Blogs

Lipstick-Gate

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 11:03 PM EDT

LIPSTICK-GATE....As the entire world knows, yesterday Barack Obama made the following comment about John McCain's claim to be an agent of change: "You can put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig. You can wrap up an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It's still going to stink after eight years. We've had enough."

Now, I've been aware of this remark, along with the idiotic Republican attempts to pretend that Obama was calling Sarah Palin a pig, since the words were first uttered. But only vaguely. The whole thing was so stupid that I just didn't bother clicking on the various links to see what everyone was saying.

Just now, however, I happened to surf over to The Corner for the first time in a day and it was....instructive. The very first mention of lipstick-gate was a brief link at 6:53 pm. This was followed by a couple of straight reax posts and then this from Yuval Levin:

Does anybody really think Obama meant to call Sarah Palin a pig? Come on. Can this really be worth anyone's time?

Of course not! That's just dumb! This was then followed by an avalanche of 31 separate posts on the subject in less than 24 hours. Turns out it was worth NR's time after all. And make no mistake: after a couple of hours of momentary confusion about whether they could get away with it, they decided that Obama had indeed meant to call Sarah Palin a pig. By early this morning everyone was obediently on board, the chum was in the water, and the moral dudgeon was so thick you could stir it with a stick. In fact, their only real argument was over how Palin should handle things: attack back or play it cool? (For the most part, they decided cool was the way to go.)

And that, my friends, is how it's done in the big leagues. It's the noise machine at work.

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It's the Coal, Stupid

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 8:51 PM EDT

443px-Coal_power_plant_Datteln_2.jpg Burning fossil fuels accounts for 80 percent of the rise of atmospheric CO2 in industrial times. Now NASA researchers Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen show that CO2 can be kept below harmful levels as long as emissions from coal are phased out within the next few decades. In other words, we can burn all the oil and gas that's left on Earth and still avoid really dangerous climate change.

Previous research shows the super dangerous level of global warming will occur if CO2 in the atmosphere exceeds a concentration of 450 parts per million. It's currently at about 385 ppm, up from a pre-industrial 280 ppm.

The research revolved around five emissions scenarios spanning the years 1850-2100. Each reflects a different estimate for peak of fossil fuel production—an important yet unknown variable. On one end was the "business-as-usual" scenario. The other scenarios included reducing emissions from coal. First by developed countries starting in 2013. Then by developing countries a decade later. Finally leading to a global phase out by 2050. The last three scenarios consider different dates for peak oil.

The bottom line is clear. . .

Lies Etc.

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 6:39 PM EDT

LIES ETC....Good for Mark Halperin for calling John McCain on the relentless BS his campaign is spewing. Still, as long as they continue to call this stuff "amazing and outrageous" and "demonstrably false," instead of using the blunt Anglo-Saxon term we'd normally use in a case like this, it's not going to get through. If the press knows he's lying, they should say so.

20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress, Freshly Revealed

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 6:29 PM EDT

CREW's list of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress is out for 2008, and constituents of Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) should be very pleased. Their congressional representatives are new additions to the list!

Here is the 2008 list; here are the previous three years'.

McCain's Style

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 6:09 PM EDT

McCAIN'S STYLE....John Judis on John McCain's increasingly slimy campaign style:

McCain himself has clearly demonstrated that he'll do anything to win. In 2000, he ran an honorable campaign. Leave aside what he advocated — he tried to win on the merits. This year, he has been willing to distort and lie about his opponents. It really started with the way he dealt with Mitt Romney's positions on the Iraq war.

Indeed it did, and it's something worth keeping in mind. Steve Schmidt has obviously been responsible for some of the recent change in tone of the McCain campaign, but it didn't start with him. It started with McCain himself, who, in the days leading up to Super Tuesday, cheerfully and repeatedly smeared Mitt Romney as a guy who wanted to surrender to the terrorists in Iraq. It was a plainly bogus charge, but it was one that McCain peddled without compunction for an entire week — and it was one of the things that put a final nail in Romney's coffin.

McCain's revolting campaign style isn't something he had to be talked into by a cabal of ruthless advisors. He genuinely likes this stuff.

It's Not Just Palin Who Is Hiding From the Press

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 5:57 PM EDT

From Fox News, of all places:

For a candidate who once railed against "stale soundbites, staged rallies and over-managed messages," John McCain seems to have turned over a new leaf.
Today marks the four-week anniversary since McCain held his last press conference (8/13 in Birmingham, MI) and three weeks since his last public town hall meeting (8/20 in Las Cruces, NM).
McCain's new campaign strategy: staged rallies with thousands of supporters.

Obama held a press conference yesterday.

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McCain's Fannie and Freddie Connections

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 5:01 PM EDT

mccain-microphone-250x200.jpg John McCain railed against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the campaign trail today, saying that the CEOs that led the lenders to ruin "deserve nothing" and should have to pay back their severance packages. In an Wall Street Journal op-ed co-bylined by his vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, McCain suggested bold reforms for Fannie and Freddie that would "terminate future lobbying, which was one of the primary contributors to this great debacle."

If that's the case, McCain should look first to his campaign staffers as the cause of that debacle. One of them was Fannie Mae's head of lobbying, and spread tens of millions of dollars around Washington in the form of lobbying contracts. A number of McCain staffers were on the receiving end of those contracts, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars each from the lenders to rep their interests. And McCain's campaign manager served as president of a lobbying association that fought to protect Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae from the sort of regulation that McCain is now proposing.

In McCain's op-ed in the Journal, he and Palin wrote:

For years, Congress failed to act and it is deeply troubling that what we are seeing is an exercise in crisis management rather than sound planning, and at great cost to taxpayers.
We promise the American people that our administration will be different. We have long records of standing up to special interests…

But McCain's own campaign staffers are those special interests, a fact that casts doubt on both McCain's hiring judgment and his ability to pursue tough reforms of Fannie and Freddie.

Educational Nationalism

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 2:59 PM EDT

EDUCATIONAL NATIONALISM....Kevin Carey quotes Barack Obama on education:

If we want to keep building the cars of the future here in America, we can't afford to see the number of PhDs in engineering climbing in China, South Korea, and Japan even as it's dropped here in America.

Carey isn't happy with the way Obama phrases this:

I'd like to see this and similar sentiments phrased so it's clear that more PhDs in China, South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere is a good thing that will help America in the long run. The world has many vexing problems and the more smart, well-educated people to solve them, the better. An expanded well-educated class in China and elsewhere will create new markets for the kind of high-value goods and services that America produces, and they'll make newer, better products that we'd like to buy. Perhaps most importantly, they'll improve the lives of people in those countries, which we should all care about.

This comes via Matt Yglesias, who finds this tic even more annoying than Carey does. But I wonder if we're all being a little too high-minded here?

Paul Glastris told me something interesting the other day. He said he had recently read every convention acceptance speech of the past few decades, and that successful candidates invariably framed a significant chunk of their message in nationalistic terms. Sometimes it was military nationalism, sometimes it was economic nationalism, but one way or another successful candidates always framed their message as us vs. them to at least some degree.

Obviously you can argue that this situation is unfortunate — and perhaps it is — but if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes. And Obama's formulation is certainly as benign a form of economic nationalism as you're likely to find. If that's what he needs to say in order to get Americans interested in serious improvements to our educational system, it's a pretty small price to pay.

Russia's Military

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 2:03 PM EDT

RUSSIA'S MILITARY....Eric Alterman's buddy, LTC Bob Bateman, suggests that Russia's upcoming "training mission" with Venezuela's navy shouldn't worry us too much:

Today the Russian Navy is a shell of its previous self. Someday that may change, but for now it seems they have only one small aircraft carrier (which would not even have that title in the US Navy, because it is too small), two "Battlecruisers," three Cruisers, 26 Destroyers, and 16 Frigates. It is unknown how many of these can do more than float while securely tied up at a pier....Of their once-vaunted (and frankly, feared) undersea capability there is also little left but a skeleton. At the end of the Cold War the Soviet Union could field some 170 submarines, many, if not most of them, nuclear powered. Today there are but fifty still in the inventory, and of that only 26 were operational as of 2006 according to open source reporting in Russia.

On the other hand, Russian airpower, which also fell on very hard times after 1991, has started to revive. But it's still a shell of its Cold War self too, which is yet another reason not to panic too strongly over recent events in Georgia. Putin's bluster aside, Russia's military capabilities these days are distinctly limited.

The War Within

| Wed Sep. 10, 2008 1:19 PM EDT

THE WAR WITHIN....Yesterday I linked to Derek Chollet's suggestion that Bob Woodward's The War Within was, counterintuitively, actually fairly sympathetic toward George Bush. Today, Tim Rutten reviews the book in the LA Times and says exactly the opposite:

Bush, in Woodward's view, is the worst kind of wartime president: controlling and disengaged, all at once. Worse, he frequently is not only detached from unpleasant or inconvenient facts but is also positively hostile to those who recite them. As Woodward reconstructs the last two years — in a stunning series of on-the-record interviews with participants — this willful blindness has spilled out of the White House and into the departments of Defense and State in a perfect maelstrom of dysfunction.

That certainly sounds more like the George Bush we've all come to know and love, but I suppose I really better read the book myself and see what Woodward has to say. I'm extremely unfond of Woodward's technique of reconstructing events and conversations based on reams and reams of anonymous and obviously self-serving interviews, but if The War Within is based mostly on on-the-record interviews it might go down a little easier. I'll start in on it tomorrow.