Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 5, 2008

Commentary of the Day

J. Lichty, on Abe Greenwald:

The big question is whether George Bush wants to go down in history as the one who did not stop Iran. There is a window for him to do something, that Obama will not want to do. My best case scenario prediction is that Bush says that he wants to hit Iran before he leaves office and that he will give Obama plausible deniability.

Obama may agree to something like this because he can always blame reprecussions on his predessor, and will have the relief of not having to make that call himself. Win/win for Obama.

J. Lichty, on Abe Greenwald:

The big question is whether George Bush wants to go down in history as the one who did not stop Iran. There is a window for him to do something, that Obama will not want to do. My best case scenario prediction is that Bush says that he wants to hit Iran before he leaves office and that he will give Obama plausible deniability.

Obama may agree to something like this because he can always blame reprecussions on his predessor, and will have the relief of not having to make that call himself. Win/win for Obama.

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The Baltic Missile Crisis?

Ralph Peters was extraordinarily insightful when he wrote in September:

Among the many reasons we misjudge Putin is our insistence on seeing him as “like us.” He’s not. His stage-management of the Georgia invasion was a perfect example: Western intelligence agencies had been monitoring Russian activities in the Caucasus for years and fully expected a confrontation. Even so, our analysts assumed that Russia wouldn’t act during this summer’s Olympics, traditionally an interval of peace.

Once again, as the world paused in universal celebration, Russia saw an opening and moved:

Speaking within hours of Barack Obama’s election as the new US President, Mr Medvedev announced that Russia would base Iskander missiles in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad next to the border with Poland.

He did not say whether the short-range missiles would carry nuclear warheads. Mr Medvedev also cancelled earlier plans to withdraw three intercontinental ballistic missile regiments from western Russia.

Also, shirking any accepted standards of statesmanlike conduct, Medvedev did not offer a word of congratulations to Obama. In fact, he did not even mention the U.S. election. In Russia, we now witness ice-cold realism at its most intractable. This is an enemy that advances when we blink.

Ralph Peters was extraordinarily insightful when he wrote in September:

Among the many reasons we misjudge Putin is our insistence on seeing him as “like us.” He’s not. His stage-management of the Georgia invasion was a perfect example: Western intelligence agencies had been monitoring Russian activities in the Caucasus for years and fully expected a confrontation. Even so, our analysts assumed that Russia wouldn’t act during this summer’s Olympics, traditionally an interval of peace.

Once again, as the world paused in universal celebration, Russia saw an opening and moved:

Speaking within hours of Barack Obama’s election as the new US President, Mr Medvedev announced that Russia would base Iskander missiles in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad next to the border with Poland.

He did not say whether the short-range missiles would carry nuclear warheads. Mr Medvedev also cancelled earlier plans to withdraw three intercontinental ballistic missile regiments from western Russia.

Also, shirking any accepted standards of statesmanlike conduct, Medvedev did not offer a word of congratulations to Obama. In fact, he did not even mention the U.S. election. In Russia, we now witness ice-cold realism at its most intractable. This is an enemy that advances when we blink.

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Obama’s Success with Jews

The Republican Jewish Coalition just had a conference call on the Jewish vote. As you might know by now, Obama performed better among Jews than John Kerry did in 2004, despite the hype about some early polls showing Obama having troubles with these voters (I share the blame for making too much out of these numbers). And he did so well for many now-obvious reasons.

Yet the RJC makes an interesting case. Obama didn’t really do as well as people might assume. In this election cycle, the Democrats have gained among all voter groups. And comparing Jews to, say, Catholics or Latinos, the gains Obama made among Jews are not quite as impressive. It’s true that he did get more Jewish votes than Kerry. But he got fewer than both Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

Two other things the RJC is now trying to argue: that the Democrats had to invest much more effort with the Jewish vote this time, and that concerns about Obama losing Jewish voters made the candidate more prone to give pro-Israel speeches. In essence, the Jewish Republicans are trying to take some of the credit for the making of the pro-Israel-Obama.

Do I buy all these arguments? To some extent.

Politicians understand pressure. Obama (I think) felt pressured on Israel, and he made the necessary adjustments. This does not mean that the positions he espoused aren’t genuine.

That Obama didn’t perform as well as Gore and Clinton is also true. But I think the reason for the small difference is simple. The Orthodox Jewish community is slowly growing, and–by and large–that’s the group voting Republican. This means that the GOP share will keep going up, but in a gradual, slow way.

Bottom line: The Democrats did have to work a bit harder to hold their ground. They were able to prove, yet again, that Jews are liberal Democrats. They proved that making Jews abandon their party will be very difficult to do. They proved that the Jewish-Democratic alliance is rock solid. I’ll try to remember that until 2012, and beyond.

The Republican Jewish Coalition just had a conference call on the Jewish vote. As you might know by now, Obama performed better among Jews than John Kerry did in 2004, despite the hype about some early polls showing Obama having troubles with these voters (I share the blame for making too much out of these numbers). And he did so well for many now-obvious reasons.

Yet the RJC makes an interesting case. Obama didn’t really do as well as people might assume. In this election cycle, the Democrats have gained among all voter groups. And comparing Jews to, say, Catholics or Latinos, the gains Obama made among Jews are not quite as impressive. It’s true that he did get more Jewish votes than Kerry. But he got fewer than both Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

Two other things the RJC is now trying to argue: that the Democrats had to invest much more effort with the Jewish vote this time, and that concerns about Obama losing Jewish voters made the candidate more prone to give pro-Israel speeches. In essence, the Jewish Republicans are trying to take some of the credit for the making of the pro-Israel-Obama.

Do I buy all these arguments? To some extent.

Politicians understand pressure. Obama (I think) felt pressured on Israel, and he made the necessary adjustments. This does not mean that the positions he espoused aren’t genuine.

That Obama didn’t perform as well as Gore and Clinton is also true. But I think the reason for the small difference is simple. The Orthodox Jewish community is slowly growing, and–by and large–that’s the group voting Republican. This means that the GOP share will keep going up, but in a gradual, slow way.

Bottom line: The Democrats did have to work a bit harder to hold their ground. They were able to prove, yet again, that Jews are liberal Democrats. They proved that making Jews abandon their party will be very difficult to do. They proved that the Jewish-Democratic alliance is rock solid. I’ll try to remember that until 2012, and beyond.

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Re: McCain Sane on Spain

Yesterday, I blogged that it was likely Spain would grant asylum to Osama bin Laden’s son, Omar. I am very happy to say I was wrong:

Spain’s Interior Ministry says it has rejected an asylum request from a son of Osama bin Laden.

A ministry official says the government determined that 27-year-old Omar Osama bin Laden did not “meet the conditions necessary for entering Spain.”

The official would not elaborate or discuss the younger bin Laden’s reasons for seeking asylum upon arriving Monday at Madrid’s Barajas Airport. The ministry official spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

Omar Osama Bin Laden has 24 hours to appeal and remains in an airport transit area.

The Spanish official said the government usually seeks a recommendation from the U.N. refugee agency in asylum request cases. He says the agency also recommended against asylum.

Who knows? Maybe the Obama magic is already at work!

Yesterday, I blogged that it was likely Spain would grant asylum to Osama bin Laden’s son, Omar. I am very happy to say I was wrong:

Spain’s Interior Ministry says it has rejected an asylum request from a son of Osama bin Laden.

A ministry official says the government determined that 27-year-old Omar Osama bin Laden did not “meet the conditions necessary for entering Spain.”

The official would not elaborate or discuss the younger bin Laden’s reasons for seeking asylum upon arriving Monday at Madrid’s Barajas Airport. The ministry official spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

Omar Osama Bin Laden has 24 hours to appeal and remains in an airport transit area.

The Spanish official said the government usually seeks a recommendation from the U.N. refugee agency in asylum request cases. He says the agency also recommended against asylum.

Who knows? Maybe the Obama magic is already at work!

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‘Wanting to Bomb the Hell Out of Someone’

Newsweek is dribbling out its quadrennial, always-riveting (no irony here) behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 campaign. In the first installment today, we watch Barack Obama as he slowly commits himself psychologically to the race throughout the year 2007. As he unsteadily begins the endless series of debates that consumed the year, he finds himself angered and discomfited by the format. That’s as it should be for any rational person. But look what made him especially uncomfortable:

Obama bridled at the sometimes mindless rituals and one-upmanship of a national political campaign in the age of cable news. He resented the pressure he felt to declare, as he put it to NEWSWEEK, that you “want to bomb the hell out of someone” to show toughness on terrorism.

I pray this sentence is a misrepresentation of what Obama meant, because if it is accurate, we have just elected a president who resents and resists the idea that a terrorist attack on the United States or its interests in the wake of 9/11 requires a military response if one is possible.

Of course, this was not a considered remark, not policy. But it may be an extraordinarily revealing glimpse into Obama’s gut feelings about these matters — that justifiable retaliation is nothing more than a psychologically satisfying act, a fulfillment of a primal revenge hunger, “wanting to bomb the hell out of someone.”

It is suggestive, as well, of the attitude he might bring to bear on questions about Israel’s response to terrorist acts.

Newsweek is dribbling out its quadrennial, always-riveting (no irony here) behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 campaign. In the first installment today, we watch Barack Obama as he slowly commits himself psychologically to the race throughout the year 2007. As he unsteadily begins the endless series of debates that consumed the year, he finds himself angered and discomfited by the format. That’s as it should be for any rational person. But look what made him especially uncomfortable:

Obama bridled at the sometimes mindless rituals and one-upmanship of a national political campaign in the age of cable news. He resented the pressure he felt to declare, as he put it to NEWSWEEK, that you “want to bomb the hell out of someone” to show toughness on terrorism.

I pray this sentence is a misrepresentation of what Obama meant, because if it is accurate, we have just elected a president who resents and resists the idea that a terrorist attack on the United States or its interests in the wake of 9/11 requires a military response if one is possible.

Of course, this was not a considered remark, not policy. But it may be an extraordinarily revealing glimpse into Obama’s gut feelings about these matters — that justifiable retaliation is nothing more than a psychologically satisfying act, a fulfillment of a primal revenge hunger, “wanting to bomb the hell out of someone.”

It is suggestive, as well, of the attitude he might bring to bear on questions about Israel’s response to terrorist acts.

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The Road Ahead

The contours of the next few years are being set. Some changings-of-the-guard may be good (Eric Cantor running for House Minority Whip). And others not so much  (Rahm Emanuel for Chief of Staff). But if we learned anything from the Bush administration, it is that personnel is policy (Donald Rumsfeld) and political destiny (Alberto Gonzales). Everyone should choose wisely.

It is especially noteworthy that the personnel choices for Obama are not simply part of the Washington guessing game of “who will get the job.” They provide the first clue as to who he is. The campaign certainly didn’t tell us. Pundits are reduced to examining words not spoken to decipher what he’s up to.

Meanwhile, the savvy Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sets down some markers with this deliciously loaded statement:

I congratulate President-elect Obama and will work with him on behalf of the American people. The Republican leadership stands ready to hear his ideas for implementing his campaign promises of cutting taxes, increasing energy security, reducing spending and easing the burden of an immense and growing national debt. On these, and other bipartisan issues, he will find cooperation in the Senate.

So forget card check, tax hikes, big spending, and an offshore drilling ban — and welcome to Washington, Mr. President Elect. We’ll see if Obama takes the hint.

And so we pivot — from election to personnel and policy. This is all for the better. Soon enough, we will begin the political jousting (only appropriate, for a vibrant democracy) to determine the future of our country.

The contours of the next few years are being set. Some changings-of-the-guard may be good (Eric Cantor running for House Minority Whip). And others not so much  (Rahm Emanuel for Chief of Staff). But if we learned anything from the Bush administration, it is that personnel is policy (Donald Rumsfeld) and political destiny (Alberto Gonzales). Everyone should choose wisely.

It is especially noteworthy that the personnel choices for Obama are not simply part of the Washington guessing game of “who will get the job.” They provide the first clue as to who he is. The campaign certainly didn’t tell us. Pundits are reduced to examining words not spoken to decipher what he’s up to.

Meanwhile, the savvy Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sets down some markers with this deliciously loaded statement:

I congratulate President-elect Obama and will work with him on behalf of the American people. The Republican leadership stands ready to hear his ideas for implementing his campaign promises of cutting taxes, increasing energy security, reducing spending and easing the burden of an immense and growing national debt. On these, and other bipartisan issues, he will find cooperation in the Senate.

So forget card check, tax hikes, big spending, and an offshore drilling ban — and welcome to Washington, Mr. President Elect. We’ll see if Obama takes the hint.

And so we pivot — from election to personnel and policy. This is all for the better. Soon enough, we will begin the political jousting (only appropriate, for a vibrant democracy) to determine the future of our country.

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Proposition 8 Hypocrisy

In California, Proposition 8 will pass. What to make of the fact that America elected as president the most liberal member of the Senate, while one of the most liberal states of the union simultaneously voted to strip gays of the right to marriage? If Obama’s election really was a referendum for change and general warmth-and-fuzziness, wouldn’t Californians have jumped at the chance to affirm such sentiments by ensuring that homosexual love be recognized by the state? This is the country, let’s not forget, that was terrified of the supposed Pentecostal intolerance of Sarah Palin.

If, however, Obama’s election was really about the charisma of one leader, who was able to convince a majority of Americans that he himself embodied all the change they’d ever need, then the Proposition 8 vote makes all the sense in the world. Obama didn’t win because Americans wanted to punish the Republican Party for becoming some coven of hatred and divisiveness. The stories about racism at rallies and book-banning in Alaska were fabricated in order to justify support for a magnetic personage with no record. (And the much-speculated Bradley Effect never came to pass.) But the racism of Jeremiah Wright and the censorship of the fairness doctrine supported by Obama are real. As is Californians’ opposition to gay marriage – and Obama’s.

The GOP shouldn’t get too distracted with questions about how they need to rebuild or reinvent. They just came up against a truly extraordinary politician. Faced with a force of nature, Republicans had nothing better to offer up than a great man, a self-sacrificing war hero determined to run an honorable campaign. In the age of Youtube debates, CNN holograms, and instant change, substance can be more trouble than it’s worth.

In California, Proposition 8 will pass. What to make of the fact that America elected as president the most liberal member of the Senate, while one of the most liberal states of the union simultaneously voted to strip gays of the right to marriage? If Obama’s election really was a referendum for change and general warmth-and-fuzziness, wouldn’t Californians have jumped at the chance to affirm such sentiments by ensuring that homosexual love be recognized by the state? This is the country, let’s not forget, that was terrified of the supposed Pentecostal intolerance of Sarah Palin.

If, however, Obama’s election was really about the charisma of one leader, who was able to convince a majority of Americans that he himself embodied all the change they’d ever need, then the Proposition 8 vote makes all the sense in the world. Obama didn’t win because Americans wanted to punish the Republican Party for becoming some coven of hatred and divisiveness. The stories about racism at rallies and book-banning in Alaska were fabricated in order to justify support for a magnetic personage with no record. (And the much-speculated Bradley Effect never came to pass.) But the racism of Jeremiah Wright and the censorship of the fairness doctrine supported by Obama are real. As is Californians’ opposition to gay marriage – and Obama’s.

The GOP shouldn’t get too distracted with questions about how they need to rebuild or reinvent. They just came up against a truly extraordinary politician. Faced with a force of nature, Republicans had nothing better to offer up than a great man, a self-sacrificing war hero determined to run an honorable campaign. In the age of Youtube debates, CNN holograms, and instant change, substance can be more trouble than it’s worth.

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Re: Unhistoric Unturnout

I’ve been getting a lot of angry emails about my post claiming the 2008 election will not even match the turnout in 2004. I couldn’t understand the vituperation until I saw this from Rich Lowry on the Corner:

I haven’t closely examined the numbers myself, but this is what First Read says: Highest Turnout Rate Since ’08 — 1908: Provided the number stands, the turnout rate for yesterday’s election was the highest in 100 years, according to the estimate from turnout guru Dr. Mike McDonald at George Mason University. Almost 137 million (136,631,825) went to the polls — 64.1% of the voting-eligible population. 1960 saw 63.7% of the populace go out to vote; In 1908, 65.7% voted. It was, of course, the most people ever to go to the polls topping 2004’s 122 million. That’s 12% increase from 2004. For those wondering why the current total vote in the presidential adds up to approximately 117 million, note that it’s going to climb. There is still a ton of vote missing on the West coast.

First Read, MSNBC’s morning political brief, may say this, and so may Professor McDonald, but there’s something very screwy here. According to him, there are something like 20 million outstanding votes the day after the election. That’s something like 15 percent of the overall electorate. Is that really possible? In the days following the 2004 election, 4 million votes were added to the overall total from various straggling sources.

If in fact it is true that we now have an electoral system in which the outstanding vote total after Election Day is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent nationwide, there is a disaster waiting to happen if we see another close race soon that hinges on a West Coast state with a “ton” of outstanding ballots.

For the record, as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier–it’s fine with me if the turnout is 64 percent, the highest since 1908.

I’ve been getting a lot of angry emails about my post claiming the 2008 election will not even match the turnout in 2004. I couldn’t understand the vituperation until I saw this from Rich Lowry on the Corner:

I haven’t closely examined the numbers myself, but this is what First Read says: Highest Turnout Rate Since ’08 — 1908: Provided the number stands, the turnout rate for yesterday’s election was the highest in 100 years, according to the estimate from turnout guru Dr. Mike McDonald at George Mason University. Almost 137 million (136,631,825) went to the polls — 64.1% of the voting-eligible population. 1960 saw 63.7% of the populace go out to vote; In 1908, 65.7% voted. It was, of course, the most people ever to go to the polls topping 2004’s 122 million. That’s 12% increase from 2004. For those wondering why the current total vote in the presidential adds up to approximately 117 million, note that it’s going to climb. There is still a ton of vote missing on the West coast.

First Read, MSNBC’s morning political brief, may say this, and so may Professor McDonald, but there’s something very screwy here. According to him, there are something like 20 million outstanding votes the day after the election. That’s something like 15 percent of the overall electorate. Is that really possible? In the days following the 2004 election, 4 million votes were added to the overall total from various straggling sources.

If in fact it is true that we now have an electoral system in which the outstanding vote total after Election Day is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent nationwide, there is a disaster waiting to happen if we see another close race soon that hinges on a West Coast state with a “ton” of outstanding ballots.

For the record, as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier–it’s fine with me if the turnout is 64 percent, the highest since 1908.

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Re: Norm Coleman

I’ve been having disputes with people who say my characterization of Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman as the only person in the U.S. Senate with a Brooklyn accent is wrong — what about Chuck Schumer? Fair enough, but Schumer, born and raised in Brooklyn and living there still, actually has a more faint Brooklyn accent. Reader Steve G. adds Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Socialist, which is a fair point, although Sanders sounds more generally New York Jewy than specifically Brooklynish. Steve G. also points out, amazingly enough, that Coleman and Sanders and Schumer all went to James Madison High School in Flatbush (so did Ruth Bader Ginsburg). Coleman and Schumer graduated a year apart. This isn’t quite as remarkable as the fact that Bob Dole and Arlen Specter were born and raised in the same tiny Kansas town, but it’s something.

I’ve been having disputes with people who say my characterization of Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman as the only person in the U.S. Senate with a Brooklyn accent is wrong — what about Chuck Schumer? Fair enough, but Schumer, born and raised in Brooklyn and living there still, actually has a more faint Brooklyn accent. Reader Steve G. adds Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Socialist, which is a fair point, although Sanders sounds more generally New York Jewy than specifically Brooklynish. Steve G. also points out, amazingly enough, that Coleman and Sanders and Schumer all went to James Madison High School in Flatbush (so did Ruth Bader Ginsburg). Coleman and Schumer graduated a year apart. This isn’t quite as remarkable as the fact that Bob Dole and Arlen Specter were born and raised in the same tiny Kansas town, but it’s something.

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Election Postmortem

For any readers in the the New York area, I’ll be part of a post-election panel discussion, 8 pm tonight at Lolita Bar (266 Broome St. at Allen St. on the Lower East Side, a block south of the Delancey St. subway stop). I’ll be joined by Democratic campaign consultant Ben Geyerhahn and Dumbocracy author Marty Beckerman. Admission is free; drinks are not. Audience participation is encouraged.

For any readers in the the New York area, I’ll be part of a post-election panel discussion, 8 pm tonight at Lolita Bar (266 Broome St. at Allen St. on the Lower East Side, a block south of the Delancey St. subway stop). I’ll be joined by Democratic campaign consultant Ben Geyerhahn and Dumbocracy author Marty Beckerman. Admission is free; drinks are not. Audience participation is encouraged.

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Obama and the Coming Foreign Policy

Among the most notable things about Obama’s victory is the following: for the first time in American history, someone unambiguously from the political left will be commander-in-chief during wartime. This thought brings to mind a dazzling Irving Kristol essay, written in 1967 and published in Foreign Affairs, entitled “American Intellectuals and Foreign Policy.”

Kristol argues that “whereas a national community is governed by principles by which one takes one’s intellectual and moral bearings, the nations of the world do not constitute such a community and propose few principles by which their conduct may be evaluated.” Because of this, “the entire tradition of Western political thought has very little to say about foreign policy:”

What this adds up to is that ideology can obtain exasperatingly little purchase over the realities of foreign policy — and that intellectuals feel keenly their dispossession from this area. It is not that intellectuals actually believe — though they often assert it — that the heavy reliance upon expediency in foreign affairs is intrinsically immoral. It is just that this reliance renders intellectuals as a class so much the less indispensable.

A brilliant insight, and one that will now face a reckoning. Obama is the candidate of the intellectuals, especially those who disdain a foreign policy of expediency. Obama rose to popularity largely due to a critique of Bush administration foreign policy premised in a standard leftist demand about America: that we must integrate as an equal partner in the international order, in defiance of our greater economic, military, and political power. The New Left skepticism of American power that flourished during the Cold War — the belief that American power is provocative abroad, serves sinister interests domestically, and should not be viewed with any greater legitimacy or virtue as any other state’s power, and perhaps with less — will finally have a friend in the White House. Or it is hoped that the man in the White House will be a friend.

The intellectual community en masse . . . denounces, it mocks, it vilifies — and even if one were to concede that its fierce indignation was justified by extraordinary ineptitude in high places, the fact remains that its activity is singularly unhelpful. The United States is not going to cease being an imperial power, no matter what happens in Vietnam or elsewhere. It is the world situation — and the history which created this situation — that appoints imperial powers, not anyone’s decision or even anyone’s overweening ambition.

The intellectuals who, Kristol believes, do not understand the origins of American power provided much of the fuel, noise, and righteous indignation behind Obama’s candidacy. It will be fascinating, in the coming years, to watch how Obama reconciles himself to a foreign policy of expediency, and what the intellectuals will say about it. There is no chance that they will finally learn to appreciate, or even understand, American power. But they will also desperately wish to continue loving Obama.

Domestic political problems, when inconvenient, can frequently be ignored, whereas international crises often require immediate judgments, choices, and action. Obama, if he is smart, will govern domestically as a cautious center-leftist. But presidents cannot exercise anywhere near so much control over the rest of the world. If Iran resumes killing American soldiers in Iraq and destabilizing the Iraqi government, to take just one example, President Obama will have to make decisions, and make them immediately. I suspect that the choices he makes will frequently be in defiance of the zeitgeist that originally gave substance to Obama’s critique of the Bush years. The intellectuals, after a brief period of excitement, will be forced to get back in touch with an old familiar feeling — alienation.

Among the most notable things about Obama’s victory is the following: for the first time in American history, someone unambiguously from the political left will be commander-in-chief during wartime. This thought brings to mind a dazzling Irving Kristol essay, written in 1967 and published in Foreign Affairs, entitled “American Intellectuals and Foreign Policy.”

Kristol argues that “whereas a national community is governed by principles by which one takes one’s intellectual and moral bearings, the nations of the world do not constitute such a community and propose few principles by which their conduct may be evaluated.” Because of this, “the entire tradition of Western political thought has very little to say about foreign policy:”

What this adds up to is that ideology can obtain exasperatingly little purchase over the realities of foreign policy — and that intellectuals feel keenly their dispossession from this area. It is not that intellectuals actually believe — though they often assert it — that the heavy reliance upon expediency in foreign affairs is intrinsically immoral. It is just that this reliance renders intellectuals as a class so much the less indispensable.

A brilliant insight, and one that will now face a reckoning. Obama is the candidate of the intellectuals, especially those who disdain a foreign policy of expediency. Obama rose to popularity largely due to a critique of Bush administration foreign policy premised in a standard leftist demand about America: that we must integrate as an equal partner in the international order, in defiance of our greater economic, military, and political power. The New Left skepticism of American power that flourished during the Cold War — the belief that American power is provocative abroad, serves sinister interests domestically, and should not be viewed with any greater legitimacy or virtue as any other state’s power, and perhaps with less — will finally have a friend in the White House. Or it is hoped that the man in the White House will be a friend.

The intellectual community en masse . . . denounces, it mocks, it vilifies — and even if one were to concede that its fierce indignation was justified by extraordinary ineptitude in high places, the fact remains that its activity is singularly unhelpful. The United States is not going to cease being an imperial power, no matter what happens in Vietnam or elsewhere. It is the world situation — and the history which created this situation — that appoints imperial powers, not anyone’s decision or even anyone’s overweening ambition.

The intellectuals who, Kristol believes, do not understand the origins of American power provided much of the fuel, noise, and righteous indignation behind Obama’s candidacy. It will be fascinating, in the coming years, to watch how Obama reconciles himself to a foreign policy of expediency, and what the intellectuals will say about it. There is no chance that they will finally learn to appreciate, or even understand, American power. But they will also desperately wish to continue loving Obama.

Domestic political problems, when inconvenient, can frequently be ignored, whereas international crises often require immediate judgments, choices, and action. Obama, if he is smart, will govern domestically as a cautious center-leftist. But presidents cannot exercise anywhere near so much control over the rest of the world. If Iran resumes killing American soldiers in Iraq and destabilizing the Iraqi government, to take just one example, President Obama will have to make decisions, and make them immediately. I suspect that the choices he makes will frequently be in defiance of the zeitgeist that originally gave substance to Obama’s critique of the Bush years. The intellectuals, after a brief period of excitement, will be forced to get back in touch with an old familiar feeling — alienation.

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Back to Alaska, and Beyond

This smart take on Sarah Palin points to lessons she and others might extract from both campaigns. First, four years is an eternity. The next GOP nominee might be in a state house, for all we know. The last thing anyone wants to see right now is anything that smacks of a presidential campaign. Second, candidates really need to be about something. Palin will need to define what she is about. quite apart from the McCain campaign. Third, elections are about connecting with people. Even if a candidate can learn policy and hone a message, it does her no good if people ultimately don’t connect with her. (This was also the Mitt Romney lesson.) And finally, it pays to stay away from Washington. The fresher, the more distinctive, and the less burdened by years of deadening time spent in Congress, the better. She has a unique opportunity to do things, but far away from Washington.

She has been caught in the cross fire of an intra-party and intra-pundit war, was the subject of withering media criticism, and attracted more attention than virtually any VP candidate in recent memory. She seems unbowed and unbroken. She, like the party she may want to lead, has work to do and much potential. Luckily for her, conservatives like her more than virtually anyone else in the GOP. That’s not nothing.

This smart take on Sarah Palin points to lessons she and others might extract from both campaigns. First, four years is an eternity. The next GOP nominee might be in a state house, for all we know. The last thing anyone wants to see right now is anything that smacks of a presidential campaign. Second, candidates really need to be about something. Palin will need to define what she is about. quite apart from the McCain campaign. Third, elections are about connecting with people. Even if a candidate can learn policy and hone a message, it does her no good if people ultimately don’t connect with her. (This was also the Mitt Romney lesson.) And finally, it pays to stay away from Washington. The fresher, the more distinctive, and the less burdened by years of deadening time spent in Congress, the better. She has a unique opportunity to do things, but far away from Washington.

She has been caught in the cross fire of an intra-party and intra-pundit war, was the subject of withering media criticism, and attracted more attention than virtually any VP candidate in recent memory. She seems unbowed and unbroken. She, like the party she may want to lead, has work to do and much potential. Luckily for her, conservatives like her more than virtually anyone else in the GOP. That’s not nothing.

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No We Can’t

President-elect Barack Obama is a deeply talented man with a preternatural ability to excite the American public. It is hard to overstate the historical importance of his victory. The appointment of a black American to the most powerful office in the land marks a new high point in our country’s twin narratives of race and opportunity. Globally, America once again writes a new chapter in the saga of mankind’s long march toward equality.

But neither Obama’s prodigious gifts nor the historical impact of his administration will be able to extricate the United States from the most unpopular aspect of the George W. Bush years: military entanglement in Muslim Asia and the Middle East. When it comes to Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Barack Obama will come up against the same challenges faced by our current president, and will be limited to using the same crude tools.

Barack Obama’s emphasis on diplomacy and internationalism will do nothing to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. The mullahs in Tehran are not open to compromise, and cannot be made any more pliable by the impositions of a stricter sanctions regime. Any attempts at diplomacy or institution of sanctions are, from here on out, aimed at building an evidentiary case that every non-military option will have been exhausted. Once that case can be made, Obama will either give the order to bomb Iran or let the Khomeinist regime in Tehran assert complete regional hegemony. There will not be, nor has there ever been, a third option.

Obama and Joe Biden can talk about ending the war in Iraq all they want, but in reality Obama’s administration will be obligated to honor the coming Status of Forces agreement between Baghdad and Washington. Such an agreement will likely require U.S. combat troops to remain in parts of Iraq through 2011. Obama portrays himself as a tireless proponent of international cooperation, and breaking a critical agreement with a new and important ally would signal a crisis in American geostrategic legitimacy.

Whether or not it is called a surge, an increase in combat troops is coming to Afghanistan. Obama himself has already agreed to as much. Last month, commanders asked for 10,000 reinforcements. That number went to 15, 000, and now stands at 20,000. The additional troops will engage in more trust-building operations with Afghans, but also in more fighting. Casualties will rise before they subside, and American civilians will be understandably horrified as images and death-tolls are rehearsed on the nightly news.

There’s undoubtedly a lot of truth in Barack Obama’s talk of change. With Democratic control of the Presidency, the House, and the Senate, our country is sure to see some swift and sharp turns in the domestic agenda. And we will likely witness an American repositioning in foreign policy situations of less immediacy. But no president — not even Barack Obama — can remake national security entirely in his own image.

President-elect Barack Obama is a deeply talented man with a preternatural ability to excite the American public. It is hard to overstate the historical importance of his victory. The appointment of a black American to the most powerful office in the land marks a new high point in our country’s twin narratives of race and opportunity. Globally, America once again writes a new chapter in the saga of mankind’s long march toward equality.

But neither Obama’s prodigious gifts nor the historical impact of his administration will be able to extricate the United States from the most unpopular aspect of the George W. Bush years: military entanglement in Muslim Asia and the Middle East. When it comes to Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Barack Obama will come up against the same challenges faced by our current president, and will be limited to using the same crude tools.

Barack Obama’s emphasis on diplomacy and internationalism will do nothing to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. The mullahs in Tehran are not open to compromise, and cannot be made any more pliable by the impositions of a stricter sanctions regime. Any attempts at diplomacy or institution of sanctions are, from here on out, aimed at building an evidentiary case that every non-military option will have been exhausted. Once that case can be made, Obama will either give the order to bomb Iran or let the Khomeinist regime in Tehran assert complete regional hegemony. There will not be, nor has there ever been, a third option.

Obama and Joe Biden can talk about ending the war in Iraq all they want, but in reality Obama’s administration will be obligated to honor the coming Status of Forces agreement between Baghdad and Washington. Such an agreement will likely require U.S. combat troops to remain in parts of Iraq through 2011. Obama portrays himself as a tireless proponent of international cooperation, and breaking a critical agreement with a new and important ally would signal a crisis in American geostrategic legitimacy.

Whether or not it is called a surge, an increase in combat troops is coming to Afghanistan. Obama himself has already agreed to as much. Last month, commanders asked for 10,000 reinforcements. That number went to 15, 000, and now stands at 20,000. The additional troops will engage in more trust-building operations with Afghans, but also in more fighting. Casualties will rise before they subside, and American civilians will be understandably horrified as images and death-tolls are rehearsed on the nightly news.

There’s undoubtedly a lot of truth in Barack Obama’s talk of change. With Democratic control of the Presidency, the House, and the Senate, our country is sure to see some swift and sharp turns in the domestic agenda. And we will likely witness an American repositioning in foreign policy situations of less immediacy. But no president — not even Barack Obama — can remake national security entirely in his own image.

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Lessons to Learn

This very insightful piece on the McCain campaign makes several points. First, it was not necessarily the financial crisis per se, but John McCain’s reaction to it, that ultimately did him in. Second, the suggestion was the brainchild of Steve Schmidt. He proved to be exactly the wrong advisor for McCain, who himself is prone to erratic gestures. The combination of the two of them acting to re-enforce their worst tendencies was deadly. Third, a campaign must be about something. The account makes clear they never decided what it was. Fourth, for reasons that escape me, the McCain crew still feels compelled to slur Sarah Palin, in this case criticizing her debate prep performance. (The fact that her actual performance was winning and largely without flaw goes unremarked upon by the snipers.) Does this justify their own failures? How does slamming the person that Schmidt selected and McCain approved help restore their own image? And it escapes me why they seek to tarnish and diminish the hopes of the person who may serve the Party they claim to love — either as a future Presidential candidate or as a spokesperson for reform and rebuilding.

The reasons for McCain’s loss go well beyond the specifics of his campaign, of course. But they provide lessons that future candidates should ponder. The necessity of focus, the primacy of organizational management in modern campaigns, and the essential task of separating tactics from vision. The next GOP nominee will need more than that, of course. But he or she will need at least that.

This very insightful piece on the McCain campaign makes several points. First, it was not necessarily the financial crisis per se, but John McCain’s reaction to it, that ultimately did him in. Second, the suggestion was the brainchild of Steve Schmidt. He proved to be exactly the wrong advisor for McCain, who himself is prone to erratic gestures. The combination of the two of them acting to re-enforce their worst tendencies was deadly. Third, a campaign must be about something. The account makes clear they never decided what it was. Fourth, for reasons that escape me, the McCain crew still feels compelled to slur Sarah Palin, in this case criticizing her debate prep performance. (The fact that her actual performance was winning and largely without flaw goes unremarked upon by the snipers.) Does this justify their own failures? How does slamming the person that Schmidt selected and McCain approved help restore their own image? And it escapes me why they seek to tarnish and diminish the hopes of the person who may serve the Party they claim to love — either as a future Presidential candidate or as a spokesperson for reform and rebuilding.

The reasons for McCain’s loss go well beyond the specifics of his campaign, of course. But they provide lessons that future candidates should ponder. The necessity of focus, the primacy of organizational management in modern campaigns, and the essential task of separating tactics from vision. The next GOP nominee will need more than that, of course. But he or she will need at least that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not as bad a night for the GOP in the House as it could have been. Maybe the specter of unlimited power for Nancy Pelosi helped hold back the tide.

A magnificent column by Michael Gerson. In demonstrating grace, as Gerson does, Republicans will take a step toward restoring Americans’ respect (and even affection) for them.

It looks like a split decision on Ward Connerly’s racial preference ban iniatives. Still, considering the Democratic wave in Colorado, Amendment 46 did better than McCain and the GOP Senate candidate. By a lot.

I suspect we are headed for a recount in the Minnesota Senate race. Norm Coleman had to overcome a 10% deficit at the top of the ticket. There is something seriously amiss if Coleman doesn’t win and Ted Stevens does.

Each candidate took the same share of his own party. Obama carried Independents by 8%. And for those obsessed with the breakdown in party id, it was 39% vs. 32%. The largest advantage in a generation for Democrats.

This fight is like the Iran-Iraq war — who do you root for?

A very interesting point — all the GOP incumbent Governors won. This is a lesson waiting to be learned. Perhaps the pundits and party “experts” should ask them how they did it.

Robert Stacy McCain has it right — the other McCain’s media “strategy” (screaming at the New York Times) didn’t work out very well.

Lots of us are happy it’s over. This has been like a good movie that goes on too long — in this case, about a year too long.

Gay marriage bans were popular. Considering massive Democratic turnout, and other outcomes, this has to be one of the most surprising results.

Not as bad a night for the GOP in the House as it could have been. Maybe the specter of unlimited power for Nancy Pelosi helped hold back the tide.

A magnificent column by Michael Gerson. In demonstrating grace, as Gerson does, Republicans will take a step toward restoring Americans’ respect (and even affection) for them.

It looks like a split decision on Ward Connerly’s racial preference ban iniatives. Still, considering the Democratic wave in Colorado, Amendment 46 did better than McCain and the GOP Senate candidate. By a lot.

I suspect we are headed for a recount in the Minnesota Senate race. Norm Coleman had to overcome a 10% deficit at the top of the ticket. There is something seriously amiss if Coleman doesn’t win and Ted Stevens does.

Each candidate took the same share of his own party. Obama carried Independents by 8%. And for those obsessed with the breakdown in party id, it was 39% vs. 32%. The largest advantage in a generation for Democrats.

This fight is like the Iran-Iraq war — who do you root for?

A very interesting point — all the GOP incumbent Governors won. This is a lesson waiting to be learned. Perhaps the pundits and party “experts” should ask them how they did it.

Robert Stacy McCain has it right — the other McCain’s media “strategy” (screaming at the New York Times) didn’t work out very well.

Lots of us are happy it’s over. This has been like a good movie that goes on too long — in this case, about a year too long.

Gay marriage bans were popular. Considering massive Democratic turnout, and other outcomes, this has to be one of the most surprising results.

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[Sic] We Can

John makes an excellent point about the conclusion of Obama’s acceptance speech, in which our next president repeated the phrase “Yes, we can” after a series of hope-filled sentences (in what was an example of the rhetorical device of epistrophe). As John notes, Obama called these three words America’s “timeless creed,” despite the fact that slogans are not creeds. Nonetheless, expect to see “VERO POSSUMUS” on coins soon. In fact, as you might recall, back in June Obama received flak for giving a speech behind his own personalized presidential seal.

Obama’s seal with Vero Possumus

While it was nice to see his bald eagle gripping arrows in one claw (instead of, say, a bundle of less-threatening Twizzlers), if one looked closely one found that approximate Latin translation of “Yes, we can” in small Roman type. Unsurprisingly, the seal was immediately clubbed to death by the press. And come to think of it, isn’t “sic” the medieval Latin for “yes”? Should Obama organize a United States of Latin America, presumably the motto will be “Si, se puede,” the rallying cry of Chavez (Cesar, not Hugo), which Obama has repeatedly made recourse to.

Someday, if there ever is a President Palin, we could at least look forward to her adopting the motto of the Madison Avenue Rod, Gun, Bloody Mary & Labrador Retriever Benevolent Association, which Jaroslav Pelikan translated as:

Semper siccandae sunt: potio
Pulvis, et pelliculatio.

That is, “Keep your powder, trout flies, and martinis dry.” Alas, MARGBMLRBA is, for now, a purely mythical society.

John makes an excellent point about the conclusion of Obama’s acceptance speech, in which our next president repeated the phrase “Yes, we can” after a series of hope-filled sentences (in what was an example of the rhetorical device of epistrophe). As John notes, Obama called these three words America’s “timeless creed,” despite the fact that slogans are not creeds. Nonetheless, expect to see “VERO POSSUMUS” on coins soon. In fact, as you might recall, back in June Obama received flak for giving a speech behind his own personalized presidential seal.

Obama’s seal with Vero Possumus

While it was nice to see his bald eagle gripping arrows in one claw (instead of, say, a bundle of less-threatening Twizzlers), if one looked closely one found that approximate Latin translation of “Yes, we can” in small Roman type. Unsurprisingly, the seal was immediately clubbed to death by the press. And come to think of it, isn’t “sic” the medieval Latin for “yes”? Should Obama organize a United States of Latin America, presumably the motto will be “Si, se puede,” the rallying cry of Chavez (Cesar, not Hugo), which Obama has repeatedly made recourse to.

Someday, if there ever is a President Palin, we could at least look forward to her adopting the motto of the Madison Avenue Rod, Gun, Bloody Mary & Labrador Retriever Benevolent Association, which Jaroslav Pelikan translated as:

Semper siccandae sunt: potio
Pulvis, et pelliculatio.

That is, “Keep your powder, trout flies, and martinis dry.” Alas, MARGBMLRBA is, for now, a purely mythical society.

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The President-Elect

For conservatives, there are certainly reasons to be concerned  now that Barack Obama has been elected America’s 44th President, from his liberal ideology to the composition of the 111th Congress. There will be plenty of time to engage those differences down the road.

At this moment, though, it’s worth recognizing what a remarkable achievement Obama’s election is. A man who, less than five years ago, was an unknown state senator from Illinois went on to win the Democratic nomination by defeating the overwhelming favorite, Hillary Clinton, and the vaunted Clinton machine.

Senator Obama went on to run a remarkable general election campaign. He made astonishingly few errors along the way, particularly for a man so new to national politics. And it is undeniable that the more the public saw of Obama, the more reassured they were by him. He also put in place a political organization that was exceptionally well-run, disciplined, cohesive, and tactically and strategically impressive.

It was clear some time ago that he was a formidable and talented figure; only a few understood just how formidable and talented he turned out to be.

Beyond that is the fact that America, almost a century and a half after Lincoln freed the slaves, has elected as its president a black man. For a nation whose original sin was slavery and which has grappled with race for much of its history, there is something important, moving, and even redemptive about it.

In that sense at least, this election is one all Americans can take pride in.

There may be a temptation among some Republicans to eventually lash out at Obama. That impulse ought to be resisted. Obama’s fate is now tied to the fortunes of our country; we should hope he governs well and with wisdom. It is really fairly simple: there are moments in the life of a free nation when we need to sheath our political swords and recall the bonds of affection that tie citizen to citizen.

One of the things that troubled me most during my time in the White House was that among some of the President’s critics, their hatred of him was so strong and ran so deep that one sensed they hoped the country would fail in the hope that Bush would as well. This was particularly true when it came to the Iraq war and the surge, when some Democrats seemed to be rooting for failure in “Bush’s war.” We heard calls for reclaiming “my America.” It was all quite discouraging and dispiriting; one can only hope that Republicans don’t engage in the same thing, regardless of our intense feelings about Barack Obama.

That doesn’t mean that Obama and his administration should be immune from criticism. Republicans have an obligation to be the Loyal Opposition, to make our case and state our objections in a way that is specific, spirited, tough-minded, and thoroughgoing. But there is a line that separates a principled voice of opposition from an angry, brittle, and graceless one. There is no magic formula here; what we are talking about has to do with tone and temperament, a disposition of heart and mind, and the spirit that animates us.

In any event, right now Obama and the Democratic Congress own the stage; they have earned that right in a sweeping electoral win. To strike out against them with clenched teeth and a mailed fist would only further damage the Republican “brand.” We cannot be seen as being a party or a movement defined by resentments and surliness.

I would much rather have Republicans responsible for governing than critiquing those who do. But we are where we are, and we may as well make our wilderness years constructive ones. Now is the time for Republicans to focus on what we need to do to make our party more principled and reform-minded, to develop an agenda that meets the challenges of our time. It may be that Obama and the Democrats, intoxicated in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, overreach. In a nation that remains center-right, that would be an enormous mistake. And if they do, the public will once again look to Republicans. Our duty is to be ready, to demonstrate intellectual vitality and a deep, unbroken commitment to the public interest. That is the way to win back public confidence and, eventually, their votes. But for now, the spotlight is, and for some time to come will be, on the young man who last night authored an amazing new chapter in American politics.

For conservatives, there are certainly reasons to be concerned  now that Barack Obama has been elected America’s 44th President, from his liberal ideology to the composition of the 111th Congress. There will be plenty of time to engage those differences down the road.

At this moment, though, it’s worth recognizing what a remarkable achievement Obama’s election is. A man who, less than five years ago, was an unknown state senator from Illinois went on to win the Democratic nomination by defeating the overwhelming favorite, Hillary Clinton, and the vaunted Clinton machine.

Senator Obama went on to run a remarkable general election campaign. He made astonishingly few errors along the way, particularly for a man so new to national politics. And it is undeniable that the more the public saw of Obama, the more reassured they were by him. He also put in place a political organization that was exceptionally well-run, disciplined, cohesive, and tactically and strategically impressive.

It was clear some time ago that he was a formidable and talented figure; only a few understood just how formidable and talented he turned out to be.

Beyond that is the fact that America, almost a century and a half after Lincoln freed the slaves, has elected as its president a black man. For a nation whose original sin was slavery and which has grappled with race for much of its history, there is something important, moving, and even redemptive about it.

In that sense at least, this election is one all Americans can take pride in.

There may be a temptation among some Republicans to eventually lash out at Obama. That impulse ought to be resisted. Obama’s fate is now tied to the fortunes of our country; we should hope he governs well and with wisdom. It is really fairly simple: there are moments in the life of a free nation when we need to sheath our political swords and recall the bonds of affection that tie citizen to citizen.

One of the things that troubled me most during my time in the White House was that among some of the President’s critics, their hatred of him was so strong and ran so deep that one sensed they hoped the country would fail in the hope that Bush would as well. This was particularly true when it came to the Iraq war and the surge, when some Democrats seemed to be rooting for failure in “Bush’s war.” We heard calls for reclaiming “my America.” It was all quite discouraging and dispiriting; one can only hope that Republicans don’t engage in the same thing, regardless of our intense feelings about Barack Obama.

That doesn’t mean that Obama and his administration should be immune from criticism. Republicans have an obligation to be the Loyal Opposition, to make our case and state our objections in a way that is specific, spirited, tough-minded, and thoroughgoing. But there is a line that separates a principled voice of opposition from an angry, brittle, and graceless one. There is no magic formula here; what we are talking about has to do with tone and temperament, a disposition of heart and mind, and the spirit that animates us.

In any event, right now Obama and the Democratic Congress own the stage; they have earned that right in a sweeping electoral win. To strike out against them with clenched teeth and a mailed fist would only further damage the Republican “brand.” We cannot be seen as being a party or a movement defined by resentments and surliness.

I would much rather have Republicans responsible for governing than critiquing those who do. But we are where we are, and we may as well make our wilderness years constructive ones. Now is the time for Republicans to focus on what we need to do to make our party more principled and reform-minded, to develop an agenda that meets the challenges of our time. It may be that Obama and the Democrats, intoxicated in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, overreach. In a nation that remains center-right, that would be an enormous mistake. And if they do, the public will once again look to Republicans. Our duty is to be ready, to demonstrate intellectual vitality and a deep, unbroken commitment to the public interest. That is the way to win back public confidence and, eventually, their votes. But for now, the spotlight is, and for some time to come will be, on the young man who last night authored an amazing new chapter in American politics.

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Norm Coleman

The Republican senator from Minnesota has, according to the Associated Press, survived by the skin of his teeth and has defeated Al Franken. Coleman is one of the most interesting political figures in America. A Brooklyn-born Jew, he moved to St. Paul and became its Democratic reformist mayor, then decided his reformist ideas made him more of a new-breed Republican and switched parties. He’s the only man in the Senate with a New York accent, and he’s from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. (I like to think of him as the spiritual trade for my mother, who was born in St. Paul and moved to New York and lost her Minnesota accent.)

The Republican senator from Minnesota has, according to the Associated Press, survived by the skin of his teeth and has defeated Al Franken. Coleman is one of the most interesting political figures in America. A Brooklyn-born Jew, he moved to St. Paul and became its Democratic reformist mayor, then decided his reformist ideas made him more of a new-breed Republican and switched parties. He’s the only man in the Senate with a New York accent, and he’s from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. (I like to think of him as the spiritual trade for my mother, who was born in St. Paul and moved to New York and lost her Minnesota accent.)

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The Winner…

…of the polling sweepstakes is Scott Rasmussen, who got the election almost exactly right and got Virginia on the nose. Rasmussen deserves credit for honesty, because he is basically a Republican pollster, and yet he saw information in the data he could not explain away. This is particularly important because Rasmussen has done very well in the past three election cycles with an interactive phone system rather than a live polltaker on the phone. Given the huge disparity between the conventional polls and the results, as Jen notes, Rasmussen and his robo-system have proven their validity beyond doubt. This election could mark the last one in which actual people make polling calls.

…of the polling sweepstakes is Scott Rasmussen, who got the election almost exactly right and got Virginia on the nose. Rasmussen deserves credit for honesty, because he is basically a Republican pollster, and yet he saw information in the data he could not explain away. This is particularly important because Rasmussen has done very well in the past three election cycles with an interactive phone system rather than a live polltaker on the phone. Given the huge disparity between the conventional polls and the results, as Jen notes, Rasmussen and his robo-system have proven their validity beyond doubt. This election could mark the last one in which actual people make polling calls.

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Who Was Right

The national polls overstated Barack Obama’s popular vote margin. It was five percent, not eight or nine or more as some had it. All three broadcast network-sponsored polls were off, by a lot. Make of that what you will. But it was also true that the state polling showed very small margins in many battleground states, just as the state polling reflected and the McCain camp touted in the final days. The final RCP state poll averages were largely on the nose.

That doesn’t mean it was “close” — the margins were relatively small but in many, many states and Obama made good on his promise to “expand the map.” Sure, the McCain camp should have spent more time in Florida, Ohio and Virginia and less in Pennsylvania, but they still would have come up short since Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Nevada were lost by (un)healthy margins.

So once again the better polls were largely but not entirely right. Which is why they have margins of error. All in all, the pollsters performed better than the MSM as a whole. Damning with faint praise, I know.

The national polls overstated Barack Obama’s popular vote margin. It was five percent, not eight or nine or more as some had it. All three broadcast network-sponsored polls were off, by a lot. Make of that what you will. But it was also true that the state polling showed very small margins in many battleground states, just as the state polling reflected and the McCain camp touted in the final days. The final RCP state poll averages were largely on the nose.

That doesn’t mean it was “close” — the margins were relatively small but in many, many states and Obama made good on his promise to “expand the map.” Sure, the McCain camp should have spent more time in Florida, Ohio and Virginia and less in Pennsylvania, but they still would have come up short since Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Nevada were lost by (un)healthy margins.

So once again the better polls were largely but not entirely right. Which is why they have margins of error. All in all, the pollsters performed better than the MSM as a whole. Damning with faint praise, I know.

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