Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Arianna Rails about the Right

In a column on today's Huffington Post, the chief Huffer, Arianna herself, wants to know why the media still pay attention to the right? Her reasoning:

It's a paradox: the political center has clearly shifted; what used to be considered "left wing" positions have now become part of the mainstream, and the views of the Right are now at odds with the majority of the American public -- and with reality.

Yet, despite this seismic shift -- grossly underreported by the media -- the Right remains as powerful as ever when it comes to setting the national agenda and dominating the national debate.

Maybe it's underreported because it hasn't really happened. The Democratic Party has moved to the left but that does not represent the entire country.

Think about it: on Iraq and the exercise of American power, on economic fairness, on corporate responsibility, on the environment and climate change, on the universal right to healthcare, the progressive policies and positions long championed by the left have moved from union halls and MoveOn emails to the sidewalks, backyards, and kitchen tables of Main Street, USA.

This is true - if people are reading the Huffington Post on their kitchen tables.

Healthcare has been an issue since 1990. A version known as Play or Pay was almost implemented under Bush-41. Then came HillaryCare. Had Gore won the 2000 election we would have been presented with AlCare and probably rejected it.

Polls show that most people are concerned about climate change but that they put it very low on their priorities. Right now the price of gas is at or near the top. Imagine how popular climate change will be when people find out how much more they will pay for gas once carbon taxes are applied.

Economic fairness and corporate responsibility sound nice. Translate them into specific policy proposals and see how popular they are.

Nor are there two sides to the proposition that Iraq is our generation's greatest foreign policy disaster. It is. Period. Full stop.

Arianna wants us to run from Iraq as fast as possible. Even if you accept everything that she says about the invasion of Iraq (and I don't), this would dwarf it as a foreign relations disaster. The British pull-out is Basra showed this on a small-scale.

Besides, why wouldn't al Qaeda want McCain to win? He's running to give a third term to George Bush, whose disastrous policies have been the terrorists' best recruitment tool.

This has been an article of faith among the left for years. Fortunately for the world, it isn't true. Winning is the best recruiting tool. We are currently seen as winning and al Qeada is having real trouble recruiting because of it. If fact recent polls show that the world in general has a poor opinion of al Qeada because they stirred up the US. On the other hand, if we pull out then they will be seen to have won and recruitment will soar.

The third factor in the continuing power of the loony Right is the abject, across the board failure of our political leadership to adjust to the fact that the game of "right versus left" has been rendered obsolete by the emergence of a new and vital center. But political movements and political shifts do not fully succeed without bold political leadership -- and if we ever needed that kind of leadership, it is now.

Where is this center? It isn't in Washington. The right still controls the White House and the Supreme Court tilts right. Democrats have a small majority in the House but most of that comes from newly elected moderates - people to the right of Arianna's imagined "new center". The Senate is so closely divided that the Democrats only have a majority because a member they rejected still caucuses with them (Lieberman). None of this signifies a national move to the left any more than the Democratic gains in 1986. Back then the sainted Reagan had similar losses in Congress but the Democratic challenger still lost in 1988. For all of Bush's unfavorable ratings, McCain is in a statistical dead heat with both Obama and Clinton.

The most unintentionally funny part of Arianna's rant is this:

The dynamic between the dithering Democrats and the reality-be-damned Republican Right calls to mind that great line from Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity."

If the worst are defined by passionate intensity then she must not be paying attention to the Huffington Post, MoveOn, Kos, etc. They get really passionate.

This is really just a leftist attack on the press. Neither side is happy with press coverage but their approach is quite different. The right points to specific examples, often the lead stories and the network anchors. The left deals in generalities. After each loss they complain that the press wasn't a strong enough advocate on their behalf. Arianna seems to be demanding that the press stop covering things that she doesn't think are important.

That's the beauty of a free press. If you don't like the way that the cover things then you can start a rival. You can even name it after yourself and invite your friends to contribute. But you can't tell other media what to cover and you can't tell people what to watch.

In a recent interview on 20/20, Arianna implied that when they are in charge, this will change:

STOSSEL: This makes Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly very powerful if they can do this.

HUFFINGTON: They are very powerful, but they will not be as powerful after we finish dealing with them. [LAUGHS]

So much for the First Amendment.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Green Canvassers

A couple of days ago I had a door-to-door canvasser come to my house. Among other things he had a petition to force Ohio electric companies to produce 20% of their electricity through renewable sources. I pointed out that this was going to be expensive. If it was economically feasible then they would already be doing it. His reply was that it will be expensive but not as expensive as having our oil run out.

This shows just how poorly informed these canvassers are. Around half of our nation's power comes from coal. Nuclear and gas are nearly tied for distant second and third places. Fuel Oil is fifth place. Here's how they stack up.

The following amount of electricity, in gigawatt-hours (GWh), was generated from the nation's fuel mix:
  • Coal: 2,013,179 GWh
  • Nuclear: 781,986 GWh
  • Gas: 757,974 GWh
  • Hydro: 263,029 GWh
  • Fuel Oil: 122,522 GWh
  • Biomass: 63,856 GWh
  • Other (geothermal, non-wood waste, wind, and solar): 52,142 GWh
My source is here. It only took me a minute to find this with Google.

I did take the opportunity to quietly inform the gentleman that new coal-fired power plants are being blocked by activists and replaced with gas-turbine ones. This will raise the price of natural gas a lot. It is unclear how well these will work out. Currently gas-fired turbines have been used for short-term load balancing, not constant generation. They may not cope. I expect rolling brown-outs within a decade.

I didn't take the time to tell him about the problems with wind. There are several. It comes and goes at its own schedule. You can't turn it up during a heat wave when everyone has the air conditioning on. If it blows too hard then windmills have to be shut down or they break. Worst - the power grid cannot store power. If the wind is gusting then the power plants can only take the low-end of the production in order to produce constant power.

Coal is cheap and plentiful but activists hate it so new coal-fired power plants are being blocked and many power companies aren't even trying to push them through.

But the activists have no idea of any of this.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hillary Hangs On

Once again Hillary named a primary that she had to win and won it. Current counts with nearly all the precincts counted has her up by 10 points over Obama. That's important. There was a lot of talk the last few weeks that she should pull out if it was close. It also proves that money is not the deciding factor. As in Ohio, Obama out-spent Hillary by a wide margin and still lost.

Of course, the real winner was McCain. Hillary and Obama keep sniping at each other instead of him. Obama is losing his biggest attractions - his freshness and his elevated campaign. By the time the nomination is sewn up voters are going to be sick of him. His promise to run a positive campaign was broken some time ago. Without the novelty and high ideals, he is an inexperienced far-left liberal running against a center-right moderate.

McCain gets to travel around the country and look presidential. Obama is too busy fighting Hillary to go after McCain allowing McCain to take the moral high ground away from Obama.

I've pointed out before that despite conventional wisdom that says that a pro-war Republican cannot win against a generic Democrat, McCain does a lot better against this pair of Democrats. If Obama can't gain a clear victory over Hillary then he is a lot weaker than the pundits give him credit for.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The "Trivial" Debate

Obama supporters have spent the last week complaining about the debate hosted by ABC. Obama himself went on the Colbert Report and put "trivialities" on notice. ABC responded by pointing out that Republicans are likely to bring up the same points that they asked.

At its heart, the Obama camp and, to some extent the Clinton camp, are complaining that the debates should be there to put the candidates in the best possible light. They wanted the debates to focus on policy. Instead the first several questions were "trivial".

I think that ABC was correct. Candidates like to campaign on their platform but there are no guarantees that the platform will be enacted. Bush's platform called for a humble foreign policy and no more nation-building. Clinton promised universal health care, a small tax cut, and gays in the military. Both found that realities changed once they were in office. The signature events of these administrations - war with Iraq and welfare reform - were never mentioned on the campaign trail.

Bill Clinton also provides an object lesson that many candidates will promise anything to get elected then fall back on their core beliefs  and/or political expediency after they are elected.

In Obama's case we have a politician who is still unknown. He is probably quite a bit to the left of the image he projects but we don't know. We are forced to look at things that seem trivial as insights into his character. How does he feel about America? He has refused to wear a flag pin. His minister denounces America. His wife implies that she was never proud of her country. Does that mean that Obama himself dislikes the country he wants to lead? Maybe. The only way to find out is to keep digging.

What about Obama's claim to be a "post-racial" candidate? That one seems a bit easier. He casually mentioned that most white people in America are racist and he stereotyped rural Pennsylvanians as being religious, gun-loving racists. His first book, Dreams from my Father, is all about his quest to create a racial identity. Contrary to his claims, Obama is a racially polarizing figure. Does America want this in a leader? This is not trivial.

What is trivial is to debate minor details of primary campaign platforms. These will be modified after the national convention. If Obama (or Hillary) is elected then he can suggest legislation to Congress but once there it is open to endless amending. Anything passed will be substantially different from the current platforms.

America does not elect a platform. America elects a leader who will have to respond to events that have not yet happened. We elect the man (or Hillary) based on our confidence that he can take that 3 am call, not because of minor differences in health care proposal coverage. We want the best leader, not the highest bidder.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's the Matter With Pennsylvania?

For the last few years the most influential book among Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives has been Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas?

Here's part of Amazon's abstract:
The largely blue collar citizens of Kansas can be counted upon to be a "red" state in any election, voting solidly Republican and possessing a deep animosity toward the left. This, according to author Thomas Frank, is a pretty self-defeating phenomenon, given that the policies of the Republican Party benefit the wealthy and powerful at the great expense of the average worker. According to Frank, the conservative establishment has tricked Kansans, playing up the emotional touchstones of conservatism and perpetuating a sense of a vast liberal empire out to crush traditional values while barely ever discussing the Republicans' actual economic policies and what they mean to the working class. Thus the pro-life Kansas factory worker who listens to Rush Limbaugh will repeatedly vote for the party that is less likely to protect his safety, less likely to protect his job, and less likely to benefit him economically.

This book was very comforting after the 2004 election when Blue America woke up to find that it was outnumbered. This along with Eric Alterman's Why We're Liberals assures the left that they are not out of touch with America. They just need to work harder to convince regular Americans that they have been fooled into voting for the wrong party. I won't even start with Alterman's book except to suggest that he look at his own history of liberals and try to match that to the current crop.

Frank's influence can be seen all over the place. Here's something that Arianna Huffington just wrote today:
It has been an article of faith in the Democratic Party over the last twenty years that when small town, working class whites vote for Republicans they're voting against their economic self-interest. And why do they do that? Because every four years the Republican Party comes into those small towns and, to distract folks from the worsening economic situation, trots out a bunch of divisive, hot button social issues: "Let's not talk about why you don't have a job, can't afford health care, or can't send your kids to college; let's talk about gay marriage, school prayer, illegal immigration, and flag burning amendments." And Hillary is following the blueprint.

In trying to defuse "Bittergate" Obama made similar statements. In fact, this is what he was trying to say in his original speech but he mangled it beyond recognition. If you assume that he was trying to say that the factory jobs left 25 years ago and people have stopped believing economic promises and now vote on the basis of religion, guns, etc. then his speech doesn't sound so outragious.

So should Obama get a pass? No. He's had three chances at explaining himself and it still has not come out right. He may have internalized Frank's message but he added in some of his own beliefs. He's not only explaining why Pennsylvanians vote wrong, he is explaining why they believe the wrong things.

Frank has problems of his own. The whole assumption of the book is that a) People would vote on economic matters if they only believed that the candidates would follow through, and b) Republicans are evil.

Frank is taking an almost Marxist class-based approach to politics. Class identity and economics should be the main determination in party loyalty. The Democrats are the party of the working-class and the Republicans are the party of the factory-owners. The Democrats will bring prosperity to the workers by taking their rightful share from the rich. You can hear that thinking in most of Obama's speeches. He talks about "the rich" a lot.

One cognitive dissonance is that the Republicans also sincerely believe that they are the party of prosperity. They believe (and can point to specific examples) that excessive government regulation and redistribution of wealth costs jobs and that Democrats are slaves to many anti-industry special-interest groups. Frank and his followers do not recognize any of this. They confuse being pro-union with being pro-worker. They don't even notice that shutting down eastern coal mines over exaggerated dangers from sulfur dioxide or shutting down logging because of spotted owls might hurt the working-class that they claim to represent.

They also fail to notice that other things matter to people besides economics. Democrats are the party of gun control. Many of them are defending DC's strict gun laws while trying to convince hunters that they are safe. Public expressions of Christianity, especially Christmas, have been all but outlawed by Democrats and groups associated with them. Religious people notice these things.

Obama and Frank offer a simple bargain - follow me and I'll take care of your material needs but you will have to change everything that you believe in. To quote his wife:
Barack Obama is going to demand that you shed your cynicism, that you put down your divisions, that you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones, that you push yourself to be better and that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved and uninformed.

How ungrateful are those who do not accept the rule of Doctor Doom! Do I not give them shelter--provide them food? And all I ask is total, blind obedience!

- I'm embarrassed to admit that I had to see someone else point this out but the group of poor, bitter Pennsylvanians that Obama was talking about vote Democratic. Pennsylvania is a blue state and the poorer sections are some of the bluest. Maybe they are voting against their best interests, after all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Guns and Politics

Obama's "bitter" comments where he equated gun ownership and religion with racism, xenophobia, and being anti-trade will cost him. He had been courting the religious vote and this will not help his case with them. The gun lobby is another group that should not be angered. Obama has forgotten the lessons of the Clinton years.

Gun control was a big part of the early Clinton years. Some centerpiece legislation included a three-day waiting period for gun ownership (which was replaced with instant background checks). The Clinton administration also tried to severely reduce the number of gun dealers and gun shows. Clinton's Attorney General, Janet Reno, was seen as being very hostile to gun ownership. During his administration, Bill made several comments that proved that gun control was something that he believed in, not a position he adopted out of expediency.

This cost the Democrats. In 1994 the Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in a generation. The two big issues that helped the Republicans were Clinton's gas tax increase and his attempts at gun control. The NRA doubled its membership and raised significant lobbying funds during this period as gun owners looked for protection.

The gun legislation that did pass made it through the Senate on a 50-50 vote with Al Gore casting the deciding vote. The Clinton administration praised him at the time as their "magic bullet" for getting legislation passed. Gore's anti-gun votes ended up costing him the presidency.

In 2000, Gore would have won the election if he had won one more state - any state. One state that he lost was his home state of Tennessee. Exit polls showed that the number of single-issue pro gun voters was greater than Bush's victory margin. If gun owners hadn't voted against Gore then he probably would have won Tennessee and the presidency.

This was not lost on the Democrats in 2004. Gun control was officially given a low priority in the party platform. Howard Dean ran as a pro-gun Democrat. John Kerry made a show of going duck hunting. This didn't actually help him much since the tags were still on his brand-new hunting outfit and he was the only member of his group to return without a duck. Kerry was every bit as good at hunting as Obama is at bowling. Regardless, Kerry tried to assure voters that gun control was off the table (at least for hunters).

Hillary learned this lesson. Over the weekend she ran from Bill's record on gun-control by telling about her grandfather in Pennsylvania teaching her to shoot when she was young. Whatever her private views on gun control and gun ownership (and they are probably close to Bill's views) you will not catch her denigrating gun owners.

This will cost Obama. All that Republicans need to do to appeal to gun owners is remind them that Obama thinks that they are bitter racists.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Obama Meant, and Why His Appologies Aren't Working

It started here where Obama gave a speech to a small, private fund-raiser in California. This was attended by a Huffington Poster who had some reservations about his tone. It quickly got picked up by both the Clinton and the McCain campaigns.

What he said:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Clinton picked up on the bitter part and her campaign handed out "I'm not bitter" stickers in North Carolina.

Obama's first reaction was to insist that rural Americans are bitter and that Clinton and McCain are out of touch if they think otherwise. But that doesn't address the rest of what he said. To paraphrase:
People in a lot of these small towns lke guns and religion too much. They don't like people who aren't like them or are immigrants and they don't like world trade. But it isn't their fault that they are like this. The jobs went away 25 years ago and never came back. This made them what they are - bitter. But if we can bring back the jobs then they will get over their bitterness and be like the rest of us.
I think I am being fair in this restatement. He said that they are bitter then he gave a list of presumably undesirable traits that he ascribes to her bitterness.

At least he didn't throw in a comment about "typical white people."

I don't doubt that Obama has heard from some people who are angry about the lack of jobs Some of them probably qualify as bitter. But this doesn't matter. He applies a stereotype to rural (white?) people then offers bitterness as an excuse for their undesirable traits.

How many of the bitter Pennsylvanians Obama talked with would be willing to give up guns and religion in exchange for jobs?

And the worst thing is that he still doesn't seem to understand what he said. He's still apologizing for the "bitter" part without understanding how offensive the rest of it was.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Terrorist Attack that Wasn't Was a Threat After All

In August of 2006, British authorities announced that they had stopped a terrorist plot designed to blow up multiple airplanes flying between London and North America. This is the reason that you can only carry tiny amounts of liquids on board.

The reaction from the left was instructive. They were sure that the plot either did not exist or would ever have worked. The first reaction was that the announcement of the plot was timed to distract the world from the most significant democratic event since the signing of the Declaration of Independence*. When it was pointed out that the announcement came from Tony Blair's government, not George Bush's they went on to condemn Blair for doing Bush's handiwork.

The most common reaction was that the British had picked up on some people who were talking big but whose plan could never have actually worked.

The terrorists planned on smuggling explosives on board in pieces and assembling the bomb on the airplane. The left picked up on that and speculated that the terrorists would be using a binary explosive. They went on to list the difficulties of mixing the most common binary in a rest room. This was widely picked up and used as evidence that there was never any real threat. The politicians were just using a half-formed plot to scare people into giving up their civil liberties.

Several plots have been discovered since 9/11 and the left has reacted the same way over each of them. They insisted that the plotters were never a threat and the government was simply using scapegoats to scare the populous.

The trial of the British terrorists started recently and a funny thing is emerging - they were a serious threat. At least one of them had already filmed his "martyr" video.

More important, it turns out that the left got things all wrong about the explosives. The terrorists were going to use a hypodermic needle to empty drink containers then inject a fairly stable hydrogen peroxide-based explosive into the container. The hole would be sealed with super glue. They had already done experiments on how much coloring to use to make the explosive look like the original contents. They figured that security would never question a sealed container. They also had detonators hidden in C cell batteries.

They planned on attaching the detonators to the explosives in the restrooms.

I looked up the explosives they were dealing with. I'm not going to provide the link but I found someone telling how to create an unstable version of the same explosive. This was strained through coffee filters and left to dry. The site included a picture of the hole that one of the coffee filters blew in the bench it was drying on after it was left in the sun.

So the threat was real.

This reaction is related to Bush Derangement Syndrome. The left hates President Bush so much that they need to believe that everything he does is a lie. The extreme cases of this believe that the World Trade Center was brought down by explosives planted internally. Even the milder cases believe that the only reason that anyone int he world hates us is our president and that we will be universally loved once we replace Bush with an internationalist president.

In the meantime, there are people who want to kill us and our allies.

* You can be forgiven if you don't remember the momentous event. It was the defeat of Joe Lieberman by Ned Lamont in the Democratic primaries. Lieberman ran as an independent and retained his seat.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hillary and the Emergency Room

I complained a couple of days ago about Hillary telling a story that may not be true. I'd like to examine this in more detail. First, here's the story as it was told to her by Sheriff's Deputy Bryan Holman.
"I'd like to tell you a story of a young woman I know that didn't have health insurance. She worked at a little pizza place around here, and she was pregnant and worked, of course, for minimum wage. She went to the hospital, and the hospital told her that she needed a $100 up front, which she didn't have."

He continued, "Of course, didn't make a lot of money. So they had billed her a couple times for it. And after getting pregnant she went back, like I say, went back again. They told her she needed $100, which she didn't have. And so they refused to see her because of-- she had a bill and stuff from being there before. So she went to another local hospital, and they'd seen her and stopped her labor and told her to come back in two days. Well, before she got back within those two days, her baby died."

Hillary grimaced.

"So they life-flighted her to a hospital in Columbus, and within 15 days, she died," Holman added. "And they come to find out that they'd misdiagnosed what the problem was. And it was a smaller hospital and didn't have the needs to take care of what she needed at that time. But-- her family and them think that if she'd had good insurance and stuff and was taken care of at the first hospital, of course, that had the medical needs to take care of her, that her and her baby would, you know, of course, they'd still be here. That's just, you know, I think that the health insurance thing really needs to be addressed and for people, you know, who work for minimum wage and different things."
Without verify any of the details, Hillary started repeating this story at campaign stops. Recently a hospital complained that the facts were wrong. The woman did have insurance and was treated. Hillary supporters have pointed out that the story mentions three hospitals. The first one remains un-named and is the one that turned the woman away. It was the second hospital that complained. I don't think that this matters.

The first point is that Hillary was using this story to promote some form of nationalized health care but she heard the story second-hand and repeated it without verifying any details. It does not matter if any of the story was true or not. What matters is that she did not know. That's no way to justify legislation that will affect the entire country.

The second point is that there are problems with the story. According to the deputy the woman was turned away from a hospital because she couldn't pay $100. Federal law says that emergency rooms cannot turn people away because of inability to pay. If a hospital did turn her away it would have been for a standard prenatal checkup. There is nothing in the story to show that a prenatal checkup would have made a difference.

The third point is that one of the hospitals involved says that she did have insurance.

Finally there is the expected end result. The second hospital mis-diagnosed the problems. Deputy Holman is sure that the first hospital would have provided a proper diagnosis and he seems to think that, if we provided insurance to everyone, then hospitals would be better equipped or that people could skip the smaller hospitals and go straight to the betters ones. That's not how nationalized health care has worked in other countries. If you provide health care free of charge then the demand overwhelms the supply. The government looks for ways to cut costs and hospitals end up under-equipped and under-staffed.

But none of this matters to Hillary. She sees a chance to use a sad story to get into the White House.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Who Would Tell Us - II

A couple of weeks ago I asked who would tell us if the climate models are wrong? Among my worries is that anyone in the media who tried to suggest such a thing would be silenced. Here is an example of this happening. Last week the BBC ran an article about the current cooling phase associated with a La Nina event. They were challenged on the wording of the headline and one paragraph because it suggested that skeptics might have a valid point. After a few email exchanges the BBC changed the offending article. Here is a detailed account of the exchange and here is self-congratulatory post by the person responsible.

One interesting thing in the Register article in my first link, they included a graph of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This shows a preponderance of cool events through the mid-1970s followed by a preponderance of warm events. This can be interpreted two different ways - 1) Global warming caused the balance of events to shift to warming, or 2) a natural cycle of ENSO warmed the atmosphere causing most of the warm years since the 1980s independant of the influence of CO2.

I have seen #2 discussed before but not in the major media. This just wouldn't be allowed.

Monday, April 07, 2008

What counts as foreign policy experience

According to Huffington blogger Mayhill Fowler, Obama recently claimed that he had superior foreign policy experience to Hillary or McCain.

"It's ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags 'I've met leaders from eighty countries'--I know what those trips are like! I've been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There's a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then--you go.

"You do that in eighty countries--you don't know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa--knowing the leaders is not important--what I know is the people. . . .

"I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college--I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . .

"Nobody is entirely prepared for being Commander-in-Chief. The question is when the 3 AM phone call comes do you have somebody who has the judgment, the temperament to ask the right questions, to weigh the costs and benefits of military action, who insists on good intelligence, who is not going to be swayed by the short-term politics. By most criteria, I've passed those tests and my two opponents have not."

So, what should we make of this?

First off, it strikes me as arrogant, but a lot of what Obama does strikes me that way. Also he should have kept quiet about knowing the difference between Sunni and Shia - it just reminds people that he was raised as a Muslim when he lived in Indonesia.

Speaking of Indonesia, yes he lived there but he was a young child at the time. From the excerpts I have read of Dreams From My Father, his visit to Africa was all about meeting family, not about finding out how governments are run.

So where does that leave his assertion that it is more important to know people than to know foreign affairs? I have some secondhand personal experience with this. My sister-in-law recently lived in China for three years. You might think that this gave her deep insights into US/Chinese relations and knowledge about some of the repression practiced by the Chinese government. You would be wrong. She has great admiration for the Chinese people and that blinds her to the actions of the Chinese government. She has trouble separating the two.

Does Obama have this problem? Maybe. He certainly seems to think that he knows everything there is to know about foreign relations.
Finally, Obama's experience gives him insight into northern Africa and the Indian Ocean. That still leaves a lot of the world that he does not have a personal relationship with including the rest of Asia, sub-Sahara Africa, Europe, South America, and out North American neighbors (who he sometimes says that he no longer wants to trade with).

He might have gained some experience in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He even chairs a sub-committee but he hasn't bothered to hold any meetings. The same is true for immigration reform where he was theoretically part of the group but didn't actually show up for 7 am meetings.

Do we need a president who feels that his childhood experiences make him an expert on foreign affairs?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Truthiness Campaign

Hillary has been telling the story of an Ohio woman who was pregnant and had complications. There were no hospitals in her county and the hospital that the woman went to demanded $100 up front before they would see her since she was not insured. Originally Hillary simply said that someone told her this story but she didn't know any specifics. Later she came up with the name of the woman and the hospital.

Then the hospital objected. The woman in question was insured and was admitted. The Clinton campaign explained that they try to vet Hillary's stories but medical questions are confidential by federal law so they could not verify the details of the story. So they let Hillary go ahead and tell a story that may or may not be true because it was such a good story. Does anyone see a problem here?

Not that Obama is a font of font of veracity. While he was telling Ohio factory worker that he was against NAFTA one of his advisers was telling the Canadian government that this was just campaign talk, not his real views.

Then there is his position on gun control. He says that he will not take peoples' guns away, or at least not hunting weapons. A recent comment about the gun control case before the Supreme Court led conservatives to look at Obama's record on gun control. This is at odds with some of his current statements.

Then there's Obama's Iraq strategy. Last week he was asked how any troops he would leave in Iraq. He stammered something about enough to protect the embassy. But some of his campaign aides are talking about a 60,000 strong strike force which is pretty close to what McCain and Clinton have proposed.

Clearly Clinton and Obama will say anything that will get them elected. The trouble is that we don't know what to believe.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hating McCain

With the general election campaign in sight, the left feels an obligation to start hating McCain. I'm not sure their hearts are in it, though. After hating Bush so long, is there room in their hearts to hate anyone else as much or as deeply?

Then there is the distraction of Hillary (or Obama depending on your sympathies). Can the left hate McCain and Hillary while continuing to hate Bush?

They are trying but it's not McCain that they hate, it's being out of power for another 4-8 years. Look at their attacks. The primary one, 100 years of war, is based on a gross misrepresentation (a polite term for "outright lie"). The other ones - not knowing enough about the economy and being an opportunist - are pretty weak since they apply to Obama and Clinton at least as well as to McCain.

All they are really left with is McCain=Bush. Here's an example from Arianna herself.

Here's John McCain circa 2000:

"I'd institute a policy that I call 'rogue state rollback'...I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments."

Now over seventy percent of Americans believe that "rogue state rollback" has not worked out that well.

Notice how she's hoping that no one will notice the difference between arming rebels and invading.

The other thing that the let is doing is resorting to name-calling. ex. McSell-Out and McNasty.

This is pretty weak stuff. It's hard to imagine Democrats mobilizing the troops to beat McCain when this is the best they can muster.

UPDATE: Anti-McCain groups lag in fundraising.
Democratic talk of an early, hard-hitting campaign to "define" and tar Arizona Sen. John McCain appears to have fizzled for lack of money, leading to a quiet round of finger-pointing among Democratic operatives and donors as McCain assembles a campaign and a public image relatively unmolested.
See? They just can't muster up much hate for McCain.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bad News or Good News?

Dylan Loewe at the Huffington Post takes a look at a recent poll which shows McCain within a statistical dead heat with Obama. He sees this as good news for Democrats. To his way of thinking, McCain can only go down. His reasoning is that Hillary is attacking Obama while McCain has nearly dropped out of the news and that the voters have not yet begun to associate McCain with Bush's policies and war (meaning that the Democrats haven't started tarring him yet).

While this is true it is not the entire picture. Assuming that Obama gets the nomination, he is still fairly untested. The primary race has been between two progressives playing to the party's left wing. Neither is questioning the other's policies except to say that they are not progressive enough. The assumption is that the country has moved to the left but this assumption has not been tested. The Democrats won the 2006 election by running moderate candidates and capitalizing on resentment against the war, Republican ethical misconduct, and a general wearying of Bush. No one really knows if the country will back a candidate who wants to make it illegal to be uninsured. Obama will have to move to the center to be elected but it is unknown if he can do this and maintain his credibility.

More important, freshness is important in polls taken this early. McCain has been around for decades. This is his second run at the presidency. His name has been in the news as a Senator for years. In contrast, Obama is still shiny and fresh. He may be fleshing out his platitudes but most voters haven't heard the specifics. All they know is that he is the candidate of hope and change.

It is fairly common for a fresh candidate to do well in the Spring polls only to crash and burn by November. Voters are attracted to a candidate who seems to represent everything they want. This will change as the campaign wears on. Obama will have to define his platform and Republicans will challenge him on it. He will have to make specific proposals for Iraq and stick with them. If he proposes a quick pull-out then McCain will accuse him of cowardice. Voters will become learn all about Obama's college years when he would only associate with Marxists and radical feminists and Reverend Wright's quotes will be played constantly.

Once Hillary is out of the race Obama will be able to heal some of the damage but it remains to be seen how well he can do this. How much of her support is actually Anyone But Obama?

If McCain is lucky (and he's had quite a bit of luck already) then he will benefit from his age the same way that Reagan did. When Carter tried running a negative campaign against Reagan it hurt Carter. It came across as kicking someone's grandfather. McCain's age and service for the country may protect him from some of the more outrageous attacks.

So, my prediction is that McCain's numbers may sink over the next few months but that he will surge by or before the Republican convention. Obama will surge during the convention when he gives a blockbuster of a speach but his numbers will sink constantly starting as soon as the convention ends.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Circular Reasoning

What to do about Michigan and Florida? This is a big dilemma for the Democrats. Howard Dean is all for seating the delegates but not until the candidate has been selected. Hillary is still pushing a second vote. Obama has suggested that the delegates be split evenly. Someone else proposed giving Hillary all of her Michigan delegates and Obama the remaining ones.

Most of these solutions will anger the voters from these states. Other states were allowed to move up their primaries and only lost half their delegates. The DNC is practicing preferential treatment. This is understandable, they are Democrats and that's what Democrats do. Still, the experience can be galling for those left behind. Neither of these states voted so solidly that they can afford to alienate voters.

Many, especially among the Obama supporters, are quite happy to leave things the way that they are. After all, these states brought it on themselves by moving their primaries even thought they are not among the favored states that are allowed to vote early.

Here is a bit of circular reasoning in favor of leaving things as they are.
Myth: If they don't get seated until the convention but a nominee is selected before these poor people get counted then these states are disenfranchised.

There are two ways to debunk this myth: semantically and practically. The first is based on the word "disenfranchised:" these people have not been deprived of their right to vote. Through the actions of their states, their votes don't impact the outcome. Now, you may say that that is specious semantics (Myth: I do say that!) but practically speaking, this is the usual effect of the nominating process, anyway.

This in effect says that these states have a choice between letting other states select the nominee before Florida and Michigan get to vote or losing their vote. I understand their frustration. Here in Ohio we vote so late that the nominee has normally been chosen a long time before our vote. While Ohio got to keep Hillary in the contest, McCain was already a forgone conclusion.

The powers that be have allowed certain states to select our elected candidates. They aren't even representative states. The Republicans at least allowed a trade-off - vote early and lose half your delegates. If the Democrats had done the same thing then Hillary would still have likely carried those states but Obama would still be ahead and unsullied.

Obama the Regular Guy

In order to prove that he is a regular guy, Barack Obama went bowling yesterday in Pennsylvania. He ended up proving that he is as comfortable in a bowling alley as Dukakis was in a tank. Obama bowled a 37.

Politicians feel the need to prove that they are regular people. It worked for Bush who most Americans would like to share a beer with. It didn't work for John Kerry who kept going off message by doing things like this.

What Obama proved is that he is a terrible bowler. He claimed that he last bowled back during the Carter administration but he must have done it on a dare, even back then.

This will not hurt him but I doubt that it will help him either. Kerry learned that when he went hunting.