Michelle Obama on Barack Obama, 2004. Video here.
Posts For: October 31, 2008
Even as Barack Obama has attempted to project a moderate outlook on the presidential campaign trail, his leftist supporters have remained faithful to his cause. Naturally, Obama’s rock-solid radical resume – which Joshua Muravchik beautifully documented in the October issue of COMMENTARY – gives many of them ample reason to believe that he is merely playing politics when he promises to expand faith-based programs, opposes gay marriage, and speaks of reducing the abortion rate. Still, some of Obama’s far-left supporters are starting to wonder whether their candidate’s apparent turn to the center is a dark sign of things to come.
Indeed, we can already see the first chips in their confidence. Case in point: the insufferable Rachel Maddow, who
interviewed reprimanded Obama on MSNBC last night:
MADDOW: Senator, you criticize the Bush administration frequently. But you almost never criticize the Republican Party itself. Other Democrats.
OBAMA: Much to your chagrin.
MADDOW: Well, yes, actually. I mean, other Democrats, you will hear them talk about the GOP as the party that’s been wrong on all the big stuff. Creating Social Security, civil rights, the war in Iraq. But you don’t really do that.
MADDOW: Now, they do not see you the same way. When they talk – when John McCain calls you a socialist.
MADDOW: … this redistribute the wealth idea. He calls you soft on national security.
MADDOW: That’s not just an anti-Barack Obama script. That is-he’s reading from an anti-Democrat, and specifically an anti-liberal script.
MADDOW: And so, you have the opportunity to say, John McCain, George Bush, you’re wrong. You also have the opportunity to say, conservatism has been bad for America. But you haven’t gone there either.
OBAMA: Yes, I tell you what, though, Rachel. You notice, I think we’re winning right now.
Two things become immediately clear from this exchange. First, Obama clearly anticipated Maddow’s frustration – which indicates that leftists’ frustration with their chosen son might be more pronounced than the MSM has been reporting. Second, Obama seems to realize that a leftist program is hardly a winning program, which suggests that political pragmatism might force him to govern from the center-left if he is elected.
This suggests a consolation prize for conservatives if Obama wins: before long, leftists will find themselves in a tizzy.
After Election Day, the Republican Senate may be the only thing standing between Democrats and a slew of liberal wish-list items. There’s some positive news for the GOP in Kentucky, Minnesota, and Georgia. Things looks decidedly less bright for Republicans in North Carolina and Oregon.
It may be that the divided government argument is gaining some traction — enough to save the strongest of the Senate Republican incumbents — but not quite enough to turn the tide against Barack Obama or save the Senate seats in the states where he is running very strongly ( North Carolina and Oregon, for example).
But if you believe fourteen percent of voters still haven’t made up their minds on the president, you might expect these Senate races to be even more unsettled.
Obama is easily the most overhyped candidate in my experience. The media loves him. The thing about polls is that they are a device both to measure opinion and also to shape it. And the use of polling has grown tremendously in this election. The danger is obviously that polling is used as a substitute for an argument and as a means to artificially declare the race over before the actual vote. If you are to declare a candidate as having an insurmountable lead, then the basis of that should be certain. Otherwise you have helped potentially to suppress voting.
Jake Tapper reports that, in Florida yesterday, Barack Obama made clear what he thinks about people who disagree with him on taxes:
“The point is, though, that — and it’s not just charity, it’s not just that I want to help the middle class and working people who are trying to get in the middle class — it’s that when we actually make sure that everybody’s got a shot – when young people can all go to college, when everybody’s got decent health care, when everybody’s got a little more money at the end of the month – then guess what? Everybody starts spending that money, they decide maybe I can afford a new car, maybe I can afford a computer for my child. They can buy the products and services that businesses are selling and everybody is better off. All boats rise. That’s what happened in the 1990s, that’s what we need to restore. And that’s what I’m gonna do as president of the United States of America.”
“John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic,” Obama continued. “You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.”
Aside from insulting voters who think it isn’t selfish to use their own money to build businesses, raise children, and give to charity (ask Joe Biden about that!), his formulation shows an appalling lack of understanding about how people get rich. The government is going to give people goodies and then they’ll have more money to spend? Wow. Who knew it could be so easy? No working, earning, saving, building businesses, hiring more people, investing and the like. Money just comes from thin air, from the government.
Voters should listen up. Obama is finally revealing his true self. Maybe McCain should take down his own ads and just run Obama and Biden soundbites. Oh, and that $250,000 (then $200,000, then $150,000) dividing line between the taxed and the saved in an Obama administration? One of the stars of the Obama-mercial, Bill Richardson, seems to think the real number is $120,oo0. Do I hear $75,000?
Author Erica Jong and company are stressing about a McCain win:
My friends Ken Follett and Susan Cheever are extremely worried. Naomi Wolf calls me every day. Yesterday, Jane Fonda sent me an email to tell me that she cried all night and can’t cure her ailing back for all the stress that has reduced her to a bundle of nerves.
My back is also suffering from spasms, so much so that I had to see an acupuncturist and get prescriptions for Valium.
Fun crowd. I admit I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation: Jane Fonda’s back hurts! I like the idea of Dr. Obama, the faddish quack with the miracle cure for Hollywood’s hysterical back patients. Sure, he charges a fortune, but . . .
Jane and Erica better get rehabbed soon because,
If Obama loses it will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will run in the streets, believe me. And it’s not a coincidence that President Bush recalled soldiers from Iraq for Dick Cheney to lead against American citizens in the streets.
Why am I not surprised that this twisted fantasy ends with American soldiers killing civilians?
Yesterday, the Associated Press, relying on an intelligence assessment leaked by a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported that Iran has conducted tests to determine the feasibility of obtaining highly enriched uranium from waste reactor fuel. The three-page report notes the Iranian leadership has yet to decide whether to proceed with the project, which would be part of a covert effort to further its nuclear ambitions. The tests, similar to those authorized by Saddam Hussein about twenty years ago, took place at a site of other secret Iranian nuclear experiments.
Although the reprocessing of reactor fuel will not give the mullahs enough uranium metal to build a weapon, it will help legitimize Tehran’s program. “It’s the idea that Iran wants to slowly develop nuclear weapons capability under the tent and it does it slowly so that people will accept it,” says David Albright, the Washington proliferation expert. “It’s keeping your head down, moving slowly and deliberately and winning at each step.”
Iran does not have to win too many more steps or prevail much longer. The AP’s source says the country could be as little as six months away from obtaining all the capability needed to build a nuke. Asia Times Online has released a November 1 commentary arguing the Bush administration has every reason to attack Iran after the election and before the inauguration of Barack Obama. It appears from this side of the Pacific, however, that Dubya will not engage in any more military adventures abroad, whether or not the Illinois senator is elected Tuesday.
The President has apparently lost his will to stop the Iranians because he will not confront his Russian and Chinese counterparts, who are blocking effective multilateral action against Iran. Yet just because he ignores the mullahs does not mean the threat they pose has disappeared. On the contrary, that threat grows as time progresses because, even if they do not authorize the uranium-recovery plan revealed yesterday, their weapons technicians continue to work in secret labs and their centrifuges continue to spin, enriching uranium.
Tehran has made it clear that its nuclear program will not be stopped by the United Nations, low energy prices, or popular discontent at home. Some may say the mullahs can be talked out of their program, especially if Washington raises the stakes, and others argue only force or its threat will work. Yet one thing is clear: our government no longer seems to care and has given up trying to eliminate the gravest and most immediate danger to international stability.
In effect, McCain’s Lefty-light has made beating Obama much more difficult because his many maverick forays make it hard for us to get traction on subjects like ACORN, Khalidi, speech-suppression, immigration, enhanced due-process for terrorists, etc. A real conservative could have made a much more compelling fight on the issues than McCain has.
But that’s water under the bridge now, and none of it changes the obvious: Whatever typically infurating dalliances McCain may have had with Khalidi and ACORN, they don’t compare to the depth of relationship that Obama had with Khalidi and ACORN – and like-minded Leftists. It’s not even close.
McCarthy is right. If the Obama camp could convince voters that all their candidate did was okay $448k to go to Khalidi’s Center for Palestine Reasearch and Studies, they’d jump at the chance. If the LA Times had a video of Obama signing that check, no one would even watch it.
McCain’s token gesture was a political quickie aimed at pacifying a noisy party that you’d never really want to get personally involved with. Obama’s intimate history with the likes of Khalidi is of an entirely different order. Groups like the CPRS are specifically designed to cloak radical players in the robes of academic respectability. That McCain obliged–like every other American politician these days–is one kind of concern. That people like Khalidi don’t even need to take the backdoor when approaching Obama is quite another. By his own admission, Obama said talks with Khalidi have served as “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases.” Khalidi’s front organization may have elicited a check from John McCain, but Khalidi himself has corrected Obama’s thinking. While the candidates are “not even close” on this issue, it’s a messy argument for McCain to make–and it leaves him looking irresponsible.
Charles Krauthammer lists what we would get with Barack Obama and a Democratic majority in Congress:
(1) Card check, meaning the abolition of the secret ballot in the certification of unions in the workplace. Large men will come to your house at night and ask you to sign a card supporting a union. You will sign.
(2) The so-called Fairness Doctrine — a project of Nancy Pelosi and leading Democratic senators — a Hugo Chavez-style travesty designed to abolish conservative talk radio.
(3) Judges who go beyond even the constitutional creativity we expect from Democratic appointees. Judges chosen according to Obama’s publicly declared criterion: “empathy” for the “poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old” — in a legal system historically predicated on the idea of justice entirely blind to one’s station in life.
(4) An unprecedented expansion of government power. Yes, I know. It has already happened. A conservative government has already partially nationalized the mortgage industry, the insurance industry and nine of the largest U.S. banks.
Very simply, Americans will be less free. Unions will be imposed. Speech may be curtailed. Courts and government bureaucrats will make decisions that were once left to private individuals and businesses. The prospect is quite stark. If Obama and Pelosi get their way, the results will be felt by many Americans.
So Republicans, if defeated, will have a choice. Will they be complicit in the biggest power grab in seventy years? Or will they look for an alternative message built around Constitutional rights (of speech and in voting), the rule of law, and economic liberty? If they are looking for a comeback agenda, they could do worse.
This is why it might happen. Not saying it will.
1) One poll has undecided voters at 14 percent on the last weekend, which means most of them probably really aren’t undecided, that they are either going to stay home or vote preponderantly for McCain and pull McCain across the finish line.
2) Most pollsters are claiming the electorate this year is six to nine points more Democratic than it is Republican. That would be an unprecedented shift from four years ago, when the electorate was evenly divided, 37-37, Republican and Democratic, and a huge shift from two years ago, when it was 37-33 Democratic. A shift of this size didn’t even happen after Watergate.
3) Obama frequently outpolled his final result in primaries, which might have many causes but might also indicate that he has difficulty closing the sale.
4) The argument in the past two weeks has shifted, such that many undecided voters who are now paying attention are hearing about Obama’s redistributionist tendencies at exactly the right moment for McCain.
5) The tightening in several daily tracking polls indicates a modest surge on McCain’s part that could continue through the weekend until election day. If he is behind by three or four points right now, a slow and steady move upward could push him past the finish line in first place.
6) In terms of the electoral map, the energy and focus McCain is directing at Pennsylvania could pay huge dividends if he pulls it off. If he prevails there, it might follow that the message will work in Ohio too. And if he wins Pennsylvania and Ohio, he will probably win even if he loses Virginia and Colorado.
7) Early voting numbers are not oceanic by any means, which may indicate the degree of enthusiasm for Obama among new voters is not something new but something entirely of a par with past candidates, like John Kerry. And they show more strength on the Republican side than most people expected.
8) What happened with the Joe the Plumber story is that Obama has now been effectively outed as a liberal, not a moderate; and because liberalism is still less popular than conservatism, that’s not the best place for Obama to be.
9) The fire lit under Obama’s young supporters in the winter was largely due to Iraq and his opposition to the war. The stunning decline in violence and the departure of Iraq from the front page has put out the fire, to the extent that, like the young woman who made a sexy video calling herself Obama Girl and then didn’t vote in the New York primary because she went to get a manicure, they might not want to stand on line on Tuesday.
10) Hispanic voters, who are always underpolled, know and appreciate McCain from his stance on immigration and will vote for him in larger numbers than anyone anticipates.
There you have it. It’s admittedly not the strongest case, and the idea that McCain will win on Tuesday is hard to square with the fact there isn’t a single poll that has him in the lead five days out. But unexpected things do happen in politics every election.
Gerard Baker makes the case that Obama’s modest polling lead reveals the inherent conservatism of American political instincts:
Or put it another way: it has taken a mismanaged foreign policy that almost lost a war, a botched emergency response that almost lost a city, a Republican Party that almost lost its soul and an economic crisis that almost lost the country’s financial system to break the Republican stranglehold on the White House.
Let’s leave aside questions about the inevitability of an Obama victory. Are Baker’s accusations on the money?
As Baker notes, the U.S. didn’t lose that war. And it’s well-documented that John McCain is a big part of the reason why. McCain’s championing a winning strategy in a winning war hardly seems like a gift to Obama. Rather, it is the Iraq War itself that voters hate. But the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, and if the Democrats had their way three years later, things would not have gone from bad to good, but straight to American defeat. The notion of Republicans as foreign policy blunderers stems from a few tragic, but since-corrected, mistakes that were distorted and amplified by a hostile media.
Similarly, neither the press nor the public seem to care that Hurricane Katrina was an act of nature that took out the decades-old infrastructure of a city built below sea-level. The botched response came exclusively from the municipal and state level. New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, let the sick and elderly float to their deaths inside their own homes, while scores of empty school buses stood in parking-lots unused. The New Orleans Police Department abandoned their posts. And Louisiana’s Democratic governor Kathleen Blanco first stalled in her decision and then turned down George W. Bush’s offer to federalize the National Guard until it was too late. If the President wanted to force the Governor to accept the offer sooner, he would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act — and we can easily imagine how that would have been received.
Concerning the economic crisis, it’s a matter of public record that George W. Bush and John McCain had both called for strictly regulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and were rebuffed by Congressional Democrats. More importantly, the profligate lending at the heart of the crisis cuts to the misguided core of present day Democratic philosophy. Add to this the simple unscrupulousness of Democrats who received exorbitant campaign donations from Fannie and Freddie (or who were personally entangled with members of those bodies), and it’s hard to see how the crisis can be blamed on Republicans. But as with foreign policy and Hurricane Katrina, the media found the narrative most hostile to the present administration and that became the official record.
The fact that writers as insightful as Baker take the veracity of such Republican foibles for granted says more about the country’s political constitution than do dubious poll numbers. (Baker is British, but he’s a close enough observer of U.S. politics to count as American in this context.) With a media that can’t let any bad news pass without pinning it on George W. Bush and a public that relishes the prospect of each supposed blunder, the question of our country’s political instincts seems obscured by the larger question of our country’s faith in an undeserving media elite.
The polls, and more importantly the poll spinners, create the illusion that each presidential candidate already has X percent of the vote and the task, therefore, for John McCain is to try to dislodge some of the Barack Obama voters. That is true, to a certain extent, but it ignores the extraordinary number of voters who haven’t yet decided. From this report :
One in seven, or 14 percent, can’t decide or back a candidate but might switch, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll of likely voters released Friday.Who are they? They look a lot like the voters who’ve already locked onto a candidate, though they’re more likely to be white and less likely to be liberal. And they disproportionately backed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s failed run for the Democratic nomination.
Fourteen percent?? Isn’t that a lot of voters? Well, yes. And it is especially a lot if the spread on the race is three points (as FOX has it) rather than eleven points (as CBS/New York Times pegs it).
The details on these voters are interesting:
Almost four in 10 persuadables lean toward McCain, and about as many are considering backing Obama, while the rest are either undecided or lean toward other candidates. Viewed another way, about one in every 10 supporters of Obama or McCain says he could still change his mind.
Even so, persuadable voters could be especially fertile hunting ground for McCain in the closing days of a contest in which most polls show him trailing. These people trust Obama less than decided voters do to handle the economy, the Iraq war and terrorism. They are less accepting that the Illinois senator has enough experience to be president. And by a 17 percentage-point spread, more see Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin favorably than unfavorably, unlike the narrow majority of voters already backing a candidate who dislike her.
So the people in play, whose votes McCain most needs, prefer Palin by a 17% spread. That might explain why she is in the state most critical to a McCain upset — Pennsylvania. And these are the people perhaps most amenable to the Joe the Plumber message. Luckily for McCain, that’s most of what he’s talking about these days.
None of this means McCain’s task is easy. But it should remind those certain about the outcome that there are many, many voters who aren’t certain at all about how they are going to vote.
John Hood suggests Barack Obama is confused or wants to confuse us about the meaning of “share.”
What better person for chief of staff for a team increasingly revealed to be a “thugocracy” than Rahm Emanuel? This tidbit says it all: “Emanuel’s reputation for political ruthlessness earned him the nickname ‘Rahmbo,’ an image reinforced by a legendary episode when he sent a dead fish to a pollster who displeased him.”
Mickey Kaus isn’t buying that Barack Obama’s aims for redistributive justice are limited to prodecural protections. No, they are after the money!
Andy McCarthy, as others have, calls for the Los Angeles Times to release a transcript of the Khalidi event.
And Gabriel Schoenfeld has some questions about Obama conduct at the event: “What exactly did Obama say? What did others say? According to the LA Times, along with speeches condemning Israeli ‘terrorism,’ poetry denouncing the Jewish state was read at the event. How did Obama react? Did he applaud? Did he walk out? Or did he sit impassively?”
If “conservative” has any meaning, Paul Mirengoff argues, it is that you wouldn’t support the most liberal Senator in his quest for the presidency.
We don’t have enough polls–so now we have letters from pollsters.
Michael Barone thinks the Democrats will fall short of the filibuster-proof 60 in the Senate. But, considering that some of the Republicans aren’t exactly stalwart in the face of Democratic pressure, the GOP will need a few to spare.
The generic polling gap for Congress is closing. You mean voters don’t buy Nancy Pelosi’s promise to be more bipartisan if Democrats get to run everything?
Good advice for the GOP, regardless of the outcome on Tuesday: cultivate smart, fresh leaders and work on real problems. Gosh, would that have worked this time?
Somehow, this very important issue never quite got the attention it deserved: “Mr. Obama pledges to clean up our nation’s politics and outpolls John McCain on honesty and ethics. Yet in Chicago, he moved with the Tony Rezkos and endorsed pols like Mayor Daley and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Can a politician so steeped in his hometown’s ways really be an agent of change in Washington?”
Middle East scholar Hillel Fradkin, of the Hudson Institute, offers thoughts for the next President of the United States. “We are the guarantors of the security of [the Middle East],” argues Fradkin, and America should maintain its presence in the region—and confirm its commitment to the region—in order to ensure that the Middle East does not regress to chaos. It’s a short, compelling spot, and I recommend watching the whole thing: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rHBLcHNNO8[/youtube]
Stuart Taylor tries to figure out whether Barack Obama is an ultra-liberal partisan or a moderate reformer. On the former side of the ledger, he reviews Obama’s associations with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn and finds:
I dwell on these much-debated associations not because I think that Obama sympathizes with what he has called Ayers’s “detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8″ or identifies with Wright’s wild ravings. But I do think that Obama has understated (at best) his involvement with Wright and Ayers. And I wonder about the worldview of a man who was so comfortable with such far-left extremists and whose wife, Michelle, asserted earlier this year that America is “just downright mean” and “guided by fear” and that most Americans’ lives have “gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl.”
Obama’s voting record as an Illinois and then U.S. senator is not extremist or radical. But it is not a bit bipartisan, either. He has hardly ever broken with his party, and he famously had the most liberal record of any senator in 2007 (although not in 2006 or 2005), according to National Journal‘s vote ratings.
This Obama has endorsed a long list of liberal restrictions on free enterprise that could end up hurting the people they are supposed to help, along with the rest of us: statist remedies for our broken educational system; encouraging unionization by substituting peer pressure and an undemocratic card-check process for secret ballots; raising the wages of women or lowering those of men who have dissimilar jobs that are declared by bureaucrats to be of comparable worth; renegotiating NAFTA; and more.
On the other side of the ledger, he finds Obama’s leadership style in leading the Harvard law review nearly twenty years ago, some minor divergences from party orthodoxy, his recent choice of advisors, and lots of campaign rhetoric.
The Ledger is not balanced. But that is not Taylor’s fault. There really is far more evidence to support the conclusion that Obama is an ultra-liberal partisan. Moreover, there is negative evidence: Obama never rattled the Chicago machine, and he fell in comfortably with Tony Rezko and Rod Blagojevich. So there is even less evidence for the ”reformer” than for the ”moderate.”
If this were a trial, you would say there is certainly a preponderance of the evidence in favor of the theory that Obama is an ultra-liberal partisan. And, of course, if elected he’ll have Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid egging him on, even if he might be tempted to moderate his views. It’s no wonder that Obama supporters have relied on hope that he won’t follow the course suggested by his brief Senate career.
Steven Pearlstein observes that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson made a $125B “error” in the form of Fed’s forced equity purchase in nine banks. The banks are not using the money to lend, as was intended. Instead, they are “using it to maintain dividend payments to shareholders, pay this year’s bonuses to executives and traders, or squirrel it away for future acquisitions.” Oops!
But this is what comes from going into government overdrive, buying and cajoling, forcing and seizing the management of private business. You see, as misguided as the financial sector managers have been, the government overseers are not any smarter. That’s no slur on hard-working civil servants. But they have no particular insight here and no experience. Everyone is in uncharted waters.
The result is not just “wasted” money. Pearlstein explains:
Moreover, in trying to persuade banks that don’t need the money to take it, the Treasury has wound up offering everyone the same sweetheart deal that gives the government little say in how the money is used or how the banks are run. That’s particularly dangerous in the case of weaker banks, which might be tempted to take big risks in the hope of recouping past losses or to divert money to shareholders and executives before the inevitable government takeover.
But it doesn’t end there:
Perhaps the worst part of this misguided effort to recapitalize the banking system is that it has prompted other industries to line up for similar sweetheart deals. Automakers, insurers, auto finance companies and local governments are already besieging the Treasury, and you can be sure that others are refining their pitch. One can only hope that the terms of future deals will be sufficiently onerous that going to the Treasury will be become a last resort, not a first instinct, for industries in trouble.
In other words, once you swoop in, the law of unintended consequences takes over, which in turn begets new cries for more government action. And then other industries line up for their dose of assistance, that also does not work out as planned, causing . . . well, you get the point.
At some point, the government has to stop. These businesses need to run their own operations. Some need to fail. Others need to learn their lessons. There are no short cuts. And the more the government fiddles, the worse it is going to get. Soon (already?) there simply won’t be enough money left to do the things that only government can do (e.g., law enforcement, national defense)–let alone do the long list of things politicians have told the voters they want to do.
This is not a promising start. And it is only the start.
Frank Newport, from Gallup, reminded us on FOX last night that two of fourteen popular vote presidential winners — Ronald Reagan and Al Gore — faced, in the week before the election, deficits similar to the one facing John McCain. Reagan had the benefit of a debate close to the end of the race. Gore had a bump, it was surmised, from the revelation of Bush’s drunk driving arrest. In other words, something happened.
It is unclear whether the drip, drip, drip of concerns about Barack Obama — his redistributive economic philosophy, most importantly — is enough to lift McCain into the lead. Joe the Plumber might be that something. In this case, the messenger, oddly, is someone not on the ticket (Joe), someone who has come to symbolize the little guy. (And the elevation of Sarah Palin has magnified the message of elite liberalism vs. middle American entrepreneurism.)
So, there is a crack which McCain might just slip through. His campaign’s own shortcomings may have contributed to his predicament. But he is just the guy to cheat political death. After all, he’s done it before.