Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 11, 2008

Re: “Guilt by Association”

Scenes from the morally bankrupt, hate-mongering campaign of John McCain:

Indeed, [McCain] just snatched the microphone out the hands of a woman who began her question with, “I’m scared of Barack Obama… he’s an Arab terrorist…”

“No, no ma’am,” he interrupted. “He’s a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements.”

It’s enough to make you turn your head away in disgust!

This is Obamaland–where American victory is defeat, a Dem-backed Fannie and Freddie are evidence of a negligent GOP, and old-fashioned human decency is hate-crime.

Scenes from the morally bankrupt, hate-mongering campaign of John McCain:

Indeed, [McCain] just snatched the microphone out the hands of a woman who began her question with, “I’m scared of Barack Obama… he’s an Arab terrorist…”

“No, no ma’am,” he interrupted. “He’s a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements.”

It’s enough to make you turn your head away in disgust!

This is Obamaland–where American victory is defeat, a Dem-backed Fannie and Freddie are evidence of a negligent GOP, and old-fashioned human decency is hate-crime.

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Who Knows?

Ben Smith observes:

The nation’s economic crisis triggered Obama’s sharp rise in what had been a tight race. But Obama hasn’t tried to seize the kind of central, national leadership position for which McCain grasped, and fell short. Nor has he been touting – Bill Clinton-style – a highly detailed plan for what he’ll do the moment he takes office.

The result is that while virtually all observers agree that he has benefited from the crisis, his allies and critics alike remain a bit hazy on what exactly he’d do if he takes office January 20, 2009.

. . .

Obama has often thrived in this campaign by talking in foggy terms about his plans, here and abroad. It frustrates critics – and some voters looking for clear indications of how he would lead – but also provides tremendous flexibility for adjusting positions now and in the White House if he wins. In fact, Obama has talked about the economy – only softly. Many of his key plans – for economic stimulus, for attending to the troubled housing market, and for financial regulations – are policy prescriptions he and other Democrats have been discussing about for months or more.

It is an odd approach, to say the least. Is it caution or stealth? Does he not not know what to do, or isn’t he saying? We don’t know who his Treasury Secretary might be or what type of recovery plan he might pursue. Is he really going to try to raise payroll and income taxes, albeit just on the “rich”? Again, we simply aren’t sure.

It is remarkable that in all the interviews and debates he really hasn’t been forced to answer the central question of the day: what’s he going to do about the financial meltdown and what would he do differently than what President George W. Bush has already tried? That, almost as much as the glaring bias, is a failure of the mainstream media and, specifically, each of the moderators. It is one thing to root, is is another not to inquire or demand candor.

Ben Smith observes:

The nation’s economic crisis triggered Obama’s sharp rise in what had been a tight race. But Obama hasn’t tried to seize the kind of central, national leadership position for which McCain grasped, and fell short. Nor has he been touting – Bill Clinton-style – a highly detailed plan for what he’ll do the moment he takes office.

The result is that while virtually all observers agree that he has benefited from the crisis, his allies and critics alike remain a bit hazy on what exactly he’d do if he takes office January 20, 2009.

. . .

Obama has often thrived in this campaign by talking in foggy terms about his plans, here and abroad. It frustrates critics – and some voters looking for clear indications of how he would lead – but also provides tremendous flexibility for adjusting positions now and in the White House if he wins. In fact, Obama has talked about the economy – only softly. Many of his key plans – for economic stimulus, for attending to the troubled housing market, and for financial regulations – are policy prescriptions he and other Democrats have been discussing about for months or more.

It is an odd approach, to say the least. Is it caution or stealth? Does he not not know what to do, or isn’t he saying? We don’t know who his Treasury Secretary might be or what type of recovery plan he might pursue. Is he really going to try to raise payroll and income taxes, albeit just on the “rich”? Again, we simply aren’t sure.

It is remarkable that in all the interviews and debates he really hasn’t been forced to answer the central question of the day: what’s he going to do about the financial meltdown and what would he do differently than what President George W. Bush has already tried? That, almost as much as the glaring bias, is a failure of the mainstream media and, specifically, each of the moderators. It is one thing to root, is is another not to inquire or demand candor.

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Who’s Playing “Guilt by Association” Here?

If Obama supporters are upset with the guilt-by-association paradigm, they’ve picked a funny way of showing it: holding John McCain and Sarah Palin accountable for every loose nut that shows up to bark a racial slur into a crowd of thousands. It is by now axiomatic on the Left that McCain is stoking racial and religious intolerance in a last ditch effort to save a spiraling campaign. The evidence for this? Two individuals who said hateful things in the audience of two campaign events.

While McCain tries to point to real concerns about associates and partners in Obama’s past–dangerous men who have played indispensable roles in Obama’s political biography, the Left is on fire over two men McCain and Palin likely never met. Yet, they claim it is McCain’s desperation that finds him reaching so improbably for bogeymen in Obama’s history.

In today’s Washington Post, novelist Khaled Hosseini steps it up a notch and baldly lies about the McCain camp’s response to speakers who invoked Barack Obama’s middle name at recent McCain rallies. “The real affront is the lack of firm response from either McCain or Palin,” Hosseini writes in the piece dated October 12. Meanwhile, on October 8, the AP reported the McCain campaign issued a denouncement by email and McCain spokesman Paul Lindsay said,

We do not condone this inappropriate rhetoric which distracts from the real questions of judgment, character and expeience that voters will base their decisions on this November.

Hossieni asks, “Is inaction tantamount to consent?” Good question. Should Americans interpret the years of Obama’s inaction while serving alongside a known terrorists in two different bodies as consent? Actually, we don’t have to bother with interpretation: Obama endorsed Bill Ayers book, so we know he’s a fan. Okay, should Americans interpret Obama’s inaction for two decades sitting in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s church as consent? Oh yeah, there again we know the answer: Obama told us he could not disown Wright. In Obama’s case, it’s nothing short of guilt-by-endorsement.

So, the question really needs to be put to the electorate. What might you be endorsing if you elect Barack Obama?

If Obama supporters are upset with the guilt-by-association paradigm, they’ve picked a funny way of showing it: holding John McCain and Sarah Palin accountable for every loose nut that shows up to bark a racial slur into a crowd of thousands. It is by now axiomatic on the Left that McCain is stoking racial and religious intolerance in a last ditch effort to save a spiraling campaign. The evidence for this? Two individuals who said hateful things in the audience of two campaign events.

While McCain tries to point to real concerns about associates and partners in Obama’s past–dangerous men who have played indispensable roles in Obama’s political biography, the Left is on fire over two men McCain and Palin likely never met. Yet, they claim it is McCain’s desperation that finds him reaching so improbably for bogeymen in Obama’s history.

In today’s Washington Post, novelist Khaled Hosseini steps it up a notch and baldly lies about the McCain camp’s response to speakers who invoked Barack Obama’s middle name at recent McCain rallies. “The real affront is the lack of firm response from either McCain or Palin,” Hosseini writes in the piece dated October 12. Meanwhile, on October 8, the AP reported the McCain campaign issued a denouncement by email and McCain spokesman Paul Lindsay said,

We do not condone this inappropriate rhetoric which distracts from the real questions of judgment, character and expeience that voters will base their decisions on this November.

Hossieni asks, “Is inaction tantamount to consent?” Good question. Should Americans interpret the years of Obama’s inaction while serving alongside a known terrorists in two different bodies as consent? Actually, we don’t have to bother with interpretation: Obama endorsed Bill Ayers book, so we know he’s a fan. Okay, should Americans interpret Obama’s inaction for two decades sitting in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s church as consent? Oh yeah, there again we know the answer: Obama told us he could not disown Wright. In Obama’s case, it’s nothing short of guilt-by-endorsement.

So, the question really needs to be put to the electorate. What might you be endorsing if you elect Barack Obama?

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Undivided Government Blues

This sage bit of analysis comes from Ilya Somin(h/t Glenn Reynolds) who foresees a vast expansion of government following a Barack Obama victory and significant Democratic gains in Congress — all in the context of an economic crisis:

I say this not so much to rally support for McCain (whose candidacy I think is nearly dead anyway), as to outline my fears about what is likely to happen over the next four years. I understand, of course, that none of this is a problem for those who want a major expansion of government power or are at least indifferent to it. But I do think it should be of concern to those libertarians or small government conservatives who welcome an Obama victory. It should also matter to moderates and liberals who recognize that massive expansions of government power in a time of crisis provide major opportunities for abuses of power and interest group power grabs at the expense of the general public – both of which happened on a large scale during the Great Depression.
Obviously, nothing is certain. It could be that Obama’s agenda will be derailed by a massive political blunder on his part or by some unexpected event. It could be that the Republicans will somehow come back strong in the 2010 midterm elections. It could be that the economy will recover very quickly, curtailing Obama’s window of opportunity. I’m not certain that a major expansion of government will actually occur if Obama wins. But I do think it’s a strong possibility – certainly a greater than even chance.

This raises a couple of points. First, Republicans running for Congress and Senate should start, if they haven’t already, making a divided government argument. Yes, I have long argued that John McCain should do this in hopes of boosting his chances. But let’s face it: the chance of some of these Republican Senatorial and House candidates surviving is higher than McCain’s and they should fend for themselves. The message is clear: every Republican in Congress is a check against the excesses of a runaway ultra-liberal Democratic President. If voters want moderation and restraint, filling up Congress with more votes for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid likely isn’t the way to do it.

Second, Republicans will need to think hard about the proper role of an opposition party, one suffering severe losses. Do they oppose every measure and yield no ground? Or do they attempt to moderate the Democratic excesses (as we saw with the Boehner-Cantor faction in the Paulson bailout bill fight)?

Time will tell if this is a recap of 1992 — when a new President and a Democratic majority overstepped and received their comeuppance in the following Congressional election. But that occurred not simply because of the excesses of the majority, but because of Republicans’ principled and clever marshaling of an opposition message. That, it seems, will be the first order of business for the GOP if in fact they are heading for a November drubbing.

This sage bit of analysis comes from Ilya Somin(h/t Glenn Reynolds) who foresees a vast expansion of government following a Barack Obama victory and significant Democratic gains in Congress — all in the context of an economic crisis:

I say this not so much to rally support for McCain (whose candidacy I think is nearly dead anyway), as to outline my fears about what is likely to happen over the next four years. I understand, of course, that none of this is a problem for those who want a major expansion of government power or are at least indifferent to it. But I do think it should be of concern to those libertarians or small government conservatives who welcome an Obama victory. It should also matter to moderates and liberals who recognize that massive expansions of government power in a time of crisis provide major opportunities for abuses of power and interest group power grabs at the expense of the general public – both of which happened on a large scale during the Great Depression.
Obviously, nothing is certain. It could be that Obama’s agenda will be derailed by a massive political blunder on his part or by some unexpected event. It could be that the Republicans will somehow come back strong in the 2010 midterm elections. It could be that the economy will recover very quickly, curtailing Obama’s window of opportunity. I’m not certain that a major expansion of government will actually occur if Obama wins. But I do think it’s a strong possibility – certainly a greater than even chance.

This raises a couple of points. First, Republicans running for Congress and Senate should start, if they haven’t already, making a divided government argument. Yes, I have long argued that John McCain should do this in hopes of boosting his chances. But let’s face it: the chance of some of these Republican Senatorial and House candidates surviving is higher than McCain’s and they should fend for themselves. The message is clear: every Republican in Congress is a check against the excesses of a runaway ultra-liberal Democratic President. If voters want moderation and restraint, filling up Congress with more votes for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid likely isn’t the way to do it.

Second, Republicans will need to think hard about the proper role of an opposition party, one suffering severe losses. Do they oppose every measure and yield no ground? Or do they attempt to moderate the Democratic excesses (as we saw with the Boehner-Cantor faction in the Paulson bailout bill fight)?

Time will tell if this is a recap of 1992 — when a new President and a Democratic majority overstepped and received their comeuppance in the following Congressional election. But that occurred not simply because of the excesses of the majority, but because of Republicans’ principled and clever marshaling of an opposition message. That, it seems, will be the first order of business for the GOP if in fact they are heading for a November drubbing.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Well this is an honest take on “get out the vote” efforts by liberal groups ( e.g. Rock the Vote, HeadCount, the New Voters Project) and Hollywood celebrities: ” There’s a reason all the organizations trying to increase the number of voters are full of liberals. It’s because poor people, minorities, the undereducated and the young are the least likely to register; the higher the turnout among those groups, the better the Democrats do. The reason no one is trying to “Country Music the Vote” is because George Strait fans already vote.”

Sarah Palin talks with Laura Ingraham in fluent and convincing fashion on the Born Alive Infants Act, the Bill Ayers connection, Ayers’ educational philosophy, unconditional meetings with leaders of terror sponsoring states, and ACORN (“Doesn’t anyone have a conscience anymore?”). Perhaps she should start doing the McCain-Palin ads.

Speaking of ads, this one puts the pieces together on the ACORN connection. (The flashing lights are a bit much, however.)

This is a handy guide to Obama and ACORN. Even the laziest MSM reporter should be able to figure it out.

Mark Steyn beats the wrap in the kangaroo court.

Isn’t this the story of the race? McCain calms them down and Palin pumps them up.

This was the last thing McCain-Palin needed. Yes, it’s a partisan witch-hunt, but it’s one more distraction for a campaign already short on focus.

Imagine if McCain were as effective as Tom Coburn in putting the “political greed in Congress” in the context of the current crisis.

Marc Ambinder’s Senate race rankings look about right, although I wouldn’t underestimate Norm Coleman’s chances of beating the ludicrous Al Franken or, to the embarrassment of many conservatives, Ted Stevens winning an acquittal and hanging on. Regardless, chances are that the Democrats will be under the filibuster-proof sixty in the Senate. That’s about the only promising sign for November for Republicans.

Well this is an honest take on “get out the vote” efforts by liberal groups ( e.g. Rock the Vote, HeadCount, the New Voters Project) and Hollywood celebrities: ” There’s a reason all the organizations trying to increase the number of voters are full of liberals. It’s because poor people, minorities, the undereducated and the young are the least likely to register; the higher the turnout among those groups, the better the Democrats do. The reason no one is trying to “Country Music the Vote” is because George Strait fans already vote.”

Sarah Palin talks with Laura Ingraham in fluent and convincing fashion on the Born Alive Infants Act, the Bill Ayers connection, Ayers’ educational philosophy, unconditional meetings with leaders of terror sponsoring states, and ACORN (“Doesn’t anyone have a conscience anymore?”). Perhaps she should start doing the McCain-Palin ads.

Speaking of ads, this one puts the pieces together on the ACORN connection. (The flashing lights are a bit much, however.)

This is a handy guide to Obama and ACORN. Even the laziest MSM reporter should be able to figure it out.

Mark Steyn beats the wrap in the kangaroo court.

Isn’t this the story of the race? McCain calms them down and Palin pumps them up.

This was the last thing McCain-Palin needed. Yes, it’s a partisan witch-hunt, but it’s one more distraction for a campaign already short on focus.

Imagine if McCain were as effective as Tom Coburn in putting the “political greed in Congress” in the context of the current crisis.

Marc Ambinder’s Senate race rankings look about right, although I wouldn’t underestimate Norm Coleman’s chances of beating the ludicrous Al Franken or, to the embarrassment of many conservatives, Ted Stevens winning an acquittal and hanging on. Regardless, chances are that the Democrats will be under the filibuster-proof sixty in the Senate. That’s about the only promising sign for November for Republicans.

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Enough Already

Stephen Hayes describes the scene at a recent John McCain campaign rally where, in “the space of about ten minutes” McCain “seemed to be saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’” to the importance of Barack Obama problematic cast of associations. Hayes observes:

Such contradictions have become a defining characteristic of the McCain campaign over the last month as his strategists try to find something–anything–that will stop his slide in the polls. He suspended his campaign and threatened to skip the first presidential debate unless there was agreement on a bailout plan. There was no agreement, and he debated anyway. He said big government caused the current financial mess and then called for more of it. He called for a federal spending freeze and then proposed having the Treasury buy individual home mortgages at a potential cost of $300 billion.

“Incoherent” is what you hear from Republicans frustrated with the McCain camp. Democrats call it “erratic,” implying mental instability. Whatever you call it there seems to be both a personal and an intellectual element to the confusion, neither of which should come as any surprise to those who have watched McCain for decades.

On the personal side, McCain has been a reluctant partisan. He has always been more interested in poking his own side in the eye, rather than going after the opposition. Sometimes his own side deserved it, but he is now in a great and important contest for the presidency and at stake are principles and issues he holds dear. His inability to go full-throttle and attack the legitimate failings and deeply troubling associations of his opponent is baffling and ultimately debilitating. Have too many years in the Senate imposed a collegiality from which he cannot depart? It doesn’t seem to bother Joe Biden. Whatever the cause, it has now made his own task even more arduous.

On the intellectual front, again, this is nothing new. McCain has never been a beacon of intellectual consistency. He has always been a hodgepodge of Barry Goldwater/small government restraint and pro-regulatory fervor. Especially in the realm of economics, his career has been characterized by twists and turns: against tax cuts and for them, for regulation and against it. His greatest legislative accomplishment is his least conservative: McCain-Feingold. If campaigns reveal at some point the true candidate, this one has certainly pulled back the curtain on a man with no governing economic philosophy.

That might be fine in ordinary times. But in a large crisis the country needs a bold vision and some direction. At times voters must feel like they are on a scavenger hunt searching for the bits and pieces of his economic plan — flitting there, and darting here. It is exhausting and ultimately fruitless. You wind up with a basket of discrete bits of junk.

This election was always going to be difficult. McCain has made it an ordeal.

Stephen Hayes describes the scene at a recent John McCain campaign rally where, in “the space of about ten minutes” McCain “seemed to be saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’” to the importance of Barack Obama problematic cast of associations. Hayes observes:

Such contradictions have become a defining characteristic of the McCain campaign over the last month as his strategists try to find something–anything–that will stop his slide in the polls. He suspended his campaign and threatened to skip the first presidential debate unless there was agreement on a bailout plan. There was no agreement, and he debated anyway. He said big government caused the current financial mess and then called for more of it. He called for a federal spending freeze and then proposed having the Treasury buy individual home mortgages at a potential cost of $300 billion.

“Incoherent” is what you hear from Republicans frustrated with the McCain camp. Democrats call it “erratic,” implying mental instability. Whatever you call it there seems to be both a personal and an intellectual element to the confusion, neither of which should come as any surprise to those who have watched McCain for decades.

On the personal side, McCain has been a reluctant partisan. He has always been more interested in poking his own side in the eye, rather than going after the opposition. Sometimes his own side deserved it, but he is now in a great and important contest for the presidency and at stake are principles and issues he holds dear. His inability to go full-throttle and attack the legitimate failings and deeply troubling associations of his opponent is baffling and ultimately debilitating. Have too many years in the Senate imposed a collegiality from which he cannot depart? It doesn’t seem to bother Joe Biden. Whatever the cause, it has now made his own task even more arduous.

On the intellectual front, again, this is nothing new. McCain has never been a beacon of intellectual consistency. He has always been a hodgepodge of Barry Goldwater/small government restraint and pro-regulatory fervor. Especially in the realm of economics, his career has been characterized by twists and turns: against tax cuts and for them, for regulation and against it. His greatest legislative accomplishment is his least conservative: McCain-Feingold. If campaigns reveal at some point the true candidate, this one has certainly pulled back the curtain on a man with no governing economic philosophy.

That might be fine in ordinary times. But in a large crisis the country needs a bold vision and some direction. At times voters must feel like they are on a scavenger hunt searching for the bits and pieces of his economic plan — flitting there, and darting here. It is exhausting and ultimately fruitless. You wind up with a basket of discrete bits of junk.

This election was always going to be difficult. McCain has made it an ordeal.

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