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Sunday, August 31, 2008
Welles On Cavett
I love YouTube.

Not all of it, mind you: not the home-made lip-synchs, or the music videos, or the web-cam confessionals. The viral video aspect of it holds little interest to me.

I see it as a gigantic archive of videotaped fragments of time, a storehouse of thoughts and images from another era. This, for instance, is from an interview Dick Cavett did with Orson Welles, circa 1970.

I love this interview because the two talk about ideas in a way that TV talk shows don't do anymore. And Welles is at his most loquacious and charming here: watch how the old raconteur flatters and teases Cavett, slowly but inexorably taking the show away from him.

It was the perfect sort of TV interview, because watching it, you feel like Welles might well have been in your own living room with you, drinking your wine and talking the evening away with you. That was the potential of television, that intimacy, squandered now by brainless, manufactured, stage-managed automatons who appear on talk shows in order to hawk whatever worthless movie or TV show or CD they've been assigned to hawk. And their interviews are short: five minutes, tops -- because they can't hold a conversation any longer than that, and the public wouldn't sit still that long if they could.

But it wasn't always so. And this interview is the proof.

Saturday, August 30, 2008
I Love A Mystery

Technological innovations, even the cleverest ones, don't always catch on at first. The Philco company was decades ahead of the competition in the fall of 1938. That's when it made a revolutionary gadget -- called the Mystery Control -- available for its high-end radio consoles.

Mystery Control was a pretty smart device. It was a remote-control unit for the console radio, but unlike those of Philco's competitors, it wasn't tethered to the radio set. Nope, it was an honest-to-peaches remote control -- using a small RF transmitter to change stations on the console. The Mystery Control worked well, and it worked from up to 25 feet away.

The unit itself was bulky, with what looked like a telephone dial in the center. Each number on the dial corresponded to a station preset, and the presets were set up at local radio store.

Radio sets sporting the Mystery Control feature sold well for the first couple of years, but soon the novelty wore off and sales began to slump again. But they are avidly sought out today by collectors and fondly remembered by those who used them.

It seems a shame that Philco's brilliant engineers didn't get more credit for their foresight. But perhaps the Mystery Control was doomed to fail. In many ways, the size of the remote-- mammoth compared to the one your TV came with -- would have made it aggravating to use.

The upside, of course, is that you'd be extremely unlikely to ever lose it.

Friday, August 29, 2008
Things are moving pretty quickly on the McCain VP front this morning. First, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty confirmed that he wasn't going to be in Dayton, Ohio to appear with McCain at the VP introduction rally. Then, an aide to Mitt Romney confirmed that the Mittster isn't going to be there either.

Speculation has suddenly centered on first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. There are reports that she was whisked to Ohio on a private jet last night.

I have a hard time believing it's Palin. She's pretty (a former beauty queen), young (44) and by all accounts smart. It might bring over some die-hard Hillary supporters.

But I dunno. McCain doesn't really need a wildly risky pick, and I think Palin is wildly risky. She's largely unknown, she's not a reassuring choice to those who might be concerned about electing a 72-year-old man to the Presidency, and she's currently being investigated for abusing her power in a case involving her brother-in-law and an Alaska state trooper.

CNBC is claiming it's her, and maybe it is, but it would be an odd choice. You might say it's the sort of choice a craps player, rather than a poker player, would make. And McCain is said to love the craps table.

Well, This Made Me Laugh
Wondering what impact a McCain administration would have on America's educational system? Look no further.
It's from the McCain store at his campaign web site.

Thursday, August 28, 2008
A Pretty Good Week
How did you like the convention?

I watched this one fitfully, myself. I really don't follow them anymore, not like I used to.

When I was a teenager, back in the days when the networks provided breathless gavel-to-gavel coverage, I watched both the Republican and Democratic confabs, every exhausting and meaningless minute.

I was too young to understand that it didn't matter. The days of anything unscripted happening at a political convention were already over.

Now that I'm aged and cynical I usually watch the headliner speeches and skip the undercard ones, like an impatient boxing fan. I look for the overall theme of the convention, the flavor of it.

My take on the Dem convention this time around: it clearly achieved its two primary goals.

First, it unified the Democratic party. The PUMAs, though small in number, threatened to become a bleeding wound for the Obama campaign throughout the fall -- appearing in McCain ads and on CNN chat shows, sneering and preening and generally doing the Republican's dirty work for them.

But Hillary Clinton's speech went a long way toward defanging them. Her speech deftly made the argument that any of her supporters who votes for McCain out of spite works against every principle she ever stood for. It was stated clearly enough and forcefully enough that it gives the PUMAs nowhere to go; and I think most of them will close ranks at the end of the day.

The second goal was to use the national audience to reboot the nation's perception of Barack Obama. The McCain camp has tried to paint him as an effete intellectual elitist and a self-absorbed political fashion victim, George McGovern and Che Guevara rolled into one. But this convention gave him the chance to tell his own story, and it worked brilliantly.

Over the last few days there has been a lot of hand-wringing in the lefty blogosphere about the convention: it was starting too slowly, where were the attacks against McCain, hey, is that a Greek temple being erected in Invesco field?

But as the convention went on, the real strategy began to emerge. The positive tone was set early, the barbs came out later. And far from appearing goofy or vainglorious, the stadium gambit was really quite brilliant. The place was filled not with adoring Birkenstock-wearing acolytes, but Americans who look like, well, everybody you know. And Obama's message so strongly made the case for his candidacy: it was detailed, workmanlike, eminently sensible, saving the soaring rhetoric for only the last couple of paragraphs.

The Democrats wrapped up a very good convention tonight. They still have a lot of work to do, but I believe Obama went a long way toward sealing the deal tonight. The wingers are already scared: the peevish, defensive clucking on the right-wing blogs are a hoot to read.

James Wolcott Is Bored...
...and he's taking it out on John McCain's shortlist of potential VP candidates.

Tim Pawlenty? "You can't fill a vacancy with a vacancy."

Mitt Romney? "An enamel figurine whose darty eyes betray anxiety whenever he is out of his depth, which is more often than not."

Joe Lieberman? "Together on stage, he and McCain would look like a gay Metamucil ad."

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008
John McCain: Dangerously Unprepared To Tell The Truth
This new John McCain ad slams Barack Obama as "dangerously unprepared to be President". We're treated to a bunch of scary images of Iran and an Obama quote is used: Iran, according to Obama, is "tiny" and "doesn't pose a serious threat".

But these quotes are taken ludicrously out of context. They are even taken out of the context of the sentences in which they were said. Obama said that "Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us." Which are plain, historical facts -- ones that John McCain wouldn't dare dispute (I wish someone would ask him, though, just to have it on the record.)

Wingers, do you really want to have this debate? The Soviet Union had an army of over ten million men, and over 40,000 nuclear warheads; at least several thousand of these warheads were attached to intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach any American city in fifteen minutes. The Soviet Union was, therefore, a clear and existential threat to the United States. Can the same be said about Iran?

No sane person would think so; but apparently no sane person is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party.

Someone ought to ask McCain if Iran is a serious threat to us in the same way that the Soviet Union was a serious threat to us. If he says yes, they ought to put a net over his head and check him into a mental hospital. It would prove that he's not only unfit to serve as President, but unfit to walk around out in the open.

Monday, August 25, 2008
Yeah, That's A Stunning Retort, Jonah
We all know that Jonah Goldberg is incapable of mounting a coherent argument, but his latest knock on Barack Obama is just goofy:

He says in a new ad that he was only 8 years-old when Bill Ayers was plotting and carrying out terrorist attacks against the United States.Why didn't Trent Lott think of that! He was only 7 when when Strom Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948.

Um, yes, but at least Obama didn't throw Ayers a birthday party and declare how much better America would be if the Weathermen had achieved their aims.

I'm sure that point didn't occur to Jonah, since it would have required a moment's thought.

Raging Babbitism: The Cure For America's Woes
Seriously, does Larry Kudlow know anything about economics?

I know he doesn't have a degree in the subject -- it's much easier be a supply-sider that way -- but he's worked for Bear Stearns and on White House economics policy. He must have picked something up about how the stock market works.

But judging by this, I'm thinking: meh, not so much:

Are the Denver Dems downing the stock market today? The Dow is off 230 points, starting right from the get-go. So-called market analysts are blaming financials and the credit crunch as they always do.

Ah, but we know the truth, eh Larry? Volatile oil prices don't drive down stocks -- neither do collapsing housing markets or credit crises. No. It's the dabburned Democrats! What do those so-called "market analysts" know anyway?

Larry is full of brilliant advice on how to grow the economy. Here's his prescription for an economic turnaround from June of 2002:

Decisive shock therapy to revive the American spirit would surely come with a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Why not begin with a large-scale special-forces commando raid on the Iraqi oil fields? This will send a shot across Saddam's bow; an electrifying signal to all terrorist nations. The message will be that the game is up. Surrender now or you will be crushed in a short while.

Meanwhile, Saddam's cash flow can be cut off. Oil is his only crop, his single manufacture. Without money there will be nothing left to steal, and nothing to use to pay off his cronies.

A couple of weeks later a final assault on Baghdad can take place. A small war, to use Wall Street Journal editorialist Max Boot's lexicon, led by fast-moving special forces and leather-toughened Marines, and assisted by high-tech precision bombs and air cover, can get the job done. All-out war mobilization is unnecessary. Iraq will fall with much less...The shock therapy of decisive war will elevate the stock market by a couple-thousand points.

Now, the real trouble here is deciding which of Larry's ideas are crazier:

--The idea that invading Iraq will cause all the world's "terrorist nations" (whoever they are) to immediately surrender;

--The idea that destroying Iraq's oilfields would be good for the American economy;

--The idea that invading another country in order to goose the stock market is perfectly reasonable;

--The idea that America's "spirit" can only be measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Sunday, August 24, 2008
Flop Sweat At NRO
Lots of posts this morning at The Corner, predictably declaring that Obama's choice of Joe Biden is a mistake, a disaster, a sign of weakness! Here's how Yuval Levin spins the meme:

Biden implicitly emphasizes Obama’s inexperience (and did so explicitly too in the primaries); he obviously doesn’t fit into a new fresh energy in Washington theme; his ‘give me a break’ demeanor can’t really meld very well with the messianic Obama appeals; he largely takes the issue of McCain’s age off the table (unless the idea is that McCain is precisely six years too old to be president); he makes it far more difficult for Obama to talk about Iraq (since Biden voted for the war, and then bitterly criticized Obama’s withdrawal plans in the primaries); and he makes it tough to argue that Washington is the problem, as he has been there a good bit longer than McCain. Add to that Biden’s utter inability to control what comes out of his mouth and the fact that he rarely strays from his favorite subject (himself) for more than a few sentences at a time, and you end up with a pretty peculiar VP pick.

The combination of these pluses and minuses suggests some degree of panic in the Obama campaign. Picking Biden is not an act of confidence, driven by a sense that the public likes what it sees in Obama and wants more of the same (as, for instance, the choice of Al Gore was in 1992). It is a sign, rather, that Obama recognizes that he is suddenly in some serious trouble, and will not be able to win the election the way he won the primaries.

Yup, Obama's shakin' in his boots, all right. Of course, if he'd picked Kathleen Sebelius, would NRO have lauded the decision as gutsy and confident?

Well, no; in that case they would jeer "the One" as arrogant and self-obsessed, needing to pick an unknown Washington outsider to reinforce his own false sense of superiority; and at the same time desperately trying to appease disaffected Hillary voters by offering them a bland substitute.

Tim Kaine? Are you kidding? Does Obama really think he can flip Virginia this way? It's an arrogant pick from a man who's started to believe his own press releases about change, and who would be threatened by a more accomplished and experienced running mate.

Evan Bayh? What a laugh! "The Messiah" clearly thinks that Washington experience is a liability! Plus, he had to pick a dull-as-dishwater pol because he's terrified of being overshadowed.

Hillary Clinton? Ha ha! Panic in the Obama camp! She pressured him into it! If he can't stand up to a woman, how's he gonna handle Valdimir Putin? He's fallen into our trap! The anti-Hillary right wing activists are pulling out their checkbooks even as we speak!

I know, I know, it's their job to spin it ten ways from Sunday. But it's a bit transparent, even for these guys.

Saturday, August 23, 2008
It's Biden

AP, CNN, TPM, and other sources are shouting it from the rooftops now: Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden will be Barack Obama's running mate.

All of Obama's potential VP selections had positives and negatives. We all know that. Nevertheless it's a good, solid pick. Biden has a lot of Washington experience and he is a foreign policy wonk. He's got a sharp tongue and will be what neither Joe Lieberman nor John Edwards could be: the nominee's pit bull. Whatever crap the Republicans throw at Obama, Biden can give it back in kind.

He'll get introduced to voters tomorrow in Springfield, Illinois.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What you're looking at here is the podium for the Democratic National Convention, which opens in Denver on Monday.

Here's my question: are they planning to nominate a Presidential candidate there, or play "The Price Is Right"?

She's Not Afraid To Look Stupid, I'll Give Her That
Kyle-Anne Shiver, like a lot of the scribblers at National Review, clearly doesn't have a well-developed sense of irony.
Martin Luther King Jr. gets invoked for political gain just about as often as Jesus does, and, for obvious reasons, I can certainly see where folks might simply assume that if King were alive today, he would be a Barack Obama supporter.

Maybe; maybe not.

Of course, it’s pure speculation on anybody’s part, since King isn’t here. But I don’t consider it any more audacious of me to point out the differences that King would most likely have with Obama’s positions, than for anyone else automatically to assume that King would vote for Obama.

Actually it's not a matter of "pure speculation", since The National Review never missed an opportunity to bash King when he was alive -- he and his fellow "rabble-rousers" who were violating the "cake of custom" with their "Negro-with-a-grievance" attitudes. It's all there in the NR back issues.

Look, I know I keep going on about this, but the National Review has no credibility on the issue of civil rights. None. And they are the last publication in America that ought to be invoking the name of Martin Luther King (well, maybe The Barnes Review would be the last, but it'd be close).

It's just laughable, really.

h/t: Yglesias

From The Department Of Unintentional Comedy
Over at K-Lo's House of Crazy, Ivy Leaguer Peter Robinson blinks the tears away long enough to post this inspiring anecdote:

In Hanover, New Hampshire this past June, two young men received commissions as officers in the United States Marine Corps the day before they graduated from Dartmouth College. The Marines? Why not Wall Street? Or law school? Or any of the other lives of comfort and status so readily available to graduates of the Ivy League?

"We reject the pernicious belief, commonly held at our most highly esteemed institutions, that fighting our nation's battles is someone else's job."

To which "highly esteemed institutions" does he refer? The National Review, maybe?

That Was Uncalled For, Senator Obama
Oh, dear. How dare that pesky Barack Obama? He's had the temerity to criticize St. John for owning four houses!

Or is it six houses? It might actually be eight. Anyway:

Though McCain is widely perceived to to drawn first blood by attacking Obama's character, the official said that the difference between Obama's mocking McCain for his wealth and his shaky answer on the number of homes he owns was that McCain's charge "reflects an existential reality," where Obama's charges "attack Cindy. She owns the homes. I thought he said the wives were off-limits."

McCain strategists hope that Obama's brass knuckles punch doesn't work. "Americans don't like this class warfare stuff," the official said. They aspire to be rich, the official said. They don't aspire to eat arugala or hang out with celebrities.

So if John can't remember how many freakin' houses he owns, and you point that out, you're attacking Cindy? You'd have to own at least three houses to buy an argument like that.

And how do these McCain campaign staffers say sentences like "Americans don't like this class warfare stuff" with a straight face?

By the way, speaking of people who own lots of houses who aren't John McCain, the veepstakes rumor wheel is pointing this evening toward our old friend, Multiple-Choice Mitt.

Thursday, August 21, 2008
Doesn't Anybody Here Know How To Play This Game?
There's no question that the Karl Rove slash-and-burn tactics are giving John McCain some ground on Barack Obama. The good news is, Obama is still slightly ahead even after several weeks of being hammered relentlessly by the Great Right-Wing Slime Machine and its enablers in the MSM.

But I have to say I'm finding the Obama campaign's response puzzling.

They seem to have been caught flat-footed, just as Dukakis was in 1988. The big difference is, Obama should know better.

John Kerry should have known better too. Kerry even argued that he should be the Democratic nominee because he knew the attacks that were coming and he knew how to counter them. Turned out, not so much.

I think what Josh Marshall says on the subject is right on:

Don't ever demand someone stop attacking you. Doesn't work. Don't do it. Sounds weak. Sounds pathetic. And a lot else.

Look at John McCain attacking my patriotism. It's sad what he's become. He'll do anything to get elected. Attack my patriotism. Change all his positions. Get in bed with the same people he used to say were the worst thing in politics. He'll do anything to get elected ...


Look at John McCain. He knows people are fed up with the politics he and George Bush support. So instead of saying what he's for all he can think of to do is silly stuff like attacking my patriotism.

I'm not a message person so I'm sure a real one could come up with much better. But the point is. Don't demand or beg or please or even ask. It's silly and weak and achieves nothing.

Why the Democratic nominees for President fail to grasp this is baffling.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Wish I'd Thought Of It Myself
Matt Yglesias has an epiphany:

[A]s long as the world needs blog posts and Veep speculation, how about this — Obama could pull an Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and throw the selection open to the Convention delegates. The problem with that move, of course, is that you don’t get to fine-tune the pick. But it turns out to be the case that there seem to be substantial problems with all the possible picks. And opening the selection to the field would ensure huge media coverage of the convention and perhaps a bigger-than-usual convention bump.

I think it's really an inspired idea. It would be a good way to make Hillary the pick -- I think she would be the overwhelming favorite -- without appearing to appease her supporters. And as Matt points out, it would imbue the Dem convention with some much-needed suspense.

I don't think it'll happen, though, because Obama has already promised his supporters that they'll be the first to get the news, via text message. It'd be silly for Obama supporters to watch it all unfold on the convention floor, then get the breathlessly-awaited text message after the fact.

Someone Still Loves You, Semicolon

Some years ago now there was a bestselling book called Real Men Don't Eat Quiche. It was a title that always grated on me. Real men, it seemed to me, didn't let other people tell them what they were and were not permitted to eat.

But a generation of insecure men immediately obeyed and quiche consumption plummeted. Now we learn that the semicolon has been falling out of favor for years, and for the same reason: real men, we're told, don't use them.

Kurt Vonnegut called the marks "transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing." Hemingway and Chandler and Stephen King, said [Ben] McIntyre, "wouldn't be seen dead in a ditch with a semi-colon (though Truman Capote might). Real men, goes the unwritten rule of American punctuation, don't use semi-colons."

And [James] Kilpatrick, in a 2006 column, restated those sentiments at a higher pitch, calling the semicolon "girly," "odious," and "the most pusillanimous, sissified, utterly useless mark of punctuation ever invented."

Roy Peter Clark, who blogs about grammar and usage at Poynter Online, was more restrained, but still suspicious. The semicolon, he wrote last month, looks "like an ink smudge on a new white carpet." And he's unnerved by its "arbitrariness, as if the semicolon were a mark of choice rather than rule."

Gentle reader, I must leap to the defense of the semicolon. Far from being "arbitrary" or "useless", or "meaning nothing", it is to me the most beautiful of punctuation marks. It is the equivalent to a verbal pause accompanied by a slightly raised index finger; it is one thought gently sliding to the next. It is elegant and subtle and beautiful, not for these clumsy ham-fisted keyboard monkeys who beat their chests and boast of their manliness. No. Real men don't use semicolons. Or they do. It's their choice.

Wingnuts Invade Lowertown

This is an interesting article about three young RNC staffers who have spent the summer in Saint Paul, helping prepare for the national convention. The kids are from various Big Cities in other parts of the USA, and being Republicans, they mix their big-city condescension (Saint Paul is like being "in the middle of Mayberry", Melissa Subbotin says brightly) with deeply weird evangelical millenialism:

"You know, the first weekend we were here there was a tornado, it was raining," remembered Subbotin. "I'm like, where are we, is this Armageddon? I said, 'We have to get home right now, and everybody, we're meeting in one apartment, bring candles, this might be the end.'"

Sorry hon, not Armageddon yet. That'll be after McCain gets into office.

Even stranger (for me, anyway) was young Will Jamison's description of his Saint Paul digs:

"I live in this renovated old cigar factory here in Lowertown, and it's a Cass Gilbert building. Where else in America could you live in a place designed by the guy that built the Supreme Court in D.C.? I get a kick out of it," Jamison said.

Wha? Did Cass Gilbert design a cigar factory? Not that I know of. Gilbert designed the Gilbert Building in Lowertown, which was (and still is) office space. He also designed the Endicott Building, which was a dry-goods establishment, and is now devoted to office and retail. Are there residential spaces in there somewhere? I kind of doubt it, but in any event I don't think the place was ever a cigar factory.

Is there a Cass Gilbert-designed cigar factory kicking around Lowertown? Or is somebody pulling this kid's leg?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sight Unseen
Ah, the wonders of the 21st century. Trolling around Youtube recently, I discovered that some kindly soul has been posting episodes of the Seeing Things television series.

Seeing Things is a typically quirky Canadian TV series from the early 1980s, neither fish nor fowl. I suppose you could describe it as a "dramedy", though that American term hardly does it justice. This show is sui generis, , a kitchen-sink comedy one minute, a murder-mystery the next; its versatility and virtuosity are unrivalled even today.

The show follows the adventures of Louie Ciccone, a balding, unhappily divorced Toronto newspaper reporter, who has psychic visions about murder. The visions give him clues to solving crimes, and the appeal of the series is watching Louie piece together these clues as he tries to reconcile with his ex-wife and explore, however incompetently, the possibility of romance with the attractive Assistant Crown Attorney, Heather Redfern.

This is the sort of smart, offbeat drama that would never get greenlighted on an American network even today, and you'll probably never see it released on DVD: Canadian royalty laws are unbelievably arcane, and because Seeing Things was a hit, the CBC was almost desperate to cancel it. But it survived seven (curiously short) seasons, and Youtube is better than nothing. You're welcome.

Monday, August 18, 2008
Ah Yes, The Old Cross-In-The-Dirt Trick
Andrew Sullivan makes a persuasive case that John McCain's story about the prison guard who drew a cross in the ground is...erm... how shall I put this...bullshit.

Apparently, McCain's account changed over the years -- first it was a guard who simply showed him a kindness by allowing him to lie down for several hours when he was being forced to stand day and night. Only decades later did the act of kindness change to the ropes being loosened while he was kept in a stress position. The poignant cross-in-the-dirt story didn't appear until the late 1990's, a story that bears a suspicious resemblance to an anecdote about Alexander Solzhenitsen's time in the gulag:

...[T]he trope is exactly the same: the silent communication, the total stranger, the desolation, and the cross. And, of course, this has profound Christian symbolic reference. Every Christian will immediately associate the drawing in the dirt with a stick with Jesus and the woman caught in adultery: another moment of unexpected mercy.

One more thing: McCain's various stories only talk of one guard - "the only real human being that I ever met over there". And yet the guard who loosened his ropes in May 1969 could not have been present the following Christmas, as McCain had been transferred to another location (unless the transfer occurred between Christmas and New Year of 1969 and unless the guard was transferred to exactly the same camp at the same time).

There is no question that McCain was brutally treated by the North Vietnamese. He is rightly proud of his service and his sacrifice. But since he's using this story in a campaign ad, it's only fair to wonder why the most dramatic details of this story keep changing.

The President Of Vice
It's August of a presidential election year, which means the media has nothing to jabber on about except the oh-so-exciting question of running mates. The suspense is unbearable, isn't it? Well, Matthew Yglesias, from his new perch at ThinkProgress, sees the vice presidency as the political equivalent of an appendix, and he diagnoses an emergency appendectomy:

[T]he Vice President’s core job function is simply to take over the government in case the President dies. But it would be easy enough for the line of succession to simply run through the cabinet (SecState, SecDef, etc…) rather than their being a specially designated “inaugurate in case of death” figure. The original conception of the Vice Presidency was a constitutional bug that the framers hadn’t really thought through properly, and though Amendment XII works okay as a patch, it would really be better do do away with the thing entirely.

The problem with this scenario, of course, is that the Secretary of State would effectively end up doubling as the Vice President. Both party's nominees would be under enormous pressure to reveal who their pick would be at State before the election, because the public, no longer able to vote for -- and consequently endorse -- the candidate's successor, would at least want to know who the successor would be. Gerald Ford's presidency was pretty much crippled from day one because he had not only not been elected President, he had not even been elected as an acceptable stand-in.

So it is likely that all the weight that is put on the vice presidential selection would be transferred to the prospective Secretaries of State. And it's possible that this would lead to a British-style arrangement where both candidates would assemble entire shadow cabinets for public perusal.

That's much more complicated, and while I agree that the Vice President's role is largely undefined, it is less onerous to continue with the clumsy system we have rather than try to construct an entirely new clumsy system to replace it.

Saturday, August 09, 2008
What Is Josh Marshall Saying?
Read this, then tell me what the TPM founder is getting at.

[T]here is a tacit but uniform agreement among pretty much all reporters and close campaign watchers not to publicly state the obvious: that this is a perilous development for John McCain. Just as Bill Clinton's public undressing in the Lewinsky scandal led indirectly to the exposure of several high-profile Republican affairs, Edwards' revelation will inevitably put pressure on the press in general to scrutinize John McCain under something more searching than the JFK rules they've applied to date. I assure you that this dimension of the story occurred to every reporter even tangentially involved in reporting this race soon after the Edwards story hit yesterday afternoon.
We all know that McCain likes to play up his bad-boy persona, and it's pretty well known that he was a serial philanderer during his first marriage. But I've never heard any suggestions that McCain has got something going on the side these days. Marshall's tone suggests that such rumors are well-known among campaign reporters. But you can't publish rumors -- unless you're the National Enquirer, of course.

McCain's popularity with the media notwithstanding, I find it hard to believe that any reporter who had knowledge of a presidential nominee's sexual dalliances would look the other way. Not in today's media environment. JFK was protected in large part because in those days reporters figured that sex was a private matter, good for some gossip in the bar after work but not suitable for the newspaper. But times have changed.

Edwards got away with it so long because he was never a serious contender for the presidential nomination, because the evidence against him was largely circumstantial, and because the spadework on the story was done by the National Enquirer, which no legitimate publication wants to credit. But if a reporter had dirt on McCain, or Obama, or even Hillary Clinton? Come on. It would be a huge story, one that no reporter could resist.

It isn't clear what Marshall is saying here, but if he really knew something, he'd do more than hint.

Friday, August 08, 2008
Ramesh Ponnoru Discovers Moral Relativism
Effeminate, squeaky-voiced churl Ramesh Ponnoru takes issue with the idea that John McCain is lying when he claims that keeping tires inflated is Barack Obama's energy plan.
I don't think it is reasonable to take McCain as literally meaning that Obama has no other energy proposals, and I don't think anyone who hears McCain assumes that Obama has no other energy proposals. When Democrats say that McCain is running for Bush's third term, they are not "lying" even though, well, Bush will not be serving a third term. It's campaign hyperbole, and everyone understands it as such.

Hmm. That might be true -- if McCain weren't actually trying to (literally) convince people that Obama has (literally) no other energy proposals.

But I really have to take your side on this, Ramesh. I don't think it's reasonable for people to take it literally when I call you a right-wing, war-mongering, evangelical, Bush-worshipping cocksucker. It's hyperbole, mate. Lighten up.

Death Wish
Far be it from me to laud the National Enquirer, but the check-out aisle sleaze merchants seem to have scooped the mainstream media:
Former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards confirms to ABC News that he had an affair with former campaign aide Rielle Hunter but says he "did not love her" nor did he father her child.

The story was revived recently by the National Enquirer and Edwards confirms to ABC that the magazine's story about his reported visit to the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel was correct. The so-called "mainstream" news media has talked little about this story, however today's confirmation should change that quickly.

The mainstream media was slow to pick up this story, but there's no doubt they were working on it behind the scenes. No one seemed to doubt that Edwards was in that hotel in the middle of the night, and his initial response to the story -- that it was "tabloid trash" -- was clearly not a denial.

I've never been a big fan of John Edwards, and all I can say is: thank God this creep didn't get the nomination. The last thing the Dems needed on the ticket this year was yet another arrogant, hyperambitious prick who couldn't keep his pants on.

Edwards was no longer a Senator or Presidential contender, so perhaps he thought he wasn't under as much scrutiny as he might have been six months ago. Still, he's foolishly violated Uncle Mike's First Law of Public Life: don't do anything that you don't want to see on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper. Why public figures -- from Gary Hart to Bill Clinton to Larry Craig to Eliot Spitzer -- can't obey this simple rule is utterly beyond me. Is it arrogance? Thrillseeking? A political death wish? I can't figure it out.

Why don't these guys listen to me?

Thursday, August 07, 2008
Favre, Pennington And Jackson
I think Te-nehisi Coates is absolutely right about the Brett Favre trade:

For me, the most interesting part of this deal isn't Brett Favre, but Chad Pennington. There is exactly one way that the Brett Favre trade could go bad for Green Bay--if Pennington gets traded, or picked up by, the Vikings. That will be a disaster for Green Bay, because the Vikings--with Pennington--will likely stomp a mudhole in that division, and much of the NFC (Cowboys included).

The Vikings will have a pretty well-balanced offense this season. They're only really lacking a strong quarterback. Brad Childress has bet the future of the club on Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson shows great promise -- but like a lot of promising NFL quarterbacks, he may never live up to the hype.

This is Childress' third season as coach, and he must realize that if the Vikings miss the playoffs again this year, he'll be out of a job. A pick-prone has-been like Favre wasn't going to get the Vikings where they want to go. Jackson may or may not have a good season. But Pennington probably has the best shot of the three to make great things happen for the Vikes.

They Can't Take It, But They Sure Can Dish It Out
My, my. Somebody's a little upset.

After John McCain mocked Paris Hilton and Britney Spears -- and by extension, Barack Obama - in his "Celebrity" ad, Hilton posted her own ad in response.

Now loopy creationist and former Nixon shill Ben Stein is outraged -- outraged! -- that a little strumpet like Paris Hilton dares to mock the great John McCain!

How do the Friends of Barack Obama respond? They have Paris Hilton in a tiny bathing suit making fun of John McCain for being old. That's right. Too old. Too wrinkly. Too much gray hair.

Now, this is perfect. First of all, Paris Hilton was a total nobody party girl in West Hollywood until she and her boyfriend made AND then "someone" SOLD a hard core video of Paris Hilton having sex. So basically, she got her start as a porn star. And she's being trotted out by the media barons to smear John McCain, as brave and patriotic a man as lives in this nation. This little tramp, who isn't even close to being pretty, is belittling a man who spent six years in brutal captivity for defending his country.

Paris, get this: in modern day America, we don't mock people because of things they have done that are unavoidable and not in any way blameworthy. We don't make fun of blacks for being black. We don't make fun of women for having breasts. We don't make fun of old people for being old. This is uncool from any source. It is downright disgusting coming from a porn star -- and not a very good porn star at that (yes, I have seen the tape). And we especially don't like being told how to vote by porn stars. If this is the best the Hollywood pals of Barack Obama can do, maybe John McCain has more of a shot than I thought he did.

Oh, by the way, Paris, there are a few more of us gray haired people registered to vote than there are porn star party girls.

And Senator McCain, a little note you might be familiar with: the flak is always heaviest when you're right over the target.

Porn star, Ben? I thought she was a celebrity. Wasn't the ad entitled "Celebrity"? Or is McCain insinuating that Barack Obama is a porn star?

And did you think her bathing suit was "tiny"? Have you even been to the beach since the Truman administration?

Look, Ben, it was John McCain who dragged Paris Hilton into this campaign, not the other way around. The moment he featured her in one of his ads, anything she said in response was going to be fair game. Maybe your guy should have thought of that first.

And if Paris Hilton is such a "nobody party girl", a "tramp" and "porn star", why get so upset?

Could it be that the flak is always heaviest when you're right over the target?

Clueless Pundit Watch
David Broder: Barack Obama forced John McCain into a negative campaign by refusing McCain's proposal for town-hall debate formats.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Capital-T Truth: Jonah Goldberg's An Idiot
Jonah Goldberg makes a heroic attempt to write about postmodernism, even though he doesn't seem to know what it is:

An explosive fad in the 1980s, postmodernism was and is an enormous intellectual hustle in which left-wing intellectuals take crowbars and pick axes to anything having to do with the civilizational Mount Rushmore of Dead White European Males.

"PoMos" hold that there is no such thing as capital-T "Truth." There are only lower-case "truths." Our traditional understandings of right and wrong, true and false, are really just ways for those Pernicious Pale Patriarchs to keep the Coalition of the Oppressed in their place. In the PoMo's telling, reality is "socially constructed." And so the PoMos seek to tear down everything that "privileges" the powerful over the powerless and to replace it with new truths more to their liking.

Hence the deep dishonesty of postmodernism. It claims to liberate society from fixed meanings and rigid categories, but it is invariably used to impose new ones, usually in the form of political correctness. We've all seen how adept the PC brigades are celebrating free speech, when it's for speech they like.

Seems to me the real "hustle" here is the so-called conservative "movement" -- in reality nothing more than a gigantic echo chamber that enables loud-mouthed ignoramuses like Jonah Goldberg to showboat their contempt for everything they don't understand. And what they don't understand is damn near everything.

Monday, August 04, 2008
What An Amazing Coincidence
There is some interesting detective work going on right now over at TPM.

Apparently the day after John McCain switched his position on offshore drilling, nine executives and family members at Hess Oil contributed the maximum amount allowable by law -- $28,500 -- to the Republican National Committee.

And if that weren't fishy enough, an office manager at Hess and her husband, an Amtrak employee, also gave $28,500 to the RNC.


And they rent their home.

Saturday, August 02, 2008
Deja Vu All Over Again
Like a lot of Democrats I've been frustrated this week at how easily John McCain has put the Obama team on the defensive, and how ineffectual Obama's counterpunches have been. What we're seeing is the very old story of grinning Republicans framing the debate, which always comes down to: is the Democratic nominee a traitor, or just a moral weakling and coward?

This John Heilemann piece in New York magazine hits it right on the head, I think:

[S]ince shifting to a more harshly negative posture, McCain has gained ground on Obama in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to recent Quinnipiac swing-state polls.

All of which, naturally, has more than a few Democrats in a state of mortal dread, although they tend not to be the types with GOT HOPE? bumper stickers on their Volvos. Making them all the more queasy is what they regard as Obama’s tepid and too-placid responses to the most scurrilous of McCain’s j’accuses. “Obama says he’s ‘disappointed’ in McCain when he charges him with near treason, patronizing him, as if he’s got a twenty-point lead with a week to go,” says one tough-minded organizer on the left. “It’s shades of Swift Boat.”

My fear is that Obama may turn out to be another John Kerry -- a guy whose argument for the Democratic nomination was that he knew exactly the sort of campaign Karl Rove was going to run, and he knew exactly how to fight back. Then, when given the nomination, he didn't fight back.

The other day I got an email from the Obama campaign asking for more money, and expressing outrage at McCain's unfair campaign tactics. Up until now I've given happily, at least once a month. But this time I replied to the email, saying that if Obama didn't stand up and fight -- and soon -- I'd stop contributing. I think a lot of Democrats feel the same way.

Axelrod and company are supposed to be professionals. They all knew this was coming. Why are they acting so surprised?

Friday, August 01, 2008
Hitting Back
When the McCain camp launches an unfair campaign attack -- like the "Celebrity" ad -- everybody agrees that Obama has to hit back. But some ways of hitting back are more effective than others. This is what Obama said on Wednesday, and to my way of thinking, it's a not-very-effective way of hitting back:

So nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he's not patriotic enough. He's got a funny name. You know, he doesn't look like all those other Presidents on those dollar bills, you know.
To me this doesn't work because it sounds defensive. It sounds like a complaint. Complaints sound weak to voter's ears. But it strikes me that this statement by Obama -- made on Thursday -- was much more effective:

We want to have a serious debate. But so far, we've been hearing about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I do have to ask my opponent: is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what the election is about? Is that worthy of the American people?

Since the star-crossed Dukakis campaign of '88, Republicans have been playing from the Lee Atwater - Karl Rove political playbook. It's all smears and dog-whistles and the Big Lie. We all knew -- despite McCain's assertions to the contrary -- that this year would be no different.

The Republicans can't run on their record; we know that too. So their strategy is what it always is: tear down the Democrat, drive up his negatives.

The most common Dem strategy is essentially: Gosh, that was a cheap shot! That was unfair!" It might be true, but it's not an effective counter-punch.

The more effective strategy is just what Obama -- belatedly -- employed: ridicule. Mockery. Laugh in their faces and call them on their bullshit. Because it is bullshit and voters need to be reminded that McCain isn't a serious candidate. He is incapable of engaging in a serious debate because he has no real grasp on the nation's problems, let alone solutions for them.

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