Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finding racism

Earlier today I mentioned McCain's anti-Obama ad. This places Obama in the context of Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears - two women currently known more for being famous than for accomplishing anything. Bill Press of Huffington asks why these two?
Of all the famous celebrities they could have compared Obama to, why not Tom Cruise? Or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Donald Trump, or Oprah Winfrey? Why Britney Spears and Paris Hilton? Why two white blond bimbos?
I thought that the answer was obvious - Tom, Arnold, Donald, and Oprah all have major accomplishments to their names. The point of the ad is to compare Obama who has few qualifications for the presidency to two people who are better known for their personal lives than their accomplishments. Schwarzenegger especially would be a poor choice since he is a successful governor.

That's not how Press sees it. He sees a dark conspiracy, placing two white blonds in the context of a black man can only be racist manipulation.
In juxtaposing Barack Obama with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, the McCain campaign is simply trying to plant the old racist seed of black man hitting on young white woman. Not directly, but subliminally and disgracefully.

So any anti-Obama ad showing a woman is a subliminal message? Had the ad limited itself to blacks then Press would be complaining that it was reminding us of Obama's dark skin. Some people are determined to find racism everywhere, regardless of actual intent.

Going Low

Barack Obama made a lot of claims about being a new type of politician, one who would take the high road. That doesn't match his rhetoric. In a recent speech he insisted that Bush and McCain (he seems to think that Bush is still running) will use racist appeals.
Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me," Obama said. "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 the dollar bills.
This is the same reason that Obama gave for refusing public financing. He said that he needed to gather more money to combat the racist that McCain is sure to run. Considering that McCain's current ad equates Obama with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Obama's assertion seems a bit unlikely.

I would go further and say that Obama's insistence that white candidates will automatically conduct racist campaigns is offensive and racist on its own.

Unfortunately, if Obama looses then we will be hearing for years about the racist campaign that smeared him, even if no such campaign ever existed.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Thought Processes of an Obama Supporter

Look at this article in Slate. I don't know much about the author, John Dickerson, but from the text, I can tell that he loves Obama and hates Bush. At the same time, he has some real doubts about Obama but he manages to assure himself that everything is ok.

He starts by quoting Obama as saying that he was never in doubt about foreign policy decisions. Since this sounds a lot like Bush, Dickerson goes on to assure us that Obama is a superior human being.
We know, of course, that Barack Obama, in fact, goes through life thinking in subtle, nuanced, and interesting ways. He's probably got lots of complex input from his visit to Iraq that he's dissecting and analyzing.
How is this being reflected? He admits that Obama isn't sharing much. Neither is Susan Rice, Obama's advisor who never answered Diskerson's questions.
And now that the trip is over, we have no better sense of how Sen. Obama thinks about Iraq. It's not that I expect grand revelations. But Obama still holds the same policy views he did more than a year and a half ago, even though a lot has changed since then in Iraq, and a lot of those events appear to contradict his earlier views. We know that Obama hasn't moved, but we don't know, really, why that's so.
Dickerson goes on to admit that Obama was completely wrong about the surge in 2007.
Even if you agree with the argument that the additional brigades didn't change much in Iraq on their own, you still have to account for whether the overall Petraeus strategy shift worked to assist the positive developments among Sunnis and Sadr's Shiite militia. Obama suggests the military had almost no role in the Anbar Awakening and the decision by Sadr's militia to stand down—that the two sets of events merely happened "at the same time."
Dickerson also quotes Obama as saying that the Anbar Awakening happened because the Democrats won Congress in 2006 even though the Awakening had already started.

Dickerson saves the worst for last:
Perhaps Obama doesn't want to share his views because his inquisitive mind sometimes takes him to contradictory places. In his book The Audacity of Hope, he writes about pulling aside reporters who were living in Iraq to get their views about the war. He expected them to agree with his call for a troop reduction. They didn't. They said a troop reduction would start a civil war. Obama called for a troop reduction anyway, but we know his mind is alive enough to capture and remember a piece of data that didn't fit with his pre-existing views. Are contradictory observations fine for a book but off-limits when you're a political candidate? Admitting you're wrong, or even that your thinking has evolved, is risky for a politician. Maybe too risky. That's certainly what George Bush believes.
Why does Dickerson give Obama so much credit and Bush so little? Bush changed course with the surge on the advise of people with experience in Iraq. Obama did the opposite. He heard something that contradicted his beliefs so he ignored it.

Dickerson gave every reason to vote against Obama but he is still gives Obama a pass on a major foreign policy mistake, assuming that it is just part of the campaign.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Surge Worked

Get over it.

A couple of days ago Katie Couric asked an increasingly annoyed Barack Obama about the surge. A year ago Obama insisted that the surge would only make things worse. Now he admits that it made things better but refused to treat this as a positive result. Eventually he made it clear that he thought that winning in Iraq was a bad idea when the money it took could have been spent elsewhere. This gave McCain an opening to accuse Obama of being more interested in winning an election than winning a war.

A clip and transcript of the interview are here along with some rather slanted commentary. Since the commentary pretty much reads from Obama's playbook, I will address it.
Even if we could cast the "Surge" as an unqualified success, the overall strategy has netted America four major failures. And within the larger context of a failure to find WMDs, a failure to improve America's security, a failure to thwart or even impede al Qaeda in the wake of 9/11, and a failure to prevent malign regional forces like Iran and Hezbollah from increasing their regional influence, the "Surge" is entirely without relevance...

So, is the surge irrelevant? Not in the least. None of these four "failures" stand up to scrutiny.

First there is the WMD issue. The left buried it and the Bush administration allowed them to but it was proven that Saddam had the ability to reconstitute his WMD program as soon as sanctions were lifted. Had we not invaded then Iraq would probably be a nuclear power by now.

The next two "failures" are really the same thing said twice. Did the war in Iraq impede al Qaeda and therefore make America safer? Al Qaeda itself announced that it was making Iraq the center of its efforts. Had we simply left and spent the money elsewhere as Obama wanted then Iraq would have become a failed state, the sort of place that al Qaeda likes to use as a headquarters. By defeating them, we not only denied them a new base, we showed the world that we are stronger. Perceptions like this matter.

This tied into the final "failure". A failed Iraq would have been overrun by Iran, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda to the benifit of all three. It would have taken decades for things to settle down.

It should also be pointed out that what the US did was not simply increase the number fo boots on the ground. We changed strategies. Soldiers stopped hiding in large bases. We built on the early Awakening movement and fostered it across Iraq. Anyone who thinks that the surge was nothing but extra soldiers patrolling the streets was not paying attention. This means you, Candidate Obama.

The Left has painted itself into a corner. They invested so much energy insisting that Bush was wrong and we could not win in Iraq that they are unable to admit victory. Obama is even deeper since his main qualification to the presidency is his judgement. If he admits that McCain was right about a major policy issue like the surge then he is admitting that he has no business in the White House.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How Bad is the Economy?

I keep seeing comparisons between the current economic state and the Great Depression. Sometimes someone will ask if the current economy resembles the 1930s or the 1970s.

All of this is ridiculous. By the standard measure of a recession, we are not even in one yet, just a slow-down. This probably will change and the economy has been hit by several blows but comparisons with he 1930s and 1970s are premature at the very least.

Currently unemployment is a bit over 5%. In the 1970s it got as high as 10% and 5% was considered full employment and nearly unreachable. During the Depression unemployment was above 30%. A third of the country was out of work (a lot more if you remember that women weren't supposed to work full-time, anyway).

Inflation is trickier. During the 1970s inflation was a constant factor. People were reluctant to bank their wages because inflation was running ahead of interest. Your money was actually worth less after keeping it in the bank for a few years. The cost of living went up so fast that union contracts specified multiple cost of living increases during a single year. Inflation for the last few months has spiked at a rate not seen since 1980 but we don't know if this year is an anomaly or a trend.

During the Depression, we actually had deflation instead of inflation. Money was so tight that the price of everything went down. If it is bad that housing is not holding its bubble price, think how much worse it would be if nothing held its value.

So, compared with the two earlier periods, things aren't so bad now. But that's not the real difference. The big difference is time. The Depression lasted from 1929 until World War II - more than a decade. The 1970s had recessions hitting so close that the economy hadn't really recovered from the previous one before the next hit. As I already mentioned, inflation and unemployment were both well above today's figures, even during the recoveries. And this went on from the late 1960s until 1983.

So, we haven't even started an official recession and it is already being compared to events that lasted more than a decade. Wait a year or two to see if the economy has recovered. If things are still bad in 2010 then it is time to start worrying. If we haven't seen a recovery in 2015 then you can start talking about the 1930s and 1970s.

In the meantime, 1992 and 2001 are better comparisons.

So why have this conversation at all? I suspect that it is Bush Derangement Syndrome. Liberals would love for Bush's legacy to be that he wrecked the economy. Even more, they would love to use this as a spring-board for even more government intervention. Barack Obama is on board with this. His response to every bit of ad economic news is that it shows the need for more government oversight.

Most economists now admit that the Depression was much longer than it should have been because of FDR's economic policies. Obama wants to repeat that mistake.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who is winning?

It is three and a half months until election day. Who is ahead? Obama is consistently ahead in the polls but in most polls he is only ahead by a few points, often within the margin of error. Two polls have placed Obama way ahead but these have been so anomalous that most observers feel that there must be problems with their methodology. One of them, last month's Newsweek poll which placed Obama ahead by 15 points closed to a statistical dead heat in the July poll. Regardless, Obama still enjoys a consistent if slight lead in the polls.

So, is Obama winning? In my opinion he is performing well below where he should be. Consider:

  • He has gotten a lot more publicity and a higher percentage of favorable publicity. Typically the only way that McCain can get any press is when he is asked for a response to Obama.
  • He is a Democrat running at a time when the Republican brand name is damaged.
  • Early polls usually favor the fresh face and he is a lot fresher than McCain.
  • Obama continues to be much better at giving speeches than McCain.
Adding all of this together, Obama should be 20 points ahead of McCain. This implies a weakness in the Obama campaign. I've pointed out before that he is a much weaker candidate than his press coverage would indicate. There are reasons for this:

  • A lot of Obama's support in the primaries came from his anti-war message. This is not as important to the general electorate.
  • People are worried about his inexperience.
  • The biggest worries now are the economy and energy prices. Obama's policies on these have not resonated with the public. McCain is also weak but favors off-shore drilling which the public supports by a wide margin.
Another worry for the Democrats - fresh faces and challengers usually do much better in the early polls then fade in late Summer.

Worse, Obama might not be doing as well as the polls indicate for several reasons. Democrats tend to do better in polls than on election day. When talking with a live pollster, people sometimes feel ashamed to admit that they vote Republican. This is even more true when being asked about Obama. Some people are going to worry about being labeled a racist if they don't say that they will vote for Obama. Then there are the real racists - people who will never vote for a black man but don't want to admit it. There were primaries where Obama did much worse on election day than in the polls. That is bound to be happening again, now.

Usually there are two ways to predict which candidate will win the presidency. The candidate who has the least trouble securing the nomination usually wins. McCain effectively wrapped up the nomination on Super Tuesday. In contrast, Obama didn't even become the front-runner until Super Tuesday.

The other indicator is which candidate's campaign seems to be flailing. This one is harder to call. McCain has some good ads running but, as I said before, he has a lot of trouble getting any coverage. He doesn't have any sharp attack ads like Bush 41 nor does he have a strong platform like Reagan.

Obama assembled a better campaign structure during the primaries but he doesn't seem to be going anywhere with it. One major sign of trouble is the number of times he has had to make major addresses on various issues. These always seem to be reactive. He made an address on patriotism in response to internet rumors. He made an address on Iraq after his own supporters accused him of changing positions.These are the actions of a losing candidate, not the front-runner. On balance, I would give McCain a slight advantage here.

There are still several events that could tip the election either way. The choice of a running-mate can make a difference. A bad choice can doom a campaign.

Obama's big chance is the Democratic convention. He has already hurt himself there by moving his acceptance speech to a larger stadium. The networks are cutting back coverage of the convention in order to cover the speech. A really good speech could give him a big enough lead that McCain can never catch him. This could be a trap, though. Expectations are high. If his speech isn't as good as his 2004 keynote address it will hurt him.

McCain's biggest hope is debates. Obama is at his best behind a teleprompter and at his worst in an unscripted debate. This is where McCain's experience shows. Both candidates know this. Most of the public is unaware of this which leads to hightened expectations that Obama cannot live up to. The big question is how many debates McCain can pressure Obama into.

The final factor is McCain's sense of decency. So far he has treated Obama far more fairly than Obama has treated him. Veterans of G. H. W. Bush's campaign in 1992 say that he lost because he was convinced that a sitting president didn't need to campaign hard. He didn't see the need for a strong campaign until mid-October - far too late to save his presidency. MoveOn has no such scruples. Will McCain concent to do whatever it takes to win?

The same question holds true for Obama. Rumor is that his campaign has gotten arrogant. They are not helping Congressional candidates. They have alienated the netroots. Are they willing to work with others or will they repeat Hillary's mistakes?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If You Can't Take the Heat

One of todays' top news stories - the New Yorker ran an article on the rumors and outright lies that have been passed around about Barack Obama. To illustrate this, the cover shows all of the myths at once with Barack dressed as a Muslim and his wife as a 60s radical with a portrait of Osama bin Ladin hanging from the wall and the US flag burning in the fireplace.

You would think that the Obama campaign would welcome a major magazine doing a debunking. You would be wrong. They are upset about the cover.

To put things in perspective, President Bush is regularly portrayed as Dick Cheney's puppet, as a chimp, as a devil with his ears forming horns, and as a Nazi soldier with blood dripping from his vampire fangs. Jon Stuart jokes that when Bush and Cheney get together they kill kittens. I won't go into the things that Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann say about him.

If Obama is upset about an ironic painting used to illustrate a smpathetic article in a sympathetic magazine then how will he react to the abuse that residents take? How will his supporters react?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Obama and English

In a recent speech, Barack Obama talked about language. He started out criticizing the people who stress the importance of English in America then went on to rag on Americans as a whole for being ignorant.

On the movement to make English the official language, he said,
I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, we need to have English only. They want to pass a law, we just, we want English only. Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English, I agree with this. But understand this, instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English, they'll learn English, you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual.

Obama is either ignorant or playing dumb. If immigrants were learning English then we would not be having this conversation. In fact only around half of legal Spanish-speaking immigrants speak English well. Among the illegal immigrants, the percentage is much lower. This should be self-evident. Why would America have bi-lingual choices for nearly everything, even Spanish ballots, if the immigrants were learning English?

This leads into the reason that it is important for immigrants to learn English. Those who do not are creating a permanent under-class. They are cutting themselves off from the better jobs and education. Our country has been an enabler for this and it needs to stop. Consider this a form of tough-love. That is what the English only movement is all about.

Obama's suggestion that English-speaking children should be taught Spanish instead further enables immigrants who are not learning English.

If you want further proof, look at other bi-lingual countries. Canada's French population has come close to splitting and forming their own country. Belgium is having the same problem. Within a generation we could easily see some of our southern states wanting to secede from the USA and join Mexico.

Obama then continued:
We should have every child speaking more than one language. It's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beacoup, right?

This is not a surprising sentiment coming from a noted internationalist. He was probably taught it by his mother who spent most of her adult life living outside the US. Regardless, it is still insulting.

The implication is that Europeans are better than us because they all speak English but we can't speak their languages. This raises the question, which language should we speak if we want to communicate with the largest number of foreigners living outside the US? The answer is English and we already know that.

It would probably amaze Obama to learn that only 15% of English speakers speak it as their first language. Most of the world uses English to communicate. India, for example, has so many dialects that the only language that most Indians have in common is English. China has the same problem and is rapidly beginning to use English as the solution. The same is true for much of Africa.

This is not true of German. It was once true of French but those days are long gone.

Also, Europeans know several languages because Europe is full of languages. I can drive from Columbus to Obama's home in Chicago and speak with the local populous. A similar trip in Europe would land me in a different country with a different language.

Obama is probably counting on his comments to win him votes among Spanish-speaking voters (once he has been translated). This may help his campaign but it will hurt the country.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Obama Abandons the Democrats

What else can you call it? Barack Obama announced that he will give his acceptance speech at an outdoor stadium instead of at the Democratic National Convention. This has some implications for the party. Not only is he distancing himself from them, he is hurting their coverage. The networks decided to cut back on the amount of money they spend on the convention.

So, why is he doing it? His announced reason is, "Sometimes our conventions don't feel like they are open to everybody. For us to be able to do it in Invesco Field is an opportunity for 80,000 people who might otherwise not have been able to participate to get involved."

There are other possibilities. The Democrats in Congress have a lower popularity rating than President Bush and he might be afraid of it rubbing off.

Or he could be emulating Kennedy who did something similar in 1960. Obama has been trying to position himself as the new Kennedy including appointing JFK's daughter to the team vetting vice-presidents.

In the meantime, the Democrats need Obama to bail out the convention itself. The party is $12 million short of the amount they need to pay for the convention. They need Obama's deep pockets.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What Does Obama Stand For?

The Left wants to know.

During the primaries they thought that they knew Obama. They had every reason to believe that is a hard-left progressive. He lists a communist as a mentor. In college he would only associate with socialists and feminists. He spent time as a community organizer and doing work for the far-left ACORN. He announced his entry into politics at the home of one the the 1960s biggest radicals.

As the primaries dragged on, Obama actually moved to the left. He and Hillary were in a bidding war for who hated free trade more. His solution to nearly everything is more government regulation. His first action when inaugurated would be to order a rapid retreat from Iraq.

Obama's supporters expected that he would continue to run as a progressive and use his personal charisma to convince the populace that it didn't matter. Obama would win in a landslide with long coat-tails. He would then lead a purge of the Blue-dog Democrats and start work on a new progressive era to match Franklin Roosevelt's.

Instead he is running from the center and the left is having a fit. Arianna Huffington herself wrote a plea to abandon the middle and move back to the left. KOS announced that he is not making a contribution to Obama's campaign, after all. Even Keith Olbermann devoted a special comment section to persuade Obama to switch positions (again) on the immunity portion of FISA. He didn't even back General Clark when Clark questioned McCain's qualifications to be president.

Obama isn't doing much to sooth them. He switched sides on the immunity portion of FISA. He is back to wearing flag pins. He announced that he will expand Bush's faith-based programs. It even came out that his motto, Change you can believe in, and his logo were invented by his campaign staff and he doesn't like them.

There are a few possibilities. One is that Obama still has a far-left core of beliefs but is covering them up until after he is elected. This is certainly possible. For all of his talk about doing away with partisanship, he has never compromised with the right.

Or Obama could be a business-as-usual Chicago politician who will say anything to get elected and who will triangulate his policies just as Bill Clinton did. As we find out more about Obama he keeps looking like just one more corrupt Chicago pol.

Or he might be a centrist who simply followed the party line until he got a chance for power of his own.

I've seen it pointed out that Obama has taken positions that many of his followers dislike. Rather than questioning him they tend to assume that he is lying and that his true beliefs match theirs. With the current angst over his move to the center, possibly many Obama supporters are beginning to wonder what he really believes?