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Posts For: October 29, 2008

Obama’s Unnecessary Reminder

As I watched Barack Obama’s thirty-minute infomercial this evening, one question kept popping into my head: is this really happening?

Indeed, it is hard to understand why a candidate who is so far ahead in so many polls would broadcast a program that only creates new openings for his opponents to rehash old criticisms of his campaign.  In this vein, the absurdly dramatic background music that couched Obama’s every word calls to mind the absurdly dramatic Greek pillars that stood behind Obama during his convention speech.  Meanwhile, the broadcast’s nonstop sloganeering only bolsters the criticism that Obama’s vision of “change” is entirely devoid of real substance. And then there were the neatly tailored vignettes of “ordinary Americans” describing the challenges they face while lavishing praise on Obama. Naturally, these segments only remind voters that Obama is far less magical when he’s addressing “ordinary Americans” without absolute editorial control (see: Plumber, Joe the).

Most damaging, however, the $3 million that the campaign spent airing this half-hour of pure Hollywood is already reminding the media of candidate Obama’s most hypocritical act to date: his decision to opt out of public financing despite his previous pledge to accept it.  Simple math beautifully illustrates Obama’s duplicitously achieved advantage: $3 million would be a significant 3.5% of the McCain campaign’s legally limited budget, but is less than 0.5% of Obama’s unlimited war chest.

Of course, John could be right: maybe nobody was watching.  But to the extent that this broadcast made Obama look ridiculous, the McCain campaign might want to hold its own series of airings.

As I watched Barack Obama’s thirty-minute infomercial this evening, one question kept popping into my head: is this really happening?

Indeed, it is hard to understand why a candidate who is so far ahead in so many polls would broadcast a program that only creates new openings for his opponents to rehash old criticisms of his campaign.  In this vein, the absurdly dramatic background music that couched Obama’s every word calls to mind the absurdly dramatic Greek pillars that stood behind Obama during his convention speech.  Meanwhile, the broadcast’s nonstop sloganeering only bolsters the criticism that Obama’s vision of “change” is entirely devoid of real substance. And then there were the neatly tailored vignettes of “ordinary Americans” describing the challenges they face while lavishing praise on Obama. Naturally, these segments only remind voters that Obama is far less magical when he’s addressing “ordinary Americans” without absolute editorial control (see: Plumber, Joe the).

Most damaging, however, the $3 million that the campaign spent airing this half-hour of pure Hollywood is already reminding the media of candidate Obama’s most hypocritical act to date: his decision to opt out of public financing despite his previous pledge to accept it.  Simple math beautifully illustrates Obama’s duplicitously achieved advantage: $3 million would be a significant 3.5% of the McCain campaign’s legally limited budget, but is less than 0.5% of Obama’s unlimited war chest.

Of course, John could be right: maybe nobody was watching.  But to the extent that this broadcast made Obama look ridiculous, the McCain campaign might want to hold its own series of airings.

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The Info-Bore

I didn’t watch it live. Maybe the thrill was gone watching on the computer. But this was it? It was pretty and the man has a lovely voice, but, really, who would be persuaded by this who hadn’t already decided they were going to vote for him?

He began by saying how optimistic he was about America and what hope he saw. A far cry from bitter people clinging to guns and religion, eh? But the remainder was a tableau of the dreary and drearier. The idea, I think, was to show he “gets it” but watching other people’s tales of woe didn’t really tell us all that much about him. And that I think was the cardinal problem: it didn’t say really anything new. And showing clips of old speeches seemed to reinforce the sense that you’d seen it all before.

Moreover, he seemed rather passive. He literally was the narrator. He didn’t tell us what he’s done and why we should think he really can solve these people’s problems. (Sen. Dick Durbin said in passing he was in the state legislature — but did what? Joe Biden recycles Obama’s supposed “leadership” on the nuclear proliferation bill once again.) But you just have to take it on faith, you see, that he is capable of doing things and making good choices. Becasue it’s not what he’s done; it’s what he says that matters. He is not exactly a whirlwind of action and activity.

He did spend just a moment on Iraq. But it was in passing. Iraq is, after all, just an annoyance and barrier to his spending more money on more domestic programs. And that was the theme — all the stuff government is going to do for you. And yes, he told us in an excessively soothing voice.

He ultimately is saying: Bush is bad and I’m a calm guy. John McCain’s message is: Bush is leaving and Obama is too risky. The pictures say “soothing,” but the message was so frothy it’s hard to see what, if anything, people will remember of it.

I didn’t watch it live. Maybe the thrill was gone watching on the computer. But this was it? It was pretty and the man has a lovely voice, but, really, who would be persuaded by this who hadn’t already decided they were going to vote for him?

He began by saying how optimistic he was about America and what hope he saw. A far cry from bitter people clinging to guns and religion, eh? But the remainder was a tableau of the dreary and drearier. The idea, I think, was to show he “gets it” but watching other people’s tales of woe didn’t really tell us all that much about him. And that I think was the cardinal problem: it didn’t say really anything new. And showing clips of old speeches seemed to reinforce the sense that you’d seen it all before.

Moreover, he seemed rather passive. He literally was the narrator. He didn’t tell us what he’s done and why we should think he really can solve these people’s problems. (Sen. Dick Durbin said in passing he was in the state legislature — but did what? Joe Biden recycles Obama’s supposed “leadership” on the nuclear proliferation bill once again.) But you just have to take it on faith, you see, that he is capable of doing things and making good choices. Becasue it’s not what he’s done; it’s what he says that matters. He is not exactly a whirlwind of action and activity.

He did spend just a moment on Iraq. But it was in passing. Iraq is, after all, just an annoyance and barrier to his spending more money on more domestic programs. And that was the theme — all the stuff government is going to do for you. And yes, he told us in an excessively soothing voice.

He ultimately is saying: Bush is bad and I’m a calm guy. John McCain’s message is: Bush is leaving and Obama is too risky. The pictures say “soothing,” but the message was so frothy it’s hard to see what, if anything, people will remember of it.

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Live! From Way Deep Inside the Tank!

Mark Halperin of Time and ABC — yes, the same Mark Halperin who basically said, in 2004, that the media should fact-check Republicans more aggressively than Democrats because Republicans lie more and everybody knows it — just drooled on CNN over the Obama-mercial. “Effing brilliant,” he said, stunned by the fact that the thing merged live footage with taped footage, which every newscast does every minute of every day. Talk about grading on a curve! And Halperin said it was leagues beyond the Perot half-hours in 1992, which is a bizarre opinion. Those Perot speeches, which I didn’t like or admire, were, as a matter of practical politics, among the most effective uses of television in politics in modern history.

Mark Halperin of Time and ABC — yes, the same Mark Halperin who basically said, in 2004, that the media should fact-check Republicans more aggressively than Democrats because Republicans lie more and everybody knows it — just drooled on CNN over the Obama-mercial. “Effing brilliant,” he said, stunned by the fact that the thing merged live footage with taped footage, which every newscast does every minute of every day. Talk about grading on a curve! And Halperin said it was leagues beyond the Perot half-hours in 1992, which is a bizarre opinion. Those Perot speeches, which I didn’t like or admire, were, as a matter of practical politics, among the most effective uses of television in politics in modern history.

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A Final Perot-Reagan Point

These half-hour spots in the walk-up to an election used to be commonplace. For some reason, they were given up on, perhaps because campaigns believe people don’t have the necessary attention spans for speechifying any longer. But if you are Barack Obama and you want people to view you as a credible president, wouldn’t giving a credible presidential speech be the best way to do that? And wouldn’t it be more reassuring to your own voters and to those you want to move to your side to be bombarded with serious and measured rhetoric rather than outtakes from a cereal commercial?

These half-hour spots in the walk-up to an election used to be commonplace. For some reason, they were given up on, perhaps because campaigns believe people don’t have the necessary attention spans for speechifying any longer. But if you are Barack Obama and you want people to view you as a credible president, wouldn’t giving a credible presidential speech be the best way to do that? And wouldn’t it be more reassuring to your own voters and to those you want to move to your side to be bombarded with serious and measured rhetoric rather than outtakes from a cereal commercial?

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Finally

27 minutes in, he’s actually making a speech. Not a good speech, but a speech nonetheless, somewhere in Florida. Who’s left watching but us live bloggers?

27 minutes in, he’s actually making a speech. Not a good speech, but a speech nonetheless, somewhere in Florida. Who’s left watching but us live bloggers?

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Timing Problems

The general tenor of this infomercial — which is very non-partisan and quiet and sentimental — might have best served Obama on Convention Night, when he had a mammoth audience and tens of millions of independents waiting to listen to his pitch. That night, he gave a slashingly partisan speech that did him absolutely no good. Tonight, I think, he should have been more substantive and directly challenging to McCain, to draw bright-line distinctions.

Oh, and the other thing — the whole ad looks like an Archer Daniels Midland commercial.

The general tenor of this infomercial — which is very non-partisan and quiet and sentimental — might have best served Obama on Convention Night, when he had a mammoth audience and tens of millions of independents waiting to listen to his pitch. That night, he gave a slashingly partisan speech that did him absolutely no good. Tonight, I think, he should have been more substantive and directly challenging to McCain, to draw bright-line distinctions.

Oh, and the other thing — the whole ad looks like an Archer Daniels Midland commercial.

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Lord Knows I’ve Been Wrong Before…

…and will be wrong again, and maybe voters in swing states won’t mind watching a half-hour version of the incessant 60-second commercials that have been rammed down their throats for two months now — maybe they will be stirred by it. Going positive is a smart move in the last week, but this isn’t “positive”; it’s more vapid and hagiographic.

…and will be wrong again, and maybe voters in swing states won’t mind watching a half-hour version of the incessant 60-second commercials that have been rammed down their throats for two months now — maybe they will be stirred by it. Going positive is a smart move in the last week, but this isn’t “positive”; it’s more vapid and hagiographic.

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Okay, He Lost Us All

Obama is among the most interesting people on Earth. The decision to turn his infomercial, or at least his beginning, into a series of portraits of the kinds of people he wants to vote for him, rather than a moment in which he presents himself as a credible commander in chief and leader — which is what Ronald Reagan did so memorably in a half-hour speech a few days before the 1980 election — is peculiar. It’s hard to imagine people wanting to watch this stuff when there are 500 other channels to watch.

Obama is among the most interesting people on Earth. The decision to turn his infomercial, or at least his beginning, into a series of portraits of the kinds of people he wants to vote for him, rather than a moment in which he presents himself as a credible commander in chief and leader — which is what Ronald Reagan did so memorably in a half-hour speech a few days before the 1980 election — is peculiar. It’s hard to imagine people wanting to watch this stuff when there are 500 other channels to watch.

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Is It Closer?

Well, national polls suggest the race is “tightening.” (The Obama camp spin that this “always” happens is wrong. It didn’t in 1980.) Both sides are spinning state polling — it’s either close or it’s not, the internal polls are different or they aren’t.

I will fathom a guess that neither side is sure what is going on and what the gap actually is. That’s why Bill Clinton is in Pennsylvania and Sarah Palin is in Indiana. Is McCain pulling ahead in Florida? Charlie Crist says so, but public polls are less encouraging. In short, who knows?

Obama has his 30-minute infomercial tonight. Will undecideds take thirty minutes to watch? Maybe. But I suspect the people who haven’t figured it out aren’t looking for Obama to talk to them. They have heard him talk. They are trying to decide if they believe him, if Joe the Plumber has gotten to the bottom of things, and whether he’s just too far out there for their tastes.

And, yes, it remains a mystery why McCain and Palin haven’t devised some counter-programming blast. Put Palin on Larry King? Put them both and Joe the Plumber on for their own show? After all the stunts and razzle-dazzle, they seem out of attractive and innovative ways to make a final pitch.

Bottom line: It seems closer. But that’s about all we know.

Well, national polls suggest the race is “tightening.” (The Obama camp spin that this “always” happens is wrong. It didn’t in 1980.) Both sides are spinning state polling — it’s either close or it’s not, the internal polls are different or they aren’t.

I will fathom a guess that neither side is sure what is going on and what the gap actually is. That’s why Bill Clinton is in Pennsylvania and Sarah Palin is in Indiana. Is McCain pulling ahead in Florida? Charlie Crist says so, but public polls are less encouraging. In short, who knows?

Obama has his 30-minute infomercial tonight. Will undecideds take thirty minutes to watch? Maybe. But I suspect the people who haven’t figured it out aren’t looking for Obama to talk to them. They have heard him talk. They are trying to decide if they believe him, if Joe the Plumber has gotten to the bottom of things, and whether he’s just too far out there for their tastes.

And, yes, it remains a mystery why McCain and Palin haven’t devised some counter-programming blast. Put Palin on Larry King? Put them both and Joe the Plumber on for their own show? After all the stunts and razzle-dazzle, they seem out of attractive and innovative ways to make a final pitch.

Bottom line: It seems closer. But that’s about all we know.

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Commentary of the Day

BBB, on Noah Pollak:

Of course, the aftermath will tell all. But, my theory is that this whole election cycle has been a demonstration of geographic illiteracy.
Thus, the only conservatives drifting to Obama are in coastal locales, where they have never “counted” for electoral purposes anyway but can be seen on TV.

Leave Virginia out of this now, because of the expansion of DC into Virginia politics. If Obama wins in North Carolina, there may of course be Obamacons.
But, if McCain wins Pennsylvania it will be proof that the coasts have departed the rest of us.
(David Brooks might have figured this out, but he’s already gone.)

BBB, on Noah Pollak:

Of course, the aftermath will tell all. But, my theory is that this whole election cycle has been a demonstration of geographic illiteracy.
Thus, the only conservatives drifting to Obama are in coastal locales, where they have never “counted” for electoral purposes anyway but can be seen on TV.

Leave Virginia out of this now, because of the expansion of DC into Virginia politics. If Obama wins in North Carolina, there may of course be Obamacons.
But, if McCain wins Pennsylvania it will be proof that the coasts have departed the rest of us.
(David Brooks might have figured this out, but he’s already gone.)

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Tonight’s Infomercial

The Los Angeles Times on tonight’s Obama infomercial:

Finally, there’s something cheesy about a 30-minute commercial. One half expects Obama to be introduced by a pitchman in a loud sweater: “But wait, there’s more! If you act by Nov. 4, you also get the foreign policy expertise of Sen. Joe Biden!”

Actually, one more than half-expects the tasteless pitchman to be Joe Biden. The Times thinks the spot will be useless, but I’m not so sure. Barack Obama’s skill set is suited perfectly to the medium. His campaign already has the feel of a series of self-produced infomercials, and Obama himself is nothing if not the world’s most captivating motivational speaker.

Without the constraints of an interviewer (however doting), moderator, or opponent, Obama will deliver another one of his mellifluous masterpieces. And let’s not forget, he’s gotten this far on the strength of such rhetorical monuments alone. Obama soars in manufactured contexts. The “Yes We Can” viral video was a high point for him. In that, his words and image were spliced, echoed and set to music, so that Obama was perceived of more as a guiding presence than an earthbound candidate. Some found it creepy, some silly, but many still think it’s rapturous.

Tonight’s spot won’t be as over-the-top, but it will be slick–a kind of anti-townhall meeting that will fake the intimacy of townhall meetings. Obama will sit at a kitchen table with white working-class voters and feel their pain. There will be testimonials from “real Americans,” who will undoubtedly convey the sheer hell that is life under a Republican administration. It will be artifice; it will even be “cheesy” artifice. But no one pulls it off like Barack Obama. And we can expect all sorts of gushing responses tomorrow morning.

The Los Angeles Times on tonight’s Obama infomercial:

Finally, there’s something cheesy about a 30-minute commercial. One half expects Obama to be introduced by a pitchman in a loud sweater: “But wait, there’s more! If you act by Nov. 4, you also get the foreign policy expertise of Sen. Joe Biden!”

Actually, one more than half-expects the tasteless pitchman to be Joe Biden. The Times thinks the spot will be useless, but I’m not so sure. Barack Obama’s skill set is suited perfectly to the medium. His campaign already has the feel of a series of self-produced infomercials, and Obama himself is nothing if not the world’s most captivating motivational speaker.

Without the constraints of an interviewer (however doting), moderator, or opponent, Obama will deliver another one of his mellifluous masterpieces. And let’s not forget, he’s gotten this far on the strength of such rhetorical monuments alone. Obama soars in manufactured contexts. The “Yes We Can” viral video was a high point for him. In that, his words and image were spliced, echoed and set to music, so that Obama was perceived of more as a guiding presence than an earthbound candidate. Some found it creepy, some silly, but many still think it’s rapturous.

Tonight’s spot won’t be as over-the-top, but it will be slick–a kind of anti-townhall meeting that will fake the intimacy of townhall meetings. Obama will sit at a kitchen table with white working-class voters and feel their pain. There will be testimonials from “real Americans,” who will undoubtedly convey the sheer hell that is life under a Republican administration. It will be artifice; it will even be “cheesy” artifice. But no one pulls it off like Barack Obama. And we can expect all sorts of gushing responses tomorrow morning.

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What Is The Excuse?

Jeffrey Goldberg and John McCain don’t agree on much. But neither is pleased with the Los Angeles Times. Goldberg isn’t concerned about Barack Obama’s association with Rashid Khalidi; he’s worried about the paper’s behavior:

But there’s a video out there of Obama saying kind things about Khalidi, and on the general principle that information in an open society shouldn’t be kept secret and that the voters should make up their own minds about whether or not they trust certain candidates, this video should be set free. But a pro-censorship organization called the Los Angeles Times, which has the tape in its possession, is hiding it, for reasons it won’t fully explain. And it’s looking more and more ridiculous each passing day.

I understand that the tape was leaked to the Times by a source or sources unknown, and that an agreement was struck with that source to keep the tape hidden, but the tape has been described in a Times story already, and it quite obviously contains no state secrets. I also suspect that the tape could be posted in such a way as to obscure its origins. The Times, however, won’t discuss in detail why it’s keeping the tape from its readers, and the newspaper’s “readers’ representative,” Jamie Gold, has lined up against the readers, and argued against the release of the tape.

There is another reason why the tape should be posted: It might actually create interest in the L.A. Times. From what I understand, the mainstream media is in a bit of trouble these days. Perhaps — this is just a thought here — the L.A. Times could better its position in the world by drawing readers to its website.

Meanwhile, McCain is keeping up the heat, accusing the Times of suppressing the tape. As for the Obama camp, they aren’t saying much. (Far be it from the media to pepper them with questions.)

It seems there is no good reason–other than the fear that there is something terribly damaging on the tape to dash the hopes of The One on the verge of victory–for the Times not to release a full transcript and description. But nothing prevents the rest of the MSM, save their desire to run interference for Obama, from asking Obama what he said at the event, who was there, whether there were anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic remarks made in his presence, and what precisely his relationship with Khalidi is.

If the media wants to go about restoring their credibility, now might be a good time to start. But I’m not seeing any takers.

Jeffrey Goldberg and John McCain don’t agree on much. But neither is pleased with the Los Angeles Times. Goldberg isn’t concerned about Barack Obama’s association with Rashid Khalidi; he’s worried about the paper’s behavior:

But there’s a video out there of Obama saying kind things about Khalidi, and on the general principle that information in an open society shouldn’t be kept secret and that the voters should make up their own minds about whether or not they trust certain candidates, this video should be set free. But a pro-censorship organization called the Los Angeles Times, which has the tape in its possession, is hiding it, for reasons it won’t fully explain. And it’s looking more and more ridiculous each passing day.

I understand that the tape was leaked to the Times by a source or sources unknown, and that an agreement was struck with that source to keep the tape hidden, but the tape has been described in a Times story already, and it quite obviously contains no state secrets. I also suspect that the tape could be posted in such a way as to obscure its origins. The Times, however, won’t discuss in detail why it’s keeping the tape from its readers, and the newspaper’s “readers’ representative,” Jamie Gold, has lined up against the readers, and argued against the release of the tape.

There is another reason why the tape should be posted: It might actually create interest in the L.A. Times. From what I understand, the mainstream media is in a bit of trouble these days. Perhaps — this is just a thought here — the L.A. Times could better its position in the world by drawing readers to its website.

Meanwhile, McCain is keeping up the heat, accusing the Times of suppressing the tape. As for the Obama camp, they aren’t saying much. (Far be it from the media to pepper them with questions.)

It seems there is no good reason–other than the fear that there is something terribly damaging on the tape to dash the hopes of The One on the verge of victory–for the Times not to release a full transcript and description. But nothing prevents the rest of the MSM, save their desire to run interference for Obama, from asking Obama what he said at the event, who was there, whether there were anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic remarks made in his presence, and what precisely his relationship with Khalidi is.

If the media wants to go about restoring their credibility, now might be a good time to start. But I’m not seeing any takers.

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Obama and Petraeus

If the Barack Obama is elected next week, one of the most interesting things to watch closely will be the Obama-Petraeus relationship. As I noted here a couple of days ago, Obama has been touting the support he has from former generals:

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.

Obama has already shown Petraeus that he will not be the candidate to do whatever the general wants. In a recent meeting, he reminded Petraeus that the president is tasked with the mission of taking the longer, more strategic view. This week, Petraeus will officially become head of the U.S. Central Command, as the nation awaits new strategies in Afghanistan and beyond.

But assessing Petraeus’s ability to make changes depends on one’s assessment of his ability to get along with a new commander-in-chief. With McCain, as the Christian Science Monitor reported, it will likely be easier:

McCain is also more likely to follow the advice of Gen. David Petraeus, who presided over the “surge” of forces in Iraq and will within days become the head of US Central Command in charge of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

With Obama, this might become more complicated. This morning, as I was drinking my coffee and looking at the St. Petersburg Times–the paper of the Tampa Bay area in which Central Command headquarters are located–I noticed that Petraeus is the hot topic of the day. There is a page-one story dealing with his plans accompanied by a large photo. But the really interesting piece on Petraeus was on the op-ed page, where Lawrence Korb, a longtime critic of Petraeus, was reminding readers (among them possibly the general himself), that some people didn’t yet forgive or forget:

In the three presidential debates, the only person other than “Joe the Plumber” whom McCain has frequently used to try to discredit his opponent is Petraeus. As several analysts have pointed out, McCain’s unprecedented use of an active-duty military officer for partisan political purposes is doing a disservice to the country by undermining civilian control of the military. However, Petraeus is hardly an innocent victim. In fact, the general has been heavily involved in partisan politics for the past four years.

Korb is only one of many people who will be telling Obama that Petraeus is not to be trusted. That he was trying to help Bush, and later McCain. Such an atmosphere will present a challenge to both the general and the commander-in-chief. One thing is clear: if these two are busy fighting one another, success in Afghanistan will be much harder to achieve.

If the Barack Obama is elected next week, one of the most interesting things to watch closely will be the Obama-Petraeus relationship. As I noted here a couple of days ago, Obama has been touting the support he has from former generals:

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.

Obama has already shown Petraeus that he will not be the candidate to do whatever the general wants. In a recent meeting, he reminded Petraeus that the president is tasked with the mission of taking the longer, more strategic view. This week, Petraeus will officially become head of the U.S. Central Command, as the nation awaits new strategies in Afghanistan and beyond.

But assessing Petraeus’s ability to make changes depends on one’s assessment of his ability to get along with a new commander-in-chief. With McCain, as the Christian Science Monitor reported, it will likely be easier:

McCain is also more likely to follow the advice of Gen. David Petraeus, who presided over the “surge” of forces in Iraq and will within days become the head of US Central Command in charge of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

With Obama, this might become more complicated. This morning, as I was drinking my coffee and looking at the St. Petersburg Times–the paper of the Tampa Bay area in which Central Command headquarters are located–I noticed that Petraeus is the hot topic of the day. There is a page-one story dealing with his plans accompanied by a large photo. But the really interesting piece on Petraeus was on the op-ed page, where Lawrence Korb, a longtime critic of Petraeus, was reminding readers (among them possibly the general himself), that some people didn’t yet forgive or forget:

In the three presidential debates, the only person other than “Joe the Plumber” whom McCain has frequently used to try to discredit his opponent is Petraeus. As several analysts have pointed out, McCain’s unprecedented use of an active-duty military officer for partisan political purposes is doing a disservice to the country by undermining civilian control of the military. However, Petraeus is hardly an innocent victim. In fact, the general has been heavily involved in partisan politics for the past four years.

Korb is only one of many people who will be telling Obama that Petraeus is not to be trusted. That he was trying to help Bush, and later McCain. Such an atmosphere will present a challenge to both the general and the commander-in-chief. One thing is clear: if these two are busy fighting one another, success in Afghanistan will be much harder to achieve.

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Obamacons

Over at the Corner, Jonah Goldberg reconsiders the phenomenon of the Obamacons (conservatives who support Obama) and admits that “The Obamacons have reached sufficient voice and number to be more than the ‘statistical noise’ you get every election year.”

I think that this phenomenon can’t be analyzed without controlling for the probability of an Obama victory. It might be more accurate to call the Obamacons something like “Obamatunists.” It makes life much easier in Washington to have been counted as a supporter of the incumbent administration, especially when a side benefit of having switched sides is to be lavished with media attention and hailed as a great visionary. I doubt more than one or two of these characters would have announced for Obama if his and McCain’s polling numbers were reversed. Would Colin Powell have done so? Unthinkable.

Over at the Corner, Jonah Goldberg reconsiders the phenomenon of the Obamacons (conservatives who support Obama) and admits that “The Obamacons have reached sufficient voice and number to be more than the ‘statistical noise’ you get every election year.”

I think that this phenomenon can’t be analyzed without controlling for the probability of an Obama victory. It might be more accurate to call the Obamacons something like “Obamatunists.” It makes life much easier in Washington to have been counted as a supporter of the incumbent administration, especially when a side benefit of having switched sides is to be lavished with media attention and hailed as a great visionary. I doubt more than one or two of these characters would have announced for Obama if his and McCain’s polling numbers were reversed. Would Colin Powell have done so? Unthinkable.

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Down 9

Yesterday, an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll “found Obama’s margin over McCain on who’s stronger on jobs and the economy – by far the top issue in the country – down from 16 points to 7 points in one week.” Forget all the other “tightening” polls: this is the best evidence that Obama’s socialist revelations are costing him. It’s also the best news for the McCain camp since the economic crisis hit.

On his own, John McCain has been unable to find the right approach to the meltdown. As disturbing as that is, it’s downright reassuring compared to Obama’s tax-and-spread horror show. As a result, Obama lost 9 percentage points in one week. With a 7 point deficit and one week to go, John McCain has to hammer this issue home until the last vote has been cast. Interestingly, the poll also found:

  • On taxes, they prefer Obama by 48-43 percent, a drop of 3 points in a week.

On health care, likely voters trust Obama over McCain by 53-37 percent. That 16-point advantage was down from 24 points the week before.

  • Obama also lost a little standing on family values, the traditionally Republican issue where he has the edge, 47-42 percent. The week before, he led on family values by 48-40 percent.

Family values? Might this indicate that the Bill Ayers approach wasn’t a total waste for McCain after all? It could be that the Ayers charge softened the target, so to speak-raising questions about judgment and radical ideology. Followed by Obama’s “spread the wealth” comment and the release of his 2001 pro-redistribution interview, the ineffective jab became part of a stunning combo.

UPDATE: Rasmussen now has McCain beating Obama on taxes 47% to 45%. “Two weeks ago, Obama had a one point-advantage on the issue of taxes and a month ago, he had a three-point edge.”

Yesterday, an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll “found Obama’s margin over McCain on who’s stronger on jobs and the economy – by far the top issue in the country – down from 16 points to 7 points in one week.” Forget all the other “tightening” polls: this is the best evidence that Obama’s socialist revelations are costing him. It’s also the best news for the McCain camp since the economic crisis hit.

On his own, John McCain has been unable to find the right approach to the meltdown. As disturbing as that is, it’s downright reassuring compared to Obama’s tax-and-spread horror show. As a result, Obama lost 9 percentage points in one week. With a 7 point deficit and one week to go, John McCain has to hammer this issue home until the last vote has been cast. Interestingly, the poll also found:

  • On taxes, they prefer Obama by 48-43 percent, a drop of 3 points in a week.

On health care, likely voters trust Obama over McCain by 53-37 percent. That 16-point advantage was down from 24 points the week before.

  • Obama also lost a little standing on family values, the traditionally Republican issue where he has the edge, 47-42 percent. The week before, he led on family values by 48-40 percent.

Family values? Might this indicate that the Bill Ayers approach wasn’t a total waste for McCain after all? It could be that the Ayers charge softened the target, so to speak-raising questions about judgment and radical ideology. Followed by Obama’s “spread the wealth” comment and the release of his 2001 pro-redistribution interview, the ineffective jab became part of a stunning combo.

UPDATE: Rasmussen now has McCain beating Obama on taxes 47% to 45%. “Two weeks ago, Obama had a one point-advantage on the issue of taxes and a month ago, he had a three-point edge.”

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“Debris”

Yesterday, Pyongyang threatened South Korea because activists there have been sending helium balloons carrying propaganda messages over North Korea. According to a statement issued by the official Korean Central News Agency, the country’s military said the following: “The puppet authorities had better bear in mind that the advanced preemptive strike of our own style will reduce everything . . . to debris, not just setting them on fire.”

“Debris”? That’s an interesting choice of words from an army with a nuclear arsenal. The Kim regime, of course, is famous for issuing blustery statements and promising Armageddon.

This time, we should pay attention. The North has decreased contact with South Korea since this February, when the conservative Lee Myung-bak took office as president. In times of increased tension, any little incident can trigger conflict on the Korean peninsula. Says Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University in Seoul, “North Korea could seize on a small accident or unintended intrusion on land or at sea and escalate it into a localized military clash.”

Or the North can provoke an incident-as it has often done throughout its history. Today, Pyongyang disputes its western sea boundary with South Korea, and in recent years there have been periodic skirmishes in the Yellow Sea along the Northern Limit Line. And we have to remember that the Korean War did not start out of the blue. It was preceded by skirmishes between the two Koreas in the months leading up to Kim Il Sung’s June 1950 invasion.

So it is about time for the United States to make some declarations of its own. Perhaps we should remind Pyongyang that we defend South Korea every minute of every day with our nuclear arsenal-and that we have enough warheads to turn Kim Jong Il’s mountainous country into a parking lot, literally at the push of several buttons and the turns of several keys.

Yesterday, Pyongyang threatened South Korea because activists there have been sending helium balloons carrying propaganda messages over North Korea. According to a statement issued by the official Korean Central News Agency, the country’s military said the following: “The puppet authorities had better bear in mind that the advanced preemptive strike of our own style will reduce everything . . . to debris, not just setting them on fire.”

“Debris”? That’s an interesting choice of words from an army with a nuclear arsenal. The Kim regime, of course, is famous for issuing blustery statements and promising Armageddon.

This time, we should pay attention. The North has decreased contact with South Korea since this February, when the conservative Lee Myung-bak took office as president. In times of increased tension, any little incident can trigger conflict on the Korean peninsula. Says Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University in Seoul, “North Korea could seize on a small accident or unintended intrusion on land or at sea and escalate it into a localized military clash.”

Or the North can provoke an incident-as it has often done throughout its history. Today, Pyongyang disputes its western sea boundary with South Korea, and in recent years there have been periodic skirmishes in the Yellow Sea along the Northern Limit Line. And we have to remember that the Korean War did not start out of the blue. It was preceded by skirmishes between the two Koreas in the months leading up to Kim Il Sung’s June 1950 invasion.

So it is about time for the United States to make some declarations of its own. Perhaps we should remind Pyongyang that we defend South Korea every minute of every day with our nuclear arsenal-and that we have enough warheads to turn Kim Jong Il’s mountainous country into a parking lot, literally at the push of several buttons and the turns of several keys.

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Losing The Caucasus

America missed a golden opportunity by not taking a larger role in Azerbaijan’s “frozen conflict” with Armenia. And Moscow just picked up the ball dropped by Washington: Russia will soon enjoy the allegiance of the Azeri population and access to Azerbaijan’s critical gas and oil reserves.

On November 2, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian will meet in Moscow, where Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will play peacemaker and try to find a way to end the on-going conflict. This meeting should have happened in Washington, with George W. Bush presiding.

I was in Azerbaijan in August, just days after Russia invaded neighboring Georgia, and it is impossible for me to overstate the earnestness of pro-Western sentiment in the country. (I’ve written about it here, here, and here, and Michael Totten has a piece about the same trip here.) To a man, Azeris practically begged for American help in resolving the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorny Karabakh region. Sadly, following the Palestinian model of victimhood, there was a lot of talk about the all-powerful Armenian lobby and its supposed influence in DC. There was no other way for Azeris to understand why America didn’t do more to help a post-Soviet moderate Muslim territory with decidedly democratic aspirations.

Russia had sided previously with Armenia in the Nagorny Karabakh dispute, but in the northern part of the country I saw Russian-made jet fighters running drills from Azeri bases. We weren’t selling Azerbaijan weapons–Russia was. Geographically, Azerbaijan borders Russia, Georgia, and Iran. Politically, it’s torn between snail’s-pace westernization and continued Kremlin intimidation (plus Tehran’s largely failed attempts to make an impact.) Instead of tipping the scales in our favor, we sat on our hands and gave Putin and Medvedev a priceless gift.

Borut Grgic and Alexandros Petersen write in today’s Wall Street Journal that Russia is not only hosting talks, but has switched its support from Armenia to Azerbaijan. If Putin and Medvedev firmly tilt Azerbaijan in Moscow’s direction, it will be a massive step toward re-establishing Russian power throughout the Caucasus. It also furthers Russia’s cause as an indispensable energy player. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which begins in Azerbaijan’s capital city, brings gas and oil from the Caspian Sea directly to European markets. The whole pending fiasco is a lesson in the cost of American inaction.

America missed a golden opportunity by not taking a larger role in Azerbaijan’s “frozen conflict” with Armenia. And Moscow just picked up the ball dropped by Washington: Russia will soon enjoy the allegiance of the Azeri population and access to Azerbaijan’s critical gas and oil reserves.

On November 2, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian will meet in Moscow, where Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will play peacemaker and try to find a way to end the on-going conflict. This meeting should have happened in Washington, with George W. Bush presiding.

I was in Azerbaijan in August, just days after Russia invaded neighboring Georgia, and it is impossible for me to overstate the earnestness of pro-Western sentiment in the country. (I’ve written about it here, here, and here, and Michael Totten has a piece about the same trip here.) To a man, Azeris practically begged for American help in resolving the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorny Karabakh region. Sadly, following the Palestinian model of victimhood, there was a lot of talk about the all-powerful Armenian lobby and its supposed influence in DC. There was no other way for Azeris to understand why America didn’t do more to help a post-Soviet moderate Muslim territory with decidedly democratic aspirations.

Russia had sided previously with Armenia in the Nagorny Karabakh dispute, but in the northern part of the country I saw Russian-made jet fighters running drills from Azeri bases. We weren’t selling Azerbaijan weapons–Russia was. Geographically, Azerbaijan borders Russia, Georgia, and Iran. Politically, it’s torn between snail’s-pace westernization and continued Kremlin intimidation (plus Tehran’s largely failed attempts to make an impact.) Instead of tipping the scales in our favor, we sat on our hands and gave Putin and Medvedev a priceless gift.

Borut Grgic and Alexandros Petersen write in today’s Wall Street Journal that Russia is not only hosting talks, but has switched its support from Armenia to Azerbaijan. If Putin and Medvedev firmly tilt Azerbaijan in Moscow’s direction, it will be a massive step toward re-establishing Russian power throughout the Caucasus. It also furthers Russia’s cause as an indispensable energy player. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which begins in Azerbaijan’s capital city, brings gas and oil from the Caspian Sea directly to European markets. The whole pending fiasco is a lesson in the cost of American inaction.

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This Is What Real Reporters Do

David Gregory has the out-there notion that he is not supposed to take at face value everything the Obama camp says. In this interview, he goes after an Obama rep on two key points: raising taxes in a recession is “risky” and Obama’s refusal to identify a single specific item he’d cut in the budget.

Why can’t these points be put to Barack Obama in a debate or an interview? Reporters simply don’t ask him direct questions like: “When asked about items you will cut you have identified new spending priorities. Why won’t you tell voters what’s going to get trimmed or axed?” It’s not that hard to come up with many other substantive questions, and then press him with follow-ups. This is Journalism 101.

But it seems, over and over again, the media has simply deferred to the Obama version of reality. This is especially true on his own record and personal history. Obama says he’s a reformer, so no use asking him why he didn’t challenge the Daley machine at any point. He says he couldn’t possibly support infanticide, so there’s no point of taking him through the specifics of his votes on the Born Alive Infants legislation. He claims his relationship with Bill Ayers was slight, so there’s no reason to ask him about the conversations they might have had on “redistributive change” or about Ayers’ terrorist activities or about the groups which they funded together through the Woods Fund. Obama’s such a post-partisan guy there really isn’t any point grilling him as to how he could be unaware of Reverend Wright’s rhetoric.

You can call it bias or passivity or whatever you like. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that the press is not, in any meaningful sense, intellectually or politically independent from the Obama camp. On the contrary, the MSM has adopted entirely the Obama storyline. They simple relate it; they don’t challenge or investigate it. And when an enterprising reporter does try to push back a bit, it certainly is newsworthy.

David Gregory has the out-there notion that he is not supposed to take at face value everything the Obama camp says. In this interview, he goes after an Obama rep on two key points: raising taxes in a recession is “risky” and Obama’s refusal to identify a single specific item he’d cut in the budget.

Why can’t these points be put to Barack Obama in a debate or an interview? Reporters simply don’t ask him direct questions like: “When asked about items you will cut you have identified new spending priorities. Why won’t you tell voters what’s going to get trimmed or axed?” It’s not that hard to come up with many other substantive questions, and then press him with follow-ups. This is Journalism 101.

But it seems, over and over again, the media has simply deferred to the Obama version of reality. This is especially true on his own record and personal history. Obama says he’s a reformer, so no use asking him why he didn’t challenge the Daley machine at any point. He says he couldn’t possibly support infanticide, so there’s no point of taking him through the specifics of his votes on the Born Alive Infants legislation. He claims his relationship with Bill Ayers was slight, so there’s no reason to ask him about the conversations they might have had on “redistributive change” or about Ayers’ terrorist activities or about the groups which they funded together through the Woods Fund. Obama’s such a post-partisan guy there really isn’t any point grilling him as to how he could be unaware of Reverend Wright’s rhetoric.

You can call it bias or passivity or whatever you like. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that the press is not, in any meaningful sense, intellectually or politically independent from the Obama camp. On the contrary, the MSM has adopted entirely the Obama storyline. They simple relate it; they don’t challenge or investigate it. And when an enterprising reporter does try to push back a bit, it certainly is newsworthy.

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The Writing Is Flat

Tom Friedman really dialed it in this morning:

I’ve always been dubious about Barack Obama’s offer to negotiate with Iran – not because I didn’t believe that it was the right strategy, but because I didn’t believe we had enough leverage to succeed. And negotiating in the Middle East without leverage is like playing baseball without a bat.

Tom Friedman really dialed it in this morning:

I’ve always been dubious about Barack Obama’s offer to negotiate with Iran – not because I didn’t believe that it was the right strategy, but because I didn’t believe we had enough leverage to succeed. And negotiating in the Middle East without leverage is like playing baseball without a bat.

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Not Buying It

Mickey Kaus isn’t buying the “I’m repulsed by McCain tactics” excuse offered by some pundits who have declared themselves to be for Barack Obama. He concludes: “It’s hard to believe that this repulsion isn’t a convenient cover for some unstated, perhaps unconscious, pro-Obama imperative (or maybe simply for the imperative to come to a decision).” He makes the case that, since McCain’s campaign will end, it makes no sense to hold campaign tactics against him, especially since he hasn’t give up positions on core issues (e.g. immigration reform).

There are a few other reasons why this is thin gruel indeed. First, Obama’s campaign ads — from immigration to healthcare to “100 years in Iraq” —  have been more intellectually dishonest than anything McCain has churned out. Why don’t those count? Second, Obama’s thugocracy tactics (e.g. using the Department of Justice to go after political opponents) are more dangerous to the body politic than some negative ads and populist appeals by McCain-Palin. Obama’s antics actually could extend after the election, when Obama might have all the powers of the federal government at his beck and call. Third, McCain hasn’t exhibited any sort of contempt for intellectualism. He’s focused on serious issues, argued about the place of courts in our system, contrasted the two sides’ fundamentally different economic visions, and set out a comprehensive approach to national security. This is inferior to “We are the change we have been waiting for?” Please. Finally, this is awfully small beans. We are led to believe that distaste for campaign techniques trumps national security, energy policy, the financial crisis, the future of the Supreme Court, key social issues, and everything else?

So what’s this “unstated, perhaps unconscious, pro-Obama imperative”? Perhaps these pundits want to be “transformed.” Or maybe the Obama endorsers really aren’t all that conservative to begin with, and never really considered voting for McCain. But that wouldn’t be an extraordinary rationale. Another pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, anti-Iraq war pundit supports the Democratic nominee. No one would take much note of that, right?

Mickey Kaus isn’t buying the “I’m repulsed by McCain tactics” excuse offered by some pundits who have declared themselves to be for Barack Obama. He concludes: “It’s hard to believe that this repulsion isn’t a convenient cover for some unstated, perhaps unconscious, pro-Obama imperative (or maybe simply for the imperative to come to a decision).” He makes the case that, since McCain’s campaign will end, it makes no sense to hold campaign tactics against him, especially since he hasn’t give up positions on core issues (e.g. immigration reform).

There are a few other reasons why this is thin gruel indeed. First, Obama’s campaign ads — from immigration to healthcare to “100 years in Iraq” —  have been more intellectually dishonest than anything McCain has churned out. Why don’t those count? Second, Obama’s thugocracy tactics (e.g. using the Department of Justice to go after political opponents) are more dangerous to the body politic than some negative ads and populist appeals by McCain-Palin. Obama’s antics actually could extend after the election, when Obama might have all the powers of the federal government at his beck and call. Third, McCain hasn’t exhibited any sort of contempt for intellectualism. He’s focused on serious issues, argued about the place of courts in our system, contrasted the two sides’ fundamentally different economic visions, and set out a comprehensive approach to national security. This is inferior to “We are the change we have been waiting for?” Please. Finally, this is awfully small beans. We are led to believe that distaste for campaign techniques trumps national security, energy policy, the financial crisis, the future of the Supreme Court, key social issues, and everything else?

So what’s this “unstated, perhaps unconscious, pro-Obama imperative”? Perhaps these pundits want to be “transformed.” Or maybe the Obama endorsers really aren’t all that conservative to begin with, and never really considered voting for McCain. But that wouldn’t be an extraordinary rationale. Another pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, anti-Iraq war pundit supports the Democratic nominee. No one would take much note of that, right?

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