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[ 70 ] August 8, 2015 |

It’s damned hard out there for a parodist.

Saturday Links

[ 137 ] August 8, 2015 |

The Fox News Debate

[ 201 ] August 7, 2015 |


There were aspects of the moderation in last night’s debate that were a substantial improvement on the MSM norm. Too often, networks like CNN express their terror at being accused of bias by focusing on horserace trivia that nobody but the journalists themselves care about. (You’ll notice that audience questions may or may not be well-informed, but they virtually never ask about that crap.) Last night the moderators generally focused on substantive policy questions, or personal questions that were clearly relevant (like Trump’s sexism.)

There was one major flaw, though. They took an obvious dive for several candidates, most egregiously for Rubio:

Rubio wasn’t so much thrown softballs as he was given softballs set up on a tee with 10 strikes and the defensive team told to leave the field. (When Kelly asked the last question, I expected her to ask Rubio his position on motherhood and apple pie too.)

The questioning, in other words, was much less fair than it might have seemed on the surface. Donald Trump, who isn’t going to win the nomination but has a toxic effect on the party as long as he’s in the race, was treated to a brutal inquisition. Rubio, who is arguably the most appealing general election candidate in the field but whose campaign is floundering, was thrown one life preserver after another. John Kasich and Jeb Bush were also treated more gently than the other candidates.

In other words, as Ed Kilgore noticed last night, the candidates who Republican elites would most like to see get traction were given much easier questions than the candidates Republican elites would prefer pack up and go away. Ultimately, Fox News gotta Fox News.

You’re Really Going to Miss Harry Reid

[ 56 ] August 7, 2015 |


Oh, great:

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, plans to announce his opposition to the nuclear deal negotiated by the U.S., Iran, and five world powers tomorrow, three people familiar with his thinking tell The Huffington Post.

Schumer’s move will come a day after New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Schumer’s fellow New York senator, Kirstin Gillibrand, announced their support for the deal. That momentum is blunted by Schumer’s pending announcement. Backers of the deal had hoped that if Schumer decided to oppose the deal, he would hold off until the last minute.

Schumer’s support of a war footing over diplomacy puts him at odds with the Democratic caucus he intends to lead next term, though it is consistent with the position he has long taken.

What a disgrace. And it’s certainly not because his constituents require it.


[ 152 ] August 6, 2015 |
  • It seems appropriate that The Daily Show is ending tonight.  That debate makes parody beside the point.
  • Fox has clearly determined (correctly, in my view) that Rubio is their strongest potential general election candidate.   The moderators asked tough questions of many of the candidates, but the questions to Rubio were a life preserver to his floundering campaign.
  • Asshole power rankings: 1. Huckabee 2. Christie 3. Trump.  I know it seems impossible that anyone could top #3 but here we are.

(More one-liners of uneven quality on my Twitter feed.)

Hiroshima, Mes Amours

[ 4 ] August 6, 2015 |

On the 70th anniversary, John Hersey’s landmark account is worth reading if you haven’t already.


[ 181 ] August 6, 2015 |


Jon Chait objects to my column about the attempt to manufacture a Joe Biden primary campaign out of nothing at all:

One of the unfortunate habits overtaking the left is a tendency to conclude that any behavior that could plausibly be motivated by bigotry is likely motivated by bigotry. It is no doubt true that a misogynist would want Joe Biden to challenge Hillary Clinton. Therefore, Scott Lemieux concludes, people who want Biden to challenge Clinton are sexist.


This particular form of illogic has gotten endemic on the left. A racist would oppose Barack Obama, but that doesn’t make all opposition to Obama racist. Likewise, a sexist would hate Hillary Clinton, but maybe we shouldn’t spend the next 15 months — and possibly the subsequent four or eight years — defining all opposition to her as sexist.

I concede that if one views my “tantamount to putting a “No Girls Allowed” sign on the door of the White House” one-liner in isolation, then it may seem as if I’m arguing that Draft Biden is entirely reducible to sexism. But as a certain recent high-profile Supreme Court case has taught us, this is not a sound method of interpretation. Given that I also discuss things like the hostile relationship between the media and the Clintons, the potential ideological reasons for wanting an alternative to Clinton, and the desire of the media to create drama in the primary campaigns, it should be clear that I do not believe that sexism is the only factor here.  But, for the record, let me state that the recent spate of stories pretending that Biden might be a serious candidate for president cannot be explained solely by the single variable “sexism.”  (I absolutely do not, as Chait implicitly acknowledges earlier, define “all opposition” to Clinton as sexist — this is just a flat mischaracterization of my argument.  It would also make it hard to explain why I supported Obama in 2008.)

It is also true that the role that sexism plays in the movement to find a challenger, any challenger to Hillary Clinton cannot be established with scientific precision. But I think it would be wrong to therefore ignore its presence. Yes, Maureen Dowd is such an unserious thinker and believes so many nutty things that it’s hard to disentangle the sexism from everything else. But I think it’s well-established that sexism plays a significant role in her bizarre treatment of the Clintons. I don’t think it’s a reach to suggest that someone who attacked Al Gore by portraying him as “lactating” is inclined to see presidential leadership as inherently masculine.

A few other points:

  • It’s worth emphasizing that there is no Biden campaign.  You’re not going to catch Hillary Clinton with no organization at all with less than seven months before the Iowa caucuses and with Clinton already having won the invisible primary — and Biden, with 40 years of experience in national politics, surely knows this.  The Times stories suggesting that Biden is seriously considering a run are notably lacking in the kinds of details that would indicate that Biden is dumb enough to think that he could create an organization to challenge Clinton ex nihilo, and get a grand total of zero sources on the record.  So these stories aren’t really about Biden — they are about Anyone But Clinton.  There is certainly an ideological ABC sentiment that first focused on imagining a primary campaign from Elizabeth Warren and some of which has migrated to Sanders, but since there isn’t a Confederate nickel’s worth of difference between Biden and Clinton on the issues, that doesn’t explain #DraftBiden. (Yes, you can argue that Biden was a more dovish influence within the administration than Clinton, but 1)it’s extremely implausible to think that these marginal inside baseball distinctions have anything to do with the Biden stories, and 2)these marginal distinctions obviously couldn’t be the basis of a successful campaign to mobilize voters against Clinton.) I think it’s hard to deny that sexism plays a significant role in an argument that Hillary Clinton needs to be replaced with a white guy who mirrors her views almost exactly, even when said white guy has shown no actual interest in running.
  • Since there’s no ideological basis for a Biden primary campaign, the only basis for DraftBiden is that Biden would be a significantly more electable candidate.  Chait does have a fair point that 2013 polling data is probably skewed toward Clinton.  But, still, it’s very hard indeed to to make a case for Biden based solely on electability.  He’s not a fresh figure one can see as having an appeal Clinton doesn’t.  In 2008 they ran in the same primaries, and while Clinton came very close to beating Obama Biden came very close to beating Bill Richardson in the Iowa caucuses.  His 1988 entry in the primaries — ultimately won by Michael Dukakis, not exactly an Obama-level political talent — flamed out in a major scandal.  Being vice president raised his profile, of course, but it doesn’t help that much.
  • To address a point some commenters have brought up, it’s true that every recent Democratic vice president has ultimately sought the nomination.  But, first of all, this is the kind of small n pattern that is a stain on American political punditry.  And second, it would explain why he’s running if he was, but he’s not.  Biden being vice president helps to explain why the non-ideological Anybody But Clinton crowd is focusing on Biden rather than, say, Mark Warner, but it doesn’t explain the crowd itself.
  • I don’t think my point — that sexism still plays a substantial role in how people think of political leadership — is at all controversial.  As Chait recently observed, the numbers are damning.  Clinton will almost certainly be the first woman to head a presidential ticket in more than 200 years.  There has never been a female governor of New York or California.  Women are underrepresented at every level of political office.  In that context, I don’t think it’s radical to conclude that the search for a white guy with Hillary Clinton’s views to replace Hillary Clinton that lands on a someone that already has two massively failed primary campaigns under his belt and has shown no interest in running is motivated in part by sexism.  I agree that it would be wrong to conclude that intraparty opposition to Hillary Clinton is motivated entirely by sexism — but I don’t argue this, and I think it’s a willful misreading to conclude otherwise.

Can I Get Multiple Amens?

[ 196 ] August 6, 2015 |

The great Katha Pollitt:

There are two reasons abortion rights activists have been boxed in. One is that we’ve been reactive rather than proactive. To deflect immediate attacks, we fall in with messaging that unconsciously encodes the vision of the other side. Abortion opponents say women seek abortions in haste and confusion. Pro-choicers reply: Abortion is the most difficult, agonizing decision a woman ever makes. Opponents say: Women have abortions because they have irresponsible sex. We say: rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, life-risking pregnancies.

These responses aren’t false exactly. Some women are genuinely ambivalent; some pregnancies are particularly dangerous. But they leave out a large majority of women seeking abortions, who had sex willingly, made a decision to end the pregnancy and faced no special threatening medical conditions.

We need to say that women have sex, have abortions, are at peace with the decision and move on with their lives. We need to say that is their right, and, moreover, it’s good for everyone that they have this right: The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary. When we gloss over these truths we unintentionally promote the very stigma we’re trying to combat. What, you didn’t agonize? You forgot your pill? You just didn’t want to have a baby now? You should be ashamed of yourself.

The second reason we’re stuck in a defensive mode is that too many pro-choice people are way too quiet.

This has always been the problem with the Saletan style “pro-choicers need to say that abortion is icky and immoral” argument. The first reason not to do this is that the argument is wrong on the merits. But the second is that it doesn’t make any sense tactically or strategically. So pro-choicers start saying that even if it should be legal abortion is icky, so now what? How does this make it more likely that abortion will remain legal?

Wednesday Links

[ 20 ] August 5, 2015 |

The Great Generic White Guy Hope

[ 265 ] August 5, 2015 |


The hot media discussion of the day seems to be whether the Democrats need Joe Biden to challenge Hillary Clinton. The answer to this question is “no, and isn’t this discussion rather egregiously sexist?”:

In policy terms, Biden and Clinton are virtually identical. On domestic policy, they’re both moderate liberals who are too close to the financial service sectors in their home states. On foreign policy, they’re both moderate liberal hawks who voted for the Iraq War. It would be harder to name two major politicians with more similar policy profiles. If Biden is going to enter the race, it’s not because of he disapproves of the direction in which Clinton is going to lead the country.

And it’s hard to see any evidence that Biden is more electable. Clinton has consistently been a more popular political figure than Biden. He’s prone to major gaffes. Hillary Clinton lost by a nose to a major political talent in the Democratic primaries in 2012, while Biden failed to reach 1% in Iowa. In 1988, Biden’s bid for the nomination was a disaster sunk by plagiarism allegations.

At this point, the sexism of the contingent eager for Biden to run becomes hard to deny. We need to find a generic white male with Hillary Clinton’s policy positions to head the ticket, even though his two previous primary campaigns were flaming wrecks on the highway? This is tantamount to putting a “No Girls Allowed” sign on the door of the White House.

You also have to love the fact that MoDo’s “Biden should run because of Hillary Clinton’s egregious corruption” story starts off with a Tom Brady analogy. Which is actually quite apt, although not in the way Dowd intends. (The one difference with the most recent New York Times botch is that the campaign’s immediate pushback helped to stop a “criminal probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails” narrative from cementing. The NFL’s leak of erroneous information, conversely, was immensely successful at establishing a fake narrative — as you can see in our comments section, many people still take the guilt of Brady and the Patriots as a given, sometimes in a dozen or so pompous comments about how Goodell’s scandalous behavior is not worthy of their precious thought, despite the egregious flimsiness of the evidence.)

I like Biden. And he has two major progressive feathers in his cap — playing a key role in stopping Robert Bork (and, inter alia, saving Roe v. Wade) and forcing Obama’s hand on same-sex marriage. He also has one major demerit — being cowed by the “Borking” propaganda campaign into conducting a hearing that was “fair and civil” to Clarence Thomas but notably unfair and uncivil to the woman he sexually harassed. But on the proposition that the Democrats need a generic white guy with Hillary Clinton’s policy positions to replace Hillary Clinton, I’m going to continue to vote “no.”

Billy Sherrill

[ 15 ] August 5, 2015 |


Sherrill’s influence on country music is complicated. Certainly, his elaborate arrangements could be cheesy. But he produced a lot of great music, and anyone who could get some of George Jones’s greatest music when the greatest singer of the genre was at the peak of his alcoholism deserves a lot of credit.

“Gov. Perry, Skip Needs to See You In His Office.”

[ 37 ] August 4, 2015 |

The clown car lineup for the first Republican debate has been set. Person too dumb to win a nomination captured twice by George W. Bush Rick Perry and runner-up-to-a-candidate-who-ran-unopposed Rick Santorum have been consigned to he kiddie table. Because of this, the initial sponsors of the debate — Ambien and Tito’s Vodka, makers of Rick Perry’s favorite pre-debate cocktail — have dropped out. Instead, in honor of the leader of the polls and the theme of the evening, the debate will sponsored by the Daughters of Confederate Veterans and Morrie’s Wig Shop.

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