Blogs

Treason Watch

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 1:36 PM EDT

TREASON WATCH....Did Barack Obama try to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay a security agreement with the United States? Even Republican witnesses say he did no such thing during a meeting in Baghad, but how about during a June phone call with Iraq's foreign minister? Apparently not then either:

The statement by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari refutes a recent published report and a statement by Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that Obama tried to influence Iraqi politicians negotiating with the United States to score political points.

Obama "never, ever discouraged us not to sign the agreement," Zebari said. "I think this was misrepresented, and I have clarified this case in a number of interviews back in the United States recently."

The ball's back in your court, wingnuts — though I guess you've already moved on to "Bill Ayers ghostwrote Obama's book" nutbaggery, haven't you? Must be hard typing while wearing a straitjacket, though.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Econ 101

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 12:07 PM EDT

ECON 101....Commenting on Paul Krugman's Nobel Prize, Matt Yglesias complains about the parlous state of public knowledge of economics:

In the public debate, my sense is that "economics" tends to be understood as mostly comprising a series of very simple models indicating the desirability of laissez faire (make it more expensive to hire workers by raising the minimum wage and the level of employment will go down — supply and demand, economics 101, QED) that leave it somewhat puzzling as to how this is even a field in which people do PhD-level research.

Actually, I think Matt gives the peeps too much credit here. For vast swathes of the public, their knowledge opinions about economics are approximately limited to (a) low taxes are good for the economy, (b) foreigners are taking away our jobs, and (c) Social Security is doomed. Frankly, Econ 101 would be a big step forward.

Freedom vs. Big Government: Palin Can't Do the Math

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 11:53 AM EDT

The political news of the day is John McCain's new stump speech. But there was an interesting Sarah Palin moment, as well.

Introducing McCain at the Virginia Beach rally where he unveiled his I-will-fight-fight-fight-fight speech, Palin, playing to the GOP base, declared that she and McCain believe in the "advancement of freedom," not the "expansion of government."

This is conservative cant: big government threatens individual freedoms. Think black helicopters coming to take your guns away. But has Palin not been reading the news about her own campaign? Her ticket supports the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan, which will give the Treasury secretary expanded power. And McCain has called on the federal government to buy up bad mortgages across the country, at a cost of $300 billion or so. The math is kind of simple here: that's about $1 trillion in government expansion.

The question for Governor Palin is, does that mean $1 trillion less in freedom?

McCain's John Lewis Flip-Flop

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 11:42 AM EDT

Remember when John McCain said that one of the three "wisest people" he would "rely heavily on" in his administration was Democratic Congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis?

That seems unlikely nowadays, given that Lewis is accusing McCain of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division" a la George Wallace, and McCain is charging Lewis with "a brazen and baseless attack on my character." It's going to be awkward when they cross paths in the Capitol cafeteria...

* Headline changed for clarity.

Paulson's Record

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 11:26 AM EDT

PAULSON'S RECORD....Ezra Klein has an eminently fair and nonshrill critique here of Henry Paulson's handling of the ongoing credit crisis. I'll just add one thing. Paulson's reluctance to push the trigger on capital infusions for banks is understandable, even if it was wrong, but his resistance to having even the power to recapitalize banks is genuinely weird. After all, before the latest phase of the crisis hit, Paulson and Bernanke had spent months urging banks to raise private capital to weather the storm. Both men knew perfectly well that bank capitalization was an issue. And before he introduced his version of the bailout bill, Paulson had twice previously bowed to reality on government takeovers and recapitalizations, first in the case of Fannie and Freddie, and second in the case of AIG.

Given all this, his continuing resistance to the idea is difficult to fathom. His caution can perhaps be written off to background and ideology, but not his flat rejection of even being given the authority. I'm not sure what the explanation is.

Is a McCain Comeback Even Possible? Let's Check the History Books

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 11:01 AM EDT

A question I was mulling over the weekend while watching a sweet, sweet Patriots defeat: Has any candidate in recent times been able to come back from seven to 10 points down with three weeks left in a presidential election? John Harwood, writing in the New York Times, suggests the precedent doesn't look good McCain.

Since Gallup began presidential polling in 1936, only one candidate has overcome a deficit that large, and this late, to win the White House: Ronald Reagan, who trailed President Jimmy Carter 47 percent to 39 percent in a survey completed on Oct. 26, 1980.
Yet Mr. Carter, like Mr. McCain today, represented the party holding the White House in bad times. After Mr. Reagan successfully presented himself as an alternative to Mr. Carter in their lone debate, held on the late date of Oct. 28, he surged ahead...
In 1968, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey all but erased a 12-point early-October deficit before losing narrowly to Richard M. Nixon. In 2000, Vice President Al Gore wiped out a seven-point deficit in the final 10 days of the election, winning the popular vote but losing the Electoral College to Mr. Bush.

Harwood cites a figure from Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels: since 1948, the candidate leading in October has won three-fourths of the time. Bartels puts Obama's chance of winning the popular vote at "a little over 90 percent."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Polling Gets Even More Decisive

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

Check out the new ABC/WaPo poll. Obama's up 10, which is not really new, but the internals are devastating for McCain.

Overall, Obama is leading 53 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, and for the first time in the general-election campaign, voters gave the Democrat a clear edge on tax policy and providing strong leadership.
McCain has made little headway in his attempts to convince voters that Obama is too "risky" or too "liberal." Rather, recent strategic shifts may have hurt the Republican nominee, who now has higher negative ratings than his rival and is seen as mostly attacking his opponent rather than addressing the issues that voters care about. Even McCain's supporters are now less enthusiastic about his candidacy, returning to levels not seen since before the Republican National Convention.
Conversely, Obama's pitch to the middle class on taxes is beginning to sink in; nearly as many said they think their taxes would go up under a McCain administration as under an Obama presidency, and more see their burdens easing with the Democrat in the White House.

Josh Marshall adds a couple more points:

McCain's New Lurch: I Will Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 10:31 AM EDT

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

John McCain offers his newest lurch today.

In a speech he is to give in Virginia Beach, McCain says 17 times that he will fight for America, according to his prepared remarks. He repeatedly calls himself a "fighter." And he's an experienced fighter who won't--like you know who--have to study up on issues before making command decisions.

Over and over in this new stump speech, McCain says he is ready to fight--for the country, for change, for a new direction, for the future, for the children, for justice for all. Seriously.

Times are tough, McCain notes, but America is worth fighting for. It needs a fighter like John McCain, who is a real fighter who has always been a fighter for America.

In other words, vote for the fight guy. Here's how the speech ends:

What's the Problem?

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 2:33 AM EDT

WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?....In response to a Paul Krugman post about the Treasury wasting time implementing a capital infusion program for distressed banks, a commenter wrote:

They still don't know why banks don't trust enough to lend commercial paper.

If it's balance sheet issues then unloading toxic debit will work.

If it's a need to de-leverage then a capital infusion is required.

But if it's trust then we need regulation of and a change in management at the banks.

And if it's fear of credit default swaps, or other essentially incalculable obligations, then they need to be unwound and banned, at least the incalculable or morally hazardous ones, going forward.

My guess is that all four of these are issues, but it's the last one that keeps me up at night (metaphorically speaking, anyway). If CDS losses turn out to be the biggest problem — and potentially, at least, they seem to be responsible for far bigger losses than the underlying subprime losses themselves — then even a big capital infusion might not make much of dent in the credit crisis. But how do we find out?

And here's another thing to be curious about. When Gordon Brown announced his capital infusion plan, Britain's four biggest banks apparently took him up on his offer almost immediately. But what about America's biggest banks? Have they been putting out feelers? Burning up the phone lines begging Paulson to get off his ass and offer them a deal? Or what? And which American banks are in weak enough shape to want fresh capital at (presumably) punitive prices? All of them? A few big ones? Lots of little ones? Wait and see, I guess.

UPDATE: That should have been "Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman's post." Apologies for the error.

Obama's Ads

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 1:52 AM EDT

OBAMA'S ADS....Politico reports on Barack Obama's fundraising:

One official close to the campaign said that September's fundraising haul set a new record, surpassing the $66 million Obama raised in August. Another aide, asked about the campaign's take, would only describe it: "big."

How big is "big"? Well, big enough that I've actually seen a few Obama ads myself. In California. I guess maybe they were national ad buys, but I don't think so. And I can hardly remember the last time I saw a presidential campaign bothering to advertise in California. (Maybe for a few days in 2000 when Karl Rove was having delusions that Bush might win here? That's all that comes to mind.)

Anyway, I don't quite know what this means, but Obama must really have money to burn if he's buying ads here in the Golden State.