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JerseyCare

By Betsy Newmark
 

The Wall Street Journal highlights a proposal that a Republican state legislator in New Jersey has introduced to reduce the cost of health insurance for New Jersey citizens.

New Jersey is about the last place one might think to look for free-market policy reform. But this week Jay Webber, a Republican Assemblyman in Trenton, will introduce legislation to let Garden State residents buy low-cost health insurance from any registered policy in any of the 50 states.

Mr. Webber's proposal is a state version of Arizona Congressman John Shadegg's federal legislation to let individuals buy insurance across state lines, and John McCain has also endorsed the idea. But New Jersey would be a perfect test case, because its multiple mandates have made insurance too expensive for hundreds of thousands of families.

The average national cost for a family health plan is $5,799, according to America's Health Insurance Plans, but in New Jersey that same plan costs $10,398 on average. The state's politicians have driven up these costs by forcing insurers to provide gold-plated coverage - even for such voluntary medical services as in vitro fertilization. New Jersey also follows New York and Massachusetts - two other high-cost states - in requiring so-called "guaranteed issue." That allows New Jersey residents to avoid buying health insurance until they get sick, which means they can avoid paying premiums until they need someone to pick up the bill.

This one-policy-fits-all system tends to cause the young and healthy to drop insurance, which only raises the cost of insurance for the sick, which in turn makes coverage unaffordable for ever more families. It's no accident that about 1.2 million people - one of every eight residents - is uninsured in the state.

Under Mr. Webber's choice proposal, New Jersey residents could buy policies chartered in more enlightened states. For example, a healthy 25-year-old male could buy a basic health plan in Kentucky that now sells for $960 a year, about one-sixth of the $5,880 it would cost him in New Jersey. Residents of Pennsylvania pay health premiums that are one-half to one-third as high as do Garden State policy-holders. A new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that the availability of lower cost plans would reduce by 25% the number of uninsured.

Opponents of interstate insurance say families would be pushed into bare-bones health plans. Not so. Families could still buy the more extensive coverage, but those with modest incomes would have options other than going uninsured. The goal of public policy shouldn't be to cover every medical procedure or doctor's visit, but to prevent families from catastrophic expenses due to a health problem that is no fault of their own.
Representative Shadegg has proposed this on a federal basis and it is part of John McCain's health plan. It makes so much sense, but you know that it will go nowhere in the New Jersey legislature. Democrats in both New Jersey and Congress would prefer to go to government-funded solutions than to allow people to have choice to buy a bare-bones policy. Republicans should be able to defend such a policy proposal and allow the public to listen to the arguments for this proposal versus putting the burden on government to find the money to supply health insurance for everyone as New Jersey Democrats are now proposing.
New Jersey is turning into a microcosm of the national debate on health care. Democrats in Trenton are rallying behind a plan to require that every uninsured individual in New Jersey purchase health insurance from a new state-administered program. So a state that is already so broke that its politicians are contemplating mortgaging its highways might now add a $1.7 billion health subsidy.

The Webber proposal offers lower costs and more choices for consumers, while the Democratic plan mandates public coverage and no choice, while putting a new burden on taxpayers. This is the kind of debate the country should have this election year.

Betsy blogs at Betsy's Page

Memoirs of a White House Press Secretary

By Kyle Moore
I'll be completely honest; White House Press Secretary has to be one of the crappiest jobs you can have as one of the President's senior staffers.  This, of course, taken from the infinite amount of knowledge I picked up somewhere between the second and the third viewing of the entire West Wing series.

Seriously, when you stop to think about it, being the person who must answer for the president's actions day in and day out in front of (what one hopes would be) a rabid press corps can't be among the most enjoyable professions out there.

As the press secretary, you're perhaps the single most recognizable face of the administration next to the president and vice presidents themselves.  Serving in that capacity, your job is to push whatever line of propaganda your boss tells you to push, while you take the flame spray from the press that should be going to POTUS right in your face.

And let's not forget that you're quite likely to get blind sided as the chances are that you're not always going to get fully briefed, you're not always going to get all the information you need, and sometimes you're going to get shut out of information completely on purpose.

Which brings to mind another great point.  If there's anyone in the president's inner circle that's going to be a Kool Aid drinker, you're it.  You're the messenger, so your boss is not going to be forthcoming with information to the contrary.  If the message is, "The president is the single awesomest human being to grace this planet," you're not likely to be given a whole lot of evidence to the contrary.

Now it may not be this drastic.  I don't know.  Having to deal with the White House Press Corps daily for decisions I didn't make would still be something of a chore (note: I would make a terrible press secretary.  The first hardball question I get, my answer is, "What are you asking me for?  Ask the president, he's the one that made the call.  Me?  I would have went the other way.").  But when you get right down to it, manning that podium day in and day out is going to break down your patience or your self awareness or your integrity, or some combination of them all.

And then when the bubble bursts, when you are no longer restricted by the confines of your job title to only accept and then regurgitate one honed message, that must be an eye opener. It is from such a scenario that Scott McClellan's tell all book, What Happened?, was born.

From what I've read of it thus far, the actual contents of the book are unremarkable; nothing that anyone who has been paying attention the last seven and a half years wouldn't already know.  For all intents and purposes, more informative books have been on the shelves for ages (I suggest starting with Hubris from Michael Isikoff and David Corn, with Shock Doctrine from Naomi Klein as a kind of economic companion, oh, and I suppose Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies should definitely be among the early reads), but the significance of What Happened? is not what's in the book but the name of the author on the cover.

This is not just a "Washington Insider" tm tell-all, but the Washington insider; the man who was tasked with selling the very message of the administration.  And, understandably, other Bush insiders are pissed.

I'm sure there are plenty who are taking no end of joy in this strange little turn of events.  What's there not to like about a former Bushite turning around and finally calling foul?  But I'm just not feeling it.  There's some interest in what Glenn Greenwald picked up yesterday that McClellan's book refutes the liberal media myth, but like Greenwald, I also recognize that that particular part of the book is not likely to get much mention in the press outside of what goes on here in the internets.

And I suppose I could show some measure of outrage towards McClellan.  Why now?  Why does it have to be now, after he's left the White House, that he has this great epiphany that his former boss was ripping the country apart?  Where was this clear-eyed assessment of the administration of which he was a part when it could have done some actual good?

But, like I said, if there's going to be anyone on the team that is apt to drinking the Kool-Aid, the press secretary's going to be it.

And so it goes.  I do so enjoy the embarrassment for personal reasons, but I find little use in all of this.  Will people who didn't believe this administration was a debacle from beginning to end all of a sudden start?  Not likely.  Is McClellan even really putting out new information?  I haven't seen any yet.  Will this further hurt Republicans in the elections this fall?  Hardly; What Happened? is a far cry from an October surprise.

No.  In the end these cathartic memoirs of a former White House press secretary are little more than yet another sad reminder of what we've had to live through for the past seven and a half years, serving as yet another cautionary tale of how Bush ran his White House, and that we should be vigilant in our efforts to not let such a thing happen again.

Kyle blogs at Comments From Left Field

FL/MI Update

By Michael Stickings
Untitled Document

NYT:

Democratic Party lawyers have determined that no more than half the delegates from Florida and Michigan can be seated at the party's August convention, dealing a blow to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's efforts to seat the full delegations from those states.

The rules committee of the Democratic National Committee meets on Saturday to determine whether to seat the delegates from these states, which were penalized for holding early primaries.


Half? Yes, at most. (See a background post on what to do about Florida and Michigan here.)

Why? Let's remind ourselves of the facts:

1) This wasn't Obama's doing, and, contrary to Hillary's not-too-subtle allegations, he isn't to blame.

2) The DNC set the rules (way back in August 2006), Florida and Michigan broke the rules, the DNC penalized Florida and Michigan. (It's that simple.)

3) With the exception of Mike Gravel, the candidates agreed not to campaign in Florida prior to the primary there on January 29. Hillary held three fundraisers two days before the vote, however, and then went there to declare victory, but it was in no way a meaningful victory because it was in no way a meaningful contest.

4) While Hillary decided to remain on the ballot in Michigan, along with Dodd and Gravel, Obama and several other candidates (including Edwards, Richardson, and Biden) withdrew from the primary in October 2007 and had their names taken off the ballot for the January 15 primary. (Kucinich tried but failed to get his name removed.) As with Florida, Hillary and her campaign and her surrogates have declared victory, but, again, it was in no way a meaningful victory. In second and third place, respectively, were "Uncommitted" and "Undecided."

And now Hillary wants those results to count? Well, of course. She wants both the delegates and the popular vote totals, both of which would count in her favour.

Here's how I put it the night of the Florida primary (before I had endorsed Obama): "So Hillary played along with the ruling, avoiding Florida, until it was in her self-interest, after her bad loss to Obama in South Carolina, not to. And, in declaring victory in what was a non-competitive race, she now wants the vote to count, for Florida to get its allocation of delegates after all? What do you think she'd be saying -- what do you think her husband would be saying -- if Obama were trying to pull a stunt like this? Or what if Obama had simply won and was respecting the ruling? There wouldn't be a peep out of the Clintons. And so she's declaring victory and her supporters are lapping it up. It's all quite despicable. She wants the delegates, but she also wants the momentum heading into next week's Super Tuesday. And apparently she'll stop at nothing to get it."

But, you see, this is Clintonian ethics at work: When you're losing, change the rules... and go back on your word and do what you said you wouldn't do... and smear your opponents... and play fast and loose with the truth... and claim to be the victim of a massive conspiracy.

If nothing else, this long and sometimes bitter race has shown us what makes the Clintons tick.

Justin blogs at The Reaction

McClellan's Scathing Tell-All

By Justin Gardner
 

After the administration threw Scott McClellan under the bus in the Plame affair, you knew this had to be coming. But most revealing is his inside info about the Iraq war.

Politico details some of his assertions:

• McClellan charges that Bush relied on "propaganda" to sell the war.

• He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.

• Steve Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, said about the erroneous assertion about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium, included in the State of the Union address of 2003: "Signing off on these facts is my responsibility. ... And in this case, I blew it. I think the only solution is for me to resign." The offer "was rejected almost out of hand by others present," McClellan writes.

• Bush was "clearly irritated, ... steamed," when McClellan informed him that chief economic adviser Larry Lindsey had told The Wall Street Journal that a possible war in Iraq could cost from $100 billion to $200 billion: "'It's unacceptable,' Bush continued, his voice rising. 'He shouldn't be talking about that.'"

• "History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided: that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

McClellan also offers a cautionary tale about the Bush administration's legendary take-no-prisoners partisanship...

Decrying the Bush administration's "excessive embrace of the permanent campaign approach to governance," McClellan recommends that future presidents appoint a "deputy chief of staff for governing" who "would be responsible for making sure the president is continually and consistently committed to a high level of openness and forthrightness and transcending partisanship to achieve unity.

Some will call McClellan a traitor. Others will praise him as a patriot. But as is the case with so many ex-White House insiders, the answer is much more complicated. See, I think a lot of people believed in Bush, but his stubborn partisanship and blind resolve failed them all miserably. That's why we're seeing exposés like this...because Bush is a woefully flawed leader.

And in this case, at least, history isn't waiting to be unkind.

Justin blogs at Donklephant.com

Joe Klein Reads Hillary's Mind

By Brendan Nyhan
Bob Somerby flags some absurd mind-reading by Time's Joe Klein, who claims to know that Hillary Clinton's two innocuous references to RFK's 1968 assassination mean "that Obama's vulnerability to racist nutjobs has been in her mind for months now":

I take all of Karen's points below--and the fact that Hillary Clinton mentioned Bobby Kennedy's assassination in conversation with Rick Stengel in March shows that Obama's vulnerability to racist nutjobs has been in her mind for months now--but still, I have a certain amount of sympathy for her. The woman is clearly exhausted.

Even elite journalists like Klein (who probably gets paid $5/word for his Time columns) do not understand logic or epistemology. They do understand what sells, however -- cartoon-style psychodramas that can only be constructed by pretending to know the innermost thoughts of the candidates.

PS If you go to Klein's house, he'll read your palm too. Brendan blogs regularly at Brendan-Nyhan.com

Obama's Sin of Omission

By Jon Keller

That was a fine speech Barack Obama gave at the Wesleyan commencement Sunday. In fitting tribute to Sen. Ted Kennedy's long tenure in the Senate, Obama chose service to country as his topic. He cited the social and political activists of the 1960s - singling out Peace Corps volunteers and civil rights demonstrators - as early role models. And he told the graduates of the two stories that will command their attention as adults:

"The first is the story of our everyday cares and concerns - the responsibilities we have to our jobs and our families - the bustle and busyness of what happens in our own life. And the second is the story of what happens in the life of our country - of what happens in the wider world. It's the story you see when you catch a glimpse of the day's headlines or turn on the news at night - a story of big challenges like war and recession; hunger and climate change; injustice and inequality. It's a story that can sometimes seem distant and separate from our own - a destiny to be shaped by forces beyond our control.

And yet, the history of this nation tells us this isn't so. It tells us that we are a people whose destiny has never been written for us, but by us - by generations of men and women, young and old, who have always believed that their story and the American story are not separate, but shared. And for more than two centuries, they have served this country in ways that have forever enriched both."

Obama then told the inspirational tale of his own journey from indifferent middle-class teenager to socially-aware college student to community organizer (a considerable sacrifice: "My friends were applying to jobs on Wall Street. Meanwhile, this organization offered me $12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car) to state senator, US senator, next stop, the White House. Do the same, he urged the grads, "because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential and discover the role you'll play in writing the next great chapter in America's story."

And there are so many ways to serve your country, Obama noted:

"You don't have to be a community organizer or do something crazy like run for President. Right here at Wesleyan, many of you have already volunteered at local schools, contributed to United Way, and even started a program that brings fresh produce to needy families in the area. One hundred and sixty-four graduates of this school have joined the Peace Corps since 2001, and I'm especially proud that two of you are about to leave for my father's homeland of Kenya to bring alternative sources of energy to impoverished areas.

I ask you to seek these opportunities when you leave here, because the future of this country - your future - depends on it. At a time when our security and moral standing depend on winning hearts and minds in the forgotten corners of this world, we need more of you to serve abroad. As President, I intend to grow the Foreign Service, double the Peace Corps over the next few years, and engage the young people of other nations in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity.

At a time when our ice caps are melting and our oceans are rising, we need you to help lead a green revolution. We still have time to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change if we get serious about investing in renewable sources of energy, and if we get a generation of volunteers to work on renewable energy projects, and teach folks about conservation, and help clean up polluted areas; if we send talented engineers and scientists abroad to help developing countries promote clean energy.

At a time when a child in Boston must compete with children in Beijing and Bangalore, we need an army of you to become teachers and principals in schools that this nation cannot afford to give up on. I will pay our educators what they deserve, and give them more support, but I will also ask more of them to be mentors to other teachers, and serve in high-need schools and high-need subject areas like math and science.

At a time when there are children in the city of New Orleans who still spend each night in a lonely trailer, we need more of you to take a weekend or a week off from work, and head down South, and help rebuild. If you can't get the time, volunteer at the local homeless shelter or soup kitchen in your own community. Find an organization that's fighting poverty, or a candidate who promotes policies you believe in, and find a way to help them."

By all accounts, the speech was a hit. "I was shaking, I was so moved by what he said," one young women told the Globe.

So I guess it's just me wondering -- how on earth do you give a speech on that topic and not mention our country's most widespread and important form of public service and sacrifice, military service?

Maybe Obama didn't want to go there because of the unfortunate political contrast between himself and John McCain when it comes to military service and knowledge, an unflattering comparison that left Obama on the short end of a recent political exchange over veterans' benefits. Or maybe the senator - for reasons I can't fathom - didn't think of Wesleyan students as the type who might consider serving their country this way. Or maybe military service simply doesn't spring to mind for Obama or his handlers when they think of laudable sacrifice and contribution to the public good. And maybe that's what a justifiably war-weary electorate wants come November, a commander-in-chief who doesn't have the military on his cultural radar. Or maybe they're not quite so moved by such self-indulgent narcissism, and are shaking over Obama's speech for different reasons.

Jon Keller blogs regularly for WBZ-TV Boston at Keller @ Large

How to Predict the General Election

By Brendan Nyhan
The usually savvy Matthew Yglesias gets things a bit wrong in this post on the utility of state-level polling:

It's really too bad that the folks behind Five Thirty Eight.com have gone and created such a compelling website based around state-by-state general election polling. It's all really well done and, as such, I can't really bring myself to look away. But this stuff is all really and truly meaningless. Six months ago, no polling showed Barack Obama winning the Democratic race, and no polling showed John McCain winning the Republican race and the general election is about six months away.

The comparison in the last sentence isn't valid, however. Presidential primaries are inherently unpredictable for reasons including the lack of clear ideological differences and the greater importance of perceived viability. General elections, by contrast, can be forecast with a high degree of accuracy.

That doesn't mean that state-by-state polling is the right way to predict outcomes -- previous research has shown that macro-level variables like the state of the economy, job approval of the president, war deaths, and/or the length of the incumbent party's time in office explain most of the variance in the national two-party vote. Yglesias and others should focus on those predictors instead. But UW-Milwaukee's Tom Holbrook did find that spring 2004 polls were reasonably predictive of the eventual outcome. For instance, here's his plot of May polls against state popular vote totals in November:

Maytrial_2

And here are Holbrook's conclusions about the predictive validity of the data:

[W]hen the polling margin was fairly narrow the outcome was truly up in the air. In fact, across all four months [March-June] the poll result called the wrong winner in 17 of the 36 cases in which Kerry's share of the two-party vote in trial-heat polls was between 47% and 53% (this excludes two cases in which the poll result was tied). These results suggest that we should take the term "toss-up" very seriously. At the same time, the poll result was wrong in only 3 of the 44 cases in which Kerry's poll margin was outside this range.

As for me, I think Douglas Hibbs's forecast that the Democrats will get 53-54% of the two-party vote is a reasonable baseline, though I fear that an anti-Obama backlash will reduce that total by 2-3 points. (The Intrade futures market puts the odds of a Democratic win in November at 62%.) Brendan blogs at Brendan-Nyhan.com

House Committee Subpoenas Rove

By Justin Gardner

We've detailed the seemingly politically motivated prosecution and conviction of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman's in February and March of this year, and now it appears that the House Judiciary Committee wants to put Rove in the hot seat to answer questions about whether he had a hand in it.

Here's the scoop...

Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the committee chairman, said the subpoena was necessary because Mr. Rove had explicitly declined an invitation to appear voluntarily. Mr. Conyers and fellow committee Democrats say they want to question Mr. Rove about the dismissals of several federal prosecutors and ask whether he knows anything about the decision to prosecute former Gov. Donald E. Siegelman of Alabama, a Democrat.

Mr. Siegelman, who was convicted on a bribery charge, was released from prison in March pending an appeal after an appeals court ruled that he had raised "substantial questions" about his case.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, in a letter to Mr. Conyers this week, said the chairman was "provoking a gratuitous confrontation." Mr. Luskin asserted that Mr. Rove would not appear because he had been directed not to do so by the White House. Although Mr. Rove has left the White House and is now a political commentator, Mr. Luskin said that Mr. Rove "in these matters is not a free agent" and must comply with instructions from the White House not to testify.

So will he agree to testify? Well, his lawyer is signaling that the White House will try and make the "executive privilege" case, but the problem with that is Rove's on the record as saying he never had any conversations with anybody in the White House about this case. So he shouldn't be able to claim "executive privilege", right?

And to the point about being on the record...

On April 7, MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams reported that Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said Rove would agree to testify if Congress issues a subpoena to him as part of an investigation into the Siegelman case.

Ten days later, committee members invited Rove to appear, citing among other things Rove's interview with GQ magazine. In that interview, Rove hurled insults at CBS News for airing a 60 Minutes segment on the Siegelman case, called his chief accuser a "lunatic" -- but didn't specifically deny any of the accusations.

This doesn't look good for Karl. Justin blogs regularly at Donklephant

Totalitarian Religion, Abusive Polygamy, and Illiberal Texas

By Michael Stickings

As you may have heard:



A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday that state authorities and a lower court judge abused their authority by illegally seizing up to 468 children from their homes at a polygamist ranch in West Texas last month.



*****



According to the court, the state did not establish proper grounds to remove the children from their families, who belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or F.L.D.S.



*****



The unanimous ruling by three judges of the Third Court of Appeals in Austin revoked the state's custody over a large group of the children and by extension almost certainly the rest, for what it called a lack of evidence that they were in immediate danger of sexual or physical abuse.



The appeals court said the record "does not reflect any reasonable effort on the part of the department to ascertain if some measure short of removal and/or separation would have eliminated the risk." It also said the evidence of danger to the children "was legally and factually insufficient" to justify their removal and it said the lower court "abused its discretion" in failing to return seized children to their families.



It could very well be that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services could have done better in making its case. And, for all I know, there may not have been any "immediate" risk according to the law. Perhaps the evidence was "legally and factually insufficient" according to the law, and perhaps the department did "[abuse] its discretion" according to the law. But, then, the problem is with the law -- or, at least, the law is part of the problem, and, in this case, it seems that the law is at odds with justice.



On this, I agree with Echidne: "I disagree with the way abuse is defined as only physical one, and with the idea that it's perfectly acceptable to groom young girls to accept abuse until the moment of the abuse comes. I also wonder whether it really is true that the sect appeared to have an unusually small number of teenage boys, and if it is true, what happened to the missing boys. I would think abandoning them somewhere would constitute abuse... In general, I'm worried about any children who are brought up in isolation from the rest of the society. They may 'stay safe' that way or 'stay religious' or whatever, but their isolation also means that they cannot learn alternative ways of living and cannot get help if they indeed are abused."



If "immediate" and "abuse" are defined narrowly, as they were by the court, then, yes, the ruling may be the correct one -- the correct legal one, that is.



But from a liberal perspective, one that recognizes the preeminence of the individual, of his or her sovereign and inalienable rights, how is such a ruling in any way correct? Yes, liberalism is related to the rule of law, and, indeed, is inseparable from it. But when the law is wrong? Or when it defines, say, abuse too narrowly?



And we all know -- do we not? -- that this sort of lifestyle, the polygamy of a totalitarian religious cult, is inherently abusive. Indeed, it would not exist without abuse. Abuse is what keeps it going, what enables and supports it.



The women -- that is, the wives -- may defend it, and may say that they are there freely, that it is a choice, but there is a little something called false consciousness. How are these women in any way free? How are they in a position to choose freely? They have lived lives of totalitarian abuse. Their minds have been shaped by that abuse. Everything they say is a reflection of that abuse. They may think they are free and that what they are saying is a reflection of free will, but there is nothing free about them or their lives.



Similarly, the men -- that is, the husbands, including the totalitarian leaders of the cult -- may defend it along lines of religious freedom, but should one or a community ever be free to abuse? Is that what our "liberalism" has become?



Now, I admit, it is difficult, if not impossible, to establish the line between free will and false consciousness. And, obviously, questions persist: Is is possible to enter freely into an abusive relationship? From a legal perspective, should it be allowed to give up one's freedom? In a liberal society, how much liberty is permissible? What "alternative" lifestyles are permitted? What of "alternative" lifestyles or communities that are, in essence, illiberal?



To me, liberalism has lost much of its ability to stand up for itself. It has decayed into libertarianism, into permissiveness of the sort that leads to the inability to combat the forces of illiberalism both internal and external.



But let me be clear: This is not to say that liberalism requires a narrow moral code, a narrow definition of liberty. Rather, it is to say that liberalism must be able to stand up to and against those forces of illiberalism in the name of liberty itself. If it is unable to do so, it is no longer liberalism.



Just as there is illiberalism abroad, so is there illiberalism at home. And much of the illiberalism at home -- and, in this case, I'm talking about the United States -- is religious in nature. The christian fascists of the evangelical right are illiberal, for example -- the most obvious and pernicious example. And so is the totalitarian cult known as the FLDS, an isolated community of abuse.



Texas's Third Court of Appeals may have issued a ruling based on its interpretation of the law, but the law, in this case, allows for the perpetuation of abuse and for the persistence of noxious illiberalism.



Toleration of difference is one of the key aspects of a liberal society, including the United States, but no liberal society worth its name should tolerate the FLDS or anything like it.

Michael blogs regularly at The Reaction

Gen. David Petraeus: Appeaser?

By Justin Gardner

He apparently thinks diplomacy with Iran is the best option, and as the following suggests, he's right in line with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

From Wash Post:

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, President Bush's nominee to lead U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, supports continued U.S. engagement with international and regional partners to find the right mix of diplomatic, economic and military leverage to address the challenges posed by Iran.

In written answers to questions posed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he will testify today, Petraeus said the possibility of military action against Iran should be retained as a "last resort." But he said the United States "should make every effort to engage by use of the whole of government, developing further leverage rather than simply targeting discrete threats."

Petraeus's views echoed those expressed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who this month said that talks with Iran could be useful if the right combination of incentives and pressures could be developed.

So what to make of this given Bush's recent statements? Are we supposed to just ignore him and focus on what the real policy seems to be?

Justin blogs regularly at Donklephant.com

Kennedy and Khrushchev

By Betsy Newmark

Obama has been citing Kennedy's meeting with Khrushchev as an argument why he believes that his proposal to meet without preconditions, but with preparation, with the leaders of Iran is the right policy. Yes, Kennedy did meet with Khrushchev, but not quite as Obama described it. Obama seemed to be placing the meeting of the two leaders during the Cuban Missile Crisis.



When Kennedy met with Khrushchev, we were on the brink of nuclear war."



The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in October of 1962. The two leaders did not meet during that crisis. But they had met over a year earlier, in the Spring of Kennedy's first year in office in June, 1961 in Vienna. And the results were not pretty as Nathan Thrall and Jesse James Wilkins write today in the The New York Times.

But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. Despite his eloquence, Kennedy was no match as a sparring partner, and offered only token resistance as Khrushchev lectured him on the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, cautioned America against supporting "old, moribund, reactionary regimes" and asserted that the United States, which had valiantly risen against the British, now stood "against other peoples following its suit." Khrushchev used the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting to warn Kennedy that his country could not be intimidated and that it was "very unwise" for the United States to surround the Soviet Union with military bases.



Kennedy's aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was "just a disaster." Khrushchev's aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed "very inexperienced, even immature." Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was "too intelligent and too weak." The Soviet leader left Vienna elated -- and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world.



Kennedy's assessment of his own performance was no less severe. Only a few minutes after parting with Khrushchev, Kennedy, a World War II veteran, told James Reston of The New York Times that the summit meeting had been the "roughest thing in my life." Kennedy went on: "He just beat the hell out of me. I've got a terrible problem if he thinks I'm inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won't get anywhere with him."



A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that "a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war." The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to "throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam's pants": nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna -- of Kennedy as ineffective -- was among them.
So, Obama is correct that Kennedy advocating negotiations with our opponents, but the actual history doesn't provide the sort of historical evidence that supports Obama's argument about the efficacy of such a meeting.



Meanwhile,
Karl Rove casts some doubts on Obama's glib citations of Nixon going to China has a predicate for his visits with today's leaders of hostile nations.


 


I recommend that he read Henry Kissinger's book, "The White House Years." Mr. Obama would learn it took 134 private meetings between U.S. and Chinese diplomats before a breakthrough at a Jan. 20, 1970 meeting in Warsaw. It took 18 months of behind-the-scenes discussions before Mr. Kissinger secretly visited Beijing. And it took seven more months of hard work before Nixon went to China. The result was a new relationship, announced in a communiqué worked out over months of careful diplomacy.



The Chinese didn't change because of a presidential visit. In another book, "Diplomacy," Mr. Kissinger writes that "China was induced to rejoin the community of nations less by the prospect of dialogue with the United States than by fear of being attacked by its ostensible ally, the Soviet Union." Change came because the U.S. convinced Beijing it was in its interest to change. Then the president visited.



Perhaps what Obama needs is a few history courses.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

What Oregon Shows About Kentucky and West Virginia

By Kyle Moore

Another lopsided win in Appalachia, and the chatter resumes about how bad off Obama is among the all important white vote.  Marc Ambinder, at least, posts up some exits from both states that voted tonight, though his focus, like many others, are on those dreadful numbers from Kentucky.  Yahoo's headline reads, "Exit poll: Whites back Clinton strongly in KY," and even Chris Cillizza is in on the act.


Now, I was doing what I'm sure few others will be doing, that is, reading the exits from Oregon, when it hit me, everything that is wrong with the white working class argument.


You see, a curious thing became clear when I read the exits provided by CNN; Obama won white people.  He won young white people and middle aged white people.  College educated white people, and non college educated white people.  He won female white people and male white people, and a lot of the church going white people.  About the only white people Obama didn't win were the over sixty crowd.


But, wait, I thought the conventional wisdom was that Obama couldn't win white people.  Why did he just about sweep the board on white people when it came to Oregon?


Well, for one thing, all these "questions" about Obama's appeal to the white working class voter are being raised by his performance in West Virginia and Kentucky.


The more time you stare at polling data, the more obvious the problem should become.  Let's show some examples.


With 83% reporting in Oregon, Obama has a 16 point lead over Hillary Clinton.  Now, if you had been following all of the polling data that has emerged from Oregon recently, this will not come as much of a surprise. Pollster's aggregation in the Beaver state showed Obama up in the mid teens.


But, if you were to run off of the most recent poll reported by Suffolk, Oregon all of a sudden becomes some sort of miraculous ascension for Obama given that Suffolk only had him up by four points.  Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, if you heeded only the final ARG poll put in the field before voting, you would be shocked to see that Clinton failed to win by sixteen points.

Responsible journalists, pundits, political anylists, and bloggers ignored these polls, however, because they were outliers.  They were data points, true, and carried with them the possibility of being correct, but in the face of quite a bit of data to the contrary, there just wasn't that much reason to put a lot of trust in them.


This didn't, nor will it ever, stop some from engaging in overly reactionary analysis that treats every outlier bit of data as though it were gospel, which is slowly beginning to bring us back to our point with West Virginia and Kentucky.


Now, as Gallup reported yesterday, what they are seeing nation wide runs contradictory to what we saw happen in West Virginia and Kentucky.  Namely, on a national scale, virtually every core demographic that used to be firmly in the Clinton camp has shifted to Obama's favor.  This national poll would seem to be backed up by Oregon's exits which show Obama beating Clinton in many of the demographics she has been touting that only she could win.


In other words, West Virginia and Kentucky are the electoral (or delegatorial if I wanted to make up a word) equivalent of outliers.  They don't mesh with what's going on in the rest of the country.


Sure, Ohio and Pennsylvania don't paint rosy pictures for Obama, nor are they outliers.  But in those states, based on the margin of victory for Clinton alone, there should be no reason that Obama can't be effective there with some vigorous campaigning, a wise allocation of resources, and a unified party.  Those states weren't outliers, and show true challenges that the Obama campaign.


But to treat West Virginia and Kentucky as though they were indicative of the country as a whole is downright ludicrous.  It's the equivalent of saying that a forty point poll on the eve of an election spells assured doom when dozens of other polls show a close race.


All this talk about Obama's problem with working class white with West Virginia and Kentucky as the banner data points is nothing more than reactionary analysis based upon outlier data, and nothing more.  Does Obama have challenges ahead with working class white voters?  Yeah, he does in some regions, but it's nowhere near as bad as these two states indicate, and he has plenty of time to fix or circumnavigate the problem.


Thus, the leading purpose for promoting these memes based upon this data is to undermine Obama's electability status in an intellectually dishonest, or at least ignorant, manner.  There are two more states left that are almost homogenously white, and they are likely to go for Obama, and I wonder if then perhaps there will be a slightly more honest approach to Obama's problems with working class white voters.


After all, it was the white vote in Iowa that propelled Obama's candidacy from the long shot to the frontrunner.  The only way to discount that would be if there was mass buyer's remorse regarding the likely Democratic nominee, and unfortunately for those trying to make the case that Obama somehow doesn't have the support, there's just no evidence that that kind of buyer's remorse exists.


I now return you to the breathless and excitable musings of everyone else.

Kyle blogs daily at Comments From Left Field

Clinton's Popular Vote "Lead"

By Justin Gardner



(numbers via Real Clear Politics)


That's right. If you count Florida and Michigan, but don't count any votes from those 4 caucus states, she leads by just over 26K votes. That's her argument.


And do note that Obama gets ZERO votes out of Michigan because his name wasn't on the ballot. But if you count half the "Uncommitted" votes from Michigan for Obama (and he probably got more than that), he's ahead of Clinton by nearly 100K votes.


What Hillary and her campaign are taking part in right now represents one THE most dishonest and disingenuous strategies they've employed yet.


How very shameful...

Justin blogs daily at Donklephant.com

Putting Down McCain's Military Service

By Betsy Newmark

Ed Morrissey sees a trend in how Democrats are denigrating John McCain's military service as his being someone who got into the Navy riding on his family's prestige and then didn't serve very long in combat before he was shot down and didn't do any fighting on the ground so his air combat just doesn't matter as much as if he'd been in the infantry.

Now we have at least three Democrats and Obama supporters on the record as attacking McCain's 24 years of service in the Navy: Gillespie, Jay Rockefeller, and Tom Harkin, as well as unnamed "colleagues" in the Matt Bai hit piece in the New York Times. The criticisms sound remarkably similar; all of them question the quality of his service, claiming that he grew up as a child of privilege and had his career handed to him, in a role where he didn't know what combat was really like. He had a "silver spoon", was "Navy royalty", and so on.

This sounds like someone wants to fight the elitist stink that has attached itself to the Barack Obama campaign through the intrepidity of the candidate himself. Obama scorned middle-America voters as bitterly clinging to guns and God because of a lack of wealth redistribution in America, while his wife told audiences that she only starting taking pride in America when people supported Obama's bid for the presidency, and his pastor and friend talked about the US government's creation of the HIV virus as a genocidal tool against people of color. Team Obama has argued ever since that McCain is the real elitist, and not the Harvard-educated man who sat on boards with William Ayers and never knew he had befriended an unrepentant domestic terrorist.

Remember how upset Democrats got about the Swivt Boat Veterans for Truth for questioning John Kerry's short service in Vietnam. So some of these Obama supporters are now in the position of saying that it was despicable to criticize anything about Kerry's service, yet McCain's is fair game. I doubt whether they're going to get anywhere dissing McCain's military background. Sure, lefty blogs and their mouthpieces in the press will take up the cry, but they just aren't going to get much traction with these sorts of attacks.

The question is why experienced politicians would try this tactic. Perhaps they really fear the aura of hero that McCain has due to the courage he showed as a POW. Or maybe they just don't get the military and deep down dislike the military. John Hawkins has compiled quite a list of comments that liberals have made about the military. For people who think that way, McCain's record of service is not a plus, but a negative that can be exploited.

I'm not saying that Obama feels this way or is dumb enough to make such accusations in public, but Morrissey is correct about the emerging trend of Obama supporters going on the attack against McCain's service.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page

At Least One Republican Gets It

By Kyle Moore

I've been saying this for a while now; attack Obama personally at your own peril. The Democratic primary has shown that, for all of his flaws, Obama is both resilient, and knows how to redirect attacks against him back onto his opponent.

And, remember, for the Democratic primary, the gloves were on.

Obama is not the kind of guy to initiate offensives. When he does do so, he's often clumsy, and appears to not really have the heart or nerve for it. But when someone comes after him, it's almost as though there were two Obamas; the Dr. Jekyl Obama that is better known and suited to his soaring rhetoric, and the Mr. Hyde Obama that launches counter offensives with rapidity and precision.

As has been detailed several times in the past by me, the Obama mechanism is simple enough to understand. You attack Obama, he denounces you for playing politics, and then he hits you back with impunity. This is the more pragmatic and battle focused aspect of the "change" messaging of his candidacy.

So while many within the GOP are content to try and smear Obama, it's nice to see that at least one Republican Senator has it right. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has found himself on criticizing his own party, asking that they refrain from the personal negative attacks and focusing on the issues.

Indeed, 2008 is shaping up to be a landmark year where the politics of personal destruction destroys the people employing it, and not the targets. One way or another, Obama is going to force the issues on the table and hold Republicans to account for how they have governed over the past seven years.

The choice is simple, either stand and have a debate on the issues and take the chance of losing on those merits (this, might I add, is an honorable way to lose), or continue with a nasty campaign, allow Obama to use that campaign to pummel McCain, still have to face the issues, and look like cowards for trying to run from them.

I know which one I would choose.

Kyle blogs at Comments From Left Field

Yet Another Super Tuesday

By Michael Stickings

Well, it's finally upon us. Super Tuesday 5... or 8... or 17... or whatever it is. I've lost count.



But it's the day we've been waiting for all primary season, the day we knew was coming, the day of the Kentucky and Oregon primaries.



I'll be live-blogging the results as they come in, keeping an ear or two out for American Idol -- it's Dave vs. Dave! (I'm rooting for Cook) -- but here, as we kick off the day, are some interesting tidbits for your amusement and/or edification:


1) Hillary is still insisting that the race is "nowhere near over," bubbling over with her now-characteristic faux populism, and playing fast and loose with popular-vote totals. Obama may or may not declare victory tonight, but he will likely reach a key milestone once today's results are in: a majority of the pledged delegates. He doesn't yet have enough superdelebates to put him over the top, but he's been trouncing Hillary in superdelegate pick-ups since the first Super Tuesday on February 5.



2) Speaking of superdelegates, Obama has picked up the endorsement of one of the party's long-time leaders, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd: "Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support."



3) At least Obama doesn't need to bribe superdelegates. It is being reported (and, of course, denied) that Hillary financier Haim Saban offered $1 million to the Young Democrats of America in return for two superdelegate endorsements. Another example of trying to win at any cost, it would seem. (And yet, in this case, the cost was clear.)

4) While Obama continues to pick up superdelegates, including Iowa Democratic Chairman Scott Brennan, Hillary continues to embrace, and be embraced by, the vast right-wing conspiracy. Her latest "friend" -- following the likes of Dick Scaife and Rush Limbaugh (whose turn-out-the-vote efforts have no doubt helped her, including in Indiana) -- is none other than Turd Blossom himself, Karl Rove, whose consulting firm has put together electoral maps showing her beating McCain and McCain beating Obama in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups (with many states too close to call). Needless to say, there are problems with such prognosticating. First, the way things are now is not how they will be during the general election campaign, let alone in November. Obama hasn't yet even secured the nomination yet, after all, and he has been subject to attacks from both Hillary and McCain. Let's see how he does once he has the nomination and can focus his attention on McCain. I suspect that he will run an impressive campaign. Second, the states that are too close to call all look good for Obama (with the exception of North Dakota). Third, we Rove may have an ulterior motive here. Like most Republicans, I assume, he would much rather run against Hillary than against Obama. In the end, the maps don't really tell us anything, and yet Hillary has referred to Rove directly in defending her ongoing candidacy.



5) Losing candidacy, that is. The Gallup daily tracking poll has her down to Obama by 16 points, his largest lead yet. (And have I mentioned that he leads Hillary in both pledged delegates and superdelegates, as well as in the popular vote (when you don't play fast and loose with the math)?



6) Warren Buffett must also think the race is over. He had indicated that he would support either Obama or Hillary for president, remaining neutral between them, but he has finally come out for Obama: "I will be very happy if he is elected president. He is my choice."



7) And maybe Patti Solis Doyle does, too. Hillary's close friend and former campaign manager has had talks with David Axelrod, one of Obama's chief strategists, about working for Obama during the general election campaign.



Michael blogs regularly at The Reaction

No wonder George McGovern Likes Obama

By Betsy Newmark

Obama offered up this proposal last night in Montana.

Americans need real relief, Obama said, saying he will pass a law to give each family $1,000 a year to help them pay for higher gas prices and other rising costs.

Shades of McGovern's 1972 proposal to give every family $1000 except that Obama has neglected to adjust for inflation.



Why not just cut taxes instead of granting out money to everyone?



McCain's idea of suspending the federal gas tax is equally futile. The prices we're facing today are a result of demand exceeding supply. Giving out money whether through a $1000 grant or through lower federal taxes will just increase demand and keep prices high.



What I don't get is the disconnect between the calls for Americans to use less energy and the efforts to lower gas prices. What could be better suited than high gas prices to get every American to limit his or her gas usage?

Could it be that it just isn't popular for a politician not to have a policy proposal to deal with gas prices when it's the issue that most people are ticked off about. There is nothing Obama or McCain can do about increased demand in India or China and they're not going to support increased drilling here in the United States. So they come up with these band aid proposals that maybe sound good on the campaign trail but would do little to reduce the price of gas or the demand for more gas. So Obama adds to his proposal by saying that the federal government will fund research into alternative forms of energy.

Obama pledged to spend $150 billion over 10 years on alternative energy such as wind, solar and biodiesel, a move to rid this country's dependence on foreign oil and one he said would put millions of Americans to work.

As James Pethokoukis recently pointed out in a comment targeted at Hillary Clinton's idea that fighting global warming would benefit the economy, this is a replay of Frederic Bastiat's "Broken Window Fallacy."
And with that, Clinton seemingly stumbled into the classic economic trap known as the Broken Window Fallacy. As described by the French economist Fredric Bastiat, the fallacy imagines some punk kid chucking a rock through a store window. A bad thing, right? Yet a contrarian onlooker offers that the troublemaker may have actually helped the economy because now the storeowner will have to hire a glazier, who will make money replacing the window. Then the glazier will use that money to buy bread from a baker, who then might buy shoes from a cobbler. And the "multiplier effect" goes on and on, creating a more prosperous economy.



But Bastiat points out that such reasoning ignores the hidden costs to the shopkeeper, who was forced to spend money on windows instead of something else that may have had higher value to him or society, like a new suit or investing in a start-up tech firm. As the great economics writer Henry Hazlitt once put it:
The glazier's gain of business, in short, is merely the tailor's loss of business. No new "employment" has been added. The people in the crowd were thinking only of two parties to the transaction, the baker and the glazier. They had forgotten the potential third party involved, the tailor. They forgot him precisely because he will not now enter the scene. They will see the new window in the next day or two. They will never see the extra suit, precisely because it will never be made. They see only what is immediately visible to the eye.



It is certainly unlikely that spending money on climate change will be the "win-win" free lunch Clinton describes, anymore than natural disasters or wars are economic free lunches, even though they seem to spur economic activity. (Indeed, dealing with climate change is often called the "moral equivalent of war.")



Last year, the British government released a review on the economics of climate change, authored by economist Nicholas Stern. It concluded that we should spend 1 percent of the global economy every year to avoid the worse effects of climate change. Now even if you take Stern's numbers as correct--and many think he overestimates the economic risks of doing nothing--he still advocates spending $700 billion a year on a supposed problem, dough that might have a better return on investment if spent elsewhere.



If climate change "creates" 10 million new jobs over the next decade, who is to say those jobs would not have been created anyway, in the nanotechnology industry or healthcare or business consulting or some industry we have yet to imagine? We may need to spend money to deal with global warming, but to think of it as an actual independent economic gain is a stretch.

Betsy blogs at Betsy's Page

Obama's Excuses

By Betsy Newmark

Barack Obama has some creative explanations for why he's going to lose in Kentucky.


"What it says is that I'm not very well known in that part of the country," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle."



Obama has been trying to introduce himself to Kentuckians using a series of biographical TV ads, as well as fliers, including one that shows him at a pulpit in front of a church's cross and pipe organ.



He acknowledged that he's trying to "reverse a lot of misconceptions" about his background. He is a Christian, although some e-mail chains have said he is a Muslim.



"Part of it is because there have been these e-mails that have been sent out very systematically, presumably by various political opponents, although I don't know who," he said. "And there are a lot of voters who get their news from Fox News. Fox has been pumping up rumors about my religious beliefs or my patriotism or what have you since the beginning of the campaign."

He had the same excuse for his loss in West Virginia.

Greg Pollowitz helpfully supplies a map of the United States. In case the senator from Illinois needs a review - Kentucky and Illinois actually border each other. Historically a lot of Kentuckians helped settle Illinois. Think of Abraham Lincoln's family. Arkansas just isn't so close.Last week, Obama attributed his 41-point loss in the West Virginia primary, in part, to his short tenure on the national stage.

"I'm not well-known there," Obama said. "You know, some of these e-mails and rumors that have been talked about penetrated in West Virginia [more] than they have in some other states."
According to Obama, West Virginians and Kentuckians are so behind the times that they haven't heard enough about Obama to get to know him. Maybe they don't get TV or the Internet there in Kentucky and can't find out about the probable nominee of the Democratic Party? Maybe they've missed the six times he or his wife have been on the cover of Newsweek in the past year. Maybe they've missed Oprah's announcement of her support of Obama. It must be that they just don't get any TV or newspapers there.

Oh, wait. They must get TV and the Internet because they're getting Fox News and the Internet. Obama has access to some secret Nielsen numbers to tell him that Kentucky Democrats are more likely to watch Fox News. And that they're more likely to receive and believe those emails than residents of other states. Ah, it must be because they're just dumb Kentuckians who haven't yet seen the light about the Obamatopia. That's why they need those fliers with pictures of Obama speaking in a church with a large, lighted cross in the background. Remember the fuss when Huckabee had an ad wishing voters a Merry Christmas and people said that the bookcase in the background served as a floating cross? That became a storyline for several days. But there seems to be barely a whisper when Obama puts out fliers talking about being a "committed Christian." I guess that is what he needs to do to appeal to those stupid Kentuckians who don't know that he's Christian. (Maybe the Obama campaign needs to send one of those fliers to the editors of the New York Times who gave space to Edward Luttwak who wrote about the possibility that Muslims would regard Obama as an apostate from Islam.)


I suspect that Obama's religion problem is not that Kentuckians believe an email they got several months ago saying that Obama was secretly a Muslim but that they listened to Jeremiah Wright and wondered how Obama could stay so long in Wright's church and not have glommed on to the tone of Wright's black liberationist theology, just as Stanley Kurtz concluded from reading the Trumpet, the magazine put out by Obama's church.

To the question of the moment--What did Barack Obama know and when did he know it?--I answer, Obama knew everything, and he's known it for ages. Far from succumbing to surprise and shock after Jeremiah Wright's disastrous performance at the National Press Club, Barack Obama must have long been aware of his pastor's political radicalism. A careful reading of nearly a year's worth of Trumpet Newsmagazine, Wright's glossy national "lifestyle magazine for the socially conscious," makes it next to impossible to conclude otherwise.

...I obtained the 2006 run of Trumpet, from the first nationally distributed issue in March to the November/December double issue. To read it is to come away impressed by Wright's thoroughgoing political radicalism. There are plenty of arresting sound bites, of course, but the larger context is more illuminating--and more disturbing--than any single shock-quotation. Trumpet provides a rounded picture of Wright's views, and what it shows unmistakably is that the now-infamous YouTube snippets from Wright's sermons are authentic reflections of his core political and theological beliefs. It leaves no doubt that his religion is political, his attitude toward America is bitterly hostile, and he has fundamental problems with capitalism, white people, and "assimilationist" blacks. Even some of Wright's famed "good works," and his moving "Audacity to Hope" sermon, are placed in a disturbing new light by a reading of Trumpet.
Maybe those silly Kentuckians know that Obama has been a mbember of a church for the past 20 years and that news didn't serve to make them lean to supporting the senator from their neighboring state. Obama might think that to know him is to love him and that explains why Kentucky, or West Virginia, or Pennsylvania, or Ohio voters didn't warm up to him, but the excuses are getting a might bit thin these days.

Betsy blogs regularly at Betsy's Page

Hillary Still Claims Popular Vote Lead

By Justin Gardner

Hillary Clinton


It's all about Florida and Michigan for her, and MSNBC has the details about how she's using this narrative to spin, spin, spin...


"There were some folks who didn't want Kentucky to vote," she said. "There are some folks, you can see them on TV every night, who wanted it to be over for me after Iowa. And every time they say it, something funny happens. The voters don't agree."

She said these talking heads are "talking at us instead of with us," and that they don't have as much at stake in the election.


"I would bet every single one of those folks, they've got a job; we can see that. They've got good health care; we know that. They can pay whatever the charge is at the gas pump most likely. They can send their child to college. I'm not running to represent them, I'm running to fight for you and to be your champion."



Yes, it's Hillary against the pundits. Because, you know, the pundits want this thing to be over...they don't enjoy a longer campaign...no, not at all...


And about the popular vote...


Clinton also repeated that she is "leading in the popular vote" -- although that claim is based only on when you add the votes she gained from the contests in Florida and Michigan, and Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in the latter race.

That's right. She's leading in the popular vote if you count ZERO votes for Obama in Michigan. But if you split the votes for "Uncommitted", you'd get about 120,000 votes for Obama...which would put him in the lead in the popular vote. And my guess is that more voted "Uncommitted" for Obama than they did Edwards, so he'd probably lead by even more.


I am really, really looking forward to the middle of June.

Justin blogs regularly at Donklephant.com

Will a New Brand Bring Old Problems?

By Kyle Moore

For years now, the Republican brand has been a terror on electoral politics; Karl Rove mastered the strategy of 50+1% politics while the Democrats stood around like the Washington Senators to the GOP Globetrotters.  In any given election, the Republicans seemed to know exactly the right hot button issue to go after, while Democrats just watched as advantage after advantage that should have tilted the race in their direction were rendered useless.


The flip side to this, though, is that once you've stayed in power for a long enough time, eventually you have to be responsible for how the government is run.


This is the real problem that the GOP faces right now.  Image, messaging, and branding, are, of course, suffering right now, but I believe that these are, at best, symptoms of the greater illness as opposed to diseases of their very own.


To his credit, Governor Schwarzenegger's attempts to help McCain rebrand himself carry perhaps a little bit more substance than calls for rebranding by other conservative navel gazers.  Break from the old party line on climate change and illegal immigration, for instance, suggests Schwarzenegger, but while these do point to substative shifts in Republican dogma, they still don't go to the heart of the issue.


Or, more accurately, the issues that Americans care the most about.

When push comes to shove, Schwarzenegger seems to hold the party line on the Economy and on Iraq, though not in so many words.  When all is said and done, the California Governor's advice is not far removed from Karl Rove's advice from last week; take the same policies, polish them up real nice, and try to sell them again to the American public.


Which will make the most difficult task facing McCain in 2008 also the most important one-distancing himself from Bush.


Governor Schwarzenegger's success stems in part from the fact that he has eluded being pinned down as a Bush-style Republican.  But in an election that will be defined by the two issues that Bush is seen as being the most responsible for, and in which McCain holds essentially the same views as Bush, can McCain really manage to get away from Bush.


Making matters worse is the fact that, in an attempt to consolidate the base, McCain has flip-flopped in the direction of Bush on a number of issues including tax cuts and torture.  Even McCain's newfound ability to embrace leaders of the Religious Right runs contrary to his Maverick persona of 2000 that rejected such personalities and their divisive politics.


To some, it may seem as though McCain had sold his soul to the Devil to have a run at the White House.


But Schwarzenegger offers broader, and in my mind, sounder advice.  At least on the surface.  He suggests that the pary as a whole needs to recapture the center, and wrest from the hard right its grip on GOP dogma.  This would seem to be solid advice; the hold that the far right has had on the party could last only so long, and while it may not provide immediate returns in electorial success, I must admit that shifting towards the center will be healthier for the Republicans over all.


Yet this brings about an interesting question.  Progressives and liberals have lamented that Democrats don't truly represent them.  Unlike Republicans who have spent the better part of recent decades catering to their base, Democrats ultimately seem to have acquired their base by default-progressives and liberals voting and workingfor Democrats not because they are particularly liberal, but because they aren't Republicans.


The curious thing about Democratic politics lately, though, is that when election time comes around, Democrats have an uncanny habit of running as Republican Lite.


While this has become standard operating procedure on many levels, this tactic seems to ignore one glaring logical flaw; if someone has to choose between two Republicans, they're going to pick the Republican.


Which brings me back to Schwarzenegger's advice.  If his idea is to move to the center, that puts the party precariously close to a position analogous to where Democrats have been for years.  As we're already seeing, running as a Republican comes with certain risks these days, but if the answer Republicans are looking for is to run as Democrat Lite, doesn't that put them in a similar, analogous logic?


If voters are given a choice between Democrat, and Democrat Lite, won't they choose the Democrat?


Schwarzenegger's very gubernatorial status would seem to suggest otherwise, but for now Schwarzenegger is a black sheep in a party full of white wool.  Also, let's not forget that he took over from a Democratic governor who was so unpopular he was ousted from office early.  Also, California doesn't operate legislatively as others do, which creates a slightly different landscape compared to many other states in the union.


Also, Californians love their ex-actors turned political wannabes.


Thus, the Governator appears to have the life saving elixir the GOP needs most, but it's also quite possible that it's nothing more than snake oil that only works in the Sunshine State, and will only doom Republicans to a curse Democrats have grown quite accustomed to everywhere else.

Kyle blogs regularly at Comments From Left Field

Does Barack Obama Ever Stop Lying?

By Sister Toldjah

Add another one to the list:

Sen. Barack Obama, the leading Democratic candidate for his party's nomination, is very fond of telling receptive audiences the story about how last May he walked right into the automotive lion's den of Detroit and told those industrialists they were going to have to shape up, change the way they do things and start making more fuel-efficient vehicles to protect our environment.

"And I have to say," the straight-talking Obama tells his chuckling followers, "that when I delivered that speech, the room got really quiet. [Laughter] Nobody clapped."

Well, in honor of Obama's return campaign visit back to Michigan this week, someone -- perhaps Republicans, perhaps someone closer to home politically -- assembled videotape of Obama's oft-told tale and spliced it side by side with videotape of that actual Detroit speech.

You'll never guess what. The room wasn't quiet at all. Obama, in fact, got a loud round of applause. And at the end of his address the camera's view of him at the podium is partially blocked because the audience of local businesspeople and automotive executives was rising to give him a standing ovation.

You can view the video at that same link (I'm having trouble pulling it up here). Obama made similar remarks at the campaign stop he made here in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago.

Ed nails it:

This seems rather modest in comparison to the Tuzla Dash, however. In that instance, Hillary tried to fake physical courage of the kind shown by our troops in battle, a theft of honor that is particularly despicable. Afterwards, she compounded the error by dragging out witnesses to testify to her version of events and call everyone else liars. When clear evidence showed that she did not run to shelter but strolled across the tarmac to a welcoming ceremony -- with her teenage daughter! -- Hillary never apologized for her double-down, attributing the lie to "sleep deprivation" even though she had told the story for months.

Obama's ovation hardly rises to that level of egregiousness. He could argue that it took a little courage to talk about mileage mandates in Detroit, but he was talking to an audience of supporters, not car-manufacturer executives. Obama also was couching the mandates as an exchange for some hefty corporate welfare, actually closer to a de facto tradeoff for government-run health care. That's not exactly a Profile in Courage, and it's not surprising that he got a standing ovation rather than chirping crickets.

This isn't any different than Obama's BS claim that it "took courage" to give an anti-Iraq war speech in October of 2002 ... especially when you consider the fact that not only did he give it in front of an anti-war group, but contrary to his claim that he was in a contentious Senate race at the time of speech, in reality he didn't even enter the race until January 2003. And his latest lie isn't much different from the one he told about his family's alleged Kennedy connections, also.

I could go on and on. This so-called "agent of change" is a proven serial exaggerator and liar, and yet he's still being given a pass by his many fawning admirers in the MSM.

Oh, and get this: Later this afternoon or evening, we'll all get the chance to read about Obama's "official" response to Bush's remarks in a campaign speech he'll be giving in South Dakota. Isn't this a trip? Every time the heat gets a little too hot for the The Man Who Loves To Hear Himself Talk, he has to give a big speech as though what he says should be the final word on the subject. He did it with his phoney Philadelphia speech on race, which he directly contradicted a month later, and he'll be making this speech in an effort to get us all to "move on" from this latest "distraction."

Will he be contradicting himself over this one in a couple of months, too? I'm breathless with anticipation.

Read more at SisterToldjah.com

Bush's History on Appeasement/Strawmen

By Brendan Nyhan

Back in 2006, I proposed Nyhan's corollary to Godwin's law in a column for Time.com:

A well-known rule of Internet discourse is Godwin's law, which states that, as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.

Let me propose Nyhan's corollary: As a foreign policy debate with conservatives grows longer, the probability of a comparison with the appeasement of Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.

What's incredible is that my prediction has come true only days after Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

During a speech before the Israeli Knesset, President Bush seemed to mischaracterize Obama's declared belief in negotating with foreign governments as a belief that the US "should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals" and linked it to appeasement of the Nazis:

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it...

The Bush administration has repeatedly invoked the specter of Nazi appeasement in this way to undermine opposition to its foreign policy, as my Time.com column shows. In particular, Donald Rumsfeld used the same quote as Bush in a 2006 speech to the American Legion. (The statement, which was made by Senator William Borah, is a key trope of conservative appeasement rhetoric -- Time/Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer used in his August 11, 2006 newspaper column about Iran as well as columns denouncing the alleged appeasement of China in 1989 and North Korea in 1994.)

It's also worth noting the way that Bush attacks straw men in his speech, which makes vague references to "some" who "seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals" and "some people" who "suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away." Bush frequently uses formulations like these in his public addresses as a way to caricature his opponents while saying something that can be defended as an accurate reference to some (usually unspecified) extremist. Along these lines, White House spokesperson Dana Perino denied that Bush was referring to Obama, saying "when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you."

Here's a brief sampling of the administration's eight-year war on straw men:

"When the tax cut takes effect, the typical family of four will save $1,600 every year. Some say that's not much." (3/3/01)

"They tell me it was a shallow recession. It was a shallow recession because of the tax relief. Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper." (9/1/03)

"There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern." (4/30/04)

"[T]he natural tendency for people is to say, 'Oh, let's lay down our arms.' But you can't negotiate with these people. There are no negotiations that are to be had. Therapy won't work." (5/10/04)

"The idea of emptying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve plays -- would put America in a dangerous position in the war on terror." (5/19/04)

"Sometimes you'll hear people say that moral truth is relative, or call religious faith a comforting illusion. And when you hear talk like that, take it seriously enough to be skeptical. It may seem generous and open-minded to say that everybody, on every moral issue, is equally right." (5/21/04)

"I reject this notion -- and I'm not suggesting that my opponent says it, but I reject the notion that some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free, you don't desire freedom." (10/1/04)

"I rejected the kind of intellectual elitism of some around the world who say, well, maybe certain people can't be free." (1/29/05)

"Now, I understand there's some in America who say, well, this can't be true there are still people willing to attack." (1/25/06)

"There's a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done. They're willing to wave the white flag of surrender. And if they succeed, the United States will be worse off, and the world will be worse off." (6/28/06)

"I would hope people aren't trying to rewrite the history of Saddam Hussein -- all of a sudden, he becomes kind of a benevolent fellow. He's a dangerous man." (9/15/06)

"It's hard to plot and plan attacks against the United States when you're on the run. I need members of Congress who understand that you can't negotiate with these folks, you can't hope that they change their mind, that the best way to protect the American people is to defeat them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home." (9/21/06)

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals... Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away." (5/15/08)

Brendan blogs regularly at Brendan-Nyhan.com

Secretary Gates: Appeaser?

By Justin Gardner

Robert Gates


How exactly does Bush explain his speech when his own defense secretary's opinions seems to place him in the "appeasement" camp with Obama?


Here's what Gates said...


The United States should construct a combination of incentives and pressure to engage Iran, and may have missed earlier opportunities to begin a useful dialogue with Tehran, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday.

"We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them," Gates said. "If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us."



Note the emphasis..."sit down and talk with them."


If Obama wins in the fall, maybe he should look to Robert Gates for his defense secretary. It'd be like a big appeasement sundae with extra appease sprinkles on top.

Justin blogs regularly at Donklephant

Labor Buying the Government

By Betsy Newmark

Dave Weigel at Reason Magazine looks at how labor has been investing so much in the Democrats and will be getting their reward by passing labor's desired goal of banning secret elections when workers vote on whether or not to unionize. Unions have been steadily losing membership over the years and this is their big effort to stem that decline - prevent workers from voting against unionization by handing them a card that they have to check off in front of fellow workers. And the unions have been pouring millions and millions into electing Democrats so that they can achieve that goal. Forget all the efforts that have gone into achieving a secret ballot for other elections. And try to figure out why it is that labor unions don't want people to be able to vote in private about whether they want unions. Perhaps it is because they don't like the way the votes have been turning out.

What's the Employee Free Choice Act? If you aren't a lobbyist in Washington, a union worker, or an employer nervously trying to prevent your staff from organizing, you might not have followed the twisty history of the latest attempt to increase private-sector unionization. "Card check," as it is usually known, would allow employees at a company to bypass secret-ballot elections and declare their intent to unionize by simply signing cards. If adopted, it could portend the most revolutionary change to labor law since the 1940s.

The battle over card check is part of a much larger story of Campaign '08: the coming-out party of Democratic interest groups. For the first time since 1992, Democrats are eyeing complete control of the executive and legislative branches, with all of the spoils of appointment and legislative scheduling that would entail. Unions want to grow their numbers. Green industries want tax incentives. Trial lawyers want a ceasefire in the war on torts.

If these groups could actually form a line in January, the unions would be at the front. Card check was the brainchild of organizers who had watched their numbers tumble as manufacturing jobs moved out of the rust belt and successive conservative administrations made it tougher to organize. President Bill Clinton, signer of NAFTA, did little to stop the skid from labor's point of view. The organizers have learned their lessons, pushing members of the House and Senate--including the junior senators from New York and Illinois--to commit in writing to card check.

"When we started working on this legislation five years ago," Acuff said at Take Back America, "people in Washington said it would never be taken seriously, never pass the laugh test." Bills were introduced in 2003, 2005, and 2007. The first two times, they never reached the floor, with Republicans arguing that labor organizers usually win unionization elections anyway and that 90 percent of those results are approved by the federal government's National Labor Relations Board within two months. In 2007, with the Democrats in charge of the legislature, the same bill passed the House easily and won 51 votes in the Senate, but that wasn't enough to proceed to an up-or-down vote. All along, the effort has faced a veto threat from President Bush.

Things are different now. Democrats believe that as many as nine Republican-held Senate seats are vulnerable in 2008. The AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and allied unions plan to spend $360 million on the 2008 election. That's around $200 million more than the unions spent in the Kerry-Bush race. As Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton slug it out for the nomination, the AFL-CIO is running a $53 million campaign attacking John McCain--portraying him as a right-wing ideologue who co-sponsored the Secret Ballot Protection Act, the GOP's attempt at making kryptonite against card check.

All that union money comes with a promise: What's good for unions will be good for the Democrats. Greg Tarpinian, a Change to Win organizer who spoke at the Take Back America panel, pointed out that union membership was one of the strongest determinants for a voter choosing a Democratic ballot. "If union membership was 10 percent in Ohio in 2004," he argued, "John Kerry would be president."
Isn't that cozy? The unions will be spending over a third of a billion dollars to elect Democrats. Then the Democrats will pay them back by allowing them to intimidate workers into unionizing so that the unions get more dues that they can use to elect more Democrats. And all along they'll try to portray the Republicans as the party in hock to special interests!

And Obama would sign this bill in a heartbeat. He is already for it. And it would fit in with his plan to designate some companies as "Patriot Employers." He doesn't want to divide us by saying that some people are more patriotic than others, but has no qualms by defining patriotism among employers and giving them tax incentives if they perform according to the unions' mantra.
Mr Obama's plan would lower the corporate tax rate for companies that met criteria including maintaining their headquarters in the US, maintaining or increasing their US workforce relative to their overseas workforce, holding a neutral position in union drives among their employees and providing decent healthcare.
Megan McArdle outlines some of the reasons why this plan would never work.
It is basically unenforceable--all you will succeed in doing is encouraging companies to divest foreign subsidiaries and do business at arm's length, thus sacrificing whatever residual influence you had over them. America's corporate income tax is, to the great surprise of the majority of people who think of us as the "pro-business" society, one of the highest in the developed world. We also, strangely, try to collect taxes on foreign earnings from workers and companies alike, which strikes the rest of the developed world as thoroughly ridiculous. Hence, companies and people are going to work hard not to have any foreign earnings subject to tax.
The Wall Street Journal explained how this sort of attitude towards company profits misunderstands how the economy works.
Under Mr. Obama's plan, "patriot employers" qualify for a 1% tax credit on their profits. To finance this tax break, American companies with subsidiaries abroad would have to pay the U.S. corporate tax on profits earned abroad, rather than the corporate tax of the host country where they are earned. Since the U.S. corporate tax rate is 35%, while most of the world has a lower rate, this amounts to a big tax increase on earnings owned abroad.

Put another way, U.S. companies would suddenly have to pay a higher tax rate than their Chinese, Japanese and European competitors. According to research by Peter Merrill, an international tax expert at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, this change would "raise the cost of capital of U.S. multinationals and cause them to lose market share to foreign rivals." Apparently Mr. Obama believes that by making U.S. companies less profitable and less competitive world-wide, they will somehow be able to create more jobs in America.

He has it backwards: The offshore activities of U.S. companies tend to increase rather than reduce domestic business. A 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research study by economists from Harvard and the University of Michigan found that more foreign investment by U.S. companies leads to greater domestic investment, and that U.S. firms' hiring of more offshore workers is positively, not negatively, associated with the number of American workers they hire. That's in part because often what is produced overseas by subsidiaries are component parts to final, higher-value-added products manufactured here.

Mr. Obama is also proposing to raise tax rates on affluent individuals, as well as on capital gains and dividends. This would also lead to more capital and jobs leaving the U.S. The after-tax return on U.S. investment would fall appreciably if these tax hikes were adopted, and no amount of tax-credit subsidy will keep capital from fleeing to lower tax jurisdictions.

If the U.S. didn't impose the second highest corporate income tax rate in the world, companies would have less incentive to move jobs overseas. Rather than giving politically correct companies a 1% tax credit, it makes more sense to reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate for everyone -- by at least 10 percentage points to the global average.

Economists have long understood that companies don't really pay taxes; they merely collect them. A study by the American Enterprise Institute has shown that U.S. workers bear the cost of the corporate income tax in lower wages and salaries. To borrow Mr. Obama's language, what's really unpatriotic is the 35% U.S. corporate tax rate.
Of course, Obama also has a plan mandating that employers offer health insurance. Add in Obama's ludicrous promises about unilaterally renegotiating NAFTA and you can start to get a grasp on what the unions are buying for their third of a billion dollars.

Betsy blogs regularly at Betsy's Page

West Virginia Results by Demographics

By Brendan Nyhan

As predicted, Obama got drubbed in West Virginia, so it's time to update my series on the predictors of his state-level support. If we put the exit poll data in context, we can see that he did much worse among whites in West Virginia than we would expect based in states with similar black populations:


Sirota3d3b2

As predicted, Obama got drubbed in West Virginia, so it's time to update my series on the predictors of his state-level support. If we put the exit poll data in context, we can see that he did much worse among whites in West Virginia than we would expect based in states with similar black populations:


Sirota3d3b2


However, he did about as poorly as we would expect among whites given the proportion of state residents with college degrees, though West Virginia has fewer college graduates than any previous primary state in the sample:


Sirota3d3b3_2


[Both graphs include linear fits with 95% confidence intervals that are predicted based on previous primary results.]


Update 5/15 10:07 AM: Josh Marshall argues Obama's struggles with downscale white voters are the result of the cultural and racial history of Appalachia, the location of most counties that he's lost by wide margins (in purple):


Appalachia2




Brendan blogs regularly at Brendan-Nyhan.com

Blaming His Staff

By Betsy Newmark

Jake Tapper has been having fun keeping a running tally of all the times that Senator Obama is asked about some embarrassing contradiction between one of his previous stands that is politically uncomfortable today and Obama wriggles out of the story by blaming someone on his staff. Add in when some contradiction emerges between Obama's claim to be a new sort of candidate who doesn't go negative on his opponents.

Jake Tapper has been having fun keeping a running tally of all the times that Senator Obama is asked about some embarrassing contradiction between one of his previous stands that is politically uncomfortable today and Obama wriggles out of the story by blaming someone on his staff. Add in when some contradiction emerges between Obama's claim to be a new sort of candidate who doesn't go negative on his opponents.

Yesterday, in an interesting New York Times look at Obama's rise in Chicago politics, we learned that in 2004 some Jewish supporters became alarmed to learn that in a questionnaire Obama refrained from denouncing Yasir Arafat, or from expressing strong support for Israel's security fence.

Reports the Times: "In an e-mail message, Mr. Obama blamed a staff member for the oversight, and expressed the hope that 'none of this has raised any questions on your part regarding my fundamental commitment to Israel's security.'"

In January, during MSNBC's presidential debate in Las Vegas, Obama was asked about a document put together by one of his South Carolina staffers that listed comments made by the Clinton campaign that some perceived to be attempting to stoke racial fires. "In hindsight, do you regret pushing this story?" asked Tim Russert.

"Our supporters, our staff get overzealous," Obama said. "They start saying things that I would not say, and it is my responsibility to make sure that we're setting a clear tone in our campaign."

In February in a meeting with the Chicago Tribune, Obama was asked about an earmark that went to the University of Chicago while his wife Michelle Obama worked there.

"I don't think that I was obligated to recuse myself from anything related to the university," Obama said, adding, "when it comes to earmarks because of those concerns, it's probably something that should have been passed on to [U.S. Sen.] Dick Durbin, and I think probably something that slipped through the cracks. It did not come through us, through me or Michelle, and Michelle has been very careful about staying separate and apart from any government work. But you could make a good argument that this is something that slipped through our cracks, through our screening system."

In a March 2008 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times to answer questions about Tony Rezko, Obama was asked about the fact that Obama had told the newspaper in November 2006 that he had never been asked to do anything to advance Rezko's business interests. But the Sun-Times had subsequently learned about a October 28, 1998 letter Obama wrote to city and state housing officials on behalf of a housing project for seniors that Rezko was working on.

The letter, Obama said, "was essentially a form letter of the sort that I did all time. And that I wasn't, by the way, aware of."

A reporter asked: You weren't aware that he was associated with the project?

Responded Obama: "I wasn't even aware that we wrote the letter. The answer that I gave at the time was accurate as far as I knew...This was one of many form letters, or letters of recommendation we would send out constantly for all sorts of projects. And my understanding is that our letter was just one of many. And I wasn't a decision maker in any of this process."

The list goes on and on. Tapper is up to 14 examples of this blame-shifting technique. Tapper concludes,
And for the record, yet again, let me state that I find Sen. Obama's staff unfailingly competent and polite, courteous and efficient, and I once again express my regret that Sen. Obama does apparently not feel the same way.
Greg Pollowitz points to a bit from that hagiographic piece in Newsweek's present cover story where the reporters quote Obama saying that he will not point fingers of blame at his staff after a primary loss. Maybe he won't blame them for campaign losses, but if there is any embarrassing stories out there, he'll toss them under the semi along with Reverend Wright and his grandmother.

Betsy blogs regularly at Betsy's Page

Too Bad for Those Threatened Polar Bears

By Michael Stickings

Remember when I wrote that post on how "polar bears are facing unprecedented environmental stress that will cause their numbers to plummet" (if I may again quote WaPo)?

No? Well, I can't say I blame you. It was way back on July 7, 2005.

The point of that post was simple: Polar bears are a victim of global warming. The World Conservation Union had concluded that they were a "vulnerable" species and that their numbers would decline sharply as a direct result of "climatic warming and its consequent negative affects on [their] sea ice habitat."

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration was doing nothing -- or, rather, worse than nothing. It was actively blocking international efforts to address global warming in meaningful ways. As I put it on May 14, 2007, Bush had turned the United States into "the malevolent hegemon," while he himself had become "an enabler of future genocide."

Remember when I wrote that post on how "polar bears are facing unprecedented environmental stress that will cause their numbers to plummet" (if I may again quote WaPo)?

No? Well, I can't say I blame you. It was way back on July 7, 2005.

The point of that post was simple: Polar bears are a victim of global warming. The World Conservation Union had concluded that they were a "vulnerable" species and that their numbers would decline sharply as a direct result of "climatic warming and its consequent negative affects on [their] sea ice habitat."

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration was doing nothing -- or, rather, worse than nothing. It was actively blocking international efforts to address global warming in meaningful ways. As I put it on May 14, 2007, Bush had turned the United States into "the malevolent hegemon," while he himself had become "an enabler of future genocide."

Well, here we are, in the early morning hours of May 15, 2008, and the situation -- for polar bears in particular and for the planet in general -- has only gotten worse. Here's the BBC:

The United States has listed the polar bear as a threatened species, because its Arctic sea ice habitat is melting due to climate change.

US government scientists predict that two-thirds of the polar bear population of 25,000 could disappear by 2050.

However, the government stressed the listing would not lead to measures to prevent global warming.

Of course it won't. Not with Bush, the oil industry, and the global warming deniers running the show. Indeed, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne only gave in because the law required him to do so: "While the legal standards under the Endangered Species Act compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting."

Which is true. The listing itself won't stop global warming. But it means something, right? What is happening to polar bears and their habitat is evidence, is it not? The listing could stimulate action, could it not? Secretary? "This has been a difficult decision. But in light of the scientific record and the restraints of the inflexible law that guides me, I believe it was the only decision I could make." (via WaPo, which has the story on its front page today)

(Cue sarcasm.) How's that for decisive leadership? It's not me, it's the law! And them meddling scientists!

Now, at least Kempthorne acknowledged the reality of "global climate change." And at least he did something. And it's not like he doesn't know what's happening: "The fact is that sea ice is receding in the Arctic. As you can see, when we have looked at what is actually happening in the Arctic, we have found considerably less sea ice than the models are projecting. Because polar bears are vulnerable to this loss of habitat, they are, in my judgment, likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future -- in this case, 45 years."

But why is this happening? What are the causes of the receding sea ice? As Dale Hall, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, put it, "[w]e have to be able to connect the dots." The problem is, Kempthorne, like the administration of which he is a part, isn't connecting them. Like the deniers and do-nothingers and enablers of genocide running the malevolent hegemon, he is primarily concerned with, as he put it, preventing "harm to the society and the economy of the United States" -- as if somehow the U.S. could withstand the environmental apocalypse to come, as if somehow the U.S. can be shielded from what is happening to the planet as a whole.

Global warming, I admit, is a complex phenomenon, but there is pretty simple cause-and-effect here. Temperature are rising and sea ice is melting. It is a positive step to acknowledge, at long last and however reluctantly, what is actually happening to polar bears, but the listing won't mean anything if nothing is done to avert the crisis that is confronting us all.

Michael blogs regularly at The Reaction

Why Clinton's Win in West Virginia is Good for Obama

By Kyle Moore

Beauty contest, Kabuki theater, dog and pony show, call it what you will, every once and a while it serves its purpose.

So I'm sitting here rather listlessly, rolling my eyes at all the West Virginia news and keeping a half-hearted eye on the Mississippi 1st district race to see if Childers will put Davis away thusly sparking up a firestorm of controversy about just how much of a shellacking the GOP will take this fall.

As of the time of this writing, with 23% reporting, Hillary has 27 point lead which is huge, but not as huge as predicted.

And then I remember how much worse this could be, and that while all the spin and hysterical reporting and watching the Clinton supporters act as though this changes everything is annoying, it's also quite necessary.

Yes, the more rabid the Clinton supporters seem, the more contentious the Clinton campaign comes off, the better.

Give me more.

Because as bad as a loss like this may appear, it would be a whole hell of a lot worse if Obama had lost this bad unopposed. Thus, nights like this are little more than an unpleasant necessity, a rough spot that must be endured while we wait for this contest to be officially over.

Cross posted at Comments From Left Field

Erdogan Easily Survives No-Confidence Vote

By Michael van der Galien

Turkish Prime-Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (finally I can write his name correctly; in the Dutch alphabet we don't have the soft G) easily survived a no-confidence vote recently. The opposition filed the motion last week after police forces had, in their opinion, used excessive force against left-wing (socialist and communist) protestors who wanted to celebrate 'labor day' (May 1) by virtually destroying Istanbul's inner-city.

One could clearly see what happened in television on that day: left-wing, collectivist, protesters (many students among them) attacked the police and ignored the government (which had said that they could protest, but not in certain areas). Violent communists truly tried to beat up policemen, who were greatly outnumbered, time and again.

The police could not react differently: the protesters were too violent. The decision to use force (water cannons and tear gas canisters) was correct. Although I am not a fan of Erdoğan, it has to be said that he did not make a mistake in this particular case.

Most anti-AKP people I talked to agree with my take on the situation by the way. The motion by the opposition is considered, by many, to be quite ridiculous.

And that once again shows why Turkey's opposition can't achieve anything.

Cross posted at PoliGazette

Hillary's New Number: 2,209

By Justin Gardner

Yep, it's goal post moving time.

She took the opportunity in tonight's victory speech to rewrite the rules and claim specifically that 2,209 was the new number of delegates needed to win the nomination.

She also claimed Obama agreed with her. I'll let you parse that however you want.

Listen folks, you don't get to mile 199 of a 200 mile race and claim another 2 miles should be added to the end of the track. You don't get to the 2-minute warning and argue for another 20 seconds. You don't get to the last inning and the last strike of the last out and ask for a few more pitches just in case you get another strike. You just don't do it.

Yet for some reason she does do it...and so it should be clear to everybody that Hillary will literally say and do anything to win.

But hey, I hope she continues to keep this up. Because it will discredit her and make people realize that she doesn't deserve any type of leadership role in the Democratic party.

Moving on...

Cross posted at Donklephant

What Went Wrong with Bill Clinton?

By Betsy Newmark

John Brummett, the Arkansas columnist, ponders the various reasons why Bill Clinton was so inept in campaigning for his wife. Brummett has a Machiavellian explanation for how disastrous Bill has been for his wife's campaign.

Here's the other thought: Clinton walks around irritated, even angst-ridden, over this whole thing. His legacy, which is all a former president has, gets minimized either way.

If his own wife becomes the first woman president, he will be recorded merely as her and history's forerunner, like John the Baptist.

If Barack Obama becomes president, Clinton will be recorded as a mere interlude, a president of eight years marked by decent government and personal scandal. He will be recorded as somebody filling the gap between the conservative transformer that Ronald Reagan was and the generational and cultural transformer that Obama was. He will be the man footnoted for history for having been prematurely anointed as our first black president. He will be the one who managed near the end to sully his otherwise sterling reputation on matters of race.

Decades hence, they'll ask on Trivial Pursuit: Before Barack Obama actually became the first black president, which president had been called the first black president? Everyone will miss it. They'll say FDR or JFK. Everyone will be astonished to turn the card and read "Bill Clinton."

The best thing that could happen for Clinton's legacy would be for John McCain to win and continue the post-Clinton Republican ineptitude. He would need for both Hillary and Barack to fail.

You don't think? Naw. Can't be. Nobody could be that smart and manipulative.

Perhaps. I prefer the explanation that we've just seen the real Bill. He has always had a bad temper and has been prone to amazing solipsism acting as if every event was really all about him even if he had to exaggerate or just plain lie to insert himself into every story. Remember his heartfelt, yet fictional, memories of black church burnings during his childhood? It was just that the media wasn't buying his shtick this time around. He was no longer the glorious scamp for whom people seemed ready to forgive anything. He was just that old guy trying to preserve his legacy and willing to say anything to keep the cool new guy from taking over the party that Bill Clinton had led for so long. He's yesterday's news and without that patina of being the GOP-slayer, the media and Democrats just don't have much time for him anymore.

Cross posted at Betsy's Page

The Absurdity of a Primary in its Death Throes

By Kyle Moore

Chronicling all of the inane chatter that has come to pass in the Democratic primary would be an overly long and ultimately unsatisfying endeavor. I consider myself about as devoted a political junkie as one can get, the kind of addict that thrives on poll numbers and stupid stories that have the potential of butterfly affecting a candidate straight out of a race, and even I find myself turned off by how ridiculous this contest gets at times.

That is kind of how I view this Telegraph article.

Political prognostication can use some strange sources at times, I'll admit. Seemingly inconsequential events can change the state of a race in a heartbeat, but sometimes, every great once in a while, people just kind of slip up when they talk.

Chronicling all of the inane chatter that has come to pass in the Democratic primary would be an overly long and ultimately unsatisfying endeavor. I consider myself about as devoted a political junkie as one can get, the kind of addict that thrives on poll numbers and stupid stories that have the potential of butterfly affecting a candidate straight out of a race, and even I find myself turned off by how ridiculous this contest gets at times.

That is kind of how I view this Telegraph article.

Political prognostication can use some strange sources at times, I'll admit. Seemingly inconsequential events can change the state of a race in a heartbeat, but sometimes, every great once in a while, people just kind of slip up when they talk.

Which is where we're at with this article here. You see, the Telegraph insists that Clinton just signaled to the whole world that she's ready to drop out. This because she referred to the next president as "he."

You betcha; a single pronoun is irrefutable proof that Hillary Clinton is no longer intending to stay in the race. Don't get me wrong, I'm of the mind that she knows she's not going to win barring a connected Hail Mary pass thrown from the parking lot, but she's playing it to stay in it, and there's no reason to imagine that this little slip of the tongue is any kind of indicator of anything.

Seriously, one negative impact that this race has had has been to force every journalist, professional or citizen, every blogger and columnist, and every pundit, to have their sensitivity knobs cranked up past eleven and straight to the setting on the dial with a big skull and crossbones on it.

It was a slip of the tongue, no more, no less.

As a point of grammar, and I realize that I'm not the guy to be talking about grammar, but I vaguely remember being taught in school that "he or she" as a more politically correct replacement of using one pronoun or another is actually grammatically incorrect. Right or wrong, people do this all the time considering that there is not really a neutral pronoun for people.

But bringing things back to the odd sphere of relevance that we are working with here, Clinton used the wrong pronoun. I think the most anyone can read into this with any kind of intellectual honesty is to say that the usage of the male pronoun was perhaps a Freudian slip that perhaps denotes a lack of confidence that Senator Clinton may have in her chances, and given the way this primary has turned out for her, who could blame her.

It is also equally plausible that she actually did misspeak this time around.

Cross posted at Comments From Left Field

Purple Hearts for Psychological Wounds?

By Justin Gardner

That's what the Pentagon is pondering, and although it's nothing more than a gesture, making PTSD and other invisible battlefield scars worthy of this historic recognition would be something I'd welcome wholeheartedly.

From Wash Post:


WASHINGTON -- Centuries before Iraq and Afghanistan, George Washington created the Purple Heart to honor troops wounded in combat.

But with an increasing number of troops being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the modern military is debating an idea Gen. Washington never considered -- awarding one of the nation's top military citations to veterans with psychological wounds, not just physical ones.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered cautious support for such a change on a trip to a military base in Texas this month.

"It's an interesting idea," Mr. Gates said in response to a question. "I think it is clearly something that needs to be looked at."

Others are opposed...


Opponents argue that the Purple Heart should be reserved for physical injuries, as has been the case since the medal was reinstituted by Congress in 1932. Military regulations say the award should go to troops with injuries "received in action with an enemy." Some opponents also note that PTSD can be faked, which can't easily be done with a physical wound.

That's what the Pentagon is pondering, and although it's nothing more than a gesture, making PTSD and other invisible battlefield scars worthy of this historic recognition would be something I'd welcome wholeheartedly.

From Wash Post:


WASHINGTON -- Centuries before Iraq and Afghanistan, George Washington created the Purple Heart to honor troops wounded in combat.

But with an increasing number of troops being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the modern military is debating an idea Gen. Washington never considered -- awarding one of the nation's top military citations to veterans with psychological wounds, not just physical ones.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered cautious support for such a change on a trip to a military base in Texas this month.

"It's an interesting idea," Mr. Gates said in response to a question. "I think it is clearly something that needs to be looked at."

Others are opposed...


Opponents argue that the Purple Heart should be reserved for physical injuries, as has been the case since the medal was reinstituted by Congress in 1932. Military regulations say the award should go to troops with injuries "received in action with an enemy." Some opponents also note that PTSD can be faked, which can't easily be done with a physical wound.

And here's how many may be suffering under this sometimes debilitating condition...


A recent California-based research institution Rand Corp. study concluded that 300,000 of the military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have symptoms of the disorder, which can sometimes lead to suicide. The report found tragedies closely linked to the development of PTSD: Half of the 1.6 million troops who spent time in the two war zones had friends who were seriously wounded or killed, while about 45% saw dead or wounded civilians.

The purple heart is a recognition for being wounded, and PTSD is recognized in the military as a wound worthy of disability pay. Given that, this honor should catch up with current policy, because we know the military isn't going to wake up tomorrow and say, "Well, PTSD isn't actually that bad."

What I'm trying to say is that this will happen and I'm glad to hear the conversation has started. Now it's only a matter of time.

Cross Posted at Donklephant