going to have to point the finger and make the charge stick. Palin showed the way — he must do it with charm and wit and amazement that Washington can be populated with so many liars and thieves. But do it he must.

David Brooks correctly notes that many a Republican was watching the debate from a crouch behind the couch last night, prepared for the worst, but instead saw something far different than what they feared:

When nervous, Palin has a tendency to over-enunciate her words like a graduate of the George W. Bush School of Oratory, but Thursday night she spoke like a normal person. It took her about 15 seconds to define her persona — the straight-talking mom from regular America — and it was immediately clear that the night would be filled with tales of soccer moms, hockey moms, Joe Sixpacks, main-streeters, “you betchas” and “darn rights.” Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling.

But he is correct that it was not merely stylistically that she succeeded:

On matters of substance, her main accomplishment was to completely sever ties to the Bush administration. She treated Bush as some historical curiosity from the distant past. Beyond that, Palin broke no new ground, though she toured the landscape of McCain policy positions with surprising fluency. Like the last debate, this one was surprisingly wonky — a lifetime subscription to Congressional Quarterly. Palin could not match Biden when it came to policy detail, but she never obviously floundered . . . By the end of the debate, most Republicans were not crouching behind the couch, but standing on it. The race has not been transformed, but few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night.

And therein lies the hope, maybe the only remaining hope of the McCain campaign: that in a country which now loathes Washington insiders he and Palin can convince voters that their opponents are more insider-ish than they. That will mean some heavy lifting and hard hitting. The most useful message for McCain? Barack Obama is an insider because he and his Democratic allies created and fed the beast of the subprime mess, larded up Washington budgets, are in the pocket of the trial lawyers and Big Labor (ask Joe Biden!), and just talk and talk and talk.

McCain is going to have to point the finger and make the charge stick. Palin showed the way — he must do it with charm and wit and amazement that Washington can be populated with so many liars and thieves. But do it he must.

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The Gerund Thing

Politico’s Roger Simon noticed the gerund thing that some of us have noticed around here:

Sarah Palin was supposed to fall off the stage at her vice presidential debate Thursday evening. Instead, she ended up dominating it. She not only kept Joe Biden on the defensive for much of the debate, she not only repeatedly attacked Barack Obama, but she looked like she was enjoying herself while doing it. She smiled. She faced the camera. She was warm. She was human. Gosh and golly, she even dropped a bunch of g’s.

But Simon doesn’t quite get it right when he says:

But if people thought she was going to look like a dumb bunny for 90 minutes, they were disappointed. She said what she wanted to say and she was so relaxed she even winked at one point. Really! An actual wink during a national debate when she said she was going to try to get John McCain to change his mind about not drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Do people care about such stuff? Should all that down-home talk and body language really count? Joe Biden doesn’t think so.“Facts matter,” Biden said. Yeah? In politics? Since when?

Biden had a lot of facts wrong, starting with his Constitutional citation (didn’t he learn anything while bullying all those Supreme Court nominees?). He didn’t tell the truth when he said Obama never offered to sit down unconditionally with Ahmadinejad, he fibbed about his clean coal line, and Palin, not Biden, had the gist of Gen. McKiernan’s comments on Afghanistan.

But those weren’t the real problem. The real issue is that Joe Biden talked, acted, and performed like a guy who has been a senator for 36 years. Palin didn’t. And right now Americans hate just about everyone in Washington. So a “g” here or there is a small price to pay for re-establishing the ticket’s theme.

Politico’s Roger Simon noticed the gerund thing that some of us have noticed around here:

Sarah Palin was supposed to fall off the stage at her vice presidential debate Thursday evening. Instead, she ended up dominating it. She not only kept Joe Biden on the defensive for much of the debate, she not only repeatedly attacked Barack Obama, but she looked like she was enjoying herself while doing it. She smiled. She faced the camera. She was warm. She was human. Gosh and golly, she even dropped a bunch of g’s.

But Simon doesn’t quite get it right when he says:

But if people thought she was going to look like a dumb bunny for 90 minutes, they were disappointed. She said what she wanted to say and she was so relaxed she even winked at one point. Really! An actual wink during a national debate when she said she was going to try to get John McCain to change his mind about not drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Do people care about such stuff? Should all that down-home talk and body language really count? Joe Biden doesn’t think so.“Facts matter,” Biden said. Yeah? In politics? Since when?

Biden had a lot of facts wrong, starting with his Constitutional citation (didn’t he learn anything while bullying all those Supreme Court nominees?). He didn’t tell the truth when he said Obama never offered to sit down unconditionally with Ahmadinejad, he fibbed about his clean coal line, and Palin, not Biden, had the gist of Gen. McKiernan’s comments on Afghanistan.

But those weren’t the real problem. The real issue is that Joe Biden talked, acted, and performed like a guy who has been a senator for 36 years. Palin didn’t. And right now Americans hate just about everyone in Washington. So a “g” here or there is a small price to pay for re-establishing the ticket’s theme.

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Re: The Debate Gap

John, there are a whole bunch of pundits — some who were, to put it mildly, far from enamored of her  — who liked her performance a whole lot. The acid test: when Mark Halperin of  the “GOP candidate is always the bigger liar” fame scores it a tie, it isn’t. And if those silly super-weighted network polls drive you nuts go look at Drudge or another unscientific poll if you are looking for “balance.” But really, no one out there thought Palin didn’t beat the spread — by a lot.

John, there are a whole bunch of pundits — some who were, to put it mildly, far from enamored of her  — who liked her performance a whole lot. The acid test: when Mark Halperin of  the “GOP candidate is always the bigger liar” fame scores it a tie, it isn’t. And if those silly super-weighted network polls drive you nuts go look at Drudge or another unscientific poll if you are looking for “balance.” But really, no one out there thought Palin didn’t beat the spread — by a lot.

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