Frank Rich on White Americans in the NYT

October 27, 2008

Hats off to Frank Rich for an excellently argued column

The dirty little secret of such divisive politicians has always been that their rage toward the Others is exceeded only by their cynical conviction that Real Americans are a benighted bunch of easily manipulated bigots. This seems to be the election year when voters in most of our myriad Americas are figuring that out.

Man, I sure hope he’s right.


David Leonhardt on the Personal Savings Rate

October 26, 2008

His piece in today’s NY Times doesn’t break any new ground, recounting as it does the plunge in the personal savings rate since the Reagan 80s.  He does end, though, with a couple nice turns of phrase:

Finding the right middle ground — in which we neither hoard our way into a deep recession nor spend our way into bankruptcy — will not be easy. But it’s also not impossible. Economic mores can change.

Well into the 1940s, Americans wondered whether the hard times had really ended. They spent the next few decades behaving as if the country’s prosperity depended on their actions. They saved money, which provided the capital for the great postwar boom and also paid for their retirement. Then came the change, and many of us began to assume that prosperity was an inalienable part of life, regardless of what we did. We failed to be sufficiently afraid of the alternative. A little fear can often be a healthy thing

McCain and His Captors

October 26, 2008

I posted a couple of days ago about the striking similarities of and enormous differences between John McCain and Bob Dole.  My friend Ted Whatley had this response:

I chuckled at Dole’s wit and marvelled at his meanness and his service to ADM.

Dole campaigned as he did because he assumed a future in his party. McCain has none which is another disastrous element in his flawed, disastrous sense of leadership; So much for mini-mavericks. Think TR in 1912.

McCain tour as a POW shaped his life. If the Freudians were in vogue, we’d be hearing a lot about how we repeat and/or try to replicate high moments in our lives. Dash ahead to 2000 and after when the Rove universe took him out of the skies and brutally tamed him. Then he hires them–his putative captors–to run his campaign.

McCain cannot function with a captor.

My response:


If you’re going to remember Dole’s service to ADM, don’t forget his flakking for Viagra.  I always thought it strange that the media never did any efficacy fact checking with Liddy; the Pfizer lobby was probably just too strong.  Potent.  Whatever.

I think your formulation is just brilliant.   McCain is suffering from Extremely Late Onset Stockholm Syndrome.  That would explain a lot.   It makes sense that Patty Hearst was not the only one with family money who behaved erratically in captivity.  And you must admit, Steve Schmidt must look pretty damned intimidating in one of those Symbionese Liberation Army berets.

If the Freudians were indeed ascendant, at least our overlords would be a group who values ideas.  But there’s something more meta at play than McCain’s own psychological arc, unique though it certainly is.   It seems to me that McCain is also a historical figure who should be viewed through the lens of that great Eric Hoffer riff: 

Every great cause begins as a movement, then it becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

If you haven’t, I implore you to read George’s Packer’s “The Fall of Conservatism,” maybe the finest magazine article on politics I’ve ever read.  As an overlay to Hoffer’s dictum, Packer sketches the following arc of the conservative movement:  Goldwater conceived it; Nixon brought it to power; Reagan legitimized it with the mainstream; Gingrich radicalized it and gave it militancy; Rove made it borderline criminal; and Bush 43 presided over its demise.

What starts as a grand idea gradually becomes hollowed out in service of the preservation of power for power’s own sake.  (The Cheney bio, Angler, is worth a skim in this regard.)   

All of what follows assumes an Obama victory, as tempting to the Fates as that is.

With the perspective of this historical sweep, one is tempted to sympathize with McCain as the inevitable pall bearer of the conservative movement.  It’s as if he inherited a few random sheets of x’s and o’s out of Vince Lombardi’s playbook, but has never given any thought to the deeper meaning of football.   He’s putting the dot on the exlamation point that punctuates the end of an era, just as the Ohio State drum major dots the i at halftime.  The difference is that the lad in the funny hat knows exactly what he is doing, and comports himself with considerable grace and panache.

It’s interesting to ponder how this all would have unfolded had Mitt Romney been left holding the now-empty conservative idea bag.   For starters, he would still be campaigning in Michigan.  And it’s certainly not inconceivable that he would have won the election, running as a seasoned business guy in the face of an economic tsunami, and leaving to his running mate Huckabee the job of firing up the base as McCain has left that task to Palin.  Although his messaging in the primary was not a model of focus, it’s quite possible that he would have come across as Obama’s equal on cool but his superior on economic chops.

But I doubt it.  And McCain’s primary victory may have ultimately prove fortuitous for the Republicans:  his campaign has been so erratic and embarrassingly substance-free that movement conservatism, to the extent it still exists, is guaranteed its moment of catharsis, regardless of whether McCain loses in a landslide or a 2 a.m. squeaker.

Provided an Obama victory, when on the sun rises on November 5, the party of “Ideas Have Consequences” will be staring at the consequences of a fully denatured idea in its  post-racket decrepitude.   The Democrats had a similar experience in 1968.  Good luck with  all that, gentleman.  Oh, and, Governor.

Sarah Unleashed

October 25, 2008

Not often that I get a full fledged belly-laugh out of Politico; and yes, my endless enjoyment of this stuff is bordering on juvenile.  But this Palinism is offered up as an example of the new, unscripted policy wonk who would be veep:

“I say, you know, when is enough enough of taxpayer dollars being thrown into this bill out there?” she asked. “This next one of the Democrats being proposed should be very, very concerning to all Americans because to me it sends a message that $700 billion bailout, maybe that was just the tip of the iceberg. No, you know, we were told when we’ve got to be believing if we have enough elected officials who are going to be standing strong on fiscal conservative principles and free enterprise and we have to believe that there are enough of those elected officials to say, ‘No, OK, that’s enough.'”

(A McCain spokeswoman said Palin’s statement was “a good sentiment.”)

HuffPost: O…..M…..G

October 24, 2008

I just watched some highlights of Brian William’s interview with Sarah Palin and John McCain.

This exchange was shocking:

Brian Williams: Back to the notion of terrorists and terrorism, this word has come up in relation to Mr. Ayers — hanging out with terrorist – domestic terrorists. It is said that it gives it a vaguely post uh 9-11 hint, using that word, that we don’t normally associate with domestic crimes. Are we changing the definition? Are the people who set fire to American cities during the ’60’s terrorists, under this definition? Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist under the definition?

Sarah Palin: There is no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was um one who sought to destroy our US Capitol and our Pentagon — that is a domestic terrorist. There’s no question there. Now others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or um facilities, that uh, it would be unacceptable — I don’t know if you could use the word terrorist, but its unacceptable and it would not be condoned of course on our watch.

McCain to Salter, Schmidt: “Quit Your Bitching. YOU CLOWNS ARE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS!!! HA! HA HA! HAAAH HA!”!

October 24, 2008

From the Can’t Make This Shit Up Desk at the New York Times:

Who was the highest paid individual in Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign during the first half of October as it headed down the homestretch?

Not Randy Scheunemann, Mr. McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser; not Nicolle Wallace, his senior communications staff member. It was Amy Strozzi, who was identified by the Washington Post this week as Gov. Sarah Palin’s traveling makeup artist, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday night.

Ms. Strozzi, who was nominated for an Emmy award for her makeup work on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance?”, was paid $22,800 for the first two weeks of October alone, according to the records. The campaign categorized Ms. Strozzi’s payment as “PERSONNEL SVC/EQUIPMENT.”

The payment on Oct. 10 made Ms. Strozzi the single highest-paid individual in the campaign for that two-week period. (There were more than two dozen companies that got larger payments than Ms. Strozzi). She easily beat out Mr. Scheunemann, who received $12,500 in the first half of October, and Ms. Wallace, who got $12,000.

Obama Losing the War of Words on Taxes

October 24, 2008

Even if they believe that the Bradley Effect is not in play this year, a new AP Poll should give the Obama campaign cause to maintain their hyper-vigilance.  Despite Obama’s simple promise that he won’t raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $250,000, fully 48% of likely voters believe he will raise their taxes.  The comparable number is 33% for McCain. 

So I asked the following question of my wise friend who sent me the poll.  “Is this bad messaging, effective use of ‘the big lie’ by McCain, or that people simply don’t believe Obama.”

His typically trenchant response:  “All three to some degree.  Then there’s the issue that the public is generally smarter than we give them credit before.”

Taxes may be the only substantive issue available still available to McCain.  But as markets continue their melt and the economy forms icicles, it’s not a bad one.  I’m glad there are 11 days rather than 11 weeks left until the election.