links, commentary, toons, pics, fun!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


What a great week for America.  I'm really proud of Obama, everyone who worked for his reelection, and the country as a whole.  We've been through a lot, but I think we're through the worst of it now, and better days are in front of us.

Ezra Klein on Obama's victory speech:
The Obama campaign found that their key voters were turned off by soaring rhetoric and big plans. They’d lowered their expectations, and they responded better when Obama appeared to have lowered his expectations, too. And so he did. The candidate of hope and change became the candidate of modest plans and achievable goals. Rather than stopping the rise of the oceans — which sounded rather more fantastical before Sandy — Obama promised to train more teachers and boost manufacturing jobs. 
What you saw tonight, however, was that Obama didn’t much like being that guy. He still wants to be the guy he was in 2008. He still wants to inspire and to unite. He still wants Americans to feel that the arc of history is bending under their pressure. He still wants to talk about climate change and election reform and other problems that the Senate is not especially eager to solve. 
This has been the tension at the center of the Obama White House for four years now. Hope and change don’t go together. The legislative process doesn’t leave people feeling very hopeful. But it’s the only mechanism the president really has to make change. 
Tonight, however, President Obama wasn’t trying to get 60 votes in the Senate or to swing a few undecideds in Ohio. Tonight, he had finished the long grind of his last campaign, but he hadn’t begun the hard work of his second term. Tonight, he could be the candidate of both hope and change, if only for a little while.


Romney thought he was going to win.  His campaign spent $25,000 dollars on victory fireworks, and even briefly posted (on accident) this 'transition site.'

Paul Glastris, "The Mystery of Why Republicans Were So Sure They'd Win" (Washington Monthly)

Conor Friedersdorf, "How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File"-  why they didn't see this coming

Peter Beinart, "Obama Victory Signals New Democratic Dominance in U.S. Politics" (The Daily Beast)
Four years ago, it looked possible that Barack Obama’s election heralded a new era of Democratic dominance. Now it looks almost certain. In the early 20th century, the face of America changed, and only one party changed with it. In the early 21st century, that story has played itself out again. From the beginning, Obama has said he wants to be a transformational figure, a president who reshapes American politics for decades, another Reagan or FDR. He may just have achieved that Tuesday night.

Beth Reinhard, "GOP Challenge: How to Transcend Aging White Base" (National Journal)
Romney’s loss touched off a round of hand-wringing within the Republican Party—particularly about its demographics. But there is no consensus on the way forward.

Andrew Cohen, "Why Mitt Romney Lost: A Simple Overriding Theory" (The Atlantic)
No serious political party in America -- no legitimate party in any viable democracy -- can win an election by suppressing votes. So long as the Republican Party endorses (and enacts) voting laws designed to make it harder for registered voters to vote, so long as Republican officials like Ohio's Jon Husted contort themselves to interpret those laws in a restrictive fashion, the Republicans will continue to play a loser's game.

Ari Berman, "How the GOP's War on Voting Backfired" (The Nation)

The Empire Strikes Back?:  Supremes to take on the Voting Rights Act.  Obama managed to put together a diverse coalition despite Republican attempts at voter suppression.  Part of the reason those efforts failed was because the courts struck down or overruled rules designed to make it more difficult to vote. Many of those rulings were based on the Voting Rights Act.

What about your gaffes?:

An inside view of the Romney campaign's voter turn out operation.

An inside view of Obama's.

All you need is love:  a nice DKos tribute to hugs on the campaign trail.

A 'conservative' reaction to Obama's reelection (don't watch if you're eating):

Brett Norman and Jason Millman report on what the election means for health care politics.

The next couple months will be dominated by talks over how we settle our finances.  Fortunately Obama now has a strong hand to play:

Jonathan Cohn, "How the Election Reset the 'Fiscal Cliff' Debate" (The New Republic)

Jonathan Cohn, "Obama Shows His Upper Hand in 'Fiscal Cliff' Negotiations" (The New Republic)

Jonathan Chait, "Obama to Boehner: Put Down the Gun" (New York Magazine)

Paul Krugman, "Let's Not Make a Deal" (NYT):

Republicans are trying, for the third time since he took office, to use economic blackmail to achieve a goal they lack the votes to achieve through the normal legislative process. In particular, they want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, even though the nation can’t afford to make those tax cuts permanent and the public believes that taxes on the rich should go up — and they’re threatening to block any deal on anything else unless they get their way. So they are, in effect, threatening to tank the economy unless their demands are met. 
Mr. Obama essentially surrendered in the face of similar tactics at the end of 2010, extending low taxes on the rich for two more years. He made significant concessions again in 2011, when Republicans threatened to create financial chaos by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And the current potential crisis is the legacy of those past concessions. 
Well, this has to stop — unless we want hostage-taking, the threat of making the nation ungovernable, to become a standard part of our political process. 
So what should he do? Just say no, and go over the cliff if necessary.
It’s worth pointing out that the fiscal cliff isn’t really a cliff. It’s not like the debt-ceiling confrontation, where terrible things might well have happened right away if the deadline had been missed. This time, nothing very bad will happen to the economy if agreement isn’t reached until a few weeks or even a few months into 2013. So there’s time to bargain. 
More important, however, is the point that a stalemate would hurt Republican backers, corporate donors in particular, every bit as much as it hurt the rest of the country. As the risk of severe economic damage grew, Republicans would face intense pressure to cut a deal after all. 
Meanwhile, the president is in a far stronger position than in previous confrontations. I don’t place much stock in talk of “mandates,” but Mr. Obama did win re-election with a populist campaign, so he can plausibly claim that Republicans are defying the will of the American people. And he just won his big election and is, therefore, far better placed than before to weather any political blowback from economic troubles — especially when it would be so obvious that these troubles were being deliberately inflicted by the G.O.P. in a last-ditch attempt to defend the privileges of the 1 percent. 
Most of all, standing up to hostage-taking is the right thing to do for the health of America’s political system.

The two sides of Obama:

Finally, I put together a youtube playlist based on this interview with the guy who DJ'd the reelection rally.  DJ Mel sets the scene:

the Obama camp gave me a list of about thirty or forty songs — I can’t remember exactly how many. They were like, “These are the pre-approved songs. Playing these would be good.” There was a schedule and you can imagine that the timeline for the event was run like the military. So those pre-approved songs ended up being kind of low background music for the most part.

When the room started to get full and they were kind of starting to show the results and they were announcing which states each candidate won, you could tell that people had a very positive attitude. I didn’t want to say, “OK, he’s gonna win,” but after a while he just gained all this momentum and started winning all these states and the crowd started getting crazier and crazier.

I’d be playing a song and then the producer would tell the sound guy to tell me to fade out to CNN which was playing on the screen. Yeah it was kind of weird, it was like that up until around 1 a.m. when they finally announced that Obama had one and the whole room went crazy.

The thing is that by that time I had already gone through the list of pre-approved songs. They had already come to me and been like, “If you run out of songs just go ahead and play things that you think are more or less fitting. Be mindful about what you play.” I mean, obviously, you can’t just play anything there. You think like that when you’re DJing at a club — you just play what you want and it’s gonna be fine if it’s fun. And this was fun, but you’re also thinking that you could play the wrong song and it will reflect on the president. Right behind me was the press, they could see everything I was doing. I was kind of afraid that if I messed up, they would be like, “Why the hell is he playing this song?” and then immediately take to the Internet and be like, “You won’t believe what Obama is playing at his party.”

I didn’t prepare for it at all! The only thing that I was prepared with were those pre-approved songs. It didn’t hit me until I walked into that empty venue and the press was already there and there were tv cameras everywhere. I just looked around stunned. That’s when it hit me.

When I ran out of the [pre-approved] songs was right around the time they announced that Obama had won. It just happened so quickly and I was so happy — I was jumping up and down and the whole room was going apeshit. I couldn’t even think. Even though I was there working I was so worried that the dude was going to get robbed or that we were going to have to wait for a week for a recount or something. So while I was jumping up and down, I just spur-of-the-moment grabbed and decided to play “Twist And Shout.” The room went bananas and the sound guys were looking at me, telling me that the producers were giving me a thumbs-up. I was honestly just standing there so happy, thinking about how crazy everything was around me. And then it dawned at me that we were in Chicago and Ferris Bueller took place in Chicago — that song “Twist And Shout” played such a big part in that movie. I remember that the crowd in that movie was just as diverse and it was just this scene of joy. It reflected what was going on in that venue on that night, too. That’s when I decided I should just wing it for the rest of the night. I was like, I should just do what I do and really think about what I’m playing. I immediately thought of really uplifting, soulful music. Songs that people knew or didn’t know — the cool thing about it was that they were all songs that I really, really love.

Here's some of what he played:

Well folks, I'll probably take a break from blogging for a while, but this has been quite an election, and I really enjoyed posting about it... thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

big day coming

Obama in Hilliard-3

Every four years we hear "this is the most important election of our life time," but this time it's true.  The reason it's true is Republicans have bet everything on this one.  They rejected compromise, thinking in 2013 they could have it all their way.  That bet is about to either pay off big-time, or blow up in their faces.

The three most obvious areas in which this is true are the budget, health care and the courts.  During the health care debates Republicans refused to compromise thinking they could kill the bill, and when it passed over their objections it became the first thing on their 'un-do list' for after re-taking power.  During the debt limit standoff/fiasco the Republicans rejected unprecedented concessions from Obama, instead choosing to craft a convoluted way of kicking the can down the road, figuring they'll write their own rules in 2013.  Finally, over Obama's first term Republicans have refused to confirm Obama's appointments to the courts (there are currently 84 vacancies), again banking on a win to allow them to pack in conservative ideologues.  And of course the Supreme Court could have 1-3 retirements over the next four years, with obvious implications for any number of issues.

But the other side of the coin is that if Dems win, our gains will also be dramatic.  Because of Repub intransigence HCR is a much more progressive piece of legislation that it would have been if they'd cooperated, and when it kicks in for real in 2014 the politics of that issue will change dramatically.  People are going to like it.   Likewise, because Repubs refused Obama's concessions the Bush tax cuts are still set to expire, and since Congress couldn't get their act together big cuts to the military are also on the table (btw, we currently spend more on the military than every other country in the world combined).  Dems will be negotiating out of great strength.  And there's serious talk about (finally) reforming the filibuster to end the petty logjams that have held up our judicial nominations, along with so much else.

If Obama wins tomorrow I think we will begin to see the kind of tangible progress we were hoping for in 2008... progress that was ultimately thwarted by the financial crisis.  Because the other good news is the economy if finally starting to pick up steam, and while if Romney wins he will claim and receive credit for our improved fortunes, if Obama wins the credit of course will go to him, and that will result in political capital he can 'spend' on other things.  Success breeds success.

However the election goes tomorrow (I'm optimistic, but trying not to jinx anything) the consequences will be profound, likely altering the fundamental trajectory of our country for decades to come.  While I'm glad so many Americans are taking this election seriously, I really don't think most people have any idea how much is riding on this one.

Virginia Field Offices-2

Jonathan Cohn offers some numbers worth keeping in mind:
Eight to ten million. That’s the number of people who would lose eligibility for food stamps under the Ryan budget, which Romney praised and pledged to sign. Keep in mind that, in the wake of welfare reform and the decline of cash assistance from the federal government, food stamps have become the primary source of support for low-income people. At least a quarter would be children. 
Two hundred thousand and 10 million. That’s the number of kids who’d lose Head Start and the number of college students who’d see Pell Grants decline by $1000, according to official administration estimates, under the Ryan budget that Romney effectively endorsed—unless Romney decided to spare those programs, forcing deeper cuts to other programs. 
Fifty-two million. That’s how many people could lose health insurance if Romney repeals Obamacare and enacts his plan for Medicaid. In case it’s not self-evident, that’s a lot of people—about one-sixth of the entire American population.

Eight-hundred billion. That's the ten-year cost of extending the Bush tax cuts for incomes over $250,000. It's a tax cut that benefits only the wealthy; offsetting the cost is a big reason why so many other cuts would have to take place.

E.J. Dionne's take is worth reading.

Chris Mathews had a nice commentary on the significance of tomorrow:

Here's a really nice election day guide for how to plan your day... well, except for where he says voting is "utterly not consequential to the election" (twice!).  Um, I disagree!  I actually felt kind of embarrassed for him when I read it.  Although he does say he voted for Gary Johnson (the libertarian candidate), so in his case he may be right. (ba-dum-bum)  But other than that turd-in-the-punchbowl, it's a nice post.

A very handy chart:

The NYT has something similar here.

Speaking of handy charts, your moment of Venn:

Nate Silver is currently giving Obama a 92.2% chance of winning... meanwhile Peggy Noonan is feeling the Mitt-mentum, suggesting the voters are 'quietly cooking up' a Romney win.  Somebody is very wrong!  Noonan asks,
Is it possible this whole thing is playing out before our eyes and we’re not really noticing because we’re too busy looking at data on paper instead of what’s in front of us? Maybe that’s the real distortion of the polls this year: They left us discounting the world around us.
We shall see Peggy.  We shall see.  As they say, tomorrow is the only poll that counts.  Then again, arguing against polling isn't new:

Along those line, here's another good post on Nate Silver and his detractors.

Finally, it should go without saying that the right to vote is sacrosanct to democracy.  Many people have died to protect it.  That politicians are using their power to suppress voting for their party's benefit is despicable. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

closing in

I hope my New York friends have power again and that life is trending towards normalcy...  sounds like it's been a crazy week!

Hmm, ya think?:



On a lighter note...

There's a lot of chatter going on about how seriously to take Nate Silver... Politico's coming out swinging against him, insisting the race is a toss-up, with 'momentum' on Romney's side.  For my money, the best two takes are this and this.  I don't think people understand what he's really saying... if he gives Romney has a 25% chance of winning*, he means just that:  flip a coin twice and if you got heads both times, Romney's President.  That's a real chance.

That's not to say that if we somehow re-ran election day over and over again we'd get different results.  There's only one answer, but given the information available there are limits to how certain we can be in predicting it... that's what Nate's trying to quantify.

This really is Moneyball, redux.  The baseball managers had all these insidery ways of analyzing players, like how hot their girlfriends were (denoting 'confidence'), but some kid crunching numbers put them all to shame.  Math beats B.S.

*As of this writing Silver's giving Obama an 85.1% chance.  As the clock runs out there's less time for things to change, hence Obama's odds increase even as the race remains fairly stagnant.

Sully:  "The great thing about reality is that eventually you hit it.  We are about to."

Here's hoping Obama's turn-out machine lives up to it's rep.

Romney Rules special edition: the meta-ethics of the post-truth campaign

Ed Kilgore wins best metaphor for the week: "Mitt's Doritos Turn Into a Kitten."

Ezra Klein had a couple posts this week that pretty well sum up the current state of our politics...

In "A Portrait of Washington in 2012" shows how Washington is forced to come up with convoluted ways of accomplishing things, even when all sides basically agree, because anything the Obama Administration is on the record as supporting must by definition be implacably opposed by Republicans.

And then in "Mitch McConnell's and John Boehner's Strategy Worked" he argues that a recent batch of newspaper endorsements for Romney, on grounds that he unlike Obama, will be able to work with Congress, show that the Republicans "just say no" approach made for effective politics.

A vote for Romney is a vote for partisan gridlock, because it will be clear that that's the most efficient route for an opposition party to get back into power (especially since the press is clearly not interested in calling such behavior out.)

There are are a lot of good reasons to vote against Romney, but Jonathan Chait reminds us we have someone we can be proud to vote for: "The Case for Obama:  Why He is a Great President.  Yes, Great."

On the other hand, it's important to consider the other side's point of view:

This is non-political (well, unless you count 19th century politics), but funny:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

knock those doors

Just got back from doing some canvassing... like I did last weekend and will be doing again next weekend.  I say that not to pat myself on the back but to hopefully create a little peer pressure on you, dear readers.  As you know, voting isn't enough.  Donating isn't enough.  You gotta get out there!  Perhaps you already are, and if so I salute you.  Personally I don't really enjoy it, but some people do.

Right now Romney appears to have a slight lead nationally, and Obama a slight lead in the battle ground states that will decide the election.  But here's the thing:  those two numbers can only get so far apart.  If national numbers continue to move, the battleground numbers will eventually follow.  Nate Silver's probably has a better read on this than anyone, and fortunately he still gives Obama a nearly 3 out of 4 chance of winning...  but Silver has himself said he expects his numbers to bounce around more in the final days, as his model will rely less and less on 'structural factors' (the economy, etc) and more on the most recent polling, which we can also expect to fluctuate more (polls lines always get squiggly right as election day nears).

The Obama campaign is stressing that they've been preparing for this precise situation for years now, building the biggest GOTV operation ever.  Their key metric is number of field offices, which dwarfs Romney's.  They argue people are more likely to get out and volunteer somewhere close by than to drive a longer distances to help.  But this all depends on people like us actually showing up and doing our part.  So let's do it!

ok, some links, etc....

Funny photo caption.

Finally!  The details of Romney's plan to cut taxes on the rich and reduce the deficit without hurting the middle class.

The Obama campaign posted this:

A reference to this?:

Colin Powell made a number of good points when he endorsed the President the other day... particularly in this bit:

Romney's shape-shifting reveals a lack of integrity.  That's as important as any particular issue.

(A remake of this)

Here are a couple that I really think are worth saving and reading in their entirety:

Jonathan Chait explains what's going to happen with the budget after the election... fascinating and illuminating.  A Romney win is indeed scary, but you might be surprised at how well positioned Obama will be to advance his priorities (if he can just pull this thing out).

If I were to meet a foreigner who wanted to understand American politics, I think this article by Jonathan Cohn would be a great starting point.  

And then if I wanted to help this 'foreigner' understand what's at stake in this particular election, I think Douglas Brinkley's introduction to his interview with Obama in the new Rolling Stone might be a good place to start:

Viewed through the lens of history, Obama represents a new type of 21st-century politician: the Progressive Firewall. Obama, simply put, is the curator-in-chief of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society. When he talks about continued subsidies for Big Bird or contraceptives for Sandra Fluke, he is the inheritor of the Progressive movement's agenda, the last line of defense that prevents America's hard-won social contract from being defunded into oblivion. 
Ever since Theodore Roosevelt used executive orders to save the Grand Canyon from the zinc-copper lobbies and declared that unsanitary factories were grotesque perversions propagated by Big Money interests, the federal government has aimed to improve the daily lives of average Americans. Woodrow Wilson followed up T.R.'s acts by creating the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission and re-establishing a federal income tax. Then, before the stock market crash in 1929, the GOP Big Three of Harding-Coolidge-Hoover made "business" the business of America, once more allowing profiteers to flourish at the expense of the vulnerable. 
Enter Franklin Roosevelt, a polio victim confined to a wheelchair and leg braces. His alphabet soup of New Deal programs – the CCC and TVA and WPA – brought hope to the financially distraught, making them believe that the government was on their side. Determined to end the Great Depression, Roosevelt was a magnificent experimenter. Credit him with Social Security, legislation to protect workers, labor's right to collective bargaining, Wall Street regulation, rural electrification projects, farm-price supports, unemployment compensation and federally guaranteed bank deposits. The America we know and love today sprung directly from the New Deal. 
For the next three decades, the vast majority of voters benefited from Roosevelt's revolution. And every president from FDR to Jimmy Carter, regardless of political affiliation, grabbed America by the scruff of the neck and did huge, imaginative things with tax revenues. Think Truman (the Marshall Plan), Eisenhower (the Interstate Highway System), Kennedy (the space program), Johnson (Medicaid and Medicare), Nixon (the EPA) and Carter (the departments of Energy and Education). Whether it was Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy going after the Mob or LBJ laying the groundwork for PBS, citizens took comfort in the knowledge that the executive branch was a caring iron fist with watchdog instincts that got things done. 
It was the election of Ronald Reagan that started the Grand Reversal. Reagan had voted four times for FDR, but by 1980 he saw the federal government – with the notable exception of our armed forces – as a bloated, black-hatted villain straight out of one of his B movies. His revolution – and make no mistake that it was one – aimed to undo everything from Medicare to Roe v. Wade. Ever since Reagan, both the New Deal and the Great Society have been under continuous siege by the American right. Bill Clinton survived two terms only by co-opting traditional GOP issues like welfare reform and balanced budgets. Unlike Clinton, Obama must hold tighter to the Progressive movement's reins. There are no more moderate Republicans left in Congress to do business with; today's GOP conservatives want to roll back, not reform. Having brought Obamacare this far, the president must find a way to close the deal in his second term. 
If Obama wins re-election, his domestic agenda will be anchored around a guarantee to all Americans that civil rights, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, affordable health care, public education, clean air and water, and a woman's right to choose will be protected, no matter how poorly the economy performs. Obama has grappled with two of the last puzzle pieces of the Progressive agenda – health care and gay rights – with success. If he is re-elected in November and makes his health care program permanent, it will take root in the history books as a seminal achievement. If he loses, Romney and Ryan will crush his initiatives without remorse. 
The main goal of Obama's second term, besides driving down unemployment, will likely be the conversion to clean energy. While Obama doesn't wear an Inconvenient Truth T-shirt, he nevertheless understands that environmentalism makes for good business in the 21st century. The high seas and savage winds of fossil-fuel abuse are upon us. Obama has made clear that addressing climate change is the issue of most long-term consequence facing not only America but human civilization itself.

Jonathan Cohn (again!) also has a good run-through of the auto-bailout, summarizing its significance this way:
Looking back, the key disagreement between Obama and Romney wasn’t over whether the auto industry should survive. It was over whether the government should act to make the industry's survival possible—whether, facing an instance of market breakdown, the government should intervene in order to protect hundreds of thousands, and maybe more than a million, people from losing their jobs.

And that’s really the same philosophical argument Obama and Romney are having when they debate other areas of policy. When investors take risks that exploit consumers and jeopardize the economy, should government stop investors from taking those risks? When health insurers make profits by discriminating against people with serious medical issues, should government force insurers to treat those people like everybody else? When manufacturers and energy companies fill the air with carbon, creating climate problems that will affect everybody on the planet, should government find ways to curb their activities? Obama thinks the answer to these questions is yes. Romney thinks it is no. 
But the Detroit rescue reveals another difference between the two—one that is more about character than ideology. In 2009, you didn't need a crystal ball to see that Michigan, Ohio, and the rest of the midwest would be important parts of the 2012 election. But rescuing the companies would entail its own risks. The public by that point was tired of bailouts and, according to polls, they didn’t find the autoworkers a whole lot more sympathetic than the bankers. Conditioned by years of anti-union propaganda and stories (or personal experiences) with substandard American cars, the American public had come to see employees of the Big Three as pampered, slothful, and undeserving of help. Even in the Midwest, where the effects of a shutdown would be most acute, the rescue elicited mixed responses. 
Obama understood this. Even if the rescue worked as he hoped it would, chances were good that progress would be slow in coming—that, by today, the companies would still be struggling, creating a political embarrassment. Obama approved the rescue anyway. And that included granting assistance to Chrysler. Half of his economic advisers opposed that, fearing, among other things, the shrinking car market was too small to support both companies. Obama’s rationale was simple: If he had the power to stop the devastation of either company shutting down, he was going to use it. 
Romney’s inconsistent rhetoric may leave us wondering precisely what he really thought and would have done. But they tell us a lot about how he operates in the face of political pressure. When Romney was trying to appease conservatives and win the Republican primaries, he went out of his way to attack the rescue as a waste of taxpayer dollars. When Romney was trying to win over voters in Michigan and, now, as he has been trying to win over voters in Ohio, he has emphasized the similarities between the remedy he proposed initially and the solution Obama eventually chose. Can anybody who’s followed these shifts say honestly Romney has the mettle to make a tough decision and stick with it? 
Put it all together, and it’s possible to draw from the auto industry rescue a pretty good lesson about the real differences between Obama and Romney. Obama understands that the market doesn’t always work on its own—that sometimes government must intervene in order to protect Americans from economic harm. Romney doesn’t. Obama is also willing to act in the face of political peril. Romney isn’t. 
Those differences should matter to all Americans, not just those of us who live in Michigan and Ohio.

BREAKING:  footage of Obama's birth has been discovered!

This interview with the guy who "discovered" it is hilarious.

I guess there was some controversy over this video yesterday?:

I was not familiar with Dunham, but she seems quite charming.  Is Girls good?  I remember hearing something about it a while back... either that it was like Sex in the City, or that it's not like Sex in the City.  Which I suppose describes everything.  Because that's how I view the world.  (not really)

If you're in Sandy's path at all please stay safe.  Sounds like it's gonna be a doozy.

Friday, October 26, 2012


The last few days we've been in this weird situation where poll analysts see Obama as the heavy favorite to win (see Nate Silver, these guys and others), while much of the media sees hints of a Romney victory, or at least a Romney "surge."  Paul Krugman explains:
If you’re new to this, there are two basic approaches to election analysis at this point. One is the campaign reporter style, full of impressionist reporting about who won the news cycle and who has “momentum”, whatever that means (politics ain’t beanbag, but it ain’t billiards either). The other is poll-based. And that mostly means state-level polls at this point: there are more of them, and we have an electoral-college system, not a popular-vote system. 
The impressionistic style has been all about Romney on the rise, a narrative that is to a large part being fed by the Romney campaign itself. But the state-level polling doesn’t show it. 
In fact, the state polls pretty much say that Obama would win if the election were held right now, taking Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and quite possibly Virginia. Florida is a dead heat, too. (See the Pollster map). Nor is there any sign of movement in Romney’s direction after his big post-first-debate bump.
Whatever is really going on, we’re now getting close to a showdown between styles of political analysis. By inclination, I of course trust the nerds. But we’ll soon see.

I too tend to go with the nerds...  I certainly prefer the current situation to having the roles reversed.  Still it's disconcerting to see the media so easily played because the Romney camp is trying to create this narrative in hopes of generating a bandwagon effect, and perhaps it could work.

Jonathan Chait had a good post on the topic, noting that a big part of Karl Rove's 2000 strategy was all about projecting confidence.  Michael Tomasky argues these are the most crucial days of the election because now is when the narrative for the home stretch takes shape, and that Republicans are doing all they can to shape it to their favor:
At worst from Obama’s perspective, the thing is tied. As far as we know, looking at all the averages, on a state-by-state basis he’s ahead. If you assume seven or eight states in play and go through all the permutations, Obama often wins by taking just two or three of them. Yes, a lot hinges on Ohio. But he can win even without it (he needs a strong inside straight, but it’s possible). Romney absolutely cannot.

Conservatives know all this. But they’re constructing an opposite reality. This is at the heart of everything going on right now, I think. It’s what they can do that liberals can’t really do. They've always done it. “Romney is going to win” in 2012 isn’t so different from “We’ll be hailed as liberators” in 2003. They say something and try to make it so, and the media go for it time and time again.

Yep.  Commenting along the same lines Josh Marshall mentions a certain site/publication that seems to have an outsized role in setting the conventional wisdom:
Whenever the polls are this close, either guy can win. But the momentum is not on Romney’s side at the moment. They’re trying to punk reporters — thinking particularly of the Politico set here, and others who like to be punk’d — into creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Politico, in its eternal quest to 'drive the news,' has been at the forefront of this story, trumpeting the Romney camp's assertions of "momentum" even when there's little empirical evidence for such claims ... Marshall is on to something when he says they like to be punk'd.  They are admirers of the game and those that can play it, even when, especially when, the game is playing them.

(To be clear, I'm talking specifically about the opinion-setting front page political writers that define their publication... you can certainly find high-quality, substantive journalism at Politico 'below the fold.')

Their reaction to the last debate illustrates the point.

From a purely optical standpoint I thought the last debate was the inverse of the first, with Obama giving an impressive performance while Romney tried to run out the clock, looking worse for it.

But the more significant take away was well described by Joan Walsh at Salon ("The Man Without a Soul"):
Beyond scoring the debate on style points, though, why aren’t more people horrified by Romney’s capacity to disavow virtually everything he’s said on foreign policy and cuddle up with Obama, in order to seem less frightening to voters? On Afghanistan, on Iran, on abandoning Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, on killing Osama bin Laden, on Syria, on drones, Romney mostly said “me too” to Obama’s policies. And it’s not as though the debate merely gave Romney the space to explain foreign policy positions that may have been misinterpreted. After a year spent attacking Obama’s “weakness” globally and promising to be hawkish, he was, at times, the dove, insisting more than once “We can’t kill our way out of this.” And when he wasn’t echoing Obama, he sounded like a schoolboy reciting what he just learned in world geography class. 
I found it chilling. Once again I thought to myself: Who is this guy who’s trying to imitate a cautious, sober global statesman (albeit one who sweats a lot)? I just watched Doris Kearns Goodwin on “Morning Joe” say Romney did the right thing because his goal was not to scare anybody and lose the momentum he gained from Debate 1, and everyone seemed to agree. But in what new realm of cynicism is it the right thing to hide your real policies in order to become president?

This is the realm of Politico.  They didn't invent the stuff, but they've claimed the mantle.  I happened to watch the debate through their online stream and afterwards the Politicos came on and intoned that Obama's jabs at Romney only diminished his stature and made him seem less Presidential, and that Romney won the debate when he backed off insisting for more time and conceded to Shiefer that he had also been attacking his opponent.  This, they said, is what viewers were looking for.  That Romney was introducing entirely new policy arguments that often contradicted his previously held positions at the last debate before the election did not seem to bother them... presumably because they didn't think voters would care about that either (talk about self-fulfilling prophecies!)...   

John Sides shows how over a couple of days Politico went from describing Romney as "surging" with Dems scrambling to play defense... to providing the GOP a "cold shower" re: their electoral prospects...  all over the course of a couple days in which there was no discernable movement in the polls.  They're just spinning yarn over there!  Their current headline story is "the Momentum Wars," which makes no mention of their own participation in said 'wars.'

I recommend this TNR piece by Alec MacGillis about the media's love of / need for narrative, which perfectly describes the dynamic at play. (and is kind of hilarious)

To be clear it's nothing nefarious or even ideological, and is hardly limited to Politico, but it sucks because this kind of stuff does affect how people view the campaign and the candidates, and in a race this close could easily tip the balance in one direction or another.

More soon...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Malarkey, and other 'stuff'

That was quite a debate Thursday, huh??  I thought Joe said what needed to be said.  Sure there were a few times where he could've laid off the interruptions a bit, but I have to wonder what debate people who called it a "tie" were watching.  It was Joe's night for sure.

Charles Pierce (who just got added to my bookmarks) wins the award for most fun re-cap of the evening.  He even finishes with a joke:
For years, Paul Ryan has been the shining champion of some really terrible ideas, and of a dystopian vision of the political commonwealth in which the poor starve and the elderly die ghastly, impoverished deaths, while all the essential elements of a permanent American oligarchy were put in place. This has garnered him loving notices from a lot of people who should have known better. The ideas he could explain were bad enough, but the profound ignorance he displayed on Thursday night on a number of important questions, including when and where the United States might wind up going to war next, and his blithe dismissal of any demand that he be specific about where he and his running mate are planning to take the country generally, was so positively terrifying that it calls into question Romney's judgment for putting this unqualified greenhorn on the ticket at all. Joe Biden laughed at him? Of course, he did. The only other option was to hand him a participation ribbon and take him to Burger King for lunch. 
You know what's the difference between Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan? 

But this one from the Rude Pundit is pretty damn entertaining as well:
In 2008, Joe Biden, who smiled at Sarah Palin the way one does at a particularly precocious toddler, had to hold his fire for fear of seeming sexist or bullying to the then-governor. He got to unload on Ryan. And all those years in the Senate, all those years confronting presidents, all of it came to bear last night as he beat down Ryan viciously and mercilessly. Ryan is the perfect product of Republican America, someone who grew up in the Reagan era in a protected bubble, who learned at the knee of conservatives and worked for people like Sam Brownback, a man whose philosophy is a synthesis of cruel social conservatism and bastardized Ayn Rand. In other words, he is everything Joe Biden has fought against. Of course Biden was gonna cut off this puffed up punk at the knees. That Ryan asshole brought up a fatal car crash in front of the guy who lost his wife and daughter in one. Shit, when it was done, you half-expected the Vice President to brush his shoulder. 
It is probably Biden's last time on the big stage. Give the bright-toothed guy his victory lap.

Matt Taibbi says what Biden got exactly right in the debate was his tone:

Biden did absolutely roll his eyes, snort, laugh derisively and throw his hands up in the air whenever Ryan trotted out his little beady-eyed BS-isms. 
But he should have! He was absolutely right to be doing it. We all should be doing it. That includes all of us in the media, and not just paid obnoxious-opinion-merchants like me, but so-called "objective" news reporters as well. We should all be rolling our eyes, and scoffing and saying, "Come back when you're serious."

Joe vs. the 'Gish Gallop':  how Biden shut down the Romney/Ryan debate strategy.

Sorry to keep flogging the point, but Jonathan Alter also sees a 2004 comparison:

In 2004, the Democratic challenger, John Kerry, was up eight points in several polls after besting President George W. Bush in their first debate. But then Vice President Dick Cheney drove home Bush’s national-security message in his debate with John Edwards and won on points, not likeability, which was never Cheney’s strong suit. Bush’s polling stabilized and he went on to win a close election. 
Unless Obama lays eggs in the two next debates, I suspect the same dynamic will be at work this year. Biden may have irritated some voters Thursday — the instant polls were split — and Paul Ryan’s smooth and intelligent performance makes him a likely Republican nominee for president in the future. But the big takeaway from this contest will be that Biden stopped, or at least slowed, Mitt Romney’s momentum, re-energized panicky Democrats and scored heavily with two key constituencies: senior citizens and women.

Martha Raddatz got a lot of praise for her performance as debate moderator, and indeed she did a much better job than Lehrer, pressing the candidates when they tried to evade her questions (in contrast to Lehrer's "Quantum Leap" approach).  David Roberts at Grist makes a good case, however, that her performance still illustrates what he calls "bankrupt beltway thinking."  Interesting post.

There's no shortage of this stuff:

As usual the Onion gets to the crux of the matter.  (Satire struggles to keep up with reality.)

If you want to know how Romney really thinks this article about his time as an LDS bishop may provide a window into his worldview.  Granted, it all depends on if you think the people being quoted are being truthful, but my hunch is that they are.

In an Op-Ed in today's NYT, titled "The Self-Destruction of the 1%," Chrystia Freeland walks us through some history, recounting how Venice's open economy flourished in the 14th century in large part because it allowed for upward mobility. Those that were most rewarded by the system, however, began to dislike having to constantly compete with new up-and-comers, so began to find ways to 'pull up the ladders,' and entrench their own status.  It became known as La Serrata ("the closure"), and as you might guess caused Venice's flourishing economy to stagnate and shrink.  The relevance of this history to current events should be obvious, but Freeman walks us through it.

Is this propaganda?  Why yes, yes it is.  But having already chosen to support Obama through a rational process based on his record in office, I reserve the right to enjoy watching stuff like this:

Another Presidential debate on Tuesday....

Thursday, October 11, 2012

debate prep

Tonight's debate should be interesting.  I remember four years ago being disappointed Biden didn't really go after Palin, but now most politicos think he was shrewd to avoid the trap of seeming condescending toward a woman, which could potentially alienate female voters.  Well, this time around the situation is obviously quite different and the Obama camp is looking for Biden to take it to Ryan and fire up (re-moralize?) the troops.  Ryan's a complete fraud, so he's a rich target, but he's also a got a real talent for obfuscation, so it will be interesting to see if Biden can pin him to his own record and beliefs.

As we wait for the fun to begin, here are some clips worth your time:

First off, the Daily Show's deconstruction of Romney/Ryan's "plans" regarding spending and taxes is devastating.  What complete snake-oil salesmen...

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democalypse 2012 - Vague Against the Machine
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democalypse 2012 - Vague Against the Machine - Romney's Wizardry
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democalypse 2012 - Vague Against the Machine - The Numbers Guy
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

That FDR clip was so freaking awesome, here it is again:

Spot - F'ing - On.

76 years later, Bill Clinton shows the art of twisting the knife with a smile is not dead:

Barack gets in on the action too:

The style is a little dramatic for my taste, but this fact-check of Romney's debate performance ably illustrates how full of shit he is:

Now, if someone would only fact-check this:

Has political satire finally gone through the rabbit hole?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

chill pill

As in, "take one, everybody."  Andrew Sullivan in particular sounds like he's having a melt-down over this debate and the swing in the polls.

That Pew poll is rough stuff, no doubt, but there's a good chance things will settle back to where they were a month ago, before Romney's month of hell made it seem like this was going to be easy.  I still think Obama's better positioned to get over the finish line.  Steven Benen also sees this election through the prism of 2004, adding more relevant detail.

But all that said, this plane is heading into some serious turbulence...  Screaming "we're all going to die!" is not helpful.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Case for Obama, animated

It's just on the economy, but if that's what people are voting on this is the best summation of Obama's case I've seen:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quick react

Before I read I bunch of stuff by other people, here's my quick first reaction...

I remember watching the first debate eight years ago and being pumped:  Kerry was behind but close in the polls and he came in blazing.  Before or since I never saw Kerry so commanding, and the contrast to President Bush was remarkable, who looked like a deer in headlights.  I remember feeling SURE that the debate was a game changer, and most people who watched it agreed it was a route.

Needless to say the debate did not change the basic dynamic of the race and Kerry went on to lose.  Tonight Romney gave the best performance I've ever seen from him.  For the first time he actually looked Presidential (aside from those reaction shots). The difference with eight years ago is that Obama did not seem clueless.  He did, however, come out looking a little nervous, wonky and (most importantly) passionless, especially at first.  Obama's performance improved over the course of the debate, but it would certainly be hard to call it a win, and I expect the media will call it a loss for him and a win for Romney.

Tonight was important for Romney but if eight years ago is any guide it will not be a game changer.  The reality is people who watch these things were already tuned in and had probably already decided who they were voting for.  My bitter disappointment eight years ago is tonight's cold comfort.  Ok, let's see what other people think...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ayn Rand Paul Ryan / Romney 2012!

This election just got a lot more interesting!  Actually, I think Romney may have just sunk his own candidacy, but let's not get ahead of ourselves....
If you're interested in getting a handle on what Paul Ryan's all about the article I highly recommend Jonathan Chait's profile in New York Magazine from a few months back.  At this point, it's required reading.
Here's an excerpt that describes the famed 'Ryan Plan,' which of course has now just become the defining issue of this campaign:
The basic elements of Ryan’s plan are this: The tax code would be collapsed into two rates, with the top rate dropping to 25 percent, but eliminating unspecified tax deductions would keep tax revenues at the current level, as set by the Bush tax cuts. Medicare would remain untouched for those 55 years old and older, but those under would be given vouchers at a capped rate. Given that the Medicare savings would not begin to take effect for more than a decade, that taxes would stay level (at best), and that military spending would increase, Ryan would achieve his short-term deficit reduction by focusing overwhelmingly on programs targeted to the poor (which account for about a fifth of the federal budget, but absorb 62 percent of Ryan’s cuts over the next decade). The budget repeals Obamacare, thereby uninsuring some 30 million Americans about to become insured. It would then take insurance away from another 14 to 27 million people, by cutting Medicaid and children’s health-insurance funding.
This is not a moderate plan. As Robert Greenstein, a liberal budget analyst, summed up the proposal, “It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history.” And yet, Ryan has managed to sell it as something admirable, and something else entirely: a deficit-reduction plan. This is very clever. The centrist political Establishment, heavily represented among business leaders and the political media, considers it almost self-evident that the budget deficit (and not, say, mass unemployment or climate change) represents the singular policy threat of our time, and that bipartisan cooperation offers the sole avenue to address it. By casting his program as a solution to the debt crisis, by frequently conceding that Republicans as well as Democrats had failed in the past, and by inveighing against “demagoguery,” Ryan has presented himself as the acceptable Republican suitor the moderates had been longing for.
Whether Ryan’s plan even is a “deficit-reduction plan” is highly debatable. Ryan promises to eliminate trillions of dollars’ worth of tax deductions, but won’t identify which ones. He proposes to sharply reduce government spending that isn’t defense, Medicare (for the next decade, anyway), or Social Security, but much of that reduction is unspecified, and when Obama named some possible casualties, Ryan complained that those hypotheticals weren’t necessarily in his plan. Ryan is specific about two policies: massive cuts to income-tax rates, and very large cuts to government programs that aid the poor and medically vulnerable. You could call all this a “deficit-reduction plan,” but it would be more accurate to call it “a plan to cut tax rates and spending on the poor and sick.” Aside from a handful of exasperated commentators, like Paul Krugman, nobody does.
Sure he comes off as an affable fellow, but Chait shows what an intellectual fraud Ryan really is.  Unfortunately far too many in the media, including people like Ryan Lizza (who should know better), buy into this notion of Ryan as a crusading "deficit hawk." He's not. Ryan's goal, first and foremost, is lowering taxes on the rich.  Chait documents this serial hypocrisy, and goes onto describe how Ryan nevertheless became a beltway media darling.  The article ends with... oh just click the link and go read the whole thing!

I also recommend this Ezra Klein post, which offers 10 bulletpoints on the significance of Romney choosing Ryan as his running-mate.  

I'll just add that Ryan's shell-games are going to be a lot harder to maintain in the full glare of the media spotlight.  
More to the point, with Ryan on the ticket Obama's key mission for this election, conveying to the public the true radicalism of what the Republicans are offering, just became a lot easier.  Obama's been trying to tie Romney to Ryan's ideas, which Romney has openly endorsed, for months but, perhaps because Romney comes off as a boring businessman, this has proved surprisingly difficult.  People simply can't believe Romney would actually support such a radical plan.  Robert Draper, writing in the New York Times Magazine, described the problem the liberal super-PAC Priorities USA ran into when they tried this approach:
Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.

This, as Greg Sargent over at the Washington Post has been pointing out, is the real reason Obama's been so focused on defining Romney's character in a negative light:
Many commentators view the attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain years as little more than an effort to paint him as a heartless plutocrat. But the strategy is a good deal more complex than that. The goal is twofold: First, to undermine Romney’s principal case for the presidency, i.e., that his business background makes him a “job creator” who is equipped to turn around the country’s economy. And second, to define Romney in a way that makes it easier for voters to understand his true policy goals and priorities on entitlements, taxes, and other issues.

In other words the Obama campaign has been trying for months to lay the groundwork to convince people that Romney actually really does support the agenda of... the guy he just chose to be his running mate.  So, yeah, their job just became A LOT easier, hahaha.

The fun irony is that, as Lizza describes in his piece for the New Yorker, one of the reasons Republicans came to love Paul Ryan so much in the first place is because Obama singled him out for criticism in a deliberate attempt to raise his profile.  Even before this campaign began in earnest Obama needed to convince people what the Republicans were really trying to do, and to do that he needed to attach the ideas to a face, because the media needs a "story," and stories need "characters."  Obama even provided a bit of drama by inviting Ryan to come see him speak, to then eviscerate his plan to his face... Afterall, the media eats that stuff up!  And included in those stories of personal drama, Obama hopes, will be a bit about the policies he found so objectionable in Ryan's plan to begin with.  Fortunately Republicans, who reflexively take the opposite position of Obama on everything, played right into his hands by adopting the object of Obama's criticism as their new standard-bearer... and now the party faithful have even managed to strong-arm Romney into putting him on the ticket...  

It's a decision I strongly suspect Romney will come to regret.