Saturday, April 19, 2008

The politics of defeat

Bob Herbert addresses the Dem's uncanny ability to lose elections in his NYT column today:

The Democrats have become so psychologically battered by these many decades in the leadership wilderness that they consider the Clinton years, during which the president was impeached and they lost control of both houses of Congress, to have been a period of triumph.

I'm pretty sick of hearing that the Republicans are better at winning elections. Maybe if the Dems stop encouraging this learned helplessness--or, at least, spoke out against Clinton's use of right-wing talking points to attack the likely Democratic nominee--they'd actually win the presidency.

You don't defeat the Republicans by becoming even more Machiavellian than they are. You defeat them by putting forward a real agenda for change, and rallying the support of the people.

I should say that, in spite of all the negative press, I still believe that Obama will win this election.

I prefer hope--yes, even false hope--to cynicism and division.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gibson versus the facts published its review of Wednesday's ABC News Democratic Debate. Clinton and Obama both made some factual missteps, as is to be expected. But I tend to think that Clinton's errors were far more blatant--and on far more significant issues.

The most distressing item, in my mind, was Charlie Gibson's spin about raising the capital gains tax. Not only did he distort Obama's statements on the subject, but he toyed with the facts about the increased revenues resulting from capital gains cuts.

The truth is that there is a great deal of debate among economists about whether cutting the capital gains tax actually increases revenues. (Many economists maintain that cuts offer only short-term gains from asset sell-offs, but ultimately do little to raise revenues.) Gibson asserted definitively that "in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased."

Maybe there's a reason why people are angry about this debate . . .

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A brief comment on the debate

The general view seems to be that the ABC News Democratic Debate ("Obama versus Clinton") was a pathetic display of tabloid journalism, with a few "gotcha" questions thrown in for good measure. There was little discussion of actual policy issues, and Clinton's steady barrage of cheap shots clearly threw Obama off his game.

Obama definitely lost the debate.

But Clinton didn't do very well either. Her attacks came off as petty and nasty, and she didn't offer much in the way of vision. Telling voters that you have a detailed and convoluted "plan" for every crisis facing the nation simply doesn't pass the smell test. I think this is the kind of crap that hurt John Kerry in 2004 much more than the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth malarkey. It is, frankly, far more elitist to pretend you have all the answers than to suggest that people in Pennsylvania may be bitter for having lost their jobs, or that Republicans use wedge issues like illegal immigration and gun licensing to win elections.

Still, Clinton seized every opportunity to land a punch, and I'd say that Obama left the debate a looking a bit shaken. Obama still seems surprised when she hits below the belt with bullshit innuendos and outright assaults on his credibility, and this easily plays into Clinton's "lack of experience" narrative. He doesn't seem to realize that she has no limits and no sense of shame.

For me, the most disturbing thing about the whole debate was that George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton political strategist and Clinton White House official, was one of the moderators. His question about Rev. Wright's patriotism ("Do you think that Rev. Wright is as patriotic as you, Sen. Obama?") was completely beyond the pale, and Obama seemed like he wanted to strangle the guy. The question about William Ayers as also pretty ridiculous, and it now appears that it was originally suggested to Stephanopoulos by Sean Hannity. Obama got a good dig in, noting that Bill Clinton had actually pardoned several members of the Weather Underground, but I have a feeling this is going to come back to bite him.

All in all, I think it was a terrible debate, and I think ABC should really have considered the conflict of interest that Stephanopoulous may have presented here.

But, of course, that would take some sense of etiquette, which the MSM now seems to lack entirely.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bowling for Torture

For those of you who don't know who John Yoo is, I can't say I blame you.

The MSM has barely reported on the so-called "Torture Memo," which Yoo authored while he was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

The memo is pretty damning, since it explicitly endorses the use of torture against enemy combatants, but it seems that the MSM is far more concerned with Barack Obama's bowling skills:

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

"Yoo and torture" - 102
"Mukasey and 9/11" -- 73
"Yoo and Fourth Amendment" -- 16
"Obama and bowling" -- 1,043
"Obama and Wright" -- More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)
"Obama and patriotism" - 1,607
"Clinton and Lewinsky" -- 1,079

Ugh. I'm really beginning to hate the media.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Matt Yglesias seems wowed by this "powerful email" from an American soldier currently serving in Iraq:

In my opinion, what everyone fails to realize is that this is not a counterinsurgency. If we wanted to stay in Iraq, then it would be a
counterinsurgency. But it is clear that our goal is to turn over power and pull out. So, in building our strategic endstate, it's pointless to set goals that relate to our presence in Iraq. If the "insurgency" is a function of our being there, then it is not an insurgency in terms of our endstate. For example, if one of our goals is to stop IED attacks on US forces, that is pointless. When we leave, there will be no more IED attacks on us forces. So our endstate needs to be different. We need to ask "if we left tomorrow, what would happen in Iraq?" and from there, we need to determine which of those anticipated results are unacceptable to us. Then we must aim our efforts on making sure those unacceptable results do not occur.

When I look at the problem that way, it becomes almost impossible to find a purpose in what we do.

It's impossible because this is a wholly irrational way to look at the problem. No objective observer can, at this stage, believe that the insurgency will die down if the United States withdraws its troops. Clearly, the Iraqi government cannot handle its own security.

I think that beginning with the premise that the insurgency is "a function of our being there" is really begging the question. This is by no means proven . . .