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Archive for October, 2008

Incidentally…

[ 0 ] October 16, 2008 |

Congrats to the Phillies. That’s four pennants in 29 years, which is a pretty good run for a franchise that won only two in its first 97 years of existence.

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here

[ 0 ] October 16, 2008 |

Let’s say it’s mid-August 2008. You’re a nationally unknown governor from a geographically large, demographically insignificant state. You’re young and chipper, you’re overwhelmingly popular with your constituents, and you have a bright political horizon before you — a dead-lock two-term run as your state’s chief executive, perhaps looking forward to an eventual move to the US Senate or even to the US House as the state’s only representative. Your reputation as a clean-government reformer has been dented somewhat by summertime allegations that you fired a state commissioner after pressuring him to fire someone you didn’t like. But you’ve pledged to cooperate with the investigation, and — let’s be honest — even if you’re found to have abused your office, very few people are likely to hold any of this against you in 2010. Life is good.

Then let’s say you receive a surprising offer to serve as the vice presidential running mate for a very old man with a history of health problems. Fulfilling the role that traditionally suits the vice presidential nominee, you agree to be the campaign’s attack dog; though you lack the information to develop original broadsides against your opponents, you’re competent with a teleprompter and are capable of cracking wise about pit bulls and lipstick and such. You fib mightily about your record as governor; you struggle with your native tongue in media interviews; you participate in a televised debate, using occasionally-complete sentences but treating facts and figures as if they’re foreign objects to be dislodged as quickly as possible from your throat. You wink and smile. Mooseburger, hockey, maverick — drill, baby, drill. And then, as your campaign slips farther behind in the polls, you resort to portraying the other party’s candidate as a terrorist consort and as a scary (cough negro cough) man with alien values and a loathing for the country he seeks to lead.

Let’s say you do all these things while refusing to cooperate with a legislative investigation at home. You allow your running mate to send a squadron of lawyers to manage the state’s executive branch in your absence. You allow them to describe a former commission head as a backstabbing “rogue” who deserved his professional head upon a platter. You allow them to misrepresent the nature of the investigation. You allow them to portray the legislature as a birdfeeder for Obama supporters. You allow your attorney general to conduct a “fact-finding” excursion that resembles witness-tampering. And when the legislature’s report comes out, you brazenly pretend it says something it doesn’t.

You piss off a lot of people.

Given all that, it’s possible that the homecoming will be awkward.

President Obama

[ 41 ] October 16, 2008 |

You can smell it in the air: tonight was the unofficial end of the 2008 presidential race. For Obama it smells like victory. Meanwhile the McCain campaign is now unmistakably giving off the stench of defeat. Tonight’s debate once again proved how crucial optics and stylistic considerations are in the age of visual media. McCain did OK (not great, but OK) in terms of substance, while Obama seemed cool to the point of almost boredom. But in the end, McCain’s affect — his barely concealed rage at the indignities to which he was being subjected — killed him with the television audience, which once again gave the debate to Obama by huge margins.

Don’t be surprised if, after the next wave of polls come out between now and Sunday, the RNC starts putting money that was slated to go into the presidential race into close Senate and House races instead.

And don’t be surprised if Obama wins by a margin comparable to Reagan over Mondale, if not Nixon over McGovern and Johnson over Goldwater.

For Wingnuttia, the explanations for the disaster will be legion: McCain ran a terrible campaign, he wasn’t a real conservative, the Palin pick was ridiculous, the MSM was once again horribly horribly unfair, the Democrats made the stock market tank — in short every explanation but the real one, which is that, after a generation of success, the powers that be in the GOP have gotten sealed off in their own little fantasy world. It’s a world in which “real Americans” care deeply about things like Bill Ayers, and flag pins, and crypto-Muslim terrorists, and hockey moms, and the Incredible Success of the Surge ™, and activist courts spreading teh gay. Unfortunately “real Americans” now make up about 25% of the population, and the proportion is shrinking by the day.

President Obama — it has a nice ring to it.

Joe the Plumber!

[ 9 ] October 16, 2008 |

If I understand John McCain’s key message, the average millionaire who benefits from GOP tax cuts is a manual laborer. Why do you all hate Joe so much? If you lie about Obama’s health care plan, the plan will really hurt him! Leave Joe alone!!!!!!!!!

…perhaps he should co-star with Lucky Ducky in an upcoming cartoon….

LGM Offical Endorsement

[ 0 ] October 16, 2008 |

I think I can speak for everyone here at LGM in saying that we have, at long last, arrived at an endorsement decision. After much consideration and debate, Lawyers, Guns and Money heartily endorses Senator John Sidney McCain for the office of President of the United States, and Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President..

Ahem. Need to stay away from the ether. Consider this an open debate thread…

An Army Of Morons

[ 5 ] October 15, 2008 |

Citizen jornamalism!

I sure wish I had a piece of whatever company is sending Nigerian remittance spam to Bob Owens’s inbox

The Meaninglessness of "Mandates"

[ 0 ] October 15, 2008 |

This is exactly right:

Not me. Or, rather, I think the evidence suggests that mandate is a meaningless concept. America went to the polls in 2000 and whatever you think of what went down in Florida, clearly more people overall voted for Al Gore than for George W. Bush. What’s more, a substantial minority of people voted for a candidate who thought Gore was insufficiently leftwing. And the exit polling made it clear that Bush had the edge over Gore on a bunch of “character” issues. This series of facts, combined with the regnant ideology of mandate-ism, led a lot of pundits to conclude that Bush would, due to his lack of mandate, curtail his agenda. In fact, he did no such thing. And while that was bad for the country, the lack of a mandate wasn’t a practical problem.

Say what you will about Bush, the one thing he understood is that the only meaning of “mandate” is “whether you have the votes in Congress.” And of course the even better example is that FDR — almost certainly the most transformative president of the 20th century — ran essentially as more-Hoover-than-Hoover in 1932, which didn’t seem to affect his actual governance. For this reason, the number of Democrats in the Senate and the number of progressive Democrats in the House will be much more important to whether health care reform can pass and what form it will take than the precise proposals made by candidates during the Democratic primary.

Neo-confederates Overcompensate for Miniature Penises, vol. [data failure, cannot compute]

[ 14 ] October 15, 2008 |

Pathetic:

The largest Confederate battle flag in the world has grown by 10 feet.

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans unfurled the bigger flag Sunday, which is on private property at the junction of Interstates 4 and 75.

It’s now 30 by 60 feet, compared to the previous 50-foot “Stars and Bars” used to wave in the wind over Hillsborough County’s two major highways.

So why a new flag?

The old one, which went up in June, will be sold in pieces on eBay to help pay for a memorial, said Marion Lambert, spokesman for the Florida Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The $100,000 monument, made of 16-tons of granite, will be adorned with brass plaques honoring Confederate veterans.

“It’s flying very large, very big and very red,” Lambert said. “I think it can go quite a bit bigger, though.”

I’m sure you do, Hoss. I’m sure you do.

Via Kevin Levin, who adds:

Isn’t this the same organization that claims to revere the flag as the symbol of courage of their Confederate ancestors? What better way to show your respect than to cut it up into little pieces for profit. I guess this is exactly what their ancestors fought and died for. Oh…and I almost forgot to mention that the old flag was made in China.

OK, he’s a terrorist, but at least he’s not a Republican

[ 9 ] October 15, 2008 |

Ah, democracy. McCain is so screwed that people who actually believe the lies in his most vile attack ads still won’t vote for him:

I just got an astounding email from a Republican consultant I know well. He’s a guy who’s always thought Obama had a “glass jaw,” and was always among those agitating for hitting Obama harder. Recently, he conducted a focus group in an upper-Midwestern state, showing them the kind of ad he thought would work: A no-hold-bars attack ,cut for an independent group, which hasn’t aired . . .

The next (focus group member who watched the ad) was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. “Well, I don’t know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I’m sick of paying for health insurance at work and that’s why I’m supporting Barack.”

Who Wants Cheney’s Help?

[ 4 ] October 15, 2008 |

This morning, Vice President Cheney suffered an irregular heartbeat for the second time since 2007. No serious worries; a little shock, and apparently he’ll be fine. The interesting bit of the story is this; Cheney was forced to cancel a campaign event because of the problem. This made me wonder: Who, in these United States, could actually benefit from Dick Cheney’s assistance on the campaign trail?

The answer, it turns out, is Marty Ozinga, who is a candidate in Illinois’ eleventh Congressional district. He’s running against Democrat Debbie Halvorson, currently an Illionis State Senator. The incumbent is a retiring Republican, and the district went Bush+7 in 2004. It’s rated a Republican+1 district by CPVI. Pollster.com lists the race as a tossup.

What’s interesting to me is that Cheney is all over the front page of Halvorson’s website, but not Ozinga’s; perhaps the website was scrubbed after Cheney cancelled? Or maybe Dick Cheney’s heart just did Marty Ozinga a favor. I find it difficult to imagine that, in a close race, the appearance of Dick Cheney at a campaign event is going to do any favors for the Republican candidate. It also seems a bit late in the cycle for useful fundraising, which is the one thing Cheney could probably be counted on for.

Commenters is Witty…

[ 0 ] October 15, 2008 |

Kvetch, in this thread:

Sometimes you have to break a couple hundred thousand eggs to make a delicious freedom frittata.

Hogan:

And sometimes after the eggs are broken, you realized you have no idea what a frittata looks like or how to make one. It’s all good.

Heh. Indeed.

Walt-Muravchik

[ 24 ] October 15, 2008 |

It’s difficult to exaggerate the degree to which Stephen Walt demolishes Josh Muravchik in their realism vs. neoconservatism exchange in the September National Interest. The prompt concerns which, of realism or neoconservatism, will best answer the threats that the United States will face in the future. As such, the debate really turns on which of realism and neoconservatism has proved a better predictor of past threats, and has provided the best recommendations for response to those threats.

Muravchik lands a couple of blows on realism. The reality of realism is and always has been in serious question, which is to say that there’s a tension between the normative and descriptive claims of realists. Walt waves this away with an “of course realists call out what they believe are mistakes”, but the problem does run deeper. Hans Morgenthau includes an anecdote in the first chapter of Politics Among Nations about French and British consideration of military assistance to Finland in 1939. Such assistance would have put the Allies at war with both Germany and the USSR. Morgenthau mocked French and British concern for international law as unrealistic, which is fair enough, but he didn’t explain how international law and norms of justified intervention could guide the behavior of two great powers. If France and Britain, then why not the world, and if the world, then where is realism? Thinking along these lines might lead to a whole new research program…

Muravchik also notes that realists failed to predict the fall of the Soviet Union. This is reasonably fair, although Kenneth Waltz in Theory of International Politics did wonder whether the Soviet Union could keep up with the United States. Perhaps more to the point, neoconservatives also failed to predict the fall of the Soviet Union on anything approaching the timeline that the collapse actually occurred. The number of neoconservatives who believed, in 1984, that the USSR would be gone by 1992 can be counted on the fingers of no hands. Muravchik might object that neoconservatives, at least, believed that the lifespan of the Soviet Union was limited, but then realists also believe that the structure of the international system (by which I mean polarity) can change over time. Moreover, neoconservatives were strongly committed to the idea that the Soviet Union was much, much stronger than conventional analysis suggested; this was the motivating concept behind Team B, and animated the rhetoric of the first Reagan administration. Far from expecting that the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, neoconservatives seemed to believe that it was competing quite well against the United States. Indeed, a young scholar named Stephen Walt wrote a book called Origins of Alliances, arguing that the global balance of power was not nearly as dire as neoconservatives (and offensive realists) would portray it. Ironically enough, Walt departed in important ways from realist analysis in the book, but that’s a story for another day.

So yeah, Muravchik lands a couple of glancing blows. Walt then proceeds to beat Muravchik like a red-headed stepchild. First, Walt calls out Muravchik’s nonsensical “history” of neoconservativsm, which essentially portrays every successful policy endeavour of the United States in the 20th century as falling under the rubric of neoconservatism. This claim has been common among neoconservatives since Robert Kagan’s Dangerous Nation, which argued that the United States has always, evidence and appearance aside, been a neoconservative nation. As Walt notes, it is indeed strange that neoconservatism could have such a critical impact on foreign policy decades before it was coined, and especially odd that it gets credit for originating the successful policies of liberal internationalism, which neoconservatives have always bitterly criticized. Muravchik gives neoconservatives credit for both Wilson and Roosevelt/Truman, without noting that there’s considerably divergence between the two approaches, and that both (but especially the latter) involve exceptionally heavy doses of the institutionalization of international life, something that actual neoconservatives are allergic to.

And then Walt gets to Iraq. Read it yourself; a summary does no justice. The real coup de grace comes with this:

Finally, Muravchik claims neoconservatives “treat purely moral concerns . . . as a higher priority than would realists,” yet his response evinces little concern for ordinary human beings. He expresses no remorse at the suffering that neoconservative policies have wrought and seems mostly concerned that the neocons are now “taking their lumps” over Iraq. What matters to him is political standing in Washington, not the hundreds of thousands of needless Iraqi deaths, the millions of refugees who fled their homes, or the tens of thousands of patriotic Americans killed or wounded. So let us hear no more about the neoconservatives’ “moral” convictions. Amid such company, the realists who opposed the war can stand tall.

Indeed; the moral component of neoconservatism has always been the appearance of moral rectitude, rather than any practical effort to achieve moral goals. This makes it particularly appropriate for creatures of the Beltway, who endure no real costs for their moral postures.

In any case, the exchange is well worth reading; it reminds me a bit of Walt’s dispute with formal model/rational choice types in International Security, which is collected in Rational Choice and Security Studies. That’s also worth reading, but only for political scientists.

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