Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Depression Next Week?

Bill Kristol says the experts really fear it’s possible, unless we take measures nobody much is considering right now. I tend to agree we’re very vulnerable to a mega-ripple effect, and I’m not at all sure anyone with power really knows what to do.

Fair and Balanced Once Again

A man from THE WASHINGTON POST appreciatively details why McCain deserves to be declared the winner of the debate.

Ralph’s Manifesto

...Hancock is really cooking with gas, as they say, on the pomocon blog. He’s issued a deeply thoughtful and most timely manifesto, which has produced a lively and
provocative discussion. At no extra charge, he’s added a great and deeply personal reading list. Click and scroll is my advice to you all.

One More Debate Thought

The actual post-debate polls give a narrow but real advantage to Obama, including among independents and undecided. Why? My theory all along: There are real parallels between this election and 1980. People perceive incompetence threatening peace and especially prosperity. They want change, as long as its not dangerous or extremist. That’s the standard to which Obama is being held. He, like Reagan, will win if he looks reasonable enough not to be scary. Some say the fact that he said he agreed with McCain eight times or so was a sign of weakness. But maybe not: The more they agree, the more it’s safe to go ahead with the new guy. Driving around Rome, GA this morning, I saw lots of places out of gas and others with long lines. It reminds anyone old enough of 1979 and Carterism in general. McCain might have done well in enough in distancing himself from the perceived incompetence in Bush’s foreign policy, but I’m afraid (but not sure) he can’t do it in domestic policy. So it’s already pretty clear my modest bump for Mac prediction is probably wrong.

What McCain Might Say . . .

Jack Pitney on the debate:

Early in the debate, Obama asked rhetorically: “The question, I think, that we have to ask ourselves is, how did we get into this situation in the first place?” Instead of talking abstractly about greed, McCain might have said: “Senator Obama wants to know how the trouble started. He might ask his close adviser Jim Johnson, who headed Fannie Mae and got an exorbitant pay package.”

Obama promised that we would deliver a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans. McCain could have said: “Senator Obama has made a lot of promises. In 2005, he promised that he wouldn’t run for president. In 2007, he promised that he would work aggressively to ensure public financing of the presidential campaign. In 2008, he promised to fire any staffer who attacked Governor Palin’s family. He broke all those promises. And now he promises to cut your taxes. Right.”

P.S. For an argument that the liberal push for affirmative action in lending led to the current crisis, see this vdeo.

The Case for the Bailout

Bruce Bartlett explains why the financial sector is unlike any other:

The basic problem is that the financial sector faces systemic risk in a way that no other industry does: By its nature, it is a house of cards that can collapse at a moment’s notice. . . .

First, the vast bulk of the nation’s money supply is in the form of bank deposits, not currency and coin. No bank on earth could pay even a fraction of its depositors if they all demanded all their funds in cash immediately. This is called a run on the bank (and is very familiar to anyone who has ever watched "It’s a Wonderful Life"). . . .

Read the whole thing.

P.S. One question: If Bartlett is correct, does that mean that financial institutions ought to be regulated more heavily than other sectors? (And do we, therefore, seem to have our regulatory regime backward? We need less for regular businesses--far fewer OSHA regulations, ADA regulations, affirmative action requirements, housing restrictions, etc., but perhaps more regulation, or simply wiser regulation, of finance).

More on the Debate

1.It’s amazing how partisan the various analysts are. It’s really hard to be a genuine SOCIAL SCIENTIST and just see what’s there with your own eyes.

2. Among the best analysts is always Mickey Kaus. Mickey reasonably says that McCain achieved limited but significant success in making Obama seem naive and inexperienced. More impressively, he dispelled concerns about his own recklessness with his very prudent remarks on Iran and Pakistan.

3. Obama negated, Mickey adds, his advantages on the economy by not being able to speak compellingly about the pain of the middle class.

4. The "stunt" of going to Washington, maybe not debating etc. turned out to be a net negative for McCain, although not a big one.

5. Maybe McCain’s victory is still "Pyrrhic," as Mickey claims: People want change, McCain’s distancing of himself from Bush wasn’t effective enough, and Obama only has to pass the relatively low credibility test in these debates. Despite his surprisingly weak rhetorical display, he may well have done that.

First Debate

John flew in last night and I picked him up in Cleveland. He is at home for two weeks, and then goes to Okinawa where he will be stationed for the next couple of years. He looks good and is doing well. Because of this I was listening to the debate on the radio, and the second half I only heard on and off because John and I talked about large helicopters and Marine habits and such.

While the comments below are entirely sensible in their details, yet I must say that I couldn’t help noting during the debate that Obama gives the impression that he hesitates and calculates, and McCain does not. McCain--despite some imperfections, misstatements, etc.--was much more effective in being direct and forthright and sounding as if he would be more comfortable executing, would be at home in the White House. Example: McCain used the noble bracelet story to great advantage while Obama’s imitation (I also have a bracelet) was hesitant and spoke to a different purpose (focusing on the mother rather than the soldier). I think McCain won the debate.

Instant Reax

I’m never a very good judge of how the spectrum of fellow citizens judge these debates. In the first Bush-Gore debate in 2000, I completely missed Gore’s impetuous bad behavior (sighing, etc) that so put off a lot of viewers, though I did pick up instantly on his James Lee Witt FEMA howler because of the puzzled react shot of Bush on the split screen. "Ah," I thought, "Gore just made up something." And in fact that did turn into the "exaggerator" theme of the next few days.

But overall in that debate I thought Bush was miserable. So I was surprised last night at how good a debater McCain was; much much better than Bush. I guess he was this good in the primaries; I skipped all of those. But I agree with everyone else that he was very weak on the economy, and so the next debates may not go as well. Why, oh why, are Republican candidates so incapable of fighting back against the liberals’ class warfare tactics? Is there some kind of deep rope-a-dope on this I don’t get?

Obama was good, too, but not as good as McCain at being persistently aggressive. Neither man made any obvious big mistakes, though both made a few small ones. None likely of any consequence. Obama came close to falling into Kerry’s 2004 trap of a "global test" for U.S. action, but he never used a clear phrase than can be hung around his neck.

There was one small point that I suspect most people missed or didn’t fix on--Obama’s mention at the end of his Kenyan father. What was he trying to do with this? I have a hunch that the Obama campaign has some polling or focus group data that suggests this aspect of Obama’s story needs to be handled or used in a certain way, though I’m not sure he accomplished this last night. Was he trying to say in a very very subtle way that "I’m so unlike other black American politicians like Jesse and Rev. Al that I’m barely even from this country?" It has me scratching my head. Maybe it was nothing.

On "Winning" a Debate

My informal poll of several NLT contributors (see below) and other conservative friends produced an expected McCain edged Obama reaction, with a couple outliers who said McCain stank. I disagree with the consensus that Obama’s survival in a foreign policy debate means he really won. Consider the 2000 Republican primaries, when Alan Keyes clearly dominated the debates he participated in. But he didn’t get many votes. Of course here we are down to two choices, but being the best debater doesn’t necessarily mean he is more trusted to be commander-in-chief. Let’s see what the presidential preference, not the who-won-the-debate polls say.

By the way, the Obama-Keyes senatorial debate back in 2004 shook Obama, even causing him to poke Keyes in the chest once, to make a point. See pp. 248-250 in Audacity of Hope, e.g.: "I found him getting under my skin in a way few people ever have." It was Keyes’ uncompromising (and inappropriately utilized, I would say) Christianity that Obama found unbearable, and which he could answer only by responding with a pluralism demanded by a wall of separation between faith and reason (259). Obama would have to reject theological notions of natural law, even as he wants the many of the results of the Declaration of Independence, our founding, natural law document. Obama’s attempt to find himself a home in American political life gives evidence of his alienation from it, a theme I will take up in a later post.

“I can see Russia from my house”

Americans do have different perspectives about the world, based on where they live. Let’s start with a bad example: Midwesterners are isolationist, because they don’t live on an ocean, which would widen their view of the world. Nonsense: they tended to be isolationist because of the high concentration of ethnic Germans, who weren’t eager to shoot Uncle Fritz in either World War.

But that stereotype aside in fact Americans who live in the Southwest view illegal immigration differently from those who live elsewhere. Southerners may have a different view of the Civil War than other fellow citizens. Those in the original thirteen states may have a distinct historical consciousness shaping their view of the country. See How the States Got Their Shapes for the political consequences of States’ boundaries.

In Harvey Mansfield’s edition of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, there is a map (p. xvi) showing the American continent, Amerique Anglaise. Alaska is labeled as Amerique Russe. (Keep in mind the conclusion of vol. I, where America and Russia represent different futures for the world.) Signs of Russian presence—in forts and churches—can be found throughout the State. Japan occupied some of the Aleutian Islands during World War II. And Alaska is home to our only ground-based ballistic missile defense site.

State history shapes the political consciousness of citizens. Does Alaska’s history inform the political awareness of Alaska’s Governor? The campaign will tell. But the statement “I can see Russia from my house” should not be dismissed out of hand, for it may signify great understanding of America’s place in a dangerous world.

McCain Was Better

Both men were good, in fact--much better than either Bush or Kerry or Gore. McCain was more confident, forceful, and (surprisingly) calm. Obama seemed more nervous, sputtering, and annoyed. Neither said anything real about the current economic crisis. Neither was all that eloquent, which meant that Barack didn’t exploit his undeniable advantage. Overall, there was nothing surprising about content and positions. McCain played the experience card effectively, and Obama didn’t deal well with being called naive. I predict a slight bump for Mac, with the additional benefit of diverting the country for a bit from the threatening spectre of economic calamity.

Not wanting to end the evening a positive note, let me call your attention to the comments on NRO by K-Lo on our Sarah. She’s one of several conservative columnists who’s faced up to the fact that the cringe factor was pretty darn severe in Palin’s recent interview with Katie Couric. Kathryn wonders whether there might be less to her than we conservatives hoped. It’s more likely the case that she’s being mishandled or being forced to be a student being filled quite inauthentically with sound bites and factoids that she’s having trouble using at the appropriate moments. Sarah needs to be herself in the debate, and we have reason to hope and pray that’ll be enough. (See Julie’s comment below, which I didn’t see before writing this.)

And here’s a commentator who suspects that overcoaching has taken a toll
on Sarah’s confidence.

And finally, Carl is correct to comment in Steve H’s thread below that McCain won’t get away next time without decent answers on taxes and health care.

The debate--snap judgments

John McCain had a weak first quarter, where the focus was on the economy, but, I think, kept Barack Obama in reaction mode during the remainder of the debate. In so doing, he reinforced his standing as the man of the hour in time of international crisis.

But what’s on everyone’s mind is our economic predicament, and Obama’s answers were more sure-footed and focused, if not necessarily always more persuasive, while McCain stumbled a bit and meandered. He could, for example, have explained more clearly and crisply why cutting business taxes and preserving the Bush Administration’s tax cuts might be necessary, but he wasn’t on his game here. McCain’s finest moment in this part of the debate was his much better response to Jim Lehrer’s question about what he’d have to change as President in order to pay for the bailout. Where Obama wasn’t willing to give anything up (except for spending in Iraq), McCain came out firmly in favor of wide-ranging spending cuts.

My final preliminary verdict: McCain wins on foreign policy, but loses on the economy. That’s not a good result. He has to do better next time.

Update: Two more overnight thoughts. First, Obama’s sputtering lack of self-restraint didn’t come across well. His supporters will cast it as righteous indignation, but it is evidence of his unpreparedness for political life outside the Democratic bubble.

Second, I was disappointed that McCain let Obama get away with blaming our current economic predicament on deregulation. Perhaps in his (Teddy) Rooseveltian heart of hearts, McCain agrees with him. But he might have asked Obama what he would have had regulators do: tell banks not to lend money to all the people in those marginal neighborhoods, the very people Democrats sought to help when they urged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen lending criteria?

Fight! Fight!

I’m not going to liveblog this thing, but I do think it is interesting that the specified scope of this debate--foreign policy--has obviously been thrown over the side, and it appears to be a general debate on all issues.

Not sure this works for Obama, who rehearsed for foreign policy.


Best video of the campaign season.

Political Economy Teaching By Example

A breif video from Milton Friedman on the causes of the Great Depression.

Should Palin Walk the Plank?

Kathleen Parker has fallen out of love. Once an enthusiastic supporter of the Sarah Palin pick, she now watches Palin speak with her "finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful," and she notes that "My cringe reflex is exhausted." Parker thinks Palin is getting preferential treatment from those on the right because she’s a girl; that her recent performance has not lived up to expectations or to the narrative. Indeed, Parker takes it a step further and calls for Palin to step down for the sake of the country.

Now this is an interesting and surprising opinion. I like Parker’s work and often agree with her positions. But she has come at Sarah Palin in exactly the opposite direction from which I have come. She started out in love with her and has now soured. In contrast to Parker, I was NOT entirely enthusiastic about the Sarah Palin pick . . . at first. That’s because I thought the the McCain campaign was going for a gimmick and thinking that putting a man woman on the chess board would put Hillary voters in play. And I knew that would a.) never work and b.) never be enough if it did work. We might have picked up a few women here and there who will vote for a woman no matter what her politics, but the hard core Hillary voters would never go for Palin because they are ideologically opposed to her. And, if there were any doubters on that score prior to Palin’s nomination, I think they’ve been persuaded by now. Clearly, the feminists supporting Hillary are not Sarah Palin’s natural constituency.

So when I saw Sarah speak at the convention, it suddenly hit me that this was all irrelevant, and I softened. Her appeal is not to women so much as it is to what we now commonly refer to as "fly-over" country, middle America, regular Americans or whatever appellation you want to give those who do not believe that their superior wisdom and cosmopolitanism gives them a natural right to preside over the actions of their fellow Americans but think, instead (and quite rightly), that their own life experience and common sense gives them just as much a right to influence and take part in the self-government of this nation as do the biographies of their supposed "betters." They believe that they are every bit as competent (and sometimes, frankly, more competent) in judgment and capacity as are the sorts normally unleashed in Washington and that someone "like them" is just as likely to do a good job as someone with an Ivy League degree, a pedigreed background, the seal of approval from the New York Times or a donor base with a 90210 zip code. I saw that Palin was nothing so simple as a Right Wing version of a feminist--as I feared. She is, if anything, post-feminist in that the bulk of her appeal had almost nothing to do with her sex. True, her sex--and, yes, her looks--did plenty to focus attention on her timely message. But instead of getting uptight or indignant about it, she embraced it and put it to work for her.

After a week of blistering attack that was of an intensely personal nature, Palin emerged at the convention ready to use all the weapons in her arsenal (including lipstick) to full effect. She did it with humor and delight--something sorely missing in the GOP of recent years. Comparisons between her and Reagan may have been premature in many respects, but in this plucky good cheer she was a dead ringer. She was THE highlight of the convention and no one can ever suggest otherwise. She turned around the depleted enthusiasm of the GOP base. She continues, despite continued assaults, to turn out 60K plus crowds in battleground states. All the while she endured a media newscycle that was--up until the markets started melting--singularly devoted to her personal and political destruction.

And Kathleen Parker thinks Sarah Palin should bail because of a few botched answers in some TV interviews? These are all she needs to hear to conclude that Palin is "Out of Her League"? Are you kidding?

May I gently suggest that Ms. Parker not only stop and reconsider but, also consider this: You should stop cringing. It’s not personal. If Sarah Palin fails (either as a candidate or as Vice President) it won’t be any reflection on Kathleen Parker or on conservative women in general. Neither will it be a discrediting of the notion that small town mayors turned governors may be every bit as competent to hold high office as are the likes of Barack Obama. Parker worries that we’re giving Palin preferential treatment and that a man in her position would have been condemned for his poor performance in these interviews. I’m not sure Dan Quayle (another brutally attacked and terribly underestimated GOP VP pick) would agree. Parker’s premature Palin plank-walking prescription would be the height of ingratitude.

Presidential politics and economic talks

There will be a debate tonight. It kinda looks like John McCain blinked.

Ivan the K Unveiled

Ivan and CULTURE11 are now in charge of the POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVE blog. I have and will say some things there about POSTMODERNISM RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD.

Conservative Puritanism?

Dr. Pat Deneen suggests that the honorable McCain enourage the American people to take personal responsibility as one of the causes of the present crisis and resolve to live with great self-restraint, frugality, and concern for our ecological future in the broadest and most anthropocentric sense. I actually think a litte of this would be edifying and might work in the broader context of a praise of American productivity.

Republicans Acting Like Republicans

...seem determined to make sure there’s REAL CHANGE in what Congress is going to do to "save the economy." The Democrats can’t pass a bailout without them, because it would be too easy for the Republicans to campaign efffectively against it. Politics hasn’t been suspended! And it’s anyone’s guess whether there will be a debate.

A Note on Polls

Attempts to measure intense participation by blacks and college youth for Obama drive the polls’ disparity. Some issues: Does traditional polling overlook the fact that many younger folk have only cellphones, which are ordinarily not called? Doesn’t the definition of a "likely voter" undercount the youth vote? But what about the fact that younger voter turnout is never as high as predicted? On top of all this is a political correctness before pollsters, which is then itself corrected in the voting booth.

More important, keep in mind some political history, especially when you see a poll showing Obama above 50% nationally: no Democrat has won a majority of the popular vote since LBJ in 1964 and FDR in his triumphs. Before that there is quite a long stretch of history--back to Franklin Pierce. Dems have typically been a sectional party, not a national majority party, neither by popular vote nor by electoral vote. BHO is no LBJ or FDR.

Podhoretz Urges Calm

Calm down, says John Podhoretz. But he’s not urging calm for the economic storm as you might suspect. Instead, he’s launched a salvo against all those pundits (right and left) who think every day in this (oh, so dreadfully long!) campaign brings with it some earth-shattering and election altering news. In other words, we’ve got awhile before the credits roll. Sit back and eat your popcorn, the movie’s not over yet.

Except for what he says about baseball "not mattering all that much" (thus explaining why we don’t suspend campaigns for the World Series anymore) I think he’s dead right.

McCain to Debate

...or it looks that way now. His maverick stand--combined with his decision that it’s safe now to travel to Old Miss--certainly didn’t hurt him and seems to be turning out to be more prudent than it first appeared (to me).

Tied Again!

Ummm. I admit to being tied up this morning and just getting to this late, but did nobody notice that since yesterday (!) when Obama seemed to have a 6-9 point edge in national polls, it’s now back to a tie? If everything seems to be going in Obama’s favor, as seems to be the view in the Lawler threads, why can’t he gain any traction? I agree that on the face of it, he ought to be helped by these events. And yet he’s not.

Meanwhile, another Clinton emerges . . . I guess to help Obama?

Free Frank with Free Campaign Advice to McCain

Why is Mac letting Barney Frank get away with the claim that he was the champion of regulating Freddie and Fannie? It was, in fact, the leading Democrats who protected those two institutions from alleged Republican prejudices against their good work. McCain should debate--and let Barney have it.

Fair and balanced?

This WaPo article examines the possible political fallout of John McCain’s--bold and selfless or desperate and calculating?--move. Partisans on both sides will choose the adjectives in a predictable fashion.

Everything hinges on whether McCain’s attention can plausibly be connected with a result worth applauding. It can’t be calculating to bet your political future on the cooperation of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, among others.

Look Before You Leap . . .

That is the message of Heritage’s latest paper, which shines light on grave constitutional issues arising from the proposed bailout. In explaining the separation of powers defects that run amok in the proposed legislation, messengers Gaziano and Grossman argue that we should not seek to narrowly escape the requirements of the Constitution, which promote the liberty and free market principles necessary to see us through even these troubled times:

Some would treat the Constitution as a legalistic document and employ narrow legalistic arguments to circumvent its strictures and protections. The substance of this debate, however, should not turn on what provisions might or might not pass muster with the courts under a pinched conception of our fundamental law. Rather, it is the principles the Constitution embodies, which have served us well through so many crises, that should be the focus of debate. In short, Americans should take little comfort that legislation might barely pass muster in the courts if the legislation does serious damage to the underlying constitutional principles that were designed to protect our individual rights against governmental usurpations.

Read it all, with a cup of good, free-market coffee.

The Maverick Rides Again?

In an effort to be both fair and balanced, let me call attention to this article in the WASHINGTON TIMES (not actually fair and balanced) that gives a positive and somewhat plausible spin to Mac’s latest maverick move. And on the TODAY show this morning, Bill Clinton declined to judge whether postpoining the debate was a good idea, and he emphasized that Mac ain’t afraid of debating as such--he wanted more of them, after all. Bill’s deep support for Barack is often quite touching. I have to say I hope though that McCain really doesn’t think his "success" on immigration bipartisan compromising can be the model for hammering out a deal for America now. But to echo Machiaveilli once again, it could be (and I hope) that my skepticism about the effectiveness of an effort to try to suspend politics underestimates the basic decency of the American people

We have met the enemy...

And he, says Victor Davis Hanson, is us.

McCain Wants to Push Back VP Debate Too

That, in my view, makes less than no sense. And, of course, that idea unfairly and unfortunately suggests that Sarah ain’t ready. Meanwhile, Obama gets to proclaim his ability to multitask (implying that’s harder for old guys). And, as Peter says in the thread below, it’s not like McCain has said anything real about how to deal with the crisis. (Neither has Obama, but he’s not trying to get out of anything.) Basically, I also agree with Pete that this scheme to suspend politics was bold but not clever.

Interesting Ephemera

Joe Carter’s THIRTY-THREE THINGS is now located at Culture11. There’s enough there each week to keep you amused and arguing for weeks.

McCain Tries to Suspend Politics

...and delay the debate until a decision is made about how to address the crisis. Obama is inclined to let both go forward.

Good move, now follow up

McCain has to stay in DC through Friday. The Debate Commission won’t accept it, but offer Gov. Palin as a substitute. Then, following the resumption of normal politics, offer town hall meetings to replace the canceled debate.

The downside of this clever (and prudent) move is that it reinforces the impression that a presidential campaign is like a European parliamentary-style election campaign. McCain acts like he would accept a Grand Coalition government. But that’s not the Founders’ Constitution.

Hence the misguided attacks on Gov. Palin as unready to be President. Those largely miss the constitutional significance of the inauguration occurring over two months after the election, and almost three weeks after the new Congress. (Before the 20th amendment it was even longer, with the president being inaugurated in March.)

Sooner Rather than Later

Assuming, as we surely must, that a bailout is coming; the question before us is whether it should come quickly, as Republicans insist it must, or later "after deliberation" as Harry Reid and the Democrats argue it should. Thomas Sowell makes a very good case (and one, frankly, that had not occurred to me) for haste. Why? It’s not just that we need a bailout to avoid disaster; there’s an additional incentive to quick action. While the adage "haste makes waste" applies to normal people and normal institutions, we’re talking about Congress . . . and a Democratically controlled Congress at that. In Sowell’s words:

Whenever there is a lot of the taxpayers’ money around, politicians are going to find ways to spend it that will increase their chances of getting re-elected by giving goodies to voters.

The longer it takes Congress to pass the bailout bill, the more of those goodies are going to find their way into the legislation. Speed is important, not just to protect the financial markets but to protect the taxpayers from having more of their hard-earned money squandered by politicians.

He also offers some thoughts on the morality of the bailout; answering both those critics who attack it as wrong because they believe it rewards and, therefore, encourages irresponsibility and those who attack it as rewarding the irresponsible wealthy (Wall Street) but punishing to the weak (people losing their homes because they can’t pay their mortgages):
Financial institutions are not being bailed out as a favor to them or their stockholders. In fact, stockholders have come out worse off after some bailouts.

The real point is to avoid a major contraction of credit that could cause major downturns in output and employment, ruining millions of people, far beyond the financial institutions involved. If it was just a question of the financial institutions themselves, they could be left to sink or swim. But it is not.

We do not need a replay of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the failure of thousands of banks meant a drastic reduction of credit-- and therefore a drastic reduction of the demand needed to keep production going and millions of people employed.

But bailing out people who made ill-advised mortgages makes no more sense that bailing out people who lost their life savings in Las Vegas casinos. It makes political sense only to people like Senator Dodd, who are among the reasons for the financial mess in the first place.

Read the whole thing.  

Bubba’s Advice for Todd Palin

Can be found here. Why do I have a hard time believing that it offered with the best of intentions? The question is: Does he mean to damage Palin or Obama with it?

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

Jonah Golberg at The Corner notes this amusing story about a wine from South America called--of all things--"Palin, Syrah." Stranger still, the wine takes its name from a kind of ball peculiar to a Chilean version of . . . yup, you guessed it, hockey! It seems the wine is not selling very well these days in San Francisco but it is flying off the shelves in places like Houston (for obvious reasons) and also New York--where it seems liberals must have a better sense of humor than they do on the left coast.

For my part, I propose that our own Steve Hayward fire up the grill (Ohio weather permitting, of course) and, in our down time from this event, we can all uncork a few bottles of Palin Syrah to see if she lives up to her fine reputation.

When is Good News Bad News?

When it is ephemeral and cynical, like in this new development. Democrats have agreed not to make a fuss over off-shore drilling and, as of Oct. 1, the ban will be lifted. Of course, this will take the energy issue off the table for many voters and Democrats hope that will help to facilitate an Obama win which, if achieved, can be relied upon to occasion a "reconsideration" of the wisdom in lifting the ban. I am sure that Dems can readily stumble upon some new "science," new "evidence," or new "expert testimony" that will make reinstating the ban a priority for an Obama administration.

The only thing that is clear to me from this action is that the Democrats mean to play hardball. It is time for McCain to get tough and come out swinging. He needs to say hard (perhaps even controversial things that seem to attack Obama’s character and the character of Democrats) and thereby call their bluff exactly what it is. The only good news I see in this is that McCain tends to play best and hardest as an underdog. In any case, he’s in for the game of his life.

A Crisis in Civil-Military Relations?

I have a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. It is an attempt to consider the implications of Bob Woodward’s new book.

As i say at the end of the piece, if Woodward’s account is true, we may be facing "the most serious crisis in civil-military relations since the Civil War. According to Mr. Woodward’s account, the uniformed military not only opposed the surge, insisting that their advice be followed; it then subsequently worked to undermine the president once he decided on another strategy.

"In one respect, the actions taken by military opponents of the surge, e.g. "foot-dragging," "slow-rolling" and selective leaking are, unfortunately, all-too-characteristic of U.S. civil-military relations during the last decade and a half. But the picture Mr. Woodward draws is far more troubling. Even after the policy had been laid down, the bulk of the senior U.S. military leadership -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, the rest of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Abizaid’s successor, Adm. William Fallon, actively worked against the implementation of the president’s policy.

"If Mr. Woodward’s account is true, it means that not since Gen. McClellan attempted to sabotage Lincoln’s war policy in 1862 has the leadership of the U.S. military so blatantly attempted to undermine a president in the pursuit of his constitutional authority. It should be obvious that such active opposition to a president’s policy poses a threat to the health of the civil-military balance in a republic."

Of course, everything depends on the veracity of Woodward’s account.

More O Mo’

I’m glad Steve was the first to notice the big lead Obama now has in the ABC/CBS poll, and I’m going to add that it is quite rare to have a lead that big this late and lose. Now that poll certainly has its flaws, and we can take some comfort in not seeing the same sort of margin yet in the others. But Steve is right also to notice pro-O changes in the state polls too.

The reason for these changes is the economy and the natural tendency of people to look for paternalistic competence in a very uncertain and threatening environment. Republicans can shout that this ain’t like the Great Depression, and in any case the New Deal policies did nothing but prolong that economic crisis. But more and more people do fear that something like a depression is just around the corner, and their fears seem to be confirmed by the experts who say there’s no time to waste when it comes to the big, big, big bailout and unprecedented empowerment of the executive branch.

So when people see Obama they think FDR. Meanwhile, McCain seems to be doing is best to imitate TR’s angry demands that the evildoers be punshed and the trusts be busted etc. FDR will always be more popular than TR, and I fear people don’t think that they need a warrior to make them safe in a crisis of this kind. The challenge to McCain right now is huge.

Campaign Observations

News out this morning is that the latest ABC/Post poll has Obama up by nine points, well outside the margin of error. Sure, as our friends on The Corner are pointing out, the poll arguably oversampled Democrats. Maybe, but if you look at state-by-state polls by several different pollsters you see Obama moving ahead over the last week on account of the rising salience of economic woes and McCain’s unsteady response last week. This can’t be dismissed as sampling error. The wonder is that Obama hasn’t roared to an even bigger lead.

Meanwhile, our friends at the Corner are also having a back-and-forth about whether Palin should get out more this week. Good arguments on both sides, but I have a hunch there is a rope-a-dope dynamic in play. Once again the MSM is rising in chorus that she’s being hidden, kept from view, etc, even as she racks up record crowds on the stump. Remember what happened last time the MSM went with this theme? The big convention speech that blew everyone away.

There has been some chatter that the McCain people want a short-answer format for the VP debate, and some think this is a mistake as the longer you let Biden talk, the worse he gets. To the contrary, if you look back at Palin’s TV debates in Alaska, she tended to give crisp, concise answers. Crisp, concise answers are not Biden’s specialty. He’ll have problems. I have a hunch she’s going to cause some big problems for Biden (like, "Why have you voted for 25 years against developing missile defense to protect Alaska from North Korean missiles that can reach our cities right now?") I predict a fresh round of Palin-mania as a result of the debate.

Naomi Wolf

In case anyone needs further proof that Naomi Wolf is entirely removed from reality.

Not Capitalism . . . but "Crony Capitalism"

. . . is to blame for our current financial woes according to this first in series of articles promised by Terry Jones at Investor’s Business Daily. Jones examines the intersection of politics and the credit crisis and finds a lot of political faces hanging around there--especially in the early 90s--thumbing for a ride. There are a few names with "Rs" next to them. But there sure are a lot more with "Ds." And, of course, there’s the little matter of $125,000 in campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie going to a certain Presidential Candidate. A figure that makes him second only to Christopher Dodd in the grab.

But Wait, There’s More!

Did Joe Biden really just say "No coal plants in America"?!?! Looks like it.

That should go over well in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, etc, etc.

Forget Biden having a "Macaca" moment. He’s just fine with "caca" moments.

UPDATE: Jay Cost asks, Is Biden Trying to Lose Pennsylvania? (Comes with a neat map: Quantitative political science at its best.)

The Gaffer That Keeps on Giving

Now Joe Biden recalls President Roosevelt’s TV address to the nation at the beginning of the Great Depression. When there were no TVs. When FDR wasn’t yet president.

I’m starting to believe those internet rumors that Biden will suddenly discover a "health problem" (hair plugs falling out??) and will withdraw in favor of Hillary.

I am my brother’s keeper

Well, Barack Obama is apparently not this brother’s keeper, though, according to this CNN piece, the brother doesn’t want to be kept.

Dinesh D’Souza has written about this here and here.

I have a couple of additional thoughts, beyond the obvious one that Barack Obama should be at least a little embarrassed by this. First, there is the big issue of whether assistance of this sort should come from government or private individuals. The biblical injunction Barack Obama is so fond of citing suggests that it’s an individual responsibility. Love isn’t a matter of paying taxes (which after all, isn’t voluntary or personal), but of giving willingly to those in need and entering into a relationship with them. George W. Bush got that. I’m not sure that the current Democratic ticket does (see Joe Biden’s comments about tax-paying and his own rather minuscule charitable deductions [sorry, I’m too lazy to link]).

Second, if we take George Obama’s more recent comments at face value, there is the question of the dignity of those in need. How do we manage to be "compassionate" while respecting the self-reliance of those we wish to help? Again, it seems to me that a genuine relationship would help that. A relationship isn’t likely to flow out of a job. It can flow out of contact that begins with a faith-based encounter. And, obviously, it ought to flow out of common paternity. Is there any evidence that Barack Obama has made that effort? Or is all his talk about being his brother’s keeper just that? Talk, I mean.

Community Disorganizing

It turns out that Obama and Ayers were out to change our system by using our schools to turn teachers, parents, and students into radical activists against our country’s pervasive oppression. From one view, this was just a harmless residue of Sixties’ fantasy, and it was a better use of Ayers’ time than actually being violent. From another, Republicans should ask tough questions about one of these guys actually becoming president. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

It’s the Temperament, Stupid

Forget "experience." George Will makes the case that McCain is temperamentally unsuited to the presidency. I really get the feeling that Will might be planning to cast his vote for Obama, come what may.

Meanwhile, over at The View, Former President Bubba predicts an Obama victory, but then goes on for nearly two minutes with fulsome praise for McCain, leaving more than a little doubt about whom he may vote for behind the curtain.

All of which presents a conundrum for fans of Saint Sarah. Does Palin really want to be John McCain’s Vice President? One sage friend put it to me this last week: "She’d have to be prepared to resign in protest of McCain’s derelictions." But that’s not really practical in the real world of party politics.


Are Americans Undertaxed?

It seems that some Americans are:

If my federal taxes are any indication then the middle class is almost certainly not paying its "Fair Share" of federal taxes. My tax position is utterly ordinary. Married with three kids, gross annual income of approx $68K. I take only the standard deductions (no Schedule A) and received the Child Tax Credit for all three children. My total tax bite for each of the last three years was approximately $900/year, or barely over 1%.

Sam Harris, Platonist

It turns out that dogmatic atheist Sam Harris thinks the times call for a philosopher-king. We can’t be governed now by people who are like us. The world is too complicated to be comprehended by ordinary Americans, especially those who go to church, read the Bible, and think God has a plan for the world.

In my crankiest moments, I agree. Universal adult franchise, pah! Only we political science Ph.D.’s should be permitted to vote.

When I’m in an Aristotelian mood, I’d extend the franchise to all those who are genuinely liberally educated. The tone and tenor of Harris’s writing suggest that he doesn’t fall into that category. He’s more like a Weberian "specialist without spirit."

This Financial Crisis is not the Start of a Depression

Burt Folsom has written a serious piece for the Ashbrook site on the current financial crisis. Folsom explains that while, as Paul Volcker has told us, "the current crisis may be... ’the worst financial turmoil since the Great Depression,’ that doesn’t mean the crisis is following the pattern of the Great Depression. Happily, the two disasters are very different."    

But. . . Signs of Progress

On the other hand, yesterday’s Times story by Sam Roberts on the confirmation that the Rosenbergs were indeed Soviet spies actually describes Howard Zinn as a "left wing history professor." As I live and breathe: the Times finally spots someone they have to call a left winger.

Then there is this bit of comedy writing in the piece:

“Were they guilty of some sort of conspiracy to commit some sort of espionage?” asked [Leonard J. Lehrman, co-director of the half-century-old National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case]. “That’s a purely subjective judgment."

NY Times on the Cutting Edge As Usual

Today’s Times once again displays its ability to emulate a near-sighted detective with a feature story about how conservatives are setting up academic centers on various campuses to teach serious things. Try as they might, they have a hard time coming up with a sinister spin on the story.

Palin on Ahmadinejad

The New York Sun runs the text of a speech Sarah Palin was scheduled to deliver today at a rally against Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s scheduled appearance tomorrow in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. Unfortunately, her invitation to speak was deemed too "partisan" by some of the rally organizers and so it was rescinded. Of course, rally organizers are certainly free to invite and dis-invite whom they will and they are free to do as they think fit in order to advance their cause . . . but it is still a strange and ironic thing that the likes of Ahmadinejad will be permitted to speak on a spot where a Vice Presidential candidate was not.

Yuval on the Bailout

As it now reads, the scheme gives way too much discretion to the Secretary of the Treasury for two whole years. The need to check such unprecedented power points to the continuing need for divided government and to a man honorable enough to say that government can’t possibly buy us out of all our pain.

Father Knows Best

Here is a charming account from Sarah Palin’s father about her stubborn yet determined character and about the many ways in which she has surprised him over the years.

A Republican Panic?

Here’s a thoughtful--if often questionable--article about the situation on the ground. Obama was in panic mode for a while. But the relentless media attacks on our Sarah and the "shameless liar" McCain have now had some effect. And there’s no denying that Obama seemed more steady in responding to the anxiety-producing and somewhat unprecedented economic developments. McCain’s inconsistent and angry message seemed, by contrast, nervous and unsettled.
But we can hope and expect that the two panics (and the events that caused them) have about cancelled each other out. The polls don’t show any momentum either way right now. Sarah, despite it all, still draws the really big and enthusiastic crowds. There are economic facts that McCain can use to his advantage (see Steve H.’s post below on Freddie and Fannie), and right now it seems that the debates will be even more important than usual. What they will be like is pretty much anyone’s guess.

. . . Hits the Fan

Kevin Hassett explains the central role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in causing the current financial meltdown, and especially the way Democrats blocked attempts starting four years ago for stricter regulation of Fannie and Freddie. Why?

About ten years ago I was invited to make a presentation to the board of directors of Fannie Mae, and I was startled to notice that the board was composed almost wholly of Democratic party luminaries such as then chairman Jim Johnston (who struck me as a complete dolt), Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelick (she of FISA "firewall" fame). This was crony capitalism at its worst--a sinecure for Clintonistas to get rich without much heavy lifting.

It is pathetic to see McCain jump on the general "Wall Street corruption" bandwagon rather than use the opportunity to slam the Democrats for their economic ignorance and complicity in the disaster.

On the bright side, the cost of this bailout likely puts the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress out of business in terms of major new spending programs. You’d almost think it was a bankers’ conspiracy, like the Reagan deficits of the 1980s. Any takers?

UPDATE: I walked down the hall to give an "attaboy" to Kevin (since he’s on my floor here at Neocon World HQ at 1150 17th Street), and he tells me that since Drudge linked to his article his phone and e-mail are going crazy. mostly with rants and death threats from liberals. I watched his screen as e-mails rolled in about three a minute. Looks like he hit a raw nerve.

UPDATE #2: The Village Voice (!!!) argues that the seeds of the mortgage meltdown should be laid at the feet of Andrew Cuomo, HUD Secretary for Bill Clinton. Isn’t Cuomo the person McCain wants to appoint to the SEC to fix this mess? Now I’m really baffled.

Palin in Florida

Palin drew a crowd of 60,000 The Villages yesterday; the largest GOP crowd thus far. I drew 250 when I gave a talk there in February, and was impressed (with myself). Also note this out of California.