Blogs

Bush's Economic Growth: Not So Impressive

| Mon Jan. 28, 2008 3:25 PM EST

Dean Baker takes a look at this paragraph from a NYT analysis of Bush's economic record:

Mr. Bush has spent years presiding over an economic climate of growth that would be the envy of most presidents. Yet much to the consternation of his political advisers, he has had trouble getting credit for it, in large part because Americans were consumed by the war in Iraq.

Not so fast, says Baker. He pulls up the rankings of the presidential terms since 1960 by average annual GDP growth:

Kennedy-Johnson — 5.2%
Clinton — 3.6%
Reagan — 3.4%
Carter — 3.4%
Nixon-Ford — 2.7%
Bush II — 2.6%
Bush I — 1.9%

That list says an awful lot. (1) The Family Bush really doesn't know how to manage the economy. (2) Democrats are pretty good at it. (3) Carter probably gets more crap than he deserves for his economic performance.

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Qtrax Free Downloads Too Good to Be True?

| Mon Jan. 28, 2008 2:48 PM EST

mojo-photo-qtrax.jpgThe Drudge Report gave it a top-line link: Free, legal downloads of every song in the universe on some weird site called Qtrax! Come and get 'em! Qtrax claimed all the major record labels had signed on to their new service, an ad-supported, filtered P2P platform that would allow actual downloads of every song in the labels' catalogs, the files wrapped in DRM, but whatever, they're free, right?

Thinking About Endorsements: Do They Matter?

| Mon Jan. 28, 2008 11:18 AM EST

David discusses Obama's endorsement from Teddy Kennedy below; it will be valuable to BHO if Kennedy can campaign effectively amongst older voters, Latinos, and labor. Those are three constituencies in which Kennedy has some real juice, and Obama trails Clinton. Also, it gives Obama some old-guard cache.

But color me dubious. I'm just not sure endorsements matter. Imagine the thought process that would be necessary: "Well, I've seen these candidates in debates, on the late night talk shows, on the front page of my newspaper, on the internet, in their ads, on cable TV—I've seen these candidates everywhere in the last few months and have all the information I could possibly need to make a decision. But I'll just do what Teddy Kennedy says." Really? In this supersaturated news environment?

I may be wrong. There may be a number of what political experts call "low-information voters" who use things like endorsements as shortcuts. And perhaps there is a generation of Americans whose allegiance to the Kennedy brothers is so strong that an endorsement matters. I'll concede that—but does anyone care who Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, if you were wondering) supports?

While we're on the topic, here is how Clinton's and Obama's Senate endorsements break down:

Edwards v. Dellinger: Gossip Over The Next AG

| Mon Jan. 28, 2008 11:00 AM EST

dellingerw.jpg
Since Jonathan has waded into the gossip mill over the future attorney general, I thought I'd chime in with some other, equally unsourced gossip along those lines. With rumors flying that Obama would pick John Edwards as his AG, conventional wisdom among liberal lawyers in the know is that Hillary Clinton would tap former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger III for the post.

Personally, I see this as far more plausible than Obama selecting Edwards, despite what Bob Novak says. After all, Edwards has never been a prosecutor, which is a basic pre-req for anyone hoping to get confirmed by the Senate. Also, the AGs job is an administrative position. Edwards is, despite his recent transformation, a plaintiffs lawyer, and good plaintiffs lawyers tend to suck big time at desk jobs. The things that make them good in a courtroom—willingness to take big risks and an unwillingness to compromise—often make them terrible at running things. (See A Civil Action.)

Just as Ted Kennedy Endorses Obama, RNC Discovers - Omigod! - EMK Is a Liberal

| Mon Jan. 28, 2008 10:58 AM EST

ted-kennedy250x200.jpg Yes, the Republican National Committee has shocking news. Teddy Kennedy is a—yikes!—liberal. The vaunted opposition research department of the RNC somehow unearthed this information, and on Monday morning, hours before Kennedy was to appear at a rally to endorse Barack Obama, the Republican Party sent out an email to reporters reminding them of this sinister nexus: Kennedy = liberalism. Its point: Kennedy's endorsement "highlights" Obama's "true liberal credentials."

It's hardly a given that Obama will win the Democratic nomination, but it's clear that if he does, the RNC is ready with its traditional playbook: brand the Dem a liberal. No doubt, the same stratagem is set for Hillary Clinton. This traditional attack has often paid off for the Republicans. (Ask Michael Dukakis and the first George Bush.) But it could wear thin this time around. Obama, though obviously a progressive, has shown an ability to attract independents and even a few Republicans. Remember, voters are not nearly as ideological as the partisan activists of both sides. And in the case of HRC, after eight years of triangulating White House Clintonism and eight years of intermittent centrism in the Senate, the old Hillary-is-a-radical-socialist routine doesn't resonate much these days, except among die-hard, living-in-the-past, Hillary-hating conservatives.

Nevertheless, the Republican Party will bang the he's-a-liberal! (or she's-a-liberal!) drum. Though it remains the GOP's favorite beat, voters may not dance to it as they once did.

South Carolina's Lasting Impact

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 10:39 PM EST

The true legacy of this election cycle's South Carolina slimefest remains to be seen.

In 2000, John McCain faced a do-or-die contest in South Carolina and got slashed by allegations that he had fathered an illegitimate black child and abandoned his fellow POWs in Vietnam. McCain lost in South Carolina by 11 points and his campaign never recovered.

This time around, the mudslinging occurred on the Democratic side. Clinton attacked Obama for supporting the policies of Ronald Reagan, a false claim, and many Clinton surrogates found ways to mention Obama's religion or past drug use. And Bill Clinton called Obama's record on Iraq a fairy tale, compared him to Jesse Jackson, and repeatedly brought up race, all while chastising the press for trivializing the campaign. Obama was baited into responding with his own nasty ads.

The result, even the Clinton campaign admits, is that the candidate who was once transcendent and post-racial is now very clearly "the black candidate." That may serve Obama well in a Southern state like South Carolina, where half the Democratic electorate is African-American, but it will take off some of his sheen in the eyes of white voters across the country. And that's why South Carolina's role in this campaign will not end until the February 5 primaries (and possibly even later ones) are decided. If Obama loses even a small share of the white vote in those states, he will struggle mightily to beat Clinton.

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What's Next for (Bill) Clinton and the Anti-Obama Attack Machine?

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 10:28 PM EST

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is an interesting race." So said former President Bill at a campaign rally in Independence, Missouri, on Saturday night, while Barack Obama was cleaning his wife's clock in South Carolina. Well, Bill Clinton has done his best to make the contest more interesting—and more down-and-dirty. Campaigning in South Carolina, he drew Barack Obama into a mudwrestle and sucked up plenty of oxygen. Though Clinton failed to stop a much-anticipated Obama win in the Palmetto State—and might have even pushed voters toward Obama—he certainly helped shaped the race to his wife's benefit. Obama has been campaigning as an unconventional and inspirational leader against a conventional and divisive politician. Yet the ex-president managed to turn the contest into a face-off between two acrimonious camps, which undermines Obama's preferred narrative: a transformational candidate versus a Washington rerun. And today—before the vote-counting began—Clinton compared Obama to Jesse Jackson. It was tough not to read Clinton's remark as an attempt to dismiss Obama as the black candidate who cannot win.

Clinton's hit-man role has peeved some Democrats. Two days ago, Robert Reich, who was Clinton's labor secretary, blogged that "Bill Clinton's ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks on Barack Obama are doing no credit to the former President, his legacy, or his wife's campaign." But should the Clintons care if they lose Reich but gain the nomination?

Short answer: no. But there will be recriminations. Clinton's South Carolina rampage will not be forgotten by Democrats and liberals. And it remains to be seen if B. Clinton will continue his anti-Obama crusade in the coming days, as Supersaturated Tuesday approaches. The day before South Carolina Democrats voted for Obama over Clinton by a two-to-one margin, I asked a senior Clinton campaign aide if the campaign had any reservations about Bill Clinton's actions in South Carolina. This aide looked pained. "He cannot be controlled," s/he said. I remarked that it looked as if Clinton had been deployed in a strategic manner. "Not for some of us," the aide said. But the campaign could have decided not to send him to South Carolina, I noted. "Yeah, Mr. President, we have some important campaign rallies for you to attend in Alaska," the aide replied—sarcastically.

Obama Wins South Carolina; Plus, Bill's Jesse Jackson Comparison

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 7:55 PM EST

Um, polls have been closed for 1 min and 50 seconds and MSNBC has already called South Carolina for Obama. According to the network itself, 0 percent of precincts have reported. More analysis to come.

By the way, earlier today Bill Clinton was asked in South Carolina what it means that it takes two Clintons to compete with one Obama. He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Well, listen. Jesse Jackson won this state, too." Yikes. That answer has nothing to do with the question, but it does do three things. One, it lowers expectations. Two, it attributes Obama's victory exclusively to his race. It basically means, "Hey, a black candidate is always going to win this state." And three, it compares Barack Obama to a guy who is considered exclusively an advocate for black America, and whom many white Americans have an uncomfortable relationship with.

And, of course, it injects race into the conversation. Considering the fact that Bill Clinton has been running around South Carolina chastising reporters for focusing on race, it's a pretty cynical thing to say. Very strategic, and not very pretty.

Update: I'm still irritated by this B. Clinton statement. It's really dismissive of black voters: it suggests that they will always vote for a black candidate, instead of evaluating candidates on their merits. And it ignores the fact that just a few weeks ago, H. Clinton was crushing Obama in heavily black South Carolina.

Update Update: Video of B. Clinton's statement after the jump.

Exit Polls in South Carolina Point to Importance of Economy, Dirty Politics

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 7:18 PM EST

The AP has some exit polling out. Let's take a look at what it says about the South Carolina electorate.

Half of voters cited the economy as the most important issue. Twenty-five percent said health care and 20 percent said Iraq. Those were the only choices, however, which skews the numbers pretty badly. When Mother Jones runs its own exit polls, we'll do it better.

One out of four exit poll respondents said America is not ready for a black president. The same number said America is not ready for a woman president. So... South Carolina isn't completely on board the diversity train yet.

People were really not happy with the candidates. According to exit polls from MSNBC, 70 percent of all voters thought Hillary Clinton unfairly attacked Barack Obama. Fifty-six percent thought Barack Obama unfairly attacked Hillary Clinton. And voters of all stripes were unhappy with the Clintons: 75 percent of black voters thought they played dirty, 68 percent of white voters said the same.

Many pundits are assuming Barack Obama will win this handily—the only question is by how much. Have we learned nothing from New Hampshire? No assumptions. Anyone could win this primary tonight. Besides, will it kill us to wait another few hours to find out for sure?

Here's a more worthwhile question: how much of the white vote can Barack Obama win? He won very, very substantial portions of the white vote in Iowa and New Hampshire. Some polls in SC show him winning just 10 percent. If that's actually the case, Clinton's strategy of, well, reminding everyone that Obama is black (over and over) has worked.

Amman Dispatch

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 6:06 PM EST

In a chilly apartment office in the booming, white-villaed Jordanian capital yesterday, an associate of my contact, a slim aristocratic Jordanian, dressed in a navy sports jacket, discusses in fast English various subjects of interest, his cigarette extended into the air. Downed cups of tea before us, I was writing as fast as I could on a huge notebook whose pages detached as I turned them. And then in the course of discussing why he blocked a certain transaction, he came to: " ... But I would never do anything to harm my idol, the greatest leader, Saddam Hussein." More professions of love for Saddam followed as I kind of started. But the conversation remained benevolent, and I later found this view that Saddam knew how to manage Iraq better than the current American-propped-up, Shiite-run setup to be pretty widespread and ordinary among the admittedly few Jordanians I got to meet, who were universally incredibly hospitable, and whose borders, under the omnipresent official portraits of a benevolently smiling King Abdullah and his late father King Hussein, are open to pretty much everyone, including some one million of Iraq's wealthier emigrees, Syrians, Saudis, Gulf investors, Lebanese, Turkish, Americans, Israelis, etc., albeit with an extensive and watchful security superstructure. Massive real estate contruction booms around the city, with towers, new hotels, villas and industrial offices going up. A half hour drive out of the capital, peasants from out of a Biblical scene herd sheep and goats on roadside hills, and petit blue and green decoratively painted Isuzu pick-up trucks deliver wooden crates of fresh tangerines, eggplants, and tomatoes to markets. Another Jordanian I met, Samir, discussing the importance of education and his university degree in good English, got to the subject of the Shiites -- "who do not practice the right Islam" -- as well, and how Saddam "was like a king" who knew how to govern the Iraqis, "who are difficult, they are not easy like the Jordanian people."