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More Adventures In McSexism

[ 48 ] August 6, 2008 |

Megan Carpentier:

When he failed to wow them with his “drill here and drill now” energy plan, or his tax plan or his plan to be out of Iraq for sure by 2013, he tried a different strategy. He suggested to Cindy and the audience that she should compete in the Miss Buffalo Chip contest. What’s so bad about that?

Miss Buffalo Chip isn’t a beauty contest in the traditional sense — it’s a relatively debauched topless (and sometimes bottomless) multiday contest where women dance, jiggle and reportedly even perform blow jobs on bananas for the titillation of the spectators. And John McCain offered up his 54-year-old wife as a contestant.

And, let be frank, he didn’t do it just because she’s pretty or has an enviable body for a 54-year-old woman or because he’s proud of his wife’s brand of socialite beauty. He did it to pander to the crowd’s idea of appropriate masculinity, and that apparently includes over-sexualizing your wife and the mother of your children for the amusement of a few people in a crowd. McCain offered up the thought of his wife objectifying herself for the sexual gratification of others (at his suggestion) in order to get a couple of chuckles, inspire some male fantasy and make a few “friends.” Fun!

[…]

But what does it say that he would suggest it of his wife? I think it’s another piece of gravel in a growing mountain of evidence that John McCain doesn’t think a lot about women, their place as equals in society or their rights in that society. But he does seem to think a lot about us as sexual beings — or, at least, sexual objects.

And, certainly, whatever is in his mind his consistently anti-feminist policy record is manifest.

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Walk On Bayh?

[ 29 ] August 6, 2008 |

As far as it goes, I think that Patashnik and Silver make reasonable points here. A congressman’s record has to be evaluated in context, and in said contexts Bayh’s record isn’t bad: ” there is no senator more liberal than Bayh in any state more conservative than Indiana.” He is a bit of a wet on abortion, for example — although better than Kaine — but there’s a reasonable argument to be made that his compromises are the minimum necessary for political survival in that context. Moreover, while “partial-birth” legislation is the very stupidest of that dismal genre, it’s also the regulation with the least impact on access to abortion. I also agree with Patashnik that “authenticity” means nothing; the fact that he’s moving left is a good sign, not something to worry about. And there are some surprising good points in his record especially the votes against Alito and Roberts. While suboptimal, he would be at least an acceptable choice in ideological terms.

Still, I’m definitely with Cohn. I think there should be a strong presumption in favor of having someone with executive experience on the ticket [whoops: as a commenter points out, Bayh was governor; my mistake], and as Cohn says even Bayh’s legislative record is undistinguished. I also think there should be a strong presumption against someone who supported the Iraq war. And I’d make an even stronger case against selecting him on strategic grounds. Even if we (very generously) assume that Bayh is the extremely rare candidate who could attract home-state votes as a running mate, there’s the problem that Indiana at the presidential level (whatever the polls at this early date say) is a deep, deep red state. If Indiana’s close enough that Bayh could put Obama over the top, Obama won’t need it. Bayh’s OK, but he hardly seems like the best Obama can do.

UPDATE: As elm notes, I neglected the most important point: it would almost certainly result in the loss of a Senate seat as well.

The King of Nothing

[ 58 ] August 6, 2008 |

A couple commenters here (and I’ve heard this elsewhere) compared Mark McGwire to Dave Kingman. This really couldn’t be more absurd. Let’s start with their lifetime OBPs:

Kingman: .302
McGwire: .394

So, except for the fact that McGwire is vastly better at the most important hitter’s skill, they were very similar. Or compare the OPS+s from their first seasons up to age 30:

Kingman: 113, 109, 102, 117, 128, 96, 131, 146
McGwire: 164, 134, 129, 143, 103, 176, 138

And even this understates McGwire’s superiority, because OPS substantially overvalues power and undervalues OBP. With a better metric, the gap would be even larger than this. Comparing the two is like comparing George Bell with Ted Williams.

In addition, McGwire was a decent first baseman when he was younger, while Kingman was a complete butcher. True, McGwire was a slow slugger, and lost his defensive value early. But even if he was largely “one-dimensional,” so what? Derek Bell is more “multi-dimensional” than Frank Thomas. Who cares? The point is to win, and the enormous amount of runs McGwire created (in addition to adequate defense when he was younger) was extremely valuable.

Reasonable people can disagree about how much PEDs should affect Cooperstown. I, personally, would but virtually no weight on it, but I understand people differ. But unless all alleged steroid users are removed from consideration McGwire is not merely a Hall of Famer but an overqualified Hall of Famer.

A Joker Without A Clue

[ 69 ] August 5, 2008 |

Ed Morrissey tries to explain why Obama’s perfectly banal remarks about car maintenance and tire inflation are considered some sort of hi-larious gaffe among people who considered The Half Hour News Hour comedy gold and the Right Brothers the new Stones:

So yes, inflate your tires properly and get regular tune-ups. But if you think that will solve the supply crisis or make us independent of foreign oil, then you probably won’t get the joke no matter how many times we explain it.

See, here’s the problem: Obama doesn’t believe and has never said that we can be “independent of foreign oil,” for the obvious reason that it would be completely crazy to believe that this is possible. Certainly, McCain’s plans would bring us nowhere near this point. And even if we destroyed enough wildlife refuges and coastal economies to produce enough oil to meet the demand of American consumers — again, a complete impossibility — we would still not be meaningfully “independent.” After all, oil is a fungible commodity that’s part of a world market, and it’s not as if American oil companies will just give Americans a discount out of the goodness of their hearts. You have to pay the going rate no matter where the oil is produced.

So the punchline is that Obama’s suggestions will produce more benefits, without — and pay attention here — any costs. That’s not a gaffe. Thinking that Iran is training Al-Qaeda? Now that’s a gaffe. See? Sorry I had to explain it to you.

Hmmm…

[ 18 ] August 5, 2008 |

Apparently it’s possible that greatest pitcher athlete in Yankee recorded human history will be going on the D.L. Overhype aside, that’s a pretty serious hit, especially given their upcoming schedule. Maybe the Yankees will miss the postseason after all! Of course, I’m sure the Yankees will be able to come up with some complete stiff with no major league credentials to go 11-0 in his place anyway.

The Uselessness of BMI: An Addendum

[ 19 ] August 4, 2008 |

As a follow-up to Paul’s post below, I note that among the people classified as “overweight” by the BMI index we can find…George W. Bush. Sure, he may exercise regularly and seems healthy and trim for man his age, but…the BMI has spoken! Let’s hope we can get it on more report cards soon!

Also, Obama may want to be careful in the weight room, or journalists with no integrity inventing ridiculous “electability” tautologies may have to switch to saying that Obama can’t be president because he’s almost as much of a gross fatty as Al Gore himself…

More On Winters

[ 2 ] August 4, 2008 |

Kathy G has more on his silly argument on behalf of Tim Kaine. Particularly crucial is this:

Except . . . in 2004, voters were asked:

“Would you support or oppose the Catholic Church denying communion to Catholic politicians who are in favor of legal abortion?”

Their response? 68% were opposed to denying communion, with only 22% in favor. But that was just among the general public. Among Catholics themselves? 72% opposed, 22% in favor. In another poll, denying communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians was opposed by 72% to 19% among the general public, and by a whopping 78% to 15% among Catholics.

So this is, in fact, pretty much an non-issue which most Catholics see as the political posturing it is. And when you ask yourself how many of that relatively small minority would vote for a Democrat under any circumstances…this is about as specious as a pundit’s fallacy can get.

Comity!

[ 34 ] August 3, 2008 |

On this, I agree with Michael Totten:

If you’re using Internet Explorer 7, do yourself and me a favor. Stop it. Seriously. It’s crap. Use Firefox. It’s free and vastly superior.

Even if the Sitemeter problem has been cleared up, the general point remains entirely correct.

Highly Unconvincing Suggestion From Political Opponent of the Day

[ 0 ] August 1, 2008 |

Michael Gerson.

"Separation of Powers" And Immunity

[ 13 ] August 1, 2008 |

I generally agree with Mark Tushnet that Robert Jackson’s much-cited and lauded concurrence in Youngstown is overrated, in the sense that it effectively describes the puzzles of evaluating the constitutionality of presidential action without providing any useful way of resolving the most interesting and important questions. Still, his descriptions can sometimes be useful, and I think this is the case with the passage cited in yesterday’s opinion rejecting Bush administration assertions of “absolute immunity”:

While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity. Presidential powers are not fixed but fluctuate depending upon their disjunction or conjunction with those of Congress.

In this sense, the “checks and balances” metaphor is a more useful one than the “separation of powers” metaphor the Bush administration’s claims essentially rest on. In Richard Neustadt’s language, the American system is really “one of shared, not separated, powers.” The oversight function of Congress is crucial to the logic of the system, and the kinds of broad immunity being claimed by Bush would unacceptably frustrate it, as Judge Bates correctly recognized.

In addition, Josh Patashnik wonders why the Bush administration would make these farcical claims, when even if more plausible and narrow claims of immunity were rejected it is “very easy to send aides before Congress and simply have them spew nonsensical garbage, avoid answering tough questions, claim to not remember anything, and be generally unhelpful.” The answer, I think, is just contempt of Congress in every sense. It’s not that Bush thinks that Miers or Bolten will say anything that’s directly incriminating; they just want to send a message that they think that their potentially illegal practices should be beyond the scrutiny of mere legislators.

A Strange Case For Kaine

[ 13 ] August 1, 2008 |

For most of the reasons cited by Dylan Mathews, I wouldn’t be happy if Obama chose Tim Kaine as his running mate. Still, I can least imagine an argument on his behalf: he could win Virginia for the Dems, a major blow to McCain, and his more conservative positions are unlikely to affect the way Obama governs. I reject the argument because I don’t think there’s good evidence that Vice Presidential nominees have a significant positive influence on voting behavior, so running mates should be primarily be chosen on the merits (on which Sebelius is clearly preferable to Kaine.) But I could at least find this argument intelligible.

Micheal Sean Winters, on the other hand, seems to argue that Kaine’s reactionary positions on reproductive freedom are a feature, not a bug. His argument is rife with the kind of illogic endemic to claims that the path to Democratic victory is selling out women. Most importantly, it’s far from clear how many potential Democratic voters will be affected by critiques of Sebelius from a priest “who has been published in the conservative Catholic journal First Things, a magazine that often mimics White House talking points more faithfully than it follows the teachings of the Catholic Church.” But since these attacks on Sebelius for being pro-choice didn’t stop her from being elected in one of the most conservative states in the country, it’s hard to imagine they could significantly impact a national race, and Winters provides no evidence otherwise.

Even more importantly, while implying that Democrats should choose Kaine over Sebelius to chase voters unlikely to vote for the Dems in any case, he completely ignores the costs to such a strategy. Democrats also need votes, donations, and activism from their pro-choice base, who would be (properly) dismayed by a selection of Kaine. And given Obama’s path to the Democtratic nomination, this seems like an especially bad year to stick a thumb in the eye of women and effectively declare reproductive freedom a second-class issue. Once you consider the potential costs alongside the (highly dubious) benefits, the argument for Kaine cannot be sustained.

There are other reasonable choices, but if it comes down to the two red-state governors, Sebelius is far and away the superior option.

What Silver Said

[ 30 ] August 1, 2008 |

This is exactly right. Both the 4-year gap between elections and recent realignments mean that it’s easy to come up with arguments of the “No Democrat has won the White House without states x, y and z in decades!” variety, but virtually none of them have any real predictive value.

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