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Defining Honor Down Out Of Existence

[ 4 ] September 25, 2008 |

I’m baffled by this quasi-rationalization of McCain’s reprehensible campaign from erstwhile McCain-lover Jon Chait:

Any attempt to determine McCain’s true motives is necessarily pure speculation. It’s possible that McCain has convinced himself to actually believe the lies he has been telling. But here’s a more likely explanation: All this dishonesty can be understood not as a betrayal of McCain’s sense of honor but, in an odd way, as a fulfillment of it.

McCain’s deep investment in his own honor can drive him to do honorable things, but it can also allow him to believe that anything he does must be honorable. Thus the moralistic, crusading tone McCain brings to almost every cause he joins. In 2000 and afterward, McCain came to despise George W. Bush and Karl Rove. During his more recent primary campaign, McCain thought the same of front-runner Mitt Romney. Not surprisingly, Romney was the target of McCain’s most unfair primary attack–an inaccurate claim that he favored a withdrawal timetable in Iraq.

[…]

The pattern here is perfectly clear. McCain has contempt for anybody who stands between him and the presidency. McCain views himself as the ultimate patriot. He loves his country so much that he cannot let it fall into the hands of an unworthy rival. (They all turn out to be unworthy.) Viewed in this way, doing whatever it takes to win is not an act of selfishness but an act of patriotism. McCain tells lies every day and authorizes lying on his behalf, and he probably knows it. But I would guess–and, again, guessing is all we can do–that in his mind he is acting honorably. As he might put it, there is a bigger truth out there.

If all that’s required to make dirty tricks motivated by “honor” and “patriotism” is a subjective belief that it would be really bad for the country if your opponent won, who isn’t motivated by “honor”? I’d have to say that if you end up with a conception of “honor” that could plausibly result in Karl Rove and Lee Atwater being numbered among the most honorable men in American political history, you need a new definition.

The bigger problem here is that when Chait notes that the press has an extensive history of “portraying him as a uniquely honorable figure,” he never seems to consider the fact that this portrayal was completely unjustified. In reality, that he was a both 1)a political flyweight with little grasp of his own ostensible policy positions and 2)willing to relentlessly lie about his opponents was evident during his 2000 campaign if you bothered to look. It’s just that his genuine military heroism and remarkable ability to suck up to the press caused these things to be ignored. The question about McCain is not why he has changed; it’s why it took so many reporters (including some liberals) so long to figure out what he always was.

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That Explains It

[ 0 ] September 25, 2008 |

The preening debate cancellation nonsense seems to have a clear objective — burying Sarah Palin for as long as possible. I guess you can’t argue with the logic in a way, although McCain is trying to cover his mistake by making an even worse one, his trademark.

Although not if you ask Bill Clinton — I have to agree that all of his future public statements should be followed up by Chris Rock. Contrary to media myth, Hillary Clinton has reacted to her loss with equanimity and has fought for the party, but her husband’s post-convention behavior has been an absolute disgrace.

Personal to Mr. Wright

[ 5 ] September 25, 2008 |

If they’re going to pitch around you, take the goddamned walk. I know you’re been trained to think as an “RBI man” but flailing at a pitch a foot and a half outside and striking out rather than having Beltran up with the bases loaded and none out isn’t helping the team.

In addition, watching Ryan Church’s current attempts to impersonate a major league hitter — which are about as credible as Sarah Palin’s attempts to impersonate someone who could be president — reminds me that the turning point of the season may well have been sending Church on two cross-country flights immediately after he suffered his second concussion in three months.

Great Moments In Hackery

[ 9 ] September 24, 2008 |

This reminds me of perhaps my very favorite Saint Greenspan moment: his solemn admonition to Congress that if we didn’t pass a massive package of upper-class tax cuts we’d…pay down the national debt too quickly. Yes, what a plausible scenario that was, and how awful it would have been if in the worst-case scenario we could have taken the massive amounts of money we’re wasting on interest payments and used it for tax cuts or needed government programs…

Let Them All Talk

[ 0 ] September 23, 2008 |

I agree that as long as the plan that passes is acceptable, the fact that Republicans will run against Dems for passing it isn’t a big deal. (Just as they shouldn’t even consider Bush’s “give me $700 billion to arbitrarily dispense” plan irrespective of the politics.) The additional thing to add is that if the election is focused on the economy McCain is going to get massacred, so if this is the big Republican strategy I’m not exactly cowering in terror.

Funny Because True Dept.

[ 10 ] September 23, 2008 |

Yup.

Prop 8 And the Status Quo

[ 20 ] September 22, 2008 |

Opposition to the California Proposition seeking to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry and restore them to second-class citizenship continues to grow, with 55% planning to vote no and just 38% support (a very bad position for an initiative.) [HT: Roger Ailes.] Why, I’m beginning to wonder if predictions that the California courts will hand the state to McCain may not pan out!

I’ve long wondered how opponents of same-sex marriage will manage to portray a grant of rights favored by California’s elected legislature, its elected governor, and its tyrants in black robes elected courts, and the public in a referendum will be portrayed as “undemocratic.” The answer, based on the article, seems to be that it will entail whining about the description of the initiative’s purpose in the summary language: Brown wanted an accurate description, while supporters wanted a vague one. It is true, of course, that the wording of initiatives and their summaries can affect vote totals. But, of course, this is true of any initiative; and precisely for this reason an initiative isn’t some completely accurate measure of a transcendent Popular Will. And this includes the initiative that created the unconstitutional same-sex marriage ban in the first place. The current status quo and the wording of an initiative matter; it’s just these background factors are considered natural when they support traditional exclusionary policies.

The almost certain failure of Prop 8 further suggests that claims that the California courts will instigate a backlash because they overturned the “popular will” remain highly questionable. The “popular will” isn’t static and there’s no entirely reliable way of measuring it, but if Prop 8 supporters want to complain about that remember that it’s equally applicable of initiatives they previously supported too.

Let Them Draw The Line Here

[ 9 ] September 22, 2008 |

Look, if Republicans want to go to the mat for executives who think that they deserve multi-million dollar payouts for running venerable, profitable companies completely into the ground — “It’s the unassailable product of the Free Market! Now how about that $700 billion in taxpayer money to buy our worthless assets? Gimme Gimme Gimme!” — by all means let them. I know what side I want to be on politically…

In addition, conditional restrictions on executive pay aren’t simply about punishing inept executives who get massive compensation based on an insulated, mutual-backscratching system largely insulated from market forces. Rather, the most important problem with a bailout — even if there’s a plan that, unlike the one Paulson wants, is defensible — is the moral hazard problem. Setting a precedent that, if your firm is big enough, you can expect profits to be yours but major losses to be public is obviously problematic. If executives have to worry that coming to the government Tiffany cup and ivory backscratcher in hand will cost them their golden parachutes, it provides some incentives to act more responsibly.

Miracle

[ 13 ] September 22, 2008 |

Like Sheehan, I didn’t see it coming, but Tampa making the playoffs in a brutally tough division is one of the most remarkable baseball stories of the decade. Congrats to ’em, and it will be fun to see how they do in the payoffs. (I wish they hadn’t sent their 2007 bullpen to Queens, though.)

I hope Silver’s current electoral college predictions turn out as well as his projection of contention for Tampa…

QOTD

[ 11 ] September 21, 2008 |

Henley:

Who imagined that the great opportunity for joint progressive and libertarian advocacy and activism would end up being economic? But that’s where we are. This loathsome bailout plan is a slap in the face to anyone who believes in either free-market principles or social justice.

Indeed. “$700 billion of taxpayer money for your own piece of Glengarry Highlands Big Shitpile” should bring out the libertarian in anyone…

Say No To Unconstrained Executive Branch Handouts To Big Business

[ 0 ] September 20, 2008 |

I’m convinced.

…see also. Or here. Or here. The proposal in current form is a joke.

False Equivalences

[ 16 ] September 19, 2008 |

As one would expect, Stuart Taylor’s article about the campaigns is a masterpiece of false equivalence, using such tricks as balancing lies and smears from John McCain’s campaign with stupid articles in the New York Times that the Obama campaign had nothing to do with. He also somehow gets through an article about campaign lies without mentioning McCain and Palin’s constantly repeated howlers about the “bridge to nowhere.” He approvingly cites Byron York’s defense of the McCain campaign’s claim that Obama “wanted to teach kindergartners about sex” while failing to notice that the “age-appropriate” proviso completely destroys York’s argument. But I especially enjoyed this one:

McCain also deserves criticism for the ugly culture-warring epitomized at the Republican convention by Rudy Giuliani’s keynote speech and sneers about Obama’s stint as a community organizer. But who started the culture-warring? Democratic talking heads and pols–although not Obama–heaped disdain on Palin’s social class, religion, and anti-abortion values from the moment that McCain plucked her from obscurity.

First of all, it’s a big country so I don’t want to say that there are no isolated examples of “Democratic talking heads and pols” disparaging Palin’s “social class” or “religion,” but Taylor really needs to provide evidence that such attacks were made with any frequency by people with any influence. Rather, this strawman has is used by Republican hacks precisely to insulate Palin from any substantive criticism. Which brings us to the next point — Taylor also arguing that it’s not legitimate to criticize Palin’s “anti-abortion values.” Palin is in favor of using state coercion to force women to carry pregnancies to term, and as president would have the power to appoint judges who would allow state governments and the federal government to do that. Since when is it beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse to discuss these views?

And, of course, there’s an even more risible argument — the idea that “culture war” attacks started with unamed attacks on poor Sarah Palin. Yes, no Republican operative or McCain campaign flack would ever dream of attacking Obama as an arugula-eating urban elitist who can’t bowl if some blog commenter somewhere hadn’t said something dumb about Palin’s family.

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