In just one speech at the Naval War College yesterday, the President managed to suggest that Israel is a good model for Iraq and to appear to make light of the possible death of Fidel Castro.
Bush cites Israel as model for Iraq
NEWPORT, R.I. — President Bush held up Israel as a model for defining success in Iraq, saying Thursday the U.S. goal there is not to eliminate attacks but to enable a democracy that can function despite violence.
..."Our success in Iraq must not be measured by the enemy's ability to get a car bombing in the evening news," he said. "No matter how good the security, terrorists will always be able to explode a bomb on a crowded street."
He suggested Israel, the frequent target of terrorist attacks and a country in a decades-long, intractable and often violent dispute with Palestinians, as a standard to strive for.
"In places like Israel, terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks," Bush said. "The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq."
It was likely to be controversial — and possibly even explosive — for Bush to set out Israel as a model for a Muslim Middle Eastern nation.
Then, later in the speech, the New York Times reports on Bush accidentally encouraging "laughing and clapping" at the prospect of the death of Fidel Castro:
President Bush on Thursday raised the anticipated death of the dictator Fidel Castro as an opportunity to push for democracy in Cuba, which he called the “one nondemocracy in our neighborhood.”
“One day, the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away,” Mr. Bush said during remarks here at the Naval War College.
The audience reacted by laughing and clapping at what seemed to be a wink from Mr. Bush. But, in an apparent effort to dispel the notion that he was making light of Mr. Castro’s health, he hushed them, saying, “No, no, no,” and continued, “Then, the question is, ‘What will be the approach of the U.S. government?’
With a diplomat like this in the Oval Office, who needs the State Department?
In the mail: my friend Chris Mooney's new book Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming. I'll have more to say once I've read it, but the initial reviews are superb -- here's a starred review from Publisher's Weekly:
Having witnessed Katrina's devastation of his mother's New Orleans house, science writer Mooney (The Republican War on Science) became concerned that government policy still ignored worst-case scenarios in planning for the future, despite that unprecedented disaster. He set out to explore the question of whether global warming will strengthen or otherwise change hurricanes in general, even if it can't explain the absolute existence, attributes, or behavior of any single one of them. Since storm research's early 19th-century inception, Mooney found, there has been a split between those who believed the field should be rooted in the careful collection of data and observations (e.g., weathermen) and those who preferred theory-based deductions from the laws of physics (e.g., climatologists). Whirling around this longstanding antagonism is a mix of politics, personalities and the drama of these frightening storms. The urgency and difficulty of resolving the question of global warming's existence, and its relationship to storms, has only heated things up. Mooney turns this complicated stew into a page-turner, making the science accessible to the general reader, vividly portraying the scientists and relating new discoveries while scientists and politicians change sides—or stubbornly ignore new evidence. Mooney draws hope from some researchers' integration of both research methods and concludes that to be effective, scientists need to be clear communicators.
TRWOS takes a deeply reported and researched look at how conservatives are using PR to confuse debate over science and science policy on issues ranging from evolution to global warming to embryonic stem cell research.
...The problem Chris addresses is that PR has shown political organizations how to manipulate public debate - by creating confusion over known facts and accepted conclusions, which are amplified by journalists who play by the "he said," "she said" conventions of "objective" journalism... And because corporations and the religious right have a shared interest in fighting back against the conclusions of scientists on a variety of issues, legions of conservative think tanks and faux-scientists are now waging a well-funded war to muddy the waters and promote their pre-defined conclusions.
TRWOS is a detailed takedown of this massive effort to distort and politicize science. Even if you don't agree with Mooney's politics, you should read this book.
We don't begrudge Mr. Bloomberg a cent of his money, and he should be free to spend all of it on politics if he wishes, including on a run for President. The Supreme Court has said he has that right. But no one has so far explained why it's fine for Mr. Bloomberg to advance his own political career using his personal fortune, but it would be "dirty" for him to bankroll someone else who shared his agenda. As long as voters knew where the money came from, they'd be free to decide whether it tainted the candidate or not. Such donations could be posted instantly on the Internet.
It is often said that billionaires should not be able to "buy" elections, and that strict donation limits weed out candidates without a broad base of support. But now a billionaire really can buy an election, in the sense that he is unrestrained by the limits imposed on everyone else. Mr. Bloomberg spent an estimated $160 million on his two mayoral campaigns, literally overwhelming his competitors with TV ads. Restricting billionaires to financing themselves, far from increasing political competition, has reduced it.
Barack Obama has defied conventional wisdom by raising enough money to compete with Hillary and Bill Clinton's campaign juggernaut, but the rest of the Democratic field is less fortunate. Surely Chris Dodd, Senator from the hedge-fund capital of the world, could find some wealthy backers for his campaign if the rules permitted it. The money would hardly guarantee him success, but it would give him a fighting chance to put his agenda on the table, leaving voters to decide whether they liked what they heard. The same goes for New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a candidate of significant experience who is struggling to raise enough money because he comes from a small state and is less well-known than his competitors.
I think it's clear that there would be a lot more well-financed Congressional challengers if donations were unrestricted. The difficult empirical question, however, is what happens if everyone can raise unrestricted money in a presidential race. Dodd et al could certainly raise more, but so would Clinton and Obama. The ultimate effect would seem to depend on how quickly the marginal effect of an additional dollar of funding declines as campaign budgets increase.
What is it with top Republicans and animals? First, we found out that former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist used to "bring cats home from animal shelters and dissect them" while he was in medical school. Now, Mitt Romney is in trouble for stuffing his poor dog into a carrier on his station wagon's roof rack for a twelve-hour trip. Yikes.
Jonah seems upset that when I complain that American conservatives are perpetuating a "stab in the back" theory of the war in Iraq to explain away their own hideous errors of strategic judgment without bothering "to make a tight link between the National Socialist reaction to German surrender at the end of WWI." Kevin Baker's already lay it out [sic] in Harper's at some length, so I haven't bothered personally...
Suffice it to say that I think the main point of analogy is that mainstream contemporary American conservatism, like inter-war Nazism, believes that military defeats are primarily due to failures of national will. They believe this in part because they massively overestimate the significance of will in determining outcomes of this sort. They also, like Nazis, seem to deny that it might ever better serve the national interest to abandon a military adventure than to continue it. These beliefs serve to foster the further belief that several constitutive elements of liberal democracies -- committed to free speech, to unfettered political debate, the existence of active political opposition movements -- are a source of national weakness.
I've written at great length here and on Spinsanity about attacks on dissent since 9/11, so I share Matt's concern about the increasing volume of rhetoric that attempts to blame opponents of the war for "betraying" US troops and causing defeat in Iraq.
With that said, however, the comparison to Nazis is not helpful. As I wrote in a discussion with Yglesias a couple of years ago, these analogies are almost never appropriate. First, they're obviously overrepresented in contemporary debate because they are highly accessible in people's minds and can be used to smear the other side with negative associations (as in Godwin's law). And even when Nazi analogies are being used with serious intent, they still are likely to (a) automatically bring to mind negative associations between the other side and Nazis and (b) turn the debate into a foodfight.
To illustrate the way this works, note that Yglesias refers exclusively to "interwar Nazism" and "Nazis" in the post above. However, as Baker recounts, the phrase "stabbed in the back" was first coined by Paul von Hindenburg, a German general in WWI who served as president of the Weimar Republic and not a Nazi (though he eventually capitulated to Hitler and appointed him Chancellor in 1933). And the idea that "military defeats are primarily due to failures of national will" and that "several constitutive elements of liberal democracies ... are a source of national weakness" are (sadly) hardly unique to Nazis.
I love this correction from the New York Times today:
Because of a transmission error, a film review yesterday about “Live Free or Die Hard” misstated the critic’s description of the plot. It should have been described as “logic-defying,” not “logic-defined.” (Go to Article)
By definition, the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster cannot be defined by logic. I'm not sure how the editors missed that one.
Kevin Drum nails something that makes me crazy -- the way that wannabe gurus like George Lakoff and Drew Westen use academic credibility to legitimate ideas that aren't backed by specific research:
Unfortunately, [Drew] Westen [the author of The Political Brain] then falls into the same traps that George Lakoff falls into. First, he uses his position as a clinical psychologist to pretend that the advice he's offering is based on some kind of deep understanding of how the brain works. For the most part, though, it's really not, no matter how many times he tosses off the phrase "activating a network." There are a few nods here and there to brain research — some of which is genuinely interesting — but the bulk of the book is just Westen offering advice the same way any political consultant offers advice. This spurious appeal to authority probably shouldn't bug me as much as it does, but there you have it. It bugs me.
Update 6/27 9:38 PM: If Westen's agenda isn't clear, this is all you need to know -- he has a consulting firm with the inane tagline "To move people, you have to understand the neural networks that connect ideas, images, and emotions in their minds."
On a related note, a friend reminds me of a very relevant study (PDF):
The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations
Deena Skolnick Weisberg*, Frank C. Keil, Joshua Goodstein, Elizabeth Rawson, & Jeremy R. Gray
Explanations of psychological phenomena seem to generate more public interest when they contain neuroscientific information. Even irrelevant neuroscience information in an explanation of a psychological phenomenon may interfere with people’s abilities to critically consider the underlying logic of this explanation. We tested this hypothesis by giving naive adults, students in a neuroscience course, and neuroscience experts brief descriptions of psychological phenomena followed by one of four types of explanation, according to a 2 (good explanation vs. bad explanation) x 2 (without neuroscience vs. with neuroscience) design. Crucially, the neuroscience information was irrelevant to the logic of the explanation, as confirmed by the expert subjects. Subjects in all three groups judged good explanations as more satisfying than bad ones. But subjects in the two non-expert groups additionally judged that explanations with logically irrelevant neuroscience information were more satisfying than explanations without. The neuroscience information had a particularly striking effect on non-experts’ judgments of bad explanations, masking otherwise salient problems in these explanations.
I have to admit I'm amused that Barack Obama held a youth event named "Generation B.O." What's he trying to say?!
The Wall Street Journal editorial board warns that the immigration debate threatens to make the GOP a minority party. They're right. It splits the Republicans right down the middle, demoralizes the base in advance of 2008, and is prompting a conservative counter-mobilization that could make Latinos a Democratic constituency for years to come.
Ironically, the issue was not pushed to the top of the legislative agenda by Democrats. As John B. Judis points out, Democrats have struggled to push through legislation that splits Republicans and forces a Bush veto (for now, at least, GOP party loyalty is generally too strong to overcome a filibuster).
Instead, Bush has been doing the Democrats' work for them. In 2005-2006, he tried to push the unpopular concept of Social Security private accounts, which scared off GOP moderates and eventually died. Now he's pushing an awkward immigration compromise that alienates conservatives without exciting anyone besides David Broder.
The combination of Bush's lame duck status and the configuration of the House, Senate, and presidency means that it's very difficult to pass important new legislation and keep your coalition intact. The President is finding this out at great political cost.
Correction 6/28 6:58 AM: In this Congress, Pelosi and Reid have passed two bills that Bush was forced to veto (an Iraq war funding bill and stem cell legislation), not zero. This error is corrected above.
An op-ed debunking third party hype is featured today on the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal website. Keep 'em coming...
One of the most effective ways to smear dissent is to associate it with "helping the enemy," as in this passage from a WSJ op-ed by James Taranto today:
Some politicians have also undertaken efforts on behalf of enemy fighters. Senate Democrats, joined by Republican Arlen Specter, have introduced legislation that would restore habeas rights to Guantanamo detainees, although this is unlikely to become law as long as George W. Bush is president.
The Democrats and Specter is not trying to restore habeas rights "on behalf of enemy fighters." They're doing so on behalf of the Constitution (at least as they see it). Taranto may disagree, but it doesn't mean they're trying to help the detainees as such.
It's also worth noting the up-is-down jargon Taranto uses to claim that the current system of handling enemy combatants "protects our freedom":
In the long run, [handling detainees in the federal courts or courts-martialsystems] could also imperil the civil liberties of Americans. Leniency toward detainees is on the table today only because al Qaeda has so far failed to strike America since 9/11. If it succeeded again, public pressure for harsher measures would be hard for politicians to resist. And if enemy combatants had been transferred to the criminal justice system, those measures would be much more likely to diminish the rights of citizens who have nothing to do with terrorism.
By keeping terrorists out of America, Guantanamo protects Americans' physical safety. By keeping them out of our justice system, it also protects our freedom.
This is demagoguery in its purest form -- go along with my proposal to limit constitutional protections, or the mob will come and demand even more. It's not unlike the Glenn Reynolds post from 2004 in which he warns of approvingly quotes an attack on the patriotism of reporters and then warns of the elimination of freedom of the press if things don't change:
JOHN O'SULLIVAN looks at last week's media goofs like the fake Iraq rape photos and general tendencies in reporting and observes:
Neither the media's vaunted "skepticism" nor simple fact-checking on the Internet were employed by the papers. The fakes were, in the old Fleet Street joke, "too good to check." As Mark Steyn argued Sunday, the journalists wanted to believe they were real. Indeed, it is worse than that -- since the fraud was discovered and the Mirror editor fired, he has become a heroic figure in British circles hostile to Blair and the war.
Admittedly, reporters and editors make mistakes. But when all the mistakes are on the side of opposing the liberation of Iraq, and none of the mistakes favor the United States or Britain or Bush or Blair, it tells you something.
Namely, which side they're on.
Try as one might, it's getting hard to avoid that sort of inference. Not that they actively favor the terrorists, of course. They just view beating their domestic political enemies as more important.
...Freedom of the press, as it exists today (and didn't exist, really, until the 1960s) is unlikely to survive if a majority -- or even a large and angry minority -- of Americans comes to conclude that the press is untrustworthy and unpatriotic. How far are we from that point?
Political magazines love to send reporters to infiltrate the other side and hear what they say to each other in private. As a result, stories about the fundraising cruises held by The Nation and National Review have become something of a cliché.
Nonetheless, TNR's piece on the last National Review cruise (held after the election in November) has to be read to be believed.
My favorite quotes are Robert Bork accusing Fox News of unfair coverage of the war in Iraq and Norman Podhoretz claiming that Iraq's WMD are in Syria (among other things):
Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan's one-time nominee to the Supreme Court, mumbles from beneath low-hanging jowls: "The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You'd think we're the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren't covered. We're doing an excellent job killing them."
...[Norman] Podhoretz is the Brooklyn-born, street-fighting kid who traveled through a long phase of left- liberalism to a pugilistic belief in America's power to redeem the world, one bomb at a time. Today, he is a bristling gray ball of aggression, here to declare that the Iraq war has been "an amazing success." He waves his fist and declaims, "There were WMD, and they were shipped to Syria. ... This picture of a country in total chaos with no security is false. It has been a triumph. It couldn't have gone better." He wants more wars, and fast. He is "certain" Bush will bomb Iran, and "thank God" for that.
..."Aren't you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?" [William F.] Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. "No," Podhoretz replies. "As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf war one, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran." He says he is "heartbroken" by this "rise of defeatism on the right." He adds, apropos of nothing, "There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we're winning."
...For somebody who declares democracy to be his goal, [Podhoretz] is remarkably blasé about the fact that 80 percent of Iraqis want U.S. troops to leave their country, according to the latest polls. "I don't much care," he says, batting the question away. He goes on to insist that "nobody was tortured in Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo" and that Bush is "a hero." He is, like most people on this cruise, certain the administration will attack Iran.
Dinesh D'Souza also ran down Democrats as "the party of [economic] losers" and denigrated immigrants from Central America (and Canada!):
D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."
... D'Souza summarizes the prevailing sentiment by unveiling what he modestly calls "D'Souza's law of immigration": An immigrant's quality is "proportional to the distance traveled to get to the United States." In other words: Asians trump Latinos.
There's much more, including vicious anti-Muslim sentiment that apparently pervaded the entire cruise. To paraphrase Brad DeLong, it's worse than I imagined possible, even after taking account of the fact that it is worse than I imagined possible. Indeed, portions of this report and the ongoing Washington Post series on Dick Cheney sound like they were taken from the deranged rantings of a commenter on Daily Kos. The ranks of the shrill will be growing...
Correction 6/26 6:24 AM: As a commenter points out, I mislabeled Norman Podhoretz as his son John -- the mistake is fixed above.
Update 6/27 8:56 AM: Eric Alterman reviews the political cruise genre, which he apparently inaugurated ten years ago, while Daniel Larison at The American Scene found the article's revelations to be mundane from a conservative perspective:
This was supposed to be a story told from deep inside the world of NR, which you might think would offer some interesting revelations, but instead of something different we find Bernard Lewis churning out another piece of bad analysis of Near Eastern politics, Norman Podhoretz thanking God for the prospect of war with Iran and a perpetual gnashing of teeth over the lost war in Vietnam. Also, Dinesh D'Souza said something outlandish--hold the cover!
...That is, those who follow the internal discussion on the right and at National Review will read along through Hari's piece finding various lines of argument that have cropped up time and again at The Corner and almost feel the urge to shrug.
More than that, there is a palpable hunger among the public for someone who will attack the problems facing the country -- the war in Iraq, immigration, energy, health care -- and not worry about the politics.
But as Ezra Klein points out, "not worry[ing] about the politics" makes no sense:
How do you tackle the country's problems without worrying about the politics? Does running on a third-party ticket obviate the need for Senate approval? For Congressional majorities? Does Bloomberg's $9 billion somehow trigger a filibuster-exception clause?
People don't worry about "the politics" because they enjoy fretting. They worry about the politics because that's what's keeping them from attacking the problems facing the country. Broder happens to have picked the four policy areas Democrats have the clearest, most expansive plans on, but they can't implement them because they can't get to 60 votes in the Senate, or force Bush's signature. That's why "the politics" matter.
Or as Matthew Yglesias puts it:
If only, instead of the party that's been governing the country for the past six years, there was some kind of second major party whose elected officials supported substantial policy shifts on Iraq, immigration, energy, and health care. Wouldn't that be great?
Jonathan Chait nails the larger problem with the Broderesque perspective on Bloomberg in a must-read TNR column:
"Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology." So declared New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg upon renouncing his membership in the GOP last week. The problem, of course, is that people don't agree on what "real results" or "good ideas" are. Cutting taxes? Raising taxes? Funding stem-cell research? Banning stem-cell research? This is exactly why we have partisan battles in the first place.
You would think that anybody who failed to grasp this would be urged to study a high school civics textbook. Instead, Bloomberg is being urged to run for president and lauded for his statesmanship.
Bloomberg has thus become the most prominent example of what you could call partisanship scolds. These are people who believe that disagreement is the central problem in U.S. politics, that both parties are to blame in equal measure, and that rejecting party ties or ideology is synonymous with the demonstration of virtue. While partisanship scolds believe that they stand in bold contrast to Washington, they are probably more heavily represented among the Beltway elite than any other demographic.
The official lobby of the partisanship scolds is a group called "Unity '08"--a collection of graying eminences from both parties who are calling for a bipartisan presidential ticket, perhaps led by Bloomberg. Their rhetoric appears to be targeted at people who enjoy kittens, rainbows, and David Broder columns. Specifically, Unity '08 says its ticket will run on "ideas and traditions which unite and empower us as individuals and as a people."
Well, that's nice. Unfortunately, when the partisanship scolds get a little more specific, things tend to break down.
(Newsday also has an op-ed telling readers not to believe the third party hype.)
Horrifying news from Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo -- misperceptions about Iraq are going back up:
As part of its cover story on "what you need to know now," Newsweek conducted a broad poll on a variety of political and cultural affairs. There were plenty of interesting results, but one section was particularly noteworthy.
Even today, more than four years into the war in Iraq, as many as four in ten Americans (41 percent) still believe Saddam Hussein's regime was directly involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection. A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were born. Just 43 percent got it right -- and a full 20 percent thought most came from Iraq.
For that matter, one in five Americans (20%) believe that we did find chemical/biological weapons "hidden by Saddam Hussein's regime."
Perhaps most troubling, the number of people who are confused about Iraq's non-existent role in the 9/11 attacks has gone up in recent years. When Newsweek asked the same question in the fall of 2004, 36% said Saddam Hussein was "directly involved" with the attacks. Nearly three years later, that number is 41%.
In her speech to the Take Back America conference last week, Hillary Clinton was the latest Democrat to promote the myth (here, here, here, and here) that President Bush has instituted a "ban" on stem cell research:
You know, later today, apparently, the president will veto a bill passed by Congress to support stem cell research.
Now, this is research that…holds such promise for devastating diseases. Yesterday, I met with a group of children suffering from juvenile diabetes. I co-chair the Alzheimer's caucus in the Senate. I've worked on helping to boost funding for research to look for cures and a way to prevent so many devastating diseases. And we know that stem cell research holds the key to our understanding more about what we can do. So let me be very clear: When I am president, I will lift the ban on stem cell research.
This is just one example of how the President puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families, just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become. And it's just one more example as to why we're going to send them packing in January 2009, and return progressive leadership to the White House.
In fact, President Bush has limited the number of embryonic stem cell lines that are eligible for federal funding. No such limitations have been placed on private research. This myth needs to die.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Joshua Muravchik smears dissenters against the war in Iraq as "hastening the advent of the next war":
With the Bush administration's policies having failed to pacify Iraq, it is natural that the public has lost patience and that the opposition party is hurling brickbats. But the demands of congressional Democrats that we throw in the towel in Iraq, their attempts to constrain the president's freedom to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program, the proposal of the Baker-Hamilton commission that we appeal to Iran to help extricate us from Iraq--all of these may be read by the radicals as signs of our imminent collapse. In the name of peace, they are hastening the advent of the next war.
A bumper sticker I saw in the parking lot at Target yesterday said "I'm already against the next war." I guess this is why.
PS The sad thing is that the "next war" may be different than Iraq (ie actually necessary), but every indication is that it will play out as a referendum on the current war. It's yet another way the Bush administration has poisoned the well for its successor.
But there is another side of the Clinton campaign, and I found some of it this week. It is a new Web site called HillaryIs44.com. It is rather mysterious. It does not divulge who is running the site, or who staffs it. It is not interactive; it has one informative voice, and its target audience seems to be journalists and free-lance oppo artists.
And it reads like The Warrior's Id. Hillary "took on" a journalist this week and "beat him into submission." Bloomberg has "stripped himself of allies" in "New York's cutthroat politics." "Expect stormy days ahead for Bloomberg," who will wind up "lonely." Republicans "will attempt to rip him to shreds." "A May surprise announcement will be met with mounds of research accumulated over the next 11 months."
In tone the site is very Tokyo Rose.
Encouraging readers to send in "confidential tips," its primary target and obvious obsession is Barack Obama...
This appears to be the subterranean part of Hillary's campaign, the part that quietly coexists with the warm, chuckling lady playing the jukebox with her husband. It coexists with the Maya Angelou part, the listening tour part, the filmed parts.
It is the war room part. I suspect the site is a back door to that war room.
...[I]f Mrs. Clinton's aides want to understand better her likability problem, they should look at this site. It's dark in there.
Note all the insinuations that Clinton's campaign is involved with the site: "[T]here is another side of the Clinton campaign, and I found some of it this week," "This appears to be the subterranean part of Hillary's campaign," "I suspect the site is a back door to [Clinton's] war room." But there's no evidence that any of these suggestions are true. The website states "We are not affiliated with the Hillary For President Exploratory Committee, or any official Hillary Clinton organization in any way" and the domain is registered anonymously. In short, Noonan is asserting a connection based on sheer speculation.
The American public may not be excited about a Michael Bloomberg presidential candidacy, but some people are fired up:
[E]xperts said a presidential bid by Bloomberg would mean an unprecedented bonanza for political consultants - with a small fortune being poured into polling, TV ads and direct mail in what would likely be the most expensive campaign ever.
Experts estimated that with a half-billion-dollar campaign budget, at least $300 million would be spent on television commercials, $75 million for direct mail, and tens of millions more for high-end travel arrangements and operations around the country.
"Bloomberg would want to try to put 60 percent of $500 million on paid advertising - broadcast, cable, Internet, minority outreach, radio," said GOP consultant Scott Reed.
Throw in some enthusiasm from David Broder types in the national media and you can manufacture a draft Bloomberg movement. As President Bush might put it, some people call pundits and political consultants the elite; Bloomberg calls them his base.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to change his voter registration to independent has set off a predictable frenzy of speculation about an independent/third party presidential run. Don't believe the hype.
First, can Bloomberg win? Pollster John Zogby claims "his chances are promising" and that Bloomberg "could win it" while Andrew Sullivan warns of a "viable third party challenge." But as I've argued many times before on this blog, the factors preventing a successful third party bid -- which include strategic voting for one of the top two candidates, party loyalty, ballot access, and the Electoral College -- are essentially insurmountable. There's a reason the two major parties have been entrenched since 1860. To have any hope of dislodging them, a third party would need a signature issue that cuts across the axis of major party competition. For Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans, that issue was slavery. (Since then, the parties have successfully adapted and realigned around cross-cutting issues like civil rights and abortion.) No comparable issue exists today for Bloomberg.
In addition, Bloomberg is not exactly an ideal third party candidate. Polls show his appeal is limited. In addition, as Matthew Yglesias notes, as a Jewish ex-Democrat from New York, he's especially poorly positioned to pick up working class/Southern Democrats who might be disaffected with Hillary Clinton, though he could pick up some moderate Republicans who don't like a Thompson-style GOP nominee.
For all of these reasons, Bloomberg is unlikely to exceed 10 percent or so nationally if he does run. But will he realize that he can't win? No doubt many people are currently telling him how great he is and that he should enter the race (including consultants hoping to make millions in ad commissions). Ultimately, however, I think he will pull a Colin Powell -- bask in the adulation, engage in some phony posturing about major parties not talking about "the real issues," and flirt with running, but back away in the end.
However, if Bloomberg does run, he will affect the outcome of the race. Who will he hurt more? Zogby says "my polling shows he would likely take more votes from the Democrat than the Republican." On TNR Online, John Judis argues that Bloomberg would draw from "Blue-State Independents" like John Anderson in 1980, who "provided the margin of victory for Reagan in eleven states." Writing on Tapped, Paul Starr agrees and (bizarrely) suggests an Obama-Bloomberg ticket. And, after considering a number of possible factors, The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder seems to also come down on the side of Bloomberg hurting Democrats, noting that he may appeal to voters on traditionally Democratic issues, that the independents who are most likely to support Bloomberg currently favor Democrats by huge margins, and that Bloomberg might steal Democratic voters in California or the South.
However, an April Rasmussen poll shows Bloomberg pulling almost entirely from McCain and Giuliani in head-to-head matchups with Hillary Clinton, and recent state-by-state Survey USA polling indicates that he currently "siphons enough Republican votes to flip red states Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, and New Mexico blue" (PDF). Finally, David Frum guesses that, after sinking in the polls, a desperate Bloomberg would start running heavily negative ads against "the candidate he dislikes more," who will "almost certainly be the Republican."
Who's right? On balance, Bloomberg seems more likely to peel off Democratic-leaning moderates and independents than any other voters, as Zogby and Ambinder argue. The poll results I cite above are unlikely to hold up due to the logic of strategic voting -- will Republicans vote for Bloomberg over the GOP nominee if it means they are helping to put Clinton, Obama, or Edwards in office? (Note: It's hard to interpret how this will play out. The Anderson 1980 and Perot 1992 precedents are particularly difficult to apply because both of them picked up disaffected ex-supporters of an incumbent running for re-election. The last major third-party challenge in an open-seat presidential race was George Wallace in 1968.)
One final note -- you should use the Bloomberg hype as an opportunity to evaluate political pundits on their understanding of politics and their willingness to hype implausible scenarios. Yglesias, for instance, had the best reaction to the Bloomberg news:
I stand by my one question licensing quiz for political pundits:
Is today the right moment to get excited about a third-party presidential run? If you answer "yes," you need to find some other line of work.
Update 6/22 10:06 AM: Yglesias later wrote something similar to my analysis above about the 1980 and 1992 precedents:
Jimmy Carter was an incumbent president widely judged to have failed in office (recall Ted Kennedy's very strong showing against him in the 1980 primaries). This created a large pool of people ideologically inclined to pick Carter over Reagan, but who also really didn't want to vote for Carter. Much the same could be said about people who defected from George H.W. Bush to Ross Perot; in both cases actual incumbent performance drove disaffection and a proclivity for third party voting.
It seems to me that this kind of dynamic is pretty uniquely associated with incumbency, and probably doesn't apply at all to the 2008 election and certainly doesn't apply to the Democrats in 200.
In addition to taking for granted the questionable premise that Hillary is more experienced than Barack Obama, Scheiber offers an elaborate rationale for why she outpolls Obama among less educated voters:
Pretty much every poll taken since the beginning of the year has shown two things: First, that Hillary Clinton enjoys a sizeable cushion among working-class voters (a Gallup poll out Monday shows Hillary with a ten-point lead among voters with "some college" and a 23-point lead among voters with a high school education or less). And second, that Hillary has a huge advantage on questions about which candidate has the "best experience" to be president (66 to 9 over Obama in an early June Washington Post poll).
These two details are not unrelated. In fact, it's pretty clear that working-class voters favor Hillary over Obama largely because they value experience. But it's the reason they value experience that's so interesting: Working-class Democrats, and particularly unionized Democrats, tend to see seniority as the only acceptable way of divvying up sought-after work. (And what is the presidency if not the most sought-after job on the planet?) For them, the problem with an inexperienced candidate isn't that he or she is unprepared to be president. It's that such a candidacy flies in the face of their basic sense of fairness.
...In the eyes of working-class Democrats, Hillary is someone who's paid her dues--first in the White House, where she weathered a terrific, eight-year assault from conservatives, then as the scrupulously dependable senator from New York. If, after all this, Hillary doesn't win the nomination, then the system they've bought into their entire working lives will have been turned upside down.
Obama's base, by contrast, consists primarily of his sociological peers: highly educated achievers who get paid to think abstractly and believe that compensation should reflect performance. Nothing makes these meritocrats shudder like the thought of having the sharpest insight or the best proposal and yet still having to cool their heels while their less able, less creative elders plod ahead.
I'm afraid this is speculative David Brooks-style pop sociology - provocative but ultimately unconvincing. Who knows what's really going on in working class voters' minds?
A more plausible (and simple) explanation is that less well educated Democrats tend to have less political information, so they don't know very much about Obama. These voters also tend to have less well developed ideological views and more of an emotional connection to the Democratic Party. As such, it's not surprising that they back Clinton strongly -- they have loved her and her husband for years. By contrast, upscale voters know more about Obama and are more likely to respond to his appeals for change.
This pattern is analogous to the way that downscale Democratic primary voters tended to back Gore over Bradley in 2000 and Mondale over Hart in 1984. It's possible that these voters are expressing their views on the appropriate role of seniority, but it's more likely that they just tend to stick with the default choice.
As a commenter noted last night, I haven't posted anything about Mike Nifong being disbarred and removed from office as district attorney. I'm happy to see it happen; I just haven't had anything to add to this point.
I do have a question now, though. Why did the university reach a legal settlement with the lacrosse players? On what grounds could Duke have been sued? Clearly, the university could have handled the matter better, but that's not the same thing as being legally liable.
Some people here that I've talked to think it was just a move to avoid paying legal costs in case the players filed nuisance lawsuits, but an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal asserts that Duke had "legal exposure" in the case:
Duke University has just settled with the three students it treated so shamefully for an undisclosed, but given the university's legal exposure, undoubtedly substantial sum.
So what, exactly, was the exposure? Lawyers, please help.
Update 6/20 9:09 AM: Durham in Wonderland blogger K.C. Johnson thinks the settlement protected the faculty from lawsuits:
Shortly thereafter, Paul Haagen, outgoing chair of the Academic Council, e-mailed other Council members to explain the settlement. The critical sentence: “As a result of the settlement, all faculty have been released from any claims of liability related to the lacrosse matter up through the date of the settlement (June 18, 2007).” While the Duke administration has been unwilling to hold a segment of its faculty to minimal standards of the profession, it seems that it was willing to use University funds to protect those same faculty members from legal action. From a tactical standpoint, the decision was a wise one by the Brodhead/Steel team—any lawsuit by the three families would have been a public relations nightmare for Duke.
Could you really sue the now-infamous Group of 88 for running an ad about "a social disaster"? Or specific professors for public statements about the case? I still don't understand.
Famous last words from Matthew Yglesias:
Kaus notes that near the end of their most recent polling memo (PDF) Carville & Greenberg aren't finding a ton of enthusiasm for the Senate compromise [on immigration]. It should be said, though, that the compromise with a description pulls about even. Without the description, it's horribly unpopular.
It should also be said that the Clinton health care plan of '93-'94 was actually quite popular when polled with a description that didn't mention Clinton -- and look how that turned out. The problem, of course, is that most people never hear a neutral description of controversial proposals.
Update 6/20 12:02 PM: Yglesias emails to point out that he has a "mildly unfavorable view" of the current bill; the original post title ("Yglesias grasps at straws on immigration"), which may have incorrectly suggested that he supports it, is now changed above.
Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.
The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.
"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. "Say that criminal law is against him? 'You have the right to a jury trial?' Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so.
...Generally, the jurists in the room agreed that coerced confessions carry little weight, given that they might be false and almost never accepted into evidence. But the U.S. Supreme Court judge stressed that he was not speaking about putting together pristine prosecutions, but rather, about allowing agents the freedom to thwart immediate attacks.
"I don't care about holding people. I really don't," Judge Scalia said.
Even if a real terrorist who suffered mistreatment is released because of complaints of abuse, Judge Scalia said, the interruption to the terrorist's plot would have ensured "in Los Angeles everyone is safe." During a break from the panel, Judge Scalia specifically mentioned the segment in Season 2 when Jack Bauer finally figures out how to break the die-hard terrorist intent on nuking L.A. The real genius, the judge said, is that this is primarily done with mental leverage. "There's a great scene where he told a guy that he was going to have his family killed," Judge Scalia said. "They had it on closed circuit television - and it was all staged. ... They really didn't kill the family."
This example illustrates how "24" is helping to wreck the debate about torture. When people think about these issues, their minds tend to turn to the most vivid examples, even if they are unrepresentative (ie worrying about dying in a plane crash rather than a car accident). As a result, we end up focusing on the ticking time bomb scenarios featured in "24" rather than the more mundane interrogations that are vastly more common in real life.
The guru primary is on!
If you haven't noticed, a flood of titles promising new ideas and solutions for Democrats and/or liberals have hit the shelves in the past year, including volumes from Chuck Schumer, Laura Flanders, Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, and Andy Stern (among others). In the next year, Paul Krugman, Todd Gitlin, Matthew Yglesias, and Peter Beinart are all releasing books. Even unconventional authors like Emory psychology professor Drew Westen are entering the fray (his book The Political Brain is built on academic brain-scanning research).
These books are literally popping up everywhere. At the end of a New York Times op-ed on rainforests and climate change, one of the authors listed this biography:
Glenn Hurowitz is working on a book about the importance of courage in Democratic Party politics.
Who isn't writing about the future of the Democratic party and/or liberalism?
Bonus quiz: The flood of Democratic advice books is:
(a) A reflection of Democrats' need for better tactics and/or a more compelling vision;
(b) An attempt to sell books in a favorable political environment;
(c) An attempt to supplant George Lakoff as the guru of the moment;
(d) A reflection of the anti-Bush animus of liberal book editors who can't understand how Bush won two elections; (e) All of the above.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama referred to as "stupid" and "caustic" his campaign's memo last week that implied rival Hillary Clinton's investments in India made the her fit to represent the south Asian country.
"It was a screw-up on the part of our research team," Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, said during a meeting today with Des Moines Register editors and reporters. "It wasn't anything I had seen or my senior staff had seen."
The comments were the first in public by Obama about a research document circulated last week by his campaign referring to Clinton as "D-Punjab," a play on journalistic shorthand meant to suggest the senator from New York as a Democrat representing a state in India.
The memo, obtained by the Clinton campaign, referred to Clinton’s investments in Indian companies and efforts to raise money from members of the Indian-American community.
It cited comments Clinton made to an Indian-American audience in March in which she said, "I can certainly run for the Senate seat in Punjab and win easily."
"That particular quote was a joke, I think, that Hillary Clinton made to an Indian-American audience," Obama told the Register. "The research team thought it would be clever to put that at the top."
Obama continued, "I thought it was stupid and caustic and not only didn't reflect my view of the complicated issue of outsourcing ... it also didn't reflect the fact that I have longstanding support and friendships within the Indian-American community."
Obama said, "I take responsibility for it, as does our campaign. and we quickly apologized and are communicating that in various circles around the country."
I wanted to respond personally to the concerns you expressed regarding the recent research memo that our campaign put into circulation.
I believe that your concerns with the memo are justified. To begin with, the memo did not reflect my own views on the importance of America’s relationship with India. I have long believed that the best way to promote U.S. economic growth and opportunity for American workers is to continually improve the skills of our own workforce and invest in our own scientific research, technological capacity and infrastructure, rather than to try to insulate ourselves from the global economy.
More importantly, the memo’s caustic tone, and its focus on contributions by Indian-Americans to the Clinton campaign, was potentially hurtful, and as such, unacceptable. The memo also ignored my own long-standing relationship to – and support from – the Indian-American community.
In sum, our campaign made a mistake. Although I was not aware of the contents of the memo prior to its distribution, I consider the entire campaign – and in particular myself – responsible for the mistake. We have taken appropriate action to prevent errors like this from happening in the future.
Please feel free to share this letter with other members of your organization or leaders in the Indian-American community. I look forward to our continued friendship and exchange of ideas – during the course of this campaign, and beyond.
Good news -- Matthew Yglesias and other liberal bloggers may be ignoring the Barack Obama campaign's nativist smear of Hillary Clinton as "D-Punjab," but the Indian American community is pushing back very effectively:
Members of the U.S.-India Political Action Committee were outraged.
"For any candidate to imply there is something wrong with getting Indian-American support, that is upsetting - very upsetting - for our members," the PAC's boss, Sanjay Puri, told The Post, adding that he received numerous calls and e-mails from angered members.
Puri fired off a letter to Obama demanding the Illinois senator "respond directly" to media reports about the research memo "and let us know if indeed your staff is promoting these hurtful stereotypes."
"We have been encouraged by your message of inclusion and your promise to bring a new kind of politics to our country," Puri wrote.
"This is why we are so concerned about media reports indicating your staff may be engaging in the worst kind of anti-Indian-American stereotyping."
Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, responded to Puri's letter by saying: "Barack Obama has been a longtime friend of the Indian-American community, and our campaign is fortunate to have strong support from Indian-Americans across the country.
"The intent of the document was to discuss the issue of outsourcing, but we regret the tone that parts of the document took."
After reading the story, SAFO immediately went to work drafting a response to the campaign. As we were finalizing this response -- but before we could send it -- we received a call from the campaign in Chicago. We learned, as we had already suspected, that the memo did not reflect Senator Obama's views regarding the Indian American community, and he was deeply disturbed by its content...
On Friday evening, Senator Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe issued the following statement: "Barack Obama has been a longtime friend of the Indian-American community and our campaign is fortunate to have strong support from Indian-Americans across the country. The intent of the document was to discuss the issue of outsourcing, but we regret the tone that parts of the document took."
The response prompted a variety of reactions from our community. As organizers of an effort committed to building a relationship between the campaign and the South Asian American community, we were less than satisfied. However, we have new reason for optimism. We have been in contact with the campaign over the weekend and are confident that this issue is now receiving the attention of those at the highest level. The Senator himself is cognizant of our concerns (not just with the memo, but also the initial response) and has made clear his intention to address the situation personally. The campaign has already begun reaching out to individual members of the community, and a more public gesture will be forthcoming. Over the next several days, we will continue to communicate with the campaign to convey the sentiments of the community regarding this incident and work toward a positive resolution.
I hope this is true. The memo was more directly anti-Indian than anything I've seen recently in contemporary politics. Obama has a lot to apologize for.
(For more coverage of the controversy, see here, here, and here. The only well-known liberal blogger among the highly ranked blogs on Technorati who has criticized Obama for the smear is John Aravosis of AMERICAblog.)
Via PRwatch.org, the PR industry is now literally fighting to change the definition of words or to eliminate them from the dictionary. Time is reporting that McDonald's has launched a campaign against "McJob" that follows in the footsteps of a potato industry campaign against "couch potato":
The late Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said that the meaning of a word was derived from the way it is used in language. Not according to McDonald's. The fast-food giant is currently lobbying dictionary publishers to change the meaning of the word McJob — or remove it altogether — on the grounds that it denigrates the company's employees.
First used some 20 years ago in the United States to describe low-paying, low-skill jobs that offered little prospect of advancement, the term McJob was popularized by the author Douglas Coupland in his 1991 slacker ode Generation X...
In 2001, the term finally entered the Oxford English Dictionary, which defined it as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector." And it has remained there ever since. But not for much longer if McDonald's gets its way.
The company is leading a "word battle" on behalf of the wider service sector. The object, according to David Fairhurst, a senior vice-president of McDonald's, is to change the definition of McJob to "reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding ... and offers skills that last a lifetime."
At first the OED, Britain's dictionary of record, explained that it merely recorded words according to their popular usage. A statement from a company official said it was not their role to redefine meanings assigned those words according to the preferences of interest groups.
Representatives of McDonald's responded by arguing that the OED's definition was "outdated" and "insulting."
So, the OED is turning to the public, inviting people to submit opinions on the definition of a McJob...
McDonald's is hardly the first interest group to challenge the OED's chronicling of unflattering slang. Last year, Britain's Potato Council complained that the definition of couch potato implied that the nutritious tuber was inherently unhealthy, thus driving down business. Instead, the Council campaigned for the term to be replaced by couch slouch, even staging protests outside the OED's Oxford headquarters — but to no avail.
This time, however, could be different — not least because of the size of McDonald's war chest and its lobbying power. The campaign has already the garnered the support of heavyweight business figures such as Chambers of Commerce Director General David Frost. More impressively, Conservative party Member of Parliament Clive Betts last week introduced a motion into Britain's parliament condemning the pejorative use of McJob...
But the McDonald's "word war" is hardly confined to the corridors of power. Last Friday morning in Birmingham, TIME found a McDonald's publicity team on the street, beneath an enormous TV screen atop a parked van beaming images of bright, happy McDonald's staff, urging passers-by to sign a petition to change the definition of McJob.
In All the President's Spin, we showed how the Bush administration rarely engages in outright lying. Instead, they use technically true but misleading claims to spin the press in a more subtle -- and effective -- manner.
Here's an example of that tactic from a New York Times story last week on the changing priorities of the Justice Department under President Bush.
When asked about the decreased number of voting rights lawsuits brought by DOJ, the Bush spokesperson replied that the numbers were actually up compared with President Clinton, but the Times surprisingly pointed out that this statistic was misleading:
the department has sharply reduced its efforts to combat voting rights plans that may dilute black electoral strength.
Ms. Magnuson, the department spokeswoman, said that the civil rights division had brought more voting rights lawsuits under Mr. Bush than had been brought in the Clinton administration.
But an examination of the Justice Department’s Web site listing of the cases brought through early 2007 shows that many of them involved a different part of the law, one that requires voting materials be available in languages other than English in places with high concentrations of Asian and Hispanic voters.
With President Bush's poll numbers at such a low point, we may see more aggressive coverage like this over the next 18 months.
Here's a Romney campaign email passed on by a friend -- it sure tugs at the heartstrings:
Father’s Day is coming up, and as the oldest of five sons, I feel responsible for making sure my Dad feels appreciated on his special day.
This year, I had a particularly difficult time deciding how to celebrate Dad. So much has happened this year and I wanted to give him a great gift.
Often, under pressure to give a holiday gift, we buy our family and friends something they don’t want or won’t use and I’m sure I’ve even given Dad a couple of useless gifts.
That's why this year, I want to be sure that my brothers and I do something for Dad that we know he wants and will appreciate – raise $500,000 toward his end-of-quarter fundraising goal.
I know that I can raise a few thousand dollars more by contacting everyone in my address book. With Dad gaining support every day, it’s becoming an easier task. However, to get to our $500,000 goal, my brothers and I are going to need your help.
Will you join us in the address book challenge? All you have to do is forward this message to everyone in your address book and ask them to help us raise $500,000 for presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Father’s Day gift.
And please take the time to add a contribution of your own to the effort at www.MittRomney.com/FathersDay...
My brothers and I do our best to help with the campaign. We hope we can count on you to help us make Father’s Day special for our Dad this year.
As my friend asks, "Who responds to this crap?"
In the Democratic primaries, even the slightest hint of ethnic insensitivity can be devastating to your chances (ask Joe Biden). So what are Barack Obama and his campaign doing?
Today's New York Times reports that the Obama campaign attacked Hillary Clinton's investment in an Indian company and fundraising among Indian Americans by deriding her as "Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)":
Mr. Clinton also has $15,001 to $50,000 in Easy Bill Ltd., an India-based company that works on electronic transactions and business services for Indians.
Shortly after the Clinton campaign released the financial information, the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, circulated to news organizations -- on what it demanded be a not-for-attribution-basis -- a scathing analysis. It called Mrs. Clinton “Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)” in its headline. The document referred to the investment in India and Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising efforts among Indian-Americans. The analysis also highlighted the acceptance by Mr. Clinton of $300,000 in speech fees from Cisco, a company the Obama campaign said has moved American jobs to India.
A copy of the document was obtained by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, which provided it to The New York Times. The Clinton campaign has long been frustrated by the effort by Mr. Obama to present his campaign as above the kind of attack politics that Mr. Obama and his aides say has led to widespread disillusionment with politics by many Americans.
Asked about the document, Bill Burton, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, said: “We did give reporters a series of comments she made on the record and other things that are publicly available to anyone who has access to the Internet. I don’t see why anyone would take umbrage with that.”
Asked why the Obama campaign had initially insisted that it not be connected to the document, Mr. Burton replied, “I’m going to leave my comment at that.”
There would be an uproar -- and rightfully so -- if someone referred to Clinton as "D-Tel Aviv" or "D-Mexico City." So why is it ok to engage in this kind of nativist smear about India?
The silliest thing about this is the obvious hypocrisy. Obama has set himself up as being against divisive politics, so why would nativist attacks be a good idea?
[On a related but less serious note, Bill Richardson was quoted saying the following about negotiating with North Korea: "Their U.N. guy calls. His name is Ambassador Kim. K-I-M. They're all named Kim." A tip for future presidential candidates: It's never a good idea to say "They're all named ____" about any ethnic group.]
Update 6/15 10:16 AM: Matthew Yglesias ignores the Obama smear and instead quibbles with my criticism of Richardson, saying it is "political correctness out of control" and noting that "it's actually the case that an incredibly large proportion of Koreans are named 'Kim.'" Of course. There are several ethnic groups/nationalities with very common last names (ie Nguyen for people from Vietnam), but my point stands. I don't think Richardson's comment is that big a deal -- hence my saying "[o]n a related but less serious note" above -- but the very definition of stereotyping is generalizing from some to all. For instance, imagine if the statistical tendency in question was instead something more fraught with meaning such as blacks' lower average socioeconomic status, and you'll see what I mean.
The Punjab reference came from a joke Clinton made herself at a fundraiser hosted by an Indian doctor when she said "I can certainly run for the Senate seat in Punjab and win easily, after being introduced by Singh as the Senator not only from New York but also Punjab."
HILLARY CLINTON (D-PUNJAB)’S PERSONAL FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL TIES TO INDIA
The Clintons have reaped significant financial rewards from their relationship with the Indian community, both in their personal finances and Hillary’s campaign fundraising. Hillary Clinton, who is the co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, has drawn criticism from anti-offshoring groups for her vocal support of Indian business and unwillingness to protect American jobs. Bill Clinton has invested tens of thousands of dollars in an Indian bill payment company, while Hillary Clinton has taken tens of thousands from companies that outsource jobs to India. Workers who have been laid off in upstate New York might not think that her recent joke that she could be elected to the Senate seat in Punjab is that funny.
It even goes on to (implicitly) criticize her for co-founding the Senate India Caucus. What is wrong with that?
I bet you've never heard "higher fuel-efficiency standards" in a rap song before...
Update 6/18 7:01 AM: Here's some related news on the hip-hop primary -- Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of Run-DMC is backing Hillary "because it's gangsta":
According to The New York Observer, DMC is juggling his decision to back either Clinton or Barack Obama. Apparently, DMC believes Barack “could fix everything,” but is leaning towards Clinton “because it’s gangsta [and] I ain’t doing what everybody else is doing.”
I'm not pleased to see that the upcoming Playstation 3/Xbox 360 game Cipher Complex is based on the (admittedly fictional) premise that Iraqi WMD were "stolen before the U.S. invasion." Too many people already believe that! Here's the relevant passage from the current issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly (p. 18):
Cipher Complex is part [of] a new crop of games that, at some level, attempts to connect to current events... Beginning in northern Iraq, Cipher Complex centers on weapons of mass destruction stolen from the country before the U.S. invasion (so that's where they went!).
How long until the game where you lead the Bush/Unocal conspiracy to take over Afghanistan in order to build a natural gas pipeline?
The New York Times editorial board appropriately mocks Robert Bork for his lawsuit against the Yale Club:
There are many versions of the cliché that “a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged,” and Robert Bork has just given rise to another. A tort plaintiff, it turns out, is a critic of tort lawsuits who has slipped and fallen at the Yale Club.
Mr. Bork, of course, is the former federal appeals court judge who was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987 but not confirmed by the Senate. He has long been famous for his lack of sympathy for people who go to court with claims of race or sex discrimination, or other injustices. He has gotten particularly exercised about accident victims driving up the cost of business by filing lawsuits. In an op-ed article, he once complained that “juries dispense lottery-like windfalls,” and compared the civil justice system to “Barbary pirates.”
That was before Mr. Bork spoke at the Yale Club last year, and fell on his way to the dais, injuring his leg and bumping his head. Mr. Bork is not merely suing the club for failing to provide a set of stairs and a handrail between the floor and the dais. He has filed a suit that is so aggressive about the law that, if he had not filed it himself, we suspect he might regard it as, well, piratical.
Mr. Bork puts the actual damages for his apparently non-life-threatening injuries (after his fall, he was reportedly able to go on and deliver his speech) at “in excess of $1,000,000.” He is also claiming punitive damages. And he is demanding that the Yale Club pay his attorney’s fees.
Where do they find these people?
You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.
"[L]ike trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver"? In fact, as Bob Somerby and Eric Boehlert point out, the book has endnotes, not footnotes. Did Ferguson open the book? How could he not know this?
In the world of the Post, such a colossal mistake results in this one-sentence correction a couple days of later:
Andrew Ferguson's June 10 Outlook article, "What Al Wishes Abe Said," said that former vice president Al Gore's book "The Assault on Reason" does not contain footnotes. The book contains 20 pages of endnotes.
In his piece, Ferguson goes on to make a seemingly persuasive case that the Lincoln quote Gore uses on page 88 is bogus. But how much trust can we place in someone who can't find 20 pages of endnotes in a 320 page book? They're listed in the table of contents! I can even look up the exact citation that Gore uses on Amazon Inside the Book. In a profession other than opinion journalism, this kind of sloppiness would destroy your career.
Factcheck.org caught John McCain again claiming that "the tax cuts have dramatically increased revenues" at the May 15 GOP debate. As I wrote in April, he and Rudy Giuliani have suddenly embraced the supply-side dogmas that even Bush administration economists reject. Not coincidentally, they're running for the GOP presidential nomination. All aboard the Straight Talk Express!
The zombie-like third party hype just won't die!
Democratic consultant Bob Shrum is suggesting Mike Bloomberg has a chance of winning based on this dubious proposition:
The second key question: Can Bloomberg win? Mike, a businessman, is not the type to launch a Quixotic quest. Well, believe it or not, there is a long-shot path to Pennsylvania Avenue - if he really goes for the win rather than contenting himself with playing spoiler. He could target states like Missouri, where his gun control position would doom him in a two-way race. In a three-way contest, it could pick up all the state's electoral votes with, say, 36% of the vote.
I'm skeptical that Bloomberg could win any states given the strength of party loyalty and the strength of the partisan organizations that are already in place. And as Michael Crowley pointed out, "Shrum doesn't say how many states like this he thinks Bloomberg can successfully target." Missouri is a long way from 270 electoral votes.
Writing in the Washington Post, Dan Balz suggests that the failure of the immigration bill could inspire a third-party candidate:
The collective failure of the two parties already appears to have stimulated interest in a third-party candidate for president in 2008 whose main promise would be to make Washington work. It is far too early to assess the viability of such a candidate, but it is easy to imagine the immigration impasse finding its way into a television commercial if someone such as New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg decides to run.
But as Matthew Yglesias points out, this claim makes no sense either:
But. But. But. What would the commercial say? Would it accuse congress of failing by failing to clamp down harder on immigration or would it accuse congress of failing by failing to deliver relief to suffering undocumented aliens? This is the crux of the matter. There isn't a unitary "immigration problem" that Washington is failing to solve. Rather, various people see various different problems and there's not a consensus as to which problem is sufficiently problematic as to warrant action.
Finally, Andrew Sullivan is hyping the silly Powell-Obama fantasy ticket and the likelihood of a third-party challenge if the major parties nominate Clinton and Giuliani:
The ticket may be a long-shot, but the connection between the two has already been established. One element of the coming campaign - and a function of its accelerated national schedule - is that two candidates will have it wrapped up pretty early next year. We will then have an opportunity to watch the candidates staff up over several months, give us a glimpse of their rival cabinets and teams. Jon Rauch explores this in the new Atlantic. A relationship between Obama and Powell would be a perfect blend of old-school Republican realism and diplomacy with a fresh, and internationally powerful new face in the presidency. My sense is that this country desperately wants to unite behind a rational, sane, realist in foreign affairs, who can appeal beyond either party's base. If we end up in a polarizing Clinton-Giuliani race, then I predict a serious third party candidate...
Who is it going to be? What states are they going to win? What money are they going to use to get on the ballot? This is the same silly speculation that happens every four years. The press is either naive about politics, treating the public like rubes, or both.
(For more, see my previous posts on third party hype.)
Brooks writes, "Tax code changes to reduce outsourcing are symbolic." Well, sure. That's why it isn't an important part of the liberal agenda. You know what is symbolic? Advocating a new governing ideology whose sole specific policy prescription is building more monuments.
Here's some amusing outrage over an upcoming Fox reality show in which a swimsuit model hosts a local newscast in Texas:
"One of the last sacred grounds of integrity in local television is the local newsroom, so I guess I would say I'm disappointed to see a station, much less one in our own community, that has evidently sold its integrity," said Brad Streit, vp and GM for KLTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Tyler.
Yes, local news is "[o]ne of the last sacred grounds of integrity in local television" -- if by "integrity" you mean exploiting fears of crime and running "video news releases" produced by corporations and the government as original content. Using the local news as a platform for a network reality show is just one more step down the road to oblivion.
While arguing for a pardon of Scooter Libby, the Wall Street Journal editorial page asserts that it would be "a two-day story":
General Pace's fate is one more example of Mr. Bush's recent habit of abandoning those most closely identified with his Iraq policy. Paul Wolfowitz received only tepid support from Treasury while he was besieged at the World Bank, while I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby may soon go to jail because the President has refused to pardon him. With Mr. Libby, what is Mr. Bush afraid of--jeopardizing his 33% approval rating? A pardon would be a two-day story. His opponents can't hate Mr. Bush more than they already do, and his supporters would cheer to see the President standing by the man who stood by him when others in his Administration cut and ran.
Pardoning a man who was convicted of lying to the FBI, has expressed no remorse, and served no jail time would be a two-day story? Really? Let's just say that there are good reasons to think the WSJ is wrong:
If Bush were to decide to pardon Libby, he would have to short-circuit the normal process. Under Justice Department guidelines, Libby would not qualify for a pardon. The guidelines require applicants to wait at least five years after being released from prison. The review process after the submission of an application typically can take two years before a decision is made. During more than six years in office, Bush has pardoned just 113 people, nearly a modern low, and never anyone who had not yet completed his sentence. He has commuted three sentences.
But the president's power to pardon federal crimes under Article II of the Constitution is essentially unrestricted, so he can ignore the guidelines. Other presidents who did so stirred furors, most prominently when Gerald R. Ford pardoned his Watergate-stained predecessor, Richard M. Nixon; when George H.W. Bush issued his Iran-contra pardons; and when Bill Clinton in his last hours in office pardoned financier Marc Rich, Whitewater figure Susan McDougal, his brother Roger Clinton and scores of others.
Also, while the WSJ sneers at the possibility, President Bush probably is scared of jeopardizing his 33% approval rating. He's already approaching historic lows, and a Gallup poll in March found that only 21% of Americans think Libby should be pardoned. A Libby pardon might endear him to movement conservatives, but at a very high cost.
There's something bizarre about reading the New York Times Magazine cover package on "The Inequality Economy" amidst with the usual blizzard of ads for luxury goods like multimillion dollar apartments, vacation homes, jewelry, perfume, etc.
The title page for the package (p. 51 in my print version) even appears directly opposite an ad for The Private Bank of the Bank of New York, which "created the nation's first trust to provide for the wife and children of our founder, Alexander Hamilton" and has been "helping protect legacies ever since."
Maybe there's an upside, though -- the juxtaposition certainly should make it easier to convince people that the gap between the top 1% and everyone else has gotten out of control.
A reader wrote to question this confusing passage from David Leonhardt's profile of Larry Summers in the Times Magazine:
Summers’s favorite statistic these days is that, since 1979, the share of pretax income going to the top 1 percent of American households has risen by 7 percentage points, to 16 percent. Over the same span, the share of income going to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by 7 percentage points. It’s as if every household in that bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent.
It sounds like Leonhardt is mistakenly assuming that a change of seven percentage points in share of national income translates directly to $7,000 per household. I don't think that's what he means, though the passage is so opaque it's hard to be sure. After some digging, I found that Summers mentioned these numbers in Senate testimony this year. His testimony included a table suggesting that the "net loss" in 2004 for the bottom 80% was $664 billion due to this 7 percentage point change in share of national income. If you divide that figure by the number of households in the US in the bottom 80% (approximately 90 million), you get approximately $7,000. I'll email Leonhardt to see if this is correct.
In an article today, the New York Times quotes an economist from the Employment Policies Institute, describing it as "a nonprofit research group that studies issues of entry-level employment":
The number of unemployed youths age 16 to 24 increased by 658,000 last summer, according to the Labor Department . And, the department’s monthly job report for May showed that the teenage unemployment rate was about three and a half times the national rate of 4.5 percent.
Some predict the situation will worsen with the passage of an increase to the federal minimum wage... “With the minimum wage hike, people who hire lower-skilled, entry-level workers are saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe I don’t hire that extra worker or maybe I hire someone in the job market a little longer,’ ” said Dr. Jill Jenkins, chief economist for the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit research group that studies issues of entry-level employment.
“You’re going to see fewer teens who are going to be employed when you bump up the wage rates. More people are going to come out looking for those jobs.”
The Times description is taken almost straight off the Employment Policy Institute's website, which states that the group "focuses on issues that affect entry-level employment." Sounds like a neutral source of expertise, right? Wrong. The Employment Policies Institute is actually an anti-minimum wage group set up by corporate firms to counter (and impersonate) the liberal Economic Policy Institute. Too bad the Times either (a) didn't know this or (b) didn't think it was important enough to tell their readers.
Good to see John Edwards speaking up on the important issues:
Even the presidential candidate John Edwards found himself drawn into the debate. When asked about Ms. Hilton’s release on Thursday he said, “Without regard to Paris Hilton, we have two Americas and I think what’s important is, it’s obvious that the problem exists.”
In Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney completely misrepresented how we ended up in Iraq. Later, Mike Huckabee mistakenly claimed that it was Ronald Reagan’s birthday.
Guess which remark The Washington Post identified as the “gaffe of the night”?
Folks, this is serious. If early campaign reporting is any guide, the bad media habits that helped install the worst president ever in the White House haven’t changed a bit.
You may not remember the presidential debate of Oct. 3, 2000, or how it was covered, but you should. It was one of the worst moments in an election marked by news media failure as serious, in its way, as the later failure to question Bush administration claims about Iraq.
Throughout that debate, George W. Bush made blatantly misleading statements, including some outright lies — for example, when he declared of his tax cut that “the vast majority of the help goes to the people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.” That should have told us, right then and there, that he was not a man to be trusted.
But few news reports pointed out the lie. Instead, many news analysts chose to critique the candidates’ acting skills. Al Gore was declared the loser because he sighed and rolled his eyes — failing to conceal his justified disgust at Mr. Bush’s dishonesty. And that’s how Mr. Bush got within chad-and-butterfly range of the presidency.
Now fast forward to last Tuesday. Asked whether we should have invaded Iraq, Mr. Romney said that war could only have been avoided if Saddam “had opened up his country to I.A.E.A. inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction.” He dismissed this as an “unreasonable hypothetical.”
Except that Saddam did, in fact, allow inspectors in. Remember Hans Blix? When those inspectors failed to find nonexistent W.M.D., Mr. Bush ordered them out so that he could invade. Mr. Romney’s remark should have been the central story in news reports about Tuesday’s debate. But it wasn’t...
Back to the debate coverage: as far as I can tell, no major news organization did any fact-checking of either debate. And post-debate analyses tended to be horse-race stuff mingled with theater criticism: assessments not of what the candidates said, but of how they “came across.”
Thus most analysts declared Mrs. Clinton the winner in her debate, because she did the best job of delivering sound bites...
Similarly, many analysts gave the G.O.P. debate to Rudy Giuliani not because he made sense — he didn’t — but because he sounded tough saying things like, “It’s unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror.” (Why?)
Look, debates involving 10 people are, inevitably, short on extended discussion. But news organizations should fight the shallowness of the format by providing the facts — not embrace it by reporting on a presidential race as if it were a high-school popularity contest.
One problem, though, is that debate fact-checking often becomes trivial even to me. It's important to focus on policy issues, not trivial biographical details (I'm not sure how much it matters, for instance, whether Al Gore went to a particular disaster with the FEMA director or his assistant, but the issue became a national controversy after a debate in 2000). Unfortunately, the big issues are precisely the ones on which the national news organizations are most reluctant to take a stand.
Fouad Ajami asks President Bush to pardon of Scooter Libby in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Here's the best passage:
The men and women who entrusted you with the presidency, I dare say, are hard pressed to understand why former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who was the admitted leaker of Mrs. Wilson's identity to columnist Robert Novak, has the comforts of home and freedom and privilege while Scooter Libby faces the dreaded prospect of imprisonment.
I'm not one of the people who "entrusted [Bush] with the presidency," but let me take a stab in the dark -- because Libby lied to the FBI and Armitage didn't?
The most offensive aspect of the op-ed, though, is the title "Fallen Soldier: Mr. President, do not leave this man behind." and the closing line:
Scooter Libby was there for the beginning of that campaign. He can't be left behind as a casualty of a war our country had once proudly claimed as its own.
I imagine that the families of the real casualties of the war wouldn't appreciate that kind of language. Libby is going to serve a few months in jail for lying to the FBI. There's just no comparison.
My friend Ben Fritz reprints an inside-Hollywood email from "a relatively well known character actress" in which she offers to have Dennis Kucinich call her friends and acquaintances to discuss his candidacy. I know the man is at 1% in the polls, but if he has that much free time on his hands, shouldn't he be, say, working for his constituents a little more?
Eric Alterman is the latest pundit to make the unproven claim that Fox News reduces the information levels of its viewers:
I've got a new "Think Again," called "Modest and Respectful No More," here, and the reason I idiotically went to New Hampshire in the first place, a Creative Coalition panel on the debates I did not witness, is here on the invaluable fora.tv.
Note, by the way, how angry Frank Luntz gets when I note that Fox News cannot really be considered a news source since studies by the University of Maryland and elsewhere demonstrate that its viewers are consistently misinformed about the news by its ideologically slanted and frequently false reports.
But as I've noted before, the finding that Fox News viewers have lower information levels than, say, New York Times readers isn't necessarily an indictment of Fox News. It could just be that people with lower levels of information tend to watch the channel.
To take a converse example, Weekly Standard readers probably have higher knowledge levels than, say, people who watch Good Morning America, but that doesn't prove that the Weekly Standard is a superior news source.
Of course, there's a good chance that Fox News misinforms its viewers, but to establish that claim, we'd have to randomly expose people to Fox News or another source, then compare what they learned.
I just came across an incredible campaign anecdote while working on my dissertation. Check out this excerpt from a Washington Post story on the 1978 US Senate race in Maine:
Three independents are challenging Hathaway and Cohen, but only one of them, former state senator Hayes Gahagan, was expected to attract many votes.
The campaign of the 30-year-old conservative has foundered, however, since he announced that someone had implanted the word "sex" on his face in his campaign photographs.
He says he has since discovered the same word appears in Cohen and Hathaway campaign photographs and he makes no claim to know who is doing the implants. But he is calling for a congressional investigation of what he terms "a national scandal" of subliminal advertising.
His problem is that people outside his campaign, including this reporter, can't see the words even with the aid of a magnifying glass.
Just to reiterate, Gahagan wasn't some random loon; he was a former state senator who was a serious enough candidate that the Post reporter actually got out a magnifying glass to look for the word "sex." Wow.
People tend to regard the idea of "democratic" politics with high reverence, when in practice it consists most of the time of the right of any citizen to describe one's opponent as an idiot, or worse.
I love the scare quotes around "democratic." Elitist much?
PS See my previous posts on Henninger for more.
I am an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Duke University in 2009 and served as a RWJ Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan from 2009-2011. I also tweet at @BrendanNyhan and serve as a media critic for Columbia Journalism Review. Previously, I co-edited Spinsanity, a non-partisan watchdog of political spin, and co-authored All the President's Spin. For more, see my bio or academic website.