Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 4, 2008

About Time

Conservatives have been fretting: When is John McCain going to attack? When is he going after the Democrats in Congress who contributed to the financial collapse? The answer is, apparently, now.

The Washington Post reports:

Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama’s character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat’s judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said. . . Two other top Republicans said the new ads are likely to hammer the senator from Illinois on his connections to convicted Chicago developer Antoin “Tony” Rezko and former radical William Ayres, whom the McCain campaign regularly calls a domestic terrorist because of his acts of violence against the U.S. government in the 1960s.

And he seems to be inching up on the notion that there was something other than Wall Street “greed” behind the Freddie Mac-Fannie Mae debacle:

 Speaking in Pueblo just as the House was finishing deliberations on the package, McCain blamed fellow lawmakers for the failure to adequately regulate the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“It was the Democrats and some Republicans in the Congress who pushed back and did not allow those reforms to take place, and that’s a major reason we are in the trouble we are in today,” he said. “Those members of Congress ought to be held accountable on November 4th as well.” Before the bailout crisis, aides said, McCain was succeeding in focusing attention on Obama’s record and character. Now, they say, he must return to those subjects. “We are looking for a very aggressive last 30 days,” said Greg Strimple, one of McCain’s top advisers. “We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama’s aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans.”

The  question which immediately springs to mind: is there time? That largely depends on how effectively this barrage will be. If McCain carries the attack into the debates with specifics (Why did you serve on a board with a terrorist?) there is plenty of time. If McCain does not fall back into “dear Senate colleague” speak there is time. If he constructs an effective critique of Obama’s tax and spend plans and doesn’t dwell on Bear DNA and Woodstock musuems there is plenty of time.

But if it half-hearted and does not come from the lips of the two candidates, all the time in the world is not enough.

Conservatives have been fretting: When is John McCain going to attack? When is he going after the Democrats in Congress who contributed to the financial collapse? The answer is, apparently, now.

The Washington Post reports:

Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama’s character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat’s judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said. . . Two other top Republicans said the new ads are likely to hammer the senator from Illinois on his connections to convicted Chicago developer Antoin “Tony” Rezko and former radical William Ayres, whom the McCain campaign regularly calls a domestic terrorist because of his acts of violence against the U.S. government in the 1960s.

And he seems to be inching up on the notion that there was something other than Wall Street “greed” behind the Freddie Mac-Fannie Mae debacle:

 Speaking in Pueblo just as the House was finishing deliberations on the package, McCain blamed fellow lawmakers for the failure to adequately regulate the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“It was the Democrats and some Republicans in the Congress who pushed back and did not allow those reforms to take place, and that’s a major reason we are in the trouble we are in today,” he said. “Those members of Congress ought to be held accountable on November 4th as well.” Before the bailout crisis, aides said, McCain was succeeding in focusing attention on Obama’s record and character. Now, they say, he must return to those subjects. “We are looking for a very aggressive last 30 days,” said Greg Strimple, one of McCain’s top advisers. “We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama’s aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans.”

The  question which immediately springs to mind: is there time? That largely depends on how effectively this barrage will be. If McCain carries the attack into the debates with specifics (Why did you serve on a board with a terrorist?) there is plenty of time. If McCain does not fall back into “dear Senate colleague” speak there is time. If he constructs an effective critique of Obama’s tax and spend plans and doesn’t dwell on Bear DNA and Woodstock musuems there is plenty of time.

But if it half-hearted and does not come from the lips of the two candidates, all the time in the world is not enough.

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Funny, John McCain Never “Crossed Paths” With Terrorists

In the New York Times, Scott Shane has written a piece about Barack Obama and terrorist Bill Ayers that treats the men’s long collaborative relationship as no more than a case of coincidental meetings worthy of an implausibly bad sitcom script. The opening is a classic:

At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.

Twenty-six years later, at a lunchtime meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Mr. Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama’s first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.

Their paths “crossed sporadically” at a party Ayers threw to launch Obama’s political career? Sure, no different from running into each other at a bus-stop.

In any case, 1995 is only the year Obama officially began serving on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge along with Ayers. It’s highly improbably that the two had not at least met before working together. For more on this go here.

Shamefully, the piece does not only serve as an alibi for Obama, but as a partial commutation of Ayers, as well.

Mr. Ayers has largely been rehabilitated.

Federal riot and bombing conspiracy charges against him were dropped in 1974 because of illegal wiretaps and other prosecutorial misconduct, and he was welcomed back after years in hiding by his large and prominent family. His father, Thomas G. Ayers, had served as chief executive of Commonwealth Edison, the local power company.

Since earning a doctorate in education at Columbia in 1987, Mr. Ayers has been a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the author or editor of 15 books, and an advocate of school reform.

“He’s done a lot of good in this city and nationally,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said in an interview this week, explaining that he has long consulted Mr. Ayers on school issues. Mr. Daley, whose father was Chicago’s mayor during the street violence accompanying the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the so-called Days of Rage the following year, said he saw the bombings of that time in the context of a polarized and turbulent era.

“This is 2008,” Mr. Daley said. “People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I judge a person by their decision as a legal adult to bomb American targets. I’m also not terribly interested in the charitable works of say, Josef Mengele, in his later years in South America. And even if I were interested in the entire works of Bill Ayers, I’d come up against his 2001 claim that, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”

In the piece, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt says, “The suggestion that Ayers was a political adviser to Obama or someone who shaped his political views is patently false.” But Shane goes on to write,

“In 1997, after Mr. Obama took office, the new state senator was asked what he was reading by The Chicago Tribune. He praised a book by Mr. Ayers, “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court,” which Mr. Obama called “a searing and timely account of the juvenile court system.”

So: Obama read the book and derived enough benefit from it to praise it in an interview and give a blurb for its cover — but it didn’t influence his political thinking one iota.

Meanwhile, these two non-friends who share no political inclinations were once again tossed together by happenstance:

In addition, from 2000 to 2002, the two men also overlapped on the seven-member board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago charity that had supported Mr. Obama’s first work as a community organizer in the 1980s.

Just a two-year “overlap.” Nothing to see here. And never mind that also serving on the Woods Fund board were associates of Obama’s criminal buddy Tony Rezko and radical Palestinian academic Rashid Khalidi. Also, pay no mind to the fact that the Woods fund funneled money to left wing voter registration group ACORN and to Obama’s own wacky church, Trinity United of Christ.

Shane closes with a quote from no less a progressive personality than Tom Hayden:

“If Barack Obama says he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions,” Mr. Hayden said, “I can imagine he’d be willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools. But I think that’s about as far as their relationship goes.”

Too far for me–on both counts.

In the New York Times, Scott Shane has written a piece about Barack Obama and terrorist Bill Ayers that treats the men’s long collaborative relationship as no more than a case of coincidental meetings worthy of an implausibly bad sitcom script. The opening is a classic:

At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.

Twenty-six years later, at a lunchtime meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Mr. Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama’s first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.

Their paths “crossed sporadically” at a party Ayers threw to launch Obama’s political career? Sure, no different from running into each other at a bus-stop.

In any case, 1995 is only the year Obama officially began serving on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge along with Ayers. It’s highly improbably that the two had not at least met before working together. For more on this go here.

Shamefully, the piece does not only serve as an alibi for Obama, but as a partial commutation of Ayers, as well.

Mr. Ayers has largely been rehabilitated.

Federal riot and bombing conspiracy charges against him were dropped in 1974 because of illegal wiretaps and other prosecutorial misconduct, and he was welcomed back after years in hiding by his large and prominent family. His father, Thomas G. Ayers, had served as chief executive of Commonwealth Edison, the local power company.

Since earning a doctorate in education at Columbia in 1987, Mr. Ayers has been a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the author or editor of 15 books, and an advocate of school reform.

“He’s done a lot of good in this city and nationally,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said in an interview this week, explaining that he has long consulted Mr. Ayers on school issues. Mr. Daley, whose father was Chicago’s mayor during the street violence accompanying the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the so-called Days of Rage the following year, said he saw the bombings of that time in the context of a polarized and turbulent era.

“This is 2008,” Mr. Daley said. “People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I judge a person by their decision as a legal adult to bomb American targets. I’m also not terribly interested in the charitable works of say, Josef Mengele, in his later years in South America. And even if I were interested in the entire works of Bill Ayers, I’d come up against his 2001 claim that, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”

In the piece, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt says, “The suggestion that Ayers was a political adviser to Obama or someone who shaped his political views is patently false.” But Shane goes on to write,

“In 1997, after Mr. Obama took office, the new state senator was asked what he was reading by The Chicago Tribune. He praised a book by Mr. Ayers, “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court,” which Mr. Obama called “a searing and timely account of the juvenile court system.”

So: Obama read the book and derived enough benefit from it to praise it in an interview and give a blurb for its cover — but it didn’t influence his political thinking one iota.

Meanwhile, these two non-friends who share no political inclinations were once again tossed together by happenstance:

In addition, from 2000 to 2002, the two men also overlapped on the seven-member board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago charity that had supported Mr. Obama’s first work as a community organizer in the 1980s.

Just a two-year “overlap.” Nothing to see here. And never mind that also serving on the Woods Fund board were associates of Obama’s criminal buddy Tony Rezko and radical Palestinian academic Rashid Khalidi. Also, pay no mind to the fact that the Woods fund funneled money to left wing voter registration group ACORN and to Obama’s own wacky church, Trinity United of Christ.

Shane closes with a quote from no less a progressive personality than Tom Hayden:

“If Barack Obama says he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions,” Mr. Hayden said, “I can imagine he’d be willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools. But I think that’s about as far as their relationship goes.”

Too far for me–on both counts.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

First helicopters and then restaurants. Why do politicians lie about silly stuff?

On more serious stuff,  pundits have lots of questions about Joe Biden’s assertion that we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanaon and that they advocated NATO deployment: “Is he on drugs?  Exactly when did this kicking occur?  Has anyone alerted Sheikh Nasrallah?” Just imagine if Sarah palin had said that.

And it is not only foreign policy and local color. Yuval Levin takes us through the egregious lying on health and tax policy.

Just in case you were wondering, the networks are wary of their exit polls also.

This ad is precisely what Republicans need. The question remains — why isn’t John McCain saying the same thing? Pro bono ads are available!

And Barney Frank gets heat for a personal conflict of interest. Somehow I think this would be on the front page if it were a Republican.

This stunt – a letter asking Palin to come to Michigan — strikes me as unhelpful. If the campaign made a decision and she won’t go then she looks weak and even worse, insincere in her offer (made in the Carl Cameron interview) to go back to Michigan. If she does go it looks like the campaign is indecisive or inept.

A fun statistic: the Palins gave $8000 to charity in two years. TaxProf notes that this is “over ten times greater (on a percentage basis) than Joe Biden’s miserly charitable contributions.” (The Palins also had much less income than the Bidens.) Someone should ask the VPs if giving to charity is patriotic.

If you like comparisons: “An analysis carried out by a language monitoring service said Friday that Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at a more than ninth-grade level and Sen. Joseph Biden spoke at a nearly eighth-grade level in Thursday night’s debate between the vice presidential candidates.” You mean she didn’t just wink?

David Broder catches Lindsey Graham telling the truth: the McCain camp foolishly tried to hide Palin from view. The good news: it likely hasn’t been and won’t be the deciding factor in the race. The bad news: she could have helped when McCain needed it most.

You knew this ad on Obama’s record on the Born Alive Infants issue coming. It does seem odd that we have gone through two debates with no question on the subject.

First helicopters and then restaurants. Why do politicians lie about silly stuff?

On more serious stuff,  pundits have lots of questions about Joe Biden’s assertion that we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanaon and that they advocated NATO deployment: “Is he on drugs?  Exactly when did this kicking occur?  Has anyone alerted Sheikh Nasrallah?” Just imagine if Sarah palin had said that.

And it is not only foreign policy and local color. Yuval Levin takes us through the egregious lying on health and tax policy.

Just in case you were wondering, the networks are wary of their exit polls also.

This ad is precisely what Republicans need. The question remains — why isn’t John McCain saying the same thing? Pro bono ads are available!

And Barney Frank gets heat for a personal conflict of interest. Somehow I think this would be on the front page if it were a Republican.

This stunt – a letter asking Palin to come to Michigan — strikes me as unhelpful. If the campaign made a decision and she won’t go then she looks weak and even worse, insincere in her offer (made in the Carl Cameron interview) to go back to Michigan. If she does go it looks like the campaign is indecisive or inept.

A fun statistic: the Palins gave $8000 to charity in two years. TaxProf notes that this is “over ten times greater (on a percentage basis) than Joe Biden’s miserly charitable contributions.” (The Palins also had much less income than the Bidens.) Someone should ask the VPs if giving to charity is patriotic.

If you like comparisons: “An analysis carried out by a language monitoring service said Friday that Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at a more than ninth-grade level and Sen. Joseph Biden spoke at a nearly eighth-grade level in Thursday night’s debate between the vice presidential candidates.” You mean she didn’t just wink?

David Broder catches Lindsey Graham telling the truth: the McCain camp foolishly tried to hide Palin from view. The good news: it likely hasn’t been and won’t be the deciding factor in the race. The bad news: she could have helped when McCain needed it most.

You knew this ad on Obama’s record on the Born Alive Infants issue coming. It does seem odd that we have gone through two debates with no question on the subject.

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If You Want Something Done Right. . .

At least someone in the McCain camp has a clue about how to attack their opponent. That someone is Sarah Palin, who today accused Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists” — a reference to Bill Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn.  The New York Times has a front page article today which as others have detailed is an embarrassingly one-sided account intended to present the Obama position and foreclose on further serious exploration. But other than Palin, is there anyone at the McCain camp who has an inkling as to how to use this to their advantage?

The pattern in these situations has been the same throughout the campaign. A a one-sided press account comes out. The McCain camp stomps its collective feet and puts out detailed emails to conservative media decrying how unfair the MSM is and unloading rebuttal information. Conservative media examine, investigate and present contrasting information while the MSM goes merrily on its way. The McCain camp publically rails against the MSM. The problem? No voters who actually matter have any information as to what the “real” or at least balanced story may be. Why? Because for reasons not entirely clear the McCain camp itself has resisted taking on the burden of directly through ads, speeches, interviews and debates informing the public. As a result their message never sees the light of day.

Is Palin a hint of things to come? Perhaps. But if they want this job done they had better do it themselves. Otherwise all voters will know is the McCain camp is very, very upset with the MSM. They won’t however know why.

At least someone in the McCain camp has a clue about how to attack their opponent. That someone is Sarah Palin, who today accused Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists” — a reference to Bill Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn.  The New York Times has a front page article today which as others have detailed is an embarrassingly one-sided account intended to present the Obama position and foreclose on further serious exploration. But other than Palin, is there anyone at the McCain camp who has an inkling as to how to use this to their advantage?

The pattern in these situations has been the same throughout the campaign. A a one-sided press account comes out. The McCain camp stomps its collective feet and puts out detailed emails to conservative media decrying how unfair the MSM is and unloading rebuttal information. Conservative media examine, investigate and present contrasting information while the MSM goes merrily on its way. The McCain camp publically rails against the MSM. The problem? No voters who actually matter have any information as to what the “real” or at least balanced story may be. Why? Because for reasons not entirely clear the McCain camp itself has resisted taking on the burden of directly through ads, speeches, interviews and debates informing the public. As a result their message never sees the light of day.

Is Palin a hint of things to come? Perhaps. But if they want this job done they had better do it themselves. Otherwise all voters will know is the McCain camp is very, very upset with the MSM. They won’t however know why.

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Virtually Unspeakable

The Beagle Blogger praises the Palins for releasing their tax returns, which indicate their relatively modest circumstances. And then comes…this:

Now, when are we going to get some record of Trig’s birth and parentage from the hospital or the doctor? It’s been over a month now and still nada. Some basic record confirming Palin’s eight-month special needs pregnancy, amiocentesis, labor and birth would be immensely easy to find and release – even off the record – to news organizations. And yet the McCainiacs refuse to even go near it and demonize anyone who dares ask for something that must be extremely well documented and easily found. They have stated on the record that Sarah Palin is Trig’s biological mother. But they refuse to provide one iota of confirming evidence.

Oh, there is confirming evidence, all right. But it all comes in this item, and others like it. And what it confirms is something desperately, horrifyingly dark about its author.

The Beagle Blogger praises the Palins for releasing their tax returns, which indicate their relatively modest circumstances. And then comes…this:

Now, when are we going to get some record of Trig’s birth and parentage from the hospital or the doctor? It’s been over a month now and still nada. Some basic record confirming Palin’s eight-month special needs pregnancy, amiocentesis, labor and birth would be immensely easy to find and release – even off the record – to news organizations. And yet the McCainiacs refuse to even go near it and demonize anyone who dares ask for something that must be extremely well documented and easily found. They have stated on the record that Sarah Palin is Trig’s biological mother. But they refuse to provide one iota of confirming evidence.

Oh, there is confirming evidence, all right. But it all comes in this item, and others like it. And what it confirms is something desperately, horrifyingly dark about its author.

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What’s The Matter With Harry?

One of the more curious — but not unprecedented — incidents in the last couple of weeks involved Harry Reid. The Wall Street Journal explains:

Just as U.S. credit markets this week were close to the edge of the cliff, threatening capital-starved businesses large and small, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stepped in front of reporters and offhandedly announced:
“One of the individuals in the caucus today talked about a major insurance company. A major insurance company — one with a name that everyone knows that’s on the verge of going bankrupt. That’s what this is all about.” The next day, share prices fell sharply across the insurance industry. Let us stipulate we do not think it necessary for even U.S. Senators to understand the internal mechanics of credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations. But if we have learned anything amid the panic over Bear, Lehman, Merrill and adventures in naked short-selling, it is that rumors can obliterate economic value, instantly.

But this wasn’t the only such incident:

It calls to mind Senator Chuck Schumer’s public suggestion in July that troubled IndyMac Bank “could face collapse.” It did, after a deposit run. Senator Schumer said criticizing his action was akin to blaming “the fire on the guy who called 911.” The nation’s shareholders would sleep better at night if some Members of Congress enrolled in Arsonists Anonymous.

All of this raises the question: are they trying to make things worse in the hopes of furthering their party’s election prospects? Similar suspicions were raised when Nancy Pelosi seemed to inflame her partisan opponents and resist any effort to whip her own caucus on the first failed bailout bill vote. Certainly as the financial crisis has intensified their electoral prospects have brightened.

But if we assume that they “meant no harm” we are left with an equally troubling conclusion: they are reckless and ignorant about the ways in which their words and actions may impact a fragile economy. Or to put it differently, their first consideration is invariably “How do we maximize the public’s perception that things are rotten?” rather than “What can we do to contain the conflagration?”

It does remind one of their attitude on the Iraq war: every set back was gleefully trumpeted and every minor advance was dismissed. They never much cared how their rhetoric or votes might embolden the enemy or unnerve our ally. The sole consideration was domestic political gain. If they didn’t want to lose they certainly gave every indication it was low on their list of priorities. Bashing the President, rallying their base and positioning themselves for the next election was clearly more critical.

Well, at least they are consistent.

One of the more curious — but not unprecedented — incidents in the last couple of weeks involved Harry Reid. The Wall Street Journal explains:

Just as U.S. credit markets this week were close to the edge of the cliff, threatening capital-starved businesses large and small, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stepped in front of reporters and offhandedly announced:
“One of the individuals in the caucus today talked about a major insurance company. A major insurance company — one with a name that everyone knows that’s on the verge of going bankrupt. That’s what this is all about.” The next day, share prices fell sharply across the insurance industry. Let us stipulate we do not think it necessary for even U.S. Senators to understand the internal mechanics of credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations. But if we have learned anything amid the panic over Bear, Lehman, Merrill and adventures in naked short-selling, it is that rumors can obliterate economic value, instantly.

But this wasn’t the only such incident:

It calls to mind Senator Chuck Schumer’s public suggestion in July that troubled IndyMac Bank “could face collapse.” It did, after a deposit run. Senator Schumer said criticizing his action was akin to blaming “the fire on the guy who called 911.” The nation’s shareholders would sleep better at night if some Members of Congress enrolled in Arsonists Anonymous.

All of this raises the question: are they trying to make things worse in the hopes of furthering their party’s election prospects? Similar suspicions were raised when Nancy Pelosi seemed to inflame her partisan opponents and resist any effort to whip her own caucus on the first failed bailout bill vote. Certainly as the financial crisis has intensified their electoral prospects have brightened.

But if we assume that they “meant no harm” we are left with an equally troubling conclusion: they are reckless and ignorant about the ways in which their words and actions may impact a fragile economy. Or to put it differently, their first consideration is invariably “How do we maximize the public’s perception that things are rotten?” rather than “What can we do to contain the conflagration?”

It does remind one of their attitude on the Iraq war: every set back was gleefully trumpeted and every minor advance was dismissed. They never much cared how their rhetoric or votes might embolden the enemy or unnerve our ally. The sole consideration was domestic political gain. If they didn’t want to lose they certainly gave every indication it was low on their list of priorities. Bashing the President, rallying their base and positioning themselves for the next election was clearly more critical.

Well, at least they are consistent.

Read Less




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