2008 - %3, September

Why the American Dream Is Bigger than Palin or McCain

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 5:59 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

At some point today, (around the time I noticed Lindsay Lohan weighing in), I got hit with Sarah Palin overload.

Then, I realized that Palin's omnipresence isn't about John McCain or Barack Obama, or even this week's RNC. It's not about her experience or stance on issues. It's about the "Pop" American Dream.

The old American Dream is dying. Rampant economic inequality makes the cost of working hard to achieve prohibitive. In a culture where more people vote for the next American Idol than for the next president, no wonder Sarah Palin is the top story: She defines the new American Dream, where leaping to the top against all odds is the end goal in itself. Of course there are voters appalled that someone 'like her' can be a 'heartbeat away from the presidency.' But there are also plenty of voters delighted that someone 'like her' has a shot at the ultimate American Dream—a spot in the White House.

Beneath the Palin hue and cry lie issues that will determine the next American Dream for 99 percent of America.

Those issues include the housing foreclosure and default crisis and the exponential growth in credit card debt. And they include a need to shift the tax burden, health care costs, and retirement risk away from the middle and poorer classes—so that they can afford an American Dream built on dedicated hard work.

That's why it's so important we get back to debating the issues, rather than Sarah Palin's personal life.

—Nomi Prins

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Peggy Noonan: "It's Over"

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 5:20 PM EDT

Love those hot mics! Here's video of Mike Murphy, an old McCain hand from 2000, and Peggy Noonan, a former Reagan speechwriter, talking off camera about John McCain's vice presidential pick. They are, shall we say, less than sanguine about the choice.

Eating Your Own Dog Food

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 2:57 PM EDT

EATING YOUR OWN DOG FOOD....Question: who's the better actor? McCain strategist Steve Schmidt or all those soccer players who flop to the ground and pretend to be near death whenever a defender comes anywhere within a yard of their shins? You make the call:

In an extraordinary and emotional interview, Steve Schmidt said his campaign feels "under siege" by wave after wave of news inquiries that have questioned whether Palin is really the mother of a 4-month-old baby, whether her amniotic fluid had been tested and whether she would submit to a DNA test to establish the child's parentage.

Arguing that the media queries are being fueled by "every rumor and smear" posted on left-wing Web sites, Schmidt said mainstream journalists are giving "closer scrutiny" to McCain's little-known running mate than to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

I can't speak for the National Enquirer, but I've seen virtually no questions about Trig Palin's parentage in the mainstream press — and for that matter, almost nothing in the blogosphere either. There was a shouted-down diary on the subject at Kos, and a weekend of insanity from (non-liberal) Andrew Sullivan, but that was about it.

On the other hand, the mainstream press has been full of legitimate questions about Palin's experience, her lies about earmarks, how she ran Wasilla as mayor, whether she sympathizes with the Alaska Independence Party, her role in Troopergate, her daughter's unwed pregnancy (announced by Palin herself), her social conservatism, her fondness for raising taxes, and plenty of other perfectly legitimate questions about a vice presidential candidate who until a few days ago was a complete unknown to virtually the entire country.

So please. Spare us the tears. The McCain campaign, after months of counting on the media to report the most egregious BS with a straight face, has finally pushed them beyond the limits of their endurance. Steve Schmidt has been the driving force behind this strategy, and he has nothing to complain about now. It turns out there are limits to what Saint John can get away with after all.

My Sarah Palin Nightmare - And Yours

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:53 PM EDT

MY SARAH PALIN NIGHTMARE — AND YOURS....OK, it's time to tell you my Sarah Palin nightmare. It's not a real nightmare, mind you. It's more a nightmare scenario. Here it is.

The press keeps digging up fresh dirt on Palin. Pressure builds up from the Troopergate scandal. The tabloids and talk shows continue to go nuts over Bristol Palin's baby. Then something new and even more damaging pops up. Finally, after resisting as long as he can, McCain gives in and dumps Palin from the ticket. But when he does, he delivers a stemwinding screed about how the intolerant hordes of liberalism have forced a good woman off the national stage, aided and abetted by their sanctimonious friends in the liberal media — all because coastal pointy-headed elites loathe traditional heartland values and were determined to destroy Sarah Palin no matter what it took. The Christian right goes absolutely ballistic. There are torches and pitchforks in the streets. McCain replaces Palin with another social conservative and rides the bloody shirt of the culture wars to a thin victory in November. Pat Buchanan finally has his revenge.

Erk.

The good news is that I don't think this will happen. What I really think will happen is that McCain will keep Palin on the ticket no matter what and will go down to defeat in November. He will then write yet another book in which he admits that his conduct was less than honorable and he feels deeply ashamed about it. He seems to be pretty good at that after the fact. He will appear on a couple of Sunday chat shows to talk about it and will then be promptly forgotten.

So what's your current nightmare? Feel free to share in comments.

Palin's Instant Foreign Policy Brain Trust Is Assembled

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:40 PM EDT

Republican presumptive vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is being prepped for her Republican convention debut tonight, and a team of policy advisors has descended on the Alaskan governor's Hilton hotel room to educate her on John McCain's national security positions, soon presumably to become her own. Among her new advisory brain trust, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff notes, Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign's top national security advisor and Steve Beigun, a former Jesse Helms and Condi Rice aide, as well as a striking number of Bushies:

Matt Scully, a former Bush White House speechwriter who helped draft some of the major foreign-policy addresses during the president's first term, is working on Palin's acceptance speech to the convention Wednesday night.
Mark Wallace, a former lawyer for the Bush 2000 campaign who served in a variety of administration jobs including chief counsel at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and deputy ambassador to the United Nations, has been put in charge of "prep" for the debate against Biden.

Chrome

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:27 PM EDT

CHROME....Last night I downloaded Chrome, Google's new browser, and I've been using it for several hours since then. The installation was annoying (it has virtually no feedback to tell you whether anything is actually happening) but was otherwise pain free, and it imported my Firefox settings with no problem. So far everything seems to work fine, though the minimalist interface strikes me as pointless. There's really no harm in having a standard menu bar, and I like having an icon bar too. Couldn't those at least be options? And I miss having history and bookmark panels that I can open along the left edge of the browser window. And since Chrome doesn't appear to have a search box plug-in, which I use a lot in Firefox, I'll probably stop using it before long.

Still, I was curious. Firefox has an annoying habit of going crazy about once or twice an hour, suddenly sucking up 99% of my CPU and bringing everything else to a grinding halt until it's finished doing whatever it's doing. This used to happen occasionally when I opened a page with a runaway Java script or something, but now it happens regularly and for no apparent reason. It's very annoying, as you can imagine. I've tried Safari as a replacement, but I hate its font rendering. So Chrome seemed worth a test drive.

Basically, though, I think I'd give it a C- so far. Works OK, has a couple of interesting features (anonymous browsing, for example), but it's missing a lot of stuff that I'm pretty accustomed to. Anyone else have any early feedback?

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Nasty, Brutish, and Short

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:10 PM EDT

NASTY, BRUTISH, AND SHORT....Megan McArdle calls John McCain "an especially brutish adolescent character." That's interesting. My wife, to my surprise, told me the other day that she thinks McCain is "cruel and calculating." Those descriptions are fair, but they aren't the ones that would have occurred to me above all others. I wonder how many other people share this view of McCain?

Absent from the RNC: Any Solutions for the Economy

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:09 PM EDT

Why? Because Republicans apparently don't think the economy needs solving. Here's Harold Meyerson:

I have combed the schedule of events here without finding a single forum, workshop or kaffeeklatsch devoted to what John McCain and the Republican Party propose to do about America's short- and long-term economic challenges. I've found four panels on what to do about the Middle East, but not one on what to do about the Middle West.
Some events deal with aspects of economic policy, to be sure: The Consumer Electronics Association is sponsoring a salute to free trade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Vote for Business Bandwagon. The American Petroleum Institute, in conjunction with the American Gas Association and the National Mining Association, is throwing a wingding for Republican governors. And I count two forums on tax issues....
Then again, the Republicans here plainly don't believe that the economy needs fixing. On Monday, a New York Times poll of Republican convention delegates showed that 57 percent believe the American economy is in very good or fairly good shape.

This is in keeping with yesterday's speeches. And it shouldn't be a surprise. This is the campaign run by a guy who said just yesterday, "This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates."

Oh, and somebody tell Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam that they're being ignored.

Sad and Ironic: Palin Vetoed Funding for Teen Moms

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:49 PM EDT

Yet another example of how the religious right insists babies be born, but then fails to support the babies, their mothers, and their families afterward. This is a classic story with a newly relevant twist. The WaPo:

After the legislature passed a spending bill in April, [Alaska Governor Sarah] Palin went through the measure reducing and eliminating funds for programs she opposed. Inking her initials on the legislation -- "SP" -- Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers.
According to Passage House's web site, its purpose is to provide "young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to eighteen months while they gain the necessary skills and resources to change their lives" and help teen moms "become productive, successful, independent adults who create and provide a stable environment for themselves and their families."

As Michelle Cottle notes at TNR, "A politician who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and who opposes comprehensive sex education should be at the forefront of championing support systems that make it easier for young mothers to keep their babies."

The Earmark Queen....Updated

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:46 PM EDT

THE EARMARK QUEEN....UPDATED....Sarah Palin is the gift that just keeps on giving. By now, we all know that far from being a mortal foe of earmarks, Palin was in fact a pioneer and trailblazer in the earmark world. Small towns in Alaska almost never lobbied for federal pork until Palin showed the way, and her success inspired others to follow.

However, what we didn't know until the LA Times told us today, is that John McCain's annual list of objectionable pork singled out Palin's requests not once, not twice, but three separate times:

Three times in recent years, McCain's catalogs of "objectionable" spending have included earmarks for this small Alaska town, requested by its mayor at the time — Sarah Palin.

....In 2001, McCain's list of spending that had been approved without the normal budget scrutiny included a $500,000 earmark for a public transportation project in Wasilla. The Arizona senator targeted $1 million in a 2002 spending bill for an emergency communications center in town -- one that local law enforcement has said is redundant and creates confusion. McCain also criticized $450,000 set aside for an agricultural processing facility in Wasilla that was requested during Palin's tenure.

The McCain campaign's response to this is exceptionally slick: one part blatant lie (all small towns in Alaska depended on earmarks at the time) and one part clever lie (Palin was so upset about being practically forced to hire a high-powered lobbyist to beg for pork that it scarred her for life and made her the earmark foe she is today). Further questions were no doubt declined since asking about this stuff is plainly sexist and unfair and Governor Palin deserves some privacy on these matters.