Pre-Debate Analysis: McCain's Ayers Quandary

It's well known that John McCain has promised to "whip [Obama's] you-know-what" in tonight's debate, in part by bringing up William Ayers.

But there are a number of problems with raising Ayers tonight in New York. I'll let Noam Scheiber explain:

If McCain goes that route, doesn't that mean he's mostly wasted the last several days, when he and Palin have substantially toned down their Ayers rhetoric? (Days he can hardly afford to waste, I might add.) It seems strange to pursue one strategy in the days leading up to a debate, then another strategy during the debate--particularly when the strategies are contradictory....
[But] if McCain doesn't mention Ayers tonight, he's going to get hammered in the press for making empty threats (cue the erratic meme) and essentially wimping out.

This has been about as haphazard as any media messaging strategy could be. And I'll add that by letting Obama and his debate prep staff know in advance that he plans to raise the Ayers attack, McCain gave them the opportunity to prepare a response. I suspect it'll go something like, My opponent wants to continue the old tired politics of guilt by association. I want to talk about how we're gonna fix this economy.

How does McCain come out a winner here? I just don't see it.

Update: Check back tonight for a debate live-blog. Here's an example of how we roll, so you know what to expect.

Surprise! It's the wealthy! Here's TaxVox:

TPC's Katherine Lim has crunched some numbers on John McCain's proposal to temporarily cut capital gains tax rates from 15 percent to 7.5 percent. In 2009, under a plan that lowers taxes on both gains and dividends, those making $1 million or more would get two-thirds of the benefit, and an average tax cut of more than $72,000. Those making less than $50,000 would get, on average, nothing.

The man who stood strong (and largely alone) against the Bush tax cuts because they disproportionately benefited the wealthy is suggesting making our tax code less progressive. Here are the numbers used in the calculations, and here is more on McCain's newly proposed economic policies.

From the Annals of Airport Security

FROM THE ANNALS OF AIRPORT SECURITY....Jeffrey Goldberg and Bruce Schneier explain why the no-fly list is not just a gargantuan monster that's gotten completely out of hand and made the lives of uncounted innocent people miserable, but a useless gargantuan monster that's gotten completely out of hand and made the lives of uncounted innocent people miserable:

To slip through the only check against the no-fly list, the terrorist uses a stolen credit card to buy a ticket under a fake name. "Then you print a fake boarding pass with your real name on it and go to the airport. You give your real ID, and the fake boarding pass with your real name on it, to security. They're checking the documents against each other. They're not checking your name against the no-fly list — that was done on the airline's computers. Once you're through security, you rip up the fake boarding pass, and use the real boarding pass that has the name from the stolen credit card. Then you board the plane, because they're not checking your name against your ID at boarding."

What if you don't know how to steal a credit card?

"Then you're a stupid terrorist and the government will catch you," he said.

What if you don't know how to download a PDF of an actual boarding pass and alter it on a home computer?

"Then you're a stupid terrorist and the government will catch you."

I couldn't believe that what Schneier was saying was true — in the national debate over the no-fly list, it is seldom, if ever, mentioned that the no-fly list doesn't work. "It's true," he said. "The gap blows the whole system out of the water."

Other tips: you can carry all the liquid on board a plane that you want as long as you put it in a bottle marked "saline solution." Or hide it on your person in a Beerbelly™. Just don't look too nervous while you're doing it, OK?

Pakistan Update

PAKISTAN UPDATE....McClatchy reports on an upcoming U.S. intelligence assessment on Pakistan:

A U.S. official who participated in drafting the top secret National Intelligence Estimate said it portrays the situation in Pakistan as "very bad." Another official called the draft "very bleak," and said it describes Pakistan as being "on the edge." The first official summarized the estimate's conclusions about the state of Pakistan as: "no money, no energy, no government."

Juan Cole adds some perspective to the report and ultimately suggests that it's off base: "People who know Pakistan well are more afraid of the right wing elements in the Pakistani military (whom the CIA has long funded and coddled) than they are about an elected civilian government being weak or corrupt." To be honest, both of these assessments sound about right to me.

There are also intelligence reports on Iraq and Afghanistan coming down the pike, and McClatchy reports that they are "intended to support the Bush administration's effort to recommend the resources the next president will need for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan at a time the economic crisis is straining the Treasury and inflating the federal budget deficit." Unfortunately, it appears that the intelligence community plans to say that we need more troops and more resources in all three areas, which doesn't sound all that helpful. Hopefully President Obama and his team are already working on assessments of their own.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Ambinder), a dispatch on early voting in Georgia:

Just cast an early vote in Cobb County. Only took one hour, forty-five minutes -- exactly three weeks before Election Day.
A long line folded itself three times in a relatively hot October sun, shortly before lunch-time. Perhaps a dozen people couldn't stick it out -- they left before getting to the front of the line.
Every one of those who gave up the effort was white. Once in, not a single African-American walked away while I was there. If voter fatigue becomes a factor over the next three weeks, and on Election Day itself, one has to wonder if Republicans are more likely to lose out than Democrats.

If you remember the Ohio vote in 2004, you know that black voters were faced with hellacious lines while upper-class white neighborhoods encountered few problems. My understanding is that a strong-willed and very competent Secretary of State in Ohio is working to make sure that doesn't happen again, but it may not matter. This report suggests African-American voters nationwide will simply not be deterred this time around.

And, for what it's worth, Obama is dominating early voting.

McCain's Headwinds

McCAIN'S HEADWINDS....Via Ezra, Matt Taibbi and Byron York have an IM conversation for New York magazine:

B.Y.: I've just finished an article for National Review — the actual magazine — about the headwinds McCain faces. I was going to look at three, and then I started to list them. I stopped at ten. New Gallup numbers out today show that George W. Bush's job approval rating remains at 25 percent, while his disapproval rating has ticked up to 71 percent. How hard is it to succeed a two-term president of your own party who is at 25-71? We don't know because it's never been done.

M.T.: Yeah, that's a damned shame, too. I feel really badly for the guy. I suppose you think the media coverage is also a headwind?

B.Y.: Actually, I did not list media coverage among the headwinds. I listed the succeed-a-two-term-president problem, the right-track/wrong-track problem, the Republican-Democrat-enthusiasm gap problem, the Republican-Democrat-I.D.-gap problem, the financial meltdown, Iraq, Republican gloom on Capitol Hill, Obama's fund-raising advantage, and McCain's historical problems with the GOP base.

M.T.: But all of those "headwinds," or almost all of them, are the direct result of McCain having supported policies that are now unpopular. There is absolute justice in his facing a "headwind" from the financial meltdown, from the unpopularity of the Iraq war, and so on. How is that a "headwind"? That's just self-created unpopularity.

The rest of the conversation is even more entertaining as York tries to insist that Fannie Mae and CRA are the real causes of the credit crisis. Live by the smear, die by the smear.

Gamma Quadrant Update

GAMMA QUADRANT UPDATE....What's that, you say? Barack Obama is palling around with terrorists? That is so last week. Here's a more recent tour of the Gamma Quadrant:

One: Bill Ayers really wrote Obama's book, Dreams From My Father. Two: Obama had an underage, gay affair with a pedophile. Three: It's entirely possible that Obama was involved with bombing the South African rugby team while he was at Columbia in the 80s. Four: Obama, Bill Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright (via a chain of associations too Rube Goldbergesque to summarize) were engaged in a conspiracy to teach Pan-African "cultural nationalism" to Chicago schoolkids during the 90s. Five: Obama was having an affair with one of his fundraiser babes in 2004 until Michelle found out and banished the woman to a "little Caribbean island."

There's no evidence yet that Obama was actually the secret love child of Malcolm X, but I'm sure we'll find it soon enough if we just keep digging.

Playing Pattycake?***

PLAYING PATTYCAKE?....The stock market was down today, but shares in banks that got capital infusions yesterday are up, up, up. The LA Times reports:

Investors' verdict on the Treasury's $250-billion plan to buy stakes in banks: They love it.

That may make taxpayers even more suspicious about these deals. If there was supposed to be some pain involved for shareholders in this partial nationalization, it's not showing up in the stocks. Of the nine big banks expected to get the largest cash infusions, most saw their shares surge today — the third straight advance — even as major market indexes slipped.

Sure, maybe this means less than meets the eye. Maybe the details don't matter, and investors just figure bailout = good and therefore it's time to buy. But check out this tick-tock from the Wall Street Journal about how yesterday's meeting at the Treasury Department went:

A final deal between regulators was hashed out in Mr. Paulson's office Sunday afternoon....The top bankers were then told to show up for a meeting Monday at 3 p.m., but were given few details. Expecting an uproar over the plan, government officials secretly planned to break off the first meeting, giving CEOs time to vent, talk to their boards, clear their heads, and reconvene at 6:30 p.m.

In Mr. Paulson's call with Morgan Stanley's Mr. Mack, the CEO asked the Treasury secretary the reason for the meeting, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Paulson responded, according to a person familiar with the matter: "Come on down, we'll tell everyone at the same time," adding, "I think you'll be pleased."

....U.S. officials argued the plan represented a good deal for the banks: The government would be buying preferred shares, and thus wouldn't dilute their common shareholders. And the banks would pay a relatively modest 5% in annual dividend payments.

The meeting ended at about 4 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., all of the [term sheets] had been turned in and signed by the CEOs. No second meeting was held.

It sure doesn't sound like the bankers put up much of a fight, does it? They've shown precious little willingness to sacrifice for the common good before now, so my guess is that they decided this was indeed a pretty good deal. Count me among those taxpayers who are more suspicious about this deal than I was yesterday.

Over the last few days, quite a few articles about women have been messing with my mind. In a good way. With all the gloom and doom out there, it's crucial to be reminded that we chicks are still in the trenches making art, fighting the power, and refusing to shut the 'f' up.

First, Bitch magazine. Sadly, and to my chagrin, this is a mag I've never read, though I keep reminding myself to. Running after two kids and living the vida loca freelance life, I pretty much only read print mags I'm comp'd for (meaning: They send it to me free either because I've written for them or because they hope I'll reference them in my own work). My beloved New Yorker is the only magazine I remember to pay for anymore. I actually sigh with pleasure when it arrives, carve out precious time to read it in peace, and feel sad when I get to the cartoon contest at the back. (More is another must read. I love it so much, I spoofed it. I've written for them, so when my comp runs out I'll move my keister to subscribe. There's also MoJo, of course, which goes without saying). Pre-munchkins, I subscribed to 12 mags, read books galore, and saw every indecipherable foreign movie, too. Damn, where'd my life go? I can't wait to get old and be a burden to those two life-drainers. Maybe I'll fake early onset...something.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Bitch magazine.

From womensenews:

Bill O'Reilly v. the First Graders

On Friday my son took a field trip with his first grade class to throw flower petals at his teacher as she exited City Hall in San Francisco, a newlywed. The class took a city bus down, surprised her and her bride, then had pizza. My son described the adventure as mostly boring, waiting around on the steps of City Hall with handfuls of flower petals. But he was very happy for his teacher, who he has quickly grown to love. When asked about the event, he gave a six-year-old's answer about people loving and caring for each other. He then moved on to Legos and more important things.

What my son (and I) didn't understand is that what he took part in was, according to Bill O'Reilly, "A new outrage in San Francisco," and that "opponents of gay marriage are up in arms, but the school administrators say it's no big deal." Ah, a teaching moment. Yes, kids, monsters are real. You'll know them because they'll be the ones taking up "arms" against an elementary school.

A story on the event, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday, has attracted more than 1,400 comments, many of them censored by the Chron—I assume because they contain threats and curse words—as well as homophobic diatribes more suitable for publication, like O'Reilly's. I'd like to thank Mayor Newsom (who performed the wedding) for standing up for the issue of gay marriage, even as I beg his pardon for complicating matters by allowing my kid to play a small, meaningful part in a legal and beautiful celebration.

I also want to be clear to the monsters and bigots out there that you're not scary. Hateful, yes, but you don't scare us.

—Eddie Scher