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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Review: Kaylene Johnson's "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down"

Kaylene Johnson's 'Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down' Enthusiasm for reform-minded, fiscally prudent, and socially conservative Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has moved beyond the "buzz" stage to the point where it's now rolling thunder.

On June 8th, after finishing several hours of internet research, I posted a long essay (with many photographs) entitled Would Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin be a grand slam as McCain's Veep? I'm not claiming any causal relationship, mind you, but consider the following events since then (in addition to my own short follow-up post on June 18th):

  • On June 9th, Real Clear Politics reported that among her own constituents in Alaska, Gov. Palin "enjoys an incredible 82% positive rating, while just 10% don't see her in a good light."

  • On June 22nd, Politico.com included Gov. Palin as one of "Three women who could join [the] GOP ticket," noting that "it’s her personal biography, which excites social conservatives, and reformist background that might most appeal to McCain."

  • In a June 23rd letter, Gov. Palin directly confronted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the federal government's boneheaded refusal to consider drilling for oil and gas on a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

  • On June 24th, Rush Limbaugh played contrasting sound clips from Gov. Palin and Democratic nominee-presumptive Sen. Barack Obama in order to highlight the fact that Gov. Palin whips Obama hands-down on this issue, and that the Dems essentially have no energy plan other than to "Just say no!" Quote Limbaugh: "Amen! Here is a female Republican who is willing to gut it up!"

  • On June 25th, Gov. Palin gave an extended interview to economist and CNBC pundit Larry Kudlow in which she confirmed herself as a thoughtful and articulate leader on national energy issues.

  • And from his regular slot as a panelist on "Fox News Sunday" this morning, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, was positively ebullient about the possibility of Gov. Palin being chosen as John McCain's vice presidential running mate:

    Republicans are much more open to strong women, and that's why McCain is going to put Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, on the ticket as vice president.... She's fantastic! You know, she was the point guard on the Alaska state championship high school basketball team in 1982. She could take Obama one-on-one on the court. It'd be fantastic! Anyway, I do think — I actually think that Sarah Palin would be a great vice presidential pick, and it would be interesting to have a woman on the Republican ticket after Hillary Clinton has come so close and failed on the Democratic side.

There's no denying that Gov. Palin is a hot new talent on the national political scene. But is there substance behind the sizzle?

In search of further details in order to answer to that question, I turned to Kaylene Johnson's just-released biography, "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down." After finishing it, I'm even more firmly aboard the Sarah Palin for Veep bandwagon.

Two-year-old Sarah clutches live shrimp caught in her father's shrimp pot in Skagway, Alaska As a long-time Alaskan writer and quite literally a neighbor of the Palins — the jacket cover informs us that she "makes her home on a small farm outside Wasilla," a suburban community north of Anchorage — Johnson has done a timely and competent service to the political junkies among us who hunger for basic factual information on our leading political figures.

To read this book, I set aside another biography that I'd almost finished, one that is also much in the news these days — Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, about which I'll blog at greater length between now and Election Day. Suffice it to say, for now, that although both books purport to cover the early lives of these two young politicians, Johnson's book contains more in the way of objective facts, pertinent anecdotes, and relevant information in 137 pages (plus a fine set of source notes and a serviceable index) than Obama managed to do for himself in 442 pages of vague, breezy, touchy-feely, and wholly unsourced (indeed, admittedly sometimes fictionalized) narrative.

Given the choice between brisk and factual, on the one hand, and deep and muddled on the other, I'll take brisk and factual any time.

Johnson's writing is blessedly free of angst and existential philosophizing. She doesn't need that — for she has, in Sarah Palin, a compelling tale to tell that's based on the remarkable accomplishments of a remarkably normal person. Indeed, although they're products of, respectively, the forty-ninth and fiftieth American states and both grew up outside the continental 48, Sarah Palin's personal history is as familiarly American as Barack Obama's is exotic and strange. And Johnson serves it up without mysticism or manufactured romance:

Born in Sandpoint, Idaho, on February 11, 1964, Sarah Louise was the third of four children born in rapid succession to Chuck and Sally Heath. The family moved to Alaska when Sarah was two months old. Chuck took a teaching job in Skagway. Her older brother, Chuck Jr., was two years old. Heather had just turned one, and Molly was soon to come. Chuck Jr. vividly remembers the days in Skagway when he and his dad ran a trapline, put out crab pots, and hunted mountain goats and seals. The family spent time hiking up to alpine lakes and looking for artifacts left behind during the Klondike Gold Rush....

In 1969, the Heaths moved to southcentral Alaska, living for a short time with friends in Anchorage, then for two years in Eagle River before finally settling in Wasilla. The family lived frugally. To help make ends meet, Chuck Heath moonlighted as a hunting and fishing guide and as a bartender, and even worked on the Alaska Railroad for a time. Sally worked as a school secretary and ran their busy household.

It's basically the Ward and June Cleaver family, albeit transplanted to the last American frontier. Sarah Palin didn't need to indulge in intercontinental travel and cosmic soul-searching to find out who her father was, or where her roots were, or where she fit into her own family and community. She knew where she and her family fit in. In an appendix, Johnson reproduces Gov. Palin's inaugural address, which included this simple but moving tribute:

I believe in public education. I'm proud of my family's many, many years working in our schools. I hope my claim to fame, believe it or not, is never that I'm Alaska's first female governor. I hope it continues to be, "You're Mr. Heath's daughter." My dad for years has been teaching in the schools and even today he's inspiring students across the state. So many students around this land came up to me not saying, "Oh, you're Sarah Palin ... you're running for office ... you're the governor." No, it's been, "Sarah Palin, wow! Mr. Heath's been my favorite teacher of all time."

With short exceptions for college stays in Hawaii and Idaho, Alaska forms the backdrop for most of Palin's story, but Johnson neither minimizes nor overplays its role. Growing up there meant that Sarah participated in hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, and the like — but for the most part, her experiences could have just as easily been in any of countless small towns scattered across America.

'Miss Wasilla 1984' then became first runner-up in the Miss Alaska competition. As Bill Kristol noted today, she was a high school basketball player (and also ran track). "Sarah Barracuda," they called her for her competitiveness on the court — but Johnson gives us Palin's real life story in an entirely plausible account, rather than a Cinderella story crafted or staged by someone consciously trying to build or burnish a political résumé.

Indeed, until her senior year in high school, Palin was frustrated at being relegated to the junior varsity; she was a team captain, but not one of the team's two top scorers; and an ankle injury kept her out of most of the second half of that championship game. Her coach put her back into the lineup to seal the win against a heavily favored Anchorage team — whereupon she drew a foul and hit a free-throw to score the game's final point.

She startled friends and family when she decided to compete in the local beauty pageant, but for her, becoming "Miss Wasilla" in 1984 was all about snagging some college scholarship money. And Palin put her 1987 bachelor's degree in journalism (with a minor in political science) from the University of Idaho to work as a weekend sportscaster in Anchorage.

When Palin married her high-school beau, Todd Palin, in 1988, they eloped — snagging two residents of a nearby nursing home to serve as their witnesses for the civil ceremony at the courthouse in Palmer, Alaska. They started their family about the same time Todd took a blue-collar job with British Petroleum on the North Slope:

The Palins named their first child, a boy, Track, after the track and field season in which he was born. Sarah's father jokingly asked what they would have named their son if he had been born during the basketball season. Without hesitating Sarah answered "Hoop."

But by 1992, Palin "felt a yearning to try to make a difference in her community. Like her years playing basketball," writes Johnson, "she wasn't interested in sitting on the sidelines."

So did she become a "community organizer"?

Johnson doesn't use that term, and I doubt either the term or the notion ever occurred to Sarah Palin. Instead, she ran for the Wasilla city council, going "door to door pulling a wagon with four-year-old son Track and two-year-old daughter Bristol." The existing political establishment had expected a passive homemaker who'd support the status quo, but that was not to be:

After taking office, Sarah was dumbfounded by the inner workings of the city government. "Right away I saw that it was a good old boys network," she said. "Mayor Stein and [Councilman] Nick Carney told me, 'You'll learn quick, just listen to us.' Well, they didn't know how I was wired."

Within weeks, Palin had upset the status quo by voting against a pay raise for the mayor and an exclusive city-wide garbage pickup contract with Carney's company. But during her second term, she became convinced that she needed to throw the good-old-boy network out entirely — so she decided to run for mayor herself in 1996, and she whipped the long-time incumbent handily.

Sarah Heath and Todd Palin a few months before their August 1988 marriage. As mayor, Palin took a voluntary pay cut from $68,000 to $64,200, cut real property taxes and eliminated taxes on personal property and business inventory, and sponsored a $5.5 million road and sewer bond to promote new commercial development. In 1999, Stein ran against her again, but she whipped him by an even larger margin than the first time. By then, she was attracting state-wide attention, which resulted in her being elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.

Former U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski was returning to Alaska to run for governor in 2002, and he encouraged Palin to run for lieutenant governor. She did, but the race quickly became a crowded one when three other well-established GOP state politicians who'd been considering running for governor instead opted to seek the second seat. Although she was outspent by the eventual winner by more than four to one, she finished a strong second, coming within 2000 votes and three percentage points of victory.

New governor Murkowski promptly appointed her to chair the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — and there begins the tale of Palin as a reformer on a statewide stage. Johnson recounts how Palin tried, without success, to force fellow Commissioner Randy Ruedrich to comply with statutory ethics reporting requirements. Ruedrich, who was also the chair of the Alaskan Republican Party, apparently felt himself to be exempt from such concerns, and he also felt no qualms about billing his Commission expense account for political traveling or using Commission personnel and material to do party work. Moreover, rather than looking out for the public interest, he effectively turned himself into a lobbyist and public spokesman for a company that had secretly leased from the state certain underground rights to extract natural gas from coal seams under private property. Palin's written and oral complaints to Alaska's attorney general, Gregg Renkes, eventually forced Ruedrich's resignation from the Commission, but Renkes' office ordered her to stay mum and stonewall the press. Her further complaints to Murkowski were also ignored.

Frustrated, Palin resigned from the Commission. She was partially vindicated in the public's eyes, however, when Ruedrich negotiated a settlement of the ethics claims against him in which he admitted to three out of four alleged violations and paid a $12,000 fine. Palin then continued to speak out against what she perceived as ethical lapses on the part of both Attorney General Renkes and Governor Murkowski. Murkowski complained that Palin was trying to "create a sideshow" to further her own political ambitions. But as Johnson writes:

In her toe-to-toe face-off with the governor, Sarah once again refused to back down. She fired off a guest-opinion piece to the [Anchorage] Daily News. "It's said the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick," she wrote. "So, with lipstick on, the gloves come off in answering administration accusations."

After slamming Murkowski for "hiring his own counsel, paid for by the state, to investigate his long-time friend, confidant, and campaign manager [Renkes]," Sarah concluded by writing, "Despite those in Juneau who think otherwise, it's healthy for democracy to ask questions. And I'll bet there are hockey moms and housewives all across this great state who agree."

Two months later, Renkes resigned.

That meant two down, one to go. Based on reservations harbored by her oldest son, Palin passed up a 2004 opportunity to challenge Lisa Murkowski, whom her father, the governor, had named (in an act of unbridled nepotism) to fill an open U.S. Senate seat. But in 2005, she decided to challenge Frank Murkowski himself in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary. 

Johnson's biography is at its best in relating the granular details of Palin's underdog state-wide campaigns — first in the GOP primary, and then in a closely contested general election — as a reformer who'd impose fiscal conservatism and return ethics to state government. After winning the GOP primary without a run-off by capturing 51% of the vote (compared to Murkowski's 19%), Palin went on to win a three-way general election, garnering 48% of the vote to defeat Democrat Tony Knowles' 41% showing.

Sarah Palin relaxes after hauling in salmon nets aboard her husband's commercial fishing boatGetting oneself nominated, and then elected, to public office is one type of accomplishment. Indeed, it's about the only sort of accomplishment that Barack Obama can claim. But just as she did while she was a city mayor, during her first two years as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has actually demonstrated an ability to govern.

Some acts were symbolic: Among her first decisions in office was to list the corporate jet that her predecessor had acquired for sale on eBay, and she fired the executive chef from the Governor's Mansion because she and "First Dude" Todd believe they're perfectly capable of cooking for their own family.

But Johnson reports that Gov. Palin has also been successful in pushing through substantive reform legislation. At her urging, for example, the Alaska Legislature has repealed an oil and gas severance taxation system that Murkowski had negotiated behind closed doors with BP, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips, replacing it with a slightly higher tax structure negotiated transparently and at arms' length. Gov. Palin has also worked with the legislature to encourage these three big oil companies — and others who are not already so heavily invested in Alaska — to compete in developing a natural gas pipeline that will bring cheaper and more reliable energy to Alaska's own consumers and eventually permit cheap export of natural gas to the Lower 48 states. Palin has shown herself to be simultaneously pro-environment, pro-development, pro-competition, and emphatically outside the pockets of either the corporate powers-that-be or their traditional politician allies.

Johnson's straight-forward writing style complements her subject's own style. And if there is a dark side to Sarah Palin, this book doesn't tell it. However competitive she was on the high school basketball courts, one can't help but infer from the facts related in the book that Sarah Palin has left bruised ribs in her political wake. But her chief victims seem to have been the complacent, the spendthrift, and the ethically challenged members of her own political party, and they're laying low.

Neither in this book, nor in the many video clips I've watched her in, does Gov. Palin give any sense of being grumpy or vindictive, but Johnson's book includes an admission regarding one of McCain's defining characteristics that Sarah Palin does share — "what her father calls an unbending, unapologetic streak of stubbornness":

"The rest of the kids, I could force them to do something," Chuck Sr. said. "But with Sarah, there was no way. From a young age she had a mind of her own. Once she made up her mind, she didn't change it." ...

Later on, Sarah's father would enlist the help of people Sarah respected — especially coaches and teachers — to persuade her to see things his way. Yet he concedes Sarah was persuasive in her arguments and often correct. Later, when his daughter became governor, Chuck found it immensely amusing that acquaintances asked him to sway Sarah on particular issues. He says he lost that leverage before she was two...

... From the moment she began making her mark in politics, she was criticized for being too young, too inexperienced, and too naive.

Yet, time after time over the years, underestimating Sarah always proved to be a big mistake.

"New energy for Alaska" was Gov. Palin's gubernatorial campaign slogan. After reading Johnson's biography of her, I'm going to have to work hard to summon up new energy to return to the last few dozen pages of Barack Obama's autobiography. He is, without doubt, a complex figure — and I say that with worry, not admiration, because that complexity often translates into a troublesome slipperiness even in the portrait he carefully crafts of himself. By contrast, Johnson's book makes me more confident that with Sarah Palin, as with John McCain, what you see is pretty much what you'll get. That's rare in politics, but we need more of it. And I'm increasingly convinced that I would like to see her as the GOP's candidate for vice president this fall.

(Photographs from the book, as reprinted here with the generous, express written permission of Epicenter Press, are all copyright 2008 by Chris and Sally Heath, except the last one, which is copyright 2008 by Chris Miller/CSM, and those parties reserve all rights to these photographs; please don't republish them elsewhere on the internet without obtaining their express permission in advance.)

Posted by Beldar at 08:29 PM in 2008 Election, Books, Energy, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hold oil speculators accountable while driving down the prices of crude oil and gasoline

This isn't rocket science. Instead, it's quite literally Economics 101.

Dems, including both Congressional leaders and their party's presidential candidate, Barack Obama, are all about "investigating" the role of "speculators" in the oil futures markets who, they claim, are responsible for driving up the cost of oil and, thus, the cost of gasoline at the pump.

Hearings are being scheduled and held. Legislation has been proposed.

This is worse than useless, because there is already in place a devastatingly efficient mechanism to punish any who've artificially inflated the current price of oil by reckless, collusive, or abusive trading in oil futures. It's a two-step mechanism:

(1) Start in a serious way to do what we can do to both reduce demand (i.e., conserve) and increase supply (i.e., drill and promote alternative energy sources).

(2) Let the market work.

The fundamentals of market economics will then cause the current price of oil to drop. Yes, it will drop today even if the oil whose production that Congress approves now from the outer continental shelf offshore and from the Arctic National Wildlife Preserves won't actually be produced for years yet. When the opportunities are opened up and the commitments are made, the market will indeed react based on its anticipation of future results. Only an economic idiot or a Democratic congressman can't understand that the market is reacting now to the absence of those future opportunities and commitments.

When the price drops, the wagers made by the speculators — who are heavily invested in the success of the do-nothing Democratic Congress — will come up snake-eyes. Those who've speculated will lose their shirts. Their leveraged purchases will bite them with a multi-fold and righteous vengeance. There's no need for hearings, no need for lawsuits, no need for citations or fines or newspaper exposes.

Just the brutal efficiency of the market, which — when permitted to function properly — punishes those who abuse its processes.

We don't know for sure how many market manipulators there are, or who they are, or how much of the current high prices are the result of their manipulation. Nor are we likely to track them down: Crooks hide their tracks, and the difference between a crook and an entrepreneur is often purely a matter of subjective judgment.

The market doesn't care; the market doesn't need tracks. The market passes its relentless judgments automatically, inexorably, and with the closest thing to perfect justice we're likely to see in our lifetimes — if, but only if, it's allowed by government to function normally, i.e., freed from government interference.

You want to purge the market of manipulative speculators? Let the markets work. Permit and encourage conservation to reduce demand; permit and encourage development (both drilling and alternative sources) to increase supply; and drive the price down using basic laws of economics that are more powerful than even Barack Obama on his best day when he's got a full gospel choir and both chambers of Congress singing with him in harmony.

Posted by Beldar at 12:13 AM in Current Affairs, Energy | Permalink | Comments (13)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why didn't Obama publish anything in the law journal he edited? — [but see NOTE for important update]

"Obama kept Law Review balanced," according to the title of an article by Jeffrey Ressner and Ben Smith on the Politico website. By that, they mean that during his one-year term as president of the Harvard Law Review, Barack Obama gave final approval to the publication of articles by law professors, and shorter "notes" by student authors, that reflected a wide range of differing viewpoints.

That is tantamount to saying that he did his job acceptably well. It's mildly interesting, but not nearly as interesting as an Obama mystery that Ressner and Smith mention — and then leave completely unresolved!

[NOTE: Many weeks after I wrote this post, Smith and Ressner have published a new article entitled Exclusive: Obama's lost law review article, reporting that Obama actually did write an unsigned "case comment" for the HLR in which he analyzed an Illinois Supreme Court case which held that a fetus has no tort rights to sue its mother for money damages for injuries sustained due to the mother's alleged negligence. More details here. — Beldar, Fri Aug 22, 2008 @ 8:30pm.]


Every law review attempts to foster its own credibility by developing and maintaining a reputation for objectivity and open-mindedness. Even though the teaching faculties at law schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia are overwhelmingly liberal in their own political persuasions, and even though they tend to espouse legal philosophies that reflect their politics, their respective schools' law journals, which are actually student-edited and -run, continue to publish articles written from other and contrary points of view — and to do so with at least enough regularity as to encourage such writers to continue submit their work for review and possible publication.

In my own days as a member and then an editor of the Texas Law Review (1978-1980), I was among the few political conservatives on the staff or editorial board. Some of the fiercest, sharpest, and most principled political arguments I've ever participated in took place there. But making persuasive arguments was what counted among this crew, both when we editors were informally arguing among ourselves over whether Jimmy Carter ought to use military force to free the U.S. Embassy captives in Tehran and when we were formally discussing whether to publish a particular professor's manuscript.

As for Ressner's and Smith's other reporting: That Obama was polite; that he chatted up the law professors he worked with; that he made them feel like he was improving their writing with his editing; and that he was on the lookout for rising young talents: These are all job requirements for any law review editor, at any law review, in any given year. Perhaps Ressner and Smith think that what's merely competent is actually quite exceptional. They certainly go on to show that they're clueless about the role of law reviews in legal scholarship generally:

In Obama's time, as it is today, the Harvard Law Review was one of the most important and distinguished legal publications in the world. Founded in 1887, it is the rare self-supporting legal publication compiled and edited completely by students, typically those attending their second or third year at the prestigious school.

No, guys, that's not rare. It's universal. That's the way it is at law schools all around the United States, and that's the way it's been at least since the early 20th Century. Having its most prestigious and important professional journals controlled and edited by students is something nearly unique to the legal profession. (My blogospheric friend Prof. Stephen Bainbridge is among more than a few law professors who've publicly suggested that this system is not just irritating, but nuts. And he may be right, but it nevertheless still is the current system.)


There is at least one respect, however, in which what Barack Obama participated in at Harvard must have been very different from what I and others had experienced at Texas some years earlier. Ressner and Smith report that Obama "beat out 18 other contenders" to become president of the Harvard Law Review. Those would have been classmates of his, all of them about to enter their third and final years of law school. And that's a remarkably large number of competitors for the top slot — more people, in fact, than we had on our entire editorial board at Texas (even though Harvard and Texas are similarly sized and comparatively very large law schools).

What Ressner and Smith describe at Harvard — and I've read other, similar descriptions of the HLR and of Obama's election as its first black president — make me believe its editorial board selection was remarkably, overtly political as compared to most other law journals. How could it be otherwise, when it apparently depended on a vote among all of one's direct (same-year) peers and competitors who together made up the journal's membership?

Barack Obama among Harvard Law Review editors in 1990 (photo: NYT)

At Texas, by contrast, second year students applied in writing to the outgoing editorial board (which was composed of graduating third-year students) for whatever board slot or slots they sought. The outgoing board then made its selections with, as in all other things, the editor-in-chief (the job title used by most law reviews instead of "president") having the final say. At least in my year, there was remarkably little that was contentious in the process. The outgoing book review editor, for example, correctly perceived in me a kindred spirit who would be well suited to matching up newly published legal books with prominent faculty authors around the country, and suggested I apply to fill his slot. (We actively solicited book reviewers, in contrast to articles, which generally were submitted to us, unsolicited, by law professors.) Several other of my classmates who were particularly good at mentoring were likewise nudged toward applying for positions as "note editors" who'd be working with the following class' new members. Our managing editor, in turn, was encouraged to apply for that slot by the outgoing board based on her drill-sergeant effectiveness.

There was an ample basis for the outgoing editors to make these evaluations: Besides the applications, the second-year students had been doing "scut work" at the direction of the editors — including huge amounts of "cite-checking" (source verification) and galleys proof-reading — throughout the previous year. Most importantly of all, however, second-year members were required, upon penalty of being kicked off the Review, to produce, on deadline, a publishable quality "student note." At Texas and most other top 20 law journals, such student notes tend to be not much different, either in scope or length or even quality, from the articles submitted by aspiring young law professors hoping to publish to promote their tenure prospects. We'd moved away from the earlier practice of having students write shorter, more limited "case-notes" that typically focused on a single new judicial decision, and instead encouraged more ambitious writing that would genuinely add something creative and new to the legal literature.

It was quite typical at Texas (and, I think, at most other major law reviews) that each new editor-in-chief, in fact, would be the student who, as a second-year member, had produced and published the very best student note. In the class ahead of me, my own class, and the class behind me at Texas, there was a wide-spread consensus on whose notes were the best. It is inconceivable to me that any of the three of them would have been selected to be editor-in-chief if they hadn't written a publishable note at all. And indeed, the quality of their respective notes became the source of the each new editor-in-chief's credibility as first among equals, final decision-maker, and the only editor permitted to use a blue pencil for his copy-editing (which no other editor would dare erase or alter without close consultation).

In fact, there were three ways to become a member of the Texas Law Review in the first place: Those who'd been in the top five percent of their first-year class were automatically offered membership at the beginning of their second year. (Some who "graded on" this way nevertheless declined membership, typically because they weren't willing to commit to writing a publishable-quality note or to run the risk of failing to produce one on time.) A roughly equal number of other slots went to the winners of a grueling research-and-writing competition for second-year students. And rarely but occasionally, a student would earn an invitation by writing and submitting, all on his own, a publishable-quality student note.

Occasionally someone would write a publishable quality note that didn't actually get published. Someone might spend six months, for example, researching and writing on a topic that seemed very timely and appropriate when the student had first proposed it at the beginning of his second year, when he or she was a brand new member; but then an unexpected court ruling or new statute might suddenly moot the topic, or change the field so dramatically that what had been written by the student no longer was particularly valuable. Indeed, to try to avoid just this sort of calamity, the topic approval process was itself very detailed, and it included a "preemption check" by other students to try to determine whether there were any such pending cases or statutes lurking in the works that needed to be considered.

Otherwise, though, at Texas and, I believe, most other major law reviews, the rule for members was (and I think still is): "Publish or perish, up or out." If you didn't produce a publishable-quality note on deadline, your name was stricken from the membership list on the masthead, you had no opportunity to become an editor, and — worst of all — you became ethically obliged to call back all those employers who'd extended you job offers in part based on a résumé credential that you were no longer entitled to claim.

No one wanted to make those telephone calls.

(My own student note is abstracted here, by the way; and yes, it, along with my grades and sparkling personality, was a key in my becoming the book review editor on the 1979-1980 TLR editorial board, getting my judicial clerkship with Judge Carolyn King of the Fifth Circuit, and then getting a job at Houston's Baker Botts.)


With which background, perhaps you can better appreciate the most peculiar thing in Ressner's and Smith's article on Obama (boldface mine):

One thing Obama did not do while with the review was publish any of his own work. Campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Obama didn't write any articles for the Review, though his two semesters at the helm did produce a wide range of edited case analyses and unsigned "notes" from Harvard students.

How remarkable is this for Harvard? I have no first-hand information, obviously. But among the legal celebrities whom Ressner and Smith quote in their article is Susan Estrich, who they describe as "the USC School of Law professor who served as Michael Dukakis' campaign manager in 1988 — and who broke ground as the first female president of the Harvard Law Review 14 years before Obama took the reins" (emphasis mine, brackets by Ressner and Smith):

Estrich believes that Obama must have had something published that year, even if his campaign says otherwise. "They probably don't want [to] have you [reporters] going back" to examine the Review.

Oh, pish-posh. If Obama had actually authored one of the unsigned student notes that was published, he surely would admit to it — it's another objective credential, and he and his campaign certainly brag about his supposed constitutional law expertise at the drop of a hat. Given that he never published anything while an instructor at the University of Chicago Law School later, it would be his only written evidence (besides his magna cum laude degree) of genuine academic excellence in the law. Thus, Estrich's comment leads me to believe that the Harvard Law Review, too, had a "Publish or Perish" requirement — but it's one that Obama didn't meet for reasons that are entirely unclear, and that he's now "scrupulously managing his biography" to obscure.

My bologna detector tells me there's more to the story here. So which of his former co-members or -editors will be the first to squeal on him? Or is there the Rule of Omertà among them?

Posted by Beldar at 05:04 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (12)

Beldar on WaPo on Obama's "scrupulous manag[ement] of his own biography"

In my last post, I wondered when the WaPo will get around to writing about Barack Obama with any genuine objectivity. An article in today's issue actually starts off promisingly:

In the opening weeks of the general-election campaign, Sen. Barack Obama has moved aggressively to shape his campaign and offered a clear road map for the kind of candidate he is likely to become in the months ahead: an ambitious gamer of the electoral map, a ruthless fundraiser and a scrupulous manager of his own biography in the face of persistent concerns about how he is perceived.

I actually think that's a helluva lede — especially the hint that there's something, well, interesting about what Obama has chosen to highlight, and what he's chosen to obscure, in his own biography.

The problem is: No follow-up. No examples, no meat to support the sizzle. Nothing to drive home to you the fact that: "Yes, indeed, this candidate has things about himself that he wants you to know, but also things he'd rather remain shrouded in mist."

Just go look, for example, at the biography on his campaign website. What's mostly missing that you'd expect to see on any résumé submitted as part of a job application?

It's dates.

There are only five years mentioned, despite the fact that he's 46 years old: 1961 (he was born); 1983 (graduated from Columbia); 1985 (moved to Chicago); 1991 (law degree from Harvard); and 2004 (elected to the U.S. Senate).

Like me, gentle readers, some of you have been in the position of making hiring decisions before. Some of you have a reasonable sense of when you're being snowed. And some of you would immediately look just at this list of years and say, "Well, for example, what the heck were you doin' between 1983 and 1985, young man, and why didn't you see fit to mention it on your résumé?"

Do you know? Here's one of two remaining serious candidates for the presidency. Do you, prospective voter, know enough about him to know what should have been filled in that blank?

I'm not suggesting that it's impossible to find out, if you're in the mood for internet sleuthing. Just like the fact of his smoking habit, it's out there somewhere, if you care to dig. Nor is it something that reflects particularly badly on the candidate, in my own opinion.

But then, my opinion isn't what Barack Obama is trying to shape. I don't see anything wrong with the fact that he went to work in New York in a very conventional job — if not actually, physically "on" Wall Street, then certainly in the business world that he now takes pains to establish that he's always flouted and defied. His deliberate omission of that fact, however, may be a story worth telling.

Unless you're a mainstream media journalist who gets a tingle up and down your leg when you listen to Barack Obama speak. Unless you're in the tank, even if you're in denial about being in the tank. In which case, you can tell yourself that you've done your job as a hard-hitting investigative journalist by merely hinting, instead of actually delivering. "He manages his biography!" you can shout. (Then shut up about the details he's left out, okay? Let's not disrupt "the narrative.")

John Kerry also wanted to scrupulously manage his own biography. In his version, he was a spectacular war hero who volunteered for and served two full tours in heavy combat in Vietnam, and all of the men who served with him loved him and, indeed, held him in awe. But thanks to a few individuals who knew otherwise, including many of those who served with him and absolutely did not hold him in awe, at least some voters took a closer look, and found that it wasn't necessarily so, or at least not in the same way that the candidate claimed.

Yay for the internet! And thank the Lord there are still over four months until the election. The subject of Barack Obama's biography, and what in it he'd rather you not focus upon, will be, in case you haven't already figured it out, a recurring theme on BeldarBlog until November.

Posted by Beldar at 07:04 AM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Beldar on WaPo on Houston

Okay, I'm a Houston booster. Houston has been berry, berry good to me, and I admit to having a chip on my shoulder about how unfairly it's usually portrayed by the national media. (To Hollywood, it simply hasn't existed since Terms of Endearment, Urban Cowboy, or Apollo 13.)

So when I read this WaPo article about how Houston is faring in the age of $4+/gallon gasoline, I was prepared to find something to bristle at and denounce. Maybe it's just that if you live and work in Washington, D.C., you don't have much room to complain about humidity and mosquitoes; and surely the WaPo writers are used to people with healthy, even over-sized, egos. But in any event, I found nothing in particular to get mad about.

Now if only they could apply that same objectivity to Barack Obama!

Posted by Beldar at 06:31 AM in Energy, Film/TV/Stage, Mainstream Media | Permalink | Comments (9)

Friday, June 20, 2008

McClellan, Conyers, WaPo, and AP vie for prize for "Most Disingenuous" in Plamegate testimony and "news articles" that never mention the name "Armitage"

You're watching absolutely false conventional wisdom being repeated over and over again, folks, until only us few with more than 50 functioning neurons and the willpower to resist propaganda actually remember the truth.

Without a transcript, I can't be certain that no one mentioned Richard Armitage's name at any point during the hearing. But if neither Conyers, nor McClellan, nor anyone else did, that itself would have been newsworthy!

You cannot write this story with a shred of journalistic integrity without using the name "Armitage." It can't be done.Nevertheless, I firmly expect that by this time tomorrow, most or all of the other members of the mainstream media will have qualified for this particular "Most Disingenuous" prize along with the AP and WaPo.

Question for the weekend: Will Mr. Armitage write the AP and WaPo demanding a correction that gives him due and just credit as the leaker?

Posted by Beldar at 05:13 PM in Law (2008), Mainstream Media, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (6)

Legal, but offensively cocky: Obama rips off official presidential seal for his podium, and adds the motto "Vero Possumus"

Yeah, sure, I'd defend to the death Obama's technical legal right under the First Amendment to mangle national icons, burn flags, yada yada yada. It's a free country, and that freedom includes the right to engage in political expression that is crass, tasteless, and irredeemably cocky.

And one of the perquisites of being an incumbent president who's running for re-election is that, well, you actually are the POTUS, so you're entitled to speak to audiences from behind a podium that bears the official presidential seal. No one meets that description this year, however.

Nevertheless, the junior senator from Illinois, who's yet to complete his first term in the United States Senate, apparently feels entitled to rip off the most familiar elements of the official Seal of the President of the United States for his campaign use — and then to combine it with some of his own campaign artwork:

The Great Seal of Obamaland (photo: NYT)   The Seal of the President of the United States

According to the NYT Politics Blog (bold-face mine):

At a discussion with a dozen Democratic governors in Chicago on Friday morning, each of the governors was identified with a small name plate but Senator Barack Obama sat behind a low rostrum to which was attached an official-looking seal no one had seen before....

Just above the eagle’s head are the words “Vero Possumus,” roughly translated “Yes we can.” ...

Us God-loving, bitter, clinging gun-owners in the fly-over country have an expression for the kind of arrogance required to appropriate the seal of a public office to which one hasn't quite yet been elected: "He's dang sure gotten too big fer his britches," we'd say.

In response to which, someone might ask: "Can you folks usually find a way to deal with young fellas who're too big fer their britches?"

To which the answer — which I'm sure is spoken confidently and frequently on at least the West Texas prairies of my own birth, and perhaps elsewhere — is surely: "Vero Possumus!" Which, out here in fly-over land, roughly translates to: "You bet yer road-kill possum butt we can!" (I'll spare you the photographs of the possums, with or without the surrounding seal.)


UPDATE (Sat Jun 21 @ noonish): Ann Althouse wins this year's award for "pithiest post" on this subject, in which she expresses her own views entirely through subject tags. (And in her comments, she generally agrees with my legal evaluation in the title of this post and in my own comment below.)

Other reporting, this time from the N.Y. Daily News (h/t Power Line):

Asked to explain the new seal, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "It's a mix of presidential politics and a call for hope and change."

Snarked John McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, "I think we can all agree that we need presidential candidates that are serious enough not to play make-believe on the campaign trail."

"It's laughable, ridiculous, preposterous and revealing all at the same time," Bounds said.



UPDATE (Sat Jun 21 @ 11:30pm): I finally remembered what the Great Seal of Obama reminds me of. It's those Royal Delft plates from Holland. Perhaps Michelle can have them make up the new White House china.

The Great Seal of Obamaland (photo: NYT)   Delft


UPDATE (Mon Jun 23 @ 6:20pm): The Obama campaign has reportedly consigned the Great Seal of Obama to the same memory hole as Michael Dukakis' tank hat. Good luck to them with that. (H/t: InstaPundit, and thanks for the link, Prof. R.)

Posted by Beldar at 04:42 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (58)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Palin leads Pajamas Media veep poll

As of this moment, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — whom I've previously written about at length as a potential grand slam home run as a vice presidential nominee for John McCain — leads Mitt Romney by a narrow margin, 19% to 18%, in a straw poll being conducted by Pajamas Media. (H/t: InstaPundit.) Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are the only two others currently polling in double digits, at 12% and 10% respectively.

Governor Sarah Palin and daughter Piper Palin (in pink to the Governor's right) share Russian tea and cookies with Nancy Hakari’s 3rd grade class at Riverbend Elementary School in Juneau

Listening to the news this week (including the Dems flailing around with their insistence that "we can't drill our way out of this," and Obama's arguments that what the energy markets really need are a stiff windfall profits tax), and then filling my car this afternoon, I couldn't help imagining Gov. Palin taking Sen. McCain on an cross-Alaskan early-summer tour. It would includes already developed oil and gas properties, to show how that can be done in an environmentally respectful fashion, and then the incredibly remote, incredibly non-scenic mud-flats in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that have been proposed for exploration and potential drilling. It's the kind of trip that could explain a change in position on the Senator's part. And unless I miss my guess, she's the kind of advocate and leader who might find a way through his stubbornness — and potentially onto the ticket along with him. Hence, I was happy to cast my straw vote for her tonight in this poll.

(Note: There are random prizes. But PJM discloses in the fine print that "[b]y entering into this contest you will be placed on the Pajamas Media email list and will receive the Pajama's Media Daily Digest. You will have the ability to opt-out." I wish there were an opt-out check-box on the voting page itself, but I trust PJM not to sell or abuse my email address — heck, PJM CEO Roger L. Simon has it already anyway, from our prior correspondence — and the inconvenience of opting out later is, for me anyway, justified by my desire to boost Gov. Palin's chances.)


UPDATE (Thu Jun 19 @ 5:00pm): McCain says he's willing to re-evaluate his position against drilling in ANWR! Gov. Palin, it's time to extend an invitation!

Posted by Beldar at 11:33 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (7)

Scratch a liberal, uncover a communist

U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), speaking to the press today (my transcription from TIVO'd coverage on the Fox News channel during Neil Cavuto's show, about 10 minutes ago):

So if there's any seriousness about what some of our Republican colleagues are saying here in the House and elsewhere about improving the number of refineries, then maybe they'd be willing to have these refineries owned publicly —  owned by the people of the United States. So that the people of the United States can determine how much of the product is refined and put out on the market. To me, that sounds like a very good idea.

Ah yes, Congress is once again going to invest itself into repealing the laws of world-wide supply and demand. In the name of "the People," we're going to switch to a command economy, wherein Washington will decree that prices will drop, supply will be created out of nothingness, and we'll all live happily ever after.

The Dems are well into the stage of "irrational exuberance" which foretells the pop of their political bubble. When a Congressmen on the House Ways & Means Committee can propose nationalizing the energy industry without realizing that voters may notice that "Hey, that's communism!" then they're well and truly drunk off of their own fumes. If only they will continue down paths like these, it may turn out that John McCain is the luckiest political candidate in the history of the world. I'm sensing more and more parallels between the 2008 campaign and the 1972 campaign.


UPDATE (Wed Jun 18 @ 5:55pm): AllahPundit has a link to the video along with his own reaction (which roughly parallels mine).

Posted by Beldar at 04:07 PM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (8)

Did Michelle Obama, channeling Rev. Wright's racist paranoia, condemn south Chicago girls and young women to unnecessary and preventable STDs and cervical cancer?

Michelle Obama To stem the political hemorrhaging it was causing, Sen. & Mrs. Barack Obama have withdrawn from membership at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. But to what extent did what they heard while they were members affect their activities outside the church over the last several years?

Recall these paranoid, racist statements of Rev. Wright, their former pastor, as he accused the United States government of developing and spreading HIV/AIDS specifically to commit genocide against the black population:

MODERATOR: In your sermon, you said the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. So I ask you: Do you honestly believe your statement and those words?

WRIGHT: Have you read Horowitz's book, "Emerging Viruses: AIDS and Ebola," whoever wrote that question? Have you read "Medical Apartheid"? You've read it?

(UNKNOWN): Do you honestly believe that (OFF-MIKE)

WRIGHT: Oh, are you — is that one of the reporters?

MODERATOR: No questions...


WRIGHT: No questions from the floor. I read different things. As I said to my members, if you haven't read things, then you can't — based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.

In fact, in fact, in fact, one of the — one of the responses to what Saddam Hussein had in terms of biological warfare was a non-question, because all we had to do was check the sales records. We sold him those biological weapons that he was using against his own people.

So any time a government can put together biological warfare to kill people, and then get angry when those people use what we sold them, yes, I believe we are capable.

Now consider this segment from today's New York Times, in an article on the campaign's attempt to re-brand Michelle Obama (bold-face mine):

By 2001, Mrs. Obama, married for nine years and the mother of two daughters, had taken a job as vice president of community affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She soon discovered just how acrimonious those affairs were....

She also altered the hospital’s research agenda. When the human papillomavirus vaccine, which can prevent cervical cancer, became available, researchers proposed approaching local school principals about enlisting black teenage girls as research subjects.

Mrs. Obama stopped that. The prospect of white doctors performing a trial with black teenage girls summoned the specter of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment of the mid-20th century, when white doctors let hundreds of black men go untreated to study the disease.

"She’ll talk about the elephant in the room," said Susan Sher, her boss at the hospital, where Mrs. Obama is on leave from her more-than-$300,000-a-year job.

The New York Times reports this without much comment, buried near the bottom of its article, as if it's not particularly revealing or controversial. But it made my jaw drop. Has yours yet?

If not, consider more carefully: Here's the wife of the Great Unifier, the Great Conciliator, the Great Educator who's going to bring America to a post-racial future. She's supposedly a community activist working for the benefit of poor neighborhoods whose teenagers are disproportionately at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. She has an opportunity to reverse, through education, decades of racial distrust and to simultaneously protect her teen-aged female constituents against "cervical cancer and other diseases in females caused by certain types of genital human papillomavirus (HPV)[, a class of viruses] ... which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts." So Mrs. Obama strikes a mighty blow to promote ignorance, to prevent vacination, and to permit preventable STDs and cervical cancer.

Yes, the Tuskegee Syphillis Experiments were awful. Yes, there is a huge amount of racial mistrust and misinformation lingering because of them, as evidenced by Rev. Wright's pronouncements. But Tuskegee isn't the rule, it's the awful exception from an era in which we no longer live.

What kind of Luddite is this Princeton and Harvard educated lawyer and mother of two young girls? All such modern vaccination programs are voluntary — there's at least an opt-out provision, even when legislation has been proposed to add this vaccine to the mandatory list of vaccinations for public school attendance — and they require the genuinely well-informed consent of the participants. Surely someone like Michelle Obama and her husband (with his commitment to community education, in coordination with people like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn) could ensure that accurate information was provided in a meaningful format to promote informed choices. Indeed, it seems to me that she was uniquely positioned to strike a blow against bigotry, against ignorance, and in favor of education, science, and both racial and medical healing.

So: Why choose not to educate? Why not at least allow an opportunity for this scientific breakthrough to protect the health and the very lives of these at-risk girls and young women?

This is shameful behavior. I can't understand or explain it, other than as a function of the exact sort of racist paranoia that Rev. Wright has been preaching. It sounds as though Michelle Obama bought big-time into the very worst of Rev. Wright's screed — and that she actively practiced what he preached, to the detriment of the very people they were purportedly helping and protecting. I'm aghast.


UPDATE (Wed Jun 17 @ 6:00pm): Tom Maguire's reaction is very much like mine:

In a different and better world the community affairs director for a hospital would use her college education and neighborhood roots to educate and reassure the community that her hospital was not actually interested in recreating ghastly medical misadventures from the past. In this world, it looks like the Sister Grim is less interested in resolving these grievances and more interested in nursing them.

Tom also links this RAND news release from 2005 regarding the extent of conspiracy paranoia among blacks and its resulting deterrence of condom use and promotion of STDs.

Compare the more libertarian yet scientific and compassionate position of Dr. Ken Alexander of the Pediatrics Department of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine:

Dr. Alexander, a proponent of the HPV vaccine in young women, cautions lawmakers about proposed legislation that would require the HPV vaccine in the sixth grade. While stating that he does believe that teenaged girls should be immunized, he expresses his belief that this view is one that should not be forced upon the public but rather decided on the family level.

Regardless of whether you support mandatory vaccination (with opt-out rights) or merely more widely publicizing the vaccination option to families, it's hard to deny that here, Michelle Obama, who's dogmatically pro-choice on abortion rights, acted to take away choices from these girls and young women and their families.

The question in my mind is: Does she believe Rev. Wright's paranoid, racist fantasies? Or is she simply exploiting and continuing their currency among her constituents? Either is unacceptable, but the latter would put her on, or at least very near, a moral plane with the initiators of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments themselves.


UPDATE (Thu Jun 19 @ 5:15pm): When I picked up my middle two teens today, Sarah and Adam, I confirmed that both were familiar with the HPV vaccine, and that Sarah has been inoculated. I then told them the sad, sordid tale of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, a story they hadn't heard before, and that they reacted to with appropriate revulsion. But then I told them — as neutrally as I could — about what the NYT has reported on Michelle Obama's involvement in the HPV vaccination program at the University of Chicago hospital. My daughter's immediately reaction — unprompted by me — is that Michelle Obama's denial of medical prevention and treatment options to her hospital's patient population is as outrageous as the decisions made by the sponsors of the Tuskegee experiments. (Sarah will be a high school senior next year, and her politics in general much more closely match her mom's than mine: They were both Hillary Clinton supporters, for example.)

TIME magazine, June 2, 2008Barack Obama specifically pointed to Rev. Wright's comments about HIV/AIDS and Tuskegee when he disassociated himself from Rev. Wright, and he acknowledged that his pastor's views on those subjects were a legitimate topic of political interest. So what about his wife's views and actions on these subjects?

Ironically, the June 2 cover of TIME magazine is devoted to an article entitled "The Truth About Vaccines: Worried about autism, many parents are opting out of immunizations. How they're putting the rest of us at risk." (That story focused on childhood vaccines, not specifically on the HPV vaccine.) But another article touted on the cover is: "Will Michelle Obama hurt Barack in November?"

So when will the mainstream media put two and two together and realize that these questions are perhaps linked?


UPDATE (Thu Jun 20 @ 5:15pm): James Taranto'sBest of the Web column today includes some statistics on the dangers that the HPV vaccine can prevent, and also reads the facts reported in the NYT article as "suggest[ing] that girls in Chicago were denied potentially lifesaving vaccinations because Michelle Obama pandered to racial paranoia instead of standing up for the truth."

Posted by Beldar at 03:52 PM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (14)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beldar on Yoo on Boumediene; and related thoughts on Obama's preference to rely on criminal prosecutions to fight international terrorists

I respectfully concur, without reservation, with Prof. John Yoo's observations on Boumediene.


Sen. Barack Obama, meanwhile, has put himself squarely back into a 1993-style, early-Clinton Administration mode of considering our conflict with radical Islamic fundamentalists as being just another exercise in crime-fighting. Crank up the grand juries. Maybe we ought to hire some extra lawyers, whot whot?

War? What war? Why, we'll litigate those barbaric bastards until they cry "Uncle!" That'll show 'em.

Our enemies are at war with us. They want to hack off our heads and show the video on the internet; failing that, they'll be content with blowing us to smithereens by the tens of thousands. And for our part, in response? Well, I believe Sen. Obama is deadly serious in threatening our enemies with potential black marks on their respective permanent records. Saith the Obamasiah:

And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, "Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims."

So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws.

I pray tonight for the continued vigilance of the host of angels who, together, are struggling to keep Andrew McCarthy's head from exploding. If you don't already know what the co-lead prosecutor from Obama's "model case" has to say about Boumediene in particular, and using the civilian justice system to fight terrorism in general, start with this essay; then this; then read a review or three of his new book, or better still, the book itself, which is aptly titled (in description of people like the junior senator from Illinois): Willful Blindness: Memoir of the Jihad. Suffice it to say, McCarthy's first-hand experience proves Obama to be a spectacular, mind-boggling fool on this entire subject.

Obama is already living in a fantasy world, one in which cold-hearted dictators will swoon in his presence like the hyperventilating fans at his rallies. But at this rate, I expect Obama to suggest, come October in one of the presidential debates, that if we'll just modify some of our spotlights to project a giant bat-image against the clouds, Commissioner Gordon will be able to mop up what's left of the war in Afghanistan within a fortnight. 

Ask yourself this: Can you imagine a serious political candidate for any office saying such a thing in October 2001? Can you imagine a Supreme Court so intruding itself into military and national security affairs then?

But these idiots have completely forgotten 9/11. They've willed it down the memory hole, because they're so damned focused on condemning George W. Bush, who of course is the preeminent source of evil in the world today.

I don't question their patriotism. I question their sanity.


UPDATE (Tue Jun 17 @ 4:25pm): Here's Mr. McCarthy's interim reaction to Obama's comments, as well as to a remarkably silly George Will column that's partly sympathetic to the Boumediene majority opinion.

Posted by Beldar at 03:00 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (29)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lest you think there might possibly be precedents to support Boumediene, consider Justice Kennedy's admission: There aren't any!

Often it's very difficult for lay readers, or even insufficiently motivated lawyers, to figure out whether there really is or isn't strong precedent from prior cases to support a particular Supreme Court decision. The majority opinions almost always say, "Oh, yes, rest assured that this is just one more in a long, straight line of decisions; our result today was practically compelled by them, lest we violate the rules of stare decisis." The dissent typically quibbles over that assertion and argues that the prior precedents are being misread, or that others were more on point.

Not so with last week's decision in Boumediene v. Bush. You don't have to slog through the many dozens of pages of Justice Kennedy's torpid prose, nor even glance at either Chief Justice Roberts' or Justice Scalia's dissents, to find out just how much support this decision actually has in the prior case-law of the U.S. federal courts. Instead, consider this remarkable paragraph (at page 49 of the .pdf file; italics in original; boldface mine):

It is true that before today the Court has never held that noncitizens detained by our Government in territory over which another country maintains de jure [i.e., formal legal] sovereignty have any rights under our Constitution. But the cases before us lack any precise historical parallel. They involve individuals detained by executive order for the duration of a conflict that, if measured from September 11, 2001, to the present, is already among the longest wars in American history. See Oxford Companion to American Military History 849 (1999). The detainees, moreover, are held in a territory that, while technically not part of the United States, is under the complete and total control of our Government. Under these circumstances the lack of a precedent on point is no barrier to our holding.

You could not possibly seek a more candid admission that Justice Kennedy is making up not just law, but constitutional law, out of thin air. And a more conspicuous or egregious example of "legislating from the bench" would be hard to imagine, particularly since this time, the Court is not only legislating itself, but sweeping aside as unconstitutional the legislation actually passed by Congress and signed by the President.

(If, nevertheless, you actually do go on to read the dissents — and if you're wondering why Hermann Göering and his crew weren't permitted to assert their supposed Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution at Nuremberg — you'll find that Justice Kennedy and the majority also disingenuously disregarded contrary precedent that is on point, most particularly Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950), which quite sensibly held that such foreign nationals who acted, and were captured and tried, entirely on foreign soil, had no rights under the U.S. Constitution, and could not use habeas corpus to claim any.)

Posted by Beldar at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Boumediene isn't a rebuke to Bush, but a judicial grab of power over war from the Executive and Legislative Branches

Some people seem to think the current question about the detainees at Gitmo is whether Dubya can simply lock them up and throw away the key without ever giving any of them any sort of trial.

For example, in comments to my post from Thursday deploring the Supreme Court's decision in Boumediene v. Bush, one reader wrote:

The Supreme Court has simply said that we have to demonstrate that there is some legitimate reason for continuing to hold them now and you call that the worst Supreme Court decision ever??

Similarly, another reader commented:

One of the most conservative courts in history has simply said that Bush&Co. cannot abrogate the most fundamental part of the rule of law, the right to be charged with crimes instead of being held indefinitely, in presidential frat boi pique.

These comments are not just wrong, they are spectacularly wrong.  No one could possibly hold these views unless he or she is badly confused by a highly advanced stage of Bush Derangement Syndrome, or else he or she has been asleep for the last five years (and didn't bother to get even remotely up to speed on the prior Supreme Court decisions on Guantanamo Bay detainees).

These commenters seem to be unaware that, in direct response to earlier suggestions from the Supreme Court, a bipartisan majority of Congress carefully crafted a system that balanced national security concerns against the need to provide fair, just hearings for these detainees.  By no means did Congress rubber-stamp what the Bush-43 Administration suggested.

The resulting system closely resembled, and explicitly drew heavily from, the legal system already in place via the Uniform Code of Military Justice for our own servicemen and -women who are accused of crimes. The resulting statutes thus represented the will of the people as expressed through both of the elected branches of government, which — not coincidentally — are also the two branches of government given substantial responsibility by the Constitution with the declaring and conduct of war.

Nobody was going to be "held indefinitely" under this system. To the contrary, under the statutory provisions swept away as "unconstitutional" by the Court this week, the government most emphatically did have to prove a formal case to establish reasons why each detainee should continue to be held.

This is not a subject on which reasonable minds can differ. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge that Congress created, and the president signed, laws creating an elaborate system for trying these detainees is, to be very blunt about it, stuck on stupid.  Please, please, please quit mindlessly repeating the anti-Bush screed of the Hard Left from 2004 — get with the program and at least update your screed to the current version being preached by Bush-haters in 2008. Even then, you'd need to include in your screed the dozens of Democrats in both the House and the Senate who voted for the legislation declared unconstitutional this week.

Look, folks, this wasn't really about George W. Bush. He'll head back to Crawford in January, but this problem won't be remotely close to being resolved by then. Rather, this case is about whether, and to what extent, the federal courts can fly-speck and then overturn both the Executive and Legislative Branches on matters that are absolutely central to the prosecution of war by our military forces. If you can only see this through anti-Bush goggles, you're blinding yourself to what's important.


UPDATE (Mon Jun 16 @ 1:10pm): As to the two commenters whom I've blasted for misstating the fundamental issues in Boumediene, I'm not sure whether the following quote mitigates their offense or not. But it certainly proves that the Democratic nominee for president is at least equally clueless:

Taking audience questions in Pennsylvania, Obama praised Thursday's Supreme Court decision to allow detainees at Guantanamo Bay to challenge their imprisonment in federal courts. Enforcing habeas corpus rights, he said, is "the essence of who we are."

"Even when Nazis' atrocities became known in the 1940s, he said, "we still gave them a day in court" at the Nuremberg trials. "That taught the entire world about who we are," he said.

Obama has no excuse for failing to know that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 in fact provides procedural and substantive protections to the Guantanamo detainees which meet or exceed those which were provided the Nuremberg defendants in their trials by the four-powers military commissions (in which the defendants were most emphatically not guaranteed any rights under the U.S. Constitution, either by habeas corpus petitions or otherwise). Obama voted against that legislation, but one can reasonably presume that he knew what was in it.

Thus, Obama's argument that the detainees would be denied "a day in court" under the MCA is shockingly stupid or shockingly disingenuous. My bet is on the latter: He wants people to be misled over the issues in this decision; he wants to dupe people into the same shallow, entirely erroneous point of view from which my commenters suffered. And the carefully considered statement on Obama's website supports my inference as to his intentions: "The Court's decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo — yet another failed policy supported by John McCain." If you cannot trust this man to even state the issues accurately, can you trust anything about him?

Posted by Beldar at 11:24 PM in Global War on Terror, Law (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (18)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

SCOTUS disgrace: Foreign terrorists captured abroad held to have same rights under U.S. Constitution as U.S. citizens

It's a sad, sad day for our country. A majority of the members of the United States Supreme Court have shown themselves unable to distinguish between an existential military struggle — quite literally, a war over the very existence of western civilization — and ordinary street crime committed by U.S. residents wholly within America. The obvious and inevitable consequence of today's Supreme Court decision will be that terrorist killers presently in captivity, captured at the cost of American soldiers' lives and limbs, will be released instead of punished, and they will return to killing both Americans and others again.

The Supreme Court ruled today that terrorists who are citizens of foreign countries, who have never set foot within the United States, and who have systematically forfeited all the protections of the organized laws of warfare that would entitle them to be treated as prisoners of war, are, when captured on foreign battlefields by the U.S. military, nevertheless entitled to access to the federal court system of the United States — in most essential respects, exactly as if they were lawful, taxpaying citizens born here, raised here, and arrested here by the domestic police for alleged crimes committed here.

If Osama bin Laden, wearing no uniform, surrounded by children as human shields, and in mid-stroke while he's sawing the head off a captured American nurse, is captured by American soldiers tomorrow in Pakistan or Afghanistan, then his rights to use the federal writ of habeas corpus to guarantee him the protections afforded by the United States Constitution will be, so far as I can determine, indistinguishable from my own if I were arrested at my home by the Houston Police Department on a warrant for overdue parking tickets.

The Supreme Court has so ordered notwithstanding the fact that the people's lawful representatives — through statutes passed by their Congress, and signed into law by their president — had otherwise decreed. Instead, five members of the Supreme Court have set themselves up above the rest of the people and government of the United States of America, and they have proclaimed that even acting together, the Congress and president lack the constitutional power to make other provisions for these foreign barbarians and monsters captured on foreign battlefields while trying to destroy America and everything related to it. In the measured words of Chief Justice Roberts' dissent:

Today the Court strikes down as inadequate the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants. The political branches crafted these procedures amidst an ongoing military conflict, after much careful investigation and thorough debate. The Court rejects them today out of hand, without bothering to say what due process rights the detainees possess, without explaining how the statute fails to vindicate those rights, and before a single petitioner has even attempted to avail himself of the law’s operation.

And in the more fiery dissent from Justice Scalia:

THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s dissent, which I join, shows that the procedures prescribed by Congress in the Detainee Treatment Act provide the essential protections that habeas corpus guarantees; there has thus been no suspension of the writ, and no basis exists for judicial intervention beyond what the Act allows. My problem with today’s opinion is more fundamental still: The writ of habeas corpus does not, and never has, run in favor of aliens abroad; the Suspension Clause thus has no application, and the Court’s intervention in this military matter is entirely ultra vires [i.e., beyond the Supreme Court's own power].

Make no mistake about it: This was a naked, arrogant power grab of wartime, war-fighting power by the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. This is Anthony Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer doing their dead-level best — not to protect you and me from the terrorists, but to protect the terrorists and to prevent Congress and the president from protecting you and me!

The readily foreseeable, and indeed inevitable consequence of this decision is that the United States government — when forced to fight a military war as if it were street crime, and when forbidden to punish war criminals unless it can comply with the full range of procedural safeguards from our domestic criminal justice system — will have to release captured terrorists who will then immediately return to killing. Their victims will be not just American soldiers, but innocent civilians of every nationality and religion (including Muslims). Again from Justice Scalia's dissent:

The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed. That consequence would be tolerable if necessary to preserve a time-honored legal principle vital to our constitutional Republic. But it is this Court’s blatant abandonment of such a principle that produces the decision today.

This decision is a disgrace and a travesty. It's awful law and even more disastrous policy. It's the single worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in my lifetime, and quite arguably its worst in American history. It can't be sugar-coated. It can't be minimized. In all probability, it can only be thoroughly undone by a constitutional amendment, or by a pronounced change in the membership of the Court that will deprive the liberal wing of a crucial fifth vote in such cases and open the possibility of this decision being overruled.

(There is, still, a chance that Congress and the president could sidestep the decision by formally invoking the Suspension Clause based on the invasion of 9/11, and I think Pres. Bush should immediately propose such legislation, so that it becomes a campaign issue in November races for both Congress and POTUS if Congress doesn't promptly go along. But Congress and the president ought not have to "suspend" habeas corpus rights for foreign terrorists who never, ever in American history have been construed to have them in the first place.)

John McCain says he will appoint Supreme Court Justices in the mold of the four Justices who dissented. Barack Obama admits he will appoint more Supreme Court Justices in the mold of those in today's majority — which means Justices who are eager to seize this sort of power from the American people and their elected representatives, claiming a constitutional entitlement to run this country. There is no difference between the two candidates remotely as stark as this one, and I don't think there is any difference that is more important.

Our enemies will never defeat us. We have the power to defeat ourselves, however, and today's decision by the Supreme Court is a terrible, tragic step toward such a defeat. What will you do in November? Will you help accelerate these judicial power-grabs? Or will you help reverse them?

Posted by Beldar at 03:42 PM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, Law (2008), Politics (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (49)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coffin nails, lies, and the junior senator from Illinois

So what else has Obama been lying to the American public about in addition to his lies about quitting smoking last year?

Why's he still being so evasive about the most recent time he "fell off the wagon"? Every successful ex-smoker I know can tell you to the day when he last had a cigarette; almost every liar about quitting smoking uses the sort of evasive language that Obama still is using.

Why does the press continue to let him get away with that? (cough*inthetank*cough*hacks*cough)

If he really quit last year with only occasional lapses (and those were really "months" ago) why is his "body man" still carrying "emergency Nicorette"? Why's he still still chewing it "regularly ... when not at campaign events"? Niorette's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, warns: "It is important to complete your Nicorette quit program at the end of 12 weeks, so stop using Nicorette at that time. If you still feel the need to use it, talk to your doctor." Obama said in November 2007 that he'd started using it "about nine months ago," causing the NYT to speculate even then that he'd replaced a cigarette addition with one to the gum!

"Real medicine in the form of a gum," says the Nicorette website; indeed, when first released, it required a prescription, and most drug-stores now keep even the over-the-counter version in locked cabinets.

So is Obama regularly misusing any other over-the-counter drugs?

And why's he released only a single page of medical records — an undated letter based on his last examination, and that almost 17 months ago — in marked contrast to the thousands of pages released by the grumpy old man who's running against him? Why's Obama refusing to make the doctor who wrote it, his internist since 1987, available for even a telephone interview?

(H/t: DRJ, in a comment to my April 4 post speculating that Obama was concealing a still-active cigarette habit notwithstanding having claimed to have quit.)

Posted by Beldar at 04:04 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (20)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Texas CPS workers interviewed on FLDS intervention

In a comment to my last post on the FLDS polygamy/child abuse controversy, regular reader and commenter DRJ left this link to a San Angelo newspaper's interview with some of the Children's Protective Services workers who were involved in the initial intervention at the Yearning for Zion ranch and who continue to be involved in the on-going investigation. Their viewpoints haven't much been heard, and I agree with her that they deserve to be, at least to the limited extent that they can speak out now without discussing individual pending cases. A sample:

"We have to back it up with fact," said special investigator Paul Dyer. "That's what we're doing. What you may read in the newspaper or see on the television — that's not necessarily supported by fact. Our investigation is and will be supported by fact."


For Dyer and fellow special investigator Eric Sanders — retired law enforcement officers who work on investigations and often serve as protection for female caseworkers — the wait that night was especially tense.

Jessop would allow only women into the compound. The men, waiting outside the gate with law enforcement and other CPS employees, slept in cars, walked outside and fidgeted while lightning flashed ominously in the black night.

Inside, according to Voss' testimony at an en masse hearing two weeks later and signed affidavits filed by CPS, the investigators ran into resistance — changing birthdates, coached answers, missing or shredded documents.

Distrust had already been high. The sect waited four hours before allowing law enforcement and CPS — which had a court order signed by 51st District Judge Barbara Walther — through the front gates, negotiating the terms of their entrance.

Even participating in such a negotiation was highly unusual, but the agency felt compelled to be as respectful as possible to the sect's wishes, [CPS investigator Ruby] Gutierrez said.

(The "Paul Dyer" referenced and quoted in the article is, so far as I know, no relation to me.)

DRJ had earlier linked an interesting article regarding Texas "Ranger Capt. Barry Caver, the lawman who led the Eldorado search, handled the Republic of Texas incident, and was the [very frustrated] Texas Ranger liaison with the federal agents in Waco." From that one:

Caver and the 22 other Company E Rangers in 43 [west Texas] counties ... had known for four years Eldorado would one day be trouble because of now-imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs' reputation.

"It was just a matter of when," he said. "We'd been trying to develop relationships with them so we would know who to talk to. But we had no idea how many were in there. We had thought maybe 150, not 600-700. It was overwhelming."

There are almost always at least two sides to every story. Here, there may be dozens and hundreds of sides. In due course, each of them should be heard, because every one of these children and families matter.

Posted by Beldar at 05:29 PM in Current Affairs, Law (2008) | Permalink | Comments (13)

Would Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin be a grand slam as McCain's Veep?

[UPDATE (Fri Aug 29 @ 2:45pm): What follows was the first in a series of almost a dozen posts I've written about the possibility of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin becoming John McCain's running mate. For a table with titles and dates, along with links, to those posts, click here. — Beldar.]


Palin I fear that it may be counterproductive for conservative bloggers to make any recommendations to the McCain campaign regarding his vice presidential selection. And the conventional wisdom is that, the GOP convention coming after the Dems' convention, he ought to at least wait to see who Obama picks (although Obama may not wait until his convention either).

Nevertheless, I've spent several hours now reading about, and watching video clips of, 44-year-old Alaska governor Sarah Heath Palin. There are indications that she's on McCain's radar, along with many other candidates. I, for one, am very, very impressed with her. Indeed, I'm convinced already that it's no fluke that she's more popular with her constituents than any other current American governor (roughly a 90% approval rating). And I'm finding myself increasingly receptive to, and even persuaded by, the idea that she would be not merely a bold pick, but a smart pick, as McCain's running mate.

If you're not acquainted with Gov. Palin already, you owe it to yourself to get up to speed.

Start with Fred Barnes' July 2007 essay in the Weekly Standard. Barnes charts mostly the latter part of Palin's sharp-elbowed rise through Alaska politics as a reformer puncturing the well-feathered complacency of way-too-comfy Alaska Republicans. Barnes mostly omits her political start as a city councilman, and then (beginning in 1996) the successful two-term mayor/city manager, of Wasilla; as mayor of that fast-growing Anchorage suburb, she reduced property tax levels while increasing services and drawing in new industry. She was also elected head of Alaska's conference of mayors.

After a narrow 2002 primary loss for lieutenant governor, in 2004 Palin, from her appointed position as chair of the Alaska Conservation Commission (the state agency which regulates oil and gas), complained to "[then-]Governor Frank Murkowski and to state Attorney General Gregg Renkes about ethical violations by another commissioner, Randy Ruedrich, who was also Republican state chairman." Rebuffed, she resigned — but then deftly proceeded to drive all three of them out of office, finally triumphantly besting incumbent Murkowski in 2006 by capturing 51% of the vote in a three-way GOP primary. Palin then won handily (and against national trends) against popular former governor Tony Knowles in the 2006 general election. (Campaign slogan: "New Energy for Alaska.")

Of course, in between his apologies for his boneheaded connections to convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko and his Congressional earmarks  to Michelle's employer, Barack Obama can talk a very good game about the (toothless and ineffective) ethics bill he co-sponsored (along with many other senators) in the U.S. Senate. But Sarah Palin actually risked her entire political career to take on her own party's entrenched leadership, and then thoroughly and effectively cleaned house in the largest state in the Union. Between her and Obama, who's already proven him- or herself more likely to provide the "change you can believe in"?

PalinfishThis spring she used her line-item veto to cut $268 million from state spending bills — in a state that, comparatively, is flush with money, which makes pork projects almost irresistible. She resisted, and it appears that she's going to make her vetoes stick. That's the antidote to Bridges to Nowhere! (Which she opposed, by the way; the federal money originally committed to it, she's now re-directed into more appropriate infrastructure programs.)

As governor, she's also pushed hard against other entrenched interests, including the energy companies (BP, ConocoPhilips, and ExxonMobil) who hold the lease rights to much of Alaska's oil and gas wealth. She is a fierce, knowledgeable, and articulate advocate of responsible development of Alaskan resources to benefit not only its own residents — who actually pay among the nation's highest gasoline prices and have the least access to affordable and clean natural gas — but also the other 49 states, and she recognizes that this is not just a matter of economic necessity, but ultimately of national security.

Gov. Palin, negotiating Palin has spoken out and brought suit to prevent radical environmentalists from exploiting the ridiculous naming of the polar bear as an endangered species, showing no hesitation to stand up against them or their well-wishers in the federal bureaucracy. Yet she and her family are enthusiastic outdoorsmen — engaging in ice fishing, hunting, and snow-mobiling (her husband has won the 2000-mile Iron Dog race four times). Check out this campaign video of her and her family loading up their single-prop float-plane (not a corporate jet!) with sporting gear — that's got to be at least as cool as Obama shooting hoops.

It doesn't hurt that Gov. Palin is attractive and photogenic. (She was not, as Jonah Goldberg recently wrote, Miss Alaska, but she was Miss Wasilla; last December Vogue Magazine came to photograph her and her three daughters back in Wasilla; and comedian Craig Ferguson declares that she has a "sort of naughty librarian vibe.") But she's climbed through local and state politics on her own — not based on who her daddy or her husband is (or was) — and listening to her talk on energy policy or any other substantive matter for about 30 seconds (e.g., in this interview with Glenn Beck, starting at about 4:25) will definitively dispel any notions that she's skated by on good looks.

Miss Wasilla 1984   Gov. Palin on a normal business day

And yet Palin seems to be, insofar as one can ever tell from the media reflections, pretty well grounded — still very much your average soccer or ice-hockey mom in addition to her other roles. I really liked this video, too (alas, may only work in Internet Explorer), taken by a local TV station as she and her daughters first arrived at the newly-vacant Governor's Mansion. (I love it when the youngest daughter, Piper, is chastising the older two, Bristol and Willow, as they check out the attic!) Gov. Palin's first-born and oldest son, Track, isn't shown in that video because he enlisted in the Army on September 11, 2007 (he's volunteered to serve in Iraq). And finally, this story about the Palins' brand new infant son, Trig, born just a few weeks ago, leaves me literally teary-eyed in admiration at her and her whole family's faith, love, and courage. Suffice it to say that Sarah Palin's pro-family, pro-life credentials are absolutely compelling.

Gov. Palin, lifelong hunter & NRA member More (generally pro-Palin) punditry, weighing her political pros and cons as a Veep nominee: Josh Painter; Thomas Cheplick; Jack Kelly; Rush Limbaugh; AllahPundit; Ace; John Fund; Don Surber; Glenn Reynolds; Ann Althouse; Brian Faughnan; and a Palin for VP website.

Is she as ready to step into the presidency at a moment's notice as would be, say, Fred Thompson? No. But Thompson, as much as I love him, isn't going to be the Veep nominee; he and McCain together would look like they're running on the Whig ticket. Palin's local and state-government experience is as good or better, though, than that of Charlie Crist and some of the other youngish governors who've been mentioned. (All governors tend to be weak on national security credentials, but that, fortunately, is where McCain is strongest.) And although it hasn't yet been on a national stage, Palin has been an elected public servant, starting at the local level and rising to her state's highest office, since before Obama himself was ever elected to anything, even though she's two years younger than he is.

Gov. Palin's cover on Alaska Magazine   Gov. Palin & husband Todd Palin, a/k/a the 'First Dude,' dancing

"Sarah Barracuda," she was nicknamed when she led her high school basketball team to the state finals. I'm reminded, thinking of possible inaugural balls, of the old line about Ginger Rogers — that she did all the fancy footwork and artistic dance steps that Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire could do on the dance floors, except backwards and in a ball-gown and heels. Afterwards, though, Gov. Palin would switch to her North Face gear, shoulder up her 30.06, and hop on the snow-mobile with one of her daughters to go track down some more moose meat for tomorrow's supper.

Sarah Palin is walking, talking, governing proof that feminism, motherhood, and conservatism aren't inconsistent.

Of course, Alaska and its three electoral votes are not "in play." But shoring up even a single big state like Florida or Virginia or Ohio through a favorite-son Veep candidate is small-ball — maybe a bunt that might or might not produce a base hit, and that might or might not score a run.

I'm thinking that to unite the GOP's conservative base, peel off more independents and some disappointed Clintonistas, continue taking the wind out of Obamamania, and match Obama for sheer coolness, McCain may need a genuine four-bag home-run on the boards from his Veep nominee. I'm thinking that Sarah Palin may just be all that.

Gov. Sarah Palin, campaigning


UPDATE (Mon Jun 9 @ 10:45am): A reader pointed out to me that Gov. Palin — unlike Sen. Obama — has recently visited our troops in the Middle East. These photos are from her July 2007 visit to Alaska National Guard troops serving in a support role in Kuwait, and to others being treated at the American military hospital in Landsduhl, Germany:

Gov. Palin at Camp Buehring in Kuwait

Gov. Palin in Kuwait with soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, Alaska National Guard

Gov. Palin visits Army Private James Pattison at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center


UPDATE (Mon Jun 9 @ 11:45am): Here's more re "First Dude" Todd that suggests how Gov. Palin might help McCain with blue-collar voters:

It's not just his title as the state's reigning snowmobile co-champion that sets 42-year-old Todd Palin apart from the nation's other first spouses. And it's not that he's one of just five who are men.

White-collar jobs in law, education or health care are typical among the current crop of first spouses, but Palin spent nearly 20 years as a blue-collar employee in the oil fields of the North Slope. And every summer he heads west to his birthplace in Dillingham to work the Bristol Bay commercial salmon fishery from his property on the Nushagak River.

A lifetime of manual labor in the state's two largest and most physically demanding industries is helping Palin carve out his role as Alaska's first spouse, or "first dude," a nickname he has in common with the Kansas governor's husband, Gary Sebelius....

"For those of us who learn by touching and tearing stuff apart and for those who don't have the financial background to go to college, just being a product of that on-the-job training is really important," Palin said one morning over pastries at an Anchorage coffee shop, before meeting with trainers at several companies and trade groups in Anchorage and Wasilla.

Palin, who took college courses, but does not have a degree, said he is grateful for the training he received from the multinational oil company BP starting in 1989.

Until recently, he earned hourly wages as a production operator in a BP-run facility that separates oil from gas and water. Palin was making between $100,000 and $120,000 a year before he went on leave in December to make more time for his family and avoid potential conflicts of interest. London-based BP is heavily involved in the gas pipeline negotiations with his wife's administration.

His grandmother, by the way, is a "highly respected elder" from the Curyung tribe of the Yup'ik Eskimos (a/k/a Native Alaskans).

Posted by Beldar at 10:17 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 07, 2008

WaPo says Obama would be "pragmatic" to adopt Bush's Iraq policy and says Obama is "unreasonably wedded" to bug-out plans

In an incredible editorial sub-titled "After all, he doesn't see the region much differently than President Bush does," Saturday's WaPo notes, as I did yesterday, that over the course of the past week, Obama has flip-flopped into general alignment with the Bush Administration's position on Jerusalem and, more broadly, most of the Bush Administration's position on how to approach Iran.

It then predicts, amazingly, that Obama will soon also flip-flop himself into a betrayal of the Hard Left on Iraq:

The gap in Mr. Obama's Middle East policy remains Iraq. Mr. Obama has used his opposition to the war to distinguish himself politically from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and now from Mr. McCain. Yet, in doing so, he has become unreasonably wedded to a year-old proposal to rapidly withdraw all U.S. combat forces from the country — a plan offered when he wrongly believed that the situation would only worsen as long as American troops remained. Remarkably, only a sentence or two about Iraq appeared in Mr. Obama's AIPAC speech, and advisers say he may visit the country in coming months. That would offer him the opportunity to outline a strategy based on sustaining the dramatic reduction in violence recorded this year. No, the left wouldn't like it, but it would be in keeping with Mr. Obama's pragmatic approach to the rest of the region.

I would pay good money to be able to hear Dick Cheney's guffaws as he reads this over breakfast. It's as close to an apology as he and Dubya will ever get from the WaPo.

Posted by Beldar at 05:06 AM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Next year in Jerusalem?

Jerusalem The precise status of Jerusalem has been the focus of blow-torch hot debate continuously since it was captured (or liberated or re-captured, there's argument even about that) by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel, pointing to historic Jewish ties to the ancient city going back to the 10th Century BC, considers Jerusalem to be its modern capital. Indeed, the distantly subsidiary issue of when and whether the U.S. will officially move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has itself been the subject of years of national and international debate, and even of legislation passed by Congress in 1995 (supposedly compelling a move that, once again this week, has been suspended for yet another six months). Palestinians consider Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine, however, and continue to demand its "return."

I mean no offense to anyone, but if you didn't already know this, you cannot consider yourself even moderately well informed on Middle East diplomacy in particular or world history in general. Jerusalem is a hot-button issue. Any American politician or diplomat who ventures to talk about Jerusalem's future is rolling sideways through a minefield.

But now somebody is running for president on a platform which promises that through smart and tough diplomacy, he's going to fix all the Middle East's problems that poor damn dumb George W. Bush has just willfully ignored for seven years. He's bringing us change you can believe in! So he shows up to woo the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Wednesday of this week, and here's what happens, according to WaPo's Dana Milbank (boldface mine):

A mere 12 hours after claiming the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee yesterday — and changed himself into an Israel hard-liner.

He promised $30 billion in military assistance for Israel. He declared that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force has "rightly been labeled a terrorist organization." [*Cough!* — Beldar] He used terms such as "false prophets of extremism" and "corrupt" while discussing Palestinians. And [Obama] promised that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

Us_israel_flagpinVowing to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon, the newly minted nominee apparent added: "I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally, Israel. Do not be confused."

How could they be confused? As a pandering performance, it was the full Monty by a candidate who, during the primary, had positioned himself to Hillary Clinton's left on matters such as Iran. Yesterday, Obama, who has generally declined to wear an American-flag lapel pin, wore a joint U.S.-Israeli [flag] pin, and even tried a Hebrew phrase on the crowd.

Brilliant public diplomacy, no? Surely the reasonable leaders who purport to represent the Palestinian people must have been persuaded by this dazzling, diplomatic young American with the multi-cultural name and heritage, no?


A day later, offstage (and with news of his retreat buried by his MSM friends on places like page A6 of the WaPo), Diplomat-in-Chief Obama has to back down with his tail between his legs (boldface mine):

Facing criticism from Palestinians, Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged yesterday that the status of Jerusalem will need to be negotiated in future peace talks, amending a statement earlier in the week that the city "must remain undivided."

Obama's statement, made during a speech Wednesday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, drew a swift rebuke from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"This statement is totally rejected," Abbas told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "The whole world knows that holy Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, and we will not accept a Palestinian state without having Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state."

The Bush administration's official position is that the status of Jerusalem must be decided by the parties. Before he left office, President Bill Clinton proposed a formula under which "Jerusalem should be an open and undivided city," including locating the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.

Obama quickly backtracked yesterday in an interview with CNN.

"Well, obviously, it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations," Obama said when asked whether Palestinians had no future claim to the city.

Yes, that damned, dumb, undiplomatic George W. Bush is sure holding up the works in achieving Middle East peace. It's a good thing that Obama will be bringing us change we can believe in — typically from one of his own half-baked positions to some different one, often within 24 hours. In this instance, Obama's latest "change" is to precisely the position on Jerusalem that Dubya has held continuously through the last seven years.

Genius! Insightful! How has the world managed without Diplomat-in-Chief Obama for so long?


UPDATE (Sat Jun 7 @ wee-small-hours): Aliens appear to have kidnapped James Taranto and replaced him with a facsimile programmed to issue pro-Obama non sequiturs. I pray for his escape. (And to put it mildly, I disagree with his essay on Obama's "Jerusalem kerfuffle," which lurches to a conclusion inconsistent with either its own premises or his usual good judgment.) To the extent Taranto is back-handedly saying that Dubya's policy (which Obama flip-flopped into) is reasonable, he's right. Praising Obama's method of getting there, though, and failing to recognize his inconsistency in route, is over-generous to the rookie diplomat, for its his consistency in judgment that is precisely at issue.

Posted by Beldar at 03:48 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (10)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Not credible

Bill Clinton and Gina Gershon?!? Not believable, not even before her lawyers' threat-letter to Vanity Fair with its denials that they were ever even alone together.

Gina Gershon  Gina Gershon

There's frankly no telling which Hollywood types might be willing to do a Monica-reprise even today. But Bubba would never, ever pick someone who could, on a whim (or if offended), kick his butt between his ears and beyond. I have no doubt that Gina Gershon could do that, and Bubba would know that too. She's just not remotely his type.

Posted by Beldar at 10:12 PM in Current Affairs, Humor, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (8)

Obama friend, client, contributor, and home-purchase benefactor Tony Rezko convicted on 16 of 24 corruption counts

Like this was a big surprise to anyone who's been paying attention:

Convicted fraud Tony Rezko (ChiTrib photo)A federal jury today convicted developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko of corruption charges for trading on his clout as a top adviser and fundraiser to Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Rezko's guilty verdict on 16 of 24 corruption counts could have broad repercussions for Blagojevich, who made Rezko a central player in his cabinet. It could also prove a political liability for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who once counted Rezko as a friend and fundraiser, as the likely Democratic presidential nominee heads into the general election campaign against Republican John McCain.

Here's how the WaPo's David Ignatius charitably summarized the Rezko-Obama relationship in April (ellipsis by WaPo):

Obama met Rezko in the early 1990s as he was finishing up at Harvard Law School. Rezko was well connected in Chicago's African American community, in part because he had worked with Jabir Herbert Muhammad, the son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, when he was managing the career of boxer Muhammad Ali, according to a May 2005 profile in the Chicago Tribune.

Rezko moved into real estate and political fundraising, often a combustible combination in Chicago. Rezko offered Obama a job with his real estate company soon after they met, but Obama declined. When Obama decided to run for the state Senate in 1995, Rezko was his "first substantial contributor," according to the Tribune. That money relationship continued, with Rezko raising as much as $250,000 over the course of Obama's five Illinois races, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.

The friendship may have reflected the fact that both men were outsiders, trying to establish themselves in the rough-and-tumble world of Chicago. Obama told the Sun-Times last month: "My assessment of Tony Rezko was that he was an immigrant who had sort of pulled himself up by his bootstraps.... I think he saw me as somebody who had talent, but he was probably also intrigued by my international background."

Part of what Obama says he liked about Rezko was his graciousness: "He never asked me for anything."

The relationship became controversial because of the now-famous home-purchase deal: When Obama and his wife bought a $1.65 million house in Chicago in June 2005, Rezko's wife simultaneously bought the adjoining lot and later sold part of it to the Obamas so that they could have a bigger yard.

Obama conceded in an interview with the Chicago Tribune last month that in the real estate deal, "I made a mistake in not seeing the potential conflicts of interest or appearances of impropriety." He said of Rezko's motivation in the purchase of the adjoining lot, "He perhaps thought that this would strengthen our relationship. He could have even thought he was doing me a favor."

What's troubling about this story is that at the time Obama bought the house in June 2005, allegations had already surfaced about Rezko's alleged influence-peddling.

(Yeah, right: "He never asked me for anything," nyuk nyuk. Neither did Don Corleone, who instead said only, "Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But, until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day." Graciousness, indeed.)

What's also "troubling" about this story is that Rezko's simultaneous purchase from the same sellers was at its full $650k asking price, whereas Obama got a $300k discount off the $1.95M asking price for his house. Oh, Rezko and the sellers of course deny that Rezko overpaid so Obama could underpay. (To admit that sort of oral quid pro quo almost certainly would have gotten everyone, including Obama, convicted of fraud in connection with the mortgage Rezko's wife took out.) But we're supposed to believe (as good little suckers) that the professional real estate mogul, the slumlord, couldn't manage to knock as much as $1000 of the asking price of the property his wife bought — indeed, doesn't even claim to have tried to — while clever, sophisticated Barack and Michelle simultaneously negotiated a $300k price drop from the very same sellers. Yeah, right.

Realistically, the whole set of transactions stink (look at the property layouts as shown in the video linked here) — and indeed, they smell exactly like a six-figure hidden cash contribution by a well-connected, now-convicted influence peddler directly to the Obama family. Note: two of Rezko's convictions are for money-laundering, a crime very typically committed through fraudulent, collusive, but hard-to-prove mis-evaluations of property values.

Ignatius also left out the part — famously used as a debate zinger by Hillary Clinton — about Obama's law firm defending slumlord Rezko in lawsuits against his slum-residing tenants. Doncha know Hill and Bill are cussin' the Rezko jury, though — not for their result as such, but for not reaching it before yesterday?

(Congrats, by the way, to U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald and his staff. Righteous work, folks.)


UPDATE (Wed Jun 4 @ 8:25pm): And this is no surprise, either:

"I'm saddened by today's verdict," Obama said in a statement. "This isn't the Tony Rezko I knew, but now he has been convicted by a jury on multiple charges that once again shine a spotlight on the need for reform."

Fooled! Fooled once again! Golly, Sen. Obama, how good a judge of character do you claim to be? Is there anybody you've associated with for the last couple of decades who you actually do know?

Posted by Beldar at 05:42 PM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (17)

NYT: Obama stands "calm in the swirl of history"; also time-travels, but makes no time for clerkship and little time for practicing law

In a fawning news article by Michael Powell, the New York Times today describes Barack Obama as "a protean political figure, inspiring devotion in supporters who see him as a transformative leader even as he remains inscrutable to critics." The basic facts of his biography, however, such as they are, are apparently also inscrutable even to adoring reporters from the NYT.

In the article's fourth paragraph: "He turned down a prestigious federal appellate court clerkship while at Harvard to work as a community organizer." And then later, in more detail:

Abner J. Mikva, the former judge, asked Mr. Obama, fresh out of Harvard, to apply as his clerk. Mr. Obama declined, preferring to labor as a community organizer. But, characteristically, he later befriended the older man.

The problem with this is that Obama's "community organizer" days preceded his Harvard Law School days. And after graduating from Harvard Law, Obama went to work at least nominally as an associate attorney at the small Chicago law firm then known as "Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Gallard," with which he continued to be affiliated in a more limited capacity throughout his Illinois Legislature tenure up until his U.S. Senate run in 2004. [Update: But see my update below, re 1991-1993, during which it appears that Obama probably temporarily returned to activities that could qualify as a "community organizer" even after getting his law degree and law license. Mea culpa (although I had some help in making this mistake).]

I say "at least nominally" because that "law firm says Obama logged 3,723 billable hours during his tenure from 1993 to 2004, most of it during the first four years." Even Obama's civil rights or other "public interest" legal work would have been logged — such lawsuits always seek awards of attorneys' fees, and you can't get them unless you've logged the hours, even if your clients weren't paying you out of pocket. But that's fewer hours than would typically be logged in two years by almost any young associate at almost any big-city for-profit law firm. Supposedly Obama took time off to work on his first autobiography. But it's still hard to see how he can be described as ever having been more than a part-time, not-very-serious lawyer, at least based on those numbers and the very vague descriptions of his legal work provided in his books or in news articles like this one.

Look, it's not like the guy has held a whole lot of responsible jobs. That not even his hagiographers at the New York Times can keep them straight also suggests that there's also a lack of substance to the jobs Obama purports to have held. It's either that or, gosh, he's so "transformative" that he can time-travel.


There's also something a bit hinky about the judicial clerkship Obama so nobly turned down.

I do not doubt that Obama, as a magna cum laude graduate and president of the Harvard Law Review, could have landed a prestigious federal circuit court clerkship upon his graduation in 1991. Indeed, those credentials would typically lead to clerking for a prestigious circuit judge and, in the second year following graduation, a Supreme Court clerkship. And Judge Mikva, a Carter appointee from 1979, was by 1991 the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. An opportunity to clerk for him would indeed have been much coveted.

But the normal protocol is that students make written applications for such judicial clerkships. The unwritten understanding is that law students aren't supposed to apply to any judge from whom they wouldn't immediately accept a position if tendered. (I.e., no student is supposed to answer "no" to a clerkship offer.) So did Obama apply, get an offer, and then turn Chief Judge Mikva down anyway? Or was Obama, as the first black president of the HLR, already such a rock-star in legal-academic circles that he received an unsolicited offer from Judge Mikva?

(A third possibility, I suppose, is that Judge Mikva had a "standing offer" to every year's HLR president. I've heard of such arrangements, but I don't know if Judge Mikva indulged in them; and my impression was even such judges who do have such arrangements still prefer that the students go through the formality of submitting an application.)

I don't doubt that Obama and Judge Mikva later became friends, since both were non-tenure track instructors at the University of Chicago Law School later in the decade. And Mikva was a very political lawyer who later served as White House Counsel for the Clinton Administration, so it's not inconceivable that he might have been more than casually receptive to career tracks like Obama's.

Perhaps my suspicions are unfounded, and they're just a product of my surprise that someone with law school credentials bespeaking extraordinary legal talent apparently chose never to use that talent in any really significant way. I'm personally unsympathetic to the notion that turning down the clerkship was so noble: I clerked for a federal circuit judge in 1980-1981, and without exception, every lawyer I know who served as a law clerk to a federal judge feels that he or she rendered a valuable public service by so doing, almost certainly greater in scope than what we could have done even at a "public interest" law firm. Given his political sympathies, the idea that he could have done more "good" working for a small Chicago firm during his first year out of law school than he could have while working for a liberal judge like Mikva is pretty hard to swallow. But suffice it to say that Obama's achievements as a practicing lawyer appear to be even thinner than his achievements as a state or federal legislator.


UPDATE (Wed Jun 4 @ 6:50pm): Or did the NYT get it right after all? I hate to make mistakes in posts, but when I do, I'd rather catch and admit them myself.

The descriptions I'd previously read of Obama working as a "community organizer," and certainly his experiences in that role as told in his first book, Dreams from My Father, all focus on 1985-1988. But Obama's Wikipedia entry currently says, of his immediate post-law school activities, only this: "Obama graduated with a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991, then returned to Chicago where he headed a voter registration drive and began writing his first book, Dreams from My Father, a memoir published in 1995." In turn, it references this article from Chicago Magazine in January 1993 about his work in a voter registration drive in 1992. If that also counts as "community organizer" — and I suppose it could, since that job description could mean almost anything — then perhaps he returned to that vocation, briefly, after law school:

Carol Moseley Braun's upset primary victory over Alan Dixon last March [i.e., March of 1992] altered [Project Vote! founder Sandy] Newman's feelings. "It's not that I wanted to influence the Senate race," Newman says. "Project Vote! is nonpartisan, strictly nonpartisan. But we do focus our efforts on minority voters, and on states where we can explain to them why their vote will matter. Braun made that easier in Illinois." So Newman decided to open a Cook County Project Vote! office and went looking for someone to head it.

The name Barack Obama surfaced. "I was asking around among community activists in Chicago and around the country, and they kept mentioning him," Newman says. Obama by then was working with church and community leaders on the West Side, and he was writing a book that the publisher Simon & Schuster had contracted for while he was editor of the law review. He was 30 years old.

When Newman called, Obama agreed to put his other work aside. "I'm still not quite sure why," Newman says. ''This was not glamorous, high-paying work. But I am certainly grateful. He did one hell of a job."

In that case, it's the LAT instead of the NYT who's confused (and partly responsible for my confusion), because of this statement in its April story about Obama's work as a lawyer: "Obama arrived in Chicago in 1993 with a degree from Harvard Law School and was hired as a junior lawyer at the firm then known as Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Gallard."

The remainder of my confusion can be sourced to Obama's own biography page on his campaign website, which doesn't deign to use many actual dates: "He went on to earn his law degree from Harvard in 1991, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Soon after, he returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer and teach constitutional law." No mention there of a temporary return to "community organizer" status either.

I do know that Obama was licensed in Illinois in December 1991, from which we can confidently infer that he took and passed the summer 1991 bar exam. Beyond that, however, commenters are welcome to provide more info, especially if accompanied by links.

Posted by Beldar at 03:05 PM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (6)

Congrats, America

I'm in full agreement with Chief Justice John Roberts: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Despite the racism bound up in its history, I firmly believe that America is ready to follow that prescription.

The fact that a black man has been chosen as the presidential nominee of a major party is not, by itself, any reason to vote for him. Likewise, there are many reasons why I won't vote for that particular man; his skin color isn't one.

But I congratulate America over what this data point reveals and confirms. Obama's nomination conclusively proves that Rev. Wright is wrong about America, and that Wright is in fact a relic of the history that has passed him (and other racists) by.


UPDATE (Wed Jun 4 @ 11:00am): One of the least perceptive articles on politics I've ever read, written by The New Republic's senior editor John P. Judis, concludes with this paragraph:

In the end, though, Obama faces hurdles at least as great as those that Kennedy faced. Kennedy never fully overcame anti-Catholic prejudice during his campaign. It was only in the aftermath of his victory that the country fully accepted a Catholic politician as an ordinary American politician. In November, Obama may lose far more than he gains from the sheer fact of his being an African American. If, in October, the country is still discussing Obama's relationship to Reverend Wright and not the Republican record on the economy and foreign policy, he is likely to suffer defeat — not as decisively, certainly, as Al Smith did, but defeat nonetheless.

If, in October, the country is still discussing Obama's relationship to Reverend Wright, that will mean that the country rejects black-on-white racism, which in Wright's case is mixed with healthy portions of conspiracy-theory nuttiness and plain old anti-Americanism. One need not be white, nor racist, to take offense at Wright's rants; indeed, they offend as many black Americans as they do Americans of any other race, and they ought to have offended the Obama family before they hit You-Tube (which is the whole point). And those problems are particular to Obama and Wright — they're not something that would afflict all black candidates. Only an utter dimwit could interpret Obama's political problems arising from his relationship with Wright as evidencing widespread traditional white-on-black racism of the sort that was still widespread in, say, 1960.

Posted by Beldar at 04:39 AM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (5)

Beldar's big-picture observations re Obama's nomination

In April 2007, I predicted that Barack Obama would win the Democratic nomination, but I did not predict the sliver-of-a-whisker closeness of the race. Now the five months of the primaries are done, with five months remaining to the election. Besides the identities of the two major parties' nominees, what else, if anything, is the big news from the last five months?

It's this: I expected Barack Obama to be substantially unbloodied at this point. Instead, he's bleeding badly from the nose and lip, and he's already been forced to duck, weave, and counter-punch. Most importantly, his bloodying came largely at the hands of his fellow Democrats, during a period when the loyalties of his natural allies in the mainstream media were still somewhat divided. McCain therefore will avoid any significant backlash — all the backlash has stuck to Hillary.

Much of Obama's appeal has been in his charisma and polish. The charisma remains, but the polish has been permanently marred.

I don't doubt that Obama will largely regain his footing, and most of his recent stumbles and gaffes will be inconsequential by November. But the cuts that have been already been opened — mainly vulnerabilities associated with his elitist attitudes and with his long-time close associations, including Wright, Pfleger, Trinity, Rezko, Ayers/Dohrn, and (potentially most dangerously) his wife — are in spots that are likely to be pounded again and again. The pounding will be less by McCain than by other foes of the Democrats — but those primary wounds will remain at enormous risk of re-opening and then copiously hemorrhaging throughout the general election campaign.

Simultaneously, the opportunities for sharp punches that have always been available to any Obama opponent — chiefly relating his incredible lack of experience, a topic that lacks the backlash risk of the personal association issues — remain available to McCain. From Obama's speech tonight:

In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.

But exactly what — besides a meteoric rise through politics and his rock-star cult status — are Barack Obama's "many accomplishments"? I have a finger and thumb left over on one hand when I try to list them, and even those are quite modest: being the minority-party senator allowed by two senior GOP senators to co-sponsor noncontroversial bills on securing ex-Soviet nuclear weapons and government reporting on spending, and being a co-sponsor with dozens of others on a laughably toothless ethics bill. And even those "accomplishments" are dwarfed by his utter failure to convene even a single hearing on a major Senate subcommittee whose chairmanship was entrusted to him by Senate Democrats. Senators famously can be divided into "work-horses" and "show-horses," but if we factor in the hundreds of votes Obama's missed while campaigning, he's made his only mark as a U.S. senator by being a "no-show horse"!

Obama also remains the candidate of MoveOn.org. He is of, and beholden to, and naturally in sympathy with, the Very Hard and Very Angry Left, not the political center. He is more radical than McGovern, and that's an objective fact simply based on his voting record. I read this week someone's analysis that "McGovern is to Obama as Goldwater was to Reagan." That strikes me as profoundly wishful thinking. There may be a few more states now with Hard Left majorities than there were in 1972 (when Nixon won in the Electoral College by 520/17), but not anywhere near enough to get to 270 electoral votes.

McCain's still the underdog. He's far from my ideal candidate. But he ought to monopolize the political center. His chances are better, by far, than I would have predicted a year ago, or than they possibly could have been absent the bruising, extended Democratic primary. Bottom line:  A five-month battle wouldn't have been adequate for America to complete its reality check on Barack Obama. A ten-month battle may be, and come November, that's what we'll have had.

Posted by Beldar at 03:30 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (7)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Obama must rely on minions to rewrite history to dilute the effect of his worst gaffes

Here's the concluding paragraph of a New York Times report announcing that Sen. & Mrs. Obama have resigned their membership in Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ:

Now that Mr. Obama has addressed his ties to the church and pastor in a long speech and fully broken with both, it is not clear what else he can say or do to ameliorate the continued concerns of some voters about those associations.

The answer is: There's nothing he can do to overcome the concerns of some voters. His resignation from Trinity now, coupled with his reluctant denouncement of Rev. Wright's historical and current remarks, amounts to a clear admission that what Trinity condones is toxic for a presidential candidate. But those particular voters — the ones who are paying attention — have already noted that Obama's relationship with this church has been longer than any other adult relationship except for his marriage. He's been a member of that church for many times longer than he's been either a U.S. senator or state legislator, for example.

Thus, there's nothing else he can say or do to fix this. Everything he says about it is likely to make things worse, in fact, for prospective voters who've been paying attention.

So he has to rely on proxies. Fortunately for him, he has lots, in institutions like the New York Times. And they will be his willing accomplices in rewriting history, at least to knock off the roughest edges. Even to the point of telling enormous whoppers. For example, from the same NYT story:

Mr. Wright, however, emerged from retirement in April and spoke at the National Press Club, offering deeper and broader criticism of the United States and using mocking language. Among other things, he opined that the United States government may have had a hand in creating the AIDS epidemic.

This paragraph is one of the most egregious examples I've ever seen of lying by omission.

What made Wright's comment so outrageous was not his suggestion that the government "had a hand in creating the AIDS epidemic," but rather that the government — the white U.S. of KKK A. government — had done so specifically to afflict blacks. The NYT's sanitized version suggests that Obama's multi-decade pastor accused the United States government of being inept; but Obama's multi-decade pastor actually accused the United States government of engaging in deliberate and covert genocide against its own black citizenry:

MODERATOR: In your sermon, you said the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. So I ask you: Do you honestly believe your statement and those words?

WRIGHT: Have you read Horowitz's book, "Emerging Viruses: AIDS and Ebola," whoever wrote that question? Have you read "Medical Apartheid"? You've read it?

(UNKNOWN): Do you honestly believe that (OFF-MIKE)

WRIGHT: Oh, are you — is that one of the reporters?

MODERATOR: No questions...


WRIGHT: No questions from the floor. I read different things. As I said to my members, if you haven't read things, then you can't — based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.

In fact, in fact, in fact, one of the — one of the responses to what Saddam Hussein had in terms of biological warfare was a non-question, because all we had to do was check the sales records. We sold him those biological weapons that he was using against his own people.

So any time a government can put together biological warfare to kill people, and then get angry when those people use what we sold them, yes, I believe we are capable.

Describing Wright as suggesting only that the U.S. government created the AIDS virus, friends and neighbors, is a lie told by the writers (supposedly news writers, mind you) and editors and publishers of the NYT to rewrite recent history for the benefit of Obama's reputation among people who weren't paying close attention earlier in this election year. It's the kind of lie that ought to get several people fired, and indeed, drummed out of "professional journalism."

I shan't hold my breath waiting for that, though.

This entire episode involving Trinity and Wright would have ended the candidacy of any presidential front-runner, Democratic or Republican, in decades past. It's vastly more consequential, for example, than Edmund Muskie's perhaps-teary cheeks. In terms of actual fitness to be president, it's probably more meaningful than Gary Hart bouncing Donna Rice on his lap aboard the Monkey Business.

But what Obama learned from Clinton — Bill, not Hillary — is that if you're sufficiently messianic, you can brazen out almost anything. Being utterly shameless means there must not have been anything really very shameful after all — at least so long as your friends can be counted upon to sand off the roughest edges (i.e., to lie for you), and then to quickly change the subject.

Posted by Beldar at 05:42 AM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (14)