Friday, November 07, 2008

Michelle and Princeton

A recent article in the Daily Princetonian. She's exactly 10 years ahead of me in school, and she and I also share another important trait, we were both active members in the kosher kitchen:
Michelle did not join an eating club, choosing instead to take her meals at Stevenson Hall, a University-funded student-run institution on Prospect Avenue.

Michelle’s roommate Angela Acree ’85, who is African American, worked at Stevenson Hall. Since it contained a kosher kitchen, Acree’s and Obama’s social life came to include Jewish students as well.

“[We] did everything the Orthodox students did, which included going on a ski trip to Vermont with them one break,” Acree said. Stevenson Hall “became a whole life for me.”

Michelle and her friends felt welcomed by the Orthodox community but not always by the Princeton community at large, friends said.
H/t to DW.

Emmanuel: Modern Orthodoxy Confirmed

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, is Rahm Emmanuel's rabbi. In the three cases I know about of halakhically observant, powerful Jews, I confirmed their status by whether they asked shylas. I know about Lieberman (who asked Rabbi Barry Freundel), and Robert Wexler (a member of my parents' shul) and now I have confirmation that Emmanuel asks shylas as well:
On Rosh Hashana, Rahm Emanuel called his rabbi with a question: Could he violate the holiday to sit in on a conference call about the $700 billion bank bailout package that congressional Democrats were fiercely trying to revive?

It didn't take long for Rabbi Asher Lopatin, who heads Emanuel's modern Orthodox congregation in suburban Chicago, to give him an answer.

"I told him it was my halachic opinion that the financial system was on the point of failing and it could be a disaster, and this was a matter of life and death, to get this passed, as long as the violation was kept to a minimum," Lopatin told The Jerusalem Post.
Read the whole article, though, especially if you're still wavering about Obama's concern for Jews and Israel.

Update: Emmanuel's Talent:
Noam Schreiber of TNR says that Rahm is a superlative choice, and gives examples of his pragmatism.

Note, if Rahm does a good job, then *he* may get the coveted cement-shoe prize of being named the most probable "First Jewish President" (previous prizeholders were Joe Lieberman and Elliot Spitzer, wonderful company to join)

Post Election Thoughts, part 6

  1. Did Palin Know About Africa, NAFTA?

  2. Martin Peretz has a good post: Political Consequences Of An Obama Victory

  3. Reiterating my point about the Obama Presidency's ease: most of the current problems have been CAUSED, they didn't just "happen." True, it's easier to bomb a building than to build one, and Bush has bombed the hell out of the world (literal ones in Iraq, figurative ones on Wall Street), so Obama's toil will be in rebuilding. But here's the simple, all-points plan for the major problems: (1) Iraq, (2) Justice, (3) Healthcare, (4) Economy = once we end Iraq, and enact Healthcare, huge drains on the economy will cease.

  4. Another example of Krauthammer the Ass, from Sullivan.
Backpost finished 2009-12-07.

Single Votes Count

Even if 2000 didn't send that lesson, here's a good rundown to remind us, from 538.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Great line from Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates is on fire:
'What's the old saying? Black folks didn't object to slavery, they objected to being the slaves. "
Backpost finished 2009-12-07.

Emmanuel and Axelrod

Marc Ambinder is all over the Rahm Emmanuel selection (about a dozen posts today). But as I asked yesterday, what about David Axelrod, Obama's campaign chief of staff. Let's cut to Ambinder, already in progress:
Though David Axelrod isn't confirming it himself, friends say that Obama has asked him to be an assistant to the president and senior adviser. Assistant to the president is a very coveted post with quasi-institutional prerogatives; assistants can (if the Obama administration chooses to continue the practice) pop in on the president whenever they want, and they're given review privileges over everything that goes out in the president's name.
And, to round out the picture, here's the New Republic's description of him, and note the last line (bold mine) about Axelrod and Emmanuel's relationship:
Obama's chief of staff could be the Dick Cheney of his administration-the heavy with his hands in everything. Like Cheney, Rahmbo is respected, feared, and a formidable wonk. Emanuel might make an attractive chief of staff because of his reputation for fierce loyalty and his ability to corral the House Democrats. Those in Congress who don't owe their jobs to him are terrified of him. That pick, like so much of Obama's world, would bear Axelrod's fingerprints: Ax signed the ketubah at Emanuel's wedding.
Thanks to my brother for pointing out the story and we both agree that the comparison to Cheney is stupid (and mean): "Obama, like Hitler, was elected the head of his country."

Cabinet Rumors

According to the valley of the leaks, Marc Ambinder, from yesterday:
President-elect Barack Obama is NOT expected to name key posts BEFORE next week...even though there's been speculation that he'd name his Treasury secretary today.... the ONE exception might be his chief of staff. (Rep. Rahm Emanuel has told colleagues that he has been approached about the job, although many in the Obama world are skeptical.)

The goal is for Obama to announce some of his decisions before Thanksgiving, including whether he will keep Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for a few months -- likely -- and whether he'll keep Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson (very unlikely).

There is a sense of urgency -- but Obama wants to think through these issues carefully and does not want to rush -- or appear to be rushed.

Credible candidates for Treasury include former Fed chair Paul Volcker, whose reputation has emerged from the financial crisis relatively unscathed, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and New York federal reserve chair Tim Geithner, who Obama doesn't know.

For defense, people advising the transition say that former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig has emerged as a favorite and trusted defense adviser to Sen. Obama.

And Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is said to be the favorite for attorney general, although just who is saying that isn't clear.
For the Jewish perspective: Emmanuel (Chief of Staff), Summers (Treasury), and Danzig (Defense) are all Jewish or rumored to be so.

The Racist Belt

From Sullivan who got it from Yglesias who got it from the Times, a map of the sectors where McCain did better than Bush... I wonder why?

Jared Polis

As you know, after an election I track the numbers of added/present elected officials who are on my teams: Democrats, Princeton grads, redheads, and Jews. Yeah, even though my enemies do this as well (on all fronts, you know who you are gingy-haters!), the fact that the same action can mean different things in different contexts is the essence of social philosophy. If I stopped doing things just because someone I detest does the same thing, then I'd basically be stuck doing nothing (OK, maybe playing pong and drinking Ovaltine - those are still pristine).

Anyway, a new representative, Jared Polis, was elected on Tuesday in the Colorado 2nd who's on 3 teams: Jewish Democratic Princeton grad. Awright. Do I mind that he's actually younger than me and is already a multi-millionaire and in Congress? Nah. But, in a fun twist of fate, he's also the first openly gay person elected to Congress (the Wiki says that Barney Frank outed himself after election - that must have been some closet).

This is going to be interesting.

Pic made by me - the official symbol of Jewish Princetonians. Maybe. Backpost finished 2009-12-07.

Newsweek's Revelations

Newsweek's Special Election Project, according to their description: "...first published in an inside, behind-the-scenes account of the presidential election produced by a special team of reporters working for more than a year on an embargoed basis and detached from the weekly magazine and Everything the project team learns is kept confidential until the day after the polls close." Here are some direct quotes of revelations from this project. I present them first without comment, then add a few afterward (note, there's more on the website):
  1. "NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin's shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family—clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

  2. "McCain himself rarely spoke to Palin during the campaign, and aides kept him in the dark about the details of her spending on clothes because they were sure he would be offended. Palin asked to speak along with McCain at his Arizona concession speech Tuesday night, but campaign strategist Steve Schmidt vetoed the request."

  3. "The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied. Michelle Obama was shaken by the vituperative crowds and the hot rhetoric from the GOP candidates. "Why would they try to make people hate us?" Michelle asked a top campaign aide."

  4. "Obama was never inclined to choose Sen. Hillary Clinton as his running mate, not so much because she had been his sometime bitter rival on the campaign trail, but because of her husband. Still, as Hillary's name came up in veep discussions, and Obama's advisers gave all the reasons why she should be kept off the ticket, Obama would stop and ask, "Are we sure?" He needed to be convinced one more time that the Clintons would do more harm than good. McCain, on the other hand, was relieved to face Sen. Joe Biden as the veep choice, and not Hillary Clinton, whom the McCain camp had truly feared."

  5. "McCain was dumbfounded when Congressman John Lewis, a civil-rights hero, issued a press release comparing the GOP nominee with former Alabama governor George Wallace, a segregationist infamous for stirring racial fears. McCain had devoted a chapter to Lewis in one of his books, "Why Courage Matters," and had so admired Lewis that he had once taken his children to meet him."

  6. "On the night she officially lost the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton enjoyed a long and friendly phone conversation with McCain. Clinton was actually on better terms with McCain than she was with Obama. Clinton and McCain had downed shots together on Senate junkets; they regarded each other as grizzled veterans of the political wars and shared a certain disdain for Obama as flashy and callow."

  7. "At the GOP convention in St. Paul, Palin was completely unfazed by the boys' club fraternity she had just joined. One night, Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter went to her hotel room to brief her. After a minute, Palin sailed into the room wearing nothing but a towel, with another on her wet hair. She told them to chat with her laconic husband, Todd. "I'll be just a minute," she said."
OK, some quick comments:
  1. The towel story is the most revealing (har) about Palin's character, even more than the incredible spending/theft (which can be explained as a combo of pure Republican greed and the Beverly Hillbillies). Palin knowingly used sex as a weapon and that above anything else was why she was hated by moderate & liberal women.

  2. The McCain campaign "truly feared" Hillary Clinton. What rubes. But it gives more context for the insane choice of Palin.

  3. The John Lewis story highlights a growing impression about John McCain's cluelessness and ambivalence in this campaign. McCain comes across as a sheltered, half-dead candidate who had no idea what his operatives were doing in his name. I'm not exonerating him, but it does explain why his speeches (most notably his concession) was in a vastly different tone from his campaign. The GOP Machine never liked him and never trusted him... for the very same reasons that McCain was popular and liked by everyone else in America. McCain's joking accessability and his reasonableness were anathema to the Bush/Rove Party. And with the same short-sightedness that destroyed Iraq and spoiled the bipartisan patriotism after 9/11 was the same toxic stupidity that destroyed McCain's reputation and chose Sarah Palin.

  4. A sign of the toxicity of the GOP, and especially Palin, is the bit about the threats to the Obamas as a direct result of Palin's rhetoric. We can not forget, nor forgive, the GOP for that.

  5. "Clinton and McCain had downed shots together on Senate junkets;" Ugh

  6. "Clinton was actually on better terms with McCain than she was with Obama. ... [Clinton and McCain] regarded each other as grizzled veterans of the political wars and shared a certain disdain for Obama as flashy and callow." Ya know, that didn't come across at all. Heh heh heh. Losers.

Top 3 Cartoons

The Win goes to Tom Toles (who has consistently done awesome work):

to David Horsey (also consistently good):

And the Bronze to newcomer Clay Bennett:

Honorable mentions:
Ben Sargent (whose art and politics are excellent):

And Paul Szep (whose art is terrible, but politics on the money):

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

More Thoughts, part 5

  1. Reid & Lieberman- "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will likely meet later this week with Joe Lieberman to discuss whether the Democrat-turned-Independent will be stripped of his Senate committee chairmanship, a senior Democratic leadership aide tells CNN."

  2. TPM links to this story about Sy Hersh: "Rachel Cooke meets the most-feared investigative reporter in Washington"

  3. TPM: Threats To Obama Rose As Palin's Crowds Grew More Frenzied - does this surprise anybody?

  4. Good post-election summary

  5. Good line from Sullivan's page: "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults," - Alexis de Tocqueville.

  6. And whoa, Palin didn't know Africa was a continent (again, are you surprised?)
Backpost finished 2009-12-07.

Jewish Vote, Jews in Congress

According to JTA:

"For months, polls showed Obama languishing at about 60 percent of the Jewish vote, a critical chunk short of the 75 percent or so Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) garnered in 2004. But exit polls from the Tuesday election showed Obama matching those results, garnering about 78 percent of the Jewish vote against 22 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his Republican rival."

"The Chosen: Jewish members in the 111th U.S. Congress" By Ami Eden · November 5, 2008

The following is a list of the 44 Jewish members -13 senators and 31 representatives - who will serve in the 111th U.S. Congress that convenes in January:

Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.)
Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) or Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.)
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.)
Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)**
Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)
Carl Levin (D-Mich.)**
Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.)
Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)
Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.)
John Adler (D-N.J.)*
Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.)
Howard Berman (D-Calif.)
Eric Cantor (R-Va.)
Stephen Cohen (D-Tenn.)
Susan Davis (D-Calif.)
Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.)
Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.)
Bob Filner (D-Calif.)
Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)
Jane Harman (D-Calif.)
Paul Hodes (D-N.H.)
Steve Israel (D-N.Y.)
Steve Kagen (D-Wisc.)
Ron Klein (D-Fla.)
Sander Levin (D-Mich.)
Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)
Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)
Jared Polis (D-Colo.)*
Steve Rothman (D-N.J.)
Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.)
Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)
Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)
Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.)
Robert Wexler (D-Fla.)
John Yarmuth (D-Ky.)

* Elected to Congress for the first time
** Senators who were re-elected

Chief of Staff: Emmanuel

Well, according to the Times, Obama has tapped Rahm Emmanuel to be his chief of staff (which I talked about here). As many have noticed, for example the Times only a few days ago, the 2008 election seems to be a weird fiction-nonfiction mirror of the last season of the West Wing. There's a *lot* in common (and a lot not), and this is just one more. The character of Josh Lyman - who becomes the Chief of Staff for the first non-White president (who was based on Barack Obama) was supposedly based on Rahm Emmanuel.

But, in a non-West Wing analysis, if Rahm accepts the job then it should put to rest some of the anti-Obama grumbling in the Jewish community. Rahm is an Israeli-American (his father, who the Wiki says was a member of the Irgun; cool), a member of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, and extremely pro-Israel (the wiki says he volunteered in Israel during the first Gulf War).

To sum up: Obama has asked, and will likely have, a very pro-Israel, Israeli-American (secular) orthodox Jew run his administration.

Update: See this 2005 Rolling Stone story about Emmanuel and the legends surrounding his intensity.

More Thoughts, Part 4

Continuing in a string of observations:
  1. Seeing Jesse Jackson weeping had a big effect on me. I always thought of him as an opportunistic blowhard (the fathering a child out of wedlock while employed as a Protestant minister rubbed me the wrong way)... but his weeping, which is hard to simulate for cameras, showed me that he at his core was genuine about race relations and history. Bravo to him.

  2. If McCain had won, it would have meant that 3 out of the past 4 presidents were fighter pilots (HW Bush, W Bush, McCain) and that would have implications for that profession. Generally it appears to be a way that those with military obligations - and who have family influence (as all three did, Preston Bush's son, HW Bush's son, Admiral McCain's son) manage to be in as little of the organized military as possible. Fighter pilots, often in single seat planes, have missions but aren't at the mercy of a superior, possibly. In any case, it didn't happen and I hope we can put the role-identity to rest.

  3. What we do have is an establishment of a new presidential paradigm of *youth*. Clinton was 46, Bush was 54, and Obama is 47. 54 is on the young-end (most presidents were between 50-60), and it emphasizes the paradigm that between 1992 and (at least) 2012 the presidency is held by a young person.

  4. I don't feel equipped to describe the full implications of having a black first lady, either. As we know, having a black male president doesn't mean he'll be wed to a black woman. I am a fan of Michelle, and not only because she's a Princetonian (but that's a big boost). It can be argued that Obama's upbringing, and even his ethnicity, makes him a different category from what we consider to be typically "African-American." That label is a bit of a misnomer, as shown in Barack's case, because for other ethnic groups, the term refers to the origin country vis-a-vis voluntary immigration, while the population we usually label as African-American were "involuntary immigrants," a.k.a. Slaves.

    When you are in America because your forebears were kidnapped, beaten, raped, and bought-and-sold as property, then you will treat America with a set of unique attitudes that are specific to a hostile environment. Note, this singularity is different from, yet shared with, Native Americans (and to some extend native Hispanics), and those relationships will be excepted from my analysis). Yet we have other hyphenates - Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, etc - who were voluntary immigrants, and while they are ethnically different, they share some basic, similar characteristics with each other: they wanted to be in America, and they see America usually as a place of promise, opportunity, and greatness.

    Obama is the child of a voluntary immigrant. Like Colin Powell, an important fellow-traveler, who is a child of Jamaican immigrants, Obama's attitude towards America will be much more like mine (or my parents) than the attitude of the vast majority of "African-Americans" (the involuntary immigrants). Obama's father and Powell's parents were presumably like American Jews: they perforce saw America as a place of opportunity, and purposefully came here to avoid the home country.

    Note, I came across this difference in attitude following the Amadou Diallo tragedy. After he was killed by the NYPD, perennial bottom-dweller Al Sharpton tried to hijack Diallo's family into his cause of racial grievance. And I remember (I need to find the exact source) Diallo's family protesting Sharpton's characterization of America as a land of permanent racism and danger. They responded that they wanted to be in America because it was a land of opportunity: i.e. they were talking like immigrants.

    In any case, all of this is to come around to Michelle Obama. She is a descendant of slaves. And now first lady. That's big.

More Thoughts, Part 3

See the first two parts below (and/or above):
  1. Last night, before the 8pm returns, I spoke with my old college roommate (who I had once expected would be the first Black president) about what was happening. It also was his first wedding anniversary, so it was a nice occasion all around. Anyway, the conversation turned to why he (and I) would probably never be president: because we couldn't sit quiet at all the insane crap that Obama just took in stride. However, in deference to we mere mortals, Obama's absolute greatest skill is his supernaturally cool temperament. It is the very definition of 'cool.' That slang term has been around for a long time and hasn't fallen out of use for a good reason: there's a recognition that a valued quality of leadership is the ability to keep one's emotions under control. Passion is great, and I have it in excess, but for real leadership you need to be cool.

    And some people are cool because they are naturally so, and some just need to train themselves. In either case, it's a remarkably physical-mental skill and that's what sets Obama apart from the rest of us.

    Note, this quality is what got him tarred as 'arrogant.' The reason why the attitude didn't stick (as it did to Dukakis and Kerry) was that Obama's coolness seemed to come from deliberation. It reminds me of my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Ahron Lichtenstein. One reason why I consider Rav Ahron a gadol is because he appears to deliberate and think about everything he says and does. I feel we can judge any so-called gadol by this ability: does he say things in anger or without thinking through the implications? By this I include utterances of prejudice and willful ignorance.

    Obama has this level of deliberation and I consider it to thus be even more than the mental-physical skill described above but also a moral skill. And no, I'm not saying Obama is on the level of a Gadol (for some craziness in this regard see this piece of idiocy.)

    This is seen also in Obama's ability to speak about complicated issues in accessible terms. His communication ability - denigrated by Goopers, Freepers and other crypto-racists - is more than a good speaking voice, or a trained actors ability. It comes from a thinking deeply about issues and trained skills in education. As I've said before: I am a professional public speaker, and I am praised for the same abilities that Obama demonstrates, except he is orders of magnitude better. But because we are similar, I can describe with confidence why he is great.

  2. Many commentators are repeating the idea (which, because its so popular, tells us just how boneheaded it is... I should really create a rule for this, I can do that, I'm in sociology!) that we shouldn't think that race relations are going to change immediately and irrevocably because of Obama's win. Well, no, it just has changed and the change is huge. The implications are for (a) how Blacks as individuals are thought about in America, (b) how America considers its own identity and history vis-a-vis race, (c) how America considers etc itself vis-a-vis insiders and outsiders in power/politics, (d) how the World sees America in the contemporary world, (e) how the World sees America's place in world history, (f) how the world sees Blacks (and/or other persecuted minorities) in their own countries, (g) and how Blacks (and/or other minorities) see themselves in their own countries.

    And all these implications have been called under scrutiny because of last night. And, to contradict those who want to downplay the implications, all it takes is one person to become a potent and permanent symbol. And, even if it sounds like I'm overstating this, it's actually hard to overstate this.

    Obama as the new American president is on the level of the moon landing: a fundamental change in how we understand our capabilities as humans. OK, that sounds overstated, but here's why it's not: Obama is the child of a single mother, a foreign father from a persecuted race, who through the opportunities of the American system of ideals and structure of society has just been elevated to the most powerful person on Earth. A man who could destroy the world with the touch of a button, who can impoverish or feed nations with a verbal command.

    I don't think this has happened before (others will write about this and I will check the historical knowledge) and even if there is a person somewhere (Napoleon? Genghis Khan?) the power Obama has acquired came peacefully and is more total.

    Because I am a born-American, I have learned about American exceptionalism and I believe it. In my classes in history and in philosophy, which is still largely Eurocentric, I get frustrated when the French Revolution is considered a milestone of human history. Sure, it was important to Europeans, and that's all nice if you happen to be a White Christian living in Europe (and the right Christian in the right country, at that) but in terms of World History the French Revolution is useless! For two big reasons: (1) the American Revolution was first, and (2) ours lasted! No reign of terror in the US; no return to Empire; a consistent land of freedom and opportunity. The Russian Revolution was pretty important too but, again, (1) no freedom, (2) it didn't last, (3) it was centuries late.

    America has a lesson to teach the world and world history. And it has long been incomplete. We made a great leap forward last night.

  3. I can see disagreement with my point if you deny that symbols matter that much. I insist, though, that symbols matter because they affect cognition. Our comparisons for the "man as symbol" are Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Thurgood Marshall, etc: men, and so far it's been men, who are superlative in their quality while breaking the race barrier. We see it more with sports than with other areas of leadership, but sports are important because it's an arena of quantitative verification and because the rules are manufactured and arbitrary. When these men succeeded (and it does require success, else we'll end up with Marion Barry) it permanently changed the status of African Americans. Blacks couldn't be considered inferior if there's even one notable proof otherwise (hence why Marshall is better than Robinson). If Obama is as decent a president as Clinton, and not a Carter-Bush disaster, then it will have massive long-lasting effect.

More Thoughts

Continued from below (read that first):
  1. More people who deserve rewards: Howard Dean, Tim Kaine, Bob Casey. I assume Dean will want to leave the DNC (leave on top, ya know), but will he want a cabinet post? Ambassadorship? I don't know how these guys think, so I don't know what's considered a 'reward.' Kaine (Gov. VA) helped carry Virgina, and he's young and needs to get a new job because of term limits (and since VA now has 2 Democratic senators, he won't get those slots for a long while). I've heard he wants Sec of Education, so OK. Casey (D-Sen. PA) was an early and solid supporter. PA is now reliably blue, with a Democratic governor (the irritating Rendell) so it's safe to move on up. Then again, I've long felt that being Senator is the best, cushiest sinecure in America, so maybe he wants to stay put.

  2. Will John Lewis want to leave Congress to join the cabinet? Like I said above, I have no idea what a politician likes as their reward. Maybe the election of Obama is the biggest most amazing dreamlike award he cold have wanted.

  3. There's debate as to who will be Obama's chief of staff. I always looked at that role - while it's cabinet "like" and stature - to be a real job and not something to be filled as a reward for a deserving politician. So while people have mentioned Rahm Emmanuel or Tom Daschle, I don't understand why either would take it. Emmanuel is great in the House and I want to see him as Majority Leader soon. He's way better than Pelosi - whose been door-matted too often these past 2 years - and better than Hoyer. And Daschle deserves to be rewarded, not overworked. My assumption is that if David Axelrod wants the job, he needs to get it.

  4. Other big posts: CIA chief? FBI chief? Do politicians want to be rewarded by being appointed as Federal judges?

  5. Will Obama need to 'tokenize' the cabinet or his other appointments?

  6. What about the proper respect and repayment for Al Gore? I'd love to see him get the next open slot on the Supreme Court. He deserves some kind of restoration for the scandal of 2000.

  7. Oh, and while others may, I still don't forgive Bill and Hillary for the crap they did during the primaries. I don't think Obama owes them anything.

More Thoughts on the Victory

Some points on the incredible victory:
  1. We just elected a black guy with a Muslim name president. Just gotta say that, over and over, until I fully understand how incredible this all is.

  2. I see the Obama election as a type of 'virtual impeachment' of Bush. We won't get the chance to do the real thing - we still may be able to put the SOB behind bars - but the election of a brilliant, articulate, African-American, Muslim-named, liberal intellectual Constitutional scholar is a point-by-point repudiation of the stupid, mush-mouthed, pampered patrician rich-boy Texas oil-millionaire, white-bread legacy Christian conservative incurious human rights abuser.

  3. Democrats haven't had a win like this since 1964. And as a result of that election, we received Civil Rights and the Great Society. And even if you think the latter was bad or flawed, you have to take into account how bad it was to be in America *before* those programs were enacted. 1964 ushered in a state of civility and greatness - as the names declare - to America. And that's great change. And that's what we can do in 2008.

  4. For my fellow Hebrew brethren who are worried that Obama's win will bring about the destruction of Israel, or whatever: There is no support or proof for your fears. The fears are based on innuendo, ignorance and in some cases racism. The worst thing to happen to Israel in the past few years wasn't Oslo (which was a mitigated disaster), nor the Clinton Camp David Accords (whose blame can be laid on Ehud "the Other" Barak's feet), rather the worst has been the legitimizing election of Hamas to the Palestinian leadership and the subsequent creation of a pure terrorist state in Gaza. And that was all Bush, baby. Bush also created a terrible threat to Israel vis-a-vis the Iraq war - which has strengthen Iran (taking away it's biggest foe, replacing it with a sympathetic Shiite regime) and emboldened Tehran to pursue nukes. All Bush. And McCain would have continued this insanity. Even if Obama turns out to be like Carter - which isn't borne out by evidence - Carter was better for Israel than Bush!

  5. It's a press axiom - which naturally means its boneheaded - that Obama's toughest job now begins: the cleaning up of the nation. Blah blah blah. No. That was not the toughest job. Becoming the first black president, as a first term Senator with a Muslim name, defeating both the Clinton machine and the Republican party, was the toughest job. Cleaning up the country will be not be as tough. Why? Well, first of all because it's just an obvious point. But second of all, because most of our problems were CAUSED, they didn't just 'happen.' Bush created this fate. All Obama needs to do is not be a horrible person/executive and it's already an epic win.

  6. I'm disheartened by the possibility that Coleman and Smith may have been re-elected. While the landslide for president is a nice thing, if Obama's coattails weren't enough to defeat Republicans in blue states, then its a bad sign.

  7. It's so sweet that Elizabeth Dole was spanked by her opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan. Dole ran a disgusting race and deserves to have lost. It's ironic: her husband ran for president in 1996 and conducted a comparatively clean and honorable race. Yeah, he lost, (159-379, see map to the left) but he kept his dignity, soul, and the good graces of history. I've long said that 1996 was one the only years where both major tickets had great candidates such that a victory either way would have been palatable for the country (as opposed to, lets say, 1988 which was wretched either way). So Bob Dole ran with respect and his name can be seen as a watchword for how to lose with grace. Then came Dole's doppelganger, John McCain. Another war-hero, Senate lion, known for bipartisanship and moderate views (note: McCain's rep was largely myth while Bobdole's was true)... and McCain ran a shameless, horrid campaign (see more below). And "Liddy" Dole chose, for her defeat, to be like McCain instead of Bob. And her name is mud.

  8. The great victory for America, and the world, has a the concomitant benefit of validating the clean, respectful style of Obama and repudiating the sewer methods of McCain-Palin. That will have far-reaching consequences and all for the best. After Bush-Rove won dirty in 2000, and dirtier in 2004, it seemed we were doomed to a future of sleaze and fear every election cycle. Not anymore. True, many unregenerate Goopers will believe that were it not for the cratering economy etc. the slash-burn tactics would have worked. I disagree (for the billion reasons I've written about before), and the Goopers may not learn from their mistakes (considering they are now the party against science, evidence, and expertise), but I trust cooler brains will prevail.

  9. Related to the horrible Republican tactics, and the paradox of the McCain campaign, was the McCain concession speech. So odd. Just like how John Kerry and Al Gore spoke with fire and talent at the Democratic convention - and many of us asked where these people were when they ran their national campaigns! - so too with McCain last night. What a gracious and honorable speech. And it was delivered so well! With clarity, confidence and decency. We should ask "where was this guy on the campaign trail?" but also note that any person who sounds better when no longer campaigning (Gore, Kerry, McCain) obviously has mental reservations, and a fundamental problem as a politician. Does this 'mental game' automatically presage defeat? Not sure; which successful politician sounded better when out of office than in? I can think of a number, successful pols, who were better while running than not. Something to inspect.

  10. And, of course, at that same concession speech we heard the base of the Republicans booing Obama's name, shouting and bellowing out who-can-imagine-what craziness. The crowd was the embodiment of the McCain campaign, the speech was the embodiment of the mythical McCain that the press apotheosized and who I had liked back at the beginning of the millennium.

  11. Let's not forget Joe Biden. I am very happy for him; I genuinely like the guy. And - speaking as a rabbi and a budding scholar of the sociology of religion - the president-elect is just another Protestant, but we just elected our first Catholic VP, and only the second non-Protestant in the White House. Wow.
More later.


More thoughts on the Obama victory soon (and, note, his name is no longer considered to be misspelled in the blogger spell-check... small victories as well as large). But I'll tell you, as a Democrat, it feels like the sweet thrill of 1992: when after 12 years of Bloody Reagan, and the humiliations of 1984's landslide defeat and 1988's insane map, we had a clear Democratic victory. 2008 feels that wonderful; as a Democrat.

But as an American? I feel like we just won World War II; it's an incredible day in American history, in world history!

Picture from the Newseum front-page group.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Click on the map, print it out, and use for 'scoring' tonight!

My predictions here are based on the following categories:
  1. (8) Solid Blue: CA, HI, IL, DE, DC, NY, VT, MA (132)
  2. (5) Very Blue: MD, NJ, CT, ME, RI (39)
  3. (5) Recently Blue: WA, OR, MN, WI, MI (55)
  4. (3) Big Swing: PA, OH, FL (68)
  5. (4) Small Swing: NM, NH, IA, NV (21)
  6. (3) Recently Swing: CO, MO, VA (35)
  7. (5) Swing only in 2008: MT, ND, IN, NC, GA (47)
  8. (4) Clinton Republican: WV, AR, LA, TN, KY (39)
  9. (5) Solid South: TX, SC, AL, MS, (57)
  10. (9) Solid Red: ID, UT, AZ, WY, SD, NE, KS, OK, AK (46)
Legend:# before the title = how many states in the bloc, # after the title = electoral count for the bloc. The list is in descending order, more likely to go Obama to least likely. It'll be odd to see the 'redder' category states going to Obama before the 'bluer.' The prediction variation I had earlier is based on recent polling that show the 'recently' swinging actually being a possibility.

The "Clinton Republican" category was originally called "the Racist Democrat" category... these are states that went for Clinton in 1992 or 1996 but are blood red today. The "Solid Red" used to be called "Libertarian or Christian States," for obvious reasons.

In 2012, when Obama runs for re-election, the deeper red categories may actually be in play. But first, lets see what happens tonight!

Update:Here's another good 'scorecard' from 538:


Wow, this is an exciting day. The closest experience I have for the feeling I have now is the 1992 election. After 2 terms of Nixon and 3 terms of Reagan (with a blip of the disaster-on-a-stick Carter), we faced down a serious, nearly overwhelming Democratic victory. It was exhilirating and sweet.

This year the stakes are higher, so there's a consequentialness to the impact of the victory. And it will be over 50% (unlike both of Clintons) and probably as much a blowout for the Dems that is possible in our current climate. So that will be sweet too.

I can't perceive a total domination like 1964 or 1984 for a Democrat in the political climate now. Rove v. Wade has rendered Democrats verboten for many states, and since there are no more "Southern Democrats," a 1976 southern sweep is a distant memory.

But it will awesome tonight (or truly horrifying if the Gooper voter suppression and intimidation wins, but since 2006 was victorious, I think we'll be in good shape tonight).

To remember the sweetness of 2006, here's a rerun of Steve Sack:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama's Grandmother Dies

Is this some freaky Hollywood story, or what. 24 Hours from his victory, Obama loses the woman who raised him (after already losing his father & mother). Poignant. Sad.

Update: It turns out that Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, cast an absentee ballot... which has already been tallied and counted. So at least she got to vote for her (grand)son.

Barack Hussein & Karl Christian

Right wing freaks, in an attempt to scare voters away from Obama, make sure to include his middle name in descriptions: Barack Hussein Obama. Of course, this is logical and even defensible (to those who have no concept of nuance or non-literal thought). But I think it's thus appropriate to use Karl Rove's full name: Karl Christian Rove. Is Rove the essence of being Christian the way that the loony-right wants to say Obama is for Husseinism? You be the judge.

Late Update: See this great Onion story: "Barack Obama Defeats Barack Hussein Obama"

Pic made by me using the Wiki image. Backpost finished 2009-12-07.

The Styx Endorsement

Ya know, I've been so busy, I completely overlooked my sworn blogger duty to actually endorse a candidate for president! This is probably the toughest part of blogging - because my words are so consequential, millions (or posssibly dozens) of people are hanging onto my pixelized words, in suspense for whom I will endorse.

To clarify my thinking, I will list the pros and cons of each candidate. That should make it easier to decide in this election season where - like I was told repeatedly in 2000 - there's really not much difference between the two candidates. And, as people remember from the ho-hum results of 2000, a Gore presidency would have been indistinguishable from the subsequent Bush presidency. So too with McCain v. Obama.

McCain - Pro & Con
  • Pro: He is "experienced". Which is short-hand for "old." He's a war hero, and that's always a good predictor for executive ability. He is a maverick. He's physically ill and may die at any time, so if we don't elect him now, we won't get another chance. Moreover, if he loses, we run the further risk that he will hawk Viagra, and I don't think I can stand that. His running mate fills me with glee and expectation of a wonderful future filled with sports stadiums, no state colleges, and children with hilarious first names. Most importantly, he promises to do everything George W. Bush has been doing without the slightest change, except maybe more tax cuts; but clearly there will be more wars. And wars are fun.

  • Con: I'm not sure the world will survive 4 years of a McCain presidency. When I said a similar sentiment about Bush back in 2004 ("I feel as if a great worldwide tragedy has occurred. It's like 9/11 - but instead of seeing the mass murder, I have the nightmares of all that this criminal government can perpetrate. ... I am sick, scared, and devastated. God help us.") it turns out that we only have barely survived the second term (unless you lived in New Orleans, good luck with that). The cratering economy, the debilitating mindless war in Iraq, the warrant-less wiretaps, the destruction of habeas corpus, Hurricane Katria, the dissolution of the Justice Department... all because of the Bush re-election. So, if we elect McCain, I have a feeling things will possibly be worse.

    Oh, and to elect McCain will also give support for his despicable, scorched earth campaign of lies and sleaze. Not good.

    Barack "Huggably Hussein" Obama, Pro & Con
  • Pro: Not Bush. Not McCain. Not Palin. Not Hillary Clinton. Once in a generation mind and temperament at a critical time in World history.

  • Con: Young. Black. Funny name. Democrat. According to many in the Orthodox community, Obama is actually Louis Farrakhan and Saddam Hussein.

    After considering all the pros and cons, I feel undecided. This decision is too big, and it has come upon us too quickly. If only there was more time to get to know these candidates. Especially McCain... I mean, gadzooks, where has this guy been for all these years?

    If forced, I will say vote more my youngest child (pictured below). And if he's not on the ballot, then vote Obama.
  • Sunday, November 02, 2008

    This is also not me: Some Online Music Mix

    Is the band's name "Mix" or "Life In the Styx"?. If the latter, then I'd best fire up the lawyers.

    Note, this is Not Me

    New Zealand surely now has everything: Histories of life in the Styx

    The Onion and the Jews

    Wondeful: Thursday, September 18, 2008 Jewish voters in two states have reported they were asked leading questions during a phone survey intended to discredit Barack Obama and sway their opinion. What do you think?

  • Ryan Keegan, Machinist: "And right in the middle of Elul, too, when Jews are at their most suggestible."

  • Ron Gust, Housekeeper: "I'm more concerned by the implication that Republicans carry around a list of Jews."

  • Amy Powell, Human Resources Manager: "I always forget: What are the two states that have Jews again?"
  • My new favorite Cartoon: Basic Instructions

    So, so good. Since most of the great comedy - Daily Show, Onion, Simpsons - are being written by males of my age group (30-40 yrs old), I can find many things that fit my humor wheelhouse. Basic Instructions by Scott Meyer is such a house. One example, to munch on, and then go to the blog for the whole series. {click to enlarge)

    Don't Try to Be Funny

    As I've mentioned before, I read dozens of daily poltiical cartoons (they come to my e-mailbox as a paid service from There's a trend I've noticed where political cartoonists basically use their space to write a joke. Which is entirely not what their job description demands. There are 'funny' cartoons and then political cartoons. To mix the two basically makes for a waste of space. Poltiical cartoonists have a serious, and consequential job (only slightly taken over by the late night talk show hosts, no kidding).

    Anyway, this is an example from Bruce Beattie from a few weeks ago that just broke the camels back [click to enlarge]

    What is his point? It's not even funny. It's stupid. And considering the dire situation the US is in, and the need to galvanize the electorate, why choose a stale joke-like-substance?

    Backpost: Obama's "Luck"

    From September 1, 2008; I sent this email to Mark Kleiman of Background: many people have asked why Obama seems to have luck that all his opponents, from the Senate on down to the primary and now general, seem to self-destruct. It sounds like luck! As Kleiman wrote:
    Apropos the many developing Palin scandals, an observer of the Chicago political scene reminds me of Obama's "noted eerie knack for finding self-destructing opponents."

    There was Alice Palmer, the incumbent State Senator who didn't submit enough valid signatures. There was Blair Hull, the apparent frontrunner in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, accused of wife-beating. There was Jack Ryan, the Republican Senate nominee, whose kinkily erotic side spilled out into the newspapers through his divorce proceedings. And then there was the comic carpetbagger Alan Keyes.

    I try to keep theology separate from politics, but it's hard to escape the thought: If Obama didn't make a pact with Satan he must be on a special mission from God.
    So my response:
    re: Obama's Luck

    Dear Prof. Kleiman,

    While I agree with you that supernatural forces should never be discounted in any scientific inquiry, I think the reason Obama's opponents self-destruct is a combination of (a) the old adage that "fortune benefits the well-prepared", and (b) his ability to maintain his cool, which drives his opponents batty, to the point they self destruct.

    Hillary self-destructed (Bill started first, though), then even Edwards (and he had already dropped out!), and now McCain.

    all the best,
    And, true to his gentlemanly nature, Kleiman quotes me in an update: "Update: Or perhaps, a reader suggests, this may merely be a case where 'Fortune favors the prepared mind.'"

    Now this analysis of mine has become conventional reason. But I was an early advocate of the theory that Obama's opponents self destruct because they can't handle his skill. Basically, because Obama is unflappable, his increasingly desperate opponents up the volume of their attacks, trying to rattle him, and all they succeed in doing is self-destruction.

    Miscellaneous from My Files, part 2

    More miscellaneous links & commentary from my inbox:
    1. 09-03-2008: From Sullivan, it turns out that Palin *is* what the GOP tried to smear Obama as... right down to the preacher!

    2. The Onion's page about Bob Barr is right on the money in almost every way (warning: nivul peh).

    3. 09-05-2008: Washpost review of Woodward's scathing new book about Bush. Woodward's a consummate journalist - his books supported Bush when he was popular and attacked Bush when he was not. Thanks, Woodstein! It just proves that the real hero of Watergate was William
      Deep Throat" Felt
      - the FBI informer who gave the journalists all the info. He risked his career, they made theirs. Ah well, there's a reason why print media is dying.

    4. 09-07-2008: Maureen Dowd is so weird. She thinks so little of Obama... that he'll somehow be eviscerated by Sarah Palin; and she thinks so much of Hillary, while hating her. Sad.

    5. 09-07-2008: Frank Rich is a great contrast to Dowd (and others). When he was a regular columnist, he wasn't so hot, but since his weekly Sunday spotlight he's been en fuego! Key line (about Palin): "How long before we learn she never shot a moose?"

    6. 09-01-2008: Martin Peretz defends Biden. Peretz is as Zionist as they come (and as Zionist as necessary). If he defends Obama and Biden - which he has - then it's good enough for me. Peretz' critics claims he finds anti-Semities in shadows... so choke on this feebs. Key line: "Look, what is happening here is that a senator with a sterling record, an unexceptionable sterling record on Israel is now in the eyes of the snipers, a kind of political terrorism in which evidence has no place, history no relevance and real politics no standing. Joe Biden is one of the most astute and committed supporters of Israel in American politics."

    7. 09-16-2008: This is fun video

    8. 09-09-2008: Kinda funny: Black Comic Introduces McCain (warning, many naughty words).

    9. 09-17-2008: Ruth Marcus of Washpost turns against the McCain campaign. Something I predicted: that journalists will start to be professionally insulted by the bald-faced lies and distortions. I've been there: I get more angry at a lie that insults my intelligence than an attempt to deceive based on desperation or greed. And here's another journalist fleeing.

    10. 09-21-2008: The only good thing I can say about Maureen Dowd is that she lets better writers do her work for her; here's Aaron Sorkin imagining Obama meeting President Bartlett.

    My Favorite Onion Politics Story

    The Onion does an awesome job covering current events, and the 2008 election is no exception. My favorite headline and caption (story is often secondary with the Onion) is this:

    Obama's Hillbilly Half-Brother Threatening To Derail Campaign

    Why Sarah Palin, why Dan Quayle?

    A basic question I've asked, as you may as well: why is it that the Republicans have twice foisted on the nation two VP candidates who are physically attractive idiots? Sarah Palin is cut from the same mold as Dan Quayle, except that - just as Bush II made Bush I look good, so now I have to defend Quayle from this comparison even before I get to make it. Quayle was clearly an unworthy dim-wit, like Palin, but he was also in the Senate for 8 years before his nomination, and before that 2 terms in the House. And before that, 6 years in various state offices. Yes, yes, this is how far we've fallen, that Quayle is a heavyweight compared to the ignorant tabloid train-wreck of Sarah Palin.

    But, for those who are too young to remember, the nation was stricken with great fear when Bush nominated Quayle in '88. There appeared to be no reason for it. Dukakis was a disastrous candidate - who nonetheless did what you're supposed to do, and nominated a true heavyweight as his #2 - Lloyd Bentsen (a Texas Democrat, in the House from 1948-1955 and Senate from 1971). There just seemed to be no reason to give us a terrible VP candidate, who we knew at the time would be part of the winning ticket.

    The theory at the time, which I basically held until Palin's arrival, was that Bush has such low-self-esteem that he needed someone even wimpier, and more losery, that himself. It made sense at the time because Bush was a pretty bad candidate (and president).

    But now we have a repeat. It's the same pattern, no? Except that McCain doesn't strike me as having low self-esteem. Quite the opposite really. So what gives?

    Well, here's my theory/prediction and a number of other people (who I can't find right now to link to) seem to support this. The pattern is the same, but not the pattern I first thought it was. To complete the picture, though, we need to add another strange VP choice: Richard Nixon in 1952.

    Republican Party Low Self Esteem

    While I know all about the internal weaknesses of the Democratic party (made less so after 8 horrific years under Bush II), the GOP has long suffered from it's own chasm between the moderates and the wacko-fringe. All three GOP candidates in our study share the common denominator of being from the moderate wing of the GOP. McCain we know about (he almost switched in 2002), and Bush was a classic Northeastern Republican. Eisenhower was not really much of a partisan of any stripe, and his views on many things seem to fit comfortably in the Democratic party of today.

    All three men needed to shore up support on their right flank, and as such, their VPs were selected because they were all fire-breathing conservatives. Nixon was chosen by committee - which shows you that 'smoke filled room' decisions were as fraught with 'identity politics' as the primaries today. But Quayle, like Palin, while unknown to most of America, was a darling of the wacko right.

    But here's the Styx kicker: the other common denominator among Nixon-Quayle-Palin is that they were all obvious lightweights. Bush I was a smart guy, Eisenhower as well - they had no respect for their VPs; but these men (and the '52 committee by extension) had no respect for the lunatic fringe - they just needed the loonies to come out and vote. So by choosing a *purposeful* lightweight, these moderate Republicans would get the conservative votes while simultaneously having an ineffectual conservative VP.

    That's my theory. But Ike was a robust 62 at election and Bush I 64. McCain is a cancer-surviving 72. The risk taken by the previous two moderates pales in comparison to the selfish risk of McCain.

    First pic from here, second from here. Backpost finished 2009-12-07.

    Biden v. Palin

    When I last commented about Biden it was my claiming that his choice would be a mistake: "I think Biden would be a mistake. While he's a fierce partisan fighter, he's also a gaffe-prone goofball. Nonetheless, it won't be a disaster." And I had no follow up, so here it is: my analysis back in August was on the basis of politics and not governance. Biden is a mistake for politics - he makes gaffes, his state isn't helpful - and all the other choices were for electoral reasons only: Sebelius (woman, Midwest), Bayh (moderate, boring WASP, Midwest), Kaine (governor, swing-state).

    But once Obama chose Biden I was quite happy with the choice and because it was the electorally poor choice. It showed me that Obama was (a) confident enough in the election, and in himself, that he was concentrating on being an executive and not the Permanent Campaign (the hallmark of the Clinton and W.Bush years), (b) that Obama chose someone who was fierce, independent and a contrary thinker, emphasizing the 'cabinet of rivals' model of Lincoln, (c) and ultimately, because Biden is the best sitting Democratic senator for both defense issues (chair of Foreign Relations) and Domestic/Legal (chair of Judiciary) it showed that Obama cares more for good governance than good politics.

    If Obama had gone for the electoral/politics route - chosen the three above or Hillary Ugh - then I would have accepted the situation as reflective of a weak coalition or a difficult election road. Instead, by choosing Biden, Obama showed confidence, competence, and seriousness. It made me feel better for my support of Obama, presence as a Democrat, and hope for the country.

    Then we get Sarah Palin. Who is the exact opposite. Chosen for purely partisan and electoral reasons. My feeling about Biden - which I had talked to people about but alas didn't blog about, so you'll have to believe me - shows the reason why I reacted so negatively towards Palin, even before I knew just how horrible she was.

    But if I needed to use a shorthand to describe the difference, it would be Politics or Governance. And the GOP has shown that over the GWB years, they have placed governance and policy as the lowest of priorities, while for teh Democrats it has long been the highest priority - often to our detriment.

    This argument about governance/politics is seen in this Sept 14 essay by Alex Massie, about why McCain chose Palin. Massie basically states what did you expect McCain to do? He needed electoral help! He was *forced* to choose an unqualified nutjob!

    Massie is wrong about the order, though. McCain's current scorched-earth campaign - and the subsequent trouble he's in - comes as a direct result of the choice of Palin. If McCain chose a moderate (Lieberman, Ridge) or a friendly talented person (Graham, Crist), then McCain would be able to run in 2008 like he did in 2000. However, even through downright cowardice or doddering incompetence, McCain surrendered to the Rove Crew and decided to run like GWB in 2000 & 2004 - through fraud, fear, and polarization.

    Can you imagine what a McCain-Lieberman vs. Obama-Biden election would look like? That would have been enviable. The last time we had two decent tickets was 1996 (and before that 1964). But McCain was threatened by the freakazoids of the gnarled GOP base that there'd be a floor-fight if Lieberman - McCain's first choice (whose vibes I somehow intuitively picked up) - were chosen. McCain, when threatened by the GOP base, blinked (in the argot of the GOP chickenhawks). He pooped his pants, he ran away from principles and good judgment and into the waiting arms of the Karl Rove Machine.

    Why should McCain fear the floor fight? Because it'd make him look weak? Remind us of 1968 (similar times ya know)? I think it's because ultimately McCain is a weenie who cares more for winning than for honor. He's a disgrace.

    But I digress. By choosing Palin, McCain decided on a campaign of fear and intimidation - because she has nothing else to offer but red-meat to the partisans. And any candidate that has to run to the extremes in the general election, is doomed.

    Which leads us to the paradigms of VPs. I've discussed this at length, but I think I can make the binary chakira of VPs of Politics (VPP) and VPs of Governance (VPG). And both of these categories are part of the vagaries of how the VP is chosen. As opposed to the old days (pre-12th Amendment) and especially in post-1968 times, the VP is directly chosen by the Presidential nominee. While beforehand he was nominated at the convention just like the President, and as such could reflect a balanced perspective of the party, the modern VP choice is the sole decision of the Presidential nominee. And while the Pres Candidate needed to weather an often expensive, debilitating, pummelling primary campaign, the VP candidate is allowed to just waltz right in. The Pres. candidate needs millions of people to choose him/her, the VP needs only 1.

    As such, the VP provides an opportunity not only for the electorate to evaluate the judgement and sagacity of the Pres. nominee, it also gives the nominee (and to some extent the whole party) a chance to nominate someone who could never get past the gauntlet of the primary campaign.

    And this is where the Politics/Governance split comes in. Sometimes the VP couldn't get through the primaries because they are talented at governance but have no electoral appeal (cf. George HW Bush in 1980, Lloyd Bentsen in 1988, Al Gore in 1992, Jack Kemp in 1996, Joe Lieberman & Dick Cheney in 2000). Or the VP is a token ethnic/ideology that's to 'out there' to be acceptable by the primary voters, but is considered necessary for the general election (cf. Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, Dan Quayle in 1988, and Sarah Palin in 2008).

    This is one reason why the electorate was so angry about Palin... here's a woman who could not survive a month of a primary campaign allowed to just shtup her way into the (second) most powerful job in the world. Dan Quayle in lipstick, as it were. I remember how angry I was, and the country was, after Quayle was chosen. This is worse. Yet this is why I'm happy about Biden and was happy about Lieberman - two men who would be good at governance but who are just too nutty or boring to survive the primaries. So it works both ways.

    One thing Massie says that I very much agree with, and felt intuitively, which I will quote in entirety:
    there's an argument you can make that the Vice-Presidential candidate needs to be more, not less qualified to be President than the chap at the top of the ticket. Why? Because a VP can only become President in an emergency and so needs to be able to start governing immediately. A President - eg, Clinton - can learn on the job even if this costs capital and credibility; a Veep does not enjoy that luxury. Of course, if Palin were to become President in, say, 2011, that would be one thing, but the potential for her to in the Oval Office next year is quite another. Biden could do the job next year, Palin probably couldn't. That's an unfortunate truth that her boosters just look silly trying to deny
    Yes. The reason why most smart people think that the VP should be highly qualified - ironically, even more qualified that the President - is because of this intuitive understanding of the historical role of the VP: to step in when disaster strikes. Moreover, as I explained above, because of the unique opportunity to be able to easily place a person in line for the presidency who has high qualifications but could not otherwise make it through the primary, also depicts the feeling of lost opportunity when it comes to Palin... when Obama had to sneak someone into the White House, it was someone who conceivably could walk in on his own merit. When McCain chose, it was to sneak it some crypto-crazy Christianist hillbilly.

    Miscellaneous from My Files, part 1

    I'm dedicating today to writing & blogging so here's some stuff from my unsorted inbox, basically brief links/commentaries:
    1. Sept 9 2008; from Huffy herself, inventing a great image, Sarah Palin as a Trojan Moose.

    2. Sept 10 2008; Why Obama will actually beat the poll numbers, because of his incredible ground game. And see here.

    3. From the Atlantic, the GOP dirty trick machine of 2004.

    4. Sept 11 2008, from the NYTimes, about vote suppression/dirty tricks in 2008 Mississippi.

    5. Sept 10 2008, from McClatchy [the best single news organization in the world, IMHO], about how the U.S. is in similar danger from al Qaida in 2008 as we were in 2001.

    6. Sept 11 2008, the Washpost describing an underhanded smearing tactic by McCain.

    7. From Salon, how CBS capitulated in 2004 and did not show a documentary about the Bush Administration lies about the Iraq War.

    8. Sept 13 2008, from Digby, more about voter suppression.

    9. Good New Yorker humor about Palin.

    10. Excellent piece by Ezra Klein about the problem with political reporting. Shorter EK: "I think one aspect of the modern press that doesn't get enough attention -- either among folks in the media or folks critiquing it -- is the transition from the fundamental scarcity being information to information being in abundance and the fundamental scarcity being mediation." It's especially sweet because his target is the fatuous Marc Ambinder - who over this election season has been twisting himself into pretzels to be 'even-handed' first with Hillary and now with McCain. His only value comes from his stature allowing him to receive equal opportunity leaks from all camps. Otherwise, he's a dolt.

    Daily Show Awsomeness

    "Yes, He, Can" comes full circle.

    Some Predictions, Part 3: Misc

    Other Predictions:
    1. The Senate: I have no idea if the Democrats will get 60 seats, but as I've said before, it really shouldn't matter. According to the Wiki, the idea that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster (or call for cloture, or whatever) is a recent invention. The filibuster itself is kinda disgusting and a constitutional loophole at best. I would strongly argue, and do so no matter who controls congress, that both houses should have a simple majority vote for passing bills. It's disgraceful that we need 60. So anyway, I think that if the Democrats have 55 seats, the cloture rules can be changed to meet that, or eliminated by simple majority, if necessary.

    2. Bush administration officials: Bush will give a blanket pardon to everyone in the White House (except the 'traitors' like McClellan, Powell, etc). My question is whether this can work. I would love to see a constitutional amendment preventing the President from pardoning anyone whose crime was committed while working for the Executive branch. As it is, since most of these yahoos haven't been formally charged yet, so I don't know. His father pardoned a number of straight out scumbags - far worse than anyone by Clinton - but that's the way the press goes; Bill Clinton could do no right, and HWBush got off Scot-free. So I don't know if the pardons will stick. If not, then we can see some wild and woolly persecutions of the former George W Bush white house. And given that he can't pardon himself, well maybe Bush will find some nice prisoner as a new husband.

    3. McCain's fate: How ironic that a man considered to be principled by so many people has run the most despicable campaign in recent memory. Note, Nixon was worse, but only in the dirty tricks department (and who knows what McCain has been trying: it seems clear that Ashley "Backwards B" Todd was a dirty trick run awry and that Joe/Sam the (non) Plumber was probably another McCain plant, but there may be more we haven't discovered yet). What makes McCain worse than Nixon is that all the other slimy accusations made by a one party to other was always done via surrogates; Willie Horton, Swift Boats for Crap, were 527s and untraceable to the campaign. McCain & Palin in 2008 have actually been the mouthpieces for the racist/scummy tactics. That's a big difference. At least GHWB and GWB kept their own dainty fingers out of the mud. Anyway, it may be difficult for McCain to return to the Senate. He may pull a Dole and retire but if not, as I said here, if he tries to run for reelection in 2010 it's likely he'll lose. Same with Palin (see below).

    4. Sarah Palin's fate? I saw the suggestion that if Stevens wins reelection in Alaska, and will be convicted, and not pardoned by Bush, Palin will try for his Senate seat. Maybe. But considering how much she's hated by the GOP establishment in Alaska, and how much dirt has been uncovered in this election, I don't see her having much longer of a legacy. But that leads to the big question:

    5. What will happen to the Republicans? There have been so many moderate Republicans either defecting to the Democrats, endorsing Obama, or cruising for a bruising defeat in '08 that it's unclear who will be left standing. The W/Cheney/Rove legacy is to reduce the Republican party to it's vilest, stupidest nub. Who will vote for McCain-Palin on Tuesday? Three sets of states: (1) The Anti-Government West (Idaho, Wyoming, Oklahoma), (2) The Racist Appalachians (WV, KY, TN, AR), and (3) The Christian States (SD, NE, the South). Even more troubling for the GOP is that the current leadership, and their legion of blogger zombies, have decided to make Sarah Palin the ideological purity test. Most of the conservatives who've come out for Obama (e.g. The Economist, Colin Powell, Fukuyama) cite the choice of Palin as a main reason for their crossing party lines. Yet, support for her appears to be mandatory to the 'leaders' of the GOP (e.g. Kristol, Barnes, National Review, Weekly Standard). Yet Palin is clearly a living-caricature for what is wrong with the Bush/Rove GOP: she's a violent Christian ignoramus. If the GOP insists on keeping her as their symbol - she is pretty much George W Bush without his education or family - then the GOP runs the risk of dying or disappearing.
    Yet, is truly possible for the GOP to disappear? We have a few historical models to look at. The longest legacy for party rule in the modern US is McKinley to Hoover, 1896-1932. Yeah, Woodrow Wilson was in the middle, but his election was a fluke (TR sabotaged Taft who would have won handily, and WW almost lost to Hughes - winning by a mere 3800 to get California); yet this dominance was shattered by the Depression. The Democrats then controlled the White House from 1932-1968, with the Wilsonian interregnum of Eisenhower. I know this sounds like I'm being selective with my examples, but Ike was barely a Republican, and he was victorious because he won World War II. The Democrats were defeated in 1968 (and it was close) because of the Vietnam War and as a result were wandering the wilderness from 1968-1992 (and by now you'll excuse the understandable hiccup of Carter). What am I trying to show? That there's a broad pattern of party dominance based on party-led disasters. The Republicans needed to live down the stink of the Depression until 1968; the Democrats had the legacy of the foreign-adventurism of Vietnam but also the mamby-pamby liberal stigma of the anti-Vietnam crowd as well. The question I have is whether the GOP loss in 2008 will be like the Depression or like Vietnam; recognizing, of course, that Bush brought America both!

    But there is a third model, that of the death of a party. The Federalists were a historical creation of the Revolution and seemed to be unsustainable past the founding fathers. The whole Democratic-Republican mess is best left unsifted. The only major party who died in any recent times are the Whigs, and they just morphed into the modern Republicans. So, honestly, it's not really plausible to argue that the party will disappear. It's likely that barring massive malfeasance the Republicans will be in the wilderness like the post-Depression/Vietnam backlashes (16-20 years).

    Both backlashes occurred because the repudiated parties were dominated by the jokers who got them into the mess in the first place. The Democrats in 1972 were defeated largely because of their association with the pusillanimous anti-war movement and the Democratic establishment kept nominating idiotic liberals (Mondale, Dukakis) that helped the stereotype. If the GOP decides that they're the party of Palin not Powell then they will be - like the liberal-ridden Democrats of the 70-80s - the crazy Christian bumpkin party. The Palin party.

    But here's where it gets weird. The Democrats in their wilderness years of the 70s-80s still controlled Congress by a thick margin. And when they lost Congress, there was a moderate Southern Democrat (a.k.a. non-northeastern weenie liberal) as president. In that sense the Democrats were able to keep some power and also a variable nuanced party identity. There were Northeast liberals, as well as Midwest blue-collar 'joes' and Southern populists.

    Now imagine if the Democrats only had the anti-war weenie liberals during their wilderness period. It's possible that the Democrats could have been synonymous with what we'd call the Green party today - the radical left. As such, the Democrats could have ceased to exist.

    What may happen in 2008 is that if the Republicans decide to go the Way of Palin, then they may end up being the crazy Christian party. The only people left in the House/Senate for them will find the national leadership too crazy and may either defect to the Democrats or - and this is a big if - a plausible third party leader may take them in to form the 'fiscal conservative libertarian' party (maybe call themselves the Federalists, going full circle). In this case, I could see the Republicans ending up like the mirror-image Green party, stuffed with Southern Evangelicals and moonies.

    As a Democrat, I will say that Sarah Palin was the best thing to happen to the GOP - she's a living symbol for all that's wrong with the crazy Christian right and for the Republican party. Just the other day I was able to explain - using her as the proof - for what America would look like if her ilk took control: banned books in the library, oil money used to buy sports arenas at the expense of schools and roads, a vigorous antipathy towards science and education, and women being charged for rape kits.