Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics

McCain Throws an Elbow

Matt Drudge is reporting that the McCain campaign will leak the identity of their Vice Presidential pick at 6 pm tonight, and confirm the identity at 8 pm. Barack Obama is scheduled to give his acceptance speech between 10 pm and 11 pm. Obviously, this is a tactic designed to break into Obama’s news cycle.

It’s cheap. It’s pretty low class. And it’s excellent politics.

I think the McCain camp is miscalculating here – and although an announcement tomorrow might cut into Obama’s bounce, leaking the news tonight will cut into any benefit McCain might derive from it.

But the real bet must be that by leaking the news tonight so soon before Obama’s speech they can force him to react to the pick or look foolish not doing so.

I’m not sure exactly how this will play out – but McCain is playing a dangerous game here. And I’m not sure his campaign is up to it.

Of course, McCain does seem a bit cranky in his recent interview with Time magazine:

In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it’s over?
[Does not answer.]

Do I know you? [Says with a laugh.]
[Long pause.] I’m very happy with the way our campaign has been conducted, and I am very pleased and humbled to have the nomination of the Republican Party.

You do acknowledge there was a change in the campaign, in the way you had run the campaign?
[Shakes his head.]

You don’t acknowledge that? O.K., when your aides came to you and you decided, having been attacked by Barack Obama, to run some of those ads, was there a debate?
The campaign responded as planned.

I guess McCain has now decided to go out of his way to alienate the group he once called his base – presumably following the same Rovian strategy that Bush did.

McCain obviously does not care about his independent brand anymore.

Domestic issues Election 2008 Morality Obama The Media

Mixing Theology and Politics

Rachel Zoll, under the headline, “Pelosi gets unwanted lesson in Catholic theology” concludes with this scolding that seems directed only to the Democrats:

It is a complex discussion. The Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, has some advice for candidates who seek to join the debate: Stick to politics – and support programs that truly help reduce the number of abortions.

“It is a big mistake,” Reese said, “for politicians to talk theology.”

What I find amusing about this whole conclusion to Zoll’s article is that it makes exactly the point that Obama and Pelosi were trying to make. Obama said that deciding when human life begins was “above his pay grade” and Pelosi said that the issue was complicaed. They both wanted to avoided theological discussions. Now, Rev. Reese is scolding them for talking about theology – which is, clearly, exactly what both wanted to avoid – and is exactly what many on the right are explicitly trying to do.

Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons


[Image by greekchickie licensed under Creative Commons.]

Watching the Democratic Convention a few minutes behind real time (thanks DVR) and without having read or heard the instant post-speech analysis – I have to say, Bill Clinton gave exactly the speech Obama needed. And his performance tonight reminded me of why this man is the only Democrat to have been elected president twice since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Hillary Clinton’s speech last night was good – though it was clearly not directed at me. She hit her notes, and demonstrated how much she had improved her public speaking skills in the past few years. Bill Clinton today, though, managed to play to multiple audiences simultaneously – those disappointed in him for not supporting Obama; those who supported Hillary; those who had doubts about Obama; and those wavering on the line between McCain and Obama.

Election 2008 Obama Politics Videos

Dukakis: “I owe the American people an apology.”

Watch CBS Videos Online

[digg-me] Katie Couric interviewed Michael Dukakis today – the man who lost the 1988 presidential race to George H. W. Bush. The quote that makes the interview worth watching is from the very end:

Look, I owe the American people an apology. If I had beaten the old man you’d of never heard of the kid and you wouldn’t be in this mess. So it’s all my fault and I feel that very, very strongly.

H/t Jason Zengerle.

Election 2008 Foreign Policy McCain National Security Politics The War on Terrorism

“A Clear and Present Danger to the Security of the West”

After listing the tremendous strategic blunders of the Bush administration‘s neoconservative approach to national security and foreign policy, Andrew Sullivan concludes:

Insofar as neoconservatives do not understand this, and cannot understand this, they are a clear and present danger to the security of the West. Their unwillingness to understand how the US might be perceived in the world, how a hegemon needs to exhibit more humility and dexterity to maintain its power, makes them – and McCain – extremely dangerous stewards of American foreign policy in an era of global terror. They are diplomatically and strategically autistic.

McCain’s response to the calamities of the past eight years has been to compound them all.

Morality Politics

Conservatives Dodge the Abortion Question

[digg-reddit-me]I haven’t written about this issue before because it is not an issue on which I have strong feelings.

But reading George Weigel in Newsweek explaining that Democrats were ignoring science and theology when discussing abortion, and reading Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard explaining the Catholic Church’s consistency in understanding human life as beginning at conception – it’s pretty clear that neither of them has either the patience to understand or the honesty to write anything but hack opinion pieces on this issue.

The fudging is a subtle one – but one of enormous consequence.

When I watched Nancy Pelosi on Meet the Press, I realized that she had made a mistake:

REP. PELOSI:  I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time.  And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition.  And Senator – St. Augustine said at three months.  We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose.  Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child – first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester.  There’s very clear distinctions.  This isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and – to – that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god.  And so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins.  As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who’ve decided…

MR. BROKAW:  The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it…

REP. PELOSI:  I understand that.

MR. BROKAW:  …begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI:  I understand.  And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that.  So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy.  But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions.  And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions.  That’s why we have this fight in Congress over contraception.  My Republican colleagues do not support contraception.  If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must – it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think.  But that is not the case.  So we have to take – you know, we have to handle this as respectfully – this is sacred ground. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been – and I’m not saying Rick Warren did, because I don’t think he did, but others will try to.

There are two confusions in what Pelosi said. First, although she acknowledges it in the end, she at first seems to state the the Catholic Church has not decided when life starts. In the past fifty years or so, the Church did make a decision regarding this – a decision that seems to be based more on politics than theology – but that is an issue for a different day. The second confusion was when she said:

…so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins…

The problem here is that she was trying to express a perfectly reasonable and true fact – but using the loaded language of the question itself. And in doing so, she mis-spoke – although what she meant is clear to anyone with an understanding of the science of embroyolgy.

If someone asks you: “When does rose life begin?” the answer is far from clear. Is a seed a rose? It contains all the same genetic material and certainly can become a rose, given appropriate conditions. But it lacks all of the characteristics of a rose – and does not function as one. As it begins to grow, it acquires more and more characteristics ofa  rose – the roots, the stem, the thorns, the buds, the flowers, the scent. At what point does the seed become a rose? Science can explain the process. Philosophy or theology can define the terms. And while making the case against abortion, pro-lifers ask: “When does human life begin?”, a more appropriate question to guide policy-makers is “At what point does an embryo become an individual protected by the law?”

And while Weigel and Barnes correctly note that the Catholic Church has always opposed abortion – there has been debate over what constituted an abortion. By acting as if making this point demonstrates how ignorant Nancy Pelosi is, they demonstrate their own ignorance – and, just as they accuse Pelosi and Obama of doing, they dodge the question.

The true rationale behind their political attacks disguised as recitations of unquestioned science and theology is to blunt the Democratic Party’s efforts to woo Catholics and other religious groups.

While Bill Clinton did not allow Governor Bob Casey to speak at the 1992 Republican Convention because of his opinions on abortion (a slight many Catholics still remember), Barack Obama asked Senator Bob Casey, the Governor’s son, to speak at this one. This Democratic Convention was inagurated with a prayer. An unabashedly liberal prayer. And Barack Obama speaks eloquently and from personal experience about his faith – while John McCain’s only story of faith seems to have been cribbed from Chuck Colson.

The Republicans are scared – and they are willing to use religion, once again, as a wedge issue. Although they seem to have no intention of overturning Roe v. Wade (Seven of the nine justices have been nominated by Republicans after it became the official policy of the Republican Party to overturn this precedent.) – the Republicans will continue to use abortion as their primary tool to get out the vote.

What Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have acknowledged is that the issue of when a collection of cells becomes a fully-human human being is complicated – theologically and biologically. This is clear to anyone who has taken the time to thoughtfully look at this issue. The counter-attacks by the Republicans have been misleading and factually false – and while they accuse these Democrats of dodging this issue, they have yet to make their case. Their attack itself is a dodge.

Domestic issues Economics Election 2008 McCain Politics The Opinionsphere

The Intersection of Rich, Out-of-Touch, and Old

Jonathan Chait to Matthew Yglesias in conversation over at, discussing McCain’s lack of awareness of the number of houses he owns:

Chait: It’s right at the intersection of rich, out-of-touch, and old. It’s like the perfect –

Yglesias: Right…

Chait: …it’s in the perfectly overlapped center of all these things.

Yglesias: I actually feel kind of bad…

Life Politics Prose Reflections

Quote of the Day

Like the British Constitution, she owes her success in practice to her inconsistencies in principle.

Thomas Hardy, in The Hand of Ethelberta.

Election 2008 McCain Politics The Clintons

Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?

[Image by oxmour licensed under Creative Commons.]

Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because her father is Janet Reno.

I just wanted to point out this McCain joke (told around the time of Chelsea’s 18th birthday) to all the PUMAs out there who have made a big deal about Obama’s disrespect of the Clintons.

Election 2008 McCain National Security Politics Russia

Quote of the Day

Outrage is not a policy. Worry is not a policy. Indignation is not a policy. Even though outrage, worry and indignation are all appropriate in this situation, they shouldn’t be mistaken for policy and they shouldn’t be mistaken for strategy.

Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state under President Clinton, Russia specialist, and president of the Brookings Institution, commenting on the McCain campaign’s and the Bush administration’s response to the Georgia crisis.