Kevin Drum

Cynical

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 6:51 PM EDT

CYNICAL....Via TPM, an off-mic conversation about Sarah Palin between NBC's Chuck Todd and conservative guests Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy:

Todd: Yeah, I mean is she really the most qualified woman they could have turned to?

Noonan: The most qualified? No! I think they went for this — excuse me — political bullshit about narratives —

Todd: Yeah they went to a narrative.

Murphy: I totally agree.

Noonan: Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it.

Murphy: You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.

Now you know what they're saying in private. What they're saying in public is a whole different thing, of course. Why? Todd and his colleagues get to the heart of things here:

Last night had the feel of a party that was still trying to find its groove. Tonight, that will change when the GOP rock star of St. Paul — Palin — takes the stage. And judging by the reception she gets, there could be a very real debate on the following question: Whose Republican Party is this — John McCain's or Sarah Palin's? Talk to the GOP delegates here and it's no contest. This is Palin's party; McCain's just the surprisingly cool guy who "got it" more than these folks thought.

The social conservative base is giddily in love with Palin. They want her to be the future of the party. And you cross the base in public at your peril.

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Eating Your Own Dog Food

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 2:57 PM EDT

EATING YOUR OWN DOG FOOD....Question: who's the better actor? McCain strategist Steve Schmidt or all those soccer players who flop to the ground and pretend to be near death whenever a defender comes anywhere within a yard of their shins? You make the call:

In an extraordinary and emotional interview, Steve Schmidt said his campaign feels "under siege" by wave after wave of news inquiries that have questioned whether Palin is really the mother of a 4-month-old baby, whether her amniotic fluid had been tested and whether she would submit to a DNA test to establish the child's parentage.

Arguing that the media queries are being fueled by "every rumor and smear" posted on left-wing Web sites, Schmidt said mainstream journalists are giving "closer scrutiny" to McCain's little-known running mate than to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

I can't speak for the National Enquirer, but I've seen virtually no questions about Trig Palin's parentage in the mainstream press — and for that matter, almost nothing in the blogosphere either. There was a shouted-down diary on the subject at Kos, and a weekend of insanity from (non-liberal) Andrew Sullivan, but that was about it.

On the other hand, the mainstream press has been full of legitimate questions about Palin's experience, her lies about earmarks, how she ran Wasilla as mayor, whether she sympathizes with the Alaska Independence Party, her role in Troopergate, her daughter's unwed pregnancy (announced by Palin herself), her social conservatism, her fondness for raising taxes, and plenty of other perfectly legitimate questions about a vice presidential candidate who until a few days ago was a complete unknown to virtually the entire country.

So please. Spare us the tears. The McCain campaign, after months of counting on the media to report the most egregious BS with a straight face, has finally pushed them beyond the limits of their endurance. Steve Schmidt has been the driving force behind this strategy, and he has nothing to complain about now. It turns out there are limits to what Saint John can get away with after all.

My Sarah Palin Nightmare - And Yours

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:53 PM EDT

MY SARAH PALIN NIGHTMARE — AND YOURS....OK, it's time to tell you my Sarah Palin nightmare. It's not a real nightmare, mind you. It's more a nightmare scenario. Here it is.

The press keeps digging up fresh dirt on Palin. Pressure builds up from the Troopergate scandal. The tabloids and talk shows continue to go nuts over Bristol Palin's baby. Then something new and even more damaging pops up. Finally, after resisting as long as he can, McCain gives in and dumps Palin from the ticket. But when he does, he delivers a stemwinding screed about how the intolerant hordes of liberalism have forced a good woman off the national stage, aided and abetted by their sanctimonious friends in the liberal media — all because coastal pointy-headed elites loathe traditional heartland values and were determined to destroy Sarah Palin no matter what it took. The Christian right goes absolutely ballistic. There are torches and pitchforks in the streets. McCain replaces Palin with another social conservative and rides the bloody shirt of the culture wars to a thin victory in November. Pat Buchanan finally has his revenge.

Erk.

The good news is that I don't think this will happen. What I really think will happen is that McCain will keep Palin on the ticket no matter what and will go down to defeat in November. He will then write yet another book in which he admits that his conduct was less than honorable and he feels deeply ashamed about it. He seems to be pretty good at that after the fact. He will appear on a couple of Sunday chat shows to talk about it and will then be promptly forgotten.

So what's your current nightmare? Feel free to share in comments.

Chrome

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:27 PM EDT

CHROME....Last night I downloaded Chrome, Google's new browser, and I've been using it for several hours since then. The installation was annoying (it has virtually no feedback to tell you whether anything is actually happening) but was otherwise pain free, and it imported my Firefox settings with no problem. So far everything seems to work fine, though the minimalist interface strikes me as pointless. There's really no harm in having a standard menu bar, and I like having an icon bar too. Couldn't those at least be options? And I miss having history and bookmark panels that I can open along the left edge of the browser window. And since Chrome doesn't appear to have a search box plug-in, which I use a lot in Firefox, I'll probably stop using it before long.

Still, I was curious. Firefox has an annoying habit of going crazy about once or twice an hour, suddenly sucking up 99% of my CPU and bringing everything else to a grinding halt until it's finished doing whatever it's doing. This used to happen occasionally when I opened a page with a runaway Java script or something, but now it happens regularly and for no apparent reason. It's very annoying, as you can imagine. I've tried Safari as a replacement, but I hate its font rendering. So Chrome seemed worth a test drive.

Basically, though, I think I'd give it a C- so far. Works OK, has a couple of interesting features (anonymous browsing, for example), but it's missing a lot of stuff that I'm pretty accustomed to. Anyone else have any early feedback?

Nasty, Brutish, and Short

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 1:10 PM EDT

NASTY, BRUTISH, AND SHORT....Megan McArdle calls John McCain "an especially brutish adolescent character." That's interesting. My wife, to my surprise, told me the other day that she thinks McCain is "cruel and calculating." Those descriptions are fair, but they aren't the ones that would have occurred to me above all others. I wonder how many other people share this view of McCain?

The Earmark Queen....Updated

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:46 PM EDT

THE EARMARK QUEEN....UPDATED....Sarah Palin is the gift that just keeps on giving. By now, we all know that far from being a mortal foe of earmarks, Palin was in fact a pioneer and trailblazer in the earmark world. Small towns in Alaska almost never lobbied for federal pork until Palin showed the way, and her success inspired others to follow.

However, what we didn't know until the LA Times told us today, is that John McCain's annual list of objectionable pork singled out Palin's requests not once, not twice, but three separate times:

Three times in recent years, McCain's catalogs of "objectionable" spending have included earmarks for this small Alaska town, requested by its mayor at the time — Sarah Palin.

....In 2001, McCain's list of spending that had been approved without the normal budget scrutiny included a $500,000 earmark for a public transportation project in Wasilla. The Arizona senator targeted $1 million in a 2002 spending bill for an emergency communications center in town -- one that local law enforcement has said is redundant and creates confusion. McCain also criticized $450,000 set aside for an agricultural processing facility in Wasilla that was requested during Palin's tenure.

The McCain campaign's response to this is exceptionally slick: one part blatant lie (all small towns in Alaska depended on earmarks at the time) and one part clever lie (Palin was so upset about being practically forced to hire a high-powered lobbyist to beg for pork that it scarred her for life and made her the earmark foe she is today). Further questions were no doubt declined since asking about this stuff is plainly sexist and unfair and Governor Palin deserves some privacy on these matters.

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The Inflation Conspiracy

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:12 PM EDT

THE INFLATION CONSPIRACY....The Republican party is officially opposed to acknowledging inflation? Really? That's.....novel. But at the same time, not really unexpected, somehow. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I'd be surprised if the tinfoil hat crowd that dominates the GOP plaform writing process did believe in inflation. They probably think it's all part of a Trilateral Commission scheme for domination of world financial markets or something.

Of course, there's a sliding scale at work here: apparently sometimes it's OK to account for inflation and sometimes it's not. Which is fair enough. You don't want to be prisoner of rigid ideology, after all. And this does, finally, answer my ancient question about why financial writers insist on reporting that, for example, wages are up even if they're actually down in inflation-adjusted terms. Answer: because the Republican Party platform says so. Another mystery solved.

Drilling for McCain

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 2:58 AM EDT

DRILLING FOR McCAIN....Tom Friedman on John McCain's election-year journey from environmental maverick to standard issue GOP shill for the energy industry:

Going into this election, I thought that — for the first time — we would have a choice between two "green" candidates. That view is no longer operative — and college students (and everyone else) need to understand that.

With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.

As recently as six months ago McCain had a halfway decent energy plan. Not great, perhaps, but certainly courageous by Republican standards. But then he realized that he had an election to win and his energy plan was quickly replaced with "drill drill drill" — a slogan more suited to a cash-only storefront dentist than a serious presidential candidate. Straight talk indeed.

Hiding From the Press

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:58 AM EDT

HIDING FROM THE PRESS....The Wall Street Journal tells us about the McCain campaign's coordinated effort to keep their vice presidential nominee safely hidden from the public eye:

The McCain campaign scrambled to take control of the public debate over vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin, canceling her public appearances and teaming her with high-powered Republican operatives as she prepared for a speech Wednesday night that will be her first, and perhaps most important, chance to define herself to the American public.

....In Minnesota she has stayed out of the public eye, a contrast with Democratic vice-presidential pick Sen. Joe Biden, who milled about the convention in Denver last week. Gov. Palin refused media interviews and canceled plans to appear at the Republican National Coalition for Life Tuesday.

....In Alaska, the McCain campaign has tried to control the flow of information as liberal bloggers and the media mine her past. A team of public-relations aides has settled into the state and asked Gov. Palin's friends and family to avoid speaking to the media.

This certainly demonstrates boundless confidence in Palin, doesn't it? She's great! But, um, no, nobody can talk to her. And of course that goes for John McCain too, who cancelled his scheduled appearance on Larry King tonight. His excuse: CNN's Campbell Brown had gone "over the line" in an interview with McCain flack Tucker Bounds and he was mad about it. Anybody buying that? Normally I might just write it off to McCain's famous sense of self-righteousness, but in this case it's pretty obvious he cancelled his appearance because he doesn't want to face the press either until he learns a little bit more about his "soulmate." Not to worry, though. I'm sure the vetting will be done any day now.

Family Values

| Wed Sep. 3, 2008 12:34 AM EDT

FAMILY VALUES....OK, that's long enough. Here's William Yardley on how Sarah Palin introduced the culture wars to Wasilla:

The traditional turning points that had decided municipal elections in this town of less than 7,000 people — Should we pave the dirt roads? Put in sewers? Which candidate is your hunting buddy? — seemed all but obsolete the year Ms. Palin, then 32, challenged the three-term incumbent, John C. Stein.

Anti-abortion fliers circulated. Ms. Palin played up her church work and her membership in the National Rifle Association. The state Republican Party, never involved before because city elections are nonpartisan, ran advertisements on Ms. Palin's behalf.

...."Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, 'Whoa,' " said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. "But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I'm not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: 'We will have our first Christian mayor.' "

No wonder James Dobson fell in love with her.