Election 2008 Obama Politics

“No Panicking in Obama-Land”

According to Noam Scheiber of TNR, the Obama campaign is pretty confident about their current position. Three weeks ago, the national finance board of the campaign met and was divided into two camps:

In one camp were the people relatively new to the world of high-powered fundraising, who seemed rattled by Obama’s standing in the national polls and the media narrative about Obama stalling out. In the other camp were veterans of previous campaigns, many of them former Kerry fundraisers, who felt comfortable–even encouraged–by Obama’s Iowa numbers and shared an overall sense that the campaign was on track.

In the end, Scheiber says, the newbies were comforted by Barack’s appearance and talk with them.

Domestic issues Morality

“Never get busted…”

Via reddit, a former top narcotics officer in West Texas, Barry Cooper, has created a video showing how to “hide your stash” and “never get busted”. NPR manages to give some advice while explaining how law enforcement officials are outraged.

Although tips on how to outwith “the Man” are always welcome, I found the frankness about the job and the moral angst felt by the officer most interesting:

“I used to break into houses at three o’clock in the morning with 10 other men, after throwing a flash grenade through the window,” Cooper says. “I would drag Mom and Dad away and send the kids to the department of human services — over a bag of pot — and totally ruin that entire family. I started reaping what I had sown.”

Election 2008 Politics

Graphics of Election 2008 Polls

A nice feature on Slate that I just came across. I did not realize how precipitous John Edwards’s decline in Iowa was until I saw it on this graph. Kudos to Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin on the feature.

Election 2008 Politics

The Beginning of the End of Hillary 2008

Maybe Senator Obama had a bit more reason to be satisfied after last night’s debate than I thought. The focus of all the coverage I have seen has been on Clinton’s dissembling and the relentless attacks on her. As the Politico says: “When Hillary has a bad night, she has a really bad night.” Drudge is reporting that Hillary is blaming Tim Russert for being too tough on her:


Last night actually made me respect Russert all the more because he took no bullshit from Hillary. She kept trying to avoid answering his questions, keeping her position “fuzzy”, and he tried to get her to give a clear answer. He also seemed to have prepared statements Hillary had made refuting every point she was kind of making. With as long a career in the public eye as Hillary has had, I think she could have brushed off these challenges by taking a solid stand last night. Instead she made it worse, reminding us that her husband was the first president to question what the meaning of is is.

Clinton still has a formidable campaign, but I believe the weakness she demonstrated last night spells the beginning of the end. She’s not going to win the news cycle by blaming her lack of candor on Tim Russert. And she will not get sympathy for being attacked because she has cultivated a reputation for being ruthless in attacking her opponents. Most of all, with primary voters and caucus goers deciding which candidate is best suited to beat the Republican nominee come next November, this night will loom large. Given all her experience in the public eye, given her practical incumbency, one would expect her to be able to give the appearance of being straight-forward, of directly answering questions instead of getting annoyed when anyone points out she is merely mouthing platitudes.

Regarding my hand-picked candidate: Obama didn’t do enough. He did not make his case. I am not sure if this was intentional or not. Obviously Edwards came off very strong. He was aggressive and forceful. He demonstrated an instinct for zoning in on the kill. Here, his trial experience must have been very helpful.

But few people saw Edwards’s strong performance last night; and although the headlines and stories all mention Edwards’s good performance, they include it as a footnote to the main story: Hillary had a really bad night.

If Obama had performed at the top of his game, I am not sure it would have stood out amidst the carnage. Perhaps – and this is wishful thinking on my part – he did not want to be known for taking out Hillary. Rather, he wanted to make his case when he could be positive. The question everyone was asking before the latest national polls showing Hillary with a 20% lead was how Obama could get Edwards to do the dirty work of taking out Clinton for him. If that was the goal, Obama succeeded last night. Given Edwards’s lack of a national campaign structure and relative weakness in the money race, Obama still stands most to benefit from Clinton’s stumblings. What he needs to do now is to present a compelling positive vision of his view for America. Now.

Domestic issues Election 2008 Politics

David Brooks gets it right for once…

I have been increasingly critical of David Brooks’ past columns. Like the rest of The New York Times‘ columnists, he seems to focus more on making sound bites into columns – I’m looking at you especially Maureen Dowd. His conservatism has also seemed woefully unmoored – ready to accept any comers. I do not see in him an especially astute political strategist, technician, or wordsmith. His ideology seems a mish-mash that seems to center on trying to figure out what Teddy Roosevelt would do. There are worse role models, but I feel Teddy’s great wisdom as channeled through sound bites may not be enough.

However, as a social and political observer, David Brooks is astute. Today’s column, thankfully, illustrated this. Awkwardly titling his column “The Happiness Gap”, Brooks’s essential point of view is that Americans don’t want big changes. Rather, they want to ensure that America does not change too much from where we are now. And on this, I think he gets it about right.

In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt could launch the New Deal because voters wanted to change the country and their own lives. But today, people want the government to change so their own lives can stay the same. Voters don’t want to be transformed; they want to be defended.

“Voters don’t want to be transformed; they want to be defended.” I think they still want a leader who can guide them to some greater purpose, and to transform America’s position in the world. But domestically, my feeling is that Americans just want things to stay as they are, with some improvements on the health care front.


Happy Halloween…

The classic Michael Jackson video in honor of All Hallows Eve.


The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race by Jared Diamond

The author of the best-selling and prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse wrote this piece earlier in his career about the worst mistake human beings have made: settling down into societies and pursuing agriculture. As Diamond’s works tend to do, this piece makes you think.

Election 2008 Humor Politics

A First Lady I’d Like To ….

Election 2008 Foreign Policy Obama Politics

Live-blogging the MSNBC Debate…

First reaction, seeing Hillary respond: She is way too over-confident. She’s going to lose. Someone on that stage is going to beat her. What is that maniacal smile as she listened to Tim Russert describe her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman bill.

As I’ve told people: I think this is the first make-or-break moment in the campaign. If Obama doesn’t “beat” the expectations of the press or impress a large number of Iowans and New Hamphirites, he’ll have missed his biggest opportunity so far and demonstrated a lack of ability to go for the jugular. And without that ability, he will never be able to beat Hillary or most of the top Republican nominees.


R.I.P. Goulet

Robert Goulet, whom I only know by name and the following Saturday Night Live skit, died a few hours ago. He also apparently played Lancelot in the musical Camelot, but I only learned that in his obituary. Suffice it to say, my generation will not truly feel the loss of Goulet until Will Ferrell stops doing his impression. Which was hilarious.