Friday, November 28
It's that temptation to which most Americans -- and our leading media institutions -- succumbed in the wake of 9/11, and it's exactly the reaction that's most self-destructive.Read the whole.
What happened in the U.S. over the last eight years is about much, much more than what "the Bush administration" did. It begins there, but responsibility in the post 9/11-era is much more diffuse and collective than that. Shoveling it all off on the administration that is leaving, while exonerating our culpable media and political institutions that remain, isn't merely historically inaccurate and unfair, though it is that. Allowing that revisionism also ensures that the critical lessons that ought to be learned will instead be easily and quickly forgotten when similar episodes occur here in the future.
Wednesday, November 26
Churlish Republican partisans and Al-Qaida jihadists against Obama, unite!
Global reactions to Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri's controversial condemnation of U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama as a "House Negro" have begun to pour in -- including via the top jihad web forums used by Al-Qaida to disseminate its propaganda. Though hardcore Al-Qaida supporters have predictably dismissed any criticism of Dr. al-Zawahiri and are fiercely backing his choice of words, there is a rather ironic (if not entirely unfamiliar) twist to this issue. After observing international press reporting on the incident, these same supporters are now bitterly attacking the media for its "unfair" pro-Obama bias and for deliberately "confusing" the meaning of al-Zawahiri's message.
Same shit, different horse.
Monday, November 24
Douthat -- himself a social conservative, of course -- puts it more delicately:
No, social conservatives aren't the problem for the GOP. But they haven't been the solution, either: Too often, on matters ranging from the Iraq War to domestic policy, they've served as enablers of Republican folly, rather than as constructive critics. And calling Catholics who voted for Obama "mindless" and "stupid" is a poor substitute for building the sort of Republican Party that can attract the votes of those millions of Americans, Catholic and otherwise, who voted for the Democrats because they thought, not without reason, that George W. Bush was a disastrous president whose party should not be rewarded with a third term in the White House
Sunday, November 23
Forget what some Israeli officials and Jewish organizational types say about the Arab League plan. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I say that because every provision in it requires the agreement of both Arabs and Israelis. So what if its language on borders presupposes full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-'67 lines? So what if it contemplates the return of more refugees than Israel can handle? Or that it envisions the full return of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians?WSJ: Obama Favors Republicans With Scowcroft Ties
None of that matters because the language of the Arab Initiative represents the maximum Arab position, an opening position. The Saudis (and the other Arabs) are not saying "take it or leave it." They are saying, "let's negotiate."
Mr. Scowcroft, who stayed neutral in this year's presidential campaign, is a prominent advocate of a "realist" approach to foreign policy that favors deal-making over the ideological commitments the second Bush administration was known for.I'm pretty sure it was, at least among the folks I know. Bush's approval rating didn't enter sub-30s because of the economy.
"He said before the war that this is a war of choice that we shouldn't be engaged in. I think that has resonated with Obama," said Amy Zegart, a public-policy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as an adviser on national-security matters to Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign.
In the interview, Mr. Scowcroft said the Bush administration's two terms were "difficult years." He said Mr. Obama's election left him optimistic that the nation might now go down a different path.
"The general mood of the last administration has been more a combination of idealism and self-assertion," he said. "And if the election was a vote on foreign policy -- and I'm not sure it was -- then you can say, yes, that idea has been rejected in favor of realism."
Color me hopeful, this is the kind of change we're looking for. If Obama-Clinton-Jones can shepherd an orderly withdrawl from Iraq and negotiate a lasting Israeli-Arab peace deal...well, I don't have to tell you, that'll be the story of the century. Or at least a couple decades.
I assume K-Lo's excitement stems from Judge Edith Jones' daughter being pregnant.
she had me at hello [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
Judge Edith Jones, delivering this year's Olson lecture, just welcomed her son, daughter-in-law, and "granddaughter to be" to the Mayflower here in D.C.
But what apparently doesn't occur to either of them is that "granddaughter to be" is not the same as "granddaughter".
Saturday, November 22
The worse things look in November and December, the more indelibly the new team can stamp the outgoing team with the stigma of failure. It's urgent for Barack Obama that the Republican brand remain discredited not just for a season or two, but until November 2012.Oh yes, I'm sure Bush's name will be invoked for a generation. I'll be doing some of that invoking myself, such as the next time a Palin or a Huckabee is nominated for their faith rather than good ideas and competence.
Times may remain tough for some months to come. The worse Bush looks in 2008, the longer Obama can blame him for the problems of 2009, 2010, 2011... who knows how long?
Democrats campaigned against Herbert Hoover into the 1960s. John McCain campaigned against Jimmy Carter 28 years after the failure of that presidency. George W. Bush will be a Democratic byword for a generation to come — and if it takes one unnecessarily nasty winter to maximize the impact of the byword, that seems a price that Democrats are more than prepared to pay. Or more exactly: to have Americans and the world pay.
But as for suggesting the Democrats are artificially lengthening the crisis: Huh?
Firstly, if Obama was taking a very active hand in matters, I'm sure conservatives would decry that on "only one president at a time" grounds. It's not a cop-out reason for inaction.
Yes George W. Bush is the lamest of lame ducks, but that's hardly Obama's fault.
Secondly, I think he seems to be making his intentions for recovery clear, at least in words. Here's the second weekly address:
Robert Reich writes about how Obama is already taking charge. What part of all this is being AWOL? What more does Frum expect?
Here's another thing:
The persistence of emergency into January will enable the incoming Obama administration to easily enact all its legislation, including legislation unrelated to the crisis --like a big new healthcare plan.The near bankruptcy of the Big Three has nothing to do with our inefficient health care system? Nor do the rest of our economic woes? Seems off to me. Granted, it's not the direct cause of our problems, but it's certainly exacerbating them. You can't call it unrelated.
“It’s like a lot of other rivalries, except for those at the extremes,” said Michael Anastasi, managing editor of The Salt Lake Tribune. “For them, it’s not only that your school is weak, you’re going to hell, too.”Classy.
Friday, November 21
However, as Klein explains, the secret ballot option is still there. All this does is prevent employers from requiring the costly, time-consuming procedure if not enough prospective union members wish it.
I actually think a good number of these old hands are the right kind of change. I never expected nor wanted Obama to fill his administration with far-lefties. He's much too practical for that. All that screaming about his liberal voting record before the election was a silly distraction from his stated aims.
Clintonites who've individually shown themselves to be competent over the years are desirable. Remember, Clinton's was a successful administration! The hard left wasn't stoked about his people then nor now, and of course neither was the hard right, but this is a FEATURE.
Hawks are also desirable, to an extent. We'll always need people who are serious about national security. But we need a responsible decision-maker in charge as well. Obama campaigned on withdrawing from Iraq and stepping up efforts in Afghanistan, and by all indications that's what he's going to do.
The change we voted for wasn't to some radical liberal agenda the NROites were foaming over, but rather away from the Bush-Palin-Huckabee ignoramus axis.
We need a change in competence that avoids quagmires like Iraq. Surrounding yourself with a bunch of newbie doves wouldn't be a responsible change for the better. It'd be swapping one set of problems for another.
Initially I wasn't thrilled with Obama's reconciliation with Lieberman and the prospect of Hillary as SoS, but there is some logic to both. Obama basically owns Lieberman now, and can pretty much twist him into voting any way he wants on fillibusting, etc. That can be useful.
I'll let Frum explain Hillary.
Thursday, November 20
Wednesday, November 19
The part he quotes from Parker is bad, certainly, but bad arguments don't exempt social conservatives from correct blame...
Blame religious voters enthralled with Sarah Palin for being cheap dates, or for caring so exclusively about shared religious values that they ignored her deficiencies as a candidate, but even having done so it remains the case that John McCain and his campaign are the ones who bear blame for her nomination, and that plenty of non-religious conservatives made fools of themselves over Palin as absurdly and excessively as any religious conservative of whom I’m aware.Sure, McCain deserves plenty of blame for gambling with an unvetted unknown who he'd only met once and who proved disastrous on the mainstream national stage. But a necessary part of the blame lies with the evangelical base for motivating his bad decision. Had they been more amenable to his other VP options or just to McCain on his own steam, he would have been more likely to choose a politically viable candidate who wouldn't cause as many people left of center and some center-righters like myself to recoil in Sullivanesque, dream-haunting horror.
He mentions non-religious conservatives, and the same analysis applies. Naturally they weren't excited to promote Palin because they cared about her religion on a personal level, but rather because of her vast "political talent" of inspiring hordes of adoring evangelical fans to volunteer and turn out to vote for the Republican ticket and create the short-term illusion that Republicans stood a chance at defying the odds enough to hang on to the White House after the most unpopular Presidency in the history of approval ratings.
One need not be a religious conservative or agree with their agenda to see they’ve gotten precious little of what they want under George W. BushTrue, but they are the ones who kept him politically viable amidst his many other failures, because he was still "one of them", ineffectual social agenda notwithstanding. I really don't see how a non-evangelical President would have been allowed to get away with the same arrogant, reality-defying job performance as Bush. Without evangelical support he would have been impeached already.
Neocons hawks remain neocons hawks and their support for Iraq+Iran wars come hell or high water continues to be predictable, however tragic. That's a different kind of blame. So-cons had a real choice in the matter. They are the largest block of irrational enablers who defended, excused, or simply denied Bush's incompetence and caused Palin's farcical candidacy to be exalted for her "immense political talent" of winning their adoration.
Recall less recent history. Southern evangelicals and Dobsonites are the people who deprived us of the John McCain of 2000 and the Colin Powell of 1996. Despite some of Parker's unsound arguments, the fury many of us feel towards George W. Bush and Sarah Palin's enablers is a righteous one, and it's not going away. They must redeem themselves if the GOP's cohesion is to be restored.
Alas I fear the timeframe will be measured in decades. Maybe an intelligent so-con like Jindal can right the ship, but I remain very skeptical. Plus we're still talking 2016 at the earliest.
Tuesday, November 18
Monday, November 17
Sunday, November 16
We know these embryos are going to be destroyed anyway, and we know they aren't protected "persons" under U.S. law and that private and state-funded research will go on, because the U.S. is not a "life begins at conception" theocracy and I dare say never will be.
Green’s Bad Advice [Yuval Levin]
Ross Douthat and Matthew Franck have both offered good responses to Ronald Green’s extraordinarily silly op-ed offering the President-Elect some advice about stem cells. Green somehow imagines that the way to diffuse opposition to the destruction of embryos is to do exactly what the opponents oppose, and so he proposes to Obama that he have the NIH “invite” parents whose IVF embryos are frozen to donate those embryos to research so that they could be destroyed for their cells. Green suggests this is some kind of middle ground, but in reality his proposal would actually go further than the two stem cell bills President Bush has vetoed in the past few years, which would have allowed funding for research on cells from embryos donated for research (and so would have created a taxpayer-funded incentive for the destruction of embryos), but would not have had the government actually approach parents who had not decided to give away their embryos for research and invite them to do so. Green’s op-ed is confused and ill-informed from top to bottom, and of course as usual it simply ignores the substance of the ethical dispute surrounding the taking of human life for research—a dispute which, as I argue in my new book on science and politics, is fundamentally about the American commitment to human equality.
The real common ground in this debate is emerging in the increasingly successful efforts to develop cells with the abilities and characteristics of embryonic stem cells but without the need to use or destroy human embryos. But every indication so far certainly suggests that Obama’s approach will be closer to Green’s than to President Bush’s attempts to reach and expand that common ground.
The problem with not allowing federally-funded scientists to work with more than a few stem cell lines is that it stifles the give-and-take with other scientists that's so helpful to progress. The Bush Administration has gone and erected a Berlin-wall-style barrier around the public sector. Federally-funded scientists are having to avoid data garnered from embryos like the plague, lest they lose their grants or be held liable for breaking the law. They cannot use any published findings from the private sector in their work. This really doesn't help anyone, considering that -- as Green points out -- the "life and death decision" had already been made. Green's argument is that the government shouldn't fund the destruction of embryos, but that it should be able to work with those that are already going to be destroyed.
The common ground Levin is looking for -- the use of non-embryonic cells -- would actually be accelerated if public and privately funded scientists were allowed to share data and work together as much as they do in other medical & biological research, uninhibited by the Bush Administration's arbitrary regulation.
I was particularly appalled by the conclusion of Franck's "good response":
Green is bylined as the pro bono chair of the "Ethics Advisory Board of Advanced Cell Technology, a company involved in stem cell research." Here's a question for our ethics advisor: Can he name another moment in American history in which the government proposed that parents offer their children to be killed for the pursuit of federally funded scientific research?Setting aside the immediate issue of contention here (the personhood of "child" embryos), Green is not proposing that parents "offer their embryos to be killed". Rather, Green is proposing that embryos which are going to be killed anyway be permissibly used by federally-funded scientists in conjunction with non-federally-funded scientists who are already free to do so.
Franck may not find this difference meaningful, or he may wish to ignore it, but in any case this is not a good response.
Saturday, November 15
... As with ultrasound technology--which permits parents to visualize a fetus in utero--ivf allows many patients to form an emotional attachment to a form of human life that is very early, it's true, but still life, and still human. People bond with photos of three-day-old, eight-cell embryos. They ardently wish for them to grow into children. The experience can be transforming: "I was like, 'I created these things, I feel a sense of responsibility for them,'" is how one ivf patient put it. Describing herself as staunchly pro-choice, this patient found that she could not rest until she located a person--actually, two people--willing to bring her excess embryos to term ...What a weirdo. If people want to bond with embryos they've created that's their right, but I have no greater care for any human embryo than I would for, say, a monkey embryo or a cat embryo. Nor a full grown monkey or cat, for that matter. What makes a person a person is some kind of sapience (or perhaps, consciousness). The precise nature of this is difficult to define, but it certainly requires a brain. Embryos don't have brains. They have a full set of DNA, but so does one of my live skin cells, any of which could be grown into a clone of myself with advanced enough medical technology. Point is, they aren't people unless they actually grown into people. Whether that happens naturally (in a womb) or artificially (with a cloning vat) is entirely beside the point of whether the end result is a person.
But I digress. The plan Ross quotes beforehand in that post to only federally fund research that utilizes embryos left over from IVF (which otherwise get incinerated) sounds good to me.
I'm supposing those addresses were available as podcast/streams online, but that's really not very exciting. In this century, who really wants to merely listen to the audible voice of a politician, even a president's?
For the first time, the weekly Democratic address has been released as a web video. It will also continue to air on the radio.
President-elect Obama plans to publish these weekly updates through the Transition and then from the White House.
Today's address from the President-elect concerns the current economic crisis:
Of course this particular video is boring: "bad economic news, bad economic news, bad economic news, but I have a plan, I have a plan, I have a plan!"
In the future, though, once this crisis we've already heard so much about passes (a year from now?) these may be about more exciting issues. Like, humanitarian aid in Darfur or something.
Friday, November 14
The crack at 5:33 is hilarious.
But seriously, nice to see this Church cares. It must help to not be obsessed with Revelation like evangelical fundies. (Why worry about the environment if you think Jesus is coming back Real Soon Now?)
I was interested to see Howard Dean claims otherwise:
Dean said that the Democratic Party was now a big-tent party. “We didn’t have just one message,” Dean said, speaking of those Democrats who ran for Congress and other positions. “You could be pro-life, pro-choice, a conservative and get supported and get resources.”Evangelicals care about climate change now? I guess some may have come around, and Dean wants them in the Democratic tent. This is news to me, though. Of the evangelicals I know who are politically active, almost all are Republicans who flatly deny climate change science and say it's all a hoax, not really man-made, etc. It seems that's what happens when you buy into the right-wing coalition's corporate exploitation of the environment because you care more about fetuses than the planet.
Throughout his term as DNC chairman, Dean also tried to open a dialogue with people who rarely voted Democratic. “We began a dialogue with evangelical Christians, especially those under 35, and I think it paid off,” Dean said. “We noticed from all data we were collecting that they were worried about the things Democrats are worried about: poverty, climate change, Darfur. And now they don’t have to feel that just because a Republican didn’t win they don’t have a friend in the White House.”
But here's an interesting diary at Culture11:
These days, it seems rather odd to use the word "conservative" and "environmentalist" in the same sentence. But that wasn't always the case. Recently, I interviewed Jim DiPeso, who is the Policy Director for Republicans for Environmental Protection, a national organization for "Green Republicans." The group's mission listed on their website is this:Always nice to come across real conservatives who care about conservation.
Republicans for Environmental Protection was founded in 1995 to resurrect the GOP's great conservation tradition and to restore natural resource conservation and sound environmental protection
as fundamental elements of the Republican Party's vision for America
Thursday, November 13
Also on Colbert
Good stuff. But my favorite part was actually Cooper mentioning the arc of history. Of course it bends towards justice. It just takes some time for bigotry to shift out of the population enough. Silver hits the nail:
The good news for supporters of marriage equity is that -- and there's no polite way to put this -- the older voters aren't going to be around for all that much longer, and they'll gradually be cycled out and replaced by younger voters who grew up in a more tolerant era. Everyone knew going in that Prop 8 was going to be a photo finish -- California might be just progressive enough and 2008 might be just soon enough for the voters to affirm marriage equity. Or, it might fall just short, which is what happened. But two or four or six or eight years from now, it will get across the finish line.Another tidbit:
According to CNN exit polls, an overwhelming majority — 67 percent — of 18-29 year-olds voted against stripping gay couples of their right to marry.
As I looked down this list, I thought to myself: Why are we -- the World -- so obsessed with the next head of the U.S. government? It's not normal. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall people being nearly as excited about Clinton or either of the Bushes when they were first elected.
There are several factors, like race. That's historic. But I think the principal reason is how badly Bush Republicanism fucked up America's reputation.
Now it's not just lefty fans who are obsessed with details about the next president; it's everyone who has a brain and chooses to use it. Why? Because we've learned the hard way how disastrous it is to have ignoramus anti-intellectuals heading American government. Read Andrew on this just before the election.
On a lighter note, Klein:
BARACK OBAMA IS YOUR HOMEBOY.
Barack Obama collects comic books. Barack Obama uses a Mac. Barack Obama brushes the dirt off his shoulder. Barack Obama plays pick-up basketball. George Bush may have been the president you could have a beer with, but Obama is the president you could have a PBR with while talking about Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama's faith came in a 2004 interview he gave Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani when he was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois. The column she wrote about the interview has been quoted and misquoted many times over, but she'd never before published the full transcript in a major publication.Joe Carter parses the interview here. One of the comments:
Because of how controversial that interview became, Falsani has graciously allowed us to print the full conversation here.
In an interview in Jan ‘08 with Christianity Today, Obama said:
"I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life."
In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes about what happened to him after he submitted himself to God’s will and dedicated himself to discovering God’s truth. Obama describes this discernment as an "ongoing process for all of us in making sure that we are living out our faith every day." Obama has consistently pointed to his faith as the primary motivator for his career of working for the common good.
In a July 2008 interview with Newsweek magazine, Obama spoke to this directly:
"I am a big believer in not just words, but deeds and works. I don’t believe that the kingdom of God is achievable on Earth without God’s intervention, and without God’s return through Jesus Christ, but I do believe in improvement."
"What I've said to President-elect Obama, you know -- as you know, he's a very dear friend. He knows me well. And just as all Americans, I'm happy to serve my country at the pleasure of the president in any way he deems fit."Read that last sentence again. All Americans? What about the many millions with other important commitments, to say nothing of the many who didn't vote for and may not be much pleased with the prospect of "serving the country at his pleasure", much less "in any way he deems fit." ?
Come on, he's a president. Not a monarch nor a Dear Leader. Americans are under no obligation to pretend they're "happy to serve" in such fashion. Turn this baby around: the president serves at the pleasure of Americans.
We're still in the tail end of an administration with the lowest approval rating in the history of approval ratings. This must change.
An earlier quote, from before the election:
“ ‘What if I disappoint people?’ ” Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and adviser, recalled Mr. Obama asking at several points throughout the campaign. “That’s what gives him the energy to keep getting up every day.”That's more like it.
Tuesday, November 11
Arizona State University student Alex Botsios said he had no problem giving a nighttime intruder his wallet and guitars.
When the man asked for Botsios' laptop, however, the first-year law student drew the line.
"I was like, 'Dude, no -- please, no!" Botsios said. "I have all my case notes . . . that's four months of work!"
NYT economics blog concludes:
“angry yuppies who’ve hugely benefited from President Bush’s tax cuts…have become so outraged and alienated by the incompetence, crass social conservatism, and repeated insults to the nation’s intelligence of the Bush-era Republican Party that they’re voting with their hearts and heads instead of their wallets.”For a 'fresher on the McCain and Obama tax plans, see here.
There is probably some truth to that notion. Here are two other possibilities:
1.) A higher percentage of wealthy, liberal voters came to the polls this year and a higher percentage of their conservative counterparts stayed home
2.) In an election in which most voters said the economy was the most important issue, some wealthy individuals who tend to vote with their wallets, saw an Obama presidency as better for their long-term financial interests — and America’s — and were willing to overlook the immediate tax increase that is coming their way.
Yes, it's a World of Warcraft screen, or rather a fusion of the news and WoW. On the right, we see that Obama's completed the quest "Crush the Republicans!", which called for the heads of McCain and Palin and at least 270 electoral votes. He hasn't yet completed the Transfer of Power quest, since "Take Office" is still grayed out.
The ZZZ on the little picture of Obama in the upper left shows that he's in a friendly location and therefore getting rest bonus (which'll increase the experience points he gets from future efforts). The smaller picture of Biden in that position shows that he's grouped in the same party.
Both Obama and Biden are at full health, as shown by the green bars. Obama is a member of the priest class, as shown by the blue bar for his accumulated mana and the tooltip in lower right for Prayer of Hope, a priestly spell. Each class has several different kinds of talent; Ta-Nehisi suggests that Obama went for the shadow talent tree, which allows for some awesome damage dealing - "you will melt faces" is the standard explanation for people playing shadow priests - rather than the healing-focused holy talent tree.
The red bar by Biden shows that he's a warrior: that's rage, which accumulates as a warrior hits and gets hit, and is spent to power special attacks and defenses. He's charged up and ready to go wallop someone.
Achievements commemorate distinct achievements. In WoW, they come for mastering new levels of skill, defeating particular monsters, exploring the world, and so on. It appears that becoming President of the United States is a fairly high-point achievement, as is appropriate.
Monday, November 10
Yow. Full thing here. Happy birthday USMC.
0755 — Body hardening drills — There is no greater compliment you can give a Marine than to say that they are ‘hard.’ Hard is a mysterious, intangible personality trait that belies definition. Hard, however, also has a physical component. In order to become hardened physically we go through a series of drills in which we: slam our femur bones together, kick each other on the side of the thigh, kick each other in the inner thighs, and punch each other in the abs. I realize, to my dismay, that I am neither ‘hard" nor ‘hard."
0810 — Hip throws (see photo) — Imagine being lifted three feet into the air, put in a horizontal position (with your feet slightly higher than your head), and then dropped onto rock-hard ground. That’s what happens during a hip throw. You‘re picked up and slammed to the ground. Hard. Extremely hard. ‘Dang-I‘m-gonna-feel-that-tomorrow" hard. The throwing part is easy; falling is the more difficult task. After lots of practice, however, I was able to master the art of being thrown to the ground. Now I’m almost always able to do it without crying like a little girl.
The Washington Post is running an excellent video series called "The Healing Fields," about the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps in Wise County, Virginia:Watch the video. And remember, this place is part of Sarah Palin's Real America and Nancy Pfotenhauer's Real Virginia.Hundreds of uninsured and underinsured Americans flock to Wise County, Va., every year to seek treatment at a makeshift field hospital operated by the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps. For three days in this isolated corner of Appalachia, a small army of health-care professionals offers medical attention to patients who are not likely to see another doctor or dentist all year. The annual clinic saves lives and alleviates suffering, but in the face of a growing national health-care crisis, it may not be enough.
Sunday, November 9
TPMCafe: 'I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...'
FiveThirtyEight: If you subtract 9.3 points from Obama's total margin in all 50 states, he would have still won.
Will Wilkinson: Atheistic societies are better. However -- and this is the interesting part -- minority atheists underperform in majority religious societies like America's.
Daniel Larison weighs in on the Douthat vs. Kmiec abortion/Obamacon issue. It's a pretty interesting read, along with one of the comments.
Sign of the times: Investment bankers are absent from this year's white truffle auction.
The American Prospect grades the election theories like the Bradley Effect, PUMAs, etc. The winner? Not really a theory, but always trust Nate Silver!
A day at The Daily Show: the writers have a panel discussion on the present and future of news comedy
Saturday, November 8
There is a great tradition of paint-peeling political hyperbole during presidential campaign years. And there is an equally great tradition of backing off from it all afterward, though with varying degrees of deftness.Prop 8: Andrew says to chill. V.C. proposes civil disobedience instead of an anti-Mormon backlash. Coates continues to wrestle with the now painfully obvious African-American anti-gay bigotry.
But, given the intensity of some of the charges that have been made in the past few months, and the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s election, the exercise this year has been particularly whiplash-making, with its extreme before-and-after
Jonathan Chait, TNR: Republicans are slow learners who don't understand that Palin == Bush.
V.C. Obama won't repudiate Bush-era legal opinions
Politico: Obama has historic youth mandate, margins four times greater than JFK.
Culture11: Top 11 Ways President Obama Will "Change" the Executive Branch
Friday, November 7
There's a big Flickr gallery with 5,000 pages going back to the start of the campaign. Here's the crew watching returns on election night:
7 year-old Sasha's expression is just adorable:
Here's one of my favs, they're watching McCain's concession speech. It must be a little unsettling listening to the crowd boo:
Above is the team that really did it. From left to right, Robert Gibbs, communications director who will become press secretary; David Plouffe, campaign manager; Barack Hussein Obama, president-elect; and David Axelrod, senior strategist who will come to Washington and be a senior advisor and "assistant to the president".
The later may not sound grand, but according to Ambinder:
Assistant to the president is a very coveted post with quasi-institutional prerogatives; assistants can (if the Obama administration chooses to continue the practice) pop in on the president whenever they want, and they're given review privileges over everything that goes out in the president's name.Another thing to note about Axelrod is that he and Obama are both good friends with Rahmbo, and share a policy vision. Seems like it'll be a powerful trio for getting things done.
As for Plouffe's future, Klein comments:
He says he won't be working in the White House. This may or may not be related to the fact that he had a baby girl yesterday, making this a very good week for him.
Before that, Douthat gets into a scuffle with Kmiec over abortion.
I find Kmiec's position more convincing, but that's unsurprising considering my notion of human personhood (I don't think embryos or early fetuses w/o brain activity are people in any meaningful sense).
The problem, of course, is how to convince the theocratic base that accepting a non-legalistic pro-life position like Kmiec's is a better approach. Impossible?
Will someone please tell me when this honeymoon is going to be over? Not till February? Because I just felt a little tingle that seems to indicate I might be a little proud of my country's government again, and it's a really weird feeling.
Thursday, November 6
To make the point myself, remember these names?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)Well, the President-elect has his own full name, Barack Hussein Obama.
Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK)
Richard Milhous Nixon
George Herbert Walker Bush
William Jefferson Clinton
George Walker Bush (GWB)
We didn't dare speak it to loudly during the primary and election, lest it further alienate bigots, but we can do so now.
I'm going to try Loury's idea of -- when using both first and last name -- to also proudly include the middle name.
Say it with me folks: Barack Hussein Obama. Let's not give the bigots any more quarter, and let's politely correct Obama supporters if they continue to think using his full name is disparaging.
I'm in David Frum's school which thinks that a less pro-life, more pro-environment GOP would have greater electoral chances. But I guess it's because I'm ideologically aligned with "upper middle-class professionals", as Douthat explains.
His electoral case for keeping a strong pro-life platform in the GOP is sobering and discouraging to those of us who think like Frum. Hmmm.
In watching this diavlog I've become more keenly aware of something banal: the most virulent anti-choicers who are 100% convinced that unicellular embryos == people...these folks are largely incapable of seeing through the Palin farce.
In other words, the nomination of a "proud" pro-life woman like Palin clouded other pro-lifer's minds to absolutely everything else that matters. This is obvious when you really think about it, but I wasn't fully cognizant until I listened to Douthat explain about conservative activists and the Human Life Ammendment and how it cannot practically be removed from the party's platform.
I am more convinced than ever that an uncompromising pro-life position is really eating away at the Republican party's electoral chances. The Dobsonites won't let them nominate a moderate, unifying (John McCain wasn't unifying) figure in the vein of Colin Powell, Condi Rice, or Kay Bailey Hutchison.
But Douthat throws cold water on the David Frum school of thinking. I don't know what to propose in response...at this rate, the Republican party is destined to be a 40% party, and that's not good for conservatism, but how can we possibly convince pro-lifers to work culturally and socially outside the legal system in e.g. promoting adoption alternatives, and not be so virulently anti-Roe? It seems impossible.
Newsweek behind the scenes: How he did it (campaign stuff from sources who requested info be held till after the election)
From 52 to 48 with love: Nice gestures.
Historic triumph: sand sculpture in India
New Democratic coalition: It's the suburbs, stupid.
The view from sixth grade Brooklyn: NYT has a profile.
The Klan chimes in on Obama: Watch them squirm.
Early partisan affiliation may have been a good predictor of future affiliation in the past, but I'm not convinced it will be as significant with this generation. If Republicans put the conserve back in conservatism and become tolerant like the British Tories, I think they'll trend back to 50% of this block's vote.
Over at The Next Right, Patrick Ruffini has some interesting reflections on the importance of an overwhelming youth vote -- though not necessarily an increased youth turnout -- for Obama's victory:Among voters between 18-29, Obama held an incredible 66-32 margin. But more importantly, congressional Democrats received virtually the same share: 63-34. That suggests that this wasn't just an Obama phenomenon, but that this demographic is firming up a Democratic political affiliation. Which, after the past few years, is rather what you'd expect. But it's worth saying that this wasn't inevitable. There's a belief out there that young voters are always and everywhere Democratic. But that's not been true in recent years:
People have been focusing on whether the youth vote was up. It was -- slightly: going from 17 to 18 percent. But the real story about the youth vote is not how many "new" voters Obama got to show up. It's how he produced a gargantuan 25% swing among existing young voters, or those who were sure to vote for the first time anyway.
How big? 18 percent times a 25 percent increase in the Democratic margin equals 4.5 points, or a majority of Obama's popular vote margin.
Had the Democratic 18-29 vote stayed the same as 2004's already impressive percentage, Obama would have won by about 2 points, and would not have won 73 electoral votes from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, or Indiana.
So, to clarify here: Obama's youth margin = 73 electoral votes. Without the economic crisis, this would have been the difference.
In the House, the youth margin for Democratic candidates was up 18 points from 2004 and 7 points from 2006 (with a 50% increase in the voter pool from '06). The 18-29 demographic's net contribution to Democratic margins in the House went from 12% x 22% = 2.64% in 2006, to 18% x 29% = 5.22% in 2008. How many of our guys lost by 2.6% or less? And it wasn't about "more" or "new" young voters. For the most part it was the same young voters, who were conditioned to vote for Democratic candidates after switching to Obama.A fairly good indicator of the health of a party is the attitudes of young voters who are being exposed to it for the first time. In the 1990s, Generation X was coming of political age, and according to polls conducted by the Pew Research group, Republicans held a 1 percent edge in party identification. In 2008, it is Generation Y that is choosing political allegiances for the first time, and these under-30-somethings show an astonishing 24 percent preference for the Democrats. Even Generation X, which gave Republicans a 3 percent edge as recently as 2004, now prefers Democrats by a margin of 12 percent.Moreover, young voters have become more Democratic by the year. In 2004, Kerry took them 54-45. In 2006, Democrats won young voters 60-38. And in 2008, Obama took them 66-32. As Ruffini says, "18 percent times a 25 percent increase in the Democratic margin equals 4.5 points, or a majority of Obama's popular vote margin. Had the Democratic 18-29 vote stayed the same as 2004's already impressive percentage, Obama would have won by about 2 points, and would not have won 73 electoral votes from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, or Indiana." Not good news for Republicans, because the thing about young voters is that they're around for a very long time, and even if voting preferences aren't perfectly stable over a life cycle, early party affiliation is a fairly good predictor of later party affiliation.
For the moment, neocon and theocratic Republicans are perceived to be ignoring the concerns of Gen Y, and as anti-youth, anti-progress, anti-environment, and socially intolerant (like, anti-gay). So long as this remains the case, you can expect a > 60% youth vote for Dems, probably for the next decade.
Anyhow, welcome to the post-boomer world:
Good cinematography. And Goodbye to All That.
The Daily Beast:
The selection of Emanuel signals that he apparently wants to operate with ideological moderation, speed and skull-cracking political toughness.Rolling Stone back in 2005:
“Rahm Emanuel is a preternatural political force, a man of extraordinary intelligence, skill and toughness who has learned about politics and policy on the streets of Chicago and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. A fascinating choice for Obama as White House Chief of Staff,” Thomas E. Mann, the W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Beast Wednesday.
Among other things, Obama’s pick of Rahm Israel Emanuel, whose father is of Israeli origin, gives the lie to an endless wild myths that political enemies have tirelessly spread during the campaign that he was supposed to be a closest America-hater and no doubt anti-Semite because of his Kenyan background and boyhood in Indonesia. Emanuel, nicknamed “Rahmbo” by his colleagues, is a quasi neo-con hawk on foreign policy, tough champion of the war on terror,and advocate of crackdowns on crime. Obama was accused of being a “socialist” and hater of big business, but Emanuel was managing director in the Chicago office of a major global investment bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, where he made millions.
Friends and enemies agree that the key to Emanuel’s success is his legendary intensity. There’s the story about the time he sent a rotting fish to a pollster who had angered him. There’s the story about how his right middle finger was blown off by a Syrian tank when he was in the Israeli army.An NROite is less impressed:
And there’s the story of how, the night after Clinton was elected, Emanuel was so angry at the president’s enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting "Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead!" and plunging the knife into the table after every name. "When he was done, the table looked like a lunar landscape," one campaign veteran recalls. "It was like something out of The Godfather. But that’s Rahm for you."
Of the three stories, only the second is a myth — Emanuel lost the finger to a meat slicer as a teenager and never served in the Israeli army. But it’s a measure of his considerable reputation as the enforcer in Clinton’s White House that so many people believe it to be true. You don’t earn the nickname "Rahmbo" being timid.
Obama’s apparent selection of Rahm Emanuel for White House chief of staff is an extremely disconcerting (if not wholly surprising) first indication on the “which Obama will we get” question. It suggests both that he wants to be ruthless and partisan and that he does not have a clear sense of how the White House works.
Emanuel was by all accounts a very effective White House staffer in the Clinton administration, and he has certainly been an effective member of the House of Representatives. He is smart and tough. But he has been, in both positions, a vicious graceless partisan: narrow, hectic, unremittingly aggressive, vulgar, and impatient. Those who have worked for and with him come away impressed but not inspired, and generally not loyal.
The White House chief of staff is not a chief strategist or a chief advocate. He is a manager of people and of process. Above all else, he sets the tone internally, and shapes the president’s decision process and the feel of the upper tiers of the administration. Obama is especially in need of someone who will lead him to decisions, because he appears to be intensely averse to making difficult choices—which is the essence of what the president does. His inclination is to step back and conceptualize the choice out of existence, looking reasonable but doing nothing. To overcome this, he will need a chief of staff with a sense of the gravity of the choices the president faces, and one capable of moving the staff to decision, keeping big egos satisfied and calm, and resisting the pressure to be purely reactive to momentary distractions. None of this spells Rahm Emanuel. There is definitely a place for a Rahm Emanuel type of brilliant ruthless shark in a White House staff, but not in the Chief’s office. Not a good first sign.
The number one quality in a chief of staff is a recognition that it's not about him -- a quality Rahm "Hamlet" Emanuel isn't exhibiting. He is expressing some serious reluctance about whether he'll accept the position of White House chief of staff: "I do know something about the White House and I have children now. I have a family." The tradeoff for Emanuel is that if he leaves the House of Representatives, he would be effectively giving up on his long-term goal of becoming Speaker.UPDATE: Rahmbo accepts. Ambers ponders what it means, saying "his management style breeds loyalty," contra the NROite above.
The RNC isn't pleased, but then what realistic pick would have pleased them?
M.J. soothes the netroots.
Sullivan sees good cop, bad cop.
Michael Weiss: Change You Can Motherfucking Believe In.
TNR: Only choice, not just right choice
Megan quirks brow at superficially plausible-yet-contradictory narratives.
WSJ: Glass half-full analysis
More TNR: rounds up foreign reactions (big surprise: Palestinians aren't stoked)
Bill Bennett: Not an inexperienced idealogue
rickm: All evidence suggests that an Obama administration will be a significant improvement from one of the worst Presidents ever.Yglesias disagrees with Megan. I think he's right.
Joe Carter: All evidence? You mean like putting Rahm Emanuel as the Chief of Staff? Even the Obama-fawning Andrew Sulivan says, “Whenever I’ve come across him, he has seemed like a massive, world class, meshuggena asshole.”
libarbarian: If the crew doesn’t think the XO is an asshole then he’s not doing his job.
Politico: ex-Reagan and Clinton chiefs of staff praise the pick. Sounds good to me.
Wednesday, November 5
Some of us realized this 2 months ago. Others drank the Kool-Aid -- FOX and most rank-and-file Republicans among them -- insisting that perfectly legitimate questions like those asked in the Gibson and Couric interviews were gotcha journalism.
McCain-Palin didn't deserve 46% of the vote. They got that much by hiding the truth and stoking racial/terrorism fears, among other things.
From the NYT, a map of the areas where McCain performed better than Bush in 2004:
You can see why John McCain’s principled stand against higher taxes on the wealthy would have a special resonance in this region. Liberals who thought race had something to do with those appeals should be ashamed of themselves.Today's GOP is a tragic disgrace.
On the plus side, the new smaller minority will have virtually no power in the House and she may provide some amusement.
Still sad that such a whack-job would be reelected, but that's partisan politics for ya. I sure don't regret donating to her opponent.
Tuesday, November 4
a massive generation gap: the under-30s voted for marriage equality by 67 to 31 percent. The over 65s voted for discrimination by 57 - 43 percent.Well, that's the future alright.
UPDATE: unfortunately doesn't look like the count is following the exits...it's flipped to Yes 52.0% No 48.0% Precincts reporting: ~95.0%
When Obama mentioned Sen. McCain, his crowd cheered. Make of that what you will...
What a speech. Listening to him invoke Lincoln, that greatest of presidents, was fantastic. I don't have any deep thoughts, really just enjoying the moment.
Here's David Kurtz from TPM:
10:16 Florida goes to Obama
10:13 Colorado goes to Obama
10:07 Virginia goes to Obama
10:00 West Coast polls are closed and called, putting Obama at 284 EVs!! Crowd in Chicago goes wild. World goes wild. We go wild here. What a wondrous night. Our long national nightmare is over.
Photo: Jillian Marshall, an Obama supporter in Harlem, New York, burst into tears at it became clear the Democratic candidate was on the path to victory.8:39 Minority leader Mitch McConnell keeps KY Senate seat.
8:31 Obama picks up NM as expected.
8:22 Obama takes Ohio!! The cake is baked. Things to watch now are the GA, MS, KY, MN Senate race, Prop 8 in Cali, and the neo-McCarthyism referendum in MN-06.
8:01 McCain holds on to ND.
7:36 McCain holds on to GA.
7:30 MSNBC calls PA and NH for Obama. Kay Hagan wins NC Senate.
At 4:00 PM, time waiting in line to order large one-topping pizzas at the $3.99 Toppers election day special: 1 hr 7 minutes
Number of times I've been asked if I voted today: 9, mostly by total strangers, 2 were definitely Obama volunteers
Monday, November 3
Gut feeling for some time has been that MO and NC will barely go blue and IN barely red. But they're too close to call with any confidence.
If McCain performs better than I expect, I can see him taking Florida, but not much else. If Obama performs better than expected he could take Georgia as the turnout there is insane and Bob Barr is a native son.
I don't think we know enough about what's going on up in North Dakota and Montana, as those are recent shifts.
Obama's grandmother and primary caregiver for many years, Madelyn Dunham, 86, also died today, "peacefully after a battle with cancer".
The day before election day. What an emotional roller coaster that must be...
Need a sliver of good news? Her vote will still count.
Sunday, November 2
Sullivan later posts a couple readers' take.
Jeffrey Hart, one of the intellectual founders of modern American conservatism, founder of the Dartmouth Review, and a private source of much intellectual solace these past few years, makes it all explicit:
Republican President George W. Bush has not been a conservative at all, either in domestic policy or in foreign policy. He invaded Iraq on the basis of abstract theory, the very thing Burke warned against. Bush aimed to turn Iraq into a democracy, “a beacon of liberty in the Middle East,” as he explained in a radio address in April 2006.
I do not recall any “conservative” publication mentioning those now memorable words “Sunni,” “Shia,” or “Kurds.” Burke would have been appalled at the blindness to history and to social facts that characterized the writing of those so-called conservatives.
Obama did understand.
In his now famous 2002 speech, while he was still a state senator in Illinois, he said: “I know that a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, of undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without international support will fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda. I’m not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
Burke would have agreed entirely, and admired the cogency of so few words. And one thing I know is that both Nixon and Reagan would have agreed. Both were prudential and successful conservatives. But all the organs of the conservative movement followed Bush over the cliff—as did John McCain.
The reason for the wave of optimism behind Obama – just look at the massive crowds across the country this past year – is almost entirely due to the profound national demoralisation of the recent past. Iraq and Afghanistan, Katrina and the financial meltdown, torture and religious extremism: all these have led many Americans to the brink of despair about their own country. A historically unprecedented number of Americans believe their country is on the wrong track and view Obama as the vehicle to repair it.
Among the most enthusiastic Obama supporters, there are tinges of hero worship and aspirations beyond anything any human being can deliver. And the hostility born of dashed expectations is always the worst. People expecting a messiah will at some point be forced to realise they have merely elected a president.
No president will be able to wave the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan away with some kind of magic wand – there are few good options in either conflict, and many potential perils. No president will be able to end a recession with deep roots or alter market confidence in a single speech.
No president can change the Earth’s climate in four or eight years. And when Obama’s limitations emerge, as they will, there is a danger that the powerful expectations of his young base may turn to tears. This is always the risk with political “movements”. They conjure up utopias that can simply never happen.
Between the roiling and increasingly bitter rapids on the right and the left, can Obama maintain a steady course? We cannot know, of course. But the evidence of the past year is encouraging.
What has been truly amazing is the preternatural calm and moderation Obama has shown throughout this volatile and emotional campaign. He has managed to get to the brink of the White House by beating some of the most formidable political machines in America – the Clintons and the Roves – without intensifying the conflict or polarising the country himself.
He seems able to absorb these currents without further disturbing them. Of course, this is much harder in office than in opposition. In office, you have to make decisions that delineate winners and losers rather than make speeches onto which everyone can project their interests. But Obama seems unafraid of his enemies, undeterred by his rivals, and able somehow to stay healthy and cheerful.
His temperamental edge is complemented by his organisational and managerial skills. The most seasoned political observers have been struck by the meticulous professionalism of his campaign; and there has never been a fundraising machine as innovative or as successful as his in the history of American politics.
Will somebody please wake me up late Tuesday night?
I'm with Sullivan:
By midnight Tuesday, millions of conservatives probably will believe that the nation, foundering on the reefs of sin, is ruined. And millions of "progressives," emboldened to embrace truth in labeling by again calling themselves liberals, probably will have decided that Heaven is at hand, the nation revived like a flower in an April shower.
For me, if Obama is elected, it will feel more like a simple end to a nightmare. The earth has been scorched these past seven years. No Heaven awaits. Just an end to some sort of Hell.
1. The Obama turnout machine (size, scope)By #14 does he mean Barr voters? I think so. These are people who would normally have voted Republican (were it not for their disastrous fiscal record over the past 10 years) so each one counts as 1/2 an Obama vote.
3. Secret Republican Obama Admirers (The Goodbye To All That Effect)
4. The demographic composition of undecided voters; the ideological composition of these voters; the actual size of this group of voters
5. Whether people assume Obama will win and therefore don't feel compelled to vote for him (the Democratic overconfident effect)
6. A few ballot initiatives (Florida, Colorado)
7. The pro-or-anti-Palin vote (suburban women, jazzed conservative base)
8. The Bradley effect (whites lying to pollsters and saying they have NO opinion when they actually support the white candidate)
9. The Wilder effect (whites lying about supporting the black candidate)
10. The Van Wilder effect (young voter surges in red states like Indiana)
11. Media backlash effect (?)
12. The weather -- (supposedly gorgeous)
13. The Republican depression effect (the counter to the Democratic overconfidence effect)
14. Independent-leaning fiscal conservatives turning Libertarian
15. whether African Americans vote at Census + 0, C + 1, C + 2....
16. The effect of the last-minute McCain television advertising surge
17. Whether such a thing as the Howard Dean-Red-Cap effect exists (i.e, scary college kids trying to get older adults out to vote...and they're resentful)
18. the idea of a unified, uni-polar Congress excites people, turns people off, or doesn't really matter
I’ll be pulling the Obama lever on Tuesday – and quite enthusiastically, too. I consider myself a “pragmatic libertarian” – I’m not a big fan of the state, I believe that power inevitably corrupts, that individuals, when left to their own devices, are capable of remarkable feats of self-organization and problem-solving, and that the freedoms of speech, conscience, and association are, by far, our most precious ones and need to be zealously protected from the folks with the monopoly on coercive force. I haven’t voted for a Democratic candidate for President since 1980 (and I came to regret that one pretty soon thereafter). My personal list of great Presidents is a short one: Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan.
So that’s where I’m coming from, and in my eyes the choice couldn’t be easier. My reasons:
Reason 1 is John McCain. During the two months since he was nominated – the two months during which he (and Obama) got to act “shadow presidents,” and in which we all got to ask ourselves, more seriously than we had been able to before: “If this guy were the president right now, would we like what he’s doing?” – McCain has, time and time again, shown himself to be a panicky, impulsive, shoot-from-the-hip decision-maker, and we don’t need panicky, impulsive, shoot-from-the-hip decision-makers at the moment. I really used to like John McCain a lot. In his role as “maverick Senator,” McCain was a real asset – I think he showed enormous political courage in taking on the culture of earmarks, and in standing up to the more xenophobic elements of the Republican party on immigration, and even on political financing, and I trusted his instincts on the important questions about national security, war, and peace. I also think he’s an immensely likable guy. But with each decision he’s made – his choice of Gov. Palin as his running mate, his almost pathetic reaction(s) to the financial crisis (from his initial “Fire Chris Cox!” to his belated discovery that there’s actually greed on Wall Street – who knew! – to his suspension, and un-suspension, of his campaign), to the choices he made about the overall tone and tenor of his campaign – each one made him less and less credible, in my eyes, as president.
Reason 2 is Barack Obama. The country, and the world, are in a precarious state at the moment, and the prospects for a very dark and gloomy future are very real; it took three years for the effects of the 1929 stock market crash to be felt throughout the global economy, and I can’t help but worry that something similar is on the horizon today. We have, as a nation, become demoralized and pessimistic and cynical about our ability to solve our problems. It’s not just that our “infrastructure” is crumbling, it’s that nobody seems to give a shit. Our belief that we are, in fact, the greatest nation on earth has always been one of our most precious assets – something of a self-fulfilling prophecy that has made us the engine for economic growth, and for freedom, for two centuries. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to believe that, these days, and when people stop believing it, it will no longer be true. Countries can descend into the ranks of the second-rate in the blink of an eye (historically speaking): it happened to Spain, and to Portugal, and to Argentina, it is now happening to Italy, and it can happen to us.
We need a truly great president right now – and for me, a great president isn’t one who magically solves all our problems, but one who inspires us to solve our problems. No president can get us out of the mess we have made unless he or she can inspire us to do great things, and there is at least some real chance that Obama has it in him; that’s no guarantee that he’ll be a great president, but given the alternative (see Reason 1) that’s plenty good enough for me. I think he grasps the significance of the moment, and I think he understands that ideology is not policy and policy is not ideology. His gift for oratory, far from being the sideshow that some of his detractors claim, is in fact central to the prospects and the possibilities of an Obama presidency. The Great Ones – Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan – have had one thing (and maybe only one thing) in common: the ability to stir us to great deeds with their words. It is, I think, a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for greatness, and Obama’s got it; McCain does not. Obama’s astonishing capacity to connect with young voters is also part of why he might be a great president; like it or not, the young have a bigger stake in the future than the old because they’ll see more of it, and if they are energized to take the reins of power they deserve the chance to do so.
Nor is Obama’s obvious, and profound, appeal to the people of the world irrelevant to my choice. Whatever you, personally, think of Obama or his policies, it is simply an indisputable fact that hundreds of millions, or possibly billions, of people across the globe are damn near infatuated with him, and that the world will, almost instantaneously, become much better-disposed to the United States when he is elected. It’s quite astonishing, when you think about it; he’s the first global candidate for office. There are many good reasons, to be sure, why a (rational) voter in the United States should ignore the views of the French, the Indians, and the Kenyans etc. when deciding for whom to vote in this (or any) election; presidential elections are and should be about our “self-interest,” and there are plenty of good reasons why we don’t give French, Indian, or Kenyan citizens a vote in our elections. But a world in which hundreds of millions of people are far, far better-disposed to the US is a world in which we are more likely to get a handle of serious global problems, from terrorism to the banking collapse to global warming and the energy crisis. It’s just easier for me to imagine, say, the people of Pakistan actually helping us out in our efforts to protect ourselves from the madmen who are taking refuge in their country if they think we stand for something important and that we deserve protection, rather than because Pervez Musharraf orders them to do so. I know that it’s not all about “hearts and minds” and all that, but it won’t hurt.
Reason 3 is Bush. George W. Bush has, almost single-handedly, destroyed (a) the Republican party, (b) our standing among the nations of the world, and (c) our pride in being Americans. His “compassionate conservatism” turned out to be mean-spirited and exclusionary, his attitude towards the people he was elected to serve contemptuous, and his capacity to lead virtually non-existent. His approval ratings are an accurate indicator of how miserably he has performed. I’m not enough of a historian to know whether he’s the worst president we’ve ever had, but he’s on the short list, and he is certainly the worst I have encountered in the 40-some years I’ve been paying attention to this stuff. The Republicans needs to be punished for allowing it to happen.
Reason 4 is energy policy. For my money, this is the big domestic issue for the next several decades, because pretty much all other important domestic issues will turn on whether or not we can solve it. The sight of 10,000 oil-addicted junkies shouting “Drill, Baby, Drill!!” at the Republican convention (repeated over and over again at campaign rallies this Fall) was chilling. The idea that we can drill ourselves out of the economic and ecological hole in which we find ourselves is as wrong as an idea can be (as McCain, before he began pandering, understood quite well).
So I hope he wins. Ultimately, in a democracy, you take what your fellow-citizens give you, and you accept that whatever answer the democratic process has produced is the “right” one. If a majority of the people in this country think McCain is the man to lead them, then so be it; they must view things very differently than I do. But I’m pretty confident that we’re going to be taking the other course, and that we’ll be better off for having done so.
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- "Stamping your feet and declaring Islam is the ene...
- Broader lessons from the Bush years
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- Why I love Ross
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- Obama doesn't kid around
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- Pro-life irony
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- Michael Steele for the RNC
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- You call that change?
- From pickin’ cotton to pickin’ presidents
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- Caption this!
- If you thought Joe the Plumber wasn't annoying eno...
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- He collects comic books!
- Full Falsani interview
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- Link blag
- The Obamas on election night
- It's a goddamn SEATING CHART
- Quote of the day
- The conservative crackup
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- Say it loud, say it proud.
- Conservative renewal
- Quote of the day
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- The new American exceptionalism?
- Young Democrats
- The Enforcer, Chief of Staff
- Election result cartogram
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- Bachmann wins
- Prop 8 fails?
- Obama's speech
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- From the mixed-signals dept.
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- My prediction
- One day more than some had
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- This. Fucking. Election.
- Understanding Obamacons...
- A President, not a Messiah
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- Obama camp gleefully features Dr. Evil's endorseme...
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