2008 - %3, September

Drill, Baby, Drill

| Sun Sep. 7, 2008 11:14 AM PDT

DRILL, BABY, DRILL....Daniel Larison watches the Republicans in St. Paul:

When the theme of the convention seems to have been, "Drill, baby, drill," which is an energy policy in exactly the same way that, "Tax, baby, tax" is a fiscal policy (i.e., it isn't), slogans are obviously all that the party has left. Even if you think that increasing oil exploration and supply through more offshore drilling makes sense, you cannot really take these people seriously.

Unfortunately, yes you can. This, by the way, was the moment when I completely gave up on the convention. It wasn't Giuliani, it wasn't Palin, and it wasn't McCain. They were just the closing acts. It was when I realized that the most reliable applause line on the convention floor was "Drill, baby, drill." Even by the low standards of political campaigns, this is a slogan so imbecilic that it makes you fear for the future of the Republic.

Then again, you can hardly blame them, can you? Here is the LA Times doing one of those obligatory man-in-the-street pieces in Uniontown, Pennsylvania:

Waitress Judy Artice, "Miss Judy," as she is known at Glisan's roadside diner, declared Palin "the perfect candidate" after watching her Wednesday speech. That said, Artice had already decided that her vote would go to the first candidate who mentioned gasoline prices.

"And — I'll be danged — it was Obama," Artice, 46, said between servings of liver and onions during the lunch rush.

Needless to say, Obama will have the same short-term impact on gasoline prices as McCain: none whatsoever. But apparently he won a vote in Uniontown merely by the good fortune of holding his convention first and making sure to mention gasoline prices in his acceptance speech. If that's what you're up against, I suppose that "Drill, baby, drill" makes perfect sense.

In other words, we're all doomed. In the meantime, though, I have named my cat consul of the empire and plan to repair to the living room to watch the Hannah-delayed remnants of the U.S. Open. I might as well enjoy myself while I can, right?

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Palin's First Year as Mayor: Off With Their Heads!

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 10:31 PM PDT

The Seattle Times has unearthed three boxes of archived documents on Palin's first year as the mayor of Wasilla. The year is 1996, and Palin can't seem to decide whether she wants to be Karl Rove or the Queen of Hearts. Elections in this town of 5,000 are officially nonpartisan, but Palin and her supporters turn the race into a senseless proxy war for national issues: they tar her opponent as "pro-abortion" and question his marital status, trumpet her endorsement by the NRA, and roll out the slogan, "Conservative, More Efficient Government." Her backers include an only-in-Alaska coalition of the religious right and bar owners who want to make sure they can keep serving until 5 a.m.

After she's elected, she gets drunk on power and goes on a firing binge. We already knew she pink slipped the anti-book-banning librarian, but here we learn more: she fires the police chief, who'd recently been named Wasilla's employee of the year, and, in a sort of Lord of the Flies scenario, asks the three employees of the town museum to decide among themselves who will get the ax (all three decide to quit). The same year, she's stopped by the city attorney after she tries to stack the city council. The local paper, the Frontiersman, condemns her in blistering editorials and citizens talk of a recall.

Despite all of this, of course, she's reelected in 1999. She's a smoother politician by then. But given the way she later wields the axe as governor (see Troopergate), maybe the editors of the Frontiersman were onto something when they wrote that Palin's philosophy was "that either we are with her or against her." Sounds a lot like king what's-his-name


Torches and Pitchforks

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 9:59 PM PDT

TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS....Joe Klein on the GOP's attempt to play that old time gospel one more time:

Maybe I'm getting old, maybe it's that I've seen this act so often before, maybe it's that the people I talk to when I go out on the road really are having a harder time paying for things like health care, gasoline and college tuition, but I'm finding the Republican attempts to derail the conversation from the actual state of the country really depressing and disgraceful this year. They practice Orwellian politics of the crudest sort. They are trying to sell a big lie — that the election is about the social issues of the 1960s, or Barack Obama's patriotism or his eloquence, or the "angry left," when it's really about turning toward a more moderate path after the ideological radicalism and malfeasance of the past eight years.

Hey, when he's right, he's right. And he's right: it's very depressing indeed watching John McCain immolate both himself and the country in yet another raging round of the culture wars solely because he's decided that it's the only way to put John McCain in the Oval Office.

But I don't think it's going to work. The American public isn't going to buy it this time around, and in the end McCain will, once again, have dishonored himself and have nothing to show for it. It's the story of his life.

Quote of the Day

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 6:47 PM PDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Mark Allen, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, on the duties of state governors:

"The role of the governor is to use the Guard to help the citizens of a state, as opposed to declaring war on a neighboring state."

That's certainly good to hear.

A Prayer For Palin

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 5:24 PM PDT

A PRAYER FOR PALIN....Ross Douthat enthusiastically recommends John Podhoretz's review of an article in the NYT today about Sarah Palin's religious beliefs:

Today, the New York Times published an article that, should it receive wide circulation (and it might, on the web), will do a great deal to harden evangelical attitudes against the supposed leftward swing [of younger evangelicals] — because it is an act of secular aggression against a believing Christian.

Headlined "In Palin's Life and Politics, Goal to Follow God's Will," the article has about it the wide-eyed wonder that anyone might actually be crazy enough to believe in a Creator Who still plays a role in human affairs.

OK, I read it. I detected no wide-eyed wonder at all. In fact, it struck me as an almost painfully straightforward look at Palin's church and her religious beliefs. There were no value judgments, no subtle word choices to suggest a point of view, and the authors even took pains to point out that Palin had changed churches a few years ago in order to attend one that was lower key and more discreet than her previous church. You might object to the article if you think that merely describing Palin's beliefs will automatically damage her — an odd belief for a social conservative to hold — or if you believe that religion has no place in politics — which would be even odder — but it's hard to see what other grounds there might be for grumbling about it. After all, religion plays a major role in American political culture; the Christian right is a powerful segment of the Republican Party base; other presidential candidates (Obama, Huckabee, Romney) have been put under the same microscope; faith is plainly a significant part of Palin's life; and her particular brand of Christianity is equally plainly a huge factor in her popularity within the GOP. It would be journalistic malpractice not to write a profile of Palin's religious views.

So what's going on here? Answer: it's yet another attempt to rally the troops by making up a fictitious (but plausible sounding!) narrative about coastal elites looking down their noses at them. This is something I expect we're going see a lot more of over the next couple of months.

UPDATE: Ross reconsiders. That's what makes him worth reading.

See Ya Later, Joe

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 12:56 PM PDT

This isn't terribly subtle. Nor should it be.

"Lieberman went too far when he distorted Sen. Obama's record," said [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid spokesman Jim Manley. "From Reid's perspective, (Lieberman) has every right to give a partisan speech to whomever he wants. But he doesn't have the right to distort Sen. Obama's record like that. Sen. Reid was very disappointed in Lieberman's speech."
Added Manley: "The Democratic caucus will likely revisit Lieberman's situation after the November elections."
Asked if Reid was putting Lieberman on notice, Manley replied: "Without overplaying it, the answer is, yes."

Via Crooks and Liars.

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McCain on McCain

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 11:32 AM PDT

McCAIN ON McCAIN....For a campaign that's tried to mock Barack Obama for being a little too full of himself, this week's GOP convention was remarkable for its virtual canonization of John McCain. That goes double for McCain himself, who seemingly spent an eternity Thursday night talking not about his vision for the country or his vision for the future, but about his vision of himself: his journey, his character, his life story, his selfless devotion to duty. John McCain's favorite subject, it turns out, is John McCain.

At least, that's how it seemed. But Hilzoy apparently has some friends with a little too much time on their hands, and one of them decided to quantify McCain's self-love for posterity. The results:

There were a total of 271 sentences in the speech [...] Of those 271 sentences, a remarkable 147 (54%) were devoted to telling us about John McCain himself: his past accomplishments ("I fought crooked deals in the Pentagon"), his qualifications for the job ("I know how the world works"), his family and childhood ("When I was five years old, a car pulled up in front of our house..."), his time as a POW ("On an October morning, in the Gulf of Tonkin..."), his patriotism ("My country saved me"), and so on. Another 8 sentences focused on Sarah Palin. This leaves only 116 sentences (43% of the speech) to discuss the topics that one might otherwise expect to constitute the majority of the speech: the state of the nation, his policy positions, future promises, differences between his positions and Obama's, and so on.

And Obama? A much more normal 15% about himself, with the rest about the country, his plans, comparisons with McCain, etc. Details at the link.

Great Moments in the Annals of Polling

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 10:41 AM PDT

GREAT MOMENTS IN THE ANNALS OF POLLING....From a recent ABC News poll:

Eighty-five percent of Republicans view Palin favorably, and nearly nine in 10 approve of her selection as Sen. John McCain's running mate.

....Partisan lenses also color views of whether Palin has the necessary experience to serve as president if that became necessary and whether the news media have treated her fairly in her first week in the spotlight. Forty-two percent of all Americans think she is sufficiently prepared. Among Republicans, however, 74 percent believe she is, a figure that is more than three times higher than among Democrats.

Italics mine. If I'm reading this right, about 89% of Republicans approve of the Palin pick, but only 74% believe she's prepared to be president. This means that 15% of Republicans approve of their nominee choosing a running mate who's unprepared to succeed him if necessary. Analysis is left as an exercise for the reader.

Panic Time

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 10:29 AM PDT

PANIC TIME....Is the McCain campaign scared to death that there might be more to Troopergate than Sarah Palin fessed up to during the ten or fifteen minutes of vetting they gave her last week? Oh my yes. And they're in full whirlwind mode trying to shut down the bipartisan investigation into her activities that's been underway in Alaska for the past couple of months — an investigation that Palin had earlier said she welcomed and would fully cooperate with because, you know, she had nothing to hide etc. etc.

Anyway, that's no longer operative. She's now got a lawyer, her husband has a lawyer, they've managed to get seven witnesses to refuse to testify, they've filed a motion of their own to gum up the works, and they've gotten their allies in the legislature to call for the investigation to be shut down. (It had gotten too "politicized" they said hilariously, after doing everything in their power to politicize it.)

Palin herself, of course, has nothing to say about this since she's currently being kept in a bunker somewhere. I wonder how long it's going to be before there are a dozen camera crews camped outside her house in Wasilla shouting questions at her as she ducks into her car every morning to drive to the office? As near as I can tell, that's the only thing that might finally embarrass the campaign into allowing her to speak without a teleprompter in front of her.

Convention Roundup

| Sat Sep. 6, 2008 10:09 AM PDT

CONVENTION ROUNDUP....During John McCain's speech on Thursday, he inexplicably spoke for part of the time in front of an image of Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood. Obviously this was meant to be Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and after radio silence for over 24 hours on how this screwup happened, hapless McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds offered up this howler:

"The changing image-screen was linked to the American thematics of the speech and the public school was simply part of it," Mr. Bounds said, adding that during the speech, Mr. McCain "called for public education reforms that empower parents and students before bureaucrats and labor unions."

Uh huh. These guys are just congenitally incapable of admitting a mistake, aren't they?

And speaking of screwups during the GOP convention, here's another one. The Navy gave permission for two SEALs to attend the convention on the condition that the Republican National Committee not try to exploit them politically (active duty members of the military aren't allowed to engage in partisan activity). So what happened? They wrote a speech exploiting them, and when they were called on it they made up a lie about it being an inadvertant ad-lib. Notice a pattern here?