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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 7 ] June 5, 2008 |

Benjamin Harrison, remarking on the Johnstown Flood, 4 June 1889:

It would be wholly superfluous for me to attempt to set before you more impressively than the newspapers have already done the horrors attending the calamity which has fallen upon the city of Johnstown and the neighboring hamlets in a large section of Pennsylvania situated on the Susquehanna River. The grim pencil of Doré would be inadequate to portray the distress and horrors of this visitation. In such meetings as we have to-day here in the national capital and other like gatherings that are taking place in all the cities of this land, we have the only relief to the distress and darkness of the picture. When such calamitous visitations fall upon any section of our country we can only put about the dark picture the golden border of love and charity. It is in such fires as this that the brotherhood of men is welded. And where more appropriately than here at the national capital can we give expression to that sympathy and brotherhood which is now so strongly appealed to by the distress of large bodies of our fellow-citizens?

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[ 25 ] June 4, 2008 |

So I turned this gem up while doing some research this afternoon:

He and his aides have outlined a quick and successful overthrow of Hussein and rebuilding of a democratic Iraq that spreads peace through the Middle East. Establishing unchallenged world dominance for the United States, it cows the leaders of Iran, North Korea and al Qaeda. In this view, the domestic economy would soar, and help Bush and his party in 2004 to a victory that would realign the country’s political allegiances.

One reason for Bush’s confidence under pressure is the unshakeable belief of his advisers that this scenario is likely. Bush’s serenity “comes from the conviction he’s on the right course,” said Richard Perle, an influential conservative who leads a Pentagon advisory board. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows where he’s going.”

Another member of that panel, former Reagan administration official Kenneth Adelman, says the Iraq war “will transform the region towards peace and decency.” Adelman believes Bush shares the view. “The only thing I’ve heard from him is, ‘Imagine if we didn’t do something like this,’” he said.


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Doesn’t Take Bernanke to See…

The other day I posted about banks’ decisions to stop providing loans to college students at “non-elite” universities and college. I suggested that it is decisions like these that help economic and racial inequality persist.

Turns out, Ben Bernanke agrees with me.

So common sense even a Bush appointee can’t ignore it.

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Method Acting

[ 46 ] June 4, 2008 |

Wolcott, reflecting on the advice of Hannity/K-Lo that McCain “find his voice” by modeling his public demeanor after Bernie and Mittens, who delivered, I dunno, the awesomest concession speeches ever(?), or something:

So let me see if I have this right. The way for John McCain to inspire conservatives is to echo the concession speeches of two guys he beat, charging into battle to the faint distant trumpets of a valedictory address? He should meet the historical moment by acting as if he’s halfway out the door, ready to leave? I don’t know, conducting your presidential campaign as a Victor Borge farewell tour doesn’t seem to me to be the smartest way to go, but then I don’t have the keen stereoscopic mind of Sean Hannity, whose blatant partisanship did so much for Rudy Giuliani’s candidacy.

Not having television, I read McCain’s speech last night and found it to be a fairly clever, if completely disingenuous, effort to restate the case that he’s Teh Maverick. His smarmy pitch for Hillary supporters, for example, really needs to be mashed up with his unashamed chuckling upon being asked how to “beat the bitch” by that 234-year-old New Hampshire voter. In any case, for once I agreed with McCain’s apologists, who’ve been reduced to insisting that the speech “read well.”

Then I remembered that the words on the page had most likely come by way of the kazoo that resides in John McCain’s throat, and I felt much better about the whole thing. Now having watched the video, of course, I agree that it amounts to one of the great horror shows in recent political history. It might very well recede into oblivion, or it might eventually proved to be a synecdochical moment in the campaign, condensing his essential weirdness into a few lime green minutes. Either way, I’m looking forward to the debates in the same way I look forward to throwing old pumpkins off the roof of my house a few weeks after Halloween.

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There There?

[ 6 ] June 4, 2008 |

K.A. Geier makes the case about the Purdum article. I guess that an article that focused very tightly on his financial affairs could have been more useful, but I guess I had heard about most of the conflict-of-interest implications and didn’t really see anything new. But YMMV.

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Against Roe Reductionism

[ 14 ] June 4, 2008 |

I can sort of understand why Roe takes center stage in debates over judicial nomination, although it obscures a lot of important questions and impacts of the court. But people explaining why Obama is infinitely preferable to McCain really shouldn’t begin and end with Roe. Even focusing solely on women’s rights, four more years of a Republicans in the White House will have many more bad consequences.

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No There There

[ 0 ] June 4, 2008 |

It’s been a bad week for airline/gym reading. First, the New York that seemed (foolishly in retrospect) like the best option in the gym’s magazine rack when I forgot to put reading material in my bag featured the lengthy Phillip Weiss article sharing with us the news that middle-aged men sometimes feel sexual desire for younger women…even if they’re married! Then there was the New York Times magazine cover story, which let us in on such remarkable facts as that young people will sometimes stop dating one person and start dating another, dating co-workers can create some measure of tension, and sharing things about other people on your blog can upset said individual.

I would like to say that Todd Purdum’s Clinton story is less vacuous. But if so the distinction is marginal, and it’s (really) if anything more annoying. The pattern is established early. After some nice guilt-by-association innuendos about some of Clinton’s associates (you’ll be shocked to learn that some wealthy men have fathered children out of wedlock and dated considerably younger women), we get the only graf you need to read:

In fairness, it should be said that Clinton’s entourage that weekend also included his daughter, Chelsea, and her boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky, and no one who was there has adduced the slightest evidence that Clinton’s behavior was anything other than proper. Nor, indeed, is there any proof of post-presidential sexual indiscretions on Clinton’s part, despite a steady stream of tabloid speculation and Internet intimations that the Big Dog might be up to his old tricks. On any given visit to London, for example, Clinton is as apt to dine with Tony Blair or Kevin Spacey as with anyone who might raise an eyebrow.

So, in other words, he’s got nothing. But does that stop him from making the implication again? Not when you’re dealing with the Clenis:

Less amusingly, in the run-up to the 1996 re-election campaign, when Clinton took one of his many fund-raising trips to California, I teasingly asked his press secretary, Mike McCurry, whether the president intended to go jogging with Eleanor Mondale, the daughter of the former vice president—as he had on a previous trip—after he was spotted with her (and Barbra Streisand) in the wee hours of the morning. The next day, as we boarded the plane at Andrews Air Force Base en route to Los Angeles, McCurry, whose effectiveness as Clinton’s spokesman was aided by the fact that he never fell in love with him, sidled up to me and told me that he had passed my question on to the president, and that Clinton had responded, in vivid terms he knew I could not print, that I should not confuse exercise with extracurricular activity.

I dunno, it seems to me the Clinton, er, has a point here. And while I grant that I’m no expert in arranging adulterous liaisons, it strikes me that jogging with someone in public probably isn’t the ideal method.

Anyway, this not-quite-an-accusation shtick becomes intolerable pretty quickly. So unless you’re in the market for some reasonable-but-trite observations about Clinton’s slightly rusty political compass and some questions about the financing of Clinton’s post-presidential activities that the article does little to illuminate, I’d give the article a pass. It does serve as a reminder, though, that however problematic some of their recent behavior has been, when it comes to the press they have an entirely legitimate grievance.

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Obama Wins Without Concession

[ 60 ] June 4, 2008 |

She made her decision about how to react to the inevitable. I guess I’m not as anrgy about it as Matt is, since I didn’t really expect anything much different (although I guess I would have assumed that Clinton’s speech would have been a little more concillatory than it was.) I don’t think that Clinton is trying to tear the party apart or anything like that. It’s difficult to lose a race that you reasonably expected to win and didn’t (and let’s be frank, if you’re a Democrat you probably know what the intensity of this disappointment is like pretty intimately.) What she does next matters more than whether she concedes tonight, and I hope that she will start working for the party’s nominee soon.

Seeing the contrast between Obama and McCain tonight, I don’t see how a Democrat could fail to be optimistic about the fall.

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Why Roe Matters

The choice quote (pun intended) from today’s NY Times essay by a doctor who provided post-abortion complication treatment before Roe v. Wade:

What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.

The language of the piece seems to me an interesting reworking of Justice Blackmun’s language in the Roe decision itself. The decision focused so heavily on doctors, only cursorily and even peripherally mentioning the women whose rights hung in the balance. In this essay, Dr. Fielding, now in his 80s, inverts that language. It is women’s equality rights that are front and center — and the right to abortion is crucial to them.

Worth reading in full

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The Army on Global Warming

[ 17 ] June 3, 2008 |

Noah Shachtman notes that the Army has some interesting ideas about global warming:

The Army is weighing in on the global warming debate, claiming that climate change is not man-made. Instead, Dr. Bruce West, with the Army Research Office, argues that “changes in the earth’s average surface temperature are directly linked to … the short-term statistical fluctuations in the Sun’s irradiance and the longer-term solar cycles.”

In an advisory to bloggers entitled “Global Warming: Fact of Fiction [sic],” an Army public affairs official promoted a conference call with West about “the causes of global warming, and how it may not be caused by the common indicates [sic] some scientists and the media are indicating.”

There are a couple interesting points for discussion. First, it’s not all that surprising that the Army has found someone who thinks man-made global warming is a hoax; the people who think such things are almost invariably found on the right, and the officer corps of the United States military remains solidly on the right. I’m curious, though, about why the Army cares about whether global warming is natural or caused by human factors. When I participated (briefly) in the development of the Navy’s new maritime strategy a couple of years ago, climate change was simply treated as an assumption. Rather than attempt to determine cause, the Navy treated global warming as a problem that would have to be dealt with. This neatly avoided the scientific-political problem of assessing causation, which allowed everyone to think about pragmatic response.

Why would the Army treat the question differently than the Navy? For the Navy, the threat of global warming presents a very clear challenge; rising sea levels threaten to change the maritime landscape, and major disaster in the littoral (such as Katrina or the 2004 tsunami) require a naval response, regardless of how they come about. For the Army, global warming may present a less clear pragmatic challenge, allowing political thinking to prevail over the need for planning. This is my guess, but I really don’t know for sure.

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People ski topless here while smoking dope…

[ 22 ] June 3, 2008 |

JammieWearingFool, lacking a better term:

I must say, if a political hit (for lack of a better term) came out tomorrow and exploded on June 5, the irony meter would be off the charts considering the heat Clinton took for her RFK remarks.

Yeah, that sure would be a gas!

Also ironic, according to JWF:

  • rain on his wedding day
  • a black fly in his chardonnay
  • 10,000 spoons when all he needs is a knife
  • meeting the man of his dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife

As for irony itself, this is actually a pretty solid effort:

The news is all good today [5 November 2006] with the GOP numbers getting better and panic mode setting in for the Democrats.

The Senate races are tightening up, with even a RINO like Lincoln Chafee suddenly leading in Rhode Island. This has to leave the Democrats flummoxed….

I’ve been figuring with all the predictions of doom the GOP would lose upward of a dozen House seats and three Senate seats, but now I’m not so sure. I reckon I can wait until later Monday or early Tuesday to issue final predictions, but as of now, things look much better.

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Can Barr Matter?

[ 0 ] June 3, 2008 |

I would like to think that Barr’s candidacy will help Democrats in the fall. I’ve been pretty skeptical, even if we assume that Barr can attract more support that the typical Libertarian candidate. The biggest reason is that one would assume a serious Libertarian to cross-cut existing political cleavages in the way that Nader didn’t. The GOP is better on some Libertarian issues but worse on others, and while in practice a strong majority of Libertarian voters seem to be of the “Republicans who want to smoke pot” faction as the Libertarian vote expands I don’t think one can assume that they’re just taking votes from Republicans.

In this case, however, there’s a possibility that a somewhat increased Libertarian vote could help the Democrats, because given his prior history Barr is likely to have a lot more appeal to conservatives disillusioned with Bush than left-libertarians. And perhaps he can provide an outlet to libertarians (for obvious reasons) really, really hate McCain but are reluctant to vote for a Democrat. Still, overall I think Atrios is probably right that Barr can only have an impact in a race that Obama is already poised to win comfortably; my guess is that most strongly anti-McCain Libs will vote for Obama anyway, and it’s a pretty small faction.

As some people have pointed out, the biggest impact Barr might have is putting Georgia in play. I very much doubt that Obama could win it, but if he can even force McCain to waste scarce resources there it would be helpful. If you want to be a real optimist, you can remember that Clinton narrowly won and narrowly lost Georgia in three-way races in 1992 and 1996. I wouldn’t read much into that — it’s a different climate, Barr won’t be as popular as Perot was in 1992, and ’96 just reinforces Duncan’s point — but it’s not unreasonable to think that Barr might give McCain a fire or two to point out in Georgia and/or a couple western states when he doesn’t really have the money to spare. Not a major impact, but it can’t hurt.

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