Blogs

"Tito the Builder" Goes National

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 2:15 PM EDT

Earlier today, Sarah Palin introduced us to Joe the Plumber's replacement. And he's a man we met over the weekend: Tito Munoz, aka "Tito the Builder".

Speaking to supporters in Grand Junction, Colorado, Palin said, "Tito is not pleased with how the Barack Obama campaign and some of the media friends there have been roughing up Joe the Plumber." "Not pleased" is putting it mildly. Our David Corn was at the center of the Tito maelstrom on Saturday, when Munoz intentionally drew a crowd after a McCain rally in order to berate the press. David posed questions to Munoz and the crowd of unhappy McCain supporters surrounding Munoz — the result was the video we posted yesterday, titled "Mad for McCain."

Today, Palin said of Munoz, "Tito wants to know, and I quote, he asked, 'Why the heck are you going after Joe the Plumber? Joe the Plumber has an idea. He has a future. He wants to be something greater. He wants to be something else. Why is that so wrong?'" (For the record, Tito's question was "Why the hell are you going after Joe the Plumber?" but we won't quibble.)

Tito the Builder isn't exactly Joe the Plumber. Joe refuses to tell the press who he is voting for. He displays no anger. Munoz is a serious step up: he's passionately anti-media and anti-Obama. (If you watch the video linked to above, you'll note that he is also passionately anti-socialism.) Perhaps his chutzpah makes him a better surrogate for the McCain campaign. Welcome to your 15 minutes of fame, Tito.

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Five Words

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 2:10 PM EDT

FIVE WORDS....Five words I hope to hear a lot less of after November 4th:

  • acorn

  • right

  • airs

  • moose

  • bush

These are, of course, all perfectly ordinary words that have done nothing to deserve criticism. But life is unfair. I still don't want to hear them. Feel free to leave other candidates in comments.

A Prediction

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 2:07 PM EDT

A PREDICTION....Two weeks from right now we will all be desperately waiting for someone to leak the early exit polls even though we know perfectly well that early exit polls don't mean a thing.

John McCain's Problem

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 1:30 PM EDT

JOHN McCAIN'S PROBLEM....Today's New York Times poll graphically illustrates the biggest problem John McCain had going into this election. Normally, a Republican would run right in the primary and then tack to the center during the general election. But McCain, who has always been distrusted by the hardcore conservative wing of the party — the social conservatives especially — couldn't do that. In order to consolidate their support, he had to tack to the right for the general election, most spectacularly with his choice of Sarah Palin as VP.

But this has been disastrous. McCain's biggest electoral advantage was always his appeal to independents, and as he's moved to the right independents have abandoned him in droves. In the last month, his favorable rating among independents has gone down 3 points and his unfavorable rating has skyrocketed an astonishing 20 points. In other words, nearly every single independent who didn't already have an opinion about McCain has decided in the last month that they don't like him. The New John McCain has been the biggest flop imaginable.

I honestly don't know what he could have done differently to avoid this. One argument, I suppose, is that conservatives would have ended up voting for him regardless, so he should have ignored them and gone after the independent bloc like a laser. But I'll bet that wouldn't have worked either. Conservatives were genuinely uncomfortable with McCain, and if he had aggressively courted the independent vote Rush Limbaugh would have been skinning him alive 24/7 and James Dobson would still be telling his followers to stay home this year.

Was there an answer to this dilemma? I can't think of one. McCain's rock this year was very, very hard, and his hard place was very, very rocky. He was just plain screwed.

He Said, She Said

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 1:04 PM EDT

HE SAID, SHE SAID....Ezra Klein provides an example of news media "faux objectivity" outside its normal haunts of political reporting:

Take, for instance, this (very good) New York Times review of two books on meat. In the first paragraph, we're told, "Raising and processing cattle on an industrial scale is an environmental catastrophe (among other things, the United Nations has accused the world's livestock industry of being responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire global transportation fleet)." Emphasis mine.

The UN didn't "accuse" the livestock industry of anything. They published research showing that livestock production is a more significant contributor to carbon emissions than transportation is. If the author has methodological problems with the research, he should say so. If he accepts the research, then he shouldn't suggest it's an accusation — it's an empirical conclusion.

This view has become so widely accepted among blogosphere press critics that I feel like it deserves at least a little pushback. The problem here is obvious: the impact of livestock on GHG emissions is a complex subject, and for reviewer Michael Shae to take a firm position on the methodological precision of this UN study might well require weeks of research. Maybe more. And in the end, it might turn out that no firm conclusion is even possible. But for present purposes he's just writing a book review, and the UN report only takes up one sentence of his review. So unless he's already very well versed in this topic, he only has two choices: (a) leave out the anecdote entirely, or (b) tell his editor he needs a few weeks to check out a fact. Since (a) poorly serves his audience and (b) just isn't feasible, his only real choice is to note the report and its provenance without taking an authorial stand beyond that.

This kind of thing happens all the time in news stories. Maybe the word "accused" was a bad choice in this piece, but any replacement would only be marginally better and still wouldn't provide a firm take on the issue — because that's the one thing Shae really can't do. Quite often, the best you can do is to simply report various takes on an issue and leave it at that.

A Onetime Hate-Spewing, Red-baiting Neocon for Obama

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 12:42 PM EDT

This was first posted at DavidCorn.com at CQPolitics.com....

The latest neocon to turn tail on John McCain is Kenneth Adelman, a former foreign policy official in the Reagan administration. Adelman is most famous--or infamous--for having predicted in February 2002, 13 months before the invasion of Iraq, that "demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Explaining his decision to vote for Obama, Adelman recently told The New Yorker:

"When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird. Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, I've concluded that that's no way a president can act under pressure."

And he said of the Sarah Palin pick:

"That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office -- I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency. But that selection contradicted McCain's main two, and best two, themes for his campaign -- Country First, and experience counts. Neither can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick."

He sounds so reasonable, right? But I remember the days when Adelman sounded more like the mad McCainiacs I recently encountered at a McCain rally. In fact, I once wrote about Adelman's use of extremist rhetoric, and that kept him from obtaining a spot on the board of a prominent Washington advocacy group.

From a Nation magazine column (not on-line) I penned in 1988:

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Bachmann (R-Crazy) May Lose Seat Due to Self-Inflicted Wound

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 12:15 PM EDT

The nation was introduced to Michele Bachmann's special kind of crazy last week, a fact that (surprise!) is bad for Bachmann's electoral prospects. According to CQ Politics, her McCarthy-esque appearance on Hardball (video below) has put her in jeopardy of losing her seat, a previously unthinkable outcome in her deep red district. It helps that, because of Bachmann's screed, her opponent El Tinklenberg has nearly doubled his fundraising for the entire race. Here's CQ:

Tinklenberg, a former state Transportation secretary, had collected more than $810,000 between Friday night and Monday afternoon, after raising $1 million for the entire election cycle through the end of September.
"It's hard to give a completely accurate number because the money keeps rolling in," said Tinklenberg spokeswoman Kate Monson.
"We're in the middle of a political earthquake here," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Hardball Monday evening.
CQ Politics is moving its rating of the contest from Republican Favored to Leans Republican, a more competitive category.

The DCCC plans on going on the air in the district this week, with the goal of spending $1 million in TV advertising that it hopes will unseat Bachmann. "She effectively put the race into play by herself," says one Republican consultant. Video of her appearance is below.

More Conservatives for Obama

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 11:59 AM EDT

MORE CONSERVATIVES FOR OBAMA....James Joyner on Ken Adelman's endorsement of Barack Obama:

While Colin Powell, Lincoln Chaffee, Susan Eisenhower, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Jim Leach, Richard Riordan, Bill Ruckelshaus, and others can be dismissed as outside the conservative movement, Adelman can not. Perhaps, at some point, people will take these complaints about McCain and the direction of the party seriously rather than as an excuse for character assassination.

Hey, even BoJo agrees! Unfortunately, he sort of ruins his endorsement at the end by suggesting that if Obama wins maybe this will finally put an end to all that incessant complaining by blacks about how they're treated in America. But that's BoJo for you. Londoners sure do have odd taste in mayors, don't they?

The GOP's "Voter Fraud" Fraud. QED

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 10:50 AM EDT

If you need any more proof that the GOP's cries of voter fraud are a coordinated attempt to cast doubt on potential Republican losses and to suppress the vote, you absolutely must click this link.

Obama and Prop 8

| Tue Oct. 21, 2008 12:10 AM EDT

OBAMA AND PROP 8....Several months ago Barack Obama came out against Proposition 8, an initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in California, but since then he hasn't exactly been very vocal about his opposition. Since African-Americans support Prop 8 by a wider margin than any other ethnic group, Andrew Sullivan thinks Obama should use his bully pulpit to help turn the tide:

If he does not stand up for gay couples now, why should we believe he will when he is in office? And if black Americans are the critical bloc that helps kill civil rights for gays, that will not help deepen Obama's governing coalition. It could tear it apart.

Memo to Obama: make an ad. Speak loudly. Defend equality. Defend it when it might actually lose you some votes. Show us you are not another Clinton.

The argument against following Andrew's advice is obvious and compelling: Obama looks like he has the election in the bag right now, so why take even a tiny chance of blowing it? It's easy for bloggers and other amateurs to sit on the sidelines and tell Obama to take risky, principled stands on whatever their pet issue happens to be, but bloggers and amateurs don't have to take the heat if it doesn't work out, do they?

In other words, I get it. But I agree with Andrew anyway. My biggest concern about Obama all along has been his almost preternatural caution, and while this has obviously served him well during the financial crisis of the past few weeks, it's hard not to wonder when, if ever, he's going to show a little more, um, audacity on selling a progressive agenda to the country. Right now, California progressives need some help on Prop 8, and he's supposed to be our champion. So when are we going to see some leadership on this?

Plenty of people disagree with me about this. Better to play it safe for now, get elected, and then let big congressional majorities work their magic. Good things will follow. But I'm not so sure. I've got a broader piece on this topic coming up in the November issue of the magazine, but my main point is easy to summarize: in the end, congressional majorities aren't enough. You need public opinion behind you too, and the only way to get that is by actively trying to mold public opinion. So far Obama hasn't really tried to do that, and that's troubling for the progressive movement. If he's unwilling to take a few minor risks now, how likely is it that he's going to be willing to take a few bigger risks if and when he's elected?

So throw us a bone, Barack. Take a small risk on behalf of a core progressive principle. Make an ad.