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Saturday, November 15, 2008

long knives

Marc Ambinder has the scoop on a recent Dem strategy meeting that I think in some ways captures where we're at right now.

This analysis
from Nate Silver strikes me as smart

Joe Klein also has a thoughtful piece on Palin's appeal. He notes that Palin, like Reagan, is able to evoke a nostalgia for an America that has passed (well, if it ever really existed):

Obama faces an uphill struggle between now and Nov. 4. He has no personal anecdotes to match Palin's mooseburgers. His story of a boy whose father came from Kenya and mother from Kansas takes place in an America not yet mythologized, a country that is struggling to be born — a multiracial country whose greatest cultural and economic strength is its diversity. It is the country where our children already live and that our parents will never really know, a country with a much greater potential for justice and creativity — and perhaps even prosperity — than the sepia-tinted version of Main Street America. But that vision is not sellable right now to a critical mass of Americans. They live in a place, not unlike C. Vann Woodward's South, where myths are more potent than the hope of getting past the dour realities they face each day.

Here's what is supposed to be the first in a series of short segments from CBS on how McCain and Obama differ on particular issues. More like this please! (vid)

John McCain, Liar (vid)

E.J. Dionne:

McCain has shown he wants the presidency so badly that he's willing to say anything, true or false, to win power. Obama can win by fighting for what he believes. What he can't do is wait for the media to call McCain out -- although they should -- or expect voters to know he'll fight for them when they are not yet sure that he's willing to stand up for himself.

Josh Marhsall:

John McCain is telling lie after lie. Not off the cuff remarks that can be excused as accidents or flubs but the same lies consistently and many of them. Serial liars are never trustworthy people -- that is a truism. But it also demonstrates a deeper character flaw. A normal job applicant would be disregarded out of hand after such a record became clear.
later adding:

We're at a key moment -- where we learn if there is any consequence in this election for serial lying. It's a question that only the major media outlets will be able to answer.

Brave New Films has more bullshit refutal (it's gonna be a long two months!) (vid)

Palin has apparently never heard of 'the Bush Doctrine' (vid)

James Fallows:

Mention a name or theme -- Brett Favre, the Patriots under Belichick, Lance Armstrong's comeback, Venus and Serena -- and anyone who cares about sports can have a very sophisticated discussion about the ins and outs and myth and realities and arguments and rebuttals.

People who don't like sports can't do that. It's not so much that they can't identify the names -- they've heard of Armstrong -- but they've never bothered to follow the flow of debate. I like sports -- and politics and tech and other topics -- so I like joining these debates. On a wide range of other topics -- fashion, antique furniture, the world of restaurants and fine dining, or (blush) opera -- I have not been interested enough to learn anything I can add to the discussion. So I embarrass myself if I have to express a view.

What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the "Bush Doctrine" exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years.

ABC News:

ABC News' Lisa Chinn reports: During her interview with ABC News' Charlie Gibson Thursday Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin attempted to deflect a question about the fact she has never met a foreign head of state by saying that "many" other vice presidential nominees in history hadn't met a head of state either.

However Palin was mistaken, at least where recent history is concerned.

Every vice president over the last 30 years had met a foreign head of state before being elected.

John Cole:

Sarah Palin is the distilled essence of wingnut. She has it all. She is dishonest. She is a religious nut. She is incurious. She is anti-science. She is inexperienced. She abuses her authority. She hides behind executive privilege. She is a big spender. She works from the gut and places a greater value on instinct than knowledge. And most dangerous of all, she is supremely self-confident to the point of not recognizing how ill-equipped she is to lead the country.

TNR on John Kerry

Kerry has emerged as a powerful surrogate for Obama, regularly going to bat for him on the stump and on the TV talk shows, where he hews closely to the Obama campaign's talking points and offers criticism of John McCain that's far more withering than anything Obama himself could get away with. "John McCain is still stuck on the low-road express," Kerry said at a recent campaign event. "He doesn't get it. He's even dangerous, I think, for the direction of this country."

For those who remember Kerry as a lackluster and ham-fisted presidential candidate, this emergence has come as a surprise. "There's a wholeheartedness to [Kerry speaking about Obama] and a total lack of hesitancy and calculation that he always seems to have when he's speaking about himself," says one Democratic consultant. "A year ago, if you had asked [Obama strategists] David Axelrod and David Plouffe if they thought Kerry would be an important surrogate, they'd have laughed. But he's been fucking good." Kerry is even winning compliments from across the aisle. "If Kerry had conducted himself like this four years ago," says Republican strategist John Weaver, "he might have been elected president."

When Kerry's not campaigning for Obama, he's campaigning for himself. He's up for reelection in November, and, although he faces only token opposition, he's not taking anything for granted. One afternoon in early August, he came to an Irish bar in Quincy, where about 50 people were gathered in a basement banquet room. As is usually the case with Kerry, his prepared remarks were fine, hitting all the hot-button issues from the subprime mortgage crisis to McCain's foreign policy of "unilateralism on steroids." But it's the off-the- cuff speaking that has always bedeviled Kerry, and, when he took his first question, about withdrawing troops from Iraq, and immediately launched into a story about a meeting he once had with the governor of Anbar Province and some local sheiks, it triggered an instant flashback to any number of rambling, incomprehensible presentations--the kind that once led Jon Stewart to admonish Kerry, "No one understands you!" But then something unexpected happened: Kerry quickly got to his point. "I said to them point blank, 'Look, as long as the president keeps saying we're going to be here as long as it takes, isn't it true that you really are under no pressure whatsoever to make the decision about how long you take?' And they agreed. ... They said, 'You're right.'" And then it was on to the next question. Without the apparent performance anxiety of running for president, Kerry had suddenly discovered concision.

Indeed, some people now believe that this new and improved Kerry is headed for bigger things. In the weeks before the Democratic convention, Kerry's name was increasingly bandied about as a potential Obama running-mate. ("[I]f he had not run in '04, he would almost be a lock for the vice-presidential nomination, " Shrum told The Huffington Post.) And there's speculation that, in the event of an Obama victory, Kerry would join his cabinet. "John Kerry would be a tremendous asset to the Obama administration as secretary of State," says Max Cleland, a former Georgia senator and Kerry confidante.

Kerry and his advisers are quick to tamp down such talk. This, to be sure, is the natural denial of a politician up for reelection. But it also appears that Kerry, who has seemingly been running for a higher office since he was an undergrad at Yale, has finally achieved an angle of repose. He speaks enthusiastically about the "progressive legislating" on issues like stem-cell research and children's health care that will be possible if Obama wins and Democrats pick up seats. "Then you start building, and then you do the toughies like energy and health care," he says. "I think we could really see a very exciting period." His aides say that he hopes to one day chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the same committee he testified before as a 27- year-old antiwar activist. And, although it is a sensitive topic, given his friendship with Ted Kennedy, the prospect of Kerry eventually becoming Massachusetts's senior senator and an elder statesman of sorts is obviously an appealing one. The fact that these goals only require Kerry to hang around long enough to achieve them suggests a certain level of contentment, in stark contrast to the restless ambition he has always displayed. "I think he's decided that he wants to be a senator," says one Kerry adviser, "and there have been questions about that over the years."

It's worth noting that Ted Kennedy gave up his Presidential aspirations after his 1980 loss and went on to become probably the greatest Senator of our era, and among the greatest in this Nation's history. It would be fitting for the "junior" senator from Mass. to try to fill that role when Kennedy retires (or passes away, not to be morbid).

The WaPo has a story on Cindy McCain's struggles with addiction. I don't think it's something that's appropriate to pile on about given it's an issue really separate from politics... I do stand by my belief, however, that Cindy McCain is essentially a Stepford-wife, by which I mean she is trying to fulfill a kind ideal wife role that isn't really practical, and since she's, of course, not a really robot, she's been forced to rely on medication to deaden her senses as she fulfills the completely unrealistic and soul-deadening role she finds herself playing.

Of course, the lying is always an issue, or at least it should be. (To my mind this election will be a referendum on exactly that: does lying matter?)

Kos makes an interesting observation about the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee's decision to subpoena Palin's husband. Quoting the Anchorage Daily News:

The state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 today to subpoena 13 people -- including the husband of Gov. Sarah Palin -- in an investigation of whether Palin abused her power in trying to get her former brother-in-law fired.

What's interesting is that committee is controlled by Republicans -- three of them compared to two Democrats. The two Democrats voted to issue the subpoenas, including one targeting Todd Palin. That left three Republicans able to block them. Yet one of them defected.

His name is Charlie Huggins, and he represents ... Wasilla.

It's almost as though those that know her the best trust her the least.

Defenders of Wildlife Fund just came out with a pretty intense ad criticizing Palin for participating in and encouraging aerial hunting. (vid)

And Planned Parenthood goes after McCain (vid)

Craig Ferguson had a great rant on voting the other night (vid)

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