Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 16, 2008

“Fair” — Time for the Obama Court to Spread the Wealth

Barack Obama gave a revealing and perfectly awful answer regarding the role of the Supreme Court in Wednesday’s debate:

I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through. I’ll just give you one quick example. Senator McCain and I disagreed recently when the Supreme Court made it more difficult for a woman named Lilly Ledbetter to press her claim for pay discrimination. For years, she had been getting paid less than a man had been paid for doing the exact same job. And when she brought a suit, saying equal pay for equal work, the judges said, well, you know, it’s taken you too long to bring this lawsuit, even though she didn’t know about it until fairly recently. We tried to overturn it in the Senate. I supported that effort to provide better guidance to the courts; John McCain opposed it. I think that it’s important for judges to understand that if a woman is out there trying to raise a family, trying to support her family, and is being treated unfairly, then the court has to stand up, if nobody else will. And that’s the kind of judge that I want.

Let’s count up the things that are wrong with this. First, judges aren’t supposed to consider the economic, social or political status of litigants. In fact, they take an oath not to. (“I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me . . . ) It is irrelevant whether the plaintiff was a working stiff, a struggling mom, or an heiress. This was a case of statutory interpretation under the Equal Pay Act. Extending special consideration based on her personal life story would be entirely inappropriate.

Second, the system of separation of powers and the restricted role of the judiciary worked precisely as it should have here. The Court interpreted a statute and found that Congress hadn’t intended for an open-ended statute of limitations to allow equal pay claims to remain open indefinitely. Once the Court ruled, Congress had the ability to come back and amend the statute to explicitly put out the welcome mat for the plaintiff’s bar. They haven’t. And that is now an issue in the presidential election, where once again voters can decide as a policy matter whether they agree with Barack Obama or John McCain. What’s wrong with this?

Finally, if you want to talk “fair,” there are lots of claims for fairness at issue here — small businesses, payroll clerks, employees, shareholders, etc. The Supreme Court is not in the fairness business, with the responsibility to select this or that applicant who comes before it with the most compelling sob story. The Court is in the legislative and Constitutional interpretation business. Invoking “fairness” is an intellectual dodge. What Obama really means, I suspect, is “override the elected branches to give money to the person five of nine lifetime appointees decide is most deserving.” But that sounds downright undemocratic and quite presumptuous. “Fairness” sounds so much better.

In short, this should remove any doubt you might have as to whether Obama views the Court as another cauldron for social engineering and re-distribution of wealth. That’s what “fair” is, right? (Give the money from the company which can’t dig out 20 year-old pay records to the single mom.) Perhaps McCain should start talking more about judges. There has to be a Joe the Lawyer out there to help him.

Barack Obama gave a revealing and perfectly awful answer regarding the role of the Supreme Court in Wednesday’s debate:

I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through. I’ll just give you one quick example. Senator McCain and I disagreed recently when the Supreme Court made it more difficult for a woman named Lilly Ledbetter to press her claim for pay discrimination. For years, she had been getting paid less than a man had been paid for doing the exact same job. And when she brought a suit, saying equal pay for equal work, the judges said, well, you know, it’s taken you too long to bring this lawsuit, even though she didn’t know about it until fairly recently. We tried to overturn it in the Senate. I supported that effort to provide better guidance to the courts; John McCain opposed it. I think that it’s important for judges to understand that if a woman is out there trying to raise a family, trying to support her family, and is being treated unfairly, then the court has to stand up, if nobody else will. And that’s the kind of judge that I want.

Let’s count up the things that are wrong with this. First, judges aren’t supposed to consider the economic, social or political status of litigants. In fact, they take an oath not to. (“I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me . . . ) It is irrelevant whether the plaintiff was a working stiff, a struggling mom, or an heiress. This was a case of statutory interpretation under the Equal Pay Act. Extending special consideration based on her personal life story would be entirely inappropriate.

Second, the system of separation of powers and the restricted role of the judiciary worked precisely as it should have here. The Court interpreted a statute and found that Congress hadn’t intended for an open-ended statute of limitations to allow equal pay claims to remain open indefinitely. Once the Court ruled, Congress had the ability to come back and amend the statute to explicitly put out the welcome mat for the plaintiff’s bar. They haven’t. And that is now an issue in the presidential election, where once again voters can decide as a policy matter whether they agree with Barack Obama or John McCain. What’s wrong with this?

Finally, if you want to talk “fair,” there are lots of claims for fairness at issue here — small businesses, payroll clerks, employees, shareholders, etc. The Supreme Court is not in the fairness business, with the responsibility to select this or that applicant who comes before it with the most compelling sob story. The Court is in the legislative and Constitutional interpretation business. Invoking “fairness” is an intellectual dodge. What Obama really means, I suspect, is “override the elected branches to give money to the person five of nine lifetime appointees decide is most deserving.” But that sounds downright undemocratic and quite presumptuous. “Fairness” sounds so much better.

In short, this should remove any doubt you might have as to whether Obama views the Court as another cauldron for social engineering and re-distribution of wealth. That’s what “fair” is, right? (Give the money from the company which can’t dig out 20 year-old pay records to the single mom.) Perhaps McCain should start talking more about judges. There has to be a Joe the Lawyer out there to help him.

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Commentary of the Day

MagicalPat, on Jennifer Rubin:

The MSM can’t destroy Joe the plumber, because everyone is Joe the plumber. If he does have a tax lien on his property, he will be more sympathetic to average Americans. Aren’t we all in fear of losing our personal property because we can’t afford the taxes on it??

They can try to destroy him all they want, his basic question remains: “Does Barack Obama have a right to take my property and give it to someone else?”

Here’s my idea for an ad: Obama saying it’s better to share the wealth by raising taxes coupled with Obama saying he doesn’t care if tax revenues go down when he raises the capital gains tax, because it’s a matter of fairness.

MagicalPat, on Jennifer Rubin:

The MSM can’t destroy Joe the plumber, because everyone is Joe the plumber. If he does have a tax lien on his property, he will be more sympathetic to average Americans. Aren’t we all in fear of losing our personal property because we can’t afford the taxes on it??

They can try to destroy him all they want, his basic question remains: “Does Barack Obama have a right to take my property and give it to someone else?”

Here’s my idea for an ad: Obama saying it’s better to share the wealth by raising taxes coupled with Obama saying he doesn’t care if tax revenues go down when he raises the capital gains tax, because it’s a matter of fairness.

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More on “Hey, Don’t Listen to Me”

I think, if the next few days of the campaign are dedicated primarily to the concerns of Joe the Plumber and his worries about Obama’s tax plan, then McCain will have done all he needed to do in the debate, and the questions of whether he “won” or Obama “won” on points will be entirely beside the point.

I think, if the next few days of the campaign are dedicated primarily to the concerns of Joe the Plumber and his worries about Obama’s tax plan, then McCain will have done all he needed to do in the debate, and the questions of whether he “won” or Obama “won” on points will be entirely beside the point.

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Was He Hoping No One Read the Piece?

I’ve never come across a case of journalistic misrepresentation as absolute and transparent as Patrick Cockburn’s piece on U.S. troop withdrawal in today’s Independent. The headline reads: “Obama’s Iraq plans vindicated as US agrees to pull out by 2011.” Since Barack Obama has been vacillating between a call for immediate withdrawal and a 16-month drawdown, I was mystified as to how this headline could be justified by the contents of the story.

It can’t. Obama is mentioned in a single sentence near the end of the article: “The Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama, wants combat troops home by the middle of 2010, which was also the date originally proposed by Mr Maliki.” Huh?
Imagine Cockburn’s possible November 5 headline: “Obama victorious as McCain elected 44th U.S. president.”

I’ve never come across a case of journalistic misrepresentation as absolute and transparent as Patrick Cockburn’s piece on U.S. troop withdrawal in today’s Independent. The headline reads: “Obama’s Iraq plans vindicated as US agrees to pull out by 2011.” Since Barack Obama has been vacillating between a call for immediate withdrawal and a 16-month drawdown, I was mystified as to how this headline could be justified by the contents of the story.

It can’t. Obama is mentioned in a single sentence near the end of the article: “The Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama, wants combat troops home by the middle of 2010, which was also the date originally proposed by Mr Maliki.” Huh?
Imagine Cockburn’s possible November 5 headline: “Obama victorious as McCain elected 44th U.S. president.”

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It’s Not Joe, It’s Barack

The lefty bloggers and mainstream ghouls will be looking for dirt on Joe the Plumber. But the issue isn’t Joe, it’s Barack. As James Pethokouis put it:

Barack Obama actually told that Joe the Plumber guy that he wants to “spread the wealth around.” What, did Obama just get done reading the Wikipedia entry on Huey “Share the Wealth” Long or something? Was he somehow channeling that left-wing populist from the Depression? Talk about playing into the most extreme stereotype of your party, that it is infested with socialists.

This, it seems, is the nub of Obama’s problem: he’s been telling everyone he’s a moderate who really respects markets and wants only to return to the glory days of the 1990′s. But if your core philosophy is redistribution above all else – even in a depression — then what are people to make of him? It does, after all, suggest that grabbing money from the “rich” is the highest priority.

In fact, he told Charlie Gibson just that in the Philadelphia primary debate in April. Back then he acknowledged that even if a hike in the capital gains tax rates had a history of bringing in less revenue, he’d be in favor of it because of “fairness.” There he was — spreading the wealth, regardless of the economic consequences.

This is precisely the line of argument McCain needs to pursue: do Americans want to grow the economy out of the recession/depression? Or use this as an opportunity to sock it to the rich? Suddenly, the race card doesn’t look as important as the class warfare card.

The lefty bloggers and mainstream ghouls will be looking for dirt on Joe the Plumber. But the issue isn’t Joe, it’s Barack. As James Pethokouis put it:

Barack Obama actually told that Joe the Plumber guy that he wants to “spread the wealth around.” What, did Obama just get done reading the Wikipedia entry on Huey “Share the Wealth” Long or something? Was he somehow channeling that left-wing populist from the Depression? Talk about playing into the most extreme stereotype of your party, that it is infested with socialists.

This, it seems, is the nub of Obama’s problem: he’s been telling everyone he’s a moderate who really respects markets and wants only to return to the glory days of the 1990′s. But if your core philosophy is redistribution above all else – even in a depression — then what are people to make of him? It does, after all, suggest that grabbing money from the “rich” is the highest priority.

In fact, he told Charlie Gibson just that in the Philadelphia primary debate in April. Back then he acknowledged that even if a hike in the capital gains tax rates had a history of bringing in less revenue, he’d be in favor of it because of “fairness.” There he was — spreading the wealth, regardless of the economic consequences.

This is precisely the line of argument McCain needs to pursue: do Americans want to grow the economy out of the recession/depression? Or use this as an opportunity to sock it to the rich? Suddenly, the race card doesn’t look as important as the class warfare card.

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Thoughts on the Debate

I am a bit out of step with much of the commentary on last night’s debate. I thought Barack Obama made a stronger outing than John McCain. Senator McCain scored some points and at times came across as passionate and aggressive — but also, at times, as angry, testy, and tightly coiled. Sometimes his intensity was jarring and his explanations came across as a bit disjointed; he made arguments that you could follow only if you were already quite familiar with them. He would open a potentially useful line of argument, but it seemed to me he wasn’t able to close it very well.

Obama, on the other hand, was what he has always been: cool, unflappable, an excellent counter-puncher, and quite good at making his case and explaining matters. He has an impressive, orderly mind. And his equanimity and temperament are among the most striking features of this entire campaign, and among Obama’s greatest political gifts. His countenance continues to act as a shied against (legitimate) charges that he is a person who holds fairly radical liberal views.

In terms of sheer political talent, Obama is among the best candidates we have seen during the last half-century; he ranks, in my estimation, with JFK, Reagan, and Clinton. At times one could feel McCain’s frustration at his inability to land a direct shot against Obama; it reminds me in some respects of the frustration Republicans felt when doing political battle against President Clinton.

Still, last night’s debate might prove helpful to McCain in this respect: he set up taxes as a central issue in which to frame the final 19 days of the campaign. If Senator McCain focuses on taxes and sharpens the contrast with Obama, he has a chance to gain some ground. Senator McCain also needs to engage Senator Obama more directly, and more effectively, on the class-warfare nature of Obama’s tax argument.

It’s true that John McCain has never provided the country with a compelling economic vision and an overarching, easily accessible governing philosophy. That may be because McCain himself is a man animated not so much by ideas as a sense of “honor politics” and causes that catch his attention. Senator McCain is a man of unquestionable bravery and considerable talents, and the fact that as recently as mid-September he was tied with Senator Obama in the polls is remarkable, given the tremendous headwinds he has faced this year.

Unfortunately for Senator McCain, his limitations are being exposed at precisely the moment when they are costing him the most.

I am a bit out of step with much of the commentary on last night’s debate. I thought Barack Obama made a stronger outing than John McCain. Senator McCain scored some points and at times came across as passionate and aggressive — but also, at times, as angry, testy, and tightly coiled. Sometimes his intensity was jarring and his explanations came across as a bit disjointed; he made arguments that you could follow only if you were already quite familiar with them. He would open a potentially useful line of argument, but it seemed to me he wasn’t able to close it very well.

Obama, on the other hand, was what he has always been: cool, unflappable, an excellent counter-puncher, and quite good at making his case and explaining matters. He has an impressive, orderly mind. And his equanimity and temperament are among the most striking features of this entire campaign, and among Obama’s greatest political gifts. His countenance continues to act as a shied against (legitimate) charges that he is a person who holds fairly radical liberal views.

In terms of sheer political talent, Obama is among the best candidates we have seen during the last half-century; he ranks, in my estimation, with JFK, Reagan, and Clinton. At times one could feel McCain’s frustration at his inability to land a direct shot against Obama; it reminds me in some respects of the frustration Republicans felt when doing political battle against President Clinton.

Still, last night’s debate might prove helpful to McCain in this respect: he set up taxes as a central issue in which to frame the final 19 days of the campaign. If Senator McCain focuses on taxes and sharpens the contrast with Obama, he has a chance to gain some ground. Senator McCain also needs to engage Senator Obama more directly, and more effectively, on the class-warfare nature of Obama’s tax argument.

It’s true that John McCain has never provided the country with a compelling economic vision and an overarching, easily accessible governing philosophy. That may be because McCain himself is a man animated not so much by ideas as a sense of “honor politics” and causes that catch his attention. Senator McCain is a man of unquestionable bravery and considerable talents, and the fact that as recently as mid-September he was tied with Senator Obama in the polls is remarkable, given the tremendous headwinds he has faced this year.

Unfortunately for Senator McCain, his limitations are being exposed at precisely the moment when they are costing him the most.

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There’s No October Surprise

In the Financial Times, Joseph Nye dusts off the old “October surprise” nugget for one last pitiful run-through. Nye suggests that “Barack Obama must be unsettling for Mr bin Laden,” and therefore bin Laden might launch an attack on America to tip the race in favor of John McCain:

[O]n the crucial soft power skills of emotional intelligence, vision and communication, Mr Obama has the edge as reflected in the global polls and that must be giving Mr bin Laden a headache. In the next few weeks, as the remaining undecided voters have to make up their minds, Mr bin Laden may again be tempted to enter the fray. Given the scale of the financial crisis, it might take more than a video tape to refocus the attention of the American electorate this year but we should be alert to Mr bin Laden’s temptation and the danger it presents.

Nye is exactly wrong on three points.

First: It is doubtful that Osama bin Laden is in a position to launch an attack on American soil. The best evidence for his even being alive for the past four years is a video tape in which the image freezes when bin Laden discusses current events. If the terror mastermind has the ability to attack America, does Nye suppose he’s been keeping his powder dry for seven years, waiting until his network was decimated and public support for jihad hit a new low, to make sure he’d have something in store to stave off the dawn of the Obama age?

Second: What exactly concerns bin Laden about Obama? Obama has been calling for what amounts to American surrender in the theater of war where U.S. troops have done the most damage to al Qaeda. Bin Laden once said that beating the Russians in Afghanistan was hard, but that defeating the Americans would be piece of cake because Americans don’t believe in anything fervently enough to stay in the fight. Couple Obama’s eagerness to exit Iraq with his blanket promise to chat up enemies, and bin Laden could hardly hope for a more accommodating American administration.

Third: In spite of common “wisdom,” an attack on American soil would do nothing to bolster John McCain’s fortunes. Are we forgetting that the U.S. is currently in the midst of a financial crisis brought on in large part by Democratic policies and Democrats’ financial chumminess with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, yet Obama has successfully convinced the electorate that it’s all George W. Bush’s and John McCain’s fault? If we were attacked tomorrow, Obama would come out and say it’s the inevitable result of eight years of Bush policy, of dropping the ball in the hunt for bin Laden and fighting the wrong war in Iraq. He’d say: America can’t survive four more years of the same failed approach. And this message would immediately course through the veins of the MSM until it was gospel.

Joe Nye strikes out. If Osama bin Laden is contemplating doing anything to effect this election, he’s figuring out how much to donate to the Obama campaign. (And there are enough shenanigans going on with names of Obama contributors for him to sign the check, too.)

In the Financial Times, Joseph Nye dusts off the old “October surprise” nugget for one last pitiful run-through. Nye suggests that “Barack Obama must be unsettling for Mr bin Laden,” and therefore bin Laden might launch an attack on America to tip the race in favor of John McCain:

[O]n the crucial soft power skills of emotional intelligence, vision and communication, Mr Obama has the edge as reflected in the global polls and that must be giving Mr bin Laden a headache. In the next few weeks, as the remaining undecided voters have to make up their minds, Mr bin Laden may again be tempted to enter the fray. Given the scale of the financial crisis, it might take more than a video tape to refocus the attention of the American electorate this year but we should be alert to Mr bin Laden’s temptation and the danger it presents.

Nye is exactly wrong on three points.

First: It is doubtful that Osama bin Laden is in a position to launch an attack on American soil. The best evidence for his even being alive for the past four years is a video tape in which the image freezes when bin Laden discusses current events. If the terror mastermind has the ability to attack America, does Nye suppose he’s been keeping his powder dry for seven years, waiting until his network was decimated and public support for jihad hit a new low, to make sure he’d have something in store to stave off the dawn of the Obama age?

Second: What exactly concerns bin Laden about Obama? Obama has been calling for what amounts to American surrender in the theater of war where U.S. troops have done the most damage to al Qaeda. Bin Laden once said that beating the Russians in Afghanistan was hard, but that defeating the Americans would be piece of cake because Americans don’t believe in anything fervently enough to stay in the fight. Couple Obama’s eagerness to exit Iraq with his blanket promise to chat up enemies, and bin Laden could hardly hope for a more accommodating American administration.

Third: In spite of common “wisdom,” an attack on American soil would do nothing to bolster John McCain’s fortunes. Are we forgetting that the U.S. is currently in the midst of a financial crisis brought on in large part by Democratic policies and Democrats’ financial chumminess with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, yet Obama has successfully convinced the electorate that it’s all George W. Bush’s and John McCain’s fault? If we were attacked tomorrow, Obama would come out and say it’s the inevitable result of eight years of Bush policy, of dropping the ball in the hunt for bin Laden and fighting the wrong war in Iraq. He’d say: America can’t survive four more years of the same failed approach. And this message would immediately course through the veins of the MSM until it was gospel.

Joe Nye strikes out. If Osama bin Laden is contemplating doing anything to effect this election, he’s figuring out how much to donate to the Obama campaign. (And there are enough shenanigans going on with names of Obama contributors for him to sign the check, too.)

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“A New Capitalism”

Yesterday, the White House released a statement announcing that the Group of Eight nations will meet “in the near future to adopt an agenda for reforms to meet the challenges of the 21st century.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the conclave should be held “preferably in New York, where everything started.”

Sarkozy betrayed what is wrong with the concept of solving economic problems with global summit meetings. The financial crisis began not in the world’s financial capital but in its geopolitical one-Washington committed numerous sins of both intervention and regulation. Misperceiving the problem, the G8 participants will undoubtedly make things worse by creating an overly restrictive financial regime. “We need to found a new capitalism based on values that put finance at the service of companies and citizens and not the reverse,” Sarkozy said.

By now, the leaders of the G8 should realize that equity markets are continuing their collapse because underlying economies are fundamentally weak. These economies will continue to deleverage and shrink until they, on their own, reach equilibrium. Governments can nationalize banks, buy stocks, and purchase troubled assets-all of which they have done in recent weeks-but they are merely delaying the adjustments that have to be made. Economies have cycles, and no government has ever been able to eliminate them. The Alan Greenspans of the world can smooth out the highs and lows and even postpone the downturns, but by doing so they only create more monumental downturns, like the one we are witnessing now.

And there is one other major objection to yet another international gathering. As recently as July, the 34th Group of Eight meeting focused on African development, the global food crisis, and climate change. “But now we have learned how ridiculous it is to entrust the future of our planet Earth to someone who can’t even foretell what is happening on his home turf in the next quarter,” writes TokyoFreePress blogger Yamamoto Yu. The G8 has no more credibility yet still continues to function. In the past, what the group said was meaningless. But now it looks as if all this talk of “new capitalism” just might mean implementation of “old socialism.”

Said the White House statement: “We are confident that, working together, we will meet the present challenges and return our economies to stability and prosperity.” I’m not.

Yesterday, the White House released a statement announcing that the Group of Eight nations will meet “in the near future to adopt an agenda for reforms to meet the challenges of the 21st century.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the conclave should be held “preferably in New York, where everything started.”

Sarkozy betrayed what is wrong with the concept of solving economic problems with global summit meetings. The financial crisis began not in the world’s financial capital but in its geopolitical one-Washington committed numerous sins of both intervention and regulation. Misperceiving the problem, the G8 participants will undoubtedly make things worse by creating an overly restrictive financial regime. “We need to found a new capitalism based on values that put finance at the service of companies and citizens and not the reverse,” Sarkozy said.

By now, the leaders of the G8 should realize that equity markets are continuing their collapse because underlying economies are fundamentally weak. These economies will continue to deleverage and shrink until they, on their own, reach equilibrium. Governments can nationalize banks, buy stocks, and purchase troubled assets-all of which they have done in recent weeks-but they are merely delaying the adjustments that have to be made. Economies have cycles, and no government has ever been able to eliminate them. The Alan Greenspans of the world can smooth out the highs and lows and even postpone the downturns, but by doing so they only create more monumental downturns, like the one we are witnessing now.

And there is one other major objection to yet another international gathering. As recently as July, the 34th Group of Eight meeting focused on African development, the global food crisis, and climate change. “But now we have learned how ridiculous it is to entrust the future of our planet Earth to someone who can’t even foretell what is happening on his home turf in the next quarter,” writes TokyoFreePress blogger Yamamoto Yu. The G8 has no more credibility yet still continues to function. In the past, what the group said was meaningless. But now it looks as if all this talk of “new capitalism” just might mean implementation of “old socialism.”

Said the White House statement: “We are confident that, working together, we will meet the present challenges and return our economies to stability and prosperity.” I’m not.

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Cracking ACORN

The FBI is now investigating ACORN. Given the dozen or more states that have now have reported issues of significant irregularities in voting registration, that seems entirely appropriate.

But let’s put the Barack Obama-ACORN connection aside for a moment. Unless we want to go down the road of third-world banana republics, it behooves both parties to put an end to voting shenanigans. Neither side wants a victory to besmirched by fraud, and neither side wants to risk losses due to fraud. Unfortunately, motor voter registration and a timid Bush Department of Justice (which refused to proceed with its legal obligation to clean up the voter rolls) have created the potential for havoc and mischief. Post-election, it seems that grown-ups (are there any?) would be well advised to set up a commission– with some former attorneys general and maybe a president or two on board–to figure out how to clean up the rolls and prevent fraud.

Perhaps without a looming presidential election, common sense can prevail.

The FBI is now investigating ACORN. Given the dozen or more states that have now have reported issues of significant irregularities in voting registration, that seems entirely appropriate.

But let’s put the Barack Obama-ACORN connection aside for a moment. Unless we want to go down the road of third-world banana republics, it behooves both parties to put an end to voting shenanigans. Neither side wants a victory to besmirched by fraud, and neither side wants to risk losses due to fraud. Unfortunately, motor voter registration and a timid Bush Department of Justice (which refused to proceed with its legal obligation to clean up the voter rolls) have created the potential for havoc and mischief. Post-election, it seems that grown-ups (are there any?) would be well advised to set up a commission– with some former attorneys general and maybe a president or two on board–to figure out how to clean up the rolls and prevent fraud.

Perhaps without a looming presidential election, common sense can prevail.

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All Obama’s Generals

Listening carefully to the short nuggets of foreign policy discussion in last night’s debate, I was intrigued, and not for the first time, when General Jim Jones’s name was brought up. But not by the candidate you’d expect. It was Barack Obama:

If I’m interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate Joe Biden or with Dick Lugar, the Republican ranking member on the Senator Foreign Relations Committee or General Jim Jones, the former supreme allied commander of NATO,” he said during the debate. “Those are the people, Democrat and Republican, who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House.

This is part of an effort Obama is making at winning the hearts and minds of future subordinates in the military. While doing this, Obama digs deep into McCain territory, in a way that I’m sure irritates the Republican candidate. Whether one likes what Obama does with these former military men, it must be said that he plays it much smarter than Bill Clinton did in the early 90′s. Instead of treating the military as an enemy entity, Obama is chasing the most popular generals, touting their names as if they were his old buddies. In fact, Jones–a retired marine general, former NATO commander, Middle East envoy for the Bush administration (an appointment some Israelis didn’t much like)–is a friend of McCain’s.

Mr. McCain also described Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine general, as one of his closest friends, adding he expected he would “play a key role.”

The repeated mentioning of Jones–his name was also mentioned as a VP candidate for Obama–is hardly an accident. Jones, like General Colin Powell, is someone Obama believes he can use in his administration (note this: general Wesley Clark, a Clinton supporter, is usually excluded from Obama’s list, even though Clark makes an effort to be seen as an asset to the campaign). Strengthening the “realist” faction of his team, bolstering the bipartisan image of his foreign policy, making the military more at ease with him–and as a side effect (don’t ever underestimate the personal agendas of politicians) making general David Petraeus seem smaller.

Truth is, Jones can probably work with the Obama team. I’m hardly the first one to note that roles have reversed in the last decades and that the Democrats are those now touting a more realist foreign policy agenda while Republicans have the more idealistic approach. This was clearly visible in the 2004 race between Bush and John Kerry, and it is in play again now, although both McCain and Obama aren’t the typical representatives of the parties they stand for.

One thing is for sure: if Obama is serious about people like Jones and Lugar (and Bob Gates as Defense Secretary)–and I think he is–his administration will provide for some good entertainment for newspeople. These generals might easily identify with the policies Obama lays out in the debates and in policy papers, but will hardly be the optimal members of any Moveon.org foreign policy dream-team. The battles between Obama’s supporters on the Left and Obama’s in-house practitioners of the Right have the potential to be very messy.

Listening carefully to the short nuggets of foreign policy discussion in last night’s debate, I was intrigued, and not for the first time, when General Jim Jones’s name was brought up. But not by the candidate you’d expect. It was Barack Obama:

If I’m interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate Joe Biden or with Dick Lugar, the Republican ranking member on the Senator Foreign Relations Committee or General Jim Jones, the former supreme allied commander of NATO,” he said during the debate. “Those are the people, Democrat and Republican, who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House.

This is part of an effort Obama is making at winning the hearts and minds of future subordinates in the military. While doing this, Obama digs deep into McCain territory, in a way that I’m sure irritates the Republican candidate. Whether one likes what Obama does with these former military men, it must be said that he plays it much smarter than Bill Clinton did in the early 90′s. Instead of treating the military as an enemy entity, Obama is chasing the most popular generals, touting their names as if they were his old buddies. In fact, Jones–a retired marine general, former NATO commander, Middle East envoy for the Bush administration (an appointment some Israelis didn’t much like)–is a friend of McCain’s.

Mr. McCain also described Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine general, as one of his closest friends, adding he expected he would “play a key role.”

The repeated mentioning of Jones–his name was also mentioned as a VP candidate for Obama–is hardly an accident. Jones, like General Colin Powell, is someone Obama believes he can use in his administration (note this: general Wesley Clark, a Clinton supporter, is usually excluded from Obama’s list, even though Clark makes an effort to be seen as an asset to the campaign). Strengthening the “realist” faction of his team, bolstering the bipartisan image of his foreign policy, making the military more at ease with him–and as a side effect (don’t ever underestimate the personal agendas of politicians) making general David Petraeus seem smaller.

Truth is, Jones can probably work with the Obama team. I’m hardly the first one to note that roles have reversed in the last decades and that the Democrats are those now touting a more realist foreign policy agenda while Republicans have the more idealistic approach. This was clearly visible in the 2004 race between Bush and John Kerry, and it is in play again now, although both McCain and Obama aren’t the typical representatives of the parties they stand for.

One thing is for sure: if Obama is serious about people like Jones and Lugar (and Bob Gates as Defense Secretary)–and I think he is–his administration will provide for some good entertainment for newspeople. These generals might easily identify with the policies Obama lays out in the debates and in policy papers, but will hardly be the optimal members of any Moveon.org foreign policy dream-team. The battles between Obama’s supporters on the Left and Obama’s in-house practitioners of the Right have the potential to be very messy.

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Iran’s Oil Problems

The silver lining in the financial crisis? Oil is down to almost $70 a barrel–less than half of where it was in July when it hit record high of $147. Iran has been aggressively lobbying OPEC to cut production in the hope prices will climb again, though it does not look like Iran will volunteer to reduce its own output as part of this effort. The reason? Iran needs a high oil price–and cannot survive without oil revenue–in order to manage its chronically ill economy. OPEC will meet next month to decide on production cuts, but one should hope that U.S. allies in the Gulf–who can afford to live at lower prices and do not need to cut production– will rebuff pressures from Iran and other nations such as Venezuela. If there is one thing this administration should do now, it is call on our “friends,” the Saudis, to ensure that the global economy does not have to suffer from a renewed price hike designed to save Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s and cover up his mismanagement of Iran’s economy.

The silver lining in the financial crisis? Oil is down to almost $70 a barrel–less than half of where it was in July when it hit record high of $147. Iran has been aggressively lobbying OPEC to cut production in the hope prices will climb again, though it does not look like Iran will volunteer to reduce its own output as part of this effort. The reason? Iran needs a high oil price–and cannot survive without oil revenue–in order to manage its chronically ill economy. OPEC will meet next month to decide on production cuts, but one should hope that U.S. allies in the Gulf–who can afford to live at lower prices and do not need to cut production– will rebuff pressures from Iran and other nations such as Venezuela. If there is one thing this administration should do now, it is call on our “friends,” the Saudis, to ensure that the global economy does not have to suffer from a renewed price hike designed to save Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s and cover up his mismanagement of Iran’s economy.

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A Theme, Finally

John McCain’s latest ad is one of his more clever and effective efforts. He somehow manages to lump George W. Bush (“The last eight years haven’t worked very well, have they?”) in with his opponent’s ideas (“Telling us paying higher taxes is ‘patriotic’?  And saying we need to ‘spread the wealth around’?”). And he also gives an effective summary of his plans for low taxes, energy independence and less spending. It is odd for him to leave out national security and judges, but perhaps the campaign has decided voters simply don’t care about these topics.

This is what McCain will need to do 24/7 between now and Election Day: paint a substantive contrast with his opponent. If America is still a center/right country then voters need to know who is the center/right candidate. He hasn’t done that very effectively–until now–on issues which voters care most about. He’ll need to continue this day after day if he is to have any shot at winning.

John McCain’s latest ad is one of his more clever and effective efforts. He somehow manages to lump George W. Bush (“The last eight years haven’t worked very well, have they?”) in with his opponent’s ideas (“Telling us paying higher taxes is ‘patriotic’?  And saying we need to ‘spread the wealth around’?”). And he also gives an effective summary of his plans for low taxes, energy independence and less spending. It is odd for him to leave out national security and judges, but perhaps the campaign has decided voters simply don’t care about these topics.

This is what McCain will need to do 24/7 between now and Election Day: paint a substantive contrast with his opponent. If America is still a center/right country then voters need to know who is the center/right candidate. He hasn’t done that very effectively–until now–on issues which voters care most about. He’ll need to continue this day after day if he is to have any shot at winning.

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Enough About Obama’s Temperament

The word of the day is “temperament.” On PBS, last night after the final presidential debate, David Brooks was celebrating Barack Obama’s reassuring temperament. He told Charlie Rose that Barack Obama is like a mountain. When you go to bed–he’s there. You wake up–he’s there. You go to bed the next night–he’s there. Wake up–he’s there. It’s true: Obama does bear a striking characterological resemblance to a shapeless heap of non-living matter.

Moreover, he’s accomplished about as much as a massive hump of rock. I think if you look at his Senate record you’ll find that when a vote is called–he’s there. When another vote is called–he’s there. He is, to pick up on a campaign staple, eminently “present.” Mount Obama.

But how merely existing–without volition, cognition, instinct, or resolve–has come to be thought of as a temperament befitting a president, I’ll never know. After all, Mount Obama really is always present, which makes him an intractable obstruction to progress. You want to withdraw immediately from Iraq? Great, Mount Obama is there. But you want to listen to the advice of commanders on the ground and keep troops in theater? Mount Obama is there, too. You want to end new missile defense programs? Mount Obama is there. But you want to expand missile defense? Mount Obama is there, too. You want to allow partial-birth abortions? Mount Obama is there. Oh, but you want to ban partial birth abortions? Mount Obama is there, too. Somehow, this is called leadership.

No matter whom you are, wherever you turn, you’re met with the glassy smile of Mount Obama. You planted bombs to kill American targets? Let Mount Obama blurb your book. “God damn America,” you say? Mount Obama is seated in your pew. You’re a Communist looking for a successor? Look no farther than Mount Obama. Of course Obama said he’d meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions: His omnipresence is itself the only precondition necessary to address each grievance of any and every party on the planet, regardless of how extreme their worldview. Which actually makes him more like another abundance of non-sentient rock: the moon. No matter how many miles you drive, or how many turns you make, you can’t lose the moon. Obama is always there, glowing at some vast remove, the distance conferring a false perfection upon his form. Hovering above at all times, without friends or enemies, Obama, like the moon, is the subject of great systems of mythology. Like the moon, he’ll control the ocean’s tides and regulate the emotions of the world’s people. The cult around this lunar deity knows that his assent to power is inevitable.

Guy de Maupassant was said to take lunch every day at the Eiffel Tower because it was the only spot in Paris from which he didn’t have to look at the Eiffel Tower. If Maupassant were alive today, his best bet would be to bribe NASA and bring a brown bag up to the Sea of Tranquility.

The word of the day is “temperament.” On PBS, last night after the final presidential debate, David Brooks was celebrating Barack Obama’s reassuring temperament. He told Charlie Rose that Barack Obama is like a mountain. When you go to bed–he’s there. You wake up–he’s there. You go to bed the next night–he’s there. Wake up–he’s there. It’s true: Obama does bear a striking characterological resemblance to a shapeless heap of non-living matter.

Moreover, he’s accomplished about as much as a massive hump of rock. I think if you look at his Senate record you’ll find that when a vote is called–he’s there. When another vote is called–he’s there. He is, to pick up on a campaign staple, eminently “present.” Mount Obama.

But how merely existing–without volition, cognition, instinct, or resolve–has come to be thought of as a temperament befitting a president, I’ll never know. After all, Mount Obama really is always present, which makes him an intractable obstruction to progress. You want to withdraw immediately from Iraq? Great, Mount Obama is there. But you want to listen to the advice of commanders on the ground and keep troops in theater? Mount Obama is there, too. You want to end new missile defense programs? Mount Obama is there. But you want to expand missile defense? Mount Obama is there, too. You want to allow partial-birth abortions? Mount Obama is there. Oh, but you want to ban partial birth abortions? Mount Obama is there, too. Somehow, this is called leadership.

No matter whom you are, wherever you turn, you’re met with the glassy smile of Mount Obama. You planted bombs to kill American targets? Let Mount Obama blurb your book. “God damn America,” you say? Mount Obama is seated in your pew. You’re a Communist looking for a successor? Look no farther than Mount Obama. Of course Obama said he’d meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions: His omnipresence is itself the only precondition necessary to address each grievance of any and every party on the planet, regardless of how extreme their worldview. Which actually makes him more like another abundance of non-sentient rock: the moon. No matter how many miles you drive, or how many turns you make, you can’t lose the moon. Obama is always there, glowing at some vast remove, the distance conferring a false perfection upon his form. Hovering above at all times, without friends or enemies, Obama, like the moon, is the subject of great systems of mythology. Like the moon, he’ll control the ocean’s tides and regulate the emotions of the world’s people. The cult around this lunar deity knows that his assent to power is inevitable.

Guy de Maupassant was said to take lunch every day at the Eiffel Tower because it was the only spot in Paris from which he didn’t have to look at the Eiffel Tower. If Maupassant were alive today, his best bet would be to bribe NASA and bring a brown bag up to the Sea of Tranquility.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Senator Government rivals Joe the Plumber for top billing.

Joe takes on Diane Sawyer. (Taken to its logical extreme, he’s arguing against a progressive tax scheme, but everything is a matter of degree.)

It is not very surprising that Obama’s team has no coherent explanation for its claim to cut taxes on 95% of Americans – what is surprising is that no one asked Barack Obama a detailed question about it in any of the debates.

John McCain was right–the D.C. schools chief favors vouchers and charter schools.

Should “bubbe and zeyde” tell their pro-Obama grandkids to buzz off? One columnist suggests that it comes down to whether they think “talk” in international relations and the Middle East specifically will be a “universal solvent” and that “most conflicts can be solved by sitting people down around a conference table to air their grievances.”

One observer worries not about Barack Obama’s associations, but about his truthfulness. (“I did not have a substantive relationship with that Weatherman, Mr. Ayers.”) Funny, if it weren’t so troubling. (Try substituting “abortion clinic bomber” for “Weatherman” and think how the issue might resonate.)

The GOP’s fate now rests in the paws of oversized rodents–well, almost.

Why won’t Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel testify under oath? The Republican House Minority Leader wants to know.

ACORN – with the efficiency of Michael (“heck of a job, Brownie”) Brown’s FEMA and the honesty of Bill Clinton. Hopefully, not a peek at the type of associates who might populate an Obama presidency.

Michael Gerson thinks McCain was doomed by the financial meltdown. Others think “It wasn’t the economic crisis that automatically hurt McCain, but his bumbling, pathetic, mercurial, scapegoat-seeking response to it.” The truth in these things rest somewhere in between–in this case the race might have been closer and conservatives certainly less cranky had the response been sharper.

Obama wants to play “nicey-nice with Islamic militants”? So says this independent ad, which reminds you of the good old days when Hillary Clinton was making a lot of sense. That look of abject frustration on her face seems sort of familiar, doesn’t it?

This election has gone on too long when Whoopi Goldberg sounds saner than most pundits.

Of all the petty things to whine about, the RNC complains about the eighteen minute World Series delay so Obama’s 30-minute infomercial can air. Better question is: why McCain didn’t think of this?

You think by now every Obama surrogate would know the answer to the “What has he done on a bipartisan basis?” There is something to say in response–isn’t there?

It is not just that Chris Matthews is in the tank for the Democrats, or that he is running for office himself, it is that he’s a lousy newsman: how can you interview Rahm Emanuel and not ask about Tim Mahoney?

Senator Government rivals Joe the Plumber for top billing.

Joe takes on Diane Sawyer. (Taken to its logical extreme, he’s arguing against a progressive tax scheme, but everything is a matter of degree.)

It is not very surprising that Obama’s team has no coherent explanation for its claim to cut taxes on 95% of Americans – what is surprising is that no one asked Barack Obama a detailed question about it in any of the debates.

John McCain was right–the D.C. schools chief favors vouchers and charter schools.

Should “bubbe and zeyde” tell their pro-Obama grandkids to buzz off? One columnist suggests that it comes down to whether they think “talk” in international relations and the Middle East specifically will be a “universal solvent” and that “most conflicts can be solved by sitting people down around a conference table to air their grievances.”

One observer worries not about Barack Obama’s associations, but about his truthfulness. (“I did not have a substantive relationship with that Weatherman, Mr. Ayers.”) Funny, if it weren’t so troubling. (Try substituting “abortion clinic bomber” for “Weatherman” and think how the issue might resonate.)

The GOP’s fate now rests in the paws of oversized rodents–well, almost.

Why won’t Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel testify under oath? The Republican House Minority Leader wants to know.

ACORN – with the efficiency of Michael (“heck of a job, Brownie”) Brown’s FEMA and the honesty of Bill Clinton. Hopefully, not a peek at the type of associates who might populate an Obama presidency.

Michael Gerson thinks McCain was doomed by the financial meltdown. Others think “It wasn’t the economic crisis that automatically hurt McCain, but his bumbling, pathetic, mercurial, scapegoat-seeking response to it.” The truth in these things rest somewhere in between–in this case the race might have been closer and conservatives certainly less cranky had the response been sharper.

Obama wants to play “nicey-nice with Islamic militants”? So says this independent ad, which reminds you of the good old days when Hillary Clinton was making a lot of sense. That look of abject frustration on her face seems sort of familiar, doesn’t it?

This election has gone on too long when Whoopi Goldberg sounds saner than most pundits.

Of all the petty things to whine about, the RNC complains about the eighteen minute World Series delay so Obama’s 30-minute infomercial can air. Better question is: why McCain didn’t think of this?

You think by now every Obama surrogate would know the answer to the “What has he done on a bipartisan basis?” There is something to say in response–isn’t there?

It is not just that Chris Matthews is in the tank for the Democrats, or that he is running for office himself, it is that he’s a lousy newsman: how can you interview Rahm Emanuel and not ask about Tim Mahoney?

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Re: Hey Don’t Listen

John, I too was less than impressed last night with John McCain. But I think it has a lot to do with hopes and expectations. Most of the mainstream media has completely written off John McCain and long ago stopped giving any credence to the substance of his arguments. When McCain came out swinging and at least listed the arguments for his candidacy they, I think, were hearing something “new.” At least they were hearing a newly forceful presentation of several of McCain’s best arguments, especially on taxes.

Did McCain press his points to their logical conclusion and make the most of his opportunities? Probably not and he’s simply not the best politician at connecting the dots. That said, he did finally make the arguments on taxes, trade, healthcare, spending and abortion so there is material for the MSM to write about. More importantly, there is something for voters to finally latch onto.

What is shocking is that the race is not over.  Gallup (traditional model), Rasmussen, Zogby and IBD/TIPP polls all show the race remarkably competitive. I do think that if McCain spends the next two and a half weeks pressing on taxes, judges, spending and national security the race will get even tighter. The darnedest thing about McCain: he’s never out of it.

John, I too was less than impressed last night with John McCain. But I think it has a lot to do with hopes and expectations. Most of the mainstream media has completely written off John McCain and long ago stopped giving any credence to the substance of his arguments. When McCain came out swinging and at least listed the arguments for his candidacy they, I think, were hearing something “new.” At least they were hearing a newly forceful presentation of several of McCain’s best arguments, especially on taxes.

Did McCain press his points to their logical conclusion and make the most of his opportunities? Probably not and he’s simply not the best politician at connecting the dots. That said, he did finally make the arguments on taxes, trade, healthcare, spending and abortion so there is material for the MSM to write about. More importantly, there is something for voters to finally latch onto.

What is shocking is that the race is not over.  Gallup (traditional model), Rasmussen, Zogby and IBD/TIPP polls all show the race remarkably competitive. I do think that if McCain spends the next two and a half weeks pressing on taxes, judges, spending and national security the race will get even tighter. The darnedest thing about McCain: he’s never out of it.

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Re: Cedar Revolution

Eric, there is just one problem with your analysis about Syria and Lebanon. Why would Syria’s formal recognition of Lebanon represent its de facto conquest of the cedar state? Throughout its history, Syria has never been willing to conceded Lebanese sovereignty. There are whole swaths of territory in Lebanon that Syria claims for its own, areas that make the Shabaa Farms look like a vegetable garden. In Arab terms, this looks much more like a capitulation than a victory.

One middle east expert I heard a few days ago on Israel radio, quoting intelligence sources, offered a very different reading: Assad’s regime is in trouble. It’s not just the (reportedly) Israeli attacks on its nuclear reactor project and on Ismail Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s number 2. There’s another foreign power in this mess, as well: Saudi Arabia, which is adamantly opposed to the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis, and which apparently has been behind a spate of mass bombings both within Syria and against pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon. Just a couple of weeks ago, Syria reportedly amassed about ten thousand troops along the Lebanon border, prompting the U.S .to warn the Syrians to stand down. I for one do not know what it all means, but it’s way too easy to bewail the advent of the new emboldened Syria. Recognition of Lebanon seems more like some kind of tactical retreat, and I would caution all of us to stay tuned for further developments.

Eric, there is just one problem with your analysis about Syria and Lebanon. Why would Syria’s formal recognition of Lebanon represent its de facto conquest of the cedar state? Throughout its history, Syria has never been willing to conceded Lebanese sovereignty. There are whole swaths of territory in Lebanon that Syria claims for its own, areas that make the Shabaa Farms look like a vegetable garden. In Arab terms, this looks much more like a capitulation than a victory.

One middle east expert I heard a few days ago on Israel radio, quoting intelligence sources, offered a very different reading: Assad’s regime is in trouble. It’s not just the (reportedly) Israeli attacks on its nuclear reactor project and on Ismail Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s number 2. There’s another foreign power in this mess, as well: Saudi Arabia, which is adamantly opposed to the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis, and which apparently has been behind a spate of mass bombings both within Syria and against pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon. Just a couple of weeks ago, Syria reportedly amassed about ten thousand troops along the Lebanon border, prompting the U.S .to warn the Syrians to stand down. I for one do not know what it all means, but it’s way too easy to bewail the advent of the new emboldened Syria. Recognition of Lebanon seems more like some kind of tactical retreat, and I would caution all of us to stay tuned for further developments.

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Hey, Don’t Listen to Me

So I was pretty harsh on McCain’s performance both last night and this morning. But, on second and third thought, it occurs to me that I ought to admit I often score these debates incorrectly, or at least diverge from the lasting common consensus on them. The headlines I’m reading today — “McCain Presses Obama,” says the New York Times — are actually modestly helpful to McCain. Of course, a few million people see those headlines, while 50 to 70 million watched the debate and were able to draw their own conclusions and impressions. Nonetheless, if the context of the next few days is “feisty McCain took it to languid Obama,” then the debate will have proved to have been a far closer call.

So I was pretty harsh on McCain’s performance both last night and this morning. But, on second and third thought, it occurs to me that I ought to admit I often score these debates incorrectly, or at least diverge from the lasting common consensus on them. The headlines I’m reading today — “McCain Presses Obama,” says the New York Times — are actually modestly helpful to McCain. Of course, a few million people see those headlines, while 50 to 70 million watched the debate and were able to draw their own conclusions and impressions. Nonetheless, if the context of the next few days is “feisty McCain took it to languid Obama,” then the debate will have proved to have been a far closer call.

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Time For A Break

ABC News reports on Joe the Plumber, who seems to be the most effective spokesman for the McCain tax position:

“To be honest with you, that infuriates me,” plumber Joe Wurzelbacher told Nightline’s Terry Moran. “It’s not right for someone to decide you made too much—that you’ve done too good and now we’re going to take some of it back.”

 ”That’s just completely wrong,” he added.

Joe is now everywhere explaining why raising taxes on little businesses is wrong. He is now a handy reference point for the argument that Obama’s tax scheme is not just going to impact Warren Buffett. (Obama never did answer in the debate why he’s raising anyone’s taxes.)

This is no small bit of luck for McCain. He’s been struggling to find a foothold, a way to break through the news clutter and characterize Obama as a tax-and-spend who is liberal out of touch with American entrepreneurial interests. If he can make this a focal point — Obama’s obsession with raising taxes in a recession as evidence of his devotion to liberal othodoxy — he might make some headway.

ABC News reports on Joe the Plumber, who seems to be the most effective spokesman for the McCain tax position:

“To be honest with you, that infuriates me,” plumber Joe Wurzelbacher told Nightline’s Terry Moran. “It’s not right for someone to decide you made too much—that you’ve done too good and now we’re going to take some of it back.”

 ”That’s just completely wrong,” he added.

Joe is now everywhere explaining why raising taxes on little businesses is wrong. He is now a handy reference point for the argument that Obama’s tax scheme is not just going to impact Warren Buffett. (Obama never did answer in the debate why he’s raising anyone’s taxes.)

This is no small bit of luck for McCain. He’s been struggling to find a foothold, a way to break through the news clutter and characterize Obama as a tax-and-spend who is liberal out of touch with American entrepreneurial interests. If he can make this a focal point — Obama’s obsession with raising taxes in a recession as evidence of his devotion to liberal othodoxy — he might make some headway.

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Making The Case

Mark Steyn muses about John McCain’s debate performance:

Why couldn’t he have used the s-word – “socialism”? Why couldn’t he have said that his opponent is a perfectly pleasant fellow but he has an all but blank resume so all we have to go on is his votes and his associations and both suggest a doctrinaire liberal well to the left of, say, Bill Clinton? Why couldn’t he have pointed out that Barack Obama would be the most left-wing president ever elected in the United States?

He concludes that McCain lacks the “killer instinct,” but I don’t know if that is quite it. McCain, even his most ardent supporters would admit, is an emotion-driven, value-laden politician. (He thinks in terms of honor and bipartisanship, which are not ends or political goals but an attribute and a process, respectively.) With the exception of certain national security issues like Iraq, which entirely occupied his interest, he does not methodically gather data to reach a conclusion (as Mitt Romney evidenced) or marshal the evidence to make his case (as Rudy Giuliani did). He doesn’t explain step-by-step why voters should agree with him, perhaps because he doesn’t rely on a step-by-step thought process himself or maybe because he thinks his conclusions are self-evident. As a result, he doesn’t use debates to his full advantage and he handicaps himself as a salesman for his own positions.

Mark Steyn muses about John McCain’s debate performance:

Why couldn’t he have used the s-word – “socialism”? Why couldn’t he have said that his opponent is a perfectly pleasant fellow but he has an all but blank resume so all we have to go on is his votes and his associations and both suggest a doctrinaire liberal well to the left of, say, Bill Clinton? Why couldn’t he have pointed out that Barack Obama would be the most left-wing president ever elected in the United States?

He concludes that McCain lacks the “killer instinct,” but I don’t know if that is quite it. McCain, even his most ardent supporters would admit, is an emotion-driven, value-laden politician. (He thinks in terms of honor and bipartisanship, which are not ends or political goals but an attribute and a process, respectively.) With the exception of certain national security issues like Iraq, which entirely occupied his interest, he does not methodically gather data to reach a conclusion (as Mitt Romney evidenced) or marshal the evidence to make his case (as Rudy Giuliani did). He doesn’t explain step-by-step why voters should agree with him, perhaps because he doesn’t rely on a step-by-step thought process himself or maybe because he thinks his conclusions are self-evident. As a result, he doesn’t use debates to his full advantage and he handicaps himself as a salesman for his own positions.

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More Reaction

Well the AP liked McCain — “By that measure, McCain won the last debate of the 2008 campaign.” Conservatives’ opinions ranged from skeptical ( “McCain wasn’t just throwing the kitchen sink at Obama. He was throwing the dish-washer, the blender, the cutlery, the laundry, the flatware, anything he could get his hands on. All to seemingly no effect.”) to enthusiastic (“ a solid win”), with many in between (“not great tonight, but he was good”).

Larry Kudlow, like many of us, was surprised he didn’t mention his new tax plans and acknowledges: “To be honest, I don’t think Mac works hard enough to master the economic issues, especially tax cuts and growth. He has supply-side policies, but he is not a supply-sider. It shows when he talks about that stuff.”

In some ways this was the most revealing debate. This is the real McCain — jabbing and counterpunching, a bit saracastic, and not the most articulate at conveying detailed information but at heart a low tax, reform-oriented, rather socially conservative Republican who places more stock than many conservatives in bipartisanship. He isn’t going to make a character attack on his opponent and he isn’t going catch him in the moment on some fairly glaring lies (e.g. abortion). Like any candidate, he has strengths and weaknesses but had the dilemma of running with an unpopular president in the midst of a meltdown. Could the last month have been navigated more adeptly? Without question. Is there a chance to narrow the gap? Perhaps. Would a better September and more aggressive debate performances have kept him closer? We won’t ever know.

Well the AP liked McCain — “By that measure, McCain won the last debate of the 2008 campaign.” Conservatives’ opinions ranged from skeptical ( “McCain wasn’t just throwing the kitchen sink at Obama. He was throwing the dish-washer, the blender, the cutlery, the laundry, the flatware, anything he could get his hands on. All to seemingly no effect.”) to enthusiastic (“ a solid win”), with many in between (“not great tonight, but he was good”).

Larry Kudlow, like many of us, was surprised he didn’t mention his new tax plans and acknowledges: “To be honest, I don’t think Mac works hard enough to master the economic issues, especially tax cuts and growth. He has supply-side policies, but he is not a supply-sider. It shows when he talks about that stuff.”

In some ways this was the most revealing debate. This is the real McCain — jabbing and counterpunching, a bit saracastic, and not the most articulate at conveying detailed information but at heart a low tax, reform-oriented, rather socially conservative Republican who places more stock than many conservatives in bipartisanship. He isn’t going to make a character attack on his opponent and he isn’t going catch him in the moment on some fairly glaring lies (e.g. abortion). Like any candidate, he has strengths and weaknesses but had the dilemma of running with an unpopular president in the midst of a meltdown. Could the last month have been navigated more adeptly? Without question. Is there a chance to narrow the gap? Perhaps. Would a better September and more aggressive debate performances have kept him closer? We won’t ever know.

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